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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011


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I cannot even begin to describe how breathtaking Sampella is. I cannot tell you about how early the village awakens and comes alive and about the warmth that flows through the village and do it justice. I cannot stop myself from drooling every time I remember the snacks families made for us and every amazing meal that Saipa ever made. I cannot not laugh when I think of the naked children running around my front porch or explain to you what it's like to use a toilet located in the middle of your kitchen with freshly caught fish hanging outside the window.

I watched Barbie episodes with my family on the living room floor the first night I arrived. My alarm clock became a couple of rabid sounding cats outside my window that decided to fight at the same time every morning. Free time was spent staring out into the ocean, sitting with my family and exploring a village where every step you took led you to another beautiful view. Tumerick-covered faces greeted you at every corner with a smile and children run around screaming your name or calling you "Mister!" (Or in my case, "Cina!") I couldn't walk around at night without a headlamp because every step I took could've ended up with me in some not so awesome water, but once you go to Sampella... You have to go back. I have never felt more at home than when I was sitting with my family on the porch eating fried UFO pastries and drinking tasty tea. I spent my last night in Sampella watching Gnomeo and Juliet with my mother and my sisters. I gave out sea glass to the girls that followed me everywhere calling my name and I spent almost an entire day with the most animated kid I've ever met in my life, whose tragic family past shocked me. This community lives in the middle of the ocean, but they can still beat at soccer. They built these homes on water. They catch their meals and have to take boats to get to the market to get food and fresh water. They never seem to stop moving but then you walk through the village and see everyone lounging on their porch staring at you. Just chilling. Kids get to run around naked and be kids. They throw firework poppers and practice martial arts. The language barrier I had in the beginning of my stay at Masihulan... Now? What language barrier? The second I stepped into my home, they sat me down and we talked through our dictionaries and charades. Laughter became the main form of communication as I joined them in their prayers and told them about my days out snorkeling. We shared with each other our art and our favorite foods and our hobbies. And I can actually tell you how many siblings I have.

When I first looked at the Indonesia program, it was Sampella that drew me to the course. The idea of living on houses built on stilts in the middle of the pristine ocean was mindblowing. I looked at pictures and read the semester programs' yaks. All I could think to myself was, "I have to go there." And it was during my stay in Sampella that something super duper awesome happened...

Every time I told someone what I would be doing this summer and showed them pictures of where I'd be staying for this part of the course, they'd get this insanely jealous look in their eyes. They'd tell me they hated me and then it'd hit them: "Wait. You don't know how to swim." Almost everyone I knew told me I was crazy. Every person that tried to teach me how to swim before the trip thought I'd end up wearing a lifejacket in my sleep while I was in Indonesia and that I'd never snorkel because I am so afraid of water. Well, everyone. After five weeks in Indonesia, I did it. I swam. Without a PFD. In the ocean. And I am alive and so ready to do it again. Just let me hyperventilate and cry a little before I do it.

In Masihulan I hesitated when things got a little rough. I wasn't as active at first and ended up having so much time to just slow down and think about life. In Sampella, I was constantly living it. I was always moving or surrounded by people and to be honest, the only time I think I ever stopped to breathe was when I was in the water clinging to my PFD after I'd finally let go of it. I realize now that a good balance of what I did at both of those homestays is what I need when I'm back in the chaos of America. I start a new life at Colorado College five days after I return home to Seattle. I am both terrified and excited about college and being away from my family. I'd always been that girl that didn't like to try new things because I was afraid of failing. I thought too much about things or didn't think about them enough. But it was on this trip that for the first time in my life, I was okay with taking something one step at a time and not giving up when I didn't succeed at it immediately. I gave myself a break. I leaned on people and bawled my eyes out almost every time Brandon was teaching me how to swim. Being vulnerable does not make you weak. Learning how to swim over a course of five weeks freed me. The excitement on everyone's faces when they watched me swim freed me. Being able to swim even just twelve strokes in the ocean without any help freed me. Smiling so hard that saltwater went into my mask and up my nose while swimming in the ocean freed me.

