Indonesia: A Vast, Complex Country

You may or may not know:

  •  Indonesia comprises 17,508-18,306 islands! It’s the world’s largest archipelagic state.
  • Of those numerous islands, 8,844 are named and 922 are inhabited with a population of over 261.1 million.
  • free-vector-map-of-indonesia-30727

    Indonesia – a country of thousands of islands.

You probably know that tourists come to Indonesia for nature:

  • To see jungles sheltering elephants, orangutans and tigers, to visit rich marine biodiversity, and postcard perfect islands. Komodo National Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site, home of the infamous Komodo dragon, is one example of the beauty you’ll find in Indonesia.
  • To enjoy nature on land and in the water;
  • To see wildlife such as – the Komodo Dragons – the world’s largest lizard: 10 feet (3 meters), 300 pounds (136 kilos) with a venomous bite.  They are facing extinction.  Do not get close to them.  They hunt in packs!   One of the speakers at the 2017 Ubud Writers and Readers’ Festival described being confronted by a huge Komodo Dragon – while two others circled behind him!!!  Yikes.  A Komodo Park Ranger came to his rescue with a long pointed stick to poke between the Komodo’s eyes so they would run away.  Enjoy looking for the animals, but do not wander off by yourself.
  •  

  • To surf;
  • To experience cultures richly different from our own;
  • bull-cremation-parade.gif

    Cremation parade in Bali. Photo by BKristel

    Gulungan-penjar

    In front of every household, penjor poles are designed specifically to carry the Hindu prayers up to the Gods – part of the Gulungan Festival, in Ubud, Bali, Nov. 1-11, 2017 – a celebration of good over evil.  Photo by BK.

    women-with-offerings

    Balinese women taking offerings to their temple.  Photo by BK

  • To see the beauty of nature;
  • red-and-orange-flowers.
  • To experience vibrant cities such as Jakarta;
  • jakarta-1948146_960_720
  • images-15 Jakarta images from <https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-jakarta-city-skyline-image9548188&gt;
  • To experience the city of Yogyakarta, known for gamelan music and traditional puppetry;
  • 59904-004-1692C971

    Javanese shadow puppet.  Image from <https://www.britannica.com/art/shadow-puppet

  • To see smoking volcanoes. Indonesia has 76 volcanoes that have erupted in historical times; it has  more active volcanoes than any other country.  Some are among the world’s most famous volcanoes: Krakatau (Krakatoa), Tambora, and Merapi.  Right now, Mt. Agung on Bali is threatening to erupt; thousands of Balinese have been evacuated since the end of September 2017.
  • DSCF0024-1134x641

    Mt. Agung, Bali – photo by Rio Helmi

You may not know that in Indonesia:

    • On these thousands of volcanic islands live over 300 hundred ethnic groups (with over 300 native languages-including Batak, Minangkabau, Krui, and Pelalawan).
    • The Javanese are 40% of the total population and are concentrated on the island of Java.
    • The Indonesian archipelago was inhabited at least 1.5 million years ago:  “Java Man” – his fossilized remains and tools were found here,
    •  Around 2000 BCE, Austronesian people arrived in Indonesia and are the ancestors  of the modern population,
    • From the late 13th century, the Hindu Majapahit  kingdom flourished,  its influence stretching over much of Indonesia.
    • The 13th century in northern Sumatra have the earliest evidence of Islamic populations in Indonesia,
    • 2017 is the 350th anniversary of the Dutch West Indies control of Indonesia.  Part of that gaining control is because in 1602, the Dutch traded the island of Manhattan (New York city today!) for the small Banda Islands (the Spice Islands). The Dutch then had a monopoly on spices such as nutmeg, which financed the Dutch empire.
    • Banda-Islands-Book-Launch

      Just released book: The Banda Islands: Hidden Histories & Miracles   by Jan Russell

    • However,  because the Dutch were providing arms for the American Revolutionaries, the British blockaded the spice trade ships for two years causing the company to go bankrupt and the weakening of Dutch colonization.
    • Until the Japanese invaded Indonesia in 1942, the Dutch controlled the islands.
    • Recently, a Dutch man we met on vacation here in Bali said he was proud of the Dutch colonization for two reasons:
      • 1) In 1859, the Dutch outlawed suttee, the Hindu practice of a widow (not widower) having to throw herself on top of the funeral pyre when her husband died (so they would be together in the next reincarnation);
      • 2) The Dutch stopped women going topless – in this hot, humid climate.
        • “Oh well,” says Barry, “governments can’t get it right all the time.” 🙂
      • 3) The Dutch also outlawed slavery.  But today, Indonesia ranks #39 out of 167 countries in the slavery index https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/indonesia/
      • PA-22663573-1-1

        Many fishermen are victims of modern slavery in Indonesia.  Slavery involves trafficking of vulnerable migrants, forced labor, and the commercial sexual exploitation of both adults and children. <https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/indonesia/&gt;.

