torstai 17. toukokuuta 2012

The people and the friendliness


Yudha and the twenty-to-one smile.
Who would have expected that the Canadians aren't the worlds friendliest people afterall?

Take, for instance, my arrival to Indonesia. Knowing nobody in Jakarta, I still had to spend no time alone.

There was George, whom I met in the airplane, he gave me a ride from the airport and helped me find a hotel.

There was mr. Riano, whom I met at KFC, who taught me about the culture and gave me a promise that should something go wrong, I could call him.

There was Yudha, Indonesias bravest, strongest and most handsome man, who managed to get me a train ticket long after they were sold out, and helped me all the way through my travel to Malang.

"Youre a great man, Yudha" I told him when we departed at the train station in Malang.

"I know." He replied, raising his left eyebrow just enough to let me know he's smiling deep inside. Then he turned and walked away, disappearing into the morning mist, lightly, carelessly, silently. The birds stopped singing for a moment. The wind grew colder. The moon shed a tear.

I like his style.

There might be an explanation to the friendliness. You see, on a general note, nobody ever visits Indonesia, save Bali and other colonies of Best Western Hotel. Indonesians still have energy and enthusiasm left to treat a stranger nicely.

The cool gang in the early morning.

"In this part, no people Europa from ever before... you are first one!" tells a fishermans son to me.

We are in a suburban called Kisik in the city of Pasuruan. I just arrived here without any plan whatsoever - I just wanted to see the ocean. I was greeted by a group of strangers who quickly became friends.

As we walk across the narrow streets of this densily populated seaside village, groups of people stop us regularily to take a photo with me. An older lady runs away as she refuses to join the photo - she is scared of a white bugger like me. Everybody is laughing.

"We are so very happy you visit mr!! We hope you visit again!"

 I can't believe the friendliness of the people. Nobody here knows me and I don't know anybody, yet, I'm treated like a long expected guest.

"Do you like to go see the laut?" The ocean, that is. Of course I want a boat trip, that's not even a question! Everything turned out better than could have been expected..

We had a great time going out for a ride together.
And what a beautiful ride it is.. later on I am offered a place to stay, dinner and everything else to make me feel comfortable, with humble apologies for everything not being perfect and clean. I'm even taken out to see the city, and they call their friends to join. Eventually I am escorted by a full gang of motorcyclists to the Alun-Alun, the central park, to enjoy the night away - Indonesian style.

"What kind of coffee do you like?" the beautiful girl at the stand asks me. I choose one randomly.

"STMJ? Are you sure?" She smiles and puts her hand on her mouth to hide the pretty laughter. What I chose is not actually coffee but a Susu Telur Madu Jahe - hot milk mixed with raw egg, honey and ginger. They thought I would spit it out like Donald duck - but actually it was great.

Imagine an asian tourist in Finland. Would this happen?
And there we are, in the crowd that to me looks like the afterparty of a successful icehockey world championships, but in fact is just a regular friday night, people having a coffee and socializing in a courteus manner. Everybody's smiling. Police makes some hooligan motorists do pushups to make up for their wrongs. People come to greet me, asking for a photo. I feel like a movie star.

"In the morning, we will escort you out of the city. But we hope Mr. will visit us again!"


And it friendliness doesn't end there, here is another story:

Due to my weak stomach I had to visit a specialist doctor at the hospital. He was a friendly elderly muslim man, with little vocabulary and a firm handgrip. Everything was fine - I was told to stop eating sambal, the local chilli sauce, and I would get better.

"Is free for you." He told me, rigidly but briefly shaking my hand. "You are doing a favor for my country, I do a favor for you."

He didn't take payment because I am a voluntary worker. How often would that happen in a hospital in Finland? Or anywhere else?

My main man, Brams. Just chillen at Bale Kambang beach.
Well, this all goes without even mentioning the friendliness I've encountered at my organization, Sanggar Sahabat Anak. First of all, I was offered a room of my own, although there are not enough for everybody. I was also given a motorbike. And a helmet. And food. And help. After the first ride my friend Brams asked me:

"How much did you pay for gas? Let me pay it back for you."


To understand the value of money here, I just recently learned that you can rent a house for 8 people for two years for 15 million rupias - that is 1200 euros. It means about 6 euros per person per month. It is not even cheap prize for them, and yet my friend offers to pay for my gas?

And what about my friend Ami? I bet she has her own life too but she has spent way more time than I could ever hope to make sure I get the most out of my experience here.

Just caring for ma chicken.

A while ago, I visited her house. It is not very big, and is currently being renovated. There are chicken in the yard. Her little brother is chasing them. Neighbours are interested to see the blond haired visitor.

"We have a rule here. We always help everybody who need help." She tells me with sudden seriousness on her face. "Many strangers have spent a night here, and many more will."

Compared to most of the countries I know, it is truly amazing to see how much people here are willing to share with strangers from the little they have. If it's nothing else you got, you share your time and help.

Of course there are exeptions, such as the immigration: it seems they only want to make things difficult for you. Also often a tourist is charged more than a local for the same things. In those moments I just turn my back. I don't like racism.

Well, let's admit that in Finland we expect the goverment to take care of many of our worries. That is why we are more independent and alone with our problems. I feel nothing but gratitude about that though - what a lucky bastard I am to have been born there. Coming to a country like this you can see how the society can be completely different, but still human happines finds a way. Through communities and groups, through helping one another, through the healing power of laughter.

I woudn't change my origins for anything, and it's important to appreciate your roots wherever you come from. This is one of those "god bless insert-country-here - moments" for me, I guess, but let me have it - I had to travel far away from home to see whats good in my own home country.

Summa summarum, I can condensate this post for the lazy readers into a sentence with four words:

Saya suka orang-orang Jawa.

Translate it, and come see for yourself if you don't believe it.

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