Sunday, January 28, 2007

Moneylenders & Accidents

We have a wonderful cook, Anik, who started with us a few months ago and has been turning out delicious meals everyday. She lives out with her family and commutes every morning to our house. She lives about an hour away but was willing to travel so though we were a bit worried about her travelling time, we gave her the job with a good salary.

She turned out to be brilliant, helping out around the house, keeping an eye on the children and doing the cooking. She would start at 7.00am and finish around 4pm, a fairly short day by Indonesian maid standards but we were more than satisfied.

When C went away it was arranged that she would come over on a Sunday or Saturday to help out and give P a day off. I know, I know, you’re asking, why can’t he look after the kids himself? Truth to tell, I have gotten used to having someone helping out. Plus, on the weekends, both kids demand a fair amount of attention and with both vying for your time, its much easier to focus on one and let the other be taken under the wing of someone else. Works for us all.

So, anyways, Anik came in on Monday and but Tuesday there was no sign of her. P tried her mobile phone a few time during the day and then again on Wednesday but still no answer. We all started to get worried as it was so unlike her, she had always been on time and if taking a day off had always checked in with a call.

She has been having a bad run of luck recently. Two weeks ago she came in tears saying her daughter was running a high fever and had to put her in hospital. P confirms that the daughter is very ill. The doctor told Anik that the fever was from “too much thinking”, causing her brain to heat up, thus causing the fever. I can only hope that he was only saying this knowing the parents might not understand what was really going on. If not, ….

So, we gave her months salary to pay the hospital bills, and after a few days the daughter came home and everything was back on track.

Then S, our smiling driver, told me that they were under considerable financial strain. Her husband had been working as a security guard at the international school for the last six years but quit thinking he could find something better. Nothing did come up, so they borrowed 15 million rupiah (Approx.AU$2100) from a moneylender at colossal interest rates, using their house as security (worth about 100 million) and he set about his own company bringing sand into the city for building projects. This meant he was away for days at a time and this started to cause strain on the marriage. The job wasn’t going well and they were starting to fall behind in their payments. Eventually, they found themselves owing 25 million rupiah (about AU$3500). This is a huge sum for them, about the combined salaries of 2 people for 18 months.

The money lenders here are the scum of the earth, preying on the poor then ripping away their only assets, knowing full well the borrower will usually default. In fact, I used to work with one, he would lend money and proudly told me that he would make around a 60% profit on average. Beyond belief, but we worked together thus it was a fairly awkward working relationship. I wanted to tell him just what I thought but I couldn’t. He is now working overseas and while personally he is a fairly nice guy, I could never be a friend. He saw nothing wrong with what he was doing. Go figure.

Anyways, daughter recovering, house under threat, and husbands company going down the toilet. On Wednesday P again tries Aniks phone again and this time an unknown voice answered. Turns out he was a cop, holding Aniks phone. Then he tells P that on Monday night while Anik was out visiting her sister with her husband on a motorbike, a truck comes along and wipes them out.

Anik suffered head injuries and a badly broken leg and her husband broken leg and arm. Thursday they operated and put a steel plate in her leg, but S told me she was still unconscious that afternoon. Her husband was, as of Thursday, still waiting for surgery.

For those cynical readers out there, I know what you’re thinking, but no, it’s not some elaborate scam to borrow money from me to help pay off debts. I had someone at the school ring the hospital to confirm they were there, and they were, with Anik in ICU.

Now comes the hard part. In fact, parts. What do I do? What are my responsibilities? I resolved to ask the vice (Indonesian) principal at my school as to what course of action I should take.

Should I go to the hospital?

No, was the answer, as you will then be seen as a major player in paying the hospital bills.

Should I give some money?

Yes, but not too little and not too much.

How much?

Shrug, up to you.

What, a million, five hundred thousand, how much?

She lifts an eyebrow, not a million, too much; five hundred is more than enough.

Can I employ someone else as she will undoubtedly be out of action for awhile? (Thinking P can’t possibly cope with everything).

Yes, but you must wait awhile.

How long?

Enough to know she can’t come back to work.

