Borneo Notebook


My last entry was from the skies over Java;
Now we continue over Borneo. . .

Thursday, March 21, 1996

[Indonesia: Over SE Borneo:] 0940 hrs. We are now over Borneo. It looks fascinating!

We're in Borneo! 0920 hrs. [I believe there was a time zone change during the flight.]

We're staying for the night at Hotel Budiman. I'm about to attempt to contact the TROPENBOS and ITCI people.

10,000 Rp food and water, 15,000 Rp -- transport.

Friday, March 22, 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timur: TROPENBOS Wanariset Field Station: 38 km N (via Balikpapan-Samarinda Rd.) of Balikpapan: Willie Smits, director of the TROPENBOS field station, picked us up in Balikpapan and brought us to the station, where we'll base ourselves while we're here. The site is close to the ITCI timber concession, which is very convenient. It's pretty warm and humid, though. Along the road it was evident that the forest in this area has been whacked pretty heavily. Most of it has been cleared, with maybe a few isolated tall trees left. In some of the fields I thought I saw evidence of gully erosion. In many ways the landscape reminds me of Veracruz, where, as here, most of the forest has been cleared. Dr. Smits gave us a tour of the station, it's [sic] herbarium, etc. It's all pretty impressive, for an incredibly low-budget operation. After the tour we talked of how we might be able to help one another. I believe the potential collaboration could be very rewarding for all concerned. They are interested primarily in growth and yield and sustainable development. I am interested in climate-growth relationships, and the lab is interested in tree rings and climate. Hmmm.

Saturday, March 23, 1996

Yesterday afternoon we actually went out to a research area and tried to core some individuals of Shorea laevis. In about two hours, I cut both thumbs on the Matson extractors and got a blug stuck in one borer. Paul Krusic managed to bend the hell out of one bit, and all this for attempting to core four trees. The area we were in was dominated by Shorea and Dipterocarpus species, with quite a few palms and rattans. In the understory, there was more stuff in the understory than I would expect of a primary [uncut] forest. Paul Kesslerm a Rijksherbarium botanist working here, said that is because it is not primary forest. Everything up to about 500 m elevation has been disturbed around here. We got drenched yesterday afternoon, and it rained again this morning. It's fun to work in the rain forest in the wet season. We declined to not do any coring today as we need to preserve the corers for later. Here, or at the ITCI concession, we will obtain most or all of our samples with a chain saw.

Here at the station they rehabilitate orangutans for reintroduction into the wild. Rachel and I got a "tour" of the facilities. I got spat on by an orang. Last week I got pissed on by flying foxes. Should I take a hint? . . .

This is my list of priority species for here:

** Fagraea fragrans (I) No too young
Eusideroxylon (I) But maybe old
Sindora velutina (D)
* Archidendron cockburnei ? (deciduous legume?) (along rivers)
* Pterocarpus indica ? (deciduous leguem?) (along rivers)
* Cryptocarya (D)
* Peronema canescens (D)
Agathis borneensis (I)
Dialium (I)

Sunday, March 24, 1996

I talked to Paul Kessler this morning and he greatly simplified our shopping list for species. The list Paul [Krusic] and I worked on yesterday was narrowed down to three, and one new species was added. This is what we will be looking for now: Eusideroxylon, Sindora velutina, Agathis borneensis and Dialium. It would be nice if we could finish the sampling by Wednesday or Thursday, box and ship the samples by Thursday or Friday, and fly to Ujung Pandang next weekend. Tonight or Monday Paul and I should work on a proposal to Willie Smits. Paul's idea is a good one, to combine their climate and band dendrometer analyses with cambial growth studies à la Martin Worbes. Maybe Worbes could be a collaborator, but all we need is a couple of pages. It would be great to be able to collect data from all across TROPBENBOS' network of research stations.

The heat helps one really appreciate air conditioning!

I have made another friend, Femke, a 19-year-old Dutch woman who quit college to come here to work on the orangutan rehabilitation project. Smart move on her part. She is interesting: idealisting, pro-animal rights, vegetarian, serious (no silly love songs in the music she listens to), with dyed black hair, nose rings, and tattoos. She is something else. Femke wants to change the world, and wants to be a writer of books that make people think abouit what's going on, primarily with animal rights and the environment. But I don't think she has much confidence in herself yet, so I don't know if she'll really try. But hell, she's only 19. She'll be allright as long as she doesn't get frustrated and give up. I like her a lot.

