|A from-scratch chocolate-coffee birthday cake!|
My big day was a Wednesday, clinic was busy and the morning flew by. Little did I know, however, that Jacquelyn, unmoved by the power failure and gas shortage the night before, had returned home to spend the morning in the kitchen. After lunch she reappeared, with a huge chocolate cake, candles, and accompanied by the full ASRI staff in song. Mixed with coffee as well as chocolate, it fed the whole group and powered us through a hectic afternoon.
I was horribly wrong in thinking that was the end to the celebration. The staff couldn't resist honoring me with a traditional Indonesian birthday surprise. At the end of the day, as I sat on the front porch of the clinic, peacefully watching the late afternoon light and welcoming the cool evening breeze, Etty and others quietly assembled behind me. Before I could jump up I had a raw egg dripping off my head and a face full of flour. I spread the love and only a few escaped without needing a change of clothes. As I rode my bike to the beach to wash off, I was greeted with laughs and "selamat ulang tahun - happy birthday" by many of the townspeople I passed.
|Nur, Wil, Etty, Arta, Carla, Hari, and Jimmy, after his second cake of the day.|
|En route to Tanjung Puting National Park|
|Enjoying a cup of coffee and morning shower.|
|Back on our feet, wondering what awaits us in the forest.|
|Stopping to ask directions.|
|Biggest male of the trip.|
|Traffic on the path to the feeding station.|
|Kids don't mess around waiting to be fed.|
|Siswi, welcoming newcomers to Camp Leakey (and inspecting all craft for bananas)|
|Siswi wouldn't let us go without a good belly drag|
|Proboscis monkey in flight.|
In addition to being a fun and memorable birthday weekend, this forest showed us why we are here. Borneo used to be covered in forest like this, with apes and birds and trees and medicinal plants and indigenous culture that knew no risk of extinction. Now it doesn't even exist in many national parks, whose borders are unmarked and resources pillaged to earn more than it costs to protect them. It's been such a privilege to work with an organization that not only recognizes this, but has a vision to offer a much different alternative. Spending a birthday with the dedicated staff of this organization couldn't have been more special, even if it was a little messy.
|Sunset in Tanjung Puting|