FAITH IN INDONESIA

FAITH IN INDONESIA
The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Monday, January 16, 2017

CHALLENGING ASSUMPTIONS

Life is like a question    
                                            
We all make snap decisions about those we meet.  Are they hostile, or friendly? Trying to cheat or help?  Should we get close, or avoid?
Mukhanif Yasin Yusuf is a master interpreter of reactions, a skilled catcher of the flickering doubt.  A top student and activist from Yogyakarta’s Universitas Gadjah Mada Hanif knows   not all offer the respect he liberally gives to others.
For although polite and humble his behavior can be a mite disarming. A tad too earnest?  He talks loudly, though not brashly, and stares intently.  Is he dangerous? 
No, he’s deaf, and this is his message:
“There can be stigmas attached to being disabled.  Some see us as weak as pitiful, as objects for rehabilitation, or even as the sources of social problems and diseases, on the margin, maybe even criminal.
“When people sit around in cafes do they discuss what it must be like as a disabled person?  Do you wonder how we feel and what we do?
“Just close your eyes for at least 15 seconds; focus on imagining yourself as disabled and denied work because of your condition.  You are refused entry to school and university as you do not meet the criteria of being physically and mentally healthy.
“You cannot climb the stairs of a multi- storey building for your legs are paralyzed. Or maybe you're scorned and regarded as mad, thought fit for a mental hospital.
“Ponder these issues and remember that unlike you, we cannot open our eyes after 15 seconds and let our imagination fade.  Do you think we can be returned to ‘normal’ as determined by community consensus? 
“If a blind person is trained as a masseur should we say this is an honor when that person could be a scientist?
“Are the disabled not part of the community?  Under God’s Law all are human beings.  Sometimes this is forgotten. Should we be shunned, put in a separate environment, deemed unfit to mingle with others?  We have minds to feel, think and act. We belong to society too, and we contribute.”
Hanif remembers swimming in the Yellow River as an 11 year old. Taking a dip was no big deal for the kids of the Central Java village of Jambudesa and the little lad wanted to be with his mates.
His Mom had told him and his five siblings to keep away for good reason. The river’s name alone gave warning enough, but who wants to hear a carping elder?
 “Everything was done in the river,” he recalled.  “It was used for washing, bathing and as a toilet by people and cattle.”
A few days later he noticed a ringing in his left ear.  His hearing had never been good, but this was something different. 
Perhaps because he’d disobeyed his mother he didn’t tell about his problem.  When it got worse and his parents noticed they assumed tonsillitis.
But a medical check showed this was no simple example of the infection otitis externa, better known as swimmer’s ear, common, painful but treatable
This was a more serious bacterial infection and by the time it was diagnosed his hearing had been irreparably damaged. Now he was totally deaf. On the cusp of adolescence, quivering with life’s possibilities is not the best time to make a balanced assessment of the future.
“I felt as though I had died,” he said. ‘I wanted to kill myself.  I left school, came back, and left again.  For two years I stayed away. I didn’t know what to do except hide myself. 
“I was so angry with God.  What had happened was unfair. I was good at school, particularly mathematics. I wanted to go to university, a journey that was rare for students from Jambudesa.  Now it seemed I’d lost everything.
“My mother said: ‘Life is like a question which we have to answer.  How do we face the future?  If you don’t go to school how will you ever succeed?’
“My father was a teacher in the pesantren (Islamic boarding school) so I knew the importance of education.  I understood what Mom said and followed her advice.”
Indonesia is the better for his decision because Hanif, now 25, has become a leading advocate for disabled students at UGM where he has just completed his first degree in less than four years, ahead of his colleagues.
Instead of maths he turned to the pen to express his emotions.  At school he wrote short stories, screenplays, poems and even scientific articles, winning prizes and getting published locally and provincially.
His first partly-biographical novel Jejak Pejalan Sunyi (Walking Quietly) has been published by Grasindo.  How he wants to pursue higher degrees and an academic career.
Hanif described his hopes in a poem:

            I wanted to explore the world through words on this green campus...
Words that have been made can still breathe...

Coming late to deafness meant he never formally learned signing but has developed lip-reading skills. When these fail he asks for questions to be written.

Hanif talks eloquently and passionately about the plight of the disabled in Indonesia, sometimes reducing his listeners to tears.

 “It takes time to get to know others and find my confidence,” he said.  “I need people to look at me directly when they speak.  Some find that difficult.”

