Though it has been more than one week since the end of the workshop, I still vividly remember the first day where it all started. I remember constantly reminding myself to reach the ASEAN Youth Centre by 8.30am sharp, because I didn’t want to risk being late and missing the bus. However, using the public transport during the rush hour was tougher than what I had expected. Trying to manouvre and navigate my way with 9 days worth of luggage among the throng of people was certainly no easy feat.

As I reached City Hall station, I spotted another fellow AKYNW participant amongst the crowd from the official AKYNW T-shirt she was wearing. To be honest, it wasn’t that hard to spot AKYNW participants in the crowd anyway. We were the only ones in the Central Business District (CBD) that day dressed in dark blue T-shirts with the AKYNW logo, accompanied by our bulky luggages. Even before meeting the rest of the AKYNW participants, there was already this sense of camaraderie and anticipation just from meeting a fellow AKYNW member. I was started to feel more excited about the upcoming days of the workshop.

Other AKYNW participants were already waiting outside the Press Centre when I arrived. After the administrative matters and logistics were settled, we were finally off to our first destination, Soopchewon at Gangwondo!

Lodging in Soopchewon

Lodging in Soopchewon

Soopchewon is nestled in between forests and mountains, making it an ideal place if one was to learn more about forestry or to just be in touch with nature.

Even though our lodging place had no air-conditioning (environmentally-friendly living), the cool night breeze was more than sufficient. The night breeze that I experienced here seemed cooler than what I usually experience back in the city. It made me realise that forests were indeed the Earth’s cooling mechanisms.

The workshop in Soopchewon did not just involve lectures about forest conservation, but it was filled with many other fun activities too. We had a field trip into the forest (‘Five Senses Experience’), the ‘Amazing Race’, and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) T-shirt making activity, just to name a few.

Embarking on the ‘Five Senses Experience’ Trail

Embarking on the ‘Five Senses Experience’ Trail

My first completed DIY T-shirt!

My first completed DIY T-shirt!

Entering unchartered territory(?) during the Amazing Race

Entering unchartered territory(?) during the Amazing Race

On the final day of the inbound workshop, there were many participants who turned up in their traditional costumes, more than what I had initially anticipated. It was nice seeing how the room in which we often had our lectures and activities, change into a more festive setting; traditional snacks were lined up at the back of the table and there were so many different colours! It was intriguing to see the intricate details of each costume worn by the participants. There was so much diversity in one room!

The closing ceremony

The closing ceremony

During the closing ceremony, our fellow Indonesian participants sang for us their national anthem in their traditional costumes. It was a foretaste of the culture that the outbound AKYNW participants were going to experience the next day.

Our fellow Indonesian friends singing the Indonesian national anthem

Our fellow Indonesian friends singing the Indonesian national anthem

Smiles all around

Smiles all around

We left Soopchewon on 12 August and said our farewells to the inbound AKYNW participants after the lunch buffet. After a restful night’s sleep at Hyundai Residence, we departed for Incheon Airport early next morning. The flight duration was seven hours from Incheon to Indonesia, with a two hours time difference. We checked into Amaris hotel upon reaching Jakarta, and after having breakfast the next day, we headed to the ASEAN Secretariat.

At the lobby of the ASEAN Secretariat

At the lobby of the ASEAN Secretariat

The many paintings given as gifts by various countries to the ASEAN Secretariat

The many paintings given as gifts by various countries to the ASEAN Secretariat

Thereafter, we moved to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia from the ASEAN Secretariat. We listened to an engaging talk given by the Minister’s Representative regarding the current issues and challenges pertaining to forest conservation in Indonesia. After the talk, we were given the opportunity to have a Question & Answer (Q&A) session with the Representative.

In the same evening, we had a domestic flight from Jakarta, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, to Yogyakarta, Adisutjipto International Airport.

Trying out as many Indonesian food as we can while waiting for the flight to Yogyakarta. The dish featured on the left is called Bakso!

Trying out as many Indonesian food as we can while waiting for the flight to Yogyakarta. The dish featured on the left is called Bakso!

