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Chapas: Notes on the Journey

posted in: 2010, Indonesia - No Comments

I still can’t decide if I should be impressed or appalled by the Mozambican public transportation system. The vehicles themselves are called chapas (pronounced “shop-ahs”) and as a whole, they resemble a somewhat decrepit fleet of white metal boxes on wheels. Door handles are frequently missing, seatbelts are non-existent, and I’ve never seen a front windshield without at least three large cracks across it. The chapas all congregate at the paragem, which is similar to a bus stop. Each chapa has a specific destination, but none of them have any sort of schedule. They line up along a block in the center of town and wait for passengers to come fill them up.  Once the chapa is filled with passengers, it leaves. Until then, you just climb in, sit down, and hope that other people are travelling to the same place you are. In a large town like Maxixe, chapas usually fill up in 20-40 minutes, depending on the time of day. However, in smaller rural areas, you can wait for hours before the chapa fills up, and if no one else is interested in leaving town that day, you won’t be either. Try again tomorrow.

The paragem itself is a hub of activity. Parked vehicles filled with waiting passengers are a great market for local street vendors. All kinds of delicious street snacks are there to tempt you: grilled corn on the cob, fried dough balls, fish on a stick, roasted cashews, and hard boiled eggs served with a side of salt, to name just a few. One of the best parts of the paragem is that everything will come right to you. If you happen to be craving a packet of Nik-Naks (a Cheetos-type snack), but the nearest kid is only selling bananas, you just have mention the word “Nik-Naks” and literally within seconds he has managed to sound off the Nik-Nak alarm and three kids will show up at your chapa with Nik-Naks in tow. READ MORE

A Bittersweet Homecoming

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-ImamwithGKA joint reflection by Gretchen and Kerr [Ed. note: this post was written in the days immediately following the bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 17.]

The past 72 hours have been a whirlwind. Thursday lunchtime had us delivering our final presentation to the IRD and SERASI staff; this thirty-minute PowerPoint had people laughing at Kerr’s dancing skills, and listening to not only our adventures over the last 8 weeks but also our contributions and confidence in these development and peace building programs. By 4pm we were leaving the office, kissing and hugging our colleagues and our friends, and by ten o’clock that evening we were on the plane headed back to the United States. We were feeling excited about our return but also a little sad to leave Indonesia since our internship had been such a great experience. READ MORE

Good Intentions. . .

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-community meetingBefore I left IRD Headquarters weeks ago for my journey to Indonesia, I was given the plans for latrines to be constructed through the IRD Watsan project in Yogyakarta. The project is part of a larger regional effort for which IRD is serving as a subcontractor responsible for several sub-villages south of Yogya. Each sub-village was to work with IRD to construct their four mandi (traditional Indonesian squat toilet) latrines and exterior water supply valves to serve the sub-village’s water needs. READ MORE

Gender Roles: Differences between the US and Indonesia

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-Gretchen'sIndoKiWith my time in Indonesia coming to a close, I’ve been thinking about my return to the United States and all of the things I will and will not miss about Indonesia. When I arrive back in the US, I’m not sure how I will respond to lunches that cost more than $3; I have grown quite accustomed to the rice, noodles, fish, and fried chicken all with so much flavor at such a small cost. I will also miss the Muslim call to prayer that is blasted through the still hours of the morning and evening. Though I do not understand a word of this call to prayer, and it occasionally wakes me at 4 a.m., it has been a faithful reminder for me to thank the creator for all of the wonderful gifts and graces I have in my life. And of course, I will miss all of the people I have come to know and love; in offices and cities all over Indonesia I can confidently say I not only have colleagues but also friends. READ MORE

Gender and Peace Workshop, Another Forum for Communication

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-GVESuccess Story2Last week, I was amazed and inspired by the effectiveness of reporting centers and safe spaces for communication between families, and this week is no different. I continue to be impressed with the discussion and problem solving around community issues, in this case gender inequality and injustices.

I was fortunate to attend a “Gender and Peace Training” facilitated by three organizations from the Palu area, YAMMI (Indonesia Civil Society Foundation), SHK (Community Forestry System) and Yayasan Bone Bula (White Sand Foundation). These three groups set out to map the District of Donggala for causes of potential conflict. A few of their findings include competition for access to and control of natural resources, inadequate data about ethnic groups in this area, and policies that are not gender inclusive. From the participatory community mapping, YAMMI, SHK and Bone Bula realized that community members’ understanding and knowledge of gender was less sophisticated than they assumed, so the “Gender and Peace” training was adjusted to address the community members’ specific needs. READ MORE

The B Factor

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-Palu Program StaffWhen I first arrived in Indonesia, I was warned that in certain places I would feel like a rock-star. Children would call out to me, “Hey Mister!” and others would ask to take my picture. I was told that I would generally be the center of attention most places I went. I listened to the warning and thanked the messenger, but then I quickly dismissed it. Why would anyone want to take my picture? What could possibly make me interesting to strangers on the street? At that time, I could not have imagined being on stage at a televised dangdut concert three weeks later. (Dangdut is a type of Indonesian music heavily inspired by music from India.) I had no idea how real the warning of rock-star treatment was actually going to be! READ MORE


posted in: 2009, Indonesia - 1 Comment

Kerr Ramsay and Gretchen Van Ess outside the SERASI office

Kerr Ramsay and Gretchen Van Ess outside the SERASI office

The people of Indonesia are some of the kindest and warmest that I’ve met anywhere in all of my travels. They live in a country full of diversity, life and beauty. This overwhelming kindness and natural beauty make it hard to believe that our work for the last two weeks in Central Sulawesi with SERASI has focused on conflict mitigation in the aftermath of devastating religious conflicts over the last ten years. Much of the conflict in this region occurred around the city of Poso. For many years Poso was a peaceful city located on the Tomini Bay whose residents were almost evenly split between Christian and Muslim. Although there are a variety of stories from the locals about why the conflict started, the results of the conflict have left the most lasting impression.

