My brother and I had not spoken to each for about 5 years. All due to an argument that his girlfriend caused. She single-handedly alienated my entire family and my brother. It wasn't until years later when I was officiating at my nephew's wedding that my brother and I spoke again. I told him that I would forgive him for what he put our family through but not forget. It was soon after, that COVID-19 reared its ugly head. It started a pandemic that the world had never seen before. It claimed millions of victims by the time the virus showed any signs of subsiding. Little did we know that one of the victims would be my brother. My brother had been diagnosed with some type of blood disorder that his doctor's claimed would take his life in two years. That was eight years ago. My brother, Joe, had surpassed his “death date” as he called it. He beat those odds only to succumb to COVID-19. It started as just a cough but being a longtime smoker he didn't pay much attention to it. Joe started to exhibit other symptoms besides the cough. Muscle aches, fatigue and vomiting is what made him decide to go to the doctor and be tested. The results were in and although my brother did not get the answer from the doctor that he was hoping for he was prepared for the worst. He was put in quarantine for the next two weeks. His health began to deteriorate as time went on. It was decided that it was in my brother‘s best interest to be sent to another hospital for physical rehab. COVID-19 had weakened him to the point of needing help walking, feeding himself and dressing himself. Many things that most people take for granted. Our entire family helped as much as we could. We all knew that we were ignoring the inevitable, especially when he was moved from the physical rehab hospital to the hospice. They didn't know how much longer he had but they wanted him to be comfortable. It was bad enough that when he was under quarantine nobody was permitted to see him but it was even harder when he was in the hospice. In his weakened state the visits had to be short in order for Joe to get as much rest as possible. To be honest, I preferred the limited visits. It was devastating to see my big brother just wasting away. During this ordeal my brother and I talked. Rather, he talked and I listened. It seemed to me that all he wanted was an ear to bend and a sympathetic heart. I asked him how he felt about knowing that he's going to be dying soon. I expected him to be upset or frustrated. Angry, sad, something. Somehow he was fine with it. He knew it was coming sooner or later and he told me that he didn't have any regrets. There was nothing that he needed to do. Everything he wanted to do in life he did. Joe saw his kids grow up and have their own children, his grandchildren. He got a chance to see his grandchildren grow up and have their children, his great grandchildren. What he said is true. Not too many people get to be around when their great grandchildren are born. I doubted that he was okay with all this going on but the more he and I spoke the more I knew he was being totally honest about how he felt. The only thing he was saddened about was that he wasn't sure if he would be alive to see his youngest daughter, his baby girl, have her first child. Unfortunately, he passed away about two weeks before his last grandchild was born. His last granddaughter, Ava Delilah. Growing up I saw my brother as a certain type of person. A troublemaker, opinionated, arrogant plus a few other choice words. During our many conversations I got to know Joe, the person, not Joe, my brother. I began to understand why he did and said many things while we were growing up. I had truly misjudged him and for that I apologized to him. My brother was very spiritual and believed that everyone had a Guardian Angel. He believed that his was with “El Indio” which translates to “The Indian”. “El Indio”was his Guardian Angel and was to be his guide once he passed. During our conversations I kept thinking about “El Indio” and what it meant to my brother so I decided to draw a picture for him. He was gone before I got a chance to give it to him. At his wake I went up to the casket to pay my respects. I put the picture in the casket with Joe and told him that he now has his guide to show the way. At my nephew's wedding I told my brother that I would forgive him for what he did to the family but not forget. After getting to know my brother with all our talks I got to know the real person. The reasoning behind all his actions are somewhat clear to me although not everything but it was enough to have closure and move on. It was time, to forgive and forget and I'm glad I did it before it was too late. Love you big brother, R.I.P.
