You may notice that Kim is also listed as a contributor and has contributed thus far with ideas, feedback and photos. She is also writing - so keep checking back for her point of view.
Previously I have traveled to India, Nepal, Taiwan and Thailand and so I often place Indonesia within the framework of my experience of those countries. I can also contrast Indonesia with the only mainly Islamic country I have visited, Morocco. While there are certain similarities that Indonesia shares with each of the first four countries my impression thus far is that religion, while extremely important, is mostly a private matter.
Kim and I make an effort not to offend local customs but for the most part that is a fairly easy thing to do. The Burka is very rare here. Most women, at least in the area of Bogor, do not where a headscarf. While some do, from young school girls to elderly matrons, they seem to wear it naturally and are just as quick to smile or converse with me. In fact, while there are a few bold calls to get my attention when I turn to people with a smile I almost always get one in return. One thing I found remarkable is that I have received open, friendly smiles from people of every age and many different positions in society. School children, babies, Mothers, Fathers, Older people, market vendors, policemen, guitar playing punks, you name it, they were ready to interact.
I have only experienced a very small slice of Indonesia thus far so it would be too soon to make any sweeping statements. Comparing some impressions with other countries however is fair I suppose. The crowded, hustle and bustle of Bogor certainly reminds me of the chaos of India, although it is a lot more ordered here really. It is green and nature is omnipresent here in Curug Nangka where IAR has it's headquarters.