Safely arrived at Yogyakarta

Safely arrived at Yogyakarta

The entrance of Adisutjipto Airport, Yogyakarta

The entrance of Adisutjipto Airport, Yogyakarta

After reaching Adisutjipto Airport at Yogyakarta, we checked into the Wanagama Dorm for the night. The next day, we were given a lecture by Professor Dr. Mohammad Na’iem of the History and Development of Wanagama Teaching Forest. It was really inspiring to see the Professor going all out in that one and a half hour lecture, passionately explaining about the Wanagama Forest, despite the humidity in the room. His passion for forest conservation was evident in how how he continued to deliver the lecture with gusto, despite the beads of perspiration trickling down his forehead.

After the lecture, we had a field visit to Beneran Village, with the Gadjah Mada University Forestry students as guides.

On our way to Beneran Village

On our way to Beneran Village

With Gadjah Mada University Foresty students!

With Gadjah Mada University Foresty students!

After trekking for about what seemed like two hours in the scorching sun, we finally reached Beneran Village. The villagers were so accomodating and friendly towards us even though we have only just met! For instance, after tasting some of the locally made cassava chips (a type of root), I tried to convey my appreciation and liking to the man by giving “two thumbs up”, and he responded by handing me a whole packet of cassava chips, gesturing that it’s for me to bring home. It was heartwarming to see that despite the language barrier, we were able to still communicate with the locals somehow, through our smiles and actions.

The friendly local ‘uncle’ greeting us with tasty, handmade cassava chips

The friendly local ‘uncle’ greeting us with tasty, handmade cassava chips

The star (owl) of Beneran Village

The star (owl) of Beneran Village

After the visit to the village, we were given time to do Batik canting by ourselves. We listened to the instructors give some advice first and then proceeded to do Batik canting on our own. Unfortunately, it was way harder than expected. It seemed like an impossible task to drip even-sized dots onto the cloth, and most of them just ended up as unidentifiable blotches. After trying Batik canting, I can now understand why handmade Batik cloth/prints are so expensive, and why Batik craftsmen are held in such high regard. The Batik craft is not something that can be easily replicated by just any one, and one can imagine the amount of effort and time that is needed to create that perfect Batik print.

DIY Batik canting

DIY Batik canting

The dyeing process to make Batik

The dyeing process to make Batik

Trying out street food! Martabak!

Trying out street food! Martabak!

Besides listening to lectures and having hands-on activities, we also visited two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Prambanan Temple and Borobudur Temple, both in a single day.

The first site we visited was Prambanan Temple, a temple that was build around the 9th century, and the largest Hindu temple in Southeast Asia. Despite it being very sunny that day, the temple was still rather crowded. Armed with our water bottles, sunglasses and cameras, we proceeded to join the crowd.

Prambanan Temple, a 9th century Hindu temple complex

Prambanan Temple, a 9th century Hindu temple complex

Among the crowds at Prambanan Temple

Among the crowds at Prambanan Temple

The 47m tall structure

The 47m tall structure

In awe of the details in ancient architecture

In awe of the details in ancient architecture

The next place that we headed to was Borobudur Temple, a Buddhist temple compound that was also built around the 9th century, and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. We arrived in Borobudur around evening time, just in time to catch the sunset.

At the ancient Borobudur Temple

At the ancient Borobudur Temple

The sunset paints beautiful red and orange hues as the backdrop

The sunset paints beautiful red and orange hues as the backdrop

A mystical aura to Borobudur as the sun sets

A mystical aura to Borobudur as the sun sets

The 6 days and 5 nights in Indonesia went by in a blink of an eye. Before we knew it, we already reached the last day of the workshop. Friendships were forged despite language and cultural barriers. I’m sure that I can say on behalf of the participants of the AKYNW 2015, that we not only broadened our awareness and understanding of forest conservation through this workshop, but we also forged meaningful friendships and memories that will stay with us in time to come. Truly, there can be unity even in the midst of diversity. As long as we all share the same goals and motives, all other factors such as language and cultural differences become secondary.

Unity in Diversity~ Terima Kasih!

Unity in Diversity~ Terima Kasih!

 

Sarah Chua Hae Jun, ASEAN-Korea Youth Network Workshop 2015 participant

 

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