We were driving in the middle of the city when Catherine popped up a question that was more like a statement.
“Corruption in Indonesia is really bad, right?”
I wasn’t too shocked though, such question appeared few times before Catherine and I always try to answer it diplomatically, one skill every guide must possess.
“Well, the government and the people are at a battle with corruption at the moment. It hasn’t finished yet but hopefully it gets better in the near future”, I answered with confident, not knowing that my confidence would be shattered in the next seconds when Catherine told me what had happened to her.
“When I was at the immigration, there was a guy with uniform asking me money. He said it was for the Chinese New Year. He asked for Chinese money which I didn’t have because I’m from Hong Kong. I have Chinese money at home but I didn’t bring it. Then he asked for Rupiahs, but again I didn’t have it because I hadn’t changed my money. I told him I’m from Hong Kong, and he said HK Dollars would be okay so I gave him 20 HKD”.
I was sure that if I had fair skin my face would turn red, but since my skin is dark, of course you couldn’t see it. I was just speechless. I couldn’t say anything but, “oh, wow, sorry about that” even though I know not everyone does that, not everyone experiences that and I also know the homework of Indonesian government and its people to make war against corruption is still a long journey, but we’re getting there…step by step.
The second surprising statement was when she asked about Indonesian food.
“All Indonesians are Muslims, right?”
“Not all. Approximately 70%-80% are Muslims”
No, that question wasn’t surprising.
“But all the foods are halal, right?”
“Mostly yes, but not all”.
That question wasn’t surprising as well.
“Oh, really? But the food in the hotel is halal, right?”
“Yeah, of course, but why?”
Assuming she’s Chinese coming from Hong Kong, I didn’t expect the following statement coming…
“Oh, nothing. I’m Muslim”.
“Yeah, I converted to Muslim 10 years ago. My family is a multi-religion family. We’ve got Buddhist, Christian, Catholic, Muslim in the family”.
During our visit to Istiqlal Mosque, she told me how she found out about Islam and why she wanted to convert. Her school was located across a mosque that she wasn’t aware of what building it was. She, then, visited the mosque one time because she was taking her Pakistan friend to pray. She was curious seeing a lot of people coming to the mosque, some of them even rushing. She was thinking how eager these people to see their Maker. Since then she heard Adzan pretty often and fell in love with the language, so she started learning. She had an online teacher from Pakistan and joined a group of women who wanted to know more about Islam until she was finally sure to become a Muslim.
I was surprised and warmed by the story.
“You know what? Can we wait until praying time comes?” she suddenly asked while we were still wandering around the biggest mosque in South East Asia.
“I wanted to show my parents how Muslims pray together”.
The last surprising statement came after the tour ended and we were just saying goodbye.
“Thank you for the tour. It’s really nice. I will recommend you to my friends when they come to Jakarta”.
“That’s so nice of you. Thank you and say hi to your parents. (btw, her parents don’t speak English)”.
“I’ll miss you both”.
That is one surprising statement coming from a guest. Doesn’t mean to be snob, but I’ve been meeting nice people, but no one ever said they’d miss me at the end of the tour. I hope God takes care of her wherever she is.