Nicholas School Internship Blogs

Surreal Connections
by -- July 14th, 2017

I had no idea just how fascinated I was with water and the vital necessity of it until I started to travel more remote places in our world. It was there in the midst of simplicity and even privation that I learned firsthand that there is a dire need for water security in our world.  This truth led me down a path of science in order to fully understand and assess how to get millions of people access to safe water. This is my quest. My journey. My calling.  To be frank, at times I feel utterly mad at the depth I have gone in this pursuit. However, it’s real. It’s needed and it is a service in which I am able to provide to our world. I think we all are looking for something that gets our soul ignited. That moves us. Keeps us up at night and wakes us early in the morning ready to work. I love solving problems in a holistic and sustainable manner; it’s the left-brain dominant side of me which is then balanced by my right-brain nurturing side. 

World water acquisition is something I can spend my entire life dedicated towards and will only scratch the surface. However, in this amazing, remote region in Eastern Indonesia, which I have come to love, water security here is feasible.

I have been thinking about coming back here since I started Duke in Fall 2016 in order to continue the work I started in 2014, and use my newly-acquired tools from Duke.  Now I have made it and have been fully supported along the way.

To be honest, I was extremely nervous about this whole endeavor. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. There were moments I’d awake in the midst of deep sleep thinking of all the things that could go wrong: “What if I discover something I’m not able to address nor want to find? What if the locals have no interest in my work? What if it is straight-up rejected? What if I have issues being a single white female?”

All these “what-if” scenarios would snowball in my mind at times; accumulating, growing ever larger and consequently they’d grow into fears. But we cannot live our lives on the falsehoods of unknowns.  Life, I have learned, really happens and becomes its most glorious form just past the line of comfort – just past the barrier of familiarity and ease.

It was a huge leap of faith to travel across the world to conduct my own research, which I designed, planned and conspired from start to finish. I must note, nothing happens in solitude, as my mentors have been the key to my success and credit must be given. My advisor Dr. Avner Vengosh, my dear friend Dr. Gregory Taff and my humanitarian counterpart Ed Elliot have been the supporting foundation to this endeavor. In addition, the Nicholas School funding committee and Dr. Jesko von Windheim saw the value in this work and have provide me with the fiscal support to turn this summer’s research into a reality. I thank you all tremendously.

Getting to Indonesia took me 42 hours, and that was just to get to Bali; 42 straight hours of travel. Then it took me another 1.5 days to get to the island in which I am working.

I am traveling with a tremendous amount of luggage for research purposes. That alone is quite daunting. It is often very difficult to get around remote places via plane, ferry and car in this part of the world.  Not to mention there are often long treks on un-groomed paths and roads along the way.  Adding heaps of gear to it makes it that much more challenging; though challenges are good for character building and I find it quite amazing what one would do for science and for passion.

I had no idea I was such a nerd until I started down this path. Like I mentioned, the study of water science associated with problem-solving for real, living, breathing people keeps me up at night in deep thought. Or it wakes me before dawn ready to get to work.  The ardent desire to ease hardship for others is what drives me. Many people don’t fully understand this and that’s totally okay. The ones that do get it are tremendously supportive and are there for a shoulder to lean on and an ear to share.  I have been taken back by my experience here thus far.  At this point, I have visited 46 different villages on four islands. I have trekked, sailed and driven down some really rough roads to meet people, see their lives, living conditions and collect their water.

What I continue to observe is that the world is a very beautiful and connected place. Being back here reminds me how engrossed we can often get in our Western society and how that can manifest into a state of perpetual misperception of what true value is.  Such perspectives can make it easier to overlook the interconnections between our planet, its inhabitants and the rawness which is life. But as stewards of this magnificent Earth, we must remind ourselves – and those we love – to stay true to our world, to nurture and protect her.

Some of these villages I have visited would astonish many people I know back home. It boggles the mind to see how so many people are subjected to live. Selfishly, it reminds me how fortunate I have been. Regardless of living conditions, the spirit of all whom I have met is unquestionably strong. There is a certain beauty in hardship and there is truth in that beauty.

I am beyond honored to have been afforded the opportunity to have this experience. The connections I have been establishing and nurturing have proven surreal.  I look forward to my next blog entry where I get to share with y’all these newly-formed partnerships and the next phase of this adventure.  Until then, do good and be good my friends.

 

3 Comments

  1. Ed
    Jul 15, 2017

    Inspirational team member, it’s snowballing now.!

  2. Greg
    Jul 15, 2017

    Excellent and beautifully written! It’s a crazy and inspiring journey you are on! Thank you!

  3. jordana nicholas
    Jul 15, 2017

    How high a child can fly with faith, health, education and unconditional love………I sore with you, my Daughter, always in Spirit! Your labor of love is the most beautiful gift you give to our Mother Earth………Blessings, your mother……….

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