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

Half Way Around the World

I literally travelled half way around the world to visit our semester group in Indonesia. I’ve worked in the Dragons office as the Art Director for 5+ years and recently had the unique (and amazing) opportunity to meet up with a group in the field. I’m so grateful to have picked this region, these students, and these instructors to visit… And to be reminded of what it’s like to REALLY be outside of my comfort zone.

From the moment I met the group in Makassar, I felt welcome. Together we traveled by plane, truck, and boat until we finally arrived in Sampela, a small community of ‘sea nomads’ living in the Wakatobi National Marine Park. The village consists of stilted bamboo huts and is home to about 400+ fisherman families who primarily rely on ‘Mother Ocean’ for survival.

Although I’ve been an instructor in the past, it quickly became apparent that this time I was also a humble student and the members of this group would be my mentors. To me each person was making ‘life’ look effortless. I was inspired by how skilfully these Dragons students seemed to navigate cultural norms, speak Indonesian (not only with locals but also with each other), and function as both individuals and members of a group. I was moved when they lovingly reminisced about their previous homestay families or expressed their duelling emotions of anxiousness and excitement before meeting their new homestay families in Sampela.

The instructors (Collin, Keshet and Rita) deftly navigated logistics and group discussions while still making time to go on walks throughout Sampela with students. They tagged along on early-morning sea excursions and worked to tie more and more intricate friendship bracelets after lunch. (I failed miserably at this last task!)

And me? Well, everything was new and different. I was just trying my best to pay attention to cultural queues and not do anything too embarrassing 🙂 The students patiently took turns taking me under their wing, helping me order food on travel days, translating for me when speaking to locals. They showed me how to tie a sarong, took me to meet their homestay families and even completed a charade-like (very entertaining) demonstration of how to use the toilet. I can’t adequately express my gratitude!

  • Anna –  It was so wonderful to see you ‘light up’ when you connected with your homestay family 🙂 You make a great travel buddy.
  • Bebbet – Thank you for taking me spearfishing with your host father!
  • Dashiel – You really handled not feeling well with unbridled grace. It was nice to connect with you on the mainland and I hope Sampela is treating you well.
  • Hayley – Thank you for taking me to meet your mum!
  • Lila – I loved spending the afternoon on your porch watching Sampela in the rain.
  • Nate – I really appreciated your thought-provoking questions in preparation for our panel discussion with Andar! Please keep sharing 🙂
  • Nichole – I loved watching the sunset from your house 🙂
  • Sam – Thank you for the entertaining (fish head) stories and embracing anything (and everything) that Sampela seems to throw your way.
  • Sadie – I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to visit your homestay. Thank you for the invite and I hope the snorkel works out for you 🙂

To Jess, Keshet, Rita and Collin – THANK YOU!

All the best in your final weeks team! Time flies too fast when we’re engaged in our surroundings.

Jen Goings.