Jakarta, August 1, 2014. One year has passed since I had the privilege to study in India. An honor that I never imagined before. Being a participant of Monsoon School on Human Development, Human Rights, and Pluralism for a month in the city of Bangalore, Karnataka – India. Opportunity to learn from and with my colleagues from Indonesia, India, Uganda and the Netherlands.
Before departure, I was discouraged because my visa application was rejected by the Indian Embassy in Indonesia, although later on the second attempt, the visa was finally granted. Upon arrival in India, the process of passing through the gates of immigration not as smooth as my other friends. The officer read my documents carefully. The last question I have to answer before I passed by was, “Are you not going to do missionary work in India or doing research for it?” I can only say that, I’ve explained the purpose of arrival in the invitation letter, where I will be in India has also been clear, and I am sure will go straight home after the activity is completed. There is no other agenda. He re-read the letter of recommendation from the Churches Communion in Indonesian, who claim me as one of the members of the research team, pay attention to the last paragraph, and I passed. We arrived at midnight. Professor Ram pick us up.
Education is a luxury item for me. I want a chance to get it, but at the same time, I also feel awkward. Among other participants, my educational background is the lowest. I have experience working and interacting in some areas, but sometimes I do not know how this or that is placed in the larger context of academic knowledge. I spend a lot of time to listen to conversations in the classroom and to read materials that have been provided, then reflect on my experiences and observations. It feels good to see the puzzle pieces start neatly arranged in my imagination.
My new colleagues also unique, fun, and sometimes confusing. Indonesian proverb says, “Where the earth you live, there upheld the sky”, meaning that wherever we are, the culture and everything in place should be respected. But it is not easy to adapt to the four cultures of four countries. I just noticed my colleagues, all they do is be himself/herself. Then, in the discussions, or in everyday conversation, different people began to learn about different points of view, and equally seek common ground. Finally, pluralism is the recognition of difference and a concerted effort to manage differences. We do not just learn it, we live it.
While in India, we have three teachers. All three are unique, friendly and very enlightening us. Caroline teaches about Identity. Ram introduces about India and to teach about Pluralism Effect. Henk teaching on Sustainable Development. Lessons delivered well and fun, even though the content is very complex. Three of our teachers is the ideal trio. They are intelligent and humble. I like the way they share knowledge without sounding patronizing. I like the way they accommodate the differences that exist in the class. I like the way they respect our opinion, although sometimes we are not so sure in delivering a message. And somehow, I found myself very interested in all the material on sustainable development. Learning to not put a thing just for the sake of man, but look at it from a broader perspective. An oikos for all creation.
After one year, I tried to do some sort of self-reflection. A month in India provides a lot of good for me. I learned that each country has its own struggles, they can learn to understand one another tussle, also through it understands itself. I also learned that there is not a thing that is totally disconnected in this world, there is interconnectedness when we both occupy thecosmos. I learned about being a world community.
For all of this valuable experience, thank you very much for Hivos, Kosmopolis Institute, CRCS UGM, and for all the teachers and my friends.