Sunday, June 09, 2013

Traverse in Diversity (First Time in Indonesia as an Expat)

More than a month after gazing at the city of lights from the window of the plane bound to bring me in Indonesia on that fateful night of April 22, I couldn’t help but to reminisce the indescribable feeling that enveloped me at that time. I remember wiping my tears when I thought of my Mother whom I have taken cared of for many years and I needed to leave in the Philippines. The uncertainties of what the country would bring me were too overwhelming to even think about. I am starting anew in a foreign country and the experience might be a bit heady but definitely exhilarating.

For one month, I was transported into the world of discovery as my eyes were awakened with different cultures and languages. I must admit that when I first laid eyes in Indonesia, I fell in love with the people. I remember asking the security guard the moment we finished in immigration how far is the place that I was supposed to stay in. He replied in Bahasa, a language so foreign to me and yet I could feel his kindness so whether I understood him or not didn’t really matter.

Taken in Makassar, one of the provinces of Indonesia. The trip was a treat from one of the parents of our students. 

The next experience was being enclosed in an elevator with people speaking in Bahasa, English and Chinese- the three languages that seem to be commonly spoken here.

The first ride in the taxi alone was very challenging also. The driver couldn’t understand English and we both resorted to silence after I gave him the address of the school where I needed to go. The next instructions were given using hand signals. However, challenging as it may, there was never a time that I met a taxi driver who was rude or disrespectful. 

That seemed to be the common trait of Indonesians as I vividly recall last May 1 when the driver of the school car braved the traffic and some flooded roads on the way to the apartment where I was staying. He drove in silence though tired since it was already late at night but never did he utter a complaint or frowned even when the car halted several times.

For one month now, I go to school dealing with people speaking different languages- Bahasa, English, Chinese, Thai, and of course, Filipino. The challenge that dealing with different languages pose seemed to be nothing compared with facing differences in cultures. Everyday, I need to remind myself that respect is the key to understanding. There are times that the acts may be somehow rude in the perspective of the Filipinos especially how I was raised, but I am learning to embrace everything as part of God’s magnificent plans for me. I learned not to harbor ill feelings since most of the times, the people I meet are kind and good-hearted people especially the Indonesians. It's overwhelming how much respect they have for Filipino teachers.

Everyday, I wake up with a thankful heart for being in this country. I met new friends, found new families, and my faith to God is further being deepened.

Being in an international school is both a blessing and a challenge. I take everything in stride and I appreciate more the blessings since I know that I would learn in the process. I am thankful that I don’t need to traverse alone in diversities of languages and cultures. I am blessed to be part of a community where I would not only grow intellectually but most especially spiritually.

Cliché as it may sound, the roads are truly long and arduous. But, I know, God’s graces would continue to be with me and make each day a blessing in diversity.

Being an expat in Indonesia has given me so many opportunities more than I could ever imagine.


  1. What great diversity you have experienced! Surely there are challenges when everyone speaks different languages, but there's so much to learn from each other!

  2. I felt very similar when I was moving to Japan. Navigating a new culture and environment is so overwhelming.

  3. I totally get where you are coming from. Having moved to Portugal nearly 2 years ago it can be very daunting and challenging in situations when my Portuguese is not enough to be understood or if the person dealing with me has little English. Respect is definitely appreciated but it can be very challenging and sometimes get you down. I'm trying to learn what is a very difficult language though!

  4. Thanks for sharing this post! I absolutely relate to you as I have felt the same moving to Bangkok a couple of years ago.

  5. Different languages, different cultures — not easy at all to go trough it, especially at the beginning... On the other hand, what an incredible experience! I'm sure it'll help you a lot in your life.

  6. I used to work in a teaching centre, so I know exactly what you mean. Though rarely miss the admin work, I do miss the people and the environment


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