Aan and I had gone out for a river swim after lunch. It was fun, probably the most fun I had swimming as far back as I can remember. I had no idea it would be the last time my brother and I would swim in that river. At nightfall, we went back home, only to notice that the house was unusually dark; this had never been the case before and suddenly, we heard a tiny, familiar voice crying from the distance, “Boys, over here!” It was Mom. What a relief. It was unlike her to be in such a state of panic, and although I was relieved to see her, I could sense that something was wrong.
Aan and I raced to her and embraced her tightly. Mom would later explain to us that Dad and the rest of the family had to leave town suddenly. I could not understand why, and I could not help but cry. Aan and I asked why our family had to leave. She wore a sad face, shook her head, and exhaustedly said, “They came looking for your dad.” Aan and I looked at each other and our hearts sank. With tears streaming down our cheeks, I realized how helpless and desperate we were. Fear crept in. We knew who could be responsible for such an act. For a long time, we had suspected our neighbor and a few other individuals with big, fuzzy, hair.
Our neighbors were always vocal about my dad’s political standing and never held back their own opposing views. I did not understand a lot about politics at that time, but I knew our neighbors were greatly against my dad’s views on political matters. As a result, his family was put in great danger. Mom was eager to tell us that it was no longer safe for us to stay there and we had to leave immediately for safety in the city. We left under the cover of darkness on foot. It was a daunting forty-kilometer walk and something I had never done before. We walked through jungles and went up and down mountains until we found our way into the city.
I remember that as we made our way along the forest path, I looked up at mom and, even in the darkness, I could tell that she was trying to remain stoic and calm. However, her eyes showed her courage and boldness. They also showed the fear and worry, and I could tell that she was more concerned about us than herself. She constantly scanned the surrounding jungle, remaining ever so vigilant of the looming danger that if anyone found us in that jungle, we would have been as good as dead.
I never wanted to see her hurt or tortured in front of us, yet I knew that this would be the case if anyone found us. I also imagined that they would kill the three of us on the spot and leave our bloodied and broken bodies lying on the floor for the jungle to swallow us up. Our neighbors had spent years spying on our family, patiently waiting for the perfect time to attack and drive us from their lands. Finally, that day came, and it dawned on me that I might never go back to the place I called home. I kept thinking about my dad and what would happen to him. As I was engrossed in my thoughts, our presence unsettled a couple of crows. The crows angrily took to flight above the canopy. As if feeding off our growing fears, they turned back and flew over our heads, cawing loudly. They broadcasted our exact location throughout the gloom of the dense foliage.
Mom kept encouraging us not to lose hope. Immediately after the crows flew by, she told us: “Those birds are your grandpa and grandma who are trying to protect us.” This statement was based on an age-old belief that our ancestors were constantly looking after us and they had been reincarnated into all forms of living things, including crows. However, I knew that if we died in that forest, grandma and grandpa would eat us.
As time progressed, we grew ever so tired and breathless. We were in the middle of nowhere without food or water. We grew so weary that at some points, Aan and I were unable to walk anymore. However, Mom kept pushing us onwards, saying that we needed to keep going and would rest once we got closer to the city and onto a decent street. When we finally got to rest, I sat directly in front of Mom. She had a look that I had never seen before in her eyes. It was as if she wanted to hug us very tight and say, “Everything will be alright, do not worry.” I could sense the battle inside her, that part of her was thinking “There is no hope, we will die.” However, I could tell that her spirit kept telling her that we could make it to the city. Aan and I found comfort in Mom’s actions and her way of being hopeful. She made us believe that we would indeed make it to the city regardless of our hunger or what we were going through at that time. The look in her eyes, her strength and the way she spoke to us made me feel safe and comfortable, a feeling that I will never forget. That night, we rested on the side of the road out in the cold with the hope that a truck would drive by. The sounds of an owl in the distance and crows in the trees watching us forced Aan and I to hug Mom tight. She was all we had at that time in our lives.
