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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

First Encounters with the Water

For the first two days we were getting settled into camp. We set up chore groups, put up shade tarps to protect against the surprisingly hot weather, and helped the wonderful cooks prepare the food. We are also learning about proper techniques for large-scale dishwashing (the most common chore in our rotation): rinse, scrub, sanitize!

The food so far has been amazing; for example, I just finished up a chicken salad with a brilliant rice dish. For lunch yesterday, we had pizza and popsicles, which really helped with the hot weather we’ve been experiencing. One of the best parts of yesterday was a trip into the mountains roughly 3000 feet higher than camp. At 10,000 feet above sea level, the air was much cooler, and the wind there felt amazing after a hot car ride.

After a short hike, we reached a clearing, before stopping to begin a journal entry about home. Our entries focused on what home meant to us, the feeling of being safe there, and especially what it feels like to lose it. Soon after that, it began to rain, and we carried on to a lake a few miles away after the drizzle stopped. We set up at a nearby beach and did a “polar bear plunge” into the freezing water. One minute you were calm, warm, and dry, and the next you were hyperventilating and scrambling up the rocks back to warm safety. We got a rush of endorphins each time we jumped in, and many of us jumped in a few more times afterwards.

It was the first day where the sun didn’t beat down on us for the entirety of the day, and the overcast skies felt great. On top of that, there was a rainbow following a short rain shower, which looked amazing as the clouds slowly ran over the mountains in the distance.

Friday was a pretty calm day, except for the thunderstorm that rolled in around 2 in the afternoon and soaked the parched land (and more than one of our tents!). We met our Nüümü hosts today. They shared their personal stories, the stories of how their tribes were driven off their homelands through forced starvation and gunpoint, stories about the land and the water and what it means to their people who have lived here for over 15,000 years. Following that, our hosts took us to a nearby river roughly a 10-20 minute hike away. The mountain-cold water felt great, especially after a hike.

Overall, we’re doing great, and many of us are starting to settle into camp life. Our Nüümü hosts are both friendly and shed a great deal of light on some gaps in our knowledge. We plan on going on an excursion tomorrow, and I’m excited to get off camp again.