Okay, so while the advice is somewhat vague, this is Indonesia and I guess you figure it out as you go along.

I don’t know much more at this stage, the hospital would not give out any details on Friday, so will have to depend on the bush telegraph to let me know. Then I’ll send some money and wait for whatever comes next. This is by far not over, and I know that soon I will be approached by Aniks family for further help. Not sure what I’ll do, so will keep my options open. If you, my readers, particularly those here in Indonesia, can suggest something, let me know by way of the comments box.

I can only hope that the bad run of luck for Anik and her family will pass soon. In the meantime, I have to get someone in, at least for the short term. So, the search begins.

Seems this morning I had to change over to the new blogger account using a google account. Have followed all the steps but I'm buggered if I can get Picasa to now upload pictures. Tried all sorts of tricks but doesnt seem to work. Sigh.
So much easier with Picasa as it reduced the size of the digital photos and posted them up quickly. Not sure what is wrong but will try again later.


Home Alone

It’s been just over a week now since C went back to Perth to begin her studies, leaving the two children here with me for a month. This is the first time she has left the children for longer than a day, and the first time I’ve had them all to myself! It’s been interesting, we thought there would be some problems with missing their mum etc but so far, it’s been okay. Lil D has become more attached to P, as he is surrounded by women and at this stage in his life, seems more comfortable that way. Lil C is of an age now that she understands C will be back and is doing something important so has offered little protest. Skype has been a big help as we can get on the computer every other night and the chat to C over the comp saving enormous phone bills!

Lil C has been a gem, getting up, getting ready for school, and coming along with me each morning, while Lil D has been happy to just get along around the house until it’s his turn to go. We have enrolled him at the same school, a playgroup for two hours everyday where they learn everything from singing and dancing to how to share, sit down while eating and so on. I’m impressed, he is obviously happy there and the teacher and her aide are wonderful. They are firm but loving, and set clear simple boundaries for the children to work within.

There are only six other children in his group which makes for specialised attention to each child so I never worry that he might be left out. I made sure that everyday when he finishes I go across to the elementary school which is part of my school to welcome him as he finishes. P (his nanny) comes along to pick him up so we gather near the front and watch for his classroom door to open and the little figures begin the long march down the hallway, in line, singing and clapping as they go. First few times you could see Lil C wasn’t too interested in the processional singing and would almost seem to be standing back and thinking ‘what on earth are they doing, too weird”, but he has learnt slowly that it’s fun and has begun to join in, albeit somewhat conservatively.

He does love singing, thanks to his music classes on a Friday where children his age would gather to listen to music and sing along. This unfortunately has had to stop due to his school time, but it has left a good impression on him as he is constantly singing to himself as he plays quietly, as he is doing now. I can hear him right now in the ensuite to the TV/study room, sitting in the bathtub washing his toys and singing some tune only he understands!

The nights are also okay, he is tired by the end of the day and we are phasing out his day sleeps, so by 6.30pm he is quite tired and willing to go to bed with minimum fuss. I am trying to break him of the habit of insisting someone be with him until he falls asleep so P and I are taking turns standing away from his bed, waiting till he is almost under then creeping out. First few nights he would immediately leap up on hearing the soft click of his door closing, opening his door to find one of us standing outside quietly, but the last couple of nights he doesn’t seem to mind and has gone straight to sleep. He still wakes up some nights, and the other night P heard a rapping on her door at 1.00am. He gone down the stairs, through a dark house, and up the stairs to her room. I was a bit horrified, thinking of the stairs in the dark, so have now taken to leaving my door open and the bed light on. This worked last night as I heard a noise, and woke up to find him standing at my door. Putting him back to bed took only a minute and he was fast asleep by the time I went out of his room.

Lil C on the other hand seems to be outgrowing the strict 7pm bedtime, and tries hard to stay up a bit longer. On a weekend night I’ll let her stay up till 8pm, but still enforcing the 7pm on a school night. She seems to need it, sleeping soundly till we wake her at 6am. She loves her stories, and will want either a book or a “tell story”, something I have to make up as I go along. Usually, if it’s C putting her to bed, she wants a book and if it’s me, she wants a ‘tell story”. I figure I’ve probably told her close to a thousand stories over the past few years, starting with simple stories of animals and their travails to the ones now which are a bit more sophisticated. I really should be writing them down, enough for a few story books! For most of them I try to include some sort of simple moral based on my own liberal left wing ideals. God knows, I’m probably corrupting her in some way, and we’ll see manifestations of all those ideas in her later years, but for the moment I’m quite comfortable with sharing my own belief structures with her.

