Welcome to Indonesia!
After a frantic two days of after-school freedom and touring around Paris one last time, I passed through Abu Dhabi to Jakarta to my intended destination, Yogyakarta, where I will spend the next 10 weeks learning the language, discovering more about the culture and history, and doing my research for an NGO in environmental economics.
Directly after arrival at the airport, my fellow interns (Jacob, Amanda, Alex, Elizabeth, and Colin) picked me up for a quick dinner with Godeliva Sari, the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) in-country coordinator, with her husband Bram and super adorable daughter Rose. Admittedly, I caught a minor flu on the way over (really amazing timing, like always), and everybody probably fell asleep for a few seconds over dinner, but our first taste of Indonesia did not disappoint.
Gado-gado – a salad of carrots, string beans, cucumbers, tempe, kropek, and loads of other great veggies doused in peanut sauce – was my first dish and clued me in to the great wealth of flavors that I would be experiencing in my sojourn here.
After a rough morning start the very next day due to waking up in the night and getting a bit of a cold, our new teachers introduced us to the compound of Universitas Sanata Dharma, which we will get to know well for the first five weeks of our internship. We’ll be studying Bahasa Indonesia for two weeks, and then taking our classes on research techniques and methodologies in preparation for our researches.
Then we had a refreshing and tranquil lunch under this Banyan tree in the courtyard, where we mingled and made friends with our new teachers and other students in other programs in the university. Lunchtime over, we went for a trip to get Sim cards and phones; unhappily brain-dead due to jetlag and overall lack of sleep from the flights, we all were very excited to crash after an awesome dinner. I got a bowl of kangkung and noodles – oodles good and spicy!
This morning, we had our first two classes. We went pretty fast! But the great thing about the language, and my fellow interns and I agree on this, is that it doesn’t have as many complicated tenses. Nevertheless, trying to talk to other Indonesians while using the vocabulary and the right tenses is currently a challenge, but a fun one.
In the afternoon, we went to visit an NGO, the Satunama, where we learned about their various capacity-building activities and conflict-resolution activities in many areas, notably in Merapi mountain. It erupts regularly, but several indigenous villages have positioned their homes in this precarious spot. Jacob’ll probably be working with them. I have my fingers crossed that he’ll get into this complicated Merapi situation so I can grill him on it later: two villages of indigenous people living on the mountain, upstream and downstream, who share a common water source and deal with issues such as conflict of interests in water and natural resource management and use, land reform, illegal mining, etc.
Whoa. Dropping right into the heart of Indonesia is perhaps the best way to get over spending an awesome semester abroad. After two days of being shown around, getting to know people, and savoring the tasty cuisine around our jalan-jalan (streets), and glimpsing possible knowledge growth and experience, my excitement level’s rising.