The This That is.

avoiding impossibilities

Coping. List #3. May 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — cocoyoni @ 3:58 am

As my morning’s text messages slowly rolled me out of bed at 10 am (it is a holiday for some absolutely last minute, unclear reason) I smiled at the wonderful truth. I am going home. Per request, I am going to happily list all the things I miss…the things I always miss when I am abroad. The things to which I am happy to reattach my roots. The things that fill me with comfort and satisfaction, and that I will revel in as I actually begin to stay in one place for far longer than 3-5 months at a time (for the first time of my adult life).

Things that I will love about coming home:

1) wiener dog greetings and sometimes peeings (Hazel, aww).

2) my momma’s hugs, and usually tears.

3) the way my dad looks at me and says “hi jo”, as if we just saw each other when I first come in the house from being gone a long time.

4) the dancing, jumping up and down, falling over and giggling that involves sister reunion. and the beautiful conversation and food that follows.

4) my love: his face, my feeling of home when my head meets his heart in our hugs, and all the overwhelmed feelings I am filled with when I remember I get to marry the smartest and sexiest man on the planet.

5) simply doing nothing but being with my Colemans (ntm turkey tacos).

6) talking fast, really fast and knowing everyone will understand me.

7) seeing the growth and change in my friends.

8 ) surfing everyday

9) organic, raw, fresh, local uuuuuhhh yess!!…veggies.

10 ) sunday morning with pescadero family, ie (pork) BACON.

11) sushi/indian/mexican/greek/ food

12) seth’s cooking in general

13) yoga classes and all my teachers

14) museums and going to art exhibits

15) LIVE (good) MUSIC!!!

16) wine and beer

17) being an admittedly sexual person and never even thinking about having to hide it.

18) my CAR!!! omg, little green w/ her surf board hat. and listening to music while driving.

19) my frequent road trips to visit all the beautiful people in my life.

20) being a Californian in general: having vast deserts, incredible cities, conscious people, redwoods, lakes, rivers, beautiful waves and beaches, and a pride that I would NOT have for just being “American”.


coping. with lists. May 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — cocoyoni @ 2:31 pm

I am a mess. It just hit me. The end is coming. In fact, this time next week I will be in Singapore. I will be awaiting my flight through radioactive Japan. To land again in the carnival country of California. My repatriation is so confusing–something to look forward to but something so scary and sad. This experience was not supposed to get so good at the end. I was supposed to be comfortable from the first day and get slowly less awesome until I was just bursting to go”home”. Only now do I understand Muslim boarding school kids, Muslim boarding school teachers, Muslim boarding schools, Muslims. I have just now really honed my strategy. In this moment I cannot fathom leaving. There is nothing else to do but make lists.

Things I will miss more than anything that I simply will not find at home:

1) Fresh tropical fish cooked over fire with Gorontalo extra spicy coconut salsa and garlic spinach.

2) A friend who is not only the smartest person I know but my soul sister, my teacher, my Zen master, my chef, my cultural liaison, and more.

3) A place I can go anytime of the day to get the yummiest food ever, for FREE, that has NEVER made me sick, from people who tell me I am beautiful, who cannot wait to give me high fives and teach me local dialect.

4) Constant amazing and unique photo opportunities

5) Discovering extremely rare underwater species

6) Singing Beyonce at Karaoke with groups of veiled, empowered, educated, incredible Muslim women.

7) Giving lectures and having to have a translator.

8 ) Getting meetings with government officials just because I ask nicely.

9) Jogging around rice paddies, through adorable villages, where cream colored cows and naked children swim in the river…all while listening to Gangsta Rap on my headphones.

10) Teaching in classrooms filled with the most talented young students I will ever meet; who take my hand to their forehead every time they see me; who are smarter and stronger, more dedicated, loyal and kind than I will ever be.

11) 24/7, 365 days a year of fantastic weather…rain or shine completely enjoyable.

12) Being greeted with at least 10 friendly smiles and “Pagi Miss Jolie. Apa Kabar?”(Good Morning Miss. Jolie! How are you?”) every morning I step out of my house.

