Throughout my grant as the Researcher/Coordinator, I had the opportunity to visit PangkalPinang twice, once for a site visit (folks from AMINEF tend to visit a selection of schools during the first half of the ETA grant) and once for a research observation and interview.
PangkalPinang is, to me, the quintessential small Indonesian city. Warungs line the streets, and mosques, churches, and temples crop up every few hundred meters, depending on the part of town you are in (PangkalPinang is actually a fairly diverse city). School children cycle past in their uniforms, while women and men settle into front porches, street corners, and kitchens to gossip and perform their “daily activities” (as the Indonesian English Curriculum would tall these tasks). I have a special fondness this type of Indonesian city: not overwhelming like some of the crowded larger cities, but not as potentially claustrophobic of the smaller villages. There is something about this kind of city that just makes me feel… comfortable, and I was happy I was able to go to the PkP (as it has been nicknamed by ETAs) their twice during this year.
PangkalPinang is located on Pulau Bangka, a fairly large island which neighbors Pulau Belitung, the island probably most famous for its picturesque beaches and for being the setting of the well-known Indonesian novel Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops), a book I would recommend to anyone. Bangka itself has its own lovely beaches as a claim to fame, alongside its white pepper and… tin.
Flying into PangkalPinang, the land outside of the city seems to be covered in lakes, but in reality, these are tin mines. Mining has been a key part of the economy of this islands since Dutch Colonialism, and to a certain extent even before that. There is an entire museum in the town dedicated to the tin industry. And while some of the old mines have since become bright blue lakes that glow almost alien-like in midday sun, the tin industry in general seems to be completely contrary to the growing natural tourism many are pushing to develop on the island.
But the tourism is relatively new, and the tin industry is familiar, so it may take some time for the tourism industry to take over. But there seem to be some people who believe it is possible and are willing to work to make it so.
On the outskirts of town there is the Bangka Botanical Gardens, a wonderful place full of trails, gardens, and even some dairy cows. According to some employees I spoke to on my second visit to PangkalPinang, this entire complex used to be part of a tin mine, and was somehow reclaimed in order to become botanical gardens. If this is true, this only gives me more confidence in the future of Bangka, that the people there will protect the beautiful scenery that surrounds their towns.
Only time will tell. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to go back someday, to see for myself.