TERIMA KASIH (Thanks!) JAGA ISLAND!

We don't speak Bahasa, they don't speak English, but we can all learn handgames. handgames.

We don’t speak Bahasa, you don’t speak English, but we can all learn handgames.

Not many people visit Pulau Jaga, Indonesia. It isn’t easy to find. Google Maps doesn’t even name it. ‘Did you mean “Java, Indonesia”?’ says the Google search engine, trying as ever to be helpful.

No, I did mean Jaga, an island in the Riau Archipelago, two and a half hours by boat south of Singapore. Jaga is some 2.5km long and 500m across, home to perhaps 90 families, most of them supported by fishing. There are no hotels, no restaurants, no roads and no cars. There is a school, however, and we were invited to visit it. It was a privilege and a pleasure.

Our trip to Jaga was arranged as part of the writers’ camp I’ve been running for international school students from Singapore at Telunas Beach, on Sugi Island. (No internet, you see – that’s where I’ve been for a while.)

The Telunas people had been to Jaga several times before, working on community development projects. They’d helped the school to convert a classroom into a small library, stocked with Indonesian and English books, and to build a small brick wall around the school – it has no function, they told us, but it’s prestigious for a school to have a wall.

The Jaga village consists of a cluster of wooden huts, like most in this area, built on stilts over the water, with more substantial brick buildings lining the shore. Behind them, chickens and cats forage through gardens and garbage under the coconut palms and banana trees.

Pancung boats at Jaga Island village.

Fishing boats and stilt houses at Jaga village.

Not much traffic on  Jaga Main Street.

Not much traffic on Jaga Main Street.

Compared to the obsessive neatness and lush grass of Singapore, Jaga’s dusty football ground was an eye-opener to our students. But we were expected and the welcome was warm.

Jaga School - no, Toto, we're not in Singapore any more.

Jaga School – no, Toto, we’re not in Singapore any more.

The guard of honour at Jaga School.

The guard of honour at Jaga School.

The morning began with drumming and dance.

They welcomed us with drumming and dance.

The school had suspended lessons for the morning so that their students could share with their visitors some of the local skills in handcrafts, drumming and making snacks of krupuk. They taught us a few lessons on the volleyball court too.

A classy game of mixed volleyball...

A classy game of mixed volleyball…

...delighted the crowd.

…delighted the crowd.

Learning the art of  basket weaving.

Learning the art of basket weaving.

Making krupuk (prawn crackers).

Making krupuk (prawn crackers).

The expert drummer shows how it's done.

The expert drummer shows how it’s done.

Is this a hat we're making?

Is this a hat we’re making?

We've soon made some new friends.

We’ve soon made some new friends.

As our time in the village ended, names, handshakes and presents were exchanged. Our students had brought some volleyballs from Singapore. In return they gave us some of the basketwork food covers we’d helped to make. They’re important items in a place with no refrigeration.

At the debriefing back at Telunas Beach, students discussed what they had discovered in the village. ‘I see how much stuff we have compared to other people.’ ‘They seem to be very happy people.’

And there are serious questions too: ‘What happens when they go to high school?’ (Many children don’t go past elementary school. Boys in particular sometimes just go fishing with their fathers. The nearest high school is in Moro, which requires most students to leave Jaga and live on Moro with extended family members or even independently.) ‘Why is there litter everywhere?’ (Because there’s nowhere else for it to go. That was fine when litter was made of coconut shells, but since the introduction of plastic…) Where is the nearest hospital? (Moro has the nearest health care too – it’s a basic clinic, a short boat ride away.)

All in all, it was a great learning experience for us all. Needless to say, we have plenty of inspiration for our next writing projects.

"Dear diary..."

“Dear diary…”

Telunas Beach regularly runs camps for school groups, specialising in adventure activities, team building and cultural exchanges. They also welcome family groups and individual travellers and can organise village visits for them too. Mevrouw T and I have been fortunate to be their guests a number of times.

For more information, see www.telunasbeach.com

3 Comments

Filed under Indonesia

3 responses to “TERIMA KASIH (Thanks!) JAGA ISLAND!

  1. What an eye opening experience for the students. Always a good way to grow as a person.

  2. Nice post and really happy to see that you guys had a great time there :)

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