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Archive for October, 2017

Borneo Day 9: Saturday, July 29, 2017

 

Pedicab and food cart

A pedicab and customer, with a food cart, on the streets of Banjarmasin. Notice also that traffic drives on the left side.

This was my last full day in Borneo and a day for catching up on sleep, resting, writing, uploading photos, more resting, and visiting the Duta Mall twice.

Pedicab load

A fully-loaded pedicab. I don’t think you can get anything else on this pedicab – the passenger is completely packed in. Notice the large load and side bags on the motorcycle in front. Many people only own a motorcycle and must carry produce and everything else on them. They become experts at balancing loads!

After getting in late last night from our trip to Loksado, we had no plans until 7:15 pm, so Craig and I slept in. It felt good to have an unstructured day. I started the process of uploading my photos and videos from my camera. I took over 450 photos and over 100 videos yesterday, and the hard drive space on my computer is getting thin, so I had to transfer most of my videos so far to my external hard drive and upload the photos and videos from my camera in five sets.

Pedicab passengers

A typical pedicab with passengers in Banjarmasin.

Meanwhile, I took a shower, ate breakfast just before it ended at 9:55, and sent out my laundry (they came to my room to pick it up and delivered it crisp and clean later that afternoon). I wrote to my wife and sons to describe my trip and to promise photos that evening.

Bamboo load

Another example of an overloaded motorcycle. This one has a side cart attached loaded with bamboo.

Craig and I walked to the Duta Mall again to get lunch. It started out overcast, but by the time we got to the first intersection the sun was out and it was hot and humid. My sunburned face wasn’t happy, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I took some photos of pedicabs, bicycle-based restaurants (resto), and the small lanes that wound past masjid near the canals. I did this because I have been thinking the past few days about what photos I still need to take, of things that most people would find fascinating that I might not be noticing.

Canal and mosque

Canal, houses, and a mosque in Banjarmasin. They refer to this city as the Venice of Indonesia, and with over 50 canals and rivers, one can see why.

I’ve commented a few times in this series of blog posts that I’ve felt at home here in Indonesia. This is largely because I lived for two years in southern Taiwan as a missionary for the LDS Church (Mormons). This was 36 years ago (1979-1981) and Taiwan then was very much like Indonesia is now, except with lots more bicycles and no cell phones. The language was harder, as they used Chinese characters instead of Latin letters, but over two years I got to speak and read the language fairly well and felt comfortable living and teaching there. Taiwan had pedicabs, scooters, three-wheeled carts, ox carts, taxis, bicycles, street-side vendors with entire restaurants on their carts, and many more things that I’ve also seen here. So I got used to it; it was just how things were in Taiwan. Indonesia has felt familiar, like coming home after a long absence.

Selamat datang

Alleyway leading to a mosque along the canal. The says “Salamat Datang” which means “Welcome.”

But that means I’m not paying attention to what Americans would find remarkable or at least unusual about Indonesia. I want to build bridges of understanding, and I can’t do that by assuming people already understand or have accurate knowledge of this place. Understanding takes accurate information, so I’m trying to see with the eyes of someone who’s never been to the Orient before, instead of through the perceptual filters of my previous experiences. Today, as we walked to the mall, I tried to see Banjarmasin from fresh eyes and take photos that would help convey a true sense of this city to those who have never been to Indonesia.

Food cart

A typical food cart, pushed by hand along the streets. People will stop their motorcycles or cars to purchase snacks from these vendors. They are also built around bicycles or motorcycles to provide even better mobility. This one is selling amplang, a type of fish cracker popular here in Banjarmasin.

I realize that everyone looks at the world through perceptual filters; that these color all that we see, think, and do. We have few perceptions of Indonesians – mostly Americans don’t know very much about this country – and Indonesians certainly have both bad and good perceptions of Americans. I hope the students at SMAN 1 Mandastana no longer see us as the typical stereotyped ugly, obnoxious American tourists. I hope they see that we don’t all act and think like some of our national leaders; that some of us have open minds and hearts.

Duta Mall

The Duta Mall, with accompanying mosque, in Banjarmasin.

At the mall, we decided to eat hamburgers at A & W. The photos on the sign looked good, but the end result burgers were not quite the same. The bacon substitute was a bit chewy, but the overall flavor was good. I also had a mug of root beer without ice and curly fries (exactly like Arby’s). Then I had a chocolate shake for desert, which was basically a chocolate milk with soft serve ice cream added to the top like a chocolate float, but tasty.

I took some photos of stone lions to go with the cover of my great science fiction novel if I ever get it done and published. Back at our hotel after another hot and humid stroll, I stripped down and fell asleep on my bed as the air conditioner cooled off the room.

Dead Stone Lion

A stone lion guarding the entrance to the Duta Mall in Banjarmasin. I am writing a science fiction novel with the title “Dead Stone Lions.” It is a murder mystery time travel cyberpunk thriller that takes place mostly in Taiwan, hence the stone lions.

After an hour’s nap, I woke up and continued the photo uploading process. I looked up maps of the Loksado area and drew in our route. I put on my swimsuit and took a dip in the pool and read a bit of Most Likely to Succeed. They talked about how teaching students for a knowledge economy is now obsolete, a conclusion I came to a few years ago when I realized that all my precious content knowledge, acquired over years of hard study, was basically useless now that any student with a smart phone could access far more information than I knew with the swipe of a finger. The important thing now is teaching students what to do with the information that is now a free (and freely available) resource. But our school systems are still geared to the model of transmitting facts, not teaching students the critical thinking skills needed to make sense of the facts.

Duta dancer

Traditional dancer competing for the Miss/Mr. Duta Mall contest.

Indonesian schools seem to struggle with the same challenge, based on my observations of the chemistry class – the students did very well at listening and taking notes (with excellent handwriting), and the teacher did a great job of presenting and transmitting information. But they have little to no experience with how to use or apply that information, especially if they have never used the equipment and chemicals at their disposal or learned the process of scientific inquiry. We all have so far to go.

Dayak dancer

Dancer performing a traditional Dayak dance with machete and shield.

Back in my room, I finished uploading the photos. I transferred the best to my cleaned-up folder. There were 138 of them out of 450 – and many of the 450 were excellent as well. These were the ones that were good enough and unique enough to share.

David with Dayak

We posed with the dancer afterward. I don’t think he was really after my head – at least I hope not!

