Before my departure to U.S., I had a pre-departure orientation from the AMINEF/Fulbright committee. One of the point that I took at that time was “Don’t worry you are not an ambassador 24/7.” This refers to how I act in society where I represent my country (and my religion). I have to disagree with that statement/opinion. I also heard another sentence that become the mission of Fulbright exchange program, to enhance mutual understanding. I take this matter to heart. Maybe I will be the only Indonesian that some of my friend will meet along their life. But it is indeed, knowing a person from a country makes it matter. I remember that the bus driver I talked to on my commute to campus asked me one time, “I heard that there were an earhtquake and volcano eruption in Indonesia, are your family allright? -note, It happened in Sumatra while my family lived in Java”. Knowing that I am from Indonesia, relates everything that the person knows about Indonesia. And probably, what I do represent what all Indonesian do. This is not entirely true but it somehow haunt my mind all the time lol, of course people are different. There are more than 200 million people in Indonesia lol I am just one of them. However, this make me more careful in doing things so not to ashamed my country lol (hopefully).
I have met people from all over the world (wow I am so blessed). People from Russia, Italia, German, Irak, Iran, Turkey, Romania, India, China, Japan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and many other parts of the world. Then when I heard news about those country, I care. Because I have met a person from they. They matter.
For example, one day, I was heading home with my school bus, and the bus driver was a nice guy. I talked to him every now and then. That day, he asked me with troublesome face : “Are your family alright? I just read a news about mountain eruption in Indonesia”. I was kinda shock because I didn’t even know that there was a volcano eruption. Badum~tss… so as he talked more I realize the position where that happened was in Sumatra, so I explained to him that I lived in Java so its a separated island and he was surprised. I told him that Indonesia is an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands scattered in our country (debatable number, some said 13,000 some other 17,000).
Living outside of my country makes me know my own country better because I need to know when people ask ( there are times that I didn’t know though, makes me feel bad). Consciously (or not) I tried to be a better person, which is good for me and provide explanation if necessary lol I don’t know entirely the Indonesian fact but I know the big things at least. Sometime I cook with my friends. I have two Mongolian couple ( a sweet and kind couple) who asked me to come and ate with them. So intercultural exchange lol. I totally enjoy their food, it was tasty. Next time I came, I cooked rendang, perkedel jagung, spinach soup and anchovy-peanut with chili sauce. They love it! yay~ and we talked a lot about food, cultures in their country, in Shanghai and Jakarta. We have similarities and its actually easier to see the similarities than the difference. And thus, is my story of being a (spontaneous) ambassador.
A nice Friday,
McDermott Library, UT Dallas