Wrapping up

Hello Everyone,

I’m sure you have all been breathlessly awaiting another blog post from us, so now that the holiday season has come and gone I am here to give you an update of what we have been up to. We are officially in our last week of our time here in Indonesia! In our next post Meagan is going to be giving you all a post trip summary and some reflections on our journey. For now, I am here to tell you all about what we were up to this holiday season!

Before Christmas we had a small Christmas party with employees and friends of our organization here in Indonesia, in which all of the crafts we (okay, mostly Meagan) had been making were put to good use.  Then, Meagan and I headed to Bali for Christmas where we spent 9 days travelling around the island. We then went to Java (where we visited Bandung and Jakarta) for New Year’s. On Java we were treated to some great food, tons of traffic, fun with new friends, and a chance to learn more about the  country we have called our home for the past nearly-seven months. Now, before I share some photos from the entire holiday season I thought I would share with you some of the things that Meagan and I noticed while we were in Bali.

Things we learned in Bali:

1. Bali is beautiful:

We were able to see many aspects of the island while there. From the beautiful white sand beaches of the south, to the equally beautiful black sand beaches of the east, as well as the gorgeous rice-paddy filled views of Ubud. The whole island was incredibly scenic.

2. Monkeys are sneaky:

While in South Bali, Meagan and I visited Pura Uluwatu, a beautiful Hindu temple perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. However, the temple grounds are filled with some very sneaky monkeys, they try to steal literally everything they possibly can. I love monkeys (and all other primates, but that was covered in an earlier post), but I prefer monkeys who aren’t kleptomaniacs. Thankfully, all of our items remain in our possession (others we passed were not so lucky). One monkey even tried to steal my flip-flop while I was wearing it!

 3. Surfing is hard:

I can now officially say that I have tried to surf. I cannot say that I have surfed successfully, but I tried! Surfing is hard! We did, however, have a lot of fun learning.  Meagan and I really enjoyed our surfing lesson in Bali, but we came to the conclusion that it is not our sport.

 4. White Christmases are overrated:

We spent our Christmas in a little bungalow right on the beach with a volcano in the distance. It was very peaceful and a perfect place to spend Christmas day, which we commemorated with a bike ride along the coast. Our “Christmas tree” was made of green clothing draped over various items, but it was a wonderful way to spend the holiday.

So now, without further ado, here are a few photos of some of the highlights of the holidays:

 

The beach where we had our surfing lesson

The beach where we had our surfing lesson

 

Taken while visiting Pura Uluwatu

Taken while visiting Pura Uluwatu

 

Meagan on Amed Beach, where we spent Christmas Day

Meagan on Amed Beach, where we spent Christmas Day

 

Our "Christmas Tree"

Our “Christmas Tree”

 

The view from our Bungalow on Amed Beach

The view from our Bungalow on Amed Beach

 

The family New Year's party that we were blessed to attend in Bandung

The family New Year’s party that we were blessed to attend in Bandung

 

Learning more about Indonesian Culture while in Jakarta

Learning more about Indonesian Culture while in Jakarta

 

Visiting the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta

Visiting the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta

 

On the home front we’re currently in the process of wrapping up our experiments and creating various presentations to sum up what we’ve been up to while in this beautiful country. I’m sure our remaining few days will go by very quickly, and Meagan will be posting one last time in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading!

A Christmas Prelude

Hello All!

The calendar has flipped to December – and while I don’t have an advent calendar with Santa’s face on the outside and low-quality chocolate on the inside to mark the lead-up to Christmas, we are getting in the spirit none-the-less. We’ve made ourselves a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree, have stockings on the doors, snowflakes in the window (which admittedly look a little odd with mango trees in the background), and are getting excited for our Christmas party! While we’re planning to eat rice instead of potatoes, I’ll be doing my best to bring the taste of Canadian Christmas to Indonesia with a few Christmas cookies.

Image

In addition to making Christmas crafts, Jess and I have been continuing our more serious array of agricultural experiments. Inspired by our trip to the ECHO conference last month, we decided to make a new natural pesticide/growth encourager/all around helpful product for our plants called Liquid Herb Hormone (LHH). Made from fermented herbs, this is actually pretty fun to make – Jess and I spent a morning with stones crushing garlic, ginger, and chili. Just a tip for anyone interested in making this though – after an hour of crushing garlic, your fingers will definitely start to burn. Also, this may seem obvious – but DO NOT touch the chili seeds. Don’t do it!! A morning of fiery hands will be your reward.

