Thursday, February 26, 2009
Several days ago, Sarah, one of our students from the US, developed a serious eye infection that required treatment beyond the capabilities of Banda's tiny health clinic. So, she and I made our way from remote Pulau Ay to adaquate health care. We started in the early morning on Tuesday in a torrential downpour on a small motorboat for the 1 hour trip to Banda Naira, then onto the bi-weekly ferry overnight to Ambon. After checking in with a doctor in Ambon at 3 AM, we then caught a 7 AM flight to Jakarta, where we met another doctor who accompanied Sarah to a hospital in Singapore. She will be there for a week before heading home. Sarah was our resident expert in ID of human bone, a skill that came in handy when we unexpectedly uncovered a 19th century grave in the Lautaka site (we were able to leave the grave intact and continue with our excavations into the 1500 year old layers of that site). We will miss Sarah very much for the last two weeks of the field school, but we are all very glad she is in good hands.
I caught an early flight this morning from Jakarta back to Ambon so that I could rejoin the team for the last 2 weeks of the field school. But the last 120 kilometers back to Banda is always the hardest part of the trip. The weekly flight on Saturday has been cancelled (a common occurence), and the next ferry is too late for me. I spent the afternoon asking around the cargo docks of Ambon for any smaller cargo ships that might be making the trip, with no luck. My only hope at the moment is for Emily to send a boat from Banda to pick me up either here or in the next island over, Seram. We just talked via sat phone and she is now working on organizing some kind of transport for me. She reports that excavations on Ay are going well--we have three sites opened, two open village sites and one rockshelter, all dating to the Neolithic period (3400-2000 years ago). I have been given a shopping list: skippy peanut butter, ziplock bags, screen, bandaids and benadryl (that pretty much sums up our lives!).
So, I may make another post before I leave. Our dreams of using the sat phone to upload blog posts have not worked out--we get about 4-5 minutes of connectivity before getting cut off, not enough time to log in at 7500 baud (anyone remember when dialup modems were that slow??). So, like with postcards sent from the Banda post office, you may be reading about our experiences after we return!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
By Josh Diles
It has been over forty days since I left snowy
In addition to all I’ve learned, I will be taking much, much more home with me. This trip has truly been life changing. One of the fondest memories I will be taking back with me is that of the children of
Well, in just over three weeks I will be back in
Under the Volcano
It wasn’t until after 8pm last night that the field crew finally made it back to the Flamboyan. Exhausted, but triumphant having finished excavations at BN1 (Banda Naira Site 1 near Lautaka, if you have a detailed map on hand), the hungry crew celebrated a final dinner. The lab crew worked until just before 8, too. We almost finished packing up all of Peter’s collections from his 1998-98 excavations. This morning, Kelsey and I will finish up the final boxes, so Wuri can courier the collection to
Right now, everyone is gathering o on the Flamboyan porch, bags in hand, ready to stow our gear on Ayub’s trusted boat. A small group will head over to Pulau Ay this morning; the rest of us will catch a larger boat (2 engines) after lunch. In the meantime, it’s Friday, our free day, and we’ll wander around the town that has become our home. Many of us are no longer known as “hello mister,” and instead, are called Ibu or by our first names (Selmat pagi Kelsey…or Wilson, Ari, Watana, Pippit…)
Today is also our last opportunity to use telecommunications. I’ve heard there are no public phones on Pulau Ay. It was great to hear Clara, Yari and Eric’s voices this morning. I’m looking forward to sharing all the amazing stories. In the meantime, I hope you are all well. XOXOX, laura (mommy)
By now most of us are missing it in some way or another. Not that the food is bad, or we can’t get our clothes clean, or the various sundry comforts that come with home are not present here. The weather is warm and the air is clear. And dear Mom each night a roof hangs over our heads sheltering us from the rain. There is laughter and there is sweat. The beer is cold and the coffee hot and strong. The coral, when we swim among it, is resplendent with color and light. Fish I’ve never seen before. Scary deep blue sea that pulls us inside refreshes us too. Salty smiles as we make the big plunge.
