My Story on UGRAD (Part 3)

March 12th, 2018

Spring break is over. Time flies so fast, I can’t even blink my eyes. Naturally, the students will have a vacation with their families. Most UGRADers went on a trip to the big states like California, Florida, Los Angeles, etc. on spring break, the campus is off for 12 days. I was really confused where to visit. My Indonesian friends asked me to go to Grand Canyon. I rejected it because it was going to spend $500 approximately and I couldn’t afford it. I was ready to be left alone on the dorm because it was going to empty.

My Thai friend who also happens to be my classmate. He informed me that there was a mission trip for 10 days in Montana. Two questions popped on my mind: What is mission trip? And where is Montana? But since it was free, without further thoughts I bought off on that offer. I emailed one of the persons in charge to confirm my participation.

Mission trip is an activity organized by church to travel far away and to toughen our faith by contributing to our society (my own definition). it usually takes place on a remote or underdeveloped area. It is also held to share the love of God.

The day had come. All of us were gathered in front of the church to decide who’s going with whose cars. This mission trip was followed by 40 people in total (I guess, I didn’t count), 6 of them are the facilitators and others are the “toddlers’’.

The trip to Montana by land transportation would approximately take 13 hours, if we went straight without staying over but it was not going to be fun at all. So, we were going nomadic. The route we had to pass through was Minnesota – South Dakota – Wyoming – Montana. We spent the first day in South Dakota and slept over on the church. on the evening, we played the board games and cards while introducing ourselves. It was really awkward the first time but after a while we could get along. At the night, we sang the Christian songs and heard the preach from the Pastor. The Pastor was hella wise and funny. The second day we made it to Montana. it was freezing all over the way with oxes and horses as distant as eyes could see.

In Montana, we visited the Crow Reservation. It is established to nurture the Native Americans Tribe. We were welcomed by Pastor Dan, the man who has run the church in the Crow Reservation for years. He also preached us. His warming and charming attitude melted our heart. His passion for serving God has been honed. His grit has made him a formidable being. He also told us about the story of Native Americans. I could be wide awake for nights just to listen to his extraordinary stories. After that we went to the Gymnasium by the school and stayed there.

On day fourth, we visited the school. we came to the school to do anything that the school wanted us to do.  In the morning, we had the breakfast with the kids and mingled with the kids. We were greeted with warmth and sincerity. These kids were fun to talk with too. I don’t know how they could be so nice to the persons they just met.

We divided the troupe into two based on the job description. One group would work in the school whereas the other one would go to the church. I decided to stay on the school and played with the kids. The “school” group helped the kids with reading, decorating the schools, cleaning the classroom, becoming the facilitators that the teachers could use to bolster the learning process. I and some friends were happened to help one the science teacher to create a renewable energy using the manure and the straws. My hands and my feet were freezing since we had to shovel the wood chips and the snow got into my shoes. We spent three days on this school.

on day sixth, we visited one the museum that consists the evidence of the Native American Civilization named The Battle of the Big Horn Museum.  We also had the chance to watch the documentary movies in that museum. One of the keepers took us out and escorted us to see the Last Stand. The place where hundreds of Native Americans and soldiers of the United States were died to fight for the land. I could also amaze myself by seeing the graves of these honored fighters.

On day seventh, it was the time for culinary exploration. We one of the most authentic native American restaurants in Montana. The offered menu was distinct, I could only find it this restaurant. While waiting for our orders, we were cheered with the servant who could impersonate the horse neighing. This restaurant was happened to sell the souvenirs too. I bought one for my mother. In front of the restaurant, I could see tiipii lining up, tiipii is the house for Native Americans.

On day eighth, we went back home. We farewell all the kids and Pastor Dan. He even cried when we left. He promised to pay a visit to Mankato. We departed from Montana on early morning to catch the day. On the way back home, we stopped by the Mount Rushmore to take some photos. This place is considered to be one most iconic destinations in the United States. I once saw this place on the movie called the National Treasure and I finally made it. What a dream come true!

March 19th, 2018

After a long break, the moment to prove my seriousness on studying was contested, the Mid Term. It was really stressful and intense because this might influence my stay in United States. The fear consumed my body and thoughts. I believe that scariness emerges because of lack of preparation. I spent the whole spring break for vacation. So, you know how bad my preps are. I literally had a few days to recall all the materials but I was whacked by the long trip.

The fear itself encouraged to optimize the short time that I had. I went to the library till night, packed my whole meals and brought to my room, reduced my sleep time. I could not let this slip. I could not sleep well, me eyes turned red and felt so exhausted. You win some, you lose some. That’s what I’ve always been reminded.

I am the type of person who cannot study by self. I need group or at least one person whom I can discuss with. That’s how I nail a new notion on my head. I speak it, I memorize it. With this method, I can learn twice faster than alone. Unfortunately, there was none a single person I who wanted to learn together. I kind of felt that they are already smart and genius and could figure everything out themselves. That happened to the four courses but not with U.S Government. This Thai friend of mine agreed to be my partner in exam.

