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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Apa kabar?

Apa kabar? “How are you?”
At this moment, my mind has been filled up with many questions about you all…my fellow travelers. Where are you now? What kind of preparation are you already have for Indonesia? Or whether you have been starting to learn some Indonesian phrases, reading about the places you are going to go, or just googling about Indonesian food, like gado-gado, sate ayam, mie goreng etc.

I am sending this Yak from the airport in Bangkok, after having a good night sleep on one of the seats in this AC waiting room here, waiting for the dawn before I head to Ayuttaya. I am grateful to be able to join all of you on this trip, visiting the communities that I love and happy to spend my time with. Together with you all learning from these places and people.

Now, about myself, I was born and grew up in Yogyakarta, the student, tourism and cultural city in Indonesia. I am the youngest of 9 children (two of them passed away when they were little). My late father was a teacher. He is my idol. He was a good person, and everyone remembers him as kindhearted, helpful and care with others. Since I was a teenager, I wanted to be like him in many ways.

During my study time at Sanata Dharma University, as I had to finance my own study, I spent much time working in an International youth hostel called “Vagabond” (which is sadly now closed). “Vagabond” was a popular place for backpacker travelers. Here, I got chance to practice my English. I learned many different cultures and people from all over the world. I met so many travelers, heard about their experiences, learned about a different world and a new paradigm. It opened my eyes! Starting from there I always want to travel. My dream came true when I was sponsored for a half year in Europe. I was hired to translate for an anthropologist who was researching Javanese mysticism at Bergen University in Norway.
When the Youth Hostel had to close down, I shifted my work to a tour guiding for a Belgian travel agent called ViaVia Café and Travel in Yogyakarta. I was trained in Belgium and have been working for ViaVia for the the last fifteen years. For the last 10 years, during the low season I travel to Holland, both to visit friends, to teach Indonesian and to join the Tong Tong Fair in The Hague, Netherlands. Therefore I speak daily conversational Dutch that I learned from there.

Since 1994, I have also worked as an assistant and interpreter during study tours for Norwegian students (University of Agder, Kristiansan, Norway) in Indonesia. I have been traveling to India and South East Asia, I will keep following my dreams by joining Dragons. Since summer 2013 I started working with Dragons, learning and traveling in Java, Sulawesi, Flores, Kalimantan, Maluku, to those remote areas in Indonesia, meeting new families and friends, and sharing new things.

My passion is to travel and meet people, to teach and share experiences. I am waiting for your coming here. I have a new hobby now, I am learning to play guitar. I have a tiny guitar lele, in one of my semesters students taught me to play guitar. I am still playing now and those songs that I have learned from my student Chloe.

For all of you our future “Naga’s” students. You must have been so grateful to have the chance to see other part of the world at your young age. You all have the courage to take the decision left things behind to be able to go to this adventure with us, “NAGA (Dragons)” . I am so proud of you. If any of you are nervous about this big trip, as I mentioned above, every one does, and that’s why we are here with you, to experience and learn together.

Looking forward to read your Introduction on the Yak before we meet in person, doesn’t have to be as long as I have. If you have any questions, please post them on the Yak, so other people might learn and need that information as well.

Terima kasih! “Thank you!”
Rita Sri Suwantari
[email protected]