It took two flights from Singapore to Tana Toraja, a region located in the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. At Makassar Airport, we soon noticed that we were among the few foreigners present. From there, we rode a night bus to Makale and at dawn we hopped in a car to reach Natsir’s village.
Natsir is a 47 year-old man ahead of his time, the so-called black sheep: brilliant, yet not fully understood nor supported by his people. He is a big-hearted man, uninterested in money. All he wants is to share his core values: respect for the environment and its resources, education and open-mindness.
Natsir lives with his family up in the mountains, in a Muslim community made of a few housings, a Mosque and his property. In 2004, he began to transform his land into a beautifully terraced garden which today produces enough to feed the entire community. That is, fruit and vegetables of all kinds, in addition to turmeric, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, palm sugar etc. The idea is to create a sustainable community. For this, Natsir doesn’t sell any of his products.
Furthermore, understanding how important it is to speak English for the future of the region, he built a small library where language classes regularly take place: Natsir’s Nature School. Villagers and neighbors are invited to join and learn English for free. All he asks for in exchange is that they bring their rubbish so he can take it to the tip and keep the area clean.
In 2014, after meeting a Belgian couple, Natsir first heard of workaway – a platform for voluntary work and cultural exchange. With their help, he set up his profile and opened his doors to the world. That’s how we found him.
A Typical Day as a Volunteer
- 5 a.m – call to prayer from the nearby Mosque
- 7 a.m – breakfast: tea or coffee with fried sweet potatoes or bananas
- 8 a.m – morning tasks: gardening, sanding, preparing lessons or cooking
- 11:30 a.m – lunch: rice with vegetables, tempeh and sometimes fish or meat
- 12:30 p.m – washing the dishes
- 2 p.m – English beginner classes
- 4 p.m – English advanced classes
- 5 p.m – sunset jog in the surrounding rice fields or yoga
- 6:30 p.m – dinner: as delicious as lunch
- 7:30 p.m – washing the dishes
- 8 p.m – card games, chatting, writing, photo editing etc.
- 9 p.m – bed time