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【中国国家地理】塔吉克斯坦:群山与国界的夹缝之中

My article in Chinese National Geography, edition October 2015. This is a special edition focusing on China’s grand project: One Belt One Road, a.k.a. the “New Silk Road”, with some focus articles from the Silk Road countries, especially in Central Asia. In this edition, I have contributed two articles: Tajikistan and Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. 塔 吉克斯坦被称作中亚的高山之国,它近一半的国土位于帕米尔高原。其实塔吉克族并非是自古生活在山地的民族,面对如今的国家版图状况,不少塔吉克人心中有难 言的苦衷。来自印度尼西亚的作者奥古斯汀是一名“中亚通”,他对塔吉克斯坦的考察和采访,能够加深我们对这个国家的认识。   撰文Agustinus Wibowo[印尼] 摄影刘辉 等 翻译王飞宇   令塔吉克人自豪的两座古城,如今却位于乌兹别克斯坦的境内 [read more]

October 20, 2015 // 0 Comments

From Zero to Frankfurt: The Translating Process of Ground Zero

The journey began when a mother is lying on a hospital bed, dying. The son who has been years living overseas finally returns. Realizing not much time left, the son sits beside her, reads his diary about faraway lands he saw. About their ancestral land of China, about the Himalayas, about the Pakistani desert and the warzone of Afghanistan. Along with his stories, the mother starts to recount her stories that have been buried for long. About her childhood, her love, her awaiting, her struggle, her God, her life and death. Two journeys set in two dimensions of time and place intertwine, and eventually converge. In the final days, the mother and son share a journey of life together. This is the story of my travel-narrative memoir, Titik Nol: Makna Sebuah Perjalanan (lit. Point Zero: The Essence of a Journey), published in Indonesian language by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in 2013. It received quite warm welcome from Indonesian readers. Some months after the launching, Gramedia asked whether [read more]

October 12, 2015 // 0 Comments

Daru September 6, 2014: Jesus is a Black Man

Papua is the center of the world, the God’s sacred and chosen nation. The day will come, when the black people no longer be the slaves, and the whites in turn will be the slaves of the blacks. That’s how Dogen Molang sees the future of the earth, based on the ancient story he believes. He is now conducting a secret yet important research. That is, to prove that Jesus was a black Papuan man. Mr. Molang is an enthusiastic man in his forties, a respected English teacher in the Daru High School—the only high school on the tiny island of Daru, the former capital of the isolated Western Province of Papua New Guinea. The first time I met him, he came with thick photocopy thesis of an Australian researcher about the border area of Papua New Guinea. In one chapter of his thesis, Kevin Murphy the researcher described the folktales of different tribes in the area on how the universe was created. The stories captivated Molang very much, and made him jump to the conclusion: that Jesus were [read more]

September 18, 2015 // 0 Comments

Grand Overland Voyage

Exactly ten years ago, I started my four-year overland journey. I started from Beijing with $2000, dreaming to reach South Africa. From an illegal visitor to Tibet until a journalist in the war ridden Afghanistan, this journey has changed my whole life. Today, I’m back to Beijing, my point zero. But journey is a point of no return; I’m not the same person anymore and my point zero is not the same either. That’s indeed a journey of life. 正好十年前的今天,我开始了我漫长的陆路旅行。当时的我拥有2000美元,梦想着从北京出发一直达到南 非。偷渡入西藏到在阿富汗当战地记者,每一步都决定了我的今天。如今我回到北京,回到我的零点,但我相信旅行改变了人生,我已经是不一样的人了,那个零点 [read more]

July 31, 2015 // 0 Comments

Marukara 4 September 2014: A Dangerous Adventure with Indonesian Illegal Traders (2)

We were traveling in the southern coast of Papua New Guinea with a group of illegal buyers from Indonesia. As the buyers were fearing the assault from local criminals or being caught by PNG police patrol, we decided to stay overnight in the wilderness. The most sensible place for tonight was Marukara, an empty small island across the village of Mabudauan. But unfortunately, when we arrived in the darkness of night, we found that the island was anything but empty. There were many boats parked on the shore. Men were shouting at us. We recognized that they were shouting in Kiwai language, which nobody in our group understood. Sisi shout back in English, “We are not enemy, we are from Tais. Are you guys from Mabudauan? In the past, our ancestors also caught fish in this area. Our ancestors also worked together with your ancestors.” The men shouted back. “Yes! We are from Mabudauan. Welcome!” Suddenly from the island came out a dozen of young men, directing our boats to avoid the [read more]

