Dave Gullett

a miscellanea

Maybe this what parents feel….

when they send their kids off to summer camp, or off to college, or off to life in general.

A mixture of sorrow, hope, relief, and excitement? Or just relief? Or just hope?

Of course what Helen and I are feeling isn’t at all the same thing, but maybe just a hint of it. We are sending the team off to stay with Indonesian families for the next two weeks. And while the will come to the office each day for language learning, they will be one their own building relationships with their host and learning how to live, or at least trying to learn how to try to live, as an Indonesian.

Learning a new culture is a surprisingly difficult thing. We take our own culture for granted and hardly notice it or think about it until we are confronted with another.

And while often we encounter it first by noticing language or dress, culture runs deeper into how we think about life and our place in it.

Tourists, by definition, encounter culture but stop short of learning it…only about it. We need to help the team experience understanding and conforming, and not merely being a spectator to the sights and sounds and smells. It is not enough to notice the differences, they need to be able to accept them and emulate them. Which can be trying. This is not just to keep form offending people, but also so they can learn to relate to them and respect them.

Along with learning the culture, they will be practicing their language learning with their families and in the communities the families live in. And while we don’t at all expect them to learn all they might need to know to live here, we do hope they learn how to learn. That they learn how it is that they best go about learning the essential and basic things they need to know to live here. So when they go to the villages, or when they go someplace to serve in the future they have a good expectation of how it will be like.

And they need to be aware of their own cultural expectations, which one seldom thinks about, and how those expectation probably will often not be met. Or how they might be greatly exceeded.

For example, think about hospitality. In most Western cultures it seems that the individual is the most important ideal and that hospitality is a dying art. We do not tend to expect much from our hosts beyond the basics: Food, water, a place to sleep and maybe decent conversation. Often, especially when tired, we don’t even want anything beyond sleep, a shower and a continental breakfast. How many hotels in America have a conversation bar beside the cereal and toast in the morning? And when we visit friends our family (and maybe this is just my experience) don’t the guests often get the “extra bedroom” or the couch or the floor?

It seems to me that most of the Indonesians I have met, even on the street and in shops and restaurants, have hospitality stamped on their hearts. Often it seems like they feel obligated to show you the best about their country, even if they do not know you…and if you can converse with hem a little then you are a hero, or at least a new friend.

One of the guys on the team, Tyler, got some kind of stomach illness while staying with his homestay family. It was only a couple of days into homestay, and he was too sick to come to the office for class. So we thought it best if I went out to Pomulong, where the family lives, and check on him. Ian, another teammate staying there, came back with me and we arrived at the house just after lunch time.

Stepping into the house out of the bright sunlight made it hard for my eyes to adjust to what i saw, at first I thought I was mistaken. After all, I had imagined tyler to be curled up somewhere in the back near the bathroom waiting for his next episode.

And to be fair, he did have a rough go of it for a while. But when I first saw him, he was reclining on a couch in the living room, looking as content and relaxed as could be. With pillows and blankets and tea in front of him, and a young man massaging his feet. He looked like he was a a resort and having a wonderful vacation.

It turns out that the family Tyler and Ian are staying with owns several Reflexology clinics. I haven’t heard of this in the US, but it is very popular here. Basically, it is an intense massage method that seems to be therapeutic for many conditions. I don’t know enough to debate it, but from the look on Tyler’s face it seemed to be working wonders for him. He wasn’t healed, but the nausea and other unpleasantness had disappeared.

The father of the family had brought on of his employees back to the house, Especially for Tyler because he felt terrible that Ty had gotten ill while staying at his home. By the next day, tyler was back on his feet and on his way towards being his regular self. eventually both Tyler and Ian ended up with two or three Reflexology sessions during homestay and most of the rest of the team was a little jealous of them.

Indonesian hospitality can be surprising, and to be honest at times overwhelming, but it is a defining characteristic of the people here and is often wonderfully refreshing.

The Scripture says those who follow God are blessed to be a blessing.

 

And we usually think we are the ones that God will use to bless people here.

The reality is that it is us who are blessed the most, I think.