Kamis, 15 Maret 2018

A Visit to Bornean Malaysia

Long road to Kampung Terian

What is the first thing on your mind when you hear "Sabah"? Don't say that you don't know!
I mentioned "Kinabalu" straightaway when he said that he has been living there. He is a cool guy, doing a cool work, in a cool place. Okay, I won't overuse the word "cool" here because there are many cool things I want to share. Let's call him Mr. C (stands for cool)! I don't want to reveal his identity. He is quite popular and easy to find via Google apparently. 
I have been longing a good chance to visit Borneo. The short meeting between Mr. C and I was the beginning of the plan. He recommended many things to do or see prior to my arrival date. Climbing Mount Kinabalu was on top of my mind. In fact, I did not go for it. I was a bit moody to set up the plan. Fortunately, Mr. C fulfilled my request to see his work with local communities. First destination was Kampung Terian. His friend invited us to attend his mothers birthday party. We reached the village in 3 hours by car from Kota Kinabalu. The duration was not due to distance but the road condition. I had an important duty to carry the cake during the trip. That was not an easy task, but eventually I did well. The village is lovely. It is surrounded by the hills. Pristine water flows along the small river. We were chilling while listening the sound of nature. 
The house was full of family members, relatives, and friends. They are Dusun People. Dusun is one of tribal group in Sabah. The birthday lady only speaks Dusun. I asked one of the family member to be our interpreter because I recognized her long skirt as Batik. She got it from the market. It is not originally from Dusun. I also had another remarkable conversation. A group of Dusun ladies told me a story about earthquake. As Indonesian, the phenomenon is very normal for me. Once it happened in Sabah two years ago, however, they had no idea what to do. In spite of running out of the house, they gathered and prayed together in the living room because they though it was the end of the world.
Second destination was Kampung Manggadai. It is located between Ranau and Telupid. I saw a glimpse of Mt. Kinabalu on the left side of the road. It was covered by cloud. Mr. C has a project to build gravity pipe in order to help people have better access of freshwater. The system was ready to be launched soon. We traveled with his colleague who also works for some issues related to oil palm plantation. One of the main issue is elephant conservation. After visiting Kampung Manggadai, he brought us to see elephant in rescued point. I did not expect to see elephants in Borneo. They are cute but aggressive. The pygmy elephants (not an enormous one like African elephant) were alarmed by our presence. They were very protective. Did it cause by the conflict between elephant and human in oil palm plantation?
Many questions and discussions appeared on my mind. Sometimes, I could not hold it even when we were cycling around Kota Kinabalu. This was another request that Mr. C arranged. I thanked him for providing me the bike. I explored Kota Kinabalu with zero-emission-vehicle. That was terrific to enjoy the sunset, the moonlight, the breeze, every single view along the coast! Although Kota Kinabalu has no specific bike lane, I am proud of my riding skill thus I rode safely. 

