Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Arctic Whirlwind

"When it came to deciding the passage to the Spice Islands the merchant adventurers were most insistent. Although they had watched the Spanish and Portuguese successfully sail both East and West to the East Indies, they plumped for an altogether more eccentric option. Their ships, it was decided, would head due North; a route that would shave more than two-thousand miles off the long voyage to the Spice Islands."

Looking out the windows of the University of Washington anthropology advising offices, its hard to imagine that I might actually be missing this winter weather in a week or so. As it is, my departure ticket may well read January 5th but in my mind I'm already climbing the temple steps of Pura Besakih, navigating the back alleys of Yogyakarta, and taking total station measurements on Pulau Neira. 

Like those merchants from London's East India Company, I too will take a different route to the Banda Islands embarking first for Bali via Taipei, Taiwan. From there its on to Yogyakarta, Ambon and finally the Banda Islands. I've been fortunate enough to have traveled through much of S.E. Asia over the years and am looking forward to getting back to a part of the world that has always felt like home. There is something about this part of the world that resonates deeply within me- the stifling heat, the exotic sights, the friendly people and required self-sufficiency that both reassures and challenges the traveler willing to stray from the beaten path. That aside, I feel very fortunate indeed to be a part of this grand adventure. Not only will this trip allow me to experience a part of the world seldom visited by non-indonesians, but puts me in the envious position of doing so with a group of spirited individuals from around the world. While I certainly look forward to the archaeology at hand, I know that the relationships forged over the next three months will be lasting and poignant.  

I've recently finished a book on Banda Island's spice trade called Nathaniel's Nutmeg. While it most certainly will not make many critic's top 10 lists, it is an interesting yarn and provides in colorful detail the stresses brought to bear on the islands by Dutch, English, Portuguese and Asian trade during the 16th and 17th centuries.  In a rare moment of creative brilliance (or supreme expository laziness), I thought it might be interesting to mold my remaining blog entries around the chapter titles of Nathaniel's Nutmeg beginning with chapter one- Arctic Whirlwinds. 

Fittingly enough, the snow and frigid temperatures of the last two weeks have provided an uncanny backdrop for this first entry. How well the remainder of the trip syncs up remains to be seen but given the freedom of this forum (not to mention an unlimited supply of artistic license) it should prove an interesting endeavor. 

For now I am well into my pre-trip rituals: Loading up on great music, indulging on cups of soy chai and watching hours upon hours of Wes Anderson films. 

Talk to you all again soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Pen is Mightier than the Trowel...

... but only if the trowel is dull and very small, and the pen is very large, sharp and has a wide end.

Just this summer, I was trench-mates with another Archaeological Studies Program student who happens to be the unpaid and overworked web technician. Having great knowledge of the unknown world of megabytes and whatnot, trench-mate was used to explaining things in great detail. She micromanaged every able body working on the trench, having redefined the term "flexi-break" from break-at-your-own-pace to break-when-I-say-you-can-slave. Thus, earning her the moniker: Herr Dictator (which should be Fraulein but eh nobody speaks German).

I grabbed my trowel with my good hand, grabbed a bucket with the other, dug my knees to the ground, and raised my trowel high "whoosh". Just when my beautiful, loyal, sturdy trowel was about to hit glorious layer 2... Herr Dictator cut through my concentration with a well placed "Pau!". As HD explained in great detail how they got to where they are, several thoughts formed in my head. First was that although I took a year off from the field, it doesn't really matter that I was around for HD's first time to excavate in that seniority doesn't count in her book. Second, I ought to have obtrusively run around the trench, noisily leaf through their recording sheets to make it known that I was doing my homework. Third, if I was smart, I ought to have asked HD courteously (with a good helping of humility) what I was supposed to do because I just work here and I haven't marked the trench as my territory. Ddoing them would have given me extra water rations instead of an unpleasant lecture on how I haven't done this in a year and on how Victor thinks I'm an idiot. Victor might be right because instead of doing the smart thing, I looked at HD straight in the eyes and said: "Look love, this isn't my first time see." (HD: O.o)

Parched for a good deal of time, I was taking a swig of good cold water beside a neighboring trench dug by Dr. Grace Barretto-Tesoro and company. I recounted why my water rations were cut. "Digging isn't all about, well, digging, Pau," said Doc Grace, "It's also about working with different kinds of people. Excavations are all about people."

I've decided to share this tidbit of wisdom to everyone. I hope it's grammatical enough to be enjoyed and understood.

Good luck!

No more winter coat

After spending a joyous Sunday sledding on a cookie sheet in downtown Seattle with my daughter, I am looking forward to the temperature juxtaposition that I'll be experiencing in Indonesia in January. In the meantime, I'm working with Peter and Emily to ensure that the archaeology field lab will be well set up for the Banda fieldschool. I've run plenty of archaeology field labs in the Pacific Northwest, and worked on plenty of sites located on islands. What job could be better? Afterall, who doesn't love taking a boat to work?!
And, island communities are special -- bound together physically and mentally. Peter has assured me that running a lab in the Banda Islands will be even more more enjoyable than usual, and that the lack of typical access to resources will make the job even more fun.