While I write a lot of observations on "white" people here, I really don't have much of a handle on the Indonesians. Right now the cultural and language barrier is too great for me to make sense of what I see. Indonesia overwhelms the senses, defies comprehension. The only thing I can do to really understand the country is to come back. Repeatedly. And to learn the language. And just work harder to learn about this country and to see as much as I can before modernization and development destroy what makes this country so special. I am full of fascination, tinged with sadness and despair, for I feel I can see into the future as well as the past, and I don't like what I see coming. But maybe there's a little room for hope. If it's not already too late.

Monday, March 25, 1996

March 23 -- 9,000 Rp water.

Talked to Robert De Kock this morning. Here's our shopping list: Eusideroxylon, Sindora velutina, Agathis borneensis, Dialium, Shorea laevis, some other Shorea.

I need to send Dr. Kock reprints on band dendrometer analyses. He'll take care of procuring the samples for us. Now I'm writing to talk to Willie about visiting ITCI and about shipping samples back to the States. . .

Today I blew up the schedule. Everybody's been antsy, and we won't accomplish much here, so I booked Paul and Rachel on a flight to Ujung Pandang tomorrow morning. I'll go down to the ITCI concession and try to collect an Agathis chronology, then follow on to Ujung Pandang on Thursday.

God, I feel so tired tonight. But it will feel good to be in the field tomorrow.

I had dinner with Femke and Hans, a local policeman. It was fun. Femke was delightful company. I've been incredibly fortunate on this trip, meeting wonderful people.

5,700 Rp transport, 8,200 Rp dinner, 3,600 Rp water. . .

Tuesday, March 26, 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timur: ITCI (International Timber Company Indonesia) CAMP KENANGAN: Yance Pitoy, a guide assigned me by Robert De Kock of the TROPENBOS Wanariset Research Station, and I left Wanariset at 0830 hrs to come here so I could see some primary rain forest as well as sample some Agathis borneensis. We took the usual taksis [taxis] into Balikpapan, then caught a speedboat up and across [Balikpapan] Bay to reach the camp. The boat ride was a blast! Balikpapan is a busy port, with the lumber and oil business here. So there were lots of tankers and things in port. Along the way we passed river villages where the houses were on stilts, fishermen, mangroves and much, much more. Upon arrival we were taken to Dr. Suwardi Suwasa's office for the usual court visit. Now I am waiting for lunch in our guest house, writing notes and dozing off.

4,000 [Rp] taksi, 20,000 speedboat.

I need to get my receipts from Paul and Rachel.

20,000 Rp -- motorcycle rental, 4,850 Rp gas, 2,000 Rp -- sodas.

Yance and I rode around today, since ITCI couldn't provide us with transportation to the Agathis site, so Yance showed me around the compound, where he once worked. We went to one "coastal" town, where the houses are built on stilts into the river. Then we went to the sawmill, plywood mill and shipping terminal, and watched them loac logs onto a barge. The amount of wood taken out of the forest is phenomenal. I know Borneo is a big island, but . . . [Ellipses in original text] Later on I finally bought a Borneo parang [machete] for 8,000 Rp. Yance sanded it up fairly nicely for me. He's rather amazing.

I'm disappointed about not making it to the site, but I wouldn't have seen the things I saw today otherwise. In any case, I hope we have enough time to collect an entire chronology. We'll have to leave the camp by 3 or 4 p.m., regardless, so I can get back to Wanariset tomorrow. . .

Damn, I'm tired. There's not TV, and I left my book [Les Miserables] at Wanariset, but I'm so damn tired and dozing, so none of it may matter. I just hope tomorrow goes well, but we're running out of tomorrows on this trip. We need samples. We've been here two weeks and have only a few Shorea laevis, one dead borer and one moderately damaged one. What a mess. But hey, I'm in Borneo!

Wednesday, March 27, 1996

We're waiting for our ride.

