You can become family faster than you think.
This is Mamal, and although we have a hard time communicating, come from completely different backgrounds, and only have known each other for a week, we are brothers.
You may be thinking that is a bit ridiculous or maybe even impossible, but I assure you it’s not.
To me the most special component of this trip is the environment Dragons has co-created with the Indonesian communities that students visit. This environment not only fosters but more importantly promotes the formation of real relationships between homestay families and Dragons students.
The beauty of this environment is that it allows for students to live with their families without feeling that their stay is staged or manufactured. It allows for students to feel uncomfortable, and this is what allows to students to grow both personally and with their families. This is possible because there is no monitoring, nor tampering by the instructors once you arrive in your family’s home. This lack of coddling makes you have to connect with your family on your own. You need to feel each other out and work through the long silences on your own. You must become family on your own.
To give you a better idea of what I am saying I will explain how the beginning of a homestay usually goes down.
You arrive in a community. You and the rest of the group are taken to one of the houses in the village. You are picked up at this house by your family and taken to their house. You are sitting in their house with them, trying to carry a conversation, and the thought creeps up on you that you are thousands of miles away from home with complete strangers in an unfamiliar house. You get a little worried that you won’t be able to connect at all over the next week with the people sitting in front of you. You are starting to get a little anxious, but then your homestay sister Refa throws a playful jape at you that everyone laughs at, and then you smile.
The three homestays this trip have been wildly different, however, there is a single key to success that I found applicable to all: People respond positively to positivity.
Having a positive attitude and showing that I wanted to be there is what powered me through those periods of awkward silence, times when the language barrier seemed unbreakable, or when cultural differences appeared too significant to disregard.
A quick smile or display of interest towards my families always spoke louder than words. Things like going for a walk with my cousin through the bamboo forest or cooking dinner with my Ibu were often done with minimal conversation because of language struggles, but they communicated to my family that I care for what they do and that I want to do those things with them.
Although we weren’t able to share our life stories with one another, we were able to create our own shared story over the course of a week by doing these things together.
My Dad (real dad) often tells me that little steps or actions over a long period of time compound into something much greater. Even if you don’t notice changes as each action is taken, you will surely see them in the end. By the end of each homestay I felt that the countless interactions between my families and I had compounded to create true and lasting bonds between us.
Maintaining a positive attitude is what caused for these actions to compound into a positive end result and allowed me to immerse myself into my families. This is what allowed me to connect with my family members, and I now feel that I truly understand who they are.
This has been pretty long, and I’m usually a straight-to-the-point guy. I guess I am advising that you take after the penguins in the movie Madagascar when trying to become family with people you don’t know: “Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave.”