ImageAs part of our household vegetable garden research, we’ve also planted lettuce, spinach, and kangkun in regular plant baskets, as well as a new innovation of our supervisor: blue-barrel grow-bins. These bins have a centre compartment for placing compost which enriches the soil in the outer layer. The resulting plants are healthy and delicious – and it spices up the yard with beautiful plants. 

We introduced these blue-bins to a local partner school, as part of our annual ‘GO GREEN’ event.

ImageEvery year our organization partners with a local school to have a day of “Go Green, Go Clean, and Go Health” where elementary-school students learn about the environment, health, and sanitation. The students arrived each bringing a little plastic bag of soil with them for planting a school blue-bin garden (adorable), and were treated to an enthusiastic lesson on how they can be part of a cleaner, healthier world. Perhaps the most fun for the kids though, was getting to practice proper hand-washing techniques at the end of the morning. Nothing says good times like getting to play with soap and water in the middle of the school day.

ImageOutside of work, Jess and I have continued our quest to see as much of our beautiful Sumatran Island as possible, with a visit to Lake Toba, a huge crater lake about a 4 hour drive away from us. Blessed with incredibly amazing friends here, we stayed with them and their lovely welcoming family on Samosir island in the middle of Lake Toba (the world’s largest island on an island – if you were wondering where that was). Watching the sunrise, going for morning swims, and eating fresh fish and lobster from the lake every day, this place was idyllic. I never cease to be amazed at the variety of delicious food grown in Indonesia – there were starfruit, chocolate, and cinnamon trees all growing beside the house.

ImageIt was a little cold because of the higher altitude though… I almost didn’t swim one morning until Jessica pointed out to me that it was probably about 24 degrees. ImageWell I hope this gives a glimpse into what Jess and I have been up to the past month.

Sampai bulan depan!

 

A Lesson in Indo-glish

Hello Everyone,

Before I give you all an update on what Meagan and I have been doing this past month, I thought I would give you a little lesson in Indo-glish. You see, while Meagan and I are here we have been learning to speak the Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia. Throughout this process we’ve found some Indonesian words that we really enjoy, and have begun adapting them into our English conversations. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of these words with you so that you, too, can speak Indo-glish. Please note that this is not a list of the ten most useful phrases or words to learn in Indonesian, but rather ten words that we have found useful, fun, or necessary to incorporate into our everyday vocabulary.

1. “Apa?” = What?

This is very useful (informally) when we don’t understand what’s going on, which is often. Relatedly, “Apa ini?” means “what is this?” We find this useful especially when it comes to food.

2. “Sudah” = Already

The word for “already” does not, at first, to seem as useful as other potential words. However, Indonesians use it all the time, particularly when asking questions: “Sudah Makan?” – Have you eaten yet? “Sudah Mandi?” – Have you showered yet?. These questions can also be answered with “sudah” if the response is the affirmative. The opposite to this word is “Belum” which means not yet, and is also very useful. As in, “Are you finished reading this post yet?” “Belum,” (at least I hope so).

3. “Ayo” = Let’s go

This is used as a general statement indicating it’s time to leave, and also often when trying to get someone to hurry, like saying “come on!”. It’s also used to say “Ayo Makan” which translates to “Let’s go eat”, but doesn’t always mean the speaker is expecting you to eat with them. Instead “Ayo Makan” is used to indicate that the speaker is going to start eating.

4. “Pedas” = Spicy

Used to indicate that the food is quite spicy, so we tend to say it a lot here.

5. “Panas” = Hot

As in temperature. Used often to express the weather. Very often.

6. “Hati-Hati” = Careful

This is used to tell someone to be careful (like a child running around) or as a statement towards someone who is leaving, the way we would say “drive/be safe”. Interestingly, the word “hati” by itself means “heart”.

7. “Ada” = Exists

“Ada” is kind of hard to explain, but Is very useful in conversation. It essentially means that something exists or is present. So, if I wanted to ask if a store had something, instead of saying “Do you have ________?” I would instead say “Ada ________?” to which they would respond “ada” (yes we have it) or “tidak ada” (no we don’t have it).

8. “Mau” = Want

“Mau” means want, so “I want _____” would be “Saya mau ______”. This word is heard often if you happen to be living with a two year old. Very often. Also, it’s fun to say.

9. “Mati Lampu” = Power Outage

This literally means “Dead Lamp” but is used to describe a power outage. Therefore, it’s a phrase used on a nearly daily basis. We don’t even use the English words for this anymore.

10. “Lah” =

“Lah” doesn’t have a meaning itself, but it is a particle used for emphasis. I think there are rules somewhere regarding proper usage, but people essentially just throw it around all the time. Either to emphasize a certain word (in which case “lah” is tacked on to the end of that word) or at the end of a sentence, in which case the meaning of the entire sentence is theoretically emphasized. Example: “It’s okay lah”.

