life

Climate Action Capacity Fellowship (2021-2022)

Final Reflection CACF

I am sitting here watching the rain, in humid Jakarta, now cooled by the rain and breeze.

I was brought to climate action work because of a culmination of things. I had watched and read a lot of things as a child that made me realize how grave today’s environmental problem is. In Jakarta, I grew up with smoky air and the sights of trash clogging up rivers or the sides of the street on my way to school. I saw the mountains being carved for mining in my grandmother’s village, like some giant monster wanted to take a large piece of a tumpeng rice, and so turned the mountain’s forests into gaping crumbling soils. Ever since college, my perspective has grown more sophisticated, and now I can say things like, “Indonesia’s palm oil plantation zone expansion is causing a modern-day case of primitive accumulation, causing landless peasants to become proletariats under the control of the ruling class.” Or “As in the case of the capital relocation, this mega-infrastructure project requires methods of access control and the creation of a frontier by powerful groups and could very likely lead to another case of primitive accumulation.”

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1st Year at Middlebury College

Well, Ma, here is the blog post you wanted me to write, hahah…

I am sitting here outside of Atwater dining hall, having eaten breakfast. The sun is bright and yellow, a lemon in the sky. The breeze is soft, but crisp upon my skin. Everything is a garden salad, a burst of summer colors. It’s truly been a remarkable year to start college.

1st Semester

The first semester I had to take classes online because the US embassy in Indonesia was closed. Hard is an understatement to describe what it felt to begin your first year of college sitting in front of a laptop screen, zooming for 3 hours straight every night, wishing with every email describing upcoming activities that you were there too, in person, to meet people and stroll through campus grounds. At first I didn’t want to start college online. I desperately wanted to take a gap semester–learn coding, exercise, cook, play with my sisters, do the Global Citizen Academy program. But my parents pushed, nagged, and coaxed me to start online. They said, who knows what will happen in the future? What if next semester you wouldn’t be able to go again and you would take a gap year, graduate late, etc…

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How to Be Healthy During Quarantine

The Turning Point

Throughout my life, I was never what you would consider a “fit” girl. I never joined a sports team. I only once joined a sports club. During school days, I relied on P.E. classes and walking for exercise. During holidays, I almost never exercised.

I grew to be a bit chubby during some parts of my life. I was never confident with my body. I thought I was too big, considering how I am a bit taller than the average Indonesian woman already. Moreover, everyone from my mom’s family is small. So whenever I visit her relatives, they always comment on how bongsor, big, I am. Once an old woman in my mom’s village even said that I should get married soon, even though I was only 13, because I was so big compared to my peers.

In UWC, we follow the IB curriculum, which does not have a mandatory P.E. class. All it requires is that you take one club that is “Activity” related. However not all the clubs listed as “Activity” are rigorous enough to make you sweat. In my case, I took Dragon Boat and Balinese Dance, both of which are low-intensity activities. And I only took these for two semesters. Besides these, I almost never exercised.

What can I say? The IB is so demanding that it leaves little room for other things. School is always my priority. So for someone who is not used to exercising, and does not prioritize it, it means there will be no exercise. So in terms of my health, UWC was both hell and heaven. Hell because I wasn’t exercising, so my body was not the healthiest. Heaven, because I didn’t like exercising, so not being required to exercise was great.

However, at least I was walking (sometimes running) from class to class.

Then, something happened. It is amazing how impactful someone’s words might be for you, even though they might never realize its impact. The life-changing moment for me came during one groggy morning of Biology class. I usually come early, because I have breakfast early and then go immediately to class, so I have a little bit of time to chat with my teacher.

My teacher asked, “Sophia, what kind of exercise do you like?”

“I… don’t really exercise,” I answered sheepishly.

He stared. “What? But… you’re not gonna be young forever.”

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Thank You, CSC

I never knew this day would come so soon.

