I miss everyone in USIPP! Im in Europe now and the first thing that I did is looking for greek yogurt. I still remember how my American friends introduced this kind of food to me in my first day in Detroit. And I feel like I am the luckiest person cause I met you guys! Thanks for giving me a lot of beautiful memories <3

- Yoga -

look, I’m back for good.

Its been about a month since we all said goodbye in DC. Personally, I’m glad I was the last one to leave, because I had the entire dorm building to tear up and freak out that the program was over. Even though several days have passed since the end of the program, I’ve had a bit of a difficult time adjusting back to everyday life. I keep excepting to wake up every morning at 7 (which is what I’ve started naturally doing….thanks USIPP) and then be busy the entire day until the evening. However, this has certainly not been the case, and I’ve grown quite bored due to the recent quietness in my life.

However, the quietness hasn’t been whats bothering me the most. Its how nothing has changed back home. I grew up in a very sheltered town, where if something wasn’t white, conservative, and Christian, it was “different”. So naturally when I told people I just spent a beautiful two weeks in Indonesia, people were shocked. They ask me if I was afraid, how repressive it was, and if I was ever worried over being kidnapped by terrorists. I even had a few special snowflakes ask me if I witnessed any of the Hamas militant group in action.

At first, when I was asked questions like these, I was FURIOUS. I thought back to the six Indonesian participants I had the honor of being with, and was outraged that people assumed that they were violent and closed minded. I remember thinking “How dare you insult six of the nicest people I have ever met, let alone one of the kindest societies I have encountered”. I wanted to yell. I wanted to call everyone out for being so judgmental over something they had no knowledge about. And then I realized getting mad and raising hell wasn’t the correct way to go about other’s ignorance. Getting mad would go go against one of the biggest themes we covered on the trip: Tolerance. 

Tolerance is one of the biggest life lessons I have taken away from this program. I’ve learned to be more tolerant of people’s opinions, even if they are completely different from my own. So instead of going off on an angry rant, I’ve calmly explained my experiences to people. I’ve explained what Indonesia was actually like, and several of the lessons many Americans can learn from them. Although some people didn’t believe me and thought I was brainwashed, many people seemed to take back their previous comments and rethink their opinions on Indonesia. 

I’m hoping to carry on these lessons I’ve learned. I’ve been striving to be a more open person, and to show more respect towards people that have completely different viewpoints from me. More importantly, I’ve been trying to be a better host. Seriously, I don’t think I will ever be able to match the generosity and warming welcomes than the ones that we got in Indonesia. Also, the food. I don’t think I will ever be able to provide guests with the amazing amounts of delicious food, which is a shame. 

Anyway, thank you so much to everyone that took the time to follow this blog. I hope that you learned at least a few valuable lessons, because the 12 of us certainly have. It meant alot knowing that there were people all over the world who actually took the time to read our ramblings from abroad.

Until the next adventure,

Emmy

It’s been almost a month since we all said goodbye but it seems so much longer. I will never forget the jokes we shared, the good times and trying times, but most of all, the people. When people ask me how I liked Indonesia, I can say with certainty that I loved it. Normally, crowded cities and especially crowded cities where I don’t speak the language tend to make me somewhat uncomfortable, but that was certainly not the case in Indonesia. I am extremely grateful I got to go on this trip because without it, I would not know the real Indonesia- a country that all Americans should get to know. The Indonesian people, especially the six that we spent 24/7 with, are genuinely nice people, a rarity in America. I found that just being around them influenced me to be nicer, and this in turn made the group function more as a family as time went by, and I don’t say that lightly. People will talk about their camp friends that they spent a few weeks with as “family” but I would say that as dysfunctional as we were at times, in general we were a pretty good family. I’m sorry if I don’t keep in touch with all of you, I’m not really good about that sort of thing, but I will always remember you guys and the time we spent together.

