Selamat Datang: We’re in Indo!

Oh hey there. Monggo! Kenalkan. Let me introduce you. This is my host family: Ibu (mom), and adik-adik perempuan (little sisters). They’re (nearly) 9 and 16 years old, and couldn’t be more welcoming—not to mention patient with my language struggles. I’m staying with them for a couple months of training in East Java before heading off to permanent site placement.

Most days, I have small-group Bahasa Indonesia class for five to eight hours, followed by Peace Corps training sessions. It’s been a bit, ok?! Last Sunday was our first day off. My keluarga, or family, puts up with my limited communication every single evening, and Ibu packs me a lunch each morning. I’m learning to make a thing or two, but she’s got this delish tempe and tahu kuning down, and I’m down with it.

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Two other volunteers, Paul and Charles, are staying just the next street over. Last Saturday, Charles’ host family invited the neighbors over to eat sate ayam, grilled chicken with a sweet-and-spicy peanut sauce called pecel. You’re invited, too. Everybody’s invited.

Not unlike in the States, grilling is designated as a guy’s game. So while the ladies run the kitchen—mixing marinade, prepping skewers, and steaming the rice for the cookout—the men tend to the grill.

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As a guest I’m just expected to sip tea and eat coconut cookies that everyone feeds me while they prepare the sate ayam. No reason to complain.

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When everything’s ready, we roll out colorful mats to set up the rice and sate on the floor. We all crowd around and eat out of bowls, or straight from the rice dishes. It’s savory, flavorful, and filling.

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On the way home, I end up in another neighbor’s house, sitting on the floor and eating cookies again. This is how my whole weekend went, after language class: I accepted invitations without knowing where I was going, when I was going, or with whom I would be spending time. These things usually work out, right?

This general confusion continued Sunday morning, when I was sent jogging with neighbor kiddos at 5 am. Did I mention we start every day at 4:30 a.m. here? So 5am on a Sunday meant sleeping in. If I’ve ever crashed at your place then you know that mornings are not my favorite. But a person can change, maybe?

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My Ibu knows that I like to run, and we’re gradually negotiating the unwritten rules around it. A single lady running is not the cultural norm here. So she’s super caring to set me up with running partners. Usually, it’s my 9-year-old host sister, or her school pals. This past Sunday, Ibu had recruited a group of six kiddos to tag along. And by now, I’m allowed out on my own.

So on Sunday, post-runaround, Ibu’s friend picked us up to take us shopping at the pasar (market) downtown.

So you don’t go on shopping outings at 7am? Let me tell you, you’re missing out. The pasar is the place to be. They’ve got carnival rides, painting stations for kiddos, all the hip fashion, and banyak food. I bought a duster which is a house dress that all the ladies wear around here, and I finally understand how Indonesian women exist in this heat without absolutely dripping in sweat. Duster fashion is where it’s at. Then we rode in a cart pulled by a horse. A whole lot was happening.

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Just when I thought we were going home, we actually drove across town and ended up at a house across from a cornfield.

I was sitting in someone else’s living room drinking tea for maybe 20 minutes before nenek and kakek arrived (that’s grandma and grandpa), and I finally connected the dots: we were visiting extended family. This is all before 9am, by the way. If I’m not a morning person two years from now, then all hope is lost. By 10am, we’d all been up for nearly 6 hours. So naturally it was time to take a family photo, and then go eat ice cream.

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Indonesians are known for their hospitality. I couldn’t feel more welcomed in our training town, and I got lucky to have some of the best people to show me around.

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