Lessons Learned from Monkeys

Well even though I am now back in Vancouver, I have to do my last blog post as promised.

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Now that I am back in Vancouver, to say I miss Indonesia is an understatement. Getting up to go to a job that isn’t important and doesn’t motivate me seems like such a waste of time and energy, when I should be doing things that matter to me, things I want to put my energy into. To be back in ‘robot mode’, on a routine, knowing the water will always be running, the power will always be working, yes it’s convenient but it makes it easy to forget to live. I feel that passion for getting up every morning missing here. My apartment seems sterile compared to where I have spent the last year. My walls are bare, there are no lizards, spiders, termite parades or insects on the walls. That constant state of having feet either wet or dirty is gone… I can’t have water on my bathroom floor here!

The air here is cleaner yes, it’s wonderful, but it feels empty. There were a few ants in my apartment when I moved in, big ones I’d never seen here before. I wondered if I’d brought them with me, amazed they had made it this far, and happy to have them here.. but then I found out there was an ‘infestation’ a few doors down. It got sprayed, and now I don’t even have my few ants. Is that crazy to be sad about? Yes, no one wants an infestation in Vancouver! but in the right context, it’s not crazy at all.

I haven’t seen one butterfly or frog. And most noticeable… the monkeys. There are no monkeys waking me up at dawn crashing down onto my metal roof as they traverse down to the river, swarming my balcony, swinging from the rafters. Now I don’t have to worry I’m going to be robbed, by monkeys… only by people.

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Sure orangutans are the main claim to fame for jungle lovers in Sumatra, they get all the good press, and well-deserved of course. I love them and it is all about them. But this post is in dedication to the monkeys… the long-tailed macaques to be precise. They are not endangered, in fact they are so abundant they are considered pests. But when you like monkeys and you come from somewhere that has none.. you look at them differently. My fascination with them only grows.

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They are abundant because they can live side-by-side with people and they reproduce rapidly. A female can have a new baby about every 2 years starting from about age 5. Where orangutans will only have one every 6-8 years starting from when she is about 15.

I learned a lot about them and from them just observing. The first clear observation: they are very, very clever. I feel lucky that I was only robbed twice. There was the ‘Pasta Incident’ (https://travelorange.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/penne-for-your-thoughts/ ) and then there was a follow-up a few months later resulting in oatmeal, cat food and rice flying around everywhere. Monkeys 2 / Me 0.

It turns out that the ‘teeth baring’ they do that terrifies people and can seem aggressive with those huge canines flashing, is actually what a submissive female does to a dominant female. I was frozen the first time it happened to me, but I learned that just staying calm and non-threatening always worked. Turns out I was being hissed at with bared teeth because I was considered the dominant female in the situation. interesting.

I also learned these monkeys don’t really care what we’re doing. They are only around us for their own benefit. They are selfish, yes, and it works for them. But if you give them an inch they will take a mile, and your pasta. I also learned that groups are almost completely interrelated, we would consider it serious inbreeding, but it works for them. And different groups and members from outside groups do NOT mix. Many males join adjacent groups at some point, but it is accomplished by serious fighting and shows of dominance. Groups are generally about 30 to 60 strong. But I counted one group of over 75 members. (yes, when the troops would walk by along the riverbanks I would count them like a nerd). I could almost start setting my non-existent watch to them, based on the weather that day and which group would be on the move at what time. Or what group would be bounding out of the forest and over our roofs once the direct sun was off the hot metal. I watched babies grow up from newborns who cannot survive without constantly holding onto their mothers for dear life, to juveniles scampering around and learning how to swing and jump on their own. I got to know the personalities and patience levels of the mothers. I watched the youngsters fur go from new-born black to the mature grey-ish brown.

I spent a lot of time in the presence of monkeys and I miss them. They don’t get a lot of respect, but they are smart, they are entertaining and we can learn stuff from them, just like they do from us. Monkey see Monkey do. If someone tells you “a monkey could do your job” take it as a compliment and just respond: ‘Maybe, but you couldn’t’ 🙂

Here are some of my favourite photos I’ve taken over the past 3 years, of long-tailed macaques and lessons to be learned. These photos include some from the last year in Sumatra as well as photos from previous trips to Sumatra and Kalimantan Borneo and Bali. You will likely notice there’s a different style to them, depending where they are from. Enjoy!

1. If people assume from the look of you that you’re not too smart, go ahead and steal expensive sunglasses and trade them for something more valuable like food, and watch who the dummies are then!

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2. Once you know the RULES, you can use them to your advantage! (hmmm, so this jumping on them thing should pay off big time!)

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3. Focus, focus, focus! To get what you want, you’re going to have to focus!

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4. If you have your friends and you have some food, it really doesn’t matter where you picnic does it?

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5. It’s easy to tell who your true friends are…

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…they’re the ones who are still there for you when it feels like the rest of the world is against you

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6. To get the balance you want in your life… you have to balance!

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7. Your trash isn’t always someone else’s treasure and just because you threw it out doesn’t mean it went away. Think about your litter and make less of it!

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8. If you don’t need that shirt, someone else might like to have it. Recycle!

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9. Don’t forget to Stretch!

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10. Don’t be complacent, open your eyes. Don’t just look, really see!

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11. If someone takes a photo of you eating, chances are it’s going to happen when your gob is wide open

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12. Make time for alone time, even if you’re not alone

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13. If you’re feeling burned out but need to look vibrant, never forget the magic a little white hi-lite around the eyes can do!

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14. Work with what you’ve been given! Supermodel is a state of mind.

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15. Don’t forget to Groom groom groom!

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16. An itch isn’t going to go away until you scratch it.

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17. Eat your fruit! If a monkey likes it, it’s good for you too.

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18. And don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty

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19. And if you’re not sure how to eat a certain fruit… just watch a monkey do it

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20. When you’re having one of those days, remember it happens to us all

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21. Your home might be your temple, but a true temple can be anyone’s home.

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22. You might not be cute forever, take advantage of it while you can

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23. To be happy you need to be doing what makes you happy, don’t worry about what everyone else thinks you should be doing!

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And on that thought I leave it here for now. To be continued at a later date. In the meantime while I’m here, I can use the things at my easy disposal that will help me organize my plans for doing things that matter to me. My passion for the jungles and my disdain for their destruction. These are the things that actually matter to me. I will keep you posted 🙂

And one final point:

24. Remember, long-tailed macaques are used extensively in animal testing for products we use everyday. Think about what you buy and where it came from. They deserve better.

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And if you find monkeys interesting too and want to know more, here is some interesting information:
http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/long-tailed_macaque/behav

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Keep Sumatra Clean! Progress Update

This post is an update on the ‘Keep Sumatra Clean’ garbage and recycling program to update those who donated to help us.

 At this point we have completed the building of one of the garbage/recycling stations.  We have also had two large metal signs made that have been installed along the river in the problem areas where people were picnicking and often leaving trash behind and/or attracting monkeys and orang-utans, leading to contact with people and trash….leading to problems like this:

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And this

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So far, the garbage/recycling station has had good interest! and is being used properly.  Now people are throwing things out in the appropriate bins, and the recyclables are easily collected.  This also makes tourists happy, as there is now a clear place to throw those cans and plastic bottles, which I would often find myself carrying around all day, not wanting to just throw them in the garbage, or worse!

The best news, is that the local branch Government Office, which is also in charge of the Gunung Leuser National Park, liked the idea and volunteered to allow us to use their logo on our signage.  And better yet, they are now donating 3 more metal signs to us to place further down the river, in a couple of other areas where people tend to congregate leaving lots of trash behind.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it kind of is!  The truth is, when it comes to enforcing certain rules with respect to contact with wildlife and not littering, there are some rules, but there is absolutely no enforcement.  So having the Government Office on board gives us a little more backing to self-enforce when necessary. Basically, it only takes one time to call someone out for doing something prohibited in this regard, and they tend to get the message.  So with this backing, it means anyone can easily point out to ‘violators’ that they are breaking the rules, and say ‘see, the Government says so too!’ instead of them just thinking some crazy person is getting worked up for no reason.

In the end, we have spent just over half of the money raised. So we still have money left to build one more garbage/recycling station, which is amazing.  Also, I have plans to extend the program to include volunteer garbage clean-ups which hopefully tourists will be interested in partaking in.  This will help raise a little more money, and give folks something useful to do that will be super fun and will set a good example.  I also hope to set up a few donation boxes for tourists who’d like to contribute to the program.  Basically, we can only go up from here!

So here are some photos to show you what we’ve done. Unfortunately, I had some terrific photos of the chain-smoking little old man who painted our metal signs, free hand! They were good photos… and now I’ve lost them.  I’m perplexed, I don’t know how I lost them, but apparently they are gone.  I also notice that my photos of the garbage station with the sponsors’ names listed below, do not show the names very clearly.  But all of our amazing donors are listed there and all those involved are very thankful for your support!

Also, the signage on the garbage station was done by non-professionals (basically myself, and Robet who painted).  I’m not loving it, and the plan is to eventually replace it with the more professional metal signage in the future. But for now, this is what we’ve got.  Jungle style!

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 The sign says to please throw garbage in the place we have provided:
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The signs say that it is prohibited to litter and to bother and/or give food or drink to the wild orangutans:
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You can see the layout of the two signs along the river:

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Thanks again to everyone who donated, spread the word and volunteered their time. Great job!!

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It was a Privilege to be Smacked by a Monkey

As my year in Indonesia gets hair-defiantly closer and closer to coming to an end, each day seeming to go by more quickly than the last, I have been trying to figure out what to do with myself. The truth is that I obviously have a low level of interest for my 9-5 life at home and the general timeline we are supposed to follow in a ‘normal’ life.  I was never really on that timeline properly and I’m not interested in getting on it.  I would like to do what makes me happy while I can even if others think I’m ridiculous.  Of course there are things to miss about home, but there is also so much missing. So I have started some programs here which I hope to have the opportunity to continue.  I have a trekking website http://www.TrekSumatra.com and there’s the garbage and recycling program which I have some really big plans for and will have a follow-up on that in my next post.

