My first day at Satunama was short, but successful! Britto and I met with Budi, the chairman of Satunama, Stella, one of Budi’s assistants, and Pimbo, the project manager of Merapi water pollution conflict that I will be working on over the next few weeks. Tomorrow, Britto and I will spend our day reading through Satunama’s files on the Merapi conflict and on Wednesday we plan to visit the site of the conflict at the base of Merapi. We will hopefully have some type of research framework set up by Thursday. Next week we plan to spend some more time at the base of the mountain conducting interviews with members of the villages involved in the conflict. From my conversations with Budi, Stella and Pimbo, I have realized that the conflict is much more intricate than I previously thought, so hopefully I will be able to explain it in greater depth later in the week.
Another project that Britto and I might have the opportunity to work on for a few days is a youth empowerment program in the villages that surround the landfills of Jogjakarta. Over the next ten years, the landfills are going to grow and potentially spill over into the villages. Satunama is training youth in the villages from ages eight to fifteen to feel comfortable speaking out in society. Whether it is through theater performance and writing, or music and painting, Satunama hopes that these children will use different expressive mediums to advocate for proper pollution control and waste management in Jogja. I think Satunama and many other NGOs are also working through traditional mediums of government to fight the spread of pollution, but I think that this is a really innovative way to prepare young Indonesian citizens to effectively participate in society.
After the orientation, I returned to my new home. Despite my best efforts to be productive, I fell asleep. There really is nothing better than napping from 2pm to 4pm. It is one of my favorite activities, especially during the school year. I woke up refreshed, and went for a jog around the neighborhood. When I returned, I was surprised to find a fourth member at the dinner table along with Agus, Bayu and Ratri. It was Tami, my host mother who has just returned from a trip to Bali. Tami works for an environmental advocacy NGO in Jogjakarta, and has spent the past few weeks working in Jakarta and Bali. Tami is fun to talk with, both in Bahasa Indonesia and in English, and it already feels like she has adopted me as one of her own children. She brought home some delicious wheat bread from one of the finest bakers in Bali as well as some mint flavored, multi colored marshmallows. At some point I am going to have to teach Bayu and Ratri how to make S’mores, because THEY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF S’MORES- imagine that, growing up without ever eating a S’more!
Compared to the neighborhood surrounding Sanata Dharma, which is a Catholic University, Agus, Ratri, Bayu, and Tami live in a much more Muslim neighborhood. The call to prayer is louder here, and seems to last much longer. Ramadan is coming and I am excited to experience it. This is the first time in my life that Ramadan will significantly impact my lifestyle. I do not think I am going to fast the entire time, but I might try it for a couple of days with my family. One of my friends posted a link to this article on Facebook today and I think that it provides a really interesting perspective on travelling to a foreign country. Basically the article says that we as individuals often get restless and anxious with life so we decide to travel to different places. Travel, though, is not just about being a tourist and seeing the sights. We know very little about other cultures because we have had very different life experiences compared with people of other cultures. Perhaps we do not know that much about other people in our own culture, and maybe we do not even know that much about ourselves. Travel is an opportunity to experience and explore new perspectives and different lifestyles, and learn something new about ourselves while we are at it. So when Ramadan begins next week, I am definitely going to take advantage of every opportunity I have to experience it. I do not really know what to expect, or what I am going to learn from my upcoming experience with Ramadan, but that is the beauty of traveling and trying something new.