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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Indonesian Independence Day In Pa'Upan (Part 2)

As you read this, I am well on my way into a jungle-trek, somewhere between the upper Iwan River and the upper Pujungan River, deep in the heart of Borneo.   Please continue to pray for Joy and the kids in my absence.  Also, please pray for Pual and I and our three guides, Pak Yu Taang, Pak Lajau, and Pak Ului.

As promised here is the second in the 2-part post on the Independence celebrations in Pa'Upan.  I set it up ahead of time to post here while I was away.  

In the middle of the hottest part of the afternoon, when most people were taking a rest or escaping the heat somewhere, Paul and I took the four college guys on a little hike to some outlying rice fields.  Right now the people have finished cleaning up their rice paddies, and they will soon begin the planting for the next season of rice.

Around four in the afternoon, after the heat began to subside a little, the boat races began.  Three teams of two, would compete side by side in paddle-driven dugout canoes, first up and then down river.

Sometimes the race seemed more like a canoe-version of bumper cars.  But the crowd was loving every minute!

Here's a few shots of kids along the river bank watching.

Like I said in the last post, usually there would be a lot of eating going on in conjunction with the activities.  But in this case, out of respect for the Muslim government officials present, most of the food-related activities were kept either far away, or inside individual homes.  These three kids were chomping away to their hearts delight on freshly roasted pig ribs, over where the men were cooking the pork on the opposite side of the runway.

There was supposed to be a cultural food festival that evening, where many traditional foods would be served.  But under the circumstances it was cancelled.  However, our friends from Binuang who were there to defend their title in the soccer tournament, invited us over to their place to feast on some of the traditional foods that their ladies had prepared.

Among the delicacies were grubs.  First we got to try the cooked grubs.  They were boiled as-is, in bamboo tubes.  No spices, no salt, no anything--except juicy, plump grubs that "popped" when you bit into them.  After downing several of these cooked critters, I mentioned the fact that I'd heard some people like to eat them raw.  Apparently only one guy that was present appreciated the flavor of the live grub.  But somehow the challenge was thrown out there, that if he ate one, I would eat one too.

I readily agreed.  But first I set up the video camera as I knew my boys would be disappointed if they didn't get to see this later.  Below is a screen grab from the video, just as I placed one of those very juicy, wriggling, plump grubs into my mouth.  It's little feet grabbed my lower lip and tried to hang on, even as I "popped" the other half with my teeth.  All I can say is, it wasn't my favorite.  O.k., I can go a little further and say that it had an extremely strong and very potent flavor, that led to my mouth and tongue going numb for about 10 minutes afterwards.  The good thing is that it's supposedly a medicinal product that helps prevent cancer.  Well, I guess I'll be cancer free for a while!

Stay tuned for news from our jungle trek, hopefully after next weekend.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Indonesian Independence Day in Pa'Upan (Part 1)

Indonesia's Independence Day is August 17th.  It's celebrated throughout the country, even in the interior villages.  A few weeks ago, I had the chance, along with MAF's program manager, Steve, and fellow MAF pilot, Paul, to attend the opening festivities of the two-week long Independence Day celebrations in the south Krayan region.  We also brought along a group of four U.S. mission aviation college students that had just arrived here the day before to get a taste for what missionary pilots do.  It was quite an introduction!  

MAF flew many people into Pa'Upan for the event, both from surrounding villages and from the far-away coastal cities.  This year was a bit unusual in that the Bupati (a high-level, elected government official who is just under the governor and presides over a large area or region) from both Malinau and Nunukan  were planning to attend.  They specifically requested MAF to transport them, along with their entourages, so we flew multiple loads to see it happen.  Pictured below, just to the right of the MAF dove on the tail of the airplane is the Nunukan Bupati.

I was originally scheduled to fly that day and then after completing all of the flights, I was planning to overnight with the Kodiak in Pa'Upan.  However, my good friends, Pak Ajang and Pak Gat, in Pa'Upan, insisted that I be there on the ground with my camera right from the get-go, in order to photograph the festivities and documents the celebrations.  So Paul readily agreed to swap me out and I was able to be there, ready, when the events kicked off in full gear.

