Walking into the house gave me flash backs to when I was 8 and visiting the Philippines for the first time.
Graduation portraits on the walls, highlighting the achievements of the elderly owner's children. Achievements not possible had it not been for the tough decisions their parents had made. Wedding photos, bride and groom dressed in traditional costume, with the biggest smiles on their faces. Frames containing photos of their grandchildren, babies looking into the camera laughing.
In the middle of the front room, a haphazardly placed mattress on the floor was an unusual addition to a simple, yet neat and clean living area.
Pak Joko, a man much shorter than me, tired with age, showed me to my room. He smiled with pride as he presented a mattress on the floor, clean sheets, a couple of pillows.
Over the next day and a half that I stayed with Pak Joko and his wife, Ibu Sri, I learnt that this house had been in her family since before she was born. When they married they moved away from Nglanggeran, to find work, as there were no other options. As time passed, they dreamed of returning home, but that was only an option a couple a years ago, after they retired from working as a maid and driver.
Times had changed. A young entrepreneur in the area decided to organise the village for tourism. He saw potential in building the area as a magnet for backpackers and those looking for a cultural hit. Since then some of the villagers, just like Park Joko and Ibu Sri, who once thought that their only option was to find work in Jakarta or another big city in Indonesia, have begun returning home.
This home stay opportunity provided me with an insight into the lives of everyday people. Their welcoming nature, and willingness to share their home and stories with complete strangers is something that I really appreciate.
To make this experience even better, I was able to share it with my class. All together the students were able to connect with 4 different families in the area. And they all had similar stories to tell. Leaving the village, many of the students wished that we were staying just a little bit longer. The lure of a hotel for the next couple of nights seemed dull, in comparison to learning about the people we visited.