THE LOCKDOWN A sense of accomplishment was all I could feel as I stood across the window looking out over the city, but this euphoric sensation wasn't one to last. The ringing of my alarm set on the table across the room from me made sure of that. I had placed the alarm as far from me as possible so I would not have put if off since it was within an arm's length. It was already mid semester and time to get serious with my studies, especially with my lecturers reminding us that tests were around the corner. But today, none of that mattered, not the tests or the exams that usually came immediately afterwards, all that mattered was the news of a pandemic, the Covid-19 virus. The day before, when we all received news about the Federal government's decision to shut down all schools in the country was probably the first time, I took the covid-19 virus seriously. Calling friends in affected but distant countries always seemed to make the virus unreal. Receiving numerous calls from my parents made it all the more real. And that was how I sought my way home the next day. Unlike most of my friends, going home was not a problem as my family lived in the same state. Some students, however, lived in other states and had to travel long distances to get home. News of shutting down inter state borders caused in a tremendous increase in traveling costs. Some students, who couldn't travel under such short notice had to find alternative sources of accommodation. The first month at home was spent studying, in the hopes that school would soon resume. In time, I realized it wasn't going to resume anytime soon, at least not with the number of cases of the virus increasing in arithmetic progression across the entire country. More news about the virus flooded the screens of our television, fueling the fear that now engulfed us all. With the pending news of total lockdown in the state, my mother made lists of all the food stuffs we needed and sought about purchasing them all despite the inflated prices. As news of safety measures to stay safe came, so did false information often leading to confusion as to which was true. News of the virus seemed like a political propaganda to some, to others it seemed not as serious as it was made to be, but to a select few it was quite a serious matter. My family was one of those that considered it a serious matter, we never went out unless we really needed to and coming home was immediately followed by hand washing, the use of hand sanitizer and a bath. By the second month, the state has been totally locked down, dashing my hopes that school would resume by the end of the first month. By now reading books relating to academics was a distant dream, but I spent a lot of time reading novels and poems to pass time. Social media challenges were trending and watching them was fun, although I never tried any. With less novels to read, I had to find other ways to kill time, so I picked up an old hobby. Drawing family members and friends was more fun than I anticipated. Often I didn't quite get them right, but I kept practicing. Online classes were also trending, so I took up a Spanish class online. Spending more hours of my day online than I was used to took up a lot more of my data subscriptions than I anticipated. I had to cut down on my online activities. So, I got more free time and had to find new ways to spend them. After a week's worth of begging, my brother and I convinced our father to teach us to drive. We practiced along the now empty streets and it seemed like more learners were taking this opportunity too. With time, we got better but not after giving the old car a few scratches here and there. On one occasion, my brother almost hit a car in front of it while I almost drove in to a ditch once but with time we got better. After a while, I had built a routine that kept me busy. First I would go out early in the morning to practice driving with my brother, then when I got home I would practice my Spanish, read novels and draw. Between all these, watching movies was always squeezed in between. I had almost completely adapted to a life at home. Being a student was now a distant memory I often reminisced about. On one of those moments of nostalgia, my phone called me back from the land of wandering thoughts. At first, it was nice hearing an old friend's voice, but the fear I sensed soon made me worry. Apparently he was experiencing some symptoms of the corona virus after traveling to one of the states where the pandemic was more prevalent. He talked about his plans to get tested while I encouraged him not to worry and wait patiently to get his test result before jumping to conclusions. Calming him down took awhile but it eventually worked. After the call ended, his words kept coming back to me, “I don't want to die.” I realized so many people had died from the virus and I couldn't help but be thankful for my life and that of my family.
Tossing the phone on the bed, I walked away to the balcony connecting to my room. Looking up, the night sky was decorated with glowing lanterns you could mistake them for stars. The scenery in front of me taking me back to the memories that I've tried so hard to forget. I never expected for this outcome, I should have but it never occurred to me that it would take place. With so many different paths, you would think that I could've avoided it. A sigh escaped my lips as I stared at the night sky, hoping it would take me away from all the pain in my heart. The sinking feeling drowning my being. Tears begin to spill from my eyes, as my surroundings blur over and I find myself wiping the salt infused tears, I look away, walking back into the room where the memories and loneliness overtakes me. His ringtone breaks through the silence, as I just stand by the bed tears caressing my face as they fall.Why, why does the bad guy have to be me. Crouching into myself I feel my walls break, chip by chip, falling off as the ringtone still plays in the background. I loved you, why couldn't I reach you. The song stops as I look up towards my phone. The thoughts running inside my mind a million miles a minute. The what if and if only. My personal favorite, if you were, haunting my very existence day in and day out, today not being any different. The pain subsiding enough for me to catch my breath. Looking over to the side of the room I see myself on the floor with tears on my face staring back at me from the mirror. Disgusting, failure, unwanted, not enough, useless. The words sticking to my body as I'm just watching from afar. Letting the words engrave themselves in my head. Not being able to stand the sight of myself through the mirror, I turn away and climb onto