Pictured from left to right:  Paul, Craig (our chief pilot), and Steve, (our program manager).  In the background is our Caravan.  The Kodiak and Caravan did the lion's share of heavy-hauling for these celebrations.

After the arrival of the Bupatis, the opening ceremonies began immediately.  The entire village was lined up in rows beside the airstrip, many wearing traditional colors and clothes.

They faced a make-shift stage while speeches and introductions were given on a battery-powered sound system.  Below, my good friend, Pak Gat, is doing some of the opening introductions.  You can see the people lined up in the background, but Pak Gat is turned around at the moment speaking to the Government officials who are seated on a stage behind him.  To the right is the top of the big soccer trophy, that will be given to the team that comes out on top after a grueling, two-week soccer tournament between all of the villages in that area.

And here are a few of the soccer teams, who were also lined up during the speeches and intros.  Whereas the Kodiak, driven by Paul, flew multiple loads of people throughout the day into Pa'Upan, and then spent the night there, the Caravan had other places it needed to go after flying the Bupati in from Nunukan.  You can see it here, piloted by Craig, taking off in the background.

The young kids were torn between watching the festivities in the foreground and the airplanes in the background.

After all of the opening speeches and introductions etc. etc. were completed, we returned to Pak Ajang's house for a feast of delicious food.  At left is Steve, at right is the Malinau Bupati.

The village killed two water buffalo and six pigs for the opening ceremonies.  Here, the men are dividing up buckets full of pig meat and fat (the best part) to various houses and families after it's been boiled and roasted for hours on fires they have going under their barbecue tent.  Still hot and freshly salted, this stuff was like candy to the villagers.  Think of it like that big, fat, stuffed Turkey (or whatever it is you like to eat) for Thanksgiving dinner.  To the people interior, this is as good as it gets.  And it IS good!  However, being that this was right in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and that the Nunukan Bupati and most of his entourage are Muslim, there was great effort by the people in Pa'Upan to keep the Pork (which Muslims are not allowed to eat) and all other food and drinks out of sight as much as possible (most Muslims fast from food and drink each day during Ramadan).  Whereas normally the food would have been part of the festivities, this time they kept the festivities on one side of the airstrip, and the pig roasting and eating on the other side of the strip.

I'll have one more post next week, showing some of the other things that were going on there in Pa'Upan.  Be sure to stop back to see the rest of the story.


But in the meantime, we just wanted to say thanks for all of you that were praying for a quick resolution to our lost home-school books.  We still have not been reimbursed by Singapore airlines for the lost books.  It seems that they are good at dragging their feet when it comes time to paying up.  However,  Heart of Dakota Publishing, has been exceptional in their response to our request for a speedy re-shipment of the books.  Joy has been blown away by their generous offers to help with the costs and the great lengths to which they went to ensure that the replacement books got to MAF in a very short time.  (And so far she is very impressed with the curriculum!)  Thanks to them, and to Barb, at MAF, who also went the extra mile, we were able to get the replacement books shipped to MAF in time to go with Tom and Pam, who were moving over here from Nampa.  They agreed to bring the box of books as an extra piece of luggage.  If not for everyone's help, it could have easily taken several months to get them here the slower and cheaper way, OR, a whole lot of extra money to get them here in a reasonable amount of time.  Thanks all of you for your help!

Because of that, the kids were able to start school, pretty close to when Joy had hoped to start.  It may seem a bit early to you, but she likes to start a bit sooner, since throughout the year there tend to be a lot of "interruptions" like village trips etc.  Here's a quick shot of the kids on their first day of the new school year, each holding up a sign that Joy made indicating their current grade.  She's always so good at making things special and memorable, so of course she had a special "first day of school breakfast" and these little "place mats" were at each kids plate.


