SEALNet – an epilogue.

 

Having looked at the title, please don’t infer that SEALNet Medan Chapter is going to end. I mean, in brief, not too fast. Perhaps not in the upcoming years, not even until this decade submerges. But knowing the fact that I should let go the title and the organization, and leave this job to my successors, I am primarily concerned on the long-term existence of it. I have no precognition on where direction exactly they are going to bring it to, nor do I possess prophetic skills to see what they are exactly going to do – whether in accordance to all the visions I have set forth in my outline or not – after leaving this CCA, and more exactly, this school.

I have never been updating any information about the progress in the last 6 months. And now I see today it’s my obligation to inform those in the headquarters, after myriad times of procrastination, while at the same time, to announce my resignation from SEALNet Medan Chapter. In general, workshop condition was slightly better off compared to that in the first year. The materials were a bit more structured, but we had not brought significant satisfaction for all the mentees, as there remained some complaints regarding the ‘boredom’ our tutelage induced. We also did not fully manage to implement all the outreach plans we had designated before the chapter’s new formation: out of 8, we only succeeded to make 3 out of them. This was largely due to the ‘overspending’ we had had in ensuring their success. Nevertheless, instead of merely paying visits to orphanages, we had diversified the scope, including visit to an NGO-operated school on the railside (which I myself did not participate in due to being abroad) and ‘study tour’ in a cow livestock and a strawberry farm in Berastagi.

 

 

The school’s name is, for your information, PAUD Dian Bersinar Foundation. It even has a blog.

 

 

Our trip in Berastagi.

 

Some of my friends inquired me, “What did you feel after being positioned for almost 2 years?” Well, there were the best of times, there were the worst of times, and, you know, it’s kind of hodgy-podgy. I had personally gone through the zenith, through the abyss, pulchritudinously, like a continuous array of longitudinal waves. Doing something that is not of your particular interest, particularly in leading it, is never as simple as I had imagined before. At least, that’s what the ‘leadership’ itself tries to define. Reminiscing through all the experiences I had felt until these penultimate moments, I had garnered a few conclusions on being a leader. First, a leader is no different from a servant; both have the needs to serve, one for the masters and the other for the public as their ‘bosses’. Second, no leaders ever believe that what is meant ‘take it easy’ dictum is entirely ‘take it easy’; some of them merely conceal such worrisome attitude, only to convince the outsiders that ‘everything is going fine’, while the others had a penchant for emotional outburst by expressing their frustrations. Third, you realize who, upon your subordinates, that are seriously committed to realizing your goals, and those who have a ‘parasitic’ tendency to stay indolent. Every institution, as I believe, has ‘germs’ by its own that leaders can’t ever purely eliminate, for whatever reasons, like, you see, having been acquainted with them for so long that the bond can’t be let loose by dismissing them. I had, personally, witnessed such phenomenon. I feel no necessity to leak it to you who these persons are, that I still have to respect their decency of privacy. But I know who upon them are willing to work, and who simply stick their names unto it.

Only in these last months I had kind of burdensome feelings in managing SEALNet, honestly. Obviously because of the amounting tasks I gotta prepare in the last year I’m in school. You know, being faced with TOEFL IBT tuition, SAT preparation, AO Maths tuition, excluding the overwhelming school exams that confiscated my time in evaluating all the progress we had made in this second year. And there was pretty much dwindling interest, as shown by the number of mentees admitted this year; no more than 70 students applied for us, and only 1 first-grader (compared to the burgeoning 70 in its first year) registered. A little more than half of them were already third-graders, clear signs that our ‘organization’ is experiencing over-rapid ‘aging’ (mini-Japan?). Taking its positive remarks, we had better capability in managing these mentees. Nevertheless, on its negative side, it just made me fully concerned on its future fate, in years to come long after I have graduated. I comprehend the adage of ‘everything that has its beginning has its own end’, but realizing its promising prospects, it was just, you know, a ‘waste’ if they simply ended it up within 2 or 3 years. The organization has yet accomplished many feats, and tackling all the problems it encounters would be a huge responsibility for future mentors to solve. If they were willing to endure a bit longer, that would be a pride of their own of having resolved the first years’ challenges and let it grow exponentially. If they gave it up, I had no more words to say. Knowing that it will be no longer my own to make it progress, I have to let it go, leaving it up to my juniors to complete the unfinished businesses. I could only, so far, outline long-term goals and visions for SEALNet Medan Chapter in years to come, but it has been up to them whether to follow my ‘instruction’ or make one by their own.

 

One of our workshop sessions included a ‘simulated mayoral election campaign’ between 2 competing pairs.

 

All of us do have still so much yet to learn. And I myself have particularly realized that there is still so much yet to gain having led it. To admit it, I have not succeeded in bringing concrete unity to the organization. We lack of promotion, for sure, that many even doubt whether SEALNet is actually ‘a  leadership-nurturing CCA or just another Facebook Starcraft-sounding online game’. Many others, meanwhile, still prefer extracurricular programs (and I don’t have to mention which they are) that will score them straight As only by ‘writing down’ their names on their membership list. It’s not uncommon in our school, to be honest, but I also do not see it as rightful and wise to describe them here. But, just, in brief, I think that’s plain unfair. I believe that I always have to make sure that all the members are evaluated and scored based on how much, and how often, they have done in accordance to whatever tasks we have assigned them and ourselves.

Well, I am, given my nearly 2-year bond in SEALNet, concerned about its fate in the near future. Its ups and downs are inextricably connected with our win-and-lose experiences as well. It still has tremendous space to grow and expand, major potential yet to be explored, more problems yet to be solved, a plethora of potential mentees yet to diminish, and, most importantly, a fact that I love to hate, a school to sustain. (of course it closes down if the school collapses!)

In the long run, I want to thank a lot of mentors (whose names I tag here) who have assisted me a lot in making this organization progress every time. I want to thank Elvira, my co-partner in leading SEALNet. You have, given your animating attitude, so many creative ideas that you embody in the outreach.  Then there is Vinnie, our lil’ petty Secretary. You are active, and you are fierce. But only through your ‘ferociousness’ (does it seem exaggerating?), you can emulate pretty much useful suggestion to improve our workshop materials. Then there is Grisella. You are smart, and you are such a great idea shower for us! I felt so guilty that I had, instead of assigning you in Project Division, placed you in Publicity. Then Lily. You are strict, well-disciplined, and despite your mere two-week post as Head of Project Division, you made me really learn how to manage a project really well, as seen by your capability in directing any outlines you have set to your subordinates. Then there’s Cindy, our treasurer, who has arranged well our cash reserves in the last 5 months. Then this ‘couple’, Iin and Riyan. Both of you have contributed pretty much in this recent year for the betterment of our workshop and outreach sessions. And there are Anthony and Budi, who have helped us in negotiating economical bus fares each time for our outreach sessions. Then there’s Ricky, who has also helped very much in our outreach. Then Ferry, who has helped quite much during our workshop session. And to the rest, all of you, exactly, (I can no longer mention their names one by one specifically here), thanks a lot!

Last but not least, I also would like to thank our coach, Mr.Supian, who, despite his occupied schedule as a teacher, a lecturer in many colleges other than our school, and a church speaker, has been an ardent supporter, and an idea-shower as well, for the betterment of our organization.

And particularly to all my seniors now scattered in universities, home and abroad, like Edric, Riandy, Winnie, Desilia, Adeline, Ricky, Juned, JA, and a list too long to go on, thank you for giving me this opportunity. I hope we’ll meet someday!

 

 

 

Well, it’s old days recalled.

Another outreach. Completely done.

 

Call it a sequel of my previous note about our third outreach. We still headed to the same subject (orphanage), of the similar background (set up to accommodate many children from Nias who fell prey to 2004 Aceh tsunami), and of the same religious denomination (Christian), but exactly of a distinct location (though quite near), different owners, and undoubtedly for sure, different name. This time, we paid a visit to Yayasan Terima Kasih Abadi.

The outreach held on 29th April was perhaps the most rumbustious one compared with the others. In average, in every session that we conducted, the maximum number of participants ever involved was no more than 30. But this time, it was at the point of 50. Unfortunately, our coach, Pak Supian ‘the motivator’, was not able to make it given that he had been invited to give a fundraising speech in the church he is used to doing his hebdomadal visit. Thus, as a resolution, all the tasks he was supposed to complete were substituted by Evando, a newly-appointed head of Project Division.

 

 

This time, quite many participants in this outreach were non-SEALNet members. Some of them had recently been faced with National Exam, some others are my classmates, while the rest are currently studying in University of North Sumatera (thanks to JA’s – nickname of Jesselyn Angellee – efforts in persuading her friends to join with us). In addition, it also appertained mentees from Tuesday class (fewer mentees from Tuesday class join our outreach as frequent as those of Saturday’s).

The orphanage itself we visited gathers approximately 115 children and teenagers, from various places in Nias, and some rural areas throughout North Sumatera. Talking about gender, the people out there are dominantly boys and young men (83 versus 32). From the age perspective, almost half of the populace are currently Primary-class students, while the rest are in Secondary levels. Around 4 of them are at the moment collegers.

Anyway, let me describe further about what we had experienced almost the whole day, before, during, and after the outreach.

 

 

It started with a minor problem: school gates, through which we were supposed to gather, were intentionally locked. Eyeing through the keyhole, we found out at least 4 security guards were sitting, perched on their chairs, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, and playing chess game. I knocked the door, and the guard refused to open. My dad, at the same time carrying carton boxes of Yeo’s Chrysanthemum tea, called upon the guards. 5 minutes had passed, and still the gates remained stiff. Two drivers whose buses we rented for the sojourner also helped us in continuously knocking on the gates. Probably having succumbed to the loud rataplan, they did happen to unlock the gates. There was some minor debate, though, but having explained to the guards that our teacher-in-charge, Pak Supian, was not coming, and again having shown them his phone number, they allowed all of us to get in, but only in the school’s front areas, while only me and the duo drivers who were permitted to come to one of our mentors’ class, to carry some behemoth cardboards, all stuffed with hundreds of school textbooks, and second-hand clothes (matter-of-factly speaking, one of the donators bequeathed mini-skirts). The Gummizeit soon followed. Originally scheduled to have hit the road at 12 pm, we instead managed to make it half an hour later.

The trip was fairly smooth, but as we approached nearer to the orphanage, I was distracted by the exact route into the location when asked by one of the drivers. How poor my memory storage was. Having surveyed the place 3 months prior, I was almost completely oblivious regarding the position. After 15 minutes of itinerating throughout the surrounding roads, we managed to reach there (and I remembered vividly that coping with a very narrow gangway was a struggle reaching it, but I had forgotten exactly where the gangway was precisely). Time showed 1.10 pm when we boarded off the buses, 10 minutes behindhand the scheduled time.

