With Love From Jakarta

My choice to become a volunteer with the International Humanity Foundation in Jakarta was a bold one. It was a choice that was well out of my comfort zone. Not only have I never been to Indonesia before, but I also knew very little about the country. However, that did not stop me, before I knew it I was on an airplane there, with just a little information. My first exposure to this unknown land is an image that is carved inside my mind, there was a fire-like sunset glow and silhouetted houses hovering below as we began to approach touchdown. This image intrigued me and made me even more excited for my two weeks at the Jakarta centre. At first, I feared, that those two weeks might not be enough time to take in all this beauty, but then I remembered that no time is ever too little. These two weeks I needed to make the most of them.

I arrived in the night, welcomed by the powerful heat. Who knew that the heat would be the most challenging part of my volunteer experience? One might compare waking up in the morning with such intense heat like being trapped in a sauna for an entire night. Although it is not so bad, as each day passed my tolerance to the heat became stronger. I was adapting to the environment slowly but surely.

I soon came to learn that the heat is a central characteristic of every aspect of Southeast Asian culture. Especially, their food, no dish ever leaves the kitchen without a kick of spice. A tip for all of you that are planning or about to embark on your trip to Indonesia, when a local tells you that it is going to spicy, they mean spicy. This in itself was an entirely new experience for me, but I must say that there was hardly a dish that I did not enjoy. I was exposed to many new foods and spices that I did not even know existed. My favourite dish I would have to say was nasi goreng; this is a very famous Indonesian dish that is a staple of their diet. If you have never had the chance to taste nasi goreng, you are missing out. I must also mention that the drinks found on the streets are very sugary but tasty. I am not sure if the sugar gives more energy to the people to withstand the heat; however, they sure seem to enjoy it.

Sugary drinks or not, the locals here in Jakarta are so very nice. People that you pass on the street greet you with their biggest smile. Upon first arriving, I feared that my lack of proficiency in English and my accent might be a hindrance to my over all experience, but was I ever wrong. I think that most people will and have faced this fear of communication; however, I will tell you first hand that there is no need to worry. Kindness is felt everywhere you go, without needing to speak a single word. The Jakarta center is a realm where adults and kids are able to show their true heart to one another. Everyone is so warm-hearted and makes you feel as though you are at home. The International Humanity Foundation in Jakarta is not solely an organization, but one large family. Although it has only been one week since I arrived at the centre, I have already taken in and experienced so much. I am really looking forward to what the rest of my stay will bring.

By: Chris

 

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There are no bad days, only good days and great days!

My experience at the IHF center in Jakarta has been a roller coaster. I first experienced the low of my roller coaster when I was leaving my country and I faced many complications at the airport security. All of my excitement to come to center had begun to vanish, I feared that maybe I would not even be able to come. However, through it all, I learned the virtue of patience and cooperation, which then led me to the anticipated arrival at the Jakarta center. What a relief it was to finally arrive. I think that it is safe to say that I was happier than a small child on Christmas morning.

I arrived at a peaceful center, although not anticipated it turned out to be quite lovely as I was in need of some down time. There was one other volunteer from my school at the center as well as Maria – the co-director. Maria greeted me with nothing but smiles and kindness, making me feel at home right away. She spoke of her role here at the center and informed me about her life. I admire her for her compassion and courage to pick up her life in Spain and dedicate an entire year to a cause that she believes in. For a moment it made me feel like I should be contributing more than just two weeks of my life, but through time I discovered that everyone has a role to play in making change happen. One week, two weeks or five years – no contribution is less significant than the other. Thus, I continued to contribute my piece of good with a full heart.

