Masuk: To come in, to enter, to be part of, be present, attend
Angin: Wind, breeze
Masuk angina: to catch a cold, to feel unwell,
Indonesians believe that wind coming into you makes you sick. Believe isn’t a strong enough word. The KNOW that if wind comes in you will get sick, the way we know that if you let a child touch a hot stove, he will be burned. On buses where it’s so hot and stuffy people will not open a window because they don’t want to catch a cold and get sick. I try to be considerate of others and not open my window too much, but I have to tell you there’s a limit to my cultural sensitivity.
I have a fan. On really hot, sweltery days nothing feels better than to just turn that fan on and sit directly in front of it. Often as I’m working on the computer I will turn it on. My ibu is horrified. This is just another example of how ignorant I am. Like looking in the wrong direction for the traffic. (People drive on the left side of the road here.) Like accidentally picking up food with your left hand. Having the fan blow directly on you is in her mind, a dangerous health hazard. She walks by and pushes the switch so at least it’s blowing all around the room and not constantly at me all the time. My bapak too. They really want me to stay healthy. How can you argue with the truth? I tried explaining that Americans don’t get sick from “wind come in.” But “wind comes in” IS the sickness. They know Americans catch colds and its crazy in their minds to invite that wind in. Whenever they leave I put the switch back to the full position.
There are 2 places in my town that have air conditioning. They are both grocery stores. I LOVE to go there. I’ll stand in front of the snacks that I think taste yucky and look at them for 10 minutes, just so I can feel that AC! I always buy something, usually an ice cream bar for 30 cents and then go sit outside in the heat where the other people sit and eat their food. At least I can look inside and have that recent memory of the cool air blowing on me.
Wearing the jilbab to school takes an enormous amount of endurance. I look at the women students and teachers with complete admiration for their ability to withstand the heat. When I go to school I don’t wear it correctly. I leave my neck and ears exposed. I need to for mental and emotional as well as physical reasons. My head is covered, my arms are covered and my legs are covered. I’ve got to have a little space to let the air in.
This is in weather where we would consider a tank top and shorts to be appropriate attire. And it probably would be better to wear a bathing suit. Speaking of which, Indonesian bathing suits for women are very different than American bathing suits. They are more like modified wet suits. I’ve found that I can fit in by wearing a T-shirt with sleeves and some loose fitting shorts over top of my bathing suit while I am swimming. This is approximately what most women wear.
I am, as far as I can tell, the only person in my school of 750 students and 60 staff who walks to school. I have seen 3 or 4 students with bicycles and the principal and 2 teachers own cars, but ALL the rest of them drive motorcycles. The two teachers with cars usually drive their motorcycles instead of bringing the car. It’s only a 15 minute walk from my school to my house, but it’s hot walk.
My island is a few degrees South of the equator. That means the sun is in the North. I had gotten off the bus in a different city and was trying to orient myself on the map and I asked some kids which way was West. Everybody know which way is west because that’s the direction they pray to 5 times a day. As soon as I asked I laughed and said in Indonesian, “Sorry, I forgot the sun in the North.” If the sun is shining, you know the directions, all the houses and buildings are laid out so that one wall faces West, When I was learning the Indonesian words for North, South, East and West, my family thought I was nuts for pointing up for North. They corrected me: That direction is up, not North. North is North, a specific wall in every room.
Since being able to connect with Google Earth, my life has changed. I can go to the satellite image and plot my walking journey and feel pretty confident that I won’t have to back track to find my way home. Today I was 15 or 20 minutes down a dirt road I had never been on before and someone called out, “Hello, Oma.” It may be hard going back to America where I no longer have “rock star” status and I’m just another gray haired old lady on the street. I like to walk. I figured out I walk approximately 2 ½ hours every day. After they ask me where I’m going and I respond, “Walking.” there are two things people always say: “Healthy.” They know walking is healthy. They just only do it in the cool of the morning on special days. And, “Alone.” They always comment that I am alone. If they are out walking, or standing on the street they are always with someone. No one would WANT to go walking alone. I’ve tried various responses: My children are in America, God is with me or a variety of other things, but they just look baffled. So I’ve settled with, “Yes. Alone.” And I smile. The smile seems to work.
And a little Bahasa Jawa: the local language. They expect me to know Indonesian, but are beyond thrilled when I say my few words in Javanese.
Okay, I’m hot. It’s time to go bring out the fan and invite in the wind and fight the cultural tide. But sometimes I wonder,
‘Who am I to go against the wind?”
From a Paul Simon song and Oma Colleen