Thursday, February 20, 2014

Experiencing Indonesia

 Exploring another continent's Agriculture

One of the most important thing that one can experience, is living in a cultural context of harmony with nature and getting inspiration from it. Alexandra traveled to Indonesia to conduct research in her academic field, by the fields of Indonesian villagers.

Name:  Alexandra Mitsiou
Age:     28
From:   Athens, Greece
Trip started from: The Netherlands
To:      Indonesia
For:     Research

1. Your motivation to go abroad.

"I love traveling and this was a great opportunity to combine it with my studies."

2. How did you choose Indonesia?

"The choice was mainly directed from the research opportunities offered by my masters which was focused on the tropics but also from personal choice and the fact that I was curious to visit and explore this part of the globe."

3. What did you do there? For how long?

"I went there for 3 months to do a socio-economic research on the impacts of oil palm cultivation on the forest and the local communities in Kutai Barat district."

4. Your basic interest and background.

"My background is a MSc in Environmental Biology and my basic interest is in the field of sustainability with special focus in sustainable agriculture and food production."

5. The region you stayed.

"My base was Barong Tongkok at Kutai Barat district in East Kalimantan but I also visited for a few days Jakarta and Samarinda."

6. The best thing about the city.

"There is nothing exciting about Barong Tongkok that I could mention. It was more of a research base close to the villages where I had to do my field work. However, there were really nice villages close by where you could dive directly into the ‘Dayak’ lifestyle!"

Typical Dayak hut

7. The people.

"Indonesia is a very diverse country in terms of religion and cultural background, thus depending on where you are, which island or which region you visit, you get a different social experience. 
In general, I would say that people are very nice (sometimes too nice that they will never judge you or say that you are wrong); welcoming and excited to show you around and make you feel at home. 
The region where I was based is home of the ‘Dayak’ people and it was very fascinating to experience their cultural tradition, mentality and customs. They still have values about social bonds and nature that we in our western-minded society have forgotten or put aside as non-important or non-profitable. In their society, family is the principal institution that has to be protected, the elders are respected and considered as source of wisdom and nature is the vital resource to be protected and handed in ‘healthy’ to the next generation."

8. The food.

"A lot of rice and chilly! My favourite was the ‘sticky’ rice that is cooked with coconut milk in a bamboo stick…"

9. Indonesian nights out.

"If we are talking about drinking and partying depends on where you are; in a touristic place where everything is possible, a village where booze is non-affordable or in one of the big cities that are the best example of the dominant religion in Indonesia which is Islam. According to the ‘coran’ alcohol is illegal and consequently pretty expensive to get. However, in every big city you will find your ‘European paradise’ (usually an Irish pub). Other than that, good hang outs with nice people and friends it is an all-time possible."

10. Something people would not know about Indonesian culture.

"Again varies a lot by region but I would say something about Dayak people that the style of stretched ears was first launched by the Dayak women as an indication of power in their tribe."

11. Something you found difficult to get used to.

"The Muslim mentality and the fact that is not ‘right’ to expose your body as a woman even if we are talking about wearing short sleeves in the warm and humid Indonesian weather."

12. What you will keep forever form your Indonesian experience.

"The traditional Dayak ceremonies were a great experience to keep in memory. Moreover, the lifestyle of Dayak people in the villages, which makes you revaluate the western way of life, our priorities, goals and definition of happiness."

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