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However, I must say that I have never really been able to get to the intensive heat every day. Additionally, despite the accommodation being much different than I am used to in my own country it was because of the lovely individuals and the hospitality in the center make it all worthwhile. In specific, Ebu, the cook, and her two little girls had the largest impact on me. Every day they would arrive at the center by bicycle and before anyone of us would open our eyes they had already begun clearing the mess from the night before and began cooking right after. I really respected them and continually thanked them for their work. The two girls absolutely warmed my heart they are always very polite and kind to all of the kids. They taught that it doesn’t matter what our upbringing is, whether we are rich or poor, that it doesn’t determine our future. They also inspired me to self-reflect on my own life often I take things for granted and forget to enjoy every moment. I get caught up in the hustle bustle of life and get discouraged. Despite their age, those girls taught me more in these last eight days than I have learned in all of my years in school.

My experience at IHF Jakarta center has been a roller coaster and definitely unlike any other. I have traveled and been to many different places in the world, but there is something about this experience that has hit a soft spot and I cannot disregard it. I am still unsure how to put it all into words; however, what I am sure about is that this definitely will definitely not be my last volunteer experience. The people, the culture, the places have enticed me to continue my journey.

By: Leo

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A sense of place while out of place

The IHF Centre in Thailand is in Chiang Rai, despite the calm and peacefulness of the location – here at the center, there is never a dull moment. I have now been at the center for more than a month and every day I continue to see improvements around the center. The impact that it has had on the kids warms my heart.

Since my arrival, I have noticed an increased involvement with the children. Although we are not a large center, the atmosphere is so very lovely. There is a total of 6 children here, all with very different talents and aspirations. Anutida, the oldest, is incredibly smart. She has a strong interest in helping others, particularly regarding health issues. With that being said, Anutida is very concerned with the cleanliness of the center. Not only is her her assistance around the center is so greatly appreciated, but her ability to influence and educate the other children is something truly special.

As you can see, the center has made education a fundamental priority, using the strengths of one another to educate each other. For instance, Prayta is known as the leader at the center. Prayta is constantly acting as a father figure to all of the children, assuring that the children have everything that they need. He not only thrives in this position, but the other kids really seem to enjoy it.

I have come to learn quickly that the center is all about community and closeness. That is something that has made my experience so enjoyable – it is like having a little piece of home while being away. I have experienced the sadness of the absence of someone from your close knit community, but with that, I have also found the strength to continue on. The kids taught me a lot about grieving and in return I taught them a lot about cherishing each moment for what it is. Last month, a fundamental individual who makes our little community whole had to exit the center to go into surgery. This was a sad day for everyone, as a community we allowed ourselves to grieve for a few days, but with the optimism and spirits of one another, we were able to reminisce the good and move forth. The children began on with their daily activities and nightly rituals. The nights, which are always most interesting for us, were enjoyed again. We would eat dinner together and share about our days, the good, the bad, and even the ugly. The warmth of the laughs and smiles always make the chilly nights more bearable for all of us. I think that if there is anything I have learned from the children it is the importance of community, here at the Chiang Rai center we thrive with the continuous support from one another.
thailand-blog-2.jpg       Thus, I remind you that despite the quietness of Chiang Rai, there is never a dull moment here in the center.  Through the laughs, the smiles and the tears come moments of joy. Every day is filled with encouragement, inspiration, and optimism for their future, their passions and everything in between that sets their souls on fire. They say smiling is the universal language, and I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t matter, our language, our color, our background, even our age a smile is something beyond that. It is these constant smiles that make the center such a warm and welcoming place to those anticipating to come. To me, this is why Chiang Rai center holds a special significance.

By: Fika Triandini

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Eat, Pray & Love in Jakarta

It’s been almost two weeks since I arrived at Jakarta center. The past two weeks have been an unbelievable adventure for me. Every moment was full of magic and enlightenment that I couldn’t believe how much I have grown and learned in such a short time. During my flight to Jakarta, I watched an award-winning movie called “Eat, Pray, Love”. It’s amazing how its concept also applies to my experience here, and it convinced me that this is more than just an coincidence. I feel like I am answering a godly command.

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I lived my whole life in Chongqing, China before I went to America for college. Growing up in a city famous for traditional Chinese cuisines and spicy food, I consider myself as someone who has a picky taste and a high tolerance for spicy food. But I started to doubt about myself the second day after I came here when Ayu, the local co-director, took me to try her favorite Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice) which made me cry because it was too hot. I was then further amazed when a 15-year-old girl, who grew up here, ate the whole thing without drinking any water.