We were finally picked up, but first we had to pay court visits at camp headquarters. Finally we made [Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timur: ITCI (International Timber Company Indonesia) timber concession: Conservation area 41 km NW (via ITCI Rte 1000) of ITCI Timber CAMP KENANGAN, Sections 59-60, T4N R1W.] it to a site. Yance Pitoy and I sampled some Agathis borneensis in the primary (uncut and apparently undisturbed) forest. So far, we've only cored six trees, two cores per tree, but they appear to have rings and may be datable. I certainly hope so. I got the impression that the two ITCI research and development guys accompanying us were in a hurry to get back to the office. Therefore we cut the sampling short. I'll return next week and spend more time here. That's the only way to do things, because you seem to spend a lot of time just waiting.

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timure: TROPENBOS Wanariset Field Station: 38 km N (via Balikpapan-Samarinda Rd.) of Balikpapan: I had been looking forward to getting back here and seeing Femke. . . Suddenly I feel so alone, craving companionship. . . It really is painful. I tried to cry but can't. I tried to pray, but don't know what to say. Hopefully it is already known what I need. . .

One thing I admire about Femke is her ability to feel at home virtually anywhere. I wish I had that. Femke really is amazing! . . .

Thursday, March 28, 1996

Well, I survived the night, but only got four hours of sleep. . .

One frustrating thing about Indonesians is their inability to be direct. I spent the better part of an hour haggling over a "guide fee" or whatever for Yance. First, I don't remember anything being said up front about it, second, none of the Europeans were present and the Indonesian guy in charge insisted of making a big production of things instead of just telling me what I owed so I could pay up and leave. As it was I missed a taxi carrying a couple of other Wanariset visitors back to Balikpapan. The Indonesians seem incapable of being direct and realizing that some people are in a hurry, so things seem to take forever. I wish they would be direct and tell me what I need to know right off the bat.

Continue with my notes from Sulawesi. . .

Upon my return from Sulawesi,
I continue with my work in Borneo. . .

Sunday, March 31, 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timur: TROPENBOS Wanariset Field Station: 38 km N (via Balikpapan-Samarinda Rd.) of Balikpapan: Rp Trasnport to Wanariset--17,300 Rp.

It was good to get back here and see Femke again. We went to dinner. . .

Monday, April 1, 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timur: TROPENBOS Wanariset Field Station: 38 km N (via Balikpapan-Samarinda Rd.) of Balikpapan: God, what a strange day. I feel like I've been visited by ghosts. I dreamed of Spirit twice last night. I almost forgot about it until Femke told me about a dream she had last night. Then I remembered.

Immediately afterward, I became overwhelmed by grief. I started crying. I couldn't talk. I could barely keep eating. I can't believe how it snuck up and clobbered me. While trying to talk to Femke, I thought of my grandmother, and later of my friend Randy Kerry, who survived Hodgkin's disease only to get killed by a drunk driver about 15 years later. What are they trying to tell me? What has been on my mind, and which I've been talking to Femke about, is that we only have so much time here and we can't afford to blow too many chances to get to know the special people placed in our path from time-to-time. Femke is one of those special people to me.

She doesn't care to put too much effort in getting to know someone who'll soon pass out of your life, never to be seen again. So she doesn't care to open herself up that much to me. . . I'll take a lot of her with me, for knowing her has been an immensely rewarding experience. Maybe she'll one day understand the sense of urgency I feel. Maybe she'll appreciate how important fleeting moments can be. But that only comes with age, I think.

Tuesday, April 2, 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timur: ITCI (International Timber Company Indonesia) Timber Concession: 60 km NW (via ITCI Rte 5200) of ITCI Timber Camp Kenangan, NE 1/4 Section 97, T4N, R2W: . . . We arrived at Camp Kenangan at about 1010 hrs after a 30-minute speedboat ride from Balikpapan. We took care of the usual ceremonies, but I was told I couldn't return to the arboretum site, but could go to one only a few hundred meters away. After lunch, we waited for the crew to show up while we got pounded by one hell of a rainstorm. Our driver showed up and we left and went to an area about 2 km down the road from the arboretumtrail to wait for our laborers. The area was on a ridge overlooking a small valley. Except for the road construction and skid trail, it was a beautiful sight, with forest and clouds intermixed. I climbed a fire tower to take some pictures and scared the hell out of myself. We wated till three for the others (with laborers). When they arrived I found out more about why we were not allowed to return to the arboretum. It sounded pretty arbitrary, and I was pissed! Oh well, we went [to] this other Agathis site, arriving at 1530 hrs, and cored 17 trees in two hours. I don't think they are as good as the arboretum site, and weill try to get permision to return.

