Indonesia: A Familiar Rabbit Hole

Coming from the US to Indonesia feels a little bit like being Alice in Wonderland for me – the world seems to shrink in size. Cars are smaller, roads narrower, furniture and doors more compact, etc., and people stand and drive much closer to each other. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the people are shorter too, so I’m relatively less short in Indonesia.

Maybe the shrinking feeling is not necessarily true everywhere, but it is especially true with the house that I grew up in. Of course, the most vivid memories of the house are from childhood days, when the house was much bigger relative to my size. So it’s always a surprise when I come back home and realize the fridge is not as big as it used to be.

It’s always a bit strange when a place you call home feels foreign. Whenever I don’t come back for more than 1.5 years, I need time to adapt and get used to the swing of things. And usually at the end of the visit I don’t want to leave. We’ll see what happens this time, but as for now, I’m acclimating myself to home for sure.

Indonesia: The Prelude

In about 15 hours, I’ll be taking off to Hongkong and Shenzhen for the first four days, and Indonesia (Jakarta and Bali) for the rest of this 22-day trip. They’re all familiar territory, except for Shenzhen, but it just has been a while. The last time I went home over three years ago was for a less fortunate event, so this visit will be very interesting.

All the world’s a classroom has been a personal motto of mine for many years. Last August, I had Honduras as a classroom for 10 days with many amazing personal lessons. To have the same mindset in a place I call home, where I would naturally want to kick back and relax, will be a bit more challenging.

But considering where I am in my life, about a year away from the end of grad school and probably the most important life transition, I suspect there will be tons of reflection and thoughts during the next three weeks and after.

Needless to say, I’m excited. My sister, Nestor, and Aiko will be joining me in Jakarta next week and then in Bali the following week. We will for sure have lots of good food. Stay tune for food and other pictures.

The Art of Answering Questions

The Art of Answering Questions

Or, The Joy of Meeting Fascinating People

Recently, I had the awesome privilege of meeting a brilliant educator from Indonesia, who, for me, was the best question-answerer I’ve ever met. He sat on a panel discussion, and the way he answered questions was just so… illuminating… that it got me asking, what was it about the way he responded that made him shine brighter than the other panelists? Because whatever it was, I want to learn it.

There’s no doubt that the panelists who did better than the others gave much more than good answers. They spoke with their hearts and with passion; they seemed like they believed every word they said. This, which in and of itself was very crucial, was a given. Yet there seemed to be more than just being passionate.

I’m sure that there is no simplistic answer to this question, but after a few days of reflection, I think I have a few guesses. It seemed to me there were three things that made certain answers very impactful for me:

1. Illuminate the context of the question.

The first thing he did before answering the question was to give the background and context of the question. Instead of giving the right answer directly, he would guide you to think correctly about that question you just asked. Every question comes with certain presumptions, so before he answered them, he made sure everyone was on the same page, not by saying “are we on the same page?” explicitly, but by tactfully giving more information on the context of the problem. Thus, before you get your answers, you are already more knowledgeable than before.

2. Answer the question right on.

It may seem obvious, but I was surprised at how few actually do this straightforward thing when someone asked a question: answer it. Most of the times, either we skirt around issues, or give canned answers. It is a hard thing to answer questions sincerely, and to hit it on the spot. Hence, we often ask, “Did I answer your question?” Not once did he do this.

3. Give ‘em some more.

Then, after all of that was done, he gave extra bits of information or hints at what you should think about next. The questioner then was left with utter satisfaction, plus some food for thought.

Seriously, I was marveled. I got the chance to speak with him one on one too, and when I asked him about what steps should I do if I was planning to move back to Indonesia, he actually answered my questions with specifics and practical advice. NOBODY has ever done that before.

Sometimes in a young person’s life, or in anyone’s life for that matter, he/she just needs answers. Plain answers, without rhetoric or telling me I have to do more research, that would not only make me less lost, but would give me absolute clarity.

Add to this mastery of answering questions kindness, generosity, courtesy, and approachability, what you have is true charisma and influence. I’m meeting more and more people of this kind these days, and really, the world is a better place because of them. I would love to be this kind of person one day. But in the mean time, I’ll just enjoy marveling over these fascinating people.