Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ category

Indonesia Update #8: Bali Gallery

February 4, 2016
A cameo image from the Monkey Forest learning center

A cameo image from the Monkey Forest learning center

Once again, we have received a raft of photographs from Indonesia, but they arrived without explanatory text.  At this point we may have to await our group’s return in order to hear the stories that accompany these photos.  But we can still enjoy the images!

One important note about the students’ imminent return:  Reflection takes time.  Our travelers will need patience and some adjustment time before being ready to share a lot of their experiences.  Please allow for this reflection time, and know that the powerful impacts of this experience are there — they just need some incubation before coming out into the open!

Besikrih is known as the Mother Temple; a Hindu shrine

Besikrih is known as the Mother Temple; a Hindu shrine

Besikhrih, the Mother Temple, is the largest Hindu temple in Bali

Besikrih, the Mother Temple, is the largest Hindu temple in Bali

Entering the temple, everyone is required to wear a sarong and waist sash

Entering the temple, everyone is required to wear a sarong and waist sash

Interacting with local kids is a side benefit of the temple visit

Teaching English to local kids is a mutual pleasure

The view from the sacred site

The view from the sacred site

Playing gamelan bells

Making music with students

The magical sound of gamelan bells rings out

The magical sound of gamelan bells rings out

A pavilion at the Balinese Cultural Museum

A pavilion at the Balinese Cultural Museum

Providing a little testosterone-fueled entertainment to the locals

Providing a little testosterone-fueled entertainment to the locals

Group photo at the end of an English teaching exercise

Group photo at the end of an English teaching exercise

They're all VERY hot, regardless of the color!

They’re all VERY hot, regardless of the color!

Class discussion at the group's final lodging spot on the shores of the Indian Ocean

Class discussion at the group’s final lodging spot on the shores of the Indian Ocean

As our group packs up for their return home, one thing is unmistakably clear:  This has been a tremendous opportunity, one afforded to only a very few and very fortunate individuals.  The gratitude we all feel toward the many generous donors and patient parents is immense.  Thank you so much for making this amazing experience possible!


Indonesia Update #7: Borneo Gallery

January 29, 2016

Once again, we are doing our best to keep the flow of information going from Southeast Asia to North America.  As of now, we know that our expedition group has made it to Bali for the concluding phase of their expedition.  A number of photographs from Borneo have reached us here in Bellingham, but the stories to accompany them are still on their way.  For now, please enjoy these images!

The center of Tanjung Harapan village

The center of Tanjung Harapan village


Rivers are transportation corridors in the rainforest

Rivers are primary transportation corridors in the rainforest


Heading off to plant trees

Heading off to plant trees


Fluted trunks help stabilize trees in poor tropical soil

Buttressed trunks help stabilize trees in poor tropical soil



Reforestation helps the rainforest recover from the clearcutting for palm oil production

Helping rebuild the rainforest after clearcutting for palm oil production


Humans aren't the only primates around here!

Humans aren’t the only primates around here!


Borneo is the most biodiverse place on Earth

Borneo is said to be the most biodiverse place on Earth


Enjoying the boat ride up the river

Enjoying the boat ride up the river


Getting around once back in town

Getting around once back in town


Indonesia Update #6: Borobadur & Prambanan

January 28, 2016

As of today, our group has safely transitioned from Borneo to the last leg of their journey in Bali.   However, information getting across to this side of the world is delayed somewhat due to internet access and bandwidth limitations.  We hope to have Borneo stories and photos to share soon.  For now, here are some photos and narratives about the two temples visited by Explorations Academy students on their last day on Java:  Borobadur, a Buddhist temple, and Prambanan, a Hindu temple, both majestic stoneworks built roughly twelve centuries ago, and only about twenty miles apart.  (Can you tell which of the temples each picture represents?)IMG_1951

