Meet Zuratul Zulkifli.
I first met Zura during the 3rd University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bali, Indonesia. I was with my Ateneo friends on the way to Kuta. On the same bus, not a few seats from my group, I saw Zura was sitting with her Bruneian friends. I didn’t know what came over me. I suddenly asked her if she wanted to join our group for dinner. Surprisingly, she agreed.
This was the start of our friendship.
After Bali, we stayed in touch through Facebook. We shared our heartbreaks, our successes, our life goals and our passions to each other. Despite our distance, we became close friends.
Bali helped us discover our passion for traveling and participating in international conferences. And so, the search began for our next big adventure.
Zura found out about the International Youth Cultural Conference (IYCC). It was to be held in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. Since the conference had no fees and we only had to handle our airfare, we both applied. Thankfully, we both got in.
Last November, Zura and I met in Kuching. It was a sweet moment to finally see someone you’ve grown close to after a long while. Prior to the conference, we agreed to have an exchange gift of sorts. Being fans of the diversity of ASEAN culture, we gave each other our own country’s traditional costumes.
IYCC ended and Zura and I had to part ways again. Despite this, however, we are hopeful that we’ll meet again. As a matter of fact, Zura invited me to come to Brunei on August 2013 to celebrate Hari Raya there. So far, nothing is stopping me from going to Brunei on August.
Zura taught me a lot of things. For one, she took away my stigma against Muslim women. I always thought that Muslim women are marginalized. Knowing Zura, however, I realized that they are as much empowered as men are.
Another thing, she helped me confirm my passion for the marginalized in the ASEAN. Zura and I are both involved in social development efforts in our own universities. It’s good to know someone from another country who has the same passion and doing the same thing to solve the problems in the region.
This is one of the perks of traveling. You get to know amazing people from different cultures and countries. Zura is only one of the few people I met in my travels. With social media, it is possible to have close friends despite geographic distance.
I found a sister in Brunei and I’ll see her again on August.
P.S. Traveling is not just about the food and the tourist spots. More importantly, it’s about the people you meet. Hence, I’ll also be posting articles (like this) about the people I cross paths with.
P.P.S. On April 2015, I was finally able to visit Zura and my other Bruneian friends in Bandar Seri Begawa, Brunei.