It seems to me that they put chili in their every meal. That’s also what I saw in Indonesian people: quiet outside but vigorous inside. The more I get to know them, the more amazed I am by the sparks of their enthusiasm. Ayu, Rhama, and Joco are the locals who live in the center with me.  I was deceived by their calm and quiet appearance and manners until they started to give some witty comments and quick remarks. I just simply couldn’t explain how funny and interesting they are with a few words. I laughed so much more often each day here than before.

Talking about food, I have to mention our “chief”, Ibu. Ibu means “mom” in Indonesia. It can’t be more accurate because she is our mom and her food always reminds me of “home”. Other volunteers told me if you want to try the most candid Indonesian food, no matter how many restaurants you go, you will always come back to Ibu. Also, Ibu’s food is so much less spicy than the food sold outside, which makes me really happy. I’m very conservative when it comes to food, so it’s really hard for me to be willing to try and accept food that I’ve never had before. But when I started eating Ibu’s cooking, I couldn’t stop trying more. She makes me fall in love with Indonesian food.

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Pray

I’ve come at the right time. Ramadan started the third day after I came here. Before I actually experienced it myself, Ramadan was just another religious celebration that I read about on newspapers. During the whole month, the Muslims are supposed to fast during day time starting from sunrise to sunset. I was convinced by our co-directer, Maria, from Costa Rica, to fast together. We woke up everyday at 3:30 am for “Sahur”, which is like a super early breakfast helping us survive the coming day. It was such a precious and interesting experience to eat at such a weird time with the whole outside world in darkness. Every evening, around 5:46 to 5:47, people start to play recorded prayers on the street reminding people that “buka buasa” has come, which means breaking the fast. After going through the whole day with hanger and thirst, I start to appreciate whatever food that is given to me. My heart is filled with happiness and peace brought by God’s mercy and generosity even though I am not a Muslim. Ayu prays five times a day, before which she will clean herself  and dress up. The way she prays is so aesthetic, full of peace. Each day, I am surrounded by an atmosphere that is of faith, mercy and spirituality. I come to appreciate the beauty and power of spirituality.

Each time after “Sahur”, Maria leads us to do Yoga on the rooftop. Under the night sky and with the prayer sound on the street, I come to feel the inner peace even though I sweat so hard doing the complex gestures. In that situation, I start to think a lot about my life and my future. I love the peace and silence when I get to speak to God in my heart.

So far, there has been numerous magical coincidences in the past two weeks, which Maria calls the “big magics”. In one instance, one night Maria and I just talked about our ideas of traveling and living outside of our comfort zones; then the next day we went to an art museum which has exactly the same  theme of display that we discussed about. None of us knew its theme before we went. It’s an exhibition by an artist whose name is Douglas Diaz, titled “Shukke” which means to “leave home” or to “leave one’s comfort zone” in Japanese. It was an enlightening show with lots of thought-provoking and amazingly interesting ideas. Anyways, there were so much more magical coincidences and new experiences that have convinced me that this place has chosen me. A sense of mission has filled me with enthusiasm and anticipation for more that’s coming.

Love

The kids have taught me more things than I did to them. They has shown me how to care, to love, to respect and to be confident. Each time before class starts and after class ends, they will come to me one by one, use their foreheads to touch the back of my right hand, and say hi to me. Even the smallest ones or the most mischievous ones respect me as a teacher and someone older. I was surprised by their openness and outgoingness. Playing with them or just simply watching them play softens my heart. Their fearless laugh always reminds me of the simplest joy I can have in this world.18987756_1807839536211696_812976103_o

So far, I organized two special activities with them. One was learning the “cup song”, the other one was the Chinese paper-cut. The most amazing part was that even though the outcome usually wasn’t what I expected, they created their own ways of playing and had so much fun together. For example, the Chinese paper-cut event ended up with a fight of paper scraps.

