Monday, January 27, 2014

Man Jadda Wajada!

Man Jadda Wajada
He who gives all will surely succeed.

Speaking at the Man Jadda Wajada Training
Two weeks ago, I picked up a book from my host dad’s bookshelf titled, The Land of Five Towers. I read the brief description on the back, not completely convinced of if my need for a good read would be satisfied. But as it was the only book in English that I hadn’t yet read, I dove in. What I didn’t know then, is just how much this book would shake up my world. 

For two days, I had my nose stuck in the yellow paperback. I was along for the adventure of Alif- A high school, aged boy from the island of Sumatra who had taken on the journey of attending a pesantren (Indonesian Islamic boarding school,) instead of his ultimate dream of attending public high school.  His journey was not an easy one. He left the meager village he had lived in his whole life, leaving behind everything familiar, and made the voyage to the island of Java. He didn’t know a single thing about the school he would be attending. He didn’t know a single person who would be there. And he had no idea, just how big of an impact his new environment would have on him. Sound familiar? As I was reading this novel, I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading MY story. The lessons Alif was learning at MP, were the same lessons I had been learning here in Indonesia. Lessons such as valuing my education, pushing every limit I ever thought I had, the importance of excelling in languages, and the realization that a little spirituality can go a long way. (Side note- The story is actually based on the author’s real experiences!)

After finishing the novel- shaken up and moved in ways I had never experienced before- I ambitiously decided to try to contact the author, Ahmad Fuadi. It all started with a tweet, sending my praise for The Land of Five Towers, in a similar way that a preteen girl would fangirl over One Direction. Even though I wasn’t expecting a response, I at the very least had to try to share my appreciation. But, here’s the cool part- He responded! I insisted that if he was ever in Bandung, he had to let me know so we could perhaps meet and share stories. As fate would have it, he was scheduled to give the first ever Man Jadda Wajada training here in Bandung, and graciously offered me a free ticket. But the fun doesn’t stop there! I was also invited to speak in front of the crowd of 400 people!

Fuadi and I
After a sleepless night, I rolled out of bed ready for the long day ahead. I checked into the event, got my snazzy name tag, and took a seat among 400 others. The event started with luminous lights, a wonderful playlist, and a dash of dancing. The first speaker of the day was Harri Firmansyah- One of Indonesia's top 10 inspiring trainers. His ideas shook up the entire crowd- myself included. I was feeling so exhilarated I almost forgot that I also had to get up and speak. Next thing I know, I’m standing in front of 400 people beside one of the raddest humans I’ve ever encountered. Shaking in my shoes, I spoke of how I had always dreamt of living abroad, my journey of getting to where I am today, and everything I have learned thus far.
Signing a few autographs
After the first session, we broke for lunch. People from all kinds of different backgrounds approached me and thanked me for my speech! I went to the event prepared to be inspired, but I wasn’t expecting to inspire others! It was an incredibly gratifying experience to know that I had encouraged others to chase after their biggest dreams, as well.

“Man jadda wajada!” the audience roared. Voices boomed. The room rumbled. And a spark inside me was ignited. After countless photos, smiles, and happy vibes, the event came to a close.

The day was nothing short of a success. People from different organizations approached me with offers of joining their organizations, attending their events, and I even had an offer to speak again! I met countless outliers who have big plans for their futures, and even bigger hearts. In the end, I left the event on cloud nine. I’m ready to go full force at all of my crazy dreams, and am fully equipped to help others achieve theirs. Man jadda wajada, my friends. 

A big terima kasih to Bang Fuadi! If you would like to read his book, (And yes, you ALL should.) You can find it here on Amazon! Selamat baca!

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Indonesian Love Affair

Ladies and gentlemen, the rumors are true. I have fallen in love here in Indonesia. Let me tell you a little about this boy that has completely turned my world around. He visits me in my happiest of dreams. My knees become weak as my nose catches a whiff of his sweet scent. I crave him at every hour of everyday. I love the way he brings warmth to my lips. And on my worst of days, he always reminds me just how beautiful life is. My heart is perfect because he is in it. When the angels ask me what I loved most about life, I'll say him. He is, and always has been my dream. His name is permanently written on my heart, and I will stand in front of every human on this earth and proudly declare, "I love him!" His name is Indomie. And I'm deeply in love.

