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My Growing Obsession: Part 1 - September 1991

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S: Borneo: My Growing Obsession ~ Part 1 September 1991

FC: Borneo | My Growing Obsession | 1991

2: Part 1: The beginning of a love affair It was the summer of 1991. My brother-in-law, David Bonney, his wife Janet and their two sons, Nathan and James, were in Canada enjoying a second furlough after having spent two four-year terms serving the Lord in Indonesia under the auspices of the Canadian Baptist Ministries. Specifically, Dave was a teacher at the Seminari Theologia Kalimantan (STK) located in the city of Pontianak, West Kalimantan (a Province on the island formerly known as Borneo). This Seminary serves the Karepatan Gereja Baptis Indonesia (KGBI - Convention of Indonesian Baptist Churches), training young men and women for Christian ministry . In the early 90s, the Indonesian government required foreign nationals to renew their visas every 10 years and for Dave and his family, the renewal time came due during this furlough and it was necessary for Dave to return to Indonesia to update their visas in order that they would be able to return to Indonesia and serve a third term. Not wishing to travel alone, Dave contacted me and asked if I would like to accompany him. After checking the budget and obtaining the approval of my family, that being my wife Sharon (Janet Bonney's sister) and our two boys, Andrew and David (although at six and two years old respectively they had a somewhat limited input into the decision), I told Dave that I would be thrilled to travel with him and experience first hand what life in that far away land was like. The little I knew of Indonesia had been mostly gleaned from Dave's letters, photos and presentations made at supporting churches during his furlough times. As a family, we had supported Dave and Janet financially and prayerfully but I confess, that it was the family connection, and not a deep theological conviction that prompted our support. Almost all churches that I had visited or attended displayed bulletin boards devoted to missions and, as I would read the profiles of missionaries already in the field or the job descriptions of vacancies needing to be filled, it became clear to me that I did not possess any of the qualifications that were prerequisites. I had no theological degree, I had no experience as a church planter, I had no medical training, I was not a qualified builder, I had no teaching credentials; in other words, whatever talents I might possess, they were not adequate to meet the demands of the foreign mission field. I would eventually come to realise just how ill informed and shortsighted this view was and as you read these remembrances, my hope is that you, first of all, find them interesting, even intriguing but more importantly, if what I have written captures your imagination, you would give some consideration to the possibility of breaking free from the routines of life and devote some of your time and money to pursue a short-term mission opportunity. You will never regret, nor forget, the experience. I am not for a moment suggesting that I am an instant expert or that I have discovered some new and profound concept, for I have since spoken with many people, young and not so young, whose lives were enriched or even reprioritised as a result of their setting aside a small portion of their life to be involved in a works project of some kind in a foreign setting. ********************

3: I was born in Britain and grew up during the 1950s and 1960s. My family was one of modest means and during those formative years the thought of traveling even to France, a mere 22 miles across the English Channel, was as remote a possibility as a trip to Mars. My horizons broadened somewhat following my emigrating to Canada in 1970 and I enjoyed several cross continent vacations revealing a world beyond the confines of the British Isles. Those horizons were about to be broadened yet further as plans were formulated for what would be a most memorable three weeks. As the days went by and the scheduled September departure drew closer, the excitement began to build. Dave would remind me on occasion that once we had arrived in Indonesia, I might succumb to (as he put it) 'sensory overload' - the notion that everything would be so different from what I was used to in Canada that it would be overwhelming at times. But what I also would become acutely aware of were the prejudices that I never realised I had and it was an education for me in the sense of having to reject and correct so many preconceived notions about what would generally be labeled a 'third-world' country - a term that I now consider to be derogatory and misleading. As word of our trip began to filter through the extended family, our 17 year old nephew, Bryce Kraeker, asked if he might join us and, all plans having been finalised, on the evening of Wednesday, September 18th, 1991, we three headed to Mississauga where we would spend the night at the home of longtime friends of Dave prior to catching an early flight at Pearson airport the following morning. | We were well aware that we were embarking on an adventure but we were not expecting that adventure to begin so dramatically outside a Mississauga high-rise on the morning of.....Thursday, September 19th. Dave's friends and our hosts for the Wednesday evening, were Jack and Joyce Hazzard. The Hazzards owned a compact Honda Civic which we all agreed was not well equipped to carry a driver, three other adults, six large suitcases and hand luggage. So Jack had arranged for another friend, with a larger vehicle, to be at the apartment forecourt at 7:00 AM. We three were outside waiting and our ride arrived a few minutes late. We started to haul the suitcases towards his vehicle but in his haste to help had inadvertently locked the doors; the key still in the ignition; the engine running and no duplicate key! So, bring on Jack's Civic! Somehow we managed to shoe-horn everyone and everything into the Honda and roared off leaving a forlorn and beleaguered good Samaritan to the mercy of CAA availability. | Myself, Dave Bonney and Bryce Kraeker about to leave for Mississauga

