Sunday, March 22, 2015

Being a Part of the Neighborhood

"Well... no one in the neighborhood really likes them." 

My neighbor and friend was responding to my questions about some mutual friends of ours. I continue to try to understand the dynamics here of what makes someone appreciated and what is really disliked. My friend is a Christian, and one of the only ones in our area. I was asking her about relationships with Muslim neighbors and she assured me that although they don't want her to raise dogs (Muslims aren't supposed to touch dogs), she otherwise has great relationships here. 

"But what about the couple on the corner, the older couple that plays grandparents to my kids? They have a dog. What do the neighbors think? "

My friend said, "Well, yes, they have a dog. But they aren't liked. Because of the dog, which the neighbors don't like and has occasionally wandered off into the neighborhood unwatched, but more because they don't build relationships in the neighborhood." 

"What do you mean? They have been friendly to me, and they are friendly to you too, right?" 

"Well yes, but then when my father died, they didn't come to the funeral. *shakes head in shock*... to my own father's funeral!"

(insert me internally counting my blessings that someone mentioned to me the death and the funeral that was held just hours in time for me to race home and attend, since don't understand the garbled community announcements that come from the  mosque loudspeakers. Funeral crowd pictured on the right)
"Yeah, Ibu, I haven't seen her at the monthly ladies meetings and I wondered what people thought of that."

"She doesn't come to the ladies meetings, he doesn't go to the men's meetings, they didn't come to my father's funeral, and they haven't come to the neighborhood weddings. So, no one likes them because they don't build relationships. People ask me sometimes, "Is that what Christians are like?""

"Is it because they are from Bandung and have just been here a couple of years? Is it different in Bandung?"

"There's another couple from Bandung just a few houses down. They have built great relationships, but this couple seems like they want to live here but not build friendships. In fact, the landowner doesn't want to continue leasing to them so he raised the rent exorbitantly this year, but they agreed to pay it and everyone is disappointed."
*insert me chuckling at the totally Javanese indirect communication and the total avoidance of uncomfortable direct conflict*

"He is a Chinese Indonesian, right? I have heard that the Javanese are often frustrated with the Chinese community because they are said to keep themselves separate and don't involve themselves well in the Javanese community."

"Well yes, the Chinese are often perceived badly by the Javanese. But there's the other couple down the road that are Chinese Christians, the ones with a Downs Syndrome boy. They are kind and loved here because they are involved." 


I don't know how things will be in Papua, but it constantly amazes me, the absolute importance of friendly involvement in your community here. It's SO important for me to smile as I walk or drive through my neighborhood. It is an absolute necessity to visit the bereaved and attend weddings, even of the neighbors you barely know. It seems to me that how one takes part in the local community is what forms your reputation. 

I absolutely love this, but it is hard when that value for community comes in conflict with our Western value for a timely schedule and privacy. For instance, as I was writing this Isaac was gone at church and I was home with wiggly Elly and asthmatic Judah. Toys were scattered all over the floor and Judah was still in his underwear when a neighbor came by to talk to Isaac. There's never any calling or scheduling ahead of time, it's just drop by, no matter how inconvenient.

The same thing happened earlier this week twice with a guy that Isaac's gotten to be friends with in the neighborhood. Twice last week he dropped by and I made them hot sweet tea while they chatted on the porch for hours. But this week he dropped by in the morning while Isaac was finishing his homework just before class, and again while he was in class the next day. What then?   

When we were invited to be in our neighbor's wedding, the kids were just recovering from being sick (and you know, running to a squatty potty in the middle of the ceremony with a kid with diarrhea didn't sound fun), I was exhausted and overwhelmed  and in the most culture shock/stress I have experienced since being here. We wanted to go but were pretty intimidated by not knowing what to do or what was expected of us.   And last week when we were invited over for dinner by Mr. Wiwid Elly hadn't napped and literally cried for 15 minutes straight when they arrived to pick us up. I told Isaac, "I can't go like this, I can't hold a crying baby and try to interact at someone else's house!"

In all of those cases, we went, and in the end the kids did surprisingly well, and we are thankful for the way we can see relationships form and strengthen every time we do reach out. We've made so many mistakes too, though, over our time here. It can be super draining too, and we love our time at home as a family. It's important to have that renewing quiet time together, but at least for us that's where we can easily rest, and fail to reach out. I never want our love for our privacy and our own schedule to mean that we make our own comfortable refuge and can't manage to venture out into the uncomfortable world around us. Particularly for me, as mom, who for a while won't have a scheduled job outside of the home to push me outward. 

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