 

 

We came into the orphanage. Almost all the people there were present, including boys and girls, kids and teenagers. And a fierce-looking lady with a rattan wood on her right hand, organizing the rows and columns of populace being seated on the marmer floor. We were offered seats on the chairs, facing the kids directly. I asked myself: wow, must it be that formal? We are not government officers, nor are we over-the-top businesspeople. Having sat only for a while trying to figure out what we would do during the outreach, we decided to divide them into three groups: one aimed for primary-class students, another for junior-high-school students, and the rest for senior-high-school ones, and university students. We played one different game for every group. The most junior team were seated in a circle, over the chairs, together with mentees, volunteers and mentors, and they played fruit salad (more friendly version of Jumanji game (to know further, please read ‘the days I had in SEALNet’). At around 2.15 pm, we stopped the games, and distributed drinks for the buddies out there. Originally, we intended to hand out snacks as well, but given that students from SMA Sutomo 2, all third-graders, were also present at the same time and had previously dispensed each of them with a colorful pack of snacks, all of a sudden we decided to allot them only after we had accomplished everything in the outreach.

 

 

Having stopped the games and rested for a while, we went on with doing activities, at a more serious pace. Firstly segregating all the persons into two groups, one supposedly for primary-level students and the other for high-school- and university-equivalent, each group was afterwards given a different activity to do: all the juniors would be asked to draw their future in the papers we had distributed, while the seniors had to answer the questionnaire given in so-called ‘interest quiz’, sort of.

What the high-school students and collagers aspire to be in the future sound fairly good, as told by one of the mentors supervising the test, Lily. All of them, in general, do seem to embrace quite high expectations, such as of being a successful entrepreneur, well-known fashion designer, critically-acclaimed novelist, reknown poet, professional, over-the-top accountant, et cetera. Quite many of them opt the former, on being able to employ rather than to be employed. Talking about reality, nevertheless, seemed to be overtly burdening for them to overcome. This is the fact, though this might be pain-staking: in spite of the superb facilities they offer, ranging from projectors to musical instruments to the well-built multi-function hall, they even had not enough numismatics to pay for these students’ registration fees for selection tests to state-owned universities (Seleksi Nasional Masuk Perguruan Tinggi Negeri, abbreviated as SNMPTN). Out there, it was almost raining cats and dogs, before the sky again turned out plain white. The rain was like a brief, metaphorical reminder of the difficulties facing the populace in this building.

 

All of the teenagers were trying to figure the interest-quiz well.

The next activity was some kind of IQ test, hosted by Nico. As shown in projector, he presented all the questionnaire, one by one. It took more than 30 minutes, before Evando proceeded the schedule by hosting a motivational speech. Throughout the motivation session, we filled the time interval by playing out 5 videos, one about a Mongolian orphan singing in full commemoration of his deceased parents in China’s Got Talent, another about a blind beggar, the next about handicapped athletes, and the other two about Nick Vujicic, the miracle-man, who without hands and feet, could still be able to set the world on earthquake, through his magical, invisible, and sizeless limbs.

 

Evando

 

Nico

 

We ended the overall outreach by singing a Christian-themed song (only to entertain the buddies). As the sky ended up darker than before, we rushed by quickly handing out all our donation to the staff in charge of the orphanage. As the wind blew more boisterously, all of us swiftly made rows, and we had our last moments captured in front of the cameras.

Honestly, we do not expect the next outreach to be visiting another orphanage. As Mauren, one of the mentors, had told me: we had had it enough 3 times of visit to different orphanages, but the feeling remains the same.

What if we make a forest trip our next outreach?

SEALNet so far

 

After a hiatus that lasted more than a month long, I finally managed to seize some time to get back to my old, classic habit, in which I poured down my ideas and my experiences, through every single type, while sitting inside an approximately five-by-five-meter space that used to be my childhood compartment. First thing I have to confess before I start the note is my mind was in excess of topics, argumentating seriously inside my head on what to write about. I was considering writing about a ‘special’ relationship between presidents and occult power, while on the other hand, another topic that circulated around my consciousness was plastic surgery among South Korean celebrities, while again, the notion of Indonesia’s exaggerative subordination on imported products, the treacherous, hair-raising thought on scientific methods towards living forever, criticism of vegetarianism, the dangers of driving in Indonesia, and dominant minorities worldwide, pullulated me, throwing me out with all the mish-mashing of all the combined ideas.

Instead of singling out one of them to be the main topic of this note, which perhaps may unconsciously trigger more helter-skelter in my mind, I resolved to write about SEALNet’s progress so far. I’ve never jemmied it for so long that the chaps and bags in United States had no ideas what we had been progressing here, exactly in Medan.

Throughout the first semester, the workshops, as I could admit, was of part success and part failure. They did really savor the part where we asked the mentees to mention as many bizarre, out-of-the-box purposes as possible about the items they had been discussing altogether. They also quite reveled the ‘problem-solving’ part, though they had less inclination to doing presentation. Getting tedium through endless presentations, I laid the idea of having them to do business – one of the most basic methods in practising leadership skills. But, throughout the workshops from November to December, the workshop was, I had to tell you, a total flatness. The main res behind such occurrence was that we were totally lackadaisical in terms of preparation of the material. It was only during the D-day that we began to discuss what we were going to teach. Worse, we communicated our ideas only through Blackberry group chats, which may, in some times, set off technical errors, like my message was not received by another Blackberry member. Another problem was half the members do not use Blackberry, which meant they were lackadaisical on what I was planning to ask them to do and worse, albeit they managed to own them, they did not participate in the discussion (Claristy later admitted that they refused to do so because of my overtly domineering position), so it could be said, between 2 and 3 workshop sessions, we delivered them half-baked, or best described, stale material. Many also criticized me for being too centralized, as though I were the only one to control the whole workshop and outreach, that it heavily burdened my head. Perhaps because of overpressure, my emotion bursted out. I snapped at some of the mentors, and all the mentees were there when it took place, while the workshop was taking place. I didn’t have any captor to stop my buoyant anger from exploding. And I wept afterwards.

I was lost up there. Fortunately, there were considerably hearty friends of mine, like Evando, Nico, Toni, Vincent, Yansen, Steven, etc, who showed full indorsation on me. The night after the incident, I was up in my bed, contemplating of all the wrongdoings I had accidentally committed that made everything ended up so severe. The other acting president, Claristy, had told me that as a leader, I had been too much fixated on my own potential, while albeit I fully accepted others’ ideas, there was tendency I did neglect them. Some time later, after fully discerning her thoughts, I concluded, ‘yeah, she’s quite right. There’s something wrong with our organization, and were my mentality too subtle to say, ‘yeah, it’s my fate, and I’m not destined for this’, I might have disenchanted so many people. Our previous mentors, those guys in America, our principal who staunchfully supported this extracurricular program (my first-grade friends once even ran towards me, and exhilaratingly shouted that he had asked students – during the weekly school ceremony – to get involved in more leadership and social service skills), our supervisor who, despite the bustle, still managed to assist us by giving ideas for better workshops (some of which we did fail to implement), some teachers who had expressed full support for the establishment of the chapter, and particularly, all the mentees who had been willingly to spend some time to be here. To provide me with more consolation, I attempted to assure myself, it’s just the first year, and it’s always the hardest in the beginning, and unless we manage to consolidate well, our SEALNet chapter will just simply be a name that ‘used to’ exist. It still has tremendous potential yet to be explored, and looking at it with deeper perspectives, we can contribute myriad ideas through this body. It’s not simply about workshops and outreach, workshops and outreach. We can do something, in accordance with the potential that we all possess, to solve problems (although I am myself a believer in theory that ‘no best solution does exist in the world to eliminate problems, because it’s always solution that triggers problems, and it’s an unending relationship’). Further, another mentor of SEALNet, Mauren, still places her Panglossian trust on its future. She cited the entrepreneurship project that we did as a ‘moderate success’, although it’s still structurally messy. Many mentees confessed that the part they liked the most was doing this sort of project. And because of this, SEALNet’s cash managed to experience soaring growth – more than 300% – from previously 2.1 million to more than 8.6 million rupiah (as of January 2012). The money itself grew after we had consensus with mentees who were willing to donate some of the money they earned to fund our activities (and it’s non-obligatory, for sure).

But, actually, the main riddle behind all this mess was of my not knowing the keyword of ‘team-building activities’. It was only after browsing Google, that I discovered this keyword had tremendous effect in determining the success of either our workshops, outreach, or even projects. The keyword, as it turned out after I typed it on Google, resulted in more than 200 million pages or so, an overabundance of sources we could utilize for our next workshops in the second semester. Every webpage that I accessed had itself come out with more than 100 out-of-the-box ideas, many of which might be utterly interesting for the mentees instead of endless cycles of brainstorming, structuring, and presenting. All these ideas are not only commodious during the workshop sessions, but also during the outreach, and it, in the long run, helped my mind to launch multitudinous ideas for the projects to be done next year. One of my ideas – that might sound irrelevant, was my plan of donating 1000 or more second-hand books to 5 orphanages which founded it very critical and rudimentary to obtain such Baedeker. Many of my friends were opposed to this notion, because firstly, the target itself was set too high, while secondly, there was also another similar program going on, in which one of Medan’s social entrepreneurs, Dr. Sofyan Tan, proposed another more avant-garde project, by persuading hundreds of companies, institutions (including our school, SMA Sutomo 1 Medan) and distingue figures to contribute. He had set his mind that the ultimate goal of this project was to accept 1 million (that is 1000 by the power of 2) second-hand books to be donated to so-called ‘taman bacaan’, or small-scale libraries throughout North Sumatera, by which Medan is the designated capital. Lastly, not all students would donate their books for the second time, because they had previously done so in the former. At first, I was overtly enthusiastic about this dream, but later on, I consoled myself, ‘the future is still a long way to go. Perhaps we can set even larger targets in the future. Don’t get disappointed.’

Throughout the meeting we held on 24th of December, 2011, we decided that on the second semester, we managed to organize only 5 sessions of workshop, with methods taken from the webpages I had accessed in Google (using that miraculous keyword). The first session would be about negotiation (still remember about the house’s prices? Read ‘The days I had in SEALNet’), while on the second, the mentees were asked to promote – like the way those people do in heavily-dramatized TV ads – chocolate bars we had bought in the nearby canteen in which we recorded their performance. On the third workshop, because it’s really adjacent to Valentine’s Day, we divided the mentees into pairs, and every pair had to design Valentine’s Day greeting card as creatively as possible, utilizing the carton papers we had bought in the school’s co-operative. On the fourth, mentees were divided into groups, and were asked to structure a story as they liked, and presented it in front. Lastly, on the fifth, it would be reflection. In the long run, all the mentors agreed to do so. Afterwards, as soon as the holiday was over, we started to implement all the ideas. In general, all the mentees did really enjoy the sessions better than those in the first semester, particularly in the second and third workshop. They even considered the second one as the craziest part ever, in which they were faced to a situation where they had to act as though they were really promoting in the TV ads. Meanwhile, on the third workshop, all the cards designed were truly beyond what I had previously imagined. They were truly so gorgeous! Some did write very awesome quotes, while others modified the carton papers by putting some beads, or trying to make some folds to make them really look like greeting cards. The best cards that we assessed were published in our bulletin board (and if you have time to visit Medan, please take a look at it). Insofar, things got up better, but the only thing that was totally distinct from the plan we had set out was on the last session, in which instead of doing the reflection, we played game altogether. (for ELDS – our school’s English debating program – members, you do still remember Yakuza game, the trick-or-treat derision, don’t you?)