I was awakened by the chirping of a bird. Looking around, I noticed that both Aan and Mom had already gotten up earlier than me and were getting ready to start the journey for the day. I dusted myself off, and we began walking. However, I needed Mom’s attention, and as I always did, I constantly complained until I got it. I remember complaining that I was tired, hungry and thirsty. Aan knew me a little too well and did not even bother listening; he knew that all I wanted was attention. While it was true that I was hungry and thirsty, I wanted my Mom’s attention more than food or water. She always indulged my complaints, telling me that as soon as we pass a few houses we would stop and ask for food. I looked forward to this happening since I had not had a meal in a long time. I was not entirely for the idea of knocking on strangers’ doors and asking for food, but my stomach said otherwise. I could not say no to food and my mom, together with my other siblings, knew that. To some extent, I even thought that food was my weakness. We knocked on the door at a few houses asking for some food and water. One household was kind enough to let us in. Once again, I had my reservations, but my hunger got the best of me. They gave us food, and at some point, their neighbor walked in to check up on us. Given the doubts and suspicions that I had towards my own neighbors back at my home, it was perfectly natural for me to take their presence with a sense of uncertainty. However, nothing fishy happened, and once we were done, my mom thanked them profusely and requested that they let us continue our journey. I remember that the hosts were very insistent that we spend the night at their place.
They were reluctant to let us go. Deep down, I felt like they were luring us to an early grave and could not stand spending the night in their house, however hospitable they were. Mom could not have it either. She thanked them for their hospitality but gave them a myriad of reasons why we needed to leave. She was firm not to mention anything about my dad or the original plan to go to the city. She even mentioned that she needed to help her sister open a food shop in the city. It was all a cover-up for my dad, so no one would know his political standing and the reason why we were fleeing in the first place. The conversation went back and forth, but eventually, the hosts finally let us go, albeit with a heavy heart. They could tell that we were hiding something, but it didn’t bother me. So long as they let us go, I was fine with it.
As we were bidding our goodbyes and passing our gratitude, a few men outside the house looked at us with angry eyes. It was like they knew we did not belong there and that we were fleeing from something. Regardless, we kept walking. The pace increased once figured the men might be following us. At some point, I caught a glimpse of a man sharpening his axe.
He wore a blood-chilling smile on his face, which might have been innocent, but given the situation my family and I were in at that moment, I could not have told the difference. In the distance, a dog was barking. Listening closely, I could tell that it was moving closer to us, meaning that we were certainly being followed. Mom held us by the hands, and we ran towards the main street, once again hoping that a truck would drive by.
As if our cries had been heard, truck lights appeared in the distance. It was coming towards us, and Mom knew that this was our opportunity. She grabbed our hands, and we ran towards the middle of the street where we stood still. Never in my life had I seen or felt the shaking of my mom’s hands. She knew all too well that this was the only way she could get the truck driver to stop. Around these areas, drivers never stopped as they were often tortured and killed by locals.
Luckily, this was not a private truck but a military vehicle. Looking back, I know I would not be here today if it were not for that army driver, who was simply driving back to base after being out to chop wood. He stopped and walked toward my mom. She could not help but hug him, crying with relief. She asked if he could help us get to the city and, surprisingly, he recognized her. He remembered her from patrols he had done before.
At some point, he and his colleagues even came over to our house, and Mom gifted them with ducks and chickens to take back to their camp base. From this one incident, I also began to understand how our neighbors came to hate us so much.
We got to the city early in the morning. The truck driver took us straight to the army’s housing facility. He then locked us inside one of the rooms and told us to wait until he got back. We could hear people moving around and thought they might be the soldier’s wife and children. At some point, we overheard a conversation between the driver and someone else. He was speaking to his friend: “We have to protect our people first!” said the man. “They are our people!”
The soldier continued, “Remember the man? We went to his house.”
His friend asked, “Which one?”
“The tall one, the one that came here once and brought us a goat.”
