At first it was very strange with the dodgy toilets, cold showers, eating rice three times a day and living in makeshift tents. The only white woman with lots of young Indonesian volunteers, my Indonesian was almost non existent and only a few people spoke English. My life and my outlook completely changed and I am grateful to the people of Java for helping me to find the peace and contentment within myself that I thought I had lost forever.
The Indonesians are very respectful even when this strange Western woman was doing things they could not begin to understand. Unable to call me by my first name as that is considered disrespectful if you are older than them, which I obviously was! So I became Miss Valerie or MaMa wherever I went.
The kindergartens where I went initially were all held in tents as the old buildings had been destroyed. We supplied the books, pencils and all the craft materials has everything had gone, I worked there everyday between 8 and 10, hoping to bring a little joy back into the children’s lives.
Then we would return to camp for more rice and load up the land rover with the donated tents, food, vitamins etc, to go to the villages further up the mountain.