 

 

 

In addition, we also paid a visit to Tzu-chi’s branch office in Medan, largely thanks to my Mandarin tuition teacher, Miss Jennifer, who also serves as a full-time Tzu-chi member, after long-grueling appointment in which our schedule was repeatedly postponed (not procrastinated, thoroughly) from supposedly beginning of November, to end of November, to the beginning of December, to mid of January, before it was decided that the schedule be held on 5th February, 2012. At first, I thought we might be introduced to sophisticated recycling technology, or to a lesser extent, having tutelage on how to recycle newspapers or plastic bottles. My conclusion was a mistake, indeed. While all of us were brought to the waste depot exactly behind the branch office, I just commenced to realize that it was not a recycling center at all. I asked one of the staff, and he responded that this place was instead utilized as a ‘waste-sorting’ center. There’s quite much unrecyclable waste here, as such, styrofoam and plastic bags. Instead, as an alternative, we listened to their seminar – the main topic was about global warming, climate change stuff, but I found it was more centered on vegetarianism. Supposed to begin at 1 and conclude at 4, it was contrawise prolonged from 1.30 to 5.30 pm (you know the Gummizeit habit of our people, don’t you?) Much of the time was concentrated on promoting vegetarianism, while one staff, serving as a host, claimed that it’s much better, environmentally, for a full-time vegan to drive a sedan car, than a cyclist who eats meat. Most of the mentees said they were really inspired, and truly gobsmacked, at all the surprising facts about global warming and climate change and healthy living. I did, too, but only for the first two parts, while I myself discovered a striking dichotomy between healthy living and healthy planet. To be honest, this was originally my intended topic. But, never mind about that. I’ve been scribing this article for more than 2000 words.

 

 

 

Aside from that, I needed to inform you that we had again made mistakes. This time, they were truly fatal lapsus. We realized the errors after we had 94 certificates (80 for mentees, and 14 for mentors) printed, and only after our school’s principal signed a snatch of our certificates: his position in the certificate was placed instead 2nd after that of our supervisor, not the 1st. Another fatal mistake was identified: we simply put down the abbreviation, incomplete with its real name. He refused to continue signing them, something which made us lose 940 thousand rupiah in vain. And, lastly, we thought that by having our supervisor to examine the certificate’s prototype was okay enough. And it turned out to be a mere partial okay, because the principal hadn’t seen it. This meant we had to prepare another 940 thousand for new certificates.

Nevertheless, for whatever reason, it seemed like we were on our luck at that time. The company accountable in printing our certificates offered us 25% discount, meaning that we didn’t have to pay that exorbitant. Instead of 940, we were charged 705. After two times of printing, we do still have almost 7 million rupiah left in cash.

Within 3 or 4 or 5 months, let’s see what surprises will come out next.

How teaching should be about

 

This is another episode of my experiences I have been going through while leading SEALNet Medan Chapter as a president. Beginning effectively on a bright, sapphire-blue Saturday afternoon on 27th August, 2011, it turned out that the number of mentees (members of our extra-curricular activity) commenced to decrease gradually. There were almost 170 students who had registered to us, and yet in so far, only 130 of them did really ‘show up’ throughout our workshop sessions we organized every week. After further sessions, the figure had dropped sharply to 85, with some possibly would resign.

It was not uncommon that we frequently harked any confidential grumbles by some students criticizing the programs we made (and actually adapted from our seniors) as ‘flawed’ and ‘boredom-inducing’. I could even feel that quite many of them had been utilizing a popular ‘I-have-an-additional-tuition’ subterfuge in order to withhold the main reason they quitted from SEALNet Medan Chapter (as a matter of fact, this ‘quote’ had been extrovertedly popular for students expressing their tedium over the extra-curricular programs they join in our school, and perhaps, the entire schools over the planet).

When I glanced deeper at our attendance list, I saw quite many members were not that whole-heartedly joining our program; their attendance on the workshop sessions was no more than a half. Only about half of all students who did really ‘show up’ on 9 sessions we had currently administered, did really so on 6 or more sessions.

I kept on brooding over all the materials we had once taught these mentees. We had reminisced back almost every stuff our seniors once taught us, for example, leadership egg, problem-solving, listening to Steve Jobs’ video (for more information about our seniors’ previous SEALNet Project, please read ‘the days I had in SEALNet’), and the rest was stuffed with playing only-for-fun games. But then more than half of them got bored with such activities. They got bored when they listened to me explaining. They became surfeited when they knew that they would be separated from their friends into groups for 15-minute general discussion (and add some more procrastinated time), and they showed off lethargic facial expressions when time had come for them for presentation. Nevertheless, I could bet that there were still half of them who were enthusiastic on the program, though not as similar as we experienced while the seniors became our mentors. But still, I could conjecture from the others’ minds that ‘were the materials and activities still more or less the same, that involved all these boring discussion and presentation, we would have lifted our feet, and waved our hands to SEALNet’.

I analyzed about a plethora of flaws our program contains. They dislike too much discussion, they dislike too much presentation, too much brainstorming, and too much explanation. After thorough examination deep into my mind, I found out that it was partially the materials’ fault, and the other was our own fault, simon-pure. The materials tended to be too theoretical, entirely based on hypotheses and all sorts of ‘plausible possibilities’. And I myself know that the world in reality is 180-degree different from the world I explain in theory. Here lies our fundamental flaw. Second, our teaching method was pretty much stilted. Albeit we are students, we have inspirited our mentors’ duties too deep. Afterwards, I thought, why should we be too strict, too stiff, and too tense? We had difficulty in relaxing. And so did the mentees in an entirety of 90 minutes every week (we usually begin teaching supposedly from 12.30 to 14.00, but sometimes, due to prolonged Gummizeit, we often held it in between 12.40 and 12.50).

I asked some of the members about what we should do to improve our teaching quality. Some of them told me that they want to do ‘something new’ other than the perpetual cycle of listening, discussing, and presenting ideas. But quite many of them had no novel ideas on improving our program. I asked some of the mentors in our Blackberry chat group, and they put up a few references, for example, ‘organizing a Halloween session’ (that’s Adriana’s idea), ‘designing your own game’ session (Claristy’s), ‘debating class’ (Handoko), and et cetera. I also personally requested our mentors’ coach, Mr.Supian Sembiring, on ideas to make a better workshop. But, the answer still remains the same: no better idee fixe.

Not giving up, I also asked my close friends, Carin and Amelia, for some suggestions. In fact, they understand more about the real essence of leadership than I – and perhaps, we – do. Carin, who is my classmate, and with whom we share the same table altogether – even once asked me back, after I explained all the materials we had conveyed to the members: “Examine back your Oxford dictionary, and re-read what ‘leadership’ actually means.” In the long run, she lent me her own, and let me read the definition, back and forth.

I tried very hard racking my brain to discover any ‘practical stuff’we can ask the students not only to listen and discuss and do presentation, but also to really ‘do’ it. I guessed it took hours to crystallize any bright crinkum-crankum my mind yielded. And, afterwards, an instant flush of inspiration struck me. Where did that ‘meteorite of inspiration’ come from? I recalled that some of my Blackberry contacts had been harnessing the technology to market their products. The power of ‘new broadcast messages’ icon in Blackberry Messenger is the (momentarily) irreplaceable key for them to successfully promote their products other than any ilks of communication tools, like SMS or MMS.

Why don’t we give them chances to become entrepreneurs?

Why do we still restrict them from doing something ‘they do want’?

 

 

Afterwards, I asked some of my friends – particularly those who are members of SEALNet Medan Chapter – whether they would approve this method or not. The response was overwhelmingly positive; almost all of them no longer showed lethargic expression when I gave them opportunities to do whatever businesses they like to do. But still, most of the third-graders did not give consent upon my proposed plan, as they had to prepare for university enrollment, and all sorts of TOEFL, IELTS, SAT  tuitions facing them as a prerequisite to apply in foreign institutions (Claristy will arrange the alternative task aside of ‘entrepreneurship program’. No matter how, more than 60 students from Senior High School First Grade, Second Grade, and only a handful from Third Grade (countable by everyone’s fingers) did really participate in our business project. What’s more, I also granted them multitudinous sorts of freedom, ranging from choosing which group they would like to be in (unlike the conventional system, in which we, as the mentors, determined to which group they should be admitted in, not the mentees themselves) recruiting non-SEALNet members (even if they want their parents, or servants, to get engaged in, I’m still okay with that), rewarding them vast membership quota on every group to 20 members, and lastly, doing whatever businesses they like within one month, commencing from 5th November, 2011 until 3rd December, 2011.

Some of the students from Accelerated Class First Grade co-operate altogether with some from 10-2 in baking, promoting, and selling cupcakes. They even asked me to have a shot at it. It was pretty tasty, but I was not oblivious to inform them that they should not put too much sugar in the cupcakes. I also witnessed myself how they compactedly ventured from one class to another, asking the students one by one to purchase their cupcakes. In less than 2 days, they had earned more than 500 thousand rupiah (similar to approximately 55 US$; well, fortune has blessed them, I guess).

 

What’s more, I even grant them freedom to use our bulletin board to post their colorful, neatly-written advertising poster.

 

My close friend, Evando, did something really different. In informal Indonesian, you could call it mengamen, but in order to be more formal and – specifically – courteous, I just called it ‘singing service’. Evando, and another close friend of ours, Felly Gibran (a non-SEALNet member), played on the guitars and sang songs from one class to another during recess period, and within 2 days, they had been singing in 3 classes, and earned almost 300 thousand rupiah (app. 33 US$). In this task, Steven (again, our intimate friend), acted as the MC who guided these guitarists from classes to classes.

More good news came soon as the mentors began reporting to me that some of them are selling books, bookmarks, Danbo, and chocolate corn flakes. In this day’s workshop session, all of them discussed further about what other products they would like to make, promote, and sell. Some of them are considering to sell movie discs, to produce street snacks, and if I’m not mistaken, producing albums with remix music. And dozens of ideas currently on their lists, in so far.

The gusto was again restored. I have learnt something priceless, at least, after losing so many valuable SEALNet members within these 3 months: grant them freedom, and let them grow and learn by themselves. Don’t stick too much on theory and explanation. Don’t simply teach, but educate. Make something practical. I myself don’t see ‘entrepreneurship’ as the only means of sharpening leadership skills. Almost everything needs these stuff. That’s what I have never truly learnt on the previous SEALNet project, seriously. And that’s why I never say that the SEALNet Medan Chapter we made has really succeeded. We still have a lot of things to learn and do. Yet, it’s just 3 months old, anyway.

Lastly, I hope that our education system is no longer stiff and theory-based. Let us see how teaching should be about in the future.

Sailing through a sea of tumults

SATURDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2011

Perhaps this is a sequel of the longest, perhaps-most-tedious note I ever wrote approximately two and a half months ago (read: The days I had in SEALNet).

In my lifetime, over 16 years and almost 9 months, I had always thought of how exhilarating it was to become a leader. I always imagined myself being a leader would be, to a lesser extent, at least, not too difficult. You’ve got quite many staff to help you out. Everybody would respect you with the new position you’re entitled with. If you could solve a problem or answer a challenge, your dignity would raise to the seventh heaven.

But compared with feeling it, thinking was metaphorically only one-thousandth the tense of true feeling, assume there were international approval upon setting up a new unit or denomination on the size of ‘feeling’ itself. Unless you have experience, you won’t really feel it. Thinking is just, always and as always, the mere surface of the reality. The deeper you go into the core, the more you will feel how reality actually is.

And that’s what I’ve been going through in nearly three months since the designation of me as a leader.