At 7:15 we were met in the lobby by Nazar and his family. The children wanted to eat American food, so we went back to the mall and ate supper at Pizza Hut, which was actually fairly close to the original even though the pepperoni wasn’t made from pork. Nazar said it would all be halal (the equivalent of Jewish kosher for Muslims). We had stroberi Fanta to drink. They presented us with gifts they had bought for us, including a woven bag for my wife, a boxed piece of sasirangan, a red-white-and-blue sasirangan patterned cap, a wooden Lok Baintan boat, fans, and keychains (including one of the bekantan monkey). Then, at Nazar’s wife’s insistence, they took us to a store in the mall and bought us batik shirts. Mine is brown and gold and very nice. Their generosity was amazing, as has been everything they’ve done for us on this visit. They have treated us as honored guests, and I hope someday to return the favor.

Buying batik

Nazar and wife purchasing batik shirts for Craig and I. Mine is the one hanging at the front of the rack, in browns and golds. This is an upscale printed batik chain found in malls throughout Indonesia.

There was a Miss/Mr. Duta Mall contest going on, and I videotaped a girl doing a traditional dance. A college-aged man dressed in Dayak costume performed a dance with wooden shield and machete sword, then agreed to take photos with us afterward. We drove back to the hotel and Craig presented Nazar’s family with gifts he had brought and we took final (almost) photos in the lobby.

Craig and David and Nazar family

Craig Hendrick and David Black with Muhammed Nazaruddin and family in the lobby of the Swiss Belhotel in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, Indonesia.

I spent the rest of the evening cleaning up photos, sending the best of the best to Becca and the boys, and packing. I somehow managed to get all the gifts and my souvenir hats into my suitcases, including my still damp black shoes. I got to bed sometime around midnight.

Swiss Belhotel rainbow

Rainbow over the Swiss Belhotel in Banjarmasin at the end of our last full day in Borneo.

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Borneo Day 8: Friday, July 28, 2017

Group with guides by longhouse

Our group posing before a traditional Dayak longhouse near Loksado. You can see that I am still wet from the bamboo raft trip. The sign says: “Malaris customary hall.” From left to right: Nazar, his wife, Craig Hendrick, myself, Amat, and Budi.

After our bamboo raft was tied up to the shore we clambered up the riverbank to a small town on the Amandit River near Loksado in Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency in South Kalimantan, Borneo. The trip down the river had been unforgettable. Now we had one more adventure yet to come on our trip to the Meratus Mountains.

Kids in doorway

Kids in a doorway at the village where we exited the river. After a short and steep drive up a trail, we returned to the main road and headed back to Loksado.

Amat and Budi were waiting for us, and we climbed into the small minivan and drove up a very primitive road, the minivan’s motor complaining, until we reached the main road. We drove over the rickety wooden bridge again – it must be stronger than it looks – and continued back to Loksado. On the sides of the road, I noticed piles of strange spikey globes which Nazar said were snake fruit. They grow wild in the rain forest here and are collected and sold to markets by the local people. I tried one when I got back to Jakarta and it was not particularly tasty and left a bitter aftertaste. Its skin peels off and looks just like a snake’s skin, hence the name.

Snake fruit pile

A large pile of snake fruit. It grows in large globular clumps in the rainforest and is harvested by locals. The skin peels off and is very similar in appearance to snake skin, hence the name.

Now it was Amat’s turn to be our guide. In Loksado we drove a short distance further down the river to where a metal bridge crosses, just wide enough for one motorcycle but not our van. We crossed the bridge on foot, and it resonated with our footsteps and bounced up and down like a miniature Galloping Gertie. On the other side, we walked up a cement pathway into a Dayak village.

Crossing Galloping Gertie

Budi, Craig, and Amat crossing the metal bridge over the Amandit River near Loksado. It resonated up and down much like the infamous Galloping Gertie.

We first stopped at the traditional longhouse. Although the people here now live in individual houses, they keep the longhouse in good condition and use it for family gatherings and ceremonies. It is a very large structure, built primarily out of bamboo and raised up on a foundation of stilts. We walked inside, and the floor joists are covered with thin strips of bamboo to make a floor, comfortable and stronger than it appears. Around the inside perimeter are a series of doors leading to small rooms for sleeping quarters of individual families, but during other times everyone joins together in the large central space. A poster on the wall described some of the ceremonies they perform here.

Dayak longhouse

A traditional Dayak longhouse. These can be up to 150 feet long with small apartments along the inside walls and a large enclosed central space.

Since they are animists, they do not follow Muslim halal rules and eat pork. They will slaughter and roast pigs for the ceremonies. I did not follow most of what Amat said, translated through Nazar, but did record video of it that I hopefully can go through later.

Dayak longhouse 2

The other half of the longhouse. They are built up on stilts and made mostly of bamboo, which is plentiful in the rainforest, grows quickly, and is used for most construction.

We continued to walk up the road to the village, passing the houses and people as we went. Peccaries (a type of small pig), chickens, and dogs roamed around. A motorcycle passed laden with bundles of reddish sticks. Then we saw a group of ladies sitting on a porch scraping the bark off of more sticks with knives. Shavings of bark lay around the porch, and the aroma was heavenly. It was cinnamon. Further on, a small fenced off patch had small cinnamon tree seedlings growing in it, protected from the pigs and chickens. The trees themselves are grown away from the village – we didn’t see where – and harvested when they reach a large enough size. To think I’ve used cinnamon to season my bread and desserts which may have been scraped off on this very porch. Such is the nature of this strangely small and interdependent world.

Inside longhouse

Interior construction of the longhouse. Apartments line the outer walls and face toward this large central area. The floor is made from bamboo slats. Hardwood pillars and stilts support the structure.

This seems like an idyllic village, with men playing card games and women plaiting baskets and animals wandering around. Yet the Dayak people have a violent past; they were known as headhunters and ferocious warriors. The Iban, or Sea Dayak, were feared pirates and raiders. There are about 50 sub-groups and separate tribes speaking up to 170 different dialects, some only spoken by a few hundred people today.

Kalimantan_Ethnic_Groups

There are about 50 different tribal groups of Dayak people in Borneo. This diagram shows the major groups living in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). The Banjar and Melayu peoples, related more to ethnic Malay groups, live along the coastal rivers. The Dayak inhabit the mountainous interior. The group we visited were of the Lawangan tribe (pink area) in the Meratus Mountains of southeast Borneo.

Although headhunting was outlawed by an inter-tribal peace treaty in 1874, there have been resurgences such as during World War II when Allied soldiers trained Dayak tribesmen in guerilla warfare against the occupying Japanese and encouraged a return to headhunting. Isolated incidents have occurred as recently as the 1990s.

Living in the rainforest, the tribes established sustainable practices without having to cut down trees. They believe in a life force called Semangat that is present in all people, animals, plants, and even in the water, rocks, and mountains. It is especially potent in the heads of executed enemies, and collecting them was essential for many village ceremonies and for a warrior’s status.

