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    [post_content] => 	After a heartfelt goodbye to our homestay families in Masihulan we embarked on our last journey into the jungle. Unfortunately, Anna, Emily, and Katie were not with us. The two hour boat ride was beautiful and exciting. Our guides used their balance, machete knives, and knowledge to guide our long boats up a tree-fallen river. After a one hour hike in, we reached our camp. A small seperate cooking area made from bamboo and basic platform with a tin roof became our main camp. While six students stayed at the camp, four students and two adults enjoyed views from a tree platform. The platform was raised 40 meters into the air, giving us spectacular views of the canopy. Most students stayed a night sleeping in the canopy layer and woke up to beautiful birds chirping. Although the bugs proved to be a challenge, spending a night in the canopy of a rainforest was unbelievable.
    [post_title] => In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle
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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle

Monique Kelmenson,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

After a heartfelt goodbye to our homestay families in Masihulan we embarked on our last journey into the jungle. Unfortunately, Anna, Emily, and Katie were not with us. The two hour boat ride was beautiful and exciting. Our guides used their balance, machete knives, and knowledge to guide our long boats up a tree-fallen river. […]

Posted On

04/28/11

Author

Monique Kelmenson

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We are nearing the end of our semester in Indonesia and are at the
point in the trip where we students are in control. Yes, that means wewill be handing out meal money to the leaders and making their roomassignments. As a group we are planning a seven-night and eight-dayexpedition, aptly named the final student-led expedition.

After a lotof hard work in research and discussion (it is hard to get twelvestudents with unique interests and needs to agree) we have decided tosplit our time between Bali and the nearby islands of Nusa Penida andNusa Lembongan.

After spending one day in Ubud exploring the Goa Gajah (Elephantcaves) and the Neka art museum we will travel to Nusa Lembongan. NusaLembongan will be our home base for three nights. We will be exploringon foot and bikes because there is no motorized traffic on the island.We will continue our love affair with the ocean with plenty ofsnorkeling, beach time and if we are lucky some ocean kayaking. Whilebeing based on Nusa Lembongan, we will travel by boat to Nusa Pendiato explore the culturally rich island.From Nusa Lembongan, we will return to Bali and head to the easternshore, an area known as Ahmed.

Ahmed has a lot to offer – yoga,hiking, biking, water activities, cultural options and the much neededdown time, just to name a few. Some highlights of the Ahmed portion ofthe trip include a six-hour hike of Mount Sanur (sp?) and a trip tothe second largest Hindu temple (not sure of the name).

We are all hard at work planning the accommodations, transportation,food and water, and activities while meeting our set budget. At thispoint, we are performing!

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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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Final Expedition

Julia Cole,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

We are nearing the end of our semester in Indonesia and are at thepoint in the trip where we students are in control. Yes, that means wewill be handing out meal money to the leaders and making their roomassignments. As a group we are planning a seven-night and eight-dayexpedition, aptly named the final student-led expedition. […]

Posted On

04/28/11

Author

Julia Cole

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It’s hard to believe, but we’re about to move into the last phase of our journey, the Final Expedition! The students have come SO far since they first arrived in Bali back in February. They’ve learned to converse in Bahasa Indonesia, they’ve learned how to navigate the local culture, they’ve learned how to keep themselves safe and healthy and they’ve learned how to work together as a group. Arlo, Naldo and I have slowly been stepping back, loosening the reins in order to provide the students with plenty of opportunities to practice and hone their newly-developed travel skills. Now, it’s time for the students to take full control of the program!

We’ve entrusted the students with the task of planning the last week of the program. They’ve been given a budget and some basic safety and educational expectations. However, aside from these boundaries, the students are totally free to create whatever experience they feel will be the perfect culmination to their program. They’ll plan and run EVERYTHING with instructors following closely behind to ensure participant safety. The final expedition will be an intellectual capstone as well; instead of instructor lessons and guest lectures, we’ll have student-led discussions each night.