Having no prior teaching experience, these two weeks of teaching has been an adventure for me. I was amazed by how fast they learned new things, and sometimes disappointed with myself when I couldn’t keep them focused. They have taught me how to be confident and comfortable with the class, and that the first step to have them trust in me is to have myself confident with what I am teaching.

Another thing that I feel so blessed with is how much love and care I received from the people in my center. Although it has been only two weeks, I feel like I’ve been knowing them for a long time. We shared so much meaningful memories and had so many interesting conversations over travel, work and marriage. I learned from Ayu and Maria what strong women should look like. They are among the most amazing women I know, who are tough, caring, hard-working and independent. The way they care for  me and the kids in the center has taught me what it means to give and to love.

It’s unbelievable how overwhelmed I am with all these new experiences and lessons in just two weeks. Things I have seen and learned in such a short time have been proving to me that I have made the right decision to come here. I’m looking forward to more stories that I’m going to make with these wonderful people.

By: Rebecca Cai

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Journey

This is my last week in Jakarta Center. A month passed so quickly that I didn’t even realize how much Indonesian I have become. This last week witnesses the most noticeable event of the year – Ramadan. And not only Muslims but also foreign volunteers like us do fasting. What a big challenge!

After the first day, we could not believe that we really made it – no eating and drinking for the whole day. But the moment we broke fasting (ate when the Sun goes down), I suddenly realized the meaning of Ramadan. It makes people value their food more, think about others more and be willing to share.

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The next days are not much difficult for us. We only follow the schedule: prepare sahur (breakfast) at 3:30 am, then break fasting (have dinner) at 6 pm during which there is no food or water.

However, what I remember the most afterwards will not be Ramadan, but how one of our student has positively changed. It was an English class as usual. After the Pass-It-On Ceremony, we tried to help kids review what they have learned by interesting activities. And with that class, Maria and I decided to let them play imitation game in which each kid was shown a word or even a sentence, then asked to demonstrate the word only by gestures so that other classmates could guess. At first, a very shy girl could not even illustrate very simple words because she felt embarrassed in front of the 10-student class. However, Maria then decided to give her a more difficult one – “crazy” and asked her to describe. Despite our encouragement, she stood still in front of class for almost ten minutes without doing anything until Maria threatened not to let other students go home until she finished her acting. The little girl then tried to describe the word by lively acts, and luckily one student made a good guess and the shy girl was released to her seat. At the end of the class, Maria announced to give the final sentence which according to her, would be very hard, so she needed a volunteer. And what really struck us was that that little shy girl did volunteer to stand in front of the class and gesture!

 

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We were all taken aback by her confidence but also very happy. It seems insignificant, yet this may change her life later on; and it is such an honour that we somehow play a part in it. There is no need for me to talk more about the noble cause that IHF is following – education. I just want to express my deepest gratitude to my team in IHF and especially the students who have taught me the value of my work.

I would like to use a quote by Mother Theresa as a way to conclude my journey: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” I do really hope that those who are dedicating yourself to voluntary work always feel proud of what you are doing and giving to the world.

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Sincerely,

Nguyen Minh

More to wait

It all started in a very unfortunate way. I was supposed to be present in the Jakarta center by 4:30 pm; however, due to several problems at the airport, I did not get there until 10:30pm.

Nevertheless, once at the Center, the co-director as well as other volunteers were so welcoming that I almost forgot what I had experienced.  The food cooked by the house mother is awesome since it is not as spicy as rumored.  I have tried some restaurants here in Jakarta, but the food at the center is still what I adore the most.  Besides, I also have my own room which is quite simple, but really tidy and accommodating. The neighbors are very friendly too, they greet us whenever we meet.

However, it is the students that make the greatest impression on me. I used to work for a local organization in my country where I taught orphans aged 5-15 and organize some educational activities on the weekends for them, so handling naughty and noisy kids is what I expected beforehand. Yet, what strikes me is the fact that the children here demonstrate a great attitude towards learning and respect towards the teachers.  They can be noisy sometimes, they may initially resist doing the exercises that they consider difficult, but in the end they do their best to finish their assignments, which was a total surprise and I appreciate it.

