When you rent a new place, you try to find out all the pros and cons before signing the contract, but you also brace yourself for some surprises – they always come. In our case, in this beautiful house in Jakarta where we feel very happy, the surprise took the form of absolutely, outrageously loud music and a woman’s voice whom you would think is driving an army to war, every Sunday morning at 6:00am. I repeat: Sunday morning at 6:00am. I repeat it to stress that Sunday morning is important to US. Both my husband and son wake up very early during the whole week, and I do the same. Saturdays are usually busy days, so we look forward to totally relax on Sundays.
Those who start loud music in the park in front of our house on Sunday mornings obviously have different priorities and expectations. And who am I to question them?
For the first few Sundays we tried different strategies: we would tell ourselves that waking up early allows you to do so many productive things; we shook our heads disapprovingly but we were so happy to be finally back together that this did not matter that much in the end; we laughed about it; we wrote to the landlord, complaining; we talked to our friends to see if they happened to have similar experiences.
Then, one Sunday when they started at 5.30, we decided to go out and see what was really happening and who was the enthusiastic human being that screamed on The Chicken Dance (in Bahasa). This is what we saw:
I looked around and took in the whole scene: women, lots of them, exercising together; colours; the trees, the paths, the green areas that offer a haven from pollution and noise; children playing around; men exercising on the public structures. Believe it or not, I was shaken by a wave of cheerfulness. I was obviously witnessing a clear example of collective culture, where the GROUP was acting for its own sake and the possible needs of any individual could not interfere with this. Actually, that did not even cross their minds, that someone wanted to sleep in silence on Sunday morning. And I am sure, had we told them that they were depriving us of sleep, thus causing us a nuisance, they would feel sorry.
This is why I love living in other cultures – it does not only challenge you mentally, but it involves you in your daily life, in your basic needs, in your deepest values. And what best exercise to remain alive can you think of?