Thursday, October 23, 2014

Finished with Sumba install

Four stations installed in seven days, including round-trip travel from Kupang to Sumba.  Pretty good considering the overwhelming uncertainty in doing anything here.  We flew back from the northwest of Sumba today via Tambolaka Airport located in the city of Waitabula.  Catching the flight back to Kupang may be the most remarkable part of the journey; we finished the local installation around 2:30pm, rushed to the airport to buy our tickets to fly back at 3:30pm.  Fortunately, the flight was late and there were enough seats available.  Unfortunately (for the other passengers), we were pretty salty and ripe after coming straight out of the field in a rush to the airport. 

Map of Pulau Sumba.  Melolo in far east, Kambapari in center, Napu in north, Waitabula in NW.

Backing up in time, picking up from the previous post, we successfully installed two stations the day after the Napu site.  Early in the morning, we went back to Melolo to finish off the station.  Being the third visit to the location, it was imperative that it did not take much time to wrap it up.  This was the case, only needing an hour of time to put the baby (seismometer) to rest in its comfortable crib (our newly poured concrete slab).  We paid the land owners and caretakers some incentives, devoured some delicious coconuts, and headed back to Waingapu to set out for the second installation.  By the time we made it back, Cooper was ready to roll after battling off a throat infection.  He was prepared for this situation and didn't miss much action.  I'm surprised we are not all afflicted by some sort of respiratory problem given the constant exposure to cigarettes, burning trash, and burning leaves. 

Our next destination took us into central Sumba to the village of Kambapari.  This was a refreshing experience since the 600 meter climb in elevation provided a cool climate and the smallest dose of vital rain.  Our prior meeting with the Camat of Kambapari was encouraging as he was amenable to our work and provided us with some suggestions of where we might install.  When we arrived at the Camat office, we were able to sort out a location that was suitable.  Fast forward to the end of the install; by now we are a well-oiled machine, no problem.  We finished the install and then proceeded to pay out the local helpers and long-term site maintenance personnel in a hilariously awkward manner.  Typically, we give the "smooth handshake" to people who help us dig, build fences, etc., dishing out 20-100k rupiah for their help at the site.  Then we have a formal meeting and pay the land owner/caretaker in a ceremonial manner.  This time, it was all mashed together in an awkward and disorganized clusterfest, where we dished out the small payments amongst the whole group of local leaders, staff members, and community members.  Numerous redundant handshakes and chuckles from the onlookers cemented the fact that this was indeed a bumbling moment and we all laughed about it on the way back to Waingapu.  I was pretty tired by the time we made it back, fell asleep at 8pm and woke up just in time to call my beloved wife Maggie, thereby delivering myself a most excellent birthday present by having a quick chat with her.   I really miss you Maggie, don't worry the next time won't take us apart for so long...all the hard work is being done now!

Sign in front of "Camat office" where we installed site KPAR...also the site of hilarious awkwardness.
The compulsory team photo after install. Ol' Larry looking dirty.  Village leader in the tiedye shirt, Ule behind him in red, the Camat officer behind me was a post-pounding master, Cooper hanging on to Umbu and the guy who will be weeding the site over time.
Then it was time to leave Waingapu to get to the other side of the island.  The main road in Sumba traverses the high axis of topography that runs parallel to the north and south sides of the islands.  No problem, we just made sure to travel during the day (there are reports of pirates that rob people at night along this road) and see what happened once we arrived in Waitabula, the NW population center.  Amidst consistent talk that our preferred install site (Kodi village, 30 km west of Waitabula) was not safe - land disputes, legends of beheadings, robbery, conflict between levels of government - we opted to find a site closer to Waitabula.  We arrived at the government affairs office at 3:05pm, finding that they closed at 3.  Great.  We took a stab at trying to talk with a nearby village leader only to find him cold as ice (oh, how we would love to have some ice...) because we did not have any local documentation supporting our project.  ARRGH.  Our next attempt was to go to the local police.  This is something we do in any case so we can inform them of our presence and establish a record to support any potential future problems.  The meeting was much better than a simple meet, greet, and letter delivery - they started brainstorming about where we might be welcomed and came up with an excellent option, a local Camat office.  We passed them some cigarettes (local currency) and set out to talk with the Camat.  He was amenable on the condition that we would talk with the Bupati and government affairs the next day, and we went out to his office to verify that is would be a good location.  It was/is a good location, transforming our mental state from completely defeated to optimistic over the course of about an hour.  No problem. 

After prepping for install, we the Bupati in Waitabula and received informal permission to go ahead.  Again, the well-oiled (and sweaty) machine handled business.  Ohhhh yeah.  We named the site BULE to provide ourselves with a trivial bit of comedic relief.  Recall that bule is the Indonesian term for "white person" that does not hold negative connotation.  Hence the following logic: Waitabula is close enough to Waitabule, Watiabule sounds a lot like "white boy," Cooper and I are definitely "white boys" and bules at the same time.  You best believe that we stand out everywhere we go, probably because Cooper likes to wear his "suns out, guns out" cutoff shirt when we travel. 

Coop delivering the bule dance at station BULE.  He is sending a wicked south-to-north pulse to the sensor to demonstrate what the equipment does.  This is always a moment of intrigue for the locals to finally see how it works.
So, back to Kupang.  We made it to the airport on time, said goodbye to our awesome driver and friend Ule, and checked our tools and bags in to the flight.  Also, GO GIANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Flying back to Kupang over central Sumba.  Station NAPU is down there close to the northern tip of the island, listening to the Earth's secrets...

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