Greetings from Indonesia! I am thrilled that you are all a part of the second year of Bridge Year Indonesia. I am really looking forward to the moment only a few weeks from now when we will meet and begin our journey together to this beautiful country that will soon be your new home. Until then, I’d like to introduce myself and the Yak Board to you. After reading this, please take a moment to introduce yourselves as well!
I hope this note finds you healthy, enjoying your summer, and savoring those parts of home you’ll soon be leaving for awhile. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop since the 2017-2018 course ended in May — to the US for a wedding on the east coast and Dragons training on the west coast, to Thailand for a Women’s Empowerment yoga retreat, and now around Indonesia to reconnect with friends and take intentional time for reflection and preparation for next year’s experience.
Throughout my summer travels, I’ve had a lot of down time in airports, long car rides and flights, and best of all during early mornings when there is no place I have to be and I can slowly sip tea and watch the world wake up. These are my favorite times to think and I have been doing a lot of thinking about last year, the inaugural year of Bridge Year Indonesia, and replaying and dissecting all of the successes and failures we experienced as a group, as individuals, as learners, as teachers, as hosts, and as guests, and most importantly as each other’s family and friends. I’ve also been busy dreaming up the adventures we’ll have this year. You’ll soon understand that this “we” I speak of includes not just support staff (me, Umi, and Greg) and students (you and your cohorts!), but the entire Bridge Year community of homestay families, university partners, language teachers, NGO co-workers, IEA mentors, and countless other friends you will make once you arrive.
My endless philosophical ruminations point in one definitive direction — Bridge Year Indonesia is truly a heart-opening life experience we are all so incredibly lucky to be sharing with each other and its going to keep getting better. I am eager to return to Yogyakarta and, along with Umi and Greg, introduce you to your homestay families and help you build skills to navigate your new routines. I can’t wait for you to have your first sip of sweet Javanese tea (or Sumatran coffee for the coffee lovers), to get lost in the alleys of Kotagede, to experience how far a simple smile or a polite “monggo” will take you. I can’t wait for us to gather together at our Program House (known as Rumah Naga) and listen to guest speakers, celebrate birthdays and holidays, and eat pisang goreng as we debate FOI topics and go deeper into exploring what our every day lives in Yogyakarta can teach us about the Indonesian experience and about our place in the world today. I can’t wait for you to get to know the rest of Indonesia, outside of Java; the people who live on other islands like Sumatra or Sulawesi or Flores, the people who’s blood, breath, and sweat make up the intricately woven ikat fabric that is Indonesia, a sprawling country of 17,000+ islands where people from 300 different ethnic groups and long interwoven histories of peace and conflict, unity and division, struggle and triumph currently reside.
Mostly, I can’t wait for us to learn together and from one another, to be open and vulnerable with our thoughts and deeds, to struggle and succeed right in front of each other’s eyes, to laugh and cry in each other’s arms, to listen and understand one another, and to support each other with our entire beings. These next nine months will be a time of intense “doing”, but also of “being”. As much as Bridge Year is an individual experience, it is also a group experience. We will help each other plant seeds to nourish and grow once we return to Princeton about new ways to think, to take action, and to exist in this world. I hope at the end of this experience we become what we are truly meant to be — a close-knit family.
Oh yes! I shouldn’t forget my introduction. I have a fierce sense of pride for the places I come from and where I have lived and those include New Jersey, Washington DC, Sumatra, Nepal, and Java. I have been deeply in love with Indonesia since 2011, when I first traveled there on a fellowship and worked with a local environmental organization. I spent two years diligently learning about community forestry, climate change, and low-carbon development. I worked on projects cooperating with indigenous groups, villagers, and all levels of government to develop participatory community conservation projects, impact natural resource management policy, and increase public awareness of sustainable development. In 2013, I began working with Where There Be Dragons and have led two semesters in Indonesia, two semesters and a summer in Nepal, and was the Onsite Director for last year’s first Bridge Year Program in Indonesia. This summer I’ve been spending time reading, strengthening my yoga practice, attempting to stand on a surfboard, and carrying around a ukulele that refuses to sound melodic when put in my hands. I’m hoping to perfect the art of cooking Indonesian cuisine when we’re settled into Yogyakarta and as always, continue improving my Indonesian!
Now that I’ve introduced myself, please take a moment to come forward and tell us about yourself! Please tell us about your interests, your projects, your families, or anything else you’d like to share.
Also, if you have any questions related to Indonesia or the program, this is a good place to ask. Most likely if you have a question about something, another one of your peers is wondering the same thing, so the Yak Board is the ideal space to share those questions and answers. In addition to answering questions on the Yak Board, Umi and I will be sharing resources and helpful notes in the weeks before your arrival in Princeton, so please start checking this forum regularly. Umi or I will also be calling you in the next few weeks. You can also feel free to contact me at [email protected] with any questions.
PS: Umi took the above photo of me when we were in Medan on our student-led excursion. I’m about to dive into my favorite fruit of all time, the Durian(!), also known as the King of Fruit.