And yet here I am, pondering the symbolism of my white kebaya, my graduation dress. The white of its laces represents the light of hope which still kindled within me, only a few weeks prior. Then, email after email came. Bombarding us with their false promises. Turning eyes to trembling glass. Now my kebaya is stuffed deep inside the dark folds of the closet. Its light is unreachable.

I never knew that the closure would happen like this. So suddenly, without the comfort of a prepared heart. Alone in my room, as the sky sheds its tears. Unlike the sky, I cannot cry anymore. Neither was I able to fully comprehend the emotions I felt—they seemed to wash over me like the waves of time that will soon separate us, my dear friends. It will inevitably make each of us less and less relevant to each other as our lives become busier and busier.

But this is the truth of time.

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World Hijab Day (2019)

Hi internet explorers!

I hope that wherever you’re reading this from, you are healthy and safe. I am sure most of us are still trying to comprehend the fact that we’re living through one of the most historical moments in our lifetime, or maybe even the century. And all of us, from the richest to the poorest, are affected by the coronavirus, to varying degrees. But during challenging times like these, we have to stay positive!

So for those of us blessed with the ability to stay at home, I want to share my writing. I hope that these words can bring a moment of reflection for both you and me.

Because on Friday Ramadhan will start, I want to share an essay I wrote about World Hijab Day, which is on February 1st every year. 🙂

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Land of Dragons and Mooncakes

Coming home to Indonesia after six months, inevitably I always get asked *the* question: “Cina itu gimana? How is China?” And I think, where do I begin to describe its richness? In culture, history, beauty. I ask them what they most want to know and if they say, “Oh, anything!”I look in their eyes and give them the story I think they’d like to hear most. Whether it’s funny, enticing, gross, or beautiful, I spin words from the chambers of my memories, though not quite as eloquently as on paper.

I tell them that China is a special country, claiming to be the oldest civilization in the world. But if you want to know about its history, there are various other more credible sources you can delve into. So let me recount it from my own eyes. China is the cliched metaphor of an onion, with so many layers to uncover and explore.

Red as their lucky color, the Chinese people breathe fire as they talk. What I mean is that even when talking regularly they sound a bit angry, but this is because of the tones of Chinese language. There are four: the uptone, the downtone, the neutral tone, and the “slanted” tone. The tone is a crucial part of the language, because if it’s incorrect then what you’re saying could have a different meaning altogether! For example, the Chinese word for “is” is shì, with a downtone, whereas the word for “ten” is shí with an uptone. A more dire example is the word for “breast” which sounds similar to another word which I had meant to say (though I forget now what word it was I’d meant to say). This confusion happened in a restaurant when I was having dinner with my best friend’s larger family. That was embarrassing, to say the least. :’)

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Starting with ABC (Academics, Birthday, and CCE 2019)

Hi, beautiful people! 🙂 Honestly, there are times when I feel like I have no right to write, that my words don’t matter to the universe. That these frail sentences won’t matter to anyone but myself, as a way of letting go of the feelings that pent up inside my heart or as a way to express the things I can’t control or put in order. Yet, I promised someone important that I will write more regularly. So, dear reader, despite the doubt, I will do just that. Starting with… a recap of January!

A.

School has been pulling me in like the tides of the sea that draw in sand–eroding the land ever so slightly until one day there’s no land left. But don’t worry, I won’t drown! Once I told you about the subjects I’m taking, right? Well, I forgot to mention how I changed a lot of things. The subjects I’ll permanently take over these two years are Biology HL, Economics HL, English A Literature HL, ESS (Environmental Systems and Societies), Math SL, and Chinese ab initio. HL  means higher level, meaning there are more class hours dedicated for it, hence it’s more rigorous. IB is… demanding. It feels like a never-ending stack of homework or that pile of laundry that you keep putting off. It’s manageable though, don’t worry. And as much as people talk about how little they sleep or how stressed they are, I believe that if you can discipline yourself you’ll do fine…kinda. Hehe.

