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