BEING DIFFERENT

januar 2012 009There are not many foreigners here in Kupang. Once in a while we can see a backpacker or two walking around. (Maybe on their way to see the komodo dragons, the worlds biggest lizards, on one of the nearby islands).  There are a few mixed marriage families, mostly men from Australia married to Indonesian women. There are also some people from other countries, even a norwegian man, we have heard. The Irish/ Indonesian family who we had a bit of email contact with before we came here moved back to Ireland only a few months after we came. As far as we know we are the only all western family here. There are no foreigners that we have any regular contact with, so we are quite alone here in being different. We for sure stick out, not just one white person but 5!

Most Indonesian people are not very discrete, at least not on this remote island. So when we turn up somewhere new they clearly show their amazement and amusement at seeing us. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with their however many children would probably not get as much attention if they showed up in our home countries. Especially the boys get a lot of attention. ” Ganteng” is a word we hear a lot, which means handsome. People will want to touch them and squeeze their cheeks. Our boys actually handle this surprisingly well, so much that we finally realized they quite like it. As long as it doesn’t go too far, like when a big woman pinched Joakim’s cheeks so hard that he started crying. I looked at her, anticipating some kind of apology, but what did she do? She laughed…( maybe more on Indonesians and laughter another time…)

To us adults, people will say ” Hello Mister” ( often to both of us depending on how good their english is) Another word we hear often is “Bule”. According to one blog we found this means ” big, white fat buffalo”. I have unfortunately not been able to confirm this interpretation, but for sure it is used to describe ” white” people. There are long ongoing discussions on expat forums on whether this is an offensive word or not. I guess we would say that depends very much on how it is said…

So how are us adults handling all the unwanted attention? Not very well, we must admit. We do not really enjoy it, and to be honest we are not really getting used to it either. Walking into a shop and everybody bursts out laughing is one of those things we have to put up with. And people are not laughing because of our bad Indonesian, but just because we are different. Even when we walk into more modern offices people will suppress their giggles behind a more sophisticated response. Another thing we have to put up with is a lot of staring. People will regularly just stop and stare at us as we are shopping or whatever else we are doing. Something not quite as bad but still a bit annoying is when people stare at what we have in our shopping trolleys. A few times people have even taken things out of our shopping trolleys to study them a bit closer. Yes, we truly stick out here and so does what we have in our shopping trolleys…

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Luckily we have our places where people are getting used to us and we can feel a bit more normal. And when we are with Indonesian friends we are almost a bit “protected” from the crowds. Of course not all the attention is negative. A lot of people are genuinely friendly and respectful. We see a lot of smiley and friendly people, and these absolutely make up for a lot of the harassment we occasionally get from others.

The boys playing football  in the pictures are examples of some very nice children. We met them one time on a little trip, they joined us, played football with the boys, ate our biscuits and even dared to taste our waffles. Good memories. These boys were very friendly, respectful and helpful.  Quite normal  actually…

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2 Responses to BEING DIFFERENT

  1. Rannveig says:

    Dine brødre Monica, spesielt den yngste, opplevde samme interesse som dine guttar, i sine barneår i utlendighet. “Alle” skulle ta på det kvite håret, og så var han jo ganske “cute” også. Takk for nytt innlegg på bloggen!

  2. moster Audny says:

    Hei
    Har følgt dokke på bloggen, mange slags utfordringer og opplevelser de har møtt. Til Monica – ønskjer deg ein god og minnerik dag den 17.

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