I really do enjoy the more simple, more ‘manual’ lifestyle here, wondering when the electricity will go out (should I plug the rice-cooker in now, or wait until after an outage?), should I get more propane now or is it enough to cook one more nasi goreng? wondering how long before my neighbour can fix my water line when the water stops and how much water I can use until then. Wondering when it will rain or if we will run out of water altogether.  The thing is all these little issues make me feel more alive.  I’m not in robot mode, I’m in living mode.  It’s a nice change!

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(on a side note, this would normally be wet season and it has been unbearably dry.  Two months so far of almost no rain but for 3 or 4 short downpours in an area that gets much more rain than this even in ‘dry’ season.  Normally a few hours of VERY heavy rain EVERY DAY. And these jungles are on rocky hills so they don’t have a huge reserve water supply to draw from. Everything is drooping, some dying. The river has never been so low, the village well water is completely dry and it all has to be brought up from the river. Plus we had the added bonus of weeks of smokey haze from the ‘burning’ in Riau Province – yes ‘accidental’ burning of 1000s of hectares of jungle for palm oil – the usual.  These have been the hardest things to deal with as I do love it here and I just worry so much about the climate change and encroaching destruction, and how long it can go on.)

Learning Indonesian

light / lamp            – lampu
dead                         – mati
power outage        – mati lampu (a top 10 Indonesian phrase)
water                        -air (“eye-er”)   
water stoppage     – air Mati
white                         -putih
drinking water       -air putih
alive                          – hidup (“he-doop”)
electricity’s back! – hidup!

Fun Fact: It’s been so damn hot and dry here even the monkeys are swimming!

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Over my time here and many previous travels to various locales around the world, I have observed many things.  Observing and judging are some of my best abilities! So I want to share a few gems of my ‘lessons learned’ from time spent abroad in areas ‘less devolped’ [but more ‘alive’ 🙂 ]than home:
(sprinkled with some photos of my last amazing trek because it’s awesome to read an article with photos that have nothing to do with each other but I need to do a 2 in 1 here):

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1.Cold Weather is enviable
If you live somewhere that gets cold and/or gets snow, relish it!  Yes it can be dreary and messy and inconvenient, especially someplace like Vancouver that just can’t ever seem to get winter quite right for more than a couple of days!  but you may not realize how many people in the world dream of touching snow, of feeling cold air, and maybe skiing or eating an icicle.  Contemplating ‘where do the fish go?’ when you show them a picture of a frozen lake. They really can’t comprehend true ‘cold’, thinking it would be fantastic if they got some snow!… while living in their uninsulated, heater-free homes, with water pipes that would freeze in an instant, and roofs that would collapse with just a few inches of snow. Some people only ever experience one season, every day the sun rises and sets and the same time.  Enjoy that you get seasons, sometimes extreme.  Your short winter days compensated by long summer ones, everyday different.  There are so many who can’t believe it’s even true who would love to experience it!

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2.Toilet paper is not really necessary
Of course this sounds gross, but it’s true damn it, and a good portion of the world’s population lives this way.  When we are raised using toilet paper, obviously the thought of not sounds disgusting.  I’m not sure what percentage of the world’s population does and doesn’t use it but I think it could be pretty close to 50/50.  The thing is that western style toilets and bathrooms are really not amenable to going toilet-paper free, there’s too much ceramic in the way.  But once you have the toilet-paper-free set up, with the hole in the floor and bucket, it’s really not bad. And that feeling of not being dry when you have to pee in a bush with no toilet paper and just a drip-dry, well you get over it!  Plus, how many trees have gone into all the toilet paper we’ve used in our life? It’s a lot of trees. Plus all the water we waste?  Both are saved in this method, as most people don’t have flush toilets, so you always just use as much water as you need. Of course, in the western world, living without toilet paper and bucket flushing isn’t going to happen but I think it’s good to be aware of how many trees and resources are used to just go down the toilet.  I do still use it once in a while, it is a difficult habit to break, but I can totally live without it, and that’s good to know!  I keep some around in case I have an emergency on the road and have to run into a palm plantation.  Yes an emergency with no water AND no toilet paper.. that’s a problem!

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3.Swimsuits are totally not necessary
Ok I know swimwear is big fashion.  But for me, this isn’t a big deal because I’ve never been much for swimwear, only wearing it when I have to.  I don’t even own any swimwear now. But I never really thought about WHY people wear them.  I just knew if I went to swim at the beach or a pool, you MUST wear a swimsuit. And we learned in school that if you swim in clothes you will get tangled and drown strangled by your jeans and ponytail.

But if you spend time in a Muslim country or culture of a more ‘reserved’ nature, the people won’t come right out and say so but they think swimwsuits are completely ludicrous.  Well, for women anyway, men of course can just wear shorts (ah the double standards) but actually many men swim fully clothed also.  And if you wear skimpy wear or swimsuits away from touristy areas, in Muslim areas, it is very offensive to the local people! After they have had a couple of ‘shocks’ seeing such outfits walk by, you will sometimes see little signs posted to warn any other tourists who might arrive to ‘dress modestly’.  While in places that get a lot of tourists, the people will politely let anything go and just talk about you later between themselves hee hee.

People who dress modestly are considered ‘polite’ and those who don’t, ‘not polite’ but whatever category you are, Indonesians will most always be polite to you! If you are in the water, in your swimsuit, it’s fairly acceptable to folks who are more used to tourists, you are just different and don’t know any better! But still, keep it to the water!  Even in these areas, when tourists decide to walk down the road in their swimsuit, eek!!! Always take notice of how locals do things and try to fit in a bit, out of respect. They know you’re different, just try to keep the shock level to a minimum. And believe me, many tourists also appreciate a little modesty.

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The other day I was helping a couple of ladies scrubbing bamboo furniture from a restaurant in the river (just a regular afternoon lol).  Fully clothed of course.  We were chit chatting and I could see a raft of tourists pulling up.  I saw the ladies smirking and biting their tongues. I knew why, the family was dressed in little swimwear, too much bum uncovered for here, yet totally normal at home of course. And I knew the ladies were wanting to commentate but thought it might not be appropriate in front of me. I looked at the ladies, rolled my eyes, and said ‘ya, I also do not want to see these bums’ and they laughed.  They asked me if I wear swimsuits at home and I said yes, if I go to a pool or swim at the beach, I have to! And it made me wonder why I have to?  Who came up with this ‘rule’?

Well, some may say it’s so oppressive for women to not be allowed to wear swimsuits!  Fact is, in this area, if they wanted to they could, they just do NOT want to! Ever! and if they did, they’d be made fun of mercilessly.  (in fact, I have seen all of the women I know here who wear the headscarf at one or many other times in public not wearing it. The only exception is the women who also wear the face veil. I’m pretty sure they are always covered, but then again if I saw their face I might not know it was them, you know?) If you really think about it, isn’t it more liberating and powerful to swim clothed?  Break the rules of ‘you must wear a swimsuit near water?’

The thing is, at least once in your life, swim fully clothed!!  Just do it!  Why not?  You can have fun in the water, and never have to worry about sunscreen, or ‘do I look fat?’ and get your dirty clothes a nice rinse at the same time.  (It’s normal to actually bathe in your clothes in the river as well, so you really can get some laundry done at the same time you are lathering yourself up)

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4.Safety rules are meant to be broken

I have always been annoyed by the amount of stupid ‘rules’ we have at home. We are raised with so many rules, in particular relating to safety, that at a point you realize you can probably find someone else to blame for anything that goes wrong! “well there wasn’t a sign at the edge of the cliff saying it was dangerous so it’s not my fault I fell off”. And you have to worry you are going to be held responsible for something stupid someone else does! How does that make any sense?   I think this is unfortunate.    Outside of blatant negligence or misleading information, day-to-day stuff can’t always be someone else’s fault.  Watch where you are walking! If it’s hot, don’t touch it.  Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t smoke at a gas station. etc. 

Case in point, children at home, bless their dear souls, will set up little ventures like lemonade stands (and I’m sure there are nasty people who try to get them in trouble re zoning, business licences, taxes, etc. sheesh ) Here, I’ve seen children set up deep-fried chicken sausage stands, usually set up outside a wild wedding party, on the side of the busy road at night.  They will have a propane gas fire cooker heating a wok of bubbling oil into which they dip spiral-cut chicken sausage bites on sticks. As they do this, the young customers stand at the edge of the bubbling boiling pot watching their little spiral sausage get fried to a crisp.  Sounds SUPER SAFE right?!. It’s NOT! No parental supervision, no safe distance, no safety wear.  It’s full-on hot-oil DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN.  Quite a contrast to the side-street daytime lemonade stand.

But here, they are fearless.  And if something goes horribly wrong, there is no recourse, no one to hold accountable.  Another example are the school boys who ride on the roof of their speeding school bus vans without a worry in the world. Totally NOT safe! Really, imagine this at home!  Children riding on top of a speeding bus, with just the side of the roof to cling to.  I almost don’t notice it anymore, but when I picture it happening at home it really hits me with how insane it is.  But people don’t worry about these things here, even though accidents do unfortunately happen.

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I really don't know how anyone can chop this down

Perhaps children here are put in too much risk, but at the same time, they do learn from very young to look after themselves! For me I think there is a happy medium, it’s called live-and-learn common-sense. 
Example 1:  I see children selling deep-fried sausages.. I keep my distance. 
Example 2:  If you buy a pot here, the handle will eventually fall off, usually when you are transporting boiled water.  I still buy and use pots, holding it away from me as I move it from Point A to Point B, ready to leap back when I hear the handle snap. Live and learn. 
Example 3: if you don’t want your house swarmed by 30 monkeys, do NOT let them see you eating something!  I like to have a few monkeys, 30 gets out of control with all the hissing and pushing and shoving! (another side note, I was sitting on my balcony, a monkey sitting on the railing sneering at me.  she ran across and as she ran by me she smacked me on the knee with her hand!  I didn’t do anything, just looked at her and she looked at me waiting for my reaction. Nothing, so she ran by and did it again!  It was interesting.  Don’t know what it was about but I can say it was a privilege to be smacked by a monkey!) Example 4: There is no return policy here. When you buy something, a fan for example, they build it for you in the store (which is super awesome, take THAT Ikea!) plug it in to show you it works and send you off, never to see the item again. If it breaks, it’s now 100% YOUR problem. So, this works well with my style of not buying anything very expensive.

