AIYEP 2019 Journey: Two Families, A Two Times Better Me

Oleh : Khamidah Sulistiya Rini Nurman (AIYEP 2019)

I used to live in a strongly communal society which pretty much affected the way I am treated. In that kind of community, togetherness becomes the most fundamental principle, other than valuing hierarchical aspect. Then, being far away from home left me being insecure, would I be able to adapt to the new environment which culture is totally different from mine? Canberra became the first place for me to find out the result of the battle between me versus my insecurity, where I became part of a new family.
Speaking further about the concept of family, in Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program, the delegates are given the privilege to stay with a family for one month, which is aimed at letting them experience intercultural exchange through exposure to a host family. Systematically, the delegates will be placed in the family with similar visions and interests, meaning that each of them will have at least two host families for Australia phase, one for the rural phase, and the other for the city phase. I believe that the stories each delegate creates when they are living with host families will become the most unforgettable memories. Mine is quite unique, because I lived with two families at a time.
The story began after the orientation phase given by AFS done, everybody was picked up by their host families, having a great afternoon tea while briefly introducing themselves to each other, but Chiko and I. Of course, the Program Coordinator had told me about this earlier, but still seeing all of those warm interactions left me sitting on the table alone uncomfortably. After that session, Ibu Nenen—the assistant coordinator for Canberra phase— and her family were to be my host family for the first four days. Surprisingly, Bu Nenen’s husband and daughter also came to pick us up, what a very heartwarming moment. I believed that I did not need to worry about my insecurity no more, because Bu Nenen is Indonesian, but turned out that her husband, Pak John, is an Australian, and their daughter, Nuala, does not speak Indonesian at all. These were challenges for me.
Bu Nenen’s family really prioritize children’s well-being, Nuala never went to bed later than 8 p.m. Following that, their activities also usually stopped around 9 or 10 p.m. Living this way makes me aware that it is really important giving proper amount of time for our body to rest, for in the next day the activities can be done optimally. But, it does not mean that their time of interaction is less, because based on my observation, they can fully managed their limited time best, for example while preparing the dinner, not only Bu Nenen cook, but Pak John and Nuala come to help. They shared how their day was. After dinner, they managed to play some game with Nuala, sometimes board game, musical instrument, or simply watching television or Youtube together. This activity is very wholesome, I believe that this is what also makes the member of the family getting close to each other, even for me who only spent four days of living with them, they treat me no different. They cook roast lamb for me, Nuala taught me some Australian children hype game. I might stay with them for only a short time, but the moment and memories would last a lifetime.
Afterwards, I moved to live with my actual host family, The Mitchells. It was just another surprise I kept getting, because Emily and Tim were quite young mother and father for Baby Annika, at first I think that this would just be another challenge for me. Living with the Mitchells taught me how to respect each other culture as Emily is originally a Singaporean-Chinese and Tim is an Australian. They showed me how to be equally responsible to take care of Annika. I could also get a chance to see how a kid is taught at home on the daily basis in Australia. They taught me how to play various board games in this vast world, meeting up with their friends, having warm afternoon tea conversation, walked me to the mini China town in Dickson despite of their busy work time, and letting me experience the Halloween vibe in our neighborhood; what an experience! At the end of the day, I cannot thank God enough for this blessing.
Finally to answer the question in the beginning of this essay about who won the battle, I would definitely say it was me, not my insecurity. I can conclude that despite of what culture embodied within you, love and humanity are equally similar everywhere. Be open to new ways of people embracing their values; living in two families for Canberra phase had me more aware of this issue.

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