“Yes. Is he inside?” the friend asked.
“No. Just his wife and two boys.”
“Okay. I’ll drive over and pick them up,” responded the friend. It was a very welcome response from him since I was starting to get a little nervous.
A few hours later, the driver came and opened the door. He told us to get into the truck immediately. I still remember my mom thanking him profusely for his act of kindness; that was the last time I ever saw him. Mom took us to live with our aunt until she decided whether it was safe for us to stay there or to move to another location. One of my cousins was very highly regarded as a powerful man in the community. As such, we felt safe around him and felt proud of his achievements.
While in the city, everything was under control. My mom had made a promise to take us to my older siblings’ restaurant. We were all excited to see each other, as it had been a while since we had done that. As usual, my appetite got the best of me, and I ate as though there was no tomorrow; my older brother always gave me the freedom to eat as much as I could. He very well understood his brother’s appetite!
At the corner of the restaurant my dad was sitting and watching as I ate the meal on the table. Inside, I asked myself, “Is he angry at me because I eat so much food? Is he so excited to see me that he doesn’t even know how to express himself?” Our eyes met, but it was as though he did not even recognize my face. I walked straight towards him and said, “Dad, I miss you.”
To my astonishment, he laughed and turned his back on me while shaking his head up and down as though he was talking to someone else. I could not understand how he could do this to me. It was heart breaking. Then, my older sister came and hugged me, saying that Dad had gone mad. She explained that he’d gone mad because he could not let go of all the things he had owned in his lifetime. At that point, I did not understand what my sister was saying, and I kept talking to my dad as usual. I respected my old man immensely, but even at that tender age, I could still see how differently my older brother and sister treated him. It was unfair and heart wrenching. All the good memories we had shared with him came to mind. I had always looked up to my old man. He was an inspirational man. Not a single day went by without him waking up very early in the morning to start watering the plants, letting the animals out of their cages and working as hard as he could to place food on the table. He hardly spoke, but his actions compensated for the absence of words. He always went the extra mile to make his family happy, and I revered him for that. Not once did I hear him complain. His martial arts and self-defense skills were also impeccable. He was a gentleman, and I tried to be like him – something that I strive to achieve even today. My mom always looked up to him as the brave man who married her. As tradition dictated, he had given her family twelve cows, twelve pigs, and twelve horses. She then followed him into the middle of the jungle where they lived and were blessed with nine beautiful children. However, now I was standing in front of him and saddened that he was being treated like a child. I could not help the tears flowing from my eyes. It was heartbreaking then, and it still is today.
I stretched my hand and touched his shoulder. He seemed aware of my presence. I moved forward and sat on his lap. He welcomed me with a soft and gentle touch but kept shaking his head and looking away from me. I looked up to his chin, wondering whom he talked to at that point. I have never known the answer. As I was helping my sister around the restaurant, the people who came were very disrespectful. They never treated my sister right and it infuriated me. However, that was not the worst thing that happened. Every passing day, we heard of people being killed in the city. It was no longer safe for us to live in my aunt’s house, especially since her son was the pro-opposition mastermind. He was a wanted man. We were all worried that at some point, people would come looking for him and possibly burn down the house with us in it. As such, Mom thought it best if we moved to one of the nearby school buildings. All the while, to fend for us, she went door to door asking for food, water, or anything that the people were kind enough to give.
One afternoon, a crowd gathered nearby, screaming and shouting at top of their lungs. In front of the group was a man holding someone else’s head. It was still bleeding. There was blood everywhere. My brother and I hid behind a fence, and it was frightening. Never before had I witnessed such a scene, and it is a memory that will never be erased from my mind. I remember asking my brother what the crowd was going to do with the decapitated head, and he told me that they were going to show it to their enemy, who was hiding in the forest. “Who is hiding in the forest?” I asked.
