June 19, 2021   9:35am

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“Discovering” (a small part of) Indonesia

So here I am on the equator – to be specific, in the rural village of Tomohon located on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

I’ve watched one of the three live volcanoes surrounding the town belch a string of smoke and stood on the edge of a crater … been propositioned by an Orangutan (you could say he went “man” over me) … walked for hours through diverse forests … drank fermented sugar palm juice (this is not fine wine) and eaten the delicious and healthy sugar derived from the sugar palm … walked on a volcanic beach at a wildlife reserve filled with birds, apes and monkeys that would otherwise have been illegally kept as pets, treated terribly or shipped to other countries … splashed water on my face from a natural spring guaranteed by the spirits to make me younger … eaten 5 fruits I’ve never heard of before … walked through the local food market, where smoked bats, rats and dog (in full form) are among the fare … been pecked by what I’ve come to call the “watch” geese on the grounds of our host’s home while the spectacular roosters, hens and their tiny chicks disinterestedly stroll by … and, otherwise, gotten a minimal understanding of at least one area of the amazingly large and diverse culture that makes up this country of 17,000 islands called Indonesia.

The “natives” in this town are friendly.  I’ve never felt anything but welcome (although a curiosity).  The people are derived from many tribes who now, predominantly Christians in this region, live and work together peacefully. The country as a whole has the largest Muslim population in the world, but is also home to Buddhists, Hindus, animists, and others. Tucked away on a curvy out-of-the-way road we were amazed to even see a Jewish synagogue.

I’ve been impressed with so many things, particularly how much of a “community” exists. The people – polite, hospitable and smiling — have come to depend upon one another, constantly gathering on their neighborhood streets and at what seem to be constant weddings and funerals. (They tend to trace family lineage way back to get a little financial assistance from relatives.) I can’t imagine they’d ever understand the isolation one can feel in a large western city.

It’s beautiful, quite awesome (in the original sense of the word) and very special here.

Yet … hearing from many about the embedded political, judicial and culturally-accepted corruption … recognizing that it’s a negative to strive to do better than a neighbor … seeing such a low standard of living in a region of abundant crops and fishing … experiencing how basic things like electricity and water don’t necessarily flow … noting the legal restrictions imposed on non-Indonesians who choose to live here … are enough to remind me how very blessed I am to travel, observe, learn, and, then, return home as a citizen of America.

Sound corny? It’s good to be occasionally reminded.


Snoety symbol