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2015 February – March • Autumn Star shares about her trip to Indonesia

Hello friends,

I want to make sure you know that I share my journey with you because in my lifetime I wish to connect over beauty and pain, and I express these both to you as an invitation to walk beside me. Culturally we in the USA are trained to want to fix or fear pain, but I wish to invite you to do neither for me; or encourage me to fix or fear pain either. I am finding that when I let myself hold beauty and pain, instead of trying to erase or hide from the pain, I feel whole in a way that I never have before. And again, thank you for all of the love.


Going back in time…

On February 21 I flew to Medan, which is the city on the island of Sumatra that the Indonesians assume all the tourists spend their time in (which is true for the most part). My friend Ifau was waiting for me, and after getting off the plane at the wrong stop — because I didn’t know that airplanes ever stopped without telling you on your ticket — I arrived safe and sound at the right airport… a few hours later my bags followed. Then we drove the 5 hours to Ifau’s house, with a few stops for food along the way, arriving late in the night.

My feelings post getting to Medan…arriving in Aceh, seeing Ifau, talking to my friend Ida on Ifau’s phone, and getting to Ifau’s house all made me feel like I was returning to a part of my heart that I’d left behind, which is of course, exactly what was happening. North Sumatra and Aceh are the places that I first traveled to in Indonesia, they are the places where I first developed family, and they hold the stories of my heart that have kept me returning.

I had exactly one week at Ifau’s home in the town of Durian, which was filled with friends, games, an Alternatives to Violence mini workshop, watching and playing Kasti which is a game similar to softball, and visiting my other family members Dahlan and Icut and their kids. It was a busy week and a playful time. Ifau and I spent much of our time laughing and goofing, we shared deep conversations exploring what it looked like to challenge the limitations of language, and we worked side by side.


My heart of hearts…we left for Barak Induk on Feb. 28th. Ifau accompanied me to my next home base, Mislan and Ida’s home. Mislan and Ida’s is the first place that felt like home on my initial travels to Indonesia, which was mainly because of their family — but also because of their community and location. Mislan and Ida live up in the mountains of North Sumatra in a community of over 7000 formerly displaced people who were driven out of Aceh during the 30 year long war that took place between 1976 and 2005. The sense of community there and physical feel of the place are something I have never experienced anywhere else; when I am there I can feel the reality that is the root of their community — facing survival together. This is something I will likely never truly understand, and I cannot put to words the extreme sense of honor and humility I have at being able to be a witness to their community.

I spent three weeks with Mislan and Ida’s family. Much of my time was spent helping out at the the Tunas Baru preschool, which Mislan is the head of and Ida and Dita (one of their daughters) are teachers at. I was in the preschool every weekday that I wasn’t sick, working with the teachers and playing with the kids. Helping out at Tunas Baru was different than helping at Joglo preschool because in Barak Induk none of the teachers speak english. Luckily by this time my Indonesian had improved tremendously, but the limited mutual language did change the ways that I could be most useful. One of my big focuses was books, both supporting the teachers in making them and reading to the children. We talked about how the children take in information and how to best engage them with story telling, and then we practiced; laughing and giving each other tips as we read stories to each other, role playing as if those of us who were listening were kids.

When I wasn’t helping out in the school or working with the teachers I spent time with Mislan and Ida’s family. If you have not read my post about my Indonesian family and want to have more context about the people I am referring to you can check it out here. What you were most likely to find me doing was: playing with Dimas, Noah, and Nikan; chatting with Ida; playing cards with Mislan and Edo; visiting with Dita and Vera; playing with kids in the village; or going out in the village with Mislan or Ida.

Being back in the place that is the core of my heart in Indonesia filled me with a sense of serenity. Not to say that it was all easy, but there has been a part of my heart waiting for the day that I would return, and having returned, the constant pull on my heart strings eased. Writing this now I cannot help the tears from flowing. There will always be that tug, but there is a way that this trip helped to lessened it, because I feel trust that everyone in Indonesia knows that I consider them to be my family and I know that they have taken me into their hearts.

I left Mislan and Ida’s five days before I was to get on my first plane. I was going to leave six days before…but when it rains in Barak Induk you cannot make it down the mountain. After multiple weeks with no rain and everyone praying for rain so I would not be able to leave, you know the rain had to come.


I spent my last days in Indonesia crying, playing, and making a guling — the best kind of pillow — to take home with me. I left a mess, with more in my heart than I knew what to do with. I cried most of the way home and almost lost my guling; luckily Singapore Airlines are amazing and ended up holding the plane for me so I could run back through security and immigration to find my guling waiting for me at the first security check…did I mention I cried a lot! 😛


The other piece of the puzzle that I left out is my health, which continued to suffer after my bout with the food poisoning. Needless to say my tears were not the only thing to follow me home, which, by the way, is where I am now. After three intense, beautiful, and lovely weeks in Seattle I crossed the country with my mom during the last ten days of April and arrived home on May first.


I would love to talk more about Indonesia with anyone who is interested. There are large parts of my travels that have been left out here, some because I cannot write it all, some because I do not want to write it in an email. I cannot express how much gratitude I have for your walking beside me through this journey.

I want to leave you with something, so here is my last little bit of update: I am currently sitting outside leaning against a tree in the town I call home. I am filled with a feeling, which I have felt since I settled into my return from Indonesia — it is a feeling of calm strength that comes from knowing that my heart can feel the depth of beauty that greets me in the faces of the people I love and it also can feel extreme pain, that reminds me of how much I love.


Thank you for being witness to my journey,

your loving friend,

Autumn C. Star



To learn more about the community of Barak Induk click here.

To learn more about Aceh, the 30 year long war, and life post the tsunami click here.

Also, I have sent a report from my time at Joglo preschool, click here.