Culture & Curious Habits / Projects / Social Commentary

Week 2: What do you do when there is no electricity?

*) Written as part of Residency Programme at Bumi Pemuda Rahayu, October – December 2014

The 8-weeks long residency at Bumi Pemuda Rahayu requires us to present our plan to the public. This time the presentation was held at KUNCI Cultural Studies in Yogyakarta. Which means we shall drive down the mountains into the city. The night before the presentation was Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla inauguration at Merdeka Palace. I feel I should not miss it, so I streamed the event while working on my presentation. The vibe of celebration spreads all over Indonesia including Yogyakarta.

All. over. Indonesia. However, it isn’t Indonesia if it isn’t somewhat disorganized. Hours before the evening celebration, entire Middle part of Java had electricity crisis: no electricity for five-six whole hours. So, us residents decided to just drive around to snack at one of the warung nearby. After the mie ayam (chicken noodle) satisfy our belly, we came back to meet with silence and torches. It was rather eerie that night, realizing that no more than two decades ago this area has yet to receive electricity let alone mobile phone signals. It makes you wonder what you do when there is no electricity.

The following day, when the afternoon came time for us to go – the sun was torrid. That 50 minute drive to the city was overwhelming. I had to hydrate quite a bit. The afternoon in Yogya was nicely spent though. After the presentation, of which I think I talked too much (it was supposed to be only 15 minutes but I went on to 40 minutes, whoops), I get to meet several friends and had a really nice Medan-Chinese restaurant dinner at RM. Lezat at Malioboro area. Afterwards I made mandatory visit to the supermarket. Of all the things the city has to offer. I really miss the supermarket. How odd.

There is one thing I have yet to do ever since I got here. And that thing is:  to visit the local wet market Pasar Imogiri. So, on Friday I finally did and it really made my day. You can tell so much about an area just by visiting main local market. Also, I have a soft spot for fresh produce. Here, we managed to found ‘pete’, one of the residents loved this curious vegetable.


Pasar Imogiri (Photo taken by Martha)


The Glorious Petai

 Time flew by rather quickly and it is time to spend with the kidsagain. I took this chance to make map of the village with them. My creative side ticks to this workshop. I used paper tape . I get to chat with these children again and lo and behold, they were wondering if I would be interested to walk with them to see the sunrise on Sunday. For the sake of research, I said: but of course! even though waking up that early would be quite a challenge for me.


Making map with mask tape, preparing main streets and starting point: Bumi Pemuda Rahayu. (Photo by Martha)



Kids, let’s get working! (Photo by Martha)


Adding more information to the map. (Photo by Martha)


Houses, Warungs, Mosques, Health Clinics, Cow Stables (!), Head of Village’s house, Village council (Photo by Martha)


A different view of map. (Photo by Martha)

So, there I was on a Sunday morning with My Tracks and being half awake. I manage to put on my contact lenses in a swift and then brisk walk to Ndah Romo. It was a short 4km hike-walk to Ndah Romo.


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There are few cute things I saw along the way. One of them being an arrangement of cassave that is being dried to feed the cows. And the other were the elderly people habit : Drinks available on the front of their houses for anyone passing through. Isn’t that charming?


Arrangement of cassave being laid on the rocks to dry. These are one of the staples for the cows. Photo by Martha


View of house front of an elder in the village. That table has drinks ready for anyone passing by. (Photo by Martha)


An attempt to make sense of the history of the area.


View from RPH Mangunan (Forest Ranger) office. (Photo by Martha)

On a good Monday afternoon, as the sun is kinder, I went about with Pak Sugiran to meet with elders of forest rangers. One is to RPH Mangunan and then to RPH Dlingo. I did not get to talk much with people at RPH Mangunan but I did get to understand a bit more of the forest mapping. I did not realize into what extent Java land development into such a complex ownership and usage down to its forest. In these two sections there are parts of the forest that is privately owned – and other parts has been planted, cut, re-planted so often times by the authorities and the people who lives off this land from generations to generations.

In my chat with Pak Sukir from RPH Dlingo who has been working there for 27 years. It brought me to understand more about the complexities of the situation. The idea to restore some parts of Java forests into conserved forest was decided only in 2010. So, it is very new. As Pak Sukir said, and I quote, “it will take decades for this conservation to actually takes place”. Meanwhile, ownership of the land can be somewhat confusing as well for him. Recently the Sultan family claims parts of the mountains as theirs, while the state said otherwise. I can see what kind of tension Pak Sukir gets from time to time. It is hard enough for him to guard the forest from illegal logging, negotiate with people who lives off the forest and on the ownership level he has to deal with who-owns-what and what-to-do-with-it. Such a great challenge for him and I suppose for many forest rangers in Java. This would be a great angle for the essay I am writing.

It was rather eerie when I heard what Pak Sukir said as I asked about history of the forests. He said “There isn’t any good soil here.” and it was a bit hard for me to hear that for some reason. As he goes on about his story in taking care of the forest (forest curators? 🙂 ) I could sort of understand where he comes from. At some point he receives a death threat from a member of the family so he wouldn’t report this family member to the police for stealing woods from the forest. That was really tough times for him and his family. He experience the times in the early 80s when he has salary as government official, 250 Rupiahs. And then at some point it was 17,000 Rupiahs and these days, well I am not sure how much he makes and it feels really impolite to ask. I’ll just leave it at that. But I suppose at the end of the day, with a job as complex as he has, it is almost a miracle he stayed and takes care of the forest for so long.


An image of what a forest map looks like. It includes year of planting, size of each blocks and the type of plants/trees.


An image of signs of color that indicates type of forests. This were from RPH Mangunan office. (Photo by Martha)














I had a nice time talking with him, and I do plan to talk with him more often to get more stories. What is good is that he also has a bit more sensitivity about history and documentations. I suppose that makes things a little easier for me to work with some data he has. The highlight of this visit was that he kept a map of the forest from 1925 and I get to see and take photos of it. He explains to me what has changed, what was gone, what was extended and so forth. I guess I am getting somewhere here. I feel like a detective – trying to find clues and put stories together into a coherent line.


Photo of the forest map that tells the date :1925. Drawn on a large piece of cloth. (Photos by Martha)







2 thoughts on “Week 2: What do you do when there is no electricity?

  1. Pingback: Week 3-4: “The map is not the territory” *) | mea gratae itinera

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