Because not all of Peace Corps is sunshine and daisies, cultural appreciation and brilliant students
It started with me walking in on my stark naked 14-year-old host niece who already hates me while trying to mandi. I know this was probably more embarrassing for her, but the fact that she already ignores me made me feel so sorry and awkward about the whole thing.
Monica, my host-sister in Kediri, and I would have laughed about it because we’re friends, but I can’t look this kid in the face because I don’t know where we stand and I don’t know how to make her comfortable with me.
To avoid the awkward, I went for a long walk. A beautiful long walk with the sun on my face, Nikes on my feet, and headphones in my ears. It was lovely to tune out and only talk to the few people I passed.
Except, then I passed the police station and they made me come inside to take selfies. And then after an hour and a half of walking I started to feel dizzy in the heat (I’m still fasting for Ramadan, which includes no water.)
Up to this point, the catcalls weren’t terrible, just sporadic and they were peppered with actual conversations with people who treated me like a human, so it was bearable. But I got to a curve where a group of stupid men were screaming and laughing at me, so I hopped in an elf home, giving up the walk.
While on the elf, and regaining my courage and sense of adventure, I decided to just ride until we got to a mini market, which left me out in Panawangan City AKA the pasar AKA the scariest place in the world where people catcall and harass me even when with my host-family.
So this was a dumb decision on my part to attempt the city alone. I stepped off the elf and immediately heard screaming and men yelling the usual calls: I love you, I want to kiss you!, Hey bule! I screamed back at one group of men that I am a teacher here and they are rude, but that never helps. They just laugh more.
To make it look like I knew what I was doing, I popped into a small shop to buy data for my phone, but they only gave me Rp. 100.000 worth when I paid for Rp. 200.000 and I didn’t notice until it was too late.
I started walking toward home, but a group of kids chased me, wanting a photo. Then, a man decided he wanted a photo with me and when I put my arm up to hide my face and told him no selfies, he grabbed my arm and tried to pull it down to take his photo anyway. You know, like you would do to NO HUMAN BEING EVER BECAUSE HUMANS AREN’T PROPERTY TO DO WITH AS YOU PLEASE.
I was finished with walking after that, sick of the harassment and feeling defeated, so I jumped on another elf deciding not to get off until I was directly in front of my home. When I went to pay I noticed I lost Rp. 5.000 that had been in my pocket that I must have dropped, so I had to pay in coins.
Finally home, my family asked me about the walk and I told them there are many people in Panawangan who are very rude. They called my counterpart to tell them so and all he said was “then she should be riding her bike.”
That was my final breaking point. That’s not an appropriate response to a safety concern and I never asked my family to tell him my complaint anyway. They asked me how my walk went and I answered honestly, and they responded with laughter.
My frustrations at the rude and entitled culture here really peaked today and now I need a nap. It’s not all waterfalls and mountain hikes in Panawangan.