Thinking Resilience: International Conference on Regional Development and the US Election

Guest post by Sarah Eggert, University of Hawaii at Manoa Master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning 

From November 9-11, joint studio participants had the opportunity to attend the third annual International Conference on Regional Development (ICRD). The theme this year was “Enhancing Resilience: Bridging Knowledge and Policy for Cities and Regions.” Conference attendees had the privilege of hearing from Professor Felicitas Hillmann of the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Seetha Raghupathy of the World Bank’s City Planning Lab, and Professor Paul Burton of Griffith University in the opening session.


Professor Hillman shared about resilience from a migration perspective, pointing out that cities are the number one destination of migrants in today’s world. She shared initial trends from research conducted in Semarang, and emphasized the need to distinguish between people who do not choose to migrate away from a place because they feel an attachment to place compared to people who are “trapped.” Although her research in Semarang is ongoing, Professor Hillman mentioned misperceptions about resilience and migration are due to short-term thinking; a long-term perspective, focused on including socio-economic solutions in addition to technical ones is recommended. Also of note was the idea that a mobile population may in fact improve or increase resilience. Such an idea is certainly one to be researched further.

Following Professor Hillman’s discussion, Ms. Raghupathy shared a lively and inspiring presentation entitled “Realizing Resilience: Making it Happen.” In order to realize the “hopes and dreams of resilience,” Ms. Raghupathy recommended four solutions: increasing government capacity, building confidence in the private sector, improving project preparation, and addressing financing. Ms. Raghupathy encouraged the audience to approach these solutions with a collaborative spirit, working to bridge the gap between national and local government agencies. She also reminded us that it is okay to celebrate victories in improving resilience- even small ones- and to continue to dream big.


Finally, the plenary session was closed by Professor Burton, who was focused on the complex relationship between science and policy when discussing resilience. Professor Burton talked about thinking about a city “as it is, as it should be, and as it might be.”

With such a fantastic opening session, the conference was off to a great start. However, as great lessons in resilience were being shared with the audience the morning of November 9 in Indonesia, it was the end of a long day of voting in the United States for the Presidential Election. With access to WiFi provided by the conference, the Americans in the room, as well as other concerned global citizens, would refresh the electoral map on their smartphones to see the most up-to-date results. As states went from blue to red and vice-versa, the reality of how close the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was as evident as ever. As Professor Hillman was encouraging a long-term perspective, Ms. Raghupathy encouraged collaboration, and Professor Burton discussed complexity in terms of resilience in Indonesia, those at the conference dividing their attention between the conference and what was happening with the American presidential election couldn’t help but wonder if the lessons being taught might also be applicable for the next four years in the United States. As divided as the United States may be right now, it will certainly be a test in the resilience of the country to overcome such division and continue to engage in an inclusive, patient, and forward-thinking manner.




Whirlwind Tour to the World heritage sites at Borobudur and Prambanan

Blog by Rasmi Agrahari, University of Hawaii at Manoa Master of Urban and Regional Planning Student

After all of the exciting work in Semarang, we decided to make a visit to the historic nearby world heritage sites. It was an amazing opportunity for us to be able to visit both sites Borobudur and Prambanan. It was a hot and muggy day and we covered a lot of ground. Cicumambulating Borobudur was an amazing experience and were able to follow along the stories of the reliefs, which recounts the life of the Buddha. Going upwards as we encircled the structure there is a symbolism that we are heading towards nirvana. We were pleased to hear that people who work at the site are from the nearby community. Our guide, a Muslim woman, also recounted to us Buddhist philosophy, many details about the history and construction of the site, as well as the preservation efforts that have taken place here. The site was especially threatened after a volcanic eruption occurred from nearby mount Merapi, resulting in corrosive ash to be deposited here.

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After the visit to Borobudur, we went to a very nice restaurant in a village nearby Borobudur. The stupa restaurant also took from the symbolism of the nearby Borobudur site and it was a magnificent setting in the rice fields. Here we are relaxing and enjoying some of the finest Indonesian cuisine I’ve had during this trip.

