16 July 2012

The End of a Chapter

This will be our last post. We've finally come to the end of our Indonesian adventure and boy had it been amazing. Looking back at our blog posts, we seem to highlight exciting bits like our travel and initial reactions to living in Jakarta. In fact, it's probably the routine of everyday life, my work and my friends that I'll miss the most. I've been enriched and privileged to work with Komnas Perempuan and now know so much more about issues of human rights in Indonesia and the important role the commission plays in being a bridge between the Indonesian people, the government and the international community. I've been pleasantly surprised at the amount of respect placed on the commission by UN bodies and at how hard my colleagues work. I'm sad that despite their urgings I cannot stay on another year. I've learnt at least two new skills from my time here: professional translation and juggling. Bring on the next chapter of being a dad!

It’s suprising how after a while you can feel settled almost anywhere. We love our jobs and the people we work with and are sad that we are leaving. We’re used to commuting to work in rickety and unroadworthy busses. We are just beginning to become more involved at church and we will dearly miss all our good friends here. Not only that we’ll miss our little hamster Bakrie who is forbidden forever from entering Australia. Poor thing!


Nat and I arrived in Jakarta over a year ago and without a clue where places were or how long it would take to get somewhere in the infamous Jakarta traffic. Somehow we managed to work Jakarta out. It took a while. I would say a good three months before we started to feel like we knew where we were going.

Since working with Sahabat Anak my eyes have been opened to another world of urban poverty and the effects of poor education. There are too many people in Jakarta who fly under the radar. They have no birth records and live in illegal housing. In the Indonesian Government's eyes they are a nuisance and are ignored. Punks, street kids, prostitutes, beggars, garbage collectors, recyclers, corner shops and little eateries line the streets of Jakarta. These people all fall into the marginalized and unrecognized urban poor of Jakarta. They survive because the informal economy is alive and well in Jakarta (and actually across all of Indonesia). However, as Indonesia continues to rapidly develop these marginalized communities are getting seriously left behind. They live in a city that cannot provide them with running water, sanitation and electricity. While their next door neighbours live in mansions with all the luxuries of any first world family, they continue to live in third-world poverty. The divide between rich and poor in Indonesia is stark and something needs to be done.

I admire my colleagues and the volunteers at Sahabat Anak. They are a bunch of people who come from an array of different backgrounds who all agree that street kids are important individuals who deserve to be treated as equals! That is they should be able to access education, clean water and a safe environment to live in. Sahabat Anak will continue to fight for the rights of Jakarta’s street children and despite the obstacles they face, such as an ineffective government that cannot register births or get children through school, they will continue to fight so that one day Indonesia’s children will not have to beg and busk on the streets to survive.

It is a tough world out there. And I have learnt that for those of us who have such privileged lives (myself included) need to ask what can I be doing to help those who have been dealt a bad hand in life.

We thought we'd leave you with some photos taken throughout our time here that don't really fit in anywhere else but that warranted a snap anyway. Hopefully some of them make you smile.

The first Indonesian Human Rights Assembly, organised by Komnas  Perempuan in December 2011
Indonesians actually playing cricket

A busway explosion in central Jakarta

A truck full of "semen" in Kalimantan
The most popular meal at McDonalds in Indonesia: rice and fried chicken
Indonesian fish and chips (ordered at a hotel in Flores)
Butchering an Australian icon
Lost in translation
If only Indonesians got sarcasm

Representing Australia in the World Cup Soccer Sixes. We actually won two matches!

Playing footy with the Jakarta Bintangs
Workers at Kupang airport sitting under our plane smoking 
No comment
Dubbed "Old Man's Anus"by some of the volunteers, this local wine in  Bali was actually quite nice
Rubbish bins on the street.
Translation: Wet waste, dry waste, chemical waste. Wait, did you say  "CHEMICAL WASTE"?
Best cafe ever. Too bad it closed down. Once when we ordered ice-cream, I discovered our receipts referred to our table simply as "Bule", the derogatory term for white person. 
Candice at work

At my desk with Rere.
With Yanti and Irene at a Komnas Perempuan event
Speaking at an AusAID event during International Women's Day 

Sampai jumpa, Indonesia. Izin pamit dulu ya!

07 July 2012

From Surabaya to Maumere

Well it wasn't quite "Sabang to Marauke" as the saying goes but we had a couple of weeks in June towards the end of our stint in Indonesia to do some travel and so decided to do a bit of an extended backpacking trip.
This was to be our last trip in Indonesia and the original plan was to head to Ambon, the Banda Islands and finally to Papua. Unfortunately a spanner was thrown in the works when threat levels for those places went up. And when we realised that Candice couldn't take anti-malarials during pregnancy (yes, Candice is pregnant!) it seemed a bad idea. The last straw was when the violence in Papua flared up again.

So our trip began in Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city and the provincial capital of East Java. I (Nat) expected a sprawling smoggy metropolis like Jakarta but was pleasantly suprised by a well-groomed (by Indo standards) city with plenty of colonial and art-deco buildings to gawk at. Despite the large population size, they are only just discovering skyscrapers. A definite highlight here was the House of Sampoerna museum - a must see.

The House of Sampoerna museum in Surabaya
Workers hand-manufacture and pack kretek (clove) cigarettes at Sampoerna House
Candice poses as a street vendor at the museum

On the way to Malang we passed the site of the Lapindo disaster where works caused by  PT Lapindo (a company) caused hot volcanic mud to rise out of the earth destroying several villages and making tens of thousands of people homeless. The villages are still fighting for compensation.

