Cultural Diversity – we live it!
It’s an interesting little place, this jungle home of ours.
Our town of Tembagapura has a population of around 10,000, all of which are employed either directly or indirectly by Freeport McMoran for the purpose of running the local Grasberg copper and gold mine. The town is predominantly made up of native Papuans and Indonesians and although these two cultures are historically combative and remain culturally diverse, here in Tembag, getting along is part and parcel of life in a remote Company town.
All of the national population here adheres to a chosen religion – either Christian or Islamic (Atheism is banned in Indonesia) and as such, we are exposed to the full gamut of culturally religious practices. From the five daily calls to prayer, Ramadan and Idul Fitri for the Muslims to Sunday services, Lent, Easter and Christmas for the Christians, there’s always something faith-based happening here.
As for our small Expat community, the cultural diversity is simply fascinating. Our local company-run Mount Zaagkam School (MZS) recently conducted a cultural study across all grades to find out more about ‘Where We Come From’ – there were world maps all over the place! MZS currently has around 75 students aged between 3 and 14 years from Preschool through to the 8th Grade.
There are 15 countries of origin represented – Australia, USA, South Africa, Ghana, Canada, Indonesia, Chile, Mongolia, India, Zambia, Vietnam, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Holland – with Zimbabwe arriving next week. On any given day, I’ll hear Spanish, Hindi and Afrikaans spoken alongside English and Bahasa Indonesia. You could say that we live in our own little world up here, and you’d be right, for more reasons than one!
Having so many countries and cultures represented at school is a big contributor to the internationally-minded program of study on offer here. Indeed, many of our kids were born into homes with English as a second language, and yet, they are thriving. What I love about this place is that our kids have truly open minds when it comes to cultural diversity – and that’s no mean feat in today’s society. Diversity at school fosters a natural curiosity and a desire to learn more about and appreciate different points of view or ways of doing things. They don’t bat an eyelid at skin colour, manner of dress, vocal accent or religious disposition. They’re all just kids.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the ‘Where Have You Been’ discussions that stemmed from the cultural study…there are some seriously well-travelled kids up here! I wouldn’t recommend a ‘Guess that Flag’ challenge either…they have that one in the bag!
Heading up the school’s Parents and Teachers Association, I too see cultural diversity bringing a variety of skills and perspectives to the table and contributing to our mantra of ‘filling the gaps’ in our kids’ lives.
It’s not all about the kids either. Last year’s UN Day at school was embraced by expat ladies keen to showcase their national heritage and the unique culture of their homelands. A huge hit were the food tables where we sampled specialty dishes from Australia, South Africa, Chile, Ghana, Mongolia, Indonesia and the USA. It was a delicious multicultural celebration, enjoyed by all!
Life in this unique little town accentuates and embraces cultural diversity in an way which is beyond interesting and without prejudice. There’s bound to be a lesson in that for all of us.
Tembagapura, West Papua. Diversity…but not as you know it!
Until next time,
(See you later)