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After lunch we continued on to our next destination, the ancient temple of Prambanan. Pramabanan is one of the largest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia. It was built around the 9th century. For Hindus, this place is an extremely powerful site and a rarity anywhere in the world. The temple consists of three separate sections, which pay homage to three powerful Hindu Gods. These are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer. It is amazing how majestic this site remains after over one thousand years standing, particularly as it is located nearby such intense geomorphological activity. It was especially damaged in the recent set of earthquakes in the region. There are still visible reconstruction efforts.

After visiting the temples, we headed to the nearby town of Solo to look for the local printmaking so ubiquitous in the region. We bought some batik and other souvenirs and headed back to the hotel. It was a long day on the road as these areas of central Java are about 3-4 hours drive; but, with just one day off during this studio/practicum working in Semarang we had to fit in as much as possible. We were so fortunate to visit these world heritage sites and it also afforded great team building opportunities.



A Semarang Field Trip in Three Parts: Aquifers, Upstream Areas, and Mangroves

Blog by Jessica Okamura, University of Hawaii at Manoa Master of Urban and Regional Planning Student

November 11, 2016

I am going to share a three-part story from a set of field visits we did at the end of our visit to Semarang. These visits were part of the end of the International Conference for Regional Development.

Part 1: Refreshing  RW Aquifers

The first start of the conference site visit was the aquifer system in West Semarang.  As we arrived in RW 4, we were greeted by community leaders. The community center included a sitting area and a fish pond. They welcomed us with sweet cassava, a baked coconut snack and other home made treats.

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The head of RW 4 discussed the aquifer project and system design. Aquifers consist of fish which provides nutrients for the plants, fresh water, a pump, filter and plants.  It started approximately three years ago in 2013. The founder of the project discovered aquifers on the internet.  RW 4 hosted a aquifer festival which included guests from all over Semarang who has implemented aquifer systems. Aquifers were the best option for the neighborhood due to its affordability and the amount of space needed to grow fresh vegetables.

Globally there has been a movement to have fresh organic foods.  People may not know where or how grocery store produce is grown.  The aquifers are a good way to sustainably access fresh, healthy foods. If people cannot afford pumps, they can manually scoop water to make sure the plants receive enough food resources.  The RW seems to have developed ways to make sure people are able to maintain their own systems.


After we learned about the project we started our walking tour of the different household set ups.  The founder of the aquifer had an extravagant set up with a variety of leafy greens and herbs.

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Each of the households had different designs and some had different fish.  These foods supplement the surrounding food.  There were large papaya trees, lemongrass, rice fields and chili pepper plants.  The neighborhood still has a journey to educate its residents about implementing and maintaining aquifers and the benefits of having one.  However, they have made great strides and it seems hopeful that more aquifers will be built across Semarang.


Part 2: West Semarang Pride

During the last day of the conference, we had the opportunity to spend time in West Semarang.  The trip was slightly postponed due to a landslide.  Landslides frequently occur due to the heavy rains and soil movement.  We were able to drive past the site and see the road repair crew.

The area was hilly and less developed than East Semarang.  It was refreshing to see the lush environment, farms and green space. The kelurahan with the aquifers were located high up the hill so we were able to get a new point of view of life in Semarang.


Surprisingly there were a lot of major facilities in area we drove by.  We saw two botanical gardens, the prison and a very large gated community with mansions.  There are many great things about the west side including but not limited to the hospitality of the people, the aquifer project, the beaches along the java sea, and the mangroves.  Although it was only one day, we enjoyed our time in West Semarang.


Part 3: Mangrove Surprise

The final stop on the conference field trip was the mangrove.  The project was larger than we initially thought.  The impressive scope of the mangrove impressed us all.  It seemed to go for miles.  This was the start of many surprises.

Surprise #1.  When we finally got out of the cars we were greeted by staff with hats, lifejackets and high waterproof boots.  We were going on a boat ride!  The site visit to Kemijen and the tour of the aquifer were all done by foot.  This was the first time we were going to relax and enjoy the ride.  We got dressed in our gear, divided into four boats and started our adventure.

Surprise #2. Our four boats divided into two groups. Normally we had the safety blanket of having translators and knowing who to ask questions to.  This time we had to identify the Bahasa and English speakers ourselves.  This was a great opportunity to talk to the other conference members and get to know them.

