Selamat Malam dari Berastagi!
Now that the dust has settled, I felt it was time to write the first update about the trip.
So, you may or may not know this, but for those who do not, my name is Jade and I am 3rd year Ph.D. student at Oregon State University who has the incredible opportunity of studying an active volcano. That is not the only cool part. The active volcano I study is Mount Sinabung of Sumatra, Indonesia. Hence the opening line.
The following is a rundown of my first week of fieldwork:
Friday, July 27: I departed from Portland, Oregon and headed for LAX to catch a midnight flight to Singapore, Singapore. LAX is where I met up with my undergraduate field assistant, Asmara Lehrmann, who was traveling from San Antonio, Texas. Nothing too exciting happened during our layover except I walked almost a mile through LAX to get from my arrival gate to my departure gate… Once we boarded our flight Asmara and I chanted “close that door! close that door!” because we were about to be the luckiest people on the flight with two entire rows to ourselves. Unfortunately, by the time dinner was served we both had people sitting at the end of our row (sad).
Sunday, July 29: Shortly after arriving in Singapore, we were on the hunt for food. We’d barely eaten in 17 hours!! Of course, during our short stint in Singapore, I had to make sure to get a bowl of my favorite ramen, laksa!
It was just what we needed. This kicked off our 6-hour layover in Changi airport. We spent most of our time in the snooze lounge laying on these really comfortable benches and watching the airplanes go by. That afternoon, we boarded our flight to Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia and were excited to be on our way to the volcanoes. We spent our first night in Medan, allowing us the opportunity to meet with our Indonesian colleagues who are working to turn Lake Toba (Toba Caldera) into a UNESCO GeoPark. It was wonderful to get to see some familiar faces from my last trip and to meet a couple new ones! We enjoyed a wonderful feast of Sundanese food for dinner with our GeoPark friends. With full bellies, Asmara and I were falling asleep in our chairs while our dinner company discussed the upcoming GeoPark assessment of Lake Toba. Luckily for us, we had already finished eating because there were a few points where our faces would have ended up in our plates! Not too long after dinner, we said our goodbyes and headed out to rest up for another day of traveling.
Monday, July 30: We started our day with my favorite thing about being in Indonesia, REGULAR FOOD FOR BREAKFAST! I love getting to eat noodles for breakfast, yum! I also tried some new and weird fruit, a couple new favorites to add to the list. After breakfast, we said our goodbyes and headed for Berastagi. There is nothing quite like driving in Indonesian traffic…not for the faint of heart. Upon arrival, we checked into our hotel where we were greeted with a panoramic view of Sinabung and Sibayak, two volcanoes we would soon know very well. After dropping off our bags, we headed to the field to check out the roads around the volcano. The biggest concern for my fieldwork will be accessibility in this lush, tropical jungle.
While doing some quick exploration in the afternoon, our drive took us to the site of one of the more devastating lahar flows since the eruptions began in 2013. If you do not already know, a lahar is actually an Indonesian word that describes a mixture (hot or cold) of water and pyroclastic materials. This is a hazard that the volcano poses any time it rains, which is a lot in Sumatra… This lahar deposit is actually the site where the samples I have been working on the past two years were originally collected. It was eery to walk through the village on the other side of the newly formed river. These homes had clearly been lived in recently, so there was a life-like feeling to
the area, but it was deserted. We even walked through a home that was within the main path of the lahar. A pink house with mud-splattered outer walls and surrounded by boulders that do not belong. A home once loved is now filled with mud and all that remains are few pieces of furniture and a couple personal belongings left behind in a quick departure. Since this is an active hazard zone, we did not stay long. However, the deserted village on one side of the lahar deposit and the locals continuing with their daily lives on the other really hit home the importance of my work and hazard communication.