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.

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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.

Another day in Jogja

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta

The day after my magical Borobudur morning in Jogja, I started out at about 9 am, headed for Taman Sari.  Wow, what a rundown, poorly maintained, nothing-to-see-here disappointment.  On top of that, I had a guide who spoke terrible English (I understood maybe twenty percent of what he said) and who actually told me to tip him after the really bad tour was over (side eye).  I tipped him, not a lot because he did a bad job, but people are in such need and every rupiah counts; I just couldn’t bring myself to not tip him at all.

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I hotfooted it away from Taman Sari and headed out of the city to Ullen Sentalu museum.  This is a museum in the woods, on the way up to Mount Merapi, that houses the recent history of Yogyakarta and Solo’s royal families.  I wasn’t impressed by the royal people but I really liked the museum itself.  It was so cool (temperature-wise) and quiet and tucked away in the woods that I could easily have spent all day there sipping hot chocolate and reading a book while lounging in a deck chair.

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Prambanan was my next stop.  Like Borobudur, this is also a 9th century temple but this 1 is Hindu .  I was impressed by the architecture – building these huge temples back in the 800’s could not have been easy – but I didn’t get the point of it.  Basically, these temples are huge structures that have a very small open chamber about two-thirds way up, in which there are 1 or 2 statues of different Hindu gods.  My question is, what else is under this huge building?  What’s the point of building it so big if you’re only going to use 1 small chamber?  There are no other openings, so what’s the point?  I still have no idea so in the end I wasn’t overly impressed.

taman-sariBy this time it was almost late afternoon and I was starving so I got mie ayam to eat while I made my way to Candi Ijo.  I was trying once more to see the sunset but again got beaten by the rain.  Still, before the rain came, I got a stunning view of the province of Jogja spread out below me.  I was only there for a few minutes before the rain forced me to leave, but the view made every minute getting up there totally worth it.

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STRUGGLES OF KENYAN EDUCATION

Written by Joyce, Co-Director, Nakuru

Last week I spent most of my time visiting primary schools, and it wasn’t the first time I went to schools our kids enrolled in. Most of my visits are because of school fees.

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Primary education in Kenya is supposed to be free and all of the text books are provided by school. It sounds very promising, and in favor of children who are from less privileged background. However, education for these children is far from free. Children are asked to pay tuition, to donate money for school to buy footballs, to compensate teachers’ tea expenses ( teachers claim that they come school very early in order to tutor kids to better prepare for coming national exams so they need to be compensated morning tea), to buy text books, and to pay for school desks. Everyday kids get beaten for different reasons. I refused to give children in primary school tuition that I know will go into the pockets of their teachers and not to the students education. I went to school every time a child told me that they had been beaten at school for not paying school fees. When I asked what the tuition is for, teachers will respond that it is not required but it’s good that if children could pay as they work day and night for these kids.

IMG_6406.JPGYou will never be able to imagine how abusive the words from these teachers and principals as educators are to the children. I understand that these teachers, as educated adults, do not get paid a fair amount for their work, but it is not the innocent kids that should pay for this unfairness. Children are quite used to be beaten. When talked about it they act like it’s no big deal, this is the most depressing part. As a result, kids grow up with an ideology that it is okay to beat someone if she/ he makes a mistakes.  Sometimes I think the children would be better off staying home with qualified teachers we hired ourselves. However, at this moment, it is not financially and legally feasible. What is the solution?IMG_6540.JPG

A Visit to Lake Toba

Written by Mehdi, Co-Director, Medan

After a rather hectic week at the Medan center I decided to spend my weekend at Lake Toba. It felt good to be out in the nature again after 2 weeks of non-stop traffic noise and smog.

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I left Medan very early in the morning and arrived at Parapat just before noon. I crossed the huge lake on a small touristic ferry playing upbeat 90s songs while violently going up and down on Danau Toba’s restless waves. By the time the ferry reached Samosir island I was happy to have my feet on a dry land again!

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On the island I rented a scooter and spent the rest of my day exploring the small fishing villages and surrounding hills, enjoying the many beautiful views it had to offer. It was very nice to get around by scooter for a change, instead of a local Becak. I had to quickly learn how to ride a manual scooter as I’d only driven automatic ones before. I used my new antique friend to get from one village to another, only to get off and take a stroll along the hundreds of souvenir shops in Tomok village. I even saw a glimpse of the traditional Batak dances there and met an older Belgian couple. It was a relief to be able to speak in my own language again, for however brief it was.

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Due to Samosir island’s location there was always a very cool breeze present, sometimes making me regret that I left my sweater at the center. The weather wasn’t always as sunny as I would have hoped so I didn’t have the chance to take a swim in the Lake’s blue waters. Nonetheless, I was glad to get some fresh air away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

All in all I loved spending time there and could have easily stayed another two or three days. However by nightfall it was time for me to leave again. Another 5 hours of travel later I found myself back in Medan, but this time feeling more relaxed than before and being slightly more appreciative of Medan’s hot weather!

My First Weeks in Bali

Written by Kari, Voluntourist, Bali

I arrived to IHF Bali Center on the evening of Saturday October 1st. The center was very quiet since only the co-directors were living, the other volunteers had gone home the previous day. Agata, one of the co-directors, was very accommodating and showed me around the center, and gave me a quick tour of Buitan Village where the center is located. I was exhausted from traveling all the way from Chicago, IL so I called it a night after the tour.

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The next morning, I awoke to the noise of all the creatures that live with us at the center; lizards, mice, birds, bugs etc. It was Sunday, everyone’s day off, so the center was very quiet. I would quickly learn during the week the center is not normally a quiet place, but full of the sounds of kids playing downstairs and learning upstairs in their classes upstairs. I am not volunteering in the traditional teacher role at IHF, but instead I am helping with the accounting and finance side of the organization. Therefore, I do not have as much contact with the kids as other volunteers. The kids bring a fun and light energy to the center that breaks up my day on the computer. I am trying to interact with the kids even though I am not teaching. I even helped to prepare a special activity for the kids one day. We made Sharks.

