It was winter in 2008. After waiting for our luggage for a while, we just realized that we, all the Indonesian participants, lost it. As a tropical being, losing all your warm clothes in the savage winter of England, was a real problem. After talking with the airlines officer, we agreed that they would send our luggage to Wales. We went out of the airport and met Erika, the program manager. We told her about the problem, she would find something for us while we waited for our luggage. But, until then, all we had were the clothes we were wearing and few things from our cabin bags.
I was excited to meet other participants in the 2008 JOU. But being in the same bedroom with the Israeli girls was the last thing I wanted to do that day. Yes, that was me. As the media had bombarded me with all the stereotypes of Israel, it made me believe the Israelis were not human. And, Encompass made me be with them.
As we went in the same room, Noa and Bat Chen realized that I did not have luggage. I told them about what happened. And, right away they offered me things. They gave me their scarves, socks, jackets, toiletries etc. I was pretty surprised. Just like that, all the high wall of ignorance crumbled into pieces.
We started talking to get to know each other. I asked them if I could pray in the bedroom, and they were fine with that. My Indonesian friend and I were wearing the white outfit for the prayer. And they were looking at us in surprise. They kept watching and observing the way we prayed. After we were done praying, they said it was the first time they had seen Muslims do their ‘ritual’. This made me surprised, because I assumed they knew a lot about Muslims, as they live ‘side by side’ with them.
As the program continued, I was in awe that during the outbound activities, the Palestinians and Israelis helped each other. I remember when we went kayaking in Aberdovey, one of the Israeli girls fell from the raft. And the Palestinian boy just jumped to help her right away.
During the program, I also got a lot of help. My English at that time was very bad. I hardly understood the Brits’ English, because of the strong accent. But, the Americans and Snezana (the facilitator from Serbia) were always there to elaborate in the simplest English so that I understood everything, especially the instructions during the activities.
This friendship we established during the program did not stop there. One day, I had the chance to study in the US. I contacted the American participants, Celine, Don and Hayley. Despite their busy lives back home in America, they tried to spare their time for me to see each other again.
After graduation, Celina went back home in California. It was very hard for me to go that far, since I was studying in Rochester, New York. Just one day, she came to New York City for an occasion. From New York City, she drove 6 hours up to Rochester just to see me. Because she had to go back to NYC on the same day, we spent time together only for several hours. We had great talks, great memories, and great food. What amazing hours!
During winter break, I went down to New Jersey to meet an Indonesian friend. And, it was so fortunate because Don lived in the same city as my Indonesian friend did. He came to pick me up, and we had a wonderful lunch together.
Haley invited me to come to meet her lovely family, during summer and Thanksgiving. She introduced me to her parents, aunt and uncle. Not only that, she and her family helped me with a lot of things during my stay in the US. Being away from my own family was not easy. Haley’s family was like a second family to me in the US. They shared love and care. As time went by, I became very close with them, particularly her aunt. Until this moment, I still keep in touch with them.
After moving to several different countries, finally I moved to London, the place where I started my journey. I am hoping to reconnect with Encompass again so I can give back, because Encompass has given me so much. I am also hoping that Encompass will expand to reach other countries as well, because this stereotype problem is the world’s.
I just wish that this life is that simple, that we could be kind to one another regardless of the background we have. The life after the program is usually the hardest one. What should we do next?
Nurminanti (Anti), Indonesia, February 2008