Dampier Strait: The Adventure Continues
by Rafid Shidqi
Administrator’s note: This is Rafid’s second post. He is a newly “minted” conservationist from Java and recently became the newest member of the Indonesia Manta Project in Raja Ampat. In his role as Raja Ampat Field Officer he is involved in conducting photo ID research on Raja Ampat’s manta rays, studying their population status and vulnerability. He also is involved in facilitating “Kader Manta”, a group of local youth employed to work in manta conservation. His work involves providing these youth with basic english and presentation skills, as well as manta ray ecology and conservation. He’s young, social media savvy, and very keen to make a difference in BHS conservation. Here he shares a bit of his life in the village with us.
We stopped (manta) surveying around Mesokor and Pam (Fam) Marine Protected Area after almost 1 month. It’s quite challenging to survey while fasting, since we were doing it during Ramadan (one of Islam’s most important holidays). Abdy, (Rafid’s boss) decided to leave Raja Ampat to be with his family because it was only a few days before Eid al-Fitr (the final day of Ramadan), and as Muslims we have to celebrate the day after Ramadan’s one-month-full fasting. I should leave to be with my family too but I decided to stay in Raja during Eid. So we returned to Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat, and separated with Abdy.
I will be staying with Ronald for some weeks, until Abdy comes back from his day off, and we are planning to explore the area around Dampier Strait. It wasn’t a bad decision to be staying at Raja during Eid. Despite, at one point it saddened me because I should be with my family, on the other hand it gave me a unique experience of witnessing Eid celebration in the eastern part of Indonesia—it wasn’t much different though, only the Opor Ayam (Javanese Chicken Curry) and Rendang (Sumatran Spiced Beef) are different because, like back home, I couldn’t eat those dishes during Eid, as people here aren’t generally making them, so I have to struggle looking for appropriate foods while all kiosks and food stores are closed!
The Face of the Village, Image that has been lost
I stayed with Ronald’s family at Arborek, along with his wife and four of his children. During my time there, I also learned a lot about the village the way of life. It’s an interesting atmosphere, like something that has disappeared from my life. I remember having this kind of life when I was little, playing football in the afternoon, running below the rain happily, sleepover at neighbor’s house—I often seen kids do those kinds of activities when I sitting around in the evening while enjoying the time after work.
It’s really contrast living here, I mean, I don’t see people looking rushed in the morning, catching the train, running with hands full of stuff but rather I saw people looking really chill. They wake up early, but then sit around the beach, waiting for the sunrise and talking to each other in their local language. Sometimes I saw them preparing the fishes they got from the seas while children were playing football or running. At those times the clock within my work routine is suddenly slowed down. This is not bad, because I feel more enjoyment here with every moment.
There are things that I realize are very unique living the village life, like their homes not getting locked when the owners are not around. The doors are fully opened, even the locking system is only a small wood cut in rectangle to hold the door closed during the night, no chains or complicated padlocks. Neighbors would not steal anything from other homes, and the sense of family is really strong here. There’s no term of “my fish or your fish” but every time people return from the seas and bring a boat full of fish, the next houses will still get some part. Every time people come back from Waisai, buying stuffs such as water supplies, vegetables and others, people will gather around the shore and help to carry all the stuffs to their homes.
People in Arborek are strong Christian believers, in which they put full respect toward church and priests. They always connect their life toward the guidance of the religion. “It’s easier to encourage people to do good things for the environment, as long as they are afraid of God.” said Ronald at a time. He’s the leader of “youth for church” association in Arborek and he knows how to encourage young people of Arborek to do good things. It’s also become the main key of conservation here, because people believe when they keep nature healthy, they are also obeying the God’s commandment.