Short Course Batch III: Took a Train But Felt Like Rollercoaster

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Buckle up y’all, you’re going to hear a story about one of my greatest experiences I have ever had in my entire life.

It was Friday morning, I felt like the universe was on my side because last night my lecturer just informed me that there will be no classes tomorrow. I took the train at 5.30 in the early morning. The location was 1.5 hours train ride and 30 minutes ride using motorcycle from the station. This was the first time I went to Bogor by myself, a bit afraid but tried to brush it off.  I believe if you thought about negative things then you will attract those negative things. So, always think positively. *winks*

When I arrived at the location, I knew no one. At the exact moment I also realized, whether I want it or not, I needed to make some friends. While waiting until the first session started, I approached some people and found out they were also the participants of this short course. I was glad because I finally made new friends. After that we started talking, some of the topics were why are you interested in these kind of things, what semester are you on, what’s your major, etc. to be completely honest, when somebody asked me the last question, I always felt a bit anxious. I am majoring in Accounting, and I joined this Short Course, which was about environment. From what I have heard, Economics Studies and Environment Studies are always against each other. So, I was afraid I would get confronted *laughs*.

Time passed by, and the first session finally starts. It was an introduction about RMI and what we were going to do for the rest of the day and the next two days. At this session I met few other participants who have arrived on the previous day. We got to know each other and moved onto the next session. We played a game with some coloured chocolates. We received various coloured chocolates randomly. Each colour represented a story of our life which we are going to tell everyone. For example, blue is for campus life and organisations, orange is for friends, yellow is for family etc. I got around five chocolates with three different colours. I had to tell everyone about my family, my campus life, and my organisations. I was anxious while waiting for my turn, I was hoping to get the early turns, but I guess I was not lucky enough and I got the second from the last turns?? After I did my turn, I felt relieved. I rarely tell people about my personal lives, and now I had to? In front of new people? I was stressed out *laughs*.

After everyone got their turns, we went to the main auditorium to begin the next session. We had to design a box, with used newspapers, markers, and crayons, that described ourselves. I was like, again??? For real??? I mean, it was hard for me to tell a little story of my life, let alone describe myself with a box. I was struggling the whole time, confused with choosing what can I use from the newspaper, what should I draw, gosh, it was a lot of work to be done. One of my favourite parts was everyone was supportive, and encouraging, and helping. I was thankful for that. After two hours or so, we all finished our works and it was time to tell everyone about our stories, (againnn????). This time, I got the early turns, I was like, why. *sighs*. But yeah, you had to do it. So, I told everyone a little bit more about my life, what I want to do in the next few years, what I wanted to do, and my activities. Let’s be honest here, I had lots of unshed tears on my eyes. This is one of the reasons why I got uncomfortable about telling my life story, I got tears for no reason. I remember the facilitator said that, “Tell everyone what you want to tell, don’t be afraid, this is not a contest for show offs, this is a place to tell people who you are, because you will be here for three days only and if you don’t know each other well, then you won’t feel this experience to the fullest”, and I live by that quote. As this session went along, I started to feel like this is the right decision, this is what I want, these are the people that I want to be surrounded with.

After the session finished, we had a coffee break, this was one of my favourites, because there was food of course, but then we talked with each other, sharing some stories, even with the facilitators.

It was around 4 pm, we started the next session. In this session we had to form a group consisted of 4 people. There were pictures about current disasters, some of them were still happening now, some of them were already happened. Then, each group had to choose 2 pictures and discuss them. It was fun discussing things from different perspectives, truly. Oh, and we weren’t told before that we had to find connection between those two pictures. So, we tried to find the connection between two pictures. We chose pictures about drought and wildfires. And we discussed how wildfires can cause drought by producing carbons into the atmosphere which then caused climate change and it disturbs the earth’s cycle.

When it was time to present it to the other groups, my group got the second turn. My discussion with my group was really an eye-opening for me. Then hearing the other group presenting their works were really overwhelming for me. Because there were a lot of things to take in and each of them was a new thing for me, so I really had to pay attention. To be honest, my mind worked hard on this session, because I tried to store all the information into my brain. All the inputs from the panellists were also valuable because they are experienced on this field.