Dayak tribesman-1920

Photo of a Dayak warrior in the 1920s. Notice the elongated earlobes.

This belief in Semangat led the Dayak tribes to live in sustainable harmony with the rainforest around them. You could say they invented the Green Revolution, and we can learn a great deal from them. Yet because of economic forces and unscrupulous officials, over 30% of Borneo’s rainforest has been cut down for the hardwood trees and planted to palm oil and rubber. Here is an excellent article on the Dayak peoples: https://www.indoneo.com/en/travel/meet-the-dayaks-ex-headhunters-of-borneo/

Scraping cinnamon

Scraping the bark off of cinnamon trees. This is dried, ground up, and sold throughout the world. The aroma was heavenly!

Pig and dog and chicken

A peccary, a type of small pig, with dog, in a Dayak village near Loksado. Since Dayak peoples are animists or have converted to Christianity, they do not follow Muslim halal practices. The pigs are roasted for many ceremonies.

Beyond the village we came to a very sketchy wooden bridge across the river, which looked like the one out of The Emperor’s New Groove. Some of the slats had large gaps between them. We walked carefully across and continued up a path along the other side of the river. We saw a waterfall ahead, and had to use ropes to scramble over some slippery rocks next to the river to reach the waterfall, where we took photos. It was a very peaceful place.

Rain forest path

Walking through the rainforest toward the waterfall.

There was one thing that marred the beauty. Visitors had left trash behind. Not much, but there shouldn’t have been any. I’ve seen the same thing – piles of garbage left behind – in Hobble Creek Canyon near where I live in Utah. You would think we would all know better than this by now. I know I am trying to write generative stories here, not negative ones, so let me just say if you ever do visit a beautiful place, don’t spoil it by leaving trash. Please pick up after yourself. In fact, pick up more than you bring and gradually we can clean up the messes we’ve left. I picked up as many pieces as I could and carried them out in my pockets.

David by waterfall

David Black posing near the waterfall at the headwaters of the Amandit River in Borneo.

On the way down the path I noticed rubber trees by the pathway blending in with the forest. They were being harvested. To gather the natural latex, a slit is carved near the bottom on one side of the tree, sloping downwards around half of the tree. A leaf is driven stem first into a small hole made in the tree at the end of the slit, and the white latex collects in the slit, flows downward to the leaf, and drips off of the tip of it into a blue cup placed on the ground. It is a slow process, with only a few drips per day as the sap rises through the bark of the rubber tree. The latex is collected and processed. As the tree grows, the slit at the bottom moves up and a new slit is made below the old one. Some of the larger trees had about six to ten inches of slits moving down their trunks.

Mature rubber tree with slits

Mature rubber tree with a series of slits near the bottom. The white latex rubber sap oozes out of the lowest slit as it rises into the tree, then flows down the groove, out onto a leaf, and drips into a small cup for collection. The slits are carved only around half the trunk, or they will kill the tree.

We walked back over the wooden bridge and back down through the village. Two ladies were mending nets and weaving a basket on their porch, which I photographed. A small green building at the bottom of the village was labeled as “Taman Kanak Kanak” or Kindergarten. I saw no other schools around.

Latex drips off leaf

The white latex rubber flows along the groove of the lowest slit, then out onto the leaf, where it drips into the small cup for collection. Only a few drips fall each day.

We crossed back over the metal bridge, climbed into the minivan, and drove back up to Loksado, where we said goodbye to Amat. It was just sunset as we drove away, the end of the day coming early in the tropics. As we drove back over the winding road, I took a few final photos of the sacred Meratus Mountains.

Playing board game

Villagers playing a board game.

On the way back, we stopped again at another small town for late evening prayers, then in Kandangan to have a local popular dish for supper, called ketupat kandangan. It is steamed rice formed into triangular lumps and cooked in sweetened coconut milk, with fish or salty boiled eggs added. It was good, but I wasn’t a fan of the eggs. Then we climbed back into the minivan and headed back to Banjarmasin. My feet were still wet from rafting on the river (as well as my behind and legs) and my right leg was not very happy with being cramped up again. It was a long drive and I could only sleep fitfully, trying to change position to get my leg comfortable but without much success. But the discomfort was worth it for what had been an incredible day.

David in bamboo hut

This bamboo hut was along the trail to the waterfall. Almost everything here is built out of bamboo.

We arrived back at the hotel around 11:30. I crashed in bed as soon as I got to my room, barely taking enough time to get undressed and take my contact lenses out. I was glad for being able to sleep in the next day.

Weaving net and basket

Tending to nets and weaving a basket. The man is making a traditional musical instrument.

What a day this has been! My dreams of what to see and do in Borneo have all been realized. This was a long day, what with eight hours of driving, but it was so very worth it. I am grateful for what Nazar did to set up this trip, to Budi for driving and knowing all the right people and places to go, for Amat for his knowledge of the local people, and to Amli for guiding us down the river. I will never forget this day.

Chickens crossing road

So, why did the chickens cross the road?

Cinnamon tree seedlings

Cinnamon tree seedlings, fenced in to protect them from the roaming peccaries.

Rain forest at sunset

The road back to Loksado from the metal bridge that leads to Malaris.

Sacred mountain sunset

Sacred mountain sunset.

Sacred mountain

Sacred mountain in the Meratus Mountains of Borneo.

Rice and egg in coconut milk

Ketupat Kandangan, a local favorite dish made from lumps of steamed rice cooked in sweetened coconut milk. The boiled eggs were a bit too salty, but otherwise the dish was delicious.

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Borneo Day 8: Friday, July 28, 2017

Bamboo raft on Amandit River

Amli, our guide, poling the raft through the rapids on the Amandit River in Meratus Mountains of southeast Borneo near Loksado.

This post describes one of the most incredible adventures of my life: a journey on a bamboo raft down a whitewater river through the rain forest in the mountains of southeast Borneo. We began in the village of Loksado high in the Meratus Mountains.

Walking to raft

Walking through the village of Loksado on our way to the starting point of our rafting trip.

Upon arrival at Loksado in Hulu Sengai Selatan Regency, we were greeted by our local guide named Amat. He had lived in the area for several years and knew the rafters well. He in turn introduced us to Amli, who would be our rafter and guide down the Amandit River.

David-Craig-Nazar-wife ready to raft

Myself, Craig Hendrick, Nazar and his wife at the headwaters of the Amandit River in Loksado, Borneo.

Loksado is a small village situated in the rain forest near the headwaters of the river, which is fairly shallow but runs over many small rapids on its way down through the hills. The local people have developed a style of raft that is ideally suited to these conditions. They take local bamboo, which is plentiful, and dry it for several months on the banks of the river. They then take strips of bamboo bark and use it like rawhide to bind the poles together in a flat bundle about 20 poles wide and maybe 25 feet long, slightly upturned at the front end. In the middle they build a seat that is large enough for three people although not very tall or comfortable. They then use a bamboo pole about ten feet long to push and steer the raft down the river.