4: We arrived at Pearson Airport, bid farewell to Jack, checked in and waited for the boarding announcement. At about 9:30 AM we strolled down the gangway and onto a Korean Airlines 747 and were soon on our way to Vancouver. For the most part, the skies were clear as we flew across the prairies and caught glimpses of the first dusting of snow. We began to ponder that whatever weather conditions we might encounter in Indonesia, snow would not be one of them. The prairies eventually gave way to the foothills which gave way to the snowcapped Rockies and as we approached Vancouver the majestic summit of Mount Baker in Washington State rose above all other peaks. Spectacular! Play video Clip 1 | The stopover at Vancouver was brief and we were soon winging our way towards Seoul, South Korea. With our flight being a morning take-off and heading in a westerly direction, we were travelling with the sun and, consequently, enjoyed daylight for the whole 16 hours we were in the air. There was very little to see as most of the flight was over the Pacific Ocean but the occasional oil-tanker would bring out the cameras and binoculars. We arrived in Seoul, somewhat bleary-eyed, at around 5:00 pm local time and, having crossed the International Date-Line, it was now the evening of Friday the 20th, in Korea. We were whisked off to the Swiss Hotel where we would spend the night. The room, the extensive evening Buffet and breakfast the following morning was all courtesy of Korean Airlines. | Bryce, Dave, Jack and Joyce Hazzard and the Honda Civic

5: Saturday September 21st. Our plans were to spend a few days in Singapore then fly to Pontianak on Wednesday. Dave, with his many years of experience in the Far East, cautioned us that "a plan is not a plan until it happens"; an axiom that would later prove to be true. But for now things were nicely progressing according to plan (A, that is!). Following breakfast, we were shuttled back to the Airport to catch a 10:30 am. flight to Singapore which included a brief stop-over in Bangkok, Thailand. We arrived in Singapore at 6:00 pm. local time. Normally, most airports are places one would rather not spend time in as they tend to be noisy, crowded and stress-inducing. Changi Airport, on the other hand was, on this occasion at least, a haven of peace. The decor resembled the lobby of a top of the line hotel and, apart from us, there appeared to be no-one else about. A superlative first impression of Singapore. | Dave had made reservations at the Garden Hotel on Balmoral Rd. We taxied to the hotel and after freshening up, went for a short walk. Singapore is an ultra-modern City-State. It is scrupulously clean (it is illegal to chew gum, as an example) and very orderly due in no small part to the consequences of breaking the law which can be severe by western standards. Punishment, some of it corporal, is a deterrent, it would seem! Sunday, September 22nd: Following a good night's rest and a sustaining breakfast, we walked to Orchard Road, a major shopping area as well as being a centre for some very up-market hotels. It was to one of these hotels that we were heading. | Changi Airport, Singapore

6: The Dynasty (now the Marriott) was 'home' to the Silver Cloud Worship service, a small gathering of Christians who met each Sunday morning on the top floor. We joined them for the service and we were invited to stay for the stand-up lunch that followed. A feature of this Hotel was the magnificent 2-storey tall, hand-carved wooden panels that graced three sides of the reception area. The carvings depicted various aspects of Singapore's history. Apparently, when the hotel was sold to the Marriott chain, the owner had the panels removed. One can only hope that these works of art were preserved and are on display somewhere in Singapore. | Before leaving Canada, Dave had been informed by his colleagues in Pontianak that a large area of West Kalimantan, including the Pontianak area, had been shrouded in smoke for some time. After a rice crop is harvested, the farmers burn off the paddies in preparation for a fresh planting. Pontianak lies on the Equator and there is very little wind. Consequently, the smoke from thousands of square miles of burning rice fields simply hangs in the air. Normally, heavy rains clear away the smoke but the rains had not arrived when expected and the smoke had continued to accumulate for several weeks. What this meant for us was that Pontianak Airport was effectively shut down as it was only capable of accommodating visual flight arrivals and departures. | The Dynasty Hotel (foreground left)

7: Each evening that we were in Singapore, Dave would contact Pontianak to update the situation. We three had agreed that if conditions had not changed for the better by Sunday evening, we would need to implement Plan B (remember?....a plan is not a plan... etc..). Having now reached that deadline, we needed to make a decision. We spent some time in prayer asking the Lord for wisdom and began to consider what our options were. Once again, we were thankful for Dave's knowledge as Bryce and I had no inkling how we would have got to Pontianak were we traveling on our own. The option that seemed most feasible would require us to fly into Kuching, Malaysia and travel overland to Pontianak. Malaysia is a nation split geographically in two. One part lies at the base of the Thailand Peninsular with Singapore located off the very southern tip; the other half of Malaysia is on the northern part of Borneo. Kuching is located on the Borneo half of Malaysia. From Kuching we would bus to the Malaysia-Indonesia border and switch to a second bus which would transport us to Pontianak. This option, however, did present a snag. Pontianak Airport is a Port of Entry and thus visitor visas can be issued by Immigration to travelers as they enter the country. The border crossing at Entikong where we would be entering Indonesia is a Point of Entry and the border officials have no authority to issue visas. This was a key issue, of course, in whether Plan B would be successful. Monday, September 23rd: After breakfast, we spent a short time in prayer before embarking on the necessary re-arrangements that we were compelled to make. The first order of business would be to taxi to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore to obtain our visas. Next we would bus to the Garuda Airlines office (the national Airline of Indonesia - our original carrier for the flight into Pontianak) and obtain a refund of our tickets. Then head over to the Malaysian Airlines office and hope that we could get a Tuesday flight into Kuching and finally relax during what would be left of Monday. It looked good on paper but we were rather surprised to discover that the Indonesian Embassy does not issue visas 'while you wait' and we were required to surrender our Passports. This put our faith to the test and we left the building with some reservations. But we had asked the Lord for His help and we continued on with the rest of our 'to do' list with confidence. We had no difficulty obtaining a refund from Garuda and similarly had no difficulty booking a Tuesday afternoon flight to Kuching. Since this was all accomplished before the morning was over, we had a relaxing lunch and made plans to spend the rest of the day on Sentosa Island, one of Singapore's major tourist attractions. We jumped aboard a Singapore subway system train and made our way down to the World Trade Centre where we boarded a cable car that would carry us high above the harbour and onto Sentosa Island. There is much to do and see on Sentosa and for me the most interesting, yet sobering time was at Fort Siloso. The multi media exhibits that were located throughout the Fort showed the brutality of war and man's inhumanity to man. In contrast, Underwater World was the antidote to the disturbing memories of Fort Siloso. Now, fairly common this method of viewing ocean life by being transported through a "tunnel" surrounded by a giant aquarium was something of a novelty in the early 90s. Our day on Sentosa ended with a grand display by the computer-controlled, floodlit. "Waltzing Waters".