Just within the first week, I had a chance to attend several classes, both English and Math and organized an art class for weekly special activity held on Friday in which students learnt how to make a DIY flower for Mother’s day (the first Sunday of May). After hearing about the special activity, kids all appeared very excited and over twenty of them stayed after class and joined me. Sad thing it turned out too difficult for little kids to make a rose as instructed, so I thought they would all give up and just go home. But I was really taken aback by their great efforts to finish the tasks, just as they do on their classes. Some of the students even cried when they could not fold the paper as beautifully as they wished, some of them stayed quite late to decorate their work so that they could present it to their mom who was waiting outside. Some of the girls even stayed to clean the mess that we created.

Half a week have passed by with a lot of surprises and challenges. I am now really excited about what is going to happen in the following weeks. This few days have not only reached my expectations but it has even gone beyond what I imagined this experience would be. As challenging as it might get, this experience will absolutely be very fascinating and rewarding.

Nguyen Minh, from Vietnam

My year with IHF

Written by Annisa, local volunteer, Bali

When I got a job and moved to Buitan last year, I decided to volunteer with an organization near my workplace. When I applied, I thought I would just do it to kill the time after work. But that changed. After almost a year at IHF Bali Centre, this is what I learnt as a local volunteer teaching computer class:

  1. Share whatever you know, even a little bit. I thought I would teach English as this was the only skill I have that I thought I could share. When Alice, the Bali Co-Director at that time, told me that they didn’t have computer teacher, I doubted that I could be one. My IT skills were limited to what I used in college 5 years ago – mostly writing essays in Word. I didn’t even have a personal computer for a few years after graduation. But IHF gave me a chance to teach things that I thought everyone basically could do – very basic computer skill, basic translation, and how to ride scooter as many other volunteers did not know how (this also needs a lesson plan). So you don’t have to be genius or be super talented to contribute. When my senior students, whom at the beginning couldn’t switch on a laptop, could finally make presentation with PowerPoint, I felt like a superstar.20160820_151135
  1. Being grateful for what I have. I grew up in a small city where infrastructure and facilities were pretty much available. But when I came to volunteer here in Bali, I realized that there was a gap of education quality in comparison to where I grew up – a city in Java. Education was of better quality, and there were more options of what we could study at school. This is a reminder for me, for those who read this and I hope also for the government, to make it equal in the cities and villages throughout Indonesia.  If I never volunteered with IHF and experienced this gap myself – the reality that the kids here didn’t have the same privileges – I might not care about this issue so seriously.20160319_135954
  1. The main reason why I kept coming till the end of my stay in Buitan because being an adult all the time is boring but getting loose with the kids is fun. Being an adult means we have to be mature and serious in the things that we do (study, work, and our relationships). I can’t do certain things because it will make me look childish. When I hang out with the kids, it is one of the only the time I can be silly and be me: play chase and run (the kids will help you burn calories) then scream while getting caught, act as a vegetable or goat, transform trash into toys, and discuss imaginary situations rather than thoughtful problems that sometimes be exhausting. I don’t think of reputation or image the way some adults do. I like how children don’t care about winning or losing in a game. You are special if you are teaseable and willing to be part of the game. The children only care if what you do can create a lot of laugh or not.  Something that rarely exist in adult world where the goal of a competition is to win regardless if you enjoy it or not. Kids also never overanalyze things. For example, once we had chips and ice cream. They just eat them together because they want to know if it taste good or not. An adult will analyze first if the taste matched or not, and if they’ve been told that it doesn’t taste good, many of then will believe it without even trying.20161203_145236
  1. In IHF you can meet amazing adults too. I am amazed to see their dedication of time, money, and energy to help kids in a foreign country – kids that cannot even speak their language and have different customs than their own. They said they are looking for experience. Then, I admire them more for choosing the experience which benefit others. It’s inspiring and motivating to hear their purpose to help others. My biggest appreciation are for the co-directors who work very hard to run the centre and take care of us – volunteers and kids. Because it is an international organization, it means people are coming from different part of the world. This sounds cliche, but It always nice to learn about other people’s habits and culture (the good and bad).20160213_144715
  1. Money isn’t the only reward for work. What I get from volunteering in IHF is nothing material. Beside the superstar feeling which I felt sometimes, I received a lot of love here. It is natural, not pretentious. If the kids love you, they really do. When you leave, the love will fade. They love you as you are during the time they spend with you – not as an idea or memory. For me, that is a real kind of love.20161203_130800

