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

Rabu, 04 Januari 2017

Halo 2017


Setahun kemarin adalah petualangan, diawali oleh matahari terbit di puncak tertinggi gunung Kenya dan ditutup dengan turun gunung Argopuro, Indonesia. Dari satu bagian tropis ke lainnya, dan saya masih ingin terus menjelajah. 
Perayaan pergantian tahun selalu berbeda pada setiap kesempatan. Berada di tanah air, saya ingin menikmati liburan di rumah, karena sejak kuliah di Bogor waktu seperti ini sangat jarang dihabiskan dengan keluarga sendiri. Tahun ini di Ponorogo tidak terdengar hingar bingar kembang api dan panggung musik dari jantung kota. Ada yang mengatakan anggaran sudah habis untuk Grebeg Suro beberapa bulan sebelumnya. Beredar juga kabar kalau kota sepi perayaan karena Bapak Bupati sedang dirawat di rumah sakit. Apapun itu, saya pun tidak terlalu kecewa karena memang hanya ingin di rumah. 
Mari mulai tulisan ini dengan ungkapan syukur karena tahun 2016 begitu banyak kesempatan yang diberikan Allah melalui tangan-tangan tak terduga. Salah satunya adalah kesempatan menyeberang Samudera Atlantik (lagi) untuk melakukan penelitian tesis di Brazil. Banyak pelajaran berharga saya peroleh selama 3 bulan di negeri samba. Tentang kultur bekerja, tentang adaptasi dengan orang baru, bahkan secara tidak sengaja resolusi untuk bisa menambah kemampuan bahasa asing terwujud karena dipaksa belajar Bahasa Portugis. Obrigado Brasil, pela experiencia e as pessoas boas quem eu conheci! (Terima kasih Brazil, atas pengalaman dan orang-orang baik yang saya temui!)
Proses penyelesaian studi S2 memang selalu menjadi klimaks bagi setiap mahasiswa. Saya beruntung dibimbing oleh salah satu ilmuwan terkenal dan ahli di bidangnya. Walaupun belum maksimal dalam menulis, namun pembimbing saya dengan terbuka mengoreksi segala kesalahan. Sebuah proses berharga karena selanjutnya saya putuskan untuk melanjutkan studi ke jenjang S3. Ini keputusan penting yang diambil sesudah berdiskusi dengan orang-orang terdekat juga sholat istikharah tentunya. Allah Maha Mendengar, jadi hati-hati akan apa yang kita pikirkan biarpun selintas ternyata bisa langsung diberikan lho!
Pulang ke Indonesia, hiking mate terhandal: Dimas mengajak naik gunung lagi. Tujuan kali ini adalah Gunung Argopuro dengan jalur terpanjang se-pulau Jawa. Ini sebagai obat kangen akan sensasi mendaki di nusantara. Seperti yang Dimas tulis dalam kartu posnya ketika masih di Dubai, akhirnya keinginan untuk naik gunung bersama terwujud sepulang saya studi. Bersama dua pasukan lain: Dodi dan Fara, kami menghabiskan waktu selama 5 hari 4 malam di antara belantara. Bahagia!
Tahun 2017 dibuka oleh silaturahmi menjelang satu dekade setelah lulus masa putih abu-abu. Hari pertama saya berkumpul bersama teman-teman pecinta alam (GEMPITA). Rumah Ucup berhasil kami acak-acak bersama Tulad, Puji, Afa, Bhirawa yang mengajak istri dan anaknya. Sore itu kami napak tilas tempat diklat di Grape, Madiun. Sempat dzalim juga dengan Ucup dan keluarganya yang belum makan karena menanti kehadiran tamu. Rencana untuk makan siang geser menjadi makan malam bersama. Hari kedua, saya ganti bercengkerama dengan Tegar dan Agil, sahabat sekelas. Kalau sudah ngobrol dengan mereka, topik berat seputar isu ekonomi sosial politik berubah menjadi kocak!
Napak Tilas di Grape

