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

Urban Living in Yogyakarta

At about 11pm, after long talks with my home-stay family, es teh (ice tea), and santai-santai (relaxing) I settle into my humble, but comfortable room. As fatigue from daily activities and city life overcomes me and I slowly drift off, the sounds of ever restless rats scurry above my thin roof. The city is always moving, one way or another, the rats are just one example of this.

Before I embarked on WTBD in Indonesia, the thought of rats anywhere near me was disgusting and far outside of my comfort zone. Call me crazy, but now, it has come to the point that the sound of the rats scurrying, paired with the reassurance that there is no way they can enter my room, is a comfort sound that actually kind of rocks me to sleep at night. It gives me a similar feeling of being in a warm room on a stormy day, or hearing other members of your family arise for work while you are able to sleep in. It is the feeling of security in a city of chaos.

This extends to not only the physical space of my home, but also things like crossing the street, or my daily routine. There is something about knowing that you are not going to get hit by a vehicle because you know well how to cross, while crossing through some of the most chaotic, unorganized traffic that you have ever witnessed, that is peaceful. We are often so trapped in our own comfort zones and routines that we do not allow ourselves to grow as humans and witness other’s daily experiences.

Living in and exploring this city everyday has brought us all new perspectives that we never expected to understand in our lifetimes. Certain phenomenons in Javanese People’s daily lives, that may seem unfortunate to us because they are outside of our own comfort zones, may provide a sense of home to them. I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone at some point in the near future, sleep under the stars on a thin mat, visit your friend that lives in a part of town that you might consider dangerous, shower using only a bucket full of cold water.

These activities, unless they spontaneously go horribly wrong, can only help you to grow as a person. While they may be uncomfortable in the moment, they will teach you timeless lessons.