Once on campus he set about founding the Students with Disabilities Forum, lobbying for recognition and access to all facilities, writing and speaking about the issues he and his friends faced:.
Rector Dr Dwikorita Karnawati told The Jakarta Post that UGM had now removed all restrictions against enrolment.
“We must find special ways to help the disabled study and reach their full potential for their benefit and for the good of society,” she said.
“I don’t know the best ways but we can study what is happening globally, improve our wisdom and listen to advocates like Hanif, an exceptional student helping bring about real change.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 16 January 2017)
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Friday, January 13, 2017

NZ BREAKS FREE OF THE US-ISRAEL LEASH

Doing it their way                                              
At the UN Security Council’s December meeting New Zealand showed the world it’s no megapower’s poodle.
The South Pacific nation co-sponsored a successful motion demanding a halt to settlements in Palestine territory, delighting much of the Islamic world and infuriating Israel.
Egypt drafted the motion also sponsored by Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela. The US which normally supports Israel abstained from voting.
The win is more bark than bite as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said no-way and pulled home his Wellington ambassador. But it shows how a resolute and tiny Western country can write its own script and play on the big stage.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully told reporters the motion was “a victory for those who are keen to see the Security Council take some action on the Middle East peace process after eight years of complete inaction.”
McCully won’t be in airport VIP lounges after May as it’s all change in Kiwi politics following PM John Key’s surprise pre-Christmas decision to quit. The top job passed almost seamlessly to his former deputy Bill English.
McCully has been ill and his exit after eight years was expected.  Front runners for the position include Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, 51, and Trade Minister Todd McClay, 48, former Ambassador to the European Union. 
McClay’s background makes him the logical choice. Coleman was formerly Defence Minister so also has international experience.
Kiwis will vote sometime before November; if the electorate rejects  a Keyless National Party  Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman David Parker, 56, could collect the portfolio. Policy shift would be minimal as both parties agree on major issues.
Key’s departure while leagues ahead in the polls, the economy bubbling and budget in surplus should be Politics 101 for leaders everywhere: How to play the dark arts without turning embittered and becoming despised.  Few will copy because most practitioners start believing their own publicity and succumb to hubris.
Had Soeharto resigned as president when popular and development booming Indonesia would now be dramatically different.
Key was a high-altitude money trader working across world capitals when he returned home to revive the National Party, becoming PM in 2008. Now he’s done it his way again – striding out of office even though the seers said he’d win the next election.
This suggests Kiwis do politics like civilised gentlefolk. Wrong. Most of Key’s 37 predecessors were knifed at the ballot box, metaphorically stabbed by colleagues in factional brawls or literally dying at their desks.  He got labelled ‘the smiling assassin’ for despatching slouchers without making them rivals.
Key, 55, rationalized that a fourth three-year term as PM (NZ has no restrictions on leadership tenure) would damage his family and “make room for new talent”. Though usually a euphemism for ‘I’ve lost control of Cabinet’,  seasoned commentators reckon the reasons are genuine.
Key broke all rules governing conservative parties, calling himself a “centrist and pragmatist” driven by “common sense” rather than ego or ideology. He voted for gay marriage, still unavailable in Australia, and ignored overseas trends to lift the pension age though costs are crippling budgets as retirees live longer.
Despite his ease in high places Key remained the happy guy next door, hard to hate. Even his Labour opponents said he “served generously with dedication.” He stayed ordinary while being extraordinary a quality seemingly shared by President Joko ‘Jokowi” Widodo.
Although representing only 4.5 million people Key’s goodbye was world news. His big mates in Washington, London and Brussels called to wish him well. At his holiday hideaway in Hawaii he plays golf with Barack Obama.  Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull reacted with Oz slang: ‘Say it ain’t so, Bro’.  So all the more surprising that NZ backs Palestine.
McCully, 63, a lawyer before entering Parliament, worked backstage. Under his watch NZ’s strange relationship with the US improved when the USS Sampson became the first warship flying the stars and stripes to sail into Kiwi waters in 33 years.
NZ was a founder member of the ANZUS security treaty but in 1986 under a Labour Government went nuclear free banning visits by nuclear armed or powered vessels.
The snub astonished Australia and outraged America but the acronym stayed intact; defence officials quietly kept the three-way alliance afloat while their political masters stared at the horizon.
National favours business and farmers, a powerful force in local politics. Aotearoa, NZ’s Maori name, has been an international human rights and social welfare pioneer and a model for others. 
It was the first nation in the world to give women the vote. It developed a massive government housing program, pensions for all at 65, free public health and education, and  no-fault accident insurance  – policies dear to the electorate.
To pay for the goodies NZ has a high tax economy dependent on tourism and food exports.  Its farmer cooperative Fonterra has a milk packing plant in Cikarang, West Java.
Key and McCully last visited Indonesia in July. NZ doesn’t carry the Islamophobic baggage that weighs down Australia’s relations with its northern neighbor so has a benign image in the Archipelago embellished by backing Palestine.  However it’s a ferocious free trader against the Republic’s protectionism.
Also in December the World Trade Organization upheld a NZ / US challenge to 18 agricultural non-tariff barriers allegedly costing Kiwi exporters more than half a billion dollars. Indonesia will appeal.
Another potential clash zone has been flagged by incoming ambassador Tantowi Yahya who plans to give Kiwis “accurate and up-to-date information” about his country’s policies in West Papua.
Vocal NGOs highlighting alleged human rights abuses in the province are unlikely to stay tuned into the former TV host’s message.
 McCully set up consulates in Surabaya and Bali to boost business and sell high-quality education.  Aid has been channelled to develop geothermal power projects where Kiwi engineers are experts.
Whoever becomes NZ’s FAM the little nation at the bottom of the world will continue to do things its way.
(First published in Strategic Review - 13 January 2017)






