Saturday, December 27, 2008

Living in between cultures

Every once in a while, here in America, I forget how to speak English.

Today, for example, I went on a walk with my baby, Evan. I walked to a nearby flea market, which reminded me so much of an Indonesian pasar (market) that I had to keep reminding myself where I was. When I went into one particular booth, the owner of the booth greeted me with a question about my baby, asking me if he was getting heavy to carry in my baby bjorn carrier. I started to come out with the Indonesian response of "memang betul" (yes, that's right). And it took me about a minute before I could come up with the English equivalent. I felt stupid standing there staring at the guy, saying nothing. My tongue felt awkward as I tried to speak the right language.

Today reminded me again how I live in between two cultures. I am American and love many things American--pizza, orderly traffic, Starbucks, seasons, Christmas, space, Wal-Mart. But I've become a bit Indonesian too. I love chatting with shop owners, bargaining for items, simple living, warm weather, laid back time, etc.

When I first started my six-month furlough a couple months ago, I remember feeling disoriented, trying to fit back into American culture. Most days, now I feel pretty well adjusted--that is until it sneaks back up on me like today.

Having lived in both cultures for years now, I enjoy seeing the things that are the same, too. Here are a few that both American and Indonesian cultures do well:

-Both cultures love children. (I was surprised at how many Americans stop what they're doing to greet my baby, which is sooo Indonesian.)

-Both cultures are really friendly.

-Both cultures are sometimes safe, sometimes dangerous. Like on Christmas Eve, at a mall five miles from where I live here in Indiana, a man shot a woman who took his parking space.

-And of course, both cultures have delicious food. I think the pizza I just ordered is about to arrive, so I'm going to go partake of one of my favorite parts of American culture.


  1. Hehe, I can imagine what the guy was thinking when you were staring at him. I was only away for a year living in a non Indonesian speaking country, for a while I couldn't remember the Indonesian of carrot. It's hard to understand when people don't even look at a cute baby in their mother's hands.

  2. So glad you started a blog! You are a great writer and I love hearing about what's going on with you guys! Hope you all have a wonderful time while you are here! Hopefully we will see you in February!

  3. Great job on the blog Rebecca! I enjoy reading your stories, etc. AND I can totally relate to your "language" situation. I am still really struggling with that here...I think a big part of it is because everyone is brown here just like in Indonesia. This week I found some Indomie Mie Goreng packets. When I opened them up, I was so was all in Indonesian!!


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