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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Underwater World (1 of 2)

The island we live on, Tarakan, does not offer any white sand beaches or clear blue water.  Quite the opposite in fact--brackish, brown, muddy water surrounds our island.  But hop on a speed boat and in a few hours you can be in water like this... (I swam down about 20' or so to shoot a picture of Hudson, snorkeling just off the edge of Kakaban island, where the shelf drops hundreds of feet straight down into the clear, dark, black water.)

In July my mom came over here for a visit.  We had a great time!  One of the highlights was a trip that she took us on (well, actually we took her on, but she generously paid for) to the islands south of here.  I've featured several blog posts before on these islands, so I hope you're not board with it.  But I never tire of seeing the fascinating, extravagant colors and creatures that are "hidden" just below the surface of these tropical waters.  We all had a great time and made many good memories!  

Hudson had his first chance to get up close to a large sea turtle.  There's a lot of them around Derawan. They like to graze on the grass that grows in the white sand.  The larger they are the less skittish.  Often, if you approach slowly, you can go right up and touch them.

Got quite a few shots of Hudson this time.  He's turned into quite a little fish...reminds me a lot of Britton a few years ago.  The guy just kept going and going and going.  He's like a swimming version of the energizer bunny--that is if bunnies could swim.  Can bunnies swim?  He even went night snorkeling with me and Britton--which is pretty impressive for an eight year old I think.

Occasionally a large piece of drift wood or log floats by on the currents.  The kids love to wrangle these in and ride them. 

The island of Kakaban is not too far from Derawan, where we were staying.  It's uninhabited and offers a gorgeous, albeit narrow beach, with blindingly white sand and lots of shells and hermit crabs.  In the center of the island is a large lake that's home to hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of jelly fish, all of which have lost their ability to sting.  And encircling the island is a dazzling coral reef that drops straight off into the "abyss" just 20 or so meters off shore.  The kids love to play at Kakaban, and this time we brought a pack lunch and spent the better part of a day there.  Hannah was happy for hours playing in the soft sand surrounding the lava-rocks that make up the island.

Here's a shot from way down deep in the lake, looking up through the eerie green water at the twins and Britton as they swim among the jelly fish.

The jellies are harmless here, unlike in the ocean proper.  So you can catch and feel them to your heart's delight.  Tyler couldn't get enough of it!

Speaking of Tyler...he sure has a flamboyant personality.  He can really work the pouting face thing.  I don't even think he knows why he does it half the time.  He just likes to "work it".  It doesn't get him anything special in our family--in fact, it should backfire if we're on our parenting toes.  But, I have to say it cracks me up...I just can't show him that or I'll encourage it even more.  The question is, does he get that from his mom or his dad?  Things that make you go hmmmm...?

There's a long jetty that goes out to the edge of the reef in Derawan (actually quite a few of them).  This time the boys asked if they could jump off the end of it.  In this picture, it's high tide.  But at low tide the water was quite a bit lower, and the jump was probably at least a good 10 to 12 feet.  They had a blast doing this for hours.  Even Joy, Hannah and the twins jumped off!

As usual, we saw a lot of gorgeous fish and critters!  Here, Britton gets up close and personal to a poisonous Lion Fish.  If the brilliant zebra stripes and crazy, eccentric spiny fins aren't a clear enough sign to "stay away!", then the final clue is the fact that a fish this size should be afraid of you...but he's not!  And that is always a good sign that you should be afraid of him!  But if you don't mess with them, they typically won't mess with you.

Stop by soon for the other half to this blog post where I'll show you more of the creatures that we saw under the water.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Smoky Season

It's August and it's that time of year again...smoky season!  This is what it looks like when it's starting.  A bright blue sky with dark, boiling plumes of smoke popping up all over.

The smoke comes from the fires people make to burn their ladangs (rice field) to make way for the new crop.  The truth is, the smoke in Northeast Kalimantan would be fairly localized and not all that bad if we only had our own to worry about.  As you can see, even with multiple fires burning, and the smoke being trapped below the cloud layer at about 5,000 feet, still, the visibility is o.k. enough to be flyable.  But it gets really, really bad when the winds shift and bring the much heavier smoke from central, southern and western Kalimantan.  When that happens, we often have to shut down flight operations until it clears up again.  Only time will tell if this will be one of those years.

Here's a few random shots from my flying over the past week or so.

