My internship at the farmer organisation SPPQT in Salatiga, Central Java is heading towards its last month. The past two months have been an exciting experience of getting to know a new business culture and exploring a new country in all its beauty and cultural depth.
Working together with SPPQT was very pleasant as Indonesians are very kind people. I can tell stories after stories about being invited to stay at colleagues home, finding food that tingle the senses and defy explanation; being asked to give a motivational talk in front of a class of excited school children; spending the weekend visiting a thousand year old temple only to end up being ambushed by a group of curious students who wanted to have their picture taken with me! I can go on forever but I will end by saying that this exposure to a culture that is different from mine will be a treasure that I cherish forever.
In saying all the above, I must also be honest and admit that exposure to a different culture will also at times leave me confused and lost. My assignment is to help SPPQT set up a membership database and to explore ways for them to increase their membership commitment. A seemingly straight-forward if not easy task. Yet the work culture difference between my Dutch-German, results driven style and the Indonesian laidback approach still means there are countless of times where I recognise the slow pace of work, the misunderstanding and miscommunication, order of priority, the lack of sense of urgency and the overall drive to get things done. In these moments, I feel tempted to lash out and point out the dire situation of the farmer association and their desperate need to get things done immediately. On the other hand, however, I get to realize that there is a bigger picture at play; that SPPQT is an entity trying to establish itself as a farmers advocate in a complicated landscape where agriculture and politics coexist. I can proudly say that my colleagues are all passionate for the farmers and the visions they fight for and yet often good intention alone is not enough to sort the problems that plague the Indonesian agricultural sector.
Still, in the end I have reasons to hope. With my database almost completed, staff being trained on how to utilise the database and plans to increase the membership commitment nearing its final stage, I hope to have given SPPQT the tools they need to accomplish their goals. I hope my stay in Central Java – brief as it may be – will have given SPPQT some exposure to new ideas, approaches and ways of doing things. I will soon leave this country, taking home with me some memories that I will carry for a lifetime but I do hope that I will also leave something in this country that will bring them into all they can be.
Sampai jumpa dan teruslah berkarya, Salatiga!
Eva Gerth, intern at Agriterra