AIYEP has undeniably been eye opening to the diversity of Indonesian culture. From seeing enormous Pinisi boats built by hand in in our neighbourhoods in Tanah Beru, to “hidden camera” news reporting while interning at TV stations in Makassar, to learning to tolerate the pain in our knees in order to perfect Saman dance and being in a constant state of confusion and bemusement. But for me, personally, the most eye opening aspect of AIYEP has been getting to know the Indonesian counterparts.
Prior to joining AIYEP I had spent the majority of my time in Indonesia in Java. From my experiences I felt that I had quite a strong understanding of Indonesian customs and cultures. However over the last two months of living with the Indonesian participants, who come from all across the archipelago, I have come to realise how narrow my perspective of Indonesia really was.
Throughout my AIYEP experience I have learnt that not all Indonesians loved spicy foods nor is Indonesian food always sweet, like I have experienced in Yogyakarta. Just because you are from the same country does not mean you will always understand each other, slang and dialects vary considerably throughout the archipelago. During cultural performances I was able to get a taste of each of the participants traditional clothing and dances, giving me a small glimpse into their history.
However, despite these many differences throughout Indonesia, one aspect of Indonesian culture that has remained consistent to me (and I have found in all the Indonesian participants) has been a sense of community. Two months ago I nervously met 35-participants from across Australia and Indonesia for the first time. Today, despite our varied backgrounds and experiences, these 35-participants have become like family. The Indonesian National motto “Unity in Diversity” has never rang more true.