Category Archives: Memories

How I see the world through travel

My life is unique. It encompasses thousands of moments across the world and with multiple cultures. These moments include: Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, the Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan, visiting relatives in Germany and Italy, the undisturbed wildlife in South Africa and the multicultural wonder that is Singapore. Most importantly, the factor that stands out for me is the people I connected with across the world. We are all unique, yet we are all connected with one another. This was clear during my first days of life in South-East Asia.

 

Indonesia was my first country and with it came my cultural upbringing in mutual respect and generosity. From the time I was born, I remember the locals saying “Apa kabar orang kecil!” or “Hello, Little Man!” as I took strolls with my parents. They always greeted us with a smile and guided us around our new surroundings. Indonesians are a naturally inclusive people. They are hardworking, kind, family oriented, and completely devoted to hospitality. They taught me to be open and ever curious about the world around me, a gift that served me well into adulthood.

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A Familiar Sight

As I learned to walk, they taught me to speak Bahasa, urged me to sing their national anthem, cooked me their favorite dishes (Rendang is still my favorite) and even took me into their houses of worship. I’m still amazed as an adult at the level of trust that they gave my family. My parents also matched that trust.

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Mt. Batur

 

While Indonesia is a welcoming country it is also one of immense poverty. It’s often that medical care, education and even electricity are unattainable for many families. My parents decided to help. By linking cables to our generator for the community around us, our house provided electricity for 15-20 families. It was through this gift that their children had light to study their schoolwork with. In gratitude for our support, the young men promised to protect our home from thieves and kidnappers. What was clear to all involved is the belief that children are what make a community, a conviction that I hold very dearly to this day.

 

As my family left Indonesia for other countries and cultures, being involved in our community was always a high priority. It was through this example that kept me involved in Cub Scouts, Alpha Phi Omega and AmeriCorps. As my parents were unique in their new Indonesian community, they never forgot that they were connected to the village surrounding them. I will continue to carry this lesson for the rest of my life and instill it into my own children.

 

-J

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AmeriMemories

About four years ago I made a life changing decision. It was the summer of 2009, my graduation year. The idea of committing to a national service program was born from a distinct need to push myself past my limits and to explore a bit of America. After a long search through several programs I came across AmeriCorps NCCC. It was perfect. A 10 month long service term for 18-24 year old young people, the opportunity to serve in diverse settings across the U.S. and, best of all, making a direct impact for my fellow Americans.

After getting a call from Washington D.C. that July from AmeriCorps offices, I set out to Vicksburg, Mississippi. I was amazed at how the landscape changed from the Carolina foothills to the swamps of the Deep South. I arrived after three days on the road, often driving 12 straight hours to get through the wilderness. Arriving in town was an experience in itself. The downtown area looked like it hadn’t changed since the 1860’s. I sat by a blues cafe on the waterfront, watching barges laden with goods make their way up the Mississippi river. I took a tour of the National military park just off the interstate where General Grant made his march east towards Virginia. The most amazing sight was the Al-Saints school, the headquarters of AmeriCorps NCCC’s Southern Region Campus.

On each campus one may find an amazing cross section of people from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. What struck me, as the greatest factor in the organization’s success, is how well so many different people can operate together in the most adverse conditions.

During my service, I learned a great deal from living with nine other strangers. All of us recognized that we were different and came to accept each other’s quirks and personality traits. We ended the year with, for lack of a better word, a second family. During work and off-hours we learned individual integrity, team effort, flexibility and reliance on each other in whatever environment we were positioned. Our work took us from rebuilding homes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, to building trails in West Virginia and culminated in assisting flood victims in Nashville, Tennessee. Even to this day I would enjoy having that experience again.

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