Bali, Lombok and the surrounding islands are full of great options forthe final expedition. The students have split up into groups and areresearching different itineraries. Arlo, Naldo and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. We’re really looking forward to reversing roles and letting our students be our guides for a change. They’ll brief us on the day’s activities, handle all of the money, arrange our transport and hotels and facilitate our group discussions. It should be incredibly rewarding for us to see our students in action, performing all of the skills that we’ve been helping them to develop over these past three months. Our only fear is that our students might do SO well that we instructors will end up feeling useless! We’ll try our best to keep our fingers out of the pie and practice the fine art of surrender. And, we promise not to keep asking: “Are we there yet?”

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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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The Final Expedition

Katie Hagel,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

It’s hard to believe, but we’re about to move into the last phase of our journey, the Final Expedition! The students have come SO far since they first arrived in Bali back in February. They’ve learned to converse in Bahasa Indonesia, they’ve learned how to navigate the local culture, they’ve learned how to keep themselves […]

Posted On

04/21/11

Author

Katie Hagel

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Highlights of Masihulan Homestays

Paddling dugout canoes through mangrove swamps to meet our waiting host families

Meeting Naldo’s childhood friends

Learning to cook jackfruit currywith our home-stay Moms

Singing “Amazing Grace” in both English and Bahasa Indonesia at Sundaymorning churchservices

Watching village kids run off to school each morning in their adorableschool uniforms

Waking up to the songs of lorikeets and cockatoos

Meeting giant forest snails, Victoria pigeons, and the local marsupials

Visiting a bird rehabilitation center and feeding rescued exotic birds
their breakfast

Watching the sunset and the full moon rise over the green hills of Masihulan

Listening to the local men sing and play guitar on their front porchesin the moonlight

Arlo, Keenan, Langdon and Isaac wearing traditional dress and
performing the headhunters’war dance

Watching a local man appropriately nicknamed “Gentle Giant” fell asago palm with a machete

Munching chocolate fruits straight from the tree

Helping home-stay parents harvest fresh pineapples

Watching the local men cheerfully drag a newly-crafted dugout canoefrom the forest to the sea

Meeting new friends who don’t hesitate to shimmy up coconut trees andbring us back fresh coconuts to drink

Singing song after song with the local kids—it never gets old!

Checking sago grubs and khus-khus (native marsupial) off on the “FoodChallenge” list

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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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Highlights of Masihulan Homestays

Katie Hagel,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

Highlights of Masihulan Homestays Paddling dugout canoes through mangrove swamps to meet our waiting host families Meeting Naldo’s childhood friends Learning to cook jackfruit currywith our home-stay Moms Singing “Amazing Grace” in both English and Bahasa Indonesia at Sundaymorning churchservices Watching village kids run off to school each morning in their adorableschool uniforms Waking up […]

Posted On

04/21/11

Author

Katie Hagel

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We are privileged to have Djuna Ivereigh joining the students for their much anticipated ascent up onto the tree platforms in Manusela Park. Djuna is a conservationist, a gifted photographer, and one of the sole reasons the Bird Rehabilitation Center in Masihulan and the tree platforms in Manusela Park exist. She has such an extensive resume of skills and experiences under her belt that it would be an injustice to try to list everything here.

But, I thought you might all be interested in seeing her photos of Seram which highlight many of the places the students will be during their time in Seram. The link is below...

You can also learn more about Djuna's amazing background, adventures and conservation efforts on her website: www.Djunapix.com

Enjoy!

Jamie Woodall

Indonesia Program Director

Bali, Indonesia

& nbsp;

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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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The Magic of Djuna Ivereigh

Jamie Woodall,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

We are privileged to have Djuna Ivereigh joining the students for their much anticipated ascent up onto the tree platforms in Manusela Park. Djuna is a conservationist, a gifted photographer, and one of the sole reasons the Bird Rehabilitation Center in Masihulan and the tree platforms in Manusela Park exist. She has such an extensive […]

Posted On

04/19/11

Author

Jamie Woodall

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Hello Friends and Families of the Indonesia Semester Crew!

Once again, I am writing on behalf of the semester group as they are (once again!), somewhere far from internet and regular phone service....they are truly “off the beaten path”...

