Down at JCO, I noticed that an Indonesian fellow, maybe in his mid-30's, was kind of glancing my way while I was reading my book, and then after a time he came over to my table. Just wanted to say hi and introduce himself.
"Where do you stay here?" he asked.
"Tinggal di Renon. Sudah tiga tahun di rumah itu, dan enam tahun di Bali."
"Oh! You speak Indonesia!"
So the remainder of our conversation was conducted in Indonesian. Six years in Bali! Originally from what country. Are you here alone? Do you have a wife? Where is your wife from, bule or local? Where is she now? Do you have a baby? Oh, already 17! Where is he now? And so on.
A little boy joins us. This is his younger son, who, shyly, will not tell me his name. He is five years old. And there is a second son, 12 years old, who soon joins us as well, as does their mother.
We talked about our families, school, cars versus motorbikes (turns out we both prefer the motorbike), and the dangerous little kids who race about without helmets. Just common talk. But I've said it before and I'll say it again - this would not be common in America. You do not just walk up to someone's table and say "Hi, how are ya?", unless you like being told to fuck off.
The only exception I ever saw in America was in the deep South. Seems kinda strange, when you consider that southerners have a bit of a bad rep. But where simple friendliness is concerned, you can't hardly beat 'em. You don't just go into a store and buy something, for instance. You jaw for a while. You don't sit down in a Waffle House and expect to eat in silence. No, by the time you leave, you'll probably know everyone in the place. They call it southern hospitality - and it's the closest thing we have in America to the way people are in Indonesia.
And this is what I love about Indonesia. A simple willingness among people to be friendly, to chat a bit, not to look the other way and pretend that you do not exist. On the street, in the warung, at the laundry, on the beach, chances are that you are gonna meet a fellow human being, a friend.