June 10, 2015 // 0 Comments

Indonesia: The Dollar Worshipers

I am Indonesian. I had to go abroad urgently. Thinking myself a nationalist, I automatically logged into the website of the national carrier—my pride—Garuda Indonesia. I did the e-booking for the international flight ticket. I was surprised that all prices were quoted in US Dollars, instead of in my own currency, Rupiah. I was confused, but I had to pay anyway. I got more confused that none of my national bank debit cards was accepted for the payment. Garuda only wanted Credit Card with the international logo of Visa or Mastercard. I was heartbroken. Our country’s national airline refused our own money and denied our own national banks. Alas. My Credit Card was over limit. I rushed to a private tour agent. I was relieved because they said they could help. But they quoted a price much more expensive than the one I saw earlier on the website. And yes, it was also in US dollars. I asked whether I could pay in rupiah, or use my debit cards. No, they said. Better bring us crispy US [read more]

June 5, 2015 // 0 Comments

Marukara 3 September 2014: A Dangerous Adventure with Indonesian Illegal Traders

The coastal region in the southern Papua New Guinea near the Indonesian border is notorious for the illegal cross-border trading activity. Indonesian traders often cross the sea border from Merauke in the west and venture to Papua New Guinean villages to do their unlawful business. This is a very dangerous journey, due to attacks from the pirates and possibility being caught by joint PNG—Australian border patrol. I could sense the over-cautious attitude in Herman—a Marind trader from Merauke, whom I saw one boat of three passengers floating on the sea near the Buzi village. Marind is a Papuan native tribe inhabiting Merauke, a big city and its surrounding regions at the Indonesian side of the border. Thus, as a dark-skinned and curly-haired Melanesian, Herman did not look any different from the PNG villagers in this area. It was Sisi who disclosed Herman’s Indonesian identity to me. Herman’s boat was heading from west to east, making a short stop in Buzi as he was to meet [read more]

May 19, 2015 // 0 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day

The world celebrates Mother’s Day today. Talking about mother, there is a picture that I hardly can erase from my memory. It’s a photo of an orphaned Iraqi girl who missed her mother so much, and drew an image of her mother on the ground. She then felt comfortable with the mother’s image, and fell asleep inside her. What a heartbreaking image. This picture made me so sad, imagining what kind of life with eternal longing for a mother’s love. (photo source: internet) This picture reminded me to a Chinese song my mother used to sing by whispering to my ears: Mom is the best in the world; the child with a mom is always be cherished; drop into mom’s arms, the happiness can be enjoyed forever. Mom is the best in the world; the child without a mom is like a grass; leave mom’s arms, where to find the happiness? You know how lucky you are, who have access to internet to read this post. You live in a peaceful country without the suffering of wars and disasters, you know what [read more]

May 10, 2015 // 0 Comments

Indonesia: A Blaming Nation

This happened again. The police arrested one of the leaders of the anti-graft body. The President seemed helplessly requested the police not to make any controversial moves, as they have already done in the near past. The request seemed went to deaf ears. The public outcry was directed to the President, blaming him too weak to sit on the position. It is a huge contrast to the enormous support the Indonesian public has shown to Joko Widodo, a.k.a Jokowi, during the presidential election, less than a year back. He was duped as “Indonesian Obama”, “a new hope”, “someone from us”. Unlike other predecessors or other president candidates, he does not come from political elites or military family, nor does he lead any political party. His uniqueness as an “outsider”, a “working class and really working” governor, has produced an unprecedented euphoria among Indonesian public. Suddenly, people from the elites to the roadside vendors, from Chinese-ethnic merchants to Papuan [read more]

May 3, 2015 // 0 Comments

My Healing with Vipassana (3): The Art of Simple Life

The Vipassana experience was magical for me as I could now sense the sensation of the surface of my whole body, from top of the head to toe. I could sense the interior of my body. My left brain, my right brain, my stomach and my intestines, my bones… all were producing never-ending subtle vibrations. I could even sense the parts of the body when I was sleeping. When I was dreaming, it was more like watching a movie rather than being involved in the actions of the fantasy. At this point, the meditation was not merely about sitting anymore. When we take breath, we meditate. When we walk, we meditate. When we eat and drink, we meditate. Even when we sleep, as long as the awareness is there, we also meditate. By Day 6, I started to notice small details I used to neglect. I started to see the movement of grass and leaves of the trees, appreciate the freshness of the air and the beauty of the occasional noise from the neighborhood, and be thankful to all my weaknesses and flaws, all [read more]

