I enjoyed a wonderful, warm Bon Voyage involving several weeks filled with the kindness and generosity of my family and friends. On May 9th, I celebrated my 21st birthday in the presence of many of the most important people in the world to me. The next weekend, I graduated with my Bachelor’s of International Affairs and a minor in Asian Studies. Then only 11 days later, I boarded the flight on which I now sit, a ten hour trip from San Francisco to Tokyo on a United Airlines Boeing 747. In fewer than 20 hours, I will be in Indonesia with The U.S. Indonesia Society’s prestigious summer language program in Bahasa.
I visited and received visits from family throughout my last day in my hometown of Reno, Nevada, and I spent my last night with my friends Brent, Farah, Alex, Jillian, JP, Edgar, and Lauren. We began at my favorite 24-hour diner, The Gold ‘N Silver, and then migrated to Brent’s apartment and enjoyed tea, conversation, and the incredible view on his balcony overlooking downtown. Along with many encouraging words, he gave me the sketch below which bears his Chinese seal and my Chinese name (希望).
This incredible gift comes on the heels of many other special gifts, notes, and acts of kindness. The first gift in the series was a poppy-covered tea cup from Sunny who, after I complimented her’s, had her boyfriend’s mother purchase another in her hometown in China and bring to New York so that he could bring it to Reno for me. Subsequently, I received the following:
Two lovely packages from my friends Taylor and Joanna, a five year question journal from Jillian, a thoughtful collection of loose-leaf teas and homeopathic remedies from Brent, one of only three shirts I packed and a bracelet from Farah, a travel pouch diary from my friend Natasha, who included within it many sentimental pieces of home and left plenty of room for me to add pieces of my travels, a beautiful pair of earrings that my cousin’s mother in law plucked from her ears and gifted me when I complimented them, a copy of The Alchemist which inspired my close friend and former teacher, and my counselor’s offer to ask the creator to send me a spirit animal in a Native American ceremony. I am nothing less than completely amazed by this outpouring of support.
At this time in my life, I feel and am more free than I have ever been before. I am extremely excited to, for the first time, be able to answer, “Indefinitely” to the question: “How long will you be gone?” Finishing school has meant that I now have few enough obligations, enough time, and hopefully enough money, to travel until one of those things changes or I get sick of it. I have previously traveled to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China, but I have yet to explore Indonesia. Remarkably, I have also never spent more than a few short days traveling alone. This will be a beautiful new experience for me, and an opportunity to learn to truly be alone with myself.
The program that I am in with USINDO (The US Indonesia Society) takes place at Gadjah Mada University in the city of Yogyakarta (often shortened and pronounced Jogja), in the state of Java. With five other participants, I will be taking 24 hours a week of language instruction, staying with a host family, and learning batik-making, traditional dance, gamelan Indonesian orchestra, Indonesian martial arts, and Indonesian cooking. I look forward to sampling the cuisine from local hot spots and a basque restaurant, getting to know local people and my classmates, enjoying Jogja’s art festival, visiting Jogja’s spiritual sites, witnessing Indonesia’s elections, and simply exploring. I was initially a little apprehensive about the intensive language, but I feel prepared to meet the challenge.
I will try to let you in on what I find and learn from this experience. I hope that you will keep reading.