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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Being Normal in a "Foreign" Way

"Even more important is that I learned that sometimes you simply can’t control everything. Sometimes you have to trust the most unlikely of people. It’s a good lesson to learn, especially when you are on the road." - Taken from NY Times article:

Damn right you are ;)

You know what? I really miss Indonesia. Now that I reflected upon my own condition I can totally relate how the zoo animals must've feel, taken away (or born) outside their natural habitat and think how strange things are in their living area/cage. The thing is, I have stubbornly refuse to "adapt", and prefer to do some things Indonesian way. There are new manners that I have to learn, and also new rules I have to memorize and understand by heart, especially when it comes to the law. But others? It's just the same.

Take food for instance. My family (as with most middle-class family in Indonesia) has extremely high food efficiency. This means I am used to cook good food with minimum ingredients and with the right amount of serving so there will be very little (if any) leftovers. The organic waste are being "recycled" as well: the rice goes to our ducks, the vegetable/fruit peels and unused parts goes to our pigs, and the bones/uneaten meat goes to our dogs.

At first my fiance thought it is queer, how I look so distracted when we had to threw away food we cannot eat or my efforts to keep leftovers to minimum and if possible even reuse them; more than once he assured me that he indeed can support me and I shouldn't worry about the money. But it was not about the money. In my mind, wasting food is just not right. Does that makes me un-American? Surprisingly, I don't think it is. Food and family blogs like Yahoo Shine have been advertising on the best way to re-do your leftovers for years, and also how to keep your groceries to the minimum yet with maximum use; I simply do it based on my habit in Indonesia.

As for the type of food itself, even though my fiance makes a to-die-for fajitas (which, in my mind, based on the ingredients are 3-5 different meals rolled together in one) I still cook my Indonesian food from time to time. Mostly stir fry though, but made from the so-called exotic vegetables, which in my mind is my country's local vegetables: Chayote, Bitter gourd, Eggplant with delicious spicy Indonesian salsa (which we called sambal), and many more. I also use the regular vegetables like bell pepper and such on daily basis, in fact I have to have a hearty portion of vegetable at least once a day. As green and healthy as it sounds, the main reason lies to the fact that Indonesian are accustomed with rice and vegetables and only minimum amount of meat in their diet. This translates to the constipation I will have to suffer if I don't have enough vegetables. Is this un-American? Again, if you look closely you will find there are tons of health website and blog out there that promote healthy dining (a.k.a less or even no meat). What people preached here has been done for ages in Indonesia.

This goes the same with style/fashion. Before I come to US, my fiance told me that I might find fashion style a little different here and offers me to get new clothes once I am in US. I got a few non-descript/generic type t-shirt and shirt, and it has all work pretty well. No doubt that he was right to some degree, and once I am starting to work I might have to have good sets of "office clothes", but for day-to-day or casual basis I didn't see much difference. As a matter of fact, I think I've seen more "what-the-hell-are-they-thinking" clothing here than I usually do in Indonesia. But that's the beauty of America. Strutting out your style is expressing yourself and I believed is covered in US' First Amendment, freedom to make free speech. If you are treated differently based on how you look it's called discrimination and can actually be contested in the name of the law.

Of course, I know nothing of this. My society taught me not to make rude remarks upon people, and if I really have to make remarks I better keep it to myself or to my close circle. There is nothing good about making people feeling bad about themselves; and seeing how in Indonesia we rely most on our interaction in society instead if the government or the law, it is obviously not a good idea to offend people or made ourselves look like a jackass, that is if you still want a smooth day-to-day life without any drama. That is why I am still confident on using things I want: if it's too weird then I probably deserve that judging look or harsh comment (not that I care), if it's not that weird but you are still judging me openly I won't care either. That is why I am still going to use my hand-tailored brocade Kebaya blouse (a traditional Balinese style) for my wedding instead of the western bridal gown. It suits me more. Oh and the common sandals I brought from Bali? Everyone I met compliment it, even the tough-looking wild west lady in the shop where we take our old-west pictures at Tombstone.

There is more than one way to bake a cake (and I just happen to read one where they use rice cooker for the task. Yup. RICE COOKER). Just like the dude in the Bali computer shop did with the guy's laptop, sometimes people do things according to what they are accustomed to. If you are a foreigner away from your home country, relax and make yourself at home.If you happen to see foreigners near you behave in a way uncommon to what you are used to, as long as it did not bother you just ignore it. Different ways are not always "wrong ways", they are sometimes just... different. So chill out, and enjoy your life :) .

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