YSEALI U.S. Fellow Summer 2017 Cohort:
I have had a wonderful experience. Dedy has been a gracious host. I was able to meet with the Vice-Regent and talk to their city council. The Vice-Regent invited me as a guest to visit two villages with him. The villages had celebrations for harvesting fish out of sacred lakes. Linda, a school teacher that speaks English, came along as my interpreter. Unfortunately, there was no room for Dedy. Our day started at 630 AM with a two hour boat ride down the river to one of the villages. We then had a 15 minute walk through the jungle to the ceremony site and sacred lake. I was seated in special area with other council members and members of the government. I took a boat ride on the lake to the ceremonial site to view the gathering of fish. We returned back to the ceremony event site where the Regent also showed up. The Regent, Vice-Regent, religious man, members of the ministry of fishing all gave speeches and welcomed me. Then I received over a 100 requests for photos. They said they have not met an American before. I danced to their music which delighted them. We feasted on fish and rice. It was a long walk back to the boat because I was stopping for photos. We then took a boat ride to another village about 30 minutes away. We walked on an elevated walkway that connected to many of the houses front porches. We then met with the head of the village at his house where I sat down with the Vice-Regent and his wife. We then walk one hour to the lake. We then boarded a long wooden boat which took us to the ceremonial catching site. We then proceed to the ceremonial event site where I again was greeted and welcomed and posed for many pictures. There were speeches again. The Regent was presented with an award the lake received from the National Government for conservation. It was my understanding it was populated with the Super Red Arawya. The government and people of Kapuas Hulu have a great understanding for the need for conservation. We again ate rice and the ceremonial fish. We left at dark and took a boat ride back across the lake at night. We walked another hour to the village. I was drenched from head to toe in sweat but was not the only one. We then reboarded the boats for another hour boat ride on the Kapuas River to a village where we transferred to SUVs. I rode with the Vice-Regent and his wife and had a great discussion. The truck ride to Putussibau was four hours, two of which were on roads that in America would be considered off-roading. I arrived back to my hotel at midnight. It was a very rare rewarding opportunity. I will never forget that one of the council members said that we not only lead people in our area but protect our natural resources because we are the “lungs” of the world. He noted, which as I learn in elementary school, that the rainforests of Indonesia provide a significant amount of oxygen to the world.
Wally Wernimont, Assistant Planner
City of Dubuque, Iowa