Tim writes:
Prambanan was one of the most spectacular visual experiences of my life. Not only was each structure huge, like the presence of a mountain, they were also each beautiful architecturally. One never saw any depiction of artwork on stone repeated. The walls radiated  with heat from the sun, and the inner rooms smelled like years and years of mildew and the many things that have made there way inside, including humans. What Prambanan represented to its creators was an extreme connection to the divine, and the power of this faith is conveyed easily to all that witness Prambanan.
IMG_1947Personally, upon learning about Prambanan and then seeing it, I perceived a connection between the land and the spirituality of the builders. This was because of our guides explanation that Prambanan was built to appease the gods, specifically, Shiva the god of destruction, the bringer of eruptions, tsunamis, and all natural disasters. I know that without the guide I would not have had the same experience or gained as much knowledge. Instead of just a visual spectacle, I was able to appreciate a bit of what Prambanan meant to its original Hindu builders.
Sequioia writes:
IMG_1944Borobadur is breathtaking in the sunrise. Everyone knows that. This is the largest Buddhist monument in existence, possibly ever. It’s true, it even says so on the postcards! Borobadur is a story as well, a documentation (likely embellished) of the life and times of Gautama Buddha. There are no words, only pictures, thus transcending the limits of communication imposed by language. Everything is symbolism, even as one ascends the structure, one is surrounded by depictions of less and less worldly happenings until the architecture itself loses physical intricacy and is reduced to only the barest forms, depicting the transition from the false beauty of the material world to the perfection of simplicity revealed in the land of enlightenment.
photo[13]I stood near the top and felt quite calm, at ease. Everything was quiet, and everything was perfect. Then a bunch of tourists came out of nowhere and started taking selfies with me because I’m white. Being Indonesian tourists, I don’t even think that they were there for the monument, because it’s right on the edge of town so they’ve probably seen it a whole bunch. They were just there to look at the Western tourists. Whatever.  At least they were better than the white fake-spiritual people who were in a pack walking around really slowly doing some energy healing — I don’t even know. Like they’re super special, like Buddha is about to pop out of the rock and say “Wow, great job, you’re super-conscious and not at all incredibly obnoxious.”  They were in tank tops too, which is pretty offensive to Muslims, and Indonesia is, in fact, the most populous Muslim country in the world. I’m trying to not be super judgmental all the time and I realize that this was definitely judgmental, but it really knocked over my snowman. That’s all. Also the monument was super sacred and left me feeling great the whole rest of the day and week, so I am definitely grateful for that.

Indonesia Update #5: Orphanage & School

January 26, 2016


Working on the mural…

Some further narrative pieces generated by students have arrived.  Please forgive the fact that the photos don’t necessarily correlate with the stories!

Sequoia writes:

The Yayasan Gunungan Orphanage is a warm and happy place. It is a tight-knit community of staff and children who look after one another, who love and care about each other, and who strive to make each others lives beautiful and fulfilling. And yes, they succeed! Their smiles are huge and welcoming, and they rough-house and play with us, rambunctious and laughing, until we roll on the floor exhausted. They serve us delicious home-cooked dinners with equal parts pride and generosity. We scarf those dinners down with equal parts greed and gratitude. They too feel and express gratitude, in amounts unknown to children in America, whose senses may be dulled by gift and wealth.

The completion of the mural project!

The completion of the mural project!

I loved dinner. I loved playing music. I loved designing and painting our mural and I loved seeing the kids painting it even more. I cannot fully express my gratitude to them for being a meaningful part of my experience and for letting me (hopefully) be a positive part of theirs. 

Zachary writes:

The exchange rate here is $1 USD to 13,000 Rupia, making me an Indonesian millionaire. Their largest bill is 100,000R ( around $7 USD) and the smallest is 1,000R ( 8 cents USD ). The meals we’ve gotten are delicious and range from 4,000R to 40,000R for fancier things.

Jamming at the orphanage

Jamming at the orphanage

At the markets it is customary to bargain for prices.  One of our students got really excited and bought two laptop cases, a bunch of shirts and an ice cream for less than 200,000 Rupia which seems insanely expensive but that’s $14 USD.  In the states two laptop bags would at least be $30 and an Indonesian Batik shirt would be super expensive. I get confused sometimes by how many zeros are in the bills, and I think items are way more expensive than they are, until I calculate how much it is in US funds. Thank you so much for helping me with this amazing opportunity.

Tim writes:

This week we took a taxi to a local school. We were kindly greeted by the headmistress and escorted into their library. It was a single room and about 1/3 the size of the Explorations library. Let me just say that we had no idea what we were getting into; we had no clear agenda other than just show up. But we were suddenly asked to teach. Improvising, we decided to teach a quick intro to American culture and geography. We split into three groups, one for each classroom.

Visiting the school

Visiting the school

We set off with only a basic idea of what to say to a group of students our age (16-19), with them having very little knowledge of English. Fortunately, these were the liveliest bunch of teenagers I had ever met. Although we were a great spectacle and the butt of many jokes, it was incredibly amusing. Both groups were entertained watching each other. After blundering through a brief intro to our country, we got into groups of about one of us to three to five Indonesian students. Quickly it became apparent that because we could not communicate with words, chatting was not an option. However, humor broke the ice and connected each of us as high school students, civilians, and human beings.  It turns out that as young adults, we find the same things funny, and the barrier of silence was broken by lots of hand and body motions, drawings and scrambling to find the right word in our dictionaries.

