Culture shock can come in a variety of ways. I think people are often shocked by the banter of a foreign language, poverty, food, etc. For the first time I was shocked by massive shopping malls, organized traffic, modern public transportation, and the English language. Singapore. What a place! I stopped there on my way to Bali, and as refreshing as it was, the trip was mildly exhausting. The city itself was the polar opposite of Kampala. I went from the tiniest of international airports to one of the most modern airports in the world – equipped with cuisine from all over the globe and basically its own shopping mall. Having come from living in a convent for two months, the city took me by storm, and I absolutely fell in love. For the first time in two months I felt comfortable to just walk around, to hop on the train, to see landmarks and explore on my own.
The most memorable part of my trip, however, was meeting Carl Conradi, one of the 2008 Insight Fellows. It’s so much fun to meet past Insight Fellows because it reminds me of something David said to me in Concord, “You can always reach out to a fellow fellow,” and that is so true. There is an instant connection, and an instant understanding about the things that I’m experiencing, because they experienced them too. Carl got his earful about my my hardships, listened intently and understandingly about the culture shock I was feeling in Singapore, and gave me some incredible advice about the future in regards to my fellowship and beyond. Carl and I concluded our night with some ice-skating, and while I was a little rusty on the blades it felt so good to be chilly even if it was fabricated. Why not freeze just a little bit before subjected myself to three months of heat in Bali? As Enid at Insight Collaborative loves to remind me, I am “the one who wanted to skip winter!”
Arriving in Bali was at first comical to me, but looking back, it was foreshadowing at its finest. As I stood waiting for my luggage I found that I was one of very few people who had come to Bali with an actual suitcase. The bags that fell onto the belt were mostly massive backpacks, many stuffed to the brim with scuba and surf gear. The people I met my first few days on the island immediately reflected the luggage at the airport – travelers passing through the island hoping to catch some great surf and sun before heading on. Luckily, I started at the ROLE Foundation just a few days after arriving, and was introduced to people who were in Bali for the same reasons I was – to learn about the island, its culture, and how the lives of the Balinese can be improved. At the ROLE Foundation young women from all over the island come to learn skills that will help them secure high-paying jobs. The Foundation has asked me to work on their social business, Soap for Hope, so I’m very excited to work with the program and weave Insight into the Foundation’s work.