Garik Sadovy is an alumnus of both the 2012 and 2015 CLS Indonesian programs in Malang, Indonesia. He is currently an incoming PhD candidate in oceanography and climate sciences at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego. When he’s not doing research, he likes to read, sing, dive, and write Indonesian poetry. He’s a Texas native, has spent many years in North Carolina, has lived in Poland, the Philippines, and Indonesia, and has traveled many other places – but his most significant culture shock was when he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.
When I first went to Indonesia in 2011, I was interested in “biopiracy,” the claiming of economically valuable biological substances without any kind of compensation to the local communities that interact with these materials. Not only is Indonesia a key place to study biopiracy, it is also a strong developing economy open to new technology and a critical place for climate change study. One of my goals is to improve climate change resiliency, and Asia and the maritime continent are going to be crucial for understanding and adapting to the Earth’s future climate systems. I knew that if I wanted to work deeply and long-term in Indonesia, I would have to learn the language.
Learning more than language
CLS is one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever undergone and it taught me self-discipline in a way I had never before been taught. I came out much more confident in my abilities and in myself. In just two months, my first CLS in Indonesia took my language skills from competent to a point where I could experiment with linguistic subtlety. This was important for me professionally: when I returned to Indonesia the following year to work for the Center for International Forestry Research, I ended up leading a large group in the field, and I could never have managed the group without that sense of linguistic and cultural nuance.
An experiment in interpersonal closeness
This past year, I brought along a self-translated copy of all of the questions from ###i
A land of constant surprise
I’ve lived in Indonesia for a while, but it is a land of constant surprise. This past year at CLS, we visited a spiritual site in East Java that I had been to before on numerous occasions. I thought I knew everything there was to know: people come to the site, make offerings, wait for leaves to fall off of this special tree, and obtain good luck. But this year, I learned the history of these beliefs, which is tied up in the socioeconomic history of different races living in East Java. It was a wonderful surprise – one more piece in the eternal puzzle of Indonesia.
A universal language
There was a group of language partners at the CLS Indonesian institute that loved getting together in the evenings and making music – with guitars, with voices, and with whatever could be found around the building. These were times of bonding, of relaxation, and of exhilaration. Indonesia is such a weird and diverse place, and it all comes out in music. I’ve done my best to replicate both the practice of making music and the feeling of it in the USA, but always fall short.
In a word…
My favorite word is medok. It’s an adjective used to describe a local accent, usually used to tease someone if they have a colloquial way of pronouncing something. (When you say the word, you have to say it in the local accent, which makes it very fun to say.) You might assume it’s mean, but the couple of times that I have used it, everyone laughed uproariously!
If you had one day in Indonesia…
There are some hot springs to the north of Malang that I would really recommend that everyone see and enjoy. They are great in the day, but at night, they’re magical.
Words of wisdom
Indonesia is a place very concerned with the present. I was frustrated for a long time during my first year in Indonesia because I kept comparing things to what I had known from my past. Eventually I learned to surrender my expectations and embrace curiosity in what was around me. This was critical for my success as a part of the CLS program, and one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.