By Sian Cowan
Me & Bani, a dominant male, wanting kisses
Monday 1st July 2013
11:30pm I have finally arrived in Yogyakarta after an extremely long and gruelling journey. In the past 2 days I have travelled from Edinburgh to London to Dubai to Jakarta (Java) to Yogyakarta. Talk about seeing the world! I actually cannot believe I just crossed the earth all on my own! That’s a massive achievement for a small- town country lass I reckon.
At Jakarta airport with my new friend Benni.
The London flight was fine. I was sat next to an older fella who was going his holidays in London. As we flew over the city he pointed out London Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, London Eye and other landmarks. Now I don’t actually have to visit heehee. He was a nice man and wished me all the best on my travels.
The flight to Dubai was slightly draining at 7 hours! I was sat in the middle of an Indonesian woman, a black, English businessman and a Chinese man. Talk about multicultural! A nice little mixture there. Everyone was nice and Dubai Airport was spectacular!!! Like nothing I’ve ever seen!
Straight onto the Jakarta flight. A bit better as I had a window seat and could grab a few hours kip. Not particularly comfortable though. Sat next to a young Arabic lad. We never spoke though. We were both just snoozing in the most awkward positions lol!
When I got to Jakarta Airport I had a few hours waiting, which was a good rest for the stomach and the ears! A lad came over to chat to me as I was by myself, which I thought was nice of him, as I looked rough as hell from 24 hours travelling and had not a stitch of make-up on. He gave me his business card and is called Benni. He was a nice lad.
Me at the kids club
Then I got my final flight out to Yogyakarta and was picked up by a pleasant young man called Gimo. We had some laughs as he drove me up to the centre. Roughly an hour away from the city, the centre is surrounded by jungle in a small village called Desa Sendangsari. Although it is dark, I can see that everything here is sooo different. A whole new world! It’s currently 11:30 at night and is absolutely roasting! I’m in my little apartment now which is nice but I’m so shattered so NIGHT! Zzzzz
Tuesday 2nd July 2013
Me with a fresh coconut
9:00pm Early start this morning. Up at 6am for breakfast. The gibbons were my wake-up call. Met Ashley the volunteer coordinator who’s very nice. She showed me around the place today. I’m so excited for tomorrow because I’ll be working with the orang-utans. They are such marvellous creatures. I will never understand how people can hurt them and be so cruel! One is called Beni and has a hunched back because he was kept in a tiny cage. They put their arms out the cages looking for you to give them food but you just want to hold their hand and tell them that they are going to be alright but I must never trust them! They are still wild animals and can be unpredictable; they have sharp teeth and have bitten fingers off in the past. One of the females (Ucok) has also recently had a baby, which is adorable at only 6 weeks old.
Me & Heru feeding fish to the Eagles
This afternoon Ashley and I weaved a sort of recycled net for arts and crafts for the children’s English club tomorrow. It was a lengthy task and we shall see what becomes of all our hard work and effort. The food here is very different but not bad. Lots of fruit and vegetables with rice. And lots of tofu and tempah instead of animals. Most things are sweetened with sugar so some dishes can be quite surprising on the pallet. I’ve completely lost my appetite since being here though so maybe loose a few pounds while I’m here lol. But the days are long and I am exhausted yet again so I will leave you with some cute photos. Ni-night!
Wednesday 3rd July 2013
1:20pm I’ve been having an awesome day today and it’s only just after lunchtime! I’ve been helping Jono with the orang-utans today. I cleaned the gibbons as well. We then went to collect branches for the orang-utan enclosures. Jono climbed up the tree like a little monkey, it was so funny! We put all the branches in a little trailer / motorbike and trying to get it up the hill with two of us in the back was hilarious! I then found a coconut on the ground and one of the keepers smashed it open for me and I drank the water straight from it. It was actually delicious! Life here is so different from home but I actually love it! Obviously it’s hot but I’m coping fine and putting my sun cream on every day.
Me & Dian, the vet
There are also lots of bugs and lizards everywhere but that’s totally not bothering me. There are little ant lines everywhere and if anything gets dropped on the ground they are instantly all over it. They get in food sometimes but no one bothers like they would
at home. We’ve also just had the first little shower since I’ve been here. I’ve got kids club with Ashley later this afternoon so that should be fun.
