Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why I Should Be More Cultural

When traveling, I always enjoy the presence of the local people. Nature can be so beautiful, attractions can be so amusing, but in my days of traveling I've come to understand that the people are what fascinates me the most. Both good and bad. And from it I've learned so much about myself, my country, and that of others. 

I enjoy knowing how the people of Tanah Beru maintain their heritage of making phinisi boats, also how they have adapted to the new ways people are utilizing the boats into cruising boats. I admire how a man that is not Javanese, used so much of his time and energy to maintain batik culture in the middle of Pekalongan, the batik city. I'm moved by the kindness of a Bajawa - Riung bus driver on picking up people, bringing their mail, and dropping them at their destination without extra charges. Just a few memories I picked up from meeting the people.

One day, while flipping through my digital photo albums, I remembered an encounter with a Hmong woman at the north part of Thailand. I remember her being curious asking me where I was from to our local guide, a local school teacher. He answered Indonesia for me and my friends. Then, it hit me, it really didn't matter what the answer was. I could have been from anywhere because I wasn't distinct in anyways. I was using a batik dress but it wasn't something this Hmong knew or had any interest in. Well, not as much as I was in what she was wearing. She had coins embedded in her outfit.

Then it got me thinking. I haven't been much of a cultural person. I'm Bugis, born and raised in Bandung, speak more fluent Sundanese language than Bugis, rather write in English and is heavily influenced by western culture. And it's been fine so far, but I realize, the more I'm getting into knowing the local people and admiring their culture and traditions, wouldn't it be fair if I could explain my own? Shouldn't I have something to show when other people come to Indonesia and not be just a shirt and jeans? Appreciating all that people can tell me about their culture, shouldn't I be able to explain mine?

Not everyone has to feel obligated to preserve their culture or roots. I'm just saying that I should. I've just asked my mother to teach me some Bugis language as she is so fluid, even though she's lived in Java my whole life. She's a woman that knows and doesn't forget her roots. People can distinct that she isn't from Java once she opens her mouth, and she has the knowledge to back it up.
I'm determined. I hope I can master it, at leas as she does, to soon be able to answer where I'm from, especially when asked by my fellow Bugis people. That should be makesing, right?