My senior, Edric Subur, had put up his decision to elect me as the next President of SEALNet Medan Chapter. Beforehand, many of my friends who joined the prior program had forecast about me leading this youth-only organization. At first, I thought of that idea as unacceptable. After the third workshop was over (for more details, just read the previous note), one of my mentors, Ricky Chen, joked that ‘I would be the next President after Edric.’

“You’re just joking, anyway,” That’s what I told him.

“What if you are really elected?” He replied.

I used to believe his words, and almost everybody’s words, that they were making a caprice. Even my English tuition teacher, Miss Erica, joked that someday I would become the ‘next president of Indonesia’. (will a Chinese be voted by the majority, anyway?) When I went home and told my mom about this so-called ‘prophecy’, my mom strongly advised me to turn down this offer, but in the long run, she said, the final decision was up to me.

“Being a president will never always be as easy as a piece of cake,” She told me. “You don’t really have any gifts of the gab. Just tell them to turn down this offer, and as a form of compensation, you can help them by volunteering in the organization.”

“But this program is based in MIT and Stanford, ma.”

“Oh, yeah? Really?”

“Edric even told me there are SEALNet chapters in NUS and NTU. Who knows my position as a president will ease me up to get admitted in these world-hailed universities?”

“Just go ahead, then.”

To heal the tedium, let me just simply push forward 72 hours later. All of us, except our mentors, were waiting in a garden outside one of our friends’ house (Wilbert’s house, to be precise). Only after this minute, I began to realize that indirectly, our future was being decided by our seniors. I stared at the night sky, wondering around the stars, shop-houses, vehicles passing by, and a few apartments. Only a few minutes after, things would have all changed. Until they ordered us to get inside, that’s where Edric executed his decision.

At first, 18 persons were elected to fill in their positions, to each his own. Unlike other organizations, SEALNet always makes use of its so-called ‘bi-presidential system’. As if a country were ruled by two different presidents. There were me and Claristy, having been appointed in the same position. But I found the structure was a bit queer: two presidents with only one secretary? It’s normal if you conceive an idea of ‘one president, two secretaries’, but this is so highly quizzical that one secretary has to single-handedly assist two presidents at the same time. The latest must-teach management structure model in business schools, if I can guess. Here was Adriana Salim, our so-called ‘underling’.

6 Project Managers (Anthony Morgan Tjoe, Budi Andoro, Handoko, Sevien, Winnie Jesslyn, and Wilbert R.A.), 6 Publicity Managers (Davin Wijaya, Eldson, Erick Chandra, Hartono Wijaya, Leonardy Kristianto, Mauren Tanaka) , 2 Recruitment Managers (Julie Christine, Megawati Wijaya), and 1 Treasurer (Jennifer Lie) were each appointed by our seniors at that time. Until this minute, 3 of them had already resigned: Julie Christine, Hartono Wijaya, and Sevien. Elvira Yunitan in the end became the sole Recruitment Manager, having to toil with me, Claristy, Adriana, and the entire Publicity Managers, together with some from Project Division to help recruiting members throughout the Senior High School. Besides doing all the tasks adjusted to their divisions, all of us are also responsible as mentors as well.

Soon afterwards, as soon as we handed in the proposal on establishing SEALNet as the latest extra-curricular program to our school principal (actually he’s the one who introduced this program to our school), in less than one month until we closed the registration date on 1st August, almost 170 students had registered for the program.

I had no idea what the world, or the fate, or the destiny, was trying to undertake at this program – it only started in no more than a month, and soon afterwards, with so much indirect promotion conducted by teachers, and particularly, our school principal (he even asked students to be ‘socially active’ by joining SEALNet, once in a speech conveyed during a school ceremony). In no more than an hour, two dozens of students had already registered their names to Adriana. It was a virtue, but it was a defiance, as well, all at the same time. Teaching almost 170 students while we even had never had first-hand experiences in teaching? I kept on asking this question until now.

The first challenge is providing them with enough teaching modules. The problem is we do not have enough materials to convey our teaching modules. That’s our first weakness. The second challenge, facing some of those who are extraordinarily mischievous. Particularly those from the First-Grade. The third challenge, we lack of mentors. This was added with the fact that after more than two months getting entangled in the program, Sevien decided to resign, only one day before we started the first workshop, that was on 27th August.

“President, I’m really sorry, but I want to resign.” She blabbered, in front of us, while I was copying the teaching modules to others’ laptops. I became dumbfounded in no time.

“Are you really joking?” I was too surprised to hear that.

“I’m admitted to Accelerated Class, and I don’t have much time for it.”

Truth be told, Anthony, Wilbert, and Eldson were admitted to Accelerated Class as well. But they do not resign at all. Perhaps the only cause was Sevien’s over-ambition in achieving everything. After further talks, as I gave her two options whether to proceed in SEALNet or quit, she opted the latter. There, I was really down. For some time, I felt it a bit reluctant to let her go. She has the gift of the gab, she is sweet-tongued, but why must she resign only because of ‘not-much-time’ reason? But, at some points, I realized there was no use of forcing her to come back. She had had the path by herself. And she had the rights to do it. All I could do was just to let her go.

The first workshop was a bit failure. Many of the students protested because we divided them into classes based on alphabetical orders. As I heard from the mentors’ confessions in our BlackBerry chat group, the majority of them showed off their discontented faces. That was the first reason. Second, they seemed to have no idea what we were actually teaching about. I was actually intending to show them 3 videos of TEDTalks by Adora Svitak, Hans Rosling, and Terry Moore, to show them ‘the basic methods of public speaking without too much theoretization’. In the long run, they ended up confused, as I showed them Terry Moore’s video: how to tie your shoes. Their expression was like: what’s the connection between leadership workshop with tying your shoes correctly? Thank God there were Winnie Illona, Jesselyn Angellee, Imelda Junaedi, and Claristy who saved my day. Rather than remain stock-still or ‘frozen’ as stiff as terracotta statues, they switched the originally silent atmosphere into a vibrant one. We played human knot, and everyone bursted in exhilaration. Not much success, as of my opinion.

Regarding to outreach matters, we returned back to Panti Asuhan Pelita Kasih. We did the outreach for 2 days, and in fact, many things that we did there were in all conscience beyond our initial plans we had discussed in many meetings prior. And that was the most expensive outreach we had ever done, and we suffered total deficits. The week before we did the outreach, only 35% of the students managed to pay the registration fee (which we charge at Rp 20,000 per person) and the monthly fee (Rp 2,000 per month straight. Actually I planned to set it at Rp 5,000, but after further lobbying efforts to our school principal, he remained insistent on the 2000-a-month idea). The amounts of money collected were at that time 1.17 million more or less, and we spent almost 1.67 million on the outreach. The bulk of the costs came particularly from transport, in which we had to rent 4 different school buses for 2 days (the first day’s buses cost 600 thousand, the second’s 550). To be honest, many of us had cars, but the main question was: who’s going to drive the cars at the same time our car drivers were homecoming, because we did the outreach during the Eid holiday? One lesson learnt: to organize an outreach during holidays on special occasions would hurt your financial expenditure. For the second day transport costs, some of us had to crucify our money, under the terms of ‘bailout’.

On the first day of outreach, we brought only 12 students to the orphanage. I was pretty much oblivious on the routes heading to the orphanage, but thank God after we spent a few minutes stopping by to ask people the direction to the place, in the long run did we manage to reach it. I was so ashamed. Thank God Handoko has a bit photographic memory. As soon as we reached the orphanage, I could see their expression was a bit different. Half of them remained unchanged as usual – whenever we came, they would greet us and say hello. But many of them were really surprised when they saw us returning back to the orphanage. Some of them, as seen from their mimics, felt like: why on earth are you coming back?

On that day, we focused on another issue besides sanitation: the danger of dengue fever. We divided ourselves into 4 posts (we had never prepared that in our meeting before), each cellotaped with one poster I and Adriana drew together, and we divided the students as well into 5 groups. Each group contained more or less 10 children and teenagers, and they traveled round the orphanage, listening on our explanation. Only did half of them seriously take the notice on our exegesis. Some were like, to be honest, empty-minded. It was of pretty much success, even though it’s not as magnificent as Edric had brought up in the past.

They missed one of the students the most: my long-time ex-classmate, Evando. Despite the fact that this person is really very mischievous, he had very good interaction with the children and the teenagers.

On the second day, there were more or less 22 other students. When we arrived on the orphanage, most of the children asked, “Where is Kak Evando? We want to go on playing soccer with him.” While things ended up very serious on the first day, the atmosphere on the second day was filled with much fun; self-inflicted fun, if I could say. They did the singing, they did the dancing, and I saw that half of them were puzzled by the lyrics; almost everyone was singing Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me. Probably they even never knew that there is someone out there named Taylor Swift. But when it came to singing Michael Jackson’s Heal The World, all of them had already been familiar with it. I saw contentment among the mentees, but I didn’t see so much fun among them. That’s what I myself witnessed.

The second workshop was on today, and it was almost total failure. Beforehand, we decided to divide the students no longer based on alphabetical order; all students of the same grade (except if there are too many) are accommodated into one class. The problem is, many of the mentors forgot to bring their laptops. Adriana actually brought a laptop, but the problem is, there were no special cables which could connect the projector with Macbooks. Afterwards, I lent my laptop to Handoko and Erick, who taught second-grade students just now, before they passed it to Wilbert, Budi, Eldson, Adriana, Elvira, and Davin, who handled first-grade students. I borrowed Leonardy’s laptop, and Leo himself could not teach on Saturday because he also teaches on another extracurricular program. I myself and Jennifer handled third-grade students, and only 8 of them, out of 30, that were coming. I spent much of the time having interaction with these third-grade students (all of them are from 3-Science-01, and I know some of them pretty well), telling them our experiences. The bulk of the problem was when Leo’s laptop suddenly automatically turned off. When I turned it on, here it went.

It needed a fingerprint identification system. Only Leo is the sole individual who could access it. And he was at the same time teaching other students.

I had to wait almost half an hour for him to come and have his fingerprints scanned. Even after we successfully entered the access and showed them our main materials (that was watching Steve Jobs Stanford Uni. graduation speech), there were technical problems with the execution of the video. It walked down slower, slower, until it stopped.

And the class filled with tenth-grade students was almost like a wild jungle when I entered it. I saw some of them were sitting on tables, laying on them, and walked around doing the talk. The mentors had difficulty in controlling them. And they had to ask my help.

Beforehand, I had asked Winnie Illona for help. I also asked her to bring her laptop so that we could watch the video altogether. And she came after the workshop had ended for almost 10 minutes.

There were actually 3 additional mentors (our mentors) who would also help us, and they are Jesselyn Angellee, Imelda Junaedi, and Yolita, but they are still having their student orientation in USU (University of North Sumatera).

Duh.

I was speechless to see the situation. Out of 3 classes, only the class filled with second-grade students which managed to have the workshop conducted well. I saw Handoko and Erick asked all of them, one by one, to express their opinions in front of the public about the video. My class’ students were doing the homework while waiting for the video. And I sat there, contemplating.

Out there, I still remembered what my mom said. You don’t really have any gifts of the gab. Just tell them to turn down this offer, and as a form of compensation, you can help them by volunteering in the organization.

