Indonesia: The Dollar Worshipers

I am Indonesian. I had to go abroad urgently. Thinking myself a nationalist, I automatically logged into the website of the national carrier—my pride—Garuda Indonesia. I did the e-booking for the international flight ticket. I was surprised that all prices were quoted in US Dollars, instead of in my own currency, Rupiah. I was confused, but I had to pay anyway. I got more confused that none of my national bank debit cards was accepted for the payment. Garuda only wanted Credit Card with the international logo of Visa or Mastercard. I was heartbroken. Our country’s national airline refused our own money and denied our own national banks. Alas. My Credit Card was over limit. I rushed to a private tour agent. I was relieved because they said they could help. But they quoted a price much more expensive than the one I saw earlier on the website. And yes, it was also in US dollars. I asked whether I could pay in rupiah, or use my debit cards. No, they said. Better bring us crispy US dollar bills, otherwise you have to agree with our unfavorable exchange rate. I ran to the nearby ATM, withdrew about a hundred pieces [...]

June 5, 2015 // 13 Comments

Tais 30 August 2014: A Nation in Waiting

Nobody would deny, Tais is a very blessed land. See how green the vast pasture surrounding the village—even though your economist mind may ask why such a potential fertile land is just wasted and overgrown by wild grass as tall as your chest. See how bountiful their garden products are, their huge yams and blue yams and cassavas and sweet potatos, their super-sweet bananas and super-hot chili and super-fresh coconuts and super-big oranges. When the men go hunting to nearby jungles, they almost never come home empty handed. The people of Tais never ran out of food, as their land provide much more than enough for its 80 families spread in the 1 kilometer breadth of their village. Despite of this, you would see the children were very unhealthy; they have skinny bodies of bones but with big bellies. I asked Sisi—my host in this village—why. She just laughed, and said that it was children loved to eat too much. But I thought it was due to their monotony of diet, most of which was carbohydrate. Their food, if not boiled yam or boiled potato or boiled cassava, then it must be roast yam, roast potato, or roast cassava. Sometimes [...]

May 8, 2015 // 1 Comment

#1Pic1Day: The Love We Share #10 (Afghanistan, 2008)

The Love We Share #10 (Afghanistan, 2008) Mom’s Tears—a mother is weeping over her son who is struggling in a Herat hospital, Afghanistan suffering from acute hunger, along with massive food crisis in the country. Air Mata Ibu—seorang ibu menangisi anaknya yang menderita kelaparan akut, di sebuah rumah sakit di Herat, Afghanistan, seiring dengan merebaknya bencana kelaparan di negeri itu.                   [...]

March 14, 2014 // 7 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Menyibak Harapan | A New Hope (Pakistan, 2006)

A New Hope (Pakistan, 2006) Survival is still the biggest question in the middle of Thar Desert, Pakistan. Aside from serious problems in water and healthcare, economic situation is also not quite optimistic. Some humanitarian projects have arrived here to introduce to the locals their own tradition they have already lost: carpet making. This is a new source to generate income for the desert dwellers. Menyibak Harapan (Pakistan, 2006) Di tengah gurun kering Thar, Pakistan, bertahan hidup adalah pertanyaan terbesar bagi penduduk. Selain masalah air dan kesehatan yang sangat serius, keadaan ekonomi juga sangat parah. Beberapa organisasi kemanusiaan datang dengan mengajarkan penduduk mempertahankan tradisi mereka untuk membuat permadani, sehingga mereka punya tambahan pemasukan untuk keluarga. [...]

January 23, 2014 // 1 Comment

#1Pic1Day: Dusun Kering | Dry Village (Pakistan, 2006)

Dry Village (Pakistan, 2006) Some areas in interior of Thar Desert, Pakistan, had not got rain for four years consecutively. Some villages were even deserted by its inhabitants, as they were looking for a new place with more water. These deserted villages turn to ghost villages. Dusun Kering (Pakistan, 2006) Beberapa daerah di pedalaman gurun Thar, Pakistan, sama sekali tidak mendapat hujan dalam empat tahun berturut-turut. Beberapa dusun bahkan ditinggalkan begitu saja oleh penduduknya, untuk mencari tempat yang masih ada airnya. Dusun-dusun yang ditinggalkan kemudian menjadi desa mati.   [...]