Now, this area has not been cut, but the forest on the N side of the road has been disturbed, with skid trails and such. We got only five or six trees on teh S side of the road, where it does not appear to be disturbed (there is much less undergrowth here. [)] The forest is dominated by dipterocarps, such as Shorea laevis, S. pauciflora, S. asamica, S. leprosula, Eusideroxylon zwageri, Agathis borneensis, Dryobalanops lamellata, palms, rattans (Calamus spp.), Arctocarpus, lianas, Diospyros borneensis, macaranga, duabonga, Anthocephalous, Ficus, Koompassia spp. It was much flatter here than in the arboretum, which may affect the climate signal (I hope not). It was good to be in the forest, even though I got stung in the nose by a bee.

Wednesday, April 3, 1996

Okay, here are names last week, Beno Kaligis was our driver.

I'll catch up with the names later. We finished the site with 26 trees cored. We tried to find 30, but gave up at 1300 hrs.

[Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Tiimur:] 95 km NW (via ITCI Rte 5800) of ITCI Camp Kenangan, Section 45, T5N, R3W: We began collecting cross-sections here, because of chain saw problems, we stopped at 3 Eusideroxylon and 1 Sindora, and moved up the road to borrow a chain saw.

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timur: ITCI (International Timber Company Indonesia) Timber Concession: 97 km NW (via ITCI Rte 5800) of ITCI Camp Kenangan, Section 14, T5N, R3W: We got five more Eusideroxylon from this second site. I called Alison tonight and found out my Aunt Lucy died in the past week. Maybe that's why the ghosts were visiting me on Monday.

Thursday, April 4, 1996

[Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Tiimur:] 43 km NW (via ITCI Rte 1000) of ITCI Timber Camp Kenangan, Section 60, T4N, R1W: We were stuck with only one vehicle today. Oh well. I figured how to take what the commander of ITCI was willing to give me and still get what I wanted as far as Agathis from the arboretum site, so we split into two groups, with three laborers remaining with me while Yance went off with the chain saw gang. The three laborers and I went into the woods together and worked roughly NE towards where we collected last week. We collected 20 additional trees, but the samples from one were useless because the borer that took them was damaged. Anyway, that should be 26 total for the site. Yance and the chain saw gang collected a few Eusideroxylon and a meranti (Shorea) cross sections from 55 km NW (via ITCI Rte 2000) of ITCI Camp Kenangan, Section 58, T5N, R1W. Their results were disappointing. I would have preferred that they returned to yesterday's site, but had no voice in this.

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Timur: ITCI (International Timber Corporation Indonesia) Camp Kenangan: It turned out that it was possible to leave today, so we got ready. I was disgusted when I got the bill. All told, ITCI is probably into me for 1.2 million Rupiah. It might have been worth the expense if we had done as much as I had hoped, with one Agathis collection (from cores) and four or five other species collections based on cross-sections. All we have is two Agathis collections (very good!) but only two partial Eusideroxylon from cross-sections. Indonesians don't seem to like to tell you teh cost right up front, so you get blindsided when the bill arrives. Besides, when you hire workers, you expect them to show up ready. That wasn't the case with the chain-saw gang. The first day out we had to wait while the saw operator sharpened the chain, etc. (and I had to pay for the file!). As far as coring went, the crew for the first two days worked pretty hard. But when I was alone with the three today, I am pretty sure one just spent a significant amount of time wandering in the woods, avoiding as much labor as possible. He also left us before we were finished because he was hungry. Hell, so was I, but I knew stopping for lunch would mean stopping sampling. Next time, I want to knw what the costs are up front, as well as insist on performance objectives if that is practical. Also be skeptical of manpower recommendations! I accepted the recommendations uncritically and that helped drive up some of the cost (actually, I paid for fewer workers than I should have, but should have paid less considering the results). I hope this goes better on Sumbawa (with the mining concession).