8: Tuesday, September 24: The first order of business this Tuesday morning was to return to the Indonesian Embassy where, to our relief, the passports were ready with the required visas. This allowed us time to shop for items that may not be as readily available in Pontianak. We then taxied to Changi airport, boarded a Malaysian Airlines 737 for a 1 hour and 10 minute flight to Kuching. Our accommodation for the night was the Hotel Borneo. After checking in, we went for an evening stroll, which included purchasing tickets for the bus ride to Entikong. Hotel Borneo - Kuching, Malaysia

9: Wednesday, September 25: When we had checked into the hotel the previous evening, it was clear that the hotel was undergoing a facelift and the lobby was in the middle of extensive renovations with some disruption to a number of services. What we didn't realise until this Wednesday morning, was that the work appeared to have affected the availability of water for the shower. With the prospect of an 11 hour bus ride, with a full contingent of passengers and virtually no air conditioning, and with temperatures and humidity both hovering in the 90s, we had hoped to be able to freshen up before boarding the bus. Unfortunately, the shower had the power and volume of a leaky faucet, and so as we climbed into the taxi that would take us to the bus terminal, we were already beginning to perspire uncomfortably. Our perspiring took a quantum leap when, just after pulling away from the hotel, the taxi driver calmly informed us that he didn't know the location of the terminal. Fortunately, Dave's wisdom and previous experiences gained while living in this part of the world had prompted a sixth sense, leading him to obtain some basic directions from the hotel desk clerk. And so we were able to arrive in time to load up our luggage and board the bus. As much as we would have preferred to have flown into Pontianak, the bus ride would at least allow us to enjoy the countryside, the villages and towns and, in some small way, begin to get a feel for the Indonesian people, our fellow passengers. | We arrived at the Entikong Gateway border crossing, where we vacated the Malaysian bus and gathered our luggage. Before joining the lineup at the customs inspection booth, Dave wanted to notify the Malaysian police that we were leaving the country. That formality taken care of, we joined the lineup at the inspection booth. Dave then realised that he had left his briefcase at the police office and went back to retrieve it. Bryce and I moved out of the inspection lineup expecting Dave to be back very shortly. For whatever reason (we would soon find out the reason), Dave had not returned by the time that all the passengers, save for Bryce, Dave and myself, had been processed through customs inspection. The bus was ready to depart and the customs officials were now beckoning us to approach the inspection booth.

10: At some point between Toronto and Singapore, one of my suitcases had developed a rip and it had been shrink-wrapped at Singapore airport. As I lifted this suitcase onto the inspection table, the customs official made a gesture that I understood to mean that he wanted me to open the suitcase. I began to frantically tear at the plastic wrap with little success. The official made the same gesture twice more and appeared to be getting a little frustrated with me. It suddenly occurred to me that he was simply urging me to get to the bus. Dave finally returned with his briefcase, passed through inspection and after making sure our luggage was secure on the bus roof, we climbed aboard and found our seats. As soon as we were underway, Bryce and I were eager to know why it had taken so long for Dave to pick up his briefcase and come back to the inspection booth. Dave explained that he had remembered leaving the case by the entrance to the office when he first went there to inform of our leaving Malaysia but upon realising that he had not picked it up when leaving the office, returned to find that it was no longer where he had left it, rather it was now residing behind the police officer's desk. As this office was manned only by this one policeman, it was clear who had moved the case. What was also clear was that the officer had every intention of keeping it. The moment he noticed that we had left without it, he could have got our attention by blowing a whistle or some other means but he chose to keep the briefcase. There is a powerful principle, particularly in the Eastern cultures, that is pre-eminent in social and professional interaction; that being “saving face” or avoiding “loss of face”. One commentator has made the following observation: “In some instances, protecting against loss of face becomes so central an issue that it swamps the importance of the tangible issues at stake.” The tangible issue here was that a police officer had compromised himself by being willing to keep someone else’s property rather than make an attempt to return it to the rightful owner. Here was a man whose responsibility was to uphold the law but who was now guilty of breaking it. So how does a foreign tourist react in a situation such as this? Does he confront the police officer with his guilt? Does he threaten a police officer? Does he attempt to bribe the police officer? -- unfortunately that is on occasion the solution. Dave had to muster all his cultural expertise to defuse what could have become a volatile situation. Dave retrieved his briefcase and spared the police officer’s “face” by commending and thanking the officer for protecting his property until Dave came back to retrieve it. As I pondered this particular incident, and also considering the difficulty I had had in understanding the customs officer during the baggage inspection, I realised that through ignorance of both the language and the cultural imperatives that define Eastern societies, a foreigner could easily offend even where there is no intention to do so. I was relieved that neither Bryce nor I were directly involved in the briefcase incident as we could have found ourselves in serious difficulty were we to offend, in this particular case, an individual with influence and authority. But, as circumstances would have it, this would not be the only occasion at which Dave was called upon to mediate a satisfactory outcome in circumstances involving a difficult to persuade police officer....and, on that occasion, I was the focus of attention. But for now, we were relieved to at last be in Indonesia and, despite the disruptions of the previous days, we would be arriving in Pontianak on the day that Dave had originally planned.

11: We were about 2/3 into the 11 hours that it would take to travel from Kuching to Pontianak and we were approaching the town of Ngabang and a scheduled stop for lunch. Indonesians are generally more slightly built than North Americans and the design and size of bus seats reflect that physical difference. Not wishing to crowd out the passenger with whom I was sharing a double seat, what remained for me to sit on was, in essence, a 3/4 seat with a metal edging that became rather uncomfortable as we journeyed along. Consequently, when we stopped for lunch my relief was twofold; satisfying hunger pangs and restoring circulation to a particular portion of the anatomy. | Dave at the Indonesian Customs at Entikong We reached Pontianak during the early evening and the bus driver dropped us off directly outside STK, where we were met by Dave's colleague, Dennis Kirkley and a gentleman by the name of Kalam. After the welcomes and introductions, we were driven to Dave's home where we met Dennis' wife Janet, Larry and Marj Thompson and Hantje and Merry, who were house-sitting while the Bonneys were in Canada. Dave, Bryce and I spent a few minutes unpacking and examining our luggage since it had taken a bit of a beating through 12,000 miles of air travel and 11 hours on the top of two buses. We then sat down to enjoy a splendid meal prepared by Merry. A full stomach, a long bus ride and a comfortable chair to relax in began to take its toll on the eyelids and I found myself struggling to keep those eyelids open.

12: Our route from Kuching to Pontianak

13: Merry, Dave, myself, Larry, Dennis, Marj, Janet, Hantje enjoying our Wednesday evening meal

14: Thursday, September 26th: Following a restful sleep, we were confronted for the first time with the 'Bak Mandi'. Mandi is the Indonesian word for bathing; Bak is a bathtub-like enclosure in which water is stored. The chief difference between the Bak and the bath-tub is that you do not climb into the water, the water comes out to you, so to speak. This would be my first real practical 'culture shock' experience. Western bath rooms are designed specifically to prevent water from running all over the floor (tub enclosures, shower curtains etc.), whereas Indonesian bathrooms are designed for the very opposite. The mandi process involves filling a jug (similar to the orange one seen in the picture below) with water and pouring the water over oneself. After soaping up, the rinse off repeats the exercise. Despite having all this explained to me, the innate reluctance to slosh water about the place with abandon meant my first efforts were rather tentative. Mandi-ing several times a day, however, because of the climate, certainly helps toward becoming comfortable with the routine. On this, our first full day in Pontianak, we would attend the morning chapel at STK and offer greetings to the staff and students as well as share a brief testimony. Before that, however, we would drive the Thompson family to the canal where their speedboat was moored. The Thompson's ministry was in the town of Tayan, a 6-hour car ride from Pontianak but only a 3-hour trip by boat along the Kapuas River. Play video Clip 2 After bidding the Thompsons farewell, we headed to STK. For Bryce and I, this would be our first experience at speaking at length through an interpreter (Dave assuming that role). To do so requires concentration, brevity and concise thoughts. Another of those obstacles to overcome when in a foreign land. Following our attendance at Chapel, we ventured out into the streets, and traffic, of Pontianak and I began to understand what Dave meant when he forewarned us that we might experience "sensory overload". The noise, the smells, the garbage, the general state of disrepair of just about everything including buildings, roads, sidewalks etc. and the sheer numbers of people, all was in sharp contrast to what we were accustomed to in Canada. But there was also a vibrancy to the city; an energy that caused us to see past the squalor and see a people who were resourceful and industrious. We spent some time meandering through the market that lay across the road from STK. Vast quantities of fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat and fish of all varieties were available; all of which would have been picked, dug up, caught and then set up in the early hours of the morning. No marketing boards here; no government hygiene standards; no nanny state protectionism, no Orwellian Big Brother dependence on government it seemed. Let the buyer beware! Similarly, let the driver beware appeared to be the only rule that applied to the never-ending flow of traffic. Being so used to the regimented, regulated, legislated rules of the road in Canada, seeing what appeared to be a chaotic free-for-all was a fascination.

15: PONTIANAK the canal where the Tompsons moor their speedboat

16: There seemed to be no structure in how the people drove except for the one underlying, unwritten rule: that rule being what we in Canada would call "defensive driving". It was as if a sixth sense led each driver to expect the unexpected. If driver A cut-off driver B, driver B gives way. If driver C, on the wrong side of the road, is heading toward driver D, driver D moves over to let driver C pass. And it seems to work. The Bonney Guest Home on Gang Surya Nila Another astonishing sight (to this safety propagandised Canadian) was to see four and, occasionally, five family members shoe-horned onto a motorcycle, the engine likely no larger than 125cc. Dad would be at the helm with the oldest child straddling the gas tank. Mom occupying the passenger seat with one or even two smaller children perched on her lap. It was comforting to know that some degree of safety consciousness had indeed reached Indonesia as Dad would be wearing a helmet. Larry Thompson once remarked to me that city drivers 'tend' to drive on the left. Another observer compared Pontianak traffic to the flowing moves of a shoal of fish. Both observations were correct! STK has a balcony that overlooked Jalan Gajah Mada which was a perfect vantage point to observe and video what for me became something of a 'spectator sport'. See if you agree! Play video Clip 3

