Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The People of Jogja

At the mosque at a village school, I found a bunch of boys sitting quietly in a circle.  At first, I thought they might have been praying.  But don’t they normally sit in rows facing Mecca while they pray?  Upon closer inspection, it turned out they were playing chess.  

Outside, another bunch of boys were playing soccer, with bare feet.  At first, I thought perhaps they were too poor to afford shoes.  It turned out they just came out of the mosque, where they had to take their shoes off.  Later on, I found them putting their shoes back on, in the classroom.  Apparently, they had to put their shoes on for class.  

On the wall of the primary school, 5 major religions were listed: Islam, Christian, Catholics, Hindu, and Buddhism.  Even though Indonesia is predominantly Islamic, many other major religions are well-represented, and respected.  

On the sidewalks of a busy street, a father is sitting with the son.  For a change, it is the father who is playing with the phone.  

A man was making candy by hand, stretching and folding, stretching and folding, …

Many women vendors were roasting meats.  

Many families were out. 

Enjoying themselves. 

At the same time, a young backpacker seemed to be staring forlornly into the distance.  Who was he waiting for?

People watching can be fun, and also thought provoking.  

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sights of Jogja

Two things seems to be ubiquitous in South East Asia: rice fields and motorcycles.  In this Indonesia is no exception.  But the most famous site near Jogja has to be Borobudur.  Built in the 9th century, it is the largest Buddhist temple in the world.  I visited it the first time I was in Jogja, but not this time.  

The areas around Jogja are very intensively farmed.  The rice fields cover every inch of space. 

Out in the countryside, we passed by a monument in the shape of a pencil, said to be erected in a campaign for literacy.  

Motorcycles are, of course, everywhere.  They carry a lot of staff, just like everywhere else.  

The carrying baskets, however, are the best constructed.  

Indonesia is predominately Muslim.  Only roughly 10% of the population of Indonesia are Christians (7% Protestant and 3% Catholic).  But that amounts to 24 million, or the total population of Australia.  Hence churches are fairly common sights.  

Roughly 1.2% of the population are ethnic Chinese.  That is 2.8 million, the size of Jamaica or Lithuania.  Many of the Chinese are also Christians.  

At Pasar Beringharjo, a traditional market on Malioboro, there is all kind of stuff, clothing, food, herbs, …, medicine for diabetics, …

At Alun-Alun Lor, a park surrounded by Alun-Alun Utara, there is a statue of General Sudirman, a national hero who fought to end Japanese occupation during the Second World War, and the subsequent fight for independence.  

The horse drawn carriages along Malioboro are popular. 

This is a vibrant place, with a very diverse culture.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Art in Yogyakarta (Jogja)

Last time I was in Yogyakarta I was in such a hurry I did not notice the art.  This time I did.  And they are everywhere.  There is batik, of course.  The ladies painstakingly apply wax to the cloth, dye one colour, remove the wax, apply wax in another pattern, dye another colour, repeat again and again, …  

I was this demonstration in the House of Raminten - Jogja’s diversity-embracing restaurant.  I was told Raminten is a female character i a soap opera on Jogja TV performed by the male owner of the restaurant, Hamzah Sulaiman.  

Even the instruction of toilet etiquette is fun. 

On the wall of another restaurant near Duta Wacana Christian University, there is another portrait of an elegant lady.  

Disembodied legs run on the sidewalk nearby.  

Walls are so colourful. 

On the walls of a primary school, there are many intricate wayang (shadow puppet) characters. 

At Malioboro, a lion strolls among the pedestrians. 

The ladies are so colourful. 

An intricate musical instrument made of bamboo. 

A big colourful cock. 

A big lump that resembles a human. 

Jogja is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Service-Learning in Indonesia?

Last week I went to Indonesia to restart our service-learning projects in Indonesia.  Several years ago a team from PolyU went to Yogyakarta to work with Duta Wacana Christian University three times in three years.   For some reason it was not continued.  We are now hoping to restart it.  This is the second time that I have been to Yogyakarta and it was just the way I remembered it.  

When I tell people I was going to Yogyakarta people often thought I was going to Jakarta, the capital.  Yogyakarta is actually a medium size city on the south side of the island Java, while Jakarta is a huge metropolis on the north side.  

The airport is small.  When we landed, the plane landed right in front of the terminal.  We walked down the stairs and walked into the terminal.  When we waited at the gate to board the plane, we could see the plane right in front of us through the window.  In some ways it is reassuring.  You know that the plane is there and is waiting for you.  

The streets are narrow and full of cars - and motorcycles.  Just like Phnom Penh, Saigon, and many other cities in South East Asia.  

Out past and potential future partner, Duta Wacana Christian University is very keen and experienced in service-learning.  This is partly why we are interested in working with them.  Every summer, they send hundreds of their students to live in villages for months at a time.  They learn about the community, participate in village life - daily work, weddings, …, look for ways to help, and actually carry out useful projects.  

Out partners took us to a village about 30 kilometres to the west of Yogyakarta.  Here most of the residents are Muslims.  It struck us that a Christian university is serving a Muslim community.  But here it seems to be nothing unusual.  Indonesia is a vastly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country. and the different communities seem to be generally living together in relative harmony.      The land is lush and farmed very intensively.  Every inch is cultivated, and very well irrigated. 

The children in the primary school are extremely cute.  They have this custom of taking your hand to touch their forehead, as a sign of respect for the elders.  To these kids, I suppose I qualify as an elder.  

We are trying to work out what to do, when to do it, and how to work together with Duta Wacana.  There are challenges in many aspects.  But we do hope to work something out.  


Monday, January 01, 2018

Safeguard Hong Kong March

We started 2018 with a hike up Braemar Hill, followed by marching in the Safeguard Hong Kong Protest March, and ending with a nostalgic dinner at Lin Yeung Tea House (蓮香樓).   

We were told that there are seven major demands for this march.  I identify particularly with “Safeguard Hong Kong - Defend One Country Two Systems”.  Hong Kong is my home.  I would like it to remain open and free, where justice is practiced, and the law rules.  At the beginning of the march in Causeway Bay, it appears that there were more police than us protesters.  

Some feel our government is telling lies.  Others feel the government is castrating itself.  

Many feel the recent decision by the National People’s Congress regarding the Joint Checkpoint of the High Speed Rail is a violation of the Basic Law, hence without a proper legal basis.  

Many are opposed to the practice of arbitrary rule by the men in power, as opposed to the rule by law which is often proclaimed rather than actually practiced.

Many are strongly angered by the violent grabbing of land by the rich and powerful.  

Some are using the words in the national anthem to proclaim that we do not want to be slaves; hence we are standing up for our beliefs.  

There are many more demands, many references to the Umbrella Movement. 

The march ends outside the Government Headquarters.  

Some are silently remembering the death of LIU Xiaobo, and demanding the release of his wife.  

We are angry and frustrated.  Even though what we say and do may not be enough to turn things around, we still have to do it.  We have to stand up and let our demands be known, otherwise we are not worth them (the liberty, democracy and justice).  

May God take charge of this world.