|Dear AIROheads and Friends of AIROheads,
Since my last journal update, I spent 3 weeks in Banda Aceh and have now been back to Austin for about 4 weeks. I’
m planning my next trip for late August now.
After seeing AIRO’s first 10-boat project through to completion (with a thousand villagers attending the celebration),
Eric returned to the US for a short and much-needed regrouping. Personal affairs were slammed on hold when we all
first left for Aceh, but only Eric had been there continuously since then. He will be returning soon. AIROheads can’t
stay away from Aceh for long.
Eddie got to Indonesia with just a few days overlap before Eric left. After about a week with Eddie, I returned home to
Austin. I email, IM or call Eddie virtually every day, and the progress we are making in Indonesia is amazing. It seems
that the UN-FAO thinks we make pretty good boats. And we do it efficiently, so we are becoming known as THE
organization to work with to get boats built and to the people who need them.
Since completing the first 10 boats, we now have a project for 30-7.5 meter boats, and another one for 22-6 meter
boats. We are also managing the repair of 8 of the big Lampulo boats near our new headquarters. These big 70-90
foot boats employ dozens of fishermen and bring in up to 50 tons of fish per week.
We recently sent one of Pak Marjuki’s sons to the FAO boat-building school in Tanah Pasir, Northern Aceh. By being
certified by the FAO, AIRO will be able to take on more and varied boat-building projects. The FAO is trying to teach
the people on the western slope, for example, that deep-sea snapper is plentiful and a great fish to harvest. But
snapper dwell much deeper in the ocean and require a different fishing style than the small tuna they are catching
now. Special boats are needed that have the required gear to do this kind of fishing and open this new market. AIRO
will continue identifying other similar boat and fishing projects that can be beneficial to the people along the North
Eddie moved into AIRO’s Big Fish headquarters this weekend (pictures and more details from him to follow). It is a 3-
story store-front property in Penayong, close to Banda Aceh’s city centre. There are five stores similar to ours in our
building, all of them in some kind of fishing-industry business. Our building backs up to the river and has an eerie but
beautiful view of the ocean from the rear, top-deck of Big Fish.
The whole area was in the direct path of the tsunami of Dec. 26, and our building had water marks 6 feet above the
second floor. The views of the sunset from our deck show the tsunami’s path of destruction to the sea. The entire
area has just recently re-opened to fishing-related industries, but damaged and missing homes, offices and palm
trees surround our site in Penayong. A big, 70-foot boat sits about 200 feet from our building, on the sidewalk far
from water. But the markets are alive with buyers and sellers again, although ice, refrigeration, nets and other
resources are still severely lacking.
Eric and I literally waded through mud, garbage and stench up to our waists checking the place out. “We’ll take it!” we
finally excitedly agreed and signed the 2-year lease. Big Fish was born-structurally sound but needing LOTS of
work. After a month of cleaning, sewer and electrical repairs, tile, paint, air conditioning, furniture, windows and
doors…Big Fish is now our headquarters/office, sleeping quarters and workshop. We will continue to look for
opportunities to clean up the whole area, repairing sewers, streets and buildings to recreate a place of pride for the
One of the agencies that we are working with in Indonesia has been impressed that we are living so modestly! Well,
when Eddie stayed in BF that first night, he said he got 100 mosquito bites (a door was left open on one level, since
closed), so being the hard-driver that I am, I told him to go back and have them commit 100 boats to us then! Eddie
assured me that with his trusty electric “mosquito racquet” (and closing that damn door) the mosquitoes have gone
back down to manageable levels and he is settling into BF.
Visitors are highly welcomed to BF. Come see us and I’m sure we can find you a nice, comfortable and mosquito-free
bunk somewhere. But don’t sneak up behind Eddie…He said that Big Fish was pretty “spooky” that first night with no
furniture and a strange clanging sound off in the distance. He said it’s getting better each day as he gets things
We have been tinkering with the composition of our Boards of Directors-for both our US organization and the one in
Indonesia called a Yayasan. Growing our operations and meeting the criteria of non-profit organizations has certainly
been a challenge.
Our Board members are as follows:
Thanks to all for your love and support.
Ciao and love,