An alien in Jakarta

I have never felt more like a foreigner than today, overwhelmed by the very nature and alien normality of the people, language, culture and geography. You go to Europe and can get by with a limited knowledge of the local language and the over-reliance upon local knowledge of English but this, this is not even on the same spectrum.

Maybe it is because I am quite jet lagged and quite hungry (it’s Ramadan at this time btw) but I am feeling so unsettled, being so foreign. But this feeling has really got me thinking about the people back home or the hujjaj that visit the Holy cities every day and how must they feel. I’ve never really considered myself as a ‘spoilt Westerner’ but today I realised that I probably am more than I originally thought. Even just walking down the city, I am surprised to find such simplicity. They say every city is the same, how wrong is that assumption!

‘Them’ and ‘Us’. First world and the Third world. Developed and developing. Does this partiality stem from the fear of the foreign or is it an intrinsic superiority that we fluff our pillows and floss our teeth with. The fact that I’ve brought my own bed sheets and cockroach spray says more about me and mu subconscious. I realised today that my prejudices need to change and I’m hoping that this journey will remedy this disease in my heart.

Prejudice, be it in any form, is a disease of the heart and soul and is predicated on so many other factors that are far from ‘Islamic’. This realisation that I’m having today is showing me that maybe I’m even less of a better person than I thought I was. Being out of your comfort zone shows your true colours and exposes your own reality, a reality that you yourself may be blind to. Maybe when Sayyidna Umar RA said you know a person when you travel with them, maybe he was implying that travelling puts us out of our normality and our recognisable environment, stressing our human competencies and more importantly manners.

No matter how ‘cultured’ you may be, unless you live, eat, sleep and breathe amongst those who we have often considered as ‘less privileged’, we will never overcome our own subconscious nor will we ever come close to valuing what we have. Alhamdulillah.

My first night as an alien in Jakarta.


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