Amli and organizer preparing

Amat and Amli preparing our raft for departure.

We climbed over the drying bamboo to reach our raft. I brought a plastic bag to wrap my camera bag inside, knowing it was likely to get wet, and kept my camera strap around my neck as we set off. Craig sat in front, I in the middle, and Nazar behind as Amli pushed off from the bank.

Starting out

Amli uses a bamboo pole to push us off from the bank as we begin our journey down the Amandit River in southeast Borneo.

The raft is not designed to stay dry, merely to skim the top of the water, staying shallow in draft and supporting the weight of 3-4 people. Water flowed over the bamboo logs and between them freely, and the whole raft was as flexible as a bundle of drinking straws. In fact, I think I will have my students use drinking straws to build models of the raft and use them to race down “rivers” we will make. This could be a nice engineering project: design a raft from wooden skewers or drinking straws that is flexible, able to handle a shallow river and run between the rocks in rapids, yet capable of supporting quite a bit of weight. No inflatable rubber rafts allowed. I couldn’t help but think how much my brother in law, Levi, who was a recreation major in college, an expert river rafter, and a professional photographer would enjoy this experience.

Raft construction

After 20 minutes on the river, we pulled over to transfer to a larger raft. I was able to get some close-up views of how the rafts are constructed. Bamboo logs about 20 feet long are tied together with strips of green bark tied to crosspieces, with a slight inward curve at each end. The seat is built as a piece and strapped onto the deck and will hold three people, although not very comfortably. A bamboo pole about eight feet long is used to push the raft along. The river is fairly shallow, with frequent rapids, and this style of construction allows the rafts to hold a great deal of weight while maintaining flexibility and a shallow draft. This is the only type of boat that can navigate this river.

We traveled down through several small rapids and calm spots for about 20 minutes. There were developed areas, built up embankments, and a few resorts along the river. We stopped at one of these, and I thought the trip was done. But we were only changing rafts for a bigger model. Once we had moved to the new raft, we set out again.

Amli poling raft

Amli poles the raft ahead through a calm area. He plants the bamboo pole into the riverbed, then pushes on the pole while walking backward on the long front section of the raft, thus propelling the raft forward.

We left all signs of civilization behind. There were no more villages or signs of people except for an occasional wooden or bamboo bridge across the river and a few huts where people had tried to farm. Most of the time, we saw nothing to mark the wilderness. This was the rain forest that I had come to see, and each bend in the river brought more incredible views with such rich shades of green that my eyes could hardly take them in. Usually we could not see beyond the plants growing along the river, but from time to time views of mountains and clouds and tall jungle canopies presented themselves. The sky had been overcast from the morning rain, but soon cleared to a brilliant blue broken by fluffy cumulous.

Amandit River view

View along the Amandit River in the Meratus Mountains of southeast Borneo. There were frequent rapids interspersed by short sections of calm water. No photos can adequately capture the intense greens of the rain forest canopy as we rode deeper into the wilderness.

Most of the plants we saw were bananas, coconuts, rubber trees, and a plant that looked very much like sugar cane but wasn’t. There were thick trees with tangled roots hanging over the river, and thick bundles of bamboo growing very tall. Some trees with whitish trunks grew up over 70 feet, competing with the coconut trees for the top of the canopy. There were ferns and cycads and many other plants I couldn’t identify.

Loksado area-s

A map of the Amandit River and our route through the rainforest. We started at Loksado and floated down the river past several small bridges (marked here where the paths intersect the river). It took us two hours to reach the take-out point. The Dayak village we visited (see the next post) was across the river from Loksado in Malaris.

At one point I heard a small sound and spied a large, black lizard climbing out of the water. I took some photos of it but none of them turned out to where you could tell what it was.

Approaching rapids

Amli guides the raft expertly between the rocks as we approach a series of rapids. He knew every rock and bend in the river and how to navigate the large raft along the main currents.

Amli navigated the raft expertly between the rocks of each rapid we traversed. He obviously knew this river well, and steered us through the main channel. When we reached a calm spot, he would push the raft by sticking his pole into the sand below, then walking backward on the raft, pushing the pole to propel us forward. Where the water was too deep (he showed us this by pushing the pole deep into the water and having it float back up) he used the pole like a paddle. In the rapids and along the banks, he used the pole to push off rocks.

Meratus mountain view

A view of the Meratus Mountains as seen from the Amandit River in southeast Borneo. This was an unusual gap in the canopy; in most areas, the coconut, bamboo, and banana trees crowded the banks.

I wish I could adequately use words to describe the beauty and vibrant sense of life along the river. It was a two-hour trip that I will never forget. We were the only ones rafting today, and Amli said it varies from day to day how many people come. The governor of the province has built one of the resorts in Loksado, but it seems under utilized or advertised as no one seemed to be there. There are very few professional tour guides and no public transportation that reaches here; you have to know someone who is a friend of the local people such as Amat to arrange this and who can drive you from Banjarmasin, which has the closest airport and major hotels. I have to hand it to Nazar for having these connections and setting this up. This is a major potential tourist destination that is virtually unknown. This is the first time he has ever done rafting before. This should not surprise me; there are many people in Utah who have never rafted the Green River either, and it takes about the same amount of time to get there. You also need connections to rent the rafts and get the gear.

Around the river bend

The rain forest canopy leans over the Amandit River as we round a bend.

As we traveled further down the river another hour we began to see more signs of human activity. There were occasional cleared areas with small huts along the hillsides. Amli explained that local people use slash and burn methods to clear the rain forest, then plant cassava in the clearings. Since the jungle is gone which holds in the soil, rain will wash down into the river along with any nutrients the soil holds, and the cassava fields will only grow for a few years before new areas must be cleared.

Cassava slash and burn

Slash and burn agriculture along the Amandit River in the rain forest of southeast Borneo. The green plants behind the hut are cassava, which quickly deplete the soil so that new swathes must be cleared by burning down the trees. The bare area to the left is ready for planting more cassava. Much of Borneo’s rainforest is quickly disappearing due to slash and burn agriculture or for the planting of palm oil plantations.

We saw more frequent bridges and a few small villages. A man and his wife passed us pushing their raft up the river. These people may seem lost in a remote wilderness, but they want the same comforts as us all. One hopeful point is that they are using solar voltaic cells to power their homes. They are about as far off the grid as it gets.

The old bridge

As we traveled further down the river, the signs of civilization became more frequent, such as this old bridge leading to a few huts along the river. It reminds me of the bridge in Emperor’s New Groove.