“People who are pro-independent. They are also our brothers and sisters,” my brother responded. I did not know what was going on. I knew that the man currently soaked in another person’s blood was one of ours, and yet those hiding in the forest were also ours. However, my brother seemed to understand what I could not. Suddenly, my mom ran towards us, pulled us by the hands, and took us back inside the house. With a very worried and concerned face, she told us not to go out there again. I understood things were getting more dangerous with every passing day.
That night, Mom boiled some water and filled up several containers for us to take on the road early in the morning. At dawn, around ten green army trucks pulled up in front of the building and people started scrambling for a spot inside the truck. Mom grabbed us by the hands and tried to secure us a spot on the truck. I noticed that my dad was just standing there, watching us, and doing nothing. Mom, out of frustration, screamed at him to help us, especially since I could not get myself up on the truck; I really could have used someone’s help. Suddenly, I felt a pair of strong hands lift me up to the track. At the back of my mind, I thought it was my dad. Looking back, I realize that it was one of the army officers. My dad was not left behind and managed to board, even with the commotion going on by the trucks. At some point, my mom got into an argument with the army officers. She was trying to sneak some food and water onto the truck. She always had a kind heart, and all her intentions were geared towards ensuring that we were healthy and strong for the long journey ahead. However, the army officers would not have any of it. They snatched what she had packed and threw it down the side of the road. They would not let us, or anyone else, bring food onto the tracks as they wanted it to be filled with as many people as possible. We were helpless. There was nothing we could do other than listen to them and obey what they were saying.
We were dropped off by soldiers to some deserted place. They built tents for us with the promise that we would only stay there for three days and would be provided with a sufficient supply of food and water. Three days passed, and we heard nothing from them. We did not have a change of clothes and had no money to buy food. We were living at the mercy of the soldiers and with every passing hour we grew more anxious and desperate. I also noticed that the soldiers were confused, too. They did not know what to do with us, and their superiors either did not know or just did not care. We knew that if we decided to walk back to the city, we would risk being beheaded. If we continued to stay in this camp, we would continue to suffer.
We had to fight for food. There was no dignity when it came to finding food in the camp. We were simply too many, and the supplies were too little. People had to get their hands dirty for their families to get something to eat. Mom was a fighter. She has always been one, and this is one reason why I have always been so proud of her. She has always been smart as well. Whenever food was being dished out, she was always at the front line. As a senior, confident woman who was only trying to get food for her children, she commanded respect from the rest of the people in the camp. This spared her from the fights. As for water, my brothers took responsibility. It was survival of the fittest, and the strongest would get water first. My brother was well suited for the task and did an excellent job.
Days passed and soon we had a schedule. We would wake up in the morning and sit outside the tent on a bucket. We would wait for the tanker to deliver clean water and secure our places at the front of the line. It was the same case with food. Life seemed meaningless. It was only characterized by waiting for meals without the knowledge of where we would be the following day or what we were supposed to do with our lives. Things never got any better with time, and we each had to resort to activities that kept us busy and helped us earn a few coins. The growing demands forced me to find a job, but I did not have any skills. I began collecting cans for recycling, which could earn me thirty cents per kilogram. It was not easy since I could hardly get one kilogram in an entire day. I then tried selling vegetables from house to house and eggs at a nearby petrol station. It seemed like life was now all about survival. I was also very young and very few individuals would employ a kid my age. Mom would also sell vegetables from one house to another while my older sister and her friends, together with Dad, just merely sat all day long, talking and laughing.
My friends and I had discovered the pastime of watching television. It was fascinating to me. I had never seen anything like it before. There was one problem, though. It was our neighbor’s television, and they wouldn’t let us watch it from inside the house. We would crane our necks over their window and catch a glimpse of the programs that were being aired at any given time. I was short, way shorter than my friends, and I had to improvise. I used to pick up a decently sized rock and place it under the window, thereby elevating myself for a better view of the television. Also, whether we got to watch the television or not depended on the neighbor’s mood. Sometimes, they would draw the curtains, and all we could hear were the voices of the actors and actresses. Other times, we would hope that they would fail to draw the curtains properly, so we could peep through whatever gaps were left. It was a thrill but was also tiring at the same time.