40,000 [Rp] speedobats; 70,000 [Rp] bemo to Wanariset; 4,500 [Rp] food.

Friday, April 5, 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Tiimur: TROPENBOS Wanariset Field Station: 38 km N (via Balikpapan-Samarinda Rd.) of Balikpapan: Well, every office I need to visit is closed because of Good Friday/Passover. I can't find a place to convert traveler's checks to cash (ITCI and the boats/bemo cleaned me out), nor could I arrange shipment of the cross-sections to the lab. I looked at them today and don't have much hope. They're sure as hell not 1,300 years old (the Eusideroxylon). Oh well.

[Rp] 25,000 transport; 10,000 food.

Saturday, April 6, 1996

The Dusit Inn saved my by changing some of my traveler's checks. Thank God and my persistence. I called my parents and found out more about my Aunt Lucy. She was diagnosed with throad cancer about three weeks ago. She didn't want any treatment (only to go home) and went home. She died peacefully in her sleep at home last Thursday.

I also did some shopping, buying another travel bag, two sarongs (one a sleeping sarong), a shirt and a pair of shorts. I dropeed some laundry off in Balikpapan. It'll probably be expensive, but for what I dropped off they'll earn their money.

9,000 Rp transport, 12,000 Rp food.

Sunday, April 7 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Tiimur: TROPENBOS Wanariset Field Station: 38 km N (via Balikpapan-Samarinda Rd.) of Balikpapan: I took the day off. Femke and I went to Balikpapan to see Pulp Fiction. It was pretty good. I'm glad I got to see it on a big screen. Femke and I had a strange conversation on the way back. She seems to define her entire life, and that of many others, in terms of animal rights. She also feels that that will remain a constant point of reference. Hell, she's only 18. I'm sure she'll find other contexts to define herself within, especially as she gets more mature. She'll find some context independent of any cause. I certainly hope so. She's currently blind to many wonderful aspects of her personality. She keeps asking me what I see in her. So tonight I wrote her a letter attempting to explain. It's not good enough, but it's the best I can do for now.

Monday, April 8 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Tiimur: TROPENBOS Wanariset Field Station: 38 km N (via Balikpapan-Samarinda Rd.) of Balikpapan: Femke's birthday is 8 Sep. 1977. I wanted to write it down before I forget.

Speaking of forgetting, these people more or less helped at ITCI: Suwardi Suwasa, Nurdiansyah and Alexy H. Muayn, from the ITCI resource department, drivers Beno Kaligis and Roy Wotulung (a first class character) and laborers Undut and Ali.

From Wanariset: Willie Smits, Robert DeKock, Yance Pitoy, and Ibu (whatever her name is) the cook. Also Paul Kessler and Ann the orangutan lady. I'll get her name later. Also Nita, who took Rachel and I on a tour of the orang compound.

I'm looking forward to another night with Femke, but I want to get moving! Hopefully, Sumbawa will work out better than here. . .

For Su 6 [sic] Apr 8,000 Rp transport; 12,000 Rp food

[For Monday, April 8]: 7,000 Rp transport; 8,000 Rp food

14,500 Rp transport; 3,000 Rp food (so far) for Tu 9 Apr

Tuesday, April 9 1996

Indonesia: Borneo: Kalimantan Tiimur: Balikpapan: Here I am at the airport again. I think everything is working out, although I haven't talked to Suwardi Suwasa yet. Arsat, at Wanariset, tracked me down at the Hotel Mirama and is already making arrangements for shipping the X-sections to us. Great! There may be some beaurocratic hassles in shipping X-sections from Sumbawa. I'll have to find out if there will be any problems before I collect any samples. I'll call the lab tonight.

Femke was in a really bad mood last night, and I feel like I departed with some tension betwen us. As usual, I want to blame myself, but I really think I was a convenient target. I'm glad to be going, but I'm sad at having to say goodbye to her. I hope we stay in touch.

This damn airport is crowded while I really want to be left alone.

Continue with my notes from Bali. . .

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