Ride the bike

The day of "I need to make a plan" came. After one week being a guest at his cozy house, I traveled to Sandakan, the second biggest city in Sabah. I actually was happy just to spend the day in the house. I had moments of hygge: reading a book while lying on hammock or petting the cats and dogs. There are two spoiled cats and two friendly dogs in the house. He lives with a nice housemate. I found that spending time with them (drinking coffee or tea, having dinner, walking dog, staring out sunset, hanging out in front of the house) was gezellig. Anyway, they were away so I would rather move too. 
On the way to Sandakan, I dropped by Monsok to meet my high school mate who teaches in Indonesian School for children of labors around oil palm plantation. I was invited to talk in front of the children and motivate them to go to school. I was not prepared. My session was started with brief description about the work. Those kids are not familiar with an occupation called researcher. I explained them slowly. They asked many questions mostly about the experience of working in global level. As closing remark, I told them that I simply love school because I meet friends and teachers who accompany me to learn something new. 
It was after sunset when I touched down Sandakan. I had booked a program to stay in eco-camp (recommended by Mr. C because he knows the CEO) and join river cruise in Kinabatangan. The eco-camp is neat and peaceful. It is by the lake. The CEO started a project in conservation twenty years ago. By the time, the local community who are Orang Sungai (another tribal group in Sabah) were encouraged by the CEO to develop the tourism in their village. All people in charge for the eco-camp are from Batu Puteh Village where this model is built. I met a group of students from England and Spain who have been doing research for six months in the jungle. Without any hesitation, they showed me many types of birds and monkeys around the camps. They also involved in a project of Salvinia cleaning. It is a parasitic plant which covers the surface of lake and endanger the ecosystem of the lake. This parasite is originally from Brazil, a far away land of tropics. There are some theories about the spread of the parasite, one of them is via tourists. 
I observed more wildlife during river cruise. I was excited to see proboscis monkey, the orange creature with big nose. I saw crocodile in the riverbank. Some colorful birds were flying around. The local guide led me for a night walk in the jungle but we were not very lucky that time. I saw a small forest cat and sugar glider. Anyhow, it was great experience to be in a pitch dark of jungle. The guide accompanied me for a short trekking along the lake. He told me that Orang Sungai have been waiting for the flood. This is the thing people mostly do not wish for, but Orang Sungai, according to the guide will have a big party when flood happens because abundant fishes will be available at their garden. 

Sunset river cruise in Kinabatangan

Another plan for Sandakan was visiting rehabilitation center of orangutan and sun bear. Both are in Sepilok. It is easily accessible from Sandakan. I spent one day in Sepilok to see the ranger feed orangutan. After feeding time, I moved to sun bear conservation center. Surprisingly, there was one female orangutan roaming freely. We were very close. The ranger warned me to stay calm and maintain a safe distance. She only stared at the visitors and climbed up the trees. That moment, I could see that it was her who feels more threatened by human being. It was quick judgement by the way. I believe that the place is safe and fun for them. 
In total, I spent 17 days in Sabah. I would love to come back one day. The initial plan to climb Mount Kinabalu and dive haven't been realized yet. I met interesting people during the trip. It will be amazing to meet them again in the future. 

Terima kasih Sabah, jumpa lagi!