This coming Friday morning (Thursday evening in the U.S.), Paul College and I will be embarking on our annual "Man Vs. Jungle" expedition.  In what seems to have become a yearly tradition, we'll be giving up the relative comfort, safety and predictability of life in Tarakan for the grueling, sweaty, leech-infested jungles of the interior in an effort to experience travel the "hard way", without the use of the airplane.  This trip promises to be our most ambitious effort to date as we'll be attempting to traverse an area that is so remote and isolated that only one of our three guides has ever been there--and that was more than 20 years ago!  Unfortunately, the other few people that remember that area are either too old or too sick to accompany us.

Although this trek holds a high degree of uncertainty as to the total length of time that we'll be hacking through the bush, the difference in this and others that we've done is that we will not need to meet another group of guides somewhere in the middle of the jungle to complete the trek.  That's always a little disconcerting as it feels like you're looking for a needle in a haystack.  But this time we will be flying our guides into the starting point with us, and they will then accompany us the entire length of the journey until we make it back to their home areas anywhere from 7 to 12 days later.  We're confident that they will find their way, as these guys are masters at navigating and living in the jungle.  It may take a while, but we'll eventually make it out.

If all goes well, we plan to complete the entire journey all the way back to Tarakan without the use of the airplane.  Stay tuned, I'm sure that there will be some interesting photos and posts after the trip.  In the meantime, please keep us, as well as Joy and the kids in your prayers.  It's a pretty special wife that lets her husband go trekking in the jungle for a week or two every year!  But I'm sure she and the kids would appreciate your prayers as they hold down the fort here in Tarakan.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kids and Critters

Here's one of the "critters" Britton was keeping around the house last week.  He's since released it back into the wild.  (WARNING: the last picture in this post contains a slithery "critter".)

We're now finished with our busy birthday season.  It starts with Hannah.  On June 21st she turned 9 years old.  She had a slumber party here with some of her MK friends.

Next is Hudson.  On July 28th he turned 7.  He also had some friends over for a sleepover, but since  I was interior that night, we celebrated again with just our family after I returned.

Finally it was Britton's turn.  On August 4th he turned 11.  You may notice that part of the chocolate chip cookie cake is missing (ummmmm, I don't know anything about that!).  And the other thing that cracks me up is Tyler, trying to grab some of the birthday attention from Britton.

The twins are growing up fast!  Here's a picture we took after we got a package from my parents with the new shorts and shirts and whistles (Tyler isn't holding his).  Their facial expressions really capture their personalities here.

And finally, another "critter" that Britton had for a few days last week.  He caught it in the neighbor's yard and kept it for three or four days before releasing it again in front of our house, much to the chagrin of his mom!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Along the Airstrip

About three weeks ago Britton and I went interior for three nights (four days) to fly people to a church conference (Flying for a church Conference Part 1 and Part 2).  While I was flying all day, Britton was hanging out with village friends.  One morning while I was waiting for the fog to lift off the end of the airstrip so I could takeoff, Britton and I and some of his friends took a walk down the airstrip to see if we could finds some interesting macro life to photograph.  Here's some of what we found.

A curious praying mantis.

A strange-looking grasshopper thingy.  It was no more than a half inch long.

A bright read leaf.

This tiny flower was only about the size of a pencil eraser.

There were hundreds of grasshoppers, and they all seemed to be different!  This was also a little tiny guy, but much "plumper" than the stick-like one above.

No idea what this is.

A bee collecting pollen.

Another red leaf.

Yep, yet another grasshopper!

I was actually focusing on the flower itself when it dawned on me how many bugs were inside collecting pollen or nectar or whatever they're doing.  Every single one of this particular type of pink flower had three or four or five bugs inside working feverishly to collect whatever it is they're collecting.  Must be good stuff!

All of the above shots were taken with my macro lens in the span of about 15 minutes.  Isn't it awesome how much life and beauty are right there around us each and every day--most of which goes unnoticed unless we take the time to slow down and look for it?!

This last shot was taken the following day in Long Nawang.  It's taken with an ultra-wide angle lens (this one set at 10mm on a Canon 7D).  As you can see it produces a totally different look--way up close to the flower, but still able to see the surroundings, the sky etc.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blowgun Competition

Last weekend we got invited to a blowgun shooting competition out at Amal, on the other side of the island of Tarakan.  It was quite impressive, with each participate getting two rounds (five darts each round) to shoot at a target that was about 80 feet away.  I would have been lucky just to get a dart to go 80 feet, let alone get it to stick into the target, or be anywhere near the center!