I'm ready to dive now...into everything that comes my way (exept maybe the actual ocean; I'm still recovering from the excitement of the first few times of actually letting go of that big orange floatie.)

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Best Notes From The Field, Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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Di sini senang…

Mindy Huang,Best Notes From The Field, Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

I cannot even begin to describe how breathtaking Sampella is. I cannot tell you about how early the village awakens and comes alive and about the warmth that flows through the village and do it justice. I cannot stop myself from drooling every time I remember the snacks families made for us and every amazing […]

Posted On

08/3/11

Author

Mindy Huang

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Falling.

It's a word and an action I know well, and it describes what has been constantly happening to me in Indonesia perfectly.

To explain this, I should begin by telling you there are three types of falling; there's the physical type, the mental type, and then, there's the emotional type.

The physical type is everywhere for me, including back home in America (as many of my friends can attest) but the physical falls I've had and have witnessed here in Indonesia are much more... how do i say... impressive? Since I've arrived here, I've fallen into rice paddies in Toraja, down slippery roads in Masihulan, fallen out of a boat in Sulwai, fallen inside of one in the Bandas, and fallen over in fear in probably too many places, thanks to my groupmate Jace, who likes to jump out of dark scary places. I've heard of others falling and sliding down volcanoes, falling into the ocean when a random hole appeared in the peir in the dark (don't worry, he was okay!), and falling into shallow, but still wet, streams. And I believe we've all come out stronger, laughing, a little bruised, and definitely a little more careful because of it. When my instructors told me falling into a hole is a huge danger here way back five weeks ago, I have to say, I started laughing. But now I realize... these holes are EVERYWHERE, and we all have to be careful, or we'll end up like one of the guys from the documentary Ring Of Fire.

And then there are mental falls. These also often surface. Sometimes it's a small fall, like getting jipped at the market or by a driver who insists on 10,000 rupia when you both agreed on 5,000 before you got in the cart, but other times, the falls get rougher. I failed to gain the ability to pee through my floor in Sampella... it seemed too weird. I mean, seriously, it was just a hole in my floor, and what if my host family walked in? AWKWARD. Luckily, Andar's house had a toilet, but I weirdly do regret not gaining the experience of peeing directly into the ocean... for some reason I feel that would've been satisfying. One that others faced was dealing with the rats. It's a part of living in Sampella to see rats, but it doesn't make them any less unnerving. Also for many, the constant lack of privacy from village children yelling 'hello, tourist!' or from your family also was a bit of a fall... I guess it takes a special type of person to enjoy/not feel awkward when your sits and watches and waits for you to fall asleep, or when the whole part of your family that is the same gender decides to observe you while you shower.

The final type of falling is a type I personally have only felt in Indonesia, and it's very near and dear to me. You still feel all that fear of falling; the anxiousness, the adrenaline, the release and the feeling of being absolutely caught up in the moment, but it's doubled, maybe even tripled, by hundreds. Emotional falling happens, and it involves certain special people, and just that right moment, and suddenly, your lost in it. I felt it quite a few times now on this trip, and yet I still have gotten tired of it. It began in Masihulan, with my first host family. It was a subtle fall-my family was shy- but a fall none the less. By the end, I was caught in a whirl of emotion and conflict because I simply did not know how to say goodbye to the people who loved and cared for me for a whole week. I still tear up a little, writing about it, and seeing the faces of Sandra, Domset, Dalius, my Ibu, and Bapak in my minds eye.

I fell again in the jungle (physically, part way into a cave) but emotionally, I fell in love with the voices of our guides and porters, while sitting with them underneath our platform, singing "cocatua" and "gandong" and many other favorites of our jungle men. The music I've heard has been beyond beautiful here, but I was deeply touched by their talent and all their voices harmonizing and joining together... plus, let's face it, men don't sing as much in the States.

