Amazing Eco Camp in Batu City

by Pippin Barry

Mist creeps over the mountain range as the eternal light of the stars lights up the dark night. It’s Monday night and I’m sitting around a lamp with the rest of the Tunas Hijau team of Eco-Camp 2009! This annual camp invites students and teachers from all over East Java to learn and share their knowledge about environmental conservation.  

The temperature dips below 10 0C and I instantly regret not bringing long-sleeves. It seems impossible that we are only a few hours away from Surabaya which never seems to get below 30 0C. In spirit with the camp we’ve decided not to have a camp fire and instead we hover around the halogen beam like moths while waiting for our coffee to boil.

After a refreshing cup we go to bed in our sleeping bags in anticipation of the arrival of the campers. I wake up at 6am and join the others for another cup of coffee. We are camping in a valley so although the sky is light we are still waiting for the sun to break over the mountain. To keep warm I bring out my boomerang I’ve brought from Australia and we all have a go at trying to throw it so that it returns to us.

We get underway making the final preparations for the camp and our first group of teachers arrive at 9:30am. Enok and I go around and introduce ourselves to different people as they pick a tent to sleep in. The groups are excited to be here and many of the students have just started their annual holidays.

With everyone arrived we have the opening ceremony to welcome all the participants. Today I will accompany the teachers through their activities. First we head to the local river to see the spring from with the water is derived. Teachers bustle along the path and seem to be having fun acting like school children again.

At the spring everyone wants a picture with the bule (me) and some come back two or three times. I now can sympathise with Brad Pitt and Jude Law when people ask to take their photo. I hope some of these photos end up on facebook.

After the observation it is time for lunch then the teachers returned to the main tent for a workshop about the role of the river in the local environment. This was followed up by and information session on global warming. I would like to spend time creating a video montage from Australia and editing a soundtrack with Indonesian subtitles as I think movies are one the best ways to communicate with an audience. Unfortunately I don’t have the tools here.

Tonight the girls, Pas, Mandy and Yvonne, have joined us and are preparing for their first night camping. Some of them are such whiners and are always complaining about being too cold, too hungry, too thirsty yada yada yada… I think we should drop them in the heart of Papua with a some rope and can of lighter fuel and leave them for a few weeks to toughen them up. I, on the other hand, am a seasoned camper and excel at all manner of camping activities including, but not limited to, making a fire, gathering edible plants, catching edible wildlife, star navigation, advanced climbing, river swimming, bush medicine and many other useful pursuits.

In the morning eat a hearty breakfast of mie ayam with nasi dan sambal. Today I’m going to help run the mural painting. First we gather the paints and spread out canvasses to use as backdrop for the paintings. I invite the students to consider what particular environmental message they want to paint then we draw up a rough draft. Lots of kids are excellent at drawing and have great painting technique so it doesn’t take long before a masterpiece is before us.

During the painting we listen to the camp ‘radio’ which is DJ’d by Sucre and Dani. The ‘DJ’s seem at home asking for requests and call ins from listeners. I even get a guest spot in the afternoon!

That night we are treated to a workshop on the benefits of vegetarianism for the globe. I take a blood oath then and there to become a vegetarian when I return to Australia. In our free time I verse lots of students at the snakes and ladders environment game which is a great way to make some new Indonesian friends. We also have a tetris tournament and it turns out Mandy is no way near as good as she says she is (she put a red square on top of a blue three-piece while there was a red 4 piece coming next – I mean come on!)

On the third day the honourable Pakde (Governor of East Java) is gracing our camp to promote world environment day. It is a very fancy affair with lunch catered for everyone. There is a fantastic movie playing which I really want to get a copy of to use in my presentation. We are treated to some traditional Javanese dancing which is really awesome.

After the speeches Yvonne and I rush to our positions near the mural ready to show the Governor our work. Chaos strikes when we realize the official party has veered off course and we are not standing in the proper position. People run and grab us and try and get us close to the Governor. We finally end up in the inner circle – I get to Shake his hand and Yvonne gets the extreme pleasure of pinning a badge to his chest. Before she has time to clasp it a body guard seizes here “that’s enough” and she is dragged away.

Bakde tells me his son studies in Melbourne so I will facebook him to see if he too is at UniMelb. After the morning is over and the Governor is gone we have a closing ceremony. I’ve met so many students here and felt that I’ve really touched their lives and now they will feel they can better help the world and the environment.

A huge thanks to the Tunas Hijau and a big apology for spelling all of your names incorrectly (I tried to follow the phonetics): Sugeng, Sucre, Rebby, Nonoy, Totum, Jahill, Lubis, Chung chung, Ebby, Mr M, Dani, Doni, Arif, Nizam, Enok, Chandra.

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