-Sean

I wanted to write blog right after my arrival, but I was too hectic to start it since I need to prepare my next journey to West Timor for KKN (community service). Well, I think this program brings an ultimate change for me personally, because I learn that being tolerate is not enough. In order to live peacefully together, we need to get to know each other deeper and deeper until there’s no question that could stimulate stereotypes. By having direct experience in USIPP, I learn that human being are all the same in the core. There’s no religion or belief that promote hatred and crime. If there’s so, we must question that teaching! Remember, questioning our religion is actually part of process to know it better. Don’t be hesitate to figure something out and explore everything that hasn’t been explored before.

The second thing that I want to say is that Indonesia and the USA have many similarities. We both have the concept of pluralism and the idea of living harmoniously together despite all differences among people. But in fact, we seemingly belong to different paths. Indonesia which is religious state still facing challenges on pluralism that sometimes caused by particular group’s perspectives of religion itself or in some level, ethnicity. In other side, the United States is more advance on this because of its long history. The implication of the separation of state and Church is very fundamental and brings the real freedom atmosphere (in my opinion). I think this is the goal of USIPP, that both countries could share their experience and take a lesson from that. More than that, I would like to say thanks to every special one that I met in this lovely program.

Stacy : Thank you so much for being kind to us. Your affection is more than anything, Stacy!!! You’re like my mom and friend in the same time. I remember our first met in Jakarta and you already memorized our names. It made me feel  welcomed in the group! Most importantly, you can accept me as who I am and it motivates me to do something big in the future, something that might be still unacceptable in my country recently. I’m pretty sure you’ll come back to Indonesia and we’ll meet again in the future, so nothing to worry! Finally I can say you’re the best mom I’ve ever had, I love you so much Stacy <3

Ms. Yasmine : I would say you’re gentle lady with funny personality! I’ve never met someone like you before! You can hear problems of participants and then tried to help us in every way we need it. I also like the way you led us ; discipline and respectful. Thanks for everything and please forgive me if I did something wrong to you unintentionally during the program. I’m also happy that you’ll be married very soon and I’m waiting for the invitation, mam! J

Jen : You open my eyes, Jen! I’ve never met Jewish before as in Indonesia Judaism is not our formal religion. But from you, I learned a lot of things. That Indonesian’s perspective of Judaism is completely wrong! Sometimes, the problem is because the most Indonesian have never been interacted with Jewish at all, so they just follow people’s opinion and finally it leads into misunderstanding or misconception. So, I do hope you can go to Indonesia sometimes, and show them that Judaism is also love peace!!! Last but not least, I personally

To all participants : I’ve never felt more accepted before I found you guys, thank you for letting me being who I am. Knowing you all is the best thing I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know how hard did it take to be accepted as delegate of your university in this program, but I think you’re all the best! I love you so much guys, I am waiting for our reunion in Bali <3

With Love,

Yoga

Post-Program… Time to Reflect

After finishing USIPP 2014, I knew I had a lot of reflecting to do.  I did not want to rush into writing about my experience because I knew i needed some time to readjust to my normal life before I could genuinely reflect on my experience and see the impact it would have on my life on a more long-term scale. 

I think the most shocking part of this program was how much I learned about myself.  Before USIPP, i expected to learn about democracy and religion, and I figured I may make a few friends along the way.  I never expected that I would genuinely change as a person and I definitely did not realize how much i needed this change to occur.  USIPP has helped me realize how lucky I am in so many ways, but mostly in the fact that I am so lucky to have had this experience.  I realize now that maybe I was not as good of a person as I would have liked to believe before this trip. I took too many things for granted and I did not truly understand what it meant to coexist with people on real level.  Sure, I appreciated others and I respected their cultures, but I really did UNDERSTAND them.  I tolerated them, which is a very different thing.  

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, but USIPP has changed my life.  I can confidently say that I am a better person after this program and I have you all to thank.  

