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Eight Things I Learned in Indonesia

A little over a year ago I spent four months in Indonesia. I didn’t really travel across the country, at least not in the way you would expect during that much time abroad. Instead I had the great privilege to live in Indonesia, and see it from the inside. It’s hard to put to words all that I learned, and impossible to do justice to the people I met and the experiences I had. Here is my attempt to share are a few things I learned while I was travelling.

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1) Hospitality

The first notable quality of almost every Indonesian I encountered, and especially of my host family, was their hospitality. Within 12 hours of arriving my concept of generosity and hospitality had been put to shame. My hosts not only shared their home, they shared their family, lives, and friends with me. I was adopted into their social circle, taken for day- or week-long trips by their friends while I was there. I was honoured to be one of the first people to greet the family’s first grandson alongside the immediate family.

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2) Hijabs aren’t scary

This is a fairly potent topic these days so I won’t comment too much. Over half the women on Java wear hijabs, a head covering worn by Muslim women. When I asked why they wore them, all the women I asked answered with “I wear it because I choose to.” I began to recognize beauty and comfort in these headdresses, as well as freedom of expression. These women were neither ashamed nor pious in their religion, it was simply a part of their life.

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