Exploring Bali as a voluntourist

Written by: Eva, Voluntourist, Bali

My name is Eva, I’m a 53 years old teacher from Switzerland and I currently work at IHF Bali for four weeks as a voluntourist. When I arrived at the center, I was surprised that it’s located between a small Hindu and a small Muslim village. So every day I smell the smoke of the temple fire donations, and I hear the muezzin singing. I like that.

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After my first shock of my unfriendly bath and sleeping room, I was happy, that at least the kids have very nice classrooms with a nice view of the fields and the sea. And I’m also happy with our cook Sari – she is cooking very traditional food, mostly vegetarian, and although I like to eat meat and fish, every day I’m looking forward to her menu.

The teachers at the center work in similar ways as the teachers in Europe, supported by computers and wifi. That’s great – both are a part of the daily kid’s world. I’m teaching history and German in a Swiss High School, and I was a little bit nervous about my first team-teaching lesson. But it worked very well.

As a voluntourist, I love to explore Bali. I rented a motorbike, and the first trip I did was to Pura Besakih, the Indonesian „mother temple”. Driving through the landscape was so amazing and fantastic!

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During my second trip, I spent exited hours in Bali Aga Village in Tenganan, only ten minutes from IHF Bali Center. It’s a kind of museum village, where guests have to pay a donation for entrance. The village looks very traditional, and I was watching how the inhabitants prepare a wedding for the next day. The women rasp coconuts and make coconut soup; the men cut herbs and chili and slaughter pigs. I liked to watch it, even it was sometimes hard.

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On Saturday we had a special activity: Yoga! Me and the kids liked it a lot. On Sunday I was in Ubud, for rice terraces, culture, and River Rafting.

Beheadings, Cannibals & Bad Pork…Oh, My!

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta

I slept for 12 solid hours on my first night at Lake Toba.  Clearly, I needed the rest, having slept for only 5 interrupted hours since I had gotten up 36 hours before.  I would spend that day seeing some of Samosir and I was ready for it.  I spent a leisurely couple of hours lingering over breakfast with the lake just down below – with those views, who can blame me?

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My first stop for the day was Huta Siallangan, a traditional Batak village.  My English-speaking tour guide three was hilarious and informative and actually 1 of the best tour guides I’ve ever had.  She showed me what the inside of traditional Batak houses look like, and told me that they kept their animals under the house.  Then she explained all about the stone seats of judgement and the village’s cannibalistic history.  Yeah, you heard me right.  Cannibals.  But she said not to worry, they had already eaten breakfast so I was good.  Ha!  See what I mean?  That girl was pure gold.

Apparently, the criminal justice philosophy back in the village’s distant past was that there were crimes that you could make recompense for and those that you could not.  The first category of crime included things like thievery, in which case punishment might be slavery to the village’s king for a pre-determined period, or paying back what was stolen by some multiple, like pay back 4 pigs if you stole 1.  The second category of crime, the unrecompensable type, included things like murder, rape and adultery.  Those were things the apparently you couldn’t make up for and the automatic punishment was death.  Apparently, the stone seats of judgement weren’t about deciding on the guilt or innocence of an accused.  No, if the alleged criminal made it as far as the judgement seat, their guilt was already taken as a fact.  The judgement seats were about sentencing.

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So first the prisoner would spend some time in “jail”, which was under the front of the king’s house because, you got it, they were regarded as animals and under the house was where the animals were kept.  While he was shackled under the house, all villagers were free to walk by and spit on him, throw rotten fruit at him, hurt insults at him – basically treat him like crap.

Once the sentencing was done, it was time to move on to the execution phase of the proceedings, if death was the punishment.  The execution didn’t take place on the same day because the prisoner was granted a last meal, prepared by the villagers.  On execution day, everybody congregated in the execution area and the food was put on a stone table.  The prisoner, with his hands tied behind him, would be made to eat like, yup, an animal.  After he was done eating his last meal, he would be laid out face-up on a stone slab and tortured.  The executioner would use a knife to make shallow slices all over the prisoner’s torso and then pour lime juice into the cuts.  The aim was to torture the prisoner until he passed out so that he would be unconscious for the beheading.  They would therefore torture him for as long as it took for that to happen.  Once he was passed out, the executioner would chop his head off, and the head would then be posted on a stake at the entrance to the village, to warn enemies and its own villagers of what happened to criminals in Huta Siallagan.