        Other Indonesian history, you may or may not, know:

      • Japan invaded and held Indonesia from March 1942-1945.  The Japanese trained young Indonesian soldiers – who after the war were able to gain freedom for their own country.
    • Another not often recognized component of Indonesia history involves  dock workers in Australia where the Dutch ships where harbored waiting to re-take Indonesia at the end of WWII.  Using Gandhi’s concepts, these lowly paid workers understood that their Indonesian brothers and sisters would again be colonized if the dock workers helped the ships leave the Australian harbor.  In a show of solidarity, over 4,000 Australian waterfront workers joined Indonesian crew members in a strike and refused to load Dutch ships carrying arms and supplies.  http://www.abc.net.au/archives/80days/stories/2012/01/19/3414771.htm
    • Indonesia declared independence on August 17, 1945,  two days after the Japanese Emperor’s surrender in the Pacific.  Soekarno (also spelled Sukarno) became president from 1945-1967.  Sukarno established “Guided Democracy” an autocratic system in 1957 that successfully ended the instability and rebellions which were threatening the survival of the diverse and fractious country. The early 1960s, Sukarno veered Indonesia to the left by providing support and protection to the PKI (Indonesian Communist Party).  As a result, the military and Islamists overthrew him; Sukarno remained under house arrest until his death. In 1967, Sukarno was replaced by Suharto,  one of his generals.
    • Soekarno

      Indonesian President Sukarno, 1945-1967

       

    • Sukarno image from: <https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c5/Soekarno.jpg
    •  In reaction to an attempted coup on 30 September 1965 – allegedly backed by the Indonesian Communist Party, Muhammad  Suharto led an anti-communist purge, which the CIA has described as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.”
    • Those mass murders of their own countrymen started in Jakarta, the capital,  and spread to Central and East Java and later Bali.  Thousands of local vigilantes and army units killed actual and alleged PKI – Communist party members.  Recent estimates say as high as two to three million people were killed. The U.S. was complicit in the murders by providing extensive lists of communist party officials to Indonesian death squads.  From: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indonesian_mass_killings_of_1965%E2%80%931966>.
    • Suharto served as president for the following 31 years! Support for Suharto’s presidency was strong (for his anti-Communist stance) throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but by the 1990s, his authoritarianism and the widespread corruption of his government plus a severe financial crisis led to unrest, and he resigned in May 1998.
President-Suharto

Indonesian President Muhammad Suharto, held power from 1967-1998

  • Currently, Joko Widodo is the 7th president of Indonesia.  In 2014, he was elected to a five-year term with 53% of the vote.  He is the first Indonesian president not to have come from the political elite or to have been an army general.  Jokowi’s domestic policy has focused on infrastructure development, cuts in fuel subsidies, and a tax amnesty program.   Widodo emphasizes “protecting Indonesia’s sovereignty” by sinking illegal foreign fishing vessels and executing drug smugglers, despite foreign criticisms.  Information from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_Indonesia&gt;
  • Joko-Widodo

