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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fattening Up For the New Year!

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to ya!  We've been down in Balikpapan for the past few days, enjoying a much needed and long-overdue vacation from Tarakan.  And yes, they DO have a McDonalds here, so we're fattening up for the new year!

Balikpapan is the first city that you have to fly through when leaving Tarakan.  Every large commercial flight to/from Tarakan goes via Balikpapan.  Whereas Tarakan has almost no expats (with the exception of the MAF staff), Balikpapan is home to many, due to the major oil, gas and mining industries.  For many of these expats, Balikpapan is definitely "roughing it"--a place to escape from when it's time for vacation.  I guess it's all relative, because for us Balikpapan is like the land flowing with milk and honey...offering all sorts of food and perks that we're not used to in Tarakan.  We try to get down here once a year to recharge our batteries.  This time, we were so blessed to be able to stay in the home of an expat friend, Alison, who was on vacation in Australia.  It was sooooo nice to have the space and independence of a home, while still enjoying the perks of Balikpapan!  Thank you Alison!

On Christmas morning we dined on a J.CO doughnuts (sort of like Crispy Creme), real bacon and sausage, and dad's special, bacon-fried-cheesy eggs!  Like I said, we're fattening up for the new year!  The only time we get to eat bacon and sausage is in Balikpapan, so it's a real treat for the kids.

Another huge treat is the swimming pool.  The house we stayed in was part of a beautiful housing complex which had it's own swimming pool.  And what made it even better (according to the kids) was that the jets that were coming and going all day from the airport, flew directly overhead the pool and the house.  It was like the best of everything--getting to watch airplanes fly low overhead, while swimming!

Whereas you might have been wishing for a white Christmas, so you could go out and make some "snow angels", our kids were hoping for a hot and sunny Christmas so they could go out and make "water angels."

We spent a lot of time in the pool!

We also went to the Crocodile Farm, where they raise crocodiles for eating and making things from the hides.  It costs about $2 for our whole family to get in and walk around looking at all the crocs.  You can also pay a buck to chuck a chicken in to the hungry crocs.  It's cheap fun!  To find out more about the crocodile farm check out my older post, "Hey Mr., That'll Cost You $5!"  To see a video of us chuckin a chicken to the crocs on a previous trip, go here and scroll down to the end of the post.

At the crocodile farm they also have two elephants that are native to Indonesia.  We especially like Happy, the 8-year old elephant.

The kids took turns feeding Happy fruit and nuts.  They decided that we should have an elephant for a pet...but um, I think we'll have to old off on that one!

It's been a wonderful time of family fun, relaxing, and battery re-charging!  We'll need it, because the new year is already shaping up to be one of the busiest we've had here!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas in the Hangar

It's been a busy Christmas party week at the airport!  Monday night the kids did their school Christmas program--at the hangar.  They all did a great job!

That's Hannah, second from left in the front row, Hudson third from right in the front row, and Britton right behind Hudson.

Hannah on the far left, Hudson third from right.

Britton in the blue.

Wednesday night their was a Christmas party in the airport proper--over in the passenger terminal.  It's the first time ever that the minority Christian employees at the airport were allowed to have a Christmas celebration there.  MAF was invited, along with all of the local Indonesian churches in the area.  Several other MAFers and I was a really neat event both for the significance of what it represented, as well as the sermon and singing.

Then on Saturday night we had the MAF staff (Western and Indonesian staff) Christmas party in our hangar. (Below).

Here the pilots & mechanics and their wives were singing a song, while in the background a few hundred feet away a 737 was roaring down the runway on takeoff.  Those sideways light streaks in the darkness just above the center tables--those are the lights from the plane as it screamed past, completely drowning out anything and everything that was being sung for the next 30 seconds.  Well, hey, at least the electricity stayed on this time!   And that's something that we certainly don't take for granted!  :)

This is already shaping up to be another busy week, but we look forward to remembering and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, this weekend!  More later.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Safari Flying

This week we were busy doing Christmas Safari flying for the Bupati.  No, we weren't flying him around to hunt tigers and elephants.  Rather, there's a tradition in the Apo Kayan, where the Bupati (regional elected government official) goes around to all the villages at Christmas and spends some time meeting and greeting and generally just spreading Christmas cheer among his constituents.  

They call it the "Safari Natal Bupati" (Bupati's Christmas Safari).  I've flown Bpk Yansen, the current Bupati, many times over the past years, long before he became the Bupati.  He's a man that shares our faith and has a long-standing great relationship with MAF!  The people really seem to like him too!

At each location the people get all dressed up and come out to greet him when he gets there.  He usually spends one to two nights in each village before moving on to the next.  It goes without saying that without MAF, this would be an impossible trip--especially when it involves an entourage that's swelled to now 26 people!

