I’m working on a collection of stories based on my Global Internship journals. The journals themselves are such a jumble of thoughts, prayers, cultural observations, stories from my day, things to remember, etc., that reading them is no small feat. I’d like to preserve the stories in a format that is user-friendly, also using my photos from my internship. It’s a work that’s in its early stages but I’d like to share the stories as I go. Here’s a rough draft of the first one that I’ve completed.
Dedicated to Amy, Cheryl, Jaree’ and Lydia. I love you from the bottom of my heart, for always.
I absently wrapped my fingers around my frosty glass of cherry coke while listening to Lydia’s story of a recent and rather humorous taxi ride. I savored the luxury of the moment for being the sole patrons of the open rooftop restaurant of a four-star, high-rise hotel is indeed a luxury. Laughing at Lydia’s narrative, I tried to lift my glass. It didn’t move. I tried again but with no avail. My cherry coke still sat in front of me on the table. Bewildered, I asked one of my companions to pick up my glass. She soon informed me that the glass was stuck to the table. Stuck?
Further observation revealed that everything on the table was adhered to the recently varnished surface. Water glasses, menus, and purses all required a firm, two-handed tug to remove them. Apparently, someone had been instructed to coat the rooftop tables with polyurethane without receiving instructions to allow them to dry properly before use. Eventually someone at the table voiced the question that was foremost in all our minds, “Why bother to place a sealant on the wood to protect it if you’re not going to let the finish dry undisturbed?”
I will not attempt to report the lengthy conversation that followed. It was technical and as I’ve already said, lengthy. We didn’t have an easy answer for the situation even though we’d spent sixteen months studying the culture. We didn’t want one. The process of peeling back the layers of thought and motivation to better understand the Indonesian worldview had become one of our favorite pastimes.
This was not the first dinner where we had spent the better part of conversation proposing and defending various theories about the rich cultural landscape that surrounded us. Our dining table was not just a place to satisfy the appetite of a hungry belly but a hungry mind. Some of the happiest moments of my Global Internship occurred during such times with my ethnography notebook lying adjacent to a steaming plate of rice as we sought the proper response to that great question, “Why do they do that?”