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Bali Center is great not only for the support they give the community, but also for its location and all the amazing activities the island has to offer. In the two weeks that I have been in Bali, I have already learned how to scuba dive and climbed a volcano. Agata joined me for the climbing of the volcano. We left the center at 2am in the morning to arrive at the base of Mt. Batur by 4am. It was steep climb to the top, but we arrived with plenty of time before the sunrise. Based on the normal heat and humidity at the center, I would have never guessed I would feel cold in the all of the 2 months I plan to stay in Bali, but I was freezing at the top of the mountain. We enjoyed a hot coffee while waiting for the sunrise. A little shivering was worth the beautiful sunrise we saw.

I have six weeks left in my stay at the Bali Center. I am very excited to continue to learn about IHF Bali and the community surrounding the center. I am excited to continue to get to know the students who attend classes, and to explore more of this beautiful island.

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OUR LITTLE ORGANIC PROJECT

Written by: Soufian, Co-Director, Chiang Rai

Here I’m again, a lonesome Moroccan at the Chiang Rai Center with two children and a frustratingly slow traveler PC. Two kids left the center for vacations and the other two are working full time, staying outside the center. Moreover, this week the housemother left, she moved to another place and found another job. From now on I have to share the center duties just with the children. So now that they are gone for two weeks, I’ll have to take a good care of the center, especially the garden that we started together.

firstAt first, we wanted to plant a small garden in our yard, but the problem is that the ground there doesn’t get a lot of sun as the tree leaves block the sunshine most of the day. As a solution, the children suggested another place with more sunshine and as it turned out more land to grow vegetables. We got to work. Nupon was great at cutting the plants while Arisa and I collected them. We didn’t have all the necessary gardening tools, so we used what we were able to find at the center. Soon the land was ready.

The goals of this project were to show our children how to grow vegetables and take care of the garden as part of the house maintenance, as well as supplying us with some fresh and organic fruit and veggies.

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This week we had also new board members visiting us to meet the children and talk about IHF at the family dinner. They didn’t speak English, but Pratya helped us communicate and translated what we said. I was glad to be part of this experience. They seemed very friendly and shared their experience in working with local organizations with us. Hopefully they will take care of this place and contribute to children’s education the same way IHF was doing for a long time in Chiang Rai.

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Why Our Kids Love Chapati

Written by Isabel, Co-Director, Nakuru.

My name is Isabel and I work as a Co-Director at the Nakuru Center. I have been working for IHF for the last 8 months and I have come to learn a lot from the kids here.

I will try to share what the kids taught me about the thing they love the most –  Chapati. Chapati is a form of a pancake or a flatbread and the kids here have a thing for the wheat. They love Chapatis so much they can basically drop anything if the possibility to make them appears.

first-photo In Kenya chapati usually goes well with a beef stew, beans, green grams or a potato stew. The children always volunteer to make the chapatis for themselves because they know that it gives them the opportunity to have a few bites here and there during the preparation. Maybe it is a little bit cheeky but I guess kids will always be kids! They know how to divide themselves into different groups and share responsibilities among them, since making chapatis can be a lot of work. There are those who make and mix the dough. There are those who roll the dough into pancake shapes. There are also those who fry it with small pinch of oil on the pans. And finally, there are those who pack the made chapatis into awaiting bags. Our chapatis are always made from different ingredients –  eggs, milk, salt, sugar, wheat, grated carrots or lemons… Some put spices and others put food colour to add some beauty to their meal. It all depends on your preferences and capability to buy certain ingredients. You can also make them very simple by using wheat and water. I have come to learn that kids enjoy chapatis not only because of it’s flavour, but also because they are really filling and keep them full for a long time.

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Still a very important thing is that chapatis are very tasty and one can be creative enough to make from them different delicious sandwiches with anything from fruits to chicken. Sometimes the kids buy already prepared chapatis from the canteens and make sandwiches out of them. They later eat them as a night or a morning snack. I am always looking forward to these days when we make them by ourselves as they are one of the most fun days at the Nakuru Centre.

A Beautiful Sunrise in Jogja

Written by Kristine, Co-Director, Jakarta

A couple of months ago, I spent a few days in Jogja – proper name Yogyakarta – and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  But my favorite time there was the morning of my first full day absorbing all that is Jogja.

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That morning began for me at 3 am, when I got up to get ready because I was heading to Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple, to watch the sun rise.  I was driving away from my hotel by 3:40 am and I got to Borobudur at about 4:30 am, where I paid the tourist entrance fee (locals get in for cheaper) and was given a flashlight and a map.
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Off I went, following well-placed signs and other bobbing flashlights, climbing up the stupas of Borobudur in the darkness.  I climbed up to the 8th stupa (there are 9) and since I was ahead of most of the huffing and puffing tourists climbing behind me, I found a great spot facing the east.  I settled down to wait.  After about an hour, the sun started to make an appearance.  And I unexpectedly experienced the highlight of my time in Jogja.  I watched the sun rise behind Mount Merapi, an active volcano which was smoldering and smoking as I looked on.
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Slowly, the day crept up on us and I saw the mist in the valley below slowly disappear.  It was breathtakingly beautiful and all I could do was soak it in and be thankful for the awesome privilege of witnessing this beautiful sunrise in this beautiful place.
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Once the sun was properly up, I wandered around the temple for a while, then I checked out the museum, had a cup of coffee and some refreshment (fried banana and a sweet treat) and I was off again.  But I went with my Borobudur experience safely tucked away in my heart.