Next stop was Malang, a city 3 hours south-east. Surrounded by mountains, Malang is a lot cooler than most cities - in fact they can actually grow apples there. We stayed longer than expected and used it as our base while we explored the beautiful Mount Bromo (2329m) which is probably Indonesia's most popular volcano attraction. Utilising the services of Helios Travel (http://heliostour.net/web/), we departed at 1am to the higher peak of Mount Pananjakan (2753m) to watch the sun rise over Bromo and its neighbour Mount Batok (2470m). Absolutely stunning but quite freezing for Indonesia. We then drove down to the "sea of sand" and I climbed Bromo to have a look myself. We rounded the Bromo trip off with a break in the "savannah" grasses and visits to a waterfall and Candi Jago (an old Hindu temple) on the way back to Malang. Definitely worth a visit if you're in that part of Indonesia.

Sunrise from Mount Pananjakan
Mount Bromo, Mount Batok and Mount Smeru in the distance
Savouring the cool air
View of Batok from Bromo
Hanging out in the "Savannah"
Candi Jago on the way back to Malang

Candice captures a migrating snail near the waterfall

Oh and here's a little plug. Above Hotel Helios which we stayed in is Kampong Tourist, a rooftop backpackers with an all-night bar owned by the same mob as Helios Travel. It's cheap, clean and run by a Dutch woman named Martina who's married to a local. Although we stayed at the hotel below it, we ended up hanging out upstairs almost as much. Malang really impressed me - it's probably my second favourite Indonesian city after Jogja. Plenty of beautiful colonial buildings, decent weather and affordable food. Had a hip, student feel about it too.

A Malang scene typical of many Indonesian cities
Malang is full of old Dutch buildings including these churches

Toko Oen bakery has been operating since 1931
The next stop was Bali by bus. The journey itself took around 12 hours, including a food stop. We were lucky that our bus wasn't very full and we had plenty of room to stretch. We left at 5pm and arrived early the next morning pretty much on the doorstep of our friends' Anne and Dan's place. I slept through the ferry ride. It was awesome to catch up on good food and a bit of home in Bali. We dined well and hung out with mates. We didn't even bother with the beach, probably because we'd been in Bali only 3 weeks prior for a week-long volunteer conference. Don't think you've visited Indonesia if you've only been to Bali. It just seems like an extension of Australia.

The next day we flew to Ende via Labuanbajo in Flores. Flores was a world apart from Bali and urban Java. Suddenly the "hello misters" were everywhere and the air seemed fresher. Obviously the people look different too, way more Melanesian. Conveniently we were actually able to walk to our hotel from the Ende airport. Despite the dusty town, the landscape was breathtaking - we were surrounded by sea and mountains.

The airport scenery was impressive enough in Ende
Locals waiting to pounce on us at the airport. We walked to our hotel.

Sunset in Ende
We bargained our way into a van heading towards Maumere and got off at Moni, a roadside village in the mountains frequented by visitors wanting to see the Kelimutu Lakes. The Lonely Planet only lists a handful of hotels/homestays and believe me, they rip you off. One of them quoted me Rp 300K per night over the phone. We ended up spending our first night at Hidayah which charged us Rp 250K for the night. Upon arrival there were plenty of others offering equally good accommodation for as little as Rp 80K! Our recommendation is Maria Inn and Homestay (085337294365). Look for it as you sort of exit the village. Our second night there cost us Rp 90K in a cabin and the breakfast was awesome. Maria and her son Aran were absolutely wonderful and we were able to also sample some delicious local cuisine.

Local kids in Moni kept asking for photos

Maria Inn in Moni, highly recommended.

Anyway, the lakes were another great experience. These three volcanic crater lakes high up on Mount Kelimutu (1639m) change colours periodically. One of them is usually blue but the other two vary between red, green, black and white. We rode up to the park on ojeks (motorcycle taxis) at 4am so we could catch sunrise. Unfortunately it was cloudy until about 7.30am but we braved the cold and stuck around. The precise reason for the changing colours is unknown but is probably a chemical reaction between the minerals in the lake waters and volcanic gas. The last eruption was in 1968.

The mist didn't lift of the Kelimutu Lakes until well after sunrise

The black lake

This lake is occasionally red or white. This time it was blue.

Hot springs in the middle of paddy fields
The falls at Moni
To our surprise there was dolphin meat for sale at the market in Moni. Each dolphin cost only $25.00!

Leaving the fresh air and village life of Moni was difficult but we eventually made our way by car to Maumere, another coastal city in Flores. There's not much in the way of attractions in this town especially since tourism here was decimated by a tsunami that killed thousands in 1992 and destroyed its world-renowned coral reefs. We were lucky to be staying with fellow-volunteer Brad Bazley who was working at the hospital. Brad was glad to see us and did an amazing job of showing us around a place that would normally just be a transit town. We had a great time and breathed in as much fresh air as we could before we  flew back to smoky old Jakarta.

View of Maumere with Pulau Besar in the distance
The statue of Mary at Nilo which overlooks Moni
Posing for shots at Nilo
Brad took us to his "secret" beach near Maumere
I'm gonna buy one of these when I get home
The Maumere sunset