Me & Songsang feeding the gibbons
10:00pm Kids club was quite amusing! Only 2 little girls showed up today, as it is a Muslim holiday at the moment. We taught them about the effects of over- fishing in the sea and English words for the sea creatures. We made name badges with our favourite animals on them – mine was a cow.
My trip to the town on the weekend
We then paper mashéd recycled, plastic bottles which we will paint and turn into fish next week and finally played a game about saving animals from fishing nets. The two little girls (Zida and Nabila) were lovely but very shy. Ashley and I would interact with them while Rosa (a woman who works at the centre) would translate. It was very enjoyable.
It was also my first visit into the local village. It was very surreal with people cycling around with massive bundles of crops in their baskets and the houses are very basic. It’s just a little community built into the rainforest. We were flying about on motorbikes with no helmets, which is totally acceptable lol. All in all a good day. Looking forward to bird maintenance tomorrow!
Joko asking for some fruit
Thursday 4th July 2013
4:30pm Well I’ve worked hard today! Bird maintenance all day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Parrots and birds of prey, which were massive! I had to enter the cage with them and scrub all their poop off the floor. I was a little intimidated to start with but they were fine. Just because they are so big and evil looking! The parrots were totally fine though. I’ve worked with parrots loads of times so they don’t scare me. I fed the parrots mostly fruit butsome vegetables as well. The birds of prey were fed mice, fish or lizards. It was actually gross watching Heru smacking the poor little lizards off the ground to stun them before putting them in the cages. I don’t think I would like to do that bit but someone has to! One of the eagles gave me a feather, which was nice of him. I wore it in my hair all day like an Indian.
Feeding Boni honey (not beer)
I also had my first go at hand washing my clothes, epic fail I must say. Everything is still filthy but hopefully doesn’t smell!
9:45pm Just had a chillax with Ashley this evening, talking about boys and watching stupid stuff on You Tube but the amount of bugs got unbearable so we had to retreat to our rooms. I’ve been thinking though, how different it is here from home. Obviously we have bugs at home but the quantity, size and variety are far superior here. Also the hours of daylight here everyday, all year round, is 6am to 6pm and light to dark in an instant.
Ashleigh teaching kids yoga
There’s also no hot water for a shower which can be either refreshing or depressing depending on your mood and the time of day. Also they use a little hose thing to clean their bums because nothing should be flushed away. That is if you’re lucky enough to have an actual toilet and not a squat toilet, which is a hole in the ground. I’m lucky enough to have an actual loo in my digs; otherwise I’d be scared I’d miss!
Me playing bingo with the kids
There has also been quite a bit of lightening but rain rarely follows. It seems peculiar to me and void of all familiarity of thunder and lightening… It is an absolutely beautiful country though and the people here are just lovely. I would highly recommend Java.
Friday 5th July 2013
3:00pm Dian the vet took me round all the animals today and told me things about them and why they are here at the centre. I was quite surprised to hear that many of the animals are in fact not native to Java but have been rescued from the illegal pet trade. Most of the primates here are males and have been given up when they have reached adolescence and have become aggressive and territorial.
Bedhu enjoying some papaya
The eagles are native of Java and often seen as a status symbol but are commonly kept in small cages so when they spread their wings they become infected because there is not enough room for them. They also have no perch, which created problems in their talons, which inevitably affects their hunting and swooping. It’s very sad to see so much mistreated animals. We then took Bedhu, the bear cub for a walk, which lightened the mood. He’s absolutely adorable! He was found in the back of someone’s van when he was just a baby. He was bet illegally in a card game before he was saved and brought to the centre. They are hopeful that one day they will raise enough funds to transfer him back to Sumatra, where he is from, and he can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. That would be pretty awesome. He currently thinks that Dian is his mum but hopefully one day he will be able to fend for himself in the wild.
This afternoon was mainly food preparation for the animals with Gun. We had fun singing together whilst chopping up all the fruit. I’m starting to get a bit over-run with mosquito bites as I just found out that they can bite through clothes! Grrrr! I’ve also just returned to my room to find I have a new roommate, a little gecko. I think I’ll call him Baxter.
