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

Farewell Langa

The power of words – written or articulated – is something that I reflect on constantly as my existence gravitates over time and space.

When I left Langa, a small village where I felt at home or at least part of a home, it was Easter Sunday. Most people in town had gone to church at the same time we were getting on a van that would widen the kilometers between me and these people who in such a short period of time had influenced my perception of the meaning of community.

The goodbye was extended by the rubber time that some of us as students have picked up from the locals. Even though I felt a heavy emptiness growing inside my stomach as time passed, I acted in the most mundane way possible, making small talk, pretending that I wasn’t aware of my departure and the uncertainty of seeing their comforting faces again.

When the moment finally came, and all the bags where placed on top of the van, there were no words or ways of affection, in which I could possibly demonstrate how thankful I was to Langa’s community for revealing, extending and tangling itself in front of my eyes, in the most subtle, authentic, and compassionate way. I felt immensely enlightened by the particular angle and perspective in which they welcomed life, and now that I am not there, their life ethos seems distant, impossible.

During this short or long [as time is relative] homestay in the skirt of the mountains of Flores, qualities of the Langa community and tradition filled some empty cracks in my mindset that had been inflicted by a narcissistic, competitive and capitalistic society, that awaits me back home. Through my daily interactions with the people of Langa (way too many cups of over sweetened coffee), I came to the realization of my power to create, build, and sustain my own community and the relations that spring from it.

Langa taught me to dilute the drawn line between family members, friends, and strangers. To create a physical and concrete space of trust and honesty in my own house. To make sure that the “other” knows that I see our differences as the factor that can bring our humanities one step closer. To respect nature in a tangible way, in which my intentions align with my actions. To use the resources that my privilege has put to my disposal to satisfy needs rather than desires (even though, sadly, desires occupy most of what I think of necessities).

Once on the road close to our next destination, with a clouded mind and the same strange hole prevailing in my stomach, I questioned myself for reacting so negatively to saying goodbye, one of the most common human acts. Why couldn’t I leave Langa feeling peaceful and grateful for all I had learned from them? What is in the way of that healthy goodbye that I longed for?

The answers to those questions, after days of reflection, was that I left without knowing the impact my presence had on the village or individual people. I left feeling as if I had received disproportionally. I left with the promise that I would come back in between my lips.

Even if my returning can not be assured, I came to the reassuring conclusion that all I learned from such a magnificent and untouched community, I will carry within me permanently; my desire to unpack that content in my day to day life is the most transparent mirroring of the gratitude and respect I feel for the people of Langa.

Now I am certain that the power of words, feelings lingering in the air, or accumulated knowledge are nothing if your thoughts and intentions are not upheld by your actions.