And there you go! Now you can incorporate random Indonesian words into your English vocabulary! Or maybe just have some idea what we’re talking about when we accidently say “I sudah did that!” or “Why is it so panas today?” when we return (although we’re returning to Canada in the middle of winter so we probably won’t be referring to the weather as “panas” for a while). Now, if you are reading this post only to see our pretty pictures and find out what we’ve been up to in the last month, this next part is for you!

Not long after Meagan’s last post was Canadian Thanksgiving, which we celebrated in style. You can see our pictures below, and please note that the crumpled papers in the middle are supposed to be turkeys, good thing being an artist was never my dream in life. Anyway, while we did not manage to find any cranberry sauce, and we used chicken instead of turkey, we did manage to have a pretty decent dinner complete with mashed potatoes, yams, vegetables, stuffing, and mini pumpkin pies for dessert! In regards to our work life, this month we’ve been focussing our research on raising Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) for composting as well as animal feed for chickens and fish. And yes, I do realize I just talked about maggots in a sentence directly following one about delicious food, welcome to our life. We’ve also been able to spend some more time with the kids in the villages, which is always fun. Here are some pictures we’ve taken in the past little while for you to enjoy:

Our Thanksgiving table. For the record, that is sparkling grape juice on the table :)

Our Thanksgiving table, complete with sparkling grape juice.

Meagan and I with our Thanksgiving Dinner

Meagan and I with our Thanksgiving Dinner

This is what happens when I try to make crafts

This is what happens when I try to make crafts

This is what happens when Meagan makes crafts

This is what happens when Meagan makes crafts

Helping with the tutoring program

Helping with the tutoring program

The tutoring program

The tutoring program

Cutting a barrel to be used as a Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) collection bin

Cutting a barrel to be used as a Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) collection bin

Teaching English to the staff

Teaching English to the staff

Thanks again for reading! Until next time, hati-hati lah!

Chili Peppers for Breakfast (and other food phenomena)

Hi All!

In honour of the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, I thought I might start this blog post with the top five Indonesian foods that I am thankful for this season:

5. Gado-gado: the Indonesian version of salad – a mix of vegetables covered in a to-die-for-delicious peanut sauce.

4. Rendang: beef steeped in coconut milk and a blend of spices so good you’ll forget it’s not Alberta beef.

3. Nasi goreng: Indonesian fried rice, and my personal favourite breakfast meal. They say it’s quick and easy to make, so I will definitely be returning home with this in my recipe book.

2. Martabak: the translation for this creation is “pancake” – but it’s not like any pancake you can find at home. A spongy cake soaked in butter, with your choice of cheese, chocolate, or raisins in the middle. The perfect snack for a cozy Friday night on the base.

1. Indomie: no list of Indonesian food would be complete without Indomie – perhaps the real national food of Indonesia. What is it you ask? Why instant noodles of course! Served with eggs for breakfast, jazzed up with vegetables and more spices for lunch or dinner, or plain for a quick and easy snack on the way out the door… Indomie is a staple of the Indonesian kitchen. This is actually my second favourite breakfast food – especially with the addition of hot chili powder… delicious!

While we ingratiate ourselves in the cuisine of Indonesia, Jess and I are also bringing a bit of Canadian flavor to our friends here. I made cupcakes a few weeks ago – which went over surprisingly well with the Indonesian palate that doesn’t have much appreciation for sweets. We are also planning on attempting to cook a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving meal this week – perhaps stories of this upcoming adventure will grace the pages of our blog in a few weeks.

In addition to being spoiled with great food, Jess and I (along with our supervisor) had the amazing opportunity to attend a conference in Chiang Mai on natural farming techniques this past week. The conference was hosted by ECHO, an organization doing great work in collecting and disseminating information that can help small-scale farmers around the world. At the conference our organization entered a “Good Development Ideas” competition with our very neat drip irrigation tips.

The drip irrigation tip - this one is suspended above the soil so you can better see what's going on!

The drip irrigation tip – this one is suspended above the soil so you can better see what’s going on!

Our supervisor came up with the idea to create clay tips which can be attached to waste water bottles. These bottles can then be placed in the ground next to a plant, and deliver micro-irrigation based on the moisture level of the soil. This idea not only saves a lot of water, but it improves plant health and growth as well! Needless to say, others at the conference were also excited to try out this technique, and the idea tied for first place in the competition! (I got a pretty swanky T-shirt out the deal). We are really excited to be moving ahead with this idea, and see what opportunities it holds for local farmers.

The lake in Thailand where we enjoyed lunch on a floating restaurant.