And then there was huge fall in Sampella. That one may have done me in for good. My family was crazy, to say in the least. There were three generations in my homestay, and I had maybe less than a 30 seconds to take it in before I was quickly swept up and away by my family. My younger brother, my Adik, Jaman, was always there for me wether I was simply walking to dinner, snorkeling, sick, or just sitting with the family at the house. Though he was only 12, he was mature, and definitely knew how to keep me safe, particularly from the children with firecrackers around the village. Better yet, Jaman sang like an angel (no exaggeration) and played guitar like a pro guitarist. We sang together often, and he even recorded us singing together on the family phone, so they still have a part of my voice in Sampella. My sister was also a constant prescence in my homestay. She would make sure I went to sleep, that I had clean and dry clothing, and that I had tea every morning.Though we bickered a lot about who's skin was prettier (paler is prettier here) we became very, very close, and joked often about my instructor Brendan, and his bald head and overt tallness.

One of the best falling moments with my sister was when I was actually fairly miserable sick. I had a pretty substantial fever and chills for a day and she was constantly there checking on me, holding my hand, giving me a temple massage, and making sure I drank water. I could literally feel her love and care for me. And the next morning, when I was a little better, the whole neighborhood asked me how I was, and made sure I made it to Andar's house for breakfast, even if I had little to no appetite.

Those moments that one can really feel the love around them and just fall into it are ones to treasure, because they are rare, and so so special. I treasured every tear when my host Mama cried as I packed for Sampella, every note my brother sang, the way my nephews eyes lit up when I shared some candy with him, and even the tiniest, most adorable smile my niece gave me when I gave her a stuffed hippo. It's those little things I'll carry with me for the rest of my life, and that have probably transformed me forever,and have made me eternally grateful for all these exceptional people I have met on this trip.

From my journal:

"I used to believe falling could only be bad, but it has saved me. Falling makes life new and exciting. Better yet, it brings you to a different place, perspective, and level of understanding. Don't get me wrong; I didn't particularly enjoy nor do I endorse falling into a jungle cave hole, but the emotional falls I highly recommend, even if they seem dreadfully scary at first... It's like my first Saige quote said when I presented it to the group:

'The bad news is that you are falling through the air, there is nothing to hang onto, and you have no parachute. The good news is, there is no ground.'"

Indonesia, thanks for the falls. I hope I have a few more before I leave.

From Bau Bau,

Jules

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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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Falling

Julia Uchida,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

Falling. It’s a word and an action I know well, and it describes what has been constantly happening to me in Indonesia perfectly. To explain this, I should begin by telling you there are three types of falling; there’s the physical type, the mental type, and then, there’s the emotional type. The physical type is […]

Posted On

08/3/11

Author

Julia Uchida

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Our group (Jace, Kevin, and I) studied religion for our ethnography project. Religion is an incredibly fascinating topic on a lot of different levels, but there are two especially interesting facets of Indonesia religion. The first is sincratism (this may or may not be spelled correctly) which is the layering of a world religion onto an older, local religion. The second is the religious conflict throughout Indonesia. We examined religion most closely in three places: Tana Toraja, Masihulan, and Sampela, with a focus on deities and the afterlife.

Tana Toraja is a Christian region, but the local religion, Aluk to Doro, persists. Here is one of the best examlples of sincratism--Aluk to Doro and Christianity meld together very well, so certain aspects of Aluk to Doro bleed through the overlayer of Christianity which was brought by missionaries. Therefore, the deity is God, but as it was explained to us, Torajans commuincate differently with God. Christianity makes a direct connection (one prays to God) but in Tana Toraja there are angels to help them talk to God. The angels also take care of plants and animals, and in rice patties, there are often small circles cut out for an angel to rest there. Tana Torajans sometimes pray to the natural world as well, but that is for respect and to say thank you for the gift of nature. If you make mistakes, angels will take away the gifts they give and bad things will happen. There are also ancestor spirits in Aluk to Doro, who are good spirits in heaven who go beside God and can talk with God. The ancestor spirits remind God of their ancestors and can come out to help their family. As for the afterlife, the Torajans believe in heaven (puya, and everyone goes to puya eventually. Just going to puya is only the first step, though, because if you are a good enough person, you become an ancestor spirit who lives next to God, and not everyone can do this. This is the motivation to be good in this life (as opposed to a fear of hell). Another motivation is 'mabusson'--essentially karma in Torajan. The most incredible thing about Torajan religion, though (at least, I thought), was that the Torajan people genuinely believe in universal religion--the labels of religion arfe organized labels, and God doesn't care about that, He cares about deeds. We were even told that God doesn't know your label (your labeled religion) because He doesn't care what that label is.

