Fiction: The Distance Between your First Camera and Being an Adult


On his 12th Birthday, Ketut´s dad gave him a camera. The first thing he photographed was the sky. The white fluffy clouds were making its way to a huge cumulonimbus over the ocean and behind it slowly crept the ash cloud coming from a volcano in the island of Java. Ketut could recognize the thick grey clouds without much effort. He had seen many volcanic eruptions but thankfully never had to evacuate or leave his home for fear of hot lava or ash coverage. One time a volcano had erupted close enough to deposit ash on their garden but that was when he was born and he didn’t remember. The story of his birth was told throughout their village every time he had Otonan, the Balinese celebration of his birth date.

Birthdays in Bali are different than in other parts of the world, first of all they follow the Balinese calendar which has 210 days instead of 365. Ketut and his sisters had two birthdays every year, one western and one Balinese. One time Ketut tried to figure out mathematically when one of his Otonan would coincide with a Western birthday and gave up pretty quickly, he wasn’t so great at Maths. On his 12th Birthday he had already had 20 Otonan celebrations.

Ketut had a bit of an obsession with volcanoes. When he was little he loved looking at photographs and watching videos of eruptions. He particularly liked the lava flows of Kilauea in Hawaii. He could say pyroclastic flow by the time he was three and a half. When he was five he climbed his first volcano and he was hooked. With every move, he researched the volcanoes in the area and asked his father to take him there. Volcano adventures were always done with his dad, when he got his camera he decided he had to go back to all the volcanoes he had already visited to take his own photos.

When Ketut turned 12, the family was in Bali for a year, after a few years in Japan. A few hours after receiving his camera Ketut had made a life altering decision, he wanted to be a vulcanologist AND a photographer. It felt right, it felt complete. Ketut went into his dad’s room to have a chat.

“Papa, can we go to Kintamani this weekend and do the sunrise hike on Batur again? I want to take photos with my camera.”

Enrique was working on something on the computer and finished writing a couple sentences before looking up at his son beaming in front of him. “I had already planned it, I was going to surprise you with the idea later today! I guess your ibu was right about that present!” He said with a big smile on his face.

“Really? You and mama planned a hike to Batur for my birthday?”

“Yes, she and your sisters thought it was a great idea, they sure hit that on the nail didn’t they?” Enrique answered standing up to walk with his son to the kitchen where he took two little bottles of yakult from the fridge, on for him and the other for Ketut, who was so happy he hugged his dad for a very long time.

“You know the hike up Gunung Agung is a much longer distance than the hike up Batur, and you never did that one, maybe next month, what do you think?”

“Yes, papa, Please!”

That weekend was the beginning of Ketut’s greatest adventure, a lifelong collection of volcanic photography, a career in Vulcanology and Geology and ultimately the writing of his book, “Mis Volcanes Favoritos” a book about volcanoes written for kids and their families full of first hand photos by Ketut Jorge himself. It was a worldwide hit with volcano lovers everywhere.

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