Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Find Your Way to Make a Difference

Well, today is my last day in Indonesia for this trip. I fly back to Hawai'i via Seoul, South Korea tonight. It's been a good trip, and I am already excited about coming back at the beginning of next year. Today though I want to tell you about my friend Jakob, whom I met at Wisma Bahasa. He's been kind enough to let me stay at his apartment here in Jogja. Although Jakob is from Germany, he's traveled and studied all over the world. Now he's working for the German Development Corporation (GTZ) to help improve education here in Indonesia. But this is just his latest stop. Before moving to Jakarta Jakob started a company in Ecuador (1) with one of his buddies from graduate school. The company makes and sells leather bags. But it isn't just any company....Jakob's company gets their materials locally and their bags are produced by local skilled artisans. In addition to that, Jakob and his partner invest 25% of their proceeds in a foundation they started, which funds programs to help children that don't have an opportunity to go to school because they are so poor. I talked with Jakob a bit about his company. It's called "Longo". In the Quichua language used by indigenous people in Ecuador this word is used to describe a physically and mentally strong young person, but over the years the word has come to be used in a derogatory way to refer to anything indigenous, including people, habits, and customs. In Ecuador there are some people that think indigenous people and traditional ways of living are backwards and primitive. This is similar to the problem faced by the Mentawai people I told you about last time. But tradition and culture are very important; they are part of what makes people unique. Jakob and his partner believe that culture is nothing to be ashamed of, and I agree with them. You can find out more about Jakob's foundation here.

You can find your own special way to make a difference too. In this blog I've told you about problems, but I've also told you about possibilities and opportunities. I've told you about many special people out there that are working to make the world a better place. We've learned about Ming, who is helping to save bears, Agung who works to protect birds and educate people about the value of nature, and Luduwig, who works to make sure the community is safe. I've met lots of other people too. My good friends at Wisma Bahasa, for example, are not only working to teach people about language and culture, but they also have a lot of great outreach programs and are active in several communities. Then there are my new friends at the non-government organizations, Lembaga Tumbuh Alami, WARSI, and Floral and Fauna International, who are working to improve the environment and local livelihoods.

Start out by finding out about the world. Open your eyes, because there is a lot of wonderous stuff to see out there. I've gone from the mega-city of Jakarta to the cultural heartland of Jogja to the forests and hills of Sumatra, but I've only just begun to see this beautiful country. You can chart your own course an explorer.

Along the way you'll meet great people. For me there have been so many new and old friends on this trip. There's Roro, Isna, Yos Hengke, Agus, Butet, Itha, Prisca, Nurze, Kanya, and many others at Wisma Bahasa. There's also Zoe at FFI, Emma and Hamdani at LTA, and Rainal and the folks at WARSI. At Kerinci Seblat National Park I was lucky to meet Pak Naj, Yohan and Andhikata. Other friends have helped me and hosted me, like Agung, Jakob and Eleo, and John.

I'll be back here again soon, and I'll keep my blog updated, so be sure to check back. That's it for time you see me I'll be surfing!

1) Can you find Ecuador on a map? Where do you think the name of the country comes from?

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