A Day At The Kampung

Mt Merapi looms ahead of us, a perfect dark cone, partially enveloped in mist. My ears pop, proving we’re gaining altitude even though the road doesn’t appear to be going uphill.

They say the volcano is smoking 300 days a year. Every time I look at it I doubt my vision, half convinced that it’s just wisps of cloud like we see around our more familiar and benevolent volcano at home, Mt Rainier.

Mt Merapi’s last major eruption was in 2010, the year before my previous visit to the area.

Today we’re taking a day trip to a village (kampung ) in the shadow of Mt Merapi where the students are doing a brief homestay.

Looking for fish, of course

Looking for fish, of course

Except, instead of spending time with the group, Hugo decided he’d rather spend time with his new friends.

Another 3 year old who likes throwing big rocks in the water! What are the odds?!

Another 3 year old who likes throwing big rocks in the water! What are the odds?!

Notice the black volcanic dirt:

Three boys, some trucks, and a pile of dirt

Three boys, some trucks, and a pile of dirt

The highlight for Hugo was this moment:

"I touched a baby duckling!"

“I touched a baby duckling!”

This village is also the home to a gamelan, which is a set of instruments used to play traditional Javanese music.

A detail of one of the pieces of the gamelan

A detail of one of the pieces of the gamelan

There are mostly xylophones and gongs, but one person will play a hand drum to keep the beat.

Hugo grabs a mallet and gives it a go

Hugo grabs a mallet and gives it a go

The pieces range in size from a xylophone about 18 inches across to this enormous hanging gong:

This calls for a bigger mallet

This calls for a bigger mallet

If you’re interested in hearing the gamelan in action, check out this video below:

We headed back to Yogyakarta, Hugo exhausted and dirty, the best way for a toddler to end the day.

“Green Islam” And The Bumi Langit Institut

The Bumi Langit Institut is a Muslim organic farming cooperative located about an hour outside of Yogyakarta.

An overcast morning view of coconut trees and red roofs. In the foreground is a solar panel. They say on a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean.

An overcast morning view of coconut trees and red roofs. In the foreground is a solar panel. They say on a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean.

At Bumi Langit, they strive to live off the grid (hence the solar panels), and use biogas systems to generate gas for cooking.

Homemade kefir and sorghum bread for breakfast

Homemade kefir and sorghum bread for breakfast

There is also a focus on permaculture farming, a farming design method meant to create a self-maintaining, integrated habitat system.

The kefir was a big hit

The kefir was a big hit

There is also an emphasis on the idea that being good environmental stewards is essential to the Islamic faith.

I told him he could look at the sorghum, but he couldn't touch it. Following this rule requires all the powers of concentration that a 3 year old can muster.

I told him he could look at the sorghum, but he couldn’t touch it. Following this rule requires all the powers of concentration that a 3 year old can muster.

Despite the negative news hitting the headlines recently about the high volumes of plastic waste in the ocean here, Indonesia was a pioneer of the “Green Islam” movement.

Touring the farm

Touring the farm

In 1887, in order to combat growing unrest and conflict over scarce resources, the Pesantren Gulak-Gulak school was founded to teach environmentally sustainable practices in an Islamic religious context.

Checking out the duck pond

Checking out the duck pond

Today there are many such schools, including a school called Ilmu Giri, founded in 2003 by Nasruddin Anshory, whose work in environmental education was recognized by the 2007 UN Climate Change Conference in Bali.

Making a friend

Making a friend

Hugo and I just spent the morning touring the farm, but they have many educational programs available for visitors.

Excited to pet the farm cats

Excited to pet the farm cats

If you are interested in reading more about Bumi Langit Institut, please see their website.

Looking for bugs

Looking for bugs

For more information about Islam and environmentalism, I invite you to check out the Islamic Foundation For Ecology And Environmental Science (IFEES), a UK-based charity focused on environmental conservation.

A Day at the Farm

Today we took a field trip to a farm to see the rice growing process up close.

Hugo was not willing to get up close and personal with a water buffalo

Hugo was not willing to get up close and personal with a water buffalo

We watched the water buffalo pull a plow through the mud, and saw rice growing at various stages. The most interesting part was the rice threshing process, where first the dried stalks are put in a giant basket and beaten to separate the grain from the shaft.

Stirring the rice

Next, the rice is scooped out with the giant spoon and spread out on a tarp on the ground. Then fans are used to blow away all the extra straw, leaving behind only the rice grains.

Hugo's rice fanning talents are apparent at an early age

Hugo’s rice fanning talents are apparent at an early age

The final step is to grind away the outside husk, leaving behind only the edible grains. Every step is manual and time consuming. A lot of work from a lot of people’s hands goes into each grain of rice in your dinner bowl.

Sifting through the final product

Sifting through the final product

I always feel a little strange about this kind of ecotourism. It’s an educational experience where you literally get your hands dirty and learn about the farming process, but it takes the backbreaking labor of rice farming performed year in and year out by our hosts, and reduces it to something we experience for our own amusement, something we wash off at the end of the day and never give a second thought. It was kind of like an elementary school field trip to the supermarket — just a tiny glimpse into the complex process that brings food to our tables around the world.