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After the beheading, the prisoner’s torso would be cut open and his heart and liver would be pickled and eaten immediately (also, raw) by the king and villagers because they felt that the power of a dead person would be passed to them through these organs.  So ate the person’s organs for a reason, not for fun.  After all this, the body would be thrown into Lake Toba and no-one from that village would fish from the lake for 7 days.  Then everything was back to business as usual.

Uh huh.  Moving on.

We said goodbye to the village and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon driving around Samosir, seeing gorgeous view after gorgeous view.  Seriously, we couldn’t catch a bad view, no matter where we went.  We went up hill after hill, past fields and waterfalls.  It was just gorgeousness everywhere.  I can honestly say that the Lake Toba region is the most beautiful place I’ve been to in Indonesia.

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We stopped for a late lunch in Tomok, where I had some soup, pork and rice.  This would come back to haunt me, but more on that next time.  After lunch, I wandered up to another little village of traditional Batak houses that was nowhere near as impressive as Siallagan had been.  Late afternoon, I went back to my hotel and snuggled down into my comfy bed with an ebook and Whatsapp while the rain poured outside.  I was a snug as a bug in a rug.  What a lovely way to end a beautiful day.

Let’s Make Another Round of Memories at the IHF Aceh Centre

Written by Mutiara Hanny, local volunteer, Aceh

Hi everyone,

My name is Hanny. I am a local volunteer teaching Math at the IHF Aceh Centre. When I arrived, I did not have much experience, rather the opposite…

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But IHF gave me the incredible opportunity to teach the students at the center. My Co-directors (Emma, Kristine and Sahat and Vlad) have always supported and guided me on how to teach these young students. They have also helped me in becoming the teacher that I am today and the big progress that I have made so far.

I forgot to mention it: everyone at IHF works as a volunteer, even the Co-Directors and the Executive Director. So, when Sahat arrived as my new Co-Director, I learned to understand that determination and motivation could lead a person very far in his or her life. I truly look up to the way the Co-Directors handle their tasks at our center. They have thought me that engaging yourself to help the others is not only about giving money to a good cause. The things that we do here every day have also a huge impact in the lives of our students and their families: our teaching helps the students to get closer to a better future, one where they are not dependent of another to grow further and obtain their goals. We help them to reach their dream as much as possible. We work on this every day with a lot of laughs, joys and happiness from the children. No matter what they face and how they feel daily, it never prevents them from putting a smile on their face. Knowing this gives me a huge satisfaction in what I do and helps me get through the difficult periods that I witness.

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How do I position myself in this story? As a volunteer, I have to admit that I am still nothing compare to the volunteers that I have had the chance to meet while I am staying here. The time, sweat, tears and efforts that I went through maybe just 1/10 of theirs. But at one point, I came to the realization that the things that give us strength as a teacher is nothing less than the love that we receive every single day from the children. If I was not able to teach for a lesson, they will ask for me and show me their concerns as soon as they got the chance to see me back. Before my arrival, I firmly believed that working with children at the center would be leading me towards being a better person. Now, I know I have grown much more than I could possibly ever have dreamed of. At the center, new faces come and go everyday but memories and the experience that I will take home with me will always remain.

 

These are all the reasons why I have never regretted my decision to join IHF. It has truly changed my life in a positive way.

A Long Journey North

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta

I decided to go to Lake Toba for my August days off based totally on the recommendation of a friend.  I did a little research and made my arrangements to go.

Lake Toba is located in the north of the island of Sumatra – that’s the same island where Aceh is located.  Actually, technically Aceh is located in the northernmost section of the island but since they basically consider themselves separate and independent from Indonesia, Aceh is Aceh and the area below it is north Sumatra.  Go figure.