13) Working across the lawn from my awesome, huge, yellow-green house.

14) Japanese news source (the only English channel on my t.v.)

15) Weekend trips to the most isolated and exotic beaches on the planet.

16) Goats.

17) Parents who never say no to their children.

18) The pack of 3-9 year old kids who treat my house like their own.

19) Yoga-dance-art-music-jumpingonbed parties with said pack.

20) Riding the motorbike around one of the most breath taking, mountainous, rain forest strewn, coastal towns on the planet.

Things I will absolutely not miss, ever:

1) Cold showers

2) Skype conversations with Seth

3) Dropped calls

4) Fried food

5) Overly sweet food

6) Typhoid water

7) Dirty/wet bathrooms

8 ) Stinkiness

9) “Hi Mister??” “I love you!”

10) Strangers taking photos of me when I have already told them to please not.


12) My hair falling out due to heat, hard water, malnutrition, and genetic evolutionary environmental response.

13) Making plans for weeks and then everyone completely forgetting/not caring to actually do them.

14) TRASH on the beach, on the road, in front of my house, in the forest, etc.

15) Cigarettes.

16) MSG.

17) Cheesy romantic pop music

18) When “I don’t understand” means “I’m deaf.”

19) Not being able to understand one word someone is saying for 5-12 hours straight.

20) Having to always wear long sleeves and long pants when I leave my house.


This Little Light May 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — cocoyoni @ 9:06 am

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When friends point out my addiction to nasi (rice), my apathetic interpretation of tardiness, my need for a thick sweatshirt in 80 degree weather, or my tendency to do Indo-baby-talk, I begin to realize… I have been here for a long time. In fact! My time is almost up! As I come upon my last 2 weeks of work in Indonesia I am busied with thoughts of the country’s most obvious systemic component—the one thing that has really shaped the people and their place in the world, the thing I wake up to at 4:30, wade through diurnally, and fall asleep with again at 10—religion. I sit here with the feeling of truth slowly unveiled during a long process of inquiry. Maybe similar to a feeling an old man might have when reflecting on chess; the game he has played since he was 12. It is a feeling that comes when you quite understand something while remembering how you didn’t quite understand it before. That is not to say I have a complete understanding and my process is over. I bet some new chess strategy will come about that will make the old man’s jaw drop. It only means my process has come to the forefront of its existential purpose; the satisfaction of knowledge. Yet, knowledge is not the end of the means. Rather, it is the required foundation. In that sense, there is no end, and only now can a real pursuit begin.

Today, after a US Embassy funded weekend in Jakarta, honoring the national “WORDS” competition (not to mention bowling and dinner at the Ambassador‘s house with Agnes Monica and 42 high schoolers), we visited the national monument. Not unlike my country’s national monument, Indonesia’s is phallic and tall—meant to give some masculine hope and pride to its citizens. After reflecting on the growth and independence from Indonesia’s colonial inhabitants, we walked from the monument’s park, out toward the bulbous building on the horizon. 20 minutes later, I stood betwixt two symbols of the world’s greatest and most conflicting religions: Chrisitianity and Islam—the largest, most impressive mosque in SE Asia and a beautiful, old, gothic cathedral. There they were, erect, and proud…standing in a peaceful faceoff. This faceoff started before my parents were born. The two buildings are magnificently suspended in their own space, but separated only by a pedestrian garden zone. Looking into each other’s eyes like two old friends, they are close and still somehow distant, but comfortable. At the country’s famous mosque, (the same one Michelle and Barak visited on their short stay) we learned that a Christian man was its architect, that there have always been a consistent number of words in the Koran, and that we, as Christians, Buddhists or Atheists were welcome so long as we removed our shoes.

