Visiting my sponsor child: a sneak peek into my pen pal’s life
It had been my mantra for years: “If I’ll ever happen to be somewhere close to Indonesia, I’ll go and visit Dita.” Dita is the 15-year old girl I have been sponsoring since 2014. And although I didn’t quite expect myself to be ‘close to Indonesia’ any time soon, I kept dreaming of visiting Dita and her family.
However, a few times in one’s life, dreams do come true. Somewhere in spring 2018, my boyfriend Koen and I made plans for a road trip in Australia. The exhausting, unattractive 20-hour flight between Amsterdam and Cairns turned out to be the perfect excuse for a stopover in Bali to meet Dita. Finally, after all these years and after the approximately 150 e-mails we exchanged since my sponsoring started.
A little bit of background information: 150 e-mails, that’s probably more correspondence than average, but I must admit Dita and I have become real pen pals. Her English is great, and her curiosity to learn about other cultures is huge. What we always write about? Well, our day-to-day businesses, basically. We update each other about school, work, our family, sport activities, mutual study plans… The normal things any other two friends on this planet would discuss, except this friendship is based on E-mail exchange instead of coffee dates.
In October 2018, Koen and I finally boarded our plane to Indonesia to meet Dita in person. And I must admit: I felt a little nervous. Would the connection we have in our E-mails also exist in real life? What if we wouldn’t know what to talk about? What about our age and cultural differences? What if she wouldn’t like Koen? Yet the very moment the three of us met in person, my worries turned out to be complete nonsense. We hugged, exchanged gifts, started talking (did I tell you her English is great?!) and we didn’t stop chatting until the end of our visit two days later.
Thanks to the taxi we hired via the yayasan, Dita could show us around and show us her life: her school, her favorite hangout spots, the beach, her mum’s work, her grandma at the rice field… We asked her to be our tour guide and she did a great job. She even invited us to her house and her family, which was definitely the highlight of our trip. Her parents provided us snacks and drinks (coconut milk fresh from the tree!), her grandparents joined in and Dita’s adorable younger sister Nopia (10) showed up too.
We also met Ibu Ketut, the manager of the yayasan in Samsaman (we stayed there overnight), the volunteers, and WINS’s local English teacher Intan. I’m really impressed by the enormous amount of work all of them do, day after day, with a smile, to help the children get the best out of themselves. Dita doesn’t only have a family at home, but one at the yayasan too.
Our two-day visit felt like all the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together: I now haven’t only read about Dita’s life in her e-mails, but experienced it too. It makes her correspondence even more fun to read. More importantly, this look inside her life made me humble: Dita’s ambition, cheerfulness and perseverance are inspiring, especially considering her situation. And I’m really proud to call her my friend.
Kim en Koen