The lake in Thailand where we enjoyed lunch on a floating restaurant.

After the conference, we headed over to Cambodia to visit the SP interns working in Phnom Penh. It was so great to see them and hear about all the adventures they’ve had, and the work that they are doing. We also greatly enjoyed capitalizing on their knowledge of the best restaurants in the city! While in Cambodia, we also had the opportunity to visit an agricultural project of one of Samaritan’s Purse’s partner organizations. Traveling through the Cambodian countryside, we were privileged to meet farmers and see first-hand the impact that training in natural farming has had on their livelihoods. What an encouragement in the work that we are doing!

After our incredible trip abroad, however, Jess and I are both happy to be back in our Indonesian home. Yesterday we spent the afternoon in the village with the Child Development Program, teaching English (and a little bit of math – I need to brush up on the intricacies of the metric system) to a lovely, eager, and bright group of students. We also taught them the Banana Song – because who doesn’t love that?!

Orangutans and Monkeys and Gibbons, Oh My!

Hello again!

I would like to start by warning you that the beginning of this post is going to focus on our trip to the rainforest, which Meagan already talked about a bit in her last post, but please bear with me. We saw primates in the rainforest and there is no way I’m going to let that pass without talking about it. I love primates. I love monkeys and apes, I know the difference between the two and I will correct anyone who mixes them up (much to Meagan’s chagrin). I have loved primates since I was a child, and I have more stuffed primates in storage than I care to admit, but I have never seen any in the wild, until now. During our drip to the rainforest we saw five different types of primates! Our first evening there we saw dozens of crab-eating macaques, one of the most common types of monkey in Indonesia, making their way along the river bank (see pictures below). The locals refer to these monkeys as the cheeky monkeys, and rightly so. During our stay there several of these monkeys decided to make camp in our balcony to hide from the rain, in addition to pressing their faces against our windows to see if we had any food they could steal. We also were able to see orangutans in their natural habitat in one of only two places in the world where this is possible! Plus, we saw a family of gibbons, and two other types of monkeys; Thomas Leaf monkeys and Pig-tailed macaques. All of this is to say that I had a fabulous weekend, and it was really cool to see what else Indonesia has to offer.

All right, now to tell you about what else we’ve been up to. This month we have been focussing our research on drip irrigation and have done a number of experiments in that regard. We have also been conducting an experiment with bokashi composting. This type of composting uses microorganisms to ferment food waste and decrease the smell. We have been comparing different microorganism mixes to an untreated control, and the smell between the untreated food waste and the others is most definitely noticeable, and really interesting to note. This month we also spent a weekend in Malaysia for visa purposes, and it was definitely a memorable trip. Between being locked out of our room,  spending some time on the beach, eating all kinds of food and wandering around a UNESCO heritage site, we definitely made lots of memories in Penang. Now here are some pictures of the primates from the rainforest as well as some photos from Penang for you to enjoy:

A group of crab-eating macaques. And a very large lizard.

A couple moms making their way along the riverbank.

A couple of moms making their way along the riverbank.

An Orangutan with a banana!

An Orangutan with a banana!

An Orangutan with her baby!

An Orangutan with her baby!

The beach in Penang

The beach in Penang

Meagan and I enjoying our Malaysia beach day

Meagan and I enjoying our Malaysia beach day

Posing with some street art in Georgetown

Posing with some street art in Georgetown

Thanks for reading and for all of your support!

Jungle Women

Selamat Siang!

I write to you now as one who has survived the jungle!
Last weekend Jess and I had the amazing adventure of trekking in the Sumatran rainforest with our super-cool friends here. While Jess has the monopoly on blogging the details, I can’t help but mention a few of my personal highlights.

The day started with a visit to the home of a family of orangutans – including Mina, the orangutan with the Guinness World Record for biting the most humans. Watching them enjoy a breakfast of bananas, and cleverly use giant leaves as umbrellas, made me more certain than ever that “Planet of the Apes” is not so far from reality. Our trek continued in the pouring rain (a welcome relief for the Canadians from the Indonesian heat), with the next stop occurring when I insisted on being just like Tarzan, and swinging from the jungle vines. We also came across wild peacocks, gibbons, monkeys, and a variety of interesting (dangerous?) looking insects. At one point I was somehow convinced to eat a termite (which tasted not too bad) – but could not be swayed to try the giant ants or leeches that were proffered my way. The trek ended with a long climb down the steep river embankment (one part was essentially rock climbing down a cliff face using only a web of tree roots for support), and tubing down the river rapids. After a few days of adventuring, both Jess and I agree that the Sumatran rainforest is one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

The gorgeous view of the rainforest from Bukit Lawang.

