Alice Mendoza, teacher at Wilkes Elementary School

23 August 2021

I believe that through traveling, I am able to enrich the lives of my students with the stories, experiences, photos and mementos I return home with to help them see we are one people, though our cultures may be different, we are connected and matter greatly to each other . What always touches me most is watching the eyes of my students widen when I bring alive the connections with the peoples from the various lands I have traveled to. My friends teach at the International School in Jakarta. In the summer of 2002, I visited them for a few days and then traveled to home stays in Jakarta, Yogjakarta and Bali, arranged by the Indonesian mother of a former third grade student. These visits were the highlight of my trip because I was welcomed into the home of strangers and left, in tears, deeply sad to have to leave my new friends! My fondest memories of all were the moments I spent with Mark Keatinge, his wife Ketut and daughters in Sanur and the days spent with the young people who worked at the Penestanen Bungalows in Ubud who were so kind to me. The Keatinges invited me to a temple ceremony at Ketut’s family temple and honored me by dressing me in the traditional sarong, fixing my hair and teaching me throughout the ceremony the importance and meaning of the rituals. I met so many lovely people on Bali, who, when I close my eyes, I can see again. I have never felt such a spiritual connection before!

I came home and started my year by talking and talking about how much this trip meant to me, especially in those days of world chaos following the 9/11 terrorist attack. I told them how warmly I was received by everyone I met. The time was coming to start production of our annual calendar project that raises money for our sister island, Ometepe, Nicaragua. Very poor economically but rich in the love of their family, friends and culture. Then the Bali bombing occurred. How could this be? I screamed as I watched the news coverage. I cried and cried and cried. Going to school the next day was so hard for me for I knew the kids would have heard. We talked. We cried. Audrey raised her hand and said she thought we should share the money we made selling the calendars to help Bali. Kyler spoke up and said we should split it 50-50. I cried some more, right in front of them because I could see that Bali and its people lived in their hearts that were broken by the news.

We raised $10,000 that year and sent Mark what he told me would be the startup funds for YKIP. We were all wishing we could do more but happy to feel we could make a difference in the lives of so many children whose lives had been tragically altered. I am so tremendously honored and proud to have been a part of this project that grew from the hearts of 26 young children deeply saddened by the injustice of such a senseless act. I share with you a quote that has been recited by my students every Monday since my trip to Bali as an important part of our Monday morning traditions. I read it in the book, A Little Bit 1 O’Clock that I read while on Bali that tells of the experiences of a foreign couple living with a Balinese family for a year. I tear up writing this because peace is our world seems more elusive than ever. Perhaps, just perhaps, the day will come when we can indeed see these words speak the truth that deserves to be lived by us all.

This is a Chinese proverb: “If there is a light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, THERE WILL BE PEACE IN THE WORLD”

Thank you for listening,
In peace,
Alice Mendoza