by Rob D'Eon
July 2018
to CONTACT me: rdeon@alumni.ubc.ca

Trekking in the Baliem Valley: Gifts


Our biggest regret was not bringing enough stuff to give away. It gets a bit awkward while 6 people are watching you make coffee, and then you sit and drink your coffee (we often had to go inside to get away). If you have enough to offer, they will only be too happy to accept, and it obviously makes for a nice interaction. So that’s my advice: bring things, especially food/drink items, to give them, while you are making yourself something. I gave away all of my coffee packages, and wish I had brought more to give away. A huge hit, that I would highly recommend, is bringing Mentos. Widely available in Indonesia, they have the advantage of not being individually wrapped (so no garbage on the ground afterwards). We brought 1 roll each per day (yes, we had 12 rolls of Mentos), and we easily gave them all away to kids in the villages. Could have given away 5 times as many.

A note on cigarettes: there are 2 things you will specifically be asked for. Kids ask for “gula”, which means sugar in Indonesia (i.e., candy; see Mentos discussion above, no problem). Adults, with few exceptions, ask for cigarettes. Sad but true. The one thing they really want from the modern world, will kill them. We didn’t have any, so it was an easy answer. But that now leaves you with an ethical choice. If you really want to be a rock star to them, bring lots of cigarettes and give them out. You will be Santa Claus. But it’s that “it will kill you” thing, that makes it interesting. Again, your call.

Hot Tips:

·       Definitely bring lots of stuff to give away. They have very few commercially available products, and will appreciate anything you offer.

·       In our experience, Mentos (for kids) and sugary coffee packages (those 3 in 1 things) were a big hit.

·       Bring photos of your family/home to show them. They are very interested in all of that, and loved looking at photos we had on our phones.

·       At the last place we stayed, we gave the lady in charge all of our left-over food, which again, was a huge hit.

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