Monday, June 28, 2004


Sunday night and we are in count down mode. Lil one mark two is due on the 1st of July and somehow this date has also become fixed for a couple of other reasons. This is just an arbitrary date, a number placed with some authority by the smiling urbane medico who pats you sweetly on the shoulder with one hand whilst looting your wallet with the other...though to be fair, the looting is done with great decorum as well. By the end of it you almost feel privileged to have paid him such a handsome sum... “By all means doctor, please, take this” thrusting wads of the folded stuff at him...

Due dates for birth are about as reliable as the daily horoscope, nicely told but lacking in any objective rational reasoning except for the given vague dates of conception. So, we wait. Friends tell me we have to hang on. The Australian government, in the most insane blatant vote buying spree it has ever entered into (yes, an election is coming up), is promising a bonus of AU$3000 payable to the proud parents of any child born on or after the 1st of July 2004. Seriously, I kid you not.

I have it on sterling authority that at this moment “Cross the legs!” is the most common refrain heard in pregnant households across Australia.

But I digress. Its due 1st of July and we are sitting around waiting for movement at the station…but for the moment at least, no horses are apparent…instead, we wait for any small sign, no matter how insignificant, of impending birth... “Was that a twitch dear?” One asks, “Oh, just indigestion?”…pause…then... “Are you sure dear?” before retreating to the garage to nurse ones wounds after three books, a plate and the TV remote control had somehow connected with ones head… Not very tolerant of waiting these pregnant mothers. If the shoe were on the other foot, I’m sure men would have made a whole industry out of it. Probably farm the whole preggers thing out to someone else, payable by a leasing arrangement and tax deductible, with a balloon payment at the end once the child is handed to the parents. It makes sense, but instead mothers seem to delight in going through this whole nine month thing for some obscure reason, then hit you with books near the end. So, we wait.

In the meantime, it’s been delightful to be home in Aussie. We are staying with my mother in a beautiful small country town in Queensland, rimmed by mountains thus its known as the scenic rim. Its cold, a refreshing change after Jakarta, every morning is fresh, frosty and glorious. There is certainly a lot to be said for the benefits of living in the countryside. I find myself swaddled up in jackets, jumper and beanie these mornings until the sun warms and one by one, the outer garments are peeled away. Then it’s a day spent in the garden catching up on reading, lots of expresso, and lazy sleeps in the afternoon. The lil one goes to day care three days a week in order to provide social interaction with other kids and she loves it, as do we!

Anyways, that’s all for the moment. I’m sure that once the new lil one is born, I’ll have more news.


Friday, June 11, 2004

A Visit to the Dentist and Other News (not that there is much)

So, here I am again. Friday night and home after a trip to the dentist in downtown Kemang. Left the apartment by cab at 2.30 for a 4.00 pm appointment. Got there at 3.45, waited for half an hour. Chatted to dentist for ten minutes who prescribes some antibiotics for inflamed tooth. Back in cab, stop at chemist and home by 7.30pm. 5 hours for a round trip. Guess it wasn’t too bad for a Friday night… (Oh, and the cab? Cost about AU$15.00 all up including his waiting time while I’m inside waiting…thank God they don’t operate on Aussie fares!

In case you’re wondering why the articles below are a departure from the norm, just thought of borrowing and sharing the good news emanating from this wacky isle. Below you’ll find bits and pieces culled from various reports I’ve been reading this past week.

The news here can be a hoot at times. And always delivered with a straight face by the media. Heavens knows how they do it…

I’m finally nearly done for the school year and am heading off back to Brisbane next Friday night to await the birth of lil one mark two. As usual, work has been busy but interesting. Have spent the last two weeks tutoring the national staff (the Indonesians) on how to cope with a TOEFL test they had to sit this week. The foundation (the group that own and run the schools) suddenly decided that the staff working in a bilingual school should sit a TOEFL test (basically a test of listening, writing and interview in English) to demonstrate their effectiveness in delivering the curriculum in English. Then they have another brain wave and decide to make the whole thing a bit more interesting for the staff. They tell them their pay for the new school year (which starts in July) will depend on how they go in the test. Sudden panic by the nationals. No lead up time with “hey guys, let’s run English PD for six months then test you”, but instead, it’s a decree from above and the nationals are once again under fire.