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Love my new hat

At home I think certain rules are just stupid.  If people want to ride a bike without a helmet, let them!  Or boat without a lifejacket, let them. It’s stupid, but darwin’s law… let it play out, please!  Just don’t let them be responsible for tranporting others. simple!  Let it ride.

Oh, and as for flying kites near electrical wires, it’s no problem kids! (something else we were lied to about as children! … just like drowning if you wear clothes swimming).  I frequently see kites stuck on electrical lines, and children flying kites surrounded by power lines. This was especially evident in Vietnam -(land of a million mangled electrical wires at every intersection!)  And all that happens is the piddly string breaks. If every one of those dangling kites represented an electrocuted child, I think there wouldn’t be so many kites!  So relax and go fly a kite.

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5.The English language uses too many letters
Well, I’ve kind of always noticed this, and I think French is even worse. So languages that don’t have this problem are a pleasure.  Indonesian/Malay are very similar and simple to pronounce once you know how each letter is pronounced.  Each letter makes only one sound, and there are no silent letters or unnecessary double letters.  Very simple.  You may not know what you are reading or saying, but you will be able to say it and if you hear it you will be able to write it!  I have always had an interest in accents and why people who learn English pronounce things the way they do, the sounds of their own words and the sounds they can and cannot make.  It’s really quite fascinating.

For instance Indonesians have a real problem pronouncing ‘x’ at the end of a word, it will come out as ‘k’. For example box= bok (they don’t use x, only in ‘imported’ words, and in their language the sound is spelled ‘ks’ as in TAKSI, which they have no problem pronouncing in the middle of a word).  However, if your Trekking Guide excitedly points out a Flying Fox, don’t be alarmed, he just can’t pronounce the ‘x’!

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I was actually thinking that it would be really easy even for non-Indonesian speakers to teach an Indonesian person to read and write Indonesian. This is something I would like to do here in the future, wish I’d thought of it earlier!! There are many adults here who cannot read.  And it would be easy, they already know the words, they know how to say them, they just need to memorize the letters and their sounds.  Unlike English, which I think would be a hot mess to learn! with so many silent letters, letter combinations (what are they called dipthongs or something? even THAT word is ridiculous!) with different sounds, letters that make 10 different sounds depending on the word or placement, spelling rules that always have a hundred exceptions. And don’t even get me started on grammer rules!  We could totally spell all our words like they do in Indonesian, and we could even get rid of a few letters and no one would notice! like x, q f and v for example (just use p for f and b for v, no one will notice: Butipul Bankuber!)

Well I hope to do up one more post in the next few weeks, although I’ve obviously become lazier and lazier about it.

But I want to do a follow-up re the ‘garbage program’ progress and a post I’ve been contemplating all year of a year’s worth of “things you can learn from a monkey” . How exciting does that sound??!!

Here’s a sneak peek

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Talk to you soon!

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Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Mt. Sinabung

A bit of catching up to do!

First I want to talk about the volcano you may have heard about, Mt. Sinabung.  It had been inactive for about 400 years and has just started up again, it’s been going pretty much non-stop for the last few months.  Of course, Indonesia is the land of volcanoes, and there have been some pretty massive earth changing eruptions that occurred here.  In North Sumatra, volcano-central is in the Berastagi area.  Berastagi is a lovely town to visit.  The climate is blissfully cool, the street food is plentiful and the markets an overload for the senses! I did a post on it previously which you can find HERE, for more photos and talk about the area. 

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Mt. Sinabung from Gundaling Berastagi

Berastagi is the vegetable capital of North Sumatra. This is where the majority of the province’s vegetables come from. This area has the perfect climate and perfect soils, thanks to the volcanoes, to grow amazing fruits and vegetables.  And a visit to the market will likely have you in awe at the abundance and varieties available.  It’s fertile land here folks, still mostly untouched by palm oil, because the climate is not ideal for palm oil, thank goodness.

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The problem of course, is that people have their crops and farms making their way right up the bases of some of the gentle-sloping volcanoes.  And then, when out of the blue a long-dormant volcanoe erupts, with thousands living on or near it’s base, it’s a complete tragedy.  That’s what happened here.
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I visited a few days after the massive eruption at the beginning of February.  The mosque in the previous post I linked to above, was now a temporary camp for 1000 people.  Walking by, there were a few people who set up little food stands, although I’m sure most people didn’t have much money or anything with them.  And all around the grounds were lines upon lines of laundry.  Laundry hanging everywhere.  I couldn’t take a photo, it didn’t seem right. But many children came to say hi. They don’t speak Bahasa Indonesia, the ‘mountain’ people speak different dialects and we completely could not understand each other but I DID understand their word for corn and knew the children wanted some money to buy the barbecue corn. 🙂
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I went to a place in the middle of Berastagi where you can get a view of the two main volcanoes in the area, both frequented by tourists for climing.  The smaller and more un-volcano shaped Mt. Sibayak, and the massive steep sloped Mt. Sinabung.

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Mt. Sibayak, always smoking

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  The morning I was there was 3 days after the massive eruption.  It was still smoking constantly from the top, back and all down the front slope. The large tongue of lava is frozen half way down the slope, and the ash continues down the entire slope where everything in it’s way was wiped out.  You can see the crops on either side of the main ash deposit have been wiped out closer to the top, and you can see how high up the hillsides the people once lived.

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Many who died were people coming to take a look or to help those who were already affected by the previous smaller eruptions.  Many folks didn’t want to leave their farms and risked staying.  It was a deadly choice for some.

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You can read more about this story here at: BBC photos and CNN

Some more of my photos:

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these beautiful blue flowers are everywhere. you can see the ash on the leaves

Have to share one food photo. Berastagi is a great food town. After dinner I ordered sweet toast with no idea what it would be. I expected two small pieces of half warm bread with something on them?.but I got a whole loaf of bread! cut open and filled with chocolate and coconut and meticulously grilled to a proper toast texture on all 6 sides. Yum!!

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My bus back to Medan, techno karaoke videos blaring, knickknacks everywhere, (including all over tge windshield – safety first!) and hiphop driver. Too bad this photo doesn’t catch the stuffed animals hanging from the ceiling:

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Changing gears a little bit.  The Keep Sumatra Clean Campaign has come to a close and the money collected and construction is underway!  This will take a while, the signs still have to be designed etc., but it’ll get there (nothing really moves quickly here other than deforestation… bad joke I know).  The first bin-housing has been started:

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filtering sand for the cement

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say NO to LITTER!

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And a few more photos of this caterpillar I watched working his way up to my roof. It was like air ballet!

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ok bye for now!

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Happy 2014 – Have you made travel plans yet?

Hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year, and now all is back to normal?

As I mentioned in my previous post, just being in a hot climate in December was a ‘treat’ in itself.  I enjoyed the shock of just being in a totally different environment over the Christmas season.  Had a really nice time and brought in the New Year in style.  Started with a day-trek with Helen and Robet (yes, finishing off the year in the company of orangutans and friends was amazing!  🙂  .. followed by a fun evening of super high-energy excitement.  Fireworks must have started by 7pm and went all night, so did the people, and the horns….  Good fun had by all.

My photos from New Year’s Eve daytrek:

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not a great photo but first time to capture one of these woodpeckers  in a photo
at all:
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The first time I travelled to Indonesia I was travelling alone for 3 months. I was a little nervous about it before I left, but that went away immediately, once I confirmed to myself ‘oh ya, I’m not an idiot, I can figure stuff out, I can be aware of what’s going on around me… I can be smart, so I don’t need to be scared’.  And with that thinking, spent some of the best 3 months of my life, never lonely, never scared, never bored.  I just let myself fall in love with Indonesia -the good the bad and the ugly- as I have with many places before.  But this place was always calling me, since I learned about jungles in school, I knew I wanted to come here.  It had just never been the right time until a few years ago.

I have always loved travelling, and travelling alone was something I didn’t do until just a few years ago either.  Some folks think it’s crazy, lonely, scary…etc etc.  For me, I believe it’s something every first-world person should do at least once in their life, especialy girls!  I wish I had done it much, much earlier.  It really would have changed everything! To take a few weeks, or better, months, and leave your ‘real’ life behind and go somewhere new and far away and see what happens. You will surprise yourself. And you will be surprised by how many other people are doing it as well.  It’s not at all crazy, but it’s ok to be scared, that part is totally normal.  Solo travel, especially among the gals is becoming more and more popular and for good reason, as the growing list of solo-female travel bloggers indicates.  Most of them will give you lists on why solo travel is better than travelling with a companion or group. Why it usually ends up being more social and less lonely than companion travel, etc.   Well obviously there are benefits to both types of travel and perhaps being a nomad for the rest of your life may not be for everyone, but I do believe doing so at least once in your life will change your life for the positive, and I think if you can do it, you should do it at least once! If you feel like something’s missing from your day-to-day, you feel bored or perplexed about the point of your daily life… maybe you need a change of scenery, atmosphere, lifestyle, some adventure, some solitude, maybe you just need to be a little scared? It’s a good thing. seriously try travel.  Not a resort… travel!

I was recently asked if I’d heard of www.withlocals.com I had not.

