Post – Fulbright: Coming Home to Indonesia with Many Opportunities and Challenges
Stories of life had never been so similar between one particular person with another one. In this writing, I am about to share what I had in mind after I came back home to Indonesia from living in the United States of America for two consecutive academic years. Please read it as if you are in my side. Enjoy.
May 15, 2013.
Right in that cold night, I barely had a sleep. My host family let me stay in their house for a night. In the following morning, I would have an international flight to Indonesia. That day; the on campus apartment service seemed to have a strict system to allow international student to stay on campus overnight. My time to stay at the housing was only few days left before my departure to Indonesia. Therefore, I decided to ask for staying in my host family house, and luckily, they let me in. What a nice and friendly host family they were.
I took a flight from St. Louis International Airport in Missouri to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Both of these airports were located in Illinois State. I planned to go back home to Indonesia after spending times for about two consecutive academic years in the United States of America. From Chicago, my flight was continued to Hong Kong, China. Then, from Hong Kong, the flight was directed into Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia. This flight took me for about two days (zone times) until I arrived safely in Indonesia. And, that was my second international trip I had after my first international flight was done on August 28, 2011. This flight was the last international experience I had after I finished my Master’s degree well at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Illinois.
When I was sitting next to a window of where my flight seat was located in the United Airlines aircraft, I had some thoughts in my mind about how will I do when I return home? How life would it be after I experience those wonderful international experiences and those friendly atmosphere of friendship in the United States of America? I had millions of questions in my mind about the future of mine after I came back home. Would I still be the same? Would I have a better life and living condition? I sacrificed many of my times to study and read many books and journals, will the knowledge I have can help me in my work? Now, from there, I began to start thinking about what I had to do in Indonesia. Therefore, this writing seems to share all these things. Perhaps, for other Indonesian students who had studied in the United States with this scholarship, they might have different personal experiences that they faced when they return home from studying abroad. The point is, “Patience really helps when you get into so many obstacles once you return home.” What I write in this posting is intended to share some of the colourful ways of how I experience different things in Indonesia. All these things are peculiar at times but sometime, I felt so helpless when I know that I came back to where I belong, but to some degrees, only my family show care where nobody else will, or even just to try. It looks like a kind of hard thing to face, right? That is life anyway, in my view. Family is always the best people to have around us. They are always there in good and bad conditions.
Well, to begin this reflective writing, I start it by saying how wonderful my country is. From its nature, Indonesia is really remarkable. From Aceh to Papua, the nature is so wonderful and they may not be exploited for negative or harmful purposes. Unfortunately, this condition has been overused by irresponsible parties that seem to use the potential of natural resources to feed themselves as greedy parties. News that I heard about some corrupters made me feel really disappointed. I feel so discontented. I really wish that the news being spread about them were mistakes. From day one I arrived up to the night I typed this writing, I began to think of how is it possible for Indonesia up to this point with so many obstacles above? I began to think of how and why such people who are so greedy for themselves could sit in that political position that defines the lives of so many people? Well, that is, for my country. Politics seems to be always the nice thing to debate, even though practical solutions are still under way. I watched television and soon, I felt so exhausted. By the way, I know that you can read news about all these things. Frankly speaking, it is too big to be discussed in this writing about politics so I now focus on what opportunities and challenges I seem to face when I am back home. Maybe you guys, if you are the same with me, you would likely experience different things. Therefore, please do bear with me.
Beginning with the opportunities, I have seen many good things to consider for the future. Apparently, my job as an English lecturer seems to be very open for new opportunities. I began to have lots of channels where I can expand the use of my skills and ability in English. I begin to think of using English as a language of mine, and as a language where I can communicate with people from around the world. I now feel like being a part of this whole global contextual communication atmosphere. Ever since I arrived in Indonesia, I can see a lot of things that I can do to help people around me, even though the helps I could do are far away from the centre of attention that journalism or reporters have in their works. I mostly help and urge my students to reach their better future. This help is what I can do because the effect is given directly to them. They often asked me questions about how it feels to be in the United States of America, how it looks like to be there in the snow, and what did I eat with all those American foods. On top of that, I used to get questions like how it felt to be in a place where you are very different from other people in terms of faith, race, or personal background. These questions are only few of the many questions I got after I returned home. Mostly, I felt the greatest happiness is when I met my students. The culture of “respecting the teacher” here in Indonesia helped me to adapt sooner that I thought I would. Nonetheless, yes, reverse culture shock is very saddening, but often times, such culture shock is not culture shock as the theory said, but it was actually the feeling of knowing what’s wrong with your culture and how you see it from the way people from other cultures would see it. Different colours and shapes are the best analogy for this aspect. I began to see clearly what is wrong with the culture of mine and it was sort of problem of mentality. The problem, somehow, is not in the culture but to the people who live with that culture. At the first time I arrived in the United States and came home to Indonesia two years after that, I felt so many challenges. Then, after several months, I just get used to them. As long as everyone can live together side by side regardless their differences, everything would be tolerable I supposed, except for bad habits that harm lives of other people. The story will be so different when the challenges come in ways that seem to be rationally acceptable to happen.
