Showing posts from April, 2011

Going, going, gone...

A quick rant before returning to more important matters... When I let this blog rest idle in 2007, I thought hard about whether to remove the content or let it remain online. In the end, as I explained in my final post , I didn't think it was fair to try to remove from easy public access things that had once been in the public domain. Clearly, there are many who take a different approach. As part of reviving this blog, I have been checking the links that run on the right hand side in what I called my 'ego file' - writing of mine that had been published elsewhere. Sadly (for me rather than anyone else) almost all the links are now broken, the operators of the relevant websites evidently choosing to ditch the old content as they moved onto new publishing systems. Which is a great shame, when you think of how much other material online is disappearing, most of it of far greater interest and historic value than my scribblings. It's particularly galling given the argumen

Monumentally tasty

Gotta love a country that can take the mickey out of its own national monuments. Above, Jakarta's Monas . Below, the soft serve icecream of the same name.

Always something for sale

Drive along the roads leading up to the highways and thoroughfares of Jakarta, and you'll see plenty of people sticking their thumbs out. They're bumming a ride. Well, sorta. In fact, they're offering themselves as 'jockeys' to cars who want to take advantage of the express lane on roads reserved for cars with three or more occupants. Paying for an extra rider (or two, in the case of a mother-and-child combo) might cost a bit, but it will get you out of the bumper-to-bumper traffic that fills the main roads during peak hour. The extra-passenger jockeys are perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the fact that people in Jakarta are entrepreneurial, forever seeking out opportunities to make a few thousand rupiah. In large part the entrepreneurial spirit is driven out of necessity - there's no decent welfare system in Indonesia, so those who can't fend for themselves or fall back on family will soon find themselves destitute. The threat of going hungry

Hung out to dry?

Does the Russian embassy in Jakarta have a Hills Hoist on its roof? A nod to the Australian embassy, perhaps, which sits on the other side of Jalan Rasuna Said.

The noise annoys

Pssst. Happy International Noise Awareness Day. Nope, I didn't realise it existed either, but apparently today is the 16th time it has been held. I found out about the day thanks to a wonderful group of activists I met this afternoon gathered at Bundaran HI, Jakarta's largest roundabout. If any city needed to think about the noise at which it functioned, it would be Jakarta. Day and night, the city is filled with people, animals and machines generating a cacophony of sounds that make it hard to hear even the most blatant of personal bodily eruptions. Take our place. Even indoors, and some distance from the street, we hear the imam from the local mosque preaching to the heathens through a megaphone; we hear the announcer at the train station booming at commuters with incomprehensible messages; and we hear the constant growl of cars, bikes and buses, many of which seem to have been built during a strike by the muffler-makers union. Go a little closer to the street a

Sure beats window shopping

Indonesia does have a reputation for an authoritarianism, which makes it all the more refreshing to see the challenging series of sculptures that are scattered around Grand Indonesia , (probably) Jakarta's most glamorous shopping mall. Confronting statements on life, love and labour are on display, and most veer far from the agitprop pseudo-art that acts as a substitute for creative expression in many parts of the world. The art at Grand Indonesia is is art that forces people to confront the status quo and think for themselves, a provocative concept itself in a country that attaches such a high value to groupthink. It is quite telling that it is not a gallery that provides a home to these sculptures, but a shopping mall. In the West, shopping malls seem to be havens for bland inoffensiveness in which people can mentally switch off as they administer a hefty dose of retail therapy. Most likely, the confronting art on display at Grand Indonesia would never appear in a mall

ANZAC dawn

I've just returned from the ANZAC Day dawn service in the inner city Jakarta suburb of Menteng Pulo. The venue was the Jakarta War Cemetry , a little oasis of quiet amid towering residential blocks and the sights and smells of kampung life. While Australians and New Zealanders represented the bulk of the several hundred people in attendance, there was also a generous contingent of Indonesian veterans and soldiers, diplomats and civilians from several other nations. Like most ANZAC Day service, it was a simple affair that prompted those in attendence to think about themselves and their circumstances. Its power derives from its quiet understatement. The cemetery for Commonwealth soldiers is a remarkable place, with nearly a thousand soldiers buried in minimally marked graves amid immaculately maintained lawns. Among those whose final resting place is here are 96 Australians. Just why so many Commonwealth soldiers met their maker here, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission w

First impressions last

You learn a lot about Indonesia in the first few minutes after landing at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport. Those hanging out for the petty bureaucracy, small scale corruption and smog-filled traffic jams that makes Jakarta the city it is need not wait long. Soon after landing late last Thursday afternoon (on a day that started before dawn in Sydney), I joined with many of the 150 others who had just disembarked on a flight from Singapore in the queue for those who bought a visa on arrival. Buying the $US25 visa off the friendly teller was no trouble - it was the queue to get it processed that inspired frustration. Fanning ourselves with passports, airline tickets or well-thumbed copies of The Economist, we sweltered for more than an hour as we awaited service. In front of us, just two of the eight booths established to process visas were open, and attending those two were a pair of bored looking Indonesian officials who had probably encountered their fair share of aggrevated

Selamat datang and all that

Now, where was I? A little over four years ago I let my blog lie dormant because I had taken a new position at The Age. I had a fantastic time there, was given some great opportunities and met some incredible people (being a business reporter amid the global financial crisis and a politics reporter during the downfall of a Prime Minister is hard to beat). But my wanderlust was getting the better of me and last year I left the paper to seek other opportunities. Now, I'm less than a week into my time in Jakarta, a heaving mound of humanity that serves as the capital of Indonesia. My plan is to settle down, get to know what makes this place tick, and potentially pick up some work along the way writing, editing or teaching. Throughout, I'll be sharing it with you on my blog. I'll be writing about Indonesia, its people, its politics, its culture, its economy, its place in the world, and its food. Ah, the food. Who knew so many things would taste so good when deep fried?