At one point I said that if any of them ever came to America they could stay with me. I then stupidly realized that for them the word ‘travel’ had no place in their plans or ideas of what life could be. This is a huge generalization because in fact, our president is from Indonesia. However, I can safely say the future of a white American can absolutely include travel and the undertaking of any idea and plans we see in our lifetime. Until being with those kids I had not ever fully appreciated the wealth of opportunity and privilege that is a part of my life. Breaking down the walls of separate cultural identity, and truly being immersed in the moment, surrounded by laughter and smiling faces, was one of the most powerful moments in my life. To put it simply, there is an incredible purity to being young and naive, and this is true for every child, young adult, or student, not matter where in the world. This was experiential learning at its finest. photo[2]


Indonesia Update #4: Solo

January 23, 2016

Communication across the globe can be unpredictable and intermittent.  Sometimes a broken phone conversation, sometimes an unexpected text message at 3am, which is 6pm in Java.  Infrequently, email comes through with a burst of photos and stories.  The last post on this site contained a small gallery of photos.  This time, several narratives by students have reached the USA for sharing with families.  Enjoy!

image2Saeja writes:

Walking through Solo traffic feels crazy, but still safe. As I walked through the streets I noticed there were not many traffic lights, and lanes are ignored as if they don’t exist, except for the ones going opposite ways. When crossing the street you pretty much have to just walk right into the middle of traffic with the confidence to know people will stop for you. Although this sounds totally crazy and unsafe it actually feels way safer than traffic in America. You see, people here don’t generally have insurance, so if they hit someone they have to pay for all the damage costs and hospital bills. Since people really can’t afford that here, it makes them far more cautious. In Solo, people drive slower, watch out more and are overall much more attentive to other vehicles and pedestrians. Considering that last month in Bellingham I got hit by a car while crossing at the crosswalk while the cars had a red light, the fact that I feel safer walking the streets here says a lot. It is a new experience for sure. The attentiveness drivers bring to the streets here is rather comforting compared to the mindlessness of many drivers in America. The fact that they drive slower here is also comforting.

UntitledHannah writes:

We met Sun in the evening of our first day in Solo. We were sweaty, hungry, and tired when we arrived at Warung Baru, a small restaurant where Lisa and Suzy had eaten nearly every day during their last trip to Solo. When Sun stepped out of the kitchen and saw Lisa and Suzy there, her eyes lit up. There were exclamations of joy from both sides as a flurry of excited conversation was exchanged. Sun insisted on pictures with everyone and seemed overjoyed to see Suzy and Lisa again. Sun is the owner and main cook at Warung Baru, and all of her food is amazing. We first met Dody on the second day he was our guide on the bike tour we took through Solo. He seemed genuinely excited to show us all of the cool things in Solo. He enjoyed our company so much that he ended up accompanying us nearly everywhere. Whether it was dinner at the orphanage or a batik market, his local knowledge and kindness was a great help. Sun and Dody are just two of the many wonderful people that we have met so far.

IN writes:

photo[12]We took a cool bicycle tour of Solo.  We left after a good breakfast on a hot day.  Some of the bikes we were riding were kind of sketchy, but they worked.  We biked through the city to a river and were ferried across in 2 groups with our bikes.  Some of us were pretty sweaty by this point.  After that, our first stop was at an Ikat factory where rows of people worked looms to make colorful rugs.  We spent a couple minutes looking and observing them, then we hopped back on the bikes and biked past rice fields to a gamelan forge, where a group of guys were beating a gamelan drum into shape. Every minute or so, the metal would cool to the point that it could not be shaped any more and they would pick it up and put it back into the open forge.  Then another guy moved it around to make sure that it was thoroughly heated up so it could be beaten into shape some more.  After that, we biked up hills and over a river to a tempe factory where they showed us the process and described the difference between tofu, which only uses part of the soy bean, and tempe, which uses the whole of the soy bean. At this point we were all tired, so we hid from the mid-day sun outside the tempe factory for 20 minutes to cool down and drink water.  On our way back into Solo, Elijah took a little spill off of his bike, but got back up and kept going like nothing happened. We stopped for lunch after that and then went to a place that made rice crackers. We saw how they were made, and were given a lot of them.  They were really good.  After that, we headed back to our hotel and cleaned up then rested.  It was a very full day of biking.

