I was in and out of 3 angkots and on the back of 3 ojeks yesterday, putting my life in the hands of drivers, all strangers, all men. While perched on the back of a motorbike, I realized, I have encountered a lot of men in Indonesia.
My encounters with Indonesian men have been limited so I am aware that by characterizing them, I am at risk of stereotype. I want to preface my thoughts by saying that my experiences with men, in general, from the US and elsewhere also obviously play a role in my point of view.
Here is a list of the things that Indonesian men do that I don’t experience in America:
- Light up with recognition after searching for a familiar face whenever I pull into my compound (neighborhood) in various cars and ojeks, “Ibu Jackie!” (Miss Jackie): satpams (security guards). It’s reassuring and sweet, like I’m home.
- Offer rides on / in their vehicles by gesturing or honking: ojek and angkot drivers. It’s a business transaction with oddly a lot at stake (physical safety), but happens quickly.
- Give expert massages (at Cozy) that acknowledge the intimacy of the situation, but also are without shame at their chosen profession: massage therapists. Amazing!
Wait and assist students measuring pvc pipes for a plumbing project at a local school–then cutting the pipes with a saw–patiently, without showing on their faces that they could have finished the job much more efficiently on their own: handymen at a local village / seaweed farm.
- Tear up shamelessly when speaking of whether to send a 12-year-old daughter on a 5-day trip into the jungle, then refer to tears candidly in further communication: father of a 7th grade student. The children are cherished by often sleeping in their parents’s bed until they’re 7 or 8 years old.
- Smile and explain the differences between various people groups within Indonesia, Javanese (soft) and Batak (louder and more direct) . . . : guides at a beach resort / camp. Although in a service job, their smiles and kindness feel warm and genuine.
In general, so far, my encounters with Indonesian men have bordered on chivalrous. However, the image that emerges cannot escape an acknowledgement of all the public logy spitting and blatant nose picking and staring (Curiosity that is not limited to men) and a recent story of some teachers being ogled in the locker room of the school pool.
At the same time, a blond Australian friend who is married to an Indonesian appears to have a marriage that seems familiar like ones among my friends and family in the U.S. I’m sure I’m missing the nuances, but have attempted to recreate snapshots of Indonesian men who have come across my path. Evolution of thought is inevitable. Stay tuned.