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

Saturday, March 24, 2012

English Club in the Big Outdoors

Joy has been involved in teaching English to kids in one of the neighborhoods in town.  Recently, some of the leaders in the community there asked if some of the MAF wives could help them put on an event they were doing for their kids, with an outdoors emphasis.  They wanted to work in the English aspect to the whole thing.

So Joy and a few other MAF wives and their husbands, got together and came up with a bunch of songs, games, and other activities, that they could do with the kids--all with an outdoors or nature emphasis. We went to a park in town that has some nice woodsy-type areas next to some jungle.

It was a great opportunity to further help the local community while strengthening friendships and relationships.  The kids had a blast!

One of the things they did was a scavenger hunt for various insects and nature things.  Of course, the names of the insects were in English, with an accompanying picture.  Check back soon to see a few of the many things that the kids found, all within a few hundred feet of their starting points, and within the span of no more than 15 minutes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Long Padi Wedding

I have a good friend, Pak Kalfin, who lives in Binuang in the Krayan region of Northeast Kalimantan.  Last Sunday his brother, Pak Diono, was getting married to Loli in the neighboring village of Long Padi.    My good friend and fellow MAF pilot, Paul, and I were invited to attend.  Paul's in-laws were here so his whole family plus my son, Hudson, and I all piled into the Kodiak and flew 45 minutes out to Long Padi to attend. 

Preparations for the wedding had started the week before.  But when we got there it was still a beehive of last-minute activities--mostly revolving around the preparation of food--mountains of fat-laden jungle pork, equally copious piles of water buffalo meat, pot after pot heaping full of rice, many types of vegetables, cakes, fruit etc.

This gentleman was all too enthusiastic to show the kids and me the buffalo--well, actually just his head--that had given his life so everyone could feast.  It was just laying there on some bloody banana leaves on the floor in the kitchen, right next to all the pots of veggies and rice, smiling with those big camel-like teeth.  It struck me as a bit funny for some reason.  It's not every day you see that scene.   I'm sure they were planning on utilizing it in some of the dishes--they don't waste much.

And speaking of not wasting much, here's one of the buffalo's legs "walking" off with a young boy, who's intense face and confident stride made me think he had a clear and definite plan for this "prize".   He took it across the airstrip and disappeared into his house.

Meanwhile, there were men outside the community building keeping a steady tribal rhythm going on their bamboo drums.  It's pretty impressive watching various guys just walk up and randomly squat down, pick up one of the drums laying around and join in--each one playing a slightly different part to a continuous song.  They came and left at will, but always there were at least a few playing the drums.

Shortly after we got there and finished all the introductions we ate...for the first time.   There would be plenty more opportunities to eat.  They go all out at these events, and eating is a big part of it!   The food is great, and it always boggles my mind that they cook it all over a fire!

People were still arriving from surrounding villages, but as they came the community building began to get pretty packed.  Everyone was talking, eating and having a good time.

Then, suddenly they all left.  They went back to their houses (or friends houses if they weren't from that village) and changed into their best clothes.  Then they came back to the church about 30 minutes later.  No sooner had everyone returned than out of nowhere came the bride, walking up the airstrip, with her mom.  To be honest I was totally not expecting to see her dressed up so fancy in a sparkling white wedding dress in the middle of a small, rustic village in the jungles of Borneo.  Plus, it was really, really hot and humid!  How did they do that.  It was like magic.  I mean, Hudson was already muddy and I was soaking wet sweated, and here comes a bride to be that looks like she was prepped in an air-conditioned dressing room.  And I can assure you they don't have air-conditioners in Long Padi!

Within a few minutes they had fired up the generator, got the speakers to stop squeaking, chased the dogs out of the church, and were ready for the bride to walk down isle.

The ceremony sort of followed a typical American wedding...sort of.  What was interesting to me is that many of the weddings that I've been to in town--the people in the wedding party often like to dress up in traditional Dayak clothing.  But here, in an actual Dayak setting, they did the exact opposite--dressing up in more traditional modern, or "western" type clothing.  Interesting I thought.  Aren't they a fine looking couple?

