Tuesday, August 30, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010 - Friday 8th July

Ian arrives today!!!

And, so that I am able to go and meet him, today is my 'day off'. I literally have nothing to do all day but read and write.

I just discovered a totally green area just behind the education centre.

I carefully placed my throw on a raised bit, so I could sit, legs dangling, taking in the sights, sounds, smells and just observe.

The only problem is that if you are at one with nature, then nature is at one, or, in this case, at war, with me.

With just a few words on my note pad, I had to flee. There was a group of ants invading my leg and they were ready to attack!

Now, I am perched in the blazing sunshine, burning my bottom.

The weather here is strange; the mornings are so very cool, maybe even misty and cloudy, but by 9am, it starts to heat up for the day.

Back to the secret field. You approach it from the education area, which is a small wooden band-stand-style hut.There are banners displaying information about primates, some showing information, some just pictures.

Then, there are steps to a secluded bungalow, with a few more steps that lead you to the the rectangular field. (I was later told that it was the P wec camping ground).

In a mere ten minutes, I have seen 4 different types of butterflies, an ant as big as my fingernail, a thick and heavily woven spider's web. There are so many species of plants and flowers, with leaves like no other, some longer than myleg, some open like my hand (but with more fingers), some bushy, some prickly.

I can hear thunder grumbling in the distance, but I am sure it is so far that we are not to expect a storm, not now that a gentle breeze is blowing the withered leaves on the ground, making them rustle.


We are driving from P wec to Surabaya (3 hours by car, without traffic). We passed through the city of Malang, as well as many villages and factories. The traffic is insane, but my driver is not afraid to honk his horn, nor overtake each vehicle.

I saw one tobacco adverts with the words 'Smart, Sophisticated' (Swrya Slims) and 'fashionable' on another. Could you glamorise this deathly habit any more?> Ugh


Train travel in Indo could be an experience...
Porong - It's like a 'must-see' spot, now
We hit an area called Porong. My driver explained to me that four years ago, there was an explosion in the ground and mud basically came out. Apparently, it never stopped coming out, and there is a huge mud pond. Traffic reduces to one lane, and movement is slow.



Harry, his wife, & I
We had to drop some things off at Harry's house first, just outside Surabaya. What a great time, we had, drinking tea and chatting about all his travels! He showed me many different styles of knives from Indonesia too!

After 9 hours on the road, Ian and I reached P wec, exhausted from the road travel.

The volunteer experience was about to truly begin....Or was it?

We were about to learn a thing or two within the next few days....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010 - Thursday July 8th

Today's awakening was much gentler. There was a little music playing in the distance, but I lay there enjoying it until my alarm reminded me it was 6am!

I hopped out of bed, still fatigued, but looking forward to the day. we are going to Malang to one of the universities for a seminar. It will be about the environment (I'm guessing it is connected with the conference that the CEI group are attending). Asti informs me we are going by scooter! This should be fun!

So, we headed off a little later than planned. The road was bumpy until the first village and I think both Asti and I were equally as afraid, she, because she had a passenger to worry about and me, well, because I was that passenger!

Actually, once we hit the first village, we were all good. I could barely stop smiling  and staring, taking in all the sights around me. The villages had some pretty houses and some pretty basic houses too. Just like the local village near P wec, there were some houses with corn outside and chickens eating them. In fact, there were chickens everywhere, most of them just loitering and pecking, with some running for their lives right in front of the scooter!

Once in Malang, the roads got busier. we got to the university campus eventually. It was a huge campus surrounded by many big trees rising up above white buildings still under construction.

We were a little late, but we hadn't missed much.

The first two speakers were representatives of the CEI (the group staying at P wec). Then we were given a treat. There was a traditional Javanese dance group. The girls looked great in their orange and gold outfits.

The next two speakers were interesting, but for very different reasons. The first was a professor from the same university, basically advocating smoking (smoking is huge in Indonesia, and so much money is spent on advertising). He had researched tobacco and how it is effectively a useful tool in medical research and cure. He claimed it was the free radicals that made it unhealthy when we smoked, so if we could just eliminate the free radicals, we would have a healthy cigarette! Excellent. No need to stop smoking then! 

Ridiculous theory if you ask me and most of the audience. But, he has designed a filter that breaks down these free radicals and also creates an odourless smoke. Maybe he understands his target audience, but it was still hard to understand him.

Then, the next speaker told us about eco-tourism and developing an eco-tourism/training centre. This was inspiration and something I am going to look into more. I thoroughly enjoyed this part.

