Friday, November 23, 2007


It’s been a busy week. C had her last exam today for her Dip Ed and all went well. After 11 months of hard work and study it would seem she has made it through with flying colours. I think both of us are equally glad it’s all over. The past 11 months have been spent hitting the books till the late hours for C. I would also try to read up on what she was doing so that we could discuss whatever she was doing. It’s hard studying when you don’t have someone to bounce ideas off so it made sense for me to get back into the theory as well. Tell the truth, I enjoyed it. It is not often we teachers get the chance to go back through all the work we did at uni and look at it with from the perspective of someone who has been teaching for a number of years.

C is now making a good impact in the PYP where she was offered a few months work to cover for an expat who is on maternity leave. I think this is an excellent way to start off. She has done her pracs in PYP, and has been under the guidance of an outstanding principal who is not only a PYP trainer but also is an IB evaluator, going out to schools across Indonesia who are seeking either accreditation or are in the process of application. Under her, C has been able to get first hand experience of what PYP is really about and this has been a huge opportunity for her. The next few months working in PYP will do her good as she will be able to put all that study into practice.

Tonight we are going out celebrating; I believe all the expat teachers will be turning up to toast the newest addition to their ranks! Should be a good night.

The year tens have just finished their personal projects (being an IB school, the MYP students have to put together a Personal project which involves research and production of something that they have thought up) , and they are equally relieved. Wandering the hallways its fantastic to see the various projects on display.

It’s a huge business, involving a lot of work from the students and careful supervision from the teachers to ensure students are meeting the criteria. It’s also a great opportunity for them to really branch out and do something different. One student wrote a song and performed it for the whole school with a power point of images behind her of the poor in Indonesia. Another created a menu for a local restaurant, after spending hours there consulting with staff and patrons on what they like etc. The project just isn’t the final product but also entails the writing of a report which in itself is an exhaustive process. Most have done well, though I did notice some madly typing away in the LRC on their laptops! The students I was supervising have done well. One did a guide on using moviemaker in the form of an E-book, while the other created a health and nutrition campaign for the local villages.

The year 12 Diploma students were under an equal amount of pressure as they have just finished their Extended Essay, a research paper on a topic of their choice totalling around 4000 words. This has been an extensive project for them, but overall, I think they have done well. I’m responsible for the coordination of their EE’s, so it’s been a process of educating both the teachers and the students as to what they can and can’t do etc. Hopefully, we will end up with good results.

I’ve also been working on giving teachers guidelines for SEN students (special educational needs) for years 9 and 10, plus I’m putting together a whole high school staff literacy program (I did the Stepping Out trainer program a few years back, great stuff) for implementation early next year. I did a presentation for the PYP staff (100 plus staff!) using the Freebody & Luke model, which is very accessible for staff, a couple of weeks ago and they are now starting to put a proper literacy plan in place.

So, this term has been very busy, and with reports coming up etc, it’s going to keep busy until break.

I’m heading off to Sydney in late December to go to the Search job fair there. This will be a first for me and so it’s going to be an interesting trip. Will also be good to catch up with family in Sydney and might also try to get to Brisbane to drop into sisters and mum.

Life is never boring!


Sunday, November 11, 2007


Thinking about concubines and such, I decided to take a brief look at the use of maids in times past. We still use them today, most countries in SE Asia do, as does the UAE, Africa and many other countries. If one were to look at the use of maids in the early part of the 20th century in Indonesia, it's possible to see a common thread that still exists today.

The use of maids in Indonesia articulates both a cultural and historical position. Cultural in the sense that it is an accepted factor in the running of households amongst the middle class, formerly that of the priyayi. Historical in that the Dutch embraced the use of servants themselves; however, for them it was of a different course than that of the Indonesians. In the early part of the 16th century, the Dutch trade in slaves was prevalent in both the West Indies and Africa. They brought their trade to Indonesia and during the years of colonization, ruthlessly used the peasants of Indonesia to further their own ends. The VOC, or Dutch East India Company had an enormous impact on the wealth and development of Asia from 15th century through to the early 19th century. The Netherlands East Indies took over where the VOC left off after corruption and bad management bankrupted the VOC.