10:00pm Well this afternoon was very much about napping. I didn’t have a particularly busy day but all these early mornings must have got the better of me. The weather is very peculiar at the moment. It is very hot and humid but there are still cloudy patches so it’s not blazing glory sunshine ALL the time. Just most of the time. But, although I’ve only seen one rainstorm there seems to be a lot of thunder and lightening that never comes to anything. It is currently supposed to be dry season. There are only two seasons here, dry season and monsoon season. The latter from about October untilMarch roughly. But I’ve managed this far without sunburn, touch wood, so hopefully I’ll make it through without actually dooming myself to skin cancer. Factor 50 all the way! To be fair, the jungle canapé is so dense that I’m rarely in direct sunlight anyway.
Saturday 6th July 2013
5:00pm Today I was helping Sangsang with the gibbons. Cleaning and feeding mostly. There’s one cheeky little gibbon called Tomy who stole my heart. He grabs your hand and turns around to get his back scratched through the bars. It’s pretty cute. Sangsang doesn’t speak any English so it was a charade day of actions and pointing. I also hand fed crickets to the slow lorris, which is a small nocturnal lemur-looking thing with huge eyes. Also very cute.
Me & the animal keepers
This afternoon Ashley and I filled plastic balls with honey to give to the gibbons for food enrichment. Quite a long repetitive process it was but Ashley and I still had a laugh at Gun’s amazing singing lol! It seems I’ve also made a new friend, Rendy, the security guy. I have no idea why because I always look a mess and don’t wear any make-up here. Ashley finds it amusing and takes joy in winding me up about it. HAHA very funny! But he’s arranging for someone to take us to the train station tomorrow morning so we can go shopping in the city, Jogya, so looking forward to that.
Sunday 7th July 2013
Me & the security guards
9:40pm Day off today! Ashley and I travelled into the city of Yogyakarta. Wow it was heaving! It was funny though because we got dropped off in the nearest town, Wates, so we could get the train to the city but it turned out the train wasn’t until later because it was Sunday so we just walked about for a bit (jalan jalan). But everyone was absolutely staring at us because they NEVER see white Europeans (bule). Some people were even asking to take our photo. I just humoured them and waved and smiled much to their amusement. But anyway, we ended up getting a bus into Jogja because it was quicker and less than £1. There were a lot of interesting things to see out the window on the way while a man serenaded us with his mini guitar. I ended up getting a McDonalds today, which I was fairly chuffed about. It was just so overcrowded though, it was crazy. Especially with the heat and people just driving about everywhere on motorbikes. The traffic is just so unstructured and no one cares, everyone just uses their horns BEEP BEEP! We were
also being targeted all day as well by people wanting to give us lifts, as we were the tourists. But it was good day. Another busy day with an n early start but just getting on with it. I managed to get a lot of nice gifts for my friends and family, as everything is so damn cheap! Marliboro Street has so many traders as well I’m curious as to how people manage to make a living! But after a crazy motorbike ride and a roasting hot bus journey we successfully made it back to Wates to be picked up by the security staff. The chickens just roam the streets in the town. Now that’s free-range!
It was also funny tonight when Ashley and I were sitting in the communal area a massive preying mantis came in and started flying all around the place. We freaked out and I went and explained to the security staff by doing stupid preying mantis arm movements. No doubt I’ll hear about it tomorrow. Oh well, that preying mantis was totally freaky!
Monday 8th July 2013
9:30pm Today I was working with Jarwa. We did quite a mixture of things. First of all cleaning the macaques but
if you make eye contact with them they get very angry and aggressive. Also the little guinea pigs and rabbits were there. Then cleaning out the turtle enclosures and collecting branches for the monkey’s cages. It was Jarwa’s first time working with bule (white person / volunteer) but he done ok. He’s a nice boy but quiet. After break time we fed the macaques and one of the females stole Jarwa’s broom and broke it to pieces, which was quite amusing. We also fed deer and big bird things. I forget what they’re called. I was also netting lots of little catfish in a mini fish-farm type thing to be transported up to the pond in the eagle’s enclosure. Lots of whizzing about on the back of motorbikes and trailers. I love it! AND THEN, after lunch, much to my absolute horror, the rabbits and guinea pigs were fed to the crocodiles and snake! I sat and cuddled them and cried in the back of the trailer as they were taken from my grasp. So no pictures of that, I could barely cope. I felt like such a wimp but guinea pigs are my favourite pets. They were so frightened. That kind of put me on a downer for the rest of the day. It was very sad. But this evening I sat and wrote my postcards out for friends and family to lift my spirits. Rendy will take me to the post office tomorrow morning.
