Hannah - "Indo n me" February 2013

In 2008 I was on the search for a remote location with minimal tourist activity and a few good beaches with possibility for surfing and diving. Two months later I found myself standing at the arrivals gate of Banda Aceh airport, Indonesia’s most northerly city, presenting my passport to the friendliest immigration officials I have ever come across. Since 2008 I have returned to Indonesia four times and never been disappointed. I have crossed only a few of the 17,500 islands the archipelago has to offer. My most recent and most rewarding trip to Indonesia took place on the island of Lombok.

Since an early age I have always been hooked on the idea of learning a second language. When I began my degree at USC I found many opportunities to pursue a language. However, I was always stubbornly of the opinion that a language should be learnt ‘in country’ as opposed to in a classroom. I found my ideal compromise in the Lombok exchange program. I can honestly say upon completion of this program I felt a huge achievement, it simply was one of the best choices I have ever made.

It took me just six weeks, five hours a day Monday to Friday to pick up enough language to communicate everyday needs, casual conversation, and friendly chit-chat. The opportunity to study at Mataram University (UNRAM) was a privilege. I was inducted into a new world of learning, all with the guidance of possibly the best and kindest teachers. Mataram is no glorious city, it’s dirty and hot, a typical Indonesian city (that you should experience while you can, not just hang out at resorts. Mataram has to improve as Lombok’s tourism and Indonesia’s economy in general takes off). However, 15 minutes either side of the irrational traffic conditions, you will find yourself immersed in lush green rice paddy fields, shadowed by the mammoth volcanic Gunung Rinjani (Rinjani mountain). All adjacent to deserted beaches that stretch the entire circumference of the island. I spent a great deal of time exploring on my motorbike and drinking coffee with my guesthouse owner and his wife, who always took enjoyment correcting my rookie pronunciation.

Following my stay in Lombok, armed with a bursting desire to speak with every Indonesian who passed, I left for Bima on route to Komodo Island. Komodo is just one example of the bursting biodiversity Indonesia has to offer. The Komodo dragon has been flourishing in isolation for centuries; even David Attenborough commends the national park as ‘an experience of a lifetime’. Two minutes on the island and I found myself less than a couple of meters away from a 150Kg, 3 meter, carnivorous dragon. After my brief encounter I headed, rather quickly, to the ranger’s office for my allocated guide, who was equipped with a simple stick, but looking confident, never the less. We left for a trek and sighted about 20 of thedragons in total plus many more other wild animals native to Komodo.

I have been to over 24 countries and Indonesia has burnt images of natural beauty into my memory that I’ll never forget. Animal lover, culture lover, nature lover, Indonesia has some exceptional surprises to cover all. I have visited the island of Borneo, home of the Pigmy Elephant, Orangutans, Proboscis Monkeys, Rhino Hornbills, Pythons and ancient Rafflesia flowers weighing more than 8kgs and 30 inches wide plus much more, all of which I had the honour to see first hand. The island of Sumatra introduced me to dense untouched jungles as well as oceans full of whirling schools of Barracuda and Trevallie, Giant Humpheads and Anglers, Manta rays, Devil rays, Sharks and hundreds of turtles.

The Island of Flores and nearby Sumbawa boasts a range of world-class waves that work on varied conditions. All this while the whole of Indonesia continuously overwhelms me with kindness and generosity.
The extent an Indonesian stranger will go through to make you comfortable will leave you embarrassed. This is the exact reason why I find myself going back again and again. Thanks to the Lombok course and Phillip Mahnken’s continual guidance, hectoring and lecturing on campus, my Indonesian experiences are only going to get better. I don’t think you can really discover the secrets of a country until you can communicate with the locals. What a great incentive to continue studying the Indonesian language.

If you’re worried, not sure, think you have a stupid question about the course or what you may be faced with culturally, please send me an email. I will be only happy to answer any questions and give whatever advice I can. hannahallcock@hotmail.com.

PS If I get time I’ll tell you more about Kalimantan and Aceh experiences soon.

Other student reports

Lombok website

Indonesian Studies Newsletter 67

Hannah hannah_boat_trip_bima_rinca

See Hannah's photos on SkyDrive

Lombok house

A Lombok shack in the rice fields

Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon - See more of Hannah's photos on SkyDrive