YSEALI U.S. Fellow Summer 2017 Cohort:

First Impressions

August 20, 2017


On the way back to my hotel after spending the afternoon at the Miniature Park of Indonesia, I asked my hosts what the colors of the Indonesian flag symbolize. You see, I’ve landed the day after the 72nd Indonesian Independence celebration, and the simple red and white flag is on display everywhere.* My hosts explained the red symbolizes bravery and the white is holy. The Miniature Park of Indonesia is akin to Epcot: it showcases traditional homes and architecture from each of the 30 plus Indonesian provinces. We covered 6 plus lunch in 4 hours, so that gives you an idea of how big this park is. Most of the people in the park are Indonesian, and given the proximity to Independence Day, the park was chock full of visitors. We saw several large family gatherings, witnessed a family doing a traditional Sulawesi dance, and even saw the aftermath of a West Javanese wedding party. Over the course of our tour, no less than 12 people asked to take a photo with me. Coupled with a delicious Indonesian lunch, it was the perfect way to begin my stay in Indonesia. On the way home, my hosts opened up and began to ask me some of the tough question about being American: Why are there shootings in schools? And then offered their own take on radical Islam: that it’s not Islam, and they fail to see why well-educated acquaintances sympathize with radicalization. They shared that elections here are divisive, even on social media. It made me think of my own experience last fall. As I reflect on today, I have a few more descriptors to add to the symbolism of the red and white. Yes, these people are brave and holy, but they are also brilliant (everyone is at least trilingual!), beautiful, and hopeful. Hopeful about the future, and about improving their fledgling democracy. I can’t wait to dig in tomorrow with the Indonesian Family Planning Association and the national Women’s Health Foundation!

*Following Dutch colonization, Indonesia was occupied by the Japanese during WWII. They celebrate Independence from the time they beat out the Japanese.

Day 7 Theme: Teaching!

On August 26th I delivered a lecture on Budgeting and Performance Improvement to undergraduate students at Artha Wacana Christian University.

Following the lecture, I taught an English class to high school students for an hour.

Then, I visited the RELO English Access Microscholarship Program (“Access”) a the Widyamandira University. The most memorable of the three was certainly the visit with the Access students. This U.S. Department of State – funded two year program is for high school students from low income families. The students were quiet and respectful (not like typical teenagers!), and their English level was truly remarkable. They spoke fluently and with confidence and told me over and again how much they enjoy the Access program, not only for the 4 hours of English tutelage per week, but for the Access” family”, and for the volunteering activities they do together, and the opportunity to learn about American culture. The students prepared a welcoming dance for me and wore their traditional scarves, and presented me and Pa Tanda with one, too. We felt like we were part of the family. After a short presentation, I opened up the flow for Q&A. Here are some of the questions I received:

  1. What is your opinion about the use of pesticides in vegetable crops?
  2. How does Colorado manage water resources and drought conditions?
  3. What is your opinion about eating dog meat and killing dogs for food?
  4. I’m crazy about animals! What should we know about taking care of animals?
  5. In your opinion, what can we do better in Kupang for our environment?
  6. Did you bring your own food, or are you eating Indonesian food?

I mean… how could I not be impressed?! These questions are incredibly advanced for high schoolers, and I love how much they care about the environment. They are wise beyond their years!

And finally, a question I received at all classrooms today: What do you think of Kupang? The answer is, I really like Kupang! Kupang, compared to Jakarta, is much more laid back. I joke with my hosts about “Kupang time,” which is 30 minutes behind schedule. The traffic is even more laid back here. Houses and lots are more spread out, and it’s located on the Sea, and has killer views. Houses, offices, and schools are spotless, and the food is simple and delicious. But the thing I like most about Kupang is the people. Every single person I’ve met (and it’s upwards of 200 now), has been so eager to learn and improve their community. People have talked to me about empathy, innovation, and the environment. The people of Kupang are proud to be a city of Tolerance, which is an official government designation. Kupang is one of only 3 cities in Indonesia to have this honor. I could feel the tolerance the minute I arrived. I have been treated like a most honored guest here, and the warmth and hospitality is absolutely unrivaled.

Laurel Delmonico, Contract Manager, Denver Environmental Health

City and County of Denver, CO

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