My trips to Indonesia have always been more like a social visit rather than a true holiday, with a lot of eating and devouring the cuisines and delicacies that I can’t get in Adelaide. My current trip is no exception. I may need a proper holiday when I return to Adelaide just to relax.
In the eighteen days, I have to juggle Bandung and Jakarta – where my families are, and Surabaya – where Yani’s families live. I also need to squeeze in a trip to Malang, as my friends are getting married this Saturday. Although the distance is a bit of a challenge (the distance between Jakarta and Surabaya is comparable to that of Adelaide and Melbourne), somehow it provides a blessing in disguise as it allows me to divide the time as fairly as possible between my family and Yani’s. If the families live in the same city, the line would be blurry and we may need to live in a hotel throughout the holiday so as to not offend one side of the family. 🙂
This trip is also special in a way as this is the first trip home that we do as husband and wife. Of course, there are the usual questions of ‘When are you expecting a baby?’ or “No baby yet?”, one of Yani’s aunts even said, “You still look as beautiful as ever, but how come you’re still childless?”. I wish I could tell her to mind her own business but this is not Australia – Yani handled it by smiling and I pretended not to hear the ‘rude’ remark. The opportunities to mingle with the families and dealing with different personalities bound by blood and relationship provide me with a great lesson about love and grace. Allow me to elaborate.
As a child, I grew up to be a smart boy – on top of that, my mum always instilled in me the drive to be independent and not to bother anybody else. I have shared similar posts in the past about this. I navigated the messy array of public transport in Bandung when I was nine years old on my own, and I have always attempted not to bother anybody. Being ‘clever’ also had its perks, I didn’t need anybody to rely on as I could grasp the lessons on my own. I’ve always been a reader as well, so it helped my study a lot. Flash forward to the present time – two of my nephews are in a similar boat. They are clever and they believe that they don’t need anybody to depend on. One always answers any small talk and chitchats with “That’s too trivial for me [to think about]” and he believes that he doesn’t need any friends. He prefers to immerse himself in books. Another nephew also prefers to devote his attention to the lessons in class and believes that hanging around with stupid people is just a waste of time.
In my adult years, this has been a lesson that I learn that I need other people although I am able to stand on my own. My cleverness and the strive to be independent have made me ego-centric. By relating to others and allowing them to do their act of service to me, I build a relationship and I learn through the process. Even though the other person is weaker, or does not meet my standard of cleverness, or does not carry any strategic importance, building relationships with all kinds of people build me up and teach me a lot about love and grace. Having a wife who is quite different to my personality and capability has also taught me a lot about this. Whilst I am logical and detail-minded, she is more laissez-faire and allows her heart to occasionally guide as well. Of course this creates some tension when I believe that my approach is the best and that an alternative method is just plain silly – however, through the process I learn that I can be wrong. There are times when logic and ‘intelligence’ are inferior to emotional wisdom.
I also learn about grace and sacrifice – having a lot of families to meet during the trip means eating a lot and sacrificing my need to lose weight. In Asia, providing food is an act of service and relationship. So although I am way full, I still need to eat and taste what is served and that although I don’t normally eat certain types of food, like durian (a smelly Asian fruit), I would still need to eat and taste it when it is served, so the host feels honoured although it means sacrificing my personal taste.
Sacrifice is no longer popular in the west with the strive to focus everything on oneself. I have lived with that for the past ten years … “What about me?!” – a song says. I learn through this trip that I still need to sacrifice to please and honour other people, to build and nurture relationships with my families and friends. Even if that means eating a lot more than I would normally, or helping around and staying around even when I feel dead tired, or smiling and mingling when my slightly introverted self screams for a rest. That sounds like a torture, you may say. I guess I choose to take the better way than the easy way. I care about the relationships – and this is where love comes in. I believe that “Love is doing something that you normally wouldn’t, because you know it matters to the people you care deeply.”
One last example is a few nights ago when I was still in Bandung – throughout the day, sisters upon sisters provided food for me to eat and asked me and Yani to eat out with them. I was really full and just wanted to go to sleep at the end of the day. Then my mum called my eldest sister, with whom we were staying with in Bandung, that she had wanted to contact me all along and asked Yani and I to come and visit her – she had made some chicken rice for us. It was already 9.30pm and I just wanted to go to my room and just rest. In the past, I would’ve acted like a spoilt brat and told her that I was just too tired and that I would visit her in the morning. I made that decision many times in the past. However – knowing better, I told her that we would stop by. I probably have five or six spoonfuls of the rice because I was full already. The rice was really delicious – I could taste the chicken broth and the delicate taste of ginger in each grain of rice. My mum is stooped with age, she’s 71 this year – and I know that she had to cook while also taking care of my bed-ridden and demanding dad. She put an extra ingredient in the rice – her love for me. How could I ignore that and only think of myself?