Timbulsloko, Part One

Timbulsloko Team

I think we can all agree that our planet isn’t doing frantically well.  The beautiful fact that putting away the humans for a bit has brought dolphins to the canals of Venice, boars roaming the streets of Florence, and lower pollution levels than we’ve seen for decades, well, it might indicate that we are the problem.  We are learning that we can change, we must change, and we will make it happen.


Alternatively, we can adapt.  If there’s one thing that’s helped us humans conquer the world, it’s being able to adapt to most situations, from -50ºC in my ex’s heart and parts of Siberia, to +50ºC in the summer of Saudi Arabia – you’ll likely find a human surviving, even thriving.  As part of this, the UN has an awesome department called the Global Commission on Adaptation, which is there to help find out how communities around the world are taking this new reality and adapting to it.  Hopefully their work will help other countries adapt to this new reality too.

My first job for the GCA, commissioned by the lovely Media971 in Dubai, was to fly to the Cook Islands and see what the fishermen are up to around there.  My second one was for the lovely people in Timbulsloko, in the centre of the island of Java in Indonesia.

Filmed by Rupert Chesman, edited by Paul Mongey, Produced by Nick Walsh at Media 971.

In July 2019 I spent six happy weeks in Bali with my little 2-year-old son, with wifey only able to join us for 1 of them due to work and life commitments.  Men looking after their children isn’t a hugely common thing in Balinese culture, and frankly in most other cultures, and quite a significant amount of my time was explaining how my boy was fed, clothed and entirely alive after so many weeks without Mum.  For the record, we had a lot of fun together even though we were both missing Mummy and I turned 40.  But the other thing I had when I was in Bali was quite a lot of spare time.

I’m politely known amongst my friends and colleagues as a language freak.  I speak a lot of different languages to varying degrees of skill, from pretty solid French and Japanese, down to really quite poor levels of lots of others.  I’d say I know 100 words in maybe ten languages, have a pretty solid knowledge of 9 alphabets and wouldn’t starve in a good chunk of the world.  Japanese helped, it has 4 alphabets to start with.

I decided when I was in Bali that it would be a good time to put this to the test, and see whether I could actually learn a language quickly, or if I’m just spreading a lot of BS and my imposter syndrome is entirely accurate.  Yes, I am someone who learnt Estonian to annoy a friend, but I also still think that prepositions are perfectly fine to finish a sentence with.  My challenge to myself was to learn Indonesian in the 6 weeks I was in Bali, with 3 weeks in Sydney to prepare.

I’ll be honest about the results.  I could chat with taxi drivers pretty solidly and get myself around the Bali healthcare system without too many challenges, but there’s no way I could say I speak Indonesian that well – but given that Indonesia are our neighbours to the north, I thought there would be a slight chance I’d use it in the future.  It slightly surprised me to get the call to go there not long after landing back home in Sydney.

Two weeks after leaving Bali airport, there I was again, transferring this time on my way to Timbulsloko, which neither you nor I have heard of.  It was a flight to Semarang airport, then an hour-long and bumpy ride in a car, followed by a moped, to get there.  And the locals were absolutely lovely, welcoming me into their home to stay the night, feeding me some lovely dinner, and making sure I had some sort of night’s sleep in the hot autumn air.

The filming involved a boat, bamboo, and a whole load of mud.