January 22, 2014 // 3 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Tertutup dan Terbuka | Veiled and Unveiled (Dubai, 2008)

Veiled and Unveiled (Dubai, 2008) An Arab woman with thick make-up walks in front of a shop selling underwear inside a luxurious shopping center in Dubai. Tertutup dan Terbuka (Dubai, 2008) Seorang perempuan Arab dengan kosmetik tebal melintas di depan toko pakaian dalam wanita di sebuah mal mewah di Dubai.     [...]

January 17, 2014 // 1 Comment

#1Pic1Day: Kota Berkilau di Padang Pasir | Glittering City of Desert (Dubai, 2008)

Glittering City of Desert (Dubai, 2008) Two years before, this stretch of road only had two multistory buildings. Today, this road in the middle of desert is full of skyscrapers. Kota Berkilau di Padang Pasir (Dubai, 2008) Dua puluh tahun sebelumnya, di jalan ini hanya ada dua gedung bertingkat. Hari ini, jalan yang melintang di tengah padang pasir ini penuh sesak oleh bangunan pencakar langit.     [...]

January 16, 2014 // 6 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Time to Have Fun (Dubai, 2008)

Time to Have Fun (Dubai, 2008) Arab youngsters are having fun in an exhibition event in Dubai. Para pemuda Arab bersuka ria bermain ayunan di arena pameran di Dubai.   [...]

January 15, 2014 // 1 Comment

#1Pic1Day: Taman Dunia | Round the World (Dubai, 2008)

Round the World (Dubai, 2008) Visitors are enjoying their “round-the-world” trip in an annual international exhibition in Dubai, which was participated by dozens of countries from all continents. Taman Dunia (Dubai, 2008) Pengunjung sedang menikmati wisata “keliling dunia” yang dihadirkan dalam sebuah pameran internasional tahunan di Dubai, dihadiri oleh puluhan negara dari semua benua. [...]

January 14, 2014 // 3 Comments

Kabul – Indonesian Products in Afghanistan

Indonesian exhibition booth in Kabul, Afghanistan The first Asia-Europe International Trade Exhibition and Conference is held in Kabul for five days to commemorate the 88th anniversary of independence Afghanistan. The exhibition was attended by several Afghan national and international companies, but we may be proud as Indonesia joined the exhibition as the sole country participant. Indonesia, represented by the embassy, has quite a sizeable booth in the exhibition. The ambassador himself, with full contingent of all diplomats (we have 5), attended the opening ceremony. There were all ladies from the embassy wearing kebaya national dress. Compared to other booths (TV companies, supermarket, design company, carpet products, etc), Republic of Indonesia booth was an obvious distinguished one. Why Indonesia has to be represented as a country and not by any national companies? “It’s a pity that our businessmen are not interested at business in Afghanistan. Actually if we dare to risk, the market in Afghanistan is quite good. We (the embassy) have offered to Indonesian companies, but as they are not interested, so we come to exhibit here,” said a diplomat friend told me. Indonesian embassy is not a company, so what they can bring to exhibit? You can see a [...]

August 13, 2007 // 0 Comments

Shakhimardan – An Uzbek Island Surrounded by Kyrgyz Mountains

Shakhimardan, an Uzbek “island” surrounded by Kyrgyzstan As artificial as any other thing in Central Asia was the border lines between the countries. The nations created by the Soviet rulers now had to be provided their homeland. Stalin might say, land populated by most Uzbek should be Uzbekistan, those inhabited by mostly Mongoloid Kyrgyz then became Kazakhstan (the Kazakh was called as Kyrgyz) and Kyrgyzstan (of which people was called as Black Kyrgyz). But the matter was not simple in the Ferghana Valley. Ferghana Valley was always a boiling pot in Central Asia. The people were renowned as deeply religious Muslim, if not fundamentalist. It was more than necessary for the Russian to divide this huge mass with the highest population density all over Central Asia. Then, besides the division of ethnics (who were Uzbek, who were Kyrgyz, and who were Tajik), there was a clever intrigue by dividing the border lands to divide the people. Then, the identity in Ferghana Valley was not single ‘Islam’ anymore, but new artificial entities of Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik. But this was not something special if it was just borderlines. Borderlines created by Stalin were so complicated, zigzagging, and nobody understood the reason. [...]