There was one third-grade student who could console me. That’s Ellora. She clapped my arm while I was desperately looking at the laptop, and said, “Come on, it’s just the beginning! Don’t get discouraged!”.

Resign? That thought had come across in my mind more than dozens of times, but still I insisted on saying ‘no’. I was reminded of a story when Hernan Cortez was on his quest to conquer Aztec-ruled Mexico in 1519. Once, all the ships transporting them from Spain to Mexico were destroyed by a raging storm. At the same time, they had pretty much limited time to repair the ships, and the Aztecs were hunting their heads. Deep in the stage of desperation, he ordered his men to set all the ships on flame, and continued with their quest, despite limited numbers.

In the end, you could see the result. And is this going to succeed? Only fate can decide.

Briefly, a few minutes after getting elected as the new President, I had told the mentors, “I never promise success, but I’ll do my best.” But it seems that only a few of them – perhaps, none of them – really paid the attention to what I am saying about.

Let me end this note with another saying: things that have started must be finished. I can’t desert them in the middle of the road. We are sailing together, through a sea of tumults.

The days I had in SEALNet

Note: none of these pictures was taken by me (actually I took some pictures from Blackberry, but I had problem in moving these pictures to my computers). Photographs were taken by Winny Teh, Imelda Junaedi, and Ricky Chen.

DAY 1: 18 JUNE 2011

It was 6.30 am, a seemingly good Saturday morning. The beker rang. I woke up from my soft mattress, then brushed my teeth, washed my face, spent some time in the toilet for a while, before I had breakfast. A bowl of stewed noodle my family had not finished eating the previous day. By the time it was 7.15 am, I got in to the Toyota Innova. I left my home to school. I spent my time speculating on who was going to join this program. I recalled the members one by one, as my friend, Fannie, had told me three days prior. Some of them I had already either known or simply heard their names. Adriana Salim. Leonardi Kristianto. Hartaty Wijaya. Hartono Wijaya. Edric Subur. Desilia Nilam. Claristy. Before I reached the school, I speculated that Adriana’s elder sister, Adeline, would participate in the program as well (I don’t know how, but I had an instinct that she would). Then I recalled some of my friends. Handoko. Eric Chandra. These two good samaritans. I also asked our class’ number-one-in-parallel-rank-and-class-rank champion, Kelvin Teheri, but whether he made the reason that ‘his parents did not permit him’ or his parents really did not permit him, that’s not my business. I contemplated along the car, wondering on everything. About what class rank I would be. About my mathematic exam, keeping on remembering it was excruciatingly annoying, as I kept on remembering all the mistakes I had done during the test. I found it pretty hard to switch my thought. I was deeply worried about everything that may possibly take place in the future, like someone being feared on his or her already-determined death.

I reached the school gate, walked into the main building, and found out that the Acceleration Class (which had been scheduled for the first workshop) was entirely locked. As if there were no signs of life here. Like a school already abandoned by its students for any unexplainable reasons, like wars or disasters. I messaged one of them, Ricky, and he told that the venue was changed to 2-Science-03, exactly besides our class, X-1. Man alive, I previously thought that they had already forgotten about all of it. There were pretty many of them, all busily arranging chairs and tables. I met Eric Chandra. We had talks for a while, and shared the same concern: he did not perform too well in mathematics and biology. But his name was enlisted in our school’s Mathematics Olympiad Preparation Program. I had a bit doubt on how ‘not well’ did he perform on the mathematics, particularly, whether his not-welllevel was slightly not as bad as I did, who knows?

Time showed 8 am. More students were coming up. There were a few Third-Grade students from the Junior High School appearing. I knew them pretty well. Winnie Jesslyn, once one of the best performing students in Biology Olympiad while in Primary School (and now she joins Physics). Wilbert Rafael Angellee, as some would nick-name as Cimon. Budi Andoro. Anthony Morgan Tjoe (another friend of Winnie who also joins the Physics Olympiad). Eldson, who was my classmate in a Mathematics private tuition center. And all of them are of the same class. The twins, Fannie and Finnie, came. In the long run, Adriana and her elder sister (my intuition was – this time – correct) came together. I still waited for Handoko, and he came up the last.

I thought that these MIT and Stanford students might participate in this program as I previously took a look at Edric Subur’s pictures in Facebook in which he posed together with these smart-brained, intellect-looking students. One of them was Ivana Polim, one of the school’s masters of chemistry (things that either I or my parents could not really comprehend really, really well). And the bunch of visionary students from United States. I was later informed that they had already gone back to these universities for a very long time, but that’s okay, because I did not expect too much from my own intuitions.

We had much fun there. At least it extinguished momentarily all the concerns about my class rank, but I just found it pretty hard to entirely eliminate them. We had an ‘introduction session’ for a while, where all the mentors previously introduced themselves. Here are some things I could remember, unless I’m mistaken: Edric Subur likes swimming, Winny Teh (one of our mentors) likes to dance chaiyya chaiyya; you know, that kind of melancholic Indian song popularized by an Indonesian policeman, Fannie is obssessed in Chemistry, and I, and only I, obsessed in liking chubby girls (except the obese ones). Some were pretty surprised when I told them that I move to Social Stream (if you don’t understand why, read the previous one, Life, as you (will never) know it.); how can a Super-Class student move to such stream like that? Never mind about that, I have been used to adapting to such question asked by many people.

We had a sharing session, firstly. I was on the same group with Edric, one of my friends named Sevien, and Mauren Tanaka. We talked pretty much. About Edric’s decision to enroll in a Hongkong university, about his experiences, stuff about SAT, and many things I hardly ever remembered. Sevien is much more ambitious in learning about investment; and she had a deep interest in becoming a management trainer. Mauren likes things about fashion. And I shared my own, about my interest in learning countries in this world. Afterwards, we had a game. Someone took a newspaper, and opened it wide to hinder us from seeing the guys we were going to guess. We needed to mention their names in no time, as soon as possible. Half of them won (and I could not describe their names one by one) and the other lost. I was the fortunate one that day, together with Handoko and Eric. Later on, we had brainstorming session. Edric, as president of the SEALNet club in Medan, showed us a slide of ‘leadership egg activity’. I had a jocose thought: does he imply that every leader needs ‘egg’ to succeed? Oh, yes. That’s the egg. I mean, the egg we ourselves pictured. Edric was in the same group with us, together with Sevien, Mauren, Fannie, and Wilbert. Particularly I, Fannie, and Sevien talked a lot, switching from one topic to another. From ‘who’s the richest person in Indonesia’ to many ‘what if’ hypotheses, like, what if Indonesia changed to Islamic state (of course it’s very out of the topic presented by that ‘leadership egg’), about Obama’s performance, and many things else. Afterwards, we were all required to make presentation about all the ideas we had spawned during the session.

Afterwards, we had another game session. Divided into 3 groups, we needed to count number as adjusted to the pattern given by our mentor in leaps and bounds. It was a bit intricate, like, for example, A mentions 5, and B mentions 10. Given that there are 10 persons in a group, for example J has mentioned 50, then the structure must be reversed, in which I has to go on mentioning 55, H mentions 60, until the extent the mentor has given. Here, we won repeatedly. I was on the same group with Hartono, Desilia, Adriana, Hartaty, Ricky, and a few others I had totally forgotten their names (and their faces, too).

Then we entered another game session. Here are the rules. We were divided into 3 groups at that time. Each of us had to grab one with our left hand, and another one with our right hand. We formed a circle, and our task was to change our position, but at the same time we had to retain the shape of that circle in the long run. You know, this was not an easy task, especially that we needed to move our bodies any time. Either we moved our heads, or placed our hands much higher or much lower to give space for another to cross (but the person may not released others’ hands). It was like, you know, crossing through a cave merely half the size of your body, and you had to struggle by crawling through it. But we managed to accomplish it, faster than the other groups. Once again, we won.

Here was the last session on the first day: listening to Steve Jobs’ graduation speech at Stanford. The one I had previously seen in TEDTalks. But that does not matter if I had to repeat listening to him once again. I was particularly inspired by the last part, when he talked about life-and-death matters. I was just all in a sudden reminded by Ajahn Brahm’s book. He had also previously written down about the ‘letting-go’ spirit. Steve Jobs let go all the things that had happened to him. Once he was fired from Apple, the company he himself established. He was filled with Slough of Despond for a few months, until he realized that ‘he still loved what he did’. I remembered one chapter from Ajahn Brahm’s book, Opening Your Heart, about the ‘buffalo-dung’ problem. He gave one example: suppose that a naughty person sent you a carton box filled with buffalo’s dung, you are given two options: you take away this piece of shit, bury it, and plant some mango seeds. Within a year (assume there were no droughts), these mango seeds would turn to mango trees. The other option, you put the carton box in another place, therefore it only spread the rotten smell of the dung to the surrounding areas. Steve Jobs had it done sagaciously: he re-planted his seeds of talents, and turned them into NeXT and Pixar (which would later become the world’s most acclaimed animation studio). Eventually, he picked up a sweet ending: Apple’s board asked him to return. More than 10 years later, he was diagnosed with cancer in his prostate, a word that he even had no idea of what it was. And once again, he faced another buffalo-dung problem of his own. Once again, he let it go. I was reminded of another Ajahn Brahm’s lesson: good, bad, who knows? We can’t simply judge something directly as either ‘bad’ or ‘good’. What he requested was only one: no matter how it would be, just FACE IT. And Jobs really faced it. He was lucky enough that after further examination, doctors concluded that the prostate tumour was not as severe as those discovered in common cases. He underwent surgery, and he’s still there, giving the graduation speech. As soon as the video was over, Edric asked us to summarize all the points we had learnt from the video.

On Monday, we visited an orphanage.

DAY 2: 20 JUNE 2011

I was the one who came the latest to school. Days before, Edric had divided us into two groups. First, those who were scheduled to meet together at our city’s largest shopping mall, Sun Plaza (whose houses were located the nearest to this edifice), and those scheduled to gather at our school, SMA Sutomo 1. Time showed 12.10 pm, exactly 20 minutes later from the set time. A few minutes later, we took in Ricky’s Toyota Fortuner.

The school was filled with new students who had just had selection exams. I could not count, but there were hundreds and hundreds of them fulfilling the main park in our school. Outside there, came a little act of quarreling. A woman dressed in Muslim veil was having quarrels with some motorcycle drivers (of which dispute, I had no idea). I watched it at the same time I was walking through. It took time for less than two or three minutes, and the quarreling was over. I looked at the sky. It was shining blue. The temperature was hot and savage. There was a traffic (and it always happens almost everyday).