We asked if we could pose with the bamboo pole, and Amli told us to wait until we reached a long calm spot, then we traded places on the raft to pose. It is like trying to stand up in a kayak, but a bit more stable. I was beginning to get sunburned – I brought sunscreen to Kalimantan with me, but forgot to apply it today even though I did put on a thick coat of bug spray. The sun was hot but the air was cool and refreshing, much nicer than the humidity down in the lowlands and I didn’t realize I was getting sunburned until it was too late.

Craig with pole

Craig Hendrick posing on the raft. We asked Amli if we could take a turn at pushing the raft. He waited until a quiet spot and let us pose. It is trickier than it looks to keep your balance on the flexible raft. Notice how the water comes up through the bamboo poles.

After two hours on the river we reached a group of houses and another bridge and Amli pushed us to the shore, where Amat and Budi waited for us. We clambered off the raft and climbed up to the waiting minivan. I had kept my black shoes on, and they and the bottom part of my pants and my butt were soaked from the water splashing onto the raft as we ran the rapids. But I didn’t care if I was a bit squishy.

We're in trouble now

We’re in trouble now! It’s harder than you might think to balance on these flexible rafts. Sitting on the central seat, water would often splash up as we shot down the rapids and I got a bit wet. Looks like I had an accident. These shoes were already worn out, so I threw them away after this journey.

I would recommend this rafting trip to anyone with the means to arrange it. We paid a very small price for an unforgettable experience. I will treasure the hundreds of photos and video clips I took. I had to keep mentally pinching myself all the way down the river because I thought I must be dreaming, and in my dreams will frequently return to this voyage through the rainforest on a bamboo raft. When I think that someone from a small town in the desert of western Utah could ever be in a tropical rainforest, doing what I’ve done today; I would never have believed it.

Rocks in river

Rocks and rapids along the Amandit River in southeast Borneo. I still cannot believe I had the opportunity to do this!

David with pole

I don’t think I’m doing this quite right. It takes practice and balance to pole the raft along. I got a bit sunburnt but the air was refreshingly cool as we traveled along the river.

Rain forest

Another view of the rainforest along the Amandit River. As nice as these photos are, they cannot convey the sense of brilliant green life surrounding the river.

Poling up the river

A husband and wife team poling their raft up the river. These were the only people we saw going upstream, and this only at the lower end of the river.

Poling raft in rain forest

The plants along the river here look very similar to sugarcane but are not. In some areas the banks were relatively flat, in others steep and overhung with trees.

Kids with raft

Children playing with their own raft at a village along the Amandit River.

Coconut canopy

Coconut palms form a major part of the rainforest canopy along the Amandit River in southeast Borneo.

Bamboo canopy

Bamboo grows profusely along the river, along with wild coconut and banana trees. There is a plant that also looks like sugarcane but isn’t, and tall, thin trees such as this one with tannish gray trunks.

Bridge at take out point

As we traveled down the river, villages and bridges became more numerous as the river curved back toward the main road. Once we reached this point, after two hours on the river, we pushed to the side of the stream and climbed out

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Borneo Day 8: Friday, July 28, 2017

Snacks on motorcycle

On our way to the Meratus Mountains, we traveled along the Jalan Achmed Yani through Martapura and on to Rantau and Kandangan. The road was busy, and we passed people on their way to market. This person is carrying an entire snack stand on his motorcycle.

Today was the most amazing experience we have had so far, and that is saying something. We traveled to Loksado, a four-hour journey into the Meratus Mountains, floated down the Amandit River through a tropical rain forest on a bamboo raft, walked to a Dayak village and a waterfall, saw rubber plantations and cinnamon trees, and ate some great Indonesian dishes.

Banjarmasin combo-s

A satellite image of the Banjarmasin area of southern Borneo overlaid on a 3D model using data from the USGS Earth Explorer website. The route to Loksado took us through Banjarbaru and Martapura and turned to the northeast, paralleling the Meratus Mountains through Rentau and Kandangan, where we turned into the mountains to Loksado.

When I first sent a list of possible things we’d like to do to Nazar back in May, I asked rather timidly if it were possible to visit the Dayak people and Meratus Mountains. He responded that it would take two days to do and would not work in our schedule. I knew that was likely to be the case, so I accepted his reasons.

But when we landed at the airport, he told us that he had made a change in the schedule and got permission from the headmaster for us to miss school on Friday to go to Loksado after all. He had to still work out some details and negotiate a cost with a friend who would be our guide, and he would have us pay for the trip, which we willingly agreed to.

Loksado area

The area around Loksado, showing the main road (in white) and the path of the Amandit River, which we rafted along. Loksado does’t even show up as a village.

After a few days here, he told us he had worked out the details and the total cost, for three people on the raft, and gas, meals, and guides for six people would be $150 U.S. An incredible deal! I still can’t believe it was only that much. Craig and I divided the cost so it only came to $75 each, which is about one million rupiah.

Main highway

This is the main highway from Martapura through Rantau and Kandangan. Sometimes it is wider (about three lanes worth) and usually it had much more traffic than at this spot.

Here is what the Swiss Belhotel website has to say about Loksado:

Isolated area located in South Kalimantan is popular by the name Loksado, a sub-district in Regency of headwater of South River which became a Dayak Tribe’s house where they can live everlasting with the splendid landscape. To reach out this place, you will explore the heart of Meratus highlands about two and a half hours from Banjarmasin, the capital of South Kalimantan. Next, be ready to get drift with the magnificence panorama of tropical forest which decorated with waterfall and rivers that split the forest.

Despite some English problems, you can get the idea that this is an amazing place. Loksado is located in the Hulu Sungai Selatan Regency. Indonesia is divided into provinces, which are somewhat equivalent to our states but not as independent from the federal government. Each province is divided into regencies, which are like counties. Banjarmasin is the largest city in its regency. The school in Mandastana is in Kuala Barito regency.

Mother and daughter

A mother and daughter on their way to market in Rentau.

Nazar’s friend and our driver, Budi, picked us all up at the hotel at 8:30. There were six of us in a small minivan: Budi and Nazar in the front seats, Craig and I in the middle, and Nazar’s wife and oldest daughter in the back. We headed southeast out of Banjarmasin on the main road past the airport, east through Banjarbaru and Martapura, and onward. The road turned toward the northeast as we got closer to the southern hills of the Meratus Mountains. It was cramped, and my right leg started to hurt, but with some isotonic exercises I was able to endure. The road had two full lanes with just enough room for two cars to pass each other, but often there were motorcycles zooming in and out, or we were passing one, or trying to pass a slower truck or car. Budi would announce his intent to pass with a beep of the car’s horn, as if to say “On your right!” or “Get over!” Sometimes there were close calls as motorcycles (or us) narrowly escaped being caught by oncoming traffic. Yet somehow it all worked and we saw no accidents, or even crumpled fenders.

