Back to
Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Keluarga (Family)

The sunlight sweeps over the rocky dirt ground, igniting my path as I make my way towards my new home, a small, bright yellow house that looks like it’s been set on fire in the evening light. My new father is next to me, a solemn backlit figure, and although there’s a tension between us, the awkwardness of two strangers meeting with the expectation that they will get to know each other, there’s also a sense of comfort in the way he places a guiding hand on my shoulder to help me navigate the uneven rock path, the way he smiles softly whenever our eyes meet.

Before my time in Langa, a small village in central Flores, I’d never given much thought to the idea of family. My family back home consists of four members, including me: my mom, dad, and younger brother David. I have a close group of friends I considered my family, but I’d never ventured outside of my small bubble or expected that my definition of family could morph and expand into something so much greater.

After the initial unease, I gradually developed a routine, crafting a small life for myself within the bounds of my new environment. I became more comfortable talking to and spending time with my family, often finding myself gravitating toward the family room even to do solitary activities such as read instead of locking myself in my room to escape from the stress of trying to understand and be understood. The language barrier was the most difficult part of my experience in Langa, yet it also made me appreciate the value of communication, something so simple that I often took for granted. I would sit by the fire every night and help my mother cook the vegetables gathered from the kabun (the family garden) that day, curl up with my siblings in front of the TV to squeal our way through an Indonesian horror movie, and giggle with my sister as she helped me with my laundry, our arms dunked up to the elbows in cold, soapy water. In its own way, Langa became home for me. Although we only stayed for around two weeks, I was struck by how quickly I was able to form tight bonds with not only my family, but everyone in the community as well. I will always remember the smiles on their faces as they waved us off on our last day, the heaviness in my heart as I closed the door on my room for the last time. Even if I never end up going back, it’s crazy to think that I now have another family halfway across the world, a family that opened its arms to me and taught me more about the meaning of home than they will ever know.