I finished celebrating Christmas Eve, I haven’t slept in almost 24 hours, and in a few hours I will be leaving to Belize. Like everyone, the holidays are usually a busy time for me and the thought of leaving my home on Christmas day is strange. I’ve never left home during important holidays or birthdays, so it feels as if I am leaving family behind. This may seem slightly pessimistic; however, I view this trip as my own Christmas gift. I have the opportunity to explore a new culture, new food, and so much more. This one trip is multiple gifts in itself. I can’t wait for my unique experience to begin! My favorite part of traveling is finally landing in the country. For me, that’s when the adventure begins because reality finally sets in. I view it as, “I’m here! This is happening!” Currently, I am looking forward to the warmer weather and basking in the sun. Getting ready to leave for the airport! More updates to come!
Coming home has felt like waking up from a dream. Once I arrived I immediately became adjusted to my daily routine and everyone around me continued their day as per usual. The familiarity of being home has made my trip to Indonesia feel like a wild fantasy. Indonesia is a country filled with immense cities and hidden natural beauty. Everyone flocks to the city for a better future which is understandable, however I feel that it is important to educate how necessary the rain forest is to their well being. As more trees are cut down, the less resources the forest has to offer to the villages that solely depend on it. Fortunately, the President of Indonesia has taken measures to decrease the rate of habitat loss.
During my time in Indonesia I greatly appreciated how kind and welcoming everyone was. No matter where we were everyone carried a friendly smile. Even complete strangers were more than willing to help with directions and translation. The most amiable and selfless people were the Indonesian students. They gave up all hours of their day just to be with us and guide us through the cities. The girls were upset to see us go because we know it was unlikely that we would never see each other again. Thankfully for today’s technology it is easy to stay in touch and we write to each other almost every other day.
As a scientist I feel that I have progressed in terms of field experience. Working at TORP (Tuanan Orangutan Research Project) is an opportunity that few undergraduates receive. I had the opportunity to observe orangutans up close and study how they interacted with their environment. For this opportunity I have to thank Dr. Erin Vogel for taking the time to invite us to her research station and educating us more about her work. I also want to show gratitude towards Dr. Wendy Erb and Dr. Vogel for their lectures and guest speakers which made me realize how much I have left to learn about conservation ecology and primatology. This experience has left such an impact that I am now searching for more opportunities similar to this one so that I can build myself further as a scientist. I feel that the more I involve myself in fieldwork the more I can contribute to academia by dispersing the knowledge I have gained.
Ultimately, I would like to thanks SEBS travel for supporting me to go on this unforgettable journey. Out of many students, they decided to give me the chance to make the most out of my undergraduate career. I would like them to know that they have not only changed my life, but that those around me who are proud of the work that I have done. This experience is one that will be told many times in hopes of inspiring other students like myself to do the same.
I am having the time of my life in Ujung Kulon! These excursions are defining moments of this trip. Yesterday we planted coral off of Badul Island and today we visited another waterfall. Before I get lost in all the excitement running through my body, I should probably start with yesterday.
Before we left for the boats I had a relentless debate with myself about my bathing suit. I was arguing whether or not I should cover up more due to more conservative views of the region. In the end I decided to where my rash guard and bikini bottoms, which no one seemed to mind. The Indonesian students understood that we came from a different background where we show more skin. Aside from my irrational dilemma, I had a great time in the water.
At first I jumped in with full snorkeling gear but quickly became tired since the flippers were too big for my feet. I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer, but I manage enough to keep afloat. Everyone seemed to plant the coral with ease; I on the other hand couldn’t manage to reach the bottom. No matter how hard I kicked and reached for the base, it was always just out of reach. Luckily for me, JP ( a professional swimmer) managed to grab my hand and pushed me to the bottom. Although it took two tries and my ears popping, I was able to plant coral. After this fiasco, I just floated on my back trying to catch my breath. By lunch time, I was ready to go once more. I spent the rest of the day playing marco polo with the other Rutgers students and Bagus.
Today was our last nature excursion. We left our homestay at 6 o’clock in the morning for a grueling two hour hike up a mountain. This hike was a physically challenging, but mentally I was not going to be defeated. The inclines burned my thighs, the sweat made my clothes stick to my skin and I was constantly searching for air, however the idea of seeing such natural beauty kept me going. Also the constant singing of “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” by TLC helped keep up the positive attitude. Once we reached the best fall for swimming, without any hesitation I walked right into the ice cold water. The water was so cold that my roommate’s, Tereza, lips turned purple.