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Brave New Year

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

-Abraham Lincoln

2018 ended with the sky bursting asunder in tears. Fireworks scantly glittered the black curtain of sky last midnight–before the rain hushed them to sleep. I lay under my covers, next to my cousin and little sister, just as last year. Except this time, no message from a special someone would greet me in the morning, wishing a splendid new year. So instead, dear reader, I’ll wish you one! 🙂

For me, 2018 was full of contradictions. There were countless beautiful new memories and experiences where I felt that God was giving me the best present in the world–yet perhaps just as many days where grayness filled my heart. 2018 was a year of growth.

To be sure, going to UWC was one of the most life-changing events that have ever happened. For that reason (and a few others), perhaps 2018 has been my best year so far. This year I learned about what it means to love someone–family, friends (old and new, far and close, young and not-so-young), special someones, and random strangers. It means trusting that they will be there for you, and carving out a space in your heart for them–despite doubt, lack of proximity, or even distance. I created bonds with people who I will appreciate endlessly for their kindness and patience in dealing with an annoying dork like me. 😛 I hiked for the first time in my life. I slept in a grassy field next to an Irish and an Australian in the Wu Gong Shan Mountains, where for the first time in my life I saw an unfiltered sky winking its twinkling stars upon us. I met people from all walks of life, and became their friends so that now the problems which seemed so far away from me previously now feel much more personal. I’d have to say, that is one of the best things about UWC–the things you learn from simply living and growing together with people, and of course, tolerating and accepting all their differences.

Thus, I want to encourage you to go beyond your boundaries. Step out of your comfort zone. To put it in terms of a hiking trip: you might be the last one in the team, you might be gasping for breath, sweaty, and scared beyond your mind, or you might feel dizzy as you look at how far the ground is as each step leads you to yet more thrilling heights–yet the view and the swell in your heart at what you’ve accomplished is so worth it. Besides, there will always be people willing to look out for you, and make sure you don’t fall. Trust me.

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Orientation

On Monday (tomorrow), school will finally begin. Right now, rain is drizzling down as the sky rumbles. It’s beautiful to watch, especially from the window view of my room–like a watercolor painting of subtle grays and urgent flashes.

Frankly, I’m pretty excited to start because I haven’t gone to school for about… um… three months, I think? Yeah. My brain will probably have to load for long periods during Math and Chemistry class, but who cares? I can’t wait to experience the IB curriculum, have discussions and debates with my classmates from all around the world, and learn subjects that I actually love. By the way, the subjects I’m taking are: Geography HL, Chemistry  HL, Economics HL (I’m still considering Philosophy HL instead of this), Math SL, English A Literature SL, and Chinese ab initio SL.

The first time my heart raced here was not when the plane landed in Shanghai. Neither was it when Dinda, Jill, and I joined the group that would ride the same bus as us to the school. It was not the hello’s, what’s-your-name’s and where-are-you-from’s. It was the way I spent half a day with my mom and yakked at her in the way I yak at people I’m very close with. It was the way we hugged tightly before the Taxi drove off from the school, and the thoughts that raced along with my heart. Darkness enveloped me for a half second. I thought of the oceans that would soon separate us. Then, I noticed once again the moon’s resplendence between clouds and the blare of building lights. Breathing in the night, I walked back to my dorm.

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UWC Changshu China (A New Beginning)

This is a post that I’ve postponed for a long time now.

Originally I’d planned to write about UWC starting from the selection process but a part of my heart whispered,

“You shouldn’t write about it unless you actually got in. What if it turns out like AFS?” So I never wrote, except to parchments of paper.

For those of you who don’t know, UWC stands for United World College. In short, it is an international two-year school using the IB curriculum. There are 17 schools across the world. Each country undergoes a unique selection process. Each selected student would then be sent to his or her nominated UWC school. Besides through the national selection, you could also directly apply to the school, however, that method wouldn’t grant you any scholarships. In my case, with all thanks to God, I got accepted to UWC Changshu China with a partial scholarship. Besides me, there are eight other Indonesians sent to the UWC schools. Two of them, Jillian and Adinda, are going to UWCCSC with me. 🙂

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