March 25, 2015 // 1 Comment

My Healing with Vipassana (2): Nothing is Permanent

Goenka the Teacher had reminded all the students that the Day 2 and Day 6 in our 10-day course of Vipassana would be the most difficult. At least, I can say, the Day 2 was really the biggest torture. I came to the Vipassana meditation course with an expectation of finding salvation from my depression. I thought I would see a magic aura of enlightenment, or beautiful visions, or a surreal experience of ecstasy. But what’s this? This was just a boring process of sitting in total silence, with nothing to do but to observe breath for ten hours per day. The more I craved for a divine vision, the more I got restless. While I closed my eyes and seemed calm, my mind was not unlike an untamed wild horse which brought me galloping over series of memories and fears. Once I saw blurred pictures of places I have visited, changing rapidly as flash: mountains of Himalaya, deserts of Pakistan, jungles of Papua. Suddenly after those happy moments of reiterating my traveling years on the road, my [read more]

March 24, 2015 // 0 Comments

My Healing with Vipassana (1): A Happiness Seeker and His Breath

Something was terribly wrong with me lately. I used to feel much “alive” when I travel on the road, but returning to days of monotony confined in Jakarta apartment always brought depression to me. It’s ironic to feel lonely amidst a busy and noisy apartment block inhabited by thousands of people. I was sure, my depression had something to do with my family problems. Since I lost my mother five years ago, sadness and fear slowly grew inside me. Three years after that, my father passed away. Year after year, I could not handle this loneliness anymore. I felt more and more insecure. Every quiet night I go to bed alone, I was bombarded by frustrating thoughts. Am I still needed in this world? For the sake of whom do I still need to continue my life? Even worse, I have depression and anxiety at the same time. As the negativity piled up, once in a while, I even contemplated of doing something very, very stupid to end my life. Until then, a friend suggested me to try Vipassana [read more]

March 23, 2015 // 1 Comment

#BoycottBali: Who Needs Who?

When deciding where to go for a vacation, you usually have to consider many things: visa, attractions, cost, security. But Australians are reminded to consider one more thing: whether there is capital punishment in the destination. This can be seen from a boycott movement which swiped Australian social media sphere and had been trending topic in last few days: #BoycottBali. This movement is related to Indonesia’s firmness to execute two Australian drug convicts, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran who were arrested in Bali April 17, 2005. They were the main actors of a group of nine Australians dubbed by the media as “Bali Nine”, which attempted to smuggle 8.3 kilograms heroin worth of A$ 4 million from Indonesia to Australia. Death Row Diaries of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (source: news.com.au) The clock is ticking, the execution date of the duo is yet unknown but believed to be very soon. Australian government is getting more and more persistent in asking for clemency from [read more]

February 23, 2015 // 9 Comments

Buzi 2 September 2014: Not As Paradise As It Seems

Being in such isolated place like Tais, I was totally at the mercy of my host. I could go nowhere without approval from Sisi the Tais woman who brought me here. I had been staying in Tais for more than a week. I wanted to see more places. I wanted to go to Mari, the neighboring village four hours away by walking where Sisi used to live. But she did not allow me, saying that people there would kill me. I wanted our group to depart earlier to Daru, so we could stop in Buzi or Sigabadaru, border villages face to face with Australian islands of Boigu and Saibai. Sisi also did not allow me, saying that the villages were full of raskol (rascals). “But Sisi, how can be raskol there? These are just little villages, everybody knows everybody,” protested me. “No, no. You markai are just foreigner, you never understand,” said Sisi, “These people are jealous people. They will kill you.” Tais, she said, was different from other villages nearby. Tais is so small, the people have [read more]

September 3, 2014 // 0 Comments

Tais 30 August 2014: A Nation in Waiting

Nobody would deny, Tais is a very blessed land. See how green the vast pasture surrounding the village—even though your economist mind may ask why such a potential fertile land is just wasted and overgrown by wild grass as tall as your chest. See how bountiful their garden products are, their huge yams and blue yams and cassavas and sweet potatos, their super-sweet bananas and super-hot chili and super-fresh coconuts and super-big oranges. When the men go hunting to nearby jungles, they almost never come home empty handed. The people of Tais never ran out of food, as their land provide much more than enough for its 80 families spread in the 1 kilometer breadth of their village. Despite of this, you would see the children were very unhealthy; they have skinny bodies of bones but with big bellies. I asked Sisi—my host in this village—why. She just laughed, and said that it was children loved to eat too much. But I thought it was due to their monotony of diet, most of which was [read more]

August 30, 2014 // 0 Comments

Tais 28 August 2014: What is Your Dream?