Unlike opportunities, challenges come to me in the form of swung arrows. In general, the challenges might always come from the external situation of mine. Regulations, policies, and rules seem to block creativity of so many people-with-focus. For instance, I cannot teach subjects related to English literature simply because of the curriculum. I used to think that all candidates of English teachers must know the essence of English literature before they begin teaching in the classrooms. Reading English literature help them shape their thinking process, at least to a degree where they can respect how people might think about one thing through different inclinations, ways, or conclusions, especially knowing how words will bring different meanings in different context linguistically. In linguistics, language is being studied in the form of theories, but in literature, language becomes alive. It must be used in almost all cases. Meanwhile, knowing teaching method is like knowing equipment for a work, while in fact, teaching itself must be dynamics. It should not have to be rigid and stiff. Facing the over-jealousy from people who seem to feel uneasy toward others’ happiness who came back from abroad and knowing the real thing of what some people do to block your ways out to be better in your life after you came are things that, today, seem to be common happening here in this country. Brown nosing almost occurs among people who were born from rich family. Smart youths usually could go to school, but when they searched for jobs, they had to face nepotism and collusion. The fact is that only those who know the boss that can be hired. Brilliant students end up working in somewhere else, in a place that they seem to be unfit, not because they cannot do the work, but more because the external circumstances do not support them to achieve greater impacts for their career, life, or personal achievements. As a result, their education became so useless. This point is very saddening to me. Some productive youths who had talent in a certain field and they graduated excellently from school are being left out only because their parents are poor or they were born from unprivileged community. Meanwhile, youths who seemed to have lack of skills but they had their parents as the lucky guardians can get work they like due to that “channelling” system. Somehow, this nuance is what happened with me and with all other youths who were raised in a poor family. We did all we had to get the better future, although the sacrifice we did is what makes us look still poor. How can we have a great saving while income and spending are completely imbalance? They graduated from school, had skilful computer literacy, and possessed good command of using a foreign language, and ended up from studying with brilliant scores and achievements, but they faced with tormented reality that said, “Going to school is not for you. Why should you be so diligent in studying if at the end, you will be nobody? Why should you have to study far away to another country if what we need here is only the title?” After I searched for the reasons of this sticky mind-set; I began to see that the system created them in that situation. What happened afterwards is that wrong person in a wrong place. The impact is chaos. Bad personality can happen to sit in a strategic position to make decision. All the youths want to be is to be the civil servants because all facilities from the government had been made for you and you also worked as the decision makers. To be honest, I heard this sentence once in my life. Badly enough, as I notice; those folks who sit in that nice position seem to have no clue to see the points outside their comfort seat. They approach people who can approach them—too political at times. My voice at this point is geared toward the nation, not just one particular place. And, overall, based on what is written in mass media all over Indonesia, my voice is true. However, of course, there are still many good things out there that seem to be forgotten to be spoken out loud to the world in many Indonesian newspapers.
Now, getting back to the arrows, I did my best to avoid them. If one arrow hit me, then the best thing I could do is to recover from that arrow—to stand again and fight! Usually, the people who attack you for their own personal reasons are usually, losers. What they have in mind is always you. You are lucky to have one—I said to myself. Just one thing for sure, I never want to be that person for others. To be hurt is really hurt, but to hurt others, never. If it hurts for me, then why would I have to make people feel the same hurt as I do?
Another peculiar thing I noticed is the attitude of over-using nice person for work by saying the word “help.” It is fine to ask for helps, but of course, we can measure to what degree our request of help can be done or even be relevant with the person we talk to. If the person that we ask for help said that he or she cannot help us because he or she has tons of tasks to do, then it would be so unwise for us to judge that person to be unhelpful. When the limit comes, of course, we need to be a bit more considerate to people around us. I would love to help; however, I help when I can. My feeling feels so sad when helping some fellows ends up with nothing, even just saying the words, “thank you.” At this condition, some people would say, you need to be “sincere.” Basically, this situation is about avoiding the attitude of making use of other people without any good attitude as the reply. We never love a person, who never loves us, don’t we?
Actually, there are many things I can share about the challenges and opportunities after I come back home. The point is, “The future lies in our hand.” That is true. However, living in a place where corruption happens like a group of ants trying to hunt their foods, then the consequences are that we cannot move forward. We stay in the same position all the times. If you decide to move and do something, there are always there, some parties who feel so embarrassed with what you achieve. Some of them really want to brag you down for the same level as theirs. They want you to be like them. Making everything looks the same or trying to equalize all aspects of life is completely ruining many colours of life. Only the winners who could make more winners and losers are friends for losers. After all of my international experiences in the United States, I had seen clearly that to win someone does not mean you lose yourself. To make someone a winner means you are higher than the winner. I always envy people who help other people to the best they can. To see a sign of a winner is from the word, “respect.” What is the point of attacking people with our words and actions when we mean them so much with hatred and jealousy, especially with lack of mutual understanding? Is that the purpose of life? I literally think that life is way too far from this narrow thought. Or, do you?
“Telling the truth of what you really feels needs a strong courage because you feel like standing bare and naked in front of the eyes of so many people who will throw you with stones and stones of judgmental sentences after reading or listening what you just said, especially when you are under pressure not to tell it. However, once you said the truth, you bring lights to people” – Syayid Sandi Sukandi, 2014.
Note: This writing is purely personal. If you feel a bit uneasy with the content, please type your comment below. I would love to discuss with you open-mindedly. Thank you.