April 7, 2007 // 1 Comment

Karaköl – Depressed Life

The Gulsaira family I arrived in Karaköl by accident. At first I planned to go from Osh to Toktogul by a direct bus. Toktogul is located on the midway going to Bishkek. But I missed the bus. The jouney then turned to be quite exhausting, as I had to take first the bus to Jalalabad for 100 Som, then 90 Som from Jalalabad to Tashkomur. I arrived in Tashkomur almost dark. Tashkomur is famous for its electrical generator produced by the dams. The town is also a sad witness of the deterioration of Kyrgyzstan economy after the independence. Now it is a quiet sleepy town 2 km away from Osh-Bishkek highway. It was not the place I really want to spend a night. I was lucky when suddenly came a bus signed “Toktogul”. I jumped in, wishing to see my old friends in Toktogul on the very same day. After two hour journey (100 som), the crowded minibus suddenly emptied in the middle of the town of Karaköl. It was complete dark already. The bus didn’t continue any further. It just stopped in Karaköl, and that was all of the journey today. I felt lost. In the middle of night, [...]

November 11, 2006 // 0 Comments

Karakul – Out of Murghab

A new day, and a new month, starts in Murghab The new month has just started, and I have only 4 days left on my visa. I met these two guys in the bazaar of Murghab, one with visa expiring today (November 1). The guys were from America and Israel, and they have been waiting for onward travel to Kyrgyzstan. They were there in the bazaar yesterday but failed to depart. Today is the second day (and supposed to be the last day) attempt. Murghab is somehow a depressing place to wait for transport. As now the oil price has skyrocketed, one’s a month salary is only enough to cover the distance from Murghab to Osh or to Khorog in a public transport for one time. People don’t travel anywhere. There are many drivers but not passengers. The drivers hang around the bazaar the whole day to get passengers, and except the two travelers, and me, there is nobody else to share the cost. Some drivers even didn’t have petrol for their vehicles. The cost is always calculated in terms of liters of oil, with 3.40 Somoni/liter standard in Murghab. In Langar I even saw a driver asked the passengers [...]

November 1, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murghab – Life in Murghab

A morning greetings from Murghab Murgab (Murghab) was promising when it was built. It was a new Russian settlement built as frontier city of Pamir. The highway connecting the isolated mountains to the lowland towns was supposed to bring wealth to the nomadic community. Life had changed ever since. A town was built on the top of mountains. People were educated. Frontier military checkpoints were enforced. But how is life now, after Tajikistan gained independence from the USSR and civil war took place in the new country? The hope of the future had turned to be a bad fate. I had got a chance to know Gulnara, a 54 year old woman working as a primary school teacher in Murgab. Gulnara is the younger sister of Khalifa Yodgor from Langar. But the last time she saw him was 2 years ago. “It is too expensive to go there,” said her. Langar is not too far from Murgab. It is around 250 km only, but the public transport there is very rare and expensive. At present, Murghab-Langar cost 50 Somoni/pax. Gulnara’s salary is only 80 Somoni per month. She hardly manages to feed her family with that money, needless to say [...]

October 31, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murghab – The Dudkhoda’s Family

Boys of Murghab, in front of Tajik banner with the tricolor flag and coat-of-arms, of which important element is a snow mountain “Pamir will be better…. Pamir will be better….” – Dudkhoda My first impression of this 39 year old Tajik man was really not so good. this man tried to hug me and kiss me when I was sleeping next to him under the same blanket on the floor in the Kyrgyz restaurant in alichur packed by the Kyrgyz drivers. He also made me to pay his bills in the restaurant. But later I found that he had story worth to tell. He arranged for me a seat in the Kyrgyz truck, along with him, who returned to his home in Murghab. He was actually a passenger of the truck, not being able to pay the ride with money but offered the drivers a dinner in his hosue in Murghab. I came along with him, sitting along the way to Murghab (100 km) for free. Just near Murghab, there were two military checkpoint. The Kyrgyz drivers failed to do registration and they became easy target of the military man in the small dormitory. “Hey, brother, you should follow the [...]