After exploring the rich history and landscape of the magical Banda islands, the group headed to Ambon on the Pelni liner. After a night in the “big city”, they picked up their backpacks again and boarded a small boat from Tulehu harbor headed north to the lush green island of Seram. Arriving in Seram, they took vehicles north and over the central mountains of Seram, dipping down on the other side to reach the coastal village of Sawai.

Ali’s Guest House in Sawai is one of the most peaceful places one can imagine. Each little cluster of rooms set on stilts over shallow waters boasting incredible sea life. Sipping sweet tea and looking out over the still waters of the bay, hearing the echo of the call to prayer at the local mosque, and simultaneously hearing the evening birdsong of cockatoos and lorikeets is one of my all time favorite memories...

Surrounding Sawai are miles and miles of forest canopy, home to some incredible wildlife. Our students will be learning more about endangered birds and animal poaching, as well as the incredible work folks are doing to effect positive change.

From Sawai, they will move into Masihulan, just 30 minutes inland, where they will begin homestays. Some of these families include our forest guides - ex-bird poachers who now work as eco-guides and who will teach our students about forest ecology. Our group will also spend time at the local bird rehabilitation center which is home to many rescued birds, now learning to fly again as a result of the hard work of many of these guides.

From April 20-24, the group will venture into Manusela National Park entering first by longboat up the Sawalai river to the head f the trekking trail. Just a few hours in, they will reach the camp where they will take turns spending the night in tree canopy platforms to observe the cockatoos, lorikeets, giant hornbills and fruit bats eye-to-eye...In this thick forest canopy, there is always a story unfolding.One just has to be present and observe. Those on the ground will catch glowing river shrimp at night, participate in a carbon survey, learn about the different ecosystems, and learn some traditional Maluku songs around the campfire.

On the 25th of April the group will arrive back in Ambon, and on the 26th, will return to Bali where the students will have a few days to rest, call home, and make the final preparations for the student led expedition...

I have heard such amazing comments from the instructors about this group throughout this program. They are traveling with great cultural sensitivity and with respect for one another. They consistently take into account the needs of other members of the group, and have been asking great questions. They are willing to try new things and to push themselves out of their comfort zones. They have been incredible ambassadors and are already missed by their homestay families in Sulawesi and Bali!

You can expect to hear from them on the 26th or 27th once they reach bali again, and have regular access to phones and email.

"Sampai Jumpa Lagi" (until we meet again...)

Jamie Woodall

Indonesia Program Director

Bali, Indonesia

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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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Adventures in Seram

Jamie Woodall,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

Hello Friends and Families of the Indonesia Semester Crew! Once again, I am writing on behalf of the semester group as they are (once again!), somewhere far from internet and regular phone service….they are truly “off the beaten path”… After exploring the rich history and landscape of the magical Banda islands, the group headed to […]

Posted On

04/19/11

Author

Jamie Woodall

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    [post_content] => It was 11 pm as Katie, Anna, Kiara, and I sat on Banda Hatta beach waiting for Captain Eddy to finish retrieving baitfor shark fishing. We had scheduled to go finishing at 9 but island time is allways subject for change. As we grew tired and the tide continued to recede, Captain Eddy signaled us to board on top of his boat. We instantly sprawed out and began to gaze upon the stars, seeing hundreds of constellations including scorpio and the milky way. The gaze was broken by strange noises that we soon recognized as dolphin breaths. The silhouette of the porpoise diving in and out of the water was accompanied by faus-fluorescent plankton, glowing in the water as lightening bugs do in the air. The company of local villagers in dugout canoes with lanterns attached, was with us was well. Looking out from the beach not but an hour before, the water seemed still with little activity. However as we ventured out into the water the sutle activity was the most impactful. 

Sierra Granados
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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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Stars and dolphins…

Sierra Granados,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

It was 11 pm as Katie, Anna, Kiara, and I sat on Banda Hatta beach waiting for Captain Eddy to finish retrieving baitfor shark fishing. We had scheduled to go finishing at 9 but island time is allways subject for change. As we grew tired and the tide continued to recede, Captain Eddy signaled us […]

Posted On

04/12/11

Author

Sierra Granados

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    [post_date] => 2011-04-11 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Dear Parents and Friends,

We just returned from a magical camping trip to the uninhabited

Nailaka Island. This was tropical paradise at its finest--empty white

sand beach, turquoise waters and some of the best snorkeling in the

world. The students arranged our boat, planned our meals and helped

construct a very impressive shelter. The intrepid among us awoke at

dawn this morning and braved stormy seas for the trip to Rhun Island.

