Who are we? Friends of nature?

Season 2 Episode 5 special edition during COVID-19 pandemic

Selalu ada saja yang bisa kita temui dan pelajari saat saya berpetualang ke Taman Nasional. Jaman SMA dulu, saya dan teman-teman tergabung dalam pecinta alam Aloysius Bandung. Kita memulai ekspedisi pendakian ke Puncak Gunung Semeru dari kaki desa Ranu Pane. Waktu itu kami menginap di pondokan warung nasi goreng Pak Guru yang juga ternyata juru masak sekaligus pendeta Gereja Jawa di desa Ranu Pane. 

Perjalanan dan petualangan di taman nasional memang selalu penuh kejutan. Siapa sangka kita bertemu teman-teman pecinta alam Kanisius Jakarta di pondokan danau Ranu Kumbolo. Apalagi kejutan makin seru ketika pagi hari, kita kaget setengah mati menemukan bukit di pinggir danau diselimuti salju tipis dan kabut. Yah, salju eksis loh di Indonesia! yah, tapi itu dulu ya… 

Kita mendaki tahun 1990, persisnya 30 tahun yang lalu. Entah sekarang. 

Tradisi berpetualang dan berkunjung ke Taman Nasional terus berlanjut. Saya hijrah ke kota New York tahun 1998  dan masih tetap meneruskan tradisi ke Taman Nasional. Sebelum menikah, saya sempat mampir ke Yosemite dekat San Fransisco dan Shenandoah di Virginia, yang berdekatan dengan apartemen kakak saya yang studi di Maryland. 

Sesudah menikah, ketika anak pertama kami masih di perut, kami nekat berangkat ke negara bagian Utah untuk berkunjung ke Zion dan Bryce Canyon. Luar biasa unik dan indahnya! Tetapi yang paling menarik dan menyentuh, kita semua belajar berjanji. Berjanji? Iya begini loh maksudnya… Setiap kali ke Taman Nasional, sejak masih kecil anak saya rajin koleksi stempel dan lencana dari mereka. Stempel dan lencana ini hanya diberikan oleh petugas Taman Nasional apabila si kecil bisa menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan seputar fauna yang unik dan fenomena alam yang khas sekaligus berjanji akan satu hal. 

Kira-kira begini janjinya: “Saya Theo, berjanji untuk selalu menjaga kebersihan di Taman Nasional. Tidak membuang dan meninggalkan sampah. Memelihara kondisi vegetasi alam selama perjalanan, tidak merusak apalagi membawa pulang. Biarkanlah alam dan seisinya terjaga apa adanya sebagai sahabat dan kekayaan kita semua. Saya berjanji.”

Sayangnya ketika kita berlibur ke Indonesia dan bertualang ke Taman Nasional Komodo, sekaligus Gunung Kelimutu di Flores, kami tidak menemukan tradisi itu, apalagi ikrar janji, justru yang ada tradisi meninggalkan jejak-jejak sampah. Timbunan bungkus supermi dan sampah botol banyak ditemukan di sepanjang jalur perjalanan. Kita juga sempat ngobrol-ngobrol dengan kepala kantor Taman Nasional: “Pak, kenapa nggak dibangun visitor center dan museum mungil, supaya pengunjung-pengunjung, turis-turis asing dan anak-anak kita bisa belajar akan Komodo dan preservasi di sini?” Jawabnya si Bapak enteng “Bukan itu cara kita Pak, kita ingin taman nasional ini masih asli dan lestari, tidak perlu ada jejak-jejak peradaban manusia. Apalagi museum.” 

Di tahun ini, saat pandemik menerjang dunia, terutama di kota New York, kita pun tersenyum sekaligus marah dan sedih. Kita masih bisa tersenyum… disaat bioskop, restoran dan museum-museum tutup tanpa batas waktu yang pasti, kita masih diijinkan untuk mampir dan berjalan-jalan di taman dan hutan danau di dekat rumah. Ya kita ikut senang karena semakin banyak orang-orang yang sebelumnya tidak pernah meluangkan waktu bertemu dengan alam, sekarang terkagum-kagum dengan hijau dan birunya danau dan lembah di sekitar rumah mereka. 

Tetapi senyum itu akhir-akhir ini seringkali berubah menjadi raut muka sedih bahkan marah dan geram. Ya itu… ketika sampah gelas kertas untuk kopi berserakan di balik-balik semak, belum lagi sampah bekas masker penutup pun sekarang mudah ditemukan di jalur pendakian. Tidaklah heran… hari ini Taman-taman Nasional di seluruh negara bagian Amerika masih tertutup bagi pengunjung. Alasan yang utama memang karena adanya pandemik. Tetapi biarkan sajalah Taman-taman Nasional tutup kali ini… sebelum jadi taman sampah. 

