The End of an Amazing Journey as a Teacher in Remote North Maluku Island
Bayu Adi Persada
[Indonesia Mengajar (Indonesia Teaches) is a volunteer-based educational program that was started by Anies Baswedan, the rector of Paramadina University in Jakarta, to send top graduates from around the country to teach in rural areas. This is the story of how a Pengajar Muda (Young Teacher) found his passion.]
This is the last post of the ‘Journal of a Young Teacher’ series. Click here to read ‘Low-Key Independence Day Celebration in Remote North Maluku Island‘ the sixth part of the series.
I was stationed in Bibinoi village, population 1,300, in North Maluku’s Bacan Island. When my feet first touched Bibinoi’s sand and I laid eyes on local people’s faces, all my worries were washed away. Although I could not find a single bar on my cell phone signal indicator and electricity had been installed but hasn’t been stable, I was grateful to be there.
When I first signed up for Indonesia Mengajar, the thought of not knowing when I can return home almost killed me at the time. A year later, I had same feeling when I was about to leave the beloved village that had become my home. After my one-year tenure as a Pengajar Muda, I had made good relations with every single person in Bibinoi.
The hardest part was saying goodbye. To this day, I still cannot tell if the day I left was the best day of my life, or the worst; the best because I was going home to meet my family again, the worst because I had to leave my new family and did not know when I would be able to go back.
On the day of my leaving, a local priest, Oscar Siruang, asked me to come to the church. He said he wanted to see me for the last time.
In front of the church congregation, he began a speech me about me leaving. The parish was in deep silence; some of the children and adults began to cry. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry because if I did, then they would do the same. I did not have the heart to see them cry.
The priest allowed me to speak in front of them. I said sorry for the mistakes I had done, and I told them I was grateful to have been given this priceless opportunity to teach the kids in the village. I also said I hoped the parents would help their kids continue to grow by keeping them studying at home and giving more attention to their development.
At last, I bid farewell. Then the priest allowed a representative of the community to say something. A man stood up and said to me, “Sir, in my 30 years of life, you’re the best teacher we’ve had for our children.
“I’ve never seen a teacher like you, someone who is willing to teach our children until night, playing with them, and caring so much. We are grateful to have had you here,” he said.
I was deeply moved by the man’s speech and could not hold back a tear.
Outside the church, people were waiting to shake my hand. They even tried to hand me an envelope as a farewell gift. I didn’t accept it and gave it back, but they gave the envelope to the priest.
Later that day, the priest invited me to his place for tea. Not long into our conversation, he said he wanted me to have the envelope. I refused again, but he insisted. He said, “This is yours. I do not have the right to keep it.”
“Sir, please use it to expand your church. You need this more than I do,” I replied.
But he got up from his chair and put the envelope in my pocket. “Keep it,” he said.
I excused myself, went to the bathroom and opened the worn-out envelope. Written on it was this message: “For your cost to go back home, my teacher.” I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing down my face.
I counted the money and it amounted to Rp 150,000. This amount is a lot for them, but they gave it all to me.
After leaving the priest’s house, I saw a young man who asked for my help in creating a Christmas event a few days earlier and gave him the money.
He was so grateful, he didn’t know what to say. That money meant a lot to him and for the Christmas celebration because it was really difficult to gather funds in Bibinoi. As for me, it is always nice to be able to help people in need. To see them smile because of a simple action, that’s just lovely.
Meanwhile, in the Muslim society, they arranged an event to escort me home. Coincidentally, the South Halmahera district head was in the area to visit his family, so he attended my farewell event.
In his speech he thanked the Indonesia Mengajar program for promoting better education in this country, especially in Bibinoi. He assured that the local government would always support the movement.
My boat was waiting at the beach. I began to walk and they walked beside me. People from every direction came down to the beach to wave goodbye. They helped me load my luggage onto the boat.
My last words to the kids, “Kids, remember you have to be kind and …?”
“Smart!” they shouted in joy.
This is the end and I thank God for this amazing journey. As the boat left the beach, I saw their faces for the last time.
I will come back. One day.