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Update From The Field: Student Grant Recipient

Thank you Kaitlyn Bretz, grant recipient of Ceny Walker Undergraduate Fellowship to travel to Indonesia! See below for her updates!

Ceny Walker Undergraduate Fellowship: Follow-Up Report

Field Report, Indonesia


                I received the Ceny Walker Undergraduate Fellowship from the Walker Institute in May 2016 to help support my study abroad trip to Indonesia. SIT Study Abroad hosts a program on the islands of Bali and Java called “Arts, Religion, and Social Change” that is based entirely on experiential learning. Two major requirements for the program are intensive language training in the regional language and an Independent Study Project (ISP). In the last four weeks of the program I used my skills in Bahasa Indonesia to conduct fieldwork in Seminyak, Bali to investigate how environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use geographic information systems (GIS). This work ties directly into my Honors senior thesis which I am set to defend in April 2017.

                The first several months of the program were spent in intensive language study. My classmates and I spent several hours a day (3-6 hours) studying Bahasa Indonesia and went through several ‘drop offs’ (being left in a market or neighborhood alone and speaking with locals for an hour). Within the first two weeks of arriving in Bali, we were assigned to homestays with Balinese families. Very few of the families had someone who could speak English, so informal language instruction continued outside the classroom.

Guest lecturers came to our class and presented on important topics in Indonesia, including environmental concerns, the issues with cultural tourism, Islam in the modern world, sexual identities/sexuality in Indonesia, and the controversial political deaths in 1965. After spending several weeks in Bali, we traveled to central Java and stayed in a small town near Yogyakarta for twenty days. There, we met with university students at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) and spent a significant amount of time learning about religions in Southeast Asia. Our studies were focused on Hinduism (the majority in Bali), Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Confucianism, and Islam (the majority in Java). After lectures we often visited the respective religion’s place of worship, whether it was a tri-dharma temple, a Christian church, or a Hindu shrine. Before returning to Bali, we visited two pesantrens (Islamic Boarding Schools) in Ponorogo, Java.  We stayed in the male pesantren, called Universitas Darassalam Gontor, for several days and learned about the administration and student life, and toured campus. We also engaged in religious debate with pesantren students. 

We returned to Bali for the last two months of the semester and finished the last remaining topic in the program: art. Here, we attended presentations by local traditional artists, including mask-making, shadow puppets, gamelan music, and Balinese dance. We were given a stipend and free time to make any number of crafts with local artisans. I toured a ceramics factory and learned how to throw clay on a wheel, and worked with a local silversmith through the course of a week to make silver rings. My classmates and I presented our work to our advisors and wrote a piece describing the process of making the art in Bahasa Indonesia.

Our last excursion as a group took place in a small village outside of Tabanan, Bali. The program director grew up there and had family that we stayed with. There was no internet and very little electricity in the village and we spent most of our time with students from Udayana University who accompanied us. We hiked the rice paddies and helped gather herbs and plants for a meal. We made coconut bowls, worked in a rice field, and participated in a ‘flirtation dance.’ Many of us elected to shower in the river nearby instead of the water in the homes (the river water was cleaner than the water for bucket-showers). Here, we practiced setting up interviews for our ISP and learned some new vocabulary that was specific to our project.

During the ISP period (the last four weeks of the program) I stayed in Seminyak, Bali. This was a drastic shift in scenery since Seminyak is a more ‘touristy’ part of Bali. Rather than staying with locals and practicing my Bahasa Indonesia, I ended up staying at a hostel surrounded by Europeans; however, I still used Bahasa Indonesia every day to order food, give direction to drivers, and to conduct my interviews.

                As part of my ISP, I held seven interviews with leaders of various NGOs, including SEKALA (consulting firm specializing in forest governance), World Resources Institute (WRI), Wisnu (environmental non-profit in Bali), and Gringgo (non-profit focused on waste reduction in Bali). Each interview lasted approximately 30 minutes to an hour. We discussed how their organization uses GIS, how participatory mapping can be used by communities to protect their land, and the nuances of using GIS (the cost, training required, technology, etc.). From my work, I concluded that GIS is not known to the general public in Indonesia but is well-known throughout the NGO community and has been used for some time (the longest being since the early 1990s). Local communities remain disadvantaged when it comes to mapping because of their lack of training and technological capacity. They rely on NGOs, government agencies, and consulting firms to do the mapping work for them, which can lead to projects losing sight of the communities’ perspectives.

                I want to thank the Walker Institute so much for this opportunity and for providing the funding that let me live halfway across the world for a few months. As I mentioned previously, I will be using the work I did during my ISP period as sources for my honors senior thesis, which I will be defending in a few weeks. After my defense, I will be graduating and moving on to graduate school. I will be forever grateful to the Walker Institute and plan on returning to Indonesia in the future. If you ever need more information or pictures, please feel free to contact me.


*Stay tuned for pictures!