The U.S Government compared to the other four was the hardest for me. This course is still new for me and I did not have any basis. I can easily understand anything with calculation but when it comes to history and memorizing. I am the complete opposite. this course requires me to read some thick books with some their hard vocabularies. If I were to calculate the time I have to spend to read a page, it would take 10 minutes or something. I was going to fail this course. I spent most of my time to learn this course, even more than the over four combined. I studied day and night with my Thai friend.

The day had come. Some were online exams and some were not. I did pretty good on the online ones because the results were shown right after the exams were done. The written ones are in progress. I think my effort has already paid off.

It was quite tense during the class exams. Almost in every exam, I became the last person who left the room while other were 20 to 30 minutes in advance. The questions were not so hard actually but I was just startled with their confidence. I don’t think they double – checked their answers. But, it made me went crazy just to see them one by one turning in their sheets. Some might not bother but I do. After a few moment, I controlled my emotions and back on track. I rechecked everything over and over again until I am certain.

March 26th, 2018

I have mentioned earlier about how proud I am to be Indonesian, haven’t I? this week I had an opportunity to visit Indonesian bataknese family in Minneapolis.  This person happens to be a professor in MNSU. Actually, we have talked a few times directly and through email. So, yeah, he invited me over to his house.

On last Friday, he told me to come to his office with my personal belongings packed so we could drive to his house together. It took only two hours drive. On the way to his house, I asked him so many questions from the common questions to the craziest ones. He sure did answer all my questions with style. I adore his personality who is honest. He also taught me about modesty and life fulfillment. One of the most fabulous things I couldn’t be more amazed of is how he never loses his Indonesian accent even when he is speaking English. He has been living in the U.S for more than 10 years but I could totally see him as completely an Indonesian with advance thoughts and brilliant mind.

Arriving at his home, I was warmly welcomed by his wife and his only son. They catered me food. I spent that night just to know them better through their stories and advices. Never I felt wiser than ever.

I spent three days with them. They took me everywhere, some of them were famous places. They took me to see the Mall of America, the biggest Mall in America. it was really huge. I felt like I was lost and needed a map just to find out the exit sign.  That’s how big it is. The playground is also great. Many people from other states stopped by just to play. In America, specifically in Minnesota, the winter is extremely hard, so it is all indoor. It was quite pricey though. That’s why I only wandered, window shopped, and took some pictures whenever I found something cool.

I also visited an iconic place nearby named Saint Anthony Heritage Trail Falls. Nearby, built a bridge which connects Twin Cities and Minneapolis. This bridge is so crucial because it is the mute witness how this city built from nothing. The professor said that the scenery would be better on summer where I could enjoy the river stream and stay warm. On shiny day, I could also go down and play with the water.

April 2nd, 2018

A week has passed and my lust to explore Minnesota is still on fire. All Indonesian students in Minnesota are automatically joined on Persatuan Mahasiswa Indonesia di Minnesota (PERMIAS). Few days ago, we were invited to attend the Indonesian night in which all the students in Minnesota were summoned. This annual event took place on University of Minnesota since it has the largest Indonesian population.

I and all of Indonesian friends from Mankato came earlier in order to meet more Indonesian people but apparently, we were late. when we showed up the show has been begun already.

I am deeply honored to come to this event since some of the successful Indonesian figure would be the panelists. These persons have proven that they can be who they are now from the bottom. It was a pure inspiration. One of them was the General Manager of Apple Inc, one works for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M), one was the Gamelan expertise, the other one was the old lady who has been surviving living the US. They all shared on how they found success and how to surviving while holding their values in the US.

I can tell those panelists are exactly as they said just from the way they talk. They were being honest. They have sacrificed a lot of things to get to where they are right now. I am positive that they will be something beyond in the future. Their pep talks were really burning, it turns my zeal on.

I am not inspired to those people who can be crazy rich because of their parents’ money. Literally everybody can do it with a little effort. I am crazy to see people who turn nothing into something. I am the living witness to see that it could happen because I have seen it directly from this panel discussion.

This sharing session was interspersed by the Indonesian traditional dance and music. The dance performed was Saman and the musical instrument played was Angklung. The performance was actually very common but the way the students live Indonesian culture is worthy of standing ovation. They were probably didn’t get paid for performing and the rehearsal was so much tiring because they also had to sneak behind their tight college schedules. What can we say, love would make us do everything.

Upon the completion of the discussion, we were served with Indonesian food. That was the perfect time to broaden my networking. Sure enough I have made some new friends who have different majors but still good tho. We talked in Bahasa all over the Auditorium and the lobby. That was really cool.

I made it to meet the panelists in person. I still didn’t have that much courage to ask them question as if I’m not worthy of it but my friends were really passionate about digging as much as information from these people. I just followed them, responded them, and wondered how could persons these great become so modest.

To be continued to 4th part.