King of the Castle

by Dustin, Co-Director, IHF Aceh

A week ago I returned from Penang, via Medan. It was great to visit Lissa, Aditi, and the rest of the IHF Medan Family once again. Penang’s a wonderful place – first time in Malaysia, but I was most excited about securing my new visa, allowing me to continue my volunteer work with IHF. Since the trip marked the halfway point for my year here in Aceh, it was a great chance to reflect upon all I’ve learned and loved thus far, and the experiences that still await me. Timea gave a lot to this Center and this organization. Her departure left many responsibilities which Emily and me must now fill. I miss her presence, but am excited for the challenge and opportunity for growth this presents.

Emily left for her much-deserved two week break shortly after I came back, making it my turn to entertain the ghosts of the empty house with my solo dance acts. The solitude wasn’t quite as new to me as it was to Emily – I had held down the fort previously when Emily and Timea travelled together, and always sought seclusion to complete my online tasks or workout. Nonetheless, the freedom of being on my own, combined with the fresh feeling of starting the second half of my year here, led to an attitudeIMG_0251 of experimentation. From puppets in the classroom to keep the kiddos excited, to a dab of chlorine in the bathroom basin to keep the mosquitos from breeding, to finally using whatsapp to communicate with teachers so they don’t need pulsa – I felt myself getting better at life each day. Now, if I could remember to stop leaving my camera out for the kids to steal and take selfies!

Something that’s been giving me quite a bit of inspiration lately is an online leadership course I’ve been taking through Coursera. A few days ago, in order to practice motivation through positive visioning, I had to make a list of 27 things I wish to accomplish in my lifetime – long enough to go from the basic to the detailed. After sharing with my friends, I was amazed at how much the idea caught on, with everyone eager to share lists of their own. It just so happened SD 4 is currently learning Future Tense, and so I thought, “What better way for them to practice than to have them make a list of future goals for themselves!?”

Reducing the assignment to fifteen dreams, and sharing a child-appropriate list of my own, I put them to work writing what they will be, do, or have in the future. Despite the language barrier, and the cultural differences, the results were very similar to what I would expect fourth-graders in America to write – from the innocent (“I will have many friends”) to the vain (“I will have plentiful houses”), and from the ambitious (“I will play football for Real Madrid”) to the cop-out (“I will clean” – I told her she could reach that goal right after class). Although some, of course, were more awkwardly worded (“I will have young”). While I still have much to do to help them develop their language skills in order to reach many of these goals, it was rewarding to see how much they enjoyed envisioning their ideal selves.

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