People | Embrace culture and diversity

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Karalaini Veleicili in a traditional Indonesian dance costume. Picture: SUPPLIED

In a world that is experiencing a rise in cultural and ideological conflicts, cultural exchanges could be a way to mend differences and create an insightful society.

This is what Kalara Valeicili has believed in since returning from a three-month cultural exchange trip in Bali, Indonesia.

The Indonesian province is famous for its picturesque beaches and cultural sites, which attracts millions of tourists to its shores every day.

But its real attraction is its rich cultural history.

Ms Valeicili, a Fijian traditional dancer with the group, Dolce Sounds Dulali, was given the rare opportunity to travel to Bali earlier in the year through a scholarship via the Indonesian Embassy in Fiji.

She said while travelling abroad was nothing new to her, the trip to Bali was different because she travelled alone.

“I was excited and also scared because it was my first time to travel abroad alone,” she said.

“I usually go aboard representing Fiji with my fellow friends and family at Dolce Sounds Dulali.”

She said through the cultural exchange she realised the importance of taking part in cultural and traditional practices from a young age.

The 26-year-old said she was inspired by the way they preserved and dignified their culture.

She was also able to bond with people and share cross cultural relationships with the students from around the world who were part of the exchange program.

Immersing herself in a new culture and learning about others has given her a broader perspective on life and an appreciation of people from diverse backgrounds.

“I was assigned to study in Bali where I saw and learned how they preserved and dignified their culture. I was also able to learn my classmates’ cultures from Thailand, Norway, Singapore, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Serbia, UK and of course Indonesia.”

She highlighted that while she missed the root crops of her homeland, like tavioka and dalo, the hospitality of the people of Bali made for the difference on odd days when she would feel homesick.

“I enjoyed everything about Bali, the culture, the place, the food and the people who took great care of us when we were home away from home.

“The one thing I missed was cassava and dalo. If you have been to Indonesia, you would know that their main food is rice.”

Back from an insightful three-month exchange, she is now inspired more than ever to continue practising indigenous Balinese dances she learnt and pass them on to her younger family members.

“In Bali they start learning their traditional dances and music at the tender age of five,” she said.

“This has encouraged me to teach my friends and family’s children traditional dances and other traditional protocols that I know.”

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