Jakarta, Water City

The heavy rain from midnight until early morning today has caused numerous Jakarta streets flooded. Rains, floods, traffic jams, total deadlock, have been haunting Jakarta and other cities in Indonesia since last three weeks. In Jakarta, somehow it’s important to emphasize the difference between “a pile of water” and “flood”. The local Chinese believe that rains symbolize good fortune, especially if it rains during the Chinese new year’s Eve (which happens to be tomorrow midnight), the heavy rain is believed to bring a super-prosperous new year. But for sure, the flooding at least brings some fortune to the kids (who are always enjoying “beach-waves-and-swimming-pool-right-in-the-heart-of-the-capital-city”) and chart owners, who earned money by transporting motorcycles on their charts. In this year rainy season, some 40 thousands of Jakarta dwellers had to stay in temporary shelters. There were also some kids who participated in swimming contest in a flooded river, drowned, and unfortunately, get killed. What striked me most after living abroad for more than a dozen years and come back to my home country, is seeing laughter and smiles on the faces of my countrymen, despite the fact that they are facing disasters and troubles. The laughter, the never-faded smiles, the genuine [...]

January 29, 2014 // 3 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Kota Para Syahid | City of Martyrs (Tehran, IRAN, 2009)

City of Martyrs (Tehran, IRAN, 2009) The concept of martyrdom is very important in Shia Iran. Their spiritual hero, Hussain ibn Ali, was martyred in the Battle of Karbala. Like the struggle of Hussain, Iran also regards itself as a minority defending the truth against the vice of majority. The history of Iran is full of similar stories: how the people power toppled the tyranny of Shah regime, how they were fighting against British and CIA plot, and how they are persistent defending their culture against Arab influence. Iran was involved in decade wars with the Arabs of Iraq, and now engulfed by the hegemony of America in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and Afghanistan. With the strong concept of martyrdom, the cities of Iran are full of monuments and murals to remember the spirit of the martyrs. Kota Para Syahid (Tehran, IRAN, 2009) Konsep syahid sangat penting di negeri Syiah Iran. Pahlawan spiritual mereka, Hussain bin Ali, menjadi syahid dalam Perang Karbala melawan kebatilan Yazid. Seperti perjuangan Hussain, Iran juga memandang dirinya sebagai minoritas yang membela kebenaran melawan mayoritas yang zalim. Sejarah Iran juga penuh cerita serupa: bagaimana kekuatan rakyat berhasil menggulingkan rezim Shah, bagaimana mereka melawan plot jahat kolonialis [...]

September 19, 2013 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (3)

The beautiful Turkmen flag on a stamp. They have given up Russian Cyrillic and only use Latin With full of worry of not being able to get Turkmen visa, I visited the beloved Turkmen embassy again. It was more than a week since they received my photocopy of passport, and if it was approved, I should have got my Turkmen visa. I arrived at 9:15. There were already some Iranians waiting in front of a small window. The window was shut down. Many of the men, the visa applicants, were drivers applying for 6 month multiple entry visa, which with the invitation altogether cost 300 dollars. Some other men were businessmen who were applying for 1 month visa (91 dollar, plus the 100$ invitation). Turkmen visa was always bureaucratic and expensive. Even for 5 day transit I had to wait for 10 days, with repeated visit to the embassy and without certainty of getting the visa. Not before 10:45 the consul came. The Iranian applicants were quite annoyed by the consul being late. Iranians, unlike other people from Middle East, are somehow quite punctual people. The consul said my visa application was OK. I paid 31$ fee and submitted application [...]

March 12, 2007 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (2)

The beautiful Turkmenistan visa…. Give one to me, please… I returned back to the Turkmen embassy. It was always a long journey here. A metro to Mirdamad (750R) continued by a bus to Nobonyod (200 R), then a 1 kilometer walk to the junction of Dr. Lavasani street, a shared taxi to Vatanpoor Street (2000 R), and at last, a short walk to the embassy. A journey to hell. A couple of a German guy and a French girl from the same hotel simply took a taxi from Mirdamad. They also brought flower and chocolate to be presented to the consul, who might help for the visa. When it came to my turn, the consul said, “Nothing can be done.” The photocopy of passport was already sufficient for the visa application. Nothing else. The application was forwarded to Ashgabat, waiting for approval. If the answer was positive, after 7 to 10 days a visa would be issued. The application form given to me yesterday was to be submitted when my visa was already approved. Now what I could do was only waiting. I also visited the Afghan embassy. It was crowded, full of Afghans. The visa section also closed as [...]

