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Six Weeks of Sun and Rice

Nick-Yogyakarta, Indonesia July 5th

Sarah and I have been in Indonesia for six weeks now! We have not been working the rice fields, but we have been enjoying the endless sun and eating rice three or four meals a day. The last few weeks were spent establishing ourselves here in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  Here I need to relearn many of the basic comforting things that I know so well in the US.  For example in the US if I need a screwdriver I can borrow it from any one of a dozen neighbors or friends.  I can think of 3 stores in tiny little Alfred where I can buy one. If I get really desperate I know of a few companies that I could rent it from.  If all of those options did not pan out I could use the phone book and call stores that I have not been to, but may have a screwdriver.  Here there is no phone book, my Indonesian language skills are weak enough that I cannot use the phone, and I do not yet know stores to buy a screwdriver.  Also people do not have the extra money to buy their own tools, so households, businesses, and individuals do not have as many tools.  The learning curve is steep but little by little I am sorting out how to handle work and life here. My Indonesian is now good enough to buy food and communicate basic ideas, I have ways of getting around the city (the TransJogja or bicycle), and I know where to buy essentials like food and housewares.

This week SHEEP added Hari, one of their current staff persons, full time to the water filter work. Hari is an excellent fit for the water filters, he has a pharmacy degree, hasbeen working for SHEEP for a number of years, and has excellent spoken and written English.  He is also very gentle, professional, and technically capable.  His presence has made a noticeable difference in the progress of the work.  He has been taking Esther and I to three of the microbiology supply stores here in Yogja.  With his assistance we have put together a microbiology laboratory and have added to the ceramics laboratory. As the year progresses, Hari will be the one that we transfer the technology and knowledge to. From that transfer we expect that he will be able to handle the bacteria testing of the filters, ceramic manufacturing, and continue the development of all aspects of the project. We better get to work!

The few times we have gone to buy supplies have been very exciting.  Ibu Rina, who is the senior SHEEP staff on the water filters, her eyes growing large said “Oh my god Nick, what we are trying to do is so big.”  She was seeing the equipment that is needed for the work, and how extraordinary it is for SHEEP, Yogja, and Indonesia. There are very few organizations manufacturing technically advanced products in Yogja. Most of the high tech products are imported, or if they are made here they are foreign owned. These water filters will be owned by Indonesians, made here in Indonesia by Indonesians and sold to Indonesians.

Effects from these water filters are already worldwide, resulting in strong connections between the Americans, Indonesians and countless others who are connected and benefitted by the work.