When I came back to Gili Meno at the end of May I was surprised to learn many new things. The first thing that I found out is that one of my friends whom I thought was single was actually married with children. What the??? “How come you never said anything?” “You never asked”, was his response, “tout simplement”. Um ok, I’m sorry but from where I come from we don’t keep things like that a secret, we are proud to mention our significant others. And with a smile on his face he said, “I wasn’t keeping it a secret, if you would’ve asked, I would’ve told you.”
This was so shocking to me that as I joke I went up to another one of my friends and said…..”and are you married too?” and he said, “YES”. Whaaat?? “Do you have kids”, I asked. “Yes, I have one”, he said. What the heck!!!!! Immediately I asked, “so who else is married here that I hang out with” and he said, “well basically all but 2 of us are married”. I so wish someone had a camera when I found out this information, I’m sure the picture would’ve been priceless. I was genuinely dumbfounded. So I take back saying there are a ton of hot single guys on Gili Meno…….THEY ARE ALL MARRIED (except 2)!
I asked why they kept such a big thing a secret from me and they said, “Amanda, we never kept a secret from you, but you never asked, and if you don’t ask then we are not going to go around sharing our business.” How is something as big as a marriage not worth mentioning I kept asking? And all they kept saying in return was, “you NEVER asked, Amanda”. I started to wonder if this was where the phrase, don’t ask don’t tell came from?
This was the first of many cultural differences I learned during my month stay on Gili Meno.
At first I was totally offended and I couldn’t get over it. One night, my friend Ludra (a single one) sat down with me and tried to explain that personal lives are private in Indonesia and no one else’s business but our own. This was a hard concept for me to grasp because in the USA we share everything about our lives with everyone, including strangers! In fact, Ludra didn’t even know that some of his friends were married until I told him. He hangs out with these guys everynight and plays volleyball with them everyday but he didn’t know that some of them were married with kids?? Can you imagine this? I still can’t, I just can’t!
My next question was, so where are the wives?? It turns out all of their wives and children live in Lombok, 30 minutes away by boat because that’s where most of the guys are originally from. They work and live on Meno and then they go home maybe one day a week to see their family.
What was more shocking than actually finding out they were married was to find out how LONG they have been married? Some of them have been married for 10 years and they are younger than me. In Lombok the average age to get married is between 17-23. I found out some other shocking news about marriages but more on that in another post.
One day I was talking to my friend Barone and asking him when his birthday was, how many siblings he had, what part of Lombok did he originally come from, etc. Finally he said, “why do you ask so many questions?”. “I don’t know”, I responded, “because I want to get to know you”. He couldn’t understand this because the questions were too personal. As the days passed by, I noticed more and more how my friends never did talk about personal matters with each other. They would talk about what they did that day or what they were going to do that evening, or if there was something significant happening on the island but nothing about their families (it was almost as if they led two different lives- one on Meno and one in Lombok with their families).
This was new to me especially coming from a country where people are over-the-top posting multiple pictures and status updates online about conversations that they have with their fabulous children or about how how cute, amazing, funny and smart their sons and daughters are. It disgusts me. What did people like my parent’s do when their children were young and did something cute since facebook didn’t exist back then? They shared it with their spouse at the end of the day or told a good friend. They didn’t let the whole world know because frankly no one cares about the daily play by plays. I’m not saying that one should never talk about their kids but a happy-medium between the American and Indonesian practices would be the perfect balance.
I’m not saying that we should never talk about personal and private matters to friends but what would the world be like if there was a little less unnecessary talking and more listening and enjoying the present moment with the people in front of you and not on your computer screen? Even though my friends never mentioned their children, from time to time I would see those that had cellphones go to check a text message and the screen saver was a picture of their kids.