During the 30 second walk from the mosque to the cathedral is when everything came full circle, when that truth hit me like a train might. This was the moment when my two years of contemplating the phrase “Unity in Diversity” (Indonesia’s motto) became clear. Giving it more than brain space…here it was…a physical…blatant reality. Indonesia IS the most religiously loud, yet religiously peaceful country ever to exist and everyone ought to learn from them. I used to think (because it is how my country is) that they dealt with one another in a manner that seemed peaceful, while they quietly built racist infrastructures accompanied by underlying hate and intolerance. Yet, after seeing the foundational-nationalistic symbol of brotherhood reaching across religions in the form of architecture, after walking into the national mosque while holding a conversation with an Atheist friend about better ideas for Zen meditation, and then taking a group of high school Muslims into an old cathedral during Sunday service, I came to a newer, better understanding, with a sigh of relief. This time around I acquired more than a motto for citation.

For a country that forces you to choose a religion, for a country run by the Ibu because she comes after the Prophet in importance and before the father, for a country that bows down to Saudi rites and culture, for a developing country, it is nothing less than extraordinary to witness such beautiful roots of tolerance at its nation’s capital. It is awesome, in the outlandish sense of the word, that I as a pagan-buddhologist-hindu can live within the walls of EXTREME religious devotion for 9 months and receive nothing but absolute tolerance and acceptance by its permanent inhabitants.

I have now reached the part of my process where I can see the ‘what’. However, what I want to take back with me to California is the ‘how’, but I might have to be patient because I am not quite there yet. When I get home and I get into the first conversation where I am on the defense of Islam how will I find the knowledge and patience to teach my country’s people to be more tolerant? More understanding? When I go to church with my aunt or get in a Palestine-Israel debate, how will I slow it down enough to help people adjust to a less American, worldlier opinion? I honestly do not know, because it really is just the beginning. And despite moments of great realizations and truth I will always be at the forefront of my process, with little droplets of satisfying bits of knowledge to fuel me on my way.

If you wish to learn more about what the Fulbrighters were doing with the Indonesian students check out this website and article:


Generation Green Beach Clean-Up (10th grade laki-laki) February 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — cocoyoni @ 10:57 am

After delivering my well-practiced “Generation Green” speech, the 10th grade class, some teachers and I made our way to the beach for some cleaning and frolicking on the Chinese New Year. What was so awesome about spending the first day of the Rabbit Year with more than sixty 15-year-old Muslim boys, you ask? Highlights? My friend Vice getting attacked by a goat, tremendous car sickness, lots of angel fish, yummy banana leaf wrapped sticky, red, coconut rice, and watching the environmental passion of a generation grow as my favorite beach in Gorontalo became trash free. YAY! Nice job boys. Next stop Saronde Island, with the girls.


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MLK’s Birthday & my loss of culture. January 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — cocoyoni @ 6:44 am

As I write I fly over my favorite archipelago. Flying is one of the best things to do in Indonesia. Alhamdulallah, cuz I do it a lot! Out the window I can see dozens of caldera islands breaching the water’s surface like a team of giant sea turtles gingerly coming up for air. I am in transit to Java. We have been invited by the US Consulate in Surabaya to give a presentation on Martin Luther King Jr. to high school teachers then off to Lombok for project planning. As I acknowledge Dr. King’s selfless gifts to America’s health and growth, I feel weak and overwhelmed with complete respect and inspiration. The logical syllogism is sound, MLK and Jolie are both Americans, yet that has nothing to do with why I feel so emotional at the thought of such an incredible man, and is exactly the reason why I resent culture and the unwanted, undeserved acknowledgement I receive for simply being “American”.

When I think of MLK it does not make me feel some pull towards pride. As if to say, “I am so proud of my country. Look at what we have done!” There isn’t some silent psychological acknowledgement reminiscing my grandpa’s time fought in WWII, or the family tree that proves my relations to John Adams. It does not call upon my pilgrim DNA that runs through my WASP blood. Nor does it remind me that my mother is a daughter of the revolution and that her father lettered in 5 sports at USC. It is not because I miss America or am proud of America that MLK brings tears to my eyes. The emotion MLK triggered is a feeling of simple and pure adoration for a fellow human being, not a fellow American. Thinking of MLK and considering my emotions I see quite clearly that the more I am gone the less I think about countries and culture and the more I simply think of humans, humanity and the complete illusion that is culture, the more I have to check in and ask myself, “I am American, right?” and the more I start to answer “Yea Jolie, you are American, according to your passport.”

