CIMB Yong Leaders ASEAN Summit, Jakarta, Indonesia. September 17-19, 2012. Just as I arrived from my very short trip to Singapore, I received an email from the Malaysian bank CIMB asking if I would be interested in going through an interview for an ASEAN Summit that will take place a few weeks from then. Next thing I knew, I was packing once more for this very exciting and out-of-the-blue trip.
It was my first time to be in Jakarta and I was only with one other girl from another university. At first, everything seemed unreal to me. We had a quick stopover in the Changi airport and I was literally in that same airport just two weeks back and it all felt strange, but the nice type of strange. I did worry at the beginning that I was leaving school in such a rush but I knew (even my friends knew) that I would be regretting it had I not pushed through with it. Much sooner than I thought, my heart was reassured.
Kat and I arrived much earlier than the other delegates and so we chose to go ahead and take a cab to our hotel. I tried to look around the city and soak as much as I can in. It looked a lot like the Philippines but there is still a different rush with taking a cab with a driver you can communicate with only in English, not knowing if he really understood where we need to go and knowing that a text to ask for help would cost me at least 30 pesos. Plus, it’s a new city! Each city has a distinct character and there I was trying to figure out what Jakarta’s character is. It is definitely lively and colorful and very, for a lack of a better word, real. It had just the right combination of familiarity to make me feel safe and enough mystery to feed my curiosity.
But, like what I experience most of the time, what made the trip really special were the people I met. Each ASEAN country was well represented with their superb delegates – all of them interesting and bright. I played the role of Education Minister of Indonesia and my task was to propose policies that would help the educational system not only in Indonesia but with the rest of the ASEAN. I was with an awesome team: Jay from Indonesia (Head of Government), Avinash from Malaysia (Labor Minister) and Panida from Thailand (Youth Minister). They were such a fun group of people and that working them was such a breeze. I do believe we did a great job. Good job, Indonesia!
The rest of the delegates were awesome as well. Everybody was just so friendly and warm, plus, we really did learn a lot about each others’ countries and their concerns. Learning about ASEAN was also a very good part of this Summit. We had the privilege to listen to lectures and speeches of ASEAN experts and even previous ASEAN Secretary-Generals – as if having the event held in the official ASEAN Secretariat wasn’t enough to make us feel part of a real ASEAN Summit!
It was an awesome experience indeed and I am sincerely very thankful. If you read my blog quite often, you’d know I am fascinated with different cultures and different countries; and once more, traveling has not disappointed me. I may not have seen the city that much in my 4-day trip to Indonesia but I learned so much about the entire Southeast Asian region, from the lectures and straight from the delegates themselves. Meeting people with such varied backgrounds and experiences will always be priceless and unforgettable. These people will always be teachers and I will forever be a student full of wonder and eagerness to learn more and experience more.
I pray for more opportunities like these. Travelling, learning and meeting such wonderful people – can’t get any better than that. So, thank you CIMB, the ASEAN Secretariat and all the delegates that were part of this. Jakarta, this won’t be the last we see each other.
P.S. I forgot to bring a camera so all these pictures were taken from different people and even from Kat’s Instagram. Haha. Lesson learned, I promise!