the bed pulling the sheets over myself. Hoping to run away from myself, I close my eyes, pressing my nails into the palm of my hands. Trying to put all the pieces of the wall back into place, one after the other with pieces still falling off. Fighting the urge to just destroy the whole thing and let everything crumble. Anger slowly crept in distracting me from my own sadness and self hatred. The anger running throughout my body, and my nails dig deeper, and deeper until I feel my life running down my hands. The covers are stained, my clothes and my face. The tears finally stop, and the anger subsides and it's easier for me to put up the walls again. Piece by broken piece, this time staying in place as I layer the glue that will keep it together until the next time it breaks again. Pushing myself up from the bed I walk towards the balcony for the last time tonight. Opening the doors I feel the night air as it rushes past me trying to see the damage that had occurred only moments ago. I glance towards the sky once more, the lanterns seemingly brighter and the moon now gracing my presence with its beauty. The memory rushes back to me reminding me of the times where I was stronger. That moment in time where we glanced at the night sky together, wishing and praying that those memories would stay the same for the rest of our lives. Not knowing the change that would destroy that wish a few days after. It was a similar night like tonight, the wind blowing softly, the moon and the stars watching over us and him, standing behind me holding me like I would disappear in a heartbeat. The promises that were said that day still burn my mind and my eyes begin to water again. This time only a tear fell as I leaned over to watch the world underneath me. A bitter smile placed itself on my face, as I watched the world around me move on without me. Raising my head up at the sky, I see their brightness again as a sense of comfort and twinge of pain fills my heart. One last wish falls out of my lips as I close my eyes and let the wind take over. “Can we watch the lights turn to stars?”
RHYTHM OF ANCIENT SONGS AND BEAT OF AFRICAN PRAISE POETRY My birth is a metaphor of bullet-traces and the ironic verse of Leninist style-songs for black liberation that reverberated the grey-mist clad red-mountains of home – Zimbabwe. My birthing was a stitch between the thud of war-time guns and a heave of pungwe jives. Young women of my mother's age were volunteer maids during the traumatic but zeal-oiled Chimurenga times, cooking and washing for the cadres of liberation. Chimurenga songs sung by these war-ironed peasant mothers and bullet-toughened collaborators in the red-hills of Wedza. These Mother-guerrillas endured the hard throbs of grenades and the thrash of midnight-rains in those village hills alongside bushy male combatants. They learnt the soprano of the gun and the tenor of death.These were heaven-echoing struggle hymns. On the day of my birth, heavy rains rattled the winter-crusted red-earth. Rivers sobbed with heaven's tears and sorrows of war. That grueling night, swarms of collaborators were moved from one base to another, my earthly goddess was among those pilgrims of war. …her heartbeat thrilled my tender ears and her blood-ripples lulled my faint soul to sleep. And somy foetus spirit rode along with waves of echo and beat of verse. Ingenuity. I am the blessing of the trip, the child of war song and rain. A mystery. I am a child of song. I was birthed during the exodus. That rebel's war was characterized by death, wailing, stampede, bravery, shallow-graves, song and continuous walking. A trailblazing Africa reality show. My earthly goddess was a dedicated collaborator, volunteer and songstress. She carried freedom in the sacred cave of her womb. After their strange overnight long walk to freedom base of Mbirashava – rains ceased fire, war-drums paused and their echoes got trapped into the blankets of early day mist. Then came my birth cry they say like an exclamation engraved on the yellow-disc of the smoke-bruised African sun. Claws of dawn caressed the sorrow-soaked red-hills. My goddess wriggled in a thick volcano of red-clay mud, ochre-red blood and dead grass. Her womb groaned from labor pangs and suddenly the wind was cold. June dared the earth and everything in it. Cold-winds whined ferociously to disobedient flora and delinquent vultures. Winter, fast clicking a pause button to the jungle's daily festivals. I was born. Cadres and collaborators dribbled a liberation jive for my homecoming. They called me Gandanga. I was initiated into this earth by the alto of howling winter-winds, baritones of barking-baboons and the ease soprano of hooting-owls. A child of song. I was introduced to the festival of sounds, loud and low, good and bad, discordant and beautiful. Upon arriving at the village homestead, the earth trembled, the air got electric with ululations. My paternal grandmother fervently recited a traditional totemic praise poem. “Chirasha, Chikandamina, Weshanu uri pauta, Mavsingo a Govere, Vari Zimuto, Mukwasha waMambo, Vakafura bwe rikabuda ropa” A lone drum thrilled them into the audience into another dancing routine. The echo of the tinkling drum resonated with the beat of my grandmother's recitations. They said that my eyes winked in response to their merriment. Even up to this day, I beat my chest with pride to that ceremonial reception performed by an elder qualified to be my ancestor. My old singer-grandmother usually bundled me behind her old but steely back. Lullabies caressed me into dreamland until my goddess returned from her daily errands. I was raised by extraordinary songs, sweet and mellow to every infant's senses. I enjoyed the ear-tickling ancient poetry. They say I slept to the rhythm of that beautiful lullaby. My grandmother was Gogo in African – she would fall asleep too. Mother returned from the red-clay fields to find us under the watch of spirits and snores. After some weeks my umbilical cord wilted and fell. They buried it under the hearth near the main fireplace. Thus how we are bonded by our departed clan spirits. And so I grew up in a highly strict African traditional clan. My father and fellow clansmen brewed ceremonial beer for traditional rites. They supplicated to ancestral gods to end life-tormenting ailments, ravaging hunger, abject poverty and bad omen. Their usual incarnations, totemic praise's performances cultivated the griot in me. Praise and protest poetry became my official language. After my umbilical cord rites, my father gave me a name. He named me after the most powerful battalion of Tshaka Zulu, a battalion that never lost even a single battle – Imbizo.
