As I’m sitting here on my four hour layover in Hong Kong on my way home, I’m realizing something: I officially went to Asia for the first time. I never thought this was going to happen anytime soon, but it did. It’s almost surreal. Incredible. Too good to be true. What better way to spend it than taking pictures and chasing light all over Indonesia. This is a memoir. A recount. A passage into what I saw and felt. This was my journey and I want to share it with you.
Since this is my first blog post on here, I suppose I should introduce myself, right? My name is George Nelson. I’m a native to Miami, FL and I’m a photography student in Chattanooga, TN. This was my second time interning with Digital Paradigm (DP) and shooting for the award-winning humanitarian TV show “Missions Today” that they produce.
Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when Bryan told me that we were going to Indonesia. Last year, I had the chance to visit Colombia with DP. However, I had been to South America before, so this was a whole different ball game to me. When he said “bro, we’re going to Indonesia”, I was pumped. This was literally on the other side of the world, 12 hours ahead, in a totally different culture. Growing up in Miami, you get to see hints of all the different Hispanic cultures, but never an Asian culture. I knew I was in for a ride and it was going to be a long one.
This is how the itinerary went: Miami – Los Angeles – Tokyo – Hong Kong – Denpasar – Manado. The total travel time was about 36 hours (including layovers). Oh, we also had this weird 45 minute layover where we got off at Ujung Pandang to get another boarding pass in order for us to get to Manado from Denpasar. That threw us off a bit, but it all worked out. When we got to Manado, it was time to get to work. You see, DP had filmed in the city and the surrounding areas three years ago. This time around, we wanted to make an episode following up on local stories and what had progressed in the last few years.
We geared up and headed out to to shoot. The sites were usually one to two and a half hours away so we had to travel quite a bit. We went to an orphanage, got soaked by a blow hole while trying to get some b-roll (frying one of our cameras and an iphone because of the salt water. R.I.P.), followed up with two couples we had met three years ago, got to film some incredible aerial scenery with the DJI Inspire 1, saw some kids break down some beats by beatboxing and singing, rode on the backs of motorcycles to get some shots, met with a few of the local leaders in the area, and tried some incredible food and coffee. All of this in the span of two and a half weeks!
One unique experience was the coffee! In Indonesia, they have this coffee called Luwak. A Luwak is a type of monkey that eats the coffee beans off of the trees in Indonesia, digests it, and poops it out! Then they take the digested coffee bean, clean it, roast it, and make coffee out of it. Sound weird, right? I thought to myself “why would I drink something like that”? However, when our local driver took us to the coffee shop, they brought out a bunch of samples for us to try. Slightly hesitant at first, I tried the Luwak coffee, and to my surprise I was impressed how good it was! It was a rich and full of flavor. Okay, okay, sometimes I could be a coffee snob because c’mon, who doesn’t enjoy a good cup of home grown coffee (hipster maybe)? All of that aside, it was really good. However, I will say that it is probably the most expensive coffee to purchase. One bag of 22 grams costs 1,000,000 rupia – that’s $75 in American currency. Incredible coffee, but so expensive!
Most of our time was spent in Tomohon, a small town in the mountains right outside of Manado. It was the home of our host, Harke Mondolang. I can’t tell you how grateful we were to have this guy help us on this trip. He would travel two hours every day just to meet us at the hotel in the morning, only to take us back up the mountain so we could film at different sites. Harke was a very helpful translator as well. He even arranged to have a few locals drive us around because driving in Indonesia was no joke (I mean it. They don’t play around in these parts). Such a quality person with a big heart, who was willing to sacrifice his time to help us. He arranged all of the local interviews and helped us locate the specific areas we needed to film. Thank you, Harke.
Down below is a picture of Gideon. This little guy was hanging out in the background with his guitar while we were taking pictures with Harke. All of a sudden started playing it. Not only was he playing the guitar well, he then started singing, and in key! This little five year old prodigy immediately grabbed our attention. Arody and I got to it quick, with audio and a camera and started recording. He sang at the top of his lungs so loudly that all of the surrounding neighbors came to listen too.
Among the listening neighbors were these boys on their bikes. I could tell that these were the cool kids of the neighborhood. The light just so happened to look incredible right then since we were right in the middle “golden hour”. So without any hesitation, I took a picture of these homies on their bikes, mean muggin’, lookin’ cool and looking off into the distance. I just loved their reactions when I put the camera up. They immediately posed and were ready for the shot. It was almost second nature. They just love the camera!
I could go on and on about my time in Indonesia, but then I’d probably write a small book. Lol! These are memories I thankfully was able to capture and will always cherish. It was definitely a trip for the books. Thanks for another great trip, DP!
P.S. Oh, I almost forgot, we managed to get a running man challenge in! Who gets to say that they did the running man challenge in Indonesia? Lol!