Reflections on Gunung Kelir – Second Report by. Huw Hutchison
Experiences – Our experience of Gunung Kelir began in the long, winding drive to the mountainside community. The undulations of the road matched the turbulence of the trip so far, and reminded us of the many and varied experiences we had already shared as a group in the preceding weeks. Having embarked upon this latest field trip in the immediate aftermath of an unpleasant bout of food poisoning, and with general energy levels in the group depressed, I held some trepidation about what this adventure would hold for us. Thankfully, wefound ourselves in a community whose warmth and vitality left me feeling healthier and happier with every passing day, and which we were sad to leave at the end of our stay.
Indeed, if one were to ask for an idealized vision of an Indonesian farming community, they might be transported to Gunung Kelir. Amongst the densely forested jungle, palm trees broke through to the pale blue sky above. At times, local farmers could be seen scaling these same trees, perilously perched meters above the ground, draining the sap from the tree to produce the sugar that forms their livelihood. Watching this activity, it was hard not to consider the riches of the Indonesian archipelago, and the exciting future that lies ahead for a nation only now taking hold of its full economic potential.
The story of my host in Gunung Kelir, Pak Payman, speaks to this future, and the entrepreneurial ingenuity of Indonesians on an individual level. Having recognized the inherent weakness of Gunung Kelir’s single crop production model, Pak Payman had decided to utilize the village’s unique geography to his advantage, and began planting a range of different high value crops like cloves and nutmeg. Over time, he used the profits from this venture to buy up more land and move production into the community itself. These measures allowed him to reduce costs and grow his business towards overseas exporting and further expansion. Despite his success, Pak Payman lives a modest lifestyle and says his focus remains on his business and family. Though the temptation in another context may be to move towards self-sufficiency, Pak Payman chooses to strengthen his ties with the community. When explaining why he did not own a truck, for example, he explained that he need not buy one when he could borrow his neighbour’s – a relationship he had worked hard to cultivate over the years. This unique blend of business and cultural sensitivities deeply informed our short stay in Gunung Kelir, and were also evident in the work of Satunama. As an outsider, it was refreshing to see such a cooperative and sustainable approach to business in practice.
Personal Learning and Transformation – There is no doubt that my time in Gunung Kelir was personally transformative. But upon reflection, it is not immediately obvious to me what those changes were or the way in which they might influence me in the future.
In the immediate, I found my time in Gunung Kelir to be restorative. As an individual, and as a group, I felt as though we returned to Jogjakarta in better health, far more confident in our abilities to produce worthwhile outcomes for the communities who opened their lives to us.
The marked difference between Muncar and Gunung Kelir became a constant refrain in our analysis, and I think it is equally relevant to our personal experiences. My consequential appreciation for the immense diversity of Indonesia after visiting these two different communitiesserved as a major personal takeaway for me, and puts in perspective a point that I had previously understood in wholly theoretical terms.
Finally, I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with people from a radically different background than my own. The depth and quality of conversation that I enjoyed in Gunung Kelir served as testament to the bonds of shared humanity, and the importance of attempts by all human beings to better understand one another and the world we share together.
The University of Melbourne & Australian Volunteers International
Reflections on Gunung Kelir
Community Volunteering for Change – Global