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Australia-Indonesia BRIDGE Program Reciprocal Visit

by Lauren Solomonson | Nov 16, 2017

 

 

Felicity Harrison, Teacher, Crafers Primary School

Felicity Harrison 1

It has only been a week since I arrived back home from an experience of a lifetime.

After a brief notification, making contact with our partner school, organising dates and booking tickets – I was on my way to Indonesia! Taking part in a 13 day adventure that far surpassed any preconceived expectations that I may have had.

Finishing the school term at 6 pm on the Friday evening and leaving home at 7am the next morning, ensured a hectic start to my time in Jakarta. Arriving at 9pm, well into the evening I was greeted with warmth, humidity (minimal I’m told), a bustling energy of people, noise and many smiles. This proved to be a constant throughout my visit.

I began this journey with a total ignorance of anything Indonesian (other than a few meagre words) and had never envisaged myself visiting, for a whole gammet of reasons. Sometimes having no preconceived ideas proves to be a positive, allowing yourself to be totally immersed into each experience.

The few days in Jakarta were long and action packed, filled with a myriad of educational, enjoyable and a palate of awesome experiences. I was totally impressed by the way in which so many millions of people are able to negotiate their way through life in such small areas. This requires a great deal of collaboration, tolerance, patience, kindness, care and consideration for those around them. Something that we in Australia, can learn from.

Wednesday morning I gathered my thoughts and belongings and flew to Flores, an island of the Nusa Tenggara Region. The flight was amazing, a picturesque view of the beautiful islands and volcanoes. I arrived in a rainstorm and was welcomed by local dancers, who greet all new visitors. Nervously, I located a group of people who had been waiting patiently to pick me up—and so the real adventure begins! 

SDK SANTA YOSEFA Primary School – Flores

Even though school had finished 4 hours earlier and staff still hadn’t had lunch, everyone stayed at school and waited for my arrival. I was greeted with fanfare; a rich explosion of song, dance, poetry recitals, speeches and welcomings of every description – delivered by teachers, students, principal and a local government official. Totally overwhelming but awesome! And so a week of incredible learning, sweating, creating friendships, making connections, much laughter and smiling ensued. I became an integral part of the community, working collaboratively, planning learning experiences together, becoming involved with extra curricula activities, sharing resources, visiting the Elementary School and teaching modified lessons introducing Australian Animals.

Being able to connect and share learning with the students was a definite highlight! Their patience with my sparse Indonesian and their desire to be involved with anything I had to offer, will remain a treasured memory. Linking students from both schools with handwritten letters and pictures has already created connections, reducing the distance between us.

Being able to connect and share learning with the students was a definite highlight! Their patience with my sparse Indonesian and their desire to be involved with anything I had to offer, will remain a treasured memory. Linking students from both schools with handwritten letters and pictures has already created connections, reducing the distance between us.

My newly adopted colleagues and friends ensured that I could partake in some of Flores’ unique experiences. These included a day trip to Komodo Island - snorkelling at the beautiful Kanawa Beach, and swimming with the Mantas (a top 10 life experience!!) Sampling local, freshly prepared foods, attending a wedding and a late afternoon visit to the local caves, making it in time to view the sunset - overlooking the Labuan Bajo Bay.

Every culture has something to offer and to learn from. Unbeknown to me, the purpose of this trip was far greater than visiting our Partner School. It was about global connection, forming relationships, developing mutual respect, sharing knowledge and understanding. I was representing Australia, our way of life and education. Our two countries are only 300kms apart and generally speaking, we know so little about each other.

The challenge now, is strengthening and maintaining the Partnership between Crafers Primary School and SDK Santa Yosefa. To nurture our relationship, to create further links and build an enthusiasm to work and learn together. I envisage the staff and community of both schools, forging a collaborative, positive future; “a partnership which will last a 100 years!” (so the students told me).

So many stories to tell, such an impact, in such a short time!

I can say with certainty that my connection with Indonesia is now steadfast and I am excited about future possibilities.

Felicity Harrison 2

Felicity ​Harrison, ​BRIDGE School Partnerships Program participant

If you would like to submit an education blog to the Asia Education Foundation, please contact Natasha Redden on redden.natasha@unimelb.edu.au or call (03) 8344 3569.

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