Aside from the joy of my own homestay experience, it has been a wonderful treat to swap stories about families and homes with the other AIYEP participants. Whether it is about the food people have for breakfast, or about how Ibu (mother) insists they makan lagi (eat more), hearing about other peoples’ experiences in their homestays has enriched my own. I can truly appreciate the commonalities and differences of Indonesian people and their homes and I haven’t treated my own experience as one that is universal.
As I come to the end of three weeks with my family, I can see that my lack of language skills, which are improving very slowly, has shaped my personal experience. I haven’t been able to feed my curiosity and love of people through questions and conversations as I usually would. I have slowly come to know my family through observation and simply sitting amongst them, occasionally taking part in conversations using the words I have picked up since arriving, and with the English of a patient sister.
As I write, I sit in the busiest place in the house, which is like a dining room and kitchen. Here, I watch people cook amazing food, helping when I can; I watch children play, sometimes giving cuddles and teaching songs; I watch people sit around the table, talking and laughing. In this house, the conversation is incessant and laughter is a frequent and welcome interruption. Observation is a slow but rich way to learn… It took me weeks to figure out which children belonged to which of my host sisters, because everyone is equally loving and attentive to all the children.