I’d prayed for nice weather and was heard. The sun shone through the windows of our teal Kijang as we zipped along the winding road from Kesiman to Muntigunung. Packed neatly into our car, the eight of us sang along to the reggae songs pumping through the speakers- an ideal soundtrack for the awesome views that lined the jalanular. The bright green terraced rice patties slowly became fewer and far in between as we ventured further north, where the climate is drier and golden hills and mountains dominate the landscape. I was excited to reach our destination, as I have been to Muntigunung before.
The first time I went to Muntigunung was at the tail end of a trip I had been on as a Volunteer with Yayasan Dian Desa. As a VIA long-term volunteer, one of the many wonderful opportunities I was granted was to work with a team of field staff on a drinking water and sanitation project in Flores. My fieldwork in Flores complete, I had a few days to spend in Bali, as I made my way west towards Yogyakarta. Along with a team of Dian Desa staff, I made my first trip to Muntigunung to see the projects underway there and meet the communities being partnered with. This month of my life, including the days I spent in Muntigunung, was immensely educational and led to transformations in both my career trajectory and personal approach to daily life. While the summer program volunteers only had enough time to spend one day on the mountain, it was my hope that meeting villagers in Muntigunung and seeing the realities of life there would have a lasting impact on them, as it had in my case.
We arrived at the center in Songan and were warmly greeted by the Dian DesaMunti team. We piled into a pick up truck with Anti at the helm and Arie as our guide. Anti navigated the bumpy dirt road with expertise as Arie pointed out project sites. Our first stop was at the first rainwater catchment facility built in the area, in DesaTiyangTali. This rainwater catchment facility is one of twelve that have been constructed in partnership with the villagers since 2007. An approximate 5,500 people in the area depend on these facilities as one of their water sources, as the rainy season in Muntigunung only last about 3 months out of the year.We tried to imagine what its like living in a place where water is extremely scarce and where for some, gathering water requires walking for hours to the nearest water source.
After looking at some of the rainwater catchment facilities, we headed to Cangkreng Village, further up the mountain. At Cangkrengwe visited one of the livelihood projects operating on the mountain andmet Komang and a team of resilient women who make handicrafts from lontarleaves there. The volunteers quickly intermingled with the women and their children, taking seats on the floor and practicing their new Bahasa Indonesia skills. Conversations varied from basabasito the connection between water access, livelihood, and income generation todemographics of Muntigungung to handicraft production processes. Atop this mountain village in GunungAgung, the women acted as guru and we were happy to learn from them. We refreshed with young coconut water, bought handicrafts made by the nible-fingered craftswomen, and said our goodbyes before hopping back into the pick-up.
We made one final stop at an old purabefore heading back down to the center. As we jostled back and forth in the truck of the pick-up, I apologized to the volunteers, since we would not have time to go to Besakih temple as originally planned. One responded, “It’s okay, Gillian…this is better. This is definitely not in the Lonely Planet guide!” I rested assured, knowing that the volunteers still had plenty of time to ride speed boats to Lombok, go snorkeling in Nusa Lembongan, and explore the many other points of interest outlined in the self-proclaimed “travelers bible,”Lonely Planet. This volunteer’s statement, said in between giggles, reaffirmed my belief that experience is the best form of education. The kind of learning that occurs on a fieldtrip like this could never come from a book or watching a documentary. It can lead to life-long commitments and development of a more complete global perspective.
Witnessing water scarcity first-hand and getting to know women and families who tackle daily the challenge of meeting their basic needs in low-access and off-grid areas, had had a strong impact on me. Prior to this experience, I had read about global water issues, and joined discussions and lectures on the topic, but continued to see water scarcity as a global issue and a problem that affected other people.Now, I intend to study ecology and sustainable development further, and I make an effort to be more water conservative. I try to be conscious of the amount of water I throw over my head when I mandieach morning, especially knowing that the average person in Muntigunung uses just 25 liters of water per day. I find that a large deal of NGO funding goes towards socializing behavior change of the poor, placing yet another burden upon people of the global south. On the other hand, efforts to encourage people in wealthy nations to be responsible for their own behavior are not nearly substantial enough. I believe that service learning is an effective tool for socialization of behavior change in people from wealthy nations, and that person-to-person interactions are where real change is born. While service learning does not guarantee the volunteer an epiphany, and has a different impact on each participant, I strongly believe in it’s potential. For those ripe for the experience, a six-week program can be enough to sew seeds of passion in an individual. These are the people who become global citizens, active caretakers of ourcommunities and our earth. Because of this, I can wholeheartedly say that the three-hour car trip from Kesiman to Muntigunung, not to mention the plane trip halfway across the world,was well worth it.
Gillian Hope Bogart
VIA BSL Coordiator, 2010