Beauty in a Greeting

November 26, 2017

Beauty in a Greeting

You can tell a lot about a people from their language and cultural practices.  In Indonesia, there are many ways to say hello - the very basic "hallo", as well as a number of other ways depending on the time of day - "selamat pagi" if it is before 11 a.m., selamat siang until 3, selamat sore before dusk, and selamat malam after dark.  

I love the meaning behind their "thank you", "terima kasih" - it literally means "receive love."  How beautiful is that?  

And then there are the ways the Indonesian people physically express greetings.  Women greet one another by touching cheek to cheek, first one side, then the other.  Even if there are plenty of women in the room, where we might think a verbal hello would suffice, they will take the time to greet each one with the touching of the cheeks.  If a man greets a woman, or another man, they shake hands, but then the hand is immediately drawn to his or her heart, as if taking that person to heart.  So beautiful!  Perhaps the most beautiful to me is the way children greet adults.  Even the young will take your hand, and some shake it.  But all take your hand and touch their cheek with it - a sign of love and respect.  It reminded me of how children in Kenya approach an adult with their head lowered so that the adult will place their hand on the child's head.  

In each of the homes I visited, these ritual greetings played out.  Families have a normal practice of leaving their shoes outside the door before entering a home.  You can imagine when you have a lot of guests, neighbors know not based on the number of cars parked outside your house, but the number of shoes outside your door.  Often when I visited, women would insist I keep my shoes on - I believe a tremendous sign of respect - but I would always remove them, also a sign of respect.  And then they would serve a deliciously sweet coffee or tea and local snack foods.  On days where I visited multiple homes, this was a little difficult to eat something at each one!  But the treats were always delicious.

The Indonesian people have my heart.  And I'm happy to see how these women's lives have changed in the four years we have worked with them.  I cannot wait until the time I am back with them.