On Tuesday I flew the Bupati and some of his entourage into Mahak Baru in the Kodiak.  They started the "Safari" from there.  By Saturday they were in Data Dian, needing to go to Long Sule.  We "stood down" the Kodiak on Friday, so that it would have just enough time to fly them on Saturday before it had to begin an inspection.  So on Saturday I flew more people from his entourage, including his wife, below, directly to Long Sule from Malinau.

Then, I made several trips over to Data Dian to pick up Bpk Yansen and his team and bring them back to Sule.  Tripp also made several runs in a 206.  Next week the Safari continues from Sule to Pujungan, then Alango, and finally back to Malinau.

Do you have any safaris planned for Christmas?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Flying the Governor

Last Saturday we were asked to fly around the Governor of East Kalimantan and his entourage.  Craig flew the Caravan and I flew a 206 (they requested the Kodiak, but it was grounded, waiting for a part from the U.S.)

And here (pictured below) is the Governor himself, all smiles after a great flight by Craig.

A huge line of people were waiting to greet them when they got off the plane in Malinau.

Then, later in the afternoon they had requested the Caravan to take a group of them directly from Malinau to Samarinda.  Because it would be late in the day and it's a long flight, there was no way that Craig could get there and back to Tarakan before dark.  So he was planning to spend the night in Samarinda.  However, as often happens in these situations, there was a communication blunder and in fact they wanted BOTH planes to go to Samarinda.

It's been a long time since we've taken a 206 to Samarinda.  It's a loooong way from Tarakan (or Malinau) and there is no Avgas.  What's more, late in the day the weather can be very wild en route in that area.  And the 206 is a lot slower than the Caravan.  I wished for the Kodiak, but alas, it would have to be a 206 or nothing.  I pushed for my passengers to get there earlier, but again, as is often the case, they were not to be "pushed".  Finally, at 3:15pm I departed Malinau, heading for Samarinda, a 2:15 flight away.  If all went well, I planned to arrive 30 minutes before sunset.

This is not normal for us here.  We typically plan to land at least 45 minutes before sunset, and especially on a long flight like this!  But since there were two of us going and the Caravan was faster and would be out ahead giving me weather reports, I departed--planning to turn around within the hour if the weather was anything but perfect.

Ten minutes after departing Craig overtook me in the Caravan (pictured below as he flies past to my right).  As you can see, the weather was absolutely beautiful.  In fact, I'd say that it's probably only this good about 10 times a year at this time of day.  I climbed up to 11,500 feet and settled in for the ride.

Shortly after leveling off I saw a nice mushroom topped thunderstorm way off in the distance.  It was dead ahead and about 100 miles away.  That was the only "bad" weather on the entire trip, and it was easily avoided and as it stood all alone in a clear sunny sky.  Here's a shot of it out the window as I skirted well clear of it to the west.

Helped by a nice tail-wind we made good time and landed at about 5:20pm in Samarinda (the airport is called Temindung).

When I landed, there were hundreds of people on both sides of the runway from end to end--not right up next to it, but off to the side.  I thought that was strange, but no one was moving and the tower said the runway was "clear" and that I was "cleared to land".  I was very much on edge, ready to abort on a moments notice if someone ran out into the runway.  But they didn't.

However, by the time I taxied in and shut down, I realized what they were doing.  They were waiting for me to land so that they could overtake the runway.  Normally the airport closes at 5:00 pm. Apparently at 5:01 it gets overtaken by throngs of kids playing soccer and couples going for romantic walks.

After securing the airplane for the night, I walked out onto the runway to see what all the fuss was about.  It just struck me as both funny and surreal to see a paved, aviation runway, covered in swarms of screaming, laughing, happy kids.  It was so not normal--at least for my western mindset.  So here I stood looking to the west as the sun set down at the end of the runway that I had just landed on 10 minutes before.  The shirts on the ground make a goal at one end of a make-shift soccer field.  There were probably a dozen similar games going on simultaneously from one end of the runway to the other.

Then I turned around and shot a picture the other way--yes, another goal, this one defined by two pairs of shoes.  I hung out and made a bunch of new friends for the next 20 minutes or so, before finding Craig and making our way to a hotel.

The next day I flew back to Tarakan, and once again the weather was great.  I have some pictures I want to show you from that trip, but that will have to wait till next time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankful for Candles!

Happy Thanksgiving!  If you're not from the U.S., then you probably don't celebrate Thanksgiving, at least not at the same time we do.  But of course this is one of the biggest holidays in America, and many family traditions often go along with Thanksgiving, not the least of which is stuffing yourself with good food and hanging out with family and friends!  

