It is funny how you can have such dumb preconceived ideas. When I heard about the volcano in Bali possibly erupting and started looking for other places in Indonesia for us to stay, I was slightly worried that there weren’t any other major Hindu hubs (aside from Bali). Everywhere else Islam is the main religion. Now don’t go thinking it’s that kind of preconceived idea. It never crossed my mind anyone would terrorize or be mean to me. That’s just stupid. My worries were mostly related to decorum, what is socially accepted and what isn’t. The customary behaviors are after all very different and I was afraid that I might not feel comfortable, not feel (for the lack of a better word) accepted. I also feared we might experience a certain distance, that people would be suspicious of or would mistrust us, as it would be understandable (after all, humans are programmed to fear/mistrust what’s different, the amygdala and all that). And I was apprehensive that I might not feel welcomed.
I could not have been more wrong in a million years.
Sure, there are massive cultural differences. And sure there are different rules. Sure I realised I shouldn’t shake a man’s hand to greet him. Sure, there’s no such thing as queues. Sure I didn’t feel like we should do any sort of public displays of affection (even if it is just a small kiss). Sure I didn’t feel like I should wear a bikini. Sure I didn’t feel like I should wear spaghetti straps and sure, I probably wouldn’t wear trousers in 200 degrees weather in Europe. Not because I was made to, but because I believe in respecting the culture you are visiting (also, the trousers help with the mosquitos). And sure having rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner is too much for an egg-loving westerner.
Still… I have never felt more welcomed in my life. Because none of the above matters, not really. (Every society has its rules after all).
Everyone in Jogja is kind, and gentle, and sweet and treats you with the utmost respect. And that’s, that’s the soul. That’s what matters.
They were super curious about us, not fearful, not mistrusting.
Where you from, where you going, why are you in Jogja, do you like Jogja, have you tried the food, have you seen batik?… are the questions you are asked every day, with a kind smile and a willingness to make sure you have the best of Jogja.
Everywhere you go, not just the restaurants and the hotel, but on the streets, going for a walk, people are genuinely concerned for your well-being. They offer to help even if you don’t look lost. They tell you random facts about the city, without asking for anything in return. They show you the place where they make the famous puppets, just because. They stop you in the street to tell you about this fruit in the tree above that gives you shade, and then proceed to give you a small branch filled with exotic fruits for you to taste. They ask your permission to be your guides for free, at the temples, to practice. They giggle, the sweetest giggles, and shyly ask to take a picture with you. They giggle, the sweetest giggles, because you chose their restaurant to come to tonight. And once you ask for help to tell the Grab driver how to find you, they ask for a group picture. They love taking pictures and they love it even more if you’re in it. I guess it makes it an ‘exotic’ picture if you have a westerner in it?
They kindly come to you and ask if they can ‘please Miss ask some questions’, as it’s their school homework to talk to tourists and practice their English. They’ll giggle at the end and ask for a picture.
They smile at you on the street, shyly or giggly. They’ll sometimes try and secretly take a selfie with you, failing miserably.
Grown-men will laugh (hysterically and sweetly) because you are failing to cross the street and that is simply amusing (it is). A taxi driver will just find everything about you funny, and even though you can’t understand each other, you will make each other laugh, you will have the very unique bond of laughter. You’ll feel like you made their day, and in return that will make your day too.
The people of Jogja are amongst the best human beings on Earth. Of this, I am sure.
They have a childlike quality about them, a kind of endearing naivety, but with the wisdom of an old man at the same time. I guess it is their curiosity and open hearts that makes them so… sweet and kind. There’s a certain innocence about them, or at least in the way they interact with you, making you feel as if the world is pure happiness.
Thank you, good people of Jogja, for making me feel sooo good about this world. Thank you for giving me a safe haven, that I can forever return to in dreams, whenever I am feeling sad about the world.
From my heart to yours, Terima Kasih.