March 5, 2007 // 0 Comments

Tehran – Turkmen Visa (1)

Uzbek visa was really a piece of cake. Smooth and delicious. Getting Turkmen visa was always tricky. I got very early to the Pasdaran Avenue to the Turkmenistan embassy just to find out that since January this year, the embassy had moved to a new address: 5 Barati Street, Vatanpoor, Farmaniyeh, which was quite a distance from its original place. The new location was more difficult to reach. I had to change transport three times and asked around until I found the building, exhausted. To get a transit visa for 5 days, one should submit a photocopy of the passport and Uzbek visa. I forgot my Uzbek visa photocopy and I had to return back to Farmaniyeh to find a photocopy shop. The embassy location was deep in the alleys of housing complex and the closest photocopy machine was two kilometers away. I returned back to the embassy. It was still 11 but the embassy operated from 9 to 11 only. The small window was closed. I knocked the window and the man accepted my photocopy and let me go. “Come back 7 to 10 days later,” said him. I even had not filled any application form. He gave me [...]

March 4, 2007 // 0 Comments

Astana – A Day in the New Capital

Building, building, and keep building Despite of the bitter cold due to the fierce snowfall in this sub-Arctic new capital, I forced myself to go around. As in Almaty, bus network was quite extensive in Astana. The buses were, again similar to Almaty, mostly second hand buses from Germany decorated by graffiti from the former German owners. Astana, behind the frozen bus glass window, looked completely white in my eyes. This capital might be the most artificial city in Central Asia, even I have heard that Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan – another gas and oil rich nation in the region, was comparable. Nobody would expect this place to become the capital of modern Kazakhstan. About a decade ago, Astana was just a wasteland in the middle of nowhere. The location where Astana is, far in the north in the heartland of Kazakhstan, is known for enjoying its extreme weather in scorching hot summers and bitterly freezing winters. Nobody would decide to have a capital here. Many thought Nazarbayev was crazy with his decision. But actually he had his own calculation. The city center. It’s freezing minus thirty something Astana, of course was not called as Astana before Nazarbayev’s decision [...]

December 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Mashhad – Afghan Visa

From Mashhad … “You have to go to Tehran” – Visa Officer Mashhad might be not the best place to apply for Afghan visa. I had to go back to Afghanistan soon as my Tajik visa was ready already and I had to rush my way to Central Asia, through the difficult Afghan’s central route. The Afghan consulate is located near the Sevvom Isfand Square off the Imam Khomeini Boulevard in Mashhad. At 9 a.m. I arrived in the consulate, which is located in small alley in a neighbourhood. The consulate was very busy, there were many Iranians and Afghans. No other foreigners. Thus the security guards directed me to talk directly to the visa offcier through the window. The visa officer asked where I was from. “Indonesia,” I answered. “You have to go to Tehran!” said him. Full stop. I was surprised. Go to Tehran? Just for an Afghan visa? Tehran is located 1000 km away from Mashhad and I didnt really want the detour. I wonder whether Indonesia was blacklisted by the Afghans as dangerous country, that its citizens had to refer to the embassy instead of applying visa in the consulate. Afghan visa is usually very easy [...]

September 4, 2006 // 0 Comments

Qala Panjah – Leaving Wakhan

The water is too deep to cross. Today Mr. Juma Khan had to go to Khandod for a business, so I had the chance to hich his tractor to go back as far as Khandod. Transport in Wakhan Valley is always difficult and chance like this of course doesn’t come everyday. My legs are still painful after the long hike some days before and I hardly can walk long. It was not only me the free loader (muftah). Moalem also took the ride. They way along the southern bank of Wakhan river was quite difficult as there were many rivers and streams to cross, and also the road after the Baba Tangi village was flooded as deep as waist. The river after Baba Tangi was so deep and strong, that we had to throw stones to make the way for the tractor through the water. Then it was another steep climb up the hill. The empty tractor couldn’t make it. Juma Khan was a good leader, and he really knew what to do in all situations. He asked all the hitchhikers (all locals who took the opportunity for free hitch) to collect stones from the mountains and put in the [...]

August 5, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kabul – The Woman Movements

Being invisible very often is necessary in a warzone “They feel save being invisible” ——— Lam Li The image of Afghan women which laid the strongest impression among Indonesians, and maybe also other nations in the world, is women hiding in blue burqa, the veil covering the whole head, including hairs, necks, face, and even eyes, makes the body under it completely anonymous. A friend of mine described burqa / burka as invisible blanket, just like the fantasies in those Japanese animations. Whoever wears this blanket will be invisible. Nobody will recognize. No recognition, no attention. “They feel save being invisible,” said Lam Li. Lam Li made her impression after staying quite a while in Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly Peshawar and Kandahar, among the most conservative places of the two countries. In previous occassion I met her in Peshawar, she describes her inability to understand why the woman always lived under fear, hiding under the purdah. But after more than two months in Kandahar – the heartland of the Pashtuns, after long time interaction with some Kandahar female friends, she started feeling that burka is not a complete symbol of orpession (but she still cannot accept to be forced to [...]