I know people are talking about volunteering to make a difference. To be honest, my time in IHF probably made more of a difference in my life than the kids’.

Creating memories with IHF Nakuru

Written by: Ayano Ogura, Voluntourist, Nakuru

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I was excited and a little bit nervous as my car pulled in through the gates of IHF Nakuru’s centre. I was visiting for a few days so that I can meet Chepanga, a girl whom I have been sponsoring through IHF’s sponsorship program since 2011. Every month IHF sends me an email with two photos -one picture of Chepanga’s hand written letter, and one picture of her holding the letter. Chepanga and I have been writing back and forth in this way as pen pals for five years. She always wrote to me about her studies, her friends, her Pokot village, and we always talked about how I should visit Kenya someday… but I never thought it would become a reality until this year. As I saw Chepanga’s familiar face in the crowd of curious, smiling kids, I instantly felt at ease.
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There is something about IHF’s children that is so very special. They have a strong bond with each other, and they welcomed me into their home like family. They are friendly, funny, strong, talented, independent and I fell in love with all of them immediately.

Time in Nakuru moved so much more slowly compared to my busy life in Los Angeles where I worry about work deadlines and traffic. I got to wake up to birds chirping every morning. I would go fetch some water from the water tank in a bucket to wash my face, drink hot Kenyan milk tea for breakfast and do some cleaning. Then I would hang out with the kids, read a book, teach some kids how to make friendship bracelets, walk around the green fields under the big clear sky and watch the kids play soccer/football. The kids, especially the boys, are so passionate about football and I loved watching them play every single day in the evenings. They play in any condition, rain or shine, shoes or no shoes, after chores or after exams. They are also so good at singing and dancing too!

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Of course it’s not all play, and the Co-Director Joyce and work-study volunteer Annie as well as the other staff were doing a great job of keeping the center running as smoothly as possible. I can tell the staff really care about the children and do their best even in the most chaotic and stressful situations.

My impression of life in Kenya seemed to be at the same time simpler and more complicated than the life I grew up knowing. The children here don’t have much in terms of material belongings and they focus on the simple pleasures in life, like eating, studying, playing, and sleeping. However, based on the stories I heard and what I saw during my brief stay, there are many challenges, as with any developing country. Persisting poverty and slums with hungry children begging for money, limited education and some teachers beating students, businessmen constantly ripping off foreigners/volunteers, riots and murders over political differences and girls being forced into arranged marriages at a very young age.

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I am so thankful to IHF for giving me a glimpse into what life is like in Kenya. I had the same valuable experience when I volunteered at the IHF Jakarta center back in 2008 and 2012, but I always feel like the kids ended up teaching me much more about myself and the world than I was able to teach them. I really believe in IHF’s mission of “Pass It On,” and believe learning about each other and sharing our different experiences will make all of us better global citizens. Even though I miss the kids a lot, I know I’ll keep in touch with many of them in the years to come!

Capturing moments 2016: Medan

By Aditi, Co- Director, Medan.