However, the period of VOC rule in Indonesia was so influential it is still referred to in colloquial speech as jaman kompeni (era of the company). The wealth generated by the use of slave labour was intrinsic to the power and wealth of the VOC. With the downfall of the VOC, the Netherlands East Indies took over their stranglehold of Indonesia and continued where the VOC had left off. Kingdoms were used mercilessly to further their own ends, farmers were forced to pay exorbitant taxes, peasants were indentured for pittances, and the slave trade grew. Even after the slave trade was eventually outlawed in 1853, the tradition of help around the estate never relinquished its grip.

To take a snapshot of what life may have been like, it is interesting to read Paula Gomes in “Let it Be” where she remembers the use of servants around the house. In it she recounts vividly an incident with her closest friend, her nanny who slept on the floor at the end of her bed. Paula remembers inviting the nanny to sit on her bed and share a book she had been reading but the nanny laughed and refuses. Paula remembers laughing as well, knowing the impossibility of having a servant sit on her bed. The complicity of knowledge shared between Paula and the nanny highlight the unspoken but known lines of correct behavior upheld by both parties. Paula does state that she cannot remember why she did not further question this inequality of status but puts it down to the ‘will of the gods’:

“The fact was there was a ruling class, and I belonged to it. No one doubted that the gods had willed it so. No one could have imagined otherwise than that the gods would allow this situation to continue for a long, long timer- not forever, perhaps, but so long that no one, from one generation to another, knew any better”.

Paula uses this language of justification time and again within her text. It could be construed from such that she is aware of the impositions and injustices suffered by the servants yet she is also still under the romanticism of a nostalgia whereby the servants are friendly and polite playmates from whom a pleasant life was derived. Her text reflects such nostalgia in that her memories usually seek the good rather than the bad excepting for her experiences during the war. She remembers the servants of her childhood fondly; their own lives never questioned nor asked for. However, she does say that as a child during the celebration of Lebaran they would take her back to their kampongs:

“We wore our best clothes and everyone was celebrating. The fasting month was over. The white paper tablecloth was strewn with flowers. We drank pink syrup and ate cakes, while a gramophone on a small cabinet played music and the neighbours watched in the doorway”.

A number of interesting elements become known within this short paragraph. She remembers white paper tablecloths strewn with flowers, hardly the usual decoration found within a kampong home of the thirties. That a gramophone played music in the house again brings some notion of difference from the norm. Finally, it is the offhand remark about the neighbours that answers the puzzle. In a kampong, it is regarded as normal for one and all to drop into everyone’s house during the festive season. For the neighbours not to come into the house in which she is indicates a distinct reserve on their part.

The gaiety and closeness of Paula with her friends the servants is no longer that of equality but instead of mistress and underlings. It is possible that the neighbours would not enter knowing that a young Nona was in the house thus precluding them from entering for fear of upsetting her. Also, that the house was able to provide the white paper table cloth and gramophone indicates a far from normal Indonesian kampong household. The house might not have been the servants house at all, but the house of the kampong elder given the presence of the gramophone which would indicate status and wealth. Thus, while Paula’s memories of her servants are fond and nostalgic, there remain inconsistencies that further the accepted cultural historicity of class relations between the ruling class and the others.

Life would have been difficult for servants in the early part of the 20th century. That is, as the underlings with little power except that of refusal to fully comply with the Dutch state. However, one could understand that for people who were raised in such a time/place, to regard what they did as wrong is overstating the case. Instead, one could argue, as I do, that the perceived notions of the time acted both ways. That is, the servants were behaving in the manner in which they were accustomed to, and the rulers in the way they were accustomed to. I do not seek to make apologies for the injustices suffered, rather an attempt to explore a time from which now we look back and wonder how it could have been possible. yet in many ways when I look around me I see history repeating itself. The Dutch are gone, but not the remnants of the servant class nor the culturally embedded attitudes towards them.