The work is real. Deep, dark holes that take us back over a thousand years. History of the animists, history of the Hindus, history of the Muslims and Christians. Colonial coins make the eyes of skeletal remains in an unmarked grave. There they lie in the same earth as the sculpted ceramics of the cannibals and the jaw bones of a pig.
After numerous visits over the past decade, I’ve even got a familiar circle of friends who make their home here. Those who I’ve grown to trust, and those with whom I can’t seem to find trust. Social bearings that help me find familial comfort.
It feels a lot like home. The drunken laughter that erupts from the twisted words and minds of the orang nockals, the wild men, the orang gila, the crazy men. The friends whose trust I’ve gained. But it’s not for them that I write, or the fecund beauty these islands emit, a scent of sea and earth so sweet. I just wanted to write to say I’m missing you, and I wanted you to know I love you.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
By Piseth Kimsan
First of all I would like to introduce myself. I’m Piseth Kimsan, I’m a student of archaeology from
There are four steps in this program. First of all we had to study Indonesian language for two weeks in
Second, we moved from Yogyakarta to Ambon and from
Third, we had to study about research methodology such as survey techniques, lab work, excavation, and mapping... etc.
Now we’ve been staying on
Now I’m working in the lab with Laura, Michelle, and
Soon we will finish excavating on Banda Naira, and will take a boat to Pulau Ay to start a new excavation.
The filthy Ciremai ship is fading from my mind, and I’ve been busily running the lab. The lab on Banda Naira is located in an old Dutch home with spacious rooms, minimal furniture and negligible lighting. It is blissful. Three students are typically assigned to the lab, and we all work outside on the covered porch in the 95degF tropical heat. Several people have brought Ipods, so we rock out to 70s and 80s bands, inventory the artifact bags and sort heavy fraction (2mm screens). Snacks are a must to keep the lab folks happy; and I walk down to the market every few days to pick up something new. Kofikos are the current favorite: coffee-flavored hard toffee candies.
Tropical environments make labwork a little tricky. It often takes three or four days to dry the heavy fraction because the air is so humid; the light fraction takes even longer. Since the heavy fraction is washed in the sea at the site, it has to get washed in fresh water at the lab to ensure that the metal artifacts don’t rust. Yesterday, as I scooped up water to put into the wash bucket, a gigantic cockroach floated to the top of the scoop. I managed to gracefully cast the scoop contents into the garden, but from now on, I’ll look first before I scoop.
As expected, tasks at the lab revolve around organizing the artifacts that come out of the site. But, in the late afternoon, we are also attempting to blog. This sometimes feels impossible. We have tried (yes, for hours) to use the Satellite phone, but can’t seem to connect to the ftp site. We have also tried to log on to the internet at the local hotel. Most of the time the power is out, so it’s not an option. Yesterday, however, Wilson, hunched over a two-foot high table for over two hours on a plastic child seat, managed to upload two of our blogs (at least I hope you’ve seen them!). The connection is extremely slow, and some of the documents haven’t been readable by the hotel computers. We are finally getting the gist of it now (I hope), and will try to send a few every other day or so.
I hope the Newts are enjoying the winter break. Are you up on
February 12, 2009
It is important to let the people of Banda Naira know why there is a large group of foreigners walking into the forest every morning. Those who see us at the site may create their own stories as to why we are digging large, nearly perfect square and rectangular holes. At the end of the day I wonder what the villagers think of me as I walk back to the guest house covered in dirt from head to toe. The opportunity to give them knowledge in order to crush any scandalous rumors came up with the help of a local high school.
The students came out to the site and watched the various archaeological tasks that we were all assigned to. We were either in the pits digging, screening the soil, recording artifacts or doing flotation on the beach. The Indonesian students from the Universitas Gadja Mada and from the university in
The high school students then gave guided tours of our archaeological site to the surrounding local villages. By having the hands-on experience of doing all the jobs, the young students were able to explain what was being done as well as what was found. At the screening stations, the students would look in and often pull out a small artifact that one of us had missed. Having those extra set of eyes looking through all that dirt was very helpful. They leaned in to look at the small coin pieces and the small beads which we had found. They listened intently as they walked around to each station with the students explaining each process.