We skipped off after lunch, bored of people talking and wanting to discover Malang. It's Asti's home town and Uni town, so she was the perfect guide.

We stopped off at the park that centres Malang. There were, surprisingly 3 (!) MacDonald's on the corners. Thankfully, the park was big enough to walk around and not see them.

We tried some traditional coconut ice cream (es puter kelapa). A-mazing! It is made with coconut water and put into a container of ice until it freezes. The result is a sorbet-like texture with a delectable coconut taste.

We passed by a few batik shops and I, of course, squeezed in a small bit of souvenir shopping!

Then we headed off to the Pro Fauna office. We bought some Rujak to take with us. It was yummy, although appearances may say otherwise. The fruits are dipped in the sticky sauce, made from coconut sugar and peanut - a nice mix of sweet and savoury.

I also tried Es Degan coconut water with ice and big strips of coconut - soon to become my number one drink!

It was great to meet the staff there and do a quick photo shoot!

Asti's family
Pisang Goreng ...withh cheese!
We decided to see the paddy fields near Asti's house, so we went to see her mum and dad. it was such a lovely experience. Her mum also spoke English and chatted away about many things! She fed us fried banana (pisang goreng) and even topped it with grated cheese! Yes, it really was delicious!

The ride home wasn't so scary, so I grabbed he camera and snapped away.

The road
The rice fields
The sign to P wec
The passer by

By the time we got back, ate dinner and caught up on the diary, I was snap happy and exhausted!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010, Wednesday 7th July

Sleep was interrupted by two harsh wake up calls. One, I can accept, even get use to. The second, I'm going to have to find out more about.

A call to prayer at 4am or thereabouts was the first eye-opener, but, as I learnt last year in Jakarta, it is a nice reminder of exactly where you are ad help you to respect that.

Now, the second noise came form loudspeakers. It was some sort of music. It began at 5am and continued blaring out for an hour or so. I had heard that there was another festival in a neighbouring village. There had been music the night before, but I was tired that I ignored it quite easily. I guess I will have to get used to it. Lucky the music isn't so bad.

It's 7.40, and it will soon be time for breakfast. There is a group of people gathering in the hut. It's a large wooden hut, very open and light. The kitchen is underneath. I am impressed with the whole camp. There is electricity everywhere, heaps of toilets too.

Now...time to figure out what I should do!!


I still didn't have a schedule. The CEI group of people were still there, and it seemed that they were the ones who needed entertaining, not me. The day was arranged around them, so I sauntered off.

P Wec have a massage service. I thought it would be a great idea to have one.

Asti, my counterpart for my stay at P wec, brought an old lady from the village to me room. She asked me to strip down! The door was wide open, and I was a little perturbed, but the blissful massage made up for it!      

I went along to a small presentation afterwards in the meeting room. Again, it was for the benefit of the big group, but it was to explain about Pr Fauna and their work in Java and the rest of Indonesia.

It was good to see that their campaigns to save the animals were often hard hitting and effective. Over 15 years, they have built up the support of the locals and even some members of the government, but there is still a long way to go.

Afer all this, they were divided into three groups. The activities for the morning were 'green art' with Harry, reforestation and preparing the 'Tumpung'. 

With Asti
Actually, Asti and I got to do all 3 in any case, in the above order too. I had tried the art the day before, so we headed down to the river to plant a tree.

Then we headed to a bamboo house where we needed to prepare the 'Tumpung'.

First we needed to make the dishes on which to put the offering. (Tumpung is food on a bamboo dish.)

We used the trunk of a banana tree and woven bamboo for the base. Then we used a big banana leaf to provide the surface.

After that, we could add the food.

The first layer is rice, then, on top of another leaf, is a mixture of spicy  noodles (flat, like tagliatelle), spicy potatoes, deep fried tofu, which tasted rather sour. there were beans too, and a spicy egg.

While we made the offerings, we were fed snacks of deep friend banana chips and a yummy green cake, apparently made with the dye from the bandan leaf, which was the same leaf Harry had used.

We made ten plates in total and there was a main plate with two sticks of fruit.

Ten or so men from the village came and chanted some prayers. They were the oldest men of the village. Then, they handed out the dishes for us to try. and that was it. That was the ceremony.

Once again, I couldn't help but feel it was all a show for the big group of people.

Over lunch, Rosek was telling me about the corruption in parliament with the government officials selling off confiscated animals so as to make a profit.