Salaries are still very low, conditions are hard, I remember asking my students what sort of hours their maids work and was astounded when they told me that it could be anywhere from 12 t0 18 hours per day. Pay is usually between Rp400,000 to Rp 900,000 a month depending on how long the maid has worked for the family. After six or so years, the average was around Rp800,000. Yet for my students, this is normal. After all, they argued, we feed them, give them a bed, and take care of them. However, there is no pension plan, no union, no guarantee of continued employment. The maids lives and jobs depend on the whims of their employers.

The maid is an essential member of the household, witness what happens during Idul Fitri when all houseworkers are given the week off. Families depart for hotels, Bali, and so on. The Jakarta Post runs articles asking how they are coping and print the varied responses with the common refrain of how difficult life is without the hired help. People bemoan the hardship of having to clean their own homes, cook meals etc, and can't wait till the maid/s return. Yet when they do, to the relief of the employer, little changes.

Two weeks ago we hired a new live in maid after the leaving it for a few months. We were just not ready to have a new person in the house after Patsy (see my posting about Patsy - August 7). So, we decided to take a break from having a live in and instead employed the cook only. She helped out around the house, did the essentials but it was nice to be looking after ourselves again. The only downside was that it was difficult to go out as we didn't have a babysitter for the children. So, two weeks ago, we started to ask around and after a few days a young girl of 25 turned up. Shy, quiet but with a pleasant personality, lovely smile and attitude. We liked her on the spot and she moved in two days later.

Now, she told us that she had worked for a family in Singapore and we thought good enough, she's got experience. However, we were unprepared for what she obviously was used to doing in her old job. The first morning we rose to find the house cleaned, garden watered, cat fed and everything in its place. When asked, she told us she had started at 4.30am. A bit staggered, we told her that it wasn't necessary, and to get up when we do. She smiled, agreed, but after two weeks, we are still finding everything done by the time we get up.

Ari insists on speaking English with us, though at times we do have communication problems thus I resort to Indonesian but even so, she will answer in English. She is keen, a hard worker and happy. It is interesting to note though the cultural mindset she has in being a maid. One afternoon I asked her to keep an eye on the children while they watched TV as we were both busy. I came in some time later to find her sitting on the floor. When I told her that the chair was more comfortable, she was hesitant and every time I walked into the room she would leap up from the chair as if scalded.

It's going to take some time to get Ari to live among us as an equal, in fact, I wonder if she ever will. Sometimes cultural attitudes and belief systems combined with the remnants of a colonial past are just too hard to dislodge.


Dukuns and the cure for hiccups

Life in Indonesia was not simple for the ruling Dutch during the earlier 20th century, though according to the writings of many from those times, it did have its benefits.

It was fairly common for Dutchmen to take mistresses among the Indonesians, always careful to avoid potential problems by seeking the help of a local to approach the family of the girl. It was usually agreed that the family would benefit in some material way for their daughter’s fate. It was not uncommon for a mistress to live until her death in the household. As was the custom, a newer mistress might be taken, but the first one always had the absolute power over the household. Pramoedya Toer has written a stark expose of the life these concubines endured in his “Buru” quartet and “Girl from the Coast”.

In the early 1920’s, it was whispered that a certain relation of a prominent Dutch family in Surabaya took a mistress for himself when he grew tired of the single life. The mistress was a young girl, only 17 or so, though according to Javanese custom, older than usual to be unmarried. It was often that the girls would be promised and married off just after puberty.

The Dutchman approached the family through an intermediary, settled on a payment to the family and took the girl back to his house. It is said that all went well for the first few years, but the Dutchman made the mistake of falling for another Indonesian girl he happened to meet while out purchasing supplies one day. Without telling his first mistress, an affair began with the implicit nod of the new girl’s family. Obviously, the first mistress would find out about it and that she did.

The first mistress approached a famous Dukun (Indonesian supernatural doctor). She asked for revenge on her wandering partner. If he had taken another with her permission, all might have been forgiven, but his actions had severely embarrassed the standing of the girl within the area. She had lost face and that was unforgivable.

