I remember during the first trip to Indonesia, thinking that this country is about as alien as I could imagine. I couldn't wrap my head around it.
Not only was it alien however, it was hospitable, my then girlfriend's family bowled me over with how welcoming they were.
Back then, I didn't go anywhere without someone chaperoning me around the Big Durian. The girlfriend left me a year or so after, but my interest in Indonesia grew, so I figured I needed to cut my own way through the country (however clumsily).
Still after all these years, there are some circles I can't square. Perhaps they don't need squaring.
For example, while for the most part I feel quite at home nattering with pals who wouldn't touch alcohol, and sometimes think about whether something or other is compatible with their religion. I wonder how they would fit in back in with my pals in our godless, alcohol swilling New York.
I remember on that first trip to Indonesia, we were staying at a pal's big house in Jogja. I was pretty indignant at not being able to sleep with the girl I had been living with for a year. Moreover, I thought the little pullavah over not seeing a jilbabed guide's hair a bit stupid.
Sometimes on that trip I felt arrogant at times, feeling that I knew better than Indonesian people. Perhaps confusing wealth or might with right. I confess I still feel this sometimes, but less often.
In any case, I wonder what would happen if the Indonesia and New York side met? They'd probably get on like a house on fire!