One day, I left the rock under the window. I had always made a point to remove it from there to prevent any mishaps or conflicts with the neighbors. However, this was not my lucky day. I found the kid from the house waiting for me by the door, welcoming me with generous punches and kicks, with the icing being a stern warning never to show up near that house ever again. I never did, and all my friends and I could do was play random games by the place we used to stay.
Once, as we were playing, a bus pulled up right next to where we were, and one of the passengers jumped off. It was Ahmad, my elder brother. Even before I could say hi, he told me, “Dedy, pack your bag and follow me.” It did not take me long to figure out that this was the point I was leaving my mom. I remember her telling me that it was probably best if I followed Ahmad. She was trying to hold back her tears. Deep down, she knew that she did not want to let me go. However, she did not have much choice. Her last piece of advice before I left was, “Son, remember to be humble.” These are words that I live by even today.
The bus dropped us right in front of the restaurant where Ahmad worked, and he introduced me to his manager. It seemed that they liked having Ahmad around. He took my bag to his room, went straight to the kitchen and started cleaning and cooking. I was astonished since I had a different idea in mind. I thought he would first give me food and then let me lie down and have a rest. I had just spent an eight-hour journey on the bus. Apparently, this was not his intention. He called me to where he was and wondered if I could help him by cleaning the dishes. I took the brush and started cleaning. In my mind, I thought, “Now I know why they like having Ahmad around.” We spent the morning in the restaurant, cleaning, cooking, and eating. Ahmad told me that he would take me to the person who would adopt me later that afternoon.
I was not looking forward to it, as I preferred staying around him. I asked him if we could work together there, but he said we couldn’t. I protested, “I don't want to live far away from you! I don't know these people; I don't know this place!”
“You will be alright,” he replied with an uncertain voice, for he knew I needed him, but he had no choice. He had to let me go. “Time to go,” Ahmad said. I packed my bag and said goodbye to Ahmad's manager, and when we got to the destination, they welcomed me with open arms. They were very nice people; however, they only want me to work as a labor, I want to be able to write and read. Days went by. I started building a routine. I would wake up at four o'clock, initiate the day by cleaning, laundry, and lifting lumber. I worked for a furniture company. I loved the job but there was always a feeling inside telling me that I wanted something more: I really wanted to be able to read. Every time I walked through the streets, I would look up at a big commercial sign and wonder what it said. Every time I watched Hollywood movies, I couldn't read the subtitles or understand what they were saying.
The job that I was doing did not involve any writing. It was all purely physical. As time passed, I started feeling an inner conflict – one voice would tell me, “Stay and do the same thing. You have comfort here, food, and people to look after you. Here, you are safe.” The other voice would say, “Leave! Go out there and explore the world.”
The second voice became the stronger, and soon, the only thing that I thought about was leaving the house that I was in. I decided to go, but I did not know where. I realized that once I made that decision, I could never come back. Still, I decided to leave. That afternoon, I walked down the street. It was getting dark and cold. I thought to myself, “Am I doing the right thing by leaving?” I needed to rest so I sat down for a while on a staircase. A few guys were playing guitar nearby. As I sat enjoying the sound of the guitar, three men walked past me. They looked at me full of curiosity and decided to leave me alone and later joined the others playing guitar nearby.
A few hours later, one of the men decided to come and say hi. He introduced himself as Ady and asked me my name. I thought I shouldn’t tell my real name because the people who adopted me would still be looking for me. So, I told them a different name – I don't know where the name came from, it just popped into my head at the time. When he took me to his friends and introduced me, I forgot the name that I had just made up! I said to myself, “Now I'm in big trouble!” Luckily Ady didn’t remember my new name either. I spent the rest of the night just trying to remember my new name. We all decided to sleep that night on the side of the road, as they were all the same as me, homeless.