As we are coming close to the end of this year, we can’t help but reflect on all that has happened through the year at our education center; different workshops, special activities, classes, exams, graduation ceremonies, different festivals celebrated in togetherness, our housemother giving birth to a baby girl and not to forget the numerous smiles and laughter of children and teachers that truly make this year a memorable one.20161219_142452.jpgAs it is believed, the purpose of education is to help the children pick up the skills that they would require in their future lives; we hope that every year spent at Medan center adds value to their lives and helps them to grow into individuals who can help themselves and others around them. The skills and learning that they draw from the regular classes of Math, English, Computers, the exposure they get by being introduced to different topics and discussions held at the center, the opportunity to develop skills and explore their interests by participating in the various workshops that are being held, the values and knowledge that the children gain from by interacting with volunteers with different backgrounds and culture are all an attempt towards fulfilling the same purpose of education.20160609_145718As we complete another year, we also realize the significant role each teacher of our center played in making each day a success; with their assistance in running classes effectively, helping in organizing different events and activities at the center and most importantly working towards making their classes meaningful for the children. Most of these teachers are University students who are currently pursuing their studies in a subject of their choice. They are taking out time from their schedule to teach children at our center -some of them like teaching and some of them want to gain an experience in working but all of them do make a difference in the lives of the children. 20160609_153556It’s the beginning of Christmas celebrations at Medan center this week, we started organizing another set of special activities for the children and would continue organizing different activities throughout this week. Children have been making snowflakes’ and snowman cut outs; colouring and putting them around our center. They have also been busy making posters of their choice to decorate the center. There are colorful butterflies, characters from the animation movies along with the Christmas tree, ready to be put around the center adding more colour to the center and bringing a good close to the year!

Peace Out, Indonesia

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta.

I now depart Indonesia after 308 days of living here.  It’s been exactly 44 weeks of highs and lows, 10 months of ups and downs.  And it’s time to say goodbye.  To be perfectly honest, I’m ready to go but I cannot leave without acknowledging all the good that has been Indonesia for me.

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me-7-eleven-managerA big part of the good was made up of some really, really nice people.  Starting close to home, there was the 7-Eleven crew.  For months, I went there to get my coffee at least 5 mornings every week, and whoever was on duty greeted me with a smile and sometimes a cheery “Pagi!” (good morning).  My food purveyors have also been good to me, like the fruit cart where I bought whatever they were selling.  I know that they overcharged me but it was so little money when I thought about it that I accepted their price, whatever they told me.  The boys who usually man the cart were unfailingly polite and respectful to me, patiently helping me with my words when I had trouble communicating, and laughing with me when I said something stupid (yes, they were laughing at me sometimes but they did it in a nice way).  The mie aceh guy and the ayam bakar guy were also good to me, getting to know my order even before I could speak, and always serving me with a joke (mie aceh guy) and a smile (ayam bakar guy).

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My neighbourhood transportation experts must also be acknowledged.  All the Go-Jek guys who unfailingly shouted, “Hallo, meeeeees!” and waved when I walked by, and the Bluebird taxi crew who greeted me with, “Hallo, Krrrreeeeeestin, how are you today?” whenever they saw me.  They brought me little moments of pleasure, even when it was just a chuckle.

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Some of our local volunteers here have stood out to me because of their kindness and generosity of spirit.  Addina, who took me to her friend’s wedding; Nancy, who took me for nights on the town; Siti, who invited me to her home to eat with her family and meet her students and neighbours; and Sofwah, who let me ask her anything and answered it all so wonderfully.

Indonesia has restored my faith in the goodness of humanity, and it has given me profound experiences.  I have seen and done things here that never previously entered my realm of possibility to experience.  I have sat (or hung off a mountain) and watched erupting volcanoes, visited an island within an island, and meandered around ancient temples.  Indonesia has been a gateway to making lifetime memories in other Southeast Asian countries – Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos.

night-out-with-nancyIn Indonesia, I have had to confront the issue of colour and decide on how I should handle it; this was something I never had to deal with before and now I’m more prepared to deal with it in the future.  In Indonesia, I learned that I can adapt even to the point of learning another language, maybe not to expert proficiency but at least enough to get by in daily life.

Indonesia, being here has helped to expand my heart, and for that I say thank you.  I don’t know if I shall pass this way again but I can say with all honesty and sincerity that it was very nice knowing you.

Peace out.