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I checked it out and found it to be an interesting concept.  Here’s a nice article about them in the Jakarta Globe . If you are wanting to travel in SE Asia and need a little help getting a more authentic experience, you can search through their site and find various activities such as learning to cook, or walking tours etc. with local people who list their service for a small fee.  It’s a good idea because rather than booking a big expensive group-tour type thing, this is geared more toward independant travellers who would like some assistance with just meeting truly local people, and the fees go directly to the local host. This is especially useful if you don’t have the luxury of a lot of time to entrench yourself in a community (like me, who they can’t get rid of now… 🙂 or don’t want to be trapped in tours with people you may not have chosen to travel with and never really getting the authentic experiences, just the ‘tour’ experiences. This is a one-on-one concept that you can easily plan and book yourself.

Also, this is a way for locals to make some extra money.  If you are already in one of their listed areas, you might be able to sign up or help some local friends sign up.  A great way for locals to share their expertise or skills with foreigners, be it cooking a fantastic curry or carving coconut-shell jewelery, and making a little money and some new friends while at it. What could be beter?  check it out.. it might inspire you to go somewhere!

Learning Indonesian:
Selamat – Congratulations / safe / good luck/ happiness
natal-Christmas
tahun – year
baru – new
ulang – repeat
selamat natal – Merry Christmas
selamat tahun baru – Happy new year
Selamat ulang tahun – Happy Birthday

Fun fact: The concept of a cold sunny day, to people who live on the equator and have never needed to use a heater in their life, find this concept truly bizarre.  Think about this next time you are out enjoying a fantastic sunny cold crisp day!  How would you explain it to someone who sees the sun everyday and has never truly felt cold?  And enjoy your cold air 🙂

A few more photos to share:

Love this use for stolen, ahem, I mean lost luggage, in Medan Kuala Namu Airport’s new train station

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aaah Medan traffic…..you never cease to amaze

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(and just to point out the banner people on tbe side are collecting money for the volcano victims…it’s still going on)

Helen and I lost in a river of green
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This is how they transport bamboo, magical isn’t it’?
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and a reminder as to why we need better garbage containers here:

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Still time to donate:

link: KeepSumatraClean
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Thank you and bye for now, happy travels:-)

Categories: Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Less Stuff = More Full

My story about the ‘Christmas in July’ clothing donation program is below. Yes, the clothes have finally been given out!

But first…catch-up time.

I was a little lazy on this past visa exit and just took a quick trip to Singapore in mid-December.  I spent one night in the city, and one night in the airport!  I had been to Singapore for a couple days a few years ago, and again on my ‘Free Bus Tour’ during a long layover earlier this year, and knew it was a good choice for a quick trip and to stock up on some things I just can’t get in Sumatra!

I was staying in Little India.. of course!  And I happened to be arriving 2 days after a huge altercation in Little India which you may or may not have heard about in the news. An intoxicated man was run over by a bus in Little India and it erupted in a huge riot against police and it ended quite badly for some.  All of it the type of thing that is basically unheard of for ‘everything-is-creepily-perfect-here’ Singapore.  Anyway, the area had to be put on a bit of a lockdown of no selling of alcohol and such to try to keep the calm. But I didn’t notice anything different, everything seemed to be going along as though nothing had happened. And I was still able to buy alcohol in restaurants which was good, because they wouldn’t want tourists going all ‘berserk’!

This has been my first winter out of Canada, ever. I always tend to travel in the spring apparently!  So, seeing Christmas decorations while sweating away in the humid weather is a very odd sensation for me! There are sone in Sumatra, but in Singapore, Wow!  And Singapore, being a City of Shopping Malls and entertainment, where they like to do everything just right!..it was definitely like walking through a Christmas wonderland, enclosed in a sauna.

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Speaking of shopping, I have to say, every year I feel more and more annoyed about how much stuff I have that I don’t really need and how much stuff people buy for each other at Christmas just for the sake of buying something because that’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do for Christmas, and how much of it is not needed, how much waste it creates, and how much it all hurts the environment, badly, in the end.  And as a major SE Asian shopping destination, Singapore definitely feeds into and caters to this shopping frenzy mentality, but it has been so freeing to not take part in it!  To be able to just walk by, and not feel pressured to partake!

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I did have to shop a little though, because Singapore simply has everything. So I was able to purchase a couple of things I needed that I cannot find in Sumatra (like soap without palm oil!.. still difficult but possible).

Also, as I have now succumbed to eating rice at least one to two times a day (and not pouting – I actually LIKE IT!!) I definitely still go through phases of crazy food cravings for things I cannot get easily or at all in Sumatra. (like.. good bread… cheese.. tater tots…tacos.. pickles….celery.. proper potato chips…nachooooos…pizza…grilled cheese sandwich…any sandwich. ..etc.) Things will pop into my head and even if I never fully crave them at home I can’t stop thinking about them here!!  I get weird food dreams and intense cravings.  So in Singapore I happened to stumble across a brand new White Spot! I thought it was a mirage arising out of the baking pavement! But nope, it was real.  My Vancouver friends will know how important this place is to me 🙂  So I got to order my fave White Spot treat, the double double with veg patty (seriously, you don’t have to be vegetarian, it just tastes better!!! try it) and french fries.. it was amazing. A. MA. ZING!

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After one night in the City, I spent the second night in the Singapore Changi airport because, well, it’s free!  And as per my previous post on Singapore Airport, it’s basically the best airport in the world, and with your boarding pass, it becomes the best free ‘hotel’ in the world.

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one of the many replicas of world famous sites, done up Christmas style in Changi Airport

So here are some Christmasy photos from Singapore:

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This is as close as many of these folks will ever get to snow, but they were having a wild time!
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And Singapore ‘regular’ style:

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And my more importantly this week – Christmas Clothes Donations!!

For those of you who graciously sent boxes of clothes, most of which actually arrived months ago! Thank you thank you thank you again!!

So it was finally time to dole them out.  I have been lucky to have my friend Helen here from Jakarta over Christmas and New Year.  (I met her on a trip here in June, and like me she keeps coming back! and she also happens to be on my list of ‘most interesting people I have ever met’.  For real. I am pressuring her to write a book about her life and I really hope she does it!!)  Well, I am always happy to see her here, but I was doubly happy to have her here now because she was gung ho to help with the clothes donations.  So we set out on Christmas Day afternoon with Robet and Apri who drove the motorbikes and found the best areas. It was really a little touchy because SO many people can use the items and you don’t want to stop in an area where too many people will see when you know you don’t have enough for everyone.  So we really had to look for the right places without causing too much of a commotion.

For me, at home, it seems that people who are out begging on the street, making it known they need some ‘help’ often come across to me as not so much ‘needing’ it as ‘wanting’ it. I’ve learned spending long enough in Vancouver that if someone is begging for money for food but won’t take food, I definitely don’t want to give them money.  It’s likely not food they want. There had been many times that I offered food instead of money and it was refused. Needless to say, at home my feelings re partaking in charitable people-related programs have been pretty much non-existent my entire life unless they have been forced on me by some work program or something. For me, I’ve always been an animal person. So if it’s not an animal or environment charity, I am just not interested. Canada also has so much help for people, they might say it’s not enough, but imagine living somewhere where there is no help.  Where there is no welfare, there is no government pensions, no old-age security, no healthcare or mental healthcare, no nothing! If you don’t have money, you don’t have outside help! Here people depend on their family and community. And they work until they just can’t anymore. There is no ‘retirement’ or help for seniors.  But you don’t see flat-out begging here.  Never. You see it most parts of SE Asia that I’ve been to, and you see it in other areas of Indonesia (although still to a much lesser extent), but here, you don’t see it. So as averse as I have always tended to be towards getting involved to help people at home, here I do see things a lot differently. And I figure, if I can help a few people here have a better day, I’m keen to do it.

And what I also find interesting, on the flip-side to public street beggars, is that the people who genuinely do need help at home, often have trouble admitting so or asking for it. It’s shameful perhaps? a sign of weakness maybe?  It’s strange how in our society we seem to have made needing help a bad thing.  And I’m sure there are people who will read this and want to rip me to shreds over my comments here… but…here, when you show up at a house with something to give people, to try and help them, and you ask them if they would like something, they will immediately say yes.  Almost like they are saying ‘DUH! of course, why wouldn’t we?’. They accept in a humble, somewhat shy, yet happy manner. They clearly are open to accepting. And it’s a good thing.

It is not shameful here to accept help.  It’s not a sign of weakness, I say it’s a sign of intelligence. People here grow up in communities, true communities where they do their best to help each other with what little they have.  They know it’s a struggle, they know how nearly impossible it is to get ahead, but it doesn’t hurt their pride and self-confidence, and accepting a little helping hand now and then doesn’t beat them down, it brings them up.  I don’t know if I’m explaining it properly.. but I’ll just say it was a great experience. It also reinforced my thinking about how we all have and want too much STUFF! And this experience was just so freeing on top of the ‘no-shopping’ Christmas.  The ability to just give things to others who really needed them, knowing they came from people who really wanted to do something nice for some people they’ve never met.  And for those of you who donated, you can know that we told the people the clothes were from friends in Canada very far away who very much like Indonesian people and wanted to send them something they can use.  And the people’s faces would light up. I think it was strange for them .. the idea of far-away strangers helping.  But you could see the wheels turning for sure, and they were smiling. Just a very nice experience all around.  Those clothes donations ended up being the best ‘gift’ I could have received 🙂 

So I took a few photos on the day. Keep in mind, I didn’t photo everyone.  I only did so when it seemed to flow naturally that I could ask for a photo or take one without seeming exploitive. This was a bit awkward for me.  I know if I asked all of them, they would say yes, but I just didn’t feel right about it in many instances. I just felt better visiting, giving them the goodies and leaving, not making it a ‘condition’ of the visit to take a photo.  This is probably something I need to realize isn’t as big of a deal as I make it in my head.  But for now, it was more comfortable with the old folks to take the photos.  Moms with a bunch of children, I just didn’t feel right about.  But please, for those that sent clothes and goodies for the children, it was ALL gratefully and exuberantly received.  Thanks again to all who donated, you made a lot of people very happy!!!