Driving through Poso there are still entire neighborhoods where only the charred foundations remain of houses once occupied by their Christian owners. READ MORE

Communication is essential and believe it or not…decreases violence.

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-GVEsuccess story1A
It seems like the topic of conversation this week has been communication. All of the Candler interns are realizing the difficulties associated with not understanding the native language. As an intern plopped in a foreign country or as a refugee seeking a new life and livelihood in a neighboring country or island, each has difficulties with communication. Kerr and I have run into roadblocks in communication when trying to speak with our Indonesia colleagues, ordering food, and even expressing ideas to each other. Yesterday afternoon as I chatted with three women about their IRD sponsored project, I realized that good communication not only helps you express ideas and order the right food, but that communication can be a tool for decreasing violence.

For the past 6 years KPKP-ST, a local group advocating for women’s equality in Central Sulawesi, has been working on mitigating violence against women in the Poso district. They have hosted hundreds of community discussions allowing women to articulate their concerns and together formulate solutions. The women of KPKP-ST recognized the importance of communication in problem solving, especially in an area recovering from conflict. I can’t imagine a more constructive way to ease tension, communicating and understanding one another’s views, opinions and beliefs.

Over the last three months KPKP-ST has been disseminating information in more than 30 villages to increase awareness and skills in reporting cases of violence against women and children. KPKP-ST has also opened more than 30 Village Information and Reporting Centers for Victims of Violence against Women and Children. These homes, voluntarily offered by members of the community, serve as safe locations for female victims to receive both legal and communal support following cases of domestic violence. In the few short months this program has been running, KPKP-ST staff has seen a decrease in domestic violence and family fighting in the Poso District. With the program comes an increase in community knowledge and increased family conversation, so there is more protection and awareness.

IND-GVEsuccess story1BAlong with being a safe house, these village reporting centers are heavily used as a resource by both women and men to discuss household concerns. Community members feel comfortable using the centers’ volunteers as mediators, assisting families with issues of communication, child rearing, and increased stress and tension. Community members even refer their friends and neighbors to the center, claiming it is an excellent recourse and place for families. These centers are being utilized by community members as a preventative measure, offering families a place to communicate long before domestic violence occurs.

As I was returning from the visit yesterday, I was reflecting on the impact and success of these reporting centers. Originally designed as a place for women to find assistance in reporting cases of violence, these homes are being used before physical violence transpires. Can you imagine what our communities in America would be like if we had village centers offering free guidance and mediation in household spats? How much better would men, women and children communicate with one another if they were freely given tools and examples of positive communication styles? Would our domestic violence shelters be empty if from the first point of tension, stress or anger, people were given a safe and unbiased forum to discuss their thoughts and concerns? Colossians 4:6 reads “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” I wonder how our churches and zillion small groups could help facilitate this process, communicating, truly listening, and responding to one another.

Simple communication is decreasing violence against women in Central Sulawesi, and I think this method could and probably should be replicated in our own communities.

Selamat Sore, Good Day!

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

So I haven’t had internet access in about a week and a half so it is time I caught you all up on two amazing weeks in Central Sulawesi.

Lake Poso

Lake Poso

We are working for a group called SERASI, under the supervision of IRD and USAID. In Indonesian this word, Serasi, means harmony and that is exactly what they are promoting. They are trying to mitigate conflict in hot spots in Indonesia, and Central Sulawesi was one of these places nearly ten years ago. Two towns, Poso and Tentena, are where the majority of the violence happened between 1998 and 2004. There were several reasons for this violence including religious tension, inter-ethnic tension and corruption in—or just complete lack of—government. There was a lot of fighting, entire villages were burned down, political and religious leaders were targeted and killed, and eventually the two towns became segregated. The violence is gone now but the towns are still split; Poso is predominately Muslim and Tentena Christian. SERASI is working on projects in both communities, and several surrounding districts, to reinforce and continue to build peace. READ MORE

Greetings from Indonesia

posted in: 2009, Indonesia (Tags: ) - No Comments

Sunset in Jakarta, Indonesia

Salam, friends and family—

Well, I’ve been on the other side of the world for a week now and figure it’s time for an update. We spent our first week in Jakarta working at the IRD Indonesia headquarters. We were welcomed with warm greetings, our own desks, and a welcome lunch. The first week at the office, Kerr and I attended a few meetings, read articles about internally displaced people and learned several new phrases in Indonesian. I can now greet people at any time of the day, ask about prices in the market and maybe give directions. Kerr has mastered the numbers and is now officially in charge of exchanging money and making appointments.

Before I left for Indonesia, when I was researching online, I somehow missed READ MORE