Hauser, a graduate of Oklahoma State University hailing from a ranch in rural Wyandotte on the Oklahoma/Missouri line, said he joined the Peace Corps because he longed to learn more about other cultures.
TIFF CITY, Okla. – Mitch Hauser has always been a cultured guy.
Due to his dad’s work, Hauser's family has spent time living in places such as American Somoa and Egypt to name a few.
So, when the now 26-year-old Hauser joined the Peace Corps it may not have been a surprise to anyone.
Hauser has served in the Peace Corps for the last two years. He's been home for a few weeks visiting his parents, Brent and Melanie Hauser, and grandparents, Dick and Pat Hauser, who all live on a ranch in rural Wyandotte on the Oklahoma/Missouri line at Tiff City.
He left on Tuesday, July 3, for his next assignment in Panama.
Hauser, a graduate of Oklahoma State University, said he joined the Peace Corps because he longed to learn more about other cultures.
“I wanted to get out of America and experience some culture on the ground," Hauser said. "I wanted to get somewhere that was part of a community that was so different from my own."
The Peace Corps process at the time did not specifically allow a volunteer to pick where they were going to go. With his English degree, Hauser was first assigned to serve in Indonesia, teaching English in a village in West Java.
“My understanding of Indonesia before going there was absolutely nothing," he said. "The research - ‘it wasn’t enough’."
There are 700 different ethnicities and 300 different languages that are spoken across the archipelago, Hauser said.
“On Java, there are two ethnicities," Hauser explained. "In West Java, I was working with the Sudanese people teaching English at a vocational high school working with a local English teacher, an Indonese national."
In Indonesia, every Peace Corps volunteer lives with a host family.
“Originally, before I came to Indonesia, I wasn’t too thrilled with this prospect," he said. "I appreciate autonomy and independence. The challenge of inserting myself into a family as an absolute foreigner and trying to find a balance between two very different cultures seemed like something I didn’t want to go through.
"Now I could not imagine living in Indonesia without a host family. It has been one of the best parts of my time in the Peace Corps.”
Hauser said his daily work also included helping teachers.
“I would share best teaching practices and classroom management, basic things about how to run a classroom and a little bit more of modern methods and ways and try to integrate that into their own culture," he said. “Trying to find a balance of what I think is best and what their willing to do was always difficult, they’ve always been doing things the way they’ve done them so why change?”
Absenteeism, Hauser said, was a big problem.
“They have what they call ‘jam karet’ which means rubber time, suggesting that time is flexible and unpredictable,” he said. “I’ve heard Indonesians say ‘In America time is money but in Indonesia time is time.’
“It doesn’t really matter to anyone if they’re going to be late. It’s very rare that I was going to a meeting and it started on time. There would always be schedules but the times on the schedules were always suggestions.”
In Indonesia, Hauser said he didn't worry about time, while in America he was "always worried about time."
The only English speaking person in his village made it a treat when he was able to visit with someone outside the village.
Coming home has also been refreshing as far as conversations go.
“In Indonesia I couldn’t have any in-depth conversations, it was exhausting,” he said. “They would always ask the same series of questions: they would ask how old I am, where I’m from and whether I’m from Europe or Australia.
"They would usually assume I’m an Australian but I would tell them I’m from America – I would tell them I’m teaching English, they ask where I live in Indonesia and I would tell them my village and my district.”
Hauser said conversations about whether he eats rice - because of the belief that Americans do not eat rice - would then follow.
“Conversations are kind of fun and I got very good at that conversation," Hauser said, adding "anything beyond that was difficult to have."
Living on 2.2 rupiah, about $180 a month, from the Peace Corps, Hauser said it is not too difficult to live within his means.
Rent is 750,000 rupiah, around $100 but a breakfast in the village might cost the equivalent of 25 cents in US currency. Breakfast would consist of a rice based tortilla type bread with eggs cooked over an open fire on the ground.
His accommodations did have electricity, a kitchen and a bathroom with a basin of water for bathing.
“You don’t get in the water you take bucket baths, when it’s hot it's nice to have this cold water, there was no hot water,” he said.
One thing he experienced was that Indonesia is fairly developed as far as technologically.
“Most Indonesians have smartphones, Java is so populated there, like 145 million people on Java and it’s maybe half the size of Oklahoma,” he said. "It’s a lot of people in a tiny area so cell phone towers make a lot of economic sense.”
Hauser said there are more Facebook users in Indonesia than anywhere else.
“Everyone has Facebook there. I heard someone say ‘if Facebook had a capitol it would be Jakarta’," Hauser said. "They are very engaged, Facebook meshes well with their culture.
“I created a Facebook account specifically for Indonesia because they would be on the bus or the train and be talking to someone and they would ask me for my Facebook and they would want to be friends on Facebook.
"My understanding of what a friend is on Facebook is different from their understanding, anyone they met they would add on Facebook.”
Hauser said the region is 88 percent Muslim.
“I met a few Christians while I was there but they are definitely the minority," Hauser said. "There were no Christians in my village. They are usually pretty open and accepting whenever they find out I’m a Christian, they were so friendly.
"I always felt safe in Indonesia I could walk around anywhere way after dark I never felt like I was at risk or anything, it also helped that I am 6-foot-1, the tallest person in town.”
Ultimately, Hauser said, he found many enjoyable aspects while serving in Indonesia.
“Getting to speak with the people in their own language and have a real conversation with them about what they’re doing and where they’re from and what they work as, whatever, I enjoy that a lot,” he said. “Being able to engage with Indonesians on a level that most people, foreigners that come there will never be able to – and being able to represent America to Indonesians.
"The mission of the Peace Corps is to represent the American people to countries that have requested help from the Peace Corps and to foster understanding between two countries."
Hauser said he loves being able to share what American is really about, because Indonesians "rarely understood anything about America.”
After the Peace Corps, Hauser said he may go to graduate school and pursue development work within the federal government.
In the meantime, he will go to Panama, which is much closer to home and in the same time zone. A change since Indonesia's time was 12 hours difference.
Hauser said in Panama he will work with farmers as a sustainable agriculture systems volunteer.
“I didn’t choose a preference but I chose something that had agricultural work or somewhere they speak Spanish because I speak Spanish," Hauser said. "Now I’m going to Panama, I’ll be working with farmers speaking Spanish, it’s exactly what I want to do.”