Respect and ‘Fit in’ in Jakarta

by Yanyi, H., Work-Study, IHF Jakarta

I arrived at the IHF Jakarta Center on July 3rd. In the past days, the staff here has been incredibly welcoming and helpful, and the children are just so cute and heartwarming. But the most impressive thing for me is how they respect this place’s own culture.

One thing that surprises me is how wonderfully the Center’s co-Director, Helene, fits in with the local environment. It seems to me that she has almost no difficulty communicating with the people here, both in language and emotionally. Like, when we thought it was because of corruption that I was charged 35 USD for the VOA but only got a receipt for 25 USD, she got so angry about it, as only real Indonesians would. Fortunately, it turned out that the receipts were just not changed in time. Anyway, you can tell that she, as a member of the school, really feels for the people here.

Also, on Friday evening, we had a cultural event at the Center. Right now, Muslims are having Ramadan, the month of fasting, so we held a little ceremony of breaking the fast with about twenty children and some of their mothers together. Many took on traditional costumes and everyone sat together on the floor. It was really interesting and nice for me to join this special occasion with them. We had several kinds of Indonesian cuisine prepared by a lady working at the Center. My favorite one is called “Longtong”, which is rice wrapped in banana leaves.

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On the weekend, a friend of mine from Jakarta took me to the “Taman Mini Indonesia Indah”, which is a theme park that shows culture from different regions of Indonesia. Above all, I am just amazed at the diversity of Indonesian cultures. These cultures differ in architecture, life-style, religion and even language. And I am even more amazed at how Indonesians have kept this diversity until today, because it couldn’t have been easy and it will probably be harder due to globalization. It occurs to me that international organizations like IHF are not just helpers from the outside; by playing a role in education, they become a part of this country, no matter how big or small the part is. So, it is indeed vital to understand the importance of respecting and fitting in. And I think that in that aspect, what I have seen in the Jakarta Center is pretty respectful.

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