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

Connecting

We left Langa today. People said their goodbyes, hugs exchanged, smiles and tears. I gave a bow to my Ibu Erna who, too sick to leave the house, sat on the porch and watched us.

I walked a lot in Langa. I wandered along the little concrete paths that line the hills and bamboo thickets and listened to the birds sing and the cicadas clack. The wind there is gentle and the fog and clouds roll endlessly. Cuts line my feet from the times I tread off the roads and into the thickets, the brush, the dirt and dust and mud; the callouses have begun to thicken around my toes and I couldn’t be happier.

In Langa I felt connected.

Connected to everything. To nature: to the gentle cool of the evening air and the weight of rain in my chest. Connected to the hunger in my belly, to the dirt that crawled under my nails and the feel of my blanket on my skin. Connected to the quiet of mid-afternoon and the billowing kitchen fires; the dreamy way the evening darkness draped over me and the moon that rose over the thickets. To the spider that crawled up my leg and looked me in the eye. To the ants that made their way into my bags and clothes.

There was an abandoned house in a forested gully beneath a graveyard where butterflies drifted in the air. The place was quietly being overtaken by the trees and grass. There I felt connected to whoever had lived in that house, had dug the dozens of 6 foot long holes in the ground all around it, and had left behind a metal box behind a rusted door and under a collapsing sheet-metal roof.

I felt connected to Kakek Aloysius who spoke Japanese to me and asked how my day was, and who told me of the thirteen bunkers that lay abandoned across Flores; connected to Nenek Theresia who spent her days crouched down on a wooden platform in the kitchen looking like a strange, wild-eyed owl. To baby Sandro – who never smiled – and his sister Dian, who made him smile. To young Sefni’s gentle laugh and the way he grabbed my hand when I was wandering around the town square at night. To Bapak Silvester who would ask me the same question six times in a row, always six times; and Mama/Ibu (Depended on the time of day) Erna who always looked at everyone with the same loving face. To Uncle Anton, who reminded me of Eeyore.

Someone tells you about connection, about the interconnected cycles that drive nature, life, the world, matter and energy. But those things remain in the world of spoken and read experiences and tales until you stand in a field, sit in a chair, lie down in bed, and stare and breathe and feel.

Connection is a strange thing. It is that soft, loving little feeling that eases the mind in a strange place and finds the familiar within the foreign.