‘What do westerners see when they come to Makassar?’ Is it because of the beautiful sunsets? Or is it because of the delicious food? Yes the city is amazing because of those two factors but I see so much more here.
Do you know what it feels like to be an Alien? In England we don’t blink an eyelid if we see someone who looks different to us. If they use English as a second language it is normal. To me it doesn’t matter what you look like or what language you speak we are all the same. But here, in Makassar, people stare at you everywhere you go and giggle when you try and speak the local language. It makes it difficult for me to properly settle in and call it home. Yes, westerners may look different but that’s as far as it goes.
This city is crazy! The way the cars, motorbikes and becak’s operate on the roads is unbelievable. I have never experienced anything like it before. I ride a motorbike and as I drive down the streets of Makassar I wonder how people get from A to B. It is manic because there seems to be no organization. Horns beep at every possible moment, people drive on the wrong side of the road and traffic comes out in front of you from all directions. Compared to England it is chaos. In England we always look where we are going. We stop and look to see if there is any traffic coming from the opposite direction before turning onto a road. We know the dangers of driving too fast and ignoring the rules. Here you have to fight for your spot and whoever is more persistent wins the front position. Why is that? Do you know you are risking your lives?
However, even though the piercing sounds of the motorbikes go right through me, there is that special side to Makassar that not everyone can see. The people of Makassar treat each other like family, no matter how well they know each other. Ok, so maybe not everyone is like that here but the majority of people are and that’s what we should focus on. The kindness I see from all of them puts people in England to shame. It doesn’t matter how much money they have they will go out their way to help others, and it is genuine. In England it is every man for himself. If someone doesn’t have money, or is in need of help, they are resistant to offer their services. Instead they think someone else will assist them. English people are too wrapped up in their stressful lives to stop for a moment and think of someone else.
Nevertheless, there is that truth, under the smiles, that lies on people’s faces. I see the need for freedom. There are so many talented and passionate people that live in Makassar but there is a wall that stops them from acting on their dreams. They are pushed by their parents to become a doctor, or study hard at university, when all they really want to do is be creative, play music and draw. A voice stands in their way. It forces them to go in the opposite direction of their heart. Is this fair? I can do anything I desire and I am free to lead my own life. Yes it is a wild world but what is life if you are trapped in one place and not fulfilling it to the max.
I always see children playing on the streets and having fun with each other here and it takes me back to my childhood. I think ‘Yes, this is what children should be doing!’ Children shouldn’t be cooped up inside on computer games. Playing and having fun, without electrical devices, is what makes a happy childhood. I watch the children here and they have no care in the world. They are laughing and enjoying themselves, using anything they can find to create games. You don’t see this anymore in England. Children are too busy trying to grow up. What they don’t realize is that once they are adults it is not fun to have so many responsibilities. Bedtime for children is another noticeable difference in Makassar. They go to bed late and watch scary movies. In England we have to be in bed by 9pm, at the latest, and people think scary movies are too frightening for children. Do we have too many rules in England? Is that what makes the country so uptight and tense?
I love my lifestyle here. Back home they would say I am escaping from reality but the truth is these guys just live a better lifestyle, with a laid back and friendly atmosphere. For example, here in Makassar, the rich live right next door to the poor and eat at cheap places. They don’t care who they are seen with. However, in England the rich eat and socialize with the rich and the poor eat and socialize with the poor, which may be why westerners love coming here so much. At the end of the day we are all the same and the possessions we have shouldn’t make us different.
There is one more important feature I love about Makassar and that is the food. I love eating out every night on the street corners. The tastiest food is cheap and fast, which is strange for me, as in England you have to go to expensive restaurants, with professional chefs, to have a flavorsome meal. It is, however, uncomfortable for me when I am dripping with sweat and trying to enjoy my food because I am too busy wiping my face. Silent, hot and fast, that’s how they like their meals. It is not a social event. They go, they eat and they leave. It is weird for me not to sit at a place for longer than fifteen minutes. In England going out for dinner is a social event and a luxury. We take time eating our meal and savor each mouthful slowly, spending at least one hour there.
So, there you have the first impressions from a ‘bule’. I have been here for five months and as you can see I have experienced so much already, but there is still so much more I want to tell you. The people I have met here have taught me what’s important in life. I’ve seen the, good, the bad and I still can’t get used to the heat. But Makassar is a magical and fascinating place and I’m so lucky to experience this exciting culture. I don’t know what’s around the next corner but I do know that the city still has so many more wonders and treasures to discover and I can’t wait to find them!