Table of Contents

2016 June • American family of Four visiting Peace Place

Visitors at Peace Place 


In June 2016, Heidi and I and our two daughters arrived at Peace Place. Our interest in visiting Peace Place is educational in the sense that we are committed to learning about Indonesian language and culture, and we also have a philosophical interest in participating in and supporting the peace process.

My name is Erik Skeaff, and I’m 46. My wife’s name is Heidi Ahrens, and she’s 39.

Our daughters Coralie and Ramona are 10 and 6. We live in Carbondale, Colorado where I work at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, which is a high school that is dedicated to outdoor and experiential education. As a teacher, my life is dedicated to facilitating the growth of others and to supporting others as they discover the things that they love that make them fully human. This form of community engagement is less visible, but no less valuable other forms of community building.

We’re on sabbatical for the 2016-17 school year, and right now we’re at the Friends’ School in Pati, Indonesia. We are staying with Petrus and Nanik at the Friends site in Pati because we want to spend our sabbatical year connecting with others who are committed to socially conscious work.

At home in Carbondale we build peace by reaching across cultural lines by engaging with the latino community, and here in Pati we are building peace by staying in predominantly Muslim Java and engaging in the peace process.


Daily activities at Peace Place

Heidi and I wake up at 6 a.m. most days and exercise in the schoolhouse with Feliz and Petrus from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Breakfast is at 7 a.m., and everyone serves themselves from an Indonesian-style buffet and then eats together in the living room. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. we homeschool the girls.

Even though Joglo preschool is closed during Ramadan, Peace Place is still running activities such as English classes for all kids who want to join. We have about 15 children attending. This time, the activities turned out to be dancing classes, including dance styles from three different cultures. The kids are practicing five times a week. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., the local girls who are roughly Coralie and Ramona’s age come to the schoolhouse to learn Indonesian dances from Fita along with Coralie and Ramona. Coralie also teaches the Indonesian girls ballet and ballet folklorico, or Mexican folk dancing, which she studies in Carbondale. She loves to teach dancing and is very talented in breaking down the dance moves into simple steps for the local girls. The girls are preparing a dance show to present to parents in few weeks. The children are very excited about it. At the same time as the girls are dancing, Petrus and I work together on our respective Indonesian and English language skills.

Music at Peace Place is happening all the time. Tito, Nanik’s and Petrus youngest son is playing the violin and loves singing. Ramona is playing the violin now for almost two years and it is always a pleasure to listen to them playing together and learning new songs. Wiwit their older son is studying music and accompanies them with the guitar.

After lunch, we usually have some down time in the afternoon followed by an activity like a trip to the market or the swimming pool, or a trip to Seloromo Gembong Lake. A highlight of our stay so far was taking part in a Friends’ AVP workshop.

At night, we share a meal together and stay up talking until bedtime. It is Ramadan as I write this, and at night prayers and calls to prayer are broadcast through the night from the local mosques as they are throughout the day.

We are also participating in helping with chores like preparing meals and cleaning up after meals. Heidi is working on developing constructive feedback and workshops for the Peace Place, and I (Erik) am working with Feliz on text to promote Peace Place Pati. We are also committed to supporting Peace Place once we return home by promoting it. We can also promote Peace Place even before we return home by putting it on the senior project list for Colorado Rocky Mountain School seniors for next year. Each spring, our high school seniors go to different locations nationally and internationally to do volunteer and service work, and Peace Place Pati would be a great place for our seniors to visit.

We feel that this is a good place that is doing good work in the world, and we are grateful to Petrus and Nanik for sharing it with us.



Special Activities & Adventures


Traditional market (pasar)

As going to the pasar is a daily activity for Indonesian women or their household help, a visit was scheduled at the very first day. For the locals shopping is not all that’s done at the pasar. It’s also a chance to get out of the house and catch up on all the latest news. Prices are not marked on items at traditional markets. Therefore, the fine art of bargaining needs to be learned. Going with Nanik and
knowing the prices is the best start to get to know the
prices. Take time to talk with the seller and show your
curiosity and interest in the various items.

