Tuesday, May 01, 2007

38 Weeks: The Countdown is On!

One of the most interesting aspects of living overseas is the culture differential. Some things that are perfectly acceptable in the U.S. are considered rude in Indonesia. Personal confrontation, for example, is not looked upon as a potentially good, healthy way to resolve differences. Indonesian people put on a happy face and would NEVER consider confronting someone with a complaint or criticism. HOWEVER, where we Americans enthusiastically embrace the "little white lie" in circumstances of personal appearance, etc., Indonesians (and many other Asians, I've been told) will not hesitate to tell you if you look "fat", "tired", etc. All very cheerfully, of course, but still, it does make you stop and think. Anyway, I had my very own "Indonesian experience" the other morning in the staff lounge. It was 7:30am, I just gotten to school and was pouring myself a cup of coffee. Two of the Indonesian staff (Asrael and Wi Wi, for you ex-NJISers) started staring at me and discussing whether they think I'm having a boy or a girl. Finally, the man says, "We think you're definitely having a boy!" "Oh, why is that?" I asked. "Because we Indonesians believe that if you're having a GIRL, you look "cantik" (beautiful), but if you're having a BOY, then no, your face is rough, and not so beautiful." "Oh. And you think I'm having a BOY?" "Yes, yes! With Emmerson you looked beautiful, but now it's different!" At this point, I am ready to burst into tears (remember I am 8 1/2 months pregnant and certainly already not feeling like I'm going to be making the cover of Glamour anytime soon, and a little extra emotional to boot). Another Indonesian staff member (Risna) then comes in and realizes that I'm perhaps feeling a bit sensitive. She starts saying, "No, no, SAME as with Emmerson! She's having a GIRL!" But the other two didn't catch her social cue, so they actually ARGUED with her, "No, no, different! With Emmerson so nice, but now different!" I finished pouring my coffee and practically ran (as fast as a hugely pg lady can run) out of there, straight into Ian's arms where I blurted out the whole story. He then proceeded to tell his 8th grade students the story as an example of cultural conflicts, and then told it AGAIN to the people he interviewed with for a high school social studies job that night!!! He ended up getting the job, so I guess it was a worthwhile sacrifice. Hmm, on a funny note, Asrael just walked through the library. I gave him a big smile, all the while wanting to give him a few "critiques" of my own. So anyway, much ado about nothing, really, but just a big funny story about the clash of the cultures!

38 Weeks


Blogger carolxo said...

I met your mom and dad on our China tour. I enjoyed your blog site and photos. Emmerson looks like her grandma, who I enjoyed so much (especially her dry sense of humor) on our trip.
Carol Blackman

12:01 PM  

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