I'm sorry if I spoiled the fun for those of you who thought this was actually going to be about my love life but... Indomie deserves the hype. For you Americans and foreigners that aren't sure what Indomie is, let me tell you. Indomie is in short, a brand of instant noodles that are manufactured here in the motherland. Have you ever had Cup Noodles or the Ramen instant noodles brand? Well, everything those noodles are doing is wrong. Indomie is on another level. The noodles come in over 50 different varieties, all catering to the Indonesian palette. From Mie Goreng Rendang to Rasa Baso Special, and the most popular, the classic Mie Goreng Special, there's an Indomie for everyone! 

Indonesia is comprised of over 17,000 islands. Every one of these islands has a different culture, language, foods, customs, etiquette, and attire but despite all of these differences, there is one noodle brand that can unify the entire country. And that noodle brand is Indomie. Food stall workers, doctors, car washers, beggars, the Sultan, and even President SBY himself, all unite and relish in the delicacy that is Indomie. And it doesn't stop there. Indomie is taking the world by storm, and it can now be found in many countries outside of Indonesia. I have yet to see any in America but I've heard it's there if you look. And the best part? Here in Indo, you can pick up a package for about $.10. If you have a dime to spare, I would recommend dropping whatever it is you're doing right now, hopping in your car, driving to the nearest supermarket, and investing in a few packages of the deliciousness. When you come to the realization that Indomie is all you have ever wanted in your life, you can thank me later. Go forth my friends, and conquer that bowl of fried, instant, noodle goodness.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

So you want to come to Indonesia?

So you want to come to Indonesia? Well, the good news is this; you have just made the best decision of your life because this country is as close to heaven as one could get. But before you set off on your Indonesian escapade, there are a few things you should know.

1. Indonesia is comprised of over 17,000 islands- 6,000 which are inhabited. With so many islands, this has led to unmeasurably rich diversity within the country. Bali is nothing like Java, and Kalimantan is nothing like Sulawesi. No two islands are the same- Food, language, clothing, etiquette, all of these variables differ between the islands.

2. Everything is fried. I thought America was crazy with fried Oreos, Twinkies, and marshmallows. But Indonesia takes it to a whole different level with fried BANANAS. Bananas, one of the healthiest foods on the planet, looses all of that healthiness as it's tossed in the frier... But it's delicious, and debatably my favorite food in this country. Everything else is fried, too: Rice, noodles, fish, chicken, donuts, vegetables, eggs, etc. I know many of these things sound normal, but it's the amount of fried foods that I eat that is strange and foreign to me. I can count on eating SOMETHING, if not everything, fried in one meal.

3. You better have social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and even ones I hadn't heard of before coming here like Line and Path. Indonesian teens, and many adults as well, are social media OBSESSED. So if you want to fit in, you better learn how to hashtag and utilize the best Instagram filters.

4. Be ready for some interesting public transportation adventures! In America, many cities have subways, taxis, and trains to transport its people. While Indonesia does have taxis, and a few trains, more commonly, ojek and angkot are used on a daily basis. What is ojek you may ask? Ojek is like taxi in motorcycle form. Personally, it's my favorite mode of transportation because it's fast, and there is no better feeling than being slapped in the face with your hair on the back of a motorcycle. Angkot is a mini van with benches lining the inside walls. Angkot is sort of the subway of Indonesia, in the sense that each van follows a certain route and it's the least expensive to get around. But beware: Angkot routes aren't actually posted anywhere. You just sort of have to hop on and hope you end up where you need to be.

5. Love the comfort of toilet paper? Well you better pack some for yourself, because most public bathrooms don't have any. They just have a bucket with water, and a scoop. Or if you're lucky, a hose. In fact, most public bathrooms aren't western toilets either. A typical Indonesian bathroom is a squat toilet- Picture basically a porcelain hole in the ground. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Indonesian bathrooms. But nevertheless, I've ended up with some good stories.

6. Juice, juice, juice. It's everywhere. And it's fresh. I can get a glass of homemade mango juice for about fifty cents. HOWEVER. Be careful. Because I'm almost certain that street juice made me sick approximately three times when I first came here. But overtime, your system will adjust, and you'll be left with a stomach of steel.

7. I hope you like feeling like a celebrity, because if you're a white foreigner coming to Indonesia, odds are you'll spend 50% of your trip posing for pictures with Indonesians. The locals here call us "bule." And there sure aren't very many bule in these parts, so when Indonesians spot one, they'll come running. When I went to Borobudur, I had a line of people waiting to take a picture with me. It can become a bit obnoxious at times, but enjoy the stardom while you can, and use it as an excuse to talk to some locals.

