AIYA Victoria Treasurer Heath Jamieson is spending two months in Sumatra as part of the Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program — he shared these photos of his experiences.

The Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program, an initiative of the Australia-Indonesia Institute, gives 18 young Australians and Indonesians the opportunity to live in respective countries for 2 months. This year for the Indonesian component, we were all off to West Sumatra!

AIYEP is split into two phases, the first in a village for community development projects and the second in a city where we undertake work experience programs. Hopefully these photos and descriptions give an insight into our experiences. For those aged 21-25, remember the 2014/2015 AIYEP!

1. Sydney

It all began in Sydney. This was the location of the city stay for the Indonesian group. and where the 18 Australians came for our weeklong orientation. Sydney was good times galore! It was also where we first met the 18 Indonesian participants before we gallivanted across the Timor Sea together for 2 months! This photo was taken from one of our outings to Taranga Zoo.

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2. Jakarta

Jakarta was the location of our Indonesian orientation. Whilst in Indonesia’s thriving capital we were spent a day at the Australian Embassy being briefed on issues such as health, safety and Indonesian culture. We also were lucky enough to attend a dinner function at the residency of Greg Moriarty, Australian Ambassador to Indonesia! Jakarta is famous for traffic – this is a photo when we were on in peak hour traffic on the wait to the Ambassadors house. Fair to say we all had the chance to get to know each other much better as we waited.

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3. Padang

Padang – the capital of West Sumatra! We jumped off the plane and went to a welcoming function at the residence of the Governor. We were in Padang for more orientation by local government officials before starting our village stay. It was our first taste of Minangkabau culture and food. This photo is of myself and my counterpart Rizky with a Minang lady in traditional dress. Throughout the trip we were greeted at almost every formal ceremony by Minang dances. This traditional dress is commonly worn for events here – extravagant hey!

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4. Arriving in Koto Sani

Koto Sani, in the regency of Solok, was our host of the village phase of the AIYEP adventure. We’d be here for a month, undertaking community development projects. One of the first things we did was ride around the village together on motorbikes checking out where we’d be spending the next month. Our first afternoon was very memorable. All 36 of us were flying through the town, to the bewildered eyes of the locals. We later found out this was the first time many had seen westerns visit their village. Here we are gathered on one of Koto Sani’s main roads.

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5. Keindahan Koto Sani

Koto Sani was an amazing place. Wait until David Attenborough catches wind of this area. Every road was surrounded by rice paddies’, amazing views and really interesting architecture. This photo was taken from Lake Singkarak nearby the township. It became a favorite place of ours and the juice lady there received a lot of custom over the month!

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6. Friendly community

One of my fondest memories of the trip was travelling through the amazing village on the back of a motorbike with local kids yelling “Hello” and elders of the community smiling as we rode past. Everyone is up for a chat and everyone’s door is always open. We quickly became very close with those that lived in the community and we felt at home. This is a photo of myself and a lovely old lady that was frequently at a warung us AIYEPers visited. I couldn’t understand what she said (she spoke only Minang language) but she was still so lovely, amazed by my skin and loved waving to my family on Christmas day when we were chatting on Skype.

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7. Sorga Dunia

Our midvisit break was held in Lembah Harau – Harau Valley. We stayed in an amazing resort nestled between two giant cliff faces. Our accommodation was surrounded by monkeys… literally. They played in the trees around our accommodation and even sat on the rooftops of our cabins. There are a lot in this region. We swam under waterfalls, visit to Lima Puluh Kota (a nearby city) and had a day of an epic hiking adventure! 5 nights there wasn’t enough – but it on the “I’m coming back here” list! Tough for a picture to capture this region but this gets close.

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8. Bukittinggi

Bukittingi is a stark contrast to Koto Sani, pretty much because it’s busy! It’s a really interesting city with a number of pretty areas and tourist attractions. Bukittinggi is a clean city compared to other areas we’ve visited. When I look at people’s travel photos I’m really interested in a normal photo of the city. Here’s what I think is a realistic photo of a standard Bukittinggi street scape from the bridge at the zoo.

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9. Work placement

18 pairs of participants have been placed in work placements through the city of Bukittinggi. We’re working in a broad array of fields – many have been placed in schools with others working within government departments and in media. Work experience here allows us to experience local culture to a greater extent. The photo below summarises my first week. Indonesia is very random – that’s what makes it exciting! Get this, the daughter of the former boss of the department two participants are working in was having a wedding. So I tagged along in the back of a truck over my lunch break. We arrived at an extravagant party with lots of Minang food. What a day – anything can happen in Indonesia!

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10. The team — the best part of AIYEP!

We are 36 likeminded youth travelling around Indonesia for 2 months. How could it not be fun! We’re learning so much from each other. There’s a lot you get to talk about when you’re living with someone for 2 months. It’s been really challenging to talk about “girls” in Indonesian language – but a learning experience! When this program ends in Jakarta next weeks time, the travel, hanging out in warungs and language lessons will come to an end, however the friendships are destined to live on. See you again at your eventual wedding Rizky – my AIYEP counterpart!

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All photos courtesy of Heath Jamieson.