17: PONTIANAK the homes and canal that runs alongside STK

18: Friday, September 27th We continued to enjoy the sights and sounds and smells (although some of the latter not being quite so enjoyable) of Pontianak which this day included walking across one of the bridges that span the Kapuas River. We found the river to be almost as busy as the city roads. There were many types of water craft using the river ranging from large ferries, houseboats speedboats and the ubiquitous sampan; the latter often filled almost to the point of sinking with various kinds of cargo. Sampans were often used as river taxis especially for transporting schoolchildren to and from their homes. And in Indonesia where there is flowing water there are homes lining the bank whether it be the half-mile wide Kapuas or a remote jungle river. | During the weeks of preparation prior to our leaving Canada, I had often considered what my reaction would be to the contrasts that clearly exist between living conditions in Pontianak and those in Canada. Would I find the lack of hygiene offensive? Would I be overly cautious regarding what I eat or drink? Would I not be cautious enough, and spend most of the holiday in the bathroom (and not just for the purposes of mandi-ing). Would I have the correct anti-malaria medication? And so on, and so on! After these first two days (and for the balance of our time in Indonesia), the only issue that was a constant frustration was my inability to understand and speak the language. It was an on-going annoyance to me that I could not say the simplest things without having to call upon someone to translate for me. It stifled spontaneity and was a real hindrance to developing relationships with the many wonderful Indonesian people we met. The sense of isolation that results from not understanding a language would, for me, reach its peak this particular evening. Two couples whom we had not yet met had been invited to join Hantje and Merry, the Kirkleys and we three, for a little get-together at Dave's home. The new folk were Hengky and Vera, and Muntu and Anna who also were staff members at STK. This was for Bryce and me, the first real occasion at which casual conversation flowed - all, of course in Indonesian. Occasionally, we would be drawn into the proceedings when one of the Indonesians wanted to ask a question about Canada. One of these occasions stands out. | STK in the 1980s

19: Hengky and Dave were sitting across the room from me chatting to one another. Dave suddenly turned to me to say that Hengky wanted to ask me a question. In order to try to describe the dynamics that were part of this question and answer, I am going to be quite specific and detailed regarding not only what the question was, how it was asked and answered but also the body language (which unlike spoken language, seems to be universal) because it is pertinent to my trying to explain just what an impediment to relationship the language barrier is. So, Dave has just informed me that I am to be asked a question. Hengky looks at me, speaks and, because I don't understand what is being asked, Hengky receives from me a completely blank expression (which makes me feel uncomfortable because it gives the appearance that I am ignoring Hengky). Dave takes over and tells me that Hengky wants to know how often we eat rice in Canada. Hmmm! My immediate thought was why didn't Hengky simply ask Dave (he being Canadian). But, never-the-less, it was me who was asked and so both Hengky and Dave now look to me for the answer. "Two or three times a month", I reply. That answer elicits from Hengky a look as equally blank as the one he received from me. Hengky then turns to face Dave who proceeds to tell Hengky what my answer was. As Dave now gives my answer in Indonesian, I notice Hengky's eyes begin to widen as he slowly turns back to face me with what I can only describe as a look of both disbelief, yet at the same time, pity. I knew rice was important to Indonesians, but I didn't grasp at that time just how important. Indonesians will feel that they haven't eaten if rice is not included in the meal, regardless of how many other items of food may be served. I attributed the look of disbelief on Hengky's face to the fact that he knew how affluent Canadians are and, thus, ought to be able to have an abundance of rice at every meal-time. The look of pity, I felt, was Hengky's expression of concern for me that, despite that affluence, I should be so deprived of the very essence of life. As much as I was amused by Hengky's response to my answer, the whole process was cumbersome and awkward and I had wished that I could have been able to clarify further rather than just offering that abrupt six word answer. Saturday, September 28th: If Pontianak had been a cultural eye-opener, the coming weekend would be even more so. Dave had been invited to participate in a dedication ceremony of a new church building in one of the interior villages. The name of the village was Bandang. To reach Bandang required a 3 hour car ride to the town of Pahauman (a town we passed through on the bus from Entikong) followed by 2 hour walk into Bandang. Before setting out on the walk in, we had lunch at a roadside cafe in Pahauman. After lunch, Dave, Bryce, Dennis Kirkley, Hengky and myself began the trek into Bandang. We saw first-hand evidence of the burn off that continued to pump smoke into the air. Play video Clip 4

20: The pastor of the church in Bandang was Kalam, who had met us off the bus on the Wednesday afternoon of our arrival inn Pontianak. Kalam had been a long-time mentor of Dave and it was a privilege for us to be guests at his home for the weekend. Dave had told me how much he had learned from Kalam, particularly regarding village culture. Kalam was a very reserved man and with a busy weekend schedule plus, of course, the language issue, I had little opportunity to really get to know him. | However, about 3 months after we returned to Canada, I received a letter from Indonesia which I assumed was an update from the Indonesian child that I was sponsoring through World Vision. However, on closer inspection, I was humbled and thrilled to discover the letter was from Pak (Mr.) Kalam. I immediately re-mailed it to Dave for translation and from then until Pak Kalam became disabled as a result of a severe stroke in 2001, we corresponded regularly. But I am getting ahead of myself. Dave paying for lunch at the Pahauman cafe

