Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'm Homesick

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.” 

I'm an email addict. I crave the anticipation and excitement that builds with each special phone buzz that signifies a new message waiting. My fingers fiercely punch in my passcode to unlock my phone and open the email as though my life depends on it. Today however, is different. "AFS Travel Notification- Return" reads the subject line. My heart beats fast. I suddenly am unable to keep up with the rate at which my chest seems to want to rise and fall. 219 days worth of memories flood from every hidden corner of my mind. I put both hands to my eyes like magical shields, hoping they can somehow stop the tears that want to fall. I let the email sit, and still, it remains unopened. I'm homesick. With those few words, I'm homesick for this new home that I stumbled upon, and haven't even left yet.

Last July, I faced this same problem. As I drove through my mountains listening to Bon Iver, I silently shed tears as I thought of the imminent departure from my home. I was homesick. In my own home. And now, eight months later, I find myself facing a similar reality. 

I know it's been said many times, many ways... But I think the world of this place. I traveled far, far away from my home, only to feel like I never really left. My life has become one enormous paradox. I'm leaving home, to return home. I'm returning to the place where everything is simultaneously invariable, and yet downright foreign. The past 219 days have slipped through my fingers the same way the sand does at seashore. I so desperately want to scoop up my last 106 days, and lock them tight in a mason jar for me to hold forever. But of course, that's just not an option for me. As I stand on the brink of turning the page and writing a new chapter, I'm ready to go to war with this homesickness, and face it head on. I'm ready to embrace the pain as a gentle reminder of just how in love with my host country I've fallen, and just how much progress I've made thus far. As for the email, I'll let it sit for a few more days. No need to rush, ehh? 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Komunitas Menara- Giving Back

Bump, bump, bump. Our shiny, silver, Nissan Xtrail steadily progressed down the narrow, unkept, dirt road seeming strikingly out of place in the rural community. To my right was a small, open grass field with young children hanging from the remains of an old bus. To my left, sat an even smaller line of street stands selling a few basic necessities. Out the front window, was a semicircle of one-room, one-story homes that resembled the pictures of early houses I had seen in my history books. We had arrived. My four friends and I were greeted by a petite woman wearing a purple print dress, with her daughter shying away by her side. We were welcomed into their  home. One twin bed mattress on the floor. A child’s size lap desk. Walls decorated by the young girl’s Sharpie artworks. A small gas stove. And a pint-size bathroom in the back corner. In the ten by ten foot home, these were the things that first caught my eye. 

The young girl’s name was Annisa, and we had come to discuss the importance of her school. “Aku mau menjadi dokter.” I want to become a doctor, the young girl proclaimed without a hint of fear or hesitation. I smiled, because I knew that this girl was a powerhouse. Annisa’s mother began to give her testimony regarding the power of her daughter’s education within her family that under normal circumstances, wouldn’t be able to fund it. She contended that in result of Annisa attending school, her daughter had become more confident, self assured, and ready to chase her dreams. Her pint-sized daughter was excelling in English, Arabic, math, reading, writing, art, as well as effective social skills. Every word she softly spoke, left me feeling proud, inspired, and wanting to make a difference. What started as a YES Abroad project, quickly turned into much more than that.

Annisa’s school is a fully funded kindergarten created by the Komunitas Menara organization, or KM for short. KM was founded by one of Indonesia’s most prominent authors, Ahmad Fuadi. With the only goal of giving Indonesia’s impoverished children the opportunity to obtain a quality early childhood education, Fuadi built his first three KM schools. There are currently 30 million children in Indonesia aged 0-6, and less than half of these children have access to kindergartens. Let that sink in for a moment. That’s twenty times the population of my entire home state of Montana! 20 million children will never enter a school. 20 million children will never have the groundwork needed to establish a love of learning. 20 million children will never learn how to read, write, or obtain basic skills in math and science. 20 million children in the country that I now call home.

Indonesia has been nothing but welcoming and kind towards me. After being welcomed into the homes of strangers, offered free angkot rides, and given guidance as I attempt navigating this big city, I feel compelled to give back. I can donate my time, but Komunitas Menara needs so much more than that. With the ultimate goal of building 1,000 kindergartens, KM needs the financial support from you all. Nelson Mandela said it best when he said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We are not only investing in the future of Indonesia’s children. We are investing in the future of our world. As technology advances, and travel becomes more attainable, many are realizing that our family is not limited to our own state or our own country. Our family is expanding far beyond country borders, and we are flourishing as an international community. Komunitas Menara can create an entire generation of doctors, engineers, writers, artists, researchers, and teachers. We can, and we will. It’s only a matter of time. Man jadda wajada.

*If you have been moved by the Komunitas Menara organization the way that I have, I encourage you to donate today! The campaign is now live here! Terima kasih banget, semua! Thank you so much, everyone!*

Sunday, March 9, 2014

My Biggest Fear

“I fear oblivion. I fear it like the proverbial blind man who’s afraid of the dark.” Much like Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars, I too, find myself fearing oblivion. I fear living in a world where the thoughts and concerns of the earth’s inhabitants lack depth, experience, and information. This puzzles me. If the 21st century boasts being the era of innovation, technology, and communication, then why despite all that, are the thoughts of many of my peers so similar? Why is the fight to reach each of society’s life milestones the sole focus of so many? We’re taught to graduate high school, do the minimal in college to obtain a degree, find a spouse from a homologous socioeconomic background, have children, and work a singular position for the rest of our life until our bodies are too frail to continue. Our vision becomes foggy. We can see where we want ourselves to be, but we fail to acknowledge the happenings in the lives of others. Today we lack experience, because society predetermines our experiences for us. We lack a desire to grow, because our growth is quantified by standardized test scores. We lack courage, because we are drilled that taking alternative paths is treacherous. And in result of that, we’re faced with oblivion.

Before this year, I too was oblivious. My world view stretched as far as Western Europe and my sole focus was to survive the monotony of high school. I knew there had to be more, I just wasn't sure where to look. Then I came to Indonesia. From being thrown into an alternative language, a peculiar climate, and a family who shares a religion and customs contrasting significantly from my own, this experience has opened my eyes in ways that I never would have imagined. My personal resilience, my ego, my beliefs, all have been completely pushed to the brink and back. And yet, I’m hooked. Each day as I hold conversations with women running food stalls or play with the children that flock to me, I realize just how aware of myself, and more importantly, the world around me, that I have become. 

Empathy. Compassion. Love. Knowledge. So many of these things are lacking in today's world. I urge the young people, and the old people, the engineers, the doctors, the teachers, the students, the men, the women, and everyone in between- explore more. Explore across the ocean in Namibia or New Zealand. Explore in your own neighborhood, and talk to the single father across the street. Explore science text books, classic literature, and Time magazine. Explore with language, with spirituality, with food, with nature. Break free from the wrath of oblivion, and explore. I promise it's worth it.