The gorgeous view of the rainforest from Bukit Lawang.

Ok, with that advertisement for Travel Indonesia accomplished, I’ll get down to the meat-and-potatoes of what Jess and I have been doing with our time the past month.

Our exploration into the many facets of natural farming continues, as we experiment to find the best practices for the eventual training centre here. In August, we wrapped up an experiment on the use of a variety of different natural fertilizers on the growth of Kangkun (a popular Indonesian vegetable). Without getting bogged down in the details, our conclusion was that worms are definitely your friends when gardening. For those of you who may not be familiar with the capabilities of our little underground partners, worms have an incredible capacity to turn organic wastes into a rich humus that is remarkable for plants. The system that capitalizes on this ability is termed “vermi-composting.” If perhaps your harvest didn’t turn out quite as well as you’d hoped this fall, and you’re looking for a few ideas for next spring, I’ll give you the low-down on how to benefit from vermi-composting yourself:

1. Acquire a shallow wide bin with good ventilation.
2. Find a dark, reasonably warm place where you can put your bin.
3. Place moist bedding in the bin (something like shredded newspaper, sawdust, hay, cardboard, burlap coffee sacks, peat moss, dried leaves etc.)
4. Order your worms – E. foetida, or red wigglers, are the most commonly used.
5. Add your worms to the bedding, let them settle in.
6. Throw all your household organic wastes into the bin! Nothing too salty, oily, or spicy – and no meat products.
Then all you have to do is wait for the worms to compost the wastes, harvest the “vermi-castings” (the processed wastes), and use it on your garden! How effective is this as a fertilizer, you ask?

Kangkun plants without fertilizer.

Kangkun plants without fertilizer.

Kangkun plants with 5kg of vermicastings.

Kangkun plants with 5kg of vermicastings.

Jess and I have also been working on aquaponics, Bokashi composting, and drip-irrigation, but that’s probably enough technical details for today.

I’ll leave you with just a few more pictures to catch a glimpse into our lives here.

Our fearless leader teaching students about aquaponics.

Our fearless leader teaching students about aquaponics.

Jess and I helped out the Child Development Program with their day of celebrations and games for Independence Day.

Celebrations and games for Independence Day with the Child Development Program.

Wading in the Straight of Malacca with our favourite littlest Indonesian.

Wading in the Straight of Malacca with our favourite littlest Indonesian.

Bananas on our banana tree.

Bananas on our banana tree.

Birds of a feather…fly into a giant birdhouse?

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a bit of an update and show you all some pictures of what Meagan and I have been up to since arriving in Indonesia. Also, since this is Jessica and not Meagan writing this post, you can be assured that this will not be predominantly a rant about sheep (except to assert that everything would be better off if they were goats). I will, however, go on a short tangent about giant birdhouses.

 a photo of home         birds of a feather

The building that we are living in, which is also the office of the organization we are working with, is surrounded by a number of four story buildings which appear to be apartments or businesses but are, in fact, very large birdhouses. These birdhouses are built to attract a certain type of bird called an Edible-nest Swiftlet, who come and build their nests in the birdhouses. These nests are then sold around the world, particularly to China, where they are eaten and used mostly as the main ingredient in bird’s nest soup. The birdhouses even have counters to keep track of how many birds leave and enter, and are constantly playing recordings of the sounds the birds make in order to help attract them. This sounds like quite the process for a few tiny nests, but it can be quite the lucrative process considering the nests can sell for up to $100 a piece! That’s $2000 a kilogram! Anyway, now that you are considering why anyone would ever pay that much to eat a bird nest (they’re believed to have special medicinal properties), I will show you just a few photos so you can see what we’ve been up to lately.

In early July we planted a some veggies for a fertilizer experiment

In early July we planted some veggies for a fertilizer experiment.

Here I am holding up one of the final results.

Here I am holding up one of the final results.

We also had the opportunity to visit a tutoring program operated through our organization.

We also had the opportunity to visit a tutoring program operated through our organization.

This is the view a few hours inland at a Bible College we were able to visit. I wish I could tell you I was trying to be artistic here, but really I just didn't realize my camera was set to black and white.

This is the view a few hours inland from us at a Bible College we were able to visit. I wish I could tell you I was trying to be artistic here, but really I just didn’t realize my camera was set to black and white.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into our lives. Please note that this recap pretty much only encompasses what we were up to in July, and we will hopefully have another post soon to let you all know more about what we were involved in in August. Thanks so much for reading and for all of your support!

Sampai Jumpa (See you later)!

Sheep do NOT go “bahhh”

Selemat Pagi!

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).