Written July 9th
The last three days have been amazing experience. The first two days were spent in the forest with the assistants following orangutans. The research assistants are men from the village and they follow the orangutans from the time it wakes up to the time it goes to sleep. We joined them for only half a day, spending six hours each day helping them collect behavioral and dietary data. Led by the fearless team of Abuk and Idun, I followed Ekko, the biggest flanged male in the forest. He is estimated to be around 300 pounds! He was very lazy, mostly eating and sleeping all day, but it was amazing to have him above us. An awesome moment was when he got territorial and scared off a rival male by knocking over a massive tree!
Photo credits to my professor Dr. Erin Vogel. (Don’t worry Ekko just has a broken finger, he is usually very well mannered.)
At first it was awkward to be around the assistants because they only spoke Bahasa, but now I enjoy being around them, even if we still can’t communicate well. All the people in Pasir Putih were fun and welcoming, and I was impressed because they are all just really happy people. There was rarely a moment when someone was not laughing.
Today, we helped install three water pumps, the cost of which was covered in our tuition. The men drilled into the ground with a jet of water that was being pumped from the river. It was great to see everyone work together and to see the general skills that everyone had to accomplish whatever tasks were needed around the village. The greatest feeling was now the village had unlimited access to water, and we had a hand in obtaining that for them.
After finishing the water pumps, I was honored to be invited to play volleyball with the village men. They had a sand volleyball court in the village, and after playing with them, I could tell they played a lot. The games were very competitive, but luckily I had enough experience playing volleyball to hold my own. It was amusing that I was valued for my height. Indonesians are on average pretty short, so most of the time I was one of the taller people around, whereas in the US I am barely above the average height.
Tomorrow morning we are leaving Tuanan. I think I will cherish the memories I made here and will miss this place, but not too much, because I also miss modern amenities like hot water and air conditioning. I am excited to get to stay in a hotel and I am looking forward to the next two weeks of this trip.