The road to my village is winding and steep. A grand view of mountains and blue sky can be seen from the roadside. Motorcycles hurry up and down in organized chaos, some carrying giant loads of produce on the back. And a network of big black spiders occupy the treetops.
I rode up this road for the first time two weeks ago to meet my host family. Two volunteers were in the car with me, also preparing to meet their host families. We talked about the gifts we had brought for them, and our lives back in America.
When we arrived at the first house, and the volunteer began grabbing his luggage out of the trunk, my stomach dropped. Suddenly I realized this would be the first time we were truly left alone in Indonesian culture, and I knew in a couple minutes it would be my turn. As our car drove away, I looked back and saw the volunteer through the doorway, sitting on the couch with a big smile on his face, his family surrounding him.
And then the car made its way further up the hill. These moments I spent looking out at the mountains, trying not to think of anything. But soon we pulled into a driveway, and the Program Manager turned around and said my name.
I exited the car, grabbed my guitar that I had lugged halfway across the world along with two bags of luggage, and walked into the house. The Program Manager stayed a few short minutes to introduce me, and then said goodbye.
There was a lot of smiling going on as we sat there trying to speak to each other but having little success. One of the first things they tried to communicate to me was to pour some of my coffee onto the small plate the cup sits on. This is something a lot of people in the village do, apparently because it makes the hot coffee a little easier to drink. I thought about how awful it would be if the first thing I did here was spill coffee on their living room floor, and at first declined, but my Bapak insisted. They watched closely as I poured the coffee, and the smiles returned when I slurped it off the plate.
The rest of the evening was spent showing me around the house, putting the mosquito net up, trying to figure out who left their laptop in the car when they got dropped off, and eating my first Indonesian dinner. I fell asleep listening to my favorite songs on my iPod, especially “Guaranteed:” “… All my destinations will accept the one that’s me / So I can breathe… .”