A few weeks ago we asked our good friend Tripp to grab some shots of Joy and me.  I much prefer being behind the lens to being in front of the lens.  Truth be told, I tried to get out of the picture, but Joy needed the updated pictures for her blog, so I gave in.  Tripp, in addition to being a great pilot and mechanic, is also an amazing photographer.   He made these shots just behind the MAF hangar after work one day--pretty low key.  And since I almost never put pictures on here of the two of us together, I thought I'd share a few of the shots of my amazing and wonderful wife and me.

This is one of my favorites.  Joy's going to kill me for putting this on here, b/c it's not one of her favorites.  But I'm definitely digging the look she's got going on here--sort of the fall catalog edition of Lands End or Abercrombie model look thing.  Oh yeah!  I definitely married waaaay up!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Irau Binuang 2012 (Part 4)

Well, this is the last post from Irau.  Here's a shot one evening as we're all gathering in the community building for dinner.

And here's dinner on it's way (this was about an hour or two earlier).

And here's dinner being prepared.  First they kill it, then they singe all the hair off, then they "dress" and quarter it--or the rough equivalent.  And finally they cut up the fat and meat into cubes and boil it...the fat being the favorite part.

Every night there were at least two or three pigs AND a water buffalo that were killed and prepared for the meals the following day.  As it began to get dark everyone would gather just outside the community building...

...or inside if you preferred.  Actually, this particular night we all got forced in b/c of rain.  The ladies were constantly bringing out more food.  I've never been on a cruise, but from the descriptions that I've heard, this would be sort of like the Dayak equivalent of a Western cruise, as far as the food goes--come and go as you please and when you please, and eat as much as you want, and then eat some more.

Speaking of rain, the weather in the mountainous interior follows a fairly typical pattern.  It's usually bright and sunny and hot, with blue skies and white fair weather cumulous clouds during the day, and then around about 4:00 the dark clouds move in and the heavens open up and it rains cats and dogs!  (What exactly does that phrase mean anyway?  Try and translate that into Indonesian and see how well it works. )

We're used to the very hot and humid temperatures in Tarakan, so not the cooler temps at 3,000 feet, and the rain feel down right cold!  Here, Hudson is making a break for it, after running across the airstrip to fetch his sweatshirt (which he only ever wears when we're interior).

It's not uncommon for the rain to only last a half hour or so and then the blue sky begins to poke out again--the jungle immediately beginning to steam and form clouds or fog just above the trees.  This series of shots were all taken the same evening, starting with the two above.  This is often how it unfolds, and we love it--the clear, clean, cooler air and the beautiful skies!

And not long after that the sun begins to light up the clouds.

This was a pretty spectacular sky--the sun painting up the western sky, with distant lighting flashing across the Southeast.  I had every intention of capturing the lighting, but that takes patience and my family was being called repeatedly on the village megaphone for dinner.  Since everyone was pretty much waiting for me, and since my name was being called over and over for the whole village to hear, well, I decided I'd just have to settle for a non-lightning picture.

Then, sometime in the night it often clouds over again and rains or drizzles lightly for several hours, until the wee hours of the morning--providing a wonderful putter-pattering soundtrack on the tin roofs.  In the morning, everything is socked in by low clouds and fog, a result of all the moisture from the night before.  And not long after the sun rises, it begins to burn off and forms clouds which then build back into more thunderstorms by afternoon and the whole process is repeated again, and again, and again.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little 4-part photo glimpse into the festivities of Irau at Binuang.  I know we sure enjoyed being there!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Irau Binuang 2012 (Part 3)

A lot of people came from all over to congregate in Binuang for Irau.  There were people from all of the surrounding villages, from the coastal towns and cities, and people from as far away as Java, Malaysia, and even other countries.  These were all people who had roots in the Krayan region, and many had not been back in a long, long time--a few for over 30 years!  We made a ton of flights to help get everyone into and out of Binuang.  Here, Isaac and Craig are taxiing for takeoff after dropping off another load of folks in the Kodiak.

In the above picture, do you see that tall, bumpy pole rising out of the picture in the background, just behind the cockpit?  Well, here's a close-up of it.  It's actually a tree trunk cut like a telephone pole and then covered with hundreds and hundreds of animal sculls of every kind.  I asked what it was for, or what it represented, and was told that it was a symbol of the abundance of food that the people have received from the jungle over the years.  At the top is a windmill of sorts that would spin wildly in the strong afternoon breezes.