Harrison writes:

image1I’d like to start my little Indonesian report on the weather with a brief exchange between myself and one of my travelling companions, Tim, after getting off our flight into Jakarta.

“You know, the heat isn’t really that bad here. A little hot, but actually quite a nice temperature.”     “And you know it’s midnight right? The time of day when its coolest?”   “Oh.”

So, after traveling a few more days while the sun reared its blinding, sweat-inducing head in combination with the tropical humidity, I quickly learned why fitness salons keep the tanning beds and saunas as separate affairs.

Joking aside, we acclimated to the weather here quickly (Being only the start to week two, and the once pleasantly cold showers are now met with caution to avoid freezing), making it quite pleasant. Being one who always has his head in the clouds, the thing that catches my eye all the time is the sky. Specifically, how with the heat, the clouds seem to be in defined layers, yet still blending together in appearance due to the humidity, making for the Indonesian sky-scape to be perhaps my favorite thing to watch roll by while I soak in the splendid sun.

Josie writes:

IMG_1847The batik market is amazing. It is a jumble of clothes that all cost less than five dollars. I got three pairs of super cool pants and the other students got a bunch of really cool things as well. It is set up with probably hundreds of booths that people put up daily with pretty much everything you can imagine. You and tons of other people rummage through the piles in the both to find the hidden gems. Most things at this market are not authentic batik but the amount of everything else makes up for it. It is a way for locals to make some money and a way for other locals to buy super cool things, kind of like an Indonesian flea market. From this experience I learned what shopping as a local was like, and it was a great way to practice bartering and speaking in Indonesian! I am having a great time, and thank you again to everybody for supporting this trip!

Indonesia Update #3

January 21, 2016

A late flurry of photos and partial bits of story have arrived in the last day or so — for now here is a little photo gallery.  More photos and stories to come soon!


Getting around can be an adventure in itself.


Explorations teachers pose with orphanage staff.


Working on a collaborative mural project with the kids.


Batik artwork handmade by one of our group during the batik workshop.


Visiting a school provided great opportunities for connecting with Javan youth.


Explorations alumna Adel Uktubara, an exchange student from Java, shares cultural insights.



Another image from the visit to the school.


Having fun together is an important part of citizen diplomacy.


Indonesia Update #2

January 16, 2016

Trying to stay cool…

Our group has now had a couple of days to explore the city of Solo in central Java. They are staying at a modest hotel, nothing elegant, but clean and pleasant enough and – most importantly – equipped with air conditioning. This last feature is the key to getting decent sleep in an inhospitable climate; daily temperatures (and relative humidities) have been in the 90s. Perhaps they will get used to that feeling of always being damp and sweaty and sticky; in the reports received, the word “hot” is the one most frequently used!  Lisa writes:


The humidity is thick in the air and clings about everything with heaviness. Temps at 7 am are in the high 80s. The morning haze precludes direct sun — which is fabulous, because when the sun does break through, its effect is profound.


Making gamelan bells

Students are spending significant amounts of time at the Yayasan Gunungan orphanage, getting to know the kids, doing some academic support activities with individual kids, and engaging in various play and recreational activities. However, with the children at school during the day, the Explorations students have had time to explore and learn around Solo.



Josie celebrates a birthday

One highlight was a bicycle tour that took the group around a variety of neighborhoods and showed some of the many ways of life that are normal to Indonesians but unfamiliar to us. They saw a batik workshop, a variety of markets, and a forge where the traditional Indonesian brass Gamelan bells are created. This trip offered great sights, very friendly people, and only moderate sunburn.



Creating batik patterns

Yesterday was an all-day batik workshop. Students each got to create theiir own work of art under the careful guidance of Imoh, an expert in this traditional Indonesian art form. Batik involves creating images or patterns on fabric using thin beads of wax, which then resist the dye when the fabric is dyed. Often multiple cycles of waxing and dyeing are used to generate intricate and multicolored artworks. Coop writes:


Getting ready to apply wax

Students put good effort into their designs and gained a greater appreciation for the process, patience and skill it takes to create the incredibly detailed local art we have been seeing on a daily basis.

Overall, reports are that our group members are well, though several have faced some intestinal discomfort (expected) and some hesitancy in trying to communicate with the locals (also expected). Over the coming weekend, there will be more time for our students to spend time with the children in the orphanage. They will hopefully be able to stay out of the blazing sun and perhaps become more acclimatized to the heat of Java. Everyone has been impressed with the warmth of the people – not just of the climate – and the incredible beauty of their surroundings.  This is clearly an amazing opportunity for each of these fortunate students!


Batik bedspread made using a stamping pattern