Being home is so good. I’ve missed my kitties and just being in my bed or backyard. It has been a bit challenging to overcome the jet lag. I have now acclimated to being an early riser, which I don’t mind, except that I am sleepy before 9 PM each night.
I am so grateful for all of the friends I made on this trip. I have formed friendships with all of the Rutgers students, whom I will howl like an orangutan to with no shame if I see them on campus. I absolutely plan to visit Indonesia again, because I have so many friends there now too. They reach out to me on a regular basis which is great, because I can keep up with them as they practice their English. There are so many islands and beautiful places to explore there, and I’ll have many guides to assist again with the language that after three weeks I could not get the hang of.
As I have been thinking about my trip and what I gained from the experience, one of the things that stands out to me is the society in general. Walking along the streets in the major cities was difficult due to the holes and jutting sidewalks. It seems as though the infrastructure was set in place and never again maintained or improved. The government does not prioritize aesthetics, functionality or progressiveness, unlike in the U.S. where construction is never ending because something can always be made better. This, to me, relates to a serious problem that I observed- pollution. There was litter in every single location we visited between Borneo and Java, even in the remote forests of Central Kalimantan. It was so sad to me that these people live in such a unique and beautiful place, but they do not strive to keep it that way.
I brought this up to one of my advisors who explained that they do not understand that plastic will not biodegrade over time because it is a relatively new substance to them. This perspective ultimately disgusts me. Western societies wish to modernize the rest of the world, and do so by sharing their technological advancements. What is lacking are the repercussions of those advancements, such as how pollution can negatively affect the environment, something that progressive people should understand from experience but for various reasons chose not to share with their new consumer base.
I think there is a lot of work to be done in Indonesia to encourage their progress but in the right direction. Environmental education should be made a priority in a country where they are still so connected with their environment. The biodiversity of the rainforests of Southeast Asia is one of the most complex in the world, but it could be ruined and wasted if it is not protected.
I feel some comfort in having met so many like-minded people while I was there. I knew that conservation was a global issue before going on this trip. It did startle me, though, how much of the ocean was tainted with garbage already, and how much plastic I found in the middle of the forest, not to mention lining the city streets. I wondered when it started to accumulate, if it was ten years ago, or maybe twenty? I hope to one to see the landscape back in its natural state, and maybe to be a part of the movement to rectify the societal norms that persist there. I did not come away from the trip wanting to be a primatologist, but I do still want to make a difference.