Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Bali Visit: Introducing The Tour Guide

Our guide for this tour is a Chinese lady raised in Indonesia.  I had originally thought that she was from Taiwan, given the way she spoke, but my non-native Chinese only permits me to correctly identify a few accents.  Her family had immigrated to Indonesia a long time ago and she is the fourth generation.  The Indonesian government for many years had tried to ban the Chinese language and required everyone to learn Indonesian in school.  For a time, it was illegal to bring Chinese printed material into Indonesia, and this foreigner was employed as a smuggler to move Chinese newspapers in.  The immigration officers would never have imagined that I would have been idiot enough to do such a thing.

Anyway, our tour guide was raised without any Chinese training, but she liked to watch Taiwanese soap operas that were dubbed into Indonesian, and it was from them that she told us that she learned Mandarin and Taiwanese.  She doesn't seem to know any English.  

In 1998, there were some riots elsewhere in Indonesia.  In her area there had been some instances of Chinese girls being raped in front of their parents, so she and her mother fled to Bali where the Hindu population was peaceful.  After a time, she decided to seek out an income, and came across an opportunity to be a tour guide for Chinese.  The first group came and she completely lost her ability to speak Chinese in fright.  She explained to those she was giving the tour to that it was her first time.  The one couple spoke kindly and said it was OK, and that we all had to have a first time.  With this, she took heart and continued so that it became her profession.  She said that if the couple had been stern with her, she probably would have given up.  

It has been good to hear her explanations of Bali, with its 3.5 million people and 4,000 temples.  She told us that after the bombings in 2002 and 2005, controls were put on those who come to Bali from elsewhere in Indonesia. Needless to say, the political situation is very complicated in a Muslim majority country with a province that has a very distinct culture.  


Rummuser said...

My recollection of the country is that even in the other Muslim majority islands, the life styles are completely non Islamic. It is only recently that the fundamentalists have started to exercise some influence in some parts. Or at least this is what I am informed by my friends in Djakarta. Visiting Bali was an unforgettable event for me. Being an Indian was a great advantage.

Looney said...

That is similar to the story I got. Islam is alien to the culture here, although it has been nominally here for centuries. Sometimes it is layered on top of animism or spiritism. The last few decades is when the push for a purer Islam has taken hold.

That being said, the local Madrassah will emphasize memorizing, pronouncing and chanting from the Koran, but the village Imams have no idea what the text actually means. They know nothing of the Arabic language beyond the few words that have migrated into Indonesia from Arabic. Nor is it permissible to study the Koran in translation.