As I consider Dr. King and our logically syllogistic, yet entirely unimportant similarities I am struck by the fact that people in these schools that I will visit tomorrow will have this sense of respect for me simply because I am American and such “wonderful” things come from America. One of whom is MLK. Some undeserved notions will be established. The teachers will strive to be more like us and do things more like Americans. Really it is absurd! As a “cultural ambassador” from a developed country I will go to that Muslim school tomorrow to teach non-Americans about American pedagogy and American theories of civil rights. Normally, this kind of thing leaves me feeling estranged and uncomfortable. I do not think America is cooler/better because it has “better” education systems, cleaner roads, “civil rights”, or laws against littering. So therefore I do not know why the Indonesian high school teachers would care what we have to say. Also, I do not think America is cooler/better because MLK was American. There was/is probably an Indonesian version of MLK that we just don’t know about because instead of listening we are always talking. I think America was just lucky to have MLK. Most importantly, I do not feel as though I deserve to rack up some America-Fuck-Yea points because I happen to be American like MLK. In fact, after these five months here in Indo, I do not feel as though I am eligible or deserve points of any kind for being or doing anything but being from my own culture, the culture of jolie.

Seeing as I have been living in Indonesia for about five months now, I now begin the phase that calls an end to the cultural romance. I am still in love with Indonesia but, as people say, the honeymoon is over. I can see things with or without cultural lenses depending on my mood. It is as if I have been on a serious cultural detox diet and am finally clean and clear from most preceding cultural blindness, whether American, Chinese, Indian, German, British, Canadian, Irish, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Sufi or whatever it is I picked up on my way. My culture is simply Jolie. Perhaps all of my journeys play an atomized role in my present state of cultural distance, but the condition is such that what I know and feel is not atomized but complete; there is just one me. I might speak German, root for German Football and when drunk slur like a German but I am in no way really German. I am still American according to my passport or my hard engrained physical idiosyncrasies such as accent and concept of space (though I can fake both of those pretty well). However, I can barely relate to Americans and their culture in general. Not to mention, I am far less Indonesian than the woman sitting next to me but I am probably more Indonesian than you. Also, I might despise China and never want to go there or to India or Nepal again but I have spent most of my life studying their philosophies. Mainly, I am alone. Free to see things in the guidelines of my own paradigm. My brain washing has reached a climax of broken down-ness and is nearly turned to nothing. Without left winged radio shows, or right winged news channels, without connotations, without assumptions, without being in graduate school or ANY SCHOOL for a year, without anyone’s full understanding I am now forced into full tolerance of everyone…maybe too much.

In a state of practiced aloneness a deconstruction of the cultural brain is inevitable. Philosophy becomes clearer in isolation because the only thing one hears is one’s own heart or thoughts. Or maybe because one’s thoughts are only things one has already heard so all that blunder becomes little bits of everything at the same time and that sound is like a soft hum and that hum is incomprehensible, meta-linguistic, and therefore peaceful. I think in that quietly loud place is where my true sophia lives. It is nice and strange. I have been isolated and alone in more ways than not these past 5 months. I am incredibly alone linguistically; my Indonesian is only ok. I am quite physically alone too; I live with Muslims who unless they are your mother or child do not touch you and will tell you “please do not touch me Jolie, I am going to go pray”. Outside of mulling over the philosophy I have already read and talking every once and awhile to friends or family from home, my intellectual stimulations and interactions are non existent, outdated–stuff already taken in from my past. With very little newness my thoughts are independently cycling through the present’s presence without choice.