Life is a choice, whether you intend to be beneficial or not. Having the potential to make the world a better place doesn't make you a better person, but your choice does. Many people want a beautiful world but less do the actions to create one. To serve in making the world a better place is my choice. I've found the authentic value of life and happiness in helping others and I believe, the humanity will never embrace the ultimate harmony if we keep on glorifying words over actions. One should start and empower others. One should take a small step then move forward to the big one. This is the story of my experience in moving to 'the big step' of my life! It all began when I was in freshman year of college. I joined my first charity activity in freshman year and at that point, I realized that actually I can do little things that might create some changes. Growing up in the center of metropolitan city, Tangerang, made me witness a huge distortion and undesirable truth of people's low education and life quality in my hometown, Pontianak, once I moved back there. Henceforth, I dedicate myself to some volunteering activities, concerning in education, which consequently create my awareness of the problems and potential in the community. Language is bound with culture. Indonesia, as a country full of diversities, has approximately 724 languages and most of the people, especially in rural area, growing up speaking their local language before learning Indonesian Language . Hence, to people in rural area, having skill to be able to communicate in English is quite difficult to achieve while on the other hand English is really useful to broaden the horizon. I was thoroughly disappointed knowing there is no club for students in my university to develop English with their peers. Their willingness to learn English is slowly vanished. The problem prevailing in my university acted as a stumbling block for youths to grow and create progress which subsequently led me to create a difference.I've dedicated myself to teach English voluntarily and it's a great pleasure for me but I know this small step I took is narrow and never sufficient. Therefore, I and my friends from Joint Untan Organization developed an idea to create Tanjungpura University Model United Nations (MUN) Club so the students can improve their English and sharpen their critical thinking towards international issues at once. We managed to create this club from zero. We acted dauntlessly by joining the biggest MUN Conference in Indonesia, iMUN, which made us sacrifice a lot of effort since our university didn't give much financial support. We did fund risingall by ourselves and I even took a part time job. The reasons why I wanted to join iMUN conference, because I realize I'd gain a lot of knowledge and exeperience gained from the best national MUN Conference, know precisely how MUN works and build relations with other participants so they can share their experience and support the new Untan MUN Club. Our goals were successfully achieved! A month after iMUN we opened Untan MUN Club enrollment, our friends from iMUN Conference help to promote Untan MUN Club through instagram so we get recognized by other MUN Clubs. I was chosen as the (Secretary-General) and we've managed the weekly meeting and daily discussion in our Untan MUN Club online group. I've accomplished the little step to make betterment. From my experience in developing MUN Club, I've learnt that I'm a person who can develop new ideas, do tremendous effort for myself and others, able to bring back the experience and apply it to my community immediately. Serving needs a graceful heart and soul. We can serve people even through simple things like smiling however, we'll serve better if we do it with heart and high self-quality because our actions will subsequently affect others' future. Teaching English and Buliding the MUN Club in my University were some smalls step that I took to help making this world better, at least in the community around me. I never thought those things would help making the biggest change in my life that I've exeprienced so far.Those small steps led me to become a grantee of one of the most prestigious fully funded exchange scholarship, UGRAD Exchange Program, that enabled me to spend one semester in the US. It was one of the things in my bucket list that I thought I'd never achieve. It was a big step that I took which not only changed my life but also people around me. For my experience wouldn't be mine solely. Zoroaster was right "Doing good to others is not a duty, is a joy, for it increases our own health and happiness."