As we spent some time in the water, we realized it was deep enough to jump into. After seeing a few people successfully jump into the water, I decided it was my turn to do the same. I waited along the edge of the cliff gathering as much adrenaline as possible before jumping in. After being engulfed by the water I didn’t feel cold anymore. I had a wave of energy flow over me which left me wanting more adventure. Today was unforgettable and I plan to do more activities like this in the future whenever given the opportunity.
Today was out of this world!!! Today’s excursion was to a wild honeybee farm located at the top of a mountain next to a waterfall. Although some of the group got off to a rough start by not wearing the proper gear, we headed up a muddy trail towards our goal. As we were hiking we were told that collecting honey has been a tradition for over four generations and that the honey they collect is sold to other countries in Europe and Asia for consumption and beauty products.
After somewhat of a treacherous hike, I was immediately taken by the waterfall ahead that I didn’t even notice the honeybee nests above me. As I slowly walked in the water was bone chilling cold, yet refreshing at the same time since I was sweating profusely due to the heat and humidity. The water was crystal clear that I could see all the stone underneath my boots as I trekked closer and closer to the waterfall and the rocks above. I believe everyone was taken back by such beauty and decided to play in the water while the honey was being collected for us.
The man collecting the honey climbed a tree that was well over 20 meters tall without any safety harnesses. To him, this was a norm but for me I saw a man with a lot of bravery and courage. He was stung a few times while in the tree, however it did not seem to phase him in the slightest way. He said that if the bees swarm you, its best to not swat them away because it will only make them angrier. (A good rule to live by). I had the opportunity taste the honey, which tasted like sweet ambrosia only suited for the gods. It made my eyes roll to the back of my head. The honey wasn’t as sweet as I am accustomed to and had more of a tangy flavor to it. The honey left (what I can only describe as) an electric taste in my mouth and I couldn’t get enough of it. Anything from the wild tastes better than store bought produce. This makes me wonder if I can buy wild honey in New Jersey and would it taste the same?
The night before leaving for Java, both UNAS and Rutgers students decided to celebrate our last night at a karaoke place. At first everyone was understandably shy but as time passed by and more laughter filled the room, our bond started to blossom. The most quiet people in the group had the most beautiful singing voices of the whole group. When they sang, my jaw hit the floor because it was so unexpected.
The next morning we left for Bogor on the Javan Island. I had no idea as to where we were going to stay, however as I got off the bus I was in awe. The city was absolutely gorgeous and to top it all off we were staying in the Botanical Gardens for two nights. Just standing on the lawn brought a smile to my face. My view was incredible! I was surrounded by trees and flowers from all over the globe. The vibrant greenery from the garden was hypnotizing and I felt as if I was living in a fantasy world. I wanted this to be my life every single day if possible. During the night we went out to explore the city filled with food carts, tuk tuks, and happy people singing. We decided to explore the mall which was highly impressive compared to American malls. They were several stories high, filled with both European and American brands. The malls were more western with a touch of Indonesian culture.
7/28/16 Today we had a tour of the garden. Our tour guide told us how the garden first belonged to the Dutch who colonized the country, but was eventually given to the Indonesian once they gained independence. We were also told that the President preferred to stay in the botanical garden instead of the capital, which I can completely understand as to why. Interestingly there were also a ton of Indian deer that inhabited the garden. The deer was a gift to Indonesia from India and they have multiplied ever since.
At one point some of the Rutgers students were stopped by locals and other foreigners and asked about our stay here. This took awhile since the people were highly curious about us Americans. I was able to escape an endless line of selfies since I looked more like the locals. Aside from the enormous trees, vibrant colors and enchanting orchid house, my favorite part was spotting the flying fox. I absolutely love bats and being able to see my favorite frugivore was a dream come true! Bats in general are misunderstood creatures and the larger they are the scarier they seem to people. The flying fox is a megabat and their size can be pretty intimidating. However people should not be afraid this mammal since they only eat fruit and want nothing to do with humans in the first place. Seeing these bats makes me want to continue my research in protecting these creatures in anyway that I can.