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Bali Day 2: Sunday, August 6, 2017

Luwak poop

A basket full of luwak poop. The semi-fermented coffee beans contained in the poop are considered to be the best tasting coffee in the world.

As drove higher up on the central mountain slope above Ubud, Bali, the rice fields gave way to orange groves and other highland agriculture. Our next stop was at a coffee plantation, one of several in the region. Coffee grows on mountain slopes in wet highland areas. It originated in the Ethiopian highlands in Africa and was exported to Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia, but the conditions there are not very good for coffee. Its third location was Indonesia many hundred years ago. It wasn’t until the Spanish conquest of the Americas that coffee emigrated there, where it is now grown in the highlands of central and south America.

Coffee beans

Coffee beans growing at the plantation.

Although it is not native to Bali, coffee has become well established, with plantations staying in families for generations. Gusti knew the people at this plantation and showed me around as we walked along paths to a back area where their store was located overlooking the coffee plants on a steep slope. Along the path itself he pointed out cacao trees (the first I’ve seen, although the season isn’t right for them), Indonesian passion fruit growing on trellises, pineapple plants, ginseng, and a curious vine growing in zig zags up the trunks of other trees. These were vanilla plants, and the stems are dried and ground up for vanilla flavoring, as well as the beans and seeds.

Cacao pods

Cacao pods growing at the coffee plantation. They had a little bit of everything growing here on the high slopes of Bali.

We passed a cage with a rock wall inside and two small animals about the size and shape of a mongoose. They had the large eyes and long tails of nocturnal arboreal creatures, and they were trying to sleep. Gusti told me that these were luwak, which live wild in the coffee plantations. They eat fruit and the occasional live chicken head, and have a taste for coffee beans. They are very good at picking out only the best, ripe beans and eating them. But since coffee is not native here, the luwak don’t digest them very well. The beans will ferment a bit in their stomachs, then get pooped out mostly intact. People go out into the forest each morning to look for the droppings and are very happy to find one cup’s worth. The droppings are bought by the plantations, cleaned off, roasted by hand, ground up, and sold as the most expensive coffee in the world.

Luwak climbing

A luwak in a cage at the plantation. These animals are similar to a mongoose and eat eggs, small birds, fruit, and whatever they can find. They have the large eyes of nocturnal animals, and are especially fond of the best coffee beans, which they only partially digest. People go through the jungles each morning around here looking for luwak droppings, which are collected, washed, roasted, and sold as a premier coffee.

I’m not a coffee drinker, so I wouldn’t know luwak coffee from the cheapest instant blend. I can’t help but think of the unfortunate person who was driven to try out Luwak coffee beans for the first time.

Indonesian passion fruit

Indonesian passion fruit growing as vines on a trellis at the coffee plantation.

We went to the back area of the plantation where a lady was roasting coffee beans over a small fire by hand. Gusti showed me the large mortar and pestle used for grinding up the roasted beans and the final powder. They don’t use automation or machinery here, it is all done by hand and sold in small batches. They also had containers with tumeric, ginger, cacao beans, peppercorns, and cinnamon bark (all grown here) and a large basket full of Luwak droppings.

 

They brought out samples of coffee and herbal teas and hot chocolate. I didn’t try the coffee, as that is against my own religion. I would not normally drink tea either if it was made from tea leaves, but I did sip the herbal teas. I liked the lemon tea, but wasn’t so big on the dragon fruit tea. The chocolate was pretty good. They did not offer any Luwak coffee – that is too expensive to give away. I wouldn’t have tried it, anyway.

Ginseng

Ginseng plants growing along the walkway at the coffee plantation. They had many different types of food plants here.

I took some photos overlooking the deep valley where the main coffee plants are located. They showed me through their store, and they had coffee, cocoa, and spices for sale, including nutmeg and saffron.

Saffron

Balinese saffron for sale at the plantation gift shop.

“Saffron! A little saffron would make this!”

Roasting coffee

The coffee beans are roasted by hand on this small stove, then ground, sifted, and sold.

There’s my obscure movie quote for the day, and this time it’s not from Star Trek. As much as I wanted to buy some saffron just to have some, it was a bit expensive and I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I think they were a bit disappointed that I didn’t buy anything, but I’m sure part of my tour fee went to this excursion in a coffee plantation, so I certainly paid for the samples I tried.

Coffee mortar and pestle

A large mortar and pestle for grinding the roasted coffee beans.

We walked back along the path and climbed back into the car. My most anticipated part of this trip was next.

Yellow cacao pod

A yellow cacao pod. Notice that cacao flowers and fruit grow out of the trunks of the trees, not from the branches.

