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Sunday, 29 November 2015

"What do you think of Indonesia?" by Karlie

Karl atau yang biasa disapa dengan Karlie adalah salah satu participant dari Darmasiswa Scholarship Program. Ia tinggal di Yogyakarta selama 2 tahun dan pada saat itu sebagai master student di program Social and Cultural Anthropology di Vienna, ia menulis thesisnya mengenai Gunung Merapi-- apa yang ia tulis? Dan hal menarik apa yang ia pelajari selama tinggal di Indonesia?

1. When did you come to Indonesia? How long did you stay there?

I came to Indonesia for the first time in August 2009 and stayed there for 2 years. In 2012, I returned to Indonesia and stayed for another 6 months.

2. Can you explain why you visited Indonesia? 

I went to Indonesia in 2009 as a participant of the Darmasiswa Scholarship Program. As a student of social and cultural anthropology I was (and still) very interested in the enormously rich cultural and linguistic, as well as geographical landscape of the Indonesian archipelago. 

3. What did you do in Indonesia?

For one year I studied at the P4TK Seni dan Budaya in Yogyakarta. In the first few months we got trained in Bahasa Indonesia, later I inscribed for music classes. In this first year I already got plenty of opportunities to visit various places in and around Yogya – like the Kraton and the royal cemetery in Imogiri, or the Borobudur, Prambanan or Ratu Boko temple, as well as many, many others. The first year passed by so fast and Yogyakarta already felt like my second home –  much more than Vienna did, although I already lived there for more than 6 years by that time. But that’s why I decided to stay longer and ended up living in Yogya for another year. 

I love the city and its people, this fantastic mix of rural and urban culture, flavored with thousands of students from all over Indonesia (and other parts of the world).  By that time I was still inscribed as a master student at the department for social and cultural anthropology in Vienna and I was more or less half-heartedly writing on my thesis. But that suddenly changed in October 2010, when the Merapi volcano started to erupt violently. After visiting various monitoring posts and temporary evacuation centers I decided to discard my former topic and to write about the Merapi, about the people living on its slopes, about their close connection with the prosperous but hazardous volcanic land and inspirited environment, about their individual risk management and strength and challenges regarding the government’s disaster management.

Unfortunately, I had to return to Austria in 2011, not at last to finish my master program. But I returned to DIY as part of an international and interdisciplinary research project less than a year later. It was once more a great experience, that time even more as I was living in a small town close to Imogiri and was thankfully been given a room in a local household. 

4. What are some things that you were “shocked” from Indonesia (culturally and other aspects like.. macet... :P)?

Ya… the macet for sure. But one of the first things that actually caught my eye was something even before I really touched Indonesian grounds. Just a few minutes before landing in Jakarta I saw all this little fires, as I learned later, they were people burning their garbage. So, I might say that what shocked me the most was the pollution and the lack of a sufficiently working waste management. I sometimes saw children grilling corn or other stuff on fires nourished by poisonous plastic garbage. Or if one finds once more thrown away batteries in the irrigation canals for the paddy fields.

5. What are the things that you learn from experiencing life in Indonesia?

One of my most important experiences is living among a Muslim society. I learnt a lot about Islam and experienced how well hearted many people welcomed me and to join them even in religious ceremonies. No one ever harassed me for not being a Muslim but accepted me the way I am. Once, on the slopes of Merapi, an old man told me that religions are like the paths leading to the top of a mountain – they all lead to the same God. These experiences made me pretty resistant against all the 
Islamophobia that we currently witness. I guess that I’m now more satisfied with what I have. I met so many people who really had to face tough conditions but they frequently managed to find one or the other thing to be happy about. And, for sure – how could I forget – I learnt Indonesian.

6. What do you like about Indonesia? (Can you describe a specific example from your experience?)

Where to begin with? I really loved that living in Yogya felt like being part of a big social community – even if you don’t know each other. If you met someone new, just randomly at the street or the person who sits next to you during a wayang kulit show or at the angkringan, it was the most natural to act as if you were friends and to just start interacting and to share some boiled nuts or stuff. Strangers are treated with much more interest than it is the case in Austria. I sometimes have the feeling that too many Austrians see in strangers foremost a potential threat and not someone exciting, who has a story to tell and with whom it would be interesting to exchange experiences and skills. 

Besides that, I really loved the amazingly beautiful nature, the various very delicious cooking traditions, the very interesting diverse cultures with their dances, music and ceremonies, and not to forget … I really liked to drive around with my motorbike, an old Honda 100 CB. 

7. What do you hope for Indonesia in the future?

I really wish that Indonesia reminds its old principle ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’. One can sadly witness a rise and/or strengthening of rather antidemocratic and radical powers, that think that can scare away religious minorities or forcefully convert them, if not way worse. I really hope that the Indonesian government will step up and do something against this trend that is now going on for way too long. 

But it seems every country has its own share of these backwarded and intolerant groups. FPÖ or FPI, they are two sides of the same coin – and that’s a coin I can happily miss in my wallet. 
Besides that: Just the best! Protection for humans and nature. Development and growth that is sustainable and that doesn’t just serve a small elite and forest investors.

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