We certainly have a lot to be thankful for...a loving family, great friends, an awesome ministry and team here in Indonesia, generally good health, and most of all the hope of eternal life with the One to Whom we give thanks for everything--Jesus!

As is the tradition here in Tarakan, our entire MAF team got together to celebrate, including our Dutch and Canadian families!  The wives slaved away in their respective kitchens all day, cooking up a massive feast, on par with anything found on a Thanksgiving table in America, but this one being made entirely from scratch!  I mean, seriously, take a look at the dessert table above!  Unbelievable!

There were smashed potatoes and rolls and corn and green been casseroles and salads and more!  Joy even went so far as to string and cut each individual green been lengthwise, to make her green been casserole look and taste as much like it would in the U.S.  This is one of my favorites, and her's was awesome!  

What about the bird you ask?  You see, in the U.S. you virtually HAVE to have a turkey or a ham.  Well a ham is just out of the question in this country--at least in Tarakan, and a Turkey--well, um yeah, those are really hard to get and very expensive too!  One of our families, Chris & Sarah, generously bought a turkey to share with the team, but in addition to that we also roasted eight chickens!  Yeah, you can stuff a chicken and put gravy on it just like a turkey, only it's smaller!  Over here you have to improvise.

By 6:30pm we were finally all crowded together and getting ready to start the feast.  You can see Paul, on the left, whistling loudly to get everyones' attention.  (Notice the beautiful lights and ceiling fan--that's important, as you'll see in a minute.) 

And then, just after we prayed and started dishing up the food, this...

I guess we forgot to be thankful for electricity--which seems to be rather sporadic as of late.

It stayed off the rest of the evening...which gave us the chance to be thankful for candles!  I mean, despite the fact that it was stiflingly hot and humid, with no fans and no breeze, what could be better than eating a thanksgiving meal with dozens of your best friends, lit by candles, cell phones, and LED flashlights?

The below picture almost makes it look like the ambiance is intentional.  Isn't it "romantic"?  Well, this is one of those rare cases where something actually looks better in the photo than it was in real life.  This is a long exposure that I took just after the power went out, just to show you what was going on in the darkness.  Initially, it actually looked a lot more like the picture above, almost totally dark...until we rounded up more candles and flashlights.   (You might notice that the ceiling fan is still moving in this shot, since it was just a minute or so after the power died.)

Well, it wasn't what we had in mind for our Thanksgiving dinner, but we still had a great time none-the-less.  And now we won't forget to be thankful for electricity--when we have it--and candles when we don't!

Here's a few ladies from Long Sule that seemed joyful and thankful the other day.  I had just flown in some government employees for a meeting with the village, and I was waiting around for a half hour until they were ready to leave.  These ladies were taking a lunch break, having been working hard in their rice fields on the hills behind the airstrip.  They were all laughter and smiles!

And here's the rice field where they were working.  There's two types of rice here in Kalimantan--wet and dry.  "Dry" is misleading, b/c it's never really dry here, but the dry rice grows on hills like this, whereas the "wet" rice grows in the flooded, flat rice paddies like you've probably seen in pictures from here, or areas like Vietnam or Thailand.  It just depends on the village and the terrain as to what type they grow.

It was a busy week, ending with some flights for the Governor of Kalimantan on Saturday, along with an overnight in Samarinda and return on Sunday.  But I'll save that for next time.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Here's a few shots from the past couple of weekends.  First, flying RC airplanes down at the airport on Sunday afternoons with MAF friends.  To see a few more photos like these, go see Joy's post, "The Glorious in the Mundane."

And last Sunday we went to a baby dedication that we were invited to attend for a family in our neighborhood.

Notice the envelope that the guest is slipping into the side of the crib, beside the sleeping baby.  It's customary to bring an envelope with a monetary gift inside for this type of event.

Of course, the family wanted to pose for photos with my family.

The proud grandma was sitting on a chair next to the baby.  I never saw her get up.  However before we left she specifically asked for this picture, with her older granddaughter, knowing that later we'll print it out and bring it to her.

And of course, no "weekend post" could be complete without an airplane shot.  The Kodiak is in such high demand, and there are so many flight requests, that we started flying it six days a week way back in May when I finished my Kodiak checkout.  Ever since then I've been flying the Saturday schedule, and taking my weekend on Sunday and Monday.  Here's a shot from this Saturday in Data Dian.  It was a beautiful day, but those big white clouds in the distance were an indicator of things to come.  Usually when it's this hot and sunny there are massive thunderstorms that build up in the afternoon.  Saturday was no exception, as I had to negotiate a lot of ugly weather on the way home.