Rantau marketplace

The marketplace in Rentau. You can always tell a market because the motorcycles are packed together and it is the busiest part of any town in the mornings.

The road was elevated above the countryside and houses had been built along it on stilts to keep them above the low-lying swampy ground. I tried to take some photos through the window, but most of them turned out blurry. We passed through the larger town of Rantau, with busy marketplaces and mosques, then continued on. I was longing to stretch my leg, but by changing positions frequently was able to make do.

Rubber plantation

A plantation of rubber trees. These are too small to start harvesting the latex sap, but will be large enough in a few years. As we got to more hilly ground, these plantations became numerous.

The surrounding countryside became more hilly and I started to see we were passing groves of thin trees with mottled trunks of grey, tan, and green, planted in even rows. Nazar told me that they were rubber trees. A bonus! I’d wanted to see a rubber plantation, and here we were driving through them. They don’t like to grow in the low lying areas, which are more wet and used for rice cultivation, so they became more frequent as we approached the hills. There were also palm tree groves, used for making palm oil.

Coal boss house

Guarded gateway for one of the coal boss houses. This is one of the mansions we saw on our way to Loksado.

In some of the small towns along the way we saw enormous, ornate houses. Budi told us that these were the houses of the coal bosses, who own and run the large coal mines in the area. The coal deposits are in the foothills of the Meratus Mountains and a series of unpaved private roads has been built to transport the coal to the Barito River or to the sea for loading on barges, like the ones we’d seen on the river. Green trucks could be seen driving along these roads as we passed over them on bridges. Before these roads were built, the trucks used the highway we were on (the only one in the area) and it had caused bad congestion and many accidents.

Coal road

One of the roads built specifically to transport coal from the mines in the mountains to the Barito River, where it can be shipped by barge to ports. I had seen the barges, now I saw the trucks.

We crossed into Hula Sungai Selatan Regency and the main city of Kangangan. It started to rain heavily as we reached the city, but let up enough for us to leave the car. We stopped at a restaurant in the marketplace and ate ayam goreng (fried chicken) with green chili sauce, rice, seaweed (I think), cucumber slices, and a sprig of a mint plant served on a banana leaf. We ate it with our right hands. It was very tasty and I quite liked the green chili sambal. It was good to stretch my leg.

Buka-open

Kandangan after the rain. We stopped for ayam goreng (fried chicken) at a restaurant here.

Beyond Kandangan we turned into an even narrower road toward the east. Before long, it wound up into the foothills and wound through small villages. We rolled down the windows and enjoyed the cooler, freshly washed air. The call to noonday prayer was beginning, and Budi wanted to stop since this is the most important Friday prayer. After passing several mosques we stopped in a small village along the road at a mosque Budi was familiar with. Nazar, his wife, and Budi went into the mosque to pray while we walked around the village and took photos. I found it incongruous that the somewhat primitive looking houses had satellite dishes on their roofs. Chickens and baby chicks wandered around, roosters crowed, and we took photos of the houses and children. Then I heard a strange call coming from behind us, of some exotic bird (I thought). I walked back and discovered it was coming from a wooden cage we had passed. It was a dark grey monkey with lighter fur around its eyes. I also saw what looked like a cacao tree nearby.

Pausing for prayer

We paused in a small mountain village for noontime prayers at a small mosque. While the others were praying, Craig, Nazar’s daughter, and I explored the town.

After prayer, we continued into the mountains. The road became steep in places, taxing the power of the small minivan. The forest grew more lush and green, and we passed mountains and streams, crossed wooden bridges that I wouldn’t have dared to walk across, let alone drive a car, and finally arrived at Loksado, a small village at the headwaters of the Amandit River.

Incongruity

Houses in a village in the Meratus Mountains. The houses here were of different design and construction than the Banjarese houses along the rivers in the south. The satellite dish is a bit of an incongruity.

It had been a fascinating drive, seeing more of the countryside and everyday life of villages and towns in the hills. Now it was time for yet another adventure.

Village in mountains

Houses in a mountain village where we paused for noontime prayers. Notice the satellite dish – these remote towns are not without their modern conveniences.

Mountain village shy kids

Shy kids in a village in the Meratus Mountains.

Small town mosque

Small mosque in a village in the Meratus Mountains. The noontime prayer was being called as we traveled through these villages, so we stopped for prayers and explored the village.

Banana trees

Banana trees in a village in the Meratus Mountains of south east Borneo.

Bend in the road

Past the village where we stopped for prayers, the road became more twisting and the scenery more lush and green

Approaching mountains

Pathway into the rain forest. As we drove further into the mountains, the lush greenery rose on hillsides around us and small paths like this one beckoned us to explore.

Bridge to cross

One more bridge to cross before we reach Loksado. And this is the main highway . . .

 

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Borneo Day 7: Thursday, July 27, 2017

Traditional house model

Models of a traditional Banjar house and a royal barge, at the food court in the Duta Mall in Banjarmasin.

We left the school at the end of the school day after having taught for about five hours total today. We were tired, and rested for a time in our rooms. Knowing that we needed to make an early start, Nazar made no plans for us this evening, but we decided to go out exploring the town for supper. I also needed to get some more rupiah, as the amount needed to pay for our trip tomorrow was more than my cash on hand. I looked up Star networked ATMs in the city, which my wife said should work with my credit cards (I had had some trouble with my Visa card in Jakarta). One was located near the Duta Mall, so I looked up maps and drew one out for the easiest route to get there from the hotel.

Banjarmasin near Hotel

Our walking route from our hotel to the Duta Mall in downtown Banjarmasin. The numbers are ATMs with the Star Network. I needed to get more money out for our trip the next day.

I knocked on Craig’s door at about 7:00 and we walked out to the street, called Jalan Pengeran Antasari. We walked east-southeast to the intersection of Jalan Kolonel Sugiono and turned north. I was getting quite hungry and needed something immediately, so we stopped at an Alpha Mart and got a Hungry Cow. We passed over a canal, then came to Jalan A. Yani. This is a larger road, and we followed the lead of a lady who was crossing, as we didn’t want to get hit. We turned east and soon came to the ATM, a bank of three in a glass booth near the road leading into the mall parking lot. My regular Visa still wouldn’t work – I think the PIN number was accidently reset when I tried it at the hotel in Jakarta because I didn’t know the correct PIN until I my wife e-mailed it to me. My USAA Visa did work, fortunately, and I got more money out for tomorrow and the next few days. When I get out 240,000 rupiah, it seems like a lot of money but it is really only about $20. I got out a bit more than that.