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Surprise #3.  The first group, which had all the executives and a mix of students and conference members, planted mangroves. They got the seedlings, put them in a bag with dirt and then plopped them into the ground.  The hands on experience can never be replaced.


Surprise #4. The second group went though the entire mangrove and out towards the Java Sea.  As we stepped out of the boat people without waterproof boots sank into the squishy dark mud.  The sand on shore was dark and soft but the beach was hard.  It was completely opposite of the white soft beaches of Hawaii.

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Surprise #5. The boats came back together caught fish with gill nets.  The staff got into the water and spread their net.  The fish got caught in the net and we all untangled them and out them into a mesh pack. This technique is similar to people in the Middle East and Native Americans.  The group got to take the fish home.

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Although we didn’t it eat it was the best way to end the day.  As we left cool and wet, we said goodbyes to our fishing mangrove-planting protégés.


Poverty and Vulnerability in Kemijen

Blog by Maja P. Schjervheim, University of Hawaii at Manoa Master of Urban and Regional Planning Student

Although subsidence, flooding and climate change puts the residents of Kemijen at risk, their vulnerability should not only be attributed to external climatic or internal structural and social factors. As our time in Kemijen went on it became clear that poverty was a major source of vulnerability of people in the area. This is for example illustrated by the material adaptations certain people in the area were able to make. Whereas some people in Kemijen have the economic capital and access to materials to raise their houses and improve their sanitary situation, others do not.  Those with higher adaptive capacity might not be experiencing flooding and related health issues as a major impairment to their lives anymore. On the other hand those who still have sunken houses and open disposal of wastewater have to frequently live in flooded houses and are affected by contaminated water and related health issues.


The resilience concept has been criticized for implying that adapting to disasters and climate change is an internal quality of a community, putting much of the responsibility on vulnerable communities. In Kemijen it was clear that the “internal” adaptive capacity, or at least willingness and motivation to adapt was quite strong and at times remarkable. However the socio-economic and political factors that influence their access to resources and capital often worked against their willingness to adapt. Their poverty is thus strongly linked to their vulnerability. Although flood related expenses perpetuate their poverty, economic deficiency was not caused by climatic factors per se. On the contrary poverty is for many the reason they or their family settled in the area in the first place. People with low economic capacity often settle in disaster prone areas because of low land prices and/or land vacancy.


The realization that poverty and socio-economic and political root causes is a major cause of vulnerability in Kemijen might seem obvious and source to little action. What are we going to do? Suggest that the issue of poverty and inequality should be solved? Such a suggestion would likely be met with rolling eyes signaling our naïveté. Nonetheless we cannot ignore the recognition that other shorter-term solutions within the community do not solve the broader economic factors that put these people in a vulnerable position, a position that is often inherited by the next generation. At the very least such recommendations should be coupled with efforts towards long-term changes in the macro forces that shape the socio-economic reality of residents in Kemijen as well as other groups in similar vulnerable positions. However impossible it might seem. Ignoring this would be laying an inequitable amount of responsibility on a group of people that are not merely creators of their own reality, but part of a larger system that contributes to these socio-economic pockets of vulnerability in a society.


More than just Flooding: Conceptualizing Challenges in Kemijen Using a Systems Approach


Blog by Theresa Dean, University of Hawaii at Manoa Master of Urban and Regional Planning Student

We began our adventure in Semarang by taking a transect walk through our research area – Kemijen. We quickly began to realize that Kemijen was a lively, open and friendly community that graciously welcomed us and offered to share their lives with us. Our goal was to assist in developing actionable steps to address flooding and we used the vulnerability framework as an analytical lens for understanding local challenges. We approached the issue by looking at the community’s exposure to flooding events and the sensitivity of the community affected. We also tried to understand these issues from an individual, household and institutional ability to adapt during and after a flooding event. However, as our analysis went deeper, we began to understand that the problems facing Kemijen are complex and interconnected. Flooding has been the focus of previous interventions and is clearly a major concern for all residents. However, we found that floods are exacerbated by issues of waste management, sanitation, land subsidence, and infrastructure management. After extensive interviews with residents, government agencies, and other stakeholders we determined that flooding was a result of larger interacting processes. To illustrate this point, I wish to describe a common example of flooding impacts.


