Destination 5, 6 and 7: Environmental Justice, Skagen Summer Lab 2017 and Jakarta, Indonesia

I fail to start this blog post with a quote, simply because I could not find a suitable one. When I started this blog, I had the ambition of writing something for it every week. This quickly turned into once every two weeks, to once every memorable activity and now I find myself writing about three memorable activities in one post. I hope it suffices to say that this is, partly, due to the fact that I am quite busy (a lousy excuse, because aren’t we all…?), but also because I am just so happy at the moment and do not often feel any lost moments where I would just like to sit down and write! I love doing this PhD, it’s busy, but it’s a great and rewarding experience. I love living in Denmark and the people that I have met since I moved here, and I love living in my new home in Roskilde (I moved here from Copenhagen in May!).

However, this blog is about my PhD, so let me start out with telling what I have been up to since my short trip to Aarhus University in May.  In June, I followed a PhD course on Environmental Justice (Destination 5) which discussed the intimate relationship between environment and social difference. This is not exactly my research topic, but people at my own research department organized the course and they encouraged me to sign up, because it was going to be great! They did not disappoint! I learned so much and felt rejuvenated after discussing both the academic and activist side of environmental justice questions. As an academic field, environmental justice examines how environmental inequalities arise and are maintained. As a field of activism, environmental justice has become a focal point for different advocacy groups aiming to contribute to both environmental and social change. As such, this PhD course did not just teach me a lot about theories of social sciences, it also helped me to become more conscious of the contested concept of justice and, as a bonus, I met a lot of new people interested in the same research topics and with the same life-views as myself. PhD courses are not just great learning environments; they are also a great way to meet like-minded people!

Only one week after I finished the Environmental Justice PhD course, which took place in Copenhagen (the office next to mine in fact) and, therefore, close to home, it was time to pack my bags to go on the Rule and Rupture Summer Lab 2017 (Destination 6). In total, there were 15 of us going to Skagen, the most northern tip of Denmark and continental Europe, to stay at a beautiful retreat called Klitgården. Klitgården is six hours by train from Copenhagen. It used to be a summerhouse for the Danish Royal Family and has been turned into a great place for a work get-away. It was our research project’s very first summer lab, intended to get some space and time for reading and writing and to read the papers of other people in my research team, comment on other people’s papers and get great feedback on your own work. These brainstorm sessions were very fruitful and certainly gave me a lot to think about. However, they were also painstakingly hard to follow at certain moments, because my lord, the people I work with are so extremely smart that I felt dumb at the best of times. I have a lot to learn and read. Nevertheless, the people around me were supportive and especially my walks in the beautiful surroundings of Skagen, with my new friend Jesse, really helped to get my head around everything that I am doing with my research project.

During this time in Skagen, I also got to know my colleagues a little bit better and I am pleased to say that I consider them my friends more than colleagues now. We went to the utmost northern tip of Denmark together, where the waves of Skagerrak and Kattegat meet and collide into each other. I believe it was a very special place and a great moment to share. In addition, we went swimming in the sea together (the water was extremely cold), had a picnic, went for walks, and picked chanterelles that were growing wild in the forest, had a BBQ and just chilled a lot.  Skagen, Klitgården, we will be back!

This brings me to my 7th Destination, which was a little bit further from home: Jakarta, Indonesia! Only two-and-a-half weeks after I got back from Skagen, during which my sister and my parents visited me in Denmark (though at separate times) it was time to pack my bags again and go on a trip for 7 weeks. As it is, I am writing this blog post only 6 days into my exploratory field visit and study exchange to Indonesia! At the moment, I am sitting in my Kost in Jakarta, where I lived just one-and-a-half year ago during my internship at the Dutch Embassy here. It has been a great experience to be back here. I met my old friends and some new ones and finally got to meet with my aunt (not really my aunt but the niece of my grandma’s best friend and close family friend) Erlina, who lives in Bogor. I went to visit her for a day by public train, where people were laughing because there was a ‘bule’ (a common term to describe foreigners) on the train! This, apparently, doesn’t happen that often. I was grateful to my friend Indra, who works at my kost, that he took me to the train, because I wouldn’t have had a clue what to once I got there and how to get to Bogor!

Once in Bogor, my aunt and her husband took me to the tea plantation in Puncak, which I have been wanting to visit for years now. We also went to visit the Kebun Raya (royal gardens), a beautiful garden where the Indonesian version of the White House, the house of the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, is situated. For anyone visiting Indonesia, go to Bogor to see it. It’s beautiful. Unfortunately, my trip to Bogor was also a source of minor frustration as we were stuck in traffic a lot and plagued by heavy rainfall. It wasn’t until after my trip when I was back in Jakarta that Indra told me Bogor is also referred to as Kota Hujan (rain city)! I took the car back from Bogor to Jakarta with Desi, the sister of my grandma’s best friend, who, surprisingly, spoke Dutch almost perfectly. It was an enjoyable, yet long (due to traffic…), drive, during which she told me how she knew my family. It was actually quite special to learn about my own roots through these ‘strangers’, yet (extended) family.

Once back in Jakarta, I met some other friends, worked a lot and prepared for my trip to Yogyakarta, where I will be going tomorrow to follow a language course Bahasa Indonesia at the Puri Bahasa School of Indonesian. In my next blog post, which I will hopefully post next week (no promises though!), I will tell you all about how this went!