Makan malam bersama sedulur GEMPITA
Hari ketiga, saya sudah meluncur ke Bandung untuk bersiap menuntaskan kewajiban. Setiba di sana, sebuah janji Skype Meeting bersama Rahyang telah disepakati. Ini adalah salah satu langkah untuk mewujudkan misi IAAS Indonesia dalam jangka panjang. Ines, National Director aktif menemui saya di sebuah cafe karena kami sama-sama sedang di Bandung. Kembali bernostalgia selama masa bersama di organisasi lima tahun lalu. Seringkali online meeting menjadi ajang yang ditunggu untuk berdiskusi ataupun sekedar bertukar kabar ringan dengan rekan se-organisasi dari berbagai belahan dunia. Maka, misi untuk IAAS Indonesia ini juga akan menjadi salah satu resolusi 2017.
Semoga tahun ini bisa lebih konsisten dan disiplin dalam menjalankan rencana yang telah ditulis. Ya Allah, mampukan hamba!

Bandung, 4 Januari 2017

Sabtu, 31 Desember 2016

40K Trail of Mount Argopuro



To whom it may concern about trekking guideline to reach the top of Mount Argopuro in East Java, Indonesia,
You would rather read another blog because this post contains the story of four hiking mates (Me, Dimas, Dodi, and Fara) who were careless about all the daily target and timetable. Walking through the longest hiking trek in Java, hereby I resumed the moment that we passed daily.
Day 1.
Long road from Surabaya to Probolinggo by public bus with Dangdut music as a back sound, I felt so familiar! We used motor taxi to Baderan village, the gate of trekking to Mount Argopuro. As suggested by staff of base camp, we took another motor taxi to reach Post 1. We were drenched by rain. Highly skilled rider brought us up hill via stony path. Rarely, I saw normal motorbike in this highland. Most of the vehicles are modified for challenging road. At least, the tire is surrounded by chain to avoid slip. An off road sensation appeared before we started to hike.
The mist welcomed us in Post 1
First day plan was building camp in Mata Air 1. We walked on water stream in misty afternoon. Another group of people was overtaken by us. We praised the moment of meeting people because it could be sparse in that area. Another heavy rain caught us up. We decided to camp because Fara did not find headlamp in her backpack. If other asked where exactly our camp was, we would hardly describe it. 
Passing ditch
Day 2.
Storm shall pass. A bright day showed up after wet night. We started trekking enthusiastically. We did not set target to reach. It was ascending through the ditch and sloppy trek. Fortunately, the weather was very supportive. The sun almost set when we were excited to see vast savannah. We stopped by and built the tent. Day was getting dark. While we prepared dinner, a group of people seemed to arrive. Suddenly we had neighbor who joined our camp. As predicted, it was colder night due to the altitude. If only windy night would freeze us. Luckily it did not happen. It was a mistake when we chose to rest our head in lower position than our feet. Four of us got up at 2 a.m. So we moved over the position to sleep better. 
Sunny breakfast in savannah
Day 3.
Sunny morning, we packed our stuff and had fancy breakfast. Fara cooked soup. She was our master chef. Even fancier, we bought army provision in various flavors. There were also instant drink, biscuit, and snack bar in one pack. Dimas ordered it via online shop. By the time we reduced our meal stock, the trash bag became bulky. I was responsible to carry it. Who guess it would cause a drama just to wrap it on my backpack. Of course, the image of my back was not photogenic anymore!
We spent tranquil lunch in Cikasur. Another savannah view which is popular as land of wildlife. Some people are destined to see peacock (even more puma) around there. Cikasur is also famous as a spot of water lettuce. People said that we are not officially in Cikasur without eating its lettuce. Anyway, without picking any, I tasted lettuce salad with peanut sauce from our neighbor in the previous day. We desired to reach Rawa Embik by the dark. That was optimistic target since none of us had experience about the trek. In fact, we gave up until Cisentor a camping ground above water stream before Rawa Embik. Unexpectedly, the path down hill to Cisentor was a deadly one. We were so grateful to make it before dark.
Cikasur: water body and lettuce
Lunch under the trunk
Day 4.