There is also a  problem in the law that only endangered animals can be rescued from the harsh conditions that  we may find them. 'Regular' animals not on the protect list cannot be rescued by Pr Fauna or anyone else who might care.

Pro Fauna do work closely with the police and are able to train new officers about the issues of the animals. It is very important to have the police on their side and working with them, but it doesn't mean it is the end.

Illegal poachers and the illegal pet trade all run amok in Java, Borneo and Sumatra, as well as the smaller islands.

It all stems from long, long, ago when having an animals showed your high social status. There were animals in the kingdom and poor people wanted them too. It is for this reason that keeping  an animal in a cage is so common in society. Even without money, a house with an animal is seen to be higher up on the social ranking than one without.

There are 5 main things a Javanese man looks for in life.
1. A woman
2. Money
3. (once upon a time) a Horse -These days it's a car
4. Social standing
5. An animal.

The acquisition of the latter raises the state of the former.

Pro Fauna are attempting a new approach. A leaflet to teach people how to be kinder to animals. It should have been released last summer, so let's hope it works.

After lunch, I had a long 2 hour nap. After dinner, I had a bit of shut-eye. When it cam to the real bed time, I surprisingly slept brilliantly for a good 8 hours!


Monday, August 22, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010, Tuesday 6th - PM

Dinner was great. I sat with Harry again, and everyone arrived back frmo their day in the jungle.

I met a few of the foreigners; they weren't very forthcoming, so I could barely catch their names.

Actually, there many people there, volunteers and workers alike.  A group of them were wearing T-shirts with CEI written on them, and a map of Indonesia on them. Students, perhaps??

Still, I had my own group. I met Atik, the volunteer co ordinator and sat on the worker's side. Harry and I were served our food and Rosek came to sit with us. Rosek is the founder of Pro Fauna, and the big dude in charge. He has two gorgeous girls, one of whom was forced to come and say and English 'Hello', but Nadia was rather shy and ran off instead!

We talked about their day in the forest, the work at Pro Fauna (and how he is receiving an award from RSPCA, UK for his work to help protect animals in Indonesia) and even Kalaweit.

He also mentioned the accommodation money which hadn't arrived, which is a worry, so I must look into that in the morning. The money missing, along with my husband (due on Friday) are my two flashes of reality. Come Friday, I will be able to kick back with him here and enjoy this (apparent) green paradise.

Dinner was salad, some tofu-fried thing, along with some spicy chicken and some great chilli sauce. It was all washed down with the best ginger tea I have ever had, with much more of a kick than coffee.

At 7pm, we headed back to the village. There was to be a performance from the local villagers. (I was told it was a festival they regularly did. I figured out later it was all a show for this CEI group of people...)

On stage, there were about 30 children, each wearing their own crowns (made from leaves, some very large). The girls added a flower or two here or there; it was all very pretty indeed.

They sung a selection of traditional Indonesian songs and were, as you would expect young, bright ids to be, very cute indeed. At the end of their performance, they were told to clear the stage. All but one left - a very cute boy, a natural performer, waving at the crowd, just like it was his show - very sweet.

There were also four women playing a traditional instrument called a lesung. It is a long block of wood, hollow in the middle (looks like a horse's trough) and beaten with sticks to different rhythms. It sounds a lot better than it should and the women beating it must have been very strong indeed, for, when the foreigners took over (the CEI group), they could barely emulate the volume of the local ladies.

Then came the martial arts display, introduced by some live music. 
There was some intense drumming, there was chanting and there were pipes being played too. Some of the kids by the band were tapping and banging to the fantastically elaborate rhythm. They had such a great energy, even watching them was an experience.

This was all followed by four young dancing girls. They each had horse (made with embroidered straw) inbetween their legs. It was very colourful and intricate in design, although the dance itself was very simple, yet, once again, the foreigners made a right balls of it when they tried it out!

The finale was from the martial arts guys. They built up to quite the climax.

They took the branches, or rather, the stems from a flower I had seen earlier. The flower itself is pink and beautiful, but the stem is full (fuller than a rose bush's) of thorns. This (very) thorny stem can be up to chest height. These thorns and spikes look very threatening, even to an admirer, so to witness the display on stage was quite scary indeed. The rest of the audience seemed to enjoy themselves. I wasn't sure how to react.