    President Joko Widodo

  • Warnings to tourists:
    • Do not bring drugs of any kind into Indonesia; do not arrange to have drugs of any kind brought in; do not take drugs in Indonesia — or you may spend 10 miserable years in an Indonesian jail and then be executed.
    • 1000Despite global pleas to spare the men, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, leaders of the “Bali Nine” – and six others: four Nigerians, a schizophrenic Brazilian, and an Indonesian – were executed  on April 29, 2015, shortly after midnight by an Indonesian firing squad.  See: https://reneeriley.wordpress.com/?s=Execution+
    • Ironically, Indonesia has shown compassion for its citizens involved in the 2002 and 2005 Bali Bombings that left many seriously injured and 222 dead, including 92 Australians, 38 Indonesians, 27 Brits, 7 Americans, 6 Swedes and 3 Danes. All 36 Indonesian terrorists who were sentenced to anything less than life for their parts in the 2002 and 2005 bar and restaurant ­attacks are now free.
    • Make sure you have an appropriate Indonesian Visa.  The November 6-21, 2017 issue of The Bali Advertiser notes, “An Italian tourist, Carmine Sciaudone, has just been released from jail in Bali and has gone home after more than a year of incarceration.  He had helped fix a projector on a locally operated party boat because it wasn’t working (no surprise there), and he knew how to fix it.  That’s work, you see, if the authorities choose to decide that it is.  And you can’t “work” on a tourist visa” (p. 27).
    • “Indonesians say, ‘When you report a missing chicken to the police, you lose a goat.’  If you offer a bribe and don’t know if it will be accepted or if it is the correct amount needed, say it is a gift for their children.  Be aware that the law favors Indonesians who overwhelmingly win legal battles against foreigners. Indonesia’s anti-graft body KPK reports that 40% of state regional budgets are lost as a result of corruption (Bali Advertiser, Nov. 6-21, 2017, p. 4).
  • Indonesia’s  constitution insures religious freedom.  But in 2005 the wording was  changed from “religious freedom” to “religious harmony.”  Minorities are to respect the majority religion, and the majority religion is to protect minorities.  An immediate result was that 1,056 churches in Indonesia were closed. People here I’ve heard say, “At least for now, we can still talk.”
  • In a 2014 Christmas Day speech in Aceh, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla claimed Indonesia is the most tolerant Muslim-majority in the world and long considered a relatively moderate Muslim state.  The Indonesian Constitution provides for freedom of religion.  However, in a 2012 cross-national Pew study on religious restrictions, Indonesia was actually one of five (out of 49 Muslim-majority countries to rank “very high” in government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion.  The other four countries were Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – hardly good company in this respect, according to The Diplomat <https://thediplomat.com/2014/12/is-indonesia-really-the-worlds-most-tolerant-muslim-country/ 
  • Another very troubling indication of religious intolerance in Indonesia is that the popular “double-minority” (Chinese/Christian) first non-Muslim governor of Jakarta was found guilty on May 9, 2017 for blasphemy against the Quran under Article 156(a) of the Criminal Code. The charges were filed after Ahok was accused of insulting Islam in remarks that were edited out of context and put on FB, which resulted in religious riots against him.  Ahok’s verdict is a jarring ruling that undermines the reputation of the world’s largest Muslim nation for practicing a moderate form of Islam.
  • AP_16321181166668-940x580

    Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – also known by his Hakka Chinese nickname Ahok was Jakarta’s  first non-Muslim governor; he is  now in jail for blasphemy against the Quoran.  Image from <https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/02/indonesia-ahok-back-work-jakarta-governor-weekend/&gt;

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-4486906/Jakarta-governor-given-2-year-prison-sentence-blasphemy.html#ixzz4y7A2n891

    Ahok was found guilty on May 9, 2017 and  is now in jail serving a two-year term.  His appeal has been stopped.  The person who sent out the edited “news” is now being tried – but Ahok is still in jail.   The verdict approved by the most conservative of the Islamists is based on their rules (not the laws of the nation) that 1) Non-Muslims are not allowed to interpret the Quaran and 2) Muslims are not to be led by non-Muslims.  The two-year prison sentence was a surprise outcome after prosecutors had recommended two years of probation.

  • Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the verdict was “a sad day for Indonesia”. . . “Ahok’s is the biggest blasphemy case in the history of Indonesia. He is the governor of Indonesia’s largest city, an ally of the president. If he can be sent to jail, what could happen to others?” (<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/09/jakarta-governor-ahok-found-guilty-of-blasphemy-jailed-for-two-years&gt;).
  • 20indonesia-1-master768

    A Hizbut Tahrir rally in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, calling for the creation of a caliphate and the enforcement of Sharia law in 2015. Credit Tatan Syuflana/Associated Press

  • President Joko has banned Hizbut Tahrir, the sect behind the demonstrations against Ahok, as part of a broader effort to rein in the hard-line Islamist forces opposed to his administration before presidential elections in 2019.  Because of the aggressive moves by Mr. Joko’s administration, many of the Islamist leaders who led the campaign against Ahok are in exile or prison. Hizbut Tahrir believes that all Muslims should unite in a world-wide caliphate – a global political order – in which all humankind will live under Muslim rule as either believers or subject communities. From: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/world/asia/indonesia-hard-line-islamist-ban.html

  • The religious makeup of Indonesia according to the 2010 Indonesian census, includes:

Religious_map_of_Indonesia

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Indonesia

  • Another complication in this huge country is that millions of Javanese (mainly traditional Islamists) have migrated to other islands throughout the archipelago because of the  Transmigration Program, an initiative started by the Dutch colonial government and continued by the Indonesian government until President Joko Widodo ended the practice in 2015.  “The stated purpose of this program was to reduce the considerable poverty and overpopulation on Java (and some other islands), to provide opportunities for hard-working poor people, and to provide a workforce to access the natural resource of other islands such as Papua, Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Sulawesi.  The program has resulted in separatist movements and increased communal violence.
  • According to Philip M. Fearnside from the Department of Ecology National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA), “The Transmigration Program has been labeled as ‘’the World Bank’s most irresponsible project’ by Survival International (1985); multilateral bank financing of this program has long been a focus of criticism because of its impact on deforestation and human rights.  In 1986, transmigration was singled out by a consortium of 14 environmental groups as one of the ‘‘Fatal Five’’—the five projects chosen as illustrations of inadequate environmental safe guards in World Bank lending procedures, the others being the Polonoroeste Project in Brazil, the Three Gorges Dam in China, the Narmada Dams in India, and the Livestock III project in Botswana (TFAGC 1986, Schwartzman 1986).

