Jogjakarta, the home of batik and the cultural capital of Java and maybe all of Indonesia. Jogja, the student city with its many, many students from all over Indonesia and all over the world. The beautiful city with around 400 000 inhabitants lies in the shadow of the great fiery mountain, Merapi. The city itself is not as close as one might think from just watching the news. The fact is that Merapi’s eruptions directly endangering the city is highly unlikely, but of course “unlikely” is not to be confused with “impossible”.
My work here has consisted of many different things and I view all things I do here to be important even if they are not the type f thing you’d take pictures of or make a movie about. Amongst other things, I admin the english twitter and facebook accounts to bring news to english-speaking people in the area @Jalinmerapi_En I have visited some of the camps and I have seen the conditions that refugees have been and continue to live under. It is truly touching to see the love that the Indonesian people have for their brothers and sisters in need.
It is also sad to see that some people driven by desperation have been taking advantage of the situation both in word and actions. I don't know what makes me sader, the fact that the aid does not reach those in need or the fact that some people would sink so low as stealing directly from the relief effort. Faced with the reality that some people here are forced to endure, it is hard to feel anger against their actions, but a sense of helplessness comes creeping into my mind when I hear such stories.
The term disaster tourism is a word that I have heard in its Bahasa Indonesia form a few times. It is a phenomenon that exists in many different forms. From the most extreme where people actually are drawn to a disaster area to take pictures as if it were a and to see for themselves to the more mild version where you might see an article accompanied by horrific pictures generating a lot more clicks than one without pictures. Consider it an extreme version of the curiosity you may have felt if you drive past an accident on the highway, the need to look even when there is nothing to see but misery and someone elses pain. Maybe someone has read my blog or seen my pictures in hopes of fulfilling such needs. Is this a desire that exists in all of us, what is the driving force behind it? Is it a modern phenomena or does it exist in our past as an instinct that served some purpose related to survival at some point in our history?
This whole theme raises an uncomfortable question for me. What are my conscious and subconscious motivations for being here? Am I driven by an ancient instinct within humans to see pain and to learn from other peoples misfortune? Is there such a thing as true unselfishness or is the act of helping a product of our collective survival instinct as a species? I must focus on my goal here and on beeing in the places where I can help the most without creating more work and inconvenience for the local volunteers. For now, that is all I am worried about.
If you haven’t seen it, there was an article in a Norwegian newspaper about Merapi and my trip here. I am glad for every word mentioned about Merapi nowadays.
You can read the article here!
I guess it is not exactly sexy news that many hundred thousands of people still live in temporary shelters and that many, many villages need to be rebuilt. People want to read about massive eruptions and violent bursts of lava etc. The efforts may have shifted from urgent emergency and rescue operations to more long term rebuilding, but the need for aid and attention from the outside world is just as big. Keep your eyes open on fb and here as I am planning to launch a way for people across the world to donate directly to my work here in Yogyakarta. The plan is to make it an interactive site where you can donate money and within a short while see your money be spent, documented through this blog, pictures and of course detailed spreadsheets.
My blog posts are becoming more and more messy. Expect them to keep getting longer and harder to read :)