Also Ramadan starts tomorrow which means they will be fasting all day. No food, or water or smoking until it’s dark. I don’t think I could do that. Specifically the no water part, it’s too warm for that. I’ve also been informed that they are allowed no “impure thoughts” which I chuckled at. No problem with me hitting about. I have a constant layer of sweat across my face and have mosquito bites all over my face. It’s pretty clear I wasn’t made for this climate.
Most of the keepers English has been improving. We ask them questions in English and help them to answer. I’m also finding that I’m picking up a few Indonesian words. It’s a very strange language although I’m sure they’re say the same about “Ingris”.
Working with Jono and the orang- utans tomorrow so excited for that.
Tuesday 9th July 2013
5:40pm So today has been interesting. First of all I cleaned some of the gibbon cages and then Rendy gave me a lift on his motorbike to Wates so I could post my postcards. Rendy is very funny so I started calling him Frendy. It was quite a long wait at the post office and quite expensive to send things around the world! I gave him a £1 coin, which he was very happy about. When I was back I went to help Jono with the orang-utan enclosures. There’s two orang- utans together called Dadek and Gogon who are very stubborn and difficult to clean. You have to coax them into the small enclosure with food in order to clean the main one but Gogon sits between the doors and refuses to be locked in the small part so Jono and I had to conduct a plan. Jono went to the far corner of the cage to entice Gogon over with honey while I pretended to leave. But I secretly walked around the back to the other side to quickly shut the door while he was distracted. They are extremely intelligent animals. The other orang-utans don’t make as much of a fuss about getting cleaned. But they both work together as a team to be difficult.
Traditional Indonesian home
This afternoon Gun, Rendy and I drove to the city to get the food for the animals. They have a deal with a supermarket to get all their waste produce for free. They then sift through it all and keep the good stuff for the animals. The journey there and back was very much fun. Rendy put music on his phone and were all singing our hearts out. They listen to music I like as well like System of a Down, Eminem, and Maroon 5 etc. He was asking what the words in the songs meant which is good for their English I suppose. And listening to them singing in English, very high pitched, was actually rather amusing lol!
Traditional Indonesian snack of sticky rice & warm spice drinks
It’s quite interesting the things that are popular here and there, even although they’re in English (mostly American influences though). They also like Harry Potter and Transformers. It was funny yesterday when I worked with Jarwa I tried to explain what a witch was so I put the broom between my legs and ran around. Now they’re all doing it to take the mick out of me! It is very funny though! Also when we were driving through town I seen people doing all sorts of things to get money like walking around singing to stopped cars with guitars but we spotted a man with a wee capuchin monkey dressed in clothes with a little guitar, forcing it to do tricks with a chain around it’s neck. That is sick! I hope he makes no money for that.
Gagon being stubborn, holding his cage door open
Wednesday 10th July 2013
8:45pm This morning I was looking after the gibbons with Sangsang again. I learned the word for cheeky money, which is “munyuk jahil” which the gibbons certainly are. I think I’ll say that to Jono tomorrow to get him back for his “sinting” commets…which means nutter… I love feeding the slow lorris crickets from my hand. They have such big eyes and are very cute. I also took Bedhu, the sun bear, out for a little play but they have such big claws so I now have bear claw marks on my leg, which I think always sing “Bear’s Necessities” to him. He is just so adorable though. As it’s now Ramadan everyone, including the kids, are not allowed to eat, drink, smoke or have “impure thoughts” during daylight hours. I think it would be very tough not drinking water all day, especially in a country as hot as here. So everyone has longer breaks and napping and not as filled with energy as usual. Early this afternoon I was doing some food enrichment with the orang-utans, which involved filling plastic bottles with fruit, leaves, flowers and honey then giving them the bottles to see how they solved getting the food out. Something to entertain them basically.
