My Indonesian expedition had been in the making for a while, with the federation's enthusiastic support. Regina and Giani, the Secretary General and International Relations Officer, orchestrated a meticulously planned programme. They extended the project's reach to every corner of the country, generating a wave of enquiries that even my judo passion might struggle to keep up with. To do justice to Indonesia's diverse judo landscape, I decided to break down my exploration into three distinct chapters: Sumatra and Java, Bali and its surroundings, and a concluding journey through regions that I had already visited.
Following their suggestion, I commenced my Indonesian journey from the northern tip of the region. Following a brief stay in Batam to work on my online content, I embarked on a 26-hour boat ride to Medan. Indonesia's vastness dawned on me during this trip; it is a nation that goes beyond the popular paradise of Bali or Jakarta.
The kindness of the federation allowed me to secure a private cabin on the boat and, as I later discovered, this was a providential gesture considering the less-than-ideal conditions in the economy class. The boat experience, divided into four classes, highlighted a stark contrast in living conditions. In the cheapest class, passengers endured sleep on the floor under sweltering conditions. While I was in the comfort of my own room, I couldn't escape the sense of responsibility for others.
With Sensei Josef and his students, we embarked on a journey to the Toba Lake, a captivating reminder of Indonesia's geological history. This ancient volcano eruption 70,000 years ago, which led to a ten-year winter and near-extinction of humans, offered a humbling backdrop for reflection.
From there, my journey took me to the serene city of Palembang after a 50h and 1,400 km long bus ride that I split into two parts. There I was greeted by Sensei Thomas Taslim. His dojo, located within a house, teems with dedicated students, who train rigorously for nearly three hours daily. Language barriers faded as we connected through our shared passion, although the occasional assistance of Mimi in translating was indispensable. The athletes were dedicated and I had a very interesting time with them. For some of you who like movies, maybe the name of the teacher 'Taslim' is familiar, as all of his family is practising martial arts and one of them is famous for playing in many action films such as Mortal Combat.
Sensei Taslim hosted me in his dojo where there is a room for guests, with everything I needed. I stayed a bit longer in that place and my translator there, Mister Deddy, who is an English teacher, had the dream of bringing a foreigner to his school.
So, I went there and it was amazing to share moments with the students who were so impressed to see me. You have to realise that most of them never saw a foreigner in their lives and never set foot in Jakarta even though it’s only a few hours from here. I was invited to share some tea, food and pictures in every house! Metro's warm hospitality extended beyond the dojo; local friendships bloomed and the welcoming embrace of the foreigner or ‘bule’ was heartwarming.
A little explanation is needed. The word bule, although it may seem unusual, holds no negative connotation; it is a simple descriptor of a foreigner, particularly one with fair skin. This term was used in the most endearing way, a testament to the openness and acceptance I encountered throughout my stay.
Then, I ventured to Java, home to the bustling capital, Jakarta. My initial stop was Bandung where the national university championship unfolded. The three-day event included kata and individual competitions, a colourful inauguration ceremony and a platform for me to acknowledge and reward promising athletes as they asked me to select my choice of talented athletes. All of them received tonnes of gifts, 30 judogi from Adidas Combat Sport; every single athlete received goodies. The federation really impressed me with their organisation and dedication to their players.
As I immersed myself in Indonesia's judo tapestry, I was deeply moved by the dedication of the athletes and the fervour of the federation. The tangible support extended not only through warm hospitality but also through financial aid, sustenance and pocket money, all of which played a crucial role in the project's sustainability. It was the first time that every single person help me with the project, from the teachers to the federation. I left the different places I visited with some money that is mandatory for the survival of the project so I’m deeply thankful.
Collaboration with the Indonesian Judo Federation and dedicated teachers have ignited exciting initiatives. One such endeavor, yet to be unveiled, involves bringing an Olympic champion to share insights and experiences. This endeavor embodies the limitless potential of the Judo Nomad Project and fills me with immense pride as its orchestrator.
In conclusion, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Regina and Giani, teachers, fellow judoka and the remarkable individuals I met. As I return to France for a little while, I anticipate both familial reunions and a quest for media attention and new sponsorships. In a month, I'll be back in Indonesia, resolute in my determination to secure the project's evolution. I’ll stay there until I have enough to keep going in other countries but at the moment I’m a bit stuck. So if you're keen to be part of this journey, wish to welcome me at your club or even become a financial supporter, starting from 1$ a month, please don't hesitate to reach out.
Until next time, dear judo readers, may the spirit of judo guide our paths.