There were 8 people together with us: me, Eric, Handoko, Ricky, Wilbert, and some of SEALNet members I had yet to mention, like Eldson, Davin, and Jennifer. It was a big vehicle, but I found it a bit unspacious. I can tolerate that; I have been adapted to such this situation when we were en route to Taman Simalem, back and forth, with each trip consuming time for more or less 4 hours. It only took half an hour to reach the orphanage, given that the driver was riding the car fast enough. The orphanage was located in Sunggal, one of the main suburbs in Medan. To reach there, we took routes from Jalan Sekip, retained on the same direction, until we reached Sunggal. We crossed through thousands and thousands of either two-storey or three-storey shophouses, a large shopping mall dubbed Plaza Medan Fair, and a large military command station. As we reached Jalan Muslim (unless I’m mistaken), we turned right, and retained the same direction, until we reached the orphanage. This is the name: Yayasan Pelita Kasih (unless I’m mistaken). It was merely a handful of tens of meters from Tomang Elok, one of the multitudinous elite-only residential areas in this city. Things were utterly different, as if three worlds distanced each other foreseeably. The orphanage made me imagine of a shelter-camp somewhere in a Third World country; the house was entirely made of wood, and the wooden roofs were supported by zinc-made pillars. The house was approximately the size of two regular classrooms, and there were more or less 40 children (and one adult man with Down’s syndrome) inside, being taken care of by a man whose age had reached 40 something. There was a bit contrast when I saw one home besides the orphanage; it was refurbished well, the house painted a bit creamy, and was quite spacious, like a house for a middle-class family in a Second-World country. The sharpest contrast happened when I took a look at the big houses in Tomang Elok. Those which appeared a bit like American-style houses in First World countries, like those I frequently saw in movies. I took one conclusion later on: a seemingly semipternal form of social inequality.

This ‘Sun-Plaza’ group were the first ones to reach the orphanage. Edric instructed us to give a wide smile to every person there. I met the owner of the orphanage. I am deeply sorry that I had forgotten his name, but he was such a nice and kind person that he greeted us with full warmth. Then we had conversation. Some of these children came from Rantau Prapat, some from Bahorok, and some from Berastagi and the surrounding areas. Some of them actually were not orphans; their parents simply boarded out their children here due to financial difficulties they encountered and had to struggle every time. Some had lost one of their parents, either their fathers or their mothers.

With Edric leading the outreach, we first had introductory session. All of us were required to introduce ourselves, describe things that we like to do, and emulate them. Like someone who favors of swimming must mimic any actions of a swimmer. Many of them favored of swimming, soccer, and singing. Only a handful (including me) favored of reading, and only me myself favored of writing. Admittedly, I have forgotten most of their names, except the two (because they played things like crazy, as if they were doing Smackdown). Their names are Jepa and Valen. It was pretty hard to control them. They were not naughty actually; the problem is, they were much peevish.

Afterwards, as the introductory session was over, we again played the ‘guessing’ game like the one we played the previous day. Someone would open wide the newspaper, and all of us had to guess their names in no time, in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, many of us lost, and these kids seemed to have strong memory-related abilities (with one exception: I forgot to keep my name tag in my pocket, which is why it would have been totally easy at all for them to guess my name). We got ‘admonished’, and we had to mimic any actions done by the kids whenever they sing Potong Bebek Angsa, locals’ children song.

The punishment was over, and all of us had to discuss which games we were going to play. They should not be too easy or too intricate at the same time. And we found out one conclusion: we would play some kind of komunikata, a once popular contemporary game in Indonesia. Later on, we modified it. We were divided into 3 groups, together with these children, and as the first person behind us began clapping the back of the person in front of him/her, he/she should have mimicked any action someone behind had whispered to do, and afterwards, claps the back of another person in front of him/her, doing the similar thing, and continually doing so until the foremost one, before he/she yells an answer of what we are all doing. I’ll tell that further. Beforehand, we taught them about basic sanitation. We were divided into more or less 5 groups, and each group consisted of 2 members, plus these children. It was divided into 5 lessons: basic knowledge about the importance of water, toothbrushing, taking a bath, hand-washing, and littering the trash into the dustbins. Honestly, some of these children were quite hard to control. They were so peevish that at times they could go round the orphanage with our unbeknownst. One of the members in my group, Eldson, whispered at me, and complained about these kids. I could hear these sounds, albeit they were quite small. Our seniors who had once joined the previous SEALNet program also complained that these kids, admittedly, were much more difficult to control than those kids in an orphanage they had once visited. To be honest, I had that same sense. But all I could only do was increase the patience. I remembered my mom telling me about my cousin’s experience while participating in a social-work program in Hongkong (she’s my aunt’s only daughter, and they both live there), and she once taught a class of 4th-grade students. Some of them were terribly naughty that they may titillate her and other mentors while they were teaching them basic English. One of them even behaved like a little gangster; without much fear, he sharp-eyedly stared at my cousin, and pulled off the trigger by replying this sentence in Cantonese: who the hell you think you are? You think I’m afraid of you?

As the lesson on basic sanitation was all done, it is time Edric and other mentors performed a drama. As usual, about basic sanitation. He portrayed Bapak Panti, I mean, the head of the orphanage. The rest portrayed the orphans; it lasted for more or less 5 minutes, before the show went on with thekomunikata game. It was held 3 times, and we lost consecutively for 3 times as well. The last game we played on that day was Jumanji, as they named it. This is the rule. We were divided into 5 groups, with each group having a similar animal’s name (and the names were distributed randomly). They used the words lion, cat, butterfly, monkey, and spider. We sat on a circle, and one person stood surrounded by all of us. Once the person mentioned the name of the animal, then those who were given that animal’s name should stand up and change position in no time, together with the person who mentioned the name. The person who failed to grab the seat would be the next person to mention another animal’s name. And the game went on for more or less 10 minutes. Those who lost had to sing a song. The outreach ended at 5 pm, and we were fetched back to Sutomo using Ricky’s car.

As the outreach was over, my own concern over my class ranking again surrounded me. I could feel my heart ticking faster, like someone facing something so formidable that he/she could not even stand to imagine it. I took a deep breath, and it faded. But again it surrounded me, and I took another deep breath. It all happened like a sea wave. Going up and down, going up and down. I stared at my watch. There were only 50 hours left before the results were announced.

I looked at the sky up there. It was turning into dark blue. I reminisced back into the moments we had together with the children, and admittedly, I had quite much concern on them. I could see some of their faces were not that enthusiastic, and honestly I tell you this sentence.

I am a bit skeptical whether this program would really succeed or not.

The front hall of Yayasan Pelita Kasih.

Imelda (left) and Desilia (right).

This boy is Valen, the most peevish among the other kids.

DAY 3: 21 JUNE 2011

I was the second who appeared in the 2-Science-03 Class after Hady, one of our mentors. Time showed 7.40 am, and only there were only 2 of us. It was only more or less 8.20 am after most of the members appeared in the class. And our President was late. The workshop was scheduled to start at 8 am, and it was postponed to a further period of approximately half an hour. But I could still tolerate that, I admit it.

The second workshop was much more serious compared to the first one, as Edric would later teach us about fundraising (they called it elevator pitch), negotiation, and idea-showering skills on what to do on the second outreach. In the fundraising session, we were divided into 5 groups, as usual. This time, Adeline became our tutor. Beforehand, we were shown a sample video about how to fundraise. The person in the video blabbered so fast that I hardly got any ideas on what he was presenting about. But, later on, I heard some keywords about ‘coffee cups’ and ‘million dollars’. Therefore, I concluded that this person wanted to inquire investors to invest their capital in that coffee company (despite the fact that it was all mainly scenario). Afterwards, we played our own. Assume that we met someone so fabulous, and we asked the person to assist us financially to reach our goals. We discussed a lot about the scenario. We named that ‘someone so fabulous’ as George Soros. Fannie came out with her idea of 1000-dollar-program, in which these amounts of money would be used as funds to establish a new orphanage (don’t take it too seriously, it’s all just a scenario, anyway). We would also teach the locals (who built the orphanage) on how to fundraise another thousand dollars. Adeline came out with the idea of installing water purifiers, inspired by our observation on the sanitary conditions of the orphanage the previous day. Wilbert would present about our experience we had in the orphanage, and all the conditions out there. One of our members who was included in our group, Peter Ciang, would explain about the importance of basic hygiene and the consequences due to lacking of it. Another member, Megawati – not that ex-President of Indonesia, explained about SEALNet and its main missions. After on, all of us (except our tutor) presented the scenario in front of the other members, and at least, we did it pretty well.

This was the second session – negotiation. We were divided into more or less 10 groups, with each group consisting of 2. Coincidentally, I was on the same group with Adriana. Here was the scenario presented: I am an international student studying in a country (assume it were America), earned a partial scholarship, and I have recently found a job to cover my annual fees. The problem is, I need a car. And I could only pay 8000 US$ as an initial payment for the car. Afterwards, I met Adriana, who was willing to sell the car. At first, she offered the price at 18,000 US$ – the rest of which I would pay through monthly installments consecutively for 1 year. And that was exclusive of any insurance costs, which, if totalled, would equal to 23,000 US$ (are the insurance costs that high? I don’t have any ideas). After further negotiation, the final prices increased slightly to 23,600 US$ – I would pay 15,600 US$ through a period of 24 months (assume the increment were the interest rates charged at me). It was later found out that she had set the most expensive price for the car compared to the others who managed to earn agreement. There were some groups who failed to reach any agreements, as the car prices were even much more expensive than those Adriana had set. One of our members, Sevien, even set the prices at 30,000 US$. Handoko was the most parsimonious; he and Megawati bargained the prices of the car until it fell down to a mere 9000 US$.

I took a look at my watch. It was already 11 pm. Only a few hours left before I could see the results. The more I thought about it, the more intense my heart was ticking. I inhaled and exhaled as deep as I could, but later on the sense of worriness again plagued me, and I needed to take another deep breath to make it fade away. It was the time for idea-showering session. We all had to discuss what to do on the second outreach. We were divided into 4 groups, and I was on the same group with Budi, Wilbert, Winnie, Hartono, Anthony, Desilia, and Imelda.

Suddenly, I spotted my class’ form teacher, Miss Dahniar, walking past our class. She must have known about all our class ranks. I also saw quite many teachers criss-crossing our class at the same time.

Initially, we were running out of ideas on what to do. After further discussion, we came out with quite many ideas, including crazy dance, newspaper game, life graph, drawing-out-what-you-want-to-be-in-the-future session, and rope game (I’ll explain these games further after this part is over). And the mentors really made use of our ideas.

As soon as the workshop ended, I, Handoko, and Eric immediately rushed into the teachers’ office to take a sneak peek through the human-size windows. Some were busily arranging our evaluation papers, and we waited outside, patiently. After 10 minutes further, our form teacher came out of the teachers’ office, and in no time mentioned our class ranks. Handoko set the record; he earned the first class rank and the first parallel rank as well. Eric earned the 13th in class, and I earned 21st. I was a bit relieved after the teacher secretively informed us our class ranks. But I was also curious on my Mathematics final score and my parallel rank as well; she had no idea about the parallel ranks of the others.

I kept on checking Sutomo’s website to see the results. It was later announced at the homepage that the results could only be seen after 7 pm, the time of which the server that contained the homepage’s data reached overcapacity, and as a result, I could not access the website for more than one hour. Only as the time showed 8.30 pm, I could access the homepage again. Then, an error occurred. Oh, that was my own error, indeed. I input the wrong ID number. As soon as I had typed the ID number and my exam number completely, I pressed ‘Enter’ button.

I was deeply surprised. My parallel rank was 40, and I scored 79 in Mathematics. In the past 3 weeks, I had estimated that my Mathematics score would be in minimum as low as 43.3, and in maximum, 67.7. I was totally wrong. I scored much better than I thought I could.

Here, I was totally relieved. I could enjoy the second outreach without having to feel that fear.