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Anyway, Lake Toba is located in north Sumatra.  In the middle of the lake, there’s an island called Pulau Samosir.  Yes, you read that right – there’s an honest-to-goodness island in the middle of another island.  Samosir isn’t a small island either.  It’s a properly large island with mountains and everything.  The entire area was formed by the eruption of a supervolcano tens of thousands of years ago.  Lake Toba is actually filling up the volcano’s caldera and the volcanic activity pushed Samosir up out of the caldera and formed an island.  Seriously, isn’t nature amazing?

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So this area was where I would spend my 4 days off.  Getting to Samosir would require a 2 and a half hour plane ride, a 4 hour drive and a 1 hour ferry trip so I booked a 5 am flight to Medan.  To get to the airport on time, I left the centre at 2 am.  Of course that meant I barely dozed for an hour before I got up again, worried that I’d sleep through my alarm and miss my flight.  After a thankfully incident-free ride to the airport (the cabbie drifted off once and I had to wake him up and eye-drive the car from the back seat for the rest of the way).

I had decided that to get the most out of my 4 days, I would have a driver.  So we found each other at the airport and, after a quick stop for a cup of tea, we set off for the long drive to Lake Toba.  I slept for the first 3 hours of the drive but I woke up for the best part – when we got near to the lake and the views started getting beautiful.  By the time we got to the ferry, I had found my second wind.  Since the car had to go with us across the lake, we would be taking the car ferry.  After an hour of waiting, the ferry came and we drove aboard, along with other cars, buses and trucks

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Before I knew it, another hour had passed and we were driving off the ferry and onto Pulau Samosir.  By this time, it was just after 3 pm so my driver dropped me off at my hotel with instructions for what time he would pick me up in the morning.  I had planned to wander around the area a bit but a heavy tiredness came down on me so I had some gado-gado at my hotel (it was loaded with lettuce and was pretty good) and went to bed at a ridiculously early hour because by that time I had been up for about 36 hours.The day had been long but I had enjoyed my travel process and I was happy with where I was.  I was surrounded by beautiful views, I was on an island in the middle of another island, my bed was comfy, my room was clean and my food was rice-free.  I had absolutely no complaints.

Moving ahead. Together!

Written by Aditi, Co-Director, Medan

The week began on a good note with a birthday celebration of one of our co-directors! A small surprise was planned for him; we cut the cake and had a good laugh together.

During the week, Mehdi, another co-director at the center organized a stress management session for the children.  We took the children to an open field and began the session with games to physically tire them. The games were thoroughly enjoyed by them. All the co-directors and teachers had fun too.

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Later, we started with a discussion on what is stress and what are the different ways to handle it. We also discussed the difference between good and bad stress. The children were made comfortable and it was heartening to see that they were open to talk about the triggers that lead to stress and anxiety and the techniques they use to reduce it. Together, we shared some ideas on ways to deal with stress, along with a breathing exercise that helps to calm oneself immediately. Overall, the session went well as the children seemed to be satisfied with the discussions and shared their feelings openly. We hope to continue and organize more of these sessions in the future.

At the center, we have also started making preparations for the upcoming Midterm Exams. Exam schedules have been prepared and children and parents are being informed about the dates. Also, we will be starting preparations for the ‘Pass it On’ ceremony in the coming weeks. The ceremony is a time to appreciate the efforts the children and teachers have put throughout the semester. The ceremonies in the past have been a success and we hope it would be the same this time as well!

My first days in Nakuru

written by: Robinson, Co-Director, Nakuru
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Today marks exactly one week that I have been at the IHF Nakuru Center, and the experience i have had is indeed amazing though there have been a few challenges along the way. I arrived to Nakuru from Nairobi on the 1st of November. Since it was my first visit in Nakuru I had to be picked up from the bus stop by Joyce and Eunice. I was excited about my decision to leave behind the hustle and bustle Nairobi and move to a destination that would be a more humble existence for me, but filled with well behaved and energetic kids.
The kids around here are really jovial, and welcoming. I am enjoying every moment of socialising with them. The boys love playing football and cards every evening. I always go to the pitch to watch them play.  The girls like to play “kati” (a game where they throw a tiny ball around). They usually play immediately after they eat breakfast.
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Unfortunately, I have arrived at IHF Nakuru Center when the kids are on holidays, so I haven’t been able to help much with their school work but I will still be here in January 2017 when the schools open, so I am looking forward to that experience. I am very impressed by the kids’ excellent command of English language.
The kids have big dreams for the future. Some of them want to be engineers, doctors or lawyers while others are still undecided. For my part, all I can do is to passionately appeal to them to work hard and be dedicated at school so they can achieve their dreams.

