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

A Walk in the Park

We have been at our home stays for a week and have a year’s worth of stories. We have learned so much about the people, culture, and most importantly, ourselves. Here is one of the many stories I have that has allowed me to discover something new about myself:

After a full day of “normal” activities, I returned to my house. I ate chicken and rice with my home stay family on the floor while watching Indonesian cartoons. After finishing, we cleaned together. Then I took a quick bucket shower (mandi) before heading to the program house to watch a night time shadow puppetry show.

Once all the students got to the program house at 8:30 PM, we headed to the shadow puppet show. It took a while to start. Once it did begin, we were all very confused and, honestly, very bored. The show was in Javanese, not regular Indonesian (not that we would have understood much more if it was in regular Bahasa Indonesian). The students slowly began disappearing back to their houses. I eventually decided to leave as well. Rita (my instructor) helped me to order a Go Car home (Uber of Indonesia). By the time it got there, I was already falling asleep.

The car drove about fifteen minutes before stopping. I thought he was just pulling over to check directions before he shouted, “finish!” We were not at my home stay and I did not recognize the area, at all. I told the driver, in as much Indonesian as possible, “no this is not where I need to go.” I showed him the address and circled an area on my yellow, poorly scaled, map and told him, “this is where I want to go.” He seemed convinced I was wrong. The driver continued to signal me to get out of his car. I insisted that this was not the correct location. After some back and forth, he began getting frustrated. This man spoke zero English and left only small gaps for me to attempt to communicate in Bahasa. Then he began yelling and violently shaking. I decided that it was probably a good time to get out of the car. I tried to ask one last question, “di mana kami?” (where are we) as I pointed to my map. He ignored me an drove off.

It was suddenly very quiet. I was on a dark street at midnight with no people and no idea where I was. I could have been anywhere in the city and I would not have known. It was somewhat terrifying. I did the only thing I could do, walk around until I found something or someone. After walking for a few minutes, I found someone who I asked to tell me where I was. They pointed me in the direction of the park Alun Alun. I walked in the dark to Alun Alun. I knew that this park was in the general vicinity of my house. Once there, I asked someone where I was so that I could orient myself using my badly scaled and unlabelled tourist map. Now that I had my bearings, I walked another ten minutes to my house. I was so thankful to have made it it one piece.

From this experience, I realize that I am self-reliant. Being lost in the night while in Indonesia is an intimidating thought. After acknowledging and accepting my situation, I chose to take it one step at a time.  It is a major confidence boost to have handled this situation while remaining calm and positive. While this was a somewhat scary situation, I am glad it happened because of the experience I gained as well as the story I now have.