I promised my dear partner Jessica that if I ever overcame my luddite nature, and actually wrote a blog post on my time in Indonesia, it would begin with my discovery that we were all lied to as children. Sheep, in fact, do NOT go ‘bahhh.’ They make a far more menacing noise… one that sounds especially so when they have managed to wander into your house through a door opportunely left open. It sounds something a lot more like “MEHHHH.” I know this, because we have the privilege of sharing our organization’s base/ our home with two sheep, who have been very biblicaly named Maria and Magdalena. Don’t let the names fool you though – I have high hopes of consuming these two in the not so distant future.
With that very important piece of information imparted to you, I’ll return to the beginning. After about a month living on the incredibly gorgeous island of Sumatra in Indonesia, Jess and I decided that it was high time for an update on our escapades. And since we have hardly been separated since our arrival in Indonesia, it seems only right that we share a blog as well. So this will be a combination of perspectives – the same lived experience through the voices of two (very) different people.
For those of you who have not heard from me what it is that I’m doing in Indonesia, I’ll give you the short overview: Jess and I were both selected for positions as interns with Samaritan’s Purse (SP) in their agriculture program. We’ve been placed with one of SP’s amazing partner organizations in Indonesia, who works in both child development and education, as well as sustainable agriculture. Our role here is to support our local collaborators in creating a training centre for farmers on sustainable agricultural tecniques. For now, that means assisting with experiments in aquaponics, drip irrigation, bio-char, vermicomposting, and the use of moringa and chaya plants. This program is sponsored in part by the (former) Canadian International Development Agency, as part of both their youth employment strategy, and their desire to promote sustainable development throughout the world.
So with the background properly set, perhaps I’ll mention a bit what it’s been like to live and work in Indonesia the past six weeks. In short: incredible, unlike anything I have experienced before. When we travel out to the villages, mango, banana, and coconut trees sprout everywhere alongside the road. When a generous hostess offers you a coconut, someone is sent up the tree, grabs the coconut, chops off the top and hands it you to drink – and believe me, it is delicious. These same trees generally serve as borders on vast rice fields… which are in harvest right now, with the kernels lain out on tarps to dry in the sun. The country-side is breathtaking, and pictures hardly do justice to the experience of being in such a place.
The people we have met are even more incredible. I am constantly caught off guard by the overwhelming kindness of the friends we have made here. I feel so blessed to be living and working with people who I can learn so much from; people with amazing life stories, a passion for their country and – more importantly – for other people. Of course this does not prevent them from mockery when their buleh (literally, albino) friend mixes up the Bahasa Indonesia words kelapa (coconut) with kepala (head) or natal (Christmas) with nakal (mischievous).
In addition to paying attention to the details of language, I’ll leave you with just a few other tips on how not to be a buleh gila (crazy foreigner) on your next trip to beautiful Indonesia:
1) Always take seconds of food – no one will ever believe that you like the food otherwise… maybe even thirds.
2) When you shake hands make sure to use your right, and touch your hand to your heart afterwards to receive the greeting.
3) Shower twice a day!
4) Learn to eat with your hands – well, right hand. (This is far harder than it sounds).
5) Wear flip-flops, all the time. (Also, don’t leave them outside over night, or they’ll probably be eaten by a sheep – learn from my mistakes).