Pineapple

Pineapple plant. The ones we eat grow from the ground like this. If allowed to grow into a full-sized bush, then pineapples grow suspended from the branches but are too sour to eat.

Roasted beans

Roasted coffee beans at the plantation.

Taste test

A taste test – they bring out free samples of different herbal teas and coffees made and flavored here. I don’t drink coffee, but I tried the herbal teas and liked the lemon tea the best. The purple dragon fruit tea was unusual. The hot chocolate was good.

Spices grown at coffee farm

Other spices grown at the coffee plantation on Bali. The front left and middle left are ginger root, the front right is tumeric root (similar to ginger but more orange). The middle right is cinnamon bark. The back left is cacao beans, and the back right is peppercorns. Indonesia was known as the Spice Islands in antiquity for good reason.

Cacao beans

Cacao beans after fermentation at the coffee plantation on Bali.

Vanilla plant

A vanilla vine zigzagging it’s way up a tree at the coffee plantation.

Vanilla vine

The large vine growing on the tree is vanilla. The seed pods are harvested as vanilla beans, but the stems are ground up for the flavoring itself.

David at coffee plantation

David Black overlooking the slopes of the coffee plantation above Ubud, Bali.

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And notes on my TGC Seminar Trip: Feb. 16, 2017.

tgc-sign

Sign for Teachers for Global Classrooms, a teacher exchange program of the U. S. Department of State. We met in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16-18, 2017 to prepare for our international experiences.

I’m in the Salt Lake International Airport waiting for my flight to Washington Reagan National Airport. It’s been almost a year since I last visited D.C., and that was for the Einstein Fellowship interviews that I did not succeed at. That was a nice trip, with good weather, even if the results were disappointing. I’m hoping the weather will be all right. It is supposed to be in the 50s during the day, not that I’ll get any chance to be out by day. This is a quick trip – a reception tonight, followed by a full day of meetings tomorrow and a half day Saturday morning, then I have to get to the airport for my 5:00 flight home.

I am looking forward to meeting my cohort of fellow teachers who will be traveling with me to Indonesia in July. When I found out in December that I would be traveling to Indonesia, I started researching all the possibilities, knowing that I couldn’t get to all of them, but wanting to learn as much as possible. The more I study the country, the more excited I become. There are so many great places to visit there that are scenic, scientific, and cultural. If I were to rank the places I would most like to visit, it would be in this order:

Indonesia greatest hits

Locations of my top picks for things to see in Indonesia.

Borobudur

Borobudur, an 8th Century Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia and a World Heritage Site.

  1. Yogyakarta and Surroundings: This is a cultural center on the island of Java that has been described as the “soul” of Indonesia. It is famed for its marketplaces selling silver, batik, shadow puppets, and the local gudeg, a type of stew served with rice. About an hour north is the famed Buddhist site called Borobudur, built in the 8th century and lost to the jungle for many years before its re-discovery in the 1800s. It is built over an earthen mound in the shape of a mandala, with hundreds of stupas containing statues of various forms of the Buddha as well as hundreds of carved relief panels depicting Gautama’s life.
    Prambanan

    Prambanan, a Hindu temple near Yogyakarta.

    Nearby is the Hindu complex of Prambanan, also with hundreds of small temples and statues of various Hindu gods ranging from Brahma through incarnations of Vishnu, Kali, Shiva, and Ganesha. The city of Yogyakarta was also the capital of a sultanate and has Islamic mosques. And as a bonus feature, not far north of the city is Gunung Merapi, a very active volcano that last erupted in 2010 and wiped out several villages. The Earth Science teacher in me would love to see that.

  1. Sulawesi and Surroundings:
    Bunaken-Manado

    The coral reefs of Bunaken near Manado, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    This island is shaped like a giant cursive K with a curled top and boasts beautiful scenery and biological and cultural diversity. A TGC team stayed on North Sulawesi in Manado three years ago and had an amazing experience, including snorkeling at Bunaken, a series of islands off the north coast, and a visit to a national park with giant tarantulas and miniature primates. There are also the Toraja people, known for their inverted boat-shaped houses and interesting burial practices. It is also is the cacao growing center of Indonesia.

    Bali - corrected

    3D Rendering of Bali, a popular destination in Indonesia. The major city is Kuta on the peninsula to the south. I hope to explore Ubud in the hills in the center of the island.

  1. Bali or Lombok: This whole island is one beautiful, cultural paradise. Probably a bit too touristy for my taste, but it would be a shame to visit Indonesia without at least a day or two here. There are amazing white sand beaches, beautiful scenery including temples perched on rocks along the coast, the famous rice paddies near Ubud, a sacred monkey forest, and much more. If Bali is too busy, then the neighboring island of Lombok is a good alternative, including snorkeling and beachcombing on the Gili Islands and a visit to a sea turtle hatchery. And, of course, a large double caldera with the active Gunung Batur.
Bromo

Mt. Bromo (Gunung Bromo) on Java in Indonesia.

