World Challenge 2018 - Bali and Java remembered

As a teacher it was an honour and a privilege to be a part of this team’s journey across Bali and Java. As the first World Challenge trip the school has taken, I was apprehensive about the challenges that faced us, but every member of the group embraced what we were doing and supported each other throughout the trip. Team Java 2018 have set a really high bar for future trips and I would like to thank Mike, Hannah and Peter for their support as leaders, the trip would not have been the same without them. Annie, Esmé, Emily, James, Flo, Liv, Louis, Petra, Florrie and Ellie were all a credit to themselves and the school. Below is a write up of the whole trip, by Ellie.

Ed Hawkins – Head of Sixth Form

 

Eleanor Beaven – World Challenge Bali and Java 2018

When the opportunity to be a part of the World Challenge Team back in Fourth Form arose, I jumped at the chance. It was proposed as a ‘gap-year’ styled adventure; a group of students in charge of navigating ourselves around a completely foreign country, merely guided by our team leaders. However, in reality, the trip became so much more than anything we could have imagined…  

After spending a night in a hostel in the busy city of Ubud to allow us to acclimatise to the new world we’d found ourselves in, we drove to our next location; the home of a Balinese man named Ari. After taking us around the Bali National Park, showing us all of the beautiful creatures such as crabs and monkeys that called it home, Ari enlightened us with the stories that have made him the person he is now; the story of his resilience as a paralysed child determined to not go unrecognised as a member of society, the story of how he became top of his class regardless of his struggles and, most importantly, how he learnt all of these lessons from the nature around him. He continued to explain this to us the following day as we headed back into the National Park whilst showing us a special plant called ‘Liana’ that climbs and intertwines itself around other trees. He explained how the Liana would always continue to climb, regardless of what it faced, just as he did throughout his life. That evening we spent the night at a Hindu festival, celebrating their place of worship. We were completely overwhelmed by their traditions as they welcomed us to the heart of the celebrations.

We learnt a lot of valuable life lessons whilst staying with Ari as well as how to cook the incredible food his wife and family had been preparing for us every evening; cooking and eating together is a crucial part of family life in Indonesian culture we would come to learn, by helping each other to create something they can share, they can strengthen relationships and work as one.

After being welcomed into Ari’s family, it was time to move on. We headed away from West Bali and regathered ourselves by the beach in preparation for the busy time ahead. We’d managed to squeeze our budget during our stay so far and so booked a beautiful villa for our final night in Bali where we swum under the stars, discussing how incredible our trip had been so far as well as our feelings towards the next stage of the adventure.

The next day, we headed across to Java on a ferry. When we arrived we were greeted by the 2 newest members of our team, Roel and Kid, who would be helping us during the more physical trekking phase of the trip before welcoming us into their village for our community phase. They became more than just leaders to us, they became part of our family and I truly believed that we wouldn’t have survived without them! They drove us away from the port to the small village of Bangyuwangi, a place unlike any we had ever witnessed. The people we met there were fascinated with our stories and lifestyles, illustrating how it wasn’t just us who were being enlightened by different cultures on this trip. We were completely overwhelmed by the reaction we got on our arrival, especially when we were told a bank holiday was going to be held in honour of our cultural exchange that would be occurring a day later. In preparation for this, we were given a class in the traditional regional dance (much to our teacher’s amusement).

The following day, we performed extracts of popular western culture (well, we sang ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’) before they performed a much more refined version of their routine for us and the various members of the community that had come out to watch the performances, including the villages’ Chief and other honorary members. We were completely enthralled by what they presented us with, not only the lavish costumes but the transformation of these young girls into beautiful princesses, dazzling us with their movement and performance skills. The girls invited us onto stage to perform with them whilst the boys created the music for us to move to and, although we clearly had no idea what we were doing, in that moment we were truly welcomed into their beautiful culture and became a part of what we would had only ever been able to watch through a screen if we had not been a part of this trip. That evening, we headed to the base camp of our first trek where we swam in the volcanic hot springs, taking in our surroundings under the stars.

The following day was the first element of the most physically challenging part of the trip, if not our lives; climbing 3 volcanos in 6 days. We started off with Ijen, a sulphuric volcano over-looking a beautiful, electric blue lake. We started at 3:00 in the morning in order to witness the sunrise over our view. Although this seemed unimaginable when we woke up, by the time we reached the top the sense of achievement completely destroyed any negative thoughts we had previously had.

As soon as we were down again, we headed towards our next challenge; Mount Bromo. We had another early start to allow us to witness the sunrise over our upcoming, monstrous challenge; Mount Semeru. After watching the sky be painted by a wash of beautiful colours, we trekked through a ‘sea of sands’ to the top of Mount Bromo. Understandably by this point, the exhaustion had really started to impact the group, leading us to make the decision to postpone our largest trek by a day to allow us to recuperate and recover from illness. This provided us with the opportunity to explore the area around Bromo as we watched the way lifestyles of the villagers.  We learnt so much merely from observation of the people around us; how they work, how they thought and what was important within their society. For them it wasn’t materialistic values or a self-absorbed attitude, it was simply living their lives in contentment with what they had and making the most of the people around them, constantly wanting to gain more knowledge not for their own selfish reasons but for the sake of learning and becoming more aware of the world around them. Our awareness of this was later consolidated during our time at the community.

