How is it in West Papua?

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25 jun, 2013

How is it in West Papua?

door Kathrin Pape

This is the question I got asked most the last weeks. The local people wanted to hear if I like it at their home, if I am married and which places I already visited. My friends at home were interested in other things: „How are the people?“ „What are you doing in West Papua?“ „Did you already see any wild animals?“ „Will you have internet connection while you are there?“ „Are you not afraid of Malaria?“

I already have a routine in answering the questions: I like West Papua even more than I expected, the people are really nice and I don’t think that I will feel alone the next months. Unfortunately I already saw heaps of snakes, but as compensation I also saw many rare birds and fish. In Manokwari I have quite OK internet connection (if the electricity is not off again), but in West Papua you always need to expect the unexpected: On Friday and Saturday the whole town couldn’t get any cellphone signal. It was hard for me to imagine so many Indonesians without their cellphone and I have to say that those two days have been really chaotic. And the Malaria question… West Papua is an endemic area, I am staying here for 6 months – we will see…

School has been quiet the last week. The kids were learning for their exams and they were surprisingly calm at the boarding house. I took the chance to join a friend on a trip to Kebar which is in the inland of West Papua. A drive by car would take around 4 hours, but we wanted to have a look at the scenery from above and took a flight. We started around 11:00 with a small Cessna of Susi Air to Kebar and after an astonishing 30-minutes flight over Manokwari and the coastline we arrived in the small village where we and the other two passengers on the air plane were greeted by the local community. We organized ourselves a scooter and took off to Tanah Merah for a view over the grassland area. Later we went to the small village of Akmuri to have a look at the water situation and check if it is still like after the improvement through the SDSP. The villagers confirmed that their living condition improved and that it is a lot easier for them now with the access to clean water.

The next morning we already had to fly home again. While we were still finishing with the breakfast the people outside already shouted: “The plane is arriving” We hurried to pack our bags and said goodbye as we still had to get our weight checked to make sure that the small plane later will be in balance. The plane came lower and lower … and took off again! My surprised look followed the plane high in the sky as the woman next to me mumbled “The pilots will be mad again.” Cows were crossing the airstrip and after some men chased them off the airstrip the plane could finally land and we boarded for our short flight back to Manokwari.

The next morning Ibu Ijte Kaikatuy asked me to join her meeting with the women of Sion Sanggeng. As the exchange of information between the different women groups is very important, the women were busily talking about new ideas for handicrafts, which tools to use and where to sell their products. After some inspiring hours of discussions they planned a workshop for the next Monday in Ibu Ijte Kaikatuys Gallery where she wanted to show them some more techniques.

After this meeting we went on to Manyosi where the women were ready to present their handicrafts. This group made some beautiful bags out of tree bark and among other things, traditional houses and vases made out of old newspapers.

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