So they have been sitting the test yesterday and today. Heard later that the tests were much harder than originally anticipated. I doubt I could have managed some of the questions the shell shocked teachers gave me as examples of what was required. Questions used an English harkening back to the good ol’ days of Cromwell. Tell me: does an apple taste badly or does it taste bad? Figure it out…

Wandered into my year 12 HSC class yesterday morning and they greeted me with delight. “Mr..!” They cry. “You are the first teacher to show up today!” This is fourth period of the day and I’m wondering if they are pulling my leg. But no, in all the excitement the teachers sitting the test neglected to organise teacher reliefs for their classes. Consequently, four classes of year 12’s were left to their own devices all morning…only in Indonesia…

Then there is the cutting back, another demonstration of Christian goodwill from a school founded on the bible. One of the admin staff is asked to move up to the library as the woman in the library has been moved to the teacher resource room as the woman in the teacher resource room (who is the niece of a founding board member) is suddenly and inexplicably given a managerial role in the local admin office. The woman moves from admin into the library then after a couple of weeks is informed she loses 25% of her pay. The reasoning is simple; the library staff are paid lower than the admin staff. Her protests that she didn’t want to move to the library in the first place are met with shrugs.

The financial officer is told last week that she no longer has a job in finance at the school. Instead, she is to be moved to the head office where she will do finances there so she is currently training a young girl to take on some of her duties. She has a 4 year old son attending the school behind us (associated with ours) and thus in her current position is available to look after him when he finishes. No one used to mind, he’s a good kid and sits playing quietly while she continues working until her husband gets time off at lunch to come round and pick him up to take him home. Now she is left with a conundrum...what to do with her child for the two hours between school finishing and dad able to pick him up. She is told if she decides to stay at the school she will lose a substantial proportion of her salary. Can’t afford it so she opts for the head office.

These are just not a few isolated incidents in Indonesian employment. It happens all the time. But, and the big but here is that no one will say or do anything. Jobs are too precious in an economy of rampant unemployment. I hate to say it, but at times you wonder if the Chinese Indonesians, already a disliked but powerful minority, through their actions are merely substantiating many Indonesian national claims of unfairness in the workplace and providing further fuel to the fire. It’s short sighted and ill advised.

Yes, there are huge problems with management in most institutions including our school. Yes, there needs to be a clean sweep of professional practices currently in play. And yes, there is a lot of wastage and lack of accountability from all areas of management. And finally, yes, the decisions made are at times inexplicable and uncalled for. So what does one do? It’s a moral dilemma and an urgent one. It cuts straight to the heart of business practices and what we should be doing and what we are and are not doing. It’s a sleazy side of management that causes one to wonder if the guiding principles of the schools vision and mission statements are only phrases written down and mouthed at various times without honourable intention.

In the end? I really don’t know. Honestly? I have to be aware of a family depending on me and the knowledge that whatever I say and do will, in the end, make little difference. Our Australian culture of fair go and the right of the individual is as alien to the businessmen that run the institution as their practices are alien to us. At times there seems to be no middle point. So, you offer help where you can, quietly and without causing any fuss, you offer support and a sympathetic ear when needed, and you try to change things from within. Maybe it’s a copout. For the moment at least it’s a way to ensure that conscience is, in some small way, answered.

The "Only in Indonesia" Quotes

"I've heard complaints that voters are confused because there are too many candidates.
Why confused? Just vote for the prettiest one..."

President Megawati (on the campaign trail- and ever hopeful)

'If necessary, we will have to opt for the coup d'etat by the army....'
Gus Dur (former president of Indonesia: upset at not getting preselection)

"Jakarta is in great need of more shopping centres 'because the existing ones are always packed with people'...."
Governor Sutiyoso (mall city here we come)

'Well, it did not happen only to you. I just lost my mobile phone too....'
The police chief's reply to a cameraman who lost his mobile phone while taking pictures of Dr Amien. Rais, his deputy manager and nine journalists all had their mobiles stolen while accompanying him on a packed commuter train.

"The case of Int. Crisis Group director, American Sidney Jones, has nothing to do with freedom of expression but is only an administrative matter..."
Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirajuda (there you go, blame it on beauracracy, he must have been watching lil Johnnie Howard)

"Such reports, which are not backed by solid evidence and factual information, attempt to create the impression that Indonesia is not a secure country..."
Marty Natalegawa
(spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry after Aussie once again gets all hypo about terrorists lurking in the undergrowth)

"I want to face corruptors myself if me and my presidential running mate Megawati, win the upcoming presidential election. Megawati has a subtle nature and thus, it must be me who will deal with tough cases when we win the election...."
Muzadi- non-active chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia`s largest Muslim organization (good cop bad cop??)

