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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Electronics and a whole lot of ocean to drop them in…

As you pack, you’re probably wondering which of your gadgets and gizmos you can take with you on this adventure. We’ll give you some more details on that here. You’ll also find some notes about ATM cards and power converters.

Please do not bring…

  • Cell phones, computers, tablets, I-pod touches, or any other personal electronic whose main purpose is web browsing. Even if you use your cell phone as a camera, we ask that you seek an alternative.
  • If you bring any of these devices, we’ll ask you to turn it in to us, and it will be returned to you at the end of the program. We will do our best to care for any device we hold for you, but we’ll be traveling across an enormous country loss or damage will be your responsibility.
  • Note that students will have access to a group computer and can use the Internet to email home and post Yaks to stay in touch wherever Internet is available. Instructors will also have personal phones for staying in contact with the Dragons office.

Feel free to bring…

  • MP3 players (such as iPod Minis), cameras, and Kindles or other E-readers not designed for web browsing (such as Kindle Fires).
  • Everyone needs their alone and comfort time, and we love reading and music too! Still, these items do have the potential to disengage us from where we are and what we’re doing. It’s important to push ourselves to stay in the here and now, especially at those moments that feel difficult but have much to offer us if we engage fully in them. Because of this we’ll ask that you use electronics like these only at appropriate times, such as on long train/bus rides or right before bed. When deciding what to bring—whether electronics or other things—we ask you to consider how they may affect your ability to engage fully and how well you can keep these items from being broken or lost.

For a lot of people on this planet having constant access to phone and the Internet has become the norm. Because of that, we want to explain why we have these policies and how they help the trip.

  • Safety: Over the years we have accumulated data that shows that students who are in touch with home too frequently tend to report health issues, especially seemingly embarrassing ones such as diarrhea, to parents rather than to instructors. One of the ways we keep students safe is to normalize frequent, direct communication between students and instructors, and we have found that this technology policy helps prevent breakdowns in that communication.
  • Homesickness: Another thing we’ve learned running courses for so long is that students who feel homesick continue to feel homesick when they stay in close contact with friends and family at home. On the other hand, those students who push themselves to leave home behind and engage in the course feel less homesick. That said, we don’t ever want to prevent students from checking in with loved ones, and we will help students learn how and when to do this appropriately during the course.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: We will be traveling to places where people get by with few, if any, luxury goods. Before you even interact with people here, they will have a perception about you based on how you look and where you come from. When you have lots of expensive stuff or are lost behind a screen, those perceptions become reinforced; when you are available to interact and when what you own becomes less important than how you behave, those perceptions are enriched and complicated. As travelers, we strive to interact with others directly in order to know them and their societies better, and we can offer similar lessons to others by being mindful of how we as foreigners present ourselves. In addition, we’d like to cultivate a group that focuses on things beyond material possessions. Less stuff helps us to do this.
  • Theft and Damage: We don’t want your stuff to get broken or stolen! So if you’re bringing things that won’t survive getting rained on during a hike or being mashed underneath other peoples’ bags, know what you’re getting into. Also, pick pocketing can happen. Another consideration–what is the effect on the local community when something of ours is lost or stolen? Especially for rural host communities, even losing while a guest in someone else’s home can be embarrassing for the entire host community and might even prevent that community from hosting future groups.
  • Engagement in Your Experience: One of the biggest reasons to leave electronics at home is that having fewer of these buzzing, beeping, notifying, messaging, attention-dividing things in our life allows us the mental quietness we need to engage ourselves, others, and the places we pass through in profound interaction. When we have less, the essentials are easier to locate.

We spend so much time explaining our electronics policy because we understand that this is new and possibly difficult as an individual and as a family, and we want you to be on board with the goals of such a policy. We want you to see why we ask you to leave these things behind. It truly is for the benefit of the student, your tripmates, the instructors, our host communities, and your loved ones back at home. Leaving home at home will allow you to be fully engaged in.

Other electronic related notes

  • Of Plugs and Sockets: You’ll need a way to charge your cameras and MP3 players. Indonesia runs on 230 volts with a variety of plug types. The most common are types C, A, and G, none of which are used in the U.S., meaning you’ll need an adapter or will need to get one once here. Universal adapters are often available in REI, online, and at many airports in Asia. An adapter will help your plug physically fit into a different shaped socket. Power converters, on the other hand, change the voltage of the socket to one that won’t harm your electronics. You should be aware that most electronics will automatically do this, and so you won’t need a separate converter for most electronics. If you need to find out more, you can visit whatplug.info or other such sites. We anticipate having frequent access to power outlets for most of the course, but do be aware that more remote homestays may not have reliable electricity, so bringing a spare battery for your camera is a good idea.
  • Credit Cards/Debit Cards/Cash: Indonesia is a cash economy, so you won’t be able to use debit or credit cards to make direct purchases at most stores, but rather will get cash from ATMs and then use that. Most debit and credit cards will work at the ATMs of major banks, and we will plan in time for such errands. It’s not a bad idea to bring two cards, maybe one debit card for regular use and a credit card authorized to extract money at ATMs in case you lose one of your cards early on. Please have all the bank information you need to cancel the card in case you lose the card. Remember also to call up your bank and tell them you will be traveling with the card and accessing money from Indonesia (this is often referred to as putting a travel flag on your card).
  • Q: Should I bring cash and convert it to Indonesian currency?
    A: It’s a good idea to have some of your local currency for backup even if you are bringing a bank card.

We hope this helps answer and clarify electronics related questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out if anything is unclear. Keep checking the Yak board, and keep posting those those intros on the Yak board!

Your Instructors,
-Rita, Luke, Olivia