Rabu, 10 Januari 2018

Halo 2018

"How does the celebration of new year look like there?"
Si penanya menganggap pertanyaan tersebut aneh karena barangkali jawabannya pun sudah jelas. Sebagai orang yang ditanya, saya menjawab singkat:
"Firework and trumpet, very mainstream aren't those?"
Kembang api dan terompet seolah menjadi ritual umum untuk merayakan pergantian tahun. Entah bagaimana asal mulanya. Ada juga yang memilih untuk menyepi ke gunung, namun tempat yang berada di ketinggian (khususnya di Pulau Jawa ini) biasanya sudah penuh orang. Itu yang saya amati di Lembang, area pegunungan di utara Bandung. Ketika beberapa jam sebelum memasuki tahun 2018 kami (saya bersama Faris dan Fatmi, sepasang suami istri sekaligus sahabat masa kuliah) berkendara di kota Bandung dengan santai lalu malah terjebak macet saat kembali ke Lembang. Sebelum berlanjut tentang cerita pada malam tahun baru itu sendiri, saya ingin sedikit refleksi atas apa yang Tuhan berikan selama tahun 2017.
Bulan ini, genap sepuluh bulan saya berstatus sebagai mahasiswi tingkat doktor di kampus pertanian negeri kincir angin. Sejauh ini saya rasa senang sekaligus bimbang. Selama enam bulan pertama penyusunan proposal, para pembimbing bukan hanya mengarahkan rancangan penelitian. Lebih dalam segi filosofi, penelitian ini harus menjadi proses pembentukan diri menjadi seorang ahli. Ahli apa? Itu pertanyaan yang harus saya jawab sembari menyusun proposal penelitian. Selama proses itulah saya merasakan jatuh cinta! Semoga ini bukan hanya perasaan di awal saja, sehingga proses studi sampai tiga tahun ke depan bisa berlangsung menyenangkan. Seorang teman baik yang baru menyelesaikan program doktor awal Desember kemarin mengirim ucapan selamat tahun baru yang diikuti "Hey Titis, keep going! You know it will end one day"
Belum genap setahun status calon doktor sudah diiming-imingi perayaan kelulusan nanti. Bagaimanapun itu, saya ingin terus menikmati setiap langkah dan prosesnya.
Setahun kemarin, banyak kesempatan untuk reuni sekaligus bertemu orang baru. Perkenalan dengan grup baru, teman sekantor di kampus yang menyenangkan untuk diajak berdiskusi mulai dari topik berat seputar sains sampai hadiah bagi yang mendapatkan gelar doktor. Selain kantor, kegiatan di luar kampus juga seru. Konferensi musim panas di Denmark yang mengumpulkan 1000 anak muda dari berbagai bidang untuk memikirkan Sustainable Development Goals telah membuka pintu bersosialisasi dan tukar pikiran. Saya tidak hanya bertemu mereka yang bekerja sebagai akademia. Kesempatan untuk bertemu para pengusaha muda, penulis, jurnalis, blogger, sampai relawan terbuka lebar dalam forum itu. Berkunjung ke Denmark sendiri sudah ingin saya lakukan dengan alasan ingin bertemu teman-teman di Aarhus. Kota terbesar kedua di Denmark itu pernah menjadi rumah bagi saya dua tahun lalu. Satu bulan setelah itu, sebuah konferensi ilmiah di Bonn, Jerman mempertemukan saya dengan kawan lama. Senang bisa bertemu dengan pembimbing penelitian yang saya ikuti di Brazil juga menyambung cerita dengan kolega dari sebuah lembaga penelitian di Nairobi, Kenya. 
Kesekian kalinya, saya kabur dari musim dingin di bumi bagian utara dengan pulang ke Indonesia! Akhir tahun 2017, sebuah agenda besar dalam memulai penelitian menanti. Saya langsung menuju Lembang, lokasi penelitian. Tinggal di pegunungan sungguh membuat hati terasa damai. Persiapan pengambilan data sudah dilakukan. Tahun 2017 ditutup dengan berkeliling dari kandang ke kandang, berkenalan dengan peternak. Pertama kalinya melakukan penelitian di lapang, rasanya seperti memasuki dunia baru. Meski begitu bukan berarti semua berjalan mulus, segala rintangan yang ada sering membuat saya bertanya mengapa memilih terjun dalam topik ini? Dan jawabannya selalu kembali pada sebuah kalimat sederhana yaitu "saya suka".
Inilah mengapa sampai hari terakhir di tahun 2017 pun saya masih berada di Lembang. Agar lebih semarak, saya ajak pasangan Fatmi-Faris ke sana. Niat hati beberapa teman kuliah lainnya juga ingin saya ajak, apa daya belum bisa dalam kesempatan ini. Tidak ada agenda khusus saat liburan akhir tahun. Setiap pagi diawali dengan bangun siang, sarapan yang sudah mendekati makan siang, lalu jajan sampai malam. Begitu siklus berulang sampai tanggal 31 Desember 2017 kami memutuskan turun gunung ke Bandung untuk membeli oleh-oleh. Kami menikmati suasana sore di sekitar Cihampelas dan Trunojoyo yang tidak seperti malam tahun baru. Bahkan cenderung lebih sepi dibandingkan akhir pekan pada umumnya. Sekitar Dago yang biasanaya macet pun kali ini lancar, banyak toko tidak buka sampai malam. Baru ketika jalanan mulai menanjak ke arah Lembang mulai terasa padat. Rupanya banyak orang menuju kawasan wisata tersebut. Untunglah tidak terlalu parah, sehingga kami masih bisa mampir ke warung makan dan tiba di rumah dengan selamat. Menjelang tengah malam, kami bertiga duduk manis di balkon lantai dua untuk menyaksikan kembang api yang dibakar warga sekitar. 
Tahun 2018 ini rasanya tidak jauh dari resolusi agar penelitian berjalan lancar. Satu hal yang ingin saya tingkatkan adalah kemampuan menulis. Karena itu inti dari profesi sebagai peneliti agar bisa menyampaikan hasi temuannya. Berhubung saya sudah mengaku jatuh cinta akan bidang yang ingin didalami ini, tahun ini harus lebih total dalam mencintai. Caranya adalah komitmen penuh untuk memberikan yang terbaik. Saya yakin kesempatan akan banyak berdatangan, semoga sehat jiwa raga ini sehingga mampu untuk menjemputnya.