"Check with the attorney- general's office on how many cases they're dealing with..."
Unable to explain to assembled journalists how effective she has been in tackling the nation's endemic corruption. (one way to win votes-pass the buck)

And my favourite for the week is...........

"Lets put an end to the family planning program. It is no longer important...."
Vice-President Hamzah Haz in a speech to Muslim clerics (Who himself has three wives and 13 children)

Suharto Tops World Corruption League

Laksamana.Net - Former dictator Suharto has topped a list of the world's most corrupt politicians over the past two decades.
The list is part of Transparency International's new Global Corruption Report 2004, which charts the flow of stolen assets, recommends ways to recover money looted by despots, and sets out new standards on political finance and favors.
Transparency International says Suharto stole about $15 billion to $35 billion during his 32 years of rule in a country where the Gross Domestic Product per capita hovers at around $700.
Despite Suharto's notoriety for corruption and repression, his eldest daughter Siti Hardiyanti 'Tutut' Rukmana is hoping to contest Indonesia's July 5 presidential election - seeking to capitalize on growing nostalgia among many citizens for the relative political and economic stability of the Suharto era.
Featured below is the list of the world's most corrupt politicians, showing their years in power and the estimated amounts of money they embezzled.

Where did the money go? - The top 10
1. Mohamed Suharto - President of Indonesia (1967-98) $15-35 billion.
2. Ferdinand Marcos - President of the Philippines (1972-86) $5-10 billion.
3. Mobutu Sese Seko - President of Zaire (1965-97) $5 billion.
4. Sani Abacha - President of Nigeria (1993-98) $2-5 billion.
5. Slobodan Milosevic - President of Serbia/Yugoslavia (1989-2000) $1 billion.
6. Jean-Claude Duvalier - President of Haiti (1971-86) $300-800 million.
7. Alberto Fujimori - President of Peru (1990-2000) $600 million.
8. Pavlo Lazarenko - Prime Minister of Ukraine (1996-97) $114-200 million.
9. Arnoldo Alemán - President of Nicaragua (1997-2002) $100 million.
10. Joseph Estrada - President of the Philippines (1998-2001) $78-80 million.

I'm in the wrong job...

Protesting Fish

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian residents protesting at the state of their street have planted banana trees and released catfish in its huge potholes, a report said.
"We want this street to be immediately repaired," Pos Kota newspaper quoted protester Otong Sasmita as saying.
He said Perjuangan avenue in Bekasi just east of Jakarta was used by heavy vehicles serving a nearby industrial centre and had been potholed for years.
Protesters have released baby eels and catfish in water-filled potholes and planted scores of banana trees in others.

Next Time A Cop Stops You...

