Chinese Acrobat using Hula Hoops, she was Awesome!
Dr. Carpenter’s speaking to kick off the SAC’s visit
USBI students performing traditional Betawi (Jakarta) dance for the SAC’s Team
As the end of my first month here in Indonesia passes, I am amazed at all I have done in such a short period of time. I think part of this is the fact that so much of what I have done, both professionally and personally is so new that it all sticks out as such a big accomplishment. The easiest things to highlight so far are the preparations for our SACs accreditation visit that occurred just this past week. I have been so overwhelmed with all that we have worked on since I got here that I am surprised I have had time and the energy to experience anything else. But fortunately, I have been able to experience the Chinese New Year holiday and all its splendor from the very traditional and religious to the grandeur and exuberance that only the highest quality of entertainment can achieve. Along the way I have personally been at the point of wanting to pack my bags to go home and never come back to now ending the month excited about what lies ahead and the experience that I hope to have in the coming years. I am at a loss for words to even begin to describe the whirlwind that I call this past month as any I choose would be understatement in every sense of the word. But I move into my next month here in Jakarta with a renewed excitement and focus on settling in so that I can bring my family in the summer to start a new chapter in all of our lives.
I have struggled to organize my thought and feelings in regards to the experience I have had with Chinese New Year. I am by no means an expert and please do not quote my knowledge on the matter but it seems that it has only be recently that the ethnic Chinese Indonesians have been able to publicly celebrate their culture, religion and traditions including the New Year’s celebration which seems to be a very significant holiday in their lives. I have been told many things including that the two weeks starting with Chinese New Year are the only two weeks that the Chinese people take for vacation or holiday. They place a very big emphasis on celebrating their family, ancestors and hoping for good fortune for all in the coming new year. I was amazed at the elaborate food baskets stuffed with fruits, sweets and assorted food being sold at all the stores so that people could share them as gifts and use them as offerings for the alters displayed at family homes, offices and of course the community temples. Seeing the many elaborate shrines actually reminded me of the altar’s and displays created for Dia de los Muertos that always have a cultural and religious theme focused on the remembrance of loved ones who have passed on. I couldn’t help getting caught up in the spirituality and cultural pride that encompassed all of the events and experiences I was able to be a part of, but that also lead me to question what I was supposed to be accomplishing with my participation in the festivities.
One of the things you must know and understand about me is that I am a huge Office fan. I have watched the whole series many times and cannot remember a day in the last 10 years that I haven’t quoted, discussed or thought about The Office and how it relates to every experience that I have in my life. Not to say that I believe my life directly reflects that of Jim, Dwight or Michael Scott, but I think part of what made it such a great show is how it so easily and effortlessly gave meaning to everyday life and allowed the viewer to remember the importance of how it can be the little things in life that really allow us to make sense of the world. Anyways the last couple of weeks a scene from the office kept popping in my head and it was the one where they whole crew goes to Gabe’s house to watch Glee. As Gabe shows people his apartment, including his man cave, there is a scene where Ryan and Daryl end up in the man cave looking at some Asian artifacts that Gabe has collected. At one point Daryl ends up asking Ryan, “I wonder if there is a guy in China, right now, looking at a bunch of our stuff?” I always laugh at that scene because it’s so funny yet it makes so much sense. As I was touring Chinatown and seeing temples and watching people as they completed their prayers and rituals I began to think about what it would be like at home for a group of Asians to come to my church as we participate in the Christmas service and to take pictures of our church and people praying. Now don’t get me wrong, it did not seem that anyone was bothered by my presence and in fact many of the people at the temples and on tour seemed inviting and open to allowing us to share in their holiday festivities, but for me I think it just made me realize the importance of being respectful of other peoples culture, religion and personal beliefs. I hope that this experience will help me to remain respectful as I continue my adventures hopefully to many more areas and countries in this part of the world. Overall, it has been a exciting month full of adventures and of course the Indonesian people have been so nice and accommodating as always. I feel like everyday I am meeting new friends and strengthening my bond with my existing Jakarta comrades.
Thanks to everyone who is reading this, I hope you all have a good one (phrase I now use often since I never really know what part of the day it is for the people I’m talking too! 🙂