Saturday, January 7, 2017

Six Years Later

January 7th, 2017

It has now been six years since I "said YES" to an adventure in Indonesia. I thought I had come up with a cute blog name, being that I was sent abroad on the Youth Echange and Study (YES) Abroad Scholarship. And I still love a good pun! Hah

I look back on my blog entries and I read some of the things I said that weren't very sensitive and cringe at my younger, more naive self. And yet those growing pains, the things I said that made me uncomfortable, I've continued to struggle with those things--and grown out of it into a more discerning and (hopefully) humble person. I feel that one of the most important lessons from my time in Indonesia was perspective on the chasm between knowledge that I possess and knowledge that I cannot even begin to possess!

Some of the topics that I just started to learn about in Indonesia have now become passions and are integral parts of my life!

It was a chance to see my own culture inside out, and to see a new culture from the inside/yet also outside in some aspects. I heard different ways to approach language, and the way we talk about gender. I feel lucky to have had the childlike experience of learning a language starting from nothing in an immersive setting, the same way one learns a native language; and to experience all the ups and downs of the journey of my capability to communicate. Language perspective and language identity interested me so much it became the heart my Capstone Thesis in University!

My high school passion for feminism was further fueled by my experience learning about Indonesian feminists, and nurtured by being surrounded by awesome, smart, compassionate women leaders in my host family! It was valuable to see the way women live in different parts of the world, navigating societal expectations and various ivtersectionalities of oppression.

As my family fed me delicious food, and as I learned more about Indonesian cuisine, I also learned about Indonesian food systems. My curiosity with the more direct and transparent food systems in Indonesia led me to learn about the very complicated and mysterious, indirect food systems in the United States. Seeing how traditional Indonesians ate mostly vegan, plant-based diets due to the resource intensive nature of animal products, I was inspired to go vegan and educate myself about the environmental impact of the animal industry. This is one of the more lasting legacies of my time in Indonesia, that I will take with me forever.

The huge passion for languages and learning that inspired me to embark this adventure has continued as well, and I feel lucky to have now also studied Mandarin Chinese and to have lived abroad in China for a bit. It occurs to me that I literally might not be where I am, geographically and metaphorically speaking, if I hadn't had the chance to see my dreams manifest, and had the chance to learn about living in a different country with the guidance and support of my families. This first experience living abroad taught me about being different, and learning from differences, and gave me confidence to be different, even when it means being in the minority or diving outside of my comfort zone.

These experiences have shaped who I am, and what I believe in. In the New Year I like to take a moment to reflect on where I've been and where I want to set my compass. These past six years have been a series of big adventures, and they were all inspired by my first dream come true--having a completely new experience and having my perspective flipped inside out.

If you're still following my journey all these years later, thank you! I hope my teenage ponderings were interesting and meaningful for you, and that you enjoyed hearing about one of the most impactful experiences of my life so far!

I'm not sure where this blog is heading (or if it's heading anywhere), but I've always loved the writing outlet that it's provided and I thank you for lending me your ear--even if it be for the last time.

Peace and love unto you in the New Year!