Kids club this afternoon was interesting. They came to the centre today to see the animals and break Ramadan with snacks after the sun set at 6pm(ish). Thirteen showed up today which was a very high number. Mostly boys who were quite a riot. We and mark them off on their sheets. Ashley was also teaching them some yoga which some of them were very good at whereas some of them weren’t particularly interested. And a good game of sea creature bingo was in order, which they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Then they all sat down and had their snack before going home. They were, unsurprisingly, all very hungry. Very hectic but very enjoyable. Some of the kids were very sweet and some were just so funny! Oh and the chocolate brownie was just Da Bomb! Rosa told me it’s steamed, not baked. Sooooo yummy!
Thursday 11th July 2013
8:30pm Had a fairly chilled out day today. Not too busy. Preparing the food for the animals mostly whilst singing with Gun. Took little Bedhu out again for a play about with Dian, the vet. She was telling me today that I have a tiny, little name even although it’s pretty much the same as her name but has an ‘S’ instead of a ‘D’ HAHAHAHA! I was also speaking to my new friend, Rendy (Frendy lol) and expanding his English vocabulary. I got him to say “That’s pure mental, Man!” I recorded it and it is absolutely HILARIOUS!!! I swear I will find that funny FOREVER! He is sinting (crazy). Extremely funny! I can’t believe I’m going home soon. I will miss this place and the people a lot. They are all very funny and loveable. I thought I might have struggled with the language barrier a bit but no. It is usually quite simple to understand each other. It is very funny though! I think if they would have me back and I had the money I would LOVE to stay longer. The only downside is my mosquito bites, which are really quite appalling. And they get worse everyday! I’ve taken to sucking them and making them a right mess but they are quite literally EVERYWHERE! Good job there’s no malaria here like!
This afternoon I helped Ashley to take some yoga photos. I took some of her in some positions and she took some of me. Good job I’m quite bendy. And then we played on the plastic orang-utan at the entrance of the centre, which was totes hilarity!!! I tried to do a headstand on it… FAIL! I also got one of the brooms people use here, as it reminds me of Harry Potter so much, and took a photo of me flying on it. It’s sooo good! So yeah, we had a lot of laughs today. But Ashley is leaving for her holidaytomorrow, I’ll miss her. Even although it’s only two days without her I’ll be all on my own. I also have a Javan dinner at Gun’s house tomorrow which I’m quite nervous about and wish Ashley would be here for that but I’m sure I’ll manage with just Jono and Gun…hopefully. Eeek!
Friday 12th July 2013
10pm Well today I worked with Jarwa with the macaques and the orang-utans. Jarwa was so funny trying to move the macaques to clean them. Growling at them and stuff. So amusing. The orang-utan were their usual cheeky selves. Gogon refused to move to be cleaned while Joko was trying to lift up my t-shirt with a stick! Cheeky Monkey! In the afternoon I tagged along to pick up the food again with Frendy and Ramalan. Frendy and I singing our hearts out again much to Ramalan’s unamusement lol! It was sooo hot this afternoon as well. So I suppose it was good I was out of the sun. Ashley left for her holiday today as well so I’m pretty much by myself now for the next few days. I will miss her company. We were sinting together.
This evening I had a traditional Javan dinner at Gun’s house, which I was quite nervous about going myself. It’s unbelievable how different their little village is from my little village in Scotland. He lives with his wife, 4 year old daughter, mum and dad. Also his brother lives right next to him with his family. And then on the other side is Jono’s family. They have a cow thing that stays in a shed right next to the house. The floor in the kitchen was sand and everything was very basic. Makes me think how unnecessary our big, stupid kitchens are, with our over-sized fridges, masses of utensils and gadgets to do everything for you. I helped his wife prepare some dough, ring things. I forget what they called them. Mine were very bad. His wife’s were all perfect and mine just looked like nothing. We then went through to the back room to eat. It was a feast! Everything was very nice. Different but nice. I was also quite surprised to learn that in Indonesia I am considered“big and fat”! Everyone here is so small and petite that I, a UK size 10, am fat! I explained to them that in the UK I am considered average weight and build and they looked at me with such disbelief. I would love to see them try and adapt to living in the UK. I don’t think they would do very well to be honest. But to be even more honest, they probably wouldn’t want to. People here very rarely leave Indonesia or Asia so they sometimes don’t realize how different other parts of the world are and different ways of living. They haven’t even heard of Simon Cowell. What the…??? HAHA LOL!