Love and miss all of you 

Liz

Until We Meet Again, USIPP 2014 - July 17th, 2014…

Having the opportunity to participate in the United States Indonesia Partnership Program (USIPP) has honestly changed who I am today. Not too long ago, I was a different person. I was naïve, failing to understand the perspectives of many people around me. Through this program, I traveled all the way across the world, to a land where not only an individual’s lifestyle but also society’s social norms are guided by religious morals. Based on the extent of religion in my own life, I would theoretically not be accepted by such a society. However, the people in Indonesia welcomed me with more than a wave and a hello; they took me into their arms with smiles and genuine warmth. Through their openness and hospitality, I was able to learn just how much religion can impact one’s values, beliefs and lifestyle decisions. I had never met people who believed so strongly in their faith but also held great passion for areas, such as LGBTQ rights and interfaith marriage, which challenge their religious teachings. Such devotion to anything—whether or not it is religion—is courageous, and I hold nothing but admiration and respect for them. Although I have been back from USIPP for some time now and away from my eleven amazing friends whom I spent five weeks—both day and night—with, I do admit that my life is pretty much back to the way it was before. While my days are the same, however, I can honestly tell you that my perspective and way of viewing the world is different than it had been before. Now, whenever I see a girl wearing a hijab on a hot day, I know and understand the reason why she must cover her hair and chest. The sad part is, before USIPP, I never really noticed when a woman in a hijab would walk past me. I’m sure that there were many, but it was almost as if I did not know enough about Islam to understand, so I almost didn’t even see them. Since being home, I have actually seen several women wearing hijab, and I have noticed myself feeling excited and wanting to run up to them and tell them that I understand and accept them and their hijab! It is the strangest phenomenon, but this is how I know that I have really changed my perspective of not only different religions but also of those who value religion enough to allow it to influence their lifestyle—of those who are different than me. The USIPP experience is much more than educational. It is exploration, risk, love, hope, taking chances, opening your heart, sharing a bed with a stranger, flying 39+ hours, spicy foods, dancing, laughing, curiosity, enlightenment, and so much more. All I can say is that I am forever grateful for this amazing opportunity and for my eleven new friends. Through this experience, we have formed a bond so strong that I think of you as my brothers and sisters. Thank you so much for helping me become a better person.

- Carlie (aka Charlie)

Post-Program

The world is getting crazier each minute. That’s how i feel after getting back from USIPP. I was around people with understanding and peace since 31st May until the last day of the program, and know i’m back to harsh world of hatred and dis-integrity. Indonesia’s situation is not so eye/ear welcoming. Every turn you see conflict and every timeline you scroll you see hatred. I’m glad the US students could meet us and not the extremist people spreading hatred all the time. I would be ashamed as the citizen of Indonesia. The over growing use of social media and the misused media became one of the reason of how plurality and understanding are hard to implement. With a lot of random data/info available in internet people can claim they are right, and what they say is absolute. Difference and diversity was being viewed as bad. Even a slight misunderstanding could trigger massive hatred responses. That’s the situation in Indonesia right now. I hate it. 

I learned to respect opinion and differences and be understanding to different views in USIPP and i’m so glad i did, but a lot of Indonesian people didn’t. Unfortunately, as a USIPP participant, i can only do small things right now to spread understanding and peace. But i believe we can make change! As a people who are blessed with information, education, and understanding, i believe it is our task to spread love, respect, and understanding. As the program grows, i hope more people can feel the effect of this program. So, i think we should keep writing, learning, and act with what we had learned. 

I certainly believe each of us will play significant role in each of our nation and communities, if not the world, to promote peace and understanding. USIPP participants, let us treasure what we learned together and implement it in our everyday live as we grow old and share it to other people.

I have a big hope of a better world where understanding stands in its zenith, and not hatred.

PS. I miss you all! 