10 Januari 2018

Senin, 11 September 2017

A Gezellig Morning

It happened a week ago. I called it as one of gezellig moment during my life in The Netherlands. What is gezellig? This word does not has particular translation in English. It is an adjective which describe a cozy or nice atmosphere. In Denmark, Dane say hygge while Dutch say gezelig here. I cannot identify how to mention it in Indonesian.
Let me continue the story about one fine morning! We had pool party to celebrate PhD defense of my colleague. She invited us to her lovely home in North Brabrant, a province in south of this country. The house is a lovely, located in the middle of vast farmland. It has a swimming pool and grazing area for horses. She lives with her family and cute animals (horses, rabbits, chicken, also dog). On gray Friday afternoon, we drove there. Rain had just stopped before sunset. When the air seems welcome autumn soon, the temperature was slowly dropping.
I brought a big backpack to carry my camping gears. We reached the place after the day became dark. The soil was wet. I felt hesitate to camp although some tents have been set up on the camp ground. My intuition said that I want to sleep inside the tent, it is now or never! I thank to my colleague who convinced me to stay and helped me to realize it. Eventually, I made it happen: camping! I was thrilled.
The night passed by. We sat close to bonfire. The real pool party started at 3 a.m when three of my colleagues jumped into the pool. I was happy to stay next to the warmth. They would have a nice sleep afterward for sure. 
On the following morning, I heard the masticating sound. It was not hippo because I was in The Netherlands. In fact, the horses had a breakfast next to my tent. I peeked the morning light. I smelled the grass. I touched dew on grass tips. I stared out those horses who ignored me. As the sun rose brightly, people were awaken. We jumped into the garden house to make a coffee. The nice conversation began. Then we gathered for a brunch under the morning sun. We got quite supply of Vitamin D. I don't remember if I have ever had this feeling before. I noticed that moment, I wanted to stay there, right on that moment.   

