Author Archive

And now for a bit of revisionism

May 15, 2010

After months of living in Amsterdam, avoiding the tourist traps, I finally went to the Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands. Among the marble busts of war heros and large paintings of Dutch colonial ships, I spent a lot of time staring at paintings of Batavia.

Pieter Cnoll, senior merchant of Batavia, his wife and their daughters.



At least as long as I do

January 7, 2010


Last week I moved, again. I packed up 40 kilograms of possessions, divided them in two piles: Those needed for backpacking in Spain, those I’d take with me to my next fixed address in Amsterdam.

I was clearing up scraps of paper, train tickets and other bits of rubbish I always attach excessive sentimentality to. In place of people that can’t be brought along. I put on Cold Chisel because I needed a rock that afternoon. Soundtrack to a teenagehood driving on open roads for hours, where you never really moved from the one place. My Australian childhood. Working out exactly what that is requires comparative study.

Hej Hej Denmark. Hola Spain: go easy on me. Only credibility I’ve got is a pure bloodline and a surname as common as pan (that´s bread in the language I am far more comfortable with). Wondering if Spain will be one of my anchor points, or if this is just a pilgrimage of obligation. Often try to work out which countries will make the cut in the long run, which ones will just blur in nostalgic appreciation for the travel calling. Yesterday I changed direction walking and tracked a man in the street for a few minutes because he was speaking Indonesian on his mobile.

It’s New Years but I’m not making any new resolutions. Are you finally getting old when the anniversaries roll around, and you realize that to get things done, you’re just going to have to work at it everyday? Some mornings I forget that, others I get myself back on track. When I was little I didn’t even know you had to make that kind of an effort once you’d grown up.

Neoliberalism indirectly muddies economy, bans presidential candidates in Acronymesia

May 23, 2009

In a turn of events that has already come to be known as the dirty neoliberal conspiracy, all six presidential and vice presidential candidates have been banned from participating in the upcoming election, and the heart of the country’s economy is literally covered in mud. (more…)

My New Best Friend Forever

May 7, 2009

I am obsessed with Paris Hilton’s show My New BFF. The other day at work I was editing a business story about the lease financing arrangements of one of Indonesia’s budget airlines. Hawt. I started thinking about how Paris owned her own plane and therefore didn’t have to worry when she flew her potential best buddies to Los Vegas to hunt for men to bring back to her bachelorette pad.

Now my gym workouts are scheduled around Paris. The staff at fitness first told me I should do more weights and yoga, but I try to do cardio so I can be close to the tv. The other day I forgot my headphones and was devastaed: I wouldn’t be able to hear Paris’s voice.Now she’s started interrupting my dreams. She walks in on my set when I’m dreaming of home, or being in the mountains, there she is. She never, ever leaves me. (more…)

Political Analysis

April 16, 2009

So it now appears that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Golden Bridge has come crashing down as the points of Golkar’s Golden Triangle get sharp with each other. 

In truth, the coalitions— the bridge of the Democratic Party/ the National Awakening Party, or PKS/ the National Mandate Party, or PAN; and the triangle of Golkar/ The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P/ the United Development Party, or PPP —were doomed to fail. 

Voters were always going to be overwhelmed by a number of considerations, the most pressing: that the bridge and the triangle were both golden. The use of the same metal by the two coalitions would have been problematic for voters, who have already expressed concern about being able to distinguish between candidates given the similarity of their policies, party colors and equal payment rates for rally attendance and voting. (more…)

The Big Takeover

April 11, 2009

It’s over — we’re officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far.

I just read this. Recommended for those of you who consider understanding business talk a quest akin to learning Arabic or Mandarin. Or those curious as to how it is we find ourselves having the dreams of our youth interrupted for two years because the global economy is having a Britney Spears-type breakdown, getting out of cabs without underwear and shaving its head, etc.

Now, as always with a good piece of writing, I have stalked the author and fallen in love. Hmmm Russia! Insulting the religion of my birth! A freelance writer. Oh, living on the edge. So dangerous, so mysterious.

Back to this though. You should read it. It’s a modern-day Machievillian tale and it’s a good read.

A matter of interpretation

April 2, 2009

I just returned from four days in Banda Aceh, a place I had not visited before and  will see again.

Indonesia’s general elections are on April 9, and for Aceh, marks the first direct elections for the province. Much has been made of this. Violence has been predicted, intimidation by the military towards political parties, and political parties towards each other has been reported.

This very blog post is distracting me from all the official stories I’d like to write about my time there, so I’ll keep this sort of short.

What will stay in my mind most clearly are the discussions I had with various people in Aceh about Islam, about the way it’s interpreted and implemented. And the various opinions as to how much the religion is weaved in with democracy and the rights of women. (more…)

Aku mau belajar Bahasa Indonesia… DI JAKARTA!

January 14, 2009
Bahasa Indonesia saya buruk sekali

"Bahasa Indonesia saya buruk sekali"

When I first arrived in Jakarta, I gave myself a year. Then, I’d be “lancar” “pintar” Bahasa Indonesia, and it’s easy to think you’re kicking arse when your tukan ojek gets excited because you know how to say “apa kabar”.

But a year has passed, two weeks ago now, and still I am dismal. My formal Indonesian is near nonexistent. I’m totally guessing when I pull out the “meng” and “mem” “kan”, etc

You’d think it would be easy to learn a language if you lived in the country it’s spoken, right?
I could always study it at university back home, “ya, aku mau belajar bahasa Indonesia di Australi,” Cinta Laura-style. (more…)

How to make male virility potion out of a cobra in Kota

December 17, 2008

snake1To avoid Om’bak becoming something of a feminist coven, I thought we should even out the discussion on sexuality and have a post on the boys.

Well, actually that’s not entirely fair. I suppose I know a few males who would hesitate to associate their sexuality with the practice of drinking snake blood. Whateva. I wanna show you the photos already. From a medicinal warung in Kota, North Jakarta.

Don’t look at this if you’ve got a weak stomach, are particularly sensitive or likely to get ideas.

 See slideshow here. Don’t forget to click ‘show info’ to see the captions.

Strange Stranger Magnet

December 10, 2008

Conversation with a taxi driver # One hundred and something.

Taxi driver: I am a Mick Jagger specialis

Me: Apa?

TD: ANGIE! ANGIIIIIIE! Wit no lovin’ in our boats, and no money in our souls, you cannnnt say you satisfiiieeeed!

Me: Woohoo! Yeah Pak! Ayo!

TD: Apa lagi?

Me: Errr…

(TD’s handphone rings to dance music tune . Has detailed conversation in Indonesian “yah, dia orang Australi. Yah, sebentar, ya.” Passes the phone to me).

Me: Halo?

Voice on phone: Giggles

Me: Halo! Nama saya Belinda!

TD grabs the phone off me. “Ya! Dia Orang Australi! Betul!”

TD: That my wife, my istri, missus.

Me: Oh ya?

TD: Yah. She hypersex. (more…)