It took me a long time to learn a little bit of Indonesian. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you will know about my struggle with this language. Believe it or not – I did manage to pick up some and am actually able to communicate with my colleagues on a basic level now! But I did learn one sentence very quickly: «Begitu sudah». It means «That’s just the way it is» and can be used as a comment for almost every situation in life. If you don’t know what to say – begitu sudah. If you’re surprised about something but know it cannot be changed – begitu sudah. If you did something wrong but don’t want to or can't change it – begitu sudah. If you try to convince someone to do something but don’t succeed – begitu sudah.
People here have the capacity to accept a situation much more easily than we do in the West. We always try to question decisions or make someone change his or her mind because we are so convinced about our own opinion. We put a lot of energy into this and talk about these things at length, even if the chances of achieving our goal are slim. Over here, people tend to just accept a situation as it is – begitu sudah. For one, it would be unpolite to contradict you so they will just remain quiet about what you say. Or they are too shy to say anything, which is often the case with our employees here. For another, an official government decision for example is rarely met with as much criticism as back home because they have learnt that criticism is not appreciated by the authorities. Begitu sudah.
You may say that a simple life as many of my colleagues lead here doesn’t bring along as many challenges as we face in the West. That's why they don't have to deal with as many issues as we do. I wouldn’t agree to that. They have their challenges, some of them rather big, but they deal with them in a different way. They accept them and focus their energy on living with or around them instead of fighting a fight that they cannot win. Begitu sudah. Ok, sometimes they also just wait for time to fix things, and that seems to work out quite often too…
When you think of it, it makes a lot more sense to put your energy into the challenge itself instead of lamenting about it forever. It often strikes me how much energy people back home put into talking about a problem and why they think it’s a problem, instead of accepting the fact and start acting. I don’t mean to say that we have to accept everything just the way it is. But a little more calmness about certain things would do us good. Begitu sudah.
It probably comes down to the different types of society we live in – individualistic vs. collective behaviour. Over here, a single opinion is not perceived as important as in western societies, so the individual tends to accept certain facts more easily than we do. It’s more important for the collective to be ok with a situation than for the individual. They are not brought up to put themselves to the front as individuals. We think they are simply being shy, but they just didn’t learn to stand out. Of course, it’s a matter of character as well. But don’t think they will all diligently do everything you tell them! They won’t protest if they don’t agree, but they will also just not do it if they don’t like it. Begitu sudah.
I used to get worked up about things very easily when I was younger. I guess it’s also a quality of the young and a good thing, otherwise things would never get moving in life. But it used a lot of my energy which I could have used for more constructive matters. As I grew older, I learnt to pick my fights, as they say. I tried to invest energy only into issues that were worth arguing about (ok, that doesn’t hold true for the fights with my kids, I still argue way too much there…). And living here has taught me calmness and to accept certain things as they are. I remember, in the beginning I was very surprised to hear what uninvited guests, either from surrounding villages or government representatives, expect to receive from us when they visit. What they seem to take for granted seemed impudent to me as we were not getting anything back, so I thought. But then I learned that it pays off in the long run because it makes things easier for us in other respects. And that’s just the way it is.
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…