Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Indonesian teens share culture through exchange program with Friendship Force


Bagus Widyowaskito is dripping in beautiful purple and gold garb.

The music that fills the Octagon Arts Center is quick and elaborate, rich in the culture he has known all his life. He dances a traditional dance from Indonesia.

Widyowaskito has been looking forward to this for weeks — the moment when he would perform for Americans, in the United States, a 22-hour plane ride from home. He looks out into the crowd and sees. Those clapping Americans are loving it.

But honestly?

The 15-year-old would trade it all for a sandwich.

The coolest thing about America?

"SUBWAY! Footlong! $5!" he says, laughing.

• • •

Widyowaskito is one of 20 high school students who embarked on a trip to the United States from Jakarta, Indonesia, to learn about U.S. culture and connect with American people.

Friendship Force, an international organization dedicated to overcoming barriers that separate cultures, brought the kids over for a two-week exchange.

"We can get together even though we're from different cultures and religions. We're making friends," said Inas Wafiya, a 14-year-old Muslim student.

The students lived with members of the Florida Suncoast Friendship Force.

Bob Muir hosted Widyowaskito and his friend, Irfan Budisatria, 15, in his home.

"I'm a terrible joke-teller, but they laugh at all my jokes," said Muir, 63. "They have a great sense of humor and they like to have fun."

The students from Sman 8, an elite high school, are also well-mannered, able, intelligent. "But they're not self-possessed, or the least bit arrogant," Muir added.

"When you share meals with someone and you sit at a table, eat dinner and talk, you realize that you have more in common than you have different," said Sandy Gourdine, president of FSFF. "This creates lasting impressions."

On their trip, the students visited some of Florida's greatest novelties: Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, Clearwater Marine Center, MOSI, John's Pass Boardwalk, Walt Disney World. They also visited Calvary Christian High School and St. Petersburg College.

• • •

On their first day in Florida, the students had a picnic at Sand Key Park. The park wasn't much different from what they're used to in Jakarta. They knew palm trees, they knew beaches and ocean — but American football? Totally foreign and totally cool.

While munching on turkey and cheese sandwiches (an uncommon food back home), the boys watched in awe at a group of tall, buff men zipping a football through the air.

Jane Lee, a FSFF member, took a risk and approached them: "These kids come from Indonesia. They've never played football. Can they play with you?"

The men, unsure at first, walked up to them, shook their hands and welcomed them to their game.

"It's amazing how the two groups just meshed," said Lee, 70.

Then, they played. Black and white. Muslim and Christian. Asian and American.

Sabrina Rocco can be reached at or (727) 893-8862.

On the Web

Visit for information on the Florida Suncoast Friendship Force.

Indonesian teens share culture through exchange program with Friendship Force 04/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 12:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea


    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  4. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography


    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea


    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.