In Masihulon, we talked a bit about religious conflict. Masihulon is a Christian village surrounded by Muslim villages in an area where there has been conflict in the past. However, our guides in Masihulon told us that now, village members of Masihulon who visit Ambon (a capital city of that region) bring suggestions to avoid conflict. The nearest village to Masihulon is Sawai, which is a Muslim village, but the two villages have a father-son relationship, making for no conflict. From our talk with Naldo, one of our most beloved guides, it also seems that the religious conflict in the area stemmed from disagreements that happened to be between members of different religions which were escalted to the point where the government intervened and sent religious party members into Ambon, where the tension finally broke. Masihulon only became a Christian village in the 1960s . Before that, their local religion believed in Father Sky (Lante) and Mother Earth (Takooli). The village is quite Christian at this point, but the traditional belief comes out in traditional medicine. They believe in the Christian afterlife but the traditional belief is sometimes still upheld in families. Interestingly enough, in Christian church, some members wear black suits and no sandals because the body is seen as a median to connect Father Sky and Mother Earth. It seems that there is a bit of sincratism but that Christianity has been embraced and strongly adopted

In Sampela, the village is technically Muslim, but really only Muslim in name (it was Ramadan and some families still held feasts for us in the middle of the day which they partook in). The traditional religion is still in practice, although it has "no name and many spirits". However, a lot of people believe in the Muslim heaven and hell. Traditionally, though, there are ancestor spirits and a sea spirit named Mojengo who is immortal (his angry wife makes the waves). If someone dies at sea, the join Mojengo in his locker, where they are protected by him and serve as his crew and his workers. It is not a bad fate, though. Mojengo has incredible power and energy and can do pretty much whatever he wants--he is the Big God of the Bajau (they are sea people, after all). So, if one dies on land nowadays, the Muslim heaven or hell is adopted, but if someone dies at sea, they are still believed to join Mojengo. After you die, you meet your family again and stay together (this is part of the traditional belief). Everything that happens with your body or family in this life is a result of the ancestor spirits because they affect the family, doing good or bad. They can be asked for help in times of hardship. Locker spirits are not ancestor spirits, though, and do not become them. The place they died at sea becomes sacred and is treated with caution, however, because it is a place where Mojengo put his energy to take someone. Mojengo is the universal god of the traditional religion, whereas ancestor spirits belong to individual families. The ancestor spirits also aren't meticulously recorded or anything--in the village, it often isn't known who your great-grandfather (for example) was, so the prayer to ancestor spirits are more generalized than a prayer to Mojengo specifically (again, you might not know who great-grandpa was and therefore you wouldn't call directly on him). Interestingly enough, sincratism has not really happened in Sampela, because the two traditions don't mix. For example, the traditional offering to Mojengo is arak (a kind of liquer) but Muslims aren't allowed to drink, so the religions don't mesh in the same way Christianity and the Tana Torajan religion did, for example. That's why Sampela is Muslim only in name but their traditional religion in practice.They didn't adopt another religion that might have better sincratized because Mulsim missionaries reached them long before anyone else--the Bajau became Muslim via the Arabs sent by sea from India, so the influence has long been present, whereas Christian missionaries were just never sent to the Bajau people.

Religion in Indonesia is really fascinating and incredibly beautiful. While there has been much conflict, there is also a strong desire among people for everyone to see the universiality in religion, which is almost exemplified by the sincratism we witnessed, even though sincratism didn't happen because people wanted to prove the universiality of religion. The sincratism itself is incredible, whether in a place like Tana Toraja where Christianity and Aluk to Doro coexist in harmony, or in Sampela where the melding doesn't happen and local belief persists regardless of the religion brought by missionaries.

We hope this has opened your eyes and minds to the religions of Indonesia and given you a new perspective on the way religions exist together. Some of the beliefs are incredibly beautiful, and we hope this post has shared some of the beauty we saw with you.