This process is very similar to a yoga practice in general. Tantra for example is very similar. You must be very present in order to let go of everything you thought you knew if you wish to notice the thing the ego is always trying to convince you is YOU, and this must happen if you are to seek your true nature. “Know thyself”, right? A person not fortunate enough to be raised in a fully free tantric society (which according to my calculations is everyone on the planet) will find their true nature at some point either way. Living abroad and traveling most of my adult life is what has given me access to some of the best most raw and vulnerable truths of me, and I sit here now in complete gratitude. Grateful to have the biggest back yard of most people I know, and to have been exploring it since I was 19. Grateful to simply be sitting next to a woman on a plane who is from a small village where everyone speaks a language only 1000 other’s speak. Even though she and I will never operate linguistically, or have the same president, or eat even slightly similar foods we are precisely that, similar. We are family because we are together in our moment on our plane in our life. We are both completely human. Yet, I am still alone.

I do not know nor care where my cultural identity went. It’s not that I want to or don’t want to find it, there is just nothing to be grasped anymore; my appreciation is no longer for culture but for humanity. Culture is like a math equation. It is logical and easy so long as you know how to do the calculations. I think I know how. You can break it down relatively simply with one poignant phrase, “it’s cultural, not personal”. You can break any cultural moment down to a handful of sand. You can look at the sand and speculate all the millions of pieces. Then in the end you will just toss the sand back on the beach. “It’s simple, it’s just sand!” you will say. If it’s not cultural but personal than culture is nothing because EVERYTHING is personal. Nowadays, I revel deeply in simply witnessing humanity. Not looking at the kids that play in my neighborhood as Indonesians, or Muslims, or children. All of which are different than me. Instead, they are just little moments of perfectly concise humanness, little pieces of sand, broken down versions of the same thing.

Maybe some Americans would shed a tear for MLK because they relate to his awesomeness as Americans. Their ego thrives knowing that their logical syllogism is sound. Maybe they would have cried at the thought of MLK out of pride, familiarity, fascination and gratitude for both their ancestors and their unborn American children that will one day reap the benefits of MLK’s work. Not me. Now, I am simply disconnected. There he is, that man who worked so hard and sacrificed his organism for America. I am in awe, from one completion to the next…in awe of this awesome web of ultimate oneness. So why am I getting paid to go teach others how to be more like me, more like MLK? Shouldn’t they know just as much as me? After all, we are all the same. We are all human individuals with our own culture. My passport–touched and stamped by dozens of humans from so many different cultures–should not serve as some credential proving my eligibility to teach others about “superiour” philosophies or righeous people such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. My passport just proves I am some human that happened to be born to a particular set of parents in a particular part of the world with a particular language, food and music. What it doesn’t explain is how it is actually useless, and how nowadays I couldn’t care less.


When Corruption Hits Your Town December 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cocoyoni @ 5:56 am

There is something to be said about civil unrest and corruption. There are also many things one should never say. For example, if the police are at war with the army in your town it is probably best not to scrutinize it on a public blog that is widely read in the small town experiencing said unrest. Some might see that as “fuel to the fire”. Especially best not to write a post about it if one is A) barely proficient in the town’s language so therefore hardly understands all the details of said unrest and B) one of three Bule (white people) who lives in the town and already suffers from the ailing disease of sticking-out-like-a-sore-thumb. Going against my own advice I feel it is necessary to send a short update about living through and experiencing the corruption in Indonesia and the current unrest.

I heard news of the Police vs. Army violence last night after a long day of teaching. Because I was tired, apathetic and literally the LAST person to find out about the local war it did not really change my mood or affect my posture; it had already filtered through so many people to get to me that it seemed diminished and sprinkled with a “don’t worry” postscript.

This morning my alarm was my teacher friend calling to tell me I needed to meet with some immigration officers in 5 minutes. Of course it took me more than 5 minutes (more like 20) and so by the time I was available the immigration officers impatiently left campus where they had come just to see me. They informed my teacher friends that I now must come to the immigration office because I made them wait too long.