Kenya is beautiful and filled with wonderful, welcoming people. I, myself, am a Kenyan. The local staff and the directors at IHF Nakuru Center are fantastic people. The have been very helpful while I become adapted to my new position at the center.

Learning to Teach

Written by: Kari, Voluntourist, Bali

My volunteer position is unlike any other position for IHF. I was partnered with IHF through a program called Accounting for International Development, an organization based out of the UK that partners accountants with nonprofit organizations in developing countries. This means that I am working with IHF as more of a consultant rather than a volunteer teacher. I look at the behind the scenes side of how the organization runs. Even though my role is a little different, living and working at the Bali Center puts my right in the action with all the kids and other volunteers.

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We have a large dining table in the downstairs area of the main house at the Bali Center. This is where I sit, along with the other volunteers, to complete most of my work on my computer. I work with Clara, the Co-Director in charge of finance, on day to day finances, and I am also in constant contact with other Co-Directors at all the Centers, as well as, Arnau, the Executive Director. Each day starting at around noon the students begin to fill the center with the sounds of laughter, playing and if you listen carefully, evening the learning happening upstairs in the classroom. Since IHF is an organization based around helping support these student’s education, I also try to help out teaching whenever I am needed. To be honest working with the student is a nice break from the numbers and computer work.

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This past week I played substitute teacher for an SD 6 class at the Bali Center. Being an accountant, numbers are my specialty not grammar. Therefore, before teaching I had to review the lesson plan prepared for class to make sure I wasn’t going to teach the students anything incorrectly. I was a little nervous going into the class, but the students were welcoming, cheerful and helpful when I needed help explaining things in Bahasa. We reviewed adverbs for the week, and had a blast making up sentences with all the adverbs they had learned. It wasn’t long before the students and I were joking and playing throughout the lesson.

This week I was honored and excited that the students asked about me when their regular teacher was back to teaching their class. I poked my head into class to say hi, and was welcomed by many smiling faces and cheerful hellos! We sang a round of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” as they seem to love when I do the actions that go along with the song. I am glad I got the opportunity while I am here to work with the students. My role here is removed from directly working with the kids, therefore, it was rewarding and heartwarming experience to be part of helping these students out. It may have only been a few days of teaching, but it helped to remind me just what IHF is all about, helping students have a brighter future.

Let’s dance

written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta
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My last stop on my Jogja journey was seeing a performance of the Ramayana Ballet.  The show is usually done in an outside, open-air theatre with Prambanan as a backdrop.  However,  it was raining when it was time for the show to start.  The organisers tried to wait out the rain but they eventually decided to move the performance indoors.  This meant that I wouldn’t see it with a stunningly lit up Prambanan as a backdrop.  This was a little disappointing but didn’t dull my excitement.

whatsapp-image-2016-11-02-at-17-46-22The ballet was absolutely beautiful.  It’s not a ballet in the traditional sense but it’s just as good, in my opinion.  It is done in traditional Javanese dance with opulent costumes.  If you ever go to Indonesia, be sure to go to Jogja and see the Ramayana at Prambanan.  Five minutes after this 1 and a half hour epic drama was finished, I wanted to see it again.  After Borobudur, this was my second favourite experience in Jogja.  Unfortunately, I have no good pictures of the performance because my camera failed me and my phone camera takes awful night pictures so although I tried, the pictures I got were horrible.  But it’s all wonderfully burned into my brain.

I got back to my hotel at around 10:15 pm and I showered (divine!) and snuggled down into bed.  My time in Jogja was just about over and it had truly been a joy.