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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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Religious Ethnography

Samantha Pellegrino,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

Our group (Jace, Kevin, and I) studied religion for our ethnography project. Religion is an incredibly fascinating topic on a lot of different levels, but there are two especially interesting facets of Indonesia religion. The first is sincratism (this may or may not be spelled correctly) which is the layering of a world religion onto […]

Posted On

08/3/11

Author

Samantha Pellegrino

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    [post_content] => Boardwalks and boats; the only modes of transportation. Children play soccer on narrow wooden platforms, forced to jump into the water for stray balls. Sampella ripples with boat activity, any trip to the market, any fishing expedition, adventure to the mangroves, locals travel in duggout canoes with attachable blue sails if the wind obeys. And one of my strongest memories takes place on a boat, as most of my memories fromSampellado. At 8 am,a few fellow dragons and I took off in a canoe with my neighbor, a large strong woman. We paddled to the market and bought the necessities, but what got me was the trip home. On the way back, I was facing the ibu who was sterning. As she paddled swiftly back into town, her presence was overwhelming. She was so strong, not physically - that too- more emotionally, so proud. Her weathered face and high cheekbones, she was so powerful and independant. To me, she was entirely emblematic ofSampella. Because there, everyone is independant and strong. Even the children seem tough, lighting fireworks and wrestling above the water. Thats just the mentality inSampella. In Masihulan, everyone was sweet and sincere, caring. But inSampella, evceryone is who they are, in your face, all the time, and you'd better (and probably do) like it. They're unlike anyone I've ever known. The Ibu exemplified that for me - the face ofSampella. The strong, sometimes - but rarely - quiet, powerful, bold, fearless, authentifc face of the place I called home for 6 remarkable nights.
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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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The Land of No Land

Mackenzie Tennison,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

Boardwalks and boats; the only modes of transportation. Children play soccer on narrow wooden platforms, forced to jump into the water for stray balls. Sampella ripples with boat activity, any trip to the market, any fishing expedition, adventure to the mangroves, locals travel in duggout canoes with attachable blue sails if the wind obeys. And […]

Posted On

08/3/11

Author

Mackenzie Tennison

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Once again Dragons did not fail us, the homestay in Sampella was absouletely spectacular! Not suprising, I was nervous for my homestay but once I met my family everything changed. They were so open and made sure that all of my needs were constately met. However, one thing that got to me was when I realized that my brother, Ebok, had liquid dripping from his brain and forming a ball right above his nose. Ebok however is probally the most upbeat kid in Sampella and is always smiling and happy. Even though he is having this problem he is always outside playing with other children in the village. Or he will be showing me a new dance or karote moves that he had learned. Even though he definately looks different everyone treats him the same way as everyone else in the village. Seeing how well people treat him makes me so happy. Just because he has the deforminity, he keeps going and doesnt't stop. He is only ten but is living life to the fullest and is always hopeful that one surgery can change it. He really influenced me and kept showing me that no matter all of the hardships in life, you can keep moving forward in life and not have that stop you from doing what you want in life. I learned so much from my brother in such a short time. I really miss my family and hopefully I can come back to Sampella and visit them.

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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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Homestay Reflection

Lily Roberts,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

Once again Dragons did not fail us, the homestay in Sampella was absouletely spectacular! Not suprising, I was nervous for my homestay but once I met my family everything changed. They were so open and made sure that all of my needs were constately met. However, one thing that got to me was when I […]

Posted On

08/2/11

Author

Lily Roberts

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    [post_content] => When I first came to Sanpella, I was greeted with warm welcomes from all the kids and parents yelling, "Hello tourist!". My excitement wore out when I became exhausted from how much social interaction I encountered from just walking to Andar's house for meals. My ibu, or mom, baked me 4 doughnuts every morning for breakfast with a killer cup of coffee even though our families were told that we were going to eat all meals at Andar's house. My father was soft spoken, but I could tell he enjoyed my company. The only negative connotation associated with Sampella is the constant request to aquire my American possesions. A young girl named Maria asked me almost everyday if she could have my Indonesian phrase book. Maybe it is just the way I was raised, but the questioning seemed ruse to me when all the families I saw were well off. This homestay has taught me that the best gifts are often not tangible.
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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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Sanpella Homestay Reflection

