I’ve been back in Borneo a little over a week. It’s so good to be here again- yet so much has changed since my trip in September. For starters, I’m no longer employed. That was a big risk but a lesson in taking leaps of faith. There are relationships and friendships that have been temporarily left behind, and their daily presence in my life is missed. And in the rainforest we learn of burial grounds and villages that have been destroyed since our last trip. The best change since September has been a potbelly. It sits comfortably between the strong arms and growing legs of a baby orangutan named JoJo.
It was pretty much love at first sight with JoJo back in September. Her big curious eyes, feisty personality; even between the hair pulling and testing bites, she easily weaseled her way into my heart. While I was home, I spoke to various audiences about my experience in Borneo; a Microsoft conference, churches, schools, and friends. Stories and pictures of JoJo stole the show every single time. So arriving back in Sintang and seeing her loving local caretakers providing for her (one easy piece of this evidence being her potbelly) was heartwarming.
Also…she may or may not have a new playmate…but I’ll save that update for later.
Joining up with the global team was another highlight. They are all so amazing. The energy this international group of ten people shares is like nothing I’ve ever been apart of. (The group lost four people because of jobs and other personal reasons.) They are a constant source of support, laughter and motivation. The running joke here at the longhouse is that we are stuck together for life. But I expect it to be true- an experience like this, with all the ups and downs, heartbreaking situations, inspiring stories…this is the type of thing that bonds individuals for a lifetime. No one else can truly understand the intensity of this project.
The past week has been spent reconnecting with Dr Willie Smits, the film crew, all the wonderful locals, and school students here in Sintang. We have had day after day of planning, budgeting, discussing, planning again, etc. Some were really productive meetings; others were mind blowingly frustrating, but we are slowly working out our plans for the next 80 days. Careful budgeting of the limited finances that we have and debating how our energy will be most useful to the local communities are our biggest challenges.
We also had a few days where we were able to dive in and get our hands dirty. We started with the Sintang Orangutan Center. Painting, rebuilding parts of the fence, planting new trees–it already has made a difference around here and we are just beginning.
Here’s a few photos from my first week back in Borneo: