In Paciran, there are no Christians except for me. The nearest church is an hour or so away in Tuban. While I didn’t attend church for Easter, I was there in spirit. If I did attend church, it might have been a risky ordeal — it is considered a risk by a number of people, including the Canadian Embassy in Indonesia:
“There have been a number of terrorist attacks in recent years in Jakarta and on Bali, resulting in significant loss of life to both foreigners and Indonesians. While effective counterterrorism measures by Indonesian authorities have reduced the risk of terrorist attacks, terrorist cells are believed to still exist and could have the capacity to carry out attacks anywhere in the country. Canadians in Indonesia should be particularly vigilant in the lead-up to and during Easter celebrations.”
And speaking of terrorists, a common question I get here is “what do you think about terrorists?” Once I was asked this on the back of a motorbike. I decided not to try to explain the details of this loaded question while the wind was blowing the words from my face. Mostly, I just answer that the idea that Indonesia is “full of terrorists” that this is a stereotype that foreigners may have of Indonesia, just as Indonesians perceive all bules to eat only bread and milk. WHAT?! You don’t eat rice 3x a day?? Then you just eat bread and milk? I think they are more shocked because they don’t know what good bread or fresh milk actually tastes like. Most of the bread here is sweet white bread, and most of the milk is UHT.
The concept of “stereotype” is sometimes hard to explain — often I hear things that simply are not true, but are just ideas planted by Hollywood of what “Amerika” is like. And then this is what is taken to actually be the case. So people in the West all have “free sex” and they all eat only “bread and milk”. And then this affects what people think of MY thinking — that I also think in “stereotypes”, that Indonesian muslims are all evil terrorists. But of course they aren’t — I assure them that I feel safe here; really, I have not had any problems relating to ‘terrorism’ at all living here for the past 8 months (besides seeing white spots from all the pictures being taken of me).
So Indonesians are able to understand that I may have the stereotype that there are a lot of terrorists here, and they explain that this is not true. I agree. Usually right after saying “what do you think of terrorists?”, the second statement is that “we are not all terrorists here”. But going the other way around is harder somehow — I mean, I feel it’s harder for me to tell Indonesians that the stereotypes that they have of “Amerika” is what it is: a stereotype, so it’s not necessarily true for everyone, but only a perception, even though they themselves understand the concept of a stereotype. So you just eat bread and milk then? I think it’s hard to understand the unknown, especially when the only ‘real’ connection to ‘Amerika’ is through Hollywood films (that may or may not have been censored to not show the “free sex”).