Photos from Christmas Day:

This little couple has been martied for over 60 years. They both loved their new jackets and hats…they get chilly here! And the woman took forever tying on her new scarf for the photo 🙂

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Helen outside the home of one family we visited. 5 people live here. They got lots of nice clothes, and the teenage girl was thrilled with a little bottle of nail polish.
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Inside another home we visited. It’s about 2 m x 4m. 4 people live here. Kitchen area and wooden table/ bed. The mom was so happy for new clothes and her two toddlers got some toy cars as well.
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This little man is a gem!!. He said he’s 100 years old. He lives in a hut on a rice field and works everyday on the crops. Older people love the warmer clothes, although you have to show them how to use zippers!! He also got a new pair of pants he’s holding. The ones he had on really needed to be upgraded!
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Oh, and he only has one tooth.., and tge best laugh

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This blind woman sells herbs everyday along the roads, guided by her daughter. You can see the little bag of clothes she’s holding. She can’t see them, but loved them all the same

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We also met these folks cutting cassava roots for selling. They were happy with some new duds. I think they found us a little strange trampling over to give out goodies. But they were very pleased!

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Learning indonesian:

person:  Orang
old: tua
old person:  orang tua
smile:  senyum
happy:  senang
clothes:  pakaian

fun fact:  Well, maybe it’s not a fact, but I learned distinguishing ‘mens’ and ‘womens’ clothes is really not too important. If their pants, and they fit who cares if they are ‘mens’ or ‘womens’. seriously

Well on that note, we’ll leave it there for now. Hope everyone had a fulfilling Christmas and goes nuts on New Years eve.

Remember, if you are sble to help out our little garbage program here, there is still a couple weeks left. Either by small donation or by just helping me in sharing this link! all help GREATLY appreciated. Folks here are getting excited that stuff will be happening 🙂

Here is the link

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/keep-sumatra-clean

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Thank you!!!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trash Talk and a gift for you!

ok, first a little sponsorship promo followed by my gift to you!

Some of you have already seen my little project to raise money for a start-up recycling/ garbage program here.  If you are like me and grew up in a country where littering is an offence, and recylcing is just second-nature, you would be feel as disturbed as I do with the state, or lack of, garbage/litter/recycling education here. 

If you hate littering as much as I do, them you understand the feeling when you see someone roll down their car window and throw out a gum wrapper, or fast-food container (those are the worst for some reason!) onto the road…yes, you GASP in horror and frantically look around wondering where the hell the police are when you need them – someone just littered! You feel like they may as well have come into your house and thrown their garbage on your living room floor, that’s how violated you feel!  Well, now imagine living somewhere where everyone is the guy throwing his litter out the car window, or on the sidewalk or in the river.  That’s what it’s like here.  SO, we have to try and do something about it.  Please read my little sales pitch and consider making a small donation, or just forwarding it on.  Every little bit helps!!  Thanks for your time

Click here for more info:
keep Sumatra clean!

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Moving on from garbage… it’s time for less talking and more photos.

After some FIERCE calculations, I have totalled all my time spent in Indonesia over the past three years, and as of next week, I’ll be at 52 weeks! one whole year.  In honour of this milestone, I wanted to go over all of my photos and weed them down to 52 special pics. I can’t say they are the 52 best or my 52 favourite, but they are 52 photos I love.

I’ve spent a lot ot time here and that’s because I love it here – obvi! Imagine, in one year I haven’t spent one night sitting alone lying on the couch watching tv and stuffing myself with chips! and that’s not just because I don’t have a couch or tv, it’s because I don’t want to! Here there is a sense of community, people to see, wandering to do, you walk out your door and your friends are always nearby! it’s such a pleasant change.

And as much as I love to talk about jungle stuff, there’s also many other great things about Indonesia.  It’s quirky, it’s weird, it’s backward, but it’s so alive!  -Yes Indonesia has it’s problems, many, and big ones, but this place is a magnet for me.  So I love to go over my photos now and then to be reminded of all the awesome things I’ve seen and done here, the things that have made me happy, made me sad, made me angry, made me think, and made me forget! 

I have gone over my thousands of photos and picked out these 52 to share with you (and also because my tablet and SD card memories are almost running out so I really needed to delete some stuff and get this done!). For every photo, 5 others that made the first cut were discarded…so this actually ended up being kind of stressful because so much is missing eek! Many of these have been posted in previous blogs, but many will be new for some of you. Here they are – enjoy!
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And yes, there may have been a couple extra in there!

Thank you for looking….and remember….the garbage…please share if you can or make a small donation. We will love you forever!!  🙂

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Palm Oil Problem

If I had the money, I would buy every palm oil plantation and do nothing. I’d give the problem to Mother Nature and let her fix it….but I don’t

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As promised, some info re palm oil. I realize this is long, because I have a lot to say about it. However it is actually quite concise compared to how much I could say. There is so much more to it than what I have writren here. Even if you don’t like orangutans , that’s fine, you don’t even have to like trees or nature at all. But if you like to BREATHE, this concerns you! or if you like people and hate human rights violations, read up.

And if all the words make you dizzy, at least check some of the links posted throughout for helpful info, such as other names for palm oil on food labels etc. Get comfy and read on…

The 3 things that disturb me most in life are 1. cruelty to animals and nature 2. Litter and pollution 3. palm oil

And it turns out, #3 causes #1 & #2 in bucketloads. It’s all related.

Thinking about these three things stresses me out.  It makes me feel ill.  I wish I could sue the people who cause my mental distress over these things.  But what can you do?  Palm oil may not be a concern at all for most people,they just don’t care. Others may care but are completely in the dark about what is going on, and others, they are infuriated and wanting to do something about it.  Although, wanting to do something about it is what I’d definitely call a David and Goliath battle, especially considering all that damage that has already been done that is likely irreversible in anyone’s lifetime. And for those in the dark about what’s going on, well that’s exactly how the corporations who have been feeding it to you for years want it. You have likely become reliant on palm oil without even knowing.

For years I have tried to educate myself on this issue as much as possible.  I have researched the whole palm oil process, from seedling to shoving it down your pie hole as an oreo cookie or washing your face with it.  I want to know EVERYTHING, right down to the nitty gritty of how to start a palm oil plantation, the reasoning for the 9m triangular row spacing of the plants, the various species of palm oil tree, the production rates, everything.  I want to know as much about palm oil as I do about orangutans. I am obsessed.  I think if I wanted to start a plantation I could.  But I don’t, I want them all to die.

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palm-oil seedling farm

There is a lot of information out there, I do not need to regurgitate all of it here.  If people want to understand the problem, the information is out there, and if you are interested, I recommend really reading up on it. 

but I do want to share my points and breakdown of the problem with palm oil as I see it:

1. Palm oil is a cheap, easily produced oil extracted from the palm kernel, and used in a plethora of processed food, cosmetic and cleaning products.  The average grocery store has palm oil in 50%+ of the products on the shelves.

2.As food companies try to move away from ‘TRANS FATS’, palm oil is becoming even more attractive as a replacement. The new FDA plan to ban all trans fat sounds good but is very worrisome for palm-oil opponents.

3. Palm oil is at the heart of the ‘bio-fuel’ push (yet there is nothing ‘bio’ about it)

4. It grows in hot, humid areas with large yearly rainfalls in the equatorial regions around the world through africa, asia and south america, but most is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia.  The equatorial regions are home to the worlds tropical jungles, the world’s lungs, and countless amazing species of plants and animals.

5. When palm oil companies start a new plantation, they prefer virgin jungle (as opposed to land that has already been cleared) because then they are able to chop down and sell the expensive hardwood trees they now ‘own’.  Shipped overseas, these trees are worth thousands and thousands of dollars a piece to make expensive furniture, and all kinds of stuff for our nice houses.

6. Once the sellable wood is removed, everything else is bulldozed and chopped and set on fire.  This is a MAJOR contributor to greenhouse gas.  The carbon pollution released into the atmosphere is horrific.  When the winds go the ‘wrong’ way, you get Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia etc. arguing with each other over who started the fires because people can’t breathe.  And for the villages immediately adjacent to the burning, it can be life-threatening. These are massive huge-scale fires that give of so much smoke they are tracked by global weather satellites as though they were major storms. And not only do these fires directly affect breathing ability in the nearby countries, but they also push more pollution in the air and ruin the air quality for everyone while helping the earth continue to warm at accelerated rates.  The world cannot afford to have smokey lungs, we all depend on them!

7.In the meantime, while the jungle burns, we cannot forget there were a bunch of animals living in there.  Sometimes they are pushed further into remaining jungle, but often the jungle is cut in a circle from the outside in and animals end up getting trapped. They burn, starve to death trapped in an area too small to survive, if they escape with no jungle left they get shot stealing from homes or other plantations, or if not shot, captured and kept, or sold for pets, or sometimes fates much worse.  This is how orangutans have ended up so critically endangered.

8. No area is safe from palm-oil development. Palm oil is big money, and this is a developing country of people who are poorly educated and run by corruption at all levels. Leaders have no thought of future plans or benefits of healthy environments, ‘money now, at any cost’ is the motto.  And who fuels this industry? the big corporations that feed you your snack foods, sell you your soaps, and tell you what to buy to clean your house perfectly. Alot of it even comes with environmentally friendly labelling claims.

9. Orangutans need vast areas, they spend most of their time solitary or mom with baby.  They cover vast space over a year, they cannot live in a small forest. They are also slow to reproduce because the babies usually stay with their moms for about 6 years. So one female will likely have 4 maybe 5 babies in a lifetime. But they are being killed off at a much faster rate.  Babies have some value, so when there is a confrontation, the mother is usually killed and the baby taken for sale or for a pet. This never turns out well for the baby.

There are a number of organizations working to rescue the babies or adults that have been injured and give them a chance at a life in the wild again, but some organizations end up with so many orangutans and no where to put them. Some can spend years living in accommodations not much better than a zoo. And as much as people can try to teach them how to be wild orangutans again, once they go through all this trauma, and have human moms as their teachers, they are never again really ‘wild’.  Although, there are successes with the rehabilitated orangutans, many have had the opportunity to live in the wild again, they are not so ‘wild’ but at least their eventual babies are. Their babies always have the natural instinct to stay away from people.  But for many rescued oeangutans, they will never live wild in the jungle again. Space in wild jungle is running out, thanks mostly to the development of palm oil plantations that destroys jungle at an alarming rate. Not only that, populations are being isolated in the remaining forest pockets, and this cutoff is also a huge threat to the needed genetic diversity required to keep populations healthy.

