June 24, 2012

A Little on Us & Kalimantan

Busy busy! Or so it seems of late as we wrap up our language school unit.

Next week we hope to take a short family vacation to the neighbouring city of Yogyakarta. It'll be our first overnight family outing since we arrived here in Salatiga. Hopefully there will be some pictures to follow!

I thought I'd share a cool link to another blog produced by a MAF family in Tarakan which is where we are heading in about 4 months God willing (blog by Dave Forney). This post has a good mix of airplanes, snakes, & other East Kalimantan happenings!


June 17, 2012

The Death of a Tree Snake

The other day I managed to catch some local neighbourhood action with camera in hand. As the boys and I drove by on our scooter, a neighbour friend beckoned me over to see an "ular" or snake, that was hang off a branch up a tree.

As the Island of Java is very populated, any animal or reptile that could even be remotely dangerous (and doesn't have a secondary use) is at a disadvantage. A lot of larger animal species were eradicated many years ago. All I had been told about these small green snakes in trees is that they are poisonous. How poisonous? Well, as far as I could tell through a not-so-extensive online investigation, they're "mildly" poisonous, far from being a real danger to humans. They usually eat small frogs, geckos, skinks, and probably insects.

The evening before, they had shot three of the same snakes out of another tree further down the street. 
But, they are "a danger", and I assume the locals obviously have some experience to back up being afraid of them. I honestly wouldn't want it hanging off a tree in my yard. So, it didn't take long and in came the troops! The older fellow grabbed a bamboo pole, as the snake was in his backyard. (You can see Simon was enjoying the excitement).

Below is the last few moments of this snakes life as he/she is being brought down for a beating.

Dead snake!

Time to go burn it. Afterwards, my other neighbour was joking with me & asked if I was going to come back when dinner was ready....Ular goreng = Fried snake! Yum. But I think I'll stick to rice and chicken.
I also read on the net how in one area of Central Java they've band the killing of all types of snakes. The main reason for this was restoring some natural balance and control the rat population, and, it worked! At the same time, I can understand that when there are vipers and cobras, people react defensively.

Speaking of rats, I killed a biggie last night! Happy father's Day to me! I think it's the same one that has eluded my traps for quite sometime. I'll be taking it to the local taxidermy and will be having it stuffed and mounted in a ferocious stance, and when visitors stop by I'll tell extravagant tails of adventure & intrigue.

June 11, 2012

Timed Laps & Other Birthday Related Activities

Luke turned the big 7!

We're so proud of our big kid, as he has truly had a year of change and new expectations. Such as...moving half way around the world and then starting school (for the very first time) less than a week after arriving. The adjustment was tough, but he passed Gr.1 with flying colours. We thank God for Luke and for watching over him each new step in his life this last year!

I can't think of a better present for Luke than a bike (great idea Amy!). He used to spend his earlier summers in Prince George peddling up and down our street, as he could ride without training wheels before he turned 4. So, he is super excited to own a new 6 speed mountain bike!

We went down to the track where Luke & Si could give 'er for a while without worrying about motorcycles and cars. Luke likes me timing his laps around the track, and Amy and I like sitting there watching our kids get good and tired. I like to hear phrases like,
"My legs hurt, I'm sure getting tired!" 
"I think I won't complain on the way home, and when I get there I will quietly entertain myself with wholesome activities until it is time to ready myself for bed!"

Simon was sporting a little bmx that we kind of inherited since it was at our house when we moved in. Far better than nothing! After all, I was the second oldest child and for season I rode a girls bike (not the colour pink, but clearly not for boys) with a banana seat and a red flag. I rode it with confidence and style. I also rode it pretty hard into a stop sign and just about broke my shoulder, girls didn't usually do that.

All that to say, Simon has a better bike in the crate he can go faster on and subsequently up his probability of injury...he just has to wait for it :)
Si was also able eat dirt a couple times as you can see by the long face and the arm with war wounds. There was a couple instances where the speed wobbles initiated a collision with the small concrete track perimeter, thus causing an "incident" to reach the classification of an "accident". 
Helena and her new friend - a moth!  Although she had best of intentions, I don't think her gentle touch and affection was a positive experience for lil' Mothy. Being half dead when she found it didn't help either. At least it was loved.

Another fun pastime down by the park - finding termites in the bamboo fence! Loads of bugs & loads of fun. Kind of like flipping rocks to find ants. Side note: You don't have to flip rocks to find ants at our house, you just have to look at the walls, or drop a crumb and wait 10 seconds! It is part of our "getting back to nature / organic look". All the 'real' green people are doing it over here, hybrids and high efficiency toilets just don't cut it anymore. Did I mention I can fit 4 of us on a 110cc scooter? Oh yah, I have. 
Poke poke poke, anyone home?

