Rising before dawn, we run, do our yoga, listen to the swish of brooms and the buzz of saws from the louver and door makers down the street. Roosters having been silent through most of the night begin their cacophony, the Imam calls believers to prayer and the motorbikes begin their buzzing like flies along Sukadana's few main streets. Everything starts early here, before the sun pours down molten hot and life is forced to slow.

Our first, short week, at ASRI wraps up with morning meeting on Friday. Although clinic is officially closed on Fridays, there is always a training or special clinic offering slotted into this precious time. Today it is childhood immunizations and as the 20+ staff gather for meeting, mothers and their babies gather as well. Babies are passed around and adored while the 20+ staff: doctors, nurses, cooks, drivers, conservation and organic farm team members, dentists and volunteers, gather in a circle to discuss what days the clinic will be closed for Idel Friti, celebrating the end of Ramadan, and for Christmas.

Unlike our USA Personnel Manuals where holiday allowances are spelled out months, if not years, in advance, here those decisions are made differently. Although December 25th has and will most likely forever remain the day known as Christmas, because the Muslim calendar is based on a lunar cycle, holidays like Ramadan shift across time over the years. And so the decision, however archaic some may view the process, is made consensually. Until everyone is satisfied that their preference and the various options has been considered, the discussion goes on. It takes 20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes, but in the end a huge Bahasa "hurrah" goes up amid clapping and laughter. As a friend of mine might observe: this is "life on life's terms" without the western sterilization and compartmentalization. But it is also more than that.

Differences are acknowledged, respected and dissolved in this place, in this heat and in the embrace of Health In Harmony's mission as it is so beautifully and fully expressed at ASRI.

After morning meeting, several of us retreat to ASRI's Bunk House, a hub of activity for Etty working on ASRI Kids, Pak Mifta leading the organic farm team and Julia, the Harvard Forestry Fellow who's been here working with Cam and the conservation team since last July. Today they are talking about fire suppression trainings for two of the reforestation sites, looking forward to former-fire fighter, Loren's return who will lead the trainings as he has done before. Kari explains that in reforestation areas the invasive alang alang (Imperata Cylindrica) grass is tinder for the casual lit cigarette and how the dreaded grass returns even more aggressively after a fire event curling its roots and edging into the rainforest which is not a fire adapted system thus choking out native grasses and, if left unchecked, compromising the resilience of the rain forest.

Meantime, I work at my desk feeling both privilege to be here, in this mix and a sense of urgency: how can I inspire our HIH family, the world really, to invest in what seems like magic at times but is simply human beings united and determined in a cause whose face is that of Idel Fritti, of Christmas, of majestic rain forests, bountiful organic gardens, prosperous widows and healthy children all wrapped in the steamy aura of a place that straddles the equator. Sukadana, West Kalimantan April 20,  Christmas, of majestic rain forests, bountiful organic gardens, prosperous widows and healthy children all wrapped in the steamy aura of a place that straddles the equator.



About Michelle Bussard | View all posts by Michelle Bussard

Michelle is the Executive Director at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR.