“He will not set foot on our soil!”

Up to the present, no one has sounded entirely enthusiastic about the upcoming visit by President George W. Bush to Indonesia. Even the government seems diplomatic at best, highlighting the possible benefits of the encounter and avoiding the many issues that could aggravate an already apprehensive public.

There has already been a steady stream of protests, skepticism and warnings from various contingencies within Indonesian, the most active of which has been a few of the Islamic organizations. Last Saturday there was a rally in front of the US Embassy in downtown Jakarta, which attracted entire families. Bogor, the site of Bush’s meeting with the Indonesian president, SBY, saw another rally in protest of the visit. Two new helipads are being built especially for Bush’s arrival, and Habib Abdurahman Assegaf, the leader of the “Indonesian Islamic Movement” spoke in front of the ongoing construction. He promised that they “will form a human barricade to stop Bush from stepping foot on our land.”

According the Indonesian Presidential spokesperson, Dino Patgti Djalal, Bush and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are going to focus on education and the threat of the notorious bird flu, which has claimed more victims in Indonesia than in any other country. Indonesia is hoping the US will cooperate in providing more Indonesian students with an opportunity to study in America, and the USA is hoping Bush can pressure Indonesia to take a harder stance on preventing a possible catastrophe.

While these are indeed important issues, I am surprised that this very rare opportunity for the two leaders to meet is meant to be so limited. With issues such as Indonesia’s seat on the United Nations Security Council next year, the newly reestablished military ties between the two countries, Indonesia’s deployment of troops to Lebanon, forest fires that are choking the world with their smoke, a new multi-multi billion dollar agreement between Indonesia and China, and many other issues, it strikes me as a bit of a squandered meeting.

The meeting is providing a rallying point and call to action for elements within Indonesia that may not agree with many of the actions of the United States in recent times, and is giving them an opportunity to promote their views. This event, if the leaders made an effort to make it so, could also serve to promote mutually beneficial relationships and the idea that the United States and Indonesia can both gain by working peacefully together – without even stepping on ideological or religious toes. That will not be accomplished, however, simply by putting on a fancy event and laying down a red carpet in between the new helipad and the stage with microphones, in the midst of the thousands of security officers that are being organized to deal with the expected protests.

Ibu Tini’s Indonesian Kitchen

This, my friends, is top secret information. All the wonders of Indonesia will become yours (well, four of them anyway…) with the successful preparation and consumtion of these four recipes , given to me in confidence by Suroto’s mother, Ibu Tini.

Ted and Ibu Cookin up a storm of Ronde!

Gado-gado

Bahan:

  1. kacang tanah 2. cabe; gula merah, bawang putih, dencur, daun jeruk, garam secukupnya 3. sayuran diribus 4. telor, tahu, tempe, timun

caranya:

  1. kacang tanah digoreng terus ditumbuk halus
  2. cabe merah, bawang putih, daun jeruk, hancur digoreng, lalu ditumbuk. Terus kacang dimasukkan ditumbuk bersama-sama ditambah gula merah dan garam secukupnya.
  3. Sayuran; timun (cucumber) mentah, kubis mentah, kecambah? Dipotong (disiris) ditambah telor rebus, tahu, tempe, krumpuk, siap dihidangkan.

Wedang Ronde

Bahan:

Tepung ketan, kacang tanah, gula, jahe

Caranya:

  1. tepung ketan dicampur aci sedikit ditaruh air sedikit dibikin bulatan, lalu diribus, dimasukkan air panas setelah masak, diangkut dicuci air dingin, terus ditiriskan..
  2. kacang tanah direbus setengah matang ditaruh gula jawa dan jahe yang sudah dibakar.
  3. Lalu ditaruh di mangkok ditaruh, bulasan ketan tadi, siap diminum.

Kacang Hijau Bubur

Bahan:

Kacang hijau, gula jawa, daun pandan, santan kelapa kentak (if you want)

Caranya:

  1. kacang hijau diribus ditambah gula jawa dan daun pandan dan garam sedikit. Setelah empuk (soft) lembik diangkat, siap dikidangkan, lebih enak di atasnya ditambah santan kental

Sayur Asem

Bahan:

Sayuran, kacang panjang, terong, daun so/ daun sulinjo kroto

Bumbu, lombok, bawang merah- putih disiris, asam, tomat

Caranya:

  1. Sayuran: kacang panjang jepan, daun so/ daun sulinjo kroto, buncis, terong sedikit diribus.
  2. Bumbunya (pile): asam, bawang merah putih, lombak hijau tomat hijau, dipotong dimasukkan, ditambah garam secukupnya.
  3. Siap untuk makan.

Bush’s Visit to Indonesia Sparks Protest

Who’s that crazy Bule?

who dat?

Some friends not finding it very difficult to find Ted in the crowd after the prayer on the morning of Idul Fitri, in Purwokerto.

News Link:
Hardline Muslims protest Bush’s Indonesia visit

President Bush is scheduled to visit Indonesia this month. Yesterday, hundreds of people from Muslim organizations, families and children, gathered in front of the US Embassy to protest. Protests there are nothing new, of course. But still, the questions have to be asked. Why do people feel so strongly about the figure head of the United States that they don’t even want him to visit their country? The answers might be obvious to you, but it needs to be thought about. “We call the government and the people of Indonesia to reject Bush’s visit as our rejection of every measure he has taken all over the world, especially in Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine,” said Muhammad Ismail Yusanto, the spokesman of Hizbut Tahrir’s, one of the groups.

Dangerous Comfort, Beautiful Suffering

I’ve got it – it’s air conditioning. Air conditioning and moving pictures. They are opiates, and they are responsible for passivity and aborted potential. They sap away the desire to challenge and create, drain away the passion of life. Ya, I always feel really guilty after going to the fancy, air conditioned mall… I admit to succumbing to that tragic acceptance of comfort far too often the past while. Perhaps it has been a reaction to the intensity of my experience here sometimes, an over-stimulation, a desire to escape to a place where every sight and sound does not offer the opportunity for analysis, the need to process a new input; an easy place where every single moment in public requires so much patience, and a tremendous outpouring of extroverted energy, simply to survive the expectations that the masses have of you simply because you are a foreigner, oh so exotic, that is unexpectedly roaming their streets. Sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the constant ambiguities of existence, the promises, challenges and insecurities.

Of course I am exaggerating. In fact, the past few weeks have provided more interactions and new stimulations than I’ve had for a while, as is usually the case when I can get away from the campus, out to a new place.  

banner at alun-alun, sholat idul fitri 

It’s true, however, that I have had a very good time being quite… comfortable, and yes, quite lazy. I spent the holiday of Lebaran, or the week or so off during Idul Fitri, in my temporary home with Suroto’s family in their village outside of Purwokerto. I have not been the most prolific of writers or communicators, which I do regret and apologize for.

            However, after that week in Purwokerto, more than seven days of complete indulgence in comfort, lazing away the heat of the afternoon underneath the mango tree in front of the house, my blood is thick with sambal and sayur asem, the mountains and sky of Java are radiating from my eyes.

 suroto's porch, under the mango tree

Drinking addictive Acehnese coffee and having deep, multi-lingual discussions (Indonesian, English, the local dialect of Javanese) about politics – the roots of the Indonesia’s and the world’s woes and hopes for its future; culture – the deep mysteries of ancient Java, the “high” language used in sensitive situations where communication occurs strictly though symbolic language – there was no deep urge to break the routine and sit down and write. Discomfort, I have discovered, is a key element in creation and creativity.

            Now, however, just getting off the bus from Pasar Minggu (where I was doing some shopping for fresh pisang Ambon and getting away from campus on a Saturday afternoon), my sweat and snot mixing with the dirt from the road, the experience of communal discomfort is oddly pleasurable. And inspiring.

            I’ve a date for dinner with a Suroto and a few of his friends in South Jakarta – assuming I can find the place – but I look forward to sharing my experiences and trying to get across how incredibly important I think they are.

Malaysian Political Drama

Having been a resident of Malaysia for a year myself, and because of it’s important role in relation to Indonesia, South East Asia, and the entire world, I try to follow what’s going on there. This is an interesting recent development. The Malaysian press tends to find a story and turn it into celebrtity drama, so there has been no shortage of this story in the Malaysian press.

Mahathir, Dr. M, ruled Malaysia for decades and was the country’s only Prime Minister until he finally stepped down in 2004, giving the other candidates a chance in the election. His government was far from one of the most open and democratic, referred to more often as taking on a “big brother” role, ruling over Malaysia’s democracy but maintaining tight control over the results of those democratic processes.

Now, still a powerful and controversial figure, Mahathir is attacking the current Prime Minister, saying that Malaysia has become a “police state.” “In a situation where no one can criticize the Prime Minister, I have to voice my criticisms on matters that do not concern my personal being but only those concerning the interest of the religion, race and country” he said. “A climate of fear has enveloped this country.”

As ironic as this accusation is, considering Mahathir’s long track record of leadership, I think it’s very interesting that one of the few people that might be capable of it is challenging the status quo in Malaysia.

It is almost guaranteed, of course, that there is political drama involved in this – someone surely has something to gain. However, the fact that Malaysia’s political suppression is still being talked about and questioned.

This is not the first such accusation against Malaysia’s government, of course. However, the ensuing drama is far from normal. While dissent in Malaysia is usually dealt with in a politically crushing fashion, discrediting and dismissing critics and their criticism, Mahathir is still a giant in the country and all around South East Asia. The idol of students and youth, considered the father of modern Malaysia, the leading political party UMNO and the population in general are in shock that Mahathir, perhaps one of the few people that could, is challenging the status quo.

Here’s a good and more in depth article:

“Giant of Malaysia Attacks Successor”

Pulang Jakarta Damage Report

This is where I lived for a week during the Lebaran holiday. “Bule Masuk Kampung,” the title of a famous movie here in Indonesia, was shouted by children in the village, or kampung, enough to challenge my admittedly limited patience at times. “Foreigner Enters the Village.”

My home for the holidays, Suroto's Mom's house
It’s common knowledge that three young men in a car, after ten straight hours and the fourth mini-meal and coffee snack, at about four in the morning, can engage in some very interesting conversation. Add the fact that there are at least three languages bouncing around, three radically different perspectives on religion, various militantly-held political ideologies, a general lack of sleep and overdose of caffeine, and the constant threat of instant death in the insanity of the fast moving two-way traffic winding through the narrow mountain rode in Central Java in the middle of the night, and you may begin to get an idea of the absolutely wonderful and strange time I had on Sunday night/ Monday morning.

machet.jpg
Agung, Hendra and I arrived in Jakarta at about 5:30 Monday morning, after 12 hours navigating the crowds returning to the capitol city after the holiday. The conversation was a mix of English and Indonesian. Agung and Hendra are both Javanese, the “suku” or tribe from the middle and West of the island of Java, and would often speak that dialect. While I learned many words of that language over the past week, living with Hendra’s family in the village, I usually simply pretended to follow what was going on as they shot comments in cadence back and forth, when they became so engaged in the conversation we were having about global economic policy or the role of religion in Jogyakarta’s recovery from the earthquake or whatever that they forgot I was a foreigner and reverted to their more comfortable “bahasa asli.”

Agung is very dedicated to his Islamic doctrine, making sure to pray, or sholat, five times a day. Hendra, also a Islamic, considers himself an “intellectual Muslim,” and approaches his practice in a very different way. This is very interesting, for he recently started work at a new job in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where Shariat law has been instituted. While he may prefer to not fast during the month of Ramadan, he relates his fear of being arrested for not following the religious law that governs so much of the life of Muslims. And of course I am coming from a very different perspective. Tension in this regard, however, was non-existent – our various perspectives made each conversation all the more fascinating and enlightening.
More than 60 people died on the road this year during the holiday, according to the Jakarta Post. Most victims rode the ubiquitous motor bike, though people also died in cars and buses. I saw people on top of train cars, hanging out the back of tarp covered trucks, families of four or five crammed on one motorbike as they made a twelve hour drive across country.