// red like panda, like flag, Indonesia //


An hour before meeting 30 volunteers alongside other program coordinators, my supervisor said we had to give a 10-minute presentation about our subject. Other coordinators had started their lesson plan design in January and their documents stretched 28 pages long. I started last week and my lesson plan was... ah, let me scroll down... wait, nope, I can't. Because it's one (1) page long.


"Don't worry, you can just share basic principles you want to guide Cultural Studies and what you have so far," my supervisor said, noting my wide eyes.


I nodded even though I had no idea what those principles were. I could hear various ID teachers' voices highlighting this as a critical moment. One hour wasn't enough to curate the premises that would establish the tone of an entire program-- one that would hopefully outlast my participation in this NGO.











In a frantic brainstorm, I whittled it down to 'continuous input for improvement' and 'active learning.' I wish someone could tell me whether or not it was correct, but all I saw on the screen were nods and smiles and people taking notes. 

After the meeting ended, two moments stood out to me.


One, as an ice-breaking activity, the volunteers were asked to guess wordplay phrases based on image combinations. While three to five people always answered within seconds, I had absolutely no idea what the images signified, what the answers meant, or how the two were linked. I wondered:


"Is this an age gap thing since the volunteers were mostly Gen Z? Or has my Bahasa Indonesia deteriorated worse than I thought in the last 8 years? Would I be able to connect with the volunteers and the children I'll be teaching?"

Two, I realized that everyone, regardless of age or status, called each other 'kakak': a gender-neutral older sibling. The classical meaning has been replaced as a signifier of respect. I immediately apologized to my supervisor whom I'd been referring to by name since I knew she was a few years younger. 

It was an emotional, challenging day. I felt a bit sad to be confronted by these moments of socio-cultural disconnect. I felt like a foreigner in my own community.


Mei's Panda having a meltdown-- exactly how I felt inside before the meeting.

[Turning Red, Pixar, 2022.]


Mei's Panda having an existential crises-- a.k.a me in the shower, mulling over these thoughts and sitting with longing, sadness.

[Turning Red, Pixar, 2022.]