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10. Orangutans are the poster-species for what’s wrong with palm oil, but they are not alone.  Elephants, tigers, gibbons, rhinos (it’s still not clear if there are actually any left at this point) down to the smallest jungle insects are threatened.  And not just animals, the jungles are full of amazing plants, many not yet discovered.  The medicines and remedies local people know about taken from the jungles are amazing, and we just destroy it all for unhealthy snack foods and chemical cleaners.

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11.  Once everything is burned, the super nutrient-rich jungle peat that has formed over lifetimes, left completely scorched and devoid of anything alive, is ready for palm oil!

12. There is a real magic to the plantations.  If you are flying over a plantation for the first time, you might look out your window and smile at how lush and green everything looks.  But as you continue looking, you will see that something is not ‘natural’.  Every tree is the same, often for as far as you can see, lined up perfectly, with perfect roads sectioning off blocks of rows, all laid out perfectly. Everything the same height and size and colour.  You might think, well, at least it’s green, so it can’t be that bad for the environment, right?  Maybe some animals died, but a tree is a tree, right?  We’ve just replaced the jungle with these trees, and now they are our lungs, right? wrong.

This is jungle:

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This is palm oil:

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How much carbon recycling has been lost?  Jungles are dense with life at all levels.  Palm plantations are spacious, in exact 9m triangles between trees for the most efficient production. The leaves are only at the top.  The difference is staggering. The only other life are the weedy grasses and palm ferns that cling on.

13.  Palm oil trees are massive and need a lot of space for maximum production.  There are different varieties, but in Indonesia a much stalkier build is used than what you often see in Malaysia.  They produce quickly and frequently.  Their fruit is so abundant, if it was a useable crop as a food product, it would have some benefit. But you can’t eat palm oil kernels. Monkeys don’t even want to eat them. It must be processed, in a factory, into oil.

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Juvenile palm, kernels only a few feet off the ground. You can see the volume in this one tree alone, harvested one to two times per week!

14. Even if monkeys would eat palm-oil kernels, they’d be shot or captured for stealing. Plus, Orangutans and larger monkeys like gibbons cannot move through a palm oil plantation. They require branches that can hold their weight and trees close enough together to swing from branch to branch. Orangutans are very heavy and need trees that will bend, so they sway the trees and move through the jungle like that. Truly wild orangutans never need to touch the ground! But palm oil tree branches are only fronds with no strength and the trees don’t sway, plus they are too far apart to reach the next tree from the trunk. Wild apes and monkeys could never live in a plantation.

15. Palm oil plantations are huge producers, standing in a plantation you can almost hear it growing.  But really the plantation is dead.  In fact, I always have the feeling that the plantations are haunted.  There is a depressing energy, a spooky feeling.  I can’t help but think it’s life that was there wanting to come back but it can’t, and the sad souls of all the animals that used to live there.

16. Chemicals equivalent to Round-Up are used to make sure any competition for water and the few nutrients left, are killed, (only the palm oil can live) and heavy doses of chemical fertilizers are used for the super-natural yield rates. There is one species of bird that likes to sit along the electrical wires outside the plantations.  And there are some insects in the plantations.  But animals don’t want to eat palm oil kernels.  You might see the occassional macaque running through a plantation with a bag of chips, but other than that, it’s dead except for the cows allowed to graze on the grass and weeds that still survive the chemicals.  I can only imagine the toxicity levels of beef here.

17.Workers on plantations, which of course has been shown to include children, don’t have much safety gear.  The work is quite dangerous.  Spraying the chemicals is completely unsafe with no masks.  And harvesting the kernel clusters, especially once the tree gets very tall, is backbreaking dangerous work. They have to do it with super-long handled machete-type poles, many meters long to cut off the lowest fronds and then stab and jab off the kernel clusters from the top of the tree and let them drop to the ground.  They are cut off from many meters above ground, if you do not get out of the way, it will be a serious injury.

18.on a side note, in Indonesia alone there were over 5000 human rights abuses recorded due to plantations last year alone, including over 20 deaths and numerous serious injuries. This also includes abuses against employees as well as surrounding villagers who protest the plantations. Slowly people are learning the clearcuts cause horrible landslides and floods for the surrounding villages. This country gets enough disasters, and these irresponsible man-made ones are created without a second thought.

19. After the palm clusters have been hacked off the trees, they are carried to the roadways and loaded on trucks (all also backbreaking work) and taken to the palm-oil processing mill.  In palm-oil regions, palm oil trucks are a normal, constant source of traffic.  The parade is non-stop.   There are the trucks that work on the large-scale plantations, a constant parade from plantation to mill, and there are those that pick up kernel clusters from roadsides where people have their own private plantations of a few trees behind their house.  The trucks pull up, weigh the kernels on the spot, write the owner a ticket, and he collects his money from the palm oil company.  These smaller personal plantations are not as bad, shearly because they are small! but even they are eventually being taken over by the big companies.  And not just personal palm oil, anything.  Whole villages that may have once specialized in cocoa or fruit plantations will be taken over by palm-oil companies and everyone is forced to work on palm oil.

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colection from a private plantation on the roadside

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Palm oil truck parade from large-scale Turangie plantation

20.  there is something called RSPO (round table for sustainable palm oil), which provides certificates for companies who want to do good by producing only sustainable palm-oil, which means they did not clear new forest and they are environmentally responsible. Do NOT fall for this.  the RSPO is a joke. The idea of course is somewhat good, but it doesn’t work.  this is Indonesia. If you want a ‘eco’ certificate, you just buy it.  There is no such thing, in my opinion, as sustainable palm oil.  Even for a company to start a plantation on already destroyed jungle land, how is that sustainable?  One company chopped it down, used it, then sold it or changed their company name to get the ‘certificate’ and we are no further ahead.  I feel the only way to grow palm oil sustainably is the same way we work around clear-cutting now.  Of course, this would mean only a tiny fraction of the yield, so would obviously never fly. And too much has already been cut down and lost, we can not afford losing one more tree.

21. And what about companies that actually do start plantations on already degraded land? They are the least horrible, best of the worst you could say? But again, they ALL make this claim, and yet the world is still losing something in the neighbourhood of 1.5 acres of jungle per second? mind-boggling isn’t it?

22.  After the palm oil is produced, it gets shipped around the world, mostly to these folks:

The “Snack Food 20” group of companies—Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestlé S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever—manufacture a wide range of popular snack foods in the United States and abroad that contain conflict palm oil. to make most of the stuff we buy at the grocery store.

Lots more helpful info here as well:
RAN Snackfood 20

http://ran.org/palm-oil

Palm Oil Factories:

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Processed-palm-oil tanker:

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23.  Labelling rules are different in different countries. In Canada, Palm oil must be labelled as palm oil, palm kernel oil, or palm something on food labels. (note: palm sugar is fine, completely different plant source) In many countries, such as here in Indonesia, it can be disguised as ‘vegetable oil’.  So if you live in a country where palm oil can hide out as vegetable oil, you must either independantly investigate (good luck) or avoid these products as well and only go for products that actually specify the type of oil.
And for non-food products, in Canada anyway, only ingredients harmful to humans must be listed, so it can be tricky trying to figure out what’s really in your ‘eco’ friendly face soap.  Here in Indonesia, most products list everything, and it’s a real eye-opener.  For instance I could not find one type of soap that didn’t have palm oil (although being Asia, every single one claims to make you white! yuck…sounds super safe hey?). In Canada, I tried to get somewhwere at one point with the various government agencies responsible for labelling in Canada.  As expected (yes because I’m a pessimist and if I had thought ‘positive’ this wouldn’t have happened), by the end of the run-around, frustratingly stupid responses, and no one knowing who’s responsible for what, I basically wanted to pull my hair out.  some apps can help you with product lists by scanning bar codes, although I find many products in Canada are lacking inclusion in these databases. But you can try the Skin Deep or Think Dirty apps.

24.  Remember, ‘eco’ and ‘bio’ and ‘green’ are only labels in Canada, they basically mean nothing.  Don’t trust advertising, do your research if you want to know what you are really buying.  There was a really good episode of the show Marketplace lousy labels I recommend watching re Canada’s labelling problems.

So what to do?  Well, no one is stopping this anytime soon, but you can speak up with your wallet for your own peace of mind.  If palm oil bothers you, start paying attention and reducing it in your life.  You’ll find most of the foods it’s in are not actually good for you anyway.  And as for other products, try to find out what’s actually in them. Removing all palm-oil from your life is almost impossible. We’ve been force-fed it unknowingly for so long, now it is often the only option for some products.  I started reducing it by reading every food label. Everyone should do this anyway.  I also started making my own cleaning products.  when something ran out, I would search on-line for a homemade version.  Then, I knew exactly what I was using, you can make products that actually ARE eco-friendly (like if you can eat a cleaning product and it has no palm oil – that’s eco-friendly in my book!) and they often end up being much cheaper than store-brands.

Also, I personally haven’t used shampoo or conditioner in over a year and a half. Yep, I’m so disgusting. I use a homemade coconut milk concoction and rinse with a vinegar concoction. And really I have found after leaving store shampoo in the dust, my hair only needs to be washed once or twice a week, just rinsing with water in between. Previously, I had to was everyday. I went through a few pretty greasy weeks at first, it was gross, but now my hair is much softer and my once super oily scalp is actually normal!

