Saturday, October 31, 2009

Just a little update

Ever have that feeling where whatever you do at work is the last thing you want to do when you go home at night? If you're in school it might be reading? If you work in an office it might be working on  the computer. Well for me home is hotels at the moment and work is anything involving reading and writing, really trying to keep track of anything, so forgive the lack of posts, I'll see what I can do about picking it up.

So let' see, I left the states a little over 2 weeks ago now and things have been moving along quite well. This week the research team  (3 national consultants) and I headed to Bireuen, which is about 4 hours away from Banda Aceh, where I'm based. We got to go out to villages, talk to people there about the programs and hear about the changes that have occurred since the tsunami. Many of the villages in Bireuen were actually far enough inland so they weren't affected, but 30 years of conflict leading up to the peace agreement that was signed after the tsunami left their communities in almost equivalent ruin, with schools and health centers burned and communities afraid to send their children to school and the like. I'm amazed by how much progress has been made, and by the fact that a severe natural disaster managed to bring an end to such a long civil war. From what I've heard, after so much devastation from the tsunami, neither side could go on the way they had and a peace agreement that gave Aceh a relative degree of autonomy was arranged. Given all the classes and degrees and theories about how peace is brokered, what does Aceh tell us? It doesn't necessarily tell us that those things don't work, but rather than sometimes it takes something shocking and out of the ordinary for fighting groups to stop and agree to peace. It seems like real lasting peace is so hard to achieve, that it's really a wonder that it appears to have succeeded here.

So back to it then. Village visits have been fun, but a bit trying at times because I don't speak Bahasa (Indonesian) or Acehnese (local language) so I try to participate, but also spend a lot of time looking at pades and watching people harvest rice, and trying to find shade to hide in.  The work is coming along well, although it's a lot to wrap my head around. But one of the senior researchers is here now and he's a very big picture guy so it's great to see what he thinks of all the community ranking exercises and interviews we've done.  So back to the field for a week tomorrow, off to Lhoeksamawe and Aceh Utara and I'll be back to Banda Aceh (and maybe heading to Sebang over the weekend!).  It's about 5-6 hours to get out there so I'll have some deep thoughts for my next post. Hope everyone's having a great Halloween and thanks for staying in touch!

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