Tuesday, January 10, 2017

CONFRONTING COLOUR

A Kiwi in the paddy      
                                           
The greens are darker, denser and deeper in his homeland.  Tones in his birthplace are brighter, shriller. All are teasing, shifting, mysterious even, difficult to catch on canvas.
New Zealand artist John van der Sterren doesn’t shrink from the challenges of Java’s landscapes. “I have the itch,” he says and flexes his fingers.  No arthritis, though he’s 78 and spent his early childhood deprived of all essential nutrients in a tropical concentration camp.
The awful experience scarred in other ways.  “I get depressed,” he adds, “but art is also therapy. Perseverance is very important for an artist. Deep down I know the urge comes from up there.”  He points to the sky, but claims not to be conventionally religious.
 “I’m not so prolific now, maybe 60 paintings a year compared with more than 200 at my peak.  But I can’t keep away from the studio.”
This is a splendid purpose-built building set among the rice paddies of Central Java.  It’s called Villa Sikepan (named after a nearby village) and sits over a disused sugar-cane rail line and stone overpass known as the Bridge of the White Tiger.  Locals claim to have seen this mythical beast so tend to keep clear.
 The three-level home stands alongside a rushing creek, one of hundreds that irrigate the Kedu Plain, the fertile farmlands between the Progo and Elo Rivers just seven degrees below the Equator.
It would be difficult to find a greater contrast with NZ, which accepted the young John and his Dutch parents as refugees. They’d survived more than three years harsh internment during the Japanese occupation of the then Dutch East Indies
About 100,000 non-Asian prisoners filled the camps where the death rate was up to 30 per cent. When the gates were opened after Japan lost the war attacks by vengeful mobs hating the former colonialists took more lives.
The family was offered repatriation to Holland or safety in the South Pacific nation.  They spent two months in Invercargill, one of the world’s most southerly cities. Their only child was eight.
 “It was the most marvellous time,” said the artist.  “We were made to feel so welcome.”
Back in Indonesia the returned Dutch were refusing to recognize Soekarno’s declaration of independence and so began a guerrilla war.  This only ended in 1949 when the colonialists accepted the new post-war reality of surging nationalism.
During the four-year conflict the Dutch briefly gained some mastery over the revolutionaries so the family returned to Indonesia where father Albert worked in the airline industry.  But they rapidly realised the old days were over so headed back to NZ, this time settling in the capital Wellington.
At school John was good at cartooning and keen on music, eventually becoming a cello player with a string quartet. But art didn’t pay in the NZ of the 1960s. “You’d be eating dog food to survive,” said van der Sterren

So he worked with an advertising company for the next quarter century.  Along the way he got married and had two daughters, and pushed Indonesia aside. Art stayed a weekend pastime but became more serious when he met landscape painter Cedric Savage.
“He never taught me, but he did encourage me – and that is so important,” said van der Sterren. “He once looked at one of my works which I thought rather good.  It had a clear blue sky.
“Cedric picked up a brush and painted a horizontal line through the sky.  In one stroke he changed everything.”
Then his company offered to send him to Indonesia to help open a new office. The memories were brutal but the assignment was attractive and Java’s beguiling colors beckoned.  He met French art dealer Didier Hamel in Jakarta who challenged him to take his talent seriously. In 1991 the Kiwi walked out of his day job and into the unknown.
Two years later his first exhibition exceeded expectations. Commissions to paint the Presidential Palace and portraits of the prominent followed, for the man has eclectic talents, shifting from close-up to wide screen with ease.
Some of his earlier figures have Vincent van Gogh intensity.  His landscapes are easy on the eye and getting starker as he ages.
“Looking back it was the right time to turn full-time,” van der Sterren said. “Before the economic crash of 1998 Chinese businessmen were enthusiastic buyers, competing among themselves for new works.”
After trying other locations he settled near Mendut, a 9th century Buddhist monument related to the nearby Borobudur Temple complex, the World Heritage Site that draws millions of tourists.
Once free of office routines van der Sterren toured the archipelago drawing just about everything including shrines and temples that remain from the Buddhist and Hindu eras that preceded Islam.
He has also painted his way across much of Asia. Hamel, who has written two books about his client, describes him as ‘one of the most famous landscape artists living and working in the Far East’.  Van der Sterren’s own books include sketches of old buildings in Surabaya and Jakarta.
Though the area is rich in artists he seldom joins their discussions, arguing that as a foreigner he should not compete with locals. Some are graduates of the prestigious Indonesian Arts Institute in nearby Yogyakarta, the center of Javanese culture.

