A Country Of Extremes Part I : The Good

A Country Of Extremes Part I : The Good

Indonesia is not like what I thought it was. It has exceeded some of my expectations on both the positive and negative side. Being here for almost half a year gives me a better insight into the lifestyle of Indonesian people and how they do what they do…

Comparing my western lifestyle with everyday life here keeps me thinking, every day. And that is exactly the problem…

Indonesians are the most careless people I have met and it’s exactly that what keeps them alive and (sort of) healthy. Allow me to explain. Asia can be brutal, people who have traveled there know that. Brutal in the sense of traffic, lifestyle, hygiene and so much more. My senses are stimulated intensively every day. And it’s actually that brutality that makes people strong, and careless… Being in that same environment brought many challenges upon me. Challenges that I barely have in my safe home bubble. Noise and light keeping me from sleeping. Smells that I have never experienced before (good and bad). Sharing the house with rodents, insects, and lizards. Eating, drinking and breathing new bacteria, eating directly out of plastic bags, etc…

From the moment Indonesians are born they already face all of the above challenges. Sure, some of them are actually fighting for survival because of poverty but it’s not those who I take as an example now. I am targeting the middle class and the lower middle class. People who comfortably have the basic needs of life. In the village where I live, this class of people is very numerous.

To clarify the group of people I am talking about, I live in a village where I am the first foreigner since the Dutch left in 1945 so the mindset and knowledge are very different compared to bigger cities and Jakarta. Obviously more conservative and ignorant.

I believe all of the challenges above makes you careless. Because if you really start caring about all that, you worry and annoy yourself to death, seriously. If you think for example garbage disposal and a healthy environment for you and your children are important, then don’t come here. If you don’t want people to smoke in your surroundings, if you care about safer streets, safer traffic, don’t come here. The environment will NOT change for you so it’s you (in this case me) who has to adjust. Or worry yourself sick every day. There are a few options on how to handle this. Either you leave your current environment (not an option for many people), either you live in resentment or you go with the flow. Most people are forced into the last option. But they are because they don’t know otherwise. They have never heard plastic is bad for people. They have never heard it is ruining the world and our oceans and it shouldn’t be thrown on the streets or in rivers. They have never heard CO2 and fine dust kills humans slowly, etc. I believe one of the reasons is the lack of information input. Health research is almost always done in Western countries. So the information gets here very slowly. I get really sad seeing all this on a daily basis. But what options do people have if most of them are born and stuck here?

With all the climate marches and awareness going on in Belgium I felt really bad being here and seeing such unawareness. People here are not informed about global warming or anything related to that. There is simply no climate policy. They don’t learn about what is happening to the world. Only people who intentionally search this information know about this. Often, the only source of information here is brainwashing, commercially sponsored television…

I confirm Indonesia is a tolerant and secular country. For example a few weeks ago a guy was convicted 1,5 years prison for spreading hate messages towards non-muslim people. So the country is really strict on such things where people try to attack other origins. Indonesia has tolerance for united origins and intolerance for dividing origins under the same nationality. There are so many inhabitants and lots of different religions (with Islam being the ruling one). I do believe this tolerance originates from the indirect carelessness of people. Starting from a young age, children here learn to live with people with other religions, roots, and different skin color. They play with them in school. Also, children need to learn to sleep in light places. They have to cope with the noise and the dirtiness. This makes them tolerant in further life and I find this an extremely important difference with where I grew up. In Belgium, lots of people are intolerant and racist. They don’t allow the neighbor to mown their lawn on a Sunday. They don’t tolerate too much noise in the street. They don’t like different looking people in their neighborhood,… Seeing from what’s happening here, that might be because they haven’t experienced such things in the earlier years of their life…? It makes me relativize everything so much easier…And it is very remarkable that the biggest Muslim country in the world is so much more tolerant than where I come from…

So how to handle this carelessness? For personal gain, I think being able to sleep better in challenging environments, have a stronger digestion system and care less about things that bothered me here are the first steps, but difficult ones. For my digestion I had to suffer a lot first 🙂 But now I’m able to eat and drink everything they eat. Amazing right?
Caring less about things that bother me here is really difficult. The endless discussions trying to convince my parents-in-law (and others) that something they believe is just not true, substantiated with scientific research. But they keep holding on to it because “they heard it from people in the village”. And Indonesia is actually a country where a lot of myths are spread, I think it might have to do something with big corporations putting things in the heads of naive Asians. But it is truly tiring and after all these times I am almost at the time where I give up explaining them. It’s the generation that voted for crazy presidents, caused Brexit and changed the world to the place it is today. The baby boomers that put the American dream as their ultimate achievement in life. Status, status, status…yes, even here in Indonesia. For example, I know people who go with the motorcycle to their shop just to show they can afford a motorcycle and don’t have to walk like poor people. The shop is less than 100 meters from their house…

It’s exactly that ignorance and carelessness that keeps people happy! Western people that overthink everything and can’t tolerate things they don’t like are getting depressed and sick. Because they cannot turn their brain off. They cannot relativize every now and then and they keep complaining about things that are really not that important…

Lesson learned ?!?

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