Saturday 13th July 2013
4:30pm Well today was my day off so I slept until 8am instead of getting up at 6am. It was good. But I had nothing to do so I just went to see if I could help anyone with the animals. I dossed about the orang-utans for a bit and then helped Jono fix the Macaques cage. One of the cheeky monkeys had managed to escape. It was just the female macaques so not as dangerous as a male breaking loose luckily. It’s so crazy how relaxed the health and safety is here. Jono climbed up a super, massive bamboo ladder in his bare feet to fix the cage. I think it was homemade. And just whizzing about on main roads on motorbikes with no helmets. No one bothers about seatbelts even although the roads are actually mental! Except Frendy who always says “safety procedures” when in the truck, meaning put your seatbelt on LOL! I also dossed with Bedhu for a bit as well. I’ll miss that little critter.
My mosquito bites are not improving at all. In fact I think my body is starting to reject the poison so they just come up in big blisters of puss I have to pop to get out which means I’ll scar badly. I condemn all mosquitoes to hell!
I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow! It has just flown in! I’ve had such an amazing time here! I’ve learned so much and am very sad to go. I wish the UK could be a bit more like here. Not totally though LOL. After I helped Gun with the food this afternoon I’ve just been hitting about by myself. A mega bad storm has
just passed so I have just been indoors. It was nice this morning as well. I’m pretty glad it hasn’t just been blazing glory sunshine the whole time because I don’t think I could cope. Saying that it’s never actually felt cold at all!
It’s just been perfect. The food, the people, the accommodation, the animals (except mosquitoes) and most of all, the experience. I am definitely going to start saving to come back. I think it will be easier
to save now, as I don’t feel that I have the need for lots of worthless stuff after being here. I am going to get everything packed now so I can just have banter and take pics tomorrow.
Sunday 14th July 2013
8pm Well I’ve had an amazing last day today. I got a cheese bread thing for breakfast, I’ve missed cheese. Then I walked around and took some final photos and videos of the animals. Then Frendy and me went to
the laundrette on his motorbike. I love whizzing about through the little village. We then went down to the bottom of the park to a nice little spot where we just played about doing fighting moves and dances and stuff. Man, he can kick high! So funny. Showing each other our photos and stuff. I then got him to do the Harry Potter flying broom thing.
Actually hilarious. One of the best photos EVER! Environmentally friendly travel option. Rosa and her husband, Antok took me out for lunch in the town, Wates, to a kind of KFC chicken place. I got French fries mmmm! We were then just having banter on their balcony whilst making fun of Frendy heeeheeehee. I will miss him the most. He is Bocah Gemblung! (Crazy boy!)
I got loads of great photos with the keepers, Rosa and the security before leaving. Gimo, the boy who picked me up on arrival, came to take me back to the airport but seeing as we were early he took me to the city first to the Monggo Chocolate shop. So yummy! Then to his friends bar where I scaffed a beer and food for free before airport time. He also said if I was to return to Indonesia I could stay in his apartment for free for a while. Tempting offer. So I am at the airport waiting for flight 1 of 4 at the moment. But I will never forget my experience, whether I return or not. I really hope I do though. Absolutely 10/10! DAMN I LOVE INDONESIA!!!
Monday 15th July 2013
4pm On my final flight towards Edinburgh now. It’s been a looong trip. Flight 1 to Jakarta was slightly delayed but got talking to a young Indonesian lad who’s coming to Edinburgh in August to study his masters at the university. So he might look me up. That’ll be interesting lol. Flight 2 (8 hours) was ok because I had the entire row to myself so got a fair bit of kip. Flight 3 was packed! Very tired but hard to sleep. Sat next to a nice man though. He gave me good advice about getting my duty free through security because I wouldn’t have thought of that so THANK YOU RANDOM MAN! Had to stop in Heathrow for a quick change because I was pure stinking! Eeew! But then straight through onto Edinburgh now so Hello Skotlandia! 19 degrees, wow, bonus!
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