 “I’ve never been to art school so I’m not in that scene,” he said. “Besides, I don’t like too much natter.  I want to do.” 
He is also critical of current fads for abstract and surrealist art: “Who wants to hang a black superman sitting on the toilet picture in their bedroom?
“To be successful you need to have talent, a good dealer, great friends and lots of luck.  I’ve had all those, particularly being accepted in NZ and becoming a citizen. I return now and again.  But I still find those greens difficult.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post Monday 9 January 2017)
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Thursday, January 05, 2017

NUR'S CIREBON MAGIC

Dancing for Islam                                                          
Cirebon dancer Mimi Dewi Savitri died as the last century vanished into history. But her art survives. She was 82 and had been performing till ten days before her passing.
Her granddaughter and legatee Nur ‘Nani’ Anani wants to leave this temporal existence in much the same way – and preferably on the stage. She says this cheerfully. When you have yet to complete four decades on this earth the final curtain seems far away.
“I have much to do in maintaining and demonstrating Indonesia’s traditional culture,” she said. “Fortunately it’s still alive and in good health, though no thanks to the regional government which does little to support the arts.
“When I say this they get angry and I’m not popular. If we had to rely on politicians the arts would not survive. Fortunately some people still like our work - in fact interest is strongest overseas.”
 Nani, whose full name is Nur Ananai Maman Irman, spoke to The Jakarta Post in Wellington after a solo performance at the Indonesian Embassy.
She was in a contingent of 50 creative Indonesians in New Zealand for a course in arts management organised by the Auckland University of Technology. This included a tour of facilities in the South Pacific nation’s capital.
The NZ government offers artists and producers subsidies, courses and awards to encourage participation and growth in all disciplines.
In January Nani will be in the US on her third visit, then again later in the year. Emil Kang, Executive Director for Arts at the University of North Carolina said the dancer would be on campus for a season on sacred /secular boundaries in Islam.
“We are using Sufism as our lens in four non-Arab Muslim-majority nations (Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Senegal) as a way of debunking false notions of a monolithic Islam,” he said.

 “Nani will participate in workshops, classes and conversations on religious studies, Southeast Asian studies and costume design, and dialogues in our center for Muslim civilizations.   

“We are keenly interested in having her share the balance between the preservation of tradition and modern day relevance, and understanding the gray areas of cultural versus religious traditions.”

Nani has also danced in Japan and Europe at venues like the Frankfurt Book Fair adding mystique and movement to events which would otherwise be static.
Nani’s performances set up the audience to expect difference.  Elaborately and colorfully clad with an ornate and regal headdress she mounts the stage as though on a casual stroll, but then kneels and faces away from the auditorium.
For a few minutes of silence all that can be seen is her back wrapped in splendid batik.  She says she is contemplating, entering the spirit of the character she’ll portray.  The mask she later dons has been infused with magic by its long-gone maker.
Some masks she uses have no holes for eyes making the dancing even more difficult.
The gamelan begins. Curious melodies that swirl like moving water, never stopping long enough for a take-home tune as in Western music. It’s not just a dance, but a ritual “between God and earth.”
“I’m the seventh generation of artists and started the dance exercises when I was three,” she said later, not to brag but as a matter of fact. “I didn’t come from a rich family.  We had to borrow and get donations so I could go to university in Bandung.
“Dancing is something I have to do and want to do. It is my choice and joy, but also a compulsion.  The spirits of my ancestors are here. They must be kept alive for this and future generations.”
Not all in her family agree.  Those who follow a more austere version of Islam from Saudi Arabia disapprove of women on stage and claim that the ancient arts are idolatrous. 
Some dances are considered erotic; Westerners would find this difficult to accept as there’s nothing bawdy or revealing, though red in the costume indicates “the madness of desire”.
Nani, who is now divorced, said she is more flexible in her beliefs.  She cites the Walisongo (nine saints) who brought Islam to Java as acceptors of indigenous arts who didn’t try to stamp out ancient beliefs.  These included dances celebrating weddings and harvests – and to guard against supernatural forces.
Supporter Daniel Haryono sometimes asks her to perform at his Ullen Sentalu Museum of Javanese Arts and Culture in Yogyakarta. This draws around 15,000 visitors a month; less than ten per cent are foreigners – a number he’d like to see increase. 
His museum specialises in preserving ‘intangible heritage’ such as folklore and music along with the artefacts normally found in collections. 
“Nani is one of the most successful performing artists in the country,” he said. “She is keeping the traditional dances of Losari in good health.”
Losari is an old village outside Cirebon and closer to Central Java and its influence, particularly the Prince Panji stories which feature in Nani’s dances. She runs her Purwa Kencana studio with about 80 students. 
She said the style of dance, costumes and masks differs from those in West Java. The movements are also said to be more agile, though such comparisons are best left to the keen eyes of choreographers.
 “Losari style is different from Cirebon mask dancing in every way – history, choreography, costume, music and presentation,” she said.
“The dance of King Bandopati Klana reflects aspects of human nature like egotism and arrogance, illustrated by the color red and the mask’s bulging eyes. The message is that these aspects of human nature are not morally good and should not be imitated.
“The Losari mask dance styles were created by the local Prince Angkawijaya about 400 years ago to spread Islam. So this is what I’m doing while preserving the skills of my Grandmother and all her ancestors.”
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(First published in The Jakarta Post 4 January 2017)


Friday, December 23, 2016

INGGRIS - PARE STYLE

Study at Harvard.  Or Cambridge. And never go overseas     
  
         

The dilemma was palpable.  Should Saumi and Nanda keep walking and risk eyeballing a native English speaker? The encounter might enhance their vocabulary.
Or should they dart back to the safety of the Basic English Course (BEC) campus where order rules and decisions are made by others?
The earnest teens in their black jilbab (headscarf) and white blouse uniforms decided to accelerate, tell the foreigner “we must be leaving” and head for the café.  Facing each other across a table they practised to make perfect:
“I am going to the classroom.”
“You will be going to the classroom.”
“She has been to the classroom.”
BEC is the pioneer language school and the biggest in the East Java town of Pare.  This was once a totally rural village relying on rice and sugar cane grown on the fertile flatlands surrounding the city of Kediri. Now it has diversified into teaching English and thrived, largely because of one man.

 Study at Harvard.  Or Cambridge. And never go overseas                
Duncan Graham/ Pare
The dilemma was palpable.  Should Saumi and Nanda keep walking and risk eyeballing a native English speaker? The encounter might enhance their vocabulary.
Or should they dart back to the safety of the Basic English Course (BEC) campus where order rules and decisions are made by others?
The earnest teens in their black jilbab (headscarf) and white blouse uniforms decided to accelerate, tell the foreigner “we must be leaving” and head for the café.  Facing each other across a table they practised to make perfect:
“I am going to the classroom.”
“You will be going to the classroom.”
“She has been to the classroom.”
BEC is the pioneer language school and the biggest in the East Java town of Pare.  This was once a totally rural village relying on rice and sugar cane grown on the fertile flatlands surrounding the city of Kediri. Now it has diversified into teaching English and thrived, largely because of one man.
 Muhammad Kalend Osen arrived in 1978 after studying languages and religion for five years. He met two Islamic university students from Surabaya wanting to hone their English skills for an exam.  Their chosen tutor had other commitments so Kalend’s wife, who had inherited a house in Pare, pushed hubby to take the job.
“I was nervous, I didn’t know whether I’d be successful,” he said. “I’d never been to teachers’ college.  When my students returned to Surabaya and graduated they attributed their success to me, told others and the word spread.”
Now 23,000 students later Kalend has a splendid purpose-built campus where he imposes his own style, discipline and strict dress rules. BEC’s teaching bears little resemblance to a Western language college; it’s more like a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) than the 100 other ‘colleges’ that have followed in his wake to create Pare’s famous Kampong Inggris – a term Kalend dislikes.
“It’s not a village and it’s not English,” he said. “It suggests that everyone speaks the language and that’s certainly not true. But I’m not bothered. That’s their affair.”
Kalend, 71, was born in East Kalimantan where his future in the family’s timber business seemed assured.
“But I didn’t plan to spend my life cutting down trees, I wanted to use my brain,” he said.  “I was also seeking spiritual guidance.  I’d heard of a pesantren in Gontor, East Java led by a scholar called Kiai Yazid who spoke several languages.
“Also at the pesantren was an Australian studying Islam and he helped me learn English.”
Despite having never been to an English-speaking country Kalend’s language skills are remarkable. He’s at ease with idioms. Yet he has never studied at university and has no formal qualifications.  “I’m just a village boy,” he said.
He claims inspiration from American self-improvement salesman Dale Carnegie’s book How to win friends and influence people and its message of learning from mistakes.
Surprisingly he found his abilities useful on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.  “I couldn’t make myself understood in Arabic and was generally ignored,” he said. “But when I switched to English I was treated with respect.”  It’s a story he tells his students to underline the point:  Even in Islam’s holiest places you need the international language.
The teenagers who head to Pare (population 20,000), a two hour drive south-west of Surabaya, come from all parts of the Archipelago. To get here they’ve by-passed established commercial courses like the Swedish franchise English First, and reputable universities with language degree programmes.
In Kampong Inggris the students are spoilt for choice; they can enrol in Sand Course with units for ‘comprehending your complications’ which can ‘make comfortable listening like steady’; they might also discover that ‘a rich vocabulary is better than being single’.
Those with universal ambitions can start at Galaxy or Peace.  More down-to-earth is Global and UNESCO.  Prefer Europe? Try Britain or Cambridge.  No need to get a visa for the States – Harvard is here.  You can even study underwater with EACE, which calls itself ‘the English Aquasition (sic) Course’.
Like the staff at BEC tutors are recruited from the ranks of past students. There’s believed to be only one native speaker working in Pare – an American.  Kalend’s children and in-laws are lecturers so academic dissent is unlikely. BEC has chairs and desks but other courses are conducted on the floor of open sheds.
No government permits needed to start a business so no prowling inspectors to check credentials. The only capital outlay is for a whiteboard, street signs and banners; to entice ditherers these should include images of the Statue of Liberty, London double-decker busses – and even the Eiffel Tower.
Come to us, learn English and go to Paris.  No-one mentions that the Anglophobic French are reluctant to use any tongue other than their own.
Not all graduate with scrambled syntax. Mohammed Ridho Fadli, 22, claims his impressive English mastery has come from study in Pare. He took an undergraduate degree in Bogor before heading to East Java.
“I don’t bother about memorising words,” he said. “Nor do I think much about grammar.  I try to concentrate on listening to people and watching films.  I enjoy the atmosphere here.”
Unlike Saumi and Nanda, Ridho fronts foreigners to sharpen his language skills which he hopes to use in making tourist videos. He spends Rp 350,000 (AUD $ 35) a month for a room and a similar amount on food. 
Pare is cheap even though Wall Street is nearby.  Courses start from around Rp 150,000 (AUD $15) for a fortnight’s part-time tuition.
There’s another attraction – the mixed sex environment.  For many it’s their first venture afar without their parents who doubtless feel their darlings will be safe in a largely Muslim town.  In Australia they might get a world class education but they’d also be exposed to the notorious ‘free sex’ lifestyle.
Melbourne’s Girl Camp sounds like every adolescent boy’s dream, but it has nothing to do with love-ins under canvas. In Pare ‘camp’ is a synonym for course.
To serve the influx of outsiders several support businesses have opened – from bicycle-hire shops to laundries and photocopy kiosks. But no bars – and with the density of living eliminating privacy couples have to cool their ardour by licking ice creams confident with their course motto:
‘We’re gonna make you successful with our gatherness.’
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Pix credit Erlinawati Graham
153a Muhammad Kalend Osen
167a Mohammed Ridho Fadli
















. 





'
    (left) arrived in 1978 after studying languages and religion for five years. He met two Islamic university students from Surabaya wanting to hone their English skills for an exam.  Their chosen tutor had other commitments so Kalend’s wife, who had inherited a house in Pare, pushed hubby to take the job.
“I was nervous, I didn’t know whether I’d be successful,” he said. “I’d never been to teachers’ college.  When my students returned to Surabaya and graduated they attributed their success to me, told others and the word spread.”
Now 23,000 students later Kalend has a splendid purpose-built campus where he imposes his own style, discipline and strict dress rules. BEC’s teaching bears little resemblance to a Western language college; it’s more like a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) than the 100 other ‘colleges’ that have followed in his wake to create Pare’s famous Kampong Inggris – a term Kalend dislikes.
“It’s not a village and it’s not English,” he said. “It suggests that everyone speaks the language and that’s certainly not true. But I’m not bothered. That’s their affair.”
Kalend, 71, was born in East Kalimantan where his future in the family’s timber business seemed assured.

“But I didn’t plan to spend my life cutting down trees, I wanted to use my brain,” he said.  “I was also seeking spiritual guidance.  I’d heard of a pesantren in Gontor, East Java led by a scholar called Kiai Yazid who spoke several languages.
“Also at the pesantren was an Australian studying Islam and he helped me learn English.”
Despite having never been to an English-speaking country Kalend’s language skills are remarkable. He’s at ease with idioms. Yet he has never studied at university and has no formal qualifications.  “I’m just a village boy,” he said.
He claims inspiration from American self-improvement salesman Dale Carnegie’s book How to win friends and influence people and its message of learning from mistakes.
Surprisingly he found his abilities useful on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.  “I couldn’t make myself understood in Arabic and was generally ignored,” he said. “But when I switched to English I was treated with respect.”  It’s a story he tells his students to underline the point:  Even in Islam’s holiest places you need the international language.
The teenagers who head to Pare (population 20,000), a two hour drive south-west of Surabaya, come from all parts of the Archipelago. To get here they’ve by-passed established commercial courses like the Swedish franchise English First, and reputable universities with language degree programmes.
In Kampong Inggris the students are spoilt for choice; they can enrol in Sand Course with units for ‘comprehending your complications’ which can ‘make comfortable listening like steady’; they might also discover that ‘a rich vocabulary is better than being single’.

Those with universal ambitions can start at Galaxy or Peace.  More down-to-earth is Global and UNESCO.  Prefer Europe? Try Britain or Cambridge.  No need to get a visa for the States – Harvard is here.  You can even study underwater with EACE, which calls itself ‘the English Aquasition (sic) Course’.
Like the staff at BEC tutors are recruited from the ranks of past students. There’s believed to be only one native speaker working in Pare – an American.  Kalend’s children and in-laws are lecturers so academic dissent is unlikely. BEC has chairs and desks but other courses are conducted on the floor of open sheds.
No government permits needed to start a business so no prowling inspectors to check credentials. The only capital outlay is for a whiteboard, street signs and banners; to entice ditherers these should include images of the Statue of Liberty, London double-decker busses – and even the Eiffel Tower.
Come to us, learn English and go to Paris.  No-one mentions that the Anglophobic French are reluctant to use any tongue other than their own.

Not all graduate with scrambled syntax. Mohammed Ridho Fadli, 22, (left) claims his impressive English mastery has come from study in Pare. He took an undergraduate degree in Bogor before heading to East Java.
“I don’t bother about memorising words,” he said. “Nor do I think much about grammar.  I try to concentrate on listening to people and watching films.  I enjoy the atmosphere here.”
Unlike Saumi and Nanda, Ridho fronts foreigners to sharpen his language skills which he hopes to use in making tourist videos. He spends Rp 350,000 (AUD $ 35) a month for a room and a similar amount on food. 
Pare is cheap even though Wall Street is nearby.  Courses start from around Rp 150,000 (AUD $15) for a fortnight’s part-time tuition.
There’s another attraction – the mixed sex environment.  For many it’s their first venture afar without their parents who doubtless feel their darlings will be safe in a largely Muslim town.  In Australia they might get a world class education but they’d also be exposed to the notorious ‘free sex’ lifestyle.
Melbourne’s Girl Camp sounds like every adolescent boy’s dream, but it has nothing to do with love-ins under canvas. In Pare ‘camp’ is a synonym for course.
To serve the influx of outsiders several support businesses have opened – from bicycle-hire shops to laundries and photocopy kiosks. But no bars – and with the density of living eliminating privacy couples have to cool their ardour by licking ice creams confident with their course motto:
‘We’re gonna make you successful with our gatherness.’
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 (First published in Inside Indonesia December 2016)















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Sunday, December 11, 2016

TAKE IT EASY AND ARTY

Meet, stay, love                                              

Indonesia is bigger than Kuta, says President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo.  He wants tourists to stay longer, wander farther and drop their dollars into tills beyond the Three Bs– Bali, Borobudur and Bromo.  Duncan Graham took his advice.
………………………………………………
Pity hoteliers trying to stay afloat in a tidal and turbulent market.
 In the bad old like-it-or-leave days a hard bed and a squat toilet in a barrack-cell losmen was the best local travellers could expect.
Overseas visitors might get up-market accommodation in the big cities.  There was no point in complaining that the lights had gone out and the water ran rusty because the phone wouldn’t work.
Now the world is on the move; guests are getting choosy and can rank services on the Internet.  Odors in the lavatory and stains on the sheets?  Tell all – and they’ll steer clear.
Air conditioning, hot showers, a fridge and a cable TV service are now industry standards. Staff with real smiles are essential, not the grimaces of yesteryear. Room safes and free Wi-Fi are becoming common, even in small towns.
Now add bicycles.
Borobudur isn’t just one of the world’s wonders, a majestic 9th century three-tier Buddhist temple described by its discoverer Sir Stamford Raffles as this ‘noble building’ and ‘majestic edifice’. It’s also a Central Java town.
Backpackers use it to board unsprung busses for next stop Yogyakarta, while the moneyed majority head straight from the archaeological park gates to the airport.  That’s a mistake.
In the villages beyond and in a straight line are the related temples Pawon and Mendut. Few foreigners bother to drive the five extra kilometers even though the entrance fee is only Rp 30,000 ((US$2.20) for the two compared with nine times that sum for the bigger monument.
Wanurejo is a nearby hamlet off the tourist track, though only by a few twists and turns.  Here the locals have accepted President Jokowi’s challenge to expand tourism by combining to offer must-try experiences.  Their secret lure: Arthouse Homestays.
These are converted or purpose-built cottages in ordinary lanes and among local residents.  Regulations prohibit more than five rooms so even with a full house double digit occupancy is rare.  That means fellow travellers are easy to meet.  To avoid, push pedals.
Homestay is not always the correct term as the owners may be elsewhere – guesthouse is more accurate. Staff tend to be neighbors so the men watch the premises while the lady who cooks breakfasts and mops the floor lives a few doors down.
When not boiling eggs straight from the nest or airing bedding she may well be applying wax on cotton and happy to let quivering hands try the tjanting. Batik demands patience so cityfolk should pack plenty before leaving Stress Central. 
Others paint and hang their impressive work on guesthouse walls, or make organic soap and other supplies for hotels. As Arthouse Homestays are only now getting known the villagers have yet to develop the Kuta syndrome where every bule (Caucasian) is regarded as a walking ATM, ripe for a withdrawal.
No flash uniforms, no unctuous receptionists, just wholesome kampong friendliness and the chance to see the way most Indonesians live.  That’s not in high-rise anonymous apartments but among the rice and sugar cane fields of rural landscapes like the fertile and flat Kedu Plain. Which means it’s ideal for cyclists of any age.
But where to wheel? After over-dosing on ancient ruins and saturating irises with shimmering landscapes it’s take-it-easy time.  There are no poolside bars but there are cafes and studios.
Antique dealer Umar Chusaeni and his Japanese wife, artist Yasumi Ishi have set up a collective studio and performance space where artists can perform or show their works.  It’s not a guesthouse.
“We try to stage an event once every two months,” said Chusaeni who once ran a major show in the fields behind his house with elephants.
 “There’s much artistic talent in this area – perhaps inherited from the craftsmen who carved the panels on the walls of Borobudur Temple, though many would have fled when Merapi erupted. (There was a major explosion in 1006.)
“We keep asking the government to allow more homestays, but few officials understand the business and how it’s building a creative economy.
“Every village has a tourist committee – and they know what visitors want.”
That includes seeing artists at work at the Limanjawi Arthouse where locals have space to work. Like Wawan Geni, 34, who thankfully confronts his canvases outside.  For instead of brushes and pencils he uses glowing mosquito-coils and lighted cigarettes to produce strange shadings.
When J-Plus visited Limanjawi the Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI -Indonesian Arts Institute) student was smoking over a big canvas of Borobudur temple as seen from above.  He claimed he only used a pack of smokes a day but an overflowing ashbucket and yellow fingers suggested otherwise.
“Smoking helps me relax and gives me inspiration,” he said. “I’m not worried about getting sick.”  Commented Chusaeni: “He gets paid well for his work with tobacco companies among his admirers.”
Although most villagers follow Islam there’s no sense of fundamentalism. Buddha statues are widespread in public and private areas.
“The ones in China are fat and in Thailand always resting,” said Chusaeni, a Muslim.  “But our Buddhas in Java are lean and happy.
“This is a safe area where outsiders are welcome. People come here for the culture and to feel the spirit of Borobudur.  They come for peace. 
“There is no sense visitors are interfering or damaging our traditions and culture. After a few days here you get to understand a little of our lovely land.”
(Breakout)
Getting there
Arthouse Homestays are ideal for couples on a budget, serious about understanding Java and getting closer to the people. Visitors who want to relax in comfort but are not into hedonism should find this accommodation ideal.
Most homestays are listed on Internet hotel booking agencies with prices starting from around Rp 300,000 (US $ 23) per room/night including breakfast, tax and service charges. Some offer pick-ups from the airport or bus terminal.
Bicycle hire is either free or around Rp 30,000 (US $2.30) a day.  Buy fresh fruits from roadside traders.  Those with special dietary needs should bring their own supplies.
Kids? Yes, if mature and appreciative of difference.  No if their world is defined by Pokemon.  There’s rafting nearby for the adventurous. English is rare but tolerance common so encounters can be fun.
Bali resorts have manicured gardens, aerobic classes, fashion shows and menus to cater for most tastes. Arthouse Homestays are the affordable alternative with all add-ons the real thing.  They are also well beyond the ugly tout-zone encircling the big temple.

