All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lizard

Our kids love animals!  We play host to a wide variety of pets, including birds, rabbits, cats, about a dozen different turtles, a huge 30 lb tortoise, a reticulated python, a monkey, and a whole bunch of transient critters that stay no more than a day or two.  Maybe someday I'll do a post introducing you to all of the animal "members" of our family.


Britton, our oldest, is also the most passionate about animals--especially reptiles and amphibians.  However, his excitement to hold and feed and study these creatures is balanced by his desire that they live a "free" and "good" life.  So usually when a wandering "critter" happens through our yard, it's time in captivity is limited only to a day or two, as was the case with this little lizard.


After getting a chance to view and feed and interact with the creature, Britton usually grows increasingly concerned about it's stress level and soon thereafter releases it back into the wild.  But we usually take a few photos and some video during the process, so he has something to remember it by later.  Next furlough our "Critter Video" should be pretty awesome!


This lizard, was very mild-mannered and showed no big desire to flee.  What was amazing was it's ability to change color, from light brownish to dark green to brilliant green to an almost yellowish color.  We used to see these a lot back in language school in Bandung, but we rarely see them here in Tarakan.


Well, like so many a lizard or snake before him or her, this little lizard has long since moved on to a different home...or just as likely been eaten by one of the roaming tomcats in our neighborhood.  Either way, our kids were blessed by the short time they had to interact with another one of God's amazing little creatures.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gong Xi Fa Chai

This has post been corrected thanks to Irvan.  It's not a dragon dance, but a lion dance depicted.

Gong Xi Fa Chai!  Congratulations and Prosperity! Yesterday was Chinese New Years and it's widely celebrated throughout most of Asia.  Tarakan is no exception!  99% of the stores in Tarakan were closed yesterday as everyone celebrates and visits family and friends.  The banner below was hanging on the wall of our favorite restaurant, just down the hill from our house.


According to the Chinese calendar, this is the year of the dragon--the water dragon to be exact.  There's a tradition (with spiritual beliefs often attached to it) that's widely followed where people pay to have a dragon dance (or lion dance) performed at their establishment or home or in a parade or whatever.  As Irvan pointed out, this is actually a lion dance below, not a dragon dance.  Since it was the year of the dragon and some of the locals asked me if I wanted to see the dragon dance, I just assumed this was a dragon dance.  But I must admit, I didn't think they looked very much like dragons.  I figured it was just a "small town" version of the dragon dance.  Wrong.  To be fair they don't look much like lions either.  

The truth is, both the lion dance and the dragon dance play an important role in the Chinese New Year celebrations, and both have many traditions and beliefs associated with them.  We heard about many of those from our friends, and perhaps some of that crosses over between the two.  In any case, don't confuse them like I did.  These are obviously lions, not dragons. :-) 


This is the first time I've had the chance to see it because usually I'm flying on Chinese New Years.


Our friend who owns the B21 Restaurant, just a stones throw from our house, invited us down to watch the lion dance at his restaurant and then eat lunch there with all of his family and friends and other MAFers.


We could hear the drums off in the distance as the lion dance team came down the road from a previous dance location.  All the kids in our kampung (neighborhood) came running, along with their parents and crowded into the front room of the restaurant (which was closed for the holiday).


Outside, the truck carrying the drummers was parked in the street, drumming and playing music, while inside, two brightly colored "lions" were dancing around at the whim of the two men who were inside each suit.  It was quite a spectacle, and must take a lot of skill and practice.  There's a lot more to it than that, including the beliefs and traditions that are associated with it.  If you want to find out more, I'd encourage you to look it up on Wikipedia, or go find your nearest China town and ask some of the friendly folks there all about it.  If they're anything like our friends here they'll be very happy to tell you all about it.


As I said, after the dance was over, we joined a bunch of other people and had a really tasty lunch at the restaurant, courtesy of the owner.


So there you go! In the spirit of all of the Chinese celebrations going on in Tarakan, Gong Xi Fa Chai to you and your friends.  Congratulations and Prosperity! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Random Stuff

This week, on Wednesday, a bunch of local pastors and members of their congregations got together to pray for the people and city of Tarakan.  We were able to help them with their unique request to use our airplanes to overfly the city while praying.  Pictured below, some of the Indonesian church members and  a few of the pilots that were involved in the prayer flight.  


A view from my "office window".  Lately I've actually been flying a desk a lot more than a plane, as I'm filling in for our Kalimantan Program Manager while he's on furlough in the U.S.


Another load of much-needed supplies being delivered to Long Sule.  We're looking forward to getting a cargo pod installed on our Kodiak in the not so distant future, which will make this plane even more useful to the people we serve.


About 10 miles from the little, remote village of Long Top, dozens of squatters have taken up temporary residence on the spine ridge of a little mountain where gold has been found.  They're digging tunnels into the side of the hill, through the mud and into the rock to get at the gold that's inside the mountain.


A random grasshopper I spotted on the side of the strip one day while waiting for my passengers.


A beautiful lily pad flower, in a nasty, smelly swamp.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Roasting Waffles and Drowning a Camera!

A few weeks ago Britton and I spent the better part of a day hiking in the jungle on our island of Tarakan.  We were trying to find a good place that we could go camping some time--he and I and the rest of the Forney boys.  I had spotted a place from the air that looked promising.  Even though it's only about 60 seconds from the end of the runway by air, it took us an hour and a half to walk there.


When we got to the area I had seen from above, the jungle opened up into a wide sandy area surrounded by cool looking trees, where a tiny little stream apparently floods when it rains.  We saw tons of monitor lizard and pig tracks all over the place.  There were hawks and birds and butterflies and the big big yellow flower pictured below.  The flower was about the size of Britton's head!


