Friday, September 13, 2013

Tenaga Surya (Solar Energy) in Tano Batak

The Boat Budaya relies on solar energy devices. When the sun sets and the boat is not moving, there is no electricity (the generator only works when the boat is moving). That is when we blow up the Luminaid cushions and place them beside us as we eat so that we can see the food in the pot. At night we dangle one or two from the roof or place it on the floor so that there is a bit of ambient light if anybody has to get up in the night.

Sunning the Luminaids while waiting for the Boat Budaya
at Tabo Cottages (Photo by MJA Nashir)

Our Boat Captain, Mr. Siregar, is very fond of the lights. He and his two assistants always borrow one at night so that they have one in the bridge where they sleep. Recently, the captain asked me if he could have one. I told him about our goal of sharing information about solar energy and how it could transform Tano Batak. The Captain was enthusiastic. He wants to share the information with his future passengers and perhaps even order a few more. We are all dependent on our Luminaids. The handy handle allows us to carry it easily and hang it everywhere, including the door of the toilet.

Yesterday the Regent of Samosir Island visited us and I showed him our array of solar equipment. He, too, was immediately taken with the practical value of it. There are parts of Samosir where there is still no electricity and solar energy would alleviate many problems. I gave him one of our Luminaids. The reporters who had accompanied him on his visit to the Boat Budaya all immediately wanted one as well.

We use the WAKAWAKA lights regularly as well. The WAKAWAKA light is more powerful than that of the Luminaid, so we use it differently. It is useful as a flashlight to light up a path in the night or to read. Sometimes we fix our Wakawakas in the roof of the boat and let the light shine down on what we are doing.

I am struck by how technically oriented Febrina is and how quickly she adapts to life with solar energy, how experimental she is. She tries to charge two cell phones at once, tried to charge her camera battery, tries to charge while the solar cell is sunning. She is never without her light. Last night, I noticed that she had accidentally pressed against the on-button in the night in her sleep, and I felt like a caring Mom when I turned it off for her gently so that her sleep would not be disturbed and her batteries would not run down.

It is the rainy season, so we have to be careful to grab the sunlight when we can. It makes us conscious of the presence of the sun. We need a safe place to lay out our solar cells and we do not have such a place on our boat.
Yesterday, when the crowds of photographers climbed aboard to witness and document the boat races, we had to forego our sunlight because we did not want to risk losing our solar equipment. The hardship this entails is that we can’t charge our cell phones. In the back of my mind I am designing a Boat Budaya that will better accommodate our needs. It will have a protected place atop the roof where we can sun our cells. And perhaps that part of the roof will be made of glass so that we can tell at a glance if we have anything charging.

I had brought a Wakawaka for myself on this journey, but I gave it to Pak Jerry when we were still in Jakarta. As a driver, he immediately knew that it was indispensable for him. He can charge it on the dashboard while driving and he has it at night when he has to guard the car, sleep under awkward circumstances where there is no electricity, or charge his cell phone. Really, the instruments are ideal for Indonesian chauffeurs.

Ompu Okta was enamourned of the Luminaid. She loves its soft light. She has a bare lightbulb hanging above her loom at home and it bothers her eyes when she weaves at night. Time and again she asked to me to give her a Luminaid and I promised that I would give her one when we visit in her kampong.

Beyond that, I have given one to Pak Dian Sidauruk. He invited us to his home in Simanindo two days ago and impressed us with his lifestyle. He had chosen to make his home a model of tidiness, cleanliness and efficiency. He lives in a Batak house and has outfitted it so that it has the conveniences of a modern home. He is a remarkable man and immediately saw the benefits of solar energy lamps. He works with NGOs and is a leader. I know that he will make good use of the lamp and will share his knowledge of it with everybody who visits.

MJA Nashir took this photograph in Medan when we showed our
 film at the Suarasama Culture House. The luminaid 'cushions' 
are on the floor in front of our posters for the Pulang Kampung projects. 
The final scenes of Rangsa ni Tonun are displayed on the screen. 
The cushions provided just the perfect amount of light for watching the film.

I like selecting the places where I will donate the lights. Donating the lights is like donating my books and our film. They are seeds. We plant them and we hope they will grow. I think of Dirk and Sineke van Uitert back home, who donated these lamps. I know that they would agree with my selections. I also think of the idealist, Wibo Teerlink, who introduced me to the lamps and who sold them to us for a good price. I wish that they could all be with us. They would feel proud and fulfilled to see the good use to which their kind donations are being put.

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