Things I Did Not Know About Indonesia

Indonesia

Indonesia

I recently was given a great gift through the opportunity to serve on a project in the country of Indonesia, specifically the Provence of Papua.  The opportunity came up very fast and aside from a few minor logistical items, most of which were taken care of for me by the sponsoring organization, I was on my way in a matter of a few weeks.

I knew little or nothing about this island nation on the other side of the planet.  I barely knew how to get there.  (head to Australia and stop short….).  As I made preparations to leave, there were many questions, but I knew from past travels there are just a few essentials one needs to have and know in order to go.  The sponsoring organization has many years in this location, so I trusted they would take care of me.

Needful Preparations
On the other hand, I wanted to be prepared so as not to be a burden.  I wanted to arrive as part of the team.  Fortunately, I am married to the consummate researcher.  My husband would rather research anything over almost any other activity in life.  I am not exaggerating….!
So, as I took care of the practical aspects of my departure such as what:
  • clothes to take (hot, humid, tropical)?
  • laundry facilities would there be?
  • medicines to carry with me (malaria and dengue fever – gulp)
  • would access to connectivity be? Computer, iPhone needed?

as well as,

  • Paying bills
  • stocking the pantry ahead
  • and scheduling BLOG and Facebook posts through the end of the year.
 We also took time to do our annual legacy file review:  wills, power of attorneys and monthly budget procedures.  We do this every year and this trip seemed a prudent time to get it done.
Useful Indonesia Information
In the midst of this, Hubby was glued to his computer looking up facts, information and curious tidbits about my destination.  At the moment, these bits of information were the last thing on my mind, but I have come to learn after 40 years of marriage, that however out of time, his research comes in handy – eventually.
Here are some things I did not know about this fourth populous nation of the earth:
  • It is the largest island nation on earth with over 13,000 islands forming the archipelago.  Most are uninhabited.  By the way, most island nations are the tops of volcanoes, both dead and alive, and the remains of ocean floors pushed up from volcanic activity.  Earthquakes and tremors were normal.
  • It’s land mass is 1/5th of the United States, however, when overlay-ed the USA, it stretches on the diagonal from Oregon to Florida.
  • The Republic of Indonesia is also the Spice Islands.  Cloves, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Star anise, turmeric to name a few, have been sought after and traded for since ships and caravans found their way from Europe.  Remember the brand of spices your mother used to buy:  Spice Islands!
  • They drive on the left side of the road, right hand drive.  This goes back to the Dutch Colonial days when they also drove on the “other” side of the road.  The Dutch changed in the early 1900’s but Indonesia remained Right hand drive to conform with much of their region including Australia and Southeast Asia.  I had to resurrect my London days of “Look right” before crossing roads to avoid angry beeps from the herds of scooters!
  • The Sumatra and Java Coffee I drink at Starbucks come from Indonesia.
A Personal Connection

My father-in-law was stationed at Morotai on the Island of Maluku during WWII.  He flew P-38 reconnaissance at the end of the war and was all over the Pacific Theater in his career.  It was not until this trip that his time in Morotai came alive.  I did not visit there – it would have been like visiting Idaho while in Kansas, but still I am the one family member to get this close.

A Small Part of Indonesia
My exposure to Indonesia was very limited given its size.  The airport at Jakarta on the Island of Java and Sentani-Jayapura on the Indonesian side of the Island of Papua. I discovered the huge part this region played in the Pacific aspects of WWII.  I read several books during my trip (25 hours in the air each way gives one a lot of uninterrupted reading time).
While there, I was loaned a copy of Lost in Shangri-la by  Mitchell Zuckoff .  While telling the remarkable story of the discovery of the lost Dani tribe, it also provided a wealth of information on the role this strategic spot played during this time, the region’s history and the history of its people.
  • The Sentani Airport was built by the Japanese, then taken over by the US and allied forces.
  • General MacArthur was headquartered there and today remains an Indonesian military compound that contain artifacts of his time there.
  • There are virtually no roads to the interior of this island.  Wamena, is the world’s largest city is supplied only by aviation.
  • There are over 800 languages on the island of Papua alone.  The national language, Bahasa Indonesian, was adopted in the 1930s.   Its’ written form came into being over the previous 100 or so years during the Dutch colonial days.  In 1945 it was adopted as the national language in the constitution.  Most Indonesians are fluent in one or more of the other languages and speak a different language in the home.
Learning How Much There Is to Learn
All of this served as a humble reminder of how self-centric we are naturally.  I felt the sting, more than once, of my own ignorance of such a significant region as I learned more and more about the context in which my service would take place.  Yet, I did not scratch the surface of this remarkable place:  Bali, Kalimatran, Sumatra, Java, and much much more.
In the coming weeks, I will be sharing aspects of faith, family, and flight which  converged  into this unexpected assignment.   As we identify, build, shore-up and realize the stones in our unique Stonebridge of life, the history, back-story and context serve to add color, depth, hue, shades and over-all meaning to what appears on the surface.  Here’s to digging deep in 2018.
Name one event or experience that helped define your Stonebridge in 2017?  Please share in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe!  I love hearing from you!

One thought on “Things I Did Not Know About Indonesia

  1. Yes, “…to add… to what appears on the surface.”

    Nancy, I read this from Facebook, but would like to be on a mailing list — so as to not miss additional installations!

    Russ

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