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.
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.
Our first 3 days in Palu were awesome. We met the team of grant officers and managers and in less than half a day were already at work. In our first afternoon we were given a grant application that had been written in English, and we helped edit it not only for its English but also its clarity in presenting the program. The folks we are working with speak English very well, but it is amazing how verbs and indefinite articles do not translate. In our second and third day at the office, we continued to refine this grant and another. Both have been sent to Jakarta for final revision and then will be sent to USAID for approval. Not sure how much I can say about these grants, but one was using radio, and the other utilizing the youth’s musical talent to promote peace.
On Wednesday morning we discovered that bright and early on Thursday morning, we were heading on a “field trip.” The SERASI office planned a 9-day site visit into the field to meet with people to socialize this grant process and follow up with potential partners. Hearing this described as a “field trip” took Kerr and me back to our elementary school days of museum visits and days off from school. Kerr and I couldn’t help but chuckle at the unknown meaning behind their term.
They were right about the early part, but I’m not sure we were all that bright at 5:30 in the morning when we set out on our field trip. It took nearly 7 hours in the car and what felt like all day in transit to arrive at our destination, Tentena. We spent four days there meeting with more than 15 potential partners, all with very unique ideas about how to promote inter-religious and inter-ethnic peace, increase people’s livelihoods and their capacity and knowledge. I really loved this town; everyone was very welcoming and in every meeting we were offered coffee and tea and special homemade desserts. We sat on people’s floors and chatted with them in their environment. It was great. We were also fortunate that the “hotel” was on a huge lake, so each day we sat on the porch and worked on the computer with a great breeze and beautiful scenery.
We then headed to Poso, where we met with about a dozen folks who are also proposing projects. Since Poso is a bigger city, the hustle and bustle was obvious, and this city has a different feel. Many people fled from Poso during the conflict, and there are several remaining visual memories of the violence. Some areas of town are totally vacant and others are still burnt out and haven’t yet been revitalized. Local people are hopeful about sustaining peace and promoting integration of different ethnic and religious groups.
Don’t worry, we didn’t work non-stop for 9 days; we took Sunday as our day off for fun in the sun. First we headed to an AMAZING waterfall. We hiked up to the 7th terrace of the waterfall and couldn’t fathom that there were 5 more terraces farther upstream. I’m including a photo of Kerr and me under one of the falls. After eating rice and bananas at the waterfall, we headed to a private beach on Lake Poso. This lake is so huge that at one point while we were driving I mistook it for the ocean. We sat in the sand for several hours and before we retired for the evening we watched a beautiful sunset.
Our final stop on our “field trip” was Parigi, a town that runs along the ocean and is the hub of travel between all the regions of Sulawesi. During the conflict, Parigi was a buffer zone, assuring the conflict didn’t spread to other regions of Sulawesi, but at the same time occasionally acted as a harbor for combatants. Peace-building work is needed not only in the towns of Poso and Tentena but also in towns like Parigi that were affected indirectly. Since Parigi is a coastal town, our meetings were all held on the deck/restaurant right on the ocean. I have attached a photo of the beautiful sunset from our meeting spot.
It is now Friday morning and we have arrived safely back to Palu, after our adventures in the field. I am tired, but so glad I had the opportunity to see towns affected by the violence and meet people devoting every effort to maintaining peace. After work today Kerr and I are headed to the beach for the weekend. We are hoping to just relax, do some snorkeling and may even do an intro scuba dive lesson. Hope you are all doing well.
Talk to you soon. Grace and Peace ~ Gretchen