Saturday, June 14, 2008
Our photo collection at RothTravelPhotos.blogspot.com has been updated. (We finally found a good internet connection.) You can see our pictures of central Java, Kuala Lumpur and other random Sulawesi sites.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Well, we’re in our last week of living in
Hello. Peter here. It’s been a while. I realize I haven’t contributed to this blog for quite sometime now. But that’s only because, honestly, I’ve gotten really tired of analyzing how I feel in
My feelings are a mixed bag. A really mixed bag, which will take a long time to sort out. Yes, in many ways it’s been a rough year, and this country has left me beat up and bloody more than once. Because of this, I feel like I can hear some of you out there giving warning to another person interested in teaching English as a foreign language. “I don’t know,” I hear you say. “Jim and Lois Roth have a boy who did that, and he had nothing but trouble. It was a terrible experience.”
And though we’ve dealt with more than our share of shady characters and liars and impossible situations, it’s been one of the best educations I could get. But first, here’s my own word of warning: If you want to be an EFL teacher and want to find a place to work that will be like Starbucks or office work in the States, then don’t do it. A fair employer who treats you like he/she is afraid of a lawsuit doesn’t exist in this line of work. Sometimes it felt like every time I left our apartment I had to fight and fight for the simplest things. We had to buy our own colored pencils and scissors for class. And I never had a reliable CD player at school.
I came here to see how the majority of the world lives, and the truth is it’s much rougher than what most of us are used to in
Searching for the answer is far from simple. I mean, I know what the answer should be. Yes, of course I do. I can say yes, but what do I really do when it comes down to it? What would you do if you had no running water for two days? I’ll tell you honestly, I lost it. And there was no one within earshot who was to blame.
The American definitions of “liberal” and “conservative” do not exist over here. They’re kind of jokes outside the
We as Americans – as humans – need to learn to be more sensitive and understanding. We need to be more sensitive to those who believe different than we do. I just read an interview with Salman Rushdie, and he said that believing in freedom of expression is only real if you grant it to someone you don’t agree with. That’s a challenge. It means nothing if we don’t acknowledge that the world is so complex that someone might not believe the same way or even want the same things we do.
The great Kurt Vonnegut said it best in his introduction to Slapstick. He tells what we need is “a little less love and a little more common decency.”
True, there are those people who are just plain ass-clowns, who want to say or do things just to test their “rights” and push our buttons. And if there’s no substance or conviction to their beliefs, then they ought to be slapped. But we need to listen first.
I’m not saying this in a bleeding heart/America sucks sort of way. I’ve come to love something very much about the USA. But I feel like it’s real now and not what a political party or news commentator has told me to think. It’s far deeper than Fox News flag waving pseudo-patriotism, but it’s not left-wing Michael Moore manipulative cynicism either. I feel like I disagree with both the “Right” and the “Left.” America has done a lot for the world. We’re an example of democracy and the benefits of capitalism. It’s hard to argue that things aren’t kind of nice in America. But we are not a beacon of freedom and altruism either. America wants more than her share. There’s no doubt about that.
Living in a place that is not as safe as growing up in the Indiana suburbs has been one of the best decisions of my life. True learning is a difficult and dark process. It’s hard work and full of unknowns. For everything I come to understand, there’s something new I don’t have an answer for. But to me that makes life worth living.
We need to have more conversations and fewer mini-trials to prove who’s right and wrong all the time. Whatever the subject. If we’d withhold judgment, we could possibly resolve a lot more of our differences. Why are we so concerned with proving the truth? If it’s truth, I wonder if it’s a little bigger than reason. I wonder if it shouldn’t just make itself apparent? No one owns truth. It’s not ours to use.
Living as an expat, you have to find what you have in common with those you come in contact with. You cannot focus on your differences. If you do you become isolated. Then you’re in trouble. And Sarah and I have found we have much more in common than not with the vast majority of people. (Minus the self-destructing alcoholic honkies we worked with.) That knowledge is a great thing to have received while in Indonesia.