Written by Rare Conservation Fellow Wida Sulistyaningrum
I arrived early at the embassy. I had rehearsed potential questions friends had told me officials ask in the visa application interview. I spent a week filling out the right forms. I brought a photo of my baby girl and husband to prove that I will come back to Indonesia for my family. I was so nervous during the hour that I waited for my interview. I had never left the country and I was going to the United States, if I could get a visa.
I got it!
I bought new clothes, a dress, a coat and shoes. It was really fun to prepare for the trip. I was nervous that I would get lost in the United States, but the most nervous moment was when I rehearsed telling my story. What if the guests cannot understand what I’m saying or if I make a wrong word to express my feelings?
My trip took me all across the United States to tell my story: Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Palo Alto, San Francisco and El Paso. At the first dinner in Philadelphia, I relaxed. I felt so touched by what people said to me. They showed a huge appreciation for what I have done so far. And I experienced the same kindness from all of the people that I met. I wish I could bring all of my team from Kaimana to meet everyone. They also deserve this appreciation.
My first impression of the United States was that it is well-organized. In Indonesia everything is a mess. I loved all of the new things I ate. My favorite was a hot dog. It was the first time I ate a hot dog. I had never been on a subway before, or a cable car. It was my first time to see a gas fireplace. My first time going above the 6th floor, I was on the 48th with a view of the Empire State Building! I had a piña colada in San Francisco. This drink made me a bit dizzy. Maybe this is the feeling my friend said is tipsy. I never felt it before. I couldn’t believe I stayed at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, even though I didn’t see Paris Hilton. I went through a drive-thru pharmacy. They don’t have that in Indonesia.
My world is upside down with my trip to the United States. When I was running my campaign with Rare I had to sleep on the floor with no electricity, eat anything the community served, get sunburned in the rough sea and a lot of uncomfortable things. But when I was in the United States, it was all worth it. Everything is great. I cannot stop thinking about it. I am so grateful for what I was able to do.
Read more about Wida:Ask. Don’t Tell. Building trust with communities to protect their fisheries No-fishing areas declared in Bird’s Head Seascape