Sabtu, 06 Mei 2017

A World History within The Small City

Military Cemetery Grebbeberg

People often ask me which part of The Netherlands where I have been living. I answer Wageningen. Then they are puzzled. They refers to people who do not study agriculture. Usually I will explain further where Wageningen is or simply by saying it is near to Utrecht. If we open Google Map and find Utrecht in the center of the Netherlands, you must zoom in until Wageningen appear. Due to its strategic spot, this small city had a role during World War II. Every May 5th, Dutch celebrates Liberation Day or Bevrijdingsdag. Wageningen is the center of this celebration. I did not expect myself finding amusing history in this city when I arrived three years ago. I underestimated it.
Every time we visit a city in Europe, the center give its first impression. Can you imagine ancient building in the main square with symbolic statues? Whilst, Wageningen city center did not seize me at the first time. Wageningen is so called new city. The centrum rebuilt after massive destruction during World War II (WWII).
I followed public lecture about Dutch history WWII. My interest was welcomed by Studium Generale with a theme “The Role of Student from Wageningen University” (at that moment it was called as Agricultural University) in WWII. The speaker was grandson of former student in Wageningen. He read the diary of his grandfather. This year, I joined a cycling trip with the group of international student. It was organized by staff in Expat Center. We retraced the relics of WWII.
Group of Cycling Trip
The group gathered in Aula of Wageningen University, in front of memorial statue “The Naked John” as a symbol of liberation. Next to Aula, there is Hotel De Wereld. A Liberation Treaty was signed here on May 6th 1945. In fact, the statement of surrender was released by Nazi in Germany on May 4th. On the following day the liberation was celebrated. We passed Torckpark to Memorial of Jewish. There are five statues hand in hand. It represents five Jewish who were killed during Nazi occupation. It was recorded as the fewest number in comparison to other city. During WWII, 50 Jewish people lived in Wageningen, 90% of them survived.
The group cycled to Rhein River. Wageningen is located exactly at the north of the stream. It was a main venue of battle between German and Dutch infanteri. German attacked Wageningen on May 1940. Dutch army built defense line from Wageningen to Amersfoort all along 40 km. The target of German during the attack was holding The Queen as hostage. Fortunately, it was known by Dutch military. There was no civilian killed. Wageningen was successfully evacuated. The Queen and Royal Family moved to UK.  
The trip was meant to Grebbeberg, 4 km to the north of Wageningen. We visited a museum in military cemetery. From the kaleidoscope, we could observe the strategies of defense from Dutch Army. Three defense lines were set: voorpostenlijn, frontlijn, stoplijn to protect Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam. Sadly, the preparation of defense was in a big failure. The phone and radio for communication did not work. Dutch Army built pill box along front line to posit weapon. They expected a head to head battle. German came with different strategies which made them be able to sneak into defense lines. The war was lasted only for 5 days before Dutch surrendered. In the end, more than 400 armies were killed both during the battle or simply after German blockaded the pill box.
Defense Lines by Dutch Army
The trip was closed in the hill of Grebbeberg behind the cemetery. We observed the remains of pill box and trenches. Some discussion emerged. The group shared what happen in the other part of the world during WWII. In Latin America, many refugees from Europe came. In Asia, WWII was an era when Japan colonized eastern to southeast Asia, from China to Indonesia. Till these days,  the memory of war is still fresh. One day before celebration, May 4th there is minute of silence for two minutes on 8 a.m. It is taken seriously in The Netherlands. All the vehicle stop. People send flowers to some monumental spots. The Veteran are still alive. They commemorate the event annually. For them, the memories of war lingers. They remember the cry, the shot, the pain.
Pill Box and Trench
A night before celebration, the picture of war is exhibited in the Wageningen church. The exhibition is accompanied by choir performance. The story of WWII is presented year by year. I stood in front of picture. A destroyed building with the name of Printing Company.
I mumbled “What is Vada?”
A man responded me “It was a printing company. Wageningen was well known as printing company at that time! Now it is all about the university. Are you student?”
“Yes, we are.”
“From Indonesia?”
“I am from South Africa.” a friend of my friend answered

“Aha, interesting!”
“It is nice to learn the history here especially because Indonesia and South Africa are Dutch Colony.”
We had a small talk with him. When he said farewell, my friend told me that he is Mayor of Wageningen. Wow, after all this time!