And isn't that flower girl cute?  I have no idea where they got these dresses from, or how they kept them white.  Seriously, this is not a well-off village, and I've never seen anything like this before interior.  My guess is that someone hand-carried them in from Malaysia, since they're not too far from the Malaysian border.  But I just couldn't get over how I was there in the middle of nowhere, watching a wedding in a very rustic church, where the people were dressed like we were in a fine hotel in Singapore.  Amazing!

Here's a shot of the newly married couple, Diono and Loli, along with Paul and his family, and Hudson (far left) and me.

By 3:00pm we had to take off and head back to Tarakan due to weather.  The wedding was over but the celebrations would continue late into the night and the following day.

Many of the people who were there for the wedding were flown in by MAF, another small example of one of the many ways that we serve the people here in Northeast Kalimantan.  It was a blast to be at the wedding.  Many of these folks are good friends and I know it meant a lot to them that we made the effort to be there.  But likewise, we always go away feeling humbled and blessed by them.  I love this job and consider it a privilege to be here serving my Indonesian friends in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Survival Training

Every day we have guys flying over some of the most rugged, remote, and beautiful jungles in the world!  From above it's a peaceful, non-threatening scene--reminiscent of the the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

But down under the canopy it's a whole different world--nothing like the comparatively gentle and benign woods of the Appalachians!

Indeed, the jungles of Borneo often appear, when at eye-level, as nothing short of rugged, cruel, impenetrable walls of thorny, leech-infested, dripping vegetation.  Fortunately we fly some of the best-maintained bush planes in the world.  We continually train, are routinely tested, and held to very high operational standards.  With that foundation and an extra big measure of God's grace, accidents are extremely rare in MAF, despite the thousands and thousands of flights we do all over the world every year.  But what if the worst case scenario happens?  What if the engine does quit while over that vast ocean of jungle?

Well, we train for that too.  If handled correctly, there's a very good chance that the pilot and passengers would survive the initial "landing" into the jungle.  But what happens over the next hours or days could be the difference between life and death.

Every few months we take a day off of our flying and wrenching responsibilities for all the MAF pilots and mechanics in Kalimantan to have a "tech meeting" where we discuss all manner of technical operations and safety issues.  Last month we had a unique tech meeting that focused on jungle survival.

My good friend and fellow MAF pilot, Paul, and I have spent a lot of time over the past few years trekking through the jungles of Borneo.  When you add it up we've spent more than a month worth of nights sleeping under the canopy.  We've learned a lot about jungle travel and survival from our extremely knowledgeable Dayak friends that accompany and guide us on these adventures.  But I think the thing that's most stuck is that the jungle is not a cozy, friendly place to a person unfamiliar.  There's many ways to die in the jungle, and the tricks to survival are elusive and frustrating.  With that in mind our Chief Pilot, Craig, asked Paul and I to lead a one-day tech meeting on jungle survival.

Since I was already swamped in the office with other responsibilities, Paul offered to head it up on his own.  He got Pak Nelson, (pictured below), to help him out.  Nelson is one of our national hanger employees, and a very knowledgeable guy when it comes to jungle skills and survival.

After spending half the day in the classroom, we ventured out to the nearby jungle for various demos and hands-on learning opportunities.  We learned how to construct a shelter for sleeping up off the jungle floor.

We learned and practiced how to build a fire when everything available is soaked through and through.

We learned a few things that can be eaten straight from the jungle.

And a whole lot more.  It was a fun, instructive time--both for what we learned and for the opportunity to hang out as a group of friends and fellow technicians, in an environment that we're usually looking down on from a few thousand feet above.

And I hope we never have to put into practice what we practiced that day...well, at least not in a real survival scenario.  I'm already planning a jungle adventure for this summer with my oldest son, Britton.  But that's different.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Twins!

Happy birthday to our twins, Tanner and Tyler!  Today was their 5th birthday!



There's never been a dull moment in our house since the twins arrived five years ago!  Their energetic, crazy, wild personalities come out nicely in these pictures.