DAY 4: 23 JUNE 2011

I was, again, late. Ricky had previously messaged us that we should have arrived at the school as late as 11.50 pm. But I was not the one who came up the last (I came when the time in my watch showed 12.10 pm). Ricky only appeared 10 minutes after I was waiting in the schoolgate. Before we prepared our visit to the orphanage, we went into the toilets to urinate. After then, we were divided into two groups: the first group took in Adeline’s Toyota Innova, and the second group took in Ricky’s Toyota Fortuner. I took in the Fortuner, together with Sevien, Budi, Wilbert, Anthony, and Leonardi. We reached the orphanage by the time it was 12.40 pm, together with the group who took in Adeline’s car. Edric’s group, who gathered at Sun Plaza, had not arrived yet. We all waved our hands at the children who had been waiting for us in front of the orphanage. Previously, there were some others who could not join the first outreach due to the limited space of all the cars we took in, and there was one who is physically ill. That’s Hartaty.

This time, Handoko did not join the outreach anymore. He’s been in Singapore. My friend, Eric, also didn’t enjoy the second outreach, as usual, due to the limited-space reason, again.

Those who only began to visit the orphanage on the second outreach were asked to introduce themselves. There were quite many of them who could not afford to join the first outreach, so the introductory session lasted until the time almost showed 1 pm. At the same time, Edric’s envoy, who took in Toyota Land Cruiser, arrived at the destination. They took a lot of newspapers, and a lot of snacks. Bapak Panti was the one who arrived the latest.

The first game we played was rope game. Firstly, we were divided into three groups. We joined hands on each other – you know, like those leaders in any business or global summits who would join hands together as signs of ‘friendship’ – and the first person would be draped with a round, plastic rope. We all had to pass the plastic rope into the next person at the same time we should keep on joining heads on each other. The only things that could do such ‘passing’ were our heads, our bodies, and our arms. On how to do it, you had better imagine it or just play the game. We consecutively lost for three times, the similar number the chances were given back to pass the plastic rope. As the ‘punishment’, we sang and danced. Afterwards, here came the ‘newspaper game’. All of us were divided into two-person groups, and coincidentally, I was on the same group with Sevien. Every group was given a sheet of newspaper, and they had to step on it. Here was how the game worked. For example, when Edric yelled, “Two hands, two feet!”, that meant the group should only have two hands and two feet standing exactly on the newspaper. For those whose other members were little kids, that would be so easy. Because if Edric yelled, “One hand, one feet!”, they perhaps would be able to carry on these kids with either their left or right hands at the same time the others touched the newspaper. But, after further reasoning, I found out that was actually difficult, because they had to stand merely on one foot at that time. As time passed, the game became more difficult than I could ever imagine: we all had to fold the newspapers many times, until the newspapers shrank into the size of pocket dictionaries. Far before we were told to fold the newspaper for the first time, we had lost the game. As a punishment, we again had to sing and dance.

The ‘rope game’. We played it together with the kids.

After we all played the ‘newspaper game’, I spent some time reading the newspaper we had once stepped on.

The game session was over. We entered into a more serious one. Beforehand, we were divided into two groups. The first group would assist the teenagers (because there were many teenagers in the orphanage as well) to draw their life graphs. The second group would assist the kids to draw pictures of what they want to be in the future when they have grown up. I was on the second group, and I assisted Jepa, the kid I previously mentioned. By the time I am writing this note, Jepa is more or less 5 years old. Adriana was besides me, and she aided other kids near Jepa. Honestly, I could only remember two more names other than Jepa and Valen: Via and Saut. Jepa firstly wanted to be a soldier, precisely, a captain. Less than 5 minutes later, he changed out his mind, and instead, he wanted to become a butterfly. That’s okay, he’s still a little boy anyway.

Some of them, particularly Via, aspire to be Mathematics teachers. I looked at their paintings; they imagined themselves teaching basic geometry to the primary-class students. Some wish to become doctors, and one of them dreams of being an astronaut. And we all, SEALNet members, also had to draw our pictures as well. I imagine myself typing a keyboard in front of a monitor. Adriana wants to be an entrepreneur in the future (of which businesses, either I or she have no ideas.) Wilbert wants to be an inventor. Budi – unless I’m mistaken – joked to the kids that he wants to be Spongebob. We all had much fun, except one girl, whose name I had forgotten as well, that I saw. She sat in the corner, with a sombre face. Dressed in greyish shirts, she looked like a 15-year-old. I did not have any ideas what she was thinking in her mind until I asked Edric. Here was the origin of the problem. She wanted to be included in the teenagers’ group, but due to the excess of the teenagers, she was instead placed in the children’s group. He told me that she even wept for a while, and at last, reluctantly agreed to be in the children’s group. “She was a bit hard-headed,” That was the last sentence Edric told me. I did my best not to blame anyone here.

During the sharing session with the teenagers. Instead, I joined the children’s group.

As the drawing session was over, the mentors, led by Desilia, taught the children about the names of the body parts in English in form of a children’s song.

Head, shoulder, knees, and toes. Knees and toes. 

Head, shoulder, knees, and toes. Knees and toes. 

Eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. 

Eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. 

We did it repeatedly. We touched our heads, shoulders, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouths, and noses with our fingers. We bent in order to touch the toes many times. After we all sang the song, we went out of the orphanage. We performed the crazy dance, the idea we once proposed. The mentors would record the songs, and we all had to dance as we liked. Once the music stopped, we also had to stop to which extent we were dancing, and posed as crazily as possible. You know, pretending to be statues for a while. Some of us unfortunately did not pose as screwy as Budi; his was more like that of a monkey, I honestly tell you. Those who could not afford to do that successfully may not do the crazy dance.

While we were doing the ‘crazy dance’.

All the moments of exhilaration.

The session was over. We entered another game session. Football game. We made a circle, and we surrounded one person we titled as ‘monkey’. I was not that good in catching ball. I lost two times, and as the ‘punishment’, I had to be a ‘monkey’ to catch the ball when it was thrown by other persons. My body was filled with sweat, and it felt a little sticky. A few hours prior, there was slight rain here. Now, the sun again shined, together with the yellowish blue sky.

The football game.

My self-portrait.

From left to right: Budi, me, Winnie Jesslyn, and Adriana

Until the time was almost 6 pm, the teenagers’ group had not stopped discussing about their dreams in the future. Compared to us, the childrens’ group, they made use of the time much more seriously. I could hear clappings numerous times, but I did not know exactly what they were actually discussing about, because they gathered together in one room where the kids slept inside the orphanage. Some of the mentors who assisted these teenagers told some of us that they wept when they listened to their confessions.

The football-game session ended at more or less 5.20 pm, and all of the members, together with the mentors, made a circle in the main hall of the orphanage, at the same time we waited for the teenagers to finish the discussion. Ricky lured me to confess whose the ‘chubby girl’ that I like, and another one whom I was once attracted. Of course I refused to tell them. It was necessary for me to seal my mouth. The topic switched to films. And to hobbies. And to my own hobby. I told them that I am right now writing a novel, that I never set any limits, and I never set the date it should be published. Admittedly, I don’t like to set my personal goals or deadlines too much (except if they have been too necessary to accomplish, like school projects); they do just make me feel distressed.

Then, the teenagers came out of the room. We soon finished our conversation. We came out of the orphanage, and took some pictures together, before we went back to Sutomo.

I waved my hands at the orphans. There was only one more outreach left. The carnival day.

DAY 5: 25 JUNE 2011

I came a bit earlier that day. Time showed 7.30 am when I arrived there. I saw Hartono gleaming at a class’ display hung over the walls. The display belongs to 2010/2011 3-Science-01 students, and is named adjusted to the class’ name, Musketeers. Many of the Musketeers do join SEALNet, and even one of them eventually becomes its president. Like Edric, Adeline, and one guy who would replace Edric’s position during the carnival day.

We were in a conversation. I waited for anybody to come earlier. In an interval of half an hour, more or less a mere number of 10 had been in the class we use for the program. We did the similar thing everytime we arrived before the workshop began. We arranged the chairs and tables, put some of them outside. We made a square-shaped formation for these chairs and tables; but not a full square, honestly.

Only after time showed almost 8.30 am, the workshop really made a start. And there were new participants. I only got to know one of them, the three newcomers. Her name is Elvira, once a student of IX-02. I had no idea about who the others were. Although I frequently saw their faces in school, I never truly knew from which class they were from. Indeed, honestly, I didn’t pay too much attention when they introduced themselves.

The first session was a bit fun. Edric named it ‘Ninja Shot’. We were divided into 4 groups, and each of us had to ‘attack’ others (and we were given no allowances to ‘hit’ the breasts and the cocks part). For example, the first person is trying to ‘hit’ a second person. As long as the second person is not incurred by the first person’s hands, he/she may be able to hit the third person. Unfortunately, I lost 2 times in the game. But, as a result, there was not any given form of punishment.

In the second session, we were required to structure a story. We were divided into 2 groups. Here are the rules. Every person would be given every copy of every page of a storybook (the storybooks differ among groups). First, what we had to do was to memorize the content of the story. The time allocated was only 5 minutes. Afterwards, we had to determine who was going to tell the story by consecutive order. The story part I would tell was about the introduction. We were given 15 minutes to discuss together about the restructurization of the entire story. We performed it quite well; we did only 1 mistake, and so did the second group.

The final session required the longest time compared with the previous sessions. First, the mentors divided us into 4 groups. We were then given tasks to do a ‘mock-up’ SEALNet project. All we had to do was to imagine that we had been those who managed the program. Edric distributed us 4 articles, with each representing 1 province. They were about the malnutrition cases in Manokwari, West Papua, post-earthquake situation in Padang, West Sumatera, the excessive use of plastic bags in Bali, and sanitary conditions in Aceh province. I was on the same group with Mauren, Budi, Peter, plus Desilia and Imelda as our mentors. After further analysis, we decided to choose Manokwari. We had a preparation of approximately one and a-half hours to think and arrange the solutions to these problems.

It was an activity that greatly squeezed my brain. Even though it was all merely imaginary. We had to think of what these people really want the most, of what the expected outcomes are, of who will benefit particularly from this program, and how we are going to solve it. We considered of this plan: We would send 10 SEALNet mentors to Medan, together with a few specialists on agriculture we initially ‘plan’ to invite from University of North Sumatera. Some of us are going to contact FAO and UNICEF to assist us with advice on how to decrease the number of malnutrition in Papua. To gather much more information, they are also going to contact the province’s local development agency, known in Indonesian as BAPPEDA – Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Daerah/State Development Planning Board, to make a survey on which villages in Manokwari that are affected the most by the malnutrition. (calm down, it’s all our own-made scenario, but who knows that will really take place in the future?) We are also planning to have a talk with the principal of a high school there that we are interested in recruiting students there to become mentees. We set the target, 20 students. They are expected to ease up communication between us and the villagers, as many of them are still incapable of mastering Indonesian language well. We will gather funds from many events, for example, fashion shows, selling chocolates and cookies (Edric once said that one of his mentors, Ivana Polim, used to sell cookies in MIT to gather funds to set up SEALNet in Medan. And there may come up Ivana’s Cookies, who knows?), asking donation in many of our school’s classes, and having co-operation with PT. Coca Cola Indonesia to donate a few millions for the sake of the program we are now doing. We are also planning for talks with the board of directors working in Lion Air to provide us discounts throughout the Medan-Manokwari trip. Papua is rich with food sources, but many of the locals do not know how to make use of them, so we have to introduce them some examples. We are planning to buy some high-quality seeds of these plants from the laboratories of any universities, together with the farming appliances (honestly, all of us do not have any experiences with farming, even when it comes to holding hoe, we’ve never done it for our lifetime.) And, one thing we could not afford to forget: sustainability. After the two-week program is over, we expect the program to go on. We will teach the mentees to set up their own SEALNet chapter (we call it, SEALNet Manokwari Chapter), and they would monitor the progress in the region. Our analysis concluded that we would require as much as 31.2 million rupiah in order to succeed this project.

