In February 2015, 13 students of Electromechanics and (Bio)Chemistry and colleagues Marc Wijnants, Gregory Van Barel and Sofie Krol went to Indonesia. After 19 hours of travelling with a stopover in Doha (Quatar) we like to be indulged by the warmth and exotic smells. Especially when you know it's snowing and freezing in Belgium. We are welcomed by 2 students of UIN and shy hands are shaken. After a 1,5 hour drive we arrive at the guesthouse where we will be accommodated for the next 3 nights. A little later we get acquainted with the "dinner box" which is served to us in the lobby. From now on we will usually eat from a "box", sitting on the floor or a chair, but rarely at the table.
Our first breakfast: rice, chicken, prawn crackers and some vegetables - ingredients that we will often get during lunch and dinner the next days. In the rain we explore Jakarta, a first acquaintance with the difference between time and the rainy season. Today we learn what it must be like to be a celebrity: everywhere we are accosted by people who want to have our picture taken with us, our self-confidence grows by the minute!
On campus we are welcomed by Iby Lily, the local coordinator of the Summer School, and the Dean. We enter the auditorium barefoot and the Summer School is officially opened with the national anthem, prayers and hymns from the Koran. The Indonesians are proud of their country and religion determines all their actions, a topic that will often be the subject of numerous conversations over the next few days. After the opening the students give their first presentations and we immediately notice a clear difference in style. The students listen with great attention to the "Does and Dont's" we give them afterwards and will be successfully applied in the next presentations. We soon notice that the Indonesian students are really eager to learn and take all the knowledge we offer them as a sponge.
Colleagues Gregory Van Barel and Sofie Krol visit Hyundai as part of Green DRIVE. Colleague Marc Wijnants and the students visit a research lab in Puspiptek Serpong and the village of Tangerang, where they recycle coffee bags into beautiful handbags and other fun gadgets. The people who bring in the coffee bags get a small financial compensation in return.
The next days are followed by visits to Pekalongan: a tea plantation and the Sugar Cane factory, where methanol is made from the waste. Here 2 students will realize their master thesis in cooperation with UGM. Soon we notice the difference with the factory on the tea plantation when it comes to safety and hygiene. The tea is purchased by UNILEVER and therefore Western standards apply there as well, while totally different standards are used here.
Colleague Gregory gives a guest lecture: Are traffic jams in Jakarta Waste of Time? Can the traffic jam problem in Jakarta be solved? The students will look for answers which they will present based on 1 image.
Weekend, and finally time for some relaxation. We take the bus to Merapi, another active volcano. With a 4x4 or moto we go to the top. Around noon the rain is pouring out of the sky and there is time for a longer chat with a plate of soup and a cup of white coffee. In Prambanam we watch the "Ramayana dance folklore". By bus we drive to Borobodur. After the Hindu temples we get acquainted with Buddhism. Before we can reach the sanctuary, we'll be welcomed with rain. In the meantime we've already completely adapted to Indonesian time and enjoy a back or foot massage, before we stand the rain with rented umbrellas or bought plastic jackets in green, yellow, blue, red, ....
We leave by boat for Pari Island, one of the Thousand Islands near Jakarta. We stay there in "Homestay". In the afternoon we go snorkelling and swimming, not in bikini or bathing suit, but adapted to the clothes of our Indonesian friends. Afterwards there will be a volleyball match between Indonesia and Belgium. The day ends with BBQ and games, because the Indonesian students love to do the latter.
Back in Jakarta and the preparations for the farewell begin. The students go in search of frites, real mayonnaise and ingredients to bake pancakes. They work on speeches and photo reportages and frites bags. Flowers are bought and the Sunday clothes are taken out of the closet. In the evening we enjoy Indonesian and Belgian specialities and are full of admiration for the dance, singing and music of the Indonesian students. The Belgian students don't know what to do with themselves when the Indonesian students overload them with gifts. Instead of the timid handshake of the first day they are now warm hugs and cuddles and are already looking forward to the Summer School in Antwerp in September.