Despite what you might think, I’m actually quite a homebody. Whenever I travel I have certain requirements that I’ve learned really make the difference between a good trip and a disaster. They’re not too much to keep me from experiencing the local culture, but they sure make life a lot easier when I’m trying to navigate a new culture, language, customs and country.
One of them is coffee. I’m on the island of Java, but the hotel rooms only serve instant java, which makes my stash of American grounds a godsend. After teaching all morning in the humidity, I’ve also felt grateful for the Starbucks in the mall adjacent to the hotel.
Another is proper clothing. I like to be comfortable and appropriately dressed, which made packing for teaching in a Muslim country challenging. I’m expected to cover to the elbow, below the knee, and have a high neckline. Yesterday I made a fashion faux-pas and was required to don the school’s version of gym shorts – a kind of pant outfit called a yama. I think they’re mainly used for some sort of yoga.
Reluctantly, I’ll admit I like to be connected. Coming back to my hotel after a long day and finding Facebook messages and blog comments makes me feel like I’m not out here all alone, and the beauty of Skype and FaceTime has allowed me to see my children and keep me grounded.
Indonesia is a beautiful country, rich with traditions and hospitable people. I’m not afraid to know what I want – and to ask for it. I think knowing what we need to be happy is important – and if it helps us experience the richness of another culture, all the better.