I have been bouncing around Indonesia quite a bit recently, as anyone who follows my Instagram might have noticed. Most of these visits have been for research, but a couple have also been to assist with the WORDS Competitions at certain schools. One of the sites I visited for WORDS Competitions was Bandar Lampung, at the very southern tip of Sumatra.
Bandar Lampung is a medium-sized, extraordinarily diverse city, and I wish I had had more than a few days there. The driver who took me around was a fountain of information about the history and politics of the area (elections for a new governor had just occurred before I arrived, so the latter was a very hot topic at the time), and he would pipe up every time we entered a new part of the, letting me know if the population there was majority transmigrasi, Chinese-Indonesian, orang Palemband (the people of Palembang, a region north of Bandar Lampung), or one of the ethnic groups native to the region. I learned later, while visiting Museum Bandar Lampung, that while the city encompasses the whole area now, there is apparently still to this day a significant difference in the traditions of those ethnic groups who live close to the sea, compared to those who are from the hills.
Bandar Lampung is very much situated in a beautiful space. With the mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other, it really has the best of both worlds for anyone interested in escaping city life. My driver told me that a large number of tourists from Jakarta frequent Bandar Lampung on the weekend, and that most of them go to Bandar Lampung for the snorkeling and diving near the many small islands right off the coast. However, as I was there for tugas (an assignment, or work), that was not something I planned for. But the teachers at the schools I went to happily took me to more in-land tempat wisata (tourism spots), such as the butterfly garden and the deer sanctuary, and, especially after having spent this grant period in Jakarta, I was so thankful that they took the time to accompany me to such beautiful green spaces.
I was also lucky enough to be in Bandar Lampung during a festival budaya (cultural festival), and was invited to go by the ETA placed there. where I got to see beautiful examples of tapis (a fabric native to this region), taste local kopi (coffee), and watch part of a SMP (middle school) traditional dance competition. This was my favorite part of the whole trip. I have always loved dance competitions in Indonesia, but have not attended one since I stopped being an ETA. Being able to see dances from all over the region (some students were from as far as Palembang), and performed by such talented students, was such a privilege.
The hospitality of the teachers and the ETA of Bandar Lampung meant I got to see much more of the city than I ever thought I might on a mere work trip. I am ever so thankful, and hope that someday I will be able to return.
 Java is the most populated island in the world, and over population was such a problem that as one point the Dutch Colonial Government (and the Indonesian Government later continued this program) moved the people from entire villages on Java to other places around Indonesia. Or at least, that’s the official narrative. Many people say that the real goal of the program was to spread Javanese culture, as it was seen as superior to the culture of the people who already lived in those areas: these villagers were to integrate into the surrounding community, and instill Javanese language and values, replacing that of the people native to the region. If this was, in fact, the goal, it wasn’t particularly successful. Many transmigrasi sites have become very insular communities, which maintain their own language and culture, without necessarily integrating fully. Opinions abound regarding these communities, both from those who live near them, and those who live (or lived) in them, and it has been a fascinating topic to explore since coming here.