One of the guys took a big bunch of these stems and whipped the back of another. Then, on the same man's back, he scraped and rubbed, moed with vigour back and forth the stems/branches of thorns and spikes, first on his back and then on his stomach. He soon removed his shirt, although most of it had been ripped.
Can you see the length of the stems?!!!
The same went for the other men - shirts ripped, stomachs scratched, even groins! One of the guys, held back by his colleagues (6or7) with a force, had the stems dragged through his legs...paaaaaiiiiiiiinful!
Finally, to end, one man had to roll his body on all the stems and branches laid out on the ground. For good measure, they yanked his body back and forth too.

I was cringing with pain for them all. I guess it was about the power of the mind and mind over matter etc, but I was not convinced.

Because of my connections wit Harry, I was also privileged enough to meet the chief of the village!! Lucky me!

What a long and busy day....10pm we all headed back home. I was so ready for a nice long sleep.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010 - Tuesday 6th July - AM

I woke up at 5am, and remembered the letter I had been given from Atik the night before (she hadn't even been there to meet me....)

She mentioned that we would meet in the morning before they went to the forest ('they', not 'we', as in me included.) My first day was to be 'free'. At least I could have a lazy day.

The volunteer quarters
The volunteer area, a.k.a, 'Mess parrot', was a series of large rooms, some shared, most empty. To access them, you have to go up many stairs to the back of the P-wec area and down more steps still. In short, volunteers are tucked far away from the 'real' P-wec action. (More on that later)

I re-emerged at 7.15. I needed to sort myself out before my 8am breakfast. Just one of the guys from the night before was there. I remember he had been introduced to me as 'The artist.' his name is Harry Adjie. We had a coffee (strong & powdery) and a little chat. He showed me some of his sketches and told me about his work and his life all over.

He had lived in Germany, travelled the world from Africa to Vietnam, from Frankfurt to Japan seeking artistic inspiration and knowledge. He too is a volunteer here, teaching art to the children. Today he offered to show me his work and be my guide once we had eaten.

We stopped en route to breakfast and say 5 Javan Langurs in an enclosure.

Breakfast was rice, tomatoes and cucumber salad, with spicy beef and potato. There was also a box of prawn cracker snacks. I was careful not to overdo it as it was my first meal, but as soon as the plates were cleared I regretted that choice. My stomach was already growling!

We moved from the food hall to the hits where I had been dropped off the night before. It was know as the 'Turtle Mess'.

Harry showed me his art work, some masks he had made, all from natural products, including the paints.

The masks were small, cute and even ugly, but all were wonderful. The mouth might be seemingly stern, but the tribal element is unmistakable, The eyes, made from glass beads, simply stare at you menacingly. Harry offered me one. I took one with long hair, lucky me!

Then, we took a look at his bead collection. It certainly beats mine, back in my day of bangles and necklaces.
He had to continue to make another mask for one of the the children coming the next day. It was amazing to watch him in action.

He used the long bark of a tree, added some serviettes and strong too.

He had completely transformed the bark into something that the kids would be able to paint and decorate.

Next up, a walk into the local village, Sumberbendo. Of course, I grabbed my bag in case there would be something to buy, but it was nothing like that. It was a small village. The stroll down was very pleasant but dusty. The streets were stony and we were accompanied in our shuffling by goats bleating in the background.

We stopped at a bridge to stare at a bamboo forest, and then headed down to the river that was not there. A dam had been built to hold the water that, at the height of the rainy season would fill the river.

We walked back up and then around again. We trekked up to the school of the village, which at this time of year was empty, but I did stop to check out the flowers there...so beautiful.

The girls had made their crowns with Harry the day before.
Harry & the kids

I couldn't resist
As we walked through the streets, people stared, kids followed, it was great to be there. We saw cockerels, housed in oval-dome baskets, kept outside houses. This is a Javan tradition and the birds are a symbol of stature and used for cock fights.

Some families were laying out the corn to dry on the sheets outside their houses. This was the real Indonesia; so beautiful, so green, so natural, so precious.

Back to camp for lunch and I was treated to mi goreng (fried noodles) with fried egg, too.

After lunch , we hung out at the 'turtle mess' again. Harry needed to make some paint....yes, MAKE paint! And some of the girls from P-wec came to make bracelets.

OK, how to make paint? Let me try and explain!

Some long green leaves are chopped finely...

and blended with water ...
... not forgetting a little glue, and the sieved. Easy!
To make an orange-like colour, he used ginger!

The ginger here is smaller in shape than ours, and while I have been writing all this, he has made 6 paints! Re, orange, yellow-green and fawn, as well as brown.

Oh, I caught two ants trying to move a bead! They gave up in the end, mind!

More later...