The following day the Dutchman began to hiccup. At first, he thought nothing of it, but after a few hours and the usual remedies had not worked, he began to grow desperate. The following day he was still hiccuping. Frantic by now, he visited doctors in the area, but to no avail. A week passed then two. The hiccups continued. By now, he was a nervous wreck. Finally in desperation, he travelled for days to get to the capital city Jakarta in search of more specialist treatment. In Jakarta he visited many people but to no avail. His hiccups continued.

After nearly four weeks of unceasing torture, his mind almost broken, the Dutchman returned home to ready himself for death. There was no way out. His first mistress, seeing him this way, finally took pity on him and through a maid, sent him a message that he was to visit the Dukun and ask for a cure with her blessings. The Dutchman made the journey to the Dukun, an unusual step in itself, for they are normally summoned. The Dukun heard his story, listening with an impassive face, but every now and then breaking into the characteristic laughter of the Javanese amused by the foibles of others.

The Dutchman begged for relief and was duly given it. The cure itself was simple. He was given a glass of water, a knife was placed in it, blade out, and he was told to down the water without breathing, the knife resting against his forehead. The hiccups stopped. Needless to say, the Dutchman went back to his first mistress and, so the story goes, never strayed again.

Next time you have the hiccups, you may want to try this ‘cure’. It works.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Scenes of the villages in the path of Mt Kelud, a temporary police information centre, and the volcano itself in the background.


The Claytons Eruption.

Mt Kelud is now seen as to not having erupted but instead is undergoing a “slow eruption” which basically means that lava is climbing out, creating a dome said to be 70 metres high and 150 metres in diameter. However, the force isn’t there to actually cause it to do the big roar. So, scientists have now given the evacuated people permission to return home. All good so far until the front page of the Jakarta Post yesterday declares somewhat ominously that soothsayers are not so sure it’s all over.

Now, in Indonesia, soothsayers are taken very seriously. Most people have been to one or know of one or follow the advice of one and so on. So, for me at least, it did make sense that the JP decided to hit the seer trail and find out just what is going on.

According to the various mystics consulted, Mt Kelud will erupt in the next 7 days. One elder who regularly takes cups of coffee to the spirit guardians of the volcano said, “I still haven't received any sign from Den Bagus Kelud that the mountain will erupt. Previously, I have always received a sign -- an unseen spirit whispered it into my heart”. She goes on to say that Mt Kelud is playing a rather wicked game of hide and seek, daring the villagers to return and the police to wander off: "As long as the villagers still live in the shelters, as long as the police still guard the peak, then it won't erupt. It shall erupt the moment the villagers return to their homes and the police officers leave their posts," she said.

Another mystic reckons because there has not been any major calamity elsewhere, the volcano will wait. Apparently, in 1990 prior to its last big eruption, there was a series of deaths attributed to the “nationwide ‘mysterious shooters’ program, in which allegedly government-condoned death-squads targeted street thugs”. He supports his hypothesis by saying the time before was heralded by the 1965 failed coup in which many people died.

The JP finishes off its article by quoting the head of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center Surono, who apparently decided to throw away his instruments after the earlier embarrassment of calling an eruption when there wasn’t one, a claytons eruption if you will, by stating that “The mountain hasn't erupted yet because the girl of Mount Kelud is still refusing my marriage proposal. I have repeatedly tried to comprehend her wishes to no avail. She only smiles at me."

So there you have it. We have to wait till the villagers return, the police go away, a large number of deaths to occur and a girl who lives in the volcano accepts a marriage proposal.

