I’ll start with the briefest summary of our trip: AWESOME! And kudos to Amy for putting together the most wonderful itinerary that gave us a view of so many different aspects of this diverse country, but that was also thoughtfully paced to accommodate us arriving after 40 hours of travel. Her plan balanced seeing as much as possible with times to rest, chill, and not miss the experience by moving too quickly through it. I’m also glad we blocked out three weeks for this trip, it flew by and any less would have been too short.
Amy has done a good job summarizing the trip in her last post, so I’ll just add some bits and pieces.
At Murni’s Place, our first stop in Bali, we were pampered for four days with lovely surroundings, good food and massages at the spa. It was a great place to land, literally as well as figuratively, and to have a few days to get adjusted. Unfortunately, our bodies didn’t adapt as quickly as we would have liked but we did get out to see some sights—the Monkey Forest with the ancient stone temples was right out of an Indiana Jones movie!
We got off the plane in Jogjakarta in one of the hardest monsoon downpours I’ve ever seen. The airline staff was opening and handing out nice big umbrellas for the walk to the terminal—and we still got soaked from the waist down! The Buddhist and Hindu temples there are rightly classified as World Heritage Sites. We all enjoyed the sign at Prambanan that says “The structure of the Shiva temple is relatively stable” after the earthquake that leveled part of the site. We put on hard hats and went in.
After the heat of the lowlands, arriving in Batu and the cool of the mountains was a lovely relief. The lush green hills made us think of home—well, sort of like home but with tropical vegetation and volcanoes!
The river trip to the orangutan sanctuary was a once in a lifetime experience that becomes only more amazing in retrospect. Strolling the jungle paths with these furry beasts accompanying us to the feeding station, watching them swing through the trees and interact with each other and us was remarkable. We had wonderful meals on the boat and enjoyed playing cards at night. Time stopped.
We had just gotten on the boat and were turning from the bay into the mouth of the river where we would be off the grid for three days. At that moment I got a text message from our niece Jessica who was housesitting for us. It was 3:00 AM at home and three raccoons had broken into the porch, what to do—just as the cell signal faded out (but everything turned out OK).
I also want to talk about our experience visiting the village where Amy and Will live and work, which I think was in some ways the very heart of the trip even though it was brief. We loved meeting Amy’s teaching counterpart and her family, and visiting the school. I was enchanted by a walk we took through the cane fields outside the village to the river at sunset, with the call to prayer echoing from multiple nearby mosques.
As Amy indicated in her post, we thought their living circumstances could have been better. I expect all parents who visit their kids in the Peace Corps think this! First, it was just hot which makes it hard to sleep well (though they are much more used to it that we were) but we did figure out some ways to improve ventilation at night. Added to that was the lack of engagement with their host family, compared to the warm welcome we got from the families in the village where Amy and Will did their training.
After some reflection,I don’t think it was clear to me that they should try to move, but we did encourage them to think about how they could improve things and, if need be, to consider moving. Of course, as they observed, there is no guarantee that a different circumstance would be better. Overall, our visit to the village gave us a much deeper appreciation for what Amy and Will are doing, and what they are willing to endure to do it.
Of course seeing Amy and Will was the best part of the trip and all the adventures were just over the top. We came home with tons of pictures and memories to cherish forever, like my “close encounter” with Siswi! Thanks Amy and Will for sharing your journey with us and taking such good care of your “orangtua!”
Final note: Orangutan translates as “forest people.” Similarly, “orangtua” is the Indonesian term for parents, but literally means “old people” which we found pretty funny once it was translated for us!