In the morning, Ady called me by my new name, and I thought to myself: “Ah! That's the name that I've been trying to remember.” We became good friends from then on. Our daily activities were to sit on the side of the road and wait for cars to pass by and start begging for money. I lived in one of the most dangerous places in town. Later, people started to treat me differently. This was because Ady was the most dangerous man in the area. He had been in and out of jail several times before. Around there, he had a significant influence on the gang community. He taught me a lot of things about living on the street. After a while, I got used to it. As time went by, I started to behave like him. Not a day went by where I didn’t get into a fight or get drunk. Every morning was the same, every night – the same. I woke up and watched people have a healthy life. They went to school and seemed enthusiastic about life, while I was stuck with a hangover, lying on the side of the road with dark eyes and smelly clothes. No one could find me, not even my brother since I had changed my name. I knew I could never go back to the family that had adopted me, as I had left without permission.
Suddenly, Ady changed. I still don’t know what his motivation was, but he began looking for a normal job. However, I was still in the old mindset. He decided to leave me alone and move on with his life. With Ady gone, I had no protection, no real friends, or family. In the night, I would walk up and down the street hoping someone would walk past with a cigarette. I felt so empty inside. Every night, I always had a nightmare and couldn't sleep until I got to the point where I was scared of closing my own eyes. The dream to be able to read was still just a dream; I was still not able to read. I saw life, in the same way, every day. All my experiences were the same even if I tried to change them, and I always came back to the same thoughts and feelings of being trapped in my version of reality. This reality left me with uneasiness and boredom. I couldn't focus even for a second. All I seemed to concentrate on was to smoking cigarettes, one after another, and feeling restless.
I had no home and no real friends. I began to see only one option: to go back and find Ahmad. It had been three years since I started living on the street and I had not seen him that whole time. As I got to the place where Ahmad worked, he wasn't there. I found out that he had left that place two years before. I asked where he went, but they didn't know. Ahmad’s manager was friendly and was willing to help reunite me with my family. He took me to the bus station and sent me for the long eight-hour ride. I arrived around midnight. I knew exactly the spot where my parents were. I couldn't believe what I saw when I got to the destination: an empty field, nothing there, those tents that had been our home were all completely gone. I was so confused and scared. I ran to the exact spot where we had lived, but it was empty and it looked like it had been for a long time. I wondered what to do. I couldn't go back the street life, as I had no family there. I didn’t know where Mom and Dad were. They left no picture and no address. I managed to ask people who walked past. They didn’t know where the displaced people had been moved to. I was in tears now that I was completely alone. I realized that I did not have parents, siblings or any real friends. My attitude was poor; no one wanted to give me a job as my appearance was that of a criminal. At that point, I still could not read or write, and I was sure nobody would give a job to someone who didn’t even know how to read. I sat there in a state of utter confusion. I didn’t know what move to make. I felt so lost; the tears kept flowing down my cheeks. At this point, I imagined all the possibilities of how to run away from the current reality. I tried closing my eyes to it all, but every time I opened them I was still living in that wretched and miserable self. The only choice was to end my life. I thought, “Should I jump off a bridge? Or run into a car?” These thoughts kept my mind occupied. I chanted to myself that the best option was to end this misery by killing myself. I felt that I couldn't face the nightmares that I had been having since I lived on the side of the road. Not only were my dreams full of nightmares, but so was my real life. I experienced those same dreams every time I closed and opened my eyes.
A hungry stomach, as well as mental and physical exhaustion, made me to lose consciousness. At that point, I was just like a heavy drunk man. I took all thoughts that came to my mind a little too seriously. I started laughing, crying, and getting angry. I knew that if I could not decide, I was bound to go crazy or kill myself. I carried too much pain. I asked myself why it was so hard to have a normal life.