Interestingly, the other night she wanted to say a prayer and asked me to find her prayer book. First time she has done that in awhile. She asked me whether I believed in God and this one caught me flatfooted. It’s a bit difficult to explain the acceptance of a guiding force but a rejection of institutionalised religion, but I also didn’t want to spoil what is to her, something important. So we discussed it briefly and finally settled on the idea (from her) that Oma (my mother-a catholic adhering to a pre-Vatican 2 catholic movement) and Lil C’s mother pray to God but I don’t.

When I first went to Indonesia to teach at a Christian school, I was asked if I was Christian, and I said born and raised a catholic. Yes, they would insist, but are you a Christian? There is marked line in the sand in Indonesia amongst the Chinese Indonesians with religion. You are either Christian or a Catholic or whatever. While there is a strong Catholic element within the Chinese community, Christianity is far more prevalent. When asked, my students will not understand the term Prodestant or Presbyterian, Uniting and so on, yet label themselves as Christian. I have yet to figure out just what this term means for them.

One student on Friday asked me if I believed in evolution, and when I said yes, he parroted out a defence of creationism he had obviously heard at church. Why, he asked me, if we were descended from apes, are they still apes and we are human? A quick discussion on the close links of DNA and the timeline of human development as representing a scant few minutes as opposed against the 24 hours of the worlds timeline gave him something to think about and he went away thoughtful. If I were still to be working at the school in Jakarta (which was Christian) I could never had said this, probably would have been sacked on the spot, but at my non-denominational school now, I have at least the luxury of saying what I believe.

Religion is a pervasive element of Indonesia. When you first meet someone they will almost always ask you what your religion is. Depending on who the person is, I either say Catholic (once a Catholic always a Catholic is a motto I’ve heard over the years) or say none. To be asked can be quite confronting given that in Australia no one will ask you such a question, deeming it a private matter. Here, it’s the complete opposite. You get used to it, but you can feel the surprise if you say none or the slight raising of the eyebrow if one confesses to be Catholic. Here, it is a safer bet to be either Moslem or Christian. Buddhism and Hinduism hardly get a look in (at least in Java) but some of my students do profess to be Buddhists. At my school, as in all of Indonesia, students must attend religion classes twice a week. Our school offers the four main ones, Islam, Catholic, Christian, Buddhism. We have 4 part time teachers come in for this and the students will go to their respective classes. Timetabling must be a bitch!

So, we are doing fine, the kids are active and happy as C organised a plethora of things for them to do after school (thanks darling!), and the weekends are, so far, trouble free. Touch wood.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Jakarta is never an easy place to drive, particularly given the huge number of motorcycles who deem the road their own and treat cars as objects which will always give way. Ditto for Surabaya.

Thus it is interesting to note the enforcement of a new law in Jakarta making motorcycles travel only in the left lane in designated city streets. How this will be enforced boggles the mind. In today’s Jakarta Post, an (edited) article stated the following:

Police began getting tough on motorcyclists Monday, issuing more than 1,000 traffic tickets as of midday to bikers not riding in designated lanes.

The head of law enforcement at the Jakarta Police Traffic Directorate, Sr. Adj. Comr. Tomex Korniawan, said that as of noon police had issued 1,003 tickets to bikers who used the wrong lanes.
The head of traffic at the Jakarta Police, Sr. Comr. Djoko Susilo, said he hoped the rule would increase order in the streets and reduce the number of traffic accidents.

Out of the 4,206 road accidents reported in the first 10 months of last year, 3,826 involved motorcyclists.
Meanwhile, Tomex said that starting Tuesday, police would hold on-the-spot trials of offenders near the designated streets. "It will take only five minutes for one trial," he said.

