When Differences are the Norm

Jakarta, 9 September 2010

Three schoolmates sit down together for a meal. A Jewish American, A Christian Nigeria-born, and a Muslim Indonesian. Centuries of bigotry and bloodsheds are among them, as only the current Middle East can show. They can start their own war, right there right then. Yet the girls choose to pick something that unites them—they all, for various personal reasons, don’t eat pork. So they order the meals. And stay friends. Very good friends. Through time, distance, long gaps between emails and calls. The friendship just turned 11 years last month.

Three girls share a basement apartment in the land of free. Two Christian Serbs, and a Muslim Indonesian. The Bosnian war has just ended. Then another girl arrives. A scholarship recipient Muslim Bosnian straight from refugee camps. The air can be icier than the snow outside. But the four girls realize of the obvious tie—they all are strangers on a strange land. So winter coats are loaned, hot chocos are fixed, nailpolishes are traded. When summer is over, they all leave to their respective grad schools. The sweet memories of kind camaraderie remain.

A Malay Indonesian girl, a Chinese Malaysian guy. Decades long of bad blood, resentment, and misunderstanding loom over them. But they stick together through the hell that a business school is, lending each other emotional supports at certain moments. Like when they both miss laksa and roti canai like hell.

Three Chinese girls and an Indonesian chick. Oh wait, a posh and trendy Hongkers, a timid and lovely Shanghainese, a quiet and resolute Taiwanese, and the Indonesian chick. The Indonesian chick thinks she should write her will now that an all-out China war may soon break out in their dorm suite. They all finish school, get a job, considerably bloodless. Oh, except when they open the universal noodle packets too fast and cut their fingers in the process.

Friday, September 10th 2010. Syawal 1st 1431 Hijriah year. The first day of Syawal month, the first day after Ramadhan ends, the Eid al-Fitr. When peace and joy should be in order.

Saturday, September 11th 2010. The whole nine years since the inhumane bloodsheds carried out unjustifiably under pretense of a holy cause. And Rev. Terry Jones, for all his understandable anger and perhaps hopelessness, is supposed to return the cruelness. That will never bring peace nor joy to everyone on each side trying to heal the pain and bridge the parted waters.

And don’t get me started on the, yet again, brewing tensions with Malaysia.

When differences are the norm, you can get fixated on the differences, or on creating your own collective norm that bridges the differences. I forever thank my former roommates and classmates, cited above or not, for having bravely, fairly, and graciously, taken the steps to build our uniting bridge, over potentially troubled waters. As this world has gone even madder and pettier these days, I miss you guys even more. Achingly.

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5 Responses to When Differences are the Norm

  1. Felicia says:

    please read the news regarding 9/11 on New York Times.com. This year’s commemoration is a bit ironic compare to previous years. Since there’s a plan to build an islamic center on the tragedy site. what a complicated world we live in…….

    • lynda says:

      Yep, it is getting more complicated out there each day. Means it’s up to us to make it less complicated. Or not. It’s all about options and living through the consequences. Which is why I’m eternally springing hopes here.

  2. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  3. ifeoma says:

    Hola Chica, ify rindu kpdmu s’tengah mati juga!


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