May 5th 2017, Bantul Village in the Special Region of Yogyakarta, on the island of Java, Indonesia.
Nico, Tiwi and I set out again, via motorbike, to the house of Raihan, an active Adik Bintang, and his family. They live close by Hoshizora, close by what I know now as the local jail, and up a steep hill. Raihan’s mother greets us, she has the stature of a typical Ibu (formal way of addressing a mother or grandmother in Indonesia), a short, colorful woman with a big smile. The younger boys greet us by shaking our hands and bringing our hands to their foreheads in a very respectful bow. This is something I’ve noticed the younger kids do in Indonesia, while most people after shaking hands bring their hands to their hearts with a nod and smile during introduction. We all sit outside with Raihan, his older sister, younger brother and Ibu. Tiwi sits close and at eye level with Raihan, she is so good with interviewing and connecting with people this way.
Raihan is younger than the last Adik Bintang we visited, he is in 6th grade, about to finish primary school which means secondary (middle) school is just around the corner, and his National Exams are on Monday. He will have three whole days of intensive exam taking, and he has been studying nearly every night in a group of students to prepare. He admits Math is the hardest for him but he expresses a great interest in Science. His family lights up with joy when they share with us that he won 4th place in the Bantul District of the Science Fair. The proud smiles and bragging is comforting, I believe Raihan will do well on his National Exams, or at least I hope he does. I have come to realize from talking with the Hoshizora staff that this is one of the highest hurdles for the students in the Indonesian Education system.
Izar is Raihans little brothers name, he is in 2nd grade and he’s so curious, he cannot stop staring at me in the really cute innocent kid type of way. Raihan and his sister share with us that Raihan wants to be a firefighter when he grows up, his greatest motivation is to help people. Then his older sister begins the story of why she thinks he has this desire. Two years ago when Izar was even smaller than he is now, he was burnt badly in an oil fire, right here in their home. He was hospitalized for one and a half years! Raihans sister shows us his pronounced burn scars on his legs, you couldn’t even tell by looking at him, his adorable face is burn and trauma free, but his lower and upper legs are scarred severely. This very well may be the source of Raihans motivation to protect people from such things. Though they don’t mention the financial constraint this caused I can’t imagine it wasn’t a heavy burden. At least in the U.S. those kinds of medical bills cripple families.
I don’t catch the older sisters name even though she speaks impressive English, as well as Javanese. She is a Javanese teacher and the whole family boasts this traditional Javanese background, they tease Raihan a little because his Javanese isn’t so great. He does have the courage though to practice introducing himself to me in English, after a bit of jabbing from his sister. Raihan is also a part of a choir, and he has the guts to sing the Indonesian National Anthem for us with Tiwis support; it is clear this makes his mother very happy. I am impressed with such a young students bravery to do such things, I remember being painfully shy at this age.
We talk about a variety of subjects, including space. Astronomy is Raihans area of interest in science and he says if he could he’d work for NASA and be an astronaut. Though I need this translated it is still interesting to observe the way he says this, I sense he’s old enough to know that this dream is a bit too far-fetched to ever come true, but still a nice thought he likes to share. He tells us about how he wonders about space sometimes and life on other planets. He says he will go to university to study science, probably astronomy, but that ultimately he plans on becoming a firefighter.
He’d also like to visit the U.S., they ask me about a firefighters role in our communities and how they are seen in the public eye. I tell them about how firefighters are regarded as some of the bravest citizens in the community, and how some people will even volunteer in these types of dangerous positions, which usually worries mothers. Nico asks Ibu how she feels about Raihan becoming a firefighter, she replies that she is proud and supportive, his older sister comments again that she believes this motive comes from the family history. Not only was there the oil-fire incident but their sister begins to describe the boys getting in all sorts of rambunctious situations, playing around, rough-housing and hurting themselves, extreme activities resulting in breaks and bruises. The boys chuckle to each other hearing their sister re-count the times. Raising boys is clearly stress-inducing in any culture, and their family has raised two very strong, kind and humorous young men despite it all.
I ask Raihan if he has a mentor or anyone he looks up to. Raihan poses in the stereotypical hand on chin, looking up to the sky, thinking position. A smiles creeps upon his lips and he giggles; he shakes his head, saying he can’t think of what to say. “Not really? I really love my parents.” He says with kind of a shrug. “Maybe your motives just come from inside,” I say, though the sentiment may be lost to everyone but myself. His family coos and nudges him to think. Raihan giggles and talks about the soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo as someone he’d like to resemble maybe. Raihan is a mid-fielder and plays soccer regularly. But he also continues to talk about much he loves his parents and one day when he earns a salary he’s going to give it to them, he wants to support them.
Ibu lovingly begins to rave about him, about how he has a good head on his shoulders, he’s smart, he practices his religion every day and is a very honest boy.Raihan admits he always prays for his family and for his future dreams. Nico and Tiwi try to explain to me the stages of studying religion, and brag for Raihan about the high stage he is at for his age. I have such limited knowledge of any religion that it is hard for me to follow but I find it impressive to see such faith and love coming from a young child. I believe some sort of faith is a good practice, though I don’t like to subscribe myself to any religion or it’s rules, I have faith in other things.
We wrap up our meeting by talking a bit more about Raihans experiences with Hoshizora. Raihan went to the last Hoshizora event, the Hoshizora Forum to gather and connect with other Adik Bintang. I ask him about his Kakak Bintang (sponsor) and he says he has written twice but hasn’t heard anything back yet, maybe he will someday. Though I usually think the emotional support from the Kakak Bintang is an important part of the scholarship process I can feel the overwhelming support his family gives him every day. Raihan shares that a part of the funds he received went to a new pair of shoes, and since he walks every day to school, this made a very positive impact on daily life. The funds also helped pay for uniform, school fees and most importantly, his National Exam fees.
Time has flown as we end our interview, it’s past 5:00 pm, Nico, Tiwi and I are supposed to be off work! We snack a little more and take some photos. Raihan has one of the cutest smiles but tries really hard to look mature in all the pictures we take. We wave goodbye and zoom off down the hill, I am left feeling more elevated than our interview with the last Adik Bintang but grateful for both experiences. I am so grateful that the people of this village have been willing to meet with me, a strange foreigner (bule [boo-leh], we are called) who they’ve never heard of, whose motives they are unaware of, who comes from a very opposite culture to their own. Yet they’ve all welcomed me respectfully, shared snacks and drinks with me as if I was any other Indonesian friend paying them a visit.