The left-lane rule is not the only new requirement for motorcyclists. They are also being told to keep their headlights on during the day, so that other vehicles can see them more easily.

The city is also considering banning them from entering main thoroughfares during peak hours, recommending that motorcyclists park their bikes and make use of the city's busway instead.
That idea has gotten a cold reception from bikers, who say it is cheaper and more efficient to use their motorcycles than to take public transportation.

Central Statistics Agency figures for 2005 show that of 7.23 million vehicles in Jakarta, 64.1 percent, or 4.64 million, were motorcycles -- about a 15 percent increase from the 2004 figure of 3.94 million.

The above begs a few questions. For instance, once the cops get tired of pulling bikes over, will everything just revert to normal, i.e. chaos? Because a law like this will require constant vigilance. Indonesians are not noted for obeying traffic laws. In fact, I sometimes wonder if such a thing exists here.

Secondly, what does he mean by on-the-spot trials? One has images of a robed judge by the road delivering sentence but I fear this will not occur. Instead, we will see the police pockets filled with “fines” as they fleece the bikers, the bikers getting peeved off by being fleeced, and suddenly, the whole thing falls into a heap. I know, I know, I’m cynical. But for the average cop, stopping a biker is a license to print money. It’s their portable ATM on two wheels.

The stats are also incredible. A 15% increase of motorcycles since 2004, 4.64 million bikes in Jakarta alone. This is a massive number of bikes roaring around the dense streets of the city.

4,206 reported accidents. I highlight this as most accidents are not reported as it's just another revenue raising scheme for the cops and everyone knows this: accident-call police-police takes keys to both vehicles-you pay to get the keys back-“fines” are then issued for imagined infractions of the law causing the accident in the first place etc etc. Far cheaper to just sort it out with who ever you hit.

According to the Central Statistics Agency, of the 5,551 motor vehicle accidents in the city in 2004, 2,745 involved motorcycles. According to the Jakarta Post, there were over 1000 fatalities in the greater Jakarta area in 2005. I haven’t managed to find the fatalities for 2006 but there is this stat I unearthed: While there are only 16% of the world's vehicle population in Asia, 60% of the victims who are killed in traffic accidents world wide are in Asia.

Given that there is seldom testing done for drivers licenses, little regulation of traffic, only basic enforcement of traffic laws and the list goes on, these stats are hardly surprising.

The only thing I do find surprising is the high number of deaths in Jakarta given that it is almost permanently gridlocked. You do wonder how so many deaths could occur if most traffic rarely goes above 40km/hr. Then again, the stat is for the greater area of Jakarta thus I would imagine that most fatalities occur on tollways etc outside the city but still within the city limits.

Now if I do ever buy that motorbike I was admiring the other day, you can rest assured I won’t be driving it neither outside the city nor within, around my area would be just fine.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Cartoon Violence

Monday evening, kids and C home from the mall as C had promised to get lil C a new backpack for school. Surprisingly, Lil C chose a sky blue one rather than pink, first time she has gone against her favourite colour! Fed the fish with the kids, and then they came in to watch some TV. It’s 5.30pm and we flick through the three channels for the kids.

Now, I’m no prude, nor am I a conservative etc, but bloody hell.

Disney channel had a show called “Raven” which has concepts in it not suitable for a six year old, or so we think. Cartoon channel had some superheroes cartoon which had lots of shouting, anger and violence. Nickolodeon had a cartoon called the “The Fairly Odd Parents”. This consisted of nasty retorts, anger, sarcasm, putting other people down, and violence. This in a show rated ‘C’.

What on earth are they thinking of when they make this crap?

Okay, so Tom and Jerry involved violence, as did road runner, Scooby do, and countless others, but somehow, or maybe it’s just nostalgic rose tinted glasses, it just didn’t seem so extreme. As a kid, we used to watch Saturday morning cartoons, and I don’t remember them as being so caustic as today’s. So, I did a search and sure enough, looking at Wikpedia, I came across this (edited):

Parents' lobby groups like Action for Children's Television appeared in the late 1960s. They voiced concerns about the presentation of violence, anti-social attitudes and stereotypes in Saturday morning cartoons. By the 1970s, these groups exercised enough influence that the TV networks felt compelled to lay down more stringent content rules for the animation houses.

