“ Any Yogyakartan — any Indonesian really — who has the opportunity to go abroad [should] be an ambassador. As long as they present a positive image about our country, that’s an ambassador.”
That is what Tazbir Abdullah, head of Yogyakarta’s tourism agency, told the seven members of Forum Cinta Anak Bangsa (Love the Nation’s Children Forum) before they started a global trek to represent Indonesia and spread friendship around the world.
And yes, that’s global trek in a literal sense.
These young cultural ambassadors will spend most of the next five years journeying to 193 countries and they’ll be doing it primarily on foot.
The epic journey kicked off when the group departed from Yogyakarta on Nov. 10.
Today, the young travelers have already trekked deep into Australia, spreading a message of harmony and tolerance along the way.
The group, which is made up of five men and two women, said they intentionally made the decision to travel on foot in an effort to soak up as many details as possible about the different cultures of each community through which they are planning to pass.
They also have a secondary mission of promoting Indonesia in general and Yogyakarta in particular.
“Our experience has shown us that walking allows you make stronger bonds with the people you meet. To us, walking always involves talking to people we meet and collecting knowledge from them,” said Daud Wiryo Hadinagoro, the 50-year-old leader of the troop.
Daud, who runs a batik business when he isn’t off trekking the world, founded Forum Cinta Anak Bangsa in Yogyakarta in 1997 to give university and senior high school students a place to get assistance for education-related problems.
As a melting pot for students from various ethnic groups, the forum is now represented by the seven young globetrotters who are keen to spread the word that Yogyakarta is not only a city of tourism, culture and education, but also a city of tolerance.
Their mission’s official motto — Cultural Learning as a Medium for Establishing Friendship — doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but in practice, it’s simple.
Be curious and respectful of other people’s culture and, chances are, they’ll become a friend.
“We will start with Australia, trekking through Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth. We have taken those snakes in the desert into consideration,” Daud said with a laugh.
“We have friends who will help us identify danger zones during our travels. As long as there are communities, even if they’re in the desert, we will walk out to greet them.”
Daud believes that the group’s small number will help them foster relaxed and natural interactions with people they meet.
“Walking,” Daud explained, “helps one become humble, and that is how one begins to learn.”
The remaining members of the group consist of students and recent graduates between the ages of 21 and 28.
They are Trisna Wira Adhi, Karlina Kurniawati, Randy Coard Napitupulu, Clara Theresia Sitanggang, Richi Richardo Purba and Sahron Sembiring.
We’ve prepared for this by walking long distances almost every day since 2008,” said Randy, a member of the Batak ethnic group from Indonesia’s Papua province.
“You know I’m capable of walking miles just by looking at me, but I really need to prepare myself mentally for all the different cultures and customs we’re encountering,” said Clara, who was born in Kalimantan.
“Who knows if a harmless smile can mean something else in another culture?”
“What we do know is that when foreign tourists come to Indonesia, they do not only want to see places and things. They also want to interact with the locals,” Daud said.
“We are going to show them that, given the natural hospitality that Indonesians have, such experiences are more than possible.”
With so much walking to be done, the group has to stay focused and make sure they don’t lose sight of their larger goals.
Daud is the group’s coordinator, keeping everyone in line and handing out various tasks.
Like a good-natured drill sergeant, he constantly checks and re-checks with members of the group to make sure they are clear in their assignments.
After all, one never knows who might need an ambassador for Indonesia around the next bend.
News Source : The Jakarta Globe
Photo Source : The Jakarta Globe, backpaker.com
Popularity: 3% [?]
December 14th, 2010 → 3:34 am
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