I am a 66-year old who recently spent two weeks in Sikka Province, Flores, working as part of the NTA’s team monitoring the efficiency and effectiveness of its projects in that area. I enjoyed the experience immensely.
I accompanied my NTA colleagues, both Australian and Indonesian, and members of our partner organisation, the YPMF, in visits to farming communities (‘kelompoks’) to assess the NTA-assisted projects, ranging from the installation of water tanks and household toilets to the establishment of school libraries and the training of librarians, improved cocoa, coconut and vegetable farming, and production of ikat textiles.
Each day we would spend about 7 or 8 hours talking to the representatives of farmers who have received assistance (and those who were seeking new funding), or school teachers, in around six different locations, negotiating some tricky roads but magnificent scenery in the process.
What I found most impressive, as a newcomer to the NTA and indeed to Indonesia, was the extent of goodwill and collaboration between the representatives of donors and recipients, enhanced by the fluency in Bahasa Indonesia of our Australian representatives, their respect for the culture of the Floresians, and their adherence to tried and true meeting protocols. The hospitality given by the farming kelompoks to us donor representatives was almost universally warm and generous, and their representatives were frank and open in responding to our questions, often going to unexpected lengths to ensure that we were adequately informed.
Let me give you a simple but salient example of the warmth of relations that I personally found very touching. My late wife went to Flores on a similar NTA monitoring visit just three years ago, then sadly passed away in December 2013. A number of the farming women we met in Flores in November this year said they remembered my wife, and I was moved by their expressions of sympathy.
The highlights for me of the visit were, I think, the concert – featuring traditional dances by children from schools assisted by the NTA – and a large meeting of farmers where local farming “experts” provided advice on improved techniques. Such large gatherings bring out the Indonesians’ sense of fun, after the ‘serious’ business is over. This is when they like to dance and sing – and to cajole us clumsy westerners to do the same.
But at my next visit to Flores and/or West Timor, I am determined to be more fluent in Bahasa Indonesia. Greater fluency will help me to contribute more to the monitoring process, as well as increasing my enjoyment of the important social aspects of the visit.