Briefly explained. Our third outreach.

Panti Asuhan Kasih Indonesia

 

One of my friends (also a mentor and secretary in SEALNet Medan Chapter @ SMA Sutomo 1 Medan), Adriana Salim, posted a video in Youtube about our outreach to Panti Asuhan Kasih Indonesia we visited on 15th April, Sunday. As you could see in the video, there was laughter, there was fun, there was motivation, there was singing, there was a brief noetic strike, and there was everything. Some of the parts included me teaching English (that would be present tense), and some others included self-contemplation speech, prepared extemporaneously, by our dearest CCA’s coach, one of our school’s most beloved and stand-up-comedian-alike teachers, Supian Sembiring. You could see the children laughing, gamboling frantically, complete with their innocent, angelic expressions.

But, personally, as I had to confess, all the exhilaration that you saw was merely, with no intention to show that I am a pessimist, tip of an iceberg. In addition, I even wanted to say that what our seniors had done (kudos to Edric Subur, Winnie Illona, and the rest of our mentors) was myriad times much better than what we had made. Perhaps this might sound humiliating, but all I could conclude from this third outreach was a bit ‘epic-fail’ episode.

 

 

Straightforwardly, perhaps I had to explain why I could dub it so. This began from our consensus, of all of us, that we would teach them basic English skills, given that their English scores are deteriorating as time passes (that’s what we heard from the founder of the orphanage, whom we refer to as bapak panti). Afterwards, having been procrastinated more than 2 times from February to April due to rescheduling of school exam, the children having vacation in Berastagi to celebrate the birthday of their largest contributor, and fear of fuel-price hike protests, we managed to conduct it, complete with all the materials to be taught, including past, present, and future tenses. I myself had even prepared grammar exercises for the teenagers, while another mentor of SEALNet, Elvira, also had had a large poster containing pictures of fruits with both English and Indonesian names.

 

Adriana (left) and Elvira (right)

 

In full contradiction, our assumption was totally wrong. It is true that the bapak panti, known as Mr.Zebua, owns 2 orphanages, one of which was our destination on that outreach. Around 47 individuals, mostly primary-class students, are registered in the database of the orphanage we visited. When we reached there, it turned out to be almost exactly 102. Everything we had set and had planned very well was originally intended only to fit 47 persons, but this became our Achilles’ heel when we found out the name tags were already empty (we wrote down all the 102 children’s names in the name tags, with aim to keep the rest – those who stay in the other orphanage – assume we visited theirs).

At the same time, I only printed grammar exercise suited for 20 teenagers, while in fact, it turned out that more than 30 others were also present on the time we visited it.

I taught present tense in front of all the individuals. Deep inside my heart, I conjectured that instead of educating human beings, I was more like bragging in front of statues. Most of the individuals had no comprehension what I was talking about (and so did the mentors and the mentees). Some said that I was more of a ‘don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ type of mentor, leaving them in much confusion – and certainly – tedium. Only few were willing to listen, mostly the girls. The primary-class students stared at me with blank expression. Mr.Supian later told me that these kids had even never been taught pronounciation of English words in their school. Some teenagers had, in fact, been taught such tenses many times in their school. What I could conclude from this statement: okay, I’m a dinosaur.

 

Pak Supian is a superb educator.

 

Our outreach succeeded largely thanks to Mr.Supian’s assistance. Without prior preparation, he spoke so well that he reminded me of the way a priest talks in front of the congregation. That quite helped in spurring their gusto. He led the prayer, the cantillation, and the carol-singing session. I couldn’t help but wonder, while I recorded his talk: how many thousands of outreach sessions had he ever undergone in his life? Mine is perhaps simply one-thousandth of his.

Somehow, it was better to have a ‘half-baked’ outreach, whose execution in reverse bore no resemblance with the timeline we had set altogether, than to have null-and-void at all. In the end, we sang songs altogether (mostly Christian-themed songs with we-know-what lyrics), and we handed out some drawing books, notebooks, unused books, Kuark science magazines, school textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, snacks, drinks, and a long list to go.

 

 

I thanked everyone (especially those tagged in the note) who had paid total concentration on their efforts to make the outreach succeed. Particularly to Adriana. She has had multitudinous talents that I hardly possess. She’s magnificent in drawing out the posters, she’s superb in photography, and she’s able to make and edit videos as well. But my deepest kudo goes to Mr.Supian. Given the fact that we are not that financially able to hire such salient motivators like Andrie Wongso or Mario Teguh, he’s been very enough for us to provide satisfaction to these buddies.

By the way, on 29th April, we are still having another outreach session to go. Expect ‘the motivator’ to come back. Be very curious.

 

Both these posters are nicely designed by Adriana (except the future tense, thanks to the help from my classmate, Jesslyn Calosa). Thanks a lot!

Empire state of commotion

Source: antarafoto.com

Widespread protests opposing the planned fuel price hike – from Rp 4500 to Rp 6000 a litre – have plagued a plethora of major cities and towns throughout Indonesia within a few weeks. Almost every hour, quotidian, we could witness on television reports on how these ‘people’s fighters’, day and night, in a perpetual motion involved in endless brawls against policemen. Personally, I pitied the most those policemen – albeit I even never have an acquaintance who’s in this job – who had to resist much pain of being stoned by those mobster-behaving nation’s next labelled ‘intellects’, something which has been the consequence of being the caretakers of national safety. And the civilians, inobliviously, who were not able to proceed their work as a by-product of the demonstrators smashing things into smithereens. And, more miserably, 3 policemen and 3 journalists were badly injured in an acid attack by unknown provocators. Some red-plate vehicles (indicating that these belong to state employees) were prey to their bursting wrath. But, above those all, the bulk of their actions – claiming to be inspired by the 1998 en masse demonstrations which successfully brought Soeharto’s power to the end of his tethers – no longer attracted sympathy from majority of the citizens. Rather than feel ‘represented’, they instead concluded to have been much ‘hampered’ by the manners these university students expressed their opinions.

Our school was even vacanted for 2 days – fearing the students’ safety – on both Tuesday and Saturday last week because of what they did. Many of us – as seen from their tweets – seemed to kill time while monitoring the current situation taking place in major cities across Indonesia. But, often, no matter how wrought-up the commotion was between the protestors and the security forces – such as Flintstone-era stone wars, jostling-turned-wrestling duels, or water-cannon attractions, we were often interrupted with still-water-run-deep interviews between news broadcasters and ‘seemingly-expertise’ economists, happy-talk politicians who seemed to fully support what the ‘intellects’ did, even if it’s wrong in pursuance of most of the society, and little-known leaders of student leagues claiming to be ‘the most staunchful opponents’ of government’s policies they considered to be all neo-liberal and bring no benefits for proletariats, who possess no ‘a-fault-confessed-is-half-redressed’ conventional wisdom, who all the time turned A to Z whenever audiences, through interactive phone calls, frequently denounced their methods. Endlessly waiting for the hourly headline news to know the latest condition, particularly about the lumping protests in our hometown, I instead found myself so time-wasting listening to their dialogues. And more repugnant is, to know the open encouragement by some parliamentarians that ‘university students are always victimized, while the policemen are way too repressive’. They said so as though the citizens were kindergarten students.

Among all the big cities in Indonesia, Medan was the first in terms of having huge numbers of civilians involved in mass rallies as protests against fuel price hike. On 26th March, what the coordinators had warned against authorities in the government days prior that they would bring in more than 15 thousand labors, university students, farmers, fishermen, and cadgers seemed to have come true. Rumors spread up rapidly through Blackberry Messenger that riots, in no time, would possibly be the follow-up after the mass protests. One broadcast message warned that the protesters were actually targeting Chinese-owned businesses, having a 1998 tragedy rehearsed in more horrifying scale than ever. Another one, exaggeratingly as it sounds, claimed that the sender had heard from secret insiders that as many as 800 thousand masses, all around North Sumatera, would turn the entire Medan, until Berastagi, into oceans of fire and maelstrom, with numerous names of streets being mentioned (for even more information, it also included Hillpark in Bandar Baru). 800 thousand? I asked myself, will all these so-called ’800,000’ show up, having themselves grilled under the scalding sun with little-paid wherewithal, while insofar, most of the jobs they hold in are still in very safe condition, far from the threats of being laid-off by their bosses?

But, as far as my Blackberry has ever received such peculiar messages, there was one that seemingly provoked my mind not to worry, but more to gaggle, instead. The mastermind behind the broadcast message must be some sorts of nosy bratz who simply favor in playing truants, warning us that schools in Medan and Jakarta will be occupied by protesters. Only Medan and Jakarta, while all the protesters were actually aiming for legislative offices, traffic roundabouts in city centers, and places of vital interest (Pertamina offices, highways, industrial zones, or airports (airports? What’s the connection?))? If it were so, why wouldn’t the protesters just simply blockade all the schools nationwide? Why only Medan and Jakarta? Isn’t that showing off inequality?

Nevertheless, the school’s staff immediately informed us to go back home as far as 12.40 pm, with the exception that teachers, particularly those having schedules until 3 pm or more, would have to stay. That message was delivered almost in tandem with the beginning of the obtestation, situated exactly in front of the office of North Sumatera’s representative body, as broadcast in my Twitter feed (I opened my Blackberry under-the-table at that time, violation of a school rule). Supposed to end at 2.50 pm, all of the students were instead told to leave after the school bell rang at the destined time. Hundreds of parents rushed in to classes to find their children and take them back. Furthermore, the first and second junior high school students even called it a day, knowing that their schedule usually starts at 12.50 pm.

Public relations division of our city’s metropolitan police force had previously advised that businesses, schools, and all daily activities in Medan go on as usual, and be not affected by any broadcast messages or SMS they referred to as ‘unclear’. But what actually happened was a total reversal. Thousands of businesses were closed, roads and streets were mostly vacant, and some schools caught on to the same way. Meanwhile, most of the red-plate vehicles, and oil-tanks dared not to circle around the city, fearing of disfiguration efforts by some of the anarchists. So were some of the gas tanks here.

The climax was when all the masses took a walk from the representative body’s offices into Polonia airport. Trying to blockade the entire territories, what happened next was stone war: protesters dismantled one by one all the barbed fences both the police and army had set up as anticipation. Police fired tear gas and enormous streams of water against the protesters. Worse, a Petronas gas station only a stone’s throw away from Polonia almost became prey to the angry masses. And that’s what the TV stations reported. However, on the next day, whether it’s true or false, as written in newspapers, it was said that the crowds had successfully looted away countless stuff from the minimarket and KFC restaurant inside the gas station. It remained blurred which report was correct and which was falsified, but for sure, this had highlighted the ultimately rough-and-tumble side of our ‘next leaders’. The next day, the airport was heavily guarded by 1500 troops within the radius of 150 meters, with not even a single protester allowed to get in.

ANDRI GINTING/SUMUT POS-

Source: Sumut Pos

27th March was another one of the last days in March we really feared of. Some leaders of little-known student bodies threatened to bring 2.5 million citizens into the streets, to boycott the entire economic activities over the country, and even to occupy Presidential Palace and House of Representatives, and to force SBY-Boediono to step down. Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDIP), the most outspoken opposition party, bandwagoned exactly what they did, by threatening the government to dispatch 1 million of its cadres across all the main roads in all the country’s main cities. In total, it’s 3.5 million.

But a few days later, it was found out that ‘only’ no more than 80 thousand people – nationwide –did really take to the streets. Yet, no matter how ‘underachieved’ the demonstrations were, still they looked terrifying to the civilians. There was stone war going on in Jakarta, while another one took place in Makassar, where the students out-Heroded Herod by throwing down the gauntlets not only on police, but also ordinary citizens (and Makassar had the highest frequencies of such occurrences), while some others also came off in cities such as Bandung, Surabaya, Medan (it was a luck that demonstration lasted peacefully here on that day, after governor of North Sumatera ‘promised’ to bring such disputes to the state level), and more than 120 regencies/cities largely overlooked by the mass media.

On the same day, fearing of our safety, most of us decided not to crucify our lives for education’s sake. The school unofficially called it ‘a day’. In our class, only 1 student was present. In our neighboring class, only 2 came. Many of the classes were totally vacant, while Science classes were a bit more thickset than those in the Social stream, with some of the classes still having 10 and 20 students each, in between. But, above those all, given the compensation by the school that our absence would not affect our overall scores, I noticed that some of the students merely considered it a ‘blessing in disguise’. Ah, never mind about that.

ANTARAFOTO

Source: Viva News

In the long run, the most determining date was 31st March, in which it was decided in the plenary session whether the government would increase fuel prices or not. There has been intense disputation between government and House of Representatives for more than one week, from day to night and night to day (sometimes the debate went on until more than 2 am), about the scale of subsidies supposedly distributed if the fuel prices are to go up. PDIP, Hanura, and Gerindra remained hard-headedly in their position, totally opposed to government’s policy they believed would make the poor even poorer. Partai Demokrat insisted that more than three-quarters of the total subsidies, reportedly this year costs our national expenditure more than 150 trillion rupiah, instead go to the upper-class elites, those able to obtain cars. Golkar and PKS turned out to be confusing societies. Firstly held to the consensus by Setgab (a multi-party coalition secretariat consisted of Demokrat, Golkar, PAN, PKB, PPP, and PKS) that fuel prices – no matter how the situation is – must be raised by a-third on 1st April, they instead made a surprising U-turn, totally countervailing the government’s proposal, one day before the plenary session took place.

Exactly on the same day House of Representatives held the session, mass demonstrations again took place, but this time, they turned out to be even more brutal than have been previously imagined. Previously on Thursday, there was intense brawl occurring in Jakarta. One police post was set ablaze, some police cars were smashed and set fire, and many policemen were wounded in the incident. However, what really sent us down the shivers was the rumor that as many as 8 university students had been shot with bullets, real bullets, by the riot police. If that were to happen, as my parents and some others worried, another 1998 tragedy would be inevitable to avoid. (note: one day after 4 Trisakti students were shot dead during a demonstration against fuel price hike, mass lootings and murders took place almost everywhere around the country, largely targeting Chinese-Indonesians)

The street fight, in fact, happened to be in Salemba.

Fortunately, the rumor was not true, despite the fact that these 8 students were really shot, but with rubber bullets, instead.

On 1st April, anticipating any further possible riots, all of us were told – through Blackberry Messenger – that we didn’t have to attend the school on the day before the decision was implemented. I myself received more than 10 similar broadcast messages, while some friends of mine received more than 20. While asking for verification from the school whether it’s already proven or not, one of my friends suddenly Ping-ed me, informing that our class’ form teacher had ordered me to send messages to all my classmates, demanding them not to come for their safety. At the same time, having known that areas surrounding my home had also been blocked by the students burning unused car tyres, my mom advised me not to go on tuition anymore.

Everyone was in deep uncertainty what the final decision would be. The plenary session was continuously delayed many times, firstly from 1 to 2 pm, in which the session lasted approximately one hour, from 4 to 5 pm, from 5 to 6 pm, then dinner, then from 6 to 7 pm, again from 7 to 8 pm, again 8 to 10 pm, until most of the representatives began to lose patience, before the session resumed at 10.40 pm. The meeting, as everyone saw and tweeted what they churned out, turned out to be ‘funnier’, in tragicomedy contexts, than the demonstrations themselves. Before the session began, hundreds of students clashed with hundreds of riot police amidst the rain, no more than a few hundred meters from my own home. Some of the civilians threw stones at the police as well. They kept on blocking three main roads of Medan until a further 7 hours, before they were forcefully disbanded at 10 pm. Many of the police posts were smashed to smithereens and burnt to ruins. Some dozens were captured and brought in to the nearby police stations. Another similar thing also occurred in Makassar, and in Jakarta, altogether. The situation in Jakarta, as reported on TV stations, even reminded me of a New Year celebration, as riot police unstoppably launched fireworks, in many colors, around House of Representatives, forcing the protesters to get out of the complex.

Police fired tear gas in front of House of Representatives to disband protesters.

Back to the nation-determining plenary session. Throughout the meeting, from 10.40 pm to almost 1.30 am, I could hear hundreds of ‘Interruption!’ exclamations pronounced very loudly by the parliamentarians against headship of the meeting. Chairman of the House of Representatives, Marzuki Alie, must be the most patient person in the world. No matter how many times (hundreds, as I guess) he’s been yelled at ‘Chief!’ by those unforbearing members aspiring to interrupt his speech to voice out their opinions, his face, though a bit annoyed, seemingly had so much patience to go on with the meeting. (the same thing he had done for the rest by procrastinating the schedule, perhaps to extend their patience limits, but who knows?) Someone sang Mbah Surip’s reggae-style ‘Tak Gendong’, and some others acted as though they were kindergarten kids. Some screamed, and some others almost began fist fights. Some ignored, and some did finger-pointing against each other in a very furious manner. Some later walked-out (as PDIP and Hanura members did), and some students in yellow jackets (known to be from UI, Indonesia’s best university) had pushing against the security guards. Some were hard-headed, and others seemed to be Janus-faced, double-faced hypocrites. That’s how their plenary session be defined, I guess.

After the chairmanship decided to use voting system, here’s the final result that we got: 356 out of 531 House of Representative members (including those from Golkar and PKS) decided to NOT increase fuel prices on 1st April. It was instead resolved by further analysis on 6 months whether oil crude price, pegged at NYMEX standards, will surpass 120.75 US$ a barrel or not. In case that happens, the fuel price hike is automatically implemented. That also means we have 6 months to wait, 6 months in uncertainty. Our fear, indeed, is instead postponed to a further period as already decided.

Personally, I can’t decide which one is the most suitable policy to adjust our national budgets and its steepening deficits. It seems that every side, either the staunchful supporters or the opposition, do seemingly have their own reasons and statistics to prove their alternatives are best implemented. But, as far as I know, our oil industry has long been problematic and overtly corrupt, and given that factor, our government seemed to have no more other ways but to place the most frequently staked political commodity, at stake itself. That’s what I can say.

*****

3 to 4 years ago, I once read through a few blog posts by oil engineers, claiming that a geological fault located west of Simeulue Islands, Aceh, is estimated to have contained Brobdingnagian amounts of oil reserves. The range may be between 100, in minimum, and 350, in maximum, billion barrels. Even if it’s proven that the fault – a by-product of 2004 Aceh disaster – does have oil as much as the former, we would have been in almost similar position with oil-producing gold-laden sultanates like Kuwait. But what if there were 350 billion barrels? It could make us even richer than Saudi Arabia, and we might be the ‘Saudi Arabia of petroleum’ ourselves. But, long after the time has passed, there’s little, or even a no, progress on the hypothesis. Has the news report itself been concealed? I can’t decide.

Even if it were correct, I’m not sure the oil itself will give Indonesia so much prosperity as the extracting companies have promised. The commotion will still be there, instigated by endless rivalries of corporations, political parties, or superpowers, thristy of power and influence. Or worse, possibly, oil may be utilized as a ‘weapon’ to acquire power. It brings a nation wealth, but it also brings a nation curses as well, Midas-style.

And that’s why I titled this article ‘empire state of commotion’.

A Nigerian-led World Bank. Will it be possible?

 

With Robert Zoellick’s position as World Bank president coming to an end, the entire global community has been surprised by the recent surge of candidates originating from developing countries, most of which are currently categorized as ’emerging markets’. A few months prior, we were awe-stricken by the overwhelming approval of respondents that Sri Mulyani Indrawati, then-Minister of Finance of Indonesia having resigned after a 2008 banking scandal, should have obtained such prestigious position, one that has been monopolized by Americans ever since its establishment in 1945 (at the same time, World Bank’s sister, International Monetary Fund (IMF), has also been continuously ruled by Europeans). Originally thought to have had Sri Mulyani as the strongest contender to succeed, with 87% of respondents announcing support, the whole world was instead gobsmacked when World Bank informed the press that only 3 candidates will compete, without Sri Mulyani in sight: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, currently Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Jose Antonio Ocampo, then-Treasurer of Colombia, and Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American co-founder of Partners in Health, which has significantly contributed to improving healthcare in numerous Third World countries.

Nevertheless, this time, the competition will be entirely distinctive, and hopefully, would not meet its own IMF-esque fate . It is expected, by the public, that the US, having been largely affected by the aftermath of 2008 global recession, would not continue its seemingly-everlasting role anymore, driven by concerns that they have thwarted Agustin Cartens’ – then-governor of Mexico’s central bank – to succeed as head of IMF, only to be come off second-best by US-backed Christine Lagarde, France’s finance minister.

The whole world knows that both United States and Europe have never ceased attempting to secure the roles they have long relished in  both institutions, but given their sickly financial situations, why don’t we let the emerging markets to ‘change the world’?

Tim Fernholz, GOOD Business editor, explains why he expresses support for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Read it more here.

Turning feces to electricity

Loathed for its disgusting smell, hated for its nauseous appearance, it seems that at some time we need to stop thinking all the negative mindsets when it comes to seeing our own ‘unused assets’ every time we have loosened our bowels. What’s wrong if we utilize it? And that’s proven no wrong when it comes to mass implementation in China and India. Known for their abundant population, both countries are the first initiators to commence converting human feces into electricity. In China itself, it is estimated that at least 15.4 million rural households are known to have linked their toilets with biogas digesters, which are used to burn the excrement in very high pressure into natural gas, which is then used for heating woks. In India, million more housewives are known to have stewed dishes in the kitchens using heat generated from the ‘unused assets’, as well.

At the same time the article is written, another similar project is commencing in Great Britain. If the whole world were to follow China and India, perhaps ‘blackout’ would have never appeared in dictionaries anymore, in a hyperbole.

Read it at Slate and Guardian.

Solution for Jakarta: build forest skyscrapers

 

Entering the second decade of 21st century, Jakarta is nothing but one of the most populated megacities in the world, with population already exceeding 10 million, scattered in an area whose size is no larger than Singapore. The economy may continue to boom in recent years, but the problems facing the megalopolis are pacing up at an accelerating rate, as well. One of the most ravaging, matter-of-timely thorns in the flesh that continuously keep on penetrating Jakarta is flooding, whose occurrence stains the Big Durian once in 5 years. Add water pollution, as a result of excess in trashes being thrown into the rivers with minimum punishment, contamination of industrial, household wastes, and still a long list to go on.

Given such tremendous challenges, 4 university students, namely Rezza Rahdian, Erwin Setiawan, Ayu Diah Shanti, and Leonardus Chrisnantyo, considered an idea in which they held firm belief that this would help solving Jakarta’s overburdening problems. Titled ‘Ciliwung Recovery Program’, they propose that high-rise structures with forests and natural reserves contained inside be built in the river of the same name with that of the project, one of the main rivers which acts, as though they are the main blood veins of the big city. Being optimistic that this may help restoring water supply in an over-drained megacity, they deserved the second place in eVolo 2010 Skyscraper Competition, held by one of the most popular architectural magazines in United States.

For any future governors of Jakarta, do please consider this.

 

Read it more at eVolo.