Saturday morning animation programming restricted itself to certain clearly-defined types of shows:

In a more constructive direction, the networks were encouraged to create educational spots that endeavoured to use animation for enriching content. Far and away the most successful effort was the Schoolhouse Rock series on ABC, which became a television classic.

The decline of the timeslot began in the mid 1980s due to a variety of factors, including:

The ‘fairly odd parents’ cartoon bothered me tonight, so I did a quick search of the net and have just finished reading a few sites. Interesting stuff.

From them I gather that while there is no immediate need for concern with Lil D and Lil C watching aggressive cartoons, they do have some impact, but studies are unable to quantify just how deep this impact runs on a child’s psyche.

I’ve included an edited section of one study:

In 1998 a study was conducted. It sampled the entire television landscape (individual programs throughout the day and evening, including sitcoms, sports, and talk shows). They also performed content analyses of violent portrayals. The analysis of violent content is guided by questions such as:

Two key findings emerged: First, the amount of television violence has been consistently high over the years and has been rising.

The amount of violence in prime-time "family-oriented" programs has increased steadily over the years.

Violent incidents are highest in children's programming, with an average of twenty to twenty-five acts per hour. What mainly distinguishes children's cartoons from adult programs is that animated characters are repeatedly smashed, stabbed, run over, and pushed off high cliffs, but they do not stay dead for long. The portrayal of death as temporary and the characters as indestructible reinforces young viewers' immature understanding of death.

The second key finding is that the contexts in which most violence is presented also poses risks for the child viewers. Most violent incidents involve acts of aggression rather than threats: Perpetrators are frequently portrayed as attractive characters and heroes rather than as villains; perpetrators and victims are predominantly male; most violence is committed for personal gain or out of anger; and most violent acts do not have consequences—that is, they portray little or no pain and suffering by victims or survivors. In nearly three-fourths of the violent scenes, there is no punishment of the aggressor, no remorse or condemnation; some acts are even rewarded. In children's cartoons, humor is a predominant contextual feature.

Children's cartoons trivialize the depiction of death; misrepresenting real life and death.

However, it’s just not the violence that bothers me but the values and attitudes on display and reinforced through the actions of the cartoon characters. I would much rather our children develop the values and attitudes as expressed in the IB student profile and IB student attitudes.

Seems we will have to be more discerning in the types of shows the children watch.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lil C proudly showing off her array of presents.

Look, a new car! His smile says it all.
Our delightful care package from Ireland.

Christmas in Surabaya

On a more cheerful note, Christmas and New Years Eve were lovely. The kids had great fun opening their presents, went to lunch at the local five star hotel, not very christmasy atmosphere but it was okay. The food was good and we enjoyed getting out.

New Years eve was spent with a group of other expats at someones house on the golf course. Very nice, and someone down the road put on a fireworks show, all in all, a satisfying holiday week.

Plus, we gratefully received a care package all the way from C's family in Ireland. It was a lovely thought and we are still enjoying its contents! See pictures above!


Just a quick one.

In less than a week tragedy has struck again in Indonesia. On December 29, it was a ferry carrying anywhere between 450 and 850 people lost at sea. Exact counts are unknown as no one bothers to count passengers on such trips.

On January 1st, an Adam Air flight from Surabaya to Manado carrying 102 people went missing and as I type, it has still not been found. This is despite earlier reports that wreckage was found with 12 survivors. This news was carried by all major overseas news services and was based on announcements by the military and governor. It was later admitted by Indonesian officials that the news was false.

I carried an article on this blog some time back written by Marek Bialoglowy on the state of the planes in Indonesia, in particular Adam Air. He now has this to report on the current accident.

More information on Adam Air gathered by professionals can be found here, it makes for fascinating reading. Further information on the missing plane can be found here. My thanks to Indcoup for the links.

Once again Indonesia has been hit by tragedy. Here is a list of the recent disasters compiled by The Sydney Morning Herald.

It seems that it never ends here. Our thoughts are with the families of those missing.


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