A few days passed. I had been all around the city but couldn't find any trace of family or friends. Reluctantly, I decided to go back to the place I knew even though there was no one there for me. Thoughts of suicide and the pain I felt inside still occupied my mind. I walked down towards the bus station, and on getting there, I could hardly believe my eyes. An old friend! We used to play together; I was so overwhelmed that I ran towards him, wondering if he knew where my family was. He said that he indeed knew where they lived. He then told me he would take me to where they were, and just like that, I was relieved of the huge weight on my shoulders.
As we rode along the road, I noticed that we were gradually getting out of the city and into the jungle. I looked all around, and I could only see fallen trees and decaying trunks. I got the sense of an unwanted place. As we got to the house, he stopped the bike right where Mom was. Mom, screaming at the top of her lungs, ran towards me. She hugged me so tight and couldn't stop kissing my cheeks. She told me that she had missed me so much and had been so worried about me. My older sister couldn't believe what she was seeing. She, too, hugged me with tears in her eyes. Dad was, as usual, cold and indifferent when he saw me.
They were all somehow different. There was a change in their eyes, an expression of losing faith in life and I knew that they could see the same in mine. In their minds, they thought that I was a successful man, but I wasn’t. They didn't know I had lost my way in life. They expected that I would bring something to their lives: the excitement, smiles on their faces, or the hope that I had something to give. This made my eyes flood with tears, and they started streaming in torrents down my cheeks. I couldn't even pay the person who brought me to them, and then to see Mom promising to pay him later just made me feel worse. Mom gave me a sip of water and said, “It’s all right, have a seat.” The water had the taste of mud because it had come from the lake. Mom told me they had no food and no water here. She said, “They brought us into the middle of nowhere with the hopes that we could survive. However, we can't plant anything here as we live on top of the mountain. They still bring us food and water once a week. But it's not enough. There are thousands of us here.”
These words only made me feel worse about the situation and myself. When I looked at Mom, I couldn't believe the change that had happened to her face. My older sister had changed as well. Last time I saw her as a young and beautiful woman, now she just wore a tired expression in her eyes with two kids and a failed marriage. Dad’s sickness was getting worse. While holding a samurai sword, he had wandered down to a public area. The people around didn't like his behavior, so they beat him up ruthlessly. Seeing the bruises on his face just made the pain inside me go so much deeper. At this point, all the thoughts about killing myself had subsided, almost as if I had never even thought about it. As I saw what had happened to them, all I could think of was how to help them. Days passed living life in the middle of nowhere. The place was so isolated from the outside world. There was no electricity, no access to clean water, and no place to find food because we were living on top of a mountain where the soil was dry and barren; nothing could grow there. The lifestyle was still like the last time I left them – subsistence and waiting. People still waited for food and water and still fought each other for the same. I looked around and realized that it was a place for people who didn't matter much or people who were not viewed as important. The officials who placed these people there did not care if they survived or not. Soon I made a conscious decision to leave the place. Mom suggested that I should go back to the city, as there was no life for me in the jungle.
Mom told me to wait for another two days until they brought rice rations for the week, so she could sell them to our neighbor and give me the money to send me back to the city. I didn't go back to the area I had lived, though at the time I couldn’t say why. Instead, I decided to go and find a job. I got some work as a cleaner in one of the health clubs in town, and after a short while, I met a few people who had been to Paradise City. They always made suggestions for me to go to Paradise City. “You will do well in Paradise City,” they said. Not long after, I decided that I would leave and go to Paradise City.
I arrived in Paradise City with one plastic bag hanging off my left wrist, two shirts, one pair of pants and two dollars in my pocket. I was constantly looking to the right and left like someone who had lost his way. I did not know where to go or who to contact. However, in my mind, there was only one destination – the beach.
Back home, all my friends said it was easy to find a job there and I was willing to give it a shot. I managed to walk and talk to a few people before finally getting to the beach. My eyes couldn't believe what I saw. There were bule (white men) everywhere! I had only seen them on television, but now I was seeing them in person for the first time in my life! I was excited beyond belief, and even casually smiled at them. They smiled back. I walked for a long time along the beach. I was amazed by the beauty of the beach; the soft sand on my feet, the wind, the sound of the waves. It comforted me greatly and, for that moment, I forgot everything else. I only wanted that moment, that one moment.