After our day of rest, we started trekking up Mount Semeru, the most dangerous volcano in Indonesia our guides informed us as we stepped foot into the gates of the park. The first day was mentally challenging as members of the group were still recovering from their illnesses but, together, we made it to our base camp which was opposite a beautiful sacred lake. The tranquil surroundings, rest and great food helped us to prepare for our second day of trekking that lead us right to the starting point of the summit, a mission that seemed completely impossible to accomplish as we stood facing such a monstrous challenge. This feeling continued into the start of our summit day as we started climbing at 1:00 in the morning. Freezing due to the altitude and exhausted by all of our efforts, it felt as though we were aimlessly walking through the darkness as we trudged through the rocky terrain. But, as the sun began to rise, the flag marking the top gradually became nearer and nearer until, finally, we had made it. The feeling of accomplishment was indescribable as, together, we had done something I think all of us never thought we would be able to do (I’m still in denial to this moment that we actually did that!). It was a truly unforgettable achievement, standing at the top as we watched the active volcano spout smoke across the clear blue sky.

After we completed the trekking phase, we headed to the small village of Pandansari, our home for the next 4 days. The families we were going to stay with embraced us as their own, showing just how selfless these people were as they welcomed complete strangers into their lives. On the first day of our community project, we met with the villages’ chief to outline our intentions and he briefed us what our jobs would be while we were there. After this, we headed to a river bed that had been filled with rubbish as awareness of waste disposal was extremely poor in the area. Throughout this project, improving this was one of our main goals. In order to do this, the next day we painted bins to try and attract people to use them (with varying degrees of skill) and then placed them around the community before helping our guide Roel pick the chillies that would be sold. The following day was spent both at the local school playing games with the students and re-painting a run-down bridge. Meeting the kids was so enlightening; it was refreshing to see how important they thought education was and how highly they regarded further education and the opportunities it could give them. This was seen in action as we met some university students who were in the area for a similar purpose as us who we would grow to be great friends of ours.  Next up was a day of tree planting and litter clearing, illustrating to us just how deep the issues of waste disposal lay as the area we were attempting to clear was embedded with plastic. That evening, we gathered with the group of university students for a game of volleyball, showing once again the welcoming nature of these people as they invited us into their lives. This was followed by a dinner shared with the Chief and our guides, the perfect opportunity for us to quiz them about their way of life. When asked about why he is so fond of the mountains, our guide Roel explained how ‘his heart is in the mountains’ for this is where he feels most at one with himself and his religion, for he believed his God to be within the nature around him.

Sooner than any of us would have liked it to be, our time in the community was complete. We packed up and said goodbye to our house-families as well as our guides, who really had become an integral part of our team, before boarding the 6-hour train to our final destination of the trip; Yogyakarta.

After being in such as close-knit community, it was a bit of a culture shock for us to be back in a big city, with their bustling markets and busy streets. Furthermore, being in a luxury hotel after the community was also a large jump, I can just remember the excitement on everyone’s faces when they saw the hot showers and swimming pool.

After settling into our accommodation, we spent our first day in the city at Borobudur Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple in the world. Whilst on our trip, we had learnt about many other religions such as Hinduism and Islam and how they work together in Indonesia to try and live in harmony and so to visit such an important element of Buddhism really contributed to our cultural education. That evening, we headed to the largest authentic market in the area where a celebration was happening in the street to mark Indonesian Independence Day (17th August). The streets were filled with marching bands and dancers as well as large platters of food that everyone shared, illustrating the importance of the togetherness found when eating collectively.

Our final day of the trip was spent relaxing by the pool and reminiscing on the events of the trip as well as a visit to the local markets to buy some Javanese silver. The immersive nature of the markets encapsulated the spirit of the people found within them; it was vibrant, welcoming and full of unexpected delights.

That evening, we ate together one last time, discussing all that we had experienced as well as what we were looking forward to when we got back to normality. It felt as though our team had become a family, we looked after one another and cared for one another and created bonds that I hope will continue to be built upon. Saying goodbye at Heathrow simply felt wrong, I could no longer imagine being anywhere without these people as we had experienced so much together.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tring Park for offering such an opportunity; although working towards fundraising was difficult, it was so worth the hardship as the experience was life changing. Thank you to the team; thank you for being strong, supportive and for making this adventure full of love and laughs, I could never forget it because of you guys. To anyone debating taking part on World Challenge 2020, I can’t recommend it enough; it may seem scary to be hurled out of your comfort zone but, by doing so, you allow yourself to find elements of yourself you never knew existed.

Watch the photo diary here.