Pizza

This was the meat lover’s pizza. The pepperoni wasn’t pork, and it needed a bit more cheese, but it was pretty tasty.

We walked into the main entrance of the Duta Mall and found many shops and stores selling electronics, toys, and other goods. There was a food court, and we decided to get pizza, which was OK but needed more cheese. The pepperoni was a bit chewy. We had to get food cards at a central kiosk and use them to pay for the meal. It is the same scheme as used in carnivals – you always have some leftover tickets, so that the carnival gets more money than you actually use on rides.

Eat me

I’m not sure if I want to eat this or not, but at least the kentang goreng (fired potatoes or french fries) look good.

We walked up an escalator and discovered other food choices on the second floor: A & W, Baskin Robbins, and Pizza Hut. Oh well! We looked around a few minutes and explored through a large supermarket. There were interesting food choices such as live eels (snakes?), snake fruit, dragon fruit, Sponge Crunch, and green tea Kit Kats. After buying a few snacks for tomorrow, we headed back to the hotel the way we had come. The narrow road of Jalan Kolonel Sugiono was a bit hard to navigate at night. Without sidewalks, it is hard to know which is safer – to walk with traffic but not be able to see it coming, or to walk against traffic so we can dodge if needed.

Eel infested water

After eating supper we wandered through eel infested waters in the mall’s supermarket looking for snacks for tomorrow’s trip. That was the obscure movie quote for the day . . .

I got my camera batteries charged up and uploaded all photos. I e-mailed some to my wife and children along with descriptions of my day, as I have been doing every night. My wife has been reposting some of the photos I send on her Facebook page.

Mushrooms

After supper we explored the mall and a large supermarket, which sold everything from live eels to snake fruit and dragon fruit to these mushrooms. There was no durian fruit, thankfully.

Green tea Kit Kat

Green tea flavor is very big here. It’s not a flavor I would choose for chocolate, but there is it.

Sponge crunch

Something isn’t quite right here – I thought sponges were – well, spongy. So how do you make them crunchy?

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Borneo Day 7: Thursday, July 27, 2017

On our final day at SMAN 1 Mandastana we conducted three professional development workshops.

Early morniing rice field

Driving through rice fields in Mandastana to get to the school

Nazar invited a group of about 20 English teachers from neighboring schools to meet with us first in the language lab room. This session would be without translation, and he wanted us to simply tell some things about our schools and what education is like in America. I went first then Craig followed.

Craig presenting to English teachers

We conducted three sessions of professional development this day. Here, Craig is presenting about his school in Indianapolis to English teachers from the surrounding schools.

I had put together a more extensive presentation on American Academy of Innovation the night before, focusing on our approach to project-based learning (PBL) and what that means. I wanted to plant some seeds of possibility for teachers in Indonesia to think in terms of student projects, which can be done as easily in English classes as they can in science classes. One teacher asked me of an example of a project that could be done by his students in an English class. I said his students could pretend they are taking a vacation somewhere in America or other English speaking country. They are allowed a budget with only so much money, and have a certain number of days for the vacation. They have to research where to go, how much it would cost, where to stay, what to eat, and everything. In the process, they learn the geography, the culture, the food, and a lot of practical English skills. It is meaningful because they may very well take that trip some day, just as I had to do research before this trip. I’m glad I did, or we would not be going to Loksado tomorrow.

Craig presenting in teachers room

We gave the same presentations (about our schools) to all of the teachers at SMAN 1 Mandastana in their break room during lunch time. Here, Craig is showing the diversity of students that he has in his classes in Indianapolis.

Craig spoke of the diversity of his school and the average school day for teachers and students. There is surprisingly little diversity here in Mandastana – almost all Banjarese with maybe some Dayak mixed in, but no other ethnic groups. I know there are some Chinese in Banjarmasin, but apparently none out here in the country.

Craig with students freestyle

We also took some final selfies with students and teachers. This was Thursday, which is the day in Indonesia to wear local batik (or sasirangan in Borneo). This is to promote Indonesian culture. As it is the beginning of the school year, not all students have been able to purchase their sasirangan patterns yet, so many students were wearing their regular uniforms.

We took photos with the teachers and answered questions, then went to the faculty room. Nazar wanted all the teachers at his school to see the same presentations and have a chance to ask questions during lunch. We projected up on a light blue wall again and the teachers asked frequent questions, especially of the everyday lives of teachers and students from Craig’s presentation. Mine was a bit more pedagogical than ordinary life, so there were fewer questions.

PD class

We met in the biology room at the end of school to present our final professional development session on integrating technology into the curriculum. We had about 40 teachers from surrounding schools attend.

The teachers were especially interested in how our workweek went – that we teach five days instead of six, but must be in school an hour or more after classes are over – we don’t go home with the students as teachers here do. We also talked about the differences between the advancement tests given here and the testing required of No Child Left Behind; that here, the students are tested to determine which track they will take in high school whereas with us, the teachers and school are the ones actually being tested. There are no consequences for students to fail the end of year tests. They thought this was fascinating and a little alarming. It was interesting to think of this from their point of view.

Singing the anthem

We started the session with all of the teachers singing the Indonesian national anthem.

We had a brief time to rest, then moved over to the biology room, which is the best suited for a larger group. This was the session we had been planning for some time. 40 teachers from around the area came and we held a training session on technology integration.

Presenting to headmaster

We presented a certificate from the Teachers for Global Classrooms program to the Headmaster. Notice the nice banner in the background advertising our professional development session.

Craig and I had planned out what we wanted to do. I would look at two tools I have used, and so would Craig. His would be more on how to use cell phones constructively in the classroom to do quiz games. Mine was on using the MIT BLOSSOMS website and videos and using Scratch to as a programming language from Code.org and MIT.

After some introductions, I began with MIT BLOSSOMS and showed them how to find videos, including mine on the parallax lesson I taught here yesterday. Since their bandwidth wasn’t good, I wasn’t able to actually show the video. I also wish they had an option to translate into Bahasa Indonesia, but at least they do have Malay as an option.

Craig and David presenting PD

Nazar was kind enough to take photos of us presenting to the group. I am showing the MIT BLOSSOMS website and scratch programming with the MIT site. Craig’s presentations were on how to use cell phones to do quizzes and other classroom possibilities.

Craig then showed how to run a quiz using Kahoots, and had the teachers sign up and play the quiz as he demonstrated their scores realtime. The teachers got into it, and he handed out school lanyards as prizes at the end.

Edy wins award

Edy, the computer and video teacher here at SMAN 1 Mandastan, receives a school lanyard from Craig for winning the Quizziz game.

