Adventures in Borneo: My Three Years Abroad

By Terri Breeden, GPOCP Development Director
It is hard to believe that I have spent the past three years living in Borneo! Leaving the comforts of home and moving to the other side of the world was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life, but I am so happy I did it. It was a whirlwind when I think back to when I was first offered the position. Within a month I had sold all of my belongings, put my keepsakes in storage, and took the long flights from the US to Jakarta, and then another two flights from Jakarta to Ketapang, West Kalimantan.
As I think back on my time here, it is hard to choose a favorite memory. I had so many adventures from trekking in the jungle, tubing down the rivers, cruising on my motorbike through small villages, and working with the different school groups. My heart is full when I reminisce about how I was welcomed into homes, people wanting to know about my life back in the US, and why I moved to West Kalimantan! One of my first and favorite memories was cruising down the river and being mesmerized by the wildlife. I saw so many macaques, hornbills, proboscis monkeys, and my first wild orangutan!
Terri’s first sighting of a wild orangutan in West Kalimantan. Photo by Erik Sulidra.
Another favorite memory is my first visit to Cabang Panti Research Station. I made the hike in with Becky Curtis (former research assistant and Assistant Manager) and Syai (lab assistant, see article below). I wore big rubber boots that were too large and too heavy for my feet so I was completely exhausted by the time I made the 14 km journey to camp. But once I reached the view of that suspension bridge, all the pain went away. The camp is nestled in the heart of Gunung Palung National Park and feels like a scene out of Swiss Family Robinson. I spent the next few days exploring the forest, enjoying the wildlife, and not wanting to go back to a world of internet, emails, and text messages.
Terri (center) with some of the researchers, managers, field assistants and national park staff during her first visit to Cabang Panti Research Station. Photo credit GPOCP.
I hope that my time with GPOCP was as beneficial to the staff and organization as it was for my own growth. Over the last few years, because of our great teamwork, GPOCP was able to make a positive impact to each of our program areas including educating over 6,000 youth and adults per year about the importance of wildlife and habitat conservation, bringing our legally protected Customary Forests total up to nearly 10,000 hectares, converting 50 illegal loggers and miners into organic farmers and artisans, and reporting on and rescuing 12 orangutans per year from dangerous situations. I have also made lifelong friends and family and we all share a special bond relating to conservation, Indonesia, and a life filled with adventure. While I am no longer physically working on the ground in Indonesia, I am happy to continue contributing to the organization through fundraising and spreading awareness. It has been quite a shock to be back in the United States… for one, everyone here keeps complaining of the heat, but to me it feels quite nice after the equatorial humidity of the tropical rainforest!
The GPOCP staff and volunteers together for a dinner. Photo credit Simon Tampubolon.
From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everyone at GPOCP, Dr. Cheryl Knott, and all of our collaborators, colleagues, and my friends in Ketapang. Indonesia will always hold a special place in my heart. So, while I may be in the US for now, I know I will be back in the future. Something about this country pulls at you and makes you come back again and again. No trip is ever the same and each one is full of new adventures!