I'll be arriving at the end of January, and will meet you all somewhere between Bali, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Ambon... I can't wait to shed my wool hat!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Amazing Experience

It was a chance of a life time for me to join The Banda Excavation back in 2007. The journey to Banda itself was really an experience. First there was bad weather in Ambon that made all the travel from and to Ambon cancelled, so we have to stay in Ambon longer than we thought. Because of the bad weather, the team have to rent a private air plane in order to go to Banda. It was the first time for me to fly using a small, propeller engine air plane. I was scared, and it gets worst when i enter the plane and there are water drippings off from the ceiling (it was raining outside at that time). But, turns out the flight was all fine....and Banda Islands i must say, it is worth the trip. It have the most beautiful beach and coral reef i have ever seen in Indonesia. Banda and Ay Island is really beautiful.

The Excavation in 2007 giving me a lot of experience, I learned plenty of new stuff during the excavation. New methods, new tools, new ways to handle the artifacts during excavations, and many more. And the best thing is that Mr. Lape and Pak Daud held a small presentations to the people in Ay Islands. Starting from elementary school student to the elders in the Islands. That is something new for me. I’ve been into excavations before but we never did presentations to the people who live in the sites. I think that is really important to gain awareness from the people about their heritage, so they will guard and hold the existence of their heritage.

I can’t hardly wait to go to Banda again…I’ll see u all there!!!!!Ay Island Excavation 2007 Team

Friday, December 19, 2008

A First Time for Everything

Hello, my name is Josh, I am 34 years old, and this is my very first blog post. This journey will contain many firsts I hope, the biggest of which will be my first experience abroad. I have never even been to Mexico, and only went to Canada once after a wrong turn. I just got my first passport and visa, and am itching to stamp them up and see what's out there.
I have always been interested in archaeology. Thanks to an angel named Teri, I have returned to the University of Washington after a twelve year hiatus, and after completing my first semester in ages, I am celebrating an appearance on the dean's list. Going back made me think about what I wanted to do with my life. At first I wanted to be a math teacher, but for my first quarter back, I didn't even talk to a counselor and stayed with courses I knew would hold my interest. After a week in my Archaeology 105 class though, I realized that archaeology would be a perfect field for me. I've always been interested in history and the evolution of the human race, and I've owned a metal detector since I was eight, so I have spent a lot of time in the dirt digging up anything from coins to old farm equipment. This trip to Indonesia will not only be one of personal discovery but one of professional as well; in other words I want to see if the archaeological field is as good for me as I think it will be.
Now, as I look out the window on a frozen wasteland, I can't help but think of where I will be just over two weeks from now. My bag is already packed, my vaccinations are all caught up, and I am ready to start the journey, the first chapter of which is lovingly entitled "Indonesia Josh and the Temple of Spice."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Understanding Southeast Asia

'A long road to reach our destination will not always easy' I always keep this phase in my mind when I have to think about my future goal. I always like to travel to different places, learn and gain experience from seeing different things and people outside, which I think it is very important for me to understand more this divers blue planet among many people. This is always run around in my head most of the time and become my inspiration for me regarding future activities.

I have become interested in prehistoric period for some reason which I think it could bring me to understand more about the human social evolution from 'small communities to become a great empire'. My primary area of interest is mainland Southeast Asia which I have been studied for several years since I was a second year of my undergraduate. I have conducted several researches both personal and working for various professors around this area. I have realized that the interaction of people themselves to their environment give me more perspectives in order to comprehend their cultural movement and evolution. I have been fantasized by the terms of exploration and field survey and try to understand the whole image of the communities and reconstruct their past social activities.

From those reason and motivation, I wish to travel and learn more of other part of Southeast Asia, I found this field school program keep my attention and I think I will use this opportunity to gain more about Southeast Asian Island and the archaeological field method which will fulfill my experience of understanding of Southeast Asia which I could learn a lot more about prehistoric social landscape and the evolution to become historic communities in this region.

I have prepared a lots of question to motivate myself to research more about Indonesia and Southeast Asian Island landscape and I am so excited to be there. I hope to gain more both academic and personal experience and get to know a new friends over there. See you in Banda!

Monday, December 15, 2008


Over the next 3 months, particpants in the 2009 Archaeology Field School in Indonesia will be posting about their experiences on this blog. For some background about this program and previous archaeological research in the Banda Islands, see our project website. I'm the program co-director and I'll start things off.

It is below freezing today in Seattle, there is snow and ice on the ground, and I can't wait to get to warm Indonesia! With just 2 weeks to go before I leave, I'm engulfed in a flurry of last minute preparations: getting our Indonesian visas, finalizing our budget, testing and packing equipment and supplies, making sure everyone has their tickets, hotel reservations, and a million other tasks. I'll be flying to Jakarta on January 1 along with my wife and daughter Charlotte and Isabel, and graduate student assistant Emily. We'll spend about a week in Jakarta finalizing our research permits and meeting old friends. On January 8, we'll fly to Yogyakarta to meet the Indonesian members of the staff, Daud and Bowo. On January 10, the students arrive for three weeks of Indonesian language classes. They are from the US, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand. After the language classes, we'll be joined by more students from Indonesia, and make the long journey east to the Banda Islands for 5 weeks of archaeological field methods training as we survey and excavate some of the fascinating sites of the Bandas. I wish I was there now!