No, I have not abandoned this blog. I’ve been on a long journey….a long and arduous journey deep into the lush, green, forest-festooned, natural-resource-rich interior of East Kalimantan.
Well….by ‘long’, I mean 7 days. And by ‘arduous’, I mean ‘sitting on my butt on a plane that flew me and two friends to Balikpapan, several cars that drove us from Balikpapan to the capital city of the province Samarinda, and from Samarinda to the small seaside town of Bontang, then back from Bontang to Balikpapan’. I also sat on my butt in many other places: on the back of motorcycles driven by kind people willing to shuttle a young, unimportant researcher around Samarinda and Bontang to meet various writers on the East Kalimantan literary scene, and inside the houses and offices of kind writers willing to talk to a young, unimportant researcher about the contemporary East Kalimantan literary scene.
My reward from this trip undertaken for the purposes of preliminary research? New friends in Kaltim (‘Kalimantan Timur’ or ‘East Kalimantan’) where once I had no friends; new knowledge gained about the literary goings-on of Kaltim where once there was no knowledge; and a giant box of books written by and about Kaltim literature–gifts from the boundlessly gracious writers and figures involved in the literary scene in Kaltim.
The most astonishing thing is that three weeks before this trip, I knew nobody in Kaltim at all. Also, I knew nobody who knew anybody in Kaltim who might help me with my research on Kaltim literature. Then, as you may recall, I received a single response from a single writer to whom I had ‘cold-emailed’: Triwahyuni Rahmad. And then she made some calls to friends and put me in touch with a writer who’s been key in promoting the Kaltim literary scene in recent years: Amien Wangsitalaja. And after meeting him and his wife Fitri several times in Yogyakarta, where they reside for the present, he kindly presented me with many books and asked friends in Kaltim to provide guidance and arrange meetings with other writers.
And before I knew it, I had more interesting writers to meet and more information to digest and more poems and short stories and novels and articles to read than I could handle. Written works that would be unbelievably difficult to obtain and process outside of Indonesia.
Many, many thanks to all those whom I got to meet in Kaltim. Your kindness, helpfulness, and openness was very, very much appreciated! This is the beginning, God willing, of a beautiful research project.