The visit of a foreigner is rare in Pati, but undoubtedly is welcomed with many smiles and much sincere interest. Questions and attempts to speak in Bahasa Indonesia are met with smiles, lower price or extra bananas.

Luckily, taking pictures is generally allowed. Having said this, they probably will take more selfies with you than you will take of them and the market place. So keep smiling! 🙂


Swimming and dining at the town square

Pati has many options for doing sports and recreation. Pati Hotel’s swimming pool offers a great refreshment. Especially, the slides have been great fun for Cora and Ramona. The big outside pool made us all happy. Relaxing and floating in the water while the sun slowly went down was very rewarding.page5image592

Afterwards, we went to the town square, which is always fully alive and very busy at night times. Friends & families are sitting together eating, chatting, laughing and relaxing on the grass in the middle of the square. The whole place feels like a Christmas market with lots of different food to try and many joyful activities for the little ones. It was the first time for us, trying typical Indonesia food such as Gado Gado and Sate Ayam
which we really liked.









AVP workshop at church

Petrus & Nanik are always trying to make their town and region as peaceful as possible. Therefore, they are often running Peace Trainings at schools, farmer villages, Muslim communities or at churches. This time, we could attend a three hour workshop with a Mennonite congregation at a church in Ketanggan. The AVP basic workshop highlights the goodness in everyone. Through affirmation activities and playful games, called ’live and lively’, everyone could get to know each other and quickly build a safe atmosphere within the community. The congregants played name games and took part in icebreakers and group-building activities. It was satisfying in spite of the language barrier to be able to connect on a human level through humor and physical interaction.



Sunset Picnic

One of the very beautiful sceneries around Pati is the Seloromo Gembong Lake. This small village is Petrus birthplace. Picnicking with a wonderful view on lake and mountains in the background coloured in orange has been amazing. Apart from the stunning surrounding, the motorbike trip to the lake is an adventure itself and was lots of fun.









Sikep community

Due to Petrus work in mediating and helping the local farming groups to cope with the build up of a cement factory. The cement factory, which is supported by German investors and the Indonesian government, but destroying the landscape on which the local famers depend on. Petrus connections and friendship with the Sikep community allowed us an insight into this unique traditional Javanese lifestyle and believes. They understand themselves as farmers and appreciate the simple life. They follow their own unique religion, called „Adam“.

At first we arrived at the community own school building. The teacher explained us about their culture. Sikep does not send their children to a government based school. Even homeschooling has not been practiced as learning is understood on a voluntary basis and a desire to know something. Nevertheless, since 1993 Sikep accompany kids, who voluntarily gather together to learn for example writing and reading. Other than this special learning approach, Sikep follows rules, which are especially important to them, such as no feelings of envy, jalousie, anger, and desire. Behaviour such as accusing and stealing are forbidden. Even though, marriages build on love only happen within the community, the doors are open for newcomer. Furthermore, we learned that the name of everyone is „girl“ or „boy“ and the individual name just serves as a purpose of addressing or calling the specific person.

After the explanation of the teacher, the children played music for us. Cora presented her dancing as well as a local women. Afterwards, they showed us around in their village. Finally, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at their home.


AVP workshop in a Muslim school

Another great opportunity to get closer to the Muslim community was a two days AVP workshop in a Muslim school in Tundomolyo. The friendship to Sunhadi a Muslim leader of the village and director of the school enables Petrus and Nanik to run workshop with him for the local children. It was very impressive to see how the kids grew with the workshops, becoming more and more brave to speak out loud, not being afraid of making mistakes and playing with each other. After the workshops, all children showed interest in continuing workshops and highly appreciated the workshops during their school holidays. In the workshop breaks, we could learn more about the Islamic life of the girls, their wishes and perspectives. Furthermore, the two day workshops gave us a delightful insight of the range of activities AVP encompasses which was very interesting.