Tutup sampai batas waktu yang tidak pasti. Ya, Ini semua kan demi kebaikan, supaya ikrar janji anak-anak termasuk Theo masih bisa dipenuhi dan tidak menjadi kompromi. Biarkan kali ini alam menarik nafas dan menjaga jarak dari kita. 

Eh ngomong-ngomong… apakah kita ini masih sahabat alam, ya?

ENGLISH VERSION

There are always new things that Henri finds and learns when he goes for an adventure to national parks. During his high school years,  he and his friends joined Aloysius’ (the name of their high school) nature lovers club in Bandung. Once, they did a climbing expedition up to Mount Semeru from the bottom of the Ranu pane village. They stayed in a modest inn that sold fried rice which belonged to the teacher of that village, who apparently was also a cook and the priest working at the Javanese church in the village of Ranu pane.

The journey and adventure of exploring national parks are always full of surprises. Who would have thought that they met with fellow nature lovers from Jakarta’s Canisius school at the Ranu Kumbolo Lake basecamp. A bigger surprise was when the next morning, they found that the hills surrounding the lake were covered by a soft layer of snow and mist. Snow does exist in Indonesia! But that was some time ago…

The hike was done in 1990, about 30 years ago. Not sure how the conditions there are like now.

The tradition of experiencing adventure while visiting national parks continued. Henri moved to New York in 1998 and continued that visiting-national-parks tradition. Before getting married, he visited Yosemite national park, located near San Francisco and also Shenandoah in Virginia, which was close to his sibling’s apartment, who was at that time studying in Maryland.

After he got married, when his wife was pregnant with their first child, they spontaneously went to Utah to visit Zion and Bryce Canyon. Those places were amazingly unique and beautiful! But the most interesting and touching part was that they learned to pledge. Pledge? This is what it means…Everytime Henri and his family went to a national park, since his son was young, he diligently collected stamps and badges from those parks. These stamps and badges were only given by the National Park rangers when his son could answer questions regarding the unique fauna and natural phenomena while promising one thing as well.

This was how the pledge went: “I, Theo, promise to always maintain the cleanliness of the national park. I will not irresponsibly throw or leave trash behind. I will nurture the natural vegetation during the journey, will not ruin or take them home. Let nature and its contents be preserved as it is as a friend and treasure for us all. I solemnly promise.”

It was such a pity that when Henri and his family went holidaying in Indonesia and seeked adventures at the Komodo National Park and Mount Kelimutu in Flores, they could not find the same tradition, let alone the pledge; what they found was actually traces of garbage everywhere. Piles of instant noodle wrappers and plastic bottles were found scattered along the way. When they talked to the Head of the Komodo National Park office, they asked “Sir, why do we not build a visitor center and a small museum so that foreigners and our children could learn about Komodo and the preservation that is being done here?”.  The head of the office answered nonchalantly “That is not the way we do things here, we want to keep this national park as undisturbed and natural as possible, no need to have traces of human civilization. Especially a museum”.

This year, when the pandemic hit the whole world, especially New York City, Henri and his family smiled but also felt angry and sad. They smiled…because as movie theaters, restaurants and museums were closed indefinitely, they were still allowed to stop by and walk in the park, forest and lake near their home. Felt happy as there were more people who previously never spared their time to experience nature, have now been entranced by the blue and green beauty of the lake and valley near their homes.

But that smile, lately has turned into a frown, followed by anger and fury. That is when…coffee paper cups became litter behind the bushes, they even found discarded face masks on hiking trails. Not a surprise…today the national parks across the states in America are still closed for the masses. The main reason is due to the pandemic. But it is a good thing that they stay close this time…before they become a trash park.

Closed indefinitely. This is all for the greater good, so that the children’s pledge, including Theo’s, can still be fulfilled and not compromised. Let nature take a breather and stay at a safe distance from us.

By the ways…are we still nature’s friends?

This is a story from Henricus Kusbiantoro. He was born and grew up in Bandung, Indonesia. He is a creative director, brand and graphic designer based in New York who in his spare time loves to take his wife and son to go hiking and camping each year as a cherished family tradition at the national parks in the country and around the world.

On behalf of speak indo podcast team, we’d like to give a special thank you to Henri who has kindly given his contribution to our new design of logo and look.

VOCABULARIES

Kejutan: Surprise

Setengah mati: Very, much

Tapi itu dulu “ya”: But that was then (the “ya” is a slang to emphasize that point)

Eksis:  Exist

Berjanji: Promise

Ikrar janji:  Pledge

Supermi: A brand of Indonesian instant noodle

Raut muka: Face profile

Geram: Furious

Kompromi: CompromiseNgomong-ngomong: By the way

Eh : the “eh” is a slang to get someone’s attention.

The Indonesian language used here is in the daily-conversation format, that has influences from the local culture and custom. Should you have questions on the more formal version, please consult with your guru Bahasa Indonesia.