21: The “road” to Bandang Having arrived in Bandang, we set up our bedding. Then, after the long hike in, we were eager to mandi. Having already mentioned the difficulty I experienced with regard to creating a virtual lake on the bathroom floor in Dave's home; there was no such difficulty in Bandang, primarily because no home possessed a bak. My difficulty was of an entirely different nature and it was one of several occasions over the weekend when my wimpish, western attitudes were put to the test. In Bandang, mandi-ing was conducted in a small pond about 100 metres or so from Pak Kalam's house and as it was dark by the time we went down to the pond, my fear had nothing to do with wet floors, rather it was more the possibility of the presence of some sinister, tropical creature lurking along the bottom. The next test of my constitution following immediately after the mandi (which I survived without incident) was the supper meal. While I wish to describe my feelings and impressions truthfully regarding the food in the village, I do so with a sense of shame. When I saw the meal laid out in bowls on the floor (few homes have tables or chairs), I was not looking forward to eating any of it, other than perhaps the rice. The pork looked to be about 20% meat and 80% gristle and the vegetables looked equally unappetizing. However, I was pleasantly surprised once I had overcome my prejudices and actually enjoyed the meal. I needed to be reminded (which Dave thankfully did) that a significant part of what little money they had would have been spent on this one meal especially prepared for us. I had to remind myself that I had come to Indonesia to experience Indonesian life not to have my western ways catered to.

22: a scene repeated innumerable times throughout West Kalimantan causing the shutdown of Pontianak Airport

23: a fresh planting of rice

24: On our way to the evening mandi ~ at the Youth meeting Following the meal, we walked to the church where we were to be guests at the youth meeting. As guests, we were seated at the front of the church facing the young people who were sitting on the benches. Once again, my ignorance of the language made it difficult to appreciate what was being said or sung. I became distracted when I noticed a small kitten had wandered in carrying something in its mouth. The kitten released the "something" and I saw that it was an insect, about the size of a praying mantis. The unfortunate creature, in its attempts to get away from its captor, was playing into the hands, or rather paws, of the kitten which was enjoying a rather one-sided contest as it sparred with the mantis. It appeared to me that I was the only one watching this drama being played out. This "cat and mantis" game continued for several minutes with the insect gradually succumbing to its assailant. But, without warning, the mantis, suddenly mustering up all its remaining strength, scurried rapidly across the floor heading towards a group of young boys sitting on the front bench. For a moment I thought I was watching synchronised gymnastics as every child on that front bench instantly, and in unison, drew their legs up and on to the bench as the mantis buzzed by with the kitten in hot pursuit. I would later find out that the insect was capable of inflicting a very painful bite. This explained the reaction of the children. What it didn't explain was why not a single person had thought of applying a well-placed shoe to a critter which was well-known by everyone present of being capable of inflicting such a harmful bite.

25: Among the older youth were two young ladies who were to become key people in my future visits to Indonesia, although at this time I had no reason to think that I would ever return to Indonesia. These two young ladies are identified by the white dots below their feet.

26: Sunday, September 29th: I awoke around 5:00 am. and as no-one else was stirring, I decided to take a walk in the jungle that surrounded Pak Kalam's home. Armed with my video camera I was able to capture the sights and sounds of the early morning. This close to the Equator, dawn happens quickly and within twenty minutes total darkness had become light (the opposite happens in the evening - there is virtually no twilight) and when I returned to the house all the weekend visitors were ready to head off to the morning mandi. Play video Clip 5 This was a significant day in the life of the believers in Bandang. We were to witness a double celebration, important enough to have local dignitaries participate in the formalities. The opening ceremonies were scheduled to begin at 9:00 AM. A member of the military was present as was a local government official. We waited for a third invitee who never arrived and the proceedings finally began at around 10:00 AM.

27: The celebration was twofold. Firstly, the new building was being dedicated. Secondly, the status of the Church was being elevated from that of a "preaching point" to becoming an autonomous congregation with its own leadership board and Pak Kalam as the pastor. The introductions concluded, the military officer was invited to unveil the new sign and the government official was then asked to perform the ribbon cutting. Dave was offered the privilege of being first through the door. The guests and the congregation then took their seats and we settled in for the service that would last almost 3 hours. You will note that the young lady holding the scissors for the ribbon-cutting is one of the two referred to on the previous page.

29: The two teen-age ladies who were indicated earlier are seen sitting together during the service

30: Pastor (Pendeta) Kalam new Leadership Team Refreshing hot tea Lunch being served

32: It was interesting to note that whereas the evening before at the youth meeting we had been seated at the front of the church, we now were close to the front but along the side wall; our status having been subordinated by the presence of the two officials. Because of the length of the service, one of the young ladies I have made particular reference to along with one of the young men brought hot tea as a refreshment for all the guests. As much as we enjoyed the thirst quenching beverage, every cup of hot tea partaken of in the midst of the Borneo jungle inside a building with no air movement produces about 3 cups of perspiration and by the end of the service we looked as if we had mandi-ed fully clothed. We enjoyed a hearty lunch at the home of one of the church elders. In addition to rice, there were dishes of pork, various vegetables and noodles. | The military gentlemen was offered a dish containing a different meat than the rest of us. Dave told me that it was chicken. I asked why the gentleman was offered the chicken rather than pork and was told that he was a Muslim. Indonesia is recognised as primarily a Muslim nation and I was astonished that a Muslim man would be invited and agree to participate in a Christian celebration. There seemed to me an irony in as much as were such a request to be made in Canada, despite the nation having formally adopted multiculturalism and the recognition and tolerance of all faiths and cultures, it would be considered preposterous if not downright offensive. Clearly, Political correctness had not infected this part of Indonesia to this point.