My time with IHF

written by: Isra Yauminnisa, a local volunteer, Aceh

I have known about IHF since my third semester in school, I am now in my fifth semester of college. I have loved to teach since I was in elemetary school. I always pretended to be the teacher when I was a young student. Sometimes my friends didn’t want to play that game, because they were bored. But it was never boring to me.

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When I heard about IHF from my friend I was so interested and I wanted to apply to be  volunteer right away. I suddenly I lost my confidence to apply because I was afraid I wouldn’t be as good as the amazing volunteers at IHF, and was concerned IHF might not accept me.

This semester I changed my mind and thought, “you will never know untill you try”. I encouraged myself to apply for a volunteer position at IHF. I was told by brother Sahat, a Co-Director at IHF Chiang Rai Center, that they already had enough teachers for all classes, but I could help a volunteer who taught one of the classes. This is no problem for me because I can learn everything from another volunteer before I teach alone.

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I started to volunteer with IHF, and learned while helping a volunteer teach their class. After 3 weeks at the IHF, brother Sahat assigned me to teach a SD 5 class. Since I started teaching SD5 I have met funny and smart students. They make me happy, increase my spirit to teach, and have my working on how to be the best teacher I can be.

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At IHF I have not just met amazing students, but also amazing friends, one of them is brother Sahat. Brother Sahat is a very friendly person, he always gives his full attention to all volunteer, and he also appreciated me for my work. He does everything to help the volunteers during their time with IHF. He holds art class for the students, and he helps me to prepare to teach my classes. I hang out with the other volunteers and sometimes learn from their teaching styles. I’m so blessed I can join IHF I get to experience teaching, learn more and improve my English, and I meet amazing students and friends. Thank you IHF!

Hiking trip to Sibayak

Written by Mehdi, Co-Director, Medan

Last weekend me and Letizia, the other co-director, went for a hiking trip on mount Sibayak and it was an unforgettable experience, to say the least!

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We left Medan around 4pm and found ourselves stuck in traffic for about two hours. After a long journey crammed inside a very compact minibus we arrived at the entrance of the park, ready to take on the mountain. Since it was already dark we couldn’t see much of the nature around us. All we could see was the concrete path that would take us to the top and we had no idea how long the trekking would take (estimates by our Indonesian friends ranged from “30 minutes” to “4 hours”). After about 45 minutes of walking we reached a small outpost. Apparently we were already halfway to the top!
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The weather was gradually getting cold and windy and in addition to that it was starting to rain. By the time we reached our camping spot we were all incredibly cold and wet. We couldn’t see much of the place, except that it was very rocky. We could also hear some geysers in the distance, spouting hot steam. When we finally found a place (relatively) suitable for camping, we started setting up the tent. This was quite a challenge as we were operating completely in the dark, with only a few flashlights to guide us. The wind was also getting stronger, making it difficult to keep the tent on the ground while we tried to tie it down.
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When the tent was finally set up we all just jumped inside, trembling from head to toe and completely wet. We were so desperate for some warmth that we decided to light our little gas fire inside the tent. A risky move, but at least we got to warm our hands a bit! Well-prepared as we were, we had no cards or any other games to keep ourselves occupied with so we went to sleep quite early, hoping we’d be able to get up early in the morning to explore the area. Unfortunately none of us managed to get any sleep whatsoever. We spent the entire night snuggling together just to get a little bit warmer and cursing the gods every time our tent’s covering sail blew away, exposing us to violent winds and rain. I believe it was one of the longest nights I’ve ever experienced in my life.
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We “woke up” around 6:30, exhausted, cold and in a very bad mood. I decided to get out of the tent to get a look of our surroundings and I was amazed by the beauty of the place. It was rocky, as expected but there was a very jurassic feel to the place. The geysers looked dangerous and the sharp cliffs around us looked intimidating. In the distance you could see the immense volcano, Mount Berastagi. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to stay longer so soon we found ourselves hiking down the trail again. But this time we could actually see where we were going and the path took us through rocky mountains and lush jungles.

It was all incredibly beautiful and almost made the suffering worth it. Almost.