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Ambassador

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One morning with Johannes and Astrid

I’ve been an active member of Couchsurfing since 2012 and so far I am beyond grateful to encounter and interact with many wonderful people along the way. This week we hosted two German travelers, Johannes and Astrid, through Couchsurfing platform (yess.. we’re now hosting again after more than a year off). They have been traveling by bike for fourteen months now, started from Armenia through Iran, some ex Soviet countries, Mongolia, China, India and Southeast Asian countries.

Since Chendra and I had to work during day time, we tried to spend time together during evening, particularly to introduce various Indonesian delicacies. Angkringan, Gudeg (basah) and Bakmi Jawa are some of them. “I don’t really like jackfruit,” said Astrid when I explained what gudeg is made from. But gudeg has changed her mind. Haha… “It’s so delicious. I like it!” was her final verdict. 

They also enjoyed eating with hands like locals when we brought them to our all-time-favorite Warung Spesial Sambal (SS) . I ordered two kinds of sambal that I rated as spicy and not so spicy. But then Johannes said, “Icha, when you said not spicy, it means spicy. And when you said spicy, I know it would be very very spicy.” I just laughed.

 

On our way home one night, Astrid said, “Icha, if you decided to resign from your job, you can always be a guide anytime. We enjoyed so much our trip with you, as well as all the food and activities recommendations.” (btw she was very impressed with the batik workshop activity that I recommended them to do in a workshop not far from our house.)

Thanks, Astrid. I take it as a compliment.  

I always remember what my Dad said more than ten years ago when I was flying overseas for the first time.

“Wherever you are, you’re an ‘ambassador’. Now that you’re going to another country, you’re an ambassador of our beloved country, Indonesia. As a muslim, you’re also an ambassador of Islam. Be good everywhere you are because you represent where you are from, what your religion is, and so on. Be a good ambassador.” – Dad

Thanks, Dad, for your valuable words. :”)

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A few days ago, Johannes and Astrid hit the road again. Next destination: Mount Kelud. They said it would take four days to reach it by bike with some stops to take a rest. Before they left, we promised to stay in touch. The message from Johannes one night really warmed my heart. He told me about a family somewhere in Wonogiri who provided them shelter despite only knowing them that day. You know… this is what makes me believe that there are still a lot of good and sincere people out there. :”) Thank you, Ibu, Bapak and the whole family for being a truly ambassador of Indonesian kindness.

 

Also, Johannes’ experience reminds me to a part of story in a book I’m currently reading. Its title is ‘Indonesia Etc.’ by Elizabeth Pisani. The author traveled around Indonesia in 2011, even to most remote areas that I’ve never imagined I would visit (since we have more than 17,000 islands, if that could be an excuse).

Several times, people in the towns we stopped in called me in off the streets and offered me the use of their bathroom so that I could scrub away the grime of the voyage. When I thanked people for the gifts of cake, companionship, cleanliness, they would wave me away. ‘Nonsense, nonsense. You’d do exactly the same for me over there!’ I knew it wasn’t true, and it made me all the more grateful.
– Elizabeth Pisani in ‘Indonesia Etc.’

For those who are traveling, simple good deed like this really matters. It’s what keeps them travel, unveil the world’s beauty, and keep faith in humanity. Although those experiences happened particularly in Indonesia, I am sure kindness actually has no border.

I envy (of course in good way ;)) Johannes and Astrid for all the experiences, the ups and downs they have been through for the past fourteen months. I am sure this journey has brought them to the next level of love and understanding in their relationship as a married couple. Chendra and I have always wanted to do it, too. Probably not by bike, but surely we want to do a road trip. Insha Allah. 

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