Just so you know…I have already experienced a bit of this when a team of police officers came to my school last week. They pulled me out of class and insisted I go to the police station to explain why I had not checked in with them yet. You see, whenever one goes to a new location in Indonesia one MUST inform the police…1938 Germany, I know. I had lived here for 2 months and forgot to check in. Oops! During my stay at the disgustingly terrifying jail in the jungle of Gorontalo the police officers did not even look at my documents! Did they even ask for the paperwork that explains my association to the US Department of State? Not at all. Truth be told? The police officers heard some white girl was jogging through the village every day at dusk and decided to haul her into the station to take copious photos of her to display as their computer’s desktop. Ugh! So now what? I have checked in with the local police, sat for far too long in a small unventilated room of cigarette smoke, and smiled in 50+ photos surrounded by sweaty men like a freakin’ champ! Why are more officers stopping by? Let’s just be honest here. MOST police in Indonesia are corrupt. People have been warning me from the beginning. It is really not too different from Mexico. They bribe you, black mail you, lie and apparently get drunk and start wars with military.

My fellow teachers told me the immigration officers think I am a spy. They wish to interrogate me so to determine I am not. I immediately responded, “How will they determine that I am not a spy? I could definitely be a spy! Everything about me says “spy”!”…not to mention once accused of being a spy one loses their international rights. I freaked out a bit after that. Called my people at AMINEF and made sure that before I was interrogated someone knew where I was. Turns out he was “joking”. I still have no idea what is going on. They decided to send someone to represent me instead of actually sending me on Monday.

About the war…A few nights ago a police officer got drunk and killed a soldier. Some solider retaliated. Now every pig wants to kill a jar head and every jar head wants to kill a pig. It reminds me of some old school East LA gang violence. However, in this situation the people fighting are not high school drop-outs or products of serious brainwashing. They are the bodies of government meant to protect the people. The bodies PAID for by the beautiful and sincere citizens of Gorontalo.

What does this mean to me? Besides the fact that it is unsafe to leave my campus and I have a four-day weekend? It means there is a serious social problem that needs to change and the town should be in dismay. Yet are they? Everyone I ask says the same thing, it’s like clock work, “Why, do you ask about that Jolie? It is between them, not us.” When the people who are meant to protect and serve are killing each other the whole system becomes inefficient at best and obsolete at worst. I feel horrible that there is a body of governance that is blatantly harming society and no one is doing anything about it. Every police officer should know that their boss is the citizen. Yet, these police are middle schoolers, acting out of stinky jackassery. I have heard endless stories about police officers stealing from the people whom delegate their existential purpose, the tax payers. My friend was fined thousands of dollars for getting in a car accident, while drug lords get off after murdering and stealing because they have the money to. I can only hope the army rises above the mess of this municipal system and ends the war non-violently. Maybe it would do us all a service if they cleansed the force and purged it of all bad seeds (by bringing them to court not murdering them).

More practically, maybe this dispute could end by this afternoon so I can get me some groceries without worrying about being in the middle of a shoot off or by tonight so I can hit up my favorite snorkeling spot on the sabbath. That would be great! As for my local reputation as a spy, still no news. I will keep you posted ;-).


Christianity in the LARGEST Islamic Nation. October 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — cocoyoni @ 4:42 am

There is a dead dog somewhere named Tucker. He is probably already reincarnated into a rambunctious but smart 5 year old boy who lives on the coast of Mexico, watches waves in the morning before his mom and dad wake up, and fishes with his older brother.  But he used to be a handsome beagle and the canine soul mate to a wonderful human I know. I never met Tucker but he never got lost and so his rusty dog tag (C&C of Honolulu B20139 exp. Dec. 31 2003) hangs around my clavicle as a talisman to see that I too never get lost. I found it fitting to call upon the dog spirit this weekend to guide me as I journeyed into the northern province of Sulawesi where the Christians there don’t only cuddle with dogs but eat them too.