The school is supposed to start at eight in the morning, and to finish at twelve. But none in this Papua New Guinean coastal village have clocks. Including Madam Singai, the only school teacher in the village. Nevertheless, she knows perfectly when she should start her class. That is when she has finished the cassava cooking and baby feeding in her house, and when she believes the sun is high enough. She then roams around the village, shouting all her students’ names. Dozens of barefooted students then resemble a parade of obedient ducks, follow her to the school hut at the end of the village. Madam Singai also knows when to finish her school. That is when most of her students make so much of noise, crying because of being hungry, or because of her own stomach produces noise calling for lunch. After gathering the students, Madam Singai is ready for the class today. The classroom for the Grade I and II students. Centipedes disrupted the class. Of course once in a while Madam Singai [read more]

August 28, 2014 // 0 Comments

Port Moresby 20 August 2014 Flying with Air Niugini

“One thing you have to remember is,” said one staffer in Indonesian Embassy in Port Moresby, “PNG is acronym for Promise Not Guaranteed. Never think that by holding a valid flight ticket you are guaranteed to fly.” Last week, Indonesian and PNG government held an annual border meeting in Port Moresby. One Indonesian delegation of 40 people was departing from Jayapura and crossed the land border to Vanimo in Papua New Guinea side. From the northern city, together with the Indonesian Consulate delegation, they were supposed to take domestic flight with the national carrier, Air Niugini, to Port Moresby. But once they arrived in the airport, they were told that the flight they were taking had no seat left. All of them held a confirmed ticket, but they were refused to fly. Worse, there were no other flights in the next three days. Thanks to assistance from the PNG governor in Vanimo, they finally made their way to Port Moresby, by chartering a special airplane! Jacksons [read more]

August 20, 2014 // 1 Comment

Byron Bay, July 31, 2014: A Nanny State?

“Australia is a country only for old people,” says Celine, a 22-year-old Indonesian student sitting next to me in a Qantas flight to Sydney. Celine lives in a suburb of Melbourne, and has been there for four years majoring food technology. “After 5 pm all shops are closed and the towns are deserted. There is absolutely no fun.” I am on my way to Gold Coast, to attend Byron Bay Writers Festival tomorrow; while Celine is heading to Melbourne and she will have some hours of transit in Sydney. Celine grumbles as she has no choice but to take this Qantas flight. She usually takes the Indonesian carrier, Garuda, which offers the only direct flight from Jakarta to Melbourne. But Garuda tickets are sold out, and only Qantas is available for her. But as I am a first timer to Qantas, I am very excited with this flight. In fact, I am first timer to any Western airlines. And I have to admit, I am shocked to see that all passengers were greeted by an overweight stewardess with thick lips [read more]

August 1, 2014 // 25 Comments

Jakarta, July 29, 2014: Australia and Papua New Guinea

I grab my backpack, clean it up from a layer of thick dust covering it, and put my clothes inside. It has been years since the last time I touched this backpack. Suddenly I realize I do not remember the last time I felt this kind of anxiety. Anxiety to face the Unknown and the Otherness. Tomorrow, I will start my first trip out of Asia. Just few days ago, on Monday, July 21, I got the confirmation of invitation to attend the Byron Bay Writers Festival (BBWF) in Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, to be held from August 1 to 3. It is a literary festival in collaboration with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in the Indonesian island of Bali, which I have attended twice. Each year BBWF provides an opportunity for Indonesian writer for a special appearance in this international event. As the confirmed invitation came up in very last minutes, I was worrying whether I would get my Australian visa on time. Australian visa usually takes five working days. But as Indonesia is celebrating [read more]

July 29, 2014 // 25 Comments

The Color is Red (Chinese New Year in Jakarta, 2014)

The Chinese Indonesians welcomes the arrival of Chinese New Year 2014. During the Suharto regime, the celebration of Chinese New Year in public was forbidden. But today, about a dozen years since the government allowed the Chinese community to celebrate their festivals and traditions openly, red is in full swing, red has become the dominating color in temples and shopping malls, on clothes and decorations, on the altar of Buddhist gods and on the lanterns and on the dragon masks. In Indonesia, the Chinese New Year is associated with religion. Indonesia is the only country in the world recognizing Confucianism as one of its state religions, and the Chinese New Year is regarded as religious holiday of Confucianism (as religious holidays are national holidays, thus it becomes nationwide holiday). While in China they say, “Happy Lunar New Year 2014”, in Indonesia they say, “Happy Lunar New Year 2565”, with 2565 is counted from the birthday of Confucius, the prophet of [read more]

