Somewhere Beyond the Sea (Part 3)

I like the most the back roll entry in scuba diving. It’s generally because I don’t have to bear the 15-something-kilos burden of the air tank and BCD and octopus and extra weights on me too long. I’d just sit by the edge of the boat and let may body roll backwards. Nice.

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Everything you need under water. Plus a good wet suit. Plus courage and determination.

Speaking of heavy burden, giant stride is obviously the method I’m most nervous doing. I’m not a big fan of jumping into water. And even though we are not supposed to jump, the idea of stepping forward into the water (with that burden) from about a meter high is not really my thing. Therefore, the other “lighter” method of wearing the equipment on the water surface, is also not really my favorite as I still need to jump into the water for it.

In life, however, I jump a lot (including jumping into conclusion ha ha). I often make giant steps too. I call myself courageous, but in some cases it’s merely being frivolous. Isn’t it fascinating to just do, to just close our eyes and jump?

I think I’m turning crazy about this diving thingy. But this how love feels like, doesn’t it? It’s an amazing feeling, really. Knowing how I fear of the limitless sea, the unknown darkness, the dependence on equipment wrapped in my body, the doubt if my body could handle the pressure (both physically and mentally) under water… Yet just like any other love, it’s simply beautiful to be in it. It’s beyond words.

I’m in love.

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Living for Today

I just recently came back from a a duty trip to Pulau Nyamuk, a tiny island inhabited by around 600 people in Karimunjawa archipelago, in the north of Java. This fishermen community have electricity only for 12 hours per day provided by 30kW diesel power plant and 25kWp solar power plant. With such limitation on energy source, the people live a humble and simple life, at least compared to the hectic Jakarta life. It’s the crew I went with also the people I met who really got me realized that all this time I was too busy thinking about “tomorrow”.

Hari is in his late twenty working as an electrical engineer while Andi is a technician who is a little older than Hari and me. Together we inspected the solar mini-grid installation in Pulau Nyamuk and trained the operators. They are really inspiring people. They have travelled a lot to remote islands of Indonesia, they live by the day, and they are happy. Yes, they are. It’s like nothing can make them upset.

The trip back from Pulau Nyamuk to Pulau Karimun was special. We were trapped in a storm on a small wooden boat of 12×1.6 m. It was seven of us with me the only female and the most inexperience one in the sea. The engine was dead at some point and the diesel leaked. Some guys shouted to the Captain, “Turn left! Turn left! You take the wrong direction!” I was quietly panicked and wished that the Captain could handle the situation.

“I don’t want to die now. I don’t want to die like this. Like… drowned in the sea where my body would never be found. Or is it better that way? Die quickly with a lung full of seawater? But no… not now, not like this. I have things I want to do. There are so many things I still need to do.”

Yes, that was my thought. Cliché :).

A couple of fishermen on board helped. Together they fixed the fuel pipe, pumped the leaked fuel out of the hull, turned on the backup engine, and tried to navigate the boat back to the right track. It was a very long one hour.

“I see the island!” Hari told me, “don’t worry.” I smiled a bit, I knew he was just trying to calm me down. I peeked, and yeah, vaguely I saw tiny grey bump in a far. That must be the island. Another two hours to go. But shortly, we survived. We were all wet from the storm and wave but relieved to finally reach the land. We smiled a conquer-kind-of-smile.

Back in the homestay, we relaxed at the terrace and rewound our experience, with laugh and thankfulness. I contemplated my past. How everything seems far away once we are in a potentially fatal experience. How every plan seems insignificant. And whatever you do, it’s a matter of how you do it that determines your happiness.

When in college, I was busy thinking of where I will work and how much I will make money. Now I’m still thinking the same (only with better financial situation). What an unwise way of spending time.

As a closure, although it’s slightly against my principle to always plan thing ahead, I’d like to tell you that sometimes you need to push the brake. Slow down and enjoy your ride.

 

Electricity in Villages

The power house (I will upload a better picture soon, promised! :-))

I remember I never really tell people what I’m doing, not to mention telling it out loud in a blog. No. I didn’t feel the urge to do that. But now, I really need to share it with you all. It is quite interesting.

I recently had my first experience visiting the site of micro hydro power (MHP) project in Gunung Halu, Bandung. Gunung Halu is one hamlet in Bandung Regency, West Java. It takes more than three hours to get there from Bandung (or about six hours from Jakarta, including the bad traffic and some stops to pee, hehe). The road is quite rocky and uneasy which makes me think how lucky I am to not having those rocky roads every single day. No signal reception there. And I can’t imagine how those people can survive without it :D.

The MHP in Gunung Halu is considered well maintained. It is 18 kW capacity and is able to electrify 65 households there. Only 20 households have television, DVD player, and/or rice cooker. The rest only use the electricity for lighting (in average 5 lamps per house). Each month, each household should pay between 13,000 to 23,000 Rupiah depending on their electricity equipments. It is relative cheap, I guess.

There are six local people trained to operate and maintain the MHP, including to take care of the book keeping. For their service, these people are paid 35,000 Rupiah per month (crazy figure, huh?). Besides the MHP, the operators are also responsible in running coffee business which is not largely established yet. The coffee machines were granted by a UN project. Unfortunately, they sell coffee only when they are able to buy the seed and they sell it 15,000 Rupiah per 200 gr.

Although the MHP can be a good model for other MHPs across the archipelago, Gunung Halu MHP is not the best model since its distance from the national grid is not very far. The decision of installing this Gunung Halu MHP was a bit political (paying promise during election time — old story). Anyhow, having this MHP which could provide cheap electricity for the community is still something.

One common problem with an MHP is that the excess energy especially during the day when the lights should be off. I saw that even the day is so bright, almost all houses turn on their lights. This is not efficient, of course. Hence, we try to find a solution to utilize this energy for productive use. There are several options available such as: hatchery and coffee dryer. We are still trying to design an effective scheme for it. That is one of the purposes why I am hired :-).

To give you some figure about hydro power potential in Indonesia, I can tell you a number published by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (2008) about potential and installed capacity of renewable energy options (MW).

RE source          Identified Potential     Installed capacity

Hydro                                        75,670                           4,200
Mini/micro hydro                        450                                 86
Geothermal                              27,000                           1,052
Biomass                                    49,810                               445
Solar                      4.8 kWh/m2/day                                  12
Wind                                           9,290                                0.6

The government project’s called Green PNPM aims to construct 80 to 100 new and sustainable MHPs per year. A lot of money (approx. 50 billion Rupiah) will be disbursed for that purpose. I really wish this huge amount of money will reach its target precisely.

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Mm… have I told you that the people of Gunung Halu are so friendly? Well, it’s not amazing as Indonesian people are generally friendly. Nevertheless, it feels so nice to see so many smiley faces :-).