I then showed how to use Scratch, but was in the Code.org site instead of the MIT site, so it wasn’t as easy to log in and show. People weren’t as interested, but I had wanted to show them how it was possible to teach computer programming without many materials or that the students could be self-taught. But I think computer programming is so far away from where they are realistically that I would have been better off showing something simpler. I had thought of showing EarthExplorer, but it isn’t very useful unless you can go all the way to 3D models, which is too far beyond them now. Maybe some day.

Craig and David with PD group

Craig and I with many of the teachers who attended our final professional development session in the biology room.

Craig showed Quizzizz, another cell phone/online game or quiz, and got great participation. I should have found something more active, but I don’t have a smart phone. I think it is time to get one; then I could have demonstrated some apps that are more accessible for the needs of teachers and students here. We finished up with questions and answers.

Laughing teachers

The teachers wanted to take selfies with us afterwards. Here they are trying to get lined up to take a selfie with Craig.

We were given some nice certificates by the headmaster and assistant headmaster, and we presented the headmaster with a certificate as well – I had given Nazar his already when I presented the Embassy bag to him earlier in the week. We took photos with the 40 teachers and a lot of selfies with teachers afterward. I just goes to show that teachers like selfies as much as students. I was a fun and informal gathering.

Certificates

We were also presented with certificates by the Headmaster and Assistant Headmaster.

We packed up our things and put them into Nazar’s car. We were reluctant to leave this school, which has been a welcome bit of normalcy in this foreign land. No matter how different education may be here, teaching is still teaching and teachers are much the same everywhere. We have felt at home in SMAN 1 Mandastana.

School on stilts

Part of SMAN 1 Mandastana. Because this is a tropical climate, there are no interior halls. The school buildings, as are all buildings around Banjarmasin, are built on stilts because of the swampy nature of the ground here.

Frustasi no

A good slogan to live by!

Craig playing volleyball

While we were waiting to pack up, Craig played a little freestyle volleyball with the volleyball team, who have won several championships.

Last view of school

Our last view of SMAN 1 Mandastana.

 

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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sasirangan hanging up

Sasirangan patterns hanging up to dry at the factory along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

After resting for a couple of hours, we met Nazar, his wife, and his older daughter in the lobby. He was taking us to see how sasirangan, the Banjarese form of tie-dye, is done. As we drove across the river the clouds that had been gathering all day were turning dark black and rain was immanent.

Threatening clouds

Threatening storm clouds over Banjarmasin. This is supposed to be the dry season.

We crossed the Martapura and traveled along a series of ever smaller roads leading us along the west bank. The dyeing process requires a lot of water, so the factories are located inside some of the Banjar style houses along the river we had seen on our trip to Lok Baintan. As we drove along the roadway just to the west of the river, the skies opened up and the rain began. Nazar commented that this wasn’t normal for the dry season. It came down in torrents and buckets, and before long it was impossible to tell where the rainflow ended and the river began – it was all just one sheet of water. We parked under and overhang at the factory outlet and watched the rain for a minute. I took some photos and video.

Rainstorm on river

The rain begins – it came down so fast it became hard to tell where the runoff ended and the river began.

This was quite a storm, but not the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been through the edge of a typhoon in Taiwan, and I was once in a downpour in Minneapolis in April 1986 that was beyond belief. The rain there came down so fast that the drainage system couldn’t handle it, even though the city is along the Mississippi River. The pressure in the drains was so great that manhole covers were being blown into the air and fountains of water eight feet high were geysering out of the holes. On my way to the airport a short time later, my shuttle van drove through what looked like a shallow puddle that wound up being five feet deep. The engine got wet and stalled. They had to call another shuttle van to come get us – it drove more carefully into the “puddle” and I had to climb out the window and over to the second van with my suitcase so they could take me on to the airport.

Sasirangan choices

Sasirangan samples in the factory showroom. You can find all types of colors and patterns.

As we were looking at samples in the sasirangan store, a load thunderclap and lightning stroke boomed out and the power went out. I was able to use my flash for photos, but not for video. Craig got his cell phone out and set it to flashlight mode so that I would have some light. We crossed the road to the dye factory on the other side along the river. A man showed us how they use stencils to trace the traditional patterns onto white cloth. The cloth is then tied tightly with small ties to follow the pattern of the stencils. Parts that aren’t to be dyed in the first color are covered in plastic bags.

Tied green cloth

Died green cloth with the ties in place. Where the ties gather in the cloth, the dye won’t penetrate and will leave white places, just like western tie dye. This may be the origin of tie dye.

Next door were the dye vats. Since dye works better in hot water, the room was like a sauna with steaming vats of various colors. My camera wanted to fog up, but I did get some good photos and video. The men there were wearing gloves and dipping the cloth repeatedly into various colors. The bags are moved to the previously dyed areas so that other colors can be applied where the bags had been. The cloth is then rinsed and hung up to dry on railings between the two buildings, something a bit hard to do in this rain.

Plastic covered parts

Dyeing the sasirangan cloth. The dye area was a sauna bath from the steaming hot dye vats. To protect color in areas, plastic bags are tied on to prevent the second color from reaching the first color.

The rain soon let up, and we returned to the outlet store. We looked through the colors; there were many beautiful combinations, and I bought two different bolts of cloth. One was purples and magentas, the other oranges and brick red. These will be for gifts for my sister and daughter.

Dye vats 2

The dyers used rubber globes to repeatedly dip the fabric into the dye vats. The power was knocked out by a lightning strike nearby in the storm. Between the humidity from the rain and the steaming dye baths, this room was like a sauna. They had many types of dye powders and could do any combination of colors and patterns.

Now that the rain was ending, we got back in the car and drove through winding streets to find a restaurant for supper. Nazar knew an excellent place for bakso nearby, and we drove past alleyways and along narrow roads to get there. The late afternoon light after the storm provided a silvery golden cast to everything as it reflected off the wet pavement along the alleyways. It was extremely humid after the rain, but the air was cooler and quite comfortable, so I rolled down my window to get better photos. We passed a cemetery, including the memorial to a local hero. After a few minutes, we reached the restaurant. Nazar’s son rode a Gojek to the restaurant and met us there. I had beef bakso and chilled bottled water for supper, and it was excellent. I like bakso a great deal, and have had some good stuff, but this was the best I had anywhere in Indonesia.

Alley near bakso place

Alleyway near bakso kitchen after the rainstorm.

Bakso kitchen

Bakso kitchen in Banjarmasin where we ate after visiting the sasirangan factory.

Bakso soup

The best bakso in Banjarmasin.

Road after rain

Traveling through the narrow streets of northern Banjarmasin after the rainstorm.

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