All of us presented these ideas. There were two groups who opted Manokwari, one group opted Padang, and the other, Bali. To be honest, I was a bit oblivious on what ideas they presented, but leastwise, I remembered a few of them. The group who chose Bali – with members including Anthony, Adriana, Eldson, Elvira, Adeline and Yolita as their mentors, and one more member I didn’t know her name at all – delivered their ideas, least to say, a bit unique. Among the 4 groups, they are expected to spend the least budget, at a mere 2.5 million rupiah for a two-week project in Bali. They would stay in the housing boards, and persuade department stores to exchange plastic bags with paper bags. That’s what I remembered.

The session ended at approximately 1.30 pm. The class was dismissed at nearly 2 pm. And we are preparing for the ‘most tiring day’ we would experience tomorrow, exactly on 26 June 2011.

DAY 6: 26 JUNE 2011

This is our last day in Pelita Kasih Orphanage. Again and again, I arrived the latest compared to the others. Some had been there since 11.30 pm, and I managed to make it on my way when time nearly showed 12.30 pm. We were divided into 2 groups, with most of us taking in Adeline’s Toyota Innova. The rest, Adriana and Winnie Jesslyn, managed to take in Ricky’s Nissan X-Trail. Ricky’s a very professional car driver, but I’ll just later tell you furthermore.

We were involved in conversation, together with Adeline, Eldson, Sevien, and Anthony. My friend, Eric Chandra, remained silent 90% (unless I’m mistaken) of the time taken during the last endeavor. Adeline opts Chem-Eng, the cool slang for Chemical Engineering, in University of Washington. She told us about her experiences. She once had English tuition in Winfield until Secondary level, once with my current English tuition teacher, Miss Erica, when she was in Primary level, and she won a lot of speech and news-reading competitions held in our city. Sevien was the one to start all the conversation, with her asking a lot of questions to Adeline.

By the time we almost reached the orphanage, we switched the topic to finance. I was the domineering one who did the talking the most (admittedly, at some times, I can be very talkative). Finance is the topic Sevien adores the most. I told them about what I saw from Inside Job, the anger-provoking, heart-stopping documentary about the beginning of the 2008 global financial pandemonium. At the same time the car reached the orphanage, I had not finished doing the talking. All right, that does not matter. Ricky’s car came up the earliest. All of them had been in the orphanage when the car was parked besides the orphanage.

As I have written earlier, Edric would not lead us today. Riandy has just returned from Bandung. I thought he was attending some kind of future-leadership conferences (my conjecture was proven totally wrong: he was there only to have some kind of fun trip). They arrived by the time it was 1.10 pm. They had arranged 4 games, and divided the orphans into 2 groups. Every group was then even divided into many sub-groups, with each sub-group consisted of 2 children and 1 teenager. Each sub-group should accomplish every gaming session in order to obtain a sticker. I had difficulties to recognize faces of those who had either played or not played the games. I and Eric were assigned to help Adeline and Winnie Illona (not another name of Winny Teh) about the guessing quiz. They placed and and adhered two sheets of carton papers over the wooden walls. The first sheet consisted of 4 questions about main features of diarrhoea – the disease we had previously explained on the first outreach. Surrounding the first sheet was stickers with each option already written there. All the children had to do was to place these stickers on the exact brackets inside the sheet. The other sheet was about choosing correct pictures on ‘how to prevent diarrhoea’. They had to place stickers that contained pictures inside the 4 circles they had already drawn inside the paper. Besides the guessing game, there were 3 other games contested, like balloon game (two persons faced each other on opposite side, and all they had to do was to make the balloon burst which was clamped between their butts), crazy dance (I’ve told you earlier), and the aqua game (I did not notice on how they played the game). As a result, the first group garnered 29 stickers, and the other earned 30. There was a bit dispute regarding to the results (something that reminded me of every quarreling that took place after a local, governmental election or a football match). In the end, I took the role and tried to calm them down. Actually, it’s not my ideas that let them calm down; it’s all merely my stenorian voice (but I did retain it in a tranquil manner, despite the fact that I almost ‘exploded’).

There was a recess period afterwards. We were given time to discuss what dancing we should do to be presented in front of all of them. I opted Laskar Pelangi, a motivation-inducing song by local pop-rock band, Nidji. We would do it together with Adriana, Winnie Jesslyn, Sevien, Anthony, Wilbert, Eric, and Eldson. The others would do the ‘chiky dance’ (apologies for any misspelling). Beforehand, Riandy asked the kids to do Scavenger Hunt. First, the kids were divided into 5 groups, and they had to do 14 activities together, with each monitored by one member, in consecutive order. Previously, Riandy had divided us the stickers, indicating which number we were in, and where we should stand in. For example, the first person had to ask the children to sing a song (adjusted to the sticker’s content), and after they did it, they would go to the second person, and did another thing as already written from the sticker aimed to the second person. I had no idea on who invented such bureaucratic game like Scavenger Hunt.

After the session was over, here came the ‘dancing’ session. First, the children danced as bapak panti  began to play the music of the electronic organ. There were 4 songs, and some of them were gospels. On the fourth song, they pulled us one by one, and as we made our own dancing style, all of them would follow. To be honest, I was more like doing gymnastics aimed for pregnant women than truly dancing at all. They would have guffawed whenever they saw I did it.

Afterwards, we performed Laskar Pelangi. We did the dance by our own. I listened to its lyrics, and I found out something. The song’s content was vividly connected with them. This song was the soundtrack of the film of the same name, also taken from a best-selling novel of the same name (too repetitive?). The novel itself was based on a true story of the author itself, Andrea Hirata, who grew up in poor conditions in his homeland, Pulau Belitung. He and his friends formed what would be the ‘rainbow league’, and of what would be later known as globally-known Laskar Pelangi. These kids had the big dreams, and I believed these orphans also had the similar dreams as well.

Honestly, I almost cried when I sang this song, and furthermore, my eyes would be filled with a bit tears everytime I listened to it.

The touching part was later replaced with the crazy part. We were all asked to perform Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. We didn’t have to sing the lyrics; all we had to do was just move our bodies, as if we were somewhere in a merry-making nightclub. This was also the first time in my lifetime I danced with a girl (first, with Adriana, and the second, with Winnie Illona). Nevertheless, the most important part is, I felt the ‘freedom’. I did not know where and what enzyme in my brain stimulated that excitement, but in dancing, I felt like I was not being me myself. A bibliopolic bookworm like me suddenly changed into a man running wild. Especially when I did the dancing with the girls (and the boys as well). Suddenly I remembered again another lesson from Ajahn Brahm. The importance of removing self-identification. Only some time when he truly lived his life as a ‘professional Buddhist monk’. At another time, he could be like a comedian. At another and another time, he could be somewhat a free-of-charge consultant. He stressed out the importance of not only doing one thing that we like; we have to find another field that could also increase our happiness. You don’t have to adhere to the status of being ‘A’ all the time; you can be ‘B’ during spare time. That’s what I’ve discovered that day. I don’t have to let the status of a serious bookworm clings to me in my lifetime; I can be anyone I want to be.

All of us did the dancing part, altogether. We were so exasperated, but that was where we found the contentment. In state of boredom, we would never always have that kind of excitement. We realized that we had many things to do in SEALNet, but the pleasure it gave was priceless compared to simply playing online games, or doing shop-till-you-drop in malls, or spending the time writing without having any experiences garnered. The similar thing that I myself earned when I was in Taman Simalem, especially during the jungle trek and my observation towards the starry starry night.

Holiday is not the time to let me die in boredom; I need to do my best to make use of the 40-day period well.

Time seems to have walked faster, though we do not vividly feel it. Scientists said (as quoted from a magazine I had been oblivious on what its name was and when I found it) that there is a clear relationship between earth-and-moon-distance with the time it passes through. The further the moon from the earth is, the faster the time passes. Unless I’m mistaken, they sum it up as ‘one-second acceleration’ every year the moon distances itself further from our little, brittle planet. (anybody who’s the unsinkable master of Physics, please explain to me.) And I could feel that way. One week seemed too fast once it’s all over, but one week seemed quite slow when it’s all happening.

I had forgotten the name of the orphanage chief (seems like I had to ask my friends what his name is). But he is a very kind and friendly man. In the past, I only used to feel the sense of humanity by watching from TV shows, or listening to any inspirational programs, or reading any motivation-inducing stories. This time, I felt it. I felt it, directly, deep into my heart. There is a kind of contentment I could not describe. It all happened very swiftly.

First, there were half of us who distributed packs of snacks and stationery items for the kids. And I made my own initiative. First, I was afraid when I decided to donate two motivation books (the titles were Champion! and Fight Like A Tiger, Win Like A Champion, both written by Darmadi Darmawangsa). It’s not because I was reluctant to do so; I was just afraid whether they would really read them or not. Suddenly, I was reminded the moment when I gave Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret to our family’s ex-servant last year. She’s now married, and lives in Dumai, Riau. She had ever told me that she really wanted to read the book the most. And I made a bold decision to bequeath it to her. I did not regret – and never regret it – if I had to lose 100 thousand rupiah (the cost of the book), but happiness was unchargeable with any costs. I just felt like I had to bequeath these books, because they are no longer truly my own – and I will never own them forever. I had never read them for 2 years, more or less. I just felt that I should ‘do that’, I had to let them go.

When I gave these motivation books to bapak panti, suddenly I sobbed. Again, I felt like I was not truly me. As if some kind of maudlin spirit had possessed into my body. There was some kind of redemption, and it happened instantaneously. I felt like I was totally free. Free of what, I did not have any ideas. However, the most important thing I could ever tell you was I was free. I felt free after I let them go. That’s all.

We came out of the orphanage, and we took pictures altogether. We shook hands and hugged each other, hoping for success and happiness in the future.

To be honest, there were many other things I wanted to tell you. But I think the ending part suited the most here. Actually we still have the closing ceremony, but I’ve thought that it’s enough that I end it here.

I pray that we will meet again altogether, on a very one fine day.

One fine day.

We took the picture with these kids for the last time. Despite the fact I am still a bit skeptic, I have been hardwired to be optimistic.

 

The mentees, in the closing ceremony.

First row: Leonardy Kristianto

Second row (left to right): Anthony Morgan Tjoe, Winnie Jesslyn, Adriana

Third row (left to right): Jennifer Lie, Sevien, Eldson (the one that hugs me), Wilbert (we had the closing ceremony in his home, on 28th June), and Hartono Wijaya

Fourth row: that’s me!

Our beloved mentors.

First row: Riandy, three huddling women in the sofa (left to right): Jesselyn (Wilbert’s elder sister), Adeline, and Yolita, Winnie Illona, Desilia, Edric (the one who’s behind Desi), and Ricky

Second row: Hady, and Joshua (the one whose head was in horizontal position by the time the picture was taken)