Monday, August 11, 2014

On Living Without

We live without a number of amenities here. We don't have an oven, we don't have a dryer, we don't have a sink in the house, we have a dipper bath instead of a shower, we don't have a car, top sheets, or comforters.

Here's the thing. All of those things are available here. Some of them are expensive. Some of them just aren't normally used by Indonesians.

It's a decision we have to make. The power of the dollar here is huge, so we can afford any of those amenities. Do we have the right to spend on them? Which things do we want to have to continue to live the way we are used to, and in which areas do we learn to live like Indonesians? It's okay to live differently, we are from a different culture after all, but we also want to be a part of this culture.

We've made a few decisions so far. We bought used motorcycles, but only after being here a month and a half. Although it was really inconvenient to be limited to walking and taking public transportation (in the hot sun, with taxis shutting down in the late afternoon), we knew it would force us to walk through our neighborhood, talk to people, be local, and also get to know traffic patterns before getting on the road. We also bought a microwave, which was probably a lame decision, because as it turns out the convenience we wanted is cancelled out by the fact that using it usually maxes out our electricity and trips our breaker, and we have to go outside and reset it to get the lights and fans back on.

It's really normal to have a shower with a gas heater now, we can get top sheets made and we could buy a dryer. Some of those things we might do eventually, but if we did it all now we'd never learn to live a different way. If there's one thing I've learned over the last few years, it's that we have a remarkable capacity to adjust to situations that feel untenable at first. After two months, warming up a little water on the stove so that I can have a warm dipper bath is pretty normal - who needs a shower?

It's like that with food too. I can buy most things here, actually. No feta, but mozzarella, parmesan, and cheddar. I can buy wheat bread, tortillas, and packets of taco seasoning. They're also ridiculously expensive by local standards. As in, a small block of cheese is a day's wages. So, in the US dollar that's actually about the same as buying a block at Walmart, so we can buy it. But do we? We live here now, we need to adjust. And so I am making my own diced tomatoes, cans of beans, peanut butter, yogurt, syrup, teething biscuits for Elly, and the list goes on. I'm adjusting. We will always eat some Western style food, but we are learning to eat a lot more rice, eggs, and stir-fry.

No comments: