As instructors and students, we are the perpetual recipients of so much seemingly unconditional hospitality. Everywhere we go doors open, cups of fresh coffee are poured, and the best food in the house trotted out. We live amongst kindness that we do not deserve nor could ever reciprocate. So to hear Mertin’s perspective is a welcome reminder that host families are engaged in their own parallel experiences.
Dragons is a good teacher for the community of Langa. I am a writer, and still it is difficult to find the words to describe my experience with Dragons. Even if I could use numbers, I couldn’t count the ways to say thank you, to express the sum total of my gratitude. Words cannot adequately describe the feeling, the spirit that has been cultivated in the creation of such a masterpiece. I am just a countrywoman who lives in a small village in Indonesia.
I am just a countrywoman who lives in a small village in Indonesia. Our village is called Bomari, and it’s located at the foot of Mt. Inerie, the highest volcano in Flores, which rises above us like a grand pyramid. It is hard to believe that it’s already been four times, four times living with foreigners who we would normally just call “
It is hard to believe that it’s already been four times, four times living with foreigners who we would normally just call “bule,” sharing a life together for two weeks. It all started in February 2015 when Aaron Slosberg surveyed my village and came to an agreement with my parents to use our family as a homestay for Dragons students.
As a young person, I like challenges, however, I was really doubtful about trying the homestay program. It seemed like such an impossible task to host a foreigner.
“Why would a bule want to stay here?”
“Their life is so different from our life here!”
“Can they eat rice every day?”
“What will they do about the food here?”
“Oh, our house is too ugly for them!”
“Our bedroom is so tiny!”
“We do not even have a nice bathroom.”
All this negative energy spiraled in my head. My nerves became so intense I almost backed out of our agreement to host a student, but the support and the spirit of the youth in my village convinced me not to change my mind.
I was so nervous when the first Dragons group arrived to our village in April 2015. The students of Rita Sri Suwantari, Matt Colaciello Williams, and Rachel Russell were physically so different from us. These bule had white skin. Their bodies were twice as tall as ours. They seemed really intelligent. There were so many facets to our difference that it made me even more anxious to interact with them.
Before they arrived, we had prepared everything. Every home in the village was busy getting ready for the arrival of the students, prepping our houses, preparing to communicate, even consulting “Mr. Google” in case of a communication emergency. Despite all this, we knew most of the time we would have to rely on non-verbal communication.
Living in one home with two different cultures there surely would be so many things we both couldn’t understand. However, over time, I came to realize, all these small differences, even though seemingly insignificant, began to deeply affect my way of thinking.
Bule always say thank you and show appreciation for everything, even though they may not like every situation. This is so different from our own people. In our society, we feel awkward or shy saying thank you or showing appreciation to others for small things. I believe this is the reason why sometimes we can be held back in our way of thinking. I’m sure when someone shows gratitude to someone else, even if it’s not expressed perfectly, this practice will build self-confidence in that person and improve the quality of his or her work. Lately, I’m starting to see our community show gratitude to others, which has been an amazing revelation.
In addition, there is the matter of discipline. Bule seem very disciplined with time, while the local community lacks punctuality. I have come to believe that being aware of timing is very important in leadership. Bule love cleanliness; they won’t just throw trash on the ground. The local people still throw their trash wherever and this negatively impacts our health.
Bule also seem very intelligent and like to master their skills. I have learned so many wonderful things from hosting Dragons students, about their country, about their lives, and about myself. I think Dragons is an extraordinary organization that provides exceptional experiential education to young people.
Many people in my village lack higher education, and most of us don’t even speak English. There are so many things about our lives that aren’t the way we wish they were.
Still, I feel we have something to teach Dragons students. I hope both the good and bad experiences from staying in our village will affect the students: make them stronger individuals, who are better prepared to care for others in their own communities and environments. I hope the students can use our shortcomings as the basis to become individuals who want to create change.
As just a simple village woman, I feel so proud to have this friendship with the students who have stayed with us. I’m sure they are not just ordinary students that choose to come to Langa. I believe they want to become part of our family—we become friends to make both of our lives complete.
There are so many people in our community who can’t hold back tears when it comes time to say goodbye. Even I will always have tears in my eyes each time I have to say goodbye to my new friends. They may never know this, as it is a secret that as a community we keep. We do not know when or if we will meet again, maybe for the rest of our lives we will never meet, but the students will always be in our hearts. When we think of the students here, when we miss them, we will sift back through all the beautiful memories we shared together. Like family, far away from us, it is all we can do.
I hope, as the years roll on, we will maintain a strong relationship with Dragons. I truly believe Dragons is an amazing organization. You have a great mission to make people into human beings, even a village woman like me.
I want to thank Rita Sri Suwantari, honestly you are one of my greatest inspirations. Thank you also to Matt Colaciello Williams and Aaron Slosberg, both of you are amazing leaders who have inspired your students to become part of this community and feel comfortable relating to everyone here. Thank you to the students who have become my teachers, my friends, and my family: Spencer Hardy, Eleni Fernald, Benyamin Yih, and Katherine Georgia Comfort. Thank you Dragons, whoever you are, I am your family.
(This article was featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map’s Edge. Each newsletter explores a subject of interest to the Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, Parents and our International Staff and contacts. Feel free to view our archive of editions of The Map’s Edge or even submit a piece to be featured in our next issue by sending an email to [email protected])
MERTIN LUSI is the first woman from Ngada Regency to graduate university with a degree in journalism, and later committed herself to detailing the abuses of the prostitution industry in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city. She has since returned to Flores to work on community development projects in some of the island’s poorest, most remote areas, and is currently organizing youth groups in Langa to empower young women to share their stories through journalism. Mertin built Langa’s first library, which doubles as the entrance to her house.