My supervisor stumbled across this video below made by a small essential oil selling company in the U.S., Aura Cacia. The video, besides from being short (less than 3 minutes) and informative is shot in the exact location where I schlep down every month or so to take soil, plant and water samples for my graduate research on the impact of patchouli on soil fertility in relation to the project’s nutrient management plan (thrilling stuff). Oddly enough we haven’t heard of this Aura Cacia doing business in Aceh Selatan. We’ll have to track down this farmer, Ishkander, get him to join our cooperative and have him bring his business contacts over!


There is one shot of an obelisk-esque traffic circle and a black-roofed mosque to the side. That’s the same street where the little guest house I stay at is located! It’s a guest house on top and a warung (little coffee/pre-prepared food shop) on the bottom. Perfect for getting a morning cup of coffee and then a late dinner. Or an early dinner, but that usually corresponds with the evening prayer time, Magreb, and I either have to wait while all the shops are closed in observance, or if I’m lucky, get locked in to wait it out and finish my dinner.

My room at Yana Yani in Kota Fajar, Aceh Selatan. Note: prayer rug included. Also included oddly was a blue comb, which I did not use.

Now that you have watched the video. I can share that I too go on crazy roads to get to farmer fields.

We do normally use a car, but this time we had to use a motorbike followed by a short hike and a short wade through a stream. I heard a monkey call, and I thought how perfect life was trekking through the forest for work and listening to monkeys. Well, turns out the monkey call was the ringtone for the farmer's mobile - oh well. Also, that is not my arm; I am on the back.

And I too visited a traditional distillation unit. This one is a bit more involved than the kettle in the video, but the process is the same. In front of me that you can’t see is a big blue vinyl couch where the distillers relax while waiting for the oil to drip out. The stainless steel kettles designed and manufactured as part of our project is rather more high tech than this, but they’re still at the factory so no pictures yet.

Behind me is the brick furnace, the oil barrel on stilts is where the dried patchouli leaves are placed to be heated and distilled, next to me is a cooling bath to condense the oil in pipes sitting in the water, and in front is the can where the oil separates from the water. Not seen is the baby bear they found in the nearby forest that they kept in a cage in the back and fed sweetened condensed milk; they tried to sell it to me. It was bad - no more smiles after that.

But I’m guessing he doesn’t get the chance to do a science experiment with some very great coworkers who humor my crazy requests to play in the dirt as they see it. Not sure if I’ve already mentioned it, but apparently an adult who voluntarily touches dirt and gets their hands mucky had an unfulfilled childhood. Interesting psychological analysis, but my childhood was full of making mudpies and such.

Helping me setup for surface water runoff samples from a rain event. Matt teases me for calling it a "rain event" - why can't you just say "rain"?