8. Rice all day everyday. It's the staple food here. For Americans, this is a strange concept because we really don't have a staple food, so eating something at every meal seems bizarre and can get a bit boring. But fear not! You will adjust. After almost five months here, I have to eat rice at least once a day or else I don't feel quite right. Also, the food that is paired with rice is delicious, so don't worry.

9. Respect yo' elders. Respecting authority is a very important aspect of Indonesian culture, and it's one of the hardest things I have had to adjust to since coming here. The family always comes first. If your parents give you rules, you had best be following them. If there is a family gathering, you had best be there. For most Americans, once they graduate high school it's normal to move out and make your own decisions. Whereas in Indonesia, many young adults will continue to live with their families until they are married. Family helps make all of your big decisions. Who you marry, where you go to college, what you major in. If a young adult doesn't have their parent's approval for a decision they have made, odds are they will be incredibly upset.

10. There is poverty. And at first, it's shocking. There is really no way to prepare yourself for this. AFS encourages us to remember the catchline, "It's not good, not bad. Just different." And that's all there is to it. In the midst of poverty and living conditions far different from the western world, Indonesia has so, so, SO many other beautiful qualities. You just have to look closely.

11. And finally, be ready to meet the kindest people on the face of the Earth. Indonesia will welcome you with open arms, and do everything in their power to share with you their culture, food, traditions, language, adventures, and everything else they can offer. It's truly the best place on Earth, and I applaud you for making the decision to go. And if you're just reading this for sheer entertainment, then I applaud you as well.Thank you for taking the time to learn about a little corner of the world that many people don't know about! Y'all are the best!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Redefining YOLO

YOLO. For some people, it’s their party motto- Thanks, Drake. For other people, it’s an obnoxious, teenage acronym that usually entails engaging in risky behaviors after school. I often find myself jokingly throwing around the term in embarrassing situations where I accidentally make a fool of myself (When you’re living in a foreign country, it happens on a daily basis- Usually multiple times daily.) But in the past few weeks, YOLO hasn’t been any of these things for me. YOLO has become a reflection of my life. 

Pantai Cukup
I celebrated my first Christmas away from home. On Christmas night, my host mom and I boarded the night train to Yogyakarta. I fell asleep in Bandung, and woke up in the heart of Indonesia’s culture. My first day in Jogja was spent beach hopping. I finally got my first glance at the Indonesian beaches that Google Images promised. As the tides turned, and I drank straight from a coconut, I couldn’t help but think, “This is the life I was born to be living.” I had been kissed by the sun, and swallowed by the sand, and I couldn’t have felt more euphoric. The next day came quickly, promising adventures equally enthralling. I stood on the steps of Borobudur, a Buddhist temple that dates back to the year 790, and I was awestruck. Never in my life had I seen, let alone stood in such rich history. I breathlessly climbed to the top of the temple on the same, steeps steps that ancient Buddhists had. I admired the same mountains that many of them looked at everyday. As I drove away that evening, I watched the setting sun paint the sky peach and coral, with Mount Merapi watching over me. I was filled to the brim with joy, as I sipped on the most perfect glass of Jogja sweet tea, and was gently reminded to embrace the good vibes from “the little things.”

Traditional wedding clothes of Padang
Lionel the Komodo dragon
Next thing I knew, I was in Jakarta- The constantly moving, Indonesian melting pot that simultaneously embraces contemporary lifestyles, and archaic culture. The past week here has been nothing short of fulfilling. I’ve been welcomed with open arms by my host grandparents, and taken on journeys that wouldn’t have been made possible without their young, adventurous spirits. I let a snake whose weight was almost the same as mine dance and glide over my body. I embraced my inner Indonesian bride and was dressed in traditional, wedding kabaya from Padang- The kabaya wore me, and demanded attention with its bright reds and golds. I made friends with a Komodo dragon named Lionel, and decided that someday I’ll be the proud owner of one myself. I spent my morning drifting on a bamboo raft while wearing a traditional sarong from the village. I gained the trust of a baby water buffalo, and bathed him in the river. I was invited to join a drumming circle with traditional, Papuan men. I’ve done all of these incredible things, and then some. 

I love the country I wake up to. I love the stars above that serenade me to sleep. I love the way the light never looks the same from night to night. I love that I will never stop chasing it. I love these experiences that I’m having. And I love all the people I’ve met along the way. Saying you only live once isn’t a cliche, it’s a truth. It’s a truth that has been revealed to me in a setting that couldn’t be more perfect. And it’s with that ideal that I’ll run to the future, waiting to see what's in store for me next.