Magandang umaga, people. Greetings from the islands of Philippines! Here go several things that have been going on in my mind during the past week of Volunteering Program Development and Management (read: some serious stuff somehow I’m involved in) trainings:
1. Existence of threat makes you work twice harder.
And better. For the first time in my whole 19 years, I started fasting as part of the minority religion of the country. In modern English, this is translated as ‘not eating while the rest of your class hit all the great meals, at least four times a day‘. Which, at one point, tests your faith and all, but at another point, makes you feel all heroic and gives more meaning to the ibadah you’re practicing.
I remember the first time I completed my fasting. I was what, 5 or 6, and I’m quite sure that I felt super triumphant when the maghrib adzan was finally announced. It was like I tamed a lion or something. However, year by year, Ramadan fasting turned to be just like a habit that people do on regular basis, and its deep meaning started to fade—especially in my head. This year, I am fully conscious how it truly is sacred and lessonful. So yes, fasting in a Roman catholic country is really one of a kind experience that brought me back.
Oh and without any intention to be offensive, I’ve been literally praying towards a wall with crucified Jesus on it.
2. Politicians talk slowly.
Let’s name a few. Yudhoyono, Obama, Churchill…no matter how smart these people are, they most certainly have a speed limit for their grandiose speeches. What an oxymoron, right? I had always been questioning about it and I finally got the answer: they desperately need to get the right words.
One of the participants here is actually a real mayor (named Angel, wisely 59) and—believe me—he’s incredibly smart. Yet it would simply be unbearable for him to forgive himself for delivering wrong expressions. Thus instead of saying ‘amazing’ he would take extra seconds and pick ‘astonishing’, because otherwise his sentences would not be impactful enough. It’s like he sets hiw own benchmark for oral language.
3. A Chinese guy and British accent is a deadly combination.
Such description did not include the fact that he volunteered for the International Red Cross and aimed to be one of United Nations’ Peacekeeping troops. Did I also mention about how he got off the car and ran under the rain to give his umbrella to a pregnant woman? His name is Zhang (27), he’s considerate, kind, intelligent, funny, sharp, sincere, and this list of adjectives automatically made him everyone’s most favorite participant here. This guy is the kind whom girls—women, I should say, bearing in mind that everyone else is above 28—talk about during their dinner.
4. There exist people who don’t try too hard to impress everybody.
Athena (39), a new friend of mine, was a volunteer for almost 2 years in Ghana and Indonesia. By the time you meet her, you’ll understand what I’m currently trying to say. She’s—putting it in one word—kind. Excessively kind. Her kindness is like too much that you start feeling like you don’t deserve to be treated that nicely. She does not intentionally try to be kind, she just is. After the program, she’ll soon be departing to Laos for another volunteering experience. Sometimes it makes me envious, these lucky people.
5. Model United Nations infects people greater than ever.
As much as I wanted to have a bit of escapade from all this MUN stuff, it somehow came directly to my face! On the second day, we had a simulation of United Nations conference where debated on “marginalized groups are unlikely to volunteer” and I actually had a good time, enjoyed the debate and somehow managed to nail it! I think the most compelling attribute about MUN is that people are given the opportunity to represent a larger group of people, a country, with a definite yet flexible stance in their hands. All hail MUNs indeed.
6. “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
I read this sentence on my way from the Residence Hall to the Academic Hall—and I should say I wholeheartedly agree. Somehow, when the kinesthetic aspects of your body work, your brain is more intrigued to produce ideas and thoughts. Probably this premise cannot be generalized, but is justifiable enough to talk on the average level.
As a matter of fact, the previous 5 points are several things that knocked my mind during these walks during break periods. Not to mention how much energy you can save by walking. (I can write another full post on that, haha.)
7. One of the best things about classrooms is its lack of hierarchical relations.
I mean, you can even correct your professor. Having mentioned that I’m (by far) the youngest participant in this training, I don’t at all feel ‘marginalized’ or ‘unheard’ or whatever kind of negative labels that people put on youngsters in an adult discussion. The people here treated me as one of them, who also contributed perspectives and scrutinized some points—because we’re all sitting on the same desk of learners. You know, classrooms make you realize that there will always be something new to learn. No matter whom or what you get it from, information and insight are growing creatures that require you to always listen.
8. Ignorance is caused by lack of knowledge.
People say that today’s young people are apathetic and pessimistic. I say, we simply are not exposed to the reality. How would you expect us to put sympathy and take actions to overcome poverty if what we see on the television is breathtaking sci-fi movies or cool bands? Inspire us to read, inspire us to see, maybe we’ll finally understand that there’s so much to care about.
One method in the training was doing a role play. We acted as members of village with unique background and situation, and yet we faced the same problem: the clinic was 130 km away, we were too sick to get there, and there was nobody to help us. Doing this, I was somehow able to put myself in the shoes of communities that still face similar problems today. Before, they’re just statistics—numbers that all global stakeholders are trying to mitigate but not necessarily put sympathy on.
9. When a student does not pay their fullest attention to the teacher, it’s not completely their fault.
I believe half of the problem belongs to the provider of material i.e. the way he/she presents it. Skills in creating Power Point presentations and public speaking are just two of your first steps in doing it well. I believe that most of you do not have problems with presentation delivery anymore, right?
10. Mastery of an extra language always makes you sexier.
And it is more effective than any expensive car. Despite the fact that Filipino have their own way to pronounce -ion, -ble, and -ple, the fact that every one of them possesses above-average stock of vocabularies (especially compared to Indonesian people) shape the way you perceive their thoughts as well as how they digest ideas in their brain. A jeepney driver or a janitor who speaks advanced English (in addition to their local langua
ge), in a way, impresses me better than a doctor who can only speak Bahasa.
I still have three days before my flight back to Indonesia. On Thursday, I will be presenting Indonesian Future Leaders to the floor, and I really need a bunch of luck from you so that I wouldn’t mislead them in recognizing the organization. Salamat, Po!