During a heavy rain event, localized and regional flooding occurs. We heard from Perdikan, a local NGO, that upstream development has caused a process of increased sedimentation and water flow into low lying areas such as Kemijen. As Kemijen floods, we heard from residents that solid waste on the streets and in fish ponds clog the system of drainage canals that run through the neighborhoods. Clogging of the drainage canals cause overflows into streets and homes. This is critical as the drainage canals function not only to drain excess water but also to dispose of liquid waste generated from households and community toilets. Therefore, the quality of the water in the canals is poor and can impact the health of anyone who comes into contact with the water. As the drainage canals overflow into people’s homes, this increases vectors for disease and impacts the health of residents. Perdkian also explained this common phenomenon, which informed us that there is a measurable difference between school and work attendance before and after a flood event. Homeowners also indicated that during and after a flooding event many workers that work as day laborers in the area have to stay home from work in order to address issues such as water damage to property. Since flooding often occurs, the time away from work and school severely impacts the short term and long term economic capabilities of the community. This in turn impacts household abilities to pay for flooding and land subsidence adaptation measures, which include raising their homes or investing in pumps to drain their homes.


This begins a cycle, a chain of events with feedback loops that regularly exposes the community to vulnerabilities. We therefore concluded that flooding interventions should not be developed or implemented in isolation. Part of our recommended action steps is to see issues in Kemijen as a system – a system that can only be addressed using holistic approaches of coordinating existing community efforts with government agency and NGO programming.  By taking a systems approach, we can consider and address a large number of interacting and interconnected problems and relationships.


Reflections on the Joint Studio by Diponegoro University Students

Post by Diana Kristina, Master’s Student in Urban Planning and Development, Diponegoro University

We are master’s students from Diponegoro University’s Urban and Regional Development program and we would like to share our perspective on the Joint Studio experience. We have been working with the Unversity of Hawai’i, Mãnoa (UH) students for the past two months. It’s been an incredible experience. When we first began to approach the complex community of Kemijen it was daunting for us. It made us think of the Lao Tzu saying that: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step (Lao Tzu)

Our first steps began by using the vulnerability framework to understand ways to develop plans to build resilience in the urban village of Kemijen.


We initially began our partnership in September by meeting on a weekly basis over teleconference. At first it felt awkward and we were quiet, especially because we were not confident in our English speaking abilities. The Hawaii students always encouraged us to be more active however and it helped us to gain confidence. When the UH students arrived they treated us to a wonderful opening ceremony. They shared with us about cultural practices and traditions of Hawai’i. This was a great start and we then began planning for our transect walks in Kemijen.


Many initial aspects of Kemijen affected us. We felt the warmth of the community immediately upon arrival. Children would come up to us and greet us, and the community members there were very open to be interviewed, often times inviting us to enter their homes.

This was just a beginning however. After getting familiar with the community we had to also go through all the documents we have been studying. We also had to make plans about the key questions we would ask of the community.

On the third day engaging with the field site, we began a full day of household surveys. The sun was hot and stung as we walked throughout the different alleyways that connect Kemijen as a community. We split up into teams and each team was about to complete about 7 interviews on average throughout the day. When we had to travel beyond walking distance, here are some of the pictures of the local transportation that we used.

By “Becak”

By “Angkot”
Here are some images of the interviews and interactions that we had with the local community:

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On the fifth and six days we returned to the classroom to begin conducting some preliminary analysis. We went through brainstorming sessions where we got stuck, and had some breakthroughs, and we also had moments where we had to escape the intensive work to seek some fresh air.



After our analysis it was time to prepare for our presentation at the International Conference for Regional Development at the Mayor’s office. On the same eve

ning we also went back to Kemijen to present to the community to get their input about our findings, and suggestions on how our research can help to build resilience.



On behalf of the Diponegoro University students we want to say thanks to UH for this partnership. Thanks for the joint faculty lectures and facilitation from all our counterparts. Most importantly we would like to say thanks to the people of Kemijen. We learned so much from all of you and this experience has so much enriched our understanding of Urban Planning and Development.

