Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Weekend Fun

This weekend we had a great time -- Saturday morning a group of us met at the hotel and piled into 2 cars. We drove south out of Jakarta into the mountains and spent the late morning touring a tea plantation. The plantation is huge and the tea bushes cover entire mountains. The air is cleaner and cooler, so it's a popular activity to go there for the weekend; a lot of villas were in the towns we passed through. We stopped at an overlook where a lot of souvinier vendors accosted us. They are very persistent, but once you get used to haggling, you can get some good deals.

The plantation has a little town on it, which we walked through. There was a big picnic or concert going on in a park pavilion; we saw lots of kids there -- buying cotton candy, feeding rabbits. We walked up the mountain into the tea fields where we saw tea in various stages of growth -- ready to pick, just picked, regrowing. The trunks are about 3 feet tall and gnarled and old looking; the tea pickers pick all the green leaves off. A hillside that has just been picked looks brown in comparison to the lush green of tea that is ready to pick. The tea plantation runs a brisk business in tourism; we saw another tour group with a guide and a group on horseback. We decided not to tour the tea factory since nobody was working that day.

For lunch we went to an Indonesian restaurant -- the tables were in little open cabins around a little pond and close to the floor. We ate about 10 different Indonesian dishes -- fish, chicken, mounds of rice, gado-gado (salad with peanut dressing), vegetables.

After lunch we went to a place called Taman Safari Indonesia. Taman means park -- this was a drive through exotic animal park. We bought a bunch of carrots to feed animals, which made for some funny incidents.
Going through the lion, tiger, and bear pens were a little more hairy; Paul wasn't thinking and rolled down his window and almost had a bear in his lap. Our screams must have scared him off.

photos from all of this are at this website:
(copy and paste directly into your browser)
Questions? Visit http://help.kodakgallery.com/.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Getting Down to Business

The work has begun in earnest -- we are now sifting through the data piece by piece and drawing pieces into a single geodatabase. We also met with BAKOSURTANAL yesterday to approach them (again) about the data.
The outcome is that we are going to invite them to a single day seminar, where UNJLC will do a presentation about the use of GIS during the tsunami, and how the data was processed to make use of it. Following the presentation, we'd like to have a round table where both the UN JLC and BAKOSURTANAL can discuss how they felt the effort went and how it could be improved. The hope is to encourage them to be more proactive in updating the rest of Indonesia's basemap information for the future.

The plans for the weekend are to go with Mary and Jilly to a tea plantation in the country, then go to a big bird sanctuary and IMAX on the way back. We were talking about staying the night in the country at a villa owned by a friend of Jilly's, but there's a big rave or party going on in Jakarta that takes priority. :)

I am going to try to post some photos at an Ofoto website, and will put the link here.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Another quake

Last night another quake hit near the location of the Dec. 26 quake that caused the tsunami. This one hit in the middle of the night and collapsed many already weakened buildings on the island of Nias and another island farther south. There was no tsunami following it this time.

In Jakarta we did not feel the quake at all, and I was woken up by a phone call from another team member, telling me about the quake and to call friends and family.

No worries; we're all ok.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Finally in Jakarta

After an arduous trip involving a delay in St Louis on Saturday, a missed flight and seedy hotel in Philadelphia, a few hours in the Rome airport working to re-establish my cancelled reservation, and 2 nicebut long flights on Emirates Airlines, which are based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, I finally arrived in Jakarta at 9:30 at night on Tuesday. The taxi dropped me at the Intercontinental Hotel, which is very luxurious.
The next morning I met Shawn Messick and the other volunteers at breakfast. Mark Yarmoshuk was waiting at the UNJLC office as well. For the first week, the volunteers were all drifting in one at a time, going through UN Security briefings, filling out paperwork, setting up laptops, and dealing with jet lag.
Now we've begun our second week and we're getting down to business. Mark and I have set up meetings with BAKOSURTANAL and ESRI-Jakarta to discuss the needs and prospects at BAKO for upgrading software and doing some training activities in addition to passing our data products to them.
Other than that, we're enjoying the cheap food, fun group times, inexpensive massages, and friendly people.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I'm packed, and waiting....

We're still waiting on our itineraries; perhaps we'll leave tomorrow?! This is kind of a good thing; by the time I know I won't have any time to dread the plane ride because it'll be time to just go. I actually enjoy flying, but after my flight back from Japan a few years back through a storm, I'm not so thrilled about the long flights over the ocean.

Shawn of the VVAF sent a memo outlining the basic plan, which is helpful to see. Basically, the UNJLC has about 13 GB of unprocessed, uniniventoried data of all kinds that has been gathered since the tsunami in December. Our group will be reviewing all the data, preparing documentation for it, and creating usable cartographic products from it. We'll also be documenting proper procedures for data creation, maintenance, processing and metadata, and training staff at BAKO in those procedures. At the end of April it will be turned over to BAKO for use by the Indonesian government and other groups involved with the rebuilding of tsunami affected areas. This sort of effort normally requires 2-4 months; we're trying to accomplish this in about 30 days.

While in Jakarta we'll be staying in the Intercontinental Midplaza in Jakarta, which looks pretty nice. Certainly better than the backpacker hostels I'm used to! We'll be near the downtown business district, within walking distance of BAKO and ESRI - Jakarta.
I never did find a guide book for Indonesia, so I feel pretty clueless. Hopefully I'll locate one in an airport bookstore on the way. Lonely Planet has a map online at
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/mapshells/south_east_asia/jakarta/jakarta.htm but I don't know where on the map we'll actually be.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Heather Posted by Hello

Getting the News

I finally received the news last week that I am one of 5 people picked to go to Jakarta, Indonesia to help with GIS work relating to the tsunami rebuilding effort. This is fantastic news for me, since I have been interested in getting involved with humanitarian aid and disaster management involving GIS for the last couple of years and have been looking for opportunities in those fields.
Our team leader is Shawn Messick of the Vietnam Volunteers of America Foundation, and our team has 5 volunteers picked by Shawn and GISCorps. We will travel to Jakarta and work with the Indonesian mapping agency, BAKOSURTANAL (called BAKO for short). The UN Joint Logistics Committee is also a partner and are providing funds for our expenses.
So far I've been corresponding with Shawn and my company's South East Asian office about upgrading the software at BAKO -- they still have a pretty old version of ArcView. Shawn is going to have a meeting with the parties involved to try and get that issue resolved.
I should be receiving news today about my travel itinerary, which is probably for a depature on Thursday this week. I still have a few things to do, but I am mostly packed and ready. Just tying up loose ends here and there.
I'm still looking for a guide book to Indonesia -- I always love reading about a country before going there; learning some of the customs and history and a few useful phrases. In a city of 9 million people, I'm going to need all the help I can get!
I bought a digital camera this weekend, so I will be posting any interesting pictures that I take.
The team has 5 people in it; I am the only woman. We've been corresponding by email and it's an interesting bunch: Dylan is from Australia; Ray is from San Francisco, Brian is from Eugene, Oregon, and Paul is from Austin.

For more information about VVAF and UNJLC, see the websites:
VVAF (Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation)
UNJLC (UN Joint Logistics Committee)