Monday, October 12, 2015

When I came back from United States to Jakarta, I had to attend a launching event for contraceptive and family planning app which I considered as my baby since one year ago. I met my partner there, who is a citizen of US and asked me, "So Puspita, how was the big sky?"

I answered with basic stuff like "it was beautiful, Rob. Especially the Glacier." And he then surprised that I made it to the Glacier National Park. But deep inside, my answer is not as simple as that. There are thousand stories about The Big Sky for me. Thousand memories. And here are the stories.


In the end of 2014, I remember that I got an email near Christmas from an amazing woman whom I met in my campus a year before to consult my deer welfare project in my campus. She is an expert in Comparative Psychology from University of Queensland and has researches as well as publications in comparing cognitive ability between Orang Utan and human. She was the first one who came from Psychology background who inspired me to do something in Conservation. She originally comes from Australia, but then decided to move to Aceh to involve in its environmental protection. She emailed me an opportunity to apply YSEALI - Young Southeast Asia Leadership Initiative, and she really encouraged me to do so. So I did apply.

That was the story of how I could be in US for five weeks, learning global environmental issue from the basic theories, discussion, in field, volunteerism, ideal conference, and turn it into real implementation. That was the first time that I had been told that there is no 100% conservation. At the end of the day, economy and industry must be part of it. That was the first time I witness how indigenous people can be fully respected and many scientists from different background can listen to each other respectfully. That was the first time I feel safe to hike by myself, or going anywhere alone by biking. And another first time experiences which are special for me.

There are 3 places that I visited during this program, Missoula (Montana), New Orleans (Louisiana), and Washington DC. And I have to admit (for someone who keeps telling me that Missoula is beautiful), yes - Missoula is my favorite place between those three cities. I like seafood and music in New Orleans, and I fell for museums and humidity in Washington DC. But Missoula is mysterious, quiet, and calm. The city is lived by well-educated population and the residents have a high level of altruism. The first person who impressed me about the altruism was Shanti, one of our Graduate Teaching Assistants.

She was never stop smiling and gave positive encouragement for us. Shanti and I share a similarity - name origin. Her name was adapted from India, mine as well - Javanese ancient language was much influenced by Hindi. We both are given name from a culture that is different from ours (religion, place). In Sanskrit language, Shanti means peace or a state of tranquility, meanwhile Puspita means flower. She told the history about her name after roping activities in our second day of orientation. According to Name-Letter Effect Theory, we have implicit self-esteem that is reflected by our favoritism toward our name and initial, that is why I always consider name is important for each individual. It makes Shanti is interesting in my eyes and it makes me unconsciously observed how she react toward other's actions. She is always willing to help other and find best solutions, and she always, always smiling. I think my group will be agree with me that Shanti made our days in Missoula. She would come early to pick us up or lead us biking, and we never saw her get tired. I am sure she was tired every night to face 20 energetic people but at the end of the day she put smile on her lips - which I know sometimes it is very hard to do.

John Vaillant Gave Speech
Education is the next part. I saw how Missoula has a really good reading culture. The discussion at Community in The Confluence, book festival, and one that was most important for me was session with John Vaillant, the author of book The Tiger. It was a story about himself went to Russia and what interesting from the book is how he describes political condition in Russia at that time and links it to tiger conservation. At the end of the event, I came to him and asked for his sign. He greeted me and asked what makes his book interesting for me. I told him about my passion in animal and illegal poaching. He said he also heard about Sumatran Tiger, and has a friend that involved in the conservation effort. Then he wrote in my book, "Dear Puspita, Thanks for the works." Not just me, I saw how people obsessed with this book and having great discussion after it with him. Mel - our Program Manager, also lend me a book titled Wolves in The Land of Salmon - a good one, I like how Moskowitz describes the circle of the wolves, so it is no just about the wolves but also their preys and habitat. Their preys are described in detail including their needs and characteristics. It shows how one being lives never separately with another beings. So like what Buddha said, may all living beings be well and happy - if we want to be happy, don’t forget about other's happiness. These books feed my brain with happiness.