Being able to share this experience with a local high school as well as the surrounding villages has felt rewarding. We are giving them an opportunity to see their past through the artifacts that are being found. Hopefully, someday, museum exhibition will be set up on Banda Naira displaying the history of this island to the local villagers.
We made it to Banda. Hardly the harrowing trip ancient mariners might have made to get here, but still it was the kind of journey that leaves an indelible mark on the memory.
In Ambon we’d arrived at the harbor three hours after the original scheduled departure time, which was currently an hour before the expected boarding time. Not much to our surprise the 4 pm hour ended up being 5 hours before the actual departure, giving us plenty of time to contemplate the sea voyage ahead. In the closed off heat of the waiting room I’d anticipated our passage across the Banda Sea to be aboard the reliable Rinjani we’d sailed before between Ambon and Banda. But Pelni, the Amtrak of the seas, had recruited another ship in their fleet to transport the commonwealth of Indonesia to the eastern reaches of the archipelago. And for those with a keen eye, you might notice a bit of rust at the bow of the ship. Hardly the sort of scar that instills confidence in the passenger. In fact, as she pulled into the harbor, the first thought that crossed my mind was whether or not we’d make it to Banda first, or page 3 of the world section in the New York Times. Yet Another Indonesian Ferry Lost at Sea. Does anyone really care? Apparently Pelni could not give a damn. Besides the derelict nature of the ship, Banda one out, and The New York Times will have to wait, hopefully for a very long time.
The experience of boarding this beast of the sea is one of great contact with all of your fellow passengers. The press of bodies crammed into singular passage ways with large amounts of baggage gives a person the sense that they are in fact the sausage grinding through the mill.
We were fortunate enough to have been advised by Peter to bump ourselves up to first class and Daud for the sake of economy and ease told the officials at the info desk who hand out the keys that Laura and I were married. Which is true. And happily I might add. We’re just not married to one another. We each have beautiful spouses back home that we both miss very much.
Daud, Laura and myself hoped first class might provide us with a swanky moonlight ride to Banda and offer a quiet sanctuary from the hustle of the ship around us. But once we’d run the gauntlet of boarding and been shown our cabins, swanky quickly turned to skanky.
When the lights came on in what we were now amusingly referring to as our honeymoon suite, the cockroaches did not quickly scramble. Instead they went about their usual business of climbing walls, creeping up curtains and crawling over pillows without a care for us. So much for getting any rest through the midnight crossing.
We secured our bags and quickly abandoned the cabin for the upper deck of the ship that serves snacks and drinks, and plays music at what I like to refer to as shouting volume. There we snacked and shouted at one another as the moonlight glittered on the water around us and cockroaches climbed up our legs. We quickly adopted a new policy for the ship, which was do not touch anything that isn’t your own. The film of scum and rot was ancient and thick. In the wake of the ship the plastic and filth from the deck floated off behind us like tin cans tied loosely to the bumper of a newly married couple’s Oldsmobile.
Now that we were underway, our schedule could be precisely predicted and we hoped to be in Banda by 4am. Throughout the night we wandered the ship to keep from dozing off, and to keep ourselves from entering the twilight zone honeymoon suite. But once we found we did want to enter, we discovered we were locked out, and the first class passengers were locked in, which would have presented a huge problem had this tub started to sink. After about 20 minutes of searching all the decks, we finally came upon an open door and were able to visit our cabin with its luxury accommodations.
At 4am the final arrival horn sounded, echoing throughout Banda. Down on the dock we saw our friends, Peter, Sopian, Bowo, and Nia, anticipating our arrival. They’d been there two hours waiting to help us unload our mass of wears. As the stairway and exit ramps were rolled to the ship people started climbing over one another like clowns in a Fellini film, scrambling to get on board and help passengers with their luggage. Getting off the boat was another communion with our fellow passengers, like so much sausage pressing out of the bowels of the ship. Feeling the hands of a derelict reach inside her pants pocket, Laura grabbed for her passport and took the cash out of the hands of the derelict, shaming him, not for having tried to pick her pocket, but for having been caught doing it.
