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Our Moshe is in Indonesia

Interview with our RP Moshe (ReConnect Hungary Participant in 2016) about life after the birthright trip: why he moved to Indoensia and fell in love with this beautiful country.

What brought you to Indonesia, how long have you been living there and how long do you plan on staying? If you return to the states where will you go? Where will home be?

I visited Indonesia for the first time shortly before I went on ReConnect Hungary in 2016, after saving money from my advertising job. Although the trip was brief, I quickly fell in love with the country, and applied for a government scholarship that same year. I was accepted to study Indonesian language and culture at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. After completing my studies, I traveled around the country, as well as other places in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, and more. I’m not sure where or when the next steps will be, but Indonesia, and Southeast Asia as a whole, will definitely always have a special place in my heart.

What do you like best about being there and what do you miss the most from home?

The cultural diversity of Indonesia is amazing. There are about 17,000 islands (around 6,000 of which are inhabited), and hundreds of different ethnic groups. Culture, cuisine, religion, and regional language will vary greatly from island to island, and even within islands. Everywhere in the archipelago is also distinctly “Indonesian”, despite the vast cultural differences, as reflected in the national motto of "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" ("Unity in Diversity"). I’m always learning something new here. It’s also very cheap and easy to travel around Southeast Asia in general, so the potential is really unlimited. 

Indonesian food is incredible, although in some ways I miss certain aspects of food in the West. Back in America, I would love to eat healthy things like berries, salad, olive oil, and beans everyday, whereas such items are not really staples here. At the same time, the variety of fruit in Southeast Asia is great, and I regularly eat things that most Americans probably do not taste very often, such as snake fruit, jackfruit, rambutan, durian, mangosteen, Java apple, and more. Tempeh, a healthy and delicious type of fermented soy product from Indonesia, is one of my favorite foods ever; I’d had it in the West before, but it’s different here, as native foods always are in their country of origin. I know I’ll always crave the food here. 

And I miss my family and certain friends back home, of course.

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Have you learned any of the languages they speak in Indonesia?

I studied the Indonesian language at Gadjah Mada University and completed the highest level there, but my real education took places “on the streets”, i.e., interacting with local people and making friends. As is this case with any foreign language, I’m still learning. I also spent significant time in nearby Malaysia, and it was interesting to see both the differences and similarities between Malay and Indonesian.

Perhaps the Balassi Institute will be my next adventure!

Have you met anyone that speaks Hungarian?

Yes, I have met a few Hungarians, usually other foreign expats or students, and was friendly with one my age for quite some time. There was also a Romanian student here, of partial Hungarian descent, and he and I were very close and still talk.

Do people in Indonesia know anything about Hungary?

Generally speaking, we discuss nations like Indonesia, America, and other Asian countries more than Hungary. When I have mentioned Hungary, however, people have indeed heard of it!

Indonesia is known for its volcanoes, have you seen any eruptions?

I lived near the most active volcano in Indonesia, Mount Merapi, and it has erupted a few times since I’ve been here. There are also tsunamis and earthquakes (the latter of which I have also experienced). Because Indonesia is on the Pacific Ring of Fire and has more active volcanoes than any other country on Earth, there are definitely natural disasters not too infrequently. Many people wonder why population centers would choose to base themselves in a danger zone…but then again, my home state of Florida is constantly threatened with hurricanes, including the most recent one, Dorian.

How about the wildlife? Have you seen any tigers, orangutans, or elephants?

Indonesia is one of 17 "megadiverse" countries, meaning it contains a majority of Earth's species and large numbers of endemic ones. It is the only country outside of Africa to have a non-human great ape, the orangutan; there are also native elephants, tigers, rhinos, Komodo dragons (the largest lizard in the world), and thousands of other interesting animals. Unfortunately, many of these are endangered or threatened with extinction, due to human problems like pollution and unsustainable agricultural practices. Javan tigers already went extinct in the 1970s, and Balinese ones in the 1950s—only Sumatran tigers are left, and they are critically endangered. I was lucky enough to see orangutans here, but who knows how much longer they’ll be around. We all have to do our part by being more environmentally conscious, creating less waste, eating less meat, etc. 

Do you keep in touch with any of the ReConnected Participants from your year?

Yes, I still talk to some online. I also met with a few alumni in South Carolina and New York shortly before departing to Indonesia.

Could you join us for a reunion in Hungary when RH celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2021?

Semoga! (Hopefully!)

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