Many friends and family were quick to tell me, “don’t go out alone!” and I honour that concern but once you are here for a week or so and have been tossed into a new society you begin to see the presence of God all around you and begin to feel more comfortable and secure. I believe most of those loving concerns were targeted at my safety whenever a loved one goes into the unknown. Do we not say that to our children every day, “stick together honey, there is safety in numbers”.
In a fear based society, such that we live in North America, we must witness true diligence. Should something unthinkable happen to someone we know we can take solace in the fact that we warned the person, or that we knew something like this could happen, or confirm our greatest fears go on all over the place when we tune into the evening news.
But after our outing this morning and a “boxed” lunch I decided to walk to the store at the end of the lane. I say lane because the dorm faces out onto a very narrow lane. This lane is one car wide and barely wide enough for the buses we travel on to come and go. I went alone. The first day I was here I accompanied another student on a walk. This student had been here for 24 hrs or so and had already mastered the busy street at the end of the lane. It is consistently busy with bikes, cars and other vehicles and you must be aggressive to quickly cut across and they will slow for you but they do not stop. I wanted ice cream and I wanted to simply reclaim my independence.
I am in a safe neighbourhood I am told, and it was the echo of my family and friends in my head that had kept me waiting for a companion.
However, as our visit opens up people are falling into community and like-mindedness and if one is to wait to always be accompanied one may spend a lot of time in one’s room. So off I went on my own. I walked past a construction site. I know it is a construction site because they are renovating something. Not sure what it is, but men are working and there is a cement mixer and hammering and scaffolding. It looks dissimilar to what I know as a construction site because men are in shorts, flip-flops and there is an absence of head protection. Like all men in the world then noticed a single white female walking and proceeded to cat-call. I ignored them like I do in Canada (although secretly it strokes my ego that at 52 I can still encourage cat-calls, but I soon chastise myself with a reminder they are quite far away!) and they carried on about their business. I went to the store and looked around. It was fun to guess what was in packages by pictures and surrounding items since it is all in another language. I got my ice cream after a person who seemed like a woman but looked more like a man came into the store burst into song and promptly left. I asked myself, Dorothy are you sure you aren’t in Kansas anymore because that person would have fit perfectly in Toronto! Speaking of this special person….
Today I visited a place where some fear to tread with or without friends. It was a house which is a school/harbour for the GLTB community. GLTB stands for gay, lesbian, transgendered, and bi-sexual and in North America I think we have added another letter to that acronym to represent the inter-sexed community. It is owned by a woman who has been severely marginalized because of her ambiguous means of living. She was born a man but felt like a woman all her life. How must that feel? I haven’t looked in the mirror very often since I arrived because there is no need. My hair is short so I wash, fluff and go out. I haven’t been wearing any cosmetics other than a little eye brow filler, (and for that I used a 3” diameter magnifying mirror) and I only do that because I am vain, but other than that there is little to see. My identity is in my head. I feel my breasts and my genitals and they match what society tells me I am: a woman. What must it feel like to identify all that makes you a woman but not have full breasts and sport a handsome penis? It makes me sad that we, and I mean society, cannot look beyond our own 3” magnifying mirror and our own vanity and see what some people live with every day. The seriousness of what makes us “who” we are and to understand we are all God’s children in every way. I wish we could look beyond our cultural constructions, society’s norms and stereotypical behaviours and love our neighbor as we want to be loved ourselves. The icing on this lovely cake is that this house is primarily serving the Islamic community. In your media fed understanding of Islam I am sure you wonder how these people are left to live freely and practice Islam. The Imam is liberated and welcoming and the government has given this school status so it is protected and honoured.
As I was walking alone this afternoon I was not alone. I was in God’s creation with others who I have not been introduced to but others who are also children of God. They are simply strangers to me because we haven’t met yet but they are not strangers to the collective faith that we all carry of which is a knowledge that there is a force to which we are all a part of. I choose to call this force God.
Today I met many wonderful human beings who just want to live as God has made them. To have the freedom to love their spiritual identity and match it to their humanness whatever that means. I didn’t have to come to Indonesia to see this community it is in my own back yard.
61 Isaiah Street: A place of refuge for all … The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. Thanks be to God.