July 12, 2006 // 0 Comments

Umerkot – A Day in Tharpakar

May 17, 2006 Hut in the middle of desert Today is another ‘field’ day for the social workers in Sami Samaj Sujag Sangat NGO in the desert area near the Indian Border, South Pakistan. Today, as the activities of previous weeks, the workers visited the villages (what they called as ‘fields’) in the deep desert of Tharpakar to introduce the new machine-readable ID card (computer sekhnati card) to the people deep in the desert. The people lived so much scattered in the dry desert of Tharpakar, isolated from outside world, uneducated, and unregistered. The NGOs were working hard to make data of how many people to be distributed ID Cards, but it was not an easy work considering the area and the fact that most of these desert people are still nomadic. Today we visited six villages; one village among them was half deserted already, left by the inhabitants to somewhere else greener. The desert was very dry, after years of drought, despite the fact that now was monsoon season, and people kept traveling to find greener and wetter area for their life and their cattle. It was noticeable, that all animals in this yellow dry desert: camels, cows, donkeys, [...]

May 17, 2006 // 3 Comments

Umerkot – Heatwave

May 14, 2006 The heatwave almost killed me Pakistan was boiling, Punjab was attacked by heatwave. The newspapers reported hundreds of people fainted and 30s killed in Sialkot and Lahore, where the temperature rocked until 50. And actually, I was among the victim. The hot days in Multan and Bahawalpur, and the unforgiving train journey from Punjab to interior Sindh, had eaten all of my power. ‘My old friend’ had come to visit me, and forced me to have a complete bed rest for a week. Fortunately, on my weakest time, I had arrived to a house of my survivor, the Hindu family of Piragani in deep Umerkot, where I could recover my health in a comfortable room filled with love and affection of the whole family of 52 people. My recovery was fast, but still hard work of research in hot and deep desert might danger my body. But I will try my best for [...]

May 14, 2006 // 0 Comments

Bahawalpur – Train Journey to Sindh

May 8, 2006 The totally-not-express Bahauddin Zakariya Express Packed. Hundreds of passengers, agressively jumped into the economy train of Bahauddin Zakariya which served the bottom class of people of cheap mass transport. The passengers blocked the only passage from the chart door until the seats with the unimaginable number of luggage of their each, and their huriness which dont allow others to pass. This was the common scene of passenger boarding in public transports in Sub Continents. It seems that everybody doesnt have any second of time, and ‘time is money’ concept suddenly overwhelmed the laid-back mind of these Pakistani passengers. The hurried passengers, each with their own hysteria of screaming and pushing, also zipping through, made everything worst. The train came late. It started from Multan, and Bahawalpur was supposed to be the second stop, separated around one and half hour. But the train came two hours late, and departure from Bahawalpur was in the middle of the night. Many of passengers didnt have seat, and this forced even babies had to sleep on the floor, with risk of being stepped by people. It was a struggle to get into my seat, and in this hot weather, even at [...]

May 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Homesick

March 29, 2006 Totally devastated, but life has to go on Time passed very fast, and it had been my thirtieth day in the NGO camp in Noorasery. I was reading some printed material from Andreas Harsono blog ( which explained about some basics of journalism. This weblog was recommended in the photographer website. It was indeed enlightening. The posts were mostly in Indonesian, and the articles about investigative journalism, how to write in English, some basic elements of journalism, the narrow Indonesian nationalism in tsunami disaster, and the literal journalism were very well-written that I thought deeply about my country. He was right, Indonesia, our country, was full of problems. It was not difficult to see injustice, suppressed people, poverty, mysteries, struggles, and so on. I felt that somehow I wanted to dedicate myself deeper to the journalism world. But I still had too much to learn, as my educational background was not exactly fit with this new life I am trying to start. There is no reason to complain. Live here is much harder. Reading the articles in Indonesia made me really homesick. I dreamt about Indonesia, and somehow wanted to be there soon. I missed the food, [...]

March 29, 2006 // 2 Comments

Chapursan – The Land without Sunshine

The difficult journey to the land without sunshine January 4-7, 2006 Have you heard about the land without sunshine? It was a cloudy morning when someone in Sust bazaar – just one step more to China – told me. “You should go to Chapursan, over there, there is no sunshine for 2.5 months!” Chapursan is up north from Sust, going parallel with the Afghan border. And for harsh winter like this, nobody goes there due to the low temperature, harsh wind, and of course no sunshine. The last part of the challenges really made me decided to depart. There are several cars departing from Sust bazaar. There is no exact departure time, all departures are depended on passengers. Noor Khan – a Chapursan native who have been living in Karachi since student time, and Aziz – a teacher, Noor’s relative, also have been living in Karachi, are my fellow passengers. They told me many things about the culture of Wakhan Tajik – the native of the valley, about the land without sunshine – incidentally the exact valley without sunshine is about the breathing distance from their houses, about interesting event that I can catch the day later – a traditional [...]

January 7, 2006 // 1 Comment