I for one am hoping it’ll take pity on all the villagers and decide to go for marriage. While this sacred institution is seen by some as worse than boiling lava, I’m happy to share the secrets of a good marriage with the girl in the volcano. As long as she doesn’t decide to take offence at Australian humour. Wonder if she’ll get the mother-in-law jokes…


Diversity of Cultures

Most private schools in Indonesia have a student population consisting largely of Chinese-Indonesians. There is a distinct cultural difference that exists between them and the pribumi (native) Indonesians. As a minority race in Indonesia, there exists a feeling of ‘us and them’. Mario Rustam writing on the discrimination of the Chinese Indonesians in the larger Indonesian community notes that “all the school lessons and books …completely whitewashed the Chinese from Indonesian history. It was like we had never been there”. He says that “it is as an ethnic group that we are being discriminated”. A recent editorial in the Jakarta Post echoes this sentiment by stating that “ethnic Chinese were victimized by the official New Order policy of suppressing their language and culture” This prevalent feeling of being a marginalised group has led to many Chinese Indonesians opting for private school educations rather than using the Indonesian state school system.

The private schools socio-cultural groups act as a microcosm of the broader Indonesian society. Cultural differences are real and established between the stakeholders. Yet Indonesia has as its core principal the motto ‘Unity in diversity’. Diversity is recognised, as is the importance of unity. It is the manner in which to achieve unity that is proving to be contentious.

National unity is the key goal of a government aware that with over 700 different racial groups within its borders, it is essential all inhabitants owe their primary loyalty to the state. The Indonesian language is viewed by educators and government alike as being one of the crucial unifying threads across the vast archipelago of Indonesia. Indonesian stemmed from the formal declaration in 1928 that it would be the one national language, as a means of creating the notion of one state, one language. To ensure a truly culturally inclusive education, The Jakarta Post argues for both recognition and explicit teaching of the Indonesian language by putting forward the proposition that it is through language that national identity is achieved. In short, the articles highlight the belief that cultural inclusiveness is significantly based on the use of one language. Further, The Jakarta Post notes that “Indonesians pride themselves on having a unifying language that we consented to almost 80 years ago”. However, the question must be asked, which Indonesians are The Jakarta Post referring to?

The recent articles in the Jakarta Post have highlighted a growing consternation among Indonesian educators and indeed the government on the perceived lack of importance of the Indonesian language within the educational system and the younger generation. In effect, the articles all seem to point towards the manner in which Indonesian as a culturally unifying force is being diluted due to the use of other languages, be it a regional slang or the mixture of languages as practiced by our students and teachers and the use of English within the growing number of private schools.

A recent editorial in the Jakarta Post notes that the use of Indonesian among the younger generation is perceived by them as being “ridiculous” and “for many young people, more accustomed to slangy speech, having to revert to formal Bahasa Indonesia can be a daunting task, if not altogether impossible”. Thus, the cultural unity sought by the 1928 declaration and indeed the government of today through the use of one language is in jeopardy. The editorial quotes Pius Pope, a former announcer at Radio Sonora, who said that “many students today were unable to speak Indonesian in a structured manner…and the use of slangy language would gradually damage the language skills of young people” The editorial concludes that if the loss of formal Indonesian continues, it will “influence the way youth think, argue and speak". This would appear to be a warning that a movement away from use of the primary language will bring about social change that might not be conducive to national unity.

Yet at most schools, the stakeholders all use different languages distinct from Indonesian to privately express themselves. The Chinese Indonesian students speak a language which is a mixture of Indonesian, Javanese and Mandarin. The Indonesian teachers use amongst themselves a language which is a mixture of Indonesian and Javanese. The expatriate teachers predominantly use English only. The schools usually require both students and teachers within the classroom to speak English.

The widespread use of English in private Indonesian schools reflects the firmly held belief of Chinese Indonesian parents that their child will only succeed if they are able to speak English. S. Wirawan (Letters to the Editor- The Jakarta Post), voices what many believe, that is, it is important “for people to master English and possibly other languages, to engage effectively in international trade”. Further, Wirawan argues that “Indonesia can never take full advantage of globalization as long as its people are linguistically handicapped”. Thus, the use of English as a means to gain access to the wider world is seen as critical to a child’s success.