The session about popular issue on environment was the last session I attended because I had to go home, unfortunately. I wanted to stay and spend the rest of the day with everyone, but I really couldn’t. I went home by train at around 6 pm, with my mind overloaded with new information and how fun it was to get out of your comfort zone. Along the way home, my mind kept replaying today’s activity and I found new spirit for the next day. I mean, today was super fun, and I was convinced that tomorrow will be more super fun.

The first session for the next day was bonding time. We played a game where we had to find three, four, five people interchangeably. This game was intended to get acquainted with each other better. And it worked. Some people couldn’t come the previous day, so we had to introduce ourselves again to each other, and by playing this game, it really worked.

The next session was about gender equality. This was the continuation of the previous night’s session which was about gender equality. I couldn’t attend last night’s session and I did not know what the discussion was last night. But I saw some papers on the wall about what is each participant’s definition of men and women. There was a long list of criteria for men and women. While I was reading the list, I regretted that I did not join the session but also glad that it will be continued today.

The session started by talking about stereotyping. Stereotyping is how you perceive someone based on their looks, religion, race, nationality, gender, sexuality, age, etc. I was really interested in stereotyping, especially when they mentioned about sexuality, which was still a taboo in Indonesia. The facilitator wrote a word on each paper, like men, women, children, gay, lesbian, NGO, government, Chinese, Papuans. And we had to write the first thing that came to our mind when we heard each words on a post-it and put it on the paper. It was interesting to know how some people almost had the same opinion on a certain community. And reading all of them made me think about other communities that were not mentioned above. After everyone finished, we received an insight about stereotyping. “Where do all of the stereotyping came from?”. In my entire life, I have never really thought about this question and when we had to find the answer everything suddenly came into places. Some of these stereotypes were not really our experiences, some of us even had not meet the person who came from the community. It came as a surprise for me when I think about the question again. And then, the facilitator asked us to write down our answers and put them onto the papers on the wall. While waiting for others, I had a debate with my mind. “Why do I unconsciously believe these stereotypes?” I mean, these were not what I think of them, but more like what other people think of them and they tried to convince others to believe what they believe, including me. Writing down the answer seemed like a hard task back then. But eventually we finished it and we discussed about our answers. Other participants also had difficulties while writing down the answers for the same reason as me. This session really made me reflect on how I perceive someone. But at some point, stereotyping is useful when you want to meet someone for the very first time. But do not just rely on stereotyping, because stereotypes are not always correct.

Next session was about leadership. In this session we formed a group and then wrote down the definition of a leader and what characteristics a leader should have. There were three groups and each group wrote various characteristics and some of them also wrote common characteristics of a leader. After that, as usual, we had to discuss it. It was fun, and eye-opening. After we discussed, we received a lecture on leadership. How leadership style has been shifting from traditional into modern era. In traditional style, a leader must be authoritative, has masculine personality, and strict. Meanwhile, in modern style, a leader is much more flexible, interact more with the members, engaging more with members, not-so-authoritative, etc. If I look at some of the leaders who have the modern leadership style, they get judged a lot because how they lead a team is considered ineffective by some people. But I prefer the modern leadership style because the leader will earn respect from the team members pure from their heart, not because they must. And members will do their job willingly which, in results, increase the efficiency of their works.

Next session was about political ecology. This was one of the most interesting topics and I was really hyped for this session. This session talked about the political situation on ecology in Indonesia which I’m not going to talk much about it here. The facilitator brought an easy concept on what was and what is still going on. And how past events really affect current condition. It was a heavy topic. While my mind was trying to absorb new information, more information was added, so I kept trying to catch up, but it was hard for me. Politic is one of my least favourite topics after all so I didn’t really want to get into it.