October 29, 2006 // 0 Comments

Langar – Connecting Afghanistan

Yodgor family. Aga Khan portraits always decorate the houses of Ismaili families in Tajikistan Pamir. Three months ago, on July 31st exactly, I came to this little bridge. That time I was coming with the Shah (the King) of Panjah, district officials of Khandud, and Afghan soldiers. At that time, we were there to see the opening of the bridge and overwhelmed by the optimistism of the desperate Wakhi people from Afghan side, about the change of their future by this new border. Today, I am at the other side of the bridge, seeing the barren hills of Afghanistan with all of its hopes, from Tajikistan side, with Mulloev Yodgor Dildorovich, the khalifa (religious leader)-cum-teacher of Langar. Yodgor was among those who were overwhelmed by millions of mixed feelings when the border was opened, only for one day. On August 1, 2006, there was held an Afghan bazaar just next to the bridge in Langar side. The people from Afghanistan Wakhan Corridor were coming from all directions, from as far as Khandud and Sarhad-e-Boroghel, to attend this rare moment. So were people from Tajikistan side. This was not merely a moment of trading, but also a moment of reunion of [...]

October 26, 2006 // 1 Comment

Khorog – The Capital of GBAO

Driver is a respected job in Tajikistan, especially in GBAO where most people still struggle of unemployment “Thanks to God, thanks to Aga Khan, for their kindness to us” – Mamadrayonova Khurseda The provincial capital of GBAO, Khorog, is a little town set in a valley surrounded by vertical cliffs of high mountains. It is cool and lazy, and despite of its proximity with Afghanistan, it is quite laid back. The appearance of military still can be felt intensively in the town, thanks to the neighbouring Afghanistan, which is just across the river and notorious for opium export and illegal border crossing. Young soldiers have to patrol every morning along the misty and freezing river. The 1300 km long border with Afghanistan gives much headache to Tajikistan, and its patron – Russia. Russian guards were playing a big role in ‘saving’ the war torn Tajikistan from further deterioration. But as the situation of the country had been stabilized for almost ten years now, the existence of Russian and CIS troops had been much reduced since the previous two years. If you walk along the main street of Khorog, except for the numerous militsia, police, and KGB agents, you will feel [...]

October 19, 2006 // 0 Comments

Ishkashim – Peeping Into Tajikistan

Welcome to Badakhshan “In Tajikistan they have everything but money. In Afghanistan we have money but nothing else.” – Mehruddin The distance from Faizabad to the eastern town of Ishkashem is merely 160 km, but as anywhere in Badakhshan province, the road is unpaved and dusty. The transport is also difficult and unreliable. I was staying in the house of a journalist-cum-farmer, Mr Jaffar Tayyar, in the outskirt of Faizabad. As customary in Afghanistan, all long distance public transport departs very early in the morning as traveling after dark is dangerous. To reach the bus depot in Faizabad I had to walk from the village of Mr. Tayyar as early as 4 a.m. There is no direct bus to Ishkashim. First one has to get to Baharaq, 42 km or 2 hours from Faizabad. It costs 150 Af. Baharaq is a nondescript little bazaar village. Here the onward transport to Ishkashim might be found. They only depart when there are enough passengers, and as Ishkashim is not a major destination, thus it’s unreliable. Comfortable public hot water shower in Faizabad I was lucky when I arrived there was a passenger bus (4 WD Toyota coach but mistakenly written as “ATOYOT”) [...]

July 28, 2006 // 0 Comments

Umerkot – A Failed Nation?

May 15, 2006 Giving understanding to the people and the leaders is a main task for the development programs here Sami Samaj Sujag Sangat is a small NGO in Umerkot dealing with the welfare of the people in the rural areas of Umerkot, bordering with the vast Tharpakar connecting this interior Sindh with Rajasthan and Gujarat in India side. This part of Pakistan had quite a substantial amount of Hindu people, and especially in deep desert, the rural villagers were mostly Hindus from the lowest caste. Umerkot itself had a glorious history as the birthplace of a Mughal king, Akbar. The town had a very ancient fort, but not much was left from the ruins. Parkash, a friend of mine, was working in this NGO with a teamwork which consist of people from the two religions: Muslims and Hindus. They work together without any problem. Religions had never been problem here, as people from both religions respect each other and live harmoniously. Beef was even not served in restaurants here, as about half of the population were Hindus and the Muslims respected their diet choice. Neither pork (as everywhere in Pakistan). The NGO was planning to held a health session [...]

May 15, 2006 // 0 Comments