After having breakfast at our hotel, our designated driver picked us up for UNHAS around 7am. As we arrived at the University, we observed that there were not many students around, as it was a school holiday. The coordinator which Melvin was corresponding with picked us up when we arrived, and led us to a seminar room, where we were required to remove our shoes upon entry. As soon as we got settled in, a few friendly professors and teaching assistants brought in UNHAS students, and paired us up such that each student from our group had one UNHAS student to speak with.
The purpose of our exchange was to learn about the Smart City initiatives in Makassar, on which thorough piece has been written by Joel. Instead, this reflection elaborates more on the experience we had at Hasanuddin University.
I was paired with Widya, who, like the other UNHAS students, was really friendly. After a quick self introduction, we quickly moved past the small talk, seeing as we shared a common interest of DIY projects. I noticed that her notebook was customised with her name printed on it, and found out that she enjoyed doing DIY projects, as did I. While I shared with her about my amigurumi hobby, she shared how she designed her own notebook, and even offered to make me one (which she delivered to our hotel a few days later)! It was also delivered with a bag of coffee beans, as I casually mentioned that I loved coffee.
When she found out that our hotel was close to her own estate, she also asked if I would like her company as she showed us around Losari Beach, as she wanted to bring me around to try the local cuisine. Unfortunately, we could not arrange a time to meet up again before we left Makassar, but we did exchange our social media. The UNHAS students also continued to suggest places we should visit though the Whatsapp group they created.
Widya also mentioned the Surabaya attacks that had recently taken place, and, with a pained expression, said how she was disappointed, as “Islam preaches to love others, and what they did was not loving others”. From other passing comments she made, I also got the impression that she was actively involved in her religious community. After we returned from the trip, I continued to ask her questions that I was curious about. Widya told me that she was very much involved in her religious community, and was involved in projects like preparing meals for breaking fast during Ramadhan so that people who have not had their meals can break fast at their mosque. In addition, there was another project in the recent 3 months by her community, "Tabligh Akbar" that educated people about their religion. She also confirmed that this level of involvement in the community was common among her peers.
Perhaps this level of involvement was due to the spirit of sombere that we learnt about. Sombere is a term that Makassar people use to describe the spirit of "hospitable humility" that they welcome people with. I thought this was an extremely valuable mindset to bring home with me - rather than simply treating people with kindness and love, viewing them from a place of humility allows for us to learn from them what we might otherwise miss. The power of having this mindset is also recognised by Mayor Pomanto, as he speaks about Smart City solutions with smart (technology) being the tangible “hardware”, and sombere as the “heartware” that motivates the citizens of Makassar to participate and drive his initiatives forward.
This was greatly exemplified by our hosts, where, despite Ramadhan, they prepared lunch and two “tea breaks” for us, with interesting traditional snacks, which we enjoyed in a room next to the seminar room. The first was a traditional bread that was shaped like the curry puff we’re familiar with. Upon biting into it, I discovered that it was actually a soft bread that was filled with glass noodles. It was very strange, but interesting to experience. Lunch was a simple nasi padang, with weirdly textured vegetables. Rather than the flavours I was used to, they had an almost chewy texture to them, but still very tasty. The second “tea break” was a sweet steamed banana cake, which was also very tasty. While we ate, our hosts engaged in conversation with us, and the students waited for our return to continue the seminars.
UNHAS professors also told us that they tend to stick to smaller sized seminar style classes, much like the Utown modules that we take, as they believed it led to deeper learning and meaningful interactions. However, I felt like one day spent at the University was not enough for us to truly understand how effective they were at utilizing the seminar style lessons.At the start of every lesson, professors would greet their students with "Assalamulaikum", which translates to “peace be unto you”, and students replied “Mulaikumusalam” which meant “peace be also upon you”. Considering the simple greetings we exchange with our own professors, ours seemed cold in comparision.
As we had some time before our driver arrived to pick us up, the UNHAS professors brought us on a short campus tour. During which, we spotted many cats around campus. We noticed a lot of greenery on the school grounds, and it was explained to us that this was intentionally done so that students and staff members could feel closer to nature, and therefore relax, in the stressful environment of an educational institution. As the professors and students walked us to the exit, we exchanged the last of our contacts and social media, taking photos to remember when we made new friends.
After that fruitful day in UNHAS, we headed to Losari Beach to catch the sunset. It looked very different, in the evening light, from the first night. While the beach was not the cleanest, and the place was littered with trash, the view of the sunset was breathtaking.
Subsequently, we grabbed dinner at a seafood place near our hotel, per UNHAS students' recommendations, then set off in separate groups to explore the city a little. With Joel and Melvin, we walked along the streets, and came across a street lit by shop tents. Upon walking closer to those tents, it highly resembled Tung Choi street in Hong Kong, the goldfish market. From every wall of each tent, hung plastic bags of live fish. Among those species were large saltwater breeds would obviously feel tortured in the tiny enclosed space of a plastic bag. While it bothered me, this was nothing compared to the shock I would receive at Tomohon Market at Tondano. We kept walking, and eventually stopped at a roadside stand that sold Pisang Epe. I recalled that Widya had recommended this as a local treat that she loved. We chose the "Durian and Gula Melaka" and "Milo, Cheese and Milk" flavours, both of which were really delicious. With that, we ended the night and headed back to our hotel to rest, in anticipation of the next day.