Matt’s Blog – People, Places and Planes

Having arrived in Indonesia nearly a month ago a lot has happened. I’ve experienced Java from the densely populated megacity Jakarta, to the tranquil forests of west Java – and much in-between. The village of Cipaganti provides a vibrant and welcoming back-drop for the volunteer house. Located high in the mountain, and surrounded by sprawling farmland, plantations and eventually, high up the mountain the forest.

The remaining forest found at the top of the mountain is peaceful and remains little disturbed. To get there you have to hike up the mountain on thin slippery mud paths; through the agricultural land and sprawling labu plantations. It is within this agriculture and labu that the projects focal animals persist. The slow lorises are found at night weaving through the labyrinth of labu, coffee, tea and occasional small forest patches to hunt for insects, their feeding trees and bamboo sleep-sites.

Mount Gunung Puntang

I was lucky enough to see some wild animals in my short time here including leopard cats, snakes, tree-shrews and wild. I was lucky enough to see a slow loris family when following Shirley, one of the sites focal animals, with the trackers and Helene who was conducting observational research. Unexpectedly Fernando, a burly male loris and partner to Shirley arrived with their baby Star. Fernando watched as Star left his side to join her mother, once she was safely with her he departed, leaving the two safely foraging together amongst the calliandra trees. We continued to watch the mother and daughter as they feed and clambered through the trees, with the baby remaining in her mother’s caring, attentive gaze. Shirley and Star soon went to their sleeping site, deep a large bamboo out of sight. To our surprise after half an hour or so Fernando returned to join his family to sleep.

Within the site the staff and volunteers have all become a ‘family away from home’ much like the lorises we observed. I feel the project, and as an extension the volunteers are accepted as members of the village – we were even all invited to Wita, the local teacher’s, birthday meal where her family welcomed us into their home as friends. The villagers are all so warm, welcoming, friendly and polite. From toddlers to the elderly and everyone in-between you are always greeted with a pleasant smile, or friendly wave from people you pass in the street.

I have found I spend a lot of my free time ‘entertaining’ the local children who children flock to the research house to play games, draw and colour or climb our tree to snack on the apple-like Jambu fruit which seems to always be in bloom. I recently spent hours with a group of usually boisterous boys teaching them to make paper aeroplane, and colouring them in. We then saw who could fly their plane the furthest. I was particularly pleased the children remembered how to make the planes the following day.

The children are always pleased to help me learn Bahasa Indonesian – patiently telling me what things are called and aiding with my pronunciation; especially when we are talking about animals! I was delighted to be able to return the favour when I, along with Lucy and Danielle was invited to teach English at the local school. The children were keen to learn –attending even though they had to walk through a heavy rain downpour to attend!

The class was predominantly girls; to begin with they were shy to talk in-front of us but this was overcome due to their eagerness to learn. We taught them English introductions and polite conversation and refreshed their English numbers. The children and teachers were so welcoming and grateful for us helping and asked for a group picture and for us to return next week.