This brings about some difficulties. On the one hand, educators are arguing that to preserve national unity and identity, the Indonesian language is the primary tool for bridging cultural differences across Indonesia. On the other, it is argued that English is an important tool for the success of the individual. To add further complexity to the situation, in the school setting neither Indonesian nor English is seen as the primary language of the stakeholders concerned. Given these complexities and given that most private schools require all students to use English; social inclusiveness in the broader social tapestry of Indonesia has to be promoted through aspects other than language. Thus, the student, parents and teachers must find other ways of achieving commonalities of cultural understanding. If language can no longer be seen to be the unifying force of cultural diversity, then other means need to be found and utilized.

How does one cross the broad divides of cultural diversity within a school with such three distinct cultural groups operating in cohesion yet also with their own understandings and ideologies? There have been numerous studies conducted on cultural diversity within schools and communities in general, yet most are culturally specific to particular regions and countries, all with their own cultural backdrops and understandings. In the case of the private schools, the diversity of cultures that co-exist do not necessarily promote multicultural education.

There exist within the schools a number of requirements seen as integral to their success. In short, communication and collaborative relationships with parents. The schools attempt to deliver an international education that in practice is far from the parents own experiences of education, thus necessitating clear and functioning systems of communication between the school and parents. In this setting the different cultural systems of ideologies at times clash, yet also need to work as a cohesive whole. There is a growing need for professionals to become aware of the sources of conflict between parents and themselves and in order to reduce the friction of such conflict, develop skills in identifying their own cultural biases and how to use these for a positive outcome. By doing so, it is possible that more collaborative relationships with families can be achieved.

Furthermore, the schools endeavour to offer a curriculum that is quite distinct from the teachers own experiences, beliefs and attitudes towards education, requiring explicit educational guidelines for appropriate professional conduct and the implementation of the student centred enquiry based curriculum. Teachers need to be reflective of their own cultural assumptions and be explicitly aware of the cultural knowledge of the various stakeholders. Further, cultural assumptions which may seem to be at odds with ones own, can, with the right set of attitudes, become an asset in the education of a child.

The diversity of culture within a school setting is complex yet can lend itself to be harnessed in a positive manner. The inclusion of educational policies which explicitly argues for the development of the whole child while respecting individual differences is an integral element in the development of all stakeholders. However, the belief that a child’s culture is important and should be included when delivering education, brings the associated issue of measuring just how successful in reality this takes place. This is an issue that needs to be highlighted by both educators and parents for future discussion.

Further, if teacher’s cultural background is different to the cultural background of the student, how successful will the teacher be in legitimizing the child’s culture while still valuing their own? Thus, do teachers distance themselves from providing real and dynamic cultural interactions, particularly if it is at odds with their own? Anita Lie worries about teachers who have come through the ranks of the Indonesian national school system and may not be “aware of the need to construct learning models that involve student participation and integrate students' existing cultural values”. She believes that the only way to solve the issue is to “recommit ourselves to delivering a higher quality of in-service training…to develop [teachers] teaching strategies, methods and media in ways that respect and promote cultural diversity”. We need to be cognizant of the necessity of “reminding and encouraging others to examine, talk about, and feel comfortable exploring and critiquing aspects of multiple world views” in order to promote an awareness of ones own cultural ideologies.

In seeking an awareness of cultural diversity there are a number of challenges. As teachers, we must be aware that the students own cultural identity, their acceptance of the ideologies of the educational system they are in and our interactions with the students will influence their academic success and social development. As such, teachers need to involve the students own background in their learning, drawing on their belief systems in order to value their cultural identities. This is based on the premise that teachers would set aside their own particular biases in order to become more involved with the students culture. We need to question our set of beliefs rather than taking them for granted. Lisa Jones believes that not only must we question ourselves but also view the student as cultural beings where we “embrace student diversity, and validate the cultural identity of students”. By doing so, the classroom will become a model of tolerance and an “appreciation of student differences will be created”.