This site gives a good breakdown of all the names used for palm oil in products, as well as lots of other helpful info. It’s a little overwhelming, I know, I have also posted the list at the very bottom of this post:

Palm Oil names on Ingredient Lists

http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/palm-oil.php

unfortunately, even if everyone in the west avoided palm oil, there is the fear it will only relocate the problem. Palm oil producers will simply try to shift more to other markets that don’t have the environmental conscience.  And right now, there is a huge oversupply of palm oil ready for the markets, which means the prices will be dropping (while more land continues to be lost for more plantations!) and there are no shortage of asian markets that will be willing to buy it once the price is right. So, you see the problem has many tentacles.

One more thing to note.  Once palm oil trees finish their production life, they are also chopped and usually burned or left to rot. They actually don’t burn well until they are long dead.  Turns out, the wood of palm oil is COMPLETELY useless.  It’s not strong, it’s more of a mushy soft-wood that has no viable use.  If crops can be grown again, they will, but often the land is too degraded to withstand another high yield crop and eventually the area is left barren and starts to turn white from salt crystallization.  Bring on the deserts!

Death of a palm plantation:

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In closing, I should point out that indiscriminant burning by palm oil companies is now actually illegal.  however, ‘natural’ fires caused by nature are not.  Palm oil companies of course still burn, this is the easiest way to clear the ‘rubbish’.  They will claim accidents from lightening, or get a neighbouring farmer to set his land on fire and blame him for spreading the fire, etc.  There is currently a huge decision coming down in Aceh province which, if successful, should hopefully set a precedent for at least punishing those who still burn.  But we shall see.  The company, PT Kalista, is definitely sweating as they no less than forced their hundreds of workers to cause a raucous protest outside the courthouse.  I don’t know if anyone is buying it, but apparently one of Indonesia’s specially designated ‘environment’ specialist judges is on the decision, and it’s his first eco case, so we will see if there will be some success.  Basically, if the plantation loses (for setting illegal fires they blamed on outside sources, in the extremely biodiverse, ‘protected’ Tripa Peat Forest of Gunung Leuser (The area I’m in is located at the southern end of Gunung Leuser) they may face prison time and be required to pay all expenses to return the land to it’s original state.  Well, I don’t think that’s possible?? but if nothing else it would be fun to watch them watch their precious money go up in smoke also. And it may set some sort of precedent. I really recommend reading this article about it: Rent-a-mob- the Kallista case

Learning Indonesian:
oil- minyak
coconut- kelapa
oil palm- sawit
palm oil – minyak kelapa sawit
(literally: oil of the oil palm nut) here kelapa refers to a nut or seed, so not to be confused with coconut oil which is totally cool!

Fun fact: um there’s nothing fun about palm oil, that’s a fact

next post, back to regular programming of monkey business! selamat

30 NAMES PALM OIL CAN BE LABELLED UNDER
Foods, Body Products, Cosmetics & Cleaning Agents:-
Vegetable Oil-Vegetable Fat-Sodium Laureth Sulfate (in almost everything that foams) ^-Sodium Lauryl Sulfate ^-Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS) ^-Palm Kernel#-Palm Oil Kernel #-Palm Fruit Oil #-Palmate #-Palmitate #-Palmolein #-Glyceryl Stearate #-Stearic Acid #-Elaeis Guineensis #-Palmitic Acid #-Palm Stearine #-Palmitoyl oxostearamide #-Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3 #-Steareth -2 *-Steareth -20 *-Sodium Kernelate #-Sodium Palm Kernelate #-Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate *-Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate ^-Hyrated Palm Glycerides #-Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye ^-Cetyl Palmitate #-Octyl Palmitate #-Cetyl Alcohol ^-Palmityl Alchohol #              
# These ingredients are definitely palm oil or derived from palm oil.
* These ingredients are often derived from palm oil, but could be derived from other vegetable oils.
^ These ingredients are either derived from palm oil or coconut oil. 

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Ever see a centipede eat a frog?

I was invited to another wedding this past week, one of the three sons from the Bukit Lawang Indah guesthouse family got married to a German gal. I was honoured to be invited to Sheneen and Dodi’s ceremony. I have spent a lot of time at Indah as past photos indicate, and the family has always been very welcoming and helpful to me. It was a lovely day and Sheneen looked beautiful, after some concern as to how her hair and makeup would end up, because, well, generally the Indonesian style can be a little over the top for a foreign head, but it all turned out beautiful. This was a Christian ceremony, that went on for 2+ 1/2 hours. The actual vows, said in German abd Indonesian, took about 10 minutes, preceded and followed by lots if talking and singing! I don’t think charles & di’s wedding was that long?  And then hours of photos in the church afterward. The bride amazingly managed to keep smiling and not break a sweat!

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Mami and papa Poda next to the groom

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Outside the church, people waiting around for the food to arrive!  Weddings are just so pleasantly simple here

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I love these two ladies, the one on the right always chews the betel leaf/ areca nut concoction, aka betel nut, that makes it look like her mouth is bleeding.  A fun read on the betel nut, properly known as the areca nut. Basically it’s like taking drugs.

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Local / foreigner weddings are common here. Probably 95% local man / foreign woman and I’d say about 75% live in the foreigner’s homeland and 25% live here. Dodi and Sheneen will live here, yay! Always nice to have more ‘foreign’ friends here 🙂

Fun fact: One of Indonesia’s most famous foods is beef rendang, known for being super spicy. But did you know rendang can also be made with many other bases, including vegetarian options such as potato or bean rendang? Also, the fiery rendangs are generally only served at weddings. In fact, although Indonesia is known for spicy food, many Indonesians prefer non-spicy. I think they are crazy 🙂 but it’s true. Spice is generally added via sauces and sambals, and many dishes are therefore made without a lot oh heat added initially.

Learning Indonesian:
telur – egg
mata – eye
api – fire
telur mata api-  eggs sunny side up (I was scared when I saw that on a menu!)
pedas-  hot (spicy)
cabe- chile
panas – hot ( temperature)
     
A few more photos:

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Watch where you step, always! black scorpion

This photo is from a while ago, I may have already posted it but can’t find it, so sorry if it’s a repeat.  But this is one big butterfly!

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Ever see a centipede eat a frog?

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Well now you have. And this is the same variety of centipede that tried to kill me  previosly lol, so I guess we had reason to be a littke concerned.

I thought this would go in my bloopers file as an example of Inggriss gone wrong, but it turns out you actually CAN get an ‘ice cream clown’. Next time I’ll have the guts to order one to show you.

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Sorry not too much blabbing from me this week. Been enjoying being out and about, feeling so much better now! But feeling lazy about too much time on the computer.

My next post I plan to talk about the horror that is palm oil, but it won’t be all bad, I also have a new kitten situation….more to come
until next time a photo I got after my last trip to Medan where I found somecWhiskas. After a couple pukes, Tiger and Money seem to like it, but still prefer cooked food :-/ And Money was not happy his photo was used on the box with no royalties!

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Aceh all the way!

While in Brunei, I got a little sick.  I assumed at the time it was from a/c in my room.  I really hate a/c, especially sleeping in it.  And although I turned it off, just the fact the building was a/c made me feel this was the culprit for my sore throat and cough and near complete loss of voice.

The trip to Brunei also included one night sleeping on the floor of the Kuala Lumpur Airport LCC terminal floor (you go from living it up in Singapore airport to sleeping on a dusty floor of a discount carrier airport.. how fast we can fall!). So, I thought this also didn’t help get me off to a healthy start, leaving me feeling a little crappy.

However, when I got back to Sumatra, it continued to get worse. Pretty bad.  To the point of being on par with one of the sickest I’d ever felt before when I had pneumonia.  I’m 90% confident I am now getting over a bout of pneumonia. I never ended up going to the doctor here, because, well, what on earth are they going to do about it?

Here, when people get sick, any kind of ache/ pain or sickness at all, if they have a little money, they will call the doctor and get an ‘injection’ or ‘tablets’, perhaps make it a whole family event to make sure everyone in a household is cured. I don’t really know why they do this, but I know most can never afford a hospital when they are seriously ill, and they know it.  I think a lot of their dependence on the doctor and his magic injections is their way of trying to prevent ever needing an actual hospital.

I was asked many times why I wasn’t going to the doctor (like ‘what kind of weird freak are you?? why don’t you go to the doctor?? why don’t you want an ‘injection’ or ‘tablets’?)

I would always politely decline ‘no, no, just rest’ (‘pfft weirdo’ I could imagine them mumbling under their breath).  Truth is, I’ve never gone to a doctor feeling ill and received an ‘injection’ and sent on my way.  So I don’t plan to start now. Who knows what the ‘injection’ is, or the ‘tablets’.  But people here are funny. They so want to believe in magic medicines without having to go the distance to the magic doctors.

For instance, I carry a stash of advils and various OTC remedies I might need when travelling.  I gave a couple advils to someone who was having a bad toothache at one point.  It worked like a charm – the man was so happy.  But then, as news spread that I had some ‘stuff’, the “Josie’s pharmacy” was born.

I had a man come to my door with a sore leg… (‘sorry… do you have tablet? … my leg..), Then someone came with a litle itchy rash and I gave her some antihistamine… someone else was having trouble sleeping so I gave her a muscle relaxant (yikes, I told her just to take a half because she was so skinny, and I have no sleeping remedies, but it worked – and after two nights I cut her off! – yep at home totally not smart, but I’m not home!).  Anyway, needless to say, most of my stash has been depleted, and not by me.

As for my predicament, I knew none of what I had would help me either, I knew I really could only fight it with rest.  And having had pneumonia before, I knew it would take at least a couple of weeks. So I’ve spent most of the time since back holed up in my ‘maison of coughing’ resting, resting, resting.  With all the coughing, I pulled a back muscle which then made it very difficult to cough OR breathe. My appetite was gone. wet/hoarse non-stop coughing, Fever, chills, disorientation, a head that felt like it was going to crack with pressure, squeaky bear voice and complete exhaustion and tummy troubles! good times.

In my bout of fever-induced disorientation, I made one super awesome decision!  To join a caravan of local friends travelling to Aceh Province for a family wedding! Of course I want to go!  I’m not THAT sick, and we’ll be in a car, I can rest, it’ll be GREAT!!…not like we’re taking the public bus or something!

