Photo by Lacey Raper on Unsplash

An empathy walk in Makassar

This is a recycled post of my note about the empathy walk I took, back in 2015 when I visited my best friend, Reiko. She used to work as a JICA volunteer in Makassar that was once called Ujung Pandang, the capital city of South Sulawesi. Empathy walk is a stage of the U process, called Co-Sensing, in which ones learn how to open their minds and hearts to see others with new eyes.

I have been to Makassar several times. The work with the University of Melbourne and GIZ took me there a few times. I honestly didn’t really enjoy those trip. I mostly met people from work and was told to try the local food, which I didn’t find appealing either. However, this time, I was determined to try out new things, especially since Reiko who was not a local survived the tough life in Makassar over 1,5 years. ‘Tough’ to us was more about the lack of exciting things to do or see in Makassar. Although, in the end, we both agreed that it was only a matter of perspective.

So, Reiko took me to her favourite cafe in Makassar. It was owned by someone originally from Northern part of Sulawesi who went to study in the States. When we got there, an amiable lady greeted us with very fluent English. She was apparently the wife of the owner. I was introduced to her while she was supervising her kitchen staff.

Then came out the husband. He smiled at me and then was introduced to me. We started to talk which in the end lasted for hours. With a glass of homemade apple lemonade, a drink of summer coffee and a big piece of oatmeal cookie, I quickly felt at home.

Although, in the end, we both agreed that it was only a matter of perspective.

I was genuinely amazed by the couple. The husband was older, and the wife was younger than me. They had three lovely children aged between 2 to 6 years old. I was also introduced to their kids and told the meaning of their names. I could not remember their names, but I recalled they were quite poetic and with deep meanings.

The husband studied Psychology in Portland. The wife was originally from West Java but worked for a foreign bank that is located in South Sulawesi. They met through the husband’s mom who was the client of the bank.

The husband loved and learned cooking from his mom and dad, as well as his grandmother. He was also a creative mind. He had talent in arts such as poetry. He enjoyed jazz which was proven by the music they played at the cafe. He also cared for the environment, which explains why Reiko and the family hung out a lot together.

He also cared for the environment, which explains why Reiko and the family hung out a lot together.

I was not sure what he used to do before running the cafe, but he told me that he was working on building his dream. He started by going on training with the biggest mountaineering organisation in Indonesia. He had been taking a group of nature enthusiasts on hiking to the mountains in South Sulawesi. They also went on a regular basis to explore the pristine nature of South Sulawesi.

His dream was to take children in Makassar on hiking to expose them to nature and teach them about the environment. He also said that the children must go without their parents so they could be ‘brainwashed’ about caring and protecting the environment. He was so excited when talking about some kids who had signed up for a trip. He also said his bigger dream was to engage schools in Makassar. But as he has tattoos, he was worried that it might not be possible.

Listening to their story and seeing life from their perspectives, I was so inspired by their braveness in making decisions and building a fascinating life.  Spending hours exchanging thoughts and ideas with them turned out to be the highlight of my stay in Makassar. The kind of trip I enjoy.

They inspire me for being able to give meaning to life.

I respect them for being brave to make a choice between career and the life they want to have. They inspire me for being able to give meaning to life. Although their choice seemed to be very personal, they care about how their presence can make an impact on other people and the environment.

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