We spent much of our time just hanging out and visiting with people.  Our hosts, Pak Kalfin and his wife, are good friends and were absolutely so gracious and generous--as they always are!  Here, Joy and the kids are hanging out on their front porch, a favorite place for folks to gather, where one has a good view of the whole village and the airstrip.

Going for a late afternoon walk...the kids are never without friends in the villages.  Though many kids in the villages speak only limited Indonesian, and no English, language doesn't seem to be a big barrier for them.  School is taught in Indonesian, so they quickly learn to speak Indonesian, though they all retain their local languages/dialects and speak that among friends and family.

Joy and Tyler jumped in and joined the musical "class" being offered by one of the village's cultural "instructors".  The music was going virtually non-stop day and night.  It was really neat to see so many people all playing different traditional instruments in perfect rhythm and harmony.  When someone would get tired, a new person would take their place and the instructor would teach them how to play their part (if they didn't already know) all while the music continued to play.  In short order they would become a pro--contributing a small but significant part to the song that was made from nothing but a variety of bamboo instruments.  And that's just what happened when Joy gave it a shot.  Her smile says it all.

We also worked in some fishing in one of the many little ponds around the village.  The kids love fishing--but whereas normally our hosts fry up the fish we catch, this time we did the "catch and release" plan--seeing as how there were already 15 pigs and 5 water buffalo being prepared to eat I don't think we needed our little fishes.

And speaking of food, I mentioned previously the beautiful traditional feast that the women put out one evening.  They asked me to take pictures of all of the food so they would have it documented to remember.  I took a bunch of photos--some more artistic, and some simply from straight above to show each dish.    Later I'll print them out and give them copies.

Each food dish had a little description above it with the name and what it was.  Some of them we could identify.  Some, we had no idea.  But we tried all of them before the end of the evening.  These, however, were the ones that were getting all the attention.  There were three wonderful species of grubs, cooked to perfection.  The blue bowl contains the smallest ones, about 1 1/2 inches long.  They pop when you bight into them, but are smooth and "creamy" on the inside.  The taste is mildly bitter and has some other flavors that I'm not sure how to describe.  (I'm always amazed when I read descriptions of coffee or other drinks or foods--the variety of adjectives and descriptions are mind-blowing, and I won't even try to imitate that.  Just use your imagination).    The bowl in the front has the larger, plumper read grubs.  Suffice it to say that the flavors and textures and experience is intensified in proportion to the increase in size.  And then there's the bowl to the right--the one with the big-daddy, jumbo grubs.  I just don't quite know how to describe these--and yes, both Joy and I did try them.  Apparently, according to the locals, these have strong medicinal value.  If that's true, then I should be healthy for a very long time to come!

In fact, the entire traditional eating festivities pretty much waited to start until everyone had gathered around to watch the pilot and his family partake of multiple grubs of all the varieties--including the ones that were still ALIVE and uncooked!  And yes, I do have full 1080p video documenting Joy and all the kids chomping down live grubs.  I was really proud of them all.  Here, our friend Pak Donnes is reaching for more grubs to hand to the kids.  The ladies who made the food are dressed up all beautiful in their traditional dress behind the dishes that they made.

There were many games and activities as well, like a blowgun competition.  Of course, I was given a try and gave a good laugh to everyone as I completely missed the target.  But after a few tries I got a few darts within the target--enough to score a few points.

They also played a traditional game where a person (Pak Kalfin in this case) throws a raton ring overhand so it bounces up and down at a high rate of speed as it passes by a line of guys with spears.

The bouncing ring is supposed to mimic a jungle pig as it runs through the jungle being hunted.  Having seen pigs run like this, I can assure you that it's not to far from reality, though I'm not sure I've ever seen one jump quite that high.  Anyway, the objective is to spear the "pig" to the ground--to "kill" it.  You can see in the shot below that one of the spears is going directly through the "pig" but this shot likely did not result in a "kill", as the hoop probably continued to roll.  About every two or three throws someone managed to "kill" the "pig" and would then score the appropriate points.

Joy and I both also joined in games of barefoot "bola"--a sort of soccer game played with a very heavy, but smaller ball made of packed leaves, wrapped tightly.  It was a lot of fun!

Check back soon for the last post on Irau Binuang 2012.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Irau Binuang 2012 (Part 2)

Here's some random snapshots of a few of the wonderful people and activities we got to be a pat of during Irau.