Lauren Swank,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

When I first came to Sanpella, I was greeted with warm welcomes from all the kids and parents yelling, "Hello tourist!". My excitement wore out when I became exhausted from how much social interaction I encountered from just walking to Andar’s house for meals. My ibu, or mom, baked me 4 doughnuts every morning for […]

Posted On

08/2/11

Author

Lauren Swank

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Just yesterday, our group left our final homestay in Sampela. The village of Sampela is like nothing I've ever seen before--houses perched on stilts in the middle of the ocean, connected by boardwalks and boats. The people are truly of the sea--raised by it, raised in it, trained to navigate with and through the sea in all aspects of life. And they are a community absolutely like nothing I have never seen before.

Community. Would you let your neighbor stroll into your house and shout at your children whenever they pleased? Would you be upset if your neighbor played loud music at four in the morning and neither of you had roofs that fully covered your house? Would you share your shoes with an entire village? Those were regular occurances in the village of Sampela, but the difference is this: in America, that would be a problem. If my neighbor took my shoes, I would be upset. Note the word choice: took. It's ingrained in our culture. The shoe circumstance wouldn't be viewed that way in Sampela--it's the age old stole vs borrowed sort of lense. Everyone uses everyone's stuff because the entire village is like family, and you'd let your mother wear your shoes for an hour, right?

Community extends farther than shoes and loud music, though. I found it hard to keep track of my family members because so many neighbors nearly lived in our house, or at least it felt that way to me. And community seems to me to be almost culture in Sampela--again, the way community is viewed, how everyone is family, is a cultural lense beyond the fact that the village is a community. That's why it was so hard at times for us to adjust. The culture is based on a community that most Americans simply don't have, especially beyond their immediate family. Having the neighbors watch me sleep was uncomfortable. But that is community in Sampela, and that is culture, too.

Another thought on community: in the midst of adapting to a new culture of community, our group displayed our own culture of community. After all, traveling for six weeks with sixteen other people, we have become our own sort of country, our own sort of culture because we're the only stable thing we know amidst all of our movement. In Sampela, we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner together everyday for six days. We cooked for each other, or shared in other people's cooking together, had our own rituals (poop scale, appreciation circle, community announcements), saw Indonesia through a cultural lense not quite the one we brought with us and one not entirely shaped by our individual selves. Other cultures might find our community as strange as we find theirs--our t-shirts sometimes match, we carry huge backpacks, we share sunscreen like no other, we sleep next to each other on tiny boats, we laugh loudly, we talk about the quality of our poop...just as Sampela is a unique culture of community, we have become that, too, whether we notice or not.

So, just my thoughts. It was an incredible experience, to say the least. Challenging, exhausting, invigorating, exhilirating, a lot of things. Completely worth it, above all.

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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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Sampela

Samantha Pellegrino,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

Just yesterday, our group left our final homestay in Sampela. The village of Sampela is like nothing I’ve ever seen before–houses perched on stilts in the middle of the ocean, connected by boardwalks and boats. The people are truly of the sea–raised by it, raised in it, trained to navigate with and through the sea […]

Posted On

08/2/11

Author

Samantha Pellegrino

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    [post_content] => At my first day at the Sampella homestay, I was picked up by a lady that was about twenty-three years old. She had a sarong wrapped around her waist because she was pregnant. She brought me to my homestay house, and it turned out that she was my homestay sister. I was told that she was nine months pregnant and if I understood correctly, that she had two other kids. Two days after that I came home from our group dinner, said goodnight to my family, and headed to bed. The next morning, I walked out of my room, and a new baby was in my homestay mother's arms. She was so excited and with a huge smile on her face, she pointed at the baby, and then to my homestay sister. During that night, my sister had had her tiny baby girl in the house I was sleeping in. It was such an amazing experience to how excited the family was to have a new baby and to see the difference in having a baby in a hospital in the U.S. vs having a baby in a house on stilts in Sampella. 
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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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Sampella Homestay

