The Rain Forest as a Classroom

Guest blog by Nicole Lin

I went on the Journey to Borneo with my parents, and though they have supported Health In Harmony for several years, I didn’t know very much about the organization or its connection to ASRI going into the trip and didn’t really know what to expect from it. That said, the trip was wonderful from start to finish and offered endless inspiration for me, a college student trying to figure out options for meaningful, fulfilling work after graduation.

Our week in Sukadana offered hands-on education about how ASRI functions on a day-to-day basis and the many facets of its presence in the community, including the clinic, mobile clinic, Goats for Widows, organic farming, reforestation, and ASRI Kids. I was—and am—completely in awe of how smoothly all these programs integrate together. Allowing clinic patients to pay for their health care with seedlings that can help regrow the rain forest was one of the most striking examples of the many simple yet ingenious solutions that ASRI and the community have come up with for the challenges that arise in this region.

I was also very impressed by the obvious passion of all the ASRI staff. The friendly and attentive atmosphere at the morning meetings was almost surreal; in a small building with limited equipment and patients often waiting until their illnesses are very serious to come to the clinic, all the staff members seem to come to work with true enthusiasm. Although I don’t have much work experience yet, and have certainly never worked in an environment like ASRI, the holistic scale of ASRI’s work, its compatibility with the local community, and the dedication of its staff definitely exceeded any expectations I had of how such an organization can function. It almost seemed too good to be true. Visiting ASRI caused a shift in my understanding of the type of work and workplace environment that is possible, and I know ASRI’s example will have a lasting effect on my future career choices.

Nicole and her parents Melanie and Richard on the houseboat in Tanjung Puting National Park | Photo courtesy of the Lin's

After an incredible week in Sukadana, we spent three days on a houseboat traveling through Tanjung Puting National Park. I am a lifelong animal lover currently studying animal biology, so this part of the tour was extremely enjoyable for me. As we floated down the river, we saw multiple species of monkeys in the trees near the water, colorful birds I had never heard of, and a few monitor lizards swimming across the water. We stopped at three orangutan feeding stations, where I was thrilled to see those graceful, increasingly endangered primates in person, along with other monkeys and wild boars. Our guide for the boat trip was extremely knowledgeable about the park’s history and the animals in it and had a remarkable ability to notice small animals and camouflaged insects in the forest. The accommodations on the boat were comfortable and the food was delicious. This part of the tour was very relaxing and a good transition between our time in Sukadana and Bali.

Bali was a nice way to end the trip. The level of development and tourism was a bit of a shock after rural Borneo, and our time in Sukadana definitely made me appreciate the amenities at our final hotel. Bali was absolutely beautiful, and the contrast between the primarily Muslim culture in Borneo and primarily Hindu in Bali was interesting to observe. Those last few days were much less structured than the previous week and a half, and I think everyone on the tour appreciated the chance to get into more of a vacation mindset before returning home. On that note, the entire Friendship Tour was very well planned, and Michelle, Amy, and Marisa were warm, attentive, and well-organized guides. The combination of welcoming, inspiring people and the beautiful nature all around us made this an unforgettable trip and left me enamored with Indonesia in a way that tells me my time there is not yet over.

There's still time to sign up for the 2017 Journey to Borneo! Imagine yourself exploring the rain forest, meeting ASRI's doctors and nurses, learning about sustainable agriculture alongside former loggers, and visiting the communities that are thriving because of your support. The trip will be from May 13-26, 2017. If you're interested in learning more, email Amy to see the itinerary for this year's trip.

 

About Nicole Lin

Nicole and her parents, Melanie and Richard, were part of the Journey to Borneo in August 2016. Nicole and her family live in California, and she is currently studying Animal Biology at UC Davis.

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