Archive for February, 2007

Minnesota – even whiter than usual…

Weather Service warns ‘the worst

 is yet to come’

Snow Storm in the Midwest, 24 February, 2007

Yes, one of those storms that evokes such romanticism in my thoughts about my home Minnesota. People running around frantically, the snow starting to collect, that rush of traffic and its eventual slowdown, until it completely grinds to a halt. I remember looking out my window on University Ave, as a student at the University of Minnesota, my mood dropping as I realize I might be trapped inside the house, whether I like it or not. But then I think that, “yes, I am Minnesotan,” and the deep, fluffy snow looks so soft, and the excitement overcomes common sense as I  put on a few extra layers than normal and wheel my old bike out the door anyway…

Ignoring the world in Dali

Enter Dali!

The impressive Imperial gates at the N, S, E, and West entrances to the old city, in the West of the Yunnan Province, used to declare the importance of the place, the domain of power, a seat of religious importance. They were there to empower those within, and to keep the masses out.

old gate dali.jpg

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Indonesia in Time Magazine, in the world’s eye

“Indonesia is undergoing a spiritual revolution. Since the 1998 fall of strongman Suharto, who during his 32-year rule suppressed not only political freedom but any faith that could challenge his authority, the country has re-embraced its religiosity.”

     –Time Magazine, “Why Indonesia Matters,” Feb. 22, 2007

After living in Indonesia for more than half a year, studying at the very same University of Indonesia this story in Time magazine refers to, finding and speaking to some of the same professors that are quoted there, I can attest that the ease with which this author summarizes a part of the Indonesian puzzle covers up the time and energy that she has had to give to the huge country to gain this understanding. I am complimenting the author, because even after having so many experiences there and learning so much about Indonesia, it is still difficult to draw concrete conclusions and communicate them in a meaningful way.

Please take a look at the article, “Why Indonesia Matters” in Time Magazine. It gives an interesting view of religion and indeed makes a good case why Indonesia is so important and becoming more important in our contemporary world.

I’ve been trying to tell you the whole time!

Streets of Kunming

playing mahjong.jpg


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Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Riding through the streets of Kunming on a used bicycle, you might wonder where the usual crowds of people and motor scooters and cars are. Then, from down a small road off December First Street, you hear a rumbling, shouts of excitement, explosions. You fear there has just been a brutal gang shooting, and on this, the Spring Festival!

But then you round the corner, and you see a group of smiling kids emerge from the cloud of smoke, little red pieces of paper still hanging in the air, waving their little sparklers and causing general mayhem with the little fire crackers and bottlerockets.

happy new year.mp3

I made a little digital video of some of the celebrations that went on all night, all over the city, but I haven’t figured out how to make the file small enough to upload.


Holiday, Kunming Style

I got the message across to my new housemate the other day (who has turned out to be a nice woman who teaches at a local school, and who’s English is worse than my Chinese) that I would like to do some shopping and would like to know where I could go. “Wo dai ni,  hao ma?” she smiled broadly as she immediately started putting on her coat, not waiting for an answer to her offer to take me to the shopping market. Next thing I know I am wandering through one of the biggest - and busiest – Walmart stores that I have ever seen. Only a few days before the Spring Festival here in Kunming, the city has that frantic energy in the air as people make last minute preparations, and everyone seemed to be crowded into the place to buy an extra kilo of noodles or frozen fish or some toilet paper or fancy liquor imported from Scotland, or a new wide screen television for that matter…

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Is there really snow there?

A picture sent over the digital airwaves, from rural Minnesota. I do miss the nasty, lovely crisp of a -10 F morning…


frosty window rush lake.jpg


Hello Perham!

Greetings, Mrs. Irvine’s class, from South East Asia!

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!


beach quy nhon.JPG

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Floods and Revolutions?

Unless you have paid no attention to news whatsoever, you have heard about the flooding that is taking place in the capitol city of Indonesia. Over 200,000 people are without homes at the moment, and many have even died. There is worry about health care and the spread of diseases in the floods, and the problems are no where near over, with more rain in the forecast.

Anyone who has visited Jakarta will have been amazed by the scale of some of the development that has taken and is taking place in the city. I have been around, and some of the most fantastic shopping malls and most luxurious offices I have seen are in Jakarta. At the same time, and often on the same city block, hundreds of thousands of people live in conditions where basic public services are not supplied, as is evidenced by the floods. It is no secret in Indonesia that allocations meant for public infrastructure have wound up funding other projects. While one might get the impression that Indonesians, while recognizing the inefficiency of their government, are not moved to action over it. It is very important, however, to remember that Indonesians are more than capable of taking action, such as when a mass movement helped pave the way for the downfall of the Suharto regime in 1998.

The fact that the current government and indeed political system is so young is cause for worry, especially in the face of such disasters as Indonesia has seen in recent history. I believe that if Indonesia cannot deal with the floods in Jakarta to the satisfaction of the city’s residents, the country and its people will be that much closer to demanding change.

This article from the International Herald Tribune talks about how “…this is as much a governance issue as a natural disaster…” The fallout from the tragedy will be manifest in the upcoming elections in Indonesia, according to the author, with the current government baring the blame, at least in terms of the voting power of the public. This is, I agree, a very likely scenario. However, from my experience, the political situation in Indonesia is still tenuous. Disasters like the flood and others that have taken place recently in Java are increasing the suffering of a people that already know the meaning of discomfort, to put it one way. Enough misery can lead people to drastic ends…

Kasihan Jakarta

Not to jump on the bandwagon, but could this be another sign of global warming? The effects of the rainy season on Jakarta, Indonesia, are well known and even accepted with a heavy sigh by its residents, but the scale is not usually this bad. As of today, at least 400,000 people have been displaced within the city alone. I just hope that my friends there are ok. 


 Here is an email that was sent out from the American Embassy in Indonesia (apparently they recognize something besides “radical terrorists” as a threat to US citizens…).

U.S. Embassy Jakarta
Warden Message
February 5, 2007

The U.S. Embassy informs Americans in Indonesia that several days of heavy
rains have caused widespread flooding in and around Jakarta.  As of February 5,
2007, more than 400,000 people have been left homeless by flooding.  Traffic in
metropolitan Jakarta and on access roads into Jakarta has been seriously
disrupted.  Landline and cellular telephone connections are disrupted in many
parts of the city.  Power outages are widespread.  Indonesian government
meteorologists predict continued heavy rainfall over the next several days and
sporadic heavy rains continuing until early March.

The Embassy urges Americans residing in Jakarta to take necessary precautions
to deal with the flood emergency.  Non-essential travel around the city should
be curtailed.  It is prudent to monitor local news reports frequently, and to
consult with Indonesian friends and colleagues concerning accessibility of
roads for essential travel.  Americans should keep adequate supplies of
non-perishable food, drinking water, flashlights and batteries, and candles and
matches in their homes.  Those needing prescription medicines should keep
adequate supplies on hand in case access to shopping or delivery of supplies to
pharmacies is interrupted.