After having some break, we started next session, which was about structural poverty. From the title, the topic seemed heavy and too economic for some people. I was ready to fall asleep even before the session began, because not all people can bring economic topic in a fun way. But the facilitator proved otherwise. The facilitator tried a new way to bring this topic in a form of game and it really worked. We all were given some grains, like coffee, corn, green beans, and soybeans at the same amount. There were five rounds of game. On the first and second round we were asked to swap our grains with everyone. But on the third round each grain had a value. For example, coffee has 20 points value, corn 5 points, soybean 10 points, and green beans 2 points. At this round we started to keep the highest value of grain and only swap the smallest value. Then, on the fourth and fifth round, we must have at least 80 points. Everyone started panicking, a lot of them had less than 80 points and tried to ask for help to the people who had more than 80 points. My points were quite stable from the first round and I was glad for it. When the game finished, the facilitator explained how the game represented structural poverty. He then divided us into three groups, one for those who got less than 80 points, one for those over 100 and one for those between 80-100. The group with less than 80 points had to discuss the solution for their problem. And the other groups also had to help. At the beginning of the session, the facilitator said that those who lose would receive a consequence. All of us thought that it was a joke, but it wasn’t. The group with less than 80 points received a consequence by not joining dinner in the dining room with everyone and instead they will eat in the main hall with only rice and salt. When we heard that, we just wanted to give our grains to them, but the game already finished and there was nothing we could do to help them. When the session was done, I kept thinking about it. I mean, I never thought about how a game could represent a real problem and it fascinated me.

Last session for the second day that I could attend was about volunteering movement for social change. It was more like sharing session with the facilitator. He has been working in Non-Governmental Organisations for years and know a lot about NGOs. Then some participants also shared their experience working at NGO. This was the moment where I learned a lot about NGO. Like, a lot.

Then, before I went home, I had a discussion with one of the people who work at RMI. I asked a lot of questions. Sorry for that. My curiosity and fascination were at the highest level that night. I wanted to know more about NGOs. And what’s their impact in the society. When I heard that they work a lot with communities and discuss their problem and try to find the solution, at that exact moment, I just wanted to work at NGOs, that’s it.

My journey home then filled with my last discussion about NGOs. How I have never heard about what they do on the media just blew my mind. They didn’t just do what they had to do, but actually solved the problems and they get so little recognition for that. Also, how the real conditions of certain communities are portrayed differently on the media. A lot of things was going on in my mind, while looking through the window of the train. I felt like I’m on a movie clip.

On the last day, first session was about environment ethic. As usual, we were given a case first then we discussed our solution. In this session, we had to put ourselves in a situation where we needed to make a priority list for every living thing on earth. From this, we could learn how much we care about other beings beside human. It was surprising how almost everyone still think that other creatures were not important if they had no purpose, including me. After the discussion, the facilitator explained about environment ethic based on our discussion. We also discussed about how religions viewed the environment, how religions commanded us to treat the nature. I’ve never had interfaith discussion before, so it was a mind-opening experience for me.

Environment ethic was the last heavy session on this entire event. On the next few sessions we had lots of fun. We saw a presentation of what RMI had done in the past, what RMI are currently doing, and what will RMI do in the future. They also wrote down what they are going to do in the next one month and asked us to write our names on certain events if we wanted to be a part of it. I was interested and wanted to join every single event but unfortunately, I couldn’t choose all of them. I chose around three events. One of them was about Regional Consultation of Children’s Rights on Environment.

Have you ever had that feeling when you really enjoyed something and afraid for it to end, because I felt it since the second day. I really enjoyed this short course and everyone who participated on it. I met new friends, I gained new knowledges, and everyone was so welcoming towards each other. Remember when I said I was anxious to get confronted because I am from accounting major? It didn’t happen at all. Instead, I received lots of courageous words from some people. Which I still remember until now.

This short course would be one of my best experiences I have ever had in my entire life. I am proud of myself because I was able to get out of my comfort zone and dare to go for extra miles. I remembered someone from RMI said to me, “I know it’s tiring, Jakarta-Bogor on weekend when you could just lay in bed, waking up at noon, and just chilling at home. But I believe you are already few steps ahead and nothing that you do will go in vain.” These words became my motivation while attending this short course.  I also got new perspectives which I wouldn’t get if I just stayed in campus. Because your teachers, lecturers, professors, will not tell this kind of information in classes, especially if you come from economic background.

I would like to thank RMI for this opportunity, and all of my friends throughout the short course, each and everyone of you made me see things I didn’t know existed before. Thank you so much for the stories you all shared and for being so welcoming toward each other. Here’s a bucket full of love.

Lastly, if I were asked to join this kind of event again in the future, my answer would be an instant yes.

 

Alfina Khairunnisa

Jakarta, October 31st, 2019

 

 

 

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