First pub lished in  J Plus - The Jakarta Post on 11 December 2016



  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

AHOK WHO?

BTW
Being there
Dear Auntie Dwi – thank you for asking if I’m safe following the 212 Big Protest.  That’s what they call it after the date, and that the numbers are sending us a sign, but didn’t say what it meant. In our street the trash collector lives at 212 and his house has a sign. Maybe that’s it.
Did Mom warn you I was going?  I didn’t want to ’cause I had really important things to do like buying the new nail varnish. But they said everyone must or their names would be given to the Political Actors.
Anyway the bus was real good and I got to sleep a lot while Mohamad was wagging his finger and sermonizing which never stopped during the 12-hour journey. Then my friend Dwi who gets travel sick threw up all over him and he went wild. 
He said she must be possessed by a demon she’d swallowed. I told him she’d only eaten chocolate. “Must be Chinese,” he said. “Just like your smartphone,” I replied.  “You’ll be in the harem come the caliphate,” he snarled and we all sang K-Pop to make him mad.  
Or maybe you saw me on TV?  Check the pictures on Metro – I’m in the seventh row on the nineteenth line on the left of Monas.  Or maybe the right – I can’t remember - it was so much fun.
I was wearing white, which really doesn’t suit my complexion.  But they said it made us look pure.  Funny, ya?  And I got to keep the jilbab though I’ll probably give it to my sister.  I want to feel the wind in my hair, like in the TV ads.
For days I’ve eaten absolutely nothing – there was so much free food and all too, too delicious. I’m getting fat and it’s dis-gust-ing.  Every ten minutes someone was giving me a lunch box or telling me to wave a poster.  I don’t know what they said because the writing was all spooky and red with a picture of a prisoner shaking bars.
Someone said his name was Pak Ahok and he’s a bad man, but the cartoon made him look like a sad man. I wanted to cry.
They also said he’s Chinese, but I thought he was born here, so doesn’t that make him Indonesian? He looks a bit like Uncle Julius who I think goes to a church. Anyway, who cares?
The really, really major moment was when we got to see the President.  Well, he was rather far away but people who were closer took pictures that we could see on WhatsApp.  I don’t know what he said – It might have been about a football game with Vietnam.
More important was what he wore – the coolest jacket you have ever seen, I swear.  It made him look like Tom Cruise in that old Top Gun movie I saw on TV One last week, though I couldn’t understand what he was saying because the Indonesian captions made no sense.
”Oh, my God,” I said, but some gloomy guy added that was blasphemy and I might go to prison.  So I told him to go to hell.  He said this world’s already there. But I looked out and saw the sun was shining.  Lovely.
He was a freak.  Not like this totally yummy cop who came along and told us to keep moving. Polisi ganteng screamed Dwi who was OK once off the bus, though Mohamad was still trying to clean vomit off his gamis.  It made me think he’d never washed anything in his life.
Anyway, back to the cop, so cute in his tight pants and mirror sunglasses. Gorgeous. And he noticed little me, particularly when I accidentally dropped my poster.
“Here you are M’bak,” he said, “please take more care.” His voice was warm honey.  His name badge said Antonius.  “I think he’s Catholic,” whispered Dwi who noticed my red face. “No problem,” I said as my knees turned to jelly. “I’ll convert. Where do I go?”
“Be serious,” she snapped, “we’re here to protest. This isn’t a peace march.” “Why not?” I replied. “Aren’t we all one – like, you know, unity in diversity?”  Duncan Graham

(First pub lished in J Plus The Jakarta Post 10 December 2016