Deep conversation is also a part of Missoula that I like at the utmost. Back in home, I often find good thought and conversation when I traveled by myself to far city in Java island and start to talk with stranger. I ever went to Surabaya, which is located about 700 km from Jakarta by train and I talked with a girl who studied there by herself about city improvement. Or when I went to Belitung - 400 km from Jakarta, spent my last day separated from group, then had talk with a stranger about city history and museums improvement. Here in Missoula, I don’t have to go faraway to find a high quality discussion.  My favorite was with Jami, one of the GTAs in the middle of break, waiting everyone to get pray. We talked about linearity of study and implementing our expertise in another field. I also love my discussion with Pat - another GTA, about Missoula itself - its population, trend, calmness, and others. I remembered my discussion with Peter as well about religiosity in Deena's house while we had potluck dinner, and it was interesting as well. Talking about atheistic value and conversion, math that I believe is involved in religion, and so on. I enjoyed conversation with Nick about volcanoes, family planning, and coffee in a bus when we were going back from Butte. And a really good conversation with Deena (but happened in DC) about politics in Indonesia around 1997. I also had two professors as my homestay parents, and it was very amazing. I often talked to Kari, my homestay mother about equality especially in domestic works, while I could talk about politics and education system with Terry - my homestay father. I also could talk about animal behavior with Ming - their lovely daughter and her education system in school. I never heard a high school student criticized her own school educational system from a very mature perspective.

I was Afraid Indeed
Travel is the last part that I want to share in this writing. Afraid it will be too long, I would say Missoula has a different mysterious ambience in its trails. After I count it, I have hiked 8 times to 7 different trails in Missoula. Few of it I did it by myself - not because I don’t want to go with someone else but I wanted to do contemplation. So I packed my things and I was little bit afraid because in Indonesia, I never hike alone - it is prohibited here according to safety rules. I double checked all my things to ensure I wouldn’t get lost, starve, thirst, and on time. Then I took my first step - tried to remember what Lao Tzu said: "thousand miles journey begins with a first step". So I went to Hellgate Canyon trail, and it was quiet. No one's there, so my company is just the wind. Nick, one of the GTAs and Dr. Len, my project supervisor, recommended me to this trail. Several times I stopped for a while, just thinking, and eat chocolate. Seeing some birds in the trees and wondering why they are so silent. Morning to afternoon is time for bird to forage, out of nest. But nevermind, maybe they were welcoming me. At the end of the trail I met some people and say hi. I sat, and gazed at Missoula city from above. Some birds stayed in the trees near me and it was calming. Missoula inspired me about sustainable agriculture, perspective integrations, discussions, respect, and to commune.

Contemplating in Trail Like This
In that quiet contemplation, I arranged my plan as soon as I arrived in Indonesia and now I am working on it. Every time I meet people now is different than before I joined this program. I can be more respectful for people's uniqueness and respect their own personal choice - but in other hand, I am more respectful to myself for my vision, and my rights. I would say thanks to Lucia - one of another members from Vietnam, for our deep conversation under the moon when we got back from Lafayette. All stories that made me as I am now, and what we are now. I hope Lucia will remind me as I remind her as a great inspiring woman, and someday we will share the story after we met that time in the US.

My Contemplating Place
However, I believe that everyone will be a great storyteller when they arrived in home, just like me. Because I believe in Ibn Battuta's words, that traveling can leave you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. Story can bring people together and trigger a discussion, and there is no problem that can be solved without a discussion.

Start a story today. We won't regret.

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  1. Great story after long time have no read your blog.
    So, how good USA as you see? is that better than Indonesia to live there?
    Are you still meditating to contemplating yourself as you write in your previous blog?

    1. Hi anonymous,
      well a Singaporean sign told me that "home is where your heart is", and no matter how good USA is, Indonesia is where my heart is.
      Contemplation is a never ending process in a lifetime. So yeah, I am still doing it.

    2. Hahaha, Cool!
      You are so inspiring. Keep walking, traveling and inspiring others.
      anyway, what plan that you arranged in your contemplation, may i know? #kepo

    3. Thanks.
      Hmmm, it wouldn't be a good plan if I tell you - whom I don't know, though.


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