We had a good time exploring around and then we stopped for lunch at an abandoned campsite that we found.  It looked like a good place to come back to, although it would be a pretty tough hike for the twins.


Since the main objective of our little expedition was to find a good camping spot (but not actually to camp this time) we didn't plan on stopping to cook food or anything.  We had brought some cold pieces of leftover pizza that Joy had made the night before, and some floppy leftover waffles from earlier that morning for snacks.  Tried to keep it simple.

But what's a hike in the jungle without a fire?  NOTHING!  That's what it is!  Every boy needs to make a fire--it's practically required that you build a fire if you're feeling manly in the woods!  By the way, the wood and leaves may look dry, but trust me, looks can be deceiving.   It's really, really hard to make a fire in the jungle without kerosene or something to help.  But we eventually succeeded, thanks in large part to what I've picked up from the guides on all the long-distance jungle hikes I've done.

So what's a fire good for in the middle of a hot, muggy, sweaty afternoon (besides proving your manliness?) if you have nothing to roast?  NOTHING!  We just HAD to find something to roast, but we'd already eaten all the pizza.  And then it struck us both at the same time--waffles!  We could roast the waffles!  So that's what we did.  And how did they taste you might ask?  Well, Britton summed it all up when he bit into the first one and said, "It tastes like a hot, burned, smoky waffle...with no syrup."  Yup. That's what they tasted like.  But it was fun!


On the way back we saw a bunch of carnivorous plants.  There's a lot of different kinds of fly trap plants in Kalimantan, and this is just one of them.  This variety typically grows in clusters on the ground.  They fill with rain water and then when the insects are drawn to the lip, they slip into the inside and drown.  The plant then digests them.  Yummy!


The fly trap plants (pictured above) were located just beside the little stream that we were following (pictured below).  The stream was pretty neat because it was following a line of coal that was right there on the surface.  It literally cut a channel right through the dark, black, shiny coal.  There's a lot of coal in Tarakan, and throughout this part of Kalimantan.  The water was actually crystal clear before we walked through it and stirred it up.  It looked odd seeing a crystal clear steam running through a channel of pitch black coal like that.


Well, those are officially the last pictures that were ever taken by my point and shoot camera that I had just gotten this past summer.  Unbeknownst to me, when I went to put it back into the pocket of my backpack, it went "plop", right into the creek.  Fifteen minutes later I went to get it out and couldn't find it.  Eventually we found it...submerged in the water pretty close to where Britton is standing.  I was able to salvage the pictures, but the camera was toast!  Bummer!!!  Well, I guess it's a good thing it was just a point and shoot and not my "good camera".  Jungles are not friendly to electronics!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

It's true--time does fly when you're having fun!  Or in my case, maybe it's that I know I'm having fun when I'm spending time flying.  But it's not just the flying itself that makes it fun--it's the reason I'm flying that makes it fun!  We're flying, in the name of Jesus, to serve people who often have no other options.  I love MAF UK's slogan, "Flying for Life"!  That pretty much sums up what we're doing out here and that's why it's so much fun!  


The weeks leading up to Christmas are especially busy for us here in Kalimantan.  In addition to tons of church-flying requests to fly National pastors here and there and everywhere, there's also always a bunch of government officials that want to visit their constituents and school children that want to go home for the holidays (many village kids have to go to schools out in the city if they want to continue their education past elementary or junior high) and general requests for supplies of food and other stuff.  This year was no exception!  There were waaaaayyyy more flight request than we could possibly do, but we did our level best.


The Kodiak is the workhorse of our fleet right now!  It's crazy what that thing can carry into and out of our short, rough, marginal airstrips!  It'll be even better when we get a cargo pod installed (technically called an ECC, or External Cargo Compartment).  It's actually being shipped to us right now and we're hoping to install it sometime in March.  It'll be a HUGE job, but will make the Kodiak even more useful to the people we serve.  And then, a few months later we should be taking delivery of our second Kodiak, which will come with a pod already installed!  I can't wait!


One morning the week before Christmas, I was flying one of our Cessna Turbo 206 aircraft in the Krayan region.  I couldn't get into the villages that I was scheduled to fly to because the weather was smashed with low clouds and rain.  But a few miles away from Long Bawan (where I was waiting for the weather to clear) the sky had opened up over Long Umung.  So I took the opportunity to go over and do some evaluations of the airstrip there.  If it's not obvious from the picture, I had to close the strip upon leaving,  because as often happens on these jungle strips, the conditions deteriorate very quickly if not continually maintained.  In this case, they'll be able to request it be re-opened after completing some much-needed cleaning and cutting.


Later that morning I did finally get into Buduk Kubul with a load of national church folks.  The runway there is the opposite; it looks like a golf course, due in large part to the wonderful fertilizer it receives on a continual basis--water buffalo pies.


On Saturday, the week before Christmas, I was very busy flying the Kodiak in the ApoKayan when the auxiliary fuel pump began to fail, resulting in me having to cancel all the rest of the flights and fly back to home base without my passengers, including two medevac patients.

Early the next morning, Sunday, I left Tarakan with a 206, heading an hour and a half back down to Mahak Baru to pick up the patients.  But rather than flying down there empty, I took a huge load of desperately needed rice from Tarakan into the village of Long Sule, which is only about 10 minutes from Mahak Baru.  Because it was so wet this year, their rice crops are several months behind schedule, and the folks there are running out of rice, which is their staple.


After dropping the rice off in Sule I jumped over to Mahak and loaded up the Medevac patients and their family members for the return flight to Tarakan.


And that's just a "tip of the iceberg" snapshot of some of the reasons why time flies when you're having fun as a missionary pilot!