We don’t speak much Indonesian, but we hope we’ll get by with ‘good morning’ (‘selamat pagi’), and ‘thank you’ (‘terima kasi’). It’s always a good start.

One of the highlights of a Telunas Writers’ Camp in the Riau Islands is the day we go with our students to visit one of the local fishing villages. Telunas staff have established relations with local people and contribute to their neighbours through community development projects, helping to build schools and sport facilities, digging wells or drains, even building a mosque in one village.

Just as important is the cultural exchange. These villages have no tourist industry and see few Westerners, so our arrival always causes great curiosity, some wariness and finally much excitement.

Our Indonesian guides Else, Santi and Agus check that we are appropriately dressed, with shoulders and knees covered, and teach us a few cultural rules. We try to remember to use the right hand when giving or receiving something. We practise pointing with the thumb, shaking hands gently, then bringing the hand to our hearts. We learn how to ask somebody’s name – ‘Siapa nama anda?’ – and to tell them ours.

It’s often a bit awkward at first. Sometimes a welcome has been organised for us, and everyone is rather formal and polite.

Swiss School of Singapore students are greeted by staff from Buluh Patah School.

But after a while things start to loosen up.

The Swiss kids have never played takraw (a sort of volleyball without using the hands), but they do know how to head a ball.

The large crowd is most impressed!

When the music starts, even some teachers can't stop themselves dancing...however badly.

We usually get an opportunity to learn how the villagers work…

Mending fishing nets...

...building boats...

...or mixing the ingredients for making krupuk (prawn crackers).

We may not share much language, but everybody knows 'high fives.'

We're always sorry to say goodbye ('selamat tinggal')...

...and back in our quiet classroom at Telunas Beach...

...we have plenty of inspiration for writing our stories.

Richard Tulloch runs writers’ camps for school students at Telunas Beach Resort on Sugi Island, about two and a half hours by boat from Singapore. For more information on these camps, see

The villages shown in this post are Moro, Jang and Buluh Patah. Visiting students are from Singapore American School, The Swiss School of Singapore and United World College. Thanks to them all.


Filed under Indonesia

9 responses to “TELUNAS WRITERS’ CAMP, INDONESIA – village visits

  1. michael

    Richard, this rocks! I’m sooo envious.

  2. Looks like a lively and worth project, Richard. Thanks for sharing it with us readers.

  3. Wow what a lifestyle you guys have…those photos are amazing 🙂 Love how their are plenty of storis to write about, what a great way to learn !!! Love the stories, and how with lack of communication Hi-5’s are still known!


  4. Thanks for sharing, Richard. You are a man of many talents 🙂

  5. Pingback: Telunas Writers’ Camp by Richard Tulloch | Telunas Beach Resort

  6. love this post!
    please allow me to put your blog address on my blog page 🙂

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