Although from the blog that we referred was written that it only takes one hour to Rawa Embik from Cisentor, we turned up after two hours. I was keen to greet Edelweis (the eternal flower). Rawa Embik is a  junction of the trek to the top of Mount Argopuro. We insisted to follow a sign board to the left. Meanwhile, other groups picked a path to the right. We were getting closer to the peaks. Three of those are: Puncak Rengganis, Puncak Argopuro, and Puncak Arca. Every hiker shall pass all of the peaks respectively to come down via Bermi village.
Savannah Lonceng is a point where we could put off our big backpack and climbed to Puncak Rengganis. Firstly, we had lunch to refill our energy. A number of pine trees reserved shady shelter. I unpacked hammock and tied the rope over the big stem. Dimas took over the hanging space quickly with warm meal on his hand. He convinced me to sit with him. I had tried to occupy the hammock for two people so I felt secure to jump in. Then we dropped on the ground after five second. Dodi was busy with his lunch, but Fara did not want to lose the moment so she readily captured with her camera. We roared with laughter. In the meantime, Dimas was laying still and I exerted to stand up. I could feel the pain on my right butt. Thank God it did not seriously injure Dimas and I. 
Hanging in Savannah Lonceng
We resisted the cold breeze in the peaks. Puncak Rengganis is the most popular among others. We walked through limestone plateau. White rock mounted the hill. The day was bright. Real peak of Mount Argopuro was located in 3088 meter above sea level. Pines encircle this spot, never unwind. Twilight has emerged when we left Puncak Arca. Together with the mist, an orange light burst in the sky. We witnessed the moment of sunset above the cloud. The view was miraculous. Only God who could paint it. 
Limestone Plateau
We made it!
3088 a.s.l
In the darkness, we descended through Puncak Arca and headed to Taman Hidup, a lake nearby Bermi village. This trip taught us to be realistic. After three hours trekking, we agreed to camp somewhere in the forest. We were hungry but too lame to cook. The night was closed by a warm beverage. We fell asleep right afterward. 
Mesmerizing twilight
Day 5
We were caught by daylight. There was only less than one liter of fresh water to reach next place: Taman Hidup. Gladly, we found water stream after reach last hill that is called Cemoro Limo. It was supposed to be dormant river. The view after open vegetation became monotonous. Big and old tree welcomed us into moss forest. Anyway, the path was sloping thus we did not complain. In the midday, we arrived in Taman Hidup. Although we missed morning view, the foggy lake with hilly background still attracted our sight. Some local people were fishing in the other side of the lake. We owned the tiny and nearly collapsed shed. Yet, it was good spot to take some pictures. 
Taman Hidup Lake
After recharging ourselves with lunch, the downhill trekking was carried on. We couldn’t imagine if we came by opposite trek. The view from Bermi was tiresome. We met some groups who started trekking all the way uphill. Every time we asked the estimation time to reach Bermi, their answer was demotivating. Until Dodi mentioned that we might be closer to base camp after we got in damar forest. We met two beetle hunters when we enjoyed another sunset before passing by vegetable farm. Under the dim light, we recognized plenty of fireflies. We have talked about this shiny bugs on previous night. God really hears what I wished! The view was a rejoice. We spent one night in base camp. Pak Arifin opened the door and invited us to have a rest there. As a supper, we treated ourselves with bakso (a meatball soup) as reward after accomplished the mission.  
 
Damar Forest
Day 6
Surprisingly, we started the day earlier. Our backpack was lighter. Other people who would start to hike arrived in base camp. We were about to leave for breakfast when Dodi reminded me to pack my shoes. Thought that I already put it inside my backpack until I realized that I took the wrong shoes! Oops..
Bermi is village packed by dairy farmer. They collect fresh milk to Argopuro coop and deliver it for PT. Nestle Indonesia. I had short talk with Pak Arifin about dairy farm there. We dropped by the shop as business unit of coop that sells fresh milk. I said farewell to Pak Arifin, he warmly said that he would be happy to wait me come again and work on something for dairy farmer. I would love to do that!     
Fresh milk from Argopuro Coop