Be Awesome

Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.
--Barney (HIMYM)

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Aceh, believed to be the area of the spread of Islam in Indonesia, it was also home to the Free Aceh Movement striving for independence.  More recently, it became a location of great international interest following the earthquake and tsunami of 2004 in which an estimated 170,000 people perished. 

Following the tsunami of 2004, Aceh received much assistance from the international community, including from USAID.  The largest investment from USAID was the reconstruction of the Aceh road which links the city with many of their natural resource production areas.  Other investments include the Aceh Polytechnic college which was funded jointly by private-public sector partnership with corporations and USAID.  Today, much of the development assistance has ended with efforts going to other areas.

Islam is very widely practiced in Aceh and the province is occasionally heard in the news as the one province in Indonesia which incorporates Sharia law in legal administration.  The area is sometimes mentioned every so often also for discriminatory or extremist laws or regulations being brought up by local administrations.  However, from just my short time there, life appeared similar to any other smaller town in Indonesia.

I had the opportunity to take my first field trip since joining USAID for a short 3 day trip to Banda Aceh as we accompanied an implementing partner in conducting a survey on banking inclusion and credit access for often under served populations in Indonesia.  For this stage of the survey, we went to banks and credit unions (cooperatives) in the area to interview about their lending practices and the clients whom they serve. 

Banda Aceh's Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport
The interviews were an interesting and daunting exercise of my Indonesian language abilities.  Thankfully, I was with some good Indonesian colleagues that helped with debriefings going over the day's interviews to make sure I was able to capture everything that was discussed.  I also had the chance to discuss project implementation with the implementing partner as a sub-grantee to better understand and learn about the challenges in implementation and develop some ideas and things to consider for the future.

Following this trip, I believe I do need to definitely try to make time to get out to the field more often.  I learned much about this particularly part of the project and developed a lot of understanding on the survey's topic which can greatly help in deciding direction for where this project or future projects should target and consider.  I also learned a lot about how current development projects are implemented and have several ideas on different ways things could be done and some of the problems for how things are implemented today.  And finally, it was nice to be able to see for the first time the results of what our development projects are funding beyond the paperwork.

Below, some pictures of the places we were able to visit and sites we were able to see during the evenings.
This ship was originally used for power generation before the tsunami. The ship was dislocated 3 miles (5 km) from the ocean where it now sits.

This is a displaced fishing boat the landed on a house during the tsunami.

This is the largest mosque in Banda Aceh.
The US-Indonesia Aceh road.
Aceh Polytechnic
Aceh Polytechnic was jointly funded.  Large amounts came from Chevron and USAID.

Trying some famous Aceh coffee.

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