Julie is sitting in the little class room of Natsir’s nature school. We just finished our last meal cooked by Natsir’s wife Diana. Our night bus leaves from the neighbouring town of Makale in an hour. Natsir never stops working but we’ve managed to squeeze in time for an interview. It is pitch dark outside and one can hear the insects and the noises coming from the simple living room downstairs filled with happy volunteers and Natsir’s kids. This classroom is where we’ve taught English to groups of smiley kids from different ages and religion for the last three weeks.
What’s your name?
Just Nasir and not Natsir even if most of the people call me this way as one of my teacher added a “t” to my name
How did we meet each other?
You contacted me by email to come and help my project here in Tana Toraja.
When and where were you born?
I was born on the 24th of August 1970 in Rembon, Tana Toraja.
Did something important happen the year you were born?
I’ve been told by my mum that life was really tough at that time and that we could only eat one meal a day. Also, when I was 5 months old, our small house caught fire. My mother was doing the laundry very close to the house and I was with my cousin who was only a kid but decided to play with fire. He got scared and ran away. Fortunately my mum soon realised and ran to get me and avoid a dramatic accident.
Do you know why your parents decided to call you Nasir?
Well, I don’t know. When I asked my mum, she just said that it was the name that came spontaneously to her mind.
How do you make a living?
I’m a part time English teacher and I sometimes take tourists on guided treks of the area and chocolate making workshops.
Are you involved in any projects in Indonesia?
I’m involved in two different projects. I’m involved with the association Smile train Indonesia which helps children from remote areas born with cleft palets (bec de lièvre) getting free surgery. It inevitably makes a “smile chain” as the kid but also his family, relatives and the whole community will be back to smiling.
My other project is Natsir Nature school, a little classroom overlooking my organic garden where kids from across the community can come after school to learn English for free.
Have you faced any challenges in your life? What were they?
At first, people didn’t agree with my decisions and my lifestyle by I thought it was for a reason. I’m a small person that wants to contribute to the community. I know some people think I’m doing a stupid thing.
I have told you already that I have been left alone at some stage and that it has been really tough but I don’t want to blame these people. Hopefully soon they will understand and will realise how things can change.
Many of my good friends actually decided to leave me because they could not make money but I just keep going.
What do you like the most about your country? What do you like the least?
What I like the most is that Indonesia is still a safe country. Feeling safe is the most important. What I don’t like is related to politics and corruption. If these people could realise what they are doing and could stop, I think Indonesia could be great. Unemployment is huge in Indonesia and as people can’t find a job, they feel lost.
A place in Sulawesi that you would like to recommend and why?
In South East Sulawesi. A beautiful place called North Kolaka. It really has a lot to offer but people there don’t know how to promote their area.
Is there something in the world today that gives you hope?
Life is short and if you have some knowledge you should not take it with you when you die. You should share it. My hope is that each family here will have at least one child that can speak English and have a better future.