The Jakarta Post
By Evi Mariani
The Jakarta Police Professional Ethics Board has decided to make a formal recommendation to Chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara requesting him to dismiss First Insp. Sunarjo, the head of a unit based in Kebon Jeruk, over the latter's involvement in a crude Candid Camera-like show aired by RCTI on May 26.
Kebon Jeruk Police chief Comr. Ahmad Alwi was found not guilty in the ethics trial. However, he still must be investigated in another hearing to determine any disciplinary sanctions he may be given. The board found Sunarjo, 47, guilty for his role in orchestrating the plot in Membikin Orang Panik (MOP, meaning making others panic) in conjunction with the program's crew from the production house PT Avicom.
In front of the board, Sunarjo, admitted to helping the Avicom crew to "arrest" Piko, a university student, by framing him on charges of marijuana and knife possession. He said he had told his superior, Hermino, about the made-for-TV arrest and approval was obtained. "The deputy chief said it was OK to help the crew as long as it would not tarnish the image of the police force," said Sunarjo. Later, Sunarjo ordered five of his men at the station to take roles in the plot filmed on March 3.
Three of the subordinates -- Brig. Yudi Heri, Brig. Supriyono, and Adj. Brig. Sugiyanto -- were told to act as patrolling policemen. They were supposed to stop and search Piko's car in a fabricated raid. The officers had already planted the marijuana and knife in Piko's bag, with the assistance of Piko's friend, Adi. The police then arrested Piko and one of his friends and hauled them off to the station house for questioning.
The officers then handed over the two "suspects" to Sunarjo, who had ordered Brig. Dedi Aryanto and Brig. Riyanto to act as interrogators. Dedi and Riyanto testified to the Board that the show's production manager, Reno Sarah, told them to "scare Piko to death". "Mbak Sarah told us to scare the 'suspects'. She said 'strip him if necessary'," Riyanto defended his role, in which he ordered Piko to take off his shirt and pants.
Apparently taking into account the principle of command responsibility and that the five policemen were dutifully following their superiors' orders, the board decided that Yudi, Supriyono and Sugiyanto were not guilty while Dedi and Riyanto were ordered to participate in a professional ethics training course.
The RCTI program manager, Arief Suditomo, who attended the trial as a witness, said RCTI had suspended its five reality show programs indefinitely. "The main reason is regular reprogramming. We want to fill in the slot currently allotted for reality shows with other programs that have higher ratings. For the time being, the shows will stay in our library until we can find a suitable slot for them," he announced to the public.
Arief and RCTI public relations officer Teguh Juwarno deeply regretted the incident, saying the case had taught them a valuable lesson to be more careful in selecting programs.

Indonesian maid falls from Singapore apartment

A 26-year-old Indonesian maid fell from the third floor of the Choa Chu Kang apartment in Singapore. The unidentified Indonesian maid broke her arms and knee but is otherwise in a stable condition. About 60,000 Indonesian women are working as housemaids in Singapore, and some 100 of them have died from falling from high-rise apartment buildings since 1999. (JKT Post)

Indonesian maids and the problems they face in Singapore have been big news lately…but a 100 of them falling from high rises? Must be the washing they tend to hang out in precarious places..

Sound familiar?

Laksamana.Net - The government denies its advisory against travel to Britain was a reprisal against similar warnings issued by Western countries on travel to Indonesia. The Indonesian Embassy in London recently advised Indonesians against traveling to Britain, citing fears of terrorism.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said the advisory was issued for the sake of the safety of Indonesian citizens. It was not a reprisal for similar measures taken against Indonesia, he added.
Asked whether Indonesia would issue an advisory against travel to Australia, he said such a measure was not yet necessary.
A message posted on the website of the embassy in London advises Indonesians to postpone all non-essential visits to the United Kingdom.
"Information that we have received indicates that since the recent bombing in Spain, the terrorism threat is moving to Great Britain, particularly to cities," the message says.
It further says that terrorist efforts in Great Britain had failed "a few days ago" but does not provide details.
Indonesian citizens already in Britain are advised to be on alert when visiting public places such as hotels, pubs, restaurants and shopping centers.
The message was posted on the same day the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued an advisory, recommending that Britons avoid all non-essential travel to Indonesia because "there is a high general threat from terrorism in Indonesia".
"We continue to receive information that indicates terrorists are planning further attacks, including against Westerners, throughout the country," the FCO said.
Indonesia, which has suffered a spate of terrorist bombings since 2000, has been the subject of numerous travel advisories by Western nations, including Britain, Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand.

Methinks Indonesia is starting to hit back..

Now I dont feel so dumb about my own Mobile Phone!

YOGYAKARTA - As a presidential candidate, Dr Amien Rais is entitled to special protection from the state and petty criminals would probably have been the last thing on his mind.
How mistaken he was. Nine journalists and Dr Amien's campaign deputy manager Dien Syamsuddin, all had their mobile phones stolen while accompanying the candidate on a packed commuter train.
They were making their way from Manggarai station in South Jakarta to the University of Indonesia campus in Depok for a debate when the incident happened, detik.com news portal reported. Even a police chief accompanying the group was not spared.
Most commuter trains here are notoriously overcrowded and pickpockets and sexual harassment are commonplace.
A cameraman who lost his mobile phone while taking pictures of Dr Amien complained to the chief of the Tebet police sub-precinct, who was accompanying the entourage.
Instead of hearing reassuring words, the journalist heard how bad the pickpocket problem was. The police chief's reply: 'Well, it did not happen only to you. I just lost my mobile phone too.'
-- The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Happens to the best of them.... :)


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