June 6, 2012

Mount Merapi (Part 2)

A fellow MAF'er Will Grant (and aircraft mechanic who will be heading to Papua with his family after language school) posing with a pretty nice view.
Below, my classmate Niko from Germany, deep in thought about either the beautiful view, or maybe about his homeland winning EuroCup 2012 (that's soccer for all you hockey fans).
In the picture below, we were able to run down this bit of sand, it was the easiest part of the whole hike! I've often participated in similar activities when hiking, but it is usually on white, cold stuff, left over from the previous winter...not leftovers from a recent pyroclastic flow.
On the way down, we actually had a clear view of the cone, or at least the side of the cone we would be hiking up.
Below you can see the trail begin to get back into some green.
A few flowers I passed on the way. It is neat how the higher elevations have a similarity to back home in BC, the plants are just all different. But the air has a wee bit of that sweet smell to it, maybe even with a hint of pine. It is amazing how God created such great variety, yet there are similarities throughout. Same God, same Creator, same amazing creation.

Looking a little tired, getting near the bottom. I think Will (on the left) had volcano dust in his eyes in this picture. He looks like he's about to spill his cookies. (he saved that for later...hehe)

June 5, 2012

Mount Merapi (Part 1)

Last weekend I had the chance to climb a mountain (finally). Being from Revelstoke, I wanted to climb a mountain or two while in Central Java. Being on the other side of the world, it is a little different than back home. Basically, all the mountains around here were formed by volcanic activity. Mt. Merapi is no exception as it is Indonesia's most active volcano. Here is a 'borrowed' photo from the last eruption in November 2010:
Around 350 people died in this eruption, as the lower slopes of Merapi are populated by many villages and farms. Thousands of people are actually in danger every time this volcano becomes active. I guess back in cozy Canada it might be easy for me to say, "Why on earth would they live there, so close to danger!?"  When it is your home town, and your family has always lived and farmed there, what can you do? Not many options when you have nothing else. What would I do? It also has to be considered that thousands could have been killed if they did not obey evacuation orders. Volcanic eruptions is part of the culture in this area, and even part of local belief systems. There was a local spiritual leader (Mt. Merapi Guardian) killed in the last eruption who's job it was to watch over the volcanoes spirits. He apparently was found dead kneeling in a position of prayer. I have also read that each year offerings are thrown into the cauldron as gifts to the spirits. 

I am amazed each time I learn a bit more of the tough times the Indonesian people often go through. Following an earlier eruption of Merapi in 2006, the city of Jogyakarta (less than 30km from Merapi's peak) experienced an earthquake that killed over 5000 people.  After spending a bit of time here in Central Java, it is almost unfathomable to comprehend such an event happening. 5000 becomes a bit more than just a statistic from a distant country with distant problems. They're real living Mom's, Dad's, kids, neighbours, friends...actual people.

I have no culture context for such a disaster, I couldn't imagine part of my home town being wiped out, and then having to go on with life to avoid going hungry.  So much we have to be thankful for! 

Okay, back to the Mt. Merapi of two days ago, perfectly safe for a leisurely hike with friends!
We left early in the morning, and were hiking for almost an hour before the sun came up. The fog lifted a wee bit at that time, and then set back in until we were almost at the top. No pic's of it here, but the higher elevation fauna was pretty neat! I was hoping to see a monkey run across the trail, but no luck. Since Java is so populated, areas of wilder forest and jungle are a little sparse. A lot of larger animals have been extinct for quite awhile.
Above, some Indonesians taking a break on the side of the trail. At the higher heights, all the green was gone as it was all killed off in the recent volcanic activity.
Pit stop in the fog.
Above, Niko and Sid making their way up the loose volcanic rock. This part was a little dicey because the gravel is so loose and unsettled.
To my left is Mt. Merbabu which Salatiga sits quite close to. It is a bit higher than Merapi and has not been active since the 1700's.
The cauldron where the action happens. As usual, pictures don't always give good perspective. The rocks right in front of me are a few feet away, and the cauldron bottom is about 1000ft below. In between is pretty vertical. If consistent with the last few decades, this lava dome will collapse and produce another eruption in the next 10 plus years.
Sid enjoying the view from the most recent true top of Mt. Merapi!
Mt. Merbabu from Mt. Merapi.