From: <http://www.academia.edu/1196557/Transmigration_in_Indonesia_Lessons_from_its_environmental_and_social_impacts>

As for us, Barry and I are here in Ubud, Bali, where many tourists visit – at least those who are not on the Bali beaches of Kuta or Sanur or climbing Mt. Batur.  In the past 17 years, we’ve stayed in Ubud five times.

We love the Balinese friendliness, their rich Balinese/Hindu culture that believes in karma and recognizes spirits everywhere, and the beautiful art that almost all Balinese practice, be it dance, music, painting, or carving.  Until the 1930s, Bali could be considered the richest country in the world since there was little difference between the richest and poorest families.  All could work about four months a year to sustain themselves.  The rest of the time they devoted to their arts, their temple, their family.

Then the Balinese started importing tin roofs to replace the thatched roofs that they made together with their neighbors – and lasted about 15 years.  Next,  they started importing cars and had to go to a money system.  Today, many Balinese hire Javanese migrants to work in the rice fields while the Balinese work in the tourist industry as drivers, or restaurant or hotel workers.  They still have a rich family and religious and community life.  We love the warm weather, the vibrant vegetation, the art that is every where, the friendly people, and the economical prices too.

This visit in Ubud from the end of September to the end of October, 2017, we could enjoy the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival: http://www.ubudwritersfestival.com/2017-program/; 

The Bali Vegan Festival: http://www.baliveganfestival.com/

The Bali Film Festival: http://www.balinale.com/

Ubud has yoga of all kinds, great restaurants, and music every night.

April brings the Bali Spirit Festival – yoga, dance, & music <http://www.balispiritfestival.com/

But there is much more to the complex country of Indonesia than this tiny little part that we love.

free-vector-map-of-indonesia-30727

Bali is a little island in the south central chain of Indonesian islands.

Image from: <http://365psd.com/images/previews/e9b/free-vector-map-of-indonesia-30727.png

indonesia-beach-wallpaper

Indonesian beach – Image from: <http://www.youwall.com/index.php?ver=NDgzOA&gt;

Come visit Indonesia.  There is much to discover.

Aloha & sampai jumpa, Renée

Post banner:  <https://www.jonesaroundtheworld.com/photos-komodo-national-park/>

 

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

3 responses to “Indonesia: A Vast, Complex Country”

  1. Rosita says :

    really nice info!!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 It has always been my dream to visit indonesia – particularly Bali (Ubud, Kintamani and SeminiAk, I’ll avoid Kuta, as it’s reduct of alcohol and drugs addict tourists), Flores and Lombok islands, with a short pit stop in jakarta. I hope I realize this dream by a December of 2018, after I make a test to enter in uni, as studies come first and adventure later 😊 once in Bali, I wanna volunteer with BAWA, and I’m planning to take a collar of my deceased black pug as a gift to such poor Bali dogs.. it’ll be more of voluntourism, a mix of regular tourism and volunteer activities. I remember dat about Brazilian guy which was killed in indonesia ‘cause of drugs. Really sad, but he knew wha’ he was into. I don’t use drugs nor alcoholic stuff ‘cause of my religious choice, which is strictly against it, so, I doubt I’d have problems with that 🙂 just wondering: in Indonesia, as it’s a Muslim majority country, should I cover my entire body? Or just wear modestly would be enough? Is there any comportment which NEEDS to be avoided while in presence of average indonesian? I don’t really wanna have trouble in a country I never been to. I tend to restrain myself from confusion while traveling, but can’t say da same of my travel partners 🙄 so, I really need to know such info.
    Amo vocês,
    R

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: You ask a really good question about what to wear and how to act. I’ve found that people everywhere are friendly, but it is good to be conscious about their customs. Here in Bali, I hope you have the experience of getting to go to a temple. To do so, you need to dress as they do (more or less – a long sarong, a long-sleeved blouse that can be lacy, and a long sash. Men too have particular clothes to wear). You will easily be able to get the appropriate clothes for the temple here. Here in Bali, I wear practically the same clothes that I wear at home. I do like to wear long pants – because they are comfortable – & keep the mosquitoes away. The places you mention have tourists, so as long as your clothes are reasonable (no body parts hanging out), you will be fine. If you were to go somewhere in Indonesia that is predominately hard-line Muslim, that may not be so true. I wouldn’t wear a sleeveless blouse in Aceh in northern Indonesia for instance. Wherever you are, be conscious, and you should be fine. I think you would love volunteering for BAWA or Villa Kitty is here too near Ubud. You would be kept quite busy and happy just staying here. Happy planning your vacation. Aloha, Renée

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