However, Fazal Rivzi argues that seeking commonalities between cultures is critical to the success of education in that “multiculturalism must be concerned with the entire range of practices that involve the dynamics of intercultural relationships” rather than focussing on differences between cultures. To that end, Rivzi believes educational policies should not be just implemented but rather be lived, through exploration, negotiation, and “tested for meaning and significance in concrete circumstances”. Thus, if this were to be applied to a private school, one would seek to find the commonalities of experiences between all stakeholders and work from that perspective to further understanding of the differences that may exist. By doing so, all stakeholders gain a greater understanding of each other and are able to recognise the value of difference while finding comfort in the similar. Policies of inclusive education must be defined as not just a policy to be implemented but also seen as a real part of education, where teachers actively seek to ensure that their own practices reflect the wider context of cross cultural relationships.

While culture is a complex paradigm of attitudes and beliefs, Rivzi argues that culture is not static, it is dynamic and evolving; as such intercultural awareness cannot be based on a prescribed set of understandings but rather takes into account “the input of new ideas, the revision of old beliefs, the construction of new theories and the alteration of old practices”. This would lend itself to the principles of an international education by stressing that as a global citizen, one can view other cultures as evolving through the actions of the individual. In this, we seek to empower the student and by association, the teacher, in recognizing that the perceived constraints of their culture are only that, perceptions that may and can change. This in itself would be a liberating notion to instil within the teaching community and the students. That is, that though culture is an accepted set of values and attitudes, these do change, and furthermore, that across all cultures there exists commonalities within which we can find links. It is through these links that we move ourselves and our students forward to becoming global citizens.

So where does this leave the teachers, students and parents of the private school? If we were to try and find the commonalities, yet also pay attention to the cultural differences, a dual approach is needed. This would have a multiple effect. Parents attitudes are recognised and valued, students are seen as individuals with a rich background and teachers are able to find the bridges of understanding that would ensure cultural inclusiveness as well as supporting the notion of a national identity. It is critical that the students begin to view themselves as not being separate from mainstream Indonesia but instead are part of that society. While language may not be the unifying principle as hoped by educators and the Indonesian government, perhaps the seeking of other links will bring about greater understanding and reduce the divisions and barriers that currently exist.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mt Kelud

I hadn’t realized this, but Mt Kelud, a 1731 metre high volcanoe, is only 90 kilometres from Surabaya. It seems it has erupted after a few weeks of watching and waiting by the citizens who live in its surroundings.

"The first eruption was detected at 4:15 pm (0915 GMT)," Agus Budianto said, adding that this was based on seismic data that indicated continuous, escalating tremors that could not longer be measured on their instruments. He cautioned that no visual confirmation of an eruption of lava or ash was possible due to heavy cloud shrouding the pea.” The Jakarta Post.

According the JP, “about 130,000 people live within a 10-kilometre (six-mile) danger zone around Mount Kelut, according to the health ministry, but local officials told AFP they were focusing on evacuating about 60,000.”

We haven’t sighted any big clouds of smoke etc, possibly as the wet season started this week and we have been treated to glorious rain, wonderful stuff, falling intermittently for the past few days. This may be keeping it damped down, or it is possible that the huge lake of water located in the volcanoes crater (approx. 2.5 million cubic metres) is suppressing it for the moment.

Whatever the case, one has to feel sympathy for the people who live around it and are being forced to move outside the danger zone. East Java has had its share of problems this past year with the ongoing disaster of the Lapindo mud flow, thus one hopes this will be the end of it.

There was one lighter note in today’s paper which quoted one woman saying that she and her husband had to leave mum up on the mountain slopes in the house because there wasn’t any room on the motorbike. This raises a couple of questions. First off, if you have ever seen a family on a motorbike in Indonesia, they are usually able to fit at least 5-6 people on. One can only assume she had a large family. Secondly, now I don’t know about you, but if it came down to it, I’m pretty sure I would have volunteered to stay behind instead. I always thought it was women and children first; then again, maybe the age of political correctness has taken us to this next step in equality.

However, don’t worry about mum on the slopes. An official later said that she would be picked up in a truck. So this story didn’t end badly.


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