Rebecca Ward,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

At my first day at the Sampella homestay, I was picked up by a lady that was about twenty-three years old. She had a sarong wrapped around her waist because she was pregnant. She brought me to my homestay house, and it turned out that she was my homestay sister. I was told that she […]

Posted On

08/2/11

Author

Rebecca Ward

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The Food Challenge
When students decide to join a Dragons program, they are signing on for a course that is designed to push them out of their comfort zones. As instructors, we're always looking for creative ways to challenge our students. This summer in Indonesia, we've trekked through rice paddies and jungles, done home-stays and service projects and spent interminable hours bouncing over rough roads and stormy seas. It's been a wild ride for sure but an adventurous group like this one needs a special kind of challenge . . . So, we decided to hit our students with "The Food Challenge!"
The rules are simple. Students must work their way through a list of local "delicacies" that would cause the average foreign tourist to recoil in horror. We decided to start small and then continually up the ante. Students must chew and swallow a morsel of each item in order to stay in the game. The winning adventurous eaters will be rewarded with a fancy meal upon our return to Bali. Without further adieu, here is a list of what our students have consumed so far.
1. Durian
Spiky on the outside with soft, yellow flesh, durian has been banned from many Asian airports, trains and subway car due to its overpowering (some would say noxious) smell. Personally, I think durian fruit is absolutely delicious! But, I am definitely in the minority here. The taste of durian was described by one member of our group as "kind of like a cross between roasted garlic and a dirty diaper." Durian fruit has now also been banned from all Dragons Indonesia summer program transport, much to my chagrin.
2. Kopi Luwak
This coffee is made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of the Asian civet cat. The civet cat will select and eat only the choicest beans, and the coffee made from these beans is highly-prized. It can cost $10 per cup! It's really delicious stuff--as long as you can get over the fact that you're drinking cat shit coffee . . .
3. Water Buffalo
Tastes a lot like regular beef. But, tucking into a plate of water buffalo meat directly after watching the slow and painful ritual death by machete of said buffalo is definitely a challenge!
4. Eel
We selected the fattest, shiniest eels slithering in the bucket at the Rantepao buffalo market and asked the cook at the dog meat restaurant to grill them up for us. Although the cooked eels looked a bit like fried puppy dog tails, they were actually quite delicious.
5. Dog
I managed to avoid eating dog during the five years that I lived in China but this group of students just would not let me pass on the plate of stir-fried Fido. They are really gung-ho! Fortunately, our dog meat lunch was so spicy that I could hardly taste it. But when I picked a piece of fur out of my teeth, I KNEW.
6. Sago Grub
This fat, squishy grub lives inside the bark of the sago tree. It's a key source of protein for jungle peoples throughout eastern Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It's about two inches long and one each wide and looks kind of like a giant, bulging see-through inch worm. It squishes and squirts in your mouth when you chew it. Definitely not for the faint! I really can't believe it, but almost all of our students ate a sago grub. Raw. Eewww! Jace also ate a sago beetle, the mother of all sago bugs. He definitely gets extra points for that!
7. Cus-cus
The cus-cus is a marsupial native to eastern Indonesia. It looks kind of like a possum with a pouch and smells a bit skunky after it's been shot out of a tree. We had to work hard for our cus-cus! It involved spending hours creeping through the jungle late at night following our machete-wielding Masihulan homestay fathers and jungle guides. They would lead us to a promising spot and then we'd crouch down and wait while they lured the little marsupial towards us by mimicking its cries. When they spotted its glowing, beady eyes, they would shoot their air rifles into the tree canopy in the direction of the unfortunate creature or simply scamper up the trunk of a tree and grab it by its tail. I couldn't bring myself to take a bite of the cus-cus that our guides cheerfully skewered and scorched over the camp fire but our intrepid students were much less squeamish. I imagine that it tastes like a cross between kangaroo meat and a rat cooked with a blow torch.
The food challenge isn't over yet! Still to come are sea slugs, raw sea urchin, and (if we can find it) a revolting beverage called "bird's nest drink," which is made from the saliva of swallows. Ewww! And, who knows what other culinary delights we'll find along the trail as we continue with the "Expedition" phase of our course and our homestay with the sea gypsies in Sampella. I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it! But, I'm really proud of our students for their adventurous spirits and willingness to take big bites out of their Indonesia experience. Selamat makan!
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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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The Food Challenge

