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Differences

It has been a week since I arrived here in Palangkaraya. This is the city where I spend most of my time living out here in Indonesia.

I’ve been out to visit the forest camp a couple of times as well. A few things are different out here:

1. Commute to work – hitching a ride on the back of a moped or a tiny minibus (‘bemo’) followed by klotok (long thin boat) along the river, followed by five minute walk along single plank boardwalks into camp.

2. Meals – noodles sometimes make a change from rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gado gado, peanut sauce, is amazing!

3. Wildlife – lying in bed in camp at night or sitting in the forest it’s possible to access something that Gordon Hempton calls quiet. Not quite the absence of sound, but rather the lack of human noise and the gentle hum of nature. It’s like being immersed in a scene from an Attenborough documentary with the whistles and rhythms of tree frogs, singing gibbons and mysterious birds coming from all directions. I saw my first ever primate a few days ago too – an agile gibbon which swang through the canopy above us with a pendulum like motion.

4. Falling over – a great deal of significance and pride are attached to both falling over and not falling over. It’s the wet season and walking in the forest either involves walking along wet, slippy, polished down single planks of wood above the water, or wading through the water and the tangles of roots and branches.

5. Washing – the ‘mandis’, big tubs full of cold water that you fill a small pot from to wash yourself, are often very welcome after a sweaty trip into the forest. Not so welcome when you rise at 3am for an early morning adventure.

6. Language – been enjoying practising my French and Spanish with Helene and Pau who work here, been far more lazy with learning Indonesia. Must learn to count to ten this weekend.

Some things don’t change though – I’m constantly looking for wildlife and birds, and the people are lovely. When you’re trying to adjust to big changes making new friendships with great people can be a huge comfort.

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