Four weeks after my last blog post and I’ve left Karang Widya, spent a week tanning on the Gili Islands and moved house. It’s been a crazy month.
Graduation was almost exactly a month ago. It was a day of laughing, singing and crying – I must have cried even more than I did at my own. The students have spent every day and night together for the last three months. They’ve seen each other grow from shy acquaintances into best friends and then they had to say goodbye.
And I had to say goodbye as well.
I think the best way to explain how I felt is to write some of what I wrote in my journal at midnight the day of graduation.
“12:16 am, 8 March 2016.
I don’t really know what to say – mainly because it’s midnight and my throat is sore from singing and my head spinning from tiredness and tears. We’ve just come back from karaoke with some of the staff.
We started the day pagi pagi [early in the morning] in the kitchen, watching as the students sang Indonesia Raya [the national anthem]. They were so happy and cheerful. And then gradation started properly.
Everyone was crying, even Sanan and he said he never cried. That was what really set me off – Sanan and Ivander in tears. I don’t think I even cried as much at my own grad – actually I didn’t cry at all. It’s so different – at least then I knew I would see my school friends again. Today, I’m not sure if the students and I will ever meet up.
I’ve spent the last two months with these people. They’re bright and funny and sometimes insensitive but mainly amazing. They have so much potential. Take Nandi, for example. He’s fifteen and from Sulawesi. He’s never been to a proper school before but teaching him English and seeing how much he’s learnt, you’d never be able to tell. He comes from a tribe and lives in the forest with no phone signal. This is definitely the last time I’ll see him. I want to see them grow and realise their dreams, I want the right to know where they are in twenty years time, who they’ve married, what they’re doing.
They’re all so brave. So young, only fifteen to twenty-six (most are eighteen), but already they have to be so grown up and independent. Tomorrow Sanan and Ivander start work in Jakarta and Bandung. I can’t imagine myself doing the same, even though we’re the same age. Seeing them walk off in groups or by themselves to catch the bus and start their working lives was one of the most emotionally difficult things I’ve had to do. Most of them weren’t even going home – none of the Flores or NTT [Nusa Tenggara Timor – East Indonesia] kids can afford the five hour flight back. I feel so selfish and guilty that I can go home and see my parents and hang around for a few weeks doing nothing.
Our lives are so different. Here I am, living in a big house with hot showers and two parents that would do anything for me. I’m going off to uni in London and I know that I will manage to get a good job and I’ll live a privileged life. I can see why the students might call me manja [spoilt] or sombong [arrogant] even though I don’t like to think I am. Look at the difference in the way we live. But why? Why was I given this life and they weren’t? Who chooses where we are born and what lives we’ll live? Being friends with the students was a brief glimpse in to a life I’ll never really know. I am so proud of them and so confident in their abilities. I hope they can be the best.”
Volunteering at the Learning Farm taught me so much but mainly it taught me to appreciate what I have and the life I’ve been given because others deserve just as much. They were just born to different circumstances.
Karang Widya is an amazing organisation. It might not provide the most rigorous, or standardised, education but for three months it provides a place for the students to grow in confidence and maturity. To have seen that change and have been part of making it happen is an amazing feeling. But it’s not just a safe space to grow that KW provides, the staff also help the students find jobs after they have left. For example Angel, one of the advanced students, who is now doing Urban Farming in Jakarta.
So much of volunteering on a gap year is us taking more than we can give. I have no employable skills yet and although I’ve been teaching English I’m not sure how much the students have gained and learnt from me. Will they ever really need that tiny bit of English we taught them? But volunteering at The Learning Farm was worth it for me – I have learnt so much and grown so much as a person. I’ve seen differences in culture and in the way people live. I’ve made friends and had experiences that I’ll always remember. And at the end of the day, those friendships and the brief time that we spent together will last and impact them more than any lessons ever can. As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel”. So I hope I can have given back just a bit of the happiness and confidence I gained from my time at KW to all the people I met there.
After all those emotions and deep thoughts, Phun and I needed some time off…
So we hopped on a plane to Lombok.
My experience of Lombok was from the car window – rolling hills and rice fields, monkeys and clear blue sea. We headed straight to Bangsal Harbour and then on to the Gili Islands where we spent six nights – two on each of the three islands. It was a week of chilling on beaches and floating in the sea, eating Magnums and watching cute couples walk along hand in hand, finding cheap meals and lamenting how expensive tiny islands end up being.
It was exactly what we needed after the sadness of saying goodbye.
And then our Gili trip was also over. We spent one night in Ubud before heading to the airport in Bali and arrived back in Jakarta last week.
And now we’ve moved house! The flat is right above the Embassy which was a bit off-putting at first. But, although there are plenty of problems to sort out, the flat is really nice! Mum has done an amazing job of making it feel like home – we’ve got spotty teapots out and billions of books on the book shelves and it’s looking gorgeous. And, of course, having Rizwaan here the last week also helped!
So all in all an absolutely crazy month. Look out for my next blog post. We’re going on holiday to Flores on Sunday so expect lots of awesome photos.