It's nothing but coconut palm and nutmeg trees, white sand beaches and

a sleepy fishing village. But, this island is a significant tourist

spot for the New Yorkers among us . . . In 1667, the English traded

this tiny island to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan. After

spending a glorious day on the beach eating fresh papaya and mangoes

in between snorkeling sessions, I think I would trade Manhattan for a

Spice Island, too!

The Spice Islands are steeped in history and our time here has been a

great opportunity to inquire into the processes of colonization and

decolonization and how these major themes in world history played out

in Indonesia. We tried our best to make history tangible by visiting

forts and ruins, exploring the back streets of Banda Neira with their

old Dutch buildings and by staying with local families who still make

their living harvesting the famous spices. We also tried our best to

explain how many of the social, environmental and development issues

that we've been exploring on this course have their roots in the dark

history of Western imperialism, which began many centuries ago with

Europe's lust for the spices of the Bandas.

I find it at once fascinating--and also very eerie--to stand in a

place so steeped in history. There's so much beauty and so much

ugliness here. We go snorkeling amidst some of the most beautiful

coral reefs that I have ever seen, fulfill our Robinson Crusoe

fantasies on desert islands and cook up fabulous feasts of the

freshest food imaginable alongside smiling local women who won't even

let us wash a single dish. But, then I think about how just a few

hundred years ago, white-skinned, blue-eyed visitors like me massacred

whole villages in order to get their hands on the nutmeg and cloves

that spiced up my breakfast oatmeal. Or I think about how the islands

where we frolicked might disappear underwater in a few decades due to

global warming or how the beautiful coral might soon be destroyed due

to dynamite fishing or climate change. I also think about how the

friendly faces smiling at me in the streets might have been involved

in the religious conflict that rocked Maluku just a decade ago,

leaving hundreds dead.

It's really hard for me to hold all of this in my heart. Perhaps it's

because it's the first time that we've really had down time on this

course but being here has been a great opportunity to reflect on

impermanence, on human arrogance and greed and on the growing

responsibility that I feel to live a life that contributes to the

improvement of the human condition and to the health of the planet.

Most of all, I feel a profound sense of gratitude to be in this place,

at this time, with these people.

We'll be moving on to Seram tomorrow and a new phase of the trip will

begin. We'll be trading our flippers for jungle boots and our fishing

boats for dugout canoes as we head back into the forest again. In the

jungles of Seram, we'll learn about wildlife and forest conservation

and have opportunities to participate in tree planting and bird

rehabilitation projects. We'll also enjoy a five-day home-stay in

Naldo's native village and spend unforgettable nights sleeping on

platforms high up in the trees of one of the world's great tropical

rainforests! We're all a bit sad to be leaving the Spice Islands but

we're looking forward to the adventures to come. And, we'll be taking

a bit of the islands with us . . . we're packing lots of fragrant

spices along and we plan on cooking up a storm in the jungle!

Which reminds me . . . I'd better head back to our guesthouse. The

students are cooking up a very special feast to celebrate our last

night in the Bandas and I don't want to miss out on smoked fish with

fragrant spices, grilled eggplant with kenari nut sauce and

banana/coconut/sago pudding. I know--it's a tough job, but someone's

gotta do it!

PLEASE NOTE THAT WE WILL BE OUT OF EMAIL CONTACT UNTIL WE RETURN TOBALI ON APRIL 26...

