My LFP Experience

To me, the decision to become a volunteer at LFP was both hard and easy in the same time. I really loved my job in Jakarta, which I had to leave eventually should I decide to join this project, and I barely knew anything about wildlife activities. On the other side, I’ve always wanted to do some volunteering actions for years but never actually found a project that really excites me like this one. But then I thought that life was simply too short for that kind of hesitation, so I decided to leave my comfort zone and handed my month notice as soon as my application was accepted.

A sight from the front seat of an angkot in Leuwi Panjang Terminal, Bandung

I travelled to Cipaganti from Bandung for the very first time with an angkot (mini bus public transportation, that can pick up and drop passengers in random places) followed by an ojek (motorbike) ride uphill directly to the green house, the name of LFP field station. I got immediately acquaintained with the staffs and other volunteers (and the cats!) as soon as I arrived while enjoying a huge piece of chocolate cake accompanied by a cup of tea, then I met with the trackers the next day. They were all very nice and friendly, hence a very pleasant first impression of my journey here.

Like any other volunteers I join the night observation team, which usually consists of 1 volunteer and 1 observer (plus another volunteer in training if there’s any). My first training session was to observe a male juvenile slow loris named Mungkin (which literally means “maybe”). I find the way they give the lorises name hilarious. Some are based on an Indonesian word: Bintang (star), Lucu (cute), Tombol (button), we also have slow lorises with quite a famous name like: Toyib (from an iconic Indonesian song, “Bang Toyib”), Sule (a well-known local comedian), Xena (warrior princess!), while the others have European names like: Fernando (maybe inspired by a famous ABBA song?), Shirley, Jean, etc. Since I hardly ever exercised, my first shifts were very difficult. I’ve always tried my best not to give up and right now I’m glad that I’ve gotten much better and faster already (although I’m still relatively slow compared to the other observers and the trackers).

Mungkin climbing down on a bamboo tree

In addition to the night observation, I volunteered myself to help managing the data we collected as well. In order to do this, I had to learn about the R programming language, which is arguably one of the best languages to do statistical analysis and data science. In contrast to the other volunteers, I really enjoyed learning how to code using R. We also do a lot of daytime activities here. One of them is our “Nature Club” programme. Twice a week we visit a local school to teach the children English and some knowledge about nature (like what makes a healthy forest, bio-degradability, etc.). Even though I’m really terrible at teaching, I volunteered to assist the teaching force from time to time and tried my best to transfer some of my knowledges to the children. Once in a while we also plant and distribute some trees to the farmers in the conservation area to ensure the sustainability of the slow lorises’ habitat.

Teaching kids English and biology as part of Nature Club activities

Entering my final few weeks, the experience and amazing new friends in the course of my stay at LFP make me really grateful that I pursued my resolution to be a volunteer here. Doing the night observations can be hard sometimes but they are really fulfilling indeed. I’ve always tried to contribute as much as I could, but in the end I still feel that I am the one who gained the most in form of invaluable lessons and perceptions!

  • Joshua
  • Volunteer

Home & Here

Through the blur of the windshield, motorbikes tumble around us as if repulsed by the magnetic charge of the road. I haven’t seen lightning in months, save the single bolt that was followed by your standard English drizzle (and some ferocious sunlight to boot). Outside the car, men who treat the lane dividers as sidewalks dangle bags of fruit at the drivers and glowing signs whir past. Inside the car, the Indonesian driver has chosen to play a video of a live Sting concert with orchestral accompaniment. I am feeling culture shock.

What should be a five hour drive takes eight, three of which are occupied just with getting to the outskirts of Jakarta. We are further delayed by the allure of fried tofu and roadside pancakes and the driver’s sudden announcement that we were stopping to pick up his sister.

Selamat malam! I twist around in the passenger seat to greet her. Evidently she finds my accent hilarious because she has me repeat the phrase to three different friends over the phone.

Arriving anywhere in the middle of the night is always unsettling. We creep up the side of the mountain in slow jerks, maneuvering around disproportionately high speed bumps and dogs with their tails between their legs. Although I am certain people live here, I have only indirect evidence of this fact. Houses with red clay roofs are interspersed with tarped-over food stands, all sleepily closed off like cats with their paws over their eyes. Signs reading Jalur Evakuasi! with icons of a smoking volcano point down as we continue up. Our engine gives out two or three times. We arrive around midnight and I settle into an unfamiliar bed.

The daytime is markedly different. The Indonesians enthusiastically announce their rising between four thirty and five am with the booming Islamic Call to Prayer, which I am initially convinced must be the emergency signal for an aid raid. This is followed by the static babble of a small child who is clearly excited to be speaking to the entire village. (I soon learn it is common for children to get a hold of any of the five megaphones in the area used for the Call to Prayer.) The thunderclap of motorbike engines return, and I am surprised to see hijab-clad women cruising up and down the street. The village is stained by effervescent color – men swing massive bundles of gleaming orange carrots with water; on clotheslines brightly patterned batik are draped alongside polyester soccer jerseys; red-striped koi navigate the agricultural ponds that lie between each house. I am certain I will tumble into these one day.

 

I am greeted by the volunteers of the Little Fireface Project, who I am excited to see are just as enthusiastic about catching furtive glimpses of sleeping slow lorises as I am. And of course, it is nice to hear some familiar accents. We watch La La Land on a white tarp draped over the windows, and again we straddle the line between home and here. But as I will learn, culture is not defined by divisions; rather, it exists along a continuum. And furthermore, that my cellphone alarm in this country is unnecessary.

  • Kelsey
  • Volunteer