August 17 is the sacred day for Indonesians. Back in 1945, it was the day that we finally free from colonialism. We did still have some problems afterwards, but the Independence Day marked the bravery of our national heroes and all Indonesian people to speak up and to fight for the freedom. Today, in all the cities, towns, and villages, people celebrating the Independence Day. Flags are everywhere and games are played.
17 August 2001, I was in Way Canguk Research Station in Lampung, Sumatra, setting up the radio telemetry for my Great argus work. I only had 9 months of field work and July-October is the breeding time of this bird in Sumatra where the adult male spend more time in their dancing ground to pronounce his territory and to call the females nearby. I couldn’t miss a day without field work and a nice dinner with barbecued chicken and field-made pizza really made the day. Both were carried out and prepared with determination. Four years later, I spent 5 weeks of climbing up the hills of Lambusango forest in Buton and 17 August commemorated the last day of my field work that year. I walked out of the forest with proud of finishing my own set up work. What a day!
A job becomes responsibility when we signed up for it. Most field works in Indonesia are in international environment with an expat boss and subordinate local staff. Some of us are lucky when we are able to set up and lead our own project. When we work in the field, we practically don’t have standard day-offs following the Roman calendar. Weather is unpredictable and we are bound by limited budget, deadlines, and unpredictable behavior of the wildlife that we observed. The field, the nature has managed us. And yet, the celebration will still be there and we always make it happen even if it is just a simple dinner, a walk out of the forest, or just a nice talk in the porch.
Some surveys need to be done, phenology cannot be missed but still August 17 means a celebration, from the remote places in Lampung to a village of Labundo-bundo in Buton, Southeast Sulawesi. Whether they are a low-paid porter, a field technician, or manager, this day commemorates the courage to speak for themselves and to free them from any boundary. Let the games begin!