Kamis, 12 Januari 2017

Menengok Desa Suku Maasai di Kenya

Tarian selamat datang oleh Suku Maasai
Kawanan ternak berjalan lambat sambil merumput di tepi jalan. Di belakangnya seorang penggembala memakai kain berwarna terang menggiring sambil membawa tongkat. Teman satu perjalanan menjelaskan kalau mereka adalah orang Maasai, suku asli yang mendiami wilayah Afrika Timur. Mobil jeep terus melaju melewati jalan berbatu ke Taman Nasional Maasai Mara di Narok County, bagian selatan Kenya. Selain safari, seperti tujuan kebanyakan turis yang berkunjung ke Afrika, saya mendapat bonus mampir ke desa Maasai, tempat tinggal Sang Pemandu.
Pengertian desa Suku Maasai bukanlah suatu wilayah tempat bermukim beberapa rumah tangga yang membentuk satu organisasi kemasyarakatan seperti pada umumnya di Indonesia. Desa bagi orang Maasai adalah area yang ditempati satu keluarga besar terdiri dari satu pria yang telah menikah dengan beberapa istri bersama anak-anaknya. Mereka juga tidak memberi nama pada desanya. Pria yang juga ayah pemandu safari itu menjabat sebagai kepala desa dan tentunya kepala keluarga dari sebelas istri.
Desa itu sudah didiami selama dua tahun. Mereka akan berpindah ke area lain setiap delapan atau sepuluh tahun sekali. Satu desa terdiri dari lapangan melingkar yang dikelilingi beberapa rumah untuk setiap istri dan anak-anaknya. Dinding rumah dibangun dari tanah liat yang melapisi kerangka kayu. Di sini para perempuan yang mengerjakan proses pembangunan. Rumah terdiri dari dapur dan ruang makan, dua kamar di mana salah satunya bisa dipakai untuk tamu, serta tempat untuk menyimpan anak ternak yang disapih dari induknya. Total luas bangunan saya kira kurang dari tiga meter persegi. Bertamu ke rumah mereka bagai masuk ke goa, gelap dan pengap karena hanya ada satu jendela di dapur. Mereka sengaja menutup rapat dindingnya untuk menghindari serangan binatang buas. Sumber penerangan di desa itu adalah api, listrik tidak tersedia di setiap rumah.
Salah satu istri sedang memasak chai, yaitu teh dengan campuran susu. Mereka minum chai setelah makan sebanyak dua kali sehari pada pagi dan sore. Tidak ada jadwal makan siang bagi suku Maasai. Makanan mewah mereka adalah campuran darah sapi dan susu yang direbus. Hidup berpindah membuat suku Maasai tidak mengenal budaya bertani. Sumber makanan mereka adalah tanaman yang ditemukan di sekitar desa dan ternak yang digembala. Sekali waktu, ternak dijual untuk membeli kebutuhan lainnya.
Bicara tentang ternak, setiap desa suku Maasai memiliki ratusan hewan terdiri dari sapi, kambing, dan domba. Selama siang hari, para pria pergi mencari padang gembala bagi ternaknya. Rombongan itu akan kembali sebelum hari berganti gelap kemudian ternak disimpan di halaman depan rumah desa. Seringkali para pria harus tinggal di sabana yang jauh dari desa untuk menggembala ternak selama beberapa hari. Ternak adalah simbol kebanggaan dan status sosial bagi suku Maasai. Memelihara ternak berarti menjaga kekayaan keluarga. Jumlah ternak ini juga penting untuk ditunjukkan ketika seorang pria ingin menikahi gadis Maasai. Ada sejumlah ternak yang harus dibayar saat proses meminang  sesuai dengan status sosial sang gadis.
Kunjungan sore itu diakhiri dengan melihat kegiatan para istri membuat kerajinan tangan untuk mendukung perekonomian keluarga. Mereka juga aktif dalam aktivitas keagamaan di gereja. Meski hidup nomaden, suku Maasai tidak melupakan aspek pendidikan untuk generasi mudanya. Tentunya setelah menikah mereka akan pindah dari desa dan memulai kehidupan bersama keluarga kecilnya.
Pada kesempatan lain ketika berkunjung ke Tanzania, saya dipandu lagi oleh orang Maasai. Saya diajak ke desa Maasai yang katanya terbesar di wilayah itu. Terang saja, sampai sana lebih banyak rumah berderet untuk 56 istri dan 137 anak. Sang Kepala Desa itu berusia hampir 50 tahun. Beliau belum memutuskan kapan akan pindah ke tempat lain karena sudah membangun gereja dan sekolah di area itu. Kini tidak semua orang Maasai masih hidup secara nomaden. Banyak dari mereka yang mengadopsi kehidupan menetap serta melihat pentingnya pendidikan. Para pemuda Maasai pun juga berpikir ulang untuk melakukan poligami seiring dengan tuntutan ekonomi.

Jalan raya antar kota di Tanzania dengan latar Gunung Meru