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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Perspective

Perspective is why, essentially, the reason why we see things differently from other people. It is the ever-present filter between our senses and our mind, and it is often difficult to perceive. Our perspective is an amalgamation of our past experiences, our opinions, our peers and our innate, baseline identity. For me, actively recognizing my own perspective isn’t terribly difficult; I actually enjoy the challenge it poses and the insights it brings.

I see, for example, the Indonesian peoples’ frequent use of ceramic/porcelain tiles in homes and public places. Initially, this is odd. Why don’t they use wood floors? What about using comfortable rugs or carpets, like us? It is easy to conclude that money is the driving factor behind this difference, but then I try to view that difference from a more objective stance: Indonesia is very humid, so a carpet or a rug would only soak up moisture and be unusable within a week or two; tiles shed that moisture easily and are therefore much easier to maintain.

Growing up in the arid desert that is Colorado, I am not immediately aware of something such as this. My perspective inhibits me from more fully understanding small (and large) differences between my life and theirs, so being able to recognize my biases and presumptions becomes a valuable asset in cultures vastly different from my own.