Katie Hagel,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

The Food Challenge When students decide to join a Dragons program, they are signing on for a course that is designed to push them out of their comfort zones. As instructors, we’re always looking for creative ways to challenge our students. This summer in Indonesia, we’ve trekked through rice paddies and jungles, done home-stays and […]

Posted On

08/1/11

Author

Katie Hagel

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Every aspect of this Indonesian summer odyssey is wild and foreign and adventurous, but over the past two weeks, students have truly dived deeply into the remoteness of Indonesia. As you have already read about in student Yaks, our homestays in Masihulan and subsequent days of jungle living were truly wonderful. In Masihulan, students found community and made new families. In the jungle, students slept in a tree 150 feet up in the tree canopy, hunted for deer and shrimp, visited pristine caves and waterfalls, and sang local folk songs into the evening with our warm-hearted and welcoming guides and porters. Yes, we left the island of Seram full of memories in our heart and tears in our eyes - sad to be leaving all of our new friends.

And.... we were also happy to be setting off on our next journey. It took us three travel days (which included a 3-hour walk out of the jungle, 2 canoe rides, 3 bus rides, 2 airplane flights, and 2 long boat rides) to arrive in Sampella, "land" of Bajau people, the sea gypsies. Today is our fourth day in Sampella, where students are again living in homestays. It is difficult to fully describe or understand this place using words (even when you are here!). It is certainly drastically different from the jungle - in fact, it is drastically different than any other place we have visited in Indonesia or that I have traveled to anywhere in the world.

There are roughly 300 stilted homes here, connected by a series of boardwalks, planks of wood, or single bamboo poles. There is no direct connection to any land. There are people everywhere. There is activity everywhere - fishing, playing, cooking. Here, students sleep in bamboo homes that are suspended above the ocean; students eat freshly caught and cooked fish at every meal; students go with families in small dugout canoes to the local market; students are truly exposed to a different culture and different way of life.

Before the 1950s, the Bajau people actually lived as sea gypsies - they lived on boats and moved around the sea waters of Indonesia, following the good fishing. Now, Bajau peoples are located throughout Indonesia, and they live in established villages like Sampella, but they are still innately tied to the ocean which defines their distinctive culture and belief system. It feels so special to be welcomed in to this unique environment. It took three days to get here, but the journey was worth it!

Please know that SOOOO much happens with our group and the students on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. It is impossible to even begin to describe everything in Yaks and emails. We would love to write individual accounts of each student for you, but for now, please know that we are all happy, healthy, safe, and learning so much about our surroundings. Soon, students will be returning with pictures and journal entries and stories - sit with them and listen as they struggle to retell and describe and further understand what happened in Sampella, in the jungle, and on the rest of our exploration of Indonesia.

We have two more nights here in Sampella, then we will head to Bali for a final few days. Over the last days of this course, we will be reflecting on the past month and a half, and trying to further understand how to take our experiences and our learnings home with us. And, of course, we will be celebrating US - this group, which has shared so much, overcome so many obstacles, supported each other in so many ways, and formed a true family. In our days of transit between Sampella and Bali, students will again have some access to internet, so you should be expecting more yaks and emails from them in a few days.

Thank you for all of your support - you should know that we feel your loving thoughts all the way over here!

The journey continues...thanks for coming along!

Lotte, Brandon, Katie, and Paul

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Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

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From the Jungle to the Ocean

Paul Dreyer,Indonesia: Islands and Lost Cultures, Summer 2011

Description

Every aspect of this Indonesian summer odyssey is wild and foreign and adventurous, but over the past two weeks, students have truly dived deeply into the remoteness of Indonesia. As you have already read about in student Yaks, our homestays in Masihulan and subsequent days of jungle living were truly wonderful. In Masihulan, students found […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Paul Dreyer

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