While it’s in the usual tradition to write about one’s first impressions of the destination they’ve waited so long to travel to, I’m going to reserve explaining how I got here and what my role as an ETA in Indonesia is supposed to be. Just know that I will be spending this year and the next in West Sumatera, where I will serve as a Native English-Speaking presence- for a school in Bukittinggi.
My journey so far in Indonesia isn’t defined by my counterpart- Mr. Anto — and certainly, it doesn’t start with him — but to say that he doesn’t serve as a kind of through-line to this story would be a lie. He is none other than the guru to my student’s teacher.
When I first met the man with the black aviators, it was in an airport by the sea outside of the West Sumatera’s capital, Padang. I remembered him only as the man on Facebook who said would pick me up from the airport. My driver to and from a steamy orange palate city to another. In the days leading up to my departure from New Jersey, I was already familiar with many on Facebook insisting that they’d show me around the island of West Sumatera. By the time I received a message from a Mr. Hryantosakauto, I had already prepared an introduction for myself. I reviewed a great deal of messages from the kingdom of Minang Kaboa, after I accepted my first friend request from a student who went to MAN2, the school I had been assigned to as an English Teaching Assistant. On the internet, there is nothing separating my students to their foreign, native English-speaking guru. Halo!
“Be Open. Be Bold.” Out of all the South Eastern Countries, Indonesia ranks number 1 in social media use and fourth in the world. With affordable mid-range smartphones, and the low low price of data (16 gigs costs about 80000rupiahs, or $5.50), it’s no wonder why just about everyone is connected. After only two days of request confirmations, I’ve seen more selfies, Instagram shots of gado-gado and colorful nasi goreng, and rich networks of Facebook comments and “Likes” on your common everyday posts- the likes of which I have never seen before. A whole new web world (and I went to a large state school)! So, in real Indonesian fashion, I welcomed the opportunity to add more friends to my pages and took time out of packing to send these early invitations a brief welcome of introduction. In all but Mr. Anto’s, the reply was the same over and over again; “We know who you are! Mr. Alex, we are very happy to have you!”, and “heaven is wonderful Indonesia”
You can tell by the way that the roofs in Sumatera point upward that there’s something so carefully all-welcoming about Minang Kabour. In this hot sunny Kingdom, I was to meet my point of contact at the airport that was as warm as a light steam. As I got off the plane with three other native English speakers, who were waiting for a reply from their counterparts, I accepted the message and friend request of the driver. I noticed then that I hadn’t accepted his friend request when he had first sent it. In addition to my first first reply, I said “honored to be your guest”
Who know, that at that moment, I had been delaying my invitation to the connection of a lifetime. Mr. Anto is my guru. He, who I consider a revolutionary and a chief, will soon find someone to pass on the baton. As for me, I’m happy knowing that everyone I’ve met here is just a Facebook message away.