Our overall experiences can be encapsulated in the following quote by B.J. Gallagher: “Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass… it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” (B.J. Gallagher)


Reflections: Doing Joint Research in Indonesia

Guest post by Sarah Eggert, University of Hawaii at Manoa Master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning 

As I’m writing this, I’m 36,000 feet directly above the Philippines, flying away from Indonesia and the wonderful people I came across during the 2016 Practicum visit to Semarang. Although I have traveled to many places, I had never been to southeast Asia before arriving in Indonesia; besides the many history books and articles I had read, or Indonesian friends in Hawai’i I had talked with before leaving, there was nothing that could have prepared me for the beautiful mixture of traditional and modern that is Indonesia. The warm welcome we received and the incredible hospitality shown to our group from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (UH) throughout our stay will be engraved in my memory for a long time.


From the first day arriving at Diponegoro University (UNDIP) in Semarang, the group of students from UH- not only from the United States, but Nepal and Norway as well- were treated as we had already been there for a long time. There was certainly some shyness  at our opening session, but that soon dissolved as we began discussing our common research interest of Kemijen, and making discoveries about other shared interests such as music and food as well. The camaraderie and collaborative spirit deepened between the UH and UNDIP students as time passed and we spent almost every waking hour together. The UNDIP students sacrificed a lot to be present at all our planned activities, as a few students had children or significant others, and some of the students had to drive their mopeds home (sometimes in the rain!) after long days in the studio.

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Although hot coffee, tamarind candy, and other local treats certainly helped fuel students to make it through such long days in the studio and in the “field,” most of the motivation came from wanting to better understand Kemijen and the root of the flooding issues facing the community. We put in long hours listening, reading, and discussing in an attempt to look at Kemijen through a systems approach and avoid silo-thinking or quick judgments.


Although our time in Semarang has come to a close and we will soon be landing in Tokyo and shortly after Honolulu, there is still a lot of work that remains to be done. The collaboration between UNDIP and UH will continue until at least the end of the semester, resulting in an action plan that will hopefully be informative to the community of Kemijen as well as the various actors working in the area. While the official end date of the partnership is this December, hopefully future students will continue to benefit from the wonderful relationship that was established this semester. Future joint studios (perhaps in Hawaii?) will only allow for better cross-cultural learning and increased capacity to analyze complex planning issues. This is a great learning model — multicultural settings to conduct action research on pressing issues.


I personally have benefited both professionally and personally from this introductory trip to southeast Asia. Our two weeks in Indonesia opened up a new world. Working with the UNDIP students was humbling and tiring of course, but it was mostly rewarding and fun! We were extremely lucky to be part of this unforgettable and unparalleled learning experience.


Meeting the NGOs Active in Kemijen and Semarang

Blog Post by Ranjeeta Acharya, Planning Student at University of Hawaii, at Manoa

Today we had the opportunity to meet with some NGOs working in Semarang. These include Mercy Corps, Gerobak Hysteria, Perdikan, Pattiro and Bintari Foundation. These NGOs have worked with the communities in Kemijen to build resilience in various ways.


The morning began with brief introductions of each of the NGOs, along with the highlights of their engagement in Semarang, particularly in the Kemijen area which we have been working. The conversation with the NGO officials was very insightful and helpful for us to know about what has already been done there, current efforts, future plans, and the major issues and challenges that the communities are facing in Kemijen. We came to know that lots of efforts have been made by different sectors in this area, however there are still many problems and much needs to be done.


We begin first with efforts by Mercy Corps Indonesia. They were an early proponent of the  Asian Cities Climate Change and Resilience Network (ACCCRN), which works on climate change, urbanization, and resilience. Their efforts have helped catalyze some of the early planning to showcase Semarang as one of the Rockefeller Foundations 100 Resilient Cities.

The Bintari Foundation, which is an accronym in the Javanese language for sustainable development, works at a landscape scale. They work on upland restoration activities in the upper watershed where rapid land use change is taking place, and also along the coast to do Mangrove Restoration projects. They believe that there should be a reorientation of how we interact with the environment.