Be Well,

Katie

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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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Sailing to Seram

Katie Hagel,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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Dear Parents and Friends, We just returned from a magical camping trip to the uninhabited Nailaka Island. This was tropical paradise at its finest–empty white sand beach, turquoise waters and some of the best snorkeling in the world. The students arranged our boat, planned our meals and helped construct a very impressive shelter. The intrepid […]

Posted On

04/11/11

Author

Katie Hagel

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We’ve arrive in the Maluku after an epic voyage from Sulawesi. The Pelni ship was absolutely massive! It was as if someone had taken a seven-story building, filled it up with a couple of thousand people, hung life boats off of the sides and then pushed the whole thing out to sea. Whole families slept sprawled in the stairwells and on the decks, some of whom might have boarded the ship two weeks ago on the island of Sumatra.

When we stepped off the boat in the quaint island town of Banda Naira, it was clear that a new phase of the program had begun. Our first night, stood by the sea in the shadow of the towering volcano Gunung Api and held a small ceremony to reflect upon and celebrate our adventures in Sulawesi and mark the beginning of the next phase of our adventure. We said goodbye to Diego in Bau Bau and welcomed Naldo, the newest addition to our instructor team. Naldo is a native of Maluku and we feel so blessed to have him as our guide for the remainder of our program. He’ll be teaching us about the unique history of the region and how it relates to the social, environmental and development issues that we’ve been studying. He’ll also be arranging home-stays for our group in his native village of Masihulan. The Masihulan home-stays were a real highlight of last Semester’s program, so we can’t wait! Naldo is also an excellent Indonesian language teacher and a lover of music. He’s traveling with a guitar and we’re really hoping that he’ll help us expand our repertoire beyond “Di Sini Senang, Di Sana Senang” which is the only Indonesian language song that most of us know.

We began our adventure in the former entrepot of Banda Naira, with its Dutch and Portuguese fortresses and faded colonial elegance.From Banda Naira, we headed off on a three-day adventure to the island of Hatta. On Hatta, we studied marine biology, fished for barracuda, accompanied the locals to the nutmeg plantations and tried our hands and harvesting kenari nuts. These nuts look and taste a lot like almonds but are infinitely more delicious! A kindly local man let us take over his houses—he had one house for each wife—and we enjoyed experimenting with the local spices as we worked together to cook our meals. Although there is no running water, no electricity and no cell phone service on Hatta, we definitely weren’t roughing it when it came to the food. We built fires on the beach and smoked barracuda and tuna that we’d pulled from the sea only minutes earlier. We used the freshest spices and nuts to create delicious soups, sambals and a unique breakfast dish that will be forever known as “Spice Island Oatmeal.” The intrepid among us trekked to a neighboring village in search of cassava roots, which they turned into a tasty snack that put French fries to shame.

Hatta truly was an island paradise. The friendly villagers make their living fishing for barracuda and harvesting spices. Some students built a shelter and spent two nights camping out of the beach. Some of us had the unforgettable experience of going night fishing with the locals. The stars were brilliant and the phosphorescence sparkled and flashed in the water. It was easy to lose track of where the sea ended and the sky began! The local men clustered together in tiny canoes reeling and unreeling their lines into the water, the tips of their clove cigarettes glowing in the moonlight. We lay on the roof of our boat and gazed up at the stars, rocking on the gentle waves and listening to dolphins breathe in the darkness. Sometimes, one of the dolphins would leap towards our boat and we could see its silhouette in the moonlight. We didn’t catch anything that night, but it was truly a magical experience. There’s something incredibly exhilarating about being SO far off the map on a tiny island in the midst of a vast sea. I felt at once expanded and also very small.

The snorkeling on Hatta was absolutely incredible! I’ve never seen anything like it. We all spent hours upon hours floating and diving amidst healthy coral and schools of colorful fish. We saw sea turtles, giant grouper, parrot fish, barracuda and yellow fin tuna. The ever-intrepid Arlo went night snorkeling, gathering strange and wonderful organisms for us to study in those rare moments when we wanted to be on dry land.

We’re back on Banda Naira now, looking forward to spending some more time learning about the unique culture of this region and its important role in world history. We’ll also attempt a sunrise hike of the volcano Gunung Api and visit Pulau Run, the tiny Spice Island that the English traded to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan. Please stay tuned for more news of our adventures!