People from several different interior ethnic groups were represented, each trying to earn the title and pride of being the best shooter out there!

In the foreground (pictured below) is Pendeta (Pastor) Estenly, from PaUpan.  He actually lives and serves in the interior village, but two months ago I flew him and his family out so they could go visit their family down in South Kalimantan.  Like us, they are living and serving in a ministry role far away from their "homeland" and family.  It had been almost four years since they'd had the chance to go "home."  Well, their return trip back to Pa'Upan came through Tarakan at just the right time for Pdt Estenly to give it a go in the blowgun competition.  We were actually surprised to see how many people we either knew, or had connections with there.

I don't know what it was about this dragonfly, but the whole time I was hanging out with the guys on the line, the thing kept coming back and landing on the very top of the spears.  At the end of most blowguns is a stiff, metal spear.  These are used to spear wild pigs and other large game.

Tougher than woodpecker lips--Pak Nelson!  This was not a posed shot.  I was a long way away using a telephoto lens, and he didn't even know I was taking his picture.  But I think this shot totally does justice to Pak Nelson.  What can I say.  The guy is as tough and rugged as they come, yet no one is more generous and caring than Pak Nelson.  He originally comes from an interior village, but has been one of our indispensable national staff here in Tarakan now for quite a few years.  The people interior know and love and respect him, as do the pilots and mechanics.  Pak Nelson loves the Lord and it shows through his work, his relationships and his integrity.  He's also a great dad and husband.  No one is quicker to offer a hand to those hurting or sick or in need, than Pak Nelson.  He's always giving of his time and resources to encourage and love people the way Christ would.  But make no mistake; that doesn't mean that you have to be a sissy.  And he's no sissy!  He's as tough as woodpecker lips, and man can he shoot a blowgun!!!  Pak Nelson was the one who invited us to the competition, and I have to say it was pretty obvious right off the bat that he was one of, if not the very best there!

There was another guy there that looked particularly tough and rugged in his traditional attire.  I walked up and started talking to him.  I soon found out that he's originally from Long Alango.  I mentioned one of my good friends there, that I've gone on several hikes with, and it turns out that they're related!  So then he brought up the big sickness that occurred there almost exactly one year ago, and he mentioned that MAF had been the critical factor in averting a potentially huge disaster, by flying in the medical team on short notice.  I told him that I was the guy that flew in that medical team.  Well that sealed the deal.  We were now friends!  He took Britton aside and was determined to coach him on blowgun-shooting techniques.  (Notice the heavy-weighted rings in his ears, the pig tusks hanging from his neck, along with the clouded leopard tooth and monkey skull.  The designs on the bark vest are traditional Dayak.)

So, with his own separate group of spectators, a personal Dayak coach, and a snack box for a target, Britton set out with his new mini-blowgun to learn the finer arts of blowgun warfare.  I have to say, he was impressive from the get-go.  And the onlookers were quite impressed as well.  It was determined that he would indeed have to compete at next years competition.  Does that mean we need to find some pig tusks and ear rings???

It wasn't all testosterone-boosting manly, war games.  There were several other competitions going on as well including the girls from each suku (ethnic group) doing traditional dances.  Here's a few of the different suku, all dressed up and ready to dance.

Today there are four American college students coming to Tarakan to check out MAF and what we do.  They'll be here for about two weeks.  On Thursday, the big opening ceremonies for this year's Tujuh Belas Agustus (17 August, which is Indonesia's Independence Day) festivities interior start in PaUpan.  We will be flying in two government Bupati officialsa and all their entourages, from the two districts in this part of Northeast Kalimantan.  It promises to be a big shindig!  The people there, and the Bupatis asked MAF to be represented as well.  So I'll also be flying in our new Program Manager, Steve, and his family, along with the four college kids as well.  I'll plan to spend the night with all of them on Thursday night, and then fly everyone back out on Friday.  Should be fun!