I made it safe and sound to the US to speak at the Relevant Conference! After 2 and a half days of travel, I am now enjoying the jet lag along with amazing food and coffee.
I left our home city of Tarakan, Indonesia and I will save you the pictures of me crying leaving my family.
As I waited to board the airplane I am struck by several things. First, I am really tall here. I am 5’6″ but in this group I feel like I am 6′ because I stand head and shoulders above most people in the room. Second, I am the only white person in a room of a couple hundred. And third, (which I already knew, but somehow hit me standing there all by myself) Indonesian culture does not value standing in a line. (Now, I love you Indonesia, I really do, but seriously, lines are a good thing. You should give them a try. Lines keep people from getting trampled and keep everyone friendly. Well, at least they keep the white lady friendly).
Everyone shoves to the door as though the airplane is ready for take off and if we don’t make it out of the door we will miss the flight. I decide to hang back and wait, and guess what?! I was able to board with plenty of time to spare!
Oh and I learned something else. Self portraits are a baaaaaddddd idea. Yikes!
I found my seat next to a dear lady who needed help figuring out how to buckle her seat belt. She has never flown before and is going to see her new grandbaby. She holds my hand through the entire flight. The overhead announcements begin in Indonesian. Then they play a recording of a British woman saying the same thing, and I laugh out loud because clearly I am the only one who speaks English on this plane and it strikes me as funny. I look back at the Buddhist monks behind me, but they do not seem amused.
Oh well, I happily listen to the Lionel Richie song playing overhead as we taxi out.
After a stop and a layover in another Indonesian city, I arrive in the country of Singapore. I am immediately hit by extreme culture shock.
You might think that since Singapore is still in Asia it must be the same. Not so. Coming from a place of poverty to a place of extreme wealth hits me square between the eyes. Tears fill my eyes for two reasons. One, because I am overcome by all of the choices….should I eat Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, or Starbucks (or maybe all at the same time)?
And the other thing, how can I be so excited over plenty when so many I know have so little? I live in two worlds, the one that likes nice things like a Pumpkin Spice Latte and the one where my neighbor doesn’t have enough to eat 3 meals a day.
I am hit by the opportunities I am given as an American that most will never even dream about. And, I am disgusted at myself at how quickly I get over it. The 24-hour Starbucks siren calls to me and I answer her. How quickly these things lure me in….
It’s weird being a part of two lives, two cultures, and never fully fitting in with either one.
And, lest you are depressed by the inner workings of my culture-confused mind, let me leave you with this, The Fish Spa. Yes, it’s a spa and it has fish. You put your feet in a pool of fish and they come and eat the dead skin off of your feet! If I can work up the nerve when I head back to Singapore, I am going to have the fish suck my toes AND I will document it for all to see!