I’m not going to lie. When I found out I was going to be working at the Kebun Raya Banua (Banjarbaru Botanical Gardens), I was initially disappointed. Mainly because Ollid, our LO, had got my hopes up that I would be working for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). After the initial disappointment, however, I started to become really keen for my opportunity to increase my knowledge about environmental conservation in an outdoors setting, learn some manual skills in the field of horticulture – all, along for the ride with three amazing, like-minded workplace counterparts, Ellenie, Faj and Vincent.
I did have some grandiose visions in my mind of the botanical gardens I recently visited around London… Kensington Gardens, this was not. On our first day, we were soon to find out (after a highly amusing welcome ceremony and a near-death experience in our supervisor’s car) that in fact the Kebun was not yet open to the public and was still being developed. The majority of the day was spent “acclimatising” ourselves (that is getting used to sleeping on lino floor and eating sour passionfruit) with our new workplace. My mind began to fill with doubts for what was in store for us over the coming weeks…
How very wrong were those doubts founded in my mind! While my first week was nothing to be envied (staying home the next two days with Banjarmasin Belly), the second two weeks went far too quickly, filled with fun, great learning experiences and lovely people. While we won’t soon forget some of the characters we came across during those three weeks (the Gossip Queen, Smiley Guy, Crazy Ibu Dosen, Queen Latifah, Intense Ibu and Scary Ibu), it is the time we spent working alongside the staff at the Kebun that we will treasure forever. Special mention to Ririn, Riani, Ema and Kiki, yang bungas.
We were lucky enough to score a very kind, softly-spoken yet highly knowledgeable supervisor, Pak Agung, who took us on a fieldtrip to an agricultural super-park (where we fit in some practise for the final task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament) and gave us some delicious and rare fruits endemic to the South Kalimantan province to try. Fortunately, we were working in the same government office as Bang Herry (AIYEP Alumni 2004), who was always teaching us new and interesting things about South Kalimantan and even treated us to a delightful lunch one afternoon.
I also got to live out my dreams of being a (temporary) tradie, doing physical work, having gorengan (basically the Indonesian version of a Chiko Roll) on our smoko, with an early Friday knock-off to boot. In between all this, we were treated to Ellenie’s Banjarbaru-wide famous passionfruit butter, went on crime scene investigating walks, became acquainted with the Red Spinach plant and shared our knowledge of Saman dance and yoga with our colleagues.
Don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but I definitely think we won the workplace lottery!