Perdikan, is an NGO much more active with the local communities in Kemijen. They specifically work on the Polder system management issues at the community level. They are also working with vulnerable populations, particularly widows to provide micro-finance lending to support home businesses.

Pattiro Semarang works at on governance issues. They help local communities to organize and understand how they can influence the planning process. They develop a network at the municipal and community level to oversee budgeting processes and to ensure accountability of implementation by the government.

Finally, we also heard from Gerobak Hysteria. They have been involved in place-building activities. They conduct participatory mapping to develop a database of key community functions. They also work to develop local arts activities, such as festival, to encourage a sense of place and ownership among vulnerable communities.


After having our breakout sessions with each of the NGOs, we all worked together to summarize the findings. We also had the opportunity to present our preliminary work to the 100RC Chief Resilience Officer for Semarang. It was great to gather his input so we can prepare how to structure our engagement going forward. We are hopeful that our data collection, engagement with multiple stakeholders, and analysis can provide some important support to ongoing efforts to build community resilience.

Since we have been working very hard it’s also time to have a little bit of fun. After dinner, we all decided to go for a Karaoke night to enjoy and recharge ourselves for the next day!


Presenting Vulnerability Assessments: At an International Conference and with the Community

The joint practicum/studio students and faculty attended  the Third International Conference on Regional Development: Enhancing Resilience and Policy for Cities and Regions. Speakers from the World Bank, Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, the US and the 100 Resilient Cities presented on different perspectives on resilience in the region.
Professor Foley gave a keynote speech entitled The Resilience Imperative: An Action Research Approach to Training. The presentation discussed the approach instructors have been taking on training in Indonesia on the the USAID/OFDA grant Building Capacity through Partnerships. With the increased risk of disasters and climate change it is imperative that communities become more resilient yet it is clear that most communities lack access to the planning tools, data and resources in order to adapt to the risks that they face.
The joint studio-practicum presented preliminary findings on their work in Kemijen at the conference. Their preliminary findings were based on the literature review, interviews, focus groups and household surveys. They organized the findings around the issues of flooding, subsidence, the polder system (drainage canals and pumping system), and waste. They also presented some preliminary action steps. They will be doing further research and synthesizing their findings into a document that will be presented in December.

The group also wanted to meet with community members and get their feedback so they were able to go to the community after the conference ended. Many community member attended and expressed their appreciation for coming back to the community since often they do not hear from those that conduct research in their community. They expressed their concerns and want to use the results of the practicum/studio to further develop their proposal to address the issues that Kemijen faces.


Banjir (flooding) and Blessings at Semarang Chinatown Market

Post by Jessica Okamura:

November 5, 2016

Indonesia is filled with unique regional foods.  Some of the team members decided to take a trip to the Chinatown Night Market to try the local cuisine. We were excited to experience a slice of life in Semarang and the differences in the areas.  The market was filled with stands that had a variety of foods, accessories, and drinks.


There was an empty table near the end of the market so we ordered some food and sat down for our dinner break.  We shared fried tofu with sweet corn flavoring, noodles, lumpia, bitter bean, jackfruit and of course nasi (rice). Halfway into out meal, heavy rain started pouring down.  Majority of the vendors immediately shut down their generators and stalls for the night. Bystanders waited along the walls until the rain subsided.  Our group on the other hand sought refuge at the vendor garage.  It seemed like they were the only vendor that had their own covered area.  We were blessed and sat down comfortably, except for Jessica. Jessica went across the street to get a Hello Kitty cotton candy and got stuck there during the rain. It didn’t seem like the rain was going to stop for a while so she quickly walked to our flood shelter.  Unfortunately she did not get her Hello Kitty cotton candy, but she did get Kiiroitori.


The streets of Chinatown became inundated. Once the rain stopped we rolled up our pants and headed to an area where we could get picked up.  This was the first time that we experienced heavy rains and flooding in Semarang. People seemed pretty used to it and just walked though the street rain water.


Although we did not experience flooding in Kemijen, it was a important to experience flooding and observe how people handle it.  We had tasty food, got to ride a Ojek (motor cycle taxi)/ Becak (Rickshaw) back to the hotel.