So on the day of, woke up at 5 AM, probably should have realized at THAT point this was not going to work out well.. but, everyone met up, we fit all the bodies in 3 cars and we were off by 6 am.  Then I realized once we were on the road that this probably wasn’t a great idea.  I was extremely uncomfortable and tired and best of all for the other 6 people in my car, I was non-stop coughing.

Yes by about 6:30 am, I fully realized that awkward moment when you realize all the people trapped with you are all silently hoping to themselves that you would just drop dead!  Yep, they listened to it for 5 hours on the ride there.   I would get the occasional little shoulder tap offering me some oil to rub on my throat or candy to suck on.  I would just shut up and do what they said, ‘thank you’ in my squeaky bear voice, wanting the ground to just swallow me up, because really, we all knew it was hopeless.

So as our cough-mobile trundled along to Aceh province, I at least looked forward to going somewhere new. I’d been to Aceh a coupke times before before, but not to where we were going today, and a wedding in Aceh would be a first! I’m not getting into the politics/religion of Aceh here, but it is an interesting entity in this orderless country. Aceh Province basically self-governs, has it’s own rights and rules separate from Indonesia as a whole.  These rights along with the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, seem to have resulted in a less volatile relationship between Aceh province and the rest of Indonesia for now, although they are very noticeably considered ‘different’ and many are still somewhat wary.  Let’s just say you won’t find a lot of Indonesians who can afford a little weekend holiday, choosing Aceh as their destination… unless they have to go for a wedding.

As we got closer to the border, there was a police stop.  these are normal.  These are where police supplement their income which they need to pay back the loans they owe that they needed to buy their job…  If the policeman seems to think you might be guilty of some sort of traffic infraction that you will clearly see him trying to identify, you just open your wallet and give him a little something and you’ll be on your way.

So as we pulled up, the officer looked in, asked what we were eating (food was the answer) (honestly, has he ever seen a car pull up where the people hadn’t packed food for a week plus snacks for the drive?), asked where we  were going, why is their a tourist here? where were we travelling from.. on an on. I was trying desparately not to break into a coughing fit, I was worried I’d be yanked out of the car and extorted for spreading bird flu or something to the crops.  Our driver started getting frustrated and asked someone to get out some money. So the officer got 10,000 (less than a dollar for us, but 10,000 buys a big lunch here) and we were off!

I was thinking afterward, what if I was being kidnapped, and what if I motioned to the policeman to help me?… how would that turn out? No, here, if you’re kidnapped, I think you will be safer with your kidnappers than the police 😉  just a tip.

We finally got to the family’s home where I was welcomed to join the ladies for tea inside.  They soon realized I was better off outside with all the coughing, so we packed up again shortly after and headed another half hour to the venue area.

Once their, I found an empty pondok in which to try and relax a bit whike we waited for the groom to get spiffed up. Once the groom Adi was ready, we all walked with him to meet the bride at the venue.

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the groom on his wait to meet the bride

A great time was had by all (lots of coughing in the backgrounds on the videos though unfortunately!!#$^)

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the ceremony...get as close as possible people

I’ve been to quite a few weddings here now.  They always have the same general format, but I prefer the daytime events when the traditional dress is worn and the little ceremony takes place, as opposed to the evenings which are generally various ahem singers, and ladyboy snake dancers crawling through dirt with a very confused snake.  Yes, the daytime events are just nice.  Although the singing has already started!  Nothing can ever just be quiet lol!

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where all the amplified action takes place

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the 'regular' guest area

I was also invited into the bride’s family’s house to partake in the family food (for family and special vip’s such as myself!), which is much more varied and over-the-top than the usual 3 or 4 dishes served to all the ‘regular’ guests outside.  I went in, wasn’t hungry, tried to eat a bit out of politeness, started coughing, and excused myself to everyone’s relief!

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the vip room

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the vendors that set up selling stuff

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buying a little sate snack

As we knew it was a long ride back, we left after a couple hours for the journey back.  Only one person traded seats, and that was INTO my car, one couples’ kid who had ridden in a different car on the way.  Bad, bad idea kid.  So now we were 8.

On the way back, guess what, another police fundraiser road stop!

This time, this officer was much, much less pleasant.  He got right to the point.  He asked if we had drugs.  The 3 little veiled ladies in the back were horrified!  There was a lot of tongue clicking and disgust that he would suggest such a thing as they were chomping away on their snacks.  And our driver had had ENOUGH by this point.  He just shoved 10,000 at the policeman.  But no, this guy wasn’t taking it.  He wanted more. He called the driver out and they went behind the car.  After some exchanges behind the car, the driver comes running to my door in a flustered panic “he wants more money and your passport”

Well, I don’t HAVE my passport (I never travel around with my passport on me.  Some think this is stupid, but I don’t!  I’m much more concerned about exactly this type of situation and having some cop try to extort money from me for holding my passport hostage.  You are much better off in most cases, carrying just a photocopy or another good piece of ID.  If they need your passport bad enough, they can go with you and get it, but they never will!)  All I carry is my work ID, becuase if I lose that, who cares! Yep, I don’t even carry my driver’s licence around.  My work ID looks somewhat legit, says Canada, has my name, my gov’t dept, and other than that, a lot less info than my DL (gotta keep the stalkers at bay).  BUT, most importantly, it says I have a job, which you wouldn’t know by looking at me, and this is generally important in a country where you need a visa.  So that’s what I carry.

So I get out my super-duper laminated Gov’t ID, and now the driver, a second passenger the cop and a second cop are all behind the car.  A minute later, they come running back, the driver literally jumps into his seat and puts the pedal to the metal and we are off!

“the police is scared of your ID!  He says ‘oh?! immigrasi?’… and then shows his boss, and his boss tells us to just go!  They didn’t even take the 10,000.”

  So there you go, after all these years, my work ID came in useful and saved me a couple of dollars.

I have a feeling you can also beat your way out of a police ‘check-point’ and probably many other similarly ‘this-doesn’t-seem-right’ situations if you have any of the following keywords in your ID: 

Government (of some other country)
Immigration (of some other country)
Irrigation
Police
Security
Authority
Enforcement
television
website
internet
youtube
Indonesian Idol
X Factor Indonesia
Manchester United
Magic

Ater that, it was a long, long drive I thought would never end, but made it home by 11 pm, completely exhausted and 3 steps behind where I’d been at 5 am in getting better.  At one point at a rest stop (well a forced one because one of the cars broke down), One of the men in my car asked me how I was doing.  I said I probably shouldn’t have come, as I felt worse than I had realized. And he, in true Indonesian ‘speak the truth’ style said ‘Ya, it’s better if you are sick to not come.  Next time if you feel like this you can stay home’ LOL.

Learning Indonesian:

sick: sakit
house: rumah
hospital:  rumah sakit
medicine: obat
head: kepala
headache: sakit kepala
headache medicine:  obat kepala

Fun Fact:  Tipping is not customary in Indonesia for food service and Indonesians rarely split tabs.  When a group sits together to eat, someone usually pays for all and you’ll be expected to take your turn at some point.

Well now I’m almost back to 100% thank goodness. Just forcing myself up and outside really helps with the energy.  I think a week or two out of commission every six months or so is pretty good for here!  Because otherwise, I’ve felt pretty good most of the time.

Just one other little thing to report.  Not really much to choose from except the wedding and stuff going on in my room, which consists of cats, insects, lizards and moths!  BUT, there was one bit of excitement.  As I was sleeping away in a coma one night, I awoke, very disoriented as per normal, and I immediately swiped at my neck and felt something (which must have been what woke me up).  It was large and hard and crispy feeling. I swatted it away.  But still confused and really out of it, I just lay there not putting the pieces together.  Then I felt a hot searing pain in my neck, literally.  ‘hmmm, this is weird’ I thought. ‘I haven’t felt such a bad pain in my neck like this before’…it started radiating out, the pain was pulsing and was spreading, to my jaw, earlobe, collarbone in an expanding circular area.  My mind started putting the events of the last whole 2 seconds together and FINALLY I realized – OMG something huge and crunchy bit me and now I’m going to die in a sweaty mess on my bed!! How long until they find me???!!!  But I was still too tired to move.  I FINALLY realized this might be serious and got my butt out of my bed and waddled to the bathroom where I tried to see something in the dim light. And I finally saw it, what looked like a hole by a one-toothed vampire bleeding on my neck.  And it hurt like hell.

ok, ok, what do I do? It was 1 am, it was dead, a quiet week, no one up or around, not even any tourists staying in my area.  what do I do, yell in my squeaky bear voice for help from my balcony?  Yell what? “i’ve been bit”?, who cares?  is it poison? is this what poison feels like? is it going to go into my brain, it’s already at my earlobe for God’s sake!? is it going into my jugular? Will all my organs stop? will I die? will I be paralyzed?  What the F*&^ BIT ME????? and where is it??? what will anyone do anyway? If they determine you are poisoned they can’t help you by this point, they’ll just tell you you’ll be fine so you shut the hell up.

I thought rather than wandering around like a sweaty crazy person with a bleeding neck, I’ll just lie down and wait, ..for something.  Then remembering my attacker was still MIA and unidentified, there was also no way I could sleep with something trying to kill me likely still in my room.

needless to say, I didn’t die, I never saw what it was again.  I still have a little scar.  Apparently the consensus is that it was a large bee, like the darth-vader ones I’ve showed you before. Although, can’t say I remember seeing them flying around in the dark! but whatever! And after going to sleep with the lights on for two nights, I’m no longer scared to be in my room, once again.

And a few more pictures I have to share:

Do you know what this is??

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a stick? poo stuck on a stick? a muddy twig? no……..

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it’s a crazy insect! I thought he was pretty amazing!

orangutan mom and baby photo from my balcony! I feel so lucky whenever I see them from my room!

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gonna teach your kid to steal pasta out of peopke’s kitchens?

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my cute little neighbour 🙂

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see you next week!

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