February 1, 2014 // 7 Comments

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 [read more]

January 29, 2014 // 3 Comments

The Palace of Illusions

When drawing a picture about memory of the past, we tend to have only two alternatives. Either we amplify good memories and minimize the bad ones, or the other way round. When the nostalgia is about history, this can be dangerous, as the history may turn to an illusion, no matter how real the events are. The incidence of nostalgia may bring you to homesickness. American physicians in nineteenth century even pointed out that acute nostalgia led to “mental dejection”, “cerebral derangement” and sometimes even death. In Indonesia, the so-called history is never so long ago. Some people say, Indonesians have such short memories as they suffer from “history amnesia”. With most of its population are less than 30 years old, majority people did not really experience the whole history of the Republic, from the Independence struggle era (1940s), Sukarno’s Old Order (1950s), the chaos before the arrival of Suharto’s New Order (1960s), and the never ending period of [read more]

December 15, 2013 // 7 Comments

Eyes of Non-travelers: The Socialism Paradise of Beijing

What if the air of the 21st century Beijing still covered by the bravado of Cultural Revolution and the 2008 Olympic host city become a Maoist paradise? You may see the extraterrestrial architecture of China Central Television building worshipped by thousands of comrades chanting rouge slogans marching down the road. Or office workers work happily with their desktop computers, along with smiling cleaning staffer, and surrounded a parade of curious working class visitors with their happy faces and red flags. All of this imagination is portrayed in several paintings made by North Korean propaganda artists. The idea and effort of this project came from Beijing-based British expat duo, one of which runs the travel company specializing in trips to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, known better as North Korea). The duo showed some daily life photos of Beijing to the artists from the hermit kingdom, and invited them to visualize the life of the modern city they have never [read more]

December 14, 2013 // 0 Comments

安徽:西递宏村的沧海桑田

他们的祖先是成功的商人。徽商创造的传奇广为流传,谱写了中国经济史上的一段佳话。 历史上,徽商所经历的黄金时期,约在唐宋年间。当时的徽商从古徽州出发,其经商路线不仅遍布全中国,还曾至抵东南亚,当然也包括今天的印度尼西亚。在中国流传着这样一句话,“没有徽商,市不成市。”由此足见徽商在中国经济史上举足轻重的地位。 弹指一挥间,五百年也好似匆匆而过。坐落在黄山市南部的西递、宏村是祖辈留给后人的珍贵遗产。2000年,这两个村被联合国教科文组织列入《世界文化遗产名录》。自此,徽商的历史成就不再仅仅是当地居民的骄傲,也成为世界历史遗产中独具特色的一部分。 [read more]

November 11, 2011 // 3 Comments

安徽黄山:光阴荏苒数百年——假如徐霞客重游黄山

人问:“游历四海山川,何处最奇?” 徐霞客答曰:“渤海内外无如徽之黄山,登黄山天下无山,观止矣!” 徐霞客,是中国明代的一位著名的旅行家,他曾经两度徒步游览位于今安徽省南部的黄山。在他的印象中,黄山是中国乃至世界上最美的山。后人将其发自肺腑的黄山感言表述为:“五岳归来不看山,黄山归来不看岳。” [read more]

November 10, 2011 // 4 Comments

安徽:当旅游与历史共舞

尽管山野像是盖着厚厚的白毯子,太阳也隐藏在大雾弥漫的山中不曾露面,但我们在马仁奇峰的一天,却从清晨那一抹绚丽的“红霞”开始…… 当我们一行人走入古朴的山门,进入坐落在山麓的“红色收藏馆”,马仁奇峰的“红色”便跃然眼前——“心中的太阳永不落”,几个烫金大字嵌在正红色的背景墙上,让人心中油然升起一种肃穆的情绪。在这所纪念馆里,成百上千块形状、设计各异的毛主席像章,规整地陈列在墙上的玻璃镜框或是展柜里。从最小的衬衫徽章,到碗口大、乃至锅沿儿宽的大型纪念章,可谓应有尽有,用“壮观”来形容,绝不为过。 [read more]

November 9, 2011 // 3 Comments

安徽合肥:光辉的昨天,今天的事业

  安徽:光辉的昨天,今天的事业 仿佛难以冲破密密层层的乌云,飞机在合肥上空盘旋了许久。终于,我们拨开浓得化不开的雾霭,在冷雨中降落在合肥机场。据说,每逢十一月,雨雾天气是合肥的常态,我便裹紧了厚厚的外套。大巴在街道上飞驰,不多久,便载着