Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Year, New Attitude

After five weeks of traveling, it felt really good to get back to Gorontalo and finally unpack my suitcase. Now I’m gearing up for part two of this crazy, adventurous year. And what’s more – I’ve officially decided to stay for a second tour of duty. Indonesia is growing on me, particularly my little town of Gorontalo. Much to my surprise, I found myself missing Gorontalo while I was away. I missed its natural beauty and simplicity. I missed my daily bentor commute through the rice paddies. I missed the mountains. I missed the ocean.

I feel that somehow over the past few weeks some sort of change has overcome me. I think in Makassar I was going through a transition phase where I was fully allowing myself to acknowledge all the unpleasantness that I encounter every day. And the end result is that I know I can deal with it. I haven’t been dealt any cards yet that I haven’t been able to handle. I think the first few months here were rougher than I expected partly because I really had no idea what to expect. Southeast Asia is different from any other place on earth that I’ve spent time in. I read the travel guides and I emailed with Jonna, but I was still unprepared for what it would be like to live here.

As the initial strangeness of this new land slowly starts to wear off, I can see myself growing more comfortable here. I have my house (with new living room furniture and finally, finally an outside gate), I have found some truly great friends – my ETAs Sarah and Alexa who just live a bentor ride away, and all my other ELF friends who are only a text or phone call away - I have my diving, and I have a job that I actually enjoy (if I could just find a way to get papers graded faster it would be perfect).

I’ve also noticed my attitude towards the Indonesian language is starting to change. I actually want to learn it now and I have Amber to thank for that. She has been a big inspiration to me. Before our half week together in Yogya, I had no idea how much Bahasa Indonesia she actually knew. She jokes that what she speaks is Bahasa Taxi because she feels she doesn’t really know that much but she knows enough to have the same standard conversations over and over again with taxi drivers. But I was impressed. And what’s more – I felt like I was learning so much just from listening to her talk to the drivers. We decided that listening to someone speak who is just slightly more advanced is more helpful and inspirational than listening to someone who is fluent. I learn by listening to Amber, Amber learns by listening to Stephanie and Stephanie (probably) learns by listening to Adam.

I don’t imagine that the rest of my time here will be smooth sailing because I know it won’t. It seems that practically every positive moment is counterbalanced by a negative one. For instance, during my first two days back at work I was thrilled to see my former students greet me so enthusiastically: “Miss Julianne! Ma’am! You came back! How are you? I like your skirt. You are so beautiful!” and on and on. But then there was also this: one of the lecturers who I don’t know very well at all came up to me, poked at my upper arm for several moments then announced, “You are fat!” I shot her a bemused look. Then she clarified, “In Gorontalo, you are heavy!” Nothing like Indonesian brutal honesty!


  1. Ah Jules!! You inspire me. Your optimism is amazing. I wish I had it. But you're right. You should stay. You're doing a great job and Indo needs you. xoxoxo

  2. You are definitely starting the year off on the right foot. I, too, am treating this new year with a positive attitude and a hope for lots of exciting new things to come.

    Congratulations on your decision to stay for a 2nd year. I am sure it was not an easy one to make, but now that you made it, you can really settle into your new life there.

    I SO love reading your blogs...keep 'em comin'!

  3. Awww, I love it! And I certainly DO learn by listening to Adam. Plus, he is the master of mnemonic devices. Seriously. Kami/kita? Fixed. Empat/enam? Done. If you confuse something or can't remember it, he'll help you figure out a way to keep it dipisa. :)