Indonesia 2013 trip diary: Emotional connections and celebrations

Borneo 2

By Patricia Andersson
Portland, OR, chapter leader

Update #2 from Borneo: Our luck has been continuing on this trip — finding lost cameras, rains not arriving until the completion of a big celebration, and biggest of all — everyone staying happy and healthy. We’ve just wound up three amazing days with ASRI/Health in Harmony in Sukandana, and are heading off tomorrow to visit the orangutans. In Indonesian, the word orang-utan means “person of the forest” and indeed their word for person is orang, which makes it an easy one to remember. As always, I’m trying to learn a bit of the local language, and have down a few phrases, which I trot out much to the amusement of the local “orangs.” Occasionally I unknowingly toss in a little Spanish too, having only one file in my brain called “foreign language.” Big laughs, at my expense. Yesterday was the big Green Day party, where about a hundred people gathered to celebrate the successes of the past year in replanting the forest in areas of clear cutting, and honor all those who have participated in this part of the many facets of the work that ASRI is involved in. There wa s much music and singing, girls performing a local dance, and poems read. There was even a time for tree planting, and all of us were thrilled to take part, and know that we had personally planted a seedling to help regenerate the forest in the important national park that ASRI is helping preserve. The day before that was the ceremony of giving the goats to the new group of widows, the project that was funded by Dining for Women dollars last September. It was emotional for me when they asked me to speak to the widows about who we were and why we were there. The travelers have told me, tongue in cheek, that they won’t let me speak again because I made everyone cry. We were each paired up with one of the widows, who ranged from elderly to surprisingly young, and many smiles and hugs were exchanged as each widow received a goat. It was a bit chaotic as the goats had been delivered in large bags to keep their legs contained in transit, and they were quite feisty once released. One broke away from its new owner and tore off down into the ravine to feed on some grass, and the new owner had quite the time getting him back up onto the road, but all ended well. We split up to go visit the homes of a few of the women, and were able, through interpreters, to talk to the women about their lives. Although we’ve only been here three days, it feels like three weeks, with the number of connections we’ve made, conversations we’ve had, and laughter we’ve shared. There are videos floating around of us teaching the hokey-pokey to the “ASRI Kids” and one of me dancing “the swim” with a local woman we happened by on the way to the beach. That story probably deserves more explanation, but I have to pack up — we leave in the morning at 5:00 am.