I had more to say on Monday, but I decided 1700 words were enough for one blog entry. Then I wrote something else on Wednesday about responses I received. Now here are some more reflections on the whole thing.
I’ve had some interesting residual effects from being assaulted. One of the awful things was that I was assaulted by one of the very people who was being paid to protect me against such things. This man was a Christian from one of the local churches, and was married with children (I feel particularly bad for his wife and kids. I have no idea why they think he lost his job). If I can’t trust him, then who can I trust? This has created some trust issues in me, particularly around local men. The national people who work at our school are wonderful people. We have lots and lots of Indonesian staff and I have developed friendships with some of them. They’re friendly, caring, generous, kind and pleasant people.
I’ve had lots of good experiences with local people and one very bad one. Now my first inclination on meeting new national men is mistrust. I assume bad intentions, but I don’t want to. I catch myself making bad assumptions about people. It’s not fair and it’s not right.
I want to see the good in people.
Whilst the community here is full of lovely people, it is also full of violence, poverty and all the issues that go along with that.
It is right for me to make sure I am safe and behave in a pre-emptive, protective way to a point, but what does that mean for how I interact with new people? It’s a delicate balance.
The reality is that it isn’t always safe for women. White people get stared at a lot because we’re obviously different. We stand out. I get it. Sometimes random Indonesians want photos with you just because you’re white. It can be a little uncomfortable, but it’s fine. What I don’t appreciate is the men who come up to me and ask me lots of questions and try to find out where I live. The drunk ones can be particularly stubborn and unpleasant. I don’t mind talking to strangers, but I’m always weary of strange men who talk to me because usually their intentions are not wonderful. I’ve never had anyone actually do anything bad whilst I’ve been out in the community, it’s mostly just questions that can be intrusive and sometimes annoyingly persistent. I’m never out in public alone without it being a very populated place like the busy main road.
I don’t get approached by men when I’m with other people, only when I’m alone, which says something about why I’m getting approached.
Some expat women (especially some of our high school girls) carry pepper spray or occasionally tasers to protect themselves. I know of a number of women/girls who have been groped while on their motorbikes stopped at traffic lights. I get yelled at when I’m riding my bike sometimes, but I can’t usually make out what’s being said.
I hate that it’s safer for my 16 year old male students to go around town alone than it is for me. They can go on long motorbike rides to enjoy the scenery, but I shouldn’t go out of town to do that. I’m loathe to go riding around the lake on my own, even thought I’d like to. I’m an independent adult who is used to being able to do as she pleases and be physically safe. No longer having that assumed freedom is both frustrating and unjust. I have lived my life in relative physical safety and now it’s something I have to think about as a daily reality. It’s not like someone is waiting to attack me around every corner, but I do have to consider where I go and what I do.
Life here is more complicated than life back in Australia. I still want to be here, and these sacrifices are worth it for me at this point in my life, but I don’t enjoy everything about living here.