Before long, those feelings of joy I had inside me turned to fear. I suddenly realized that I was not there for a holiday! I didn’t have a place to stay, and I didn’t know where to go. I was tired, mentally and physically. I sat down and asked myself what I was going to do. The intention of helping my family was just a dream. Here, I had nothing and felt like I couldn’t even help myself. I saw a security guard standing right at the front of a restaurant close by. I went up to him and asked if he could help me get a security job and he asked if I had my security license. At that moment, I had no words. I realized that I didn't go to school and I had no job history, no certificates, or anything like that. I still couldn’t even read at that stage. How, then, could I have a security license? I could feel the fear begin to build within me; my heart was pumping fast, my hands were shaking. I stood still in front of him with that realization and he asked if I was okay. I said that I was, turned around, and walked away.
The voice in my head started making noises. It said, “Look at you. You can't even read and write. Now you come to the big city hoping to find a job?” Such negative thoughts came one after another. It was getting dark and my legs were so exhausted after a long walk along the beach, I finally took a rest. In the morning, I walked towards the city hoping I could stop in the Warung and get something to eat. While eating, I saw a gym right in front of me. I finished my meal quickly and I walked in. The lady at the reception desk was very hospitable. I asked if I could just have a look around, and she allowed me to do so. I smiled to everyone I met to the point where I made one person come up and introduce himself. I later told him that I was looking for a job.
He asked me what kind of job I was looking for, and I responded by saying that I was happy to do cleaning around the establishment or becoming a gym instructor. He then asked what other skills I had. I still remembered the martial arts that my dad had taught me and my experience as a street fighter. He offered me a job as a fitness instructor. Six months later, I was familiar with the Bali lifestyle and the benefits that came with it. As days passed by at the gym, they hired an instructor from Perth, Australia. She was tall, beautiful, and good looking, and she happened to be single. As she instructed the yoga class, our eyes met; long story short, we found ourselves twelve months later with a baby.
Raising a child and living in a western country with no knowledge of the English language was very challenging, especially when having to speak with a potential client over the phone. Through all these experiences, I realized that life will give you whatever experience needed for your personal growth.
My growth accelerated because I didn’t only have to think about one person, but three. As a result of this I became more aware of what others need and want. Something within me urged me to start creating content; content mostly about personal development. Every day, I would spend time learning how to read and teaching myself how to write. People began to give me feedback, saying they were enjoying what I was doing, so I continued.
Seven years later, I live in the most beautiful place, Perth, Australia, surrounded by good friends, mentors, and teachers that inspired me to share my story with the world. In the next chapter, I'm going to share with you my mission and the educational platform that I've created, dedytien.com.
Inside each one of you, there is an idea ready to be born. That idea could be starting your own business, writing your first book, being that leader or teacher that you have always wanted to be; perhaps traveling around the world, living the life that you have always imagined. Here is the truth, my friend: you can do it. Anything is possible.
I'm going to share with you how I started dedytien.com with the hope that it will inspire you to follow your dream. Dedytien.com is the dream of a little boy and a commitment to mastering every area of his life. So he dedicated his life to empowering himself. As a result, individuals that come in contact with him get inspired by his dream, commitment, and mission. His mission is simple: he wants to empower individuals and enrich their lives through books, videos, and online courses.
Maybe you have that burning desire or the inspiration to create, be, do, and have the things that you want. The power lies within you. Imagine, for a moment, that if a boy with broken English can fulfill his dream by writing you this message, then so can you. If this boy who couldn't read or write ends up writing his own book, then so can you. There is unlimited potential within you, and yes you can be, do, and have anything your heart desires. The naysayers would say, “It's impossible, you can't do it.” Listen to those who say, “yes, you can,” because all of us are powerful beyond measure.