It was Polly’s birthday (a fellow Fulbrighter) so when we drove up to her school a gander of Christian students were waiting to hand over her birthday present: a brand new fresh, perfectly white, puppy dog. This poor and tiny soul was terrified, hungry, weak, and hot. The confusion must be incredible for those pups with higher IQ’s and better functioning logical faculties. This dog happened to escape the hot palm oil and homemade spices in Ibu Fatma’s frying pan yet, how? Is she prettier than most dogs? More intelligent? How do they determine which dogs they cuddle and which dogs they munch on? This Westerner would wonder but upon proper inquisition a good Northern Sulawesi Christian would shrug, mumble, puff a clove cigarette, gaze and squint, then smile it off.

But this post is really less about the Christian diet of dog and more about experiencing the Christian culture in the Northern part of my Island. And boy, was it a doozy! Having been immersed in the sweetness of gentle Muslim culture for more than 2 months it was shocking to visit the 85% Protestant region where rules, speech, food, garb, and simple life style are very different. Less than an hour flight north of my home I tasted firsthand the strength and application of Indonesia’s slogan: “Unity in Diversity”. Some Christians get drunk, grab your butt and whisper the stale stench of moonshine into your ear at long-winded weddings. Mostly all of them eat crazy stuff like man’s best friend and flying/walking rodents. They all have a different dialect than Gorontalans and an accent that stumbles over my nickname “Jo” when ending a sentence. There are friendly looking churches reminiscent of the backwoods in Alabama on darn near every corner. They are so civilized that fancy sidewalks stretch out adjacent from the houses. Of course the women aren’t carved out of the Koran in Northern Sulawesi so there aren’t many jilbabs and they proudly show their shiny black hair and long tan arms.

There are possibly enumerable differences between Indonesian Christianity and Indonesian Islam. The most poignant difference is surprisingly NOT the religion itself. Actually, I am certain the God the bible speaks of and the God the Koran speaks of is exactly the same God. They were written in and around the same time, they push nearly all the same morals and spiritual tenets and Jesus is even a prophet in Islam. The heaviest differences I picked up on, from my three day tutorial, are the following things:

1) Christians are allowed to drink and therefore do!
2) Christians are allowed to eat many disgusting and frightening things.
3) Christians don’t sing prayers into a loud speaker that skip atop rice paddies and echo through jungles four times a day.
4) Christians (specifically Protestants) wear skimpier clothing.
5) Christians don’t learn Arabic.
6) Christians eat on different plates than Muslims at social events like weddings.
7) Christians bow their heads and pray just like Grandma Edith back home.

…you see, the difference is more a cultural conundrum than movements marked in spirituality.

One might assume Indonesians to be intrusive about their religious preference because everyone is so religious. I believe one could have this assumption because Americans and Europeans (the culture to which most people reading this relate), associate religion with evangelicalism. Sulawesians and most Indonesians (perhaps because they were colonized by so many Dutch, Portuguese and Japanese) don’t talk about their religion very much if at all and would not even THINK to try and make you or me apart of it. A breath of fresh air, it is. However, there is a law in Indonesia that requires all citizens and long-term visitors choose a religion. It does not matter what it is so long as they have one. This is probably because an Ibu somewhere was concerned for the country’s spiritual backbone and mentioned it to her son who was the guy that makes laws and (because Muslims worship mamas right after Allah) he implemented this motherly concern into national mandate. Yet, Muslim schools celebrate the Buddha’s birthday and many Christian schools take Idul Fitri off. So maybe Christians digest doggy on the daily and Islamic folks cover their ladies and shun pork, bat and rat but they function right well with one another. There are even Muslims who work at Polly’s Christian school and crazy Pagan-Buddhist-Yogis, like me, considered a part of what (my) Muslims call family.

Per usual, it seems us Americans have a thing or two to take from the way they do things in Indonesia. I am not saying the Christians of America ought to start eating their house pets or drinking lots of homemade spirits. Nor that we ought to make a required religion in America. Rather that talk of religion should have a nice hush to it for the personal and political fruition of us all. Talk of God is a natural side effect of the human condition, as is language, but it can be so obtuse and contradicting a thing to apply something so limited as language to something so transcendent as God. So I applaud Indonesia for having figured that out, whether they know that have or not.