Be Well,

Katie

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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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Spice Island Saga

Katie Hagel,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

We’ve arrive in the Maluku after an epic voyage from Sulawesi. The Pelni ship was absolutely massive! It was as if someone had taken a seven-story building, filled it up with a couple of thousand people, hung life boats off of the sides and then pushed the whole thing out to sea. Whole families slept […]

Posted On

04/7/11

Author

Katie Hagel

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When I try and describe Sampella, I feel like I’m describing a mythical land straight out of Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities.” In Calvino’s book, the famous Italian traveler, Marco Polo is invited to entertain the aging Kublai Khan at his palace in Xanadu with stories of his travels. The bored Khan, now too old and infirm to embark on any more journeys of his own, lives vicariously through the Italian’s fanciful tales of “cities seen and unseen.” In “Cities,” Marco Polo describes the mystical cities of his travels in the greatest of detail, in a style of magical realism reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s hard to tell where the travelogue ends and the fantasy begins, hard to determine where the storyteller is embellishing and where he’s simply describing the strange but true. But, although it sounds like a mythical land from a traveler’s tall tale, I assure you, the Sampella of which I speak is very real. I couldn’t make something like this up.

The village of Sampella lies in the Wakatobi region of southern Sulawesi, between the islands of Kaledupa and Hoga. The village of Sampella is built upon piles of broken coral, with houses on stilts linked together by a series of rickety wooden walkways and canals lined with drying fish. The walls and floors of the houses are constructed from strips of bamboo lashed together and topped with thatched roofs. The sea sparkles and shines through the spaces between the slats, small points of light dancing playfully across the walls. Any houses that are not made of bamboo and thatch burst from their stilts in a riot of pastel pinks, greens, yellows and blues, as if they were made by out of Necco wafers by Willa Wonka’s Oompa-Loompas. There is no electricity and no running water in Sampella, nor are there are no toilets. The people of Sampella relieve themselves directly into the sea, through their bedroom and living room floors. Homes are mostly empty, save for a few pots and pans, a woven sleeping mat and a small assortment of clothing to be shared equally between members of each family. Dugout canoes ply the canals linking the houses and screaming, laughing, half-naked children splash around in the “streets.”

The people of Sampella are a friendly, boisterous lot who hardly ever set foot on solid ground. They once lived exclusively on their boats, roaming the sea like gypsies in search of favorable fishing grounds. All of their aspirations are tied to the sea. As with Eskimos and snow, the people of Sampella seem to have as many words for fish. They believe in sea spirits who control the waves and the weather and bring sickness and other calamities to the village when offended. These spirits must be placated with offerings and can only be invoked by shamans with supernatural powers. Some of these sea spirits are so powerful that the people of Sampella fear to utter their names.

The men of Sampella hunt for fish and octopus with home-made spear guns and goggles fashioned from resin, glass and wood. They slither and dive through the water with practiced ease, their bodies every bit as lithe and supple as the fish they pursue. They wear sarongs and smoke sweet-smelling clove cigarettes while staring out at the sea. Many of the men of Sampella have multiple wives. Their children scattered throughout the Indonesian archipelago.

The women of Sampella do everything by hand and make everything from scratch. They laugh often and much. They cover their faces in yellow turmeric paste to protect their skin from the blazing equatorial sun. They wear colorful conical hats fashioned from palm fronds and strips of what may once have been plastic carry bags or table cloths. Each day, the women of Sampella paddle their dugout canoes to the market to sell their fish and buy water, unfurling tattered sails if the winds are favorable. Each week, they paddle to the mangrove swamps to collect firewood for their cook fires and then spend the rest of that day cutting the orange-colored wood down to size and stacking it in piles by the door of their huts. There are many stories about women from Sampella who become sick with loneliness and boredom when they leave the village for quiet, comfortable lives in Bali or Java. They miss the noise, the community and the hard work of Sampella.

The children of Sampella are never told that they should be seen and not heard. They trot off to school each morning and spend the next few hours squirming in their seats, counting the minutes until they can burst out of their starched school uniforms to spend happy hours frolicking noisily amongst the walkways and canals of Sampella. The children of Sampella learn to swim as soon as they can walk and spend most of their days in or on the water. Even their teddy bears can swim. They don’t watch TV, they’ve never seen a Play Station and they rarely stay indoors for long. They are happiest when they are outdoors, barefoot and soaking wet.

