Dear Students and Families,
We’re excited to present our tentative itinerary for this fall. Even as we write this, the instructor team is still chatting about the benefit of option A over option B, checking hotel availability, monitoring the weather, etc. That is to say, expect this itinerary to change. Traveling as a relatively small group allows us flexibility to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and to encourage students to follow their interests and take increasing control over what we do and how. Moreover, as you will soon learn, travel in Indonesia is not an exact science. In fact, Indonesians often refer to “jam karet” which literally translates to “rubber time.” Plan for moments where we will take it slow and embrace a different way of looking at travel—one that leaves room for missed ferries and delayed trains and the new friends we will make because time was just a little more rubbery.
First 10 days: Program Orientation at Ketambe (North Sumatra)
The group will fly into Jakarta and then hop on another plane to the city of Medan in North Sumatra. After our first night there, we’ll travel up and over the knobby volcanic backbone of Sumatra to Gunung Leuser National Park, settling in at the sleepy village of Ketambe. Here we’ll stay at a guesthouse next to the Alas River, where monkeys frequent the trees in the evenings, and the sound of the rushing water is drowned by the shrill call of the cicada at night. During this time, we’ll set individual intentions for the months to come, learn how to stay safe and healthy emotionally and physically, get to know each other and begin to come together as a group, and begin interacting with Indonesia both by learning some basic geography, history, culture, and language and by having our first interactions with locals.
At the end of orientation, we will head into the surrounding park for a multi-day jungle trek. Gunung Leuser is one of the only places on Earth where you can find orangutans in the wild, and we’ll search for a glimpse of red in the canopy while exploring the biodiversity and topics such as deforestation and other threats to the rainforest. If we’re lucky, long tailed macaques and black gibbons will grace us with their company in the evenings.
Weeks 2-4: Yogyakarta (Jogja)
After flying back to Java from Medan, our group will settle into our first home-stay, which will be in Jogja, the cultural and artistic heart of Indonesia’s most populous island. Home to many universities, including the oldest in Indonesia and the country’s premiere art institute, there is no place better to experience Javanese art, culture, and society. Gamelan music, Javanese dance, shadow puppet theatre, batik fabric dyeing, and other traditional arts and handicrafts continue to be practiced here as they have been for centuries.
While living with local families and exploring an Independent Study Project (ISP) with local mentors, we will also help you build your ability to have unmediated interactions with locals on this trip through intensive Indonesian language study. We will also plan lessons and activities to explore the complexities of religion, politics, history, identity, community, and the environment. We will also venture outside the city for on short excursions. By the middle of October, we will be bidding farewell to our new communities and preparing to see what, in the days of the Dutch colony, were known as the “outer islands.”
Weeks 5-7: Langa Village (Bajawa area, Flores Island)
We will be traveling to the far reaches of Flores and Sulawesi in search of cultural exchange with two very different communities living in very different ecosystems. We will travel by sea, by land, and by air as we traverse this vast archipelago, and you all will have the opportunity to put your language, planning, and navigational skills to use as you take more responsibility for our travels.
We’ll first head to Flores—a forested volcanic island in the province of East Nusa Tenggara. The island is home to incredible ecological and cultural diversity. Unlike in Java, the majority of people in Flores are Christian owing to colonial Portuguese influences. Communities once isolated by the rugged landscape came to speak a variety of languages that still exist in Flores today. We will live with host families in Langa, a remote village in the island’s central highlands. We will take day treks through the bamboo forests, and learn about the daily life and culture in small farming communities. Langa is also famous for its coffee, lucky for us!
Week 8-9: Student Expedition Phase
In the second week of November the group will head to Kuala Lumpur to switch visas. When we return, you will be on for a student-led section of the trip (fondly known as X-phase). This will be a culmination of much of what you’ve learned thus far and an opportunity to take responsibility for your education in a new way. The group will choose a location, organize travel, and make all arrangements go to a new corner of Indonesia. We’ll start talking about this exciting time during our Jogja home stay.
Week 10-11: Sampela Village (Wakatobi area, Sulawesi Island)
After the X-Phase, we’ll head to Wakatobi National Marine Park in the province of Southeast Sulawesi. Consisting of 5,400 square miles of sea, islands, and coral reefs, the park is one of Indonesia’s best attempts to protect its incredible marine habitats. The park is home to several communities of the Bajau (sometimes referred to in English as “sea nomads”), who traditionally lived their lives on boats. Once we arrive in Wakatobi, we will take boats to Sampela, a Bajau community outside the island of Kaledupa. Here we will be hosted by Andar and his wife, Saipa. Staying with host families in simple stilt houses built over the water, we will have the opportunity to join the community’s routine of fishing, harvesting sea cucumbers, and visiting the nearby market. We will learn firsthand about the unique lifestyle of the Bajau and their deep-rooted and inextricable connection to the ocean, and how that influences their unique approach to Islam. We will snorkel over the rainbow-colored reefs, learn about reef and mangrove ecology, and examine marine conservation issues. Our life at sea is sure to be punctuated by numerous dance parties with Bajau children, hours of porch sitting with our families in the noon day sun, strolls along the boardwalks, and star gazing at night.
Week 12: Transference
In the final days of the program we will bring the group tightly together for transference, which is something like orientation in reverse. We will focus our attention honoring one another, ourselves, and the people and places that illuminated in us and in the world places hitherto unknown. These days are a chance to reflect, synthesize, and celebrate our journey.
Location to be determined…