As exhausted as we were the reunion with our friends was a great relief. And the beauty of the journey is that after traveling half the world around in two weeks time, and landing back in Banda with its simple beauty and charm, I felt strangely at home again.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Assigned to work in the lab today and can’t think of a better day to be here. With the humidity, it’s probably over 100 degrees right now in Banda. Everything we touch is hot and sticky and the flies that love nothing more than to land and feast in our open wounds and cuts aren’t helping the situation. So luckily, four of us are in the lab today without a dress code that demands knee and shoulder coverage needed to set a good example for the school children of Banda Naira working with us at the site. We skipped out the daily 45-minute hike from our guest houses to the dig site and replaced it with a 100 meter walk down the road to our spacious lab that we are graciously allowed the use of by an older Indonesian Ibu that Peter has known for years.
While we are in the lab sorting through all the artifacts found in the last couple weeks, most of the rest of the group is at our site near the village of Lautaka which is right on the beach. We currently have two pits in progress, and with photography, flotation of soil samples, screening for artifacts, and using GPS and the Total Station to plot and map our points of location and findings, there is usually something to be done. A couple members of our group went to film the Banda Nutmeg harvests today and interviewed the farmers. Last night our members involved with the high school and community integration were able to get Banda radio air time and publicize our dig.
We’re possibly going to the island of Pulau Ai in a couple days and it might be hard to leave Banda Naira Island and the people we’ve met here, although a few of them might end up going with us. Tomorrow is the group’s day off and another day of snorkeling sounds great.
Friday, February 6, 2009
It would seem there are few harder places to get to in the world than the Banda Islands. Throughout history it has been this way. Henry Hudson was left to freeze in the arctic ice on his last expedition to discover an easier passage to the Spice Islands. Christopher Columbus was obstructed by America in his effort to find a direct root to these jewels in the Banda Sea. A Portuguese fleet in 1498 held a Malay pilot at knife point in order to discover the location of Banda, and for a hundred years they guarded the maps that directed their ships to Banda as state secrets to prevent others from finding the precious source of nutmeg that grew there. It was the only source for the spice in the world. And in that world of pre-refrigeration, and primitive medicine, nutmeg served many purposes under the sun. It was a natural curative, preventing meet from spoiling. It was known to cure dropsy. And if taken in abundance could produce hallucinations. The islands and the spice they produce were so rare that a sailor who'd survived the journey to Banda could retire on the value of a pocketful of nutmeg were he fool hardy enough to try stealing some away. And were he caught, he'd have his head put in the guillotine.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Morning rituals include cold showers, sludgey coffee, and a full application of minyak gosok. Minyak gosok means 'rubbing oil' in Indonesian. After seeing my initial addition to the toxic DEET, Ambra was horrified and steered me towards the local treatment--specifically the one with the black fly on the label. It smells of camphor and citronella, and seems to keep most of the mosquitos away without outright causing cancer. Those of you who know me well know that mosquitos love me over anyone else. I still get a few bites everyday, but I did with the DEET, too. There are local remedies everywhere in Ubud (called jamu, I think), and I'm sure there is a minyak gosok to keep away biting ants, but I haven't found that one yet. Of the multitude of ants, the tiny red ants seem to be the worst, and I get ten bites or so daily. Fortunately, the hydrocortisone I packed helps with these minor annoyances. I also have some sort of itchy rash all over the back of my hands that Andy seems to think will be with me until I return to Seattle. Alas, this is the tropics, and such is life.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Andy's blog really says it all. This place called Bali is a wealth of contradictions. Stores where you can buy authentic Gucci bags adjacent to tiny rice carts and rooster cages. It rained buckets and buckets last night, yet no water made it to our cottage shower pipes this morning. And ancient temples are next to fancy restaurants that serve chicken cordon bleu.
There are many myths about the island of Bali. One of the most ridiculous we heard at a warung in Ubud while enjoying dinner our first night here. A gentleman wired with a headset, cell phone, and a computer, sitting among what we assumed were friends, (though if they were friends, he made no consideration of them) was speaking with what we presumed was soon to be his ex-girlfriend, explaining to her that babies don't cry in Bali. He told her this several times, I'm guessing because her baby might have been crying on the other end of the line in Switzerland, or Sweden, or wherever his soon to be ex-girlfriend might live.