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New Year 2019 & Winter Excursion Itinerary

Selamat Ulang Tahun! Happy New Year!

We had originally imagined that on December 31st, 2018 we would all be huddled together around a beach bonfire in a small corner of southeastern Sulawesi ringing in the New Year with stories and starlight. That isn’t what happened. On December 29th, the day the group was set to leave Yogyakarta for our winter excursion, Garuda Airlines informed us that they had cancelled all flights for a leg of our trip and had rescheduled our group’s travel for January 2nd. Not many people like their much-anticipated plans to be foiled by circumstances outside of their control, but as the Yiddish proverb simply puts “Man plans, God laughs”. There was no amount of micromanaging that could change the situation. All we could do was sit back and hope that whatever caused the flight cancellations in the first place would be resolved and that our date of departure wouldn’t be pushed back further. Of course, there is always more than one way to travel to a place – either by foot, road, or boat – but we had chosen the most luxurious airline in Indonesia and the most direct route possible. Maybe we had one more lesson to learn in 2018 and these circumstances were revealing it to us. Could it be that we put too much emphasis on the destination, as wonderful a destination as it is, rather than the journey, and now our patience was being tested?

Over the next few days we spent more unanticipated time – a gift! – with our Ibus and Bapaks, who will miss us over the next few weeks. We were able to reunite with Christine, who just returned from an unanticipated surgery in Singapore, and spend time reflecting on the end of our year and start dreaming about the future. We had a few extra days to connect with our loved ones back home while we’re still in internet range. We also got to make last minute preparations, because it turns out that some of us would have forgotten important things behind if we had left on the 29th.

Instead of having a New Year’s Eve huddled around a bonfire on a beach, we huddled around a grill with corncobs in hand at Ashley’s house, where her family graciously volunteered to host everyone. We participated in a Spanish tradition, orchestrated by Alex, where we ate one grape each second, for 12 seconds, to count down the arrival of 2019 (we really only have 6 grapes, but they were BIG grapes). We still told stories but we traded starlight for fireworks set off by the neighborhood chocolate factory.

Now that January 2nd is here, our winter excursion has finally begun! Our group is currently heading towards Sampela, a Bajau community located in Southeast Sulawesi in the province of Wakitobi. Here we will be hosted under the tutelage of our local hosts Andar and Saipa. Staying in stilt houses built over the water, we will have the opportunity to join members of the community and our families in their daily fishing practices, harvesting of coral and sea cucumbers, visits to the nearby market, and daily activities. We will learn firsthand about the unique worldview and lifestyle of the Bajau and their deep-rooted and inextricable connection to the ocean, and how that lifestyle connects to their centuries old practices of Islam. We will have the opportunity to critically examine and discuss important issues surrounding environmental and cultural conservation.

If this sounds interesting to you, there is a wonderful resource HERE where you can learn more about this particular Bajau community, the issues facing them, and the necessity of protecting cultural diversity if biodiversity is to be protected. The Film “Our Land is the Sea” is a collaboration between our esteemed friends Andar, Saipa, Kelli, and Matt and it would mean a lot to our group if you checked out this wonderful film and their work being done to encourage discussion about some of the most pressing issues facing communities across the globe. Our group’s hope is that it will stimulate thought for you as much as it did for us, and perhaps even inspire action.

Below is the itinerary for our Winter Excursion and subsequent trip to Singapore to renew our Indonesian visas. Please be aware that internet connection will be sparse unless we are on the mainland.

January 2

Travel from Yogyakarta to Makassar

Fly from Yogyakarta at 8:10 pm. Arrive in Makassar at 11:10 pm. Spend the night at the airport hotel.

January 3

Travel from Makassar to Sampela

Fly from Makassar to Kendari (9:25 – 10:30 am). Fly from Kendari to Wanci Wanci (11:20 – 12:10 pm). Take a boat from Wangi Wangi to Sampela. Meet the community and settle into our homestay for the evening.

January 4 – January 9

Homestays in Sampela

January 10 

Travel from Sampela to Bira

Take an early morning boat from Sampela to Wangi Wangi. Fly from Wangi Wangi to Baubau (12:40 – 1:40 pm). From from Baubau to Makassar (3:30 – 4:40 pm). Drive 6 hours from Makassar to Bira. Arrive at Cosmos Bungalow for the evening.

January 11 – 13

Mid-course retreat at Cosmos Bungalow in Bira

January 14

Travel from Makassar to Singapore

Drive from Bira to Makassar. Fly from Makassar to Jakarta (3:15-4:35 pm). Fly from Jakarta to Singapore (6:15 – 9:05 pm). Settle into our hostel in Singapore’s Chinatown.

January 15 

Get new Indonesian visas. Explore Singapore.

January 16 

Travel Singapore to Yogyakarta (11:10 am – 12:30 pm)