Toba Crater-s

3D Render of Toba Lake. The massive caldera has filled up with water. When it erupted 74,000 years ago, the ancestors of humanity almost went extinct from six years of winter without summers.

  1. Mt. Bromo or Other Active Volcanoes: A popular place to visit on Java and a series of active volcanoes, including Gunung Semeru, with incredible views. Of course, I would also like to see Tambora or Krakatau or even lake Toba. I realize no matter where I go, there will probably be active volcanoes galore (my kind of place) but it would be cool to visit the famous ones. Mt. Toba sent up so much ash, when it erupted 74,000 years ago, that it created six years without a summer in what was already an ice age. The ancestors of humanity almost went extinct.
Tambora from sky

The caldera of Gunung Tambora, which erupted in 1815 and caused the Year Without a Summer, which led to crop failures and starvation worldwide. The explosion of Toba 74,000 years ago was even worse – the dust lead to a six-year winter.

  1. Orangutan Watching: One place is a sanctuary called Bukit Lawang on Sumatra, not too far north of Lake Toba. But the original place is Kalimantan (Southern Borneo), where you can take small boats up a river to see the orangutans in the wild.
Komodo dragon

I would love to meet one of these. Just at a safe distance . . .

  1. Komodo Dragon Viewing: We will probably get to touch a real dragon at an international zoo/village in Jakarta, but it would be fun to see them in the wild on the island of Komodo itself.
Ambon

The city of Ambon in the Maluku Islands, where Columbus was trying to reach when he ran into a little problem . . .

  1. The Spice Islands: The Maluku or Banda Islands, which lie east of Sulawesi, are the original Spice Islands that caused so much history. Cloves, nutmeg, and pepper are native to these islands. It would be fun to say I’ve been where Columbus meant to go. Nearby are the Raja Ampat Islands with incredible marine biodiversity.

 

These are my top picks. I know I my not get the chance to see any of them – everywhere I’ve researched Indonesia, the possibilities are exciting and I’m sure I’ll enjoy wherever I get to go. I’ll learn a great deal, meet amazing people, and bring back memories for a lifetime.

Child of Krakatoa

Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa). This island exploded in 1883 and caused a tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people. Now the child is quietly growing in the submerged caldera.

Opening Reception:

My flight to D.C. went smoothly, and it was a new Boeing 757 with video players on the backs of each seat. Instead of pulling out my iPad and watching “Star Trek: Into Darkness” again, I watched the first episode of the National Geographic Mars program (they only had one episode available or I would have watched more), then saw “Dr. Strange” again, and began watching “Inferno” with Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones. It seemed like a quick flight.

I got off the plane and got my bag at Carousel 3, then picked up a taxi to the Fairmont Hotel near Georgetown. I walked downstairs and picked up my registration packet from Ashley and Sara with IREX. Sara will be travelling to Indonesia with us in July. I checked into my room and read through the packet, reading up on the biographies of my cohort.

Toba comparison

Putting these volcanoes side by side, the big historic eruptions of Tambora, Vesuvius, and Krakatoa are insignificant compared with Toba, which put so much dust into the stratosphere that it blocked sunlight for six years. And what of Mt. St. Helens? It’s a tiny popgun in comparison. Should it worry me that the three biggest known eruptions were all in Indonesia? Not at all. I would be like Pliny the Elder – last seen running toward Vesuvius as it erupted.

The opening reception was held on the lowest level in the ballrooms. Ryan Hagge and his wife were already there, with their new baby. He is acting in the stead of Scott Jones, our school director. He surprised her with a ticket to D.C. so she could explore while he was in the administrator meetings. I began to meet my cohort while eating horse doovers, including Jennifer from Louisiana with her administrator. I met Sonja, who is going to Senegal, and her administrator. Then after a few welcome remarks, we got together as groups and I met most of the rest of our cohort. They are a very diverse and interesting bunch, and I can tell that we will get along well. We have a mix of subjects, ranging from science, technology, ESL, migrant education, English, and social science as well as a range of grade levels. I also met Sofia, who is part of the TEA/ILEP program and will be one of our host teachers. She is from Ambon in the Maluku (Spice) Islands and she showed us some pictures. It looks amazing.

Wisata-Malioboro-Yogyakarta

Malioboro St. in Yogyakarta.

I am totally excited for this opportunity and what it will bring to my perspectives and what I can bring back for my students. What an adventure lies ahead of me!

I’ll report on the rest of my Symposium experience in the next post.

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