I was walking down the waterfront boardwalk of Pangkalan Bun to the market, enjoying chatting with the locals. One of them was an English teacher at a primary school nearby, and he asked me if I wanted to visit his school and let the children practice some English. Sure!

The school had a large yard and the children were out playing. All heads turned our way when we came through the gate, and they all came running and screaming. No tourist had ever come before. They brought me a chair and stood around me and sang an English song. Twice. The headmaster came out and had her photo taken with me.

The children had lots of questions and they had to ask them in English, with a little help by their teacher. Name, hobbied, sports, motorcycle or car (they were delighted when I answered, bicycle), favorite color and why, favorite Indonesian food… All shouting at the same time and having fun. A little girl ceremonially gave me some water and a chocolate bar. It was quite hot. I enjoy this kind of thing far more than visiting yet another temple.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world – 250 million people, 80% Muslim. None of the pictures in our heads about Muslims apply here. There is no gender discrimination and no oppressive religious leadership at all. They are pretty r. If you see a burka it’s probably a tourist. All our mental pictures of Muslims are really pictures of Arabs, a completely different culture.