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2015 March • Najla Drooby’s experience at the Peace Place International Workshop

So different yet so alike.

I just came back from a week-long AVP (alternatives to violence project) workshop in Indonesia. I was not sure what to expect, I went in search of ways to create peace in countries that had been ravaged by wars or to get people of differing views or backgrounds to talk to each other. What I learned is how to live peacefully, at home and in your community but most importantly how to be at peace with yourself.

I was a bit apprehensive of going literally half-way across the world to a country I knew nothing about at except that it spanned nine time zones and that the majority of its citizens were Muslims. Being encouraged to learn the language before getting there made me wonder if I really was up to so much adventure. To top it all, when I discovered that I needed to fly 24 hours non-stop, layover 5 hours in Jakarta before catching another flight to Semarang and a 2 hour car ride to my final destination, I seriously questioned whether it was worth it to go through all this just to attend a workshop I could easily attend next door in the USA .  Needless to say, this was not the simplest trip to arrange but it all worked out so beautifully, I can’t help but believe that I was meant to do it.

March 2015 AVP Workshop at Peace Place in Pati. Participants and Facilitators standing from Upper Left: Nuning, Kins, Najla, Petrus, Sun, Safa, Lina, Wati, Nadine, Sri, Endang, Laras, Nanik. Kneeling down: Ninok, Vidya, Leli, Frence, Sol, Homelia, and Juniarni

The workshop was incredible and the experience amazing. We were 21 people from 3 continents, 5 countries, different cultures, and varied socio-economic backgrounds.  Our group consisted of Muslims, Quakers, Mennonites and Catholics; some practicing much more than others. Our ages ranged from early twenties to almost sixty. Our academic and professional backgrounds spanned a wide range. We spoke such different languages, that the facilitators had to perform simultaneous translations.

Yet, despite all those differences, we were able to communicate and to understand each other. We shared our feelings and held each other in our pains. We learned together and from each other’s experiences. We learned about empathy first hand while role playing difficult situations we had recently faced in our lives. We read each other’s body language and lost language when we were deeply affected or overwhelmed. Luckily we quickly recovered from those moments by laughing through silly exercises, dancing or singing together.

For two days, we discovered what children go through as their mental and physical abilities developed. To understand them, we tried to draw perfect circles as a precursor to  forming letters, we heard a story and later wrote and illustrated a book around it. We played with building blocks and were dismayed when we were asked to stop and destroy our creations. We played with sand, water, paint, beads, homemade play dough and the most fascinating oobleck. We had a ton of fun being kids but we also learned how difficult it is for them to have to stop what they are doing to adapt to our schedule. Our most important take-away was how much time and attention children need to blossom.

When we were not actively engaged in the workshop, we discovered new foods, new ways of cooking, eating, bathing, washing clothes and spending idle time. We rode motor bikes to the market and discovered how to load up 10 kilos of fruit and a mattress while driving back home safely.  We walked around the neighborhood in search of street food. We tried every possible way of making ourselves comfortable on the floor as we sat there for 8 hours each day. To offset the heat and overbearing humidity, we took cold showers or just collapsed for a quick nap. It was not easy but it was fun and we would all do it again at the drop of a hat.

On our last day, we affirmed each other one final time by writing a note to each person on their poster. I don’t know about the others, but I found myself re-reading those notes over and over again and am keeping this poster amongst my most valuable possessions. And when the graduation ceremony started, the official handshakes quickly turned to hugs and tears of joy for having had a chance to meet and really connect with such amazing people. For seven days, we learned and learned until we were exhausted but most of all we learned that we are all one people with the same needs and that our differences just made our lives richer.

I cannot thank Friends Peace Teams enough, especially Nadine Hoover for her energy, knowledge and caring, Nanik and Petrus for offering their house to us, feeding us non-stop and taking care of every one of our physical needs, Nonik for her simultaneous translations and Vidya Sutton for her fun activities and for ensuring that I felt welcome and at ease in Indonesia.  I came back from this trip determined to keep their light shining and hope now to facilitate AVP workshops locally in my home town and internationally when I retire.

– Najla Drooby (April 2015)