 Handi

It has been more than a week this program has ended,but the memory and the lesson it engraves keeps resonating in my mind. It is hard to face the evil reality after this program is over, but that’s the point this program is for, right?? to alter the evil reality to be lively reality. Tryin to extend what Eki has talked about in the previous blog, regardin the arising bloody attack done by Israel to Palestinian. Many people in Indonesia if i may say just like you also may predict, condemning all jew people in the entire world for what Israel does. Some of them seek for total annihilation of jew people and hoping that Hitler can be ressurected to continue the unfinished Holocaust. Some of them preaches that, it is mandatory for  moeslem population in the entire universe to unite and exterminate jews. well, this is so sad because their judgement is clouded by the wrong understanding of that dispute which they see as the new chapter of holy war and misunderstanding of what Holy koran writes about jew which they make a generalization of  particular group of jew that is condemned in Koran as a picture of each and every jew person. This program has told me that what is written in Koran is not jew per se but only particular group of jews at that moment and it is always wrong and IRRELEVANT to put overall association to streotype people. As my commitment for this program, i try to clarify this all by posting the article that shows the otherwise. Not really surprising when some of my friends accuse me as a part of zionist agent. I used to be an ignorant whenever these wrong perception occur, i choose to disregard them because i thought it would be in vain and a waste of time tryin to change their mind, and even i almost believed the same thing as they did. I understand not all people are having  enough fortune to have a meaningful interaction with fellow jews or getting chance to join this program which allows you to have a heartwarmin jewish mother like Jenn that will demistify and break down the wrong generalization and the prejudice it follows. As the one that is blessed with such fortune, this is an imperative to fight against those wrong thought and help them to understand the reality. Yea„, the least thing i can do is by posting those articles and trying to convince them in person by telling my experience. I concede that it is not an easy job to do.. i have to be ready for rejection and extreme reactions. However, this program  tells me about optimism…. that progress does exist.. what society right now is different with what society in the past… society continue changing in positive way. Yepp, i can tell because i  witness it with my own eyes how right now more and more religious institution accepting Homosexuality that was previously perceived as abomination, how Islam is bein more progressive, yet the islamic value remains strong.  The previous me that is ignorant, pragmatic, and pessimistic InshaAllah (God willing) has become more aware, idealistic, and optimistic and i am ready to contribute a better humanity.

With Optimism

Buddy (Badai)

I had thought of how it’d be after the program ends for many times. I’d miss them for sure, I’d probably work somewhere, I’d be back in my routine with my organization, and things I could do to spread out the spirit of the program. But when I got back to my life here, there’s this one little thing that I never thought I’d feel. It’s the feeling inside of myself when I look at someone’s eyes while they’re telling me not to vote for Jokowi because he’s a Christian and Chinese. What’s sad from that is that first, I’m a Christian, and second, she has known from the news that it’s a fish story. I still remember what she said, “But I don’t buy it you know. You know that news also side with the candidates. I’m okay if he’s not Muslim you know what I mean, but you know how the chinese are…uhhh” I would have nodded and smiled, but having been around the people who don’t make a deal out of such thing and learned with them that there’s no need to make a deal out of such thing make me so frustrated listening to what she said.

My neighborhood is very diverse in terms of religious and cultural background. I never thought there are people here who are like her, but the election has opened my eyes to the truth that there are still those who cannot accept diversity in democracy. I am grateful I learned not to be one of them from USIPP because it’s so hard to get away from such ignorance. It made me so sad to see how it grows from ignorance to a very strong sense of unreasonable hatred. Thinking so hard to respond to her, I ended up saying that I don’t  care at all what the candidates’ religions are or where they’re from. So what if someone’s a chinese or christian? It doesn’t mean she or he doesn’t have what it takes to be in government, right? There have been people from other religions and ethnicity in our government too…I’ve been more concern about their political experience and moreover their visions. Their visions are what they promise to all of us. That’s what we can dun them for in the future. She looked at me in a weird and confused way. I was so relieved I said what I thought. I know there will be more times when I meet people like her. But that doesn’t mean all people are like her. Most of my friends are those who try to go from understanding to accepting. And that’s why I am going to say what I think like I did to the lady because I know I’m not the only one trying to live and outspread the spirit that USIPP has taught us. 

-Sil