The people of Sampella are Muslims who also believe in sea spirits who control the waves, and protect fishermen. The people of live on rice, cassava, and whatever they can bring in from the sea. Fruits and vegetables must be bought from the people of the land and are a special treat. In the evenings, the people of Sampella sit on their porches chatting, playing guitar and singing to the setting sun. Then, they roll out their bamboo mats and sleep, whole families lying next to each other on the floor, oil lamps burning to scare the rats away. As long as they have their families, their community and plenty of fish, it is enough. Theirs is a life with few comforts but many riches.

It’s been four days since we left Sampella and I’m still trying to make sense of the experience. Stepping off of the boat in Bau Bau and onto solid ground for the first time in ten days felt like returning from an alternate universe. We were back in the land of motorized vehicles, restaurants, soft beds and ice cream. But it felt different now. It was as if someone had turned the volume down and changed the tint on the screen of the world. Despite the usual roar of motorbikes, the deafening cries of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer five times a day and the brightly-colored buildings, everything somehow seemed much quieter and much less vibrant. When I walked down the street, black-eyed children no longer ran after me laughing and chanting my name. After nine days of sharing a one-room bamboo hut with a family of seven, my standard hotel room felt positively cavernous—and more than a little lonely. In Bau Bau, I could go a restaurant and order everything that I had missed while in Sampella, including heaping plates of vegetables and supremely decadent chocolate avocado shakes. But, I couldn’t hang out in Andar’s kitchen, watching Saipa and the fun-loving women of Sampella joke and laugh as they prepared my dinner from scratch, faces yellow with turmeric paste, small brown hands expertly shucking bones and skin from the catch of the day.

When we first arrived in Sampella, we were shocked by the noise, the rats, the ramshackle houses, the prospect of peeing through our bedroom floors and the complete and utter lack of personal space. We wanted to shield ourselves from the screaming children, the bugs and the never-ending assault of “Hello, Meester!” But, there was nowhere to hide and no choice except to dive in and let ourselves be adopted by these vibrant, fun-loving people. We paddled canoes, speared fish, sailed to market, hunted octopus, explored the mangrove forests, had our faces painted yellow and bought conical hats, ate cassava and s quid and tuna, played volleyball, learned the Bajau words for our favorite fish. Instead of scheduling our day with activities and checking our watches, we aligned ourselves with the rhythm of sea gypsy life. We spent hours sitting on porches and playing with children. We went to bed just after sunset and awoke with the sun. We went fishing in the afternoon or at 2 o’clock in the morning, depending on the tides. People no longer greeted us with “Hello, Meester!” or “Hello, Tourist!” Instead, they called us by name. At the end of nine days, a place that had once seemed shocking and horrifying now felt like a home away from home.

Now we’re boarding the big Pelni ship for the Spice Islands. We can’t help feel a little sad as we leave Sampella and the island of Sulawesi behind. I feel so blessed that the people of Sampella welcomed us into their village. I’m so grateful to be reminded that despite our rapidly homogenizing world, places like Sampella still remain, places that shock, amaze and astound us. A new phase of our adventure is upon us and as we reflect on Sampella from our comfortable berths, we can’t help but wonder: “Did all of that really happen?” “Was it really real?” The answer is yes, Sampella is real. It is not some mythical land from a traveler’s made-up tale. It’s true that the “city” of Sampella may be invisible most Indonesians who look down on the sea gypsies and their way of life. But, to the traveler who is willing to look past the rickety walkways, the rats and the dirty water and see the beauty that lies beneath, Sampella joyfully offers itself up, with open arms and smiling yellow faces.

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Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

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Reflections on Sampella

Katie Hagel,Indonesia Semester, Spring 2011

Description

When I try and describe Sampella, I feel like I’m describing a mythical land straight out of Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities.” In Calvino’s book, the famous Italian traveler, Marco Polo is invited to entertain the aging Kublai Khan at his palace in Xanadu with stories of his travels. The bored Khan, now too old and […]

Posted On

04/7/11

Author

Katie Hagel

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