35: Lunch concluded, we were anxious to bid farewell to our hosts as we needed to get back to Pahauman, pick up the van that we had parked Saturday morning, and proceed to Tayan to reconnect with the Thompsons. But before heading back to Pahauman, Dave wanted to take us to a bridge that he had crossed many times. However, protocol dictated that until the guest of honour was ready to leave all other guests were bound to remain. Practically, this meant that we would have to wait for the two gentlemen to leave before we would be able to do so. To do otherwise would be culturally inappropriate and could reflect badly on the hosts. Eventually, though we were able to depart and make our way to the bridge. Getting to this bridge meant walking in the opposite direction to that which would take us back to Pahauman so there was a sense of urgency as it would now take us over two hours to get back to the van. Play video Clip 6 | Monday, September 30th: It was close to midnight when we arrived at the Thompson’s home in Tayan and we went straight to bed. In the morning, we were introduced to Dennis and Judy Shierman who were colleagues of Larry and Marj. After breakfast, we walked down to the river to view the brand new Baptis boat. This boat had been built specifically to do river ministry along the Kapuas and Tayan rivers since there were few roads in this part of West Kalimantan. Later in the day we would enjoy an hour's ride on the Baptis, but first, we needed to notify the local police of our presence in Tayan. The office was across the river and we rented a sampan taxi to take us there. Play video Clip 7 We entered the office and Bryce, Larry and myself sat on a bench while Dave began to speak with the police officer. Upon our arrival in Pontianak, we were advised to leave our passports in a lock-box at STK for safe keeping.

36: We were carrying photocopies of the pertinent pages which Dave handed to the officer. The officer appeared a little unsure of the legitimacy of the photocopies at first but eventually was convinced and handed them back to Dave. I was expecting at that point we would be free to leave. But, no - the officer and Dave continued to converse for several minutes. I had no idea what the two men were talking about but, due to the hushed tone of voice and the frequent nods and smiles, I assumed the officer was making casual conversation about why we were in Tayan or some such neutral topic. But suddenly, Larry leaned forward and putting his head into his hands, said, in a distinctly frustrated tone: "I don't believe this is happening!" | My pulse rate rose an order of magnitude since it was clear from Larry's tone of voice that the nods and smiles were distinctly not an indication that all was going well. Larry then joined the conversation and the three men continued to talk for several more minutes. Finally the officer allowed us to leave and we quickly found a sampan taxi and headed back across the river. It appeared that the officer had had no issues regarding the photocopied documents. What he did have a problem with, however, was that I had no permit for my video camera and he wanted to confiscate it. Apparently, at some point during the conversation the officer had made mention of the fact that he had the authority to put me in gaol - a consummation devoutly not to be wished, I would surmise. What eventually secured our release was that the officer knew Larry and his reputation and good standing within the community and he and Dave were ultimately able to persuade the officer that I would not be using the camera for any subversive activities. | Ready to board the “Baptis” for its maiden voyage

38: When I think back on this close call and the earlier border-crossing briefcase incident that Dave was involved in, it became very clear to me how easily a traveller could get into difficulty with the authorities in all innocence particularly in the more remote areas such as we were visiting. And I reminded myself that there is no convenient Canadian Consulate to call on in an emergency in such places as Bandang or Tayan. Having escaped the clutches of the law, I became more cautious about using the video camera but I wasn't about to cease using it altogether. This being the 'trip of a lifetime', I wanted to "immortalise" as many of our unique experiences as possible. This day would add to our list of "firsts" and permit or no permit they were going on tape. The sampan crossing was one of those "firsts". Another would be the hour-long test run of the Baptis and towards evening we would spend two hours or so heading deep into the Borneo jungle via the Tayan River courtesy of Larry's speedboat. Play video Clips 8 and 9 enjoying fresh coconut milk

40: Tuesday, October 1st: We packed and prepared for our return to Pontianak. We three plus the six members of the Thompson family piled into the van and we began the drive back to the city. But there would be more interesting things to see and do along the way. We reached Pahauman around the noon hour and took time out to have lunch at the same roadside cafe that we had eaten at before our walk into Bandang. After lunch we took a detour to a village named Saham. A major feature of this village was the Longhouse. The Longhouse was, and to some degree still is, the traditional way of living for the indigenous Dayak people. This particular longhouse was over 180 years old and stretched for close to 200 metres. Although it was open for tourists to explore, it was not a replica or reconstruction but was a living community. Typically, the longhouse is built on stilts and to enter the structure requires climbing a ladder at the top of which is an uncovered platform running the whole length of the building. That leads to the covered section; the first part of which is a common corridor, also running the length of the building. The third section comprises the individual family apartments. Play video Clip 10 | Our next stop was at the town of Mandor. Nearby are a number of mass graves containing the remains of over 21,000 Indonesians murdered during the Second World War. Incredibly, this atrocity only came to light in 1971. One man devoted his time to constructing a memorial which consists of a series of carved depictions of the torture and murder that took place. Once again, we were minded of the barbarism that occurred during the mid-1940s. In complete contrast were the scenes along the road as we approached Pontianak. For a part of this stretch of road, a canal runs alongside and, this being late afternoon, there was much activity. Children were swimming in the canal, moms were bathing their infants, others were doing their laundry; ordinary people going about their daily routines and generally enjoying life. It remains one of my favourite memories. Play video Clip 11

41: Wednesday, October 2nd: My home in Canada is about a 15 minute car ride from Niagara Falls and living that close to something that for the rest of the world is an absolute "must see", the old adage that 'familiarity breeds contempt' tends to cause one to forget the attraction that it holds for visitors. During the seven days we had been in Indonesia we had driven by the Equator Monument eight times without stopping to take time to do the "tourist" thing of stepping from the northern hemisphere into the southern hemisphere (doing this in a vehicle does not carry the same significance). I have straddled the east-west divide at Greenwich in London, England as well as doing push-ups with each limb in a different US State at the "4 Corners" (i.e. Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico). So to complete this geographic trilogy we made a point of visiting the newly built enclosure that housed the original monument. A giant-sized replica topped the building. | The balance of our time in Indonesia included several social functions, one being the celebrating of Bryce's 18th birthday on the 4th (actual date was the 6th, but we would be in Singapore by then), another, the 10th anniversary of the Kirkley's ministry in Indonesia. We also took time out to spend an hour at Pasir Panjang (Long Beach) swimming in the South China Sea.

42: Pasir Panjang Beach As the time for our departure drew near, there was still uncertainty over how we would leave Indonesia. The smoke had not cleared to any degree and we were confronted with several options. Originally, we were booked to depart Pontianak Airport by Garuda Air for Singapore around 4:00 pm. on Saturday 5th. We would spend the night at a Singapore YMCA, and fly out of Singapore at 11:30 Sunday night. However, if there were a likelihood that there would be no flights out of Pontianak, one option would be to take the bus back to Kuching (including the border crossing at Entikong), find accommodation for the night in Kuching. The following day would require us to locate the Garuda Airlines office to obtain a refund, get to the Malaysian Airlines office to book a flight to Singapore and hope to be able have all these re-arrangements concluded in time to allow us to arrive in Singapore and still make that Sunday night flight.

44: This itinerary would require us to leave Pontianak a day early (on the Friday). Alternatively, if we chose to trust that our Saturday flight out of Pontianak would be on schedule and were wrong, we would still be obliged to do the Kuching-by-bus option. This, however, would guarantee our missing the Sunday flight out of Singapore. This dilemma was bad enough but it would be made further stress-inducing by the fact that, since Dave had other business to conduct in Pontianak, he had planned to remain in the city after Bryce and I had left. So all these undesirable options would have to be conducted without the help of Dave's expertise. Thus we were driven to option three - prayer. The Lord had answered our prayers getting us to Indonesia; He had protected us from, injury, malaria carrying mosquitoes and sickness ("village gut" as Dave referred to it), so we were confident that whatever way we would have to take to get home, He would see to it that we did so. We finally plumped for staying to the original schedule and so, around 3:00 pm on Saturday 5th., we were heading to Pontianak Airport still not certain that we would be leaving that afternoon. When we arrived, we could see fires burning within 100 metres of the runway which were not helping the already poor visibility. We were standing outside the terminal building along with a number of other hopeful passengers. We then heard the sound of a plane approaching but for several seconds could not see the landing lights. Suddenly, there they were! But the plane seemed too high to be attempting a landing. We thought for a moment that the pilot may abort and head back to Singapore. But at that moment, and with no other explanation than God having intervened, the smoke cleared sufficiently for the plane to touch down. We hurried into the terminal building, obtained our boarding passes, quickly boarded the plane and breathed an enormous sigh of relief as the plane roared down the runway on its way to Singapore. I believe that this flight was the only one that was able to get in and out of Pontianak that day. The Lord was gracious! Well, that almost concludes the journal of my first trip to Indonesia. At the time, as I have already alluded to, I expected it to be my one and only time there and gave no real thought toward ever returning. However, nine years later, the opportunity to return did present itself but an oversight on my part and a technological glitch conspired to have this 1991 trip remain a once-in-a-lifetime excursion (up to that point at least). More of that later! Earlier I posted video clips of the city traffic from an observer's perspective. I want to close with another video sampling of the traffic but this time from a participant's perspective as it were. I want you to note, in particular, the final image of the family of four on the motor cycle. In some respect that picture sums up much of what I have come to love about Indonesia. First of all, the beautiful smiles of both mom and older son. Indonesians are a happy people. Secondly, the potential for serious injury to the whole family were that bike involved in an accident yet, at the same time, that carefree attitude seen in those broad smiles. Third, the liberty to live with that element of risk and the personal responsibility one has to assume - no Nanny state sponsored attempts to eliminate all risks from life (and the inherent dangers of such a false ideal). Play video Clip 12 *****************

45: Dave's colleagues in West Kalimantan during the 1980s and 1990s Dave, Judy and Dennis Shierman, Marj and Larry Thompson

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  • By: Bob T.
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About This Mixbook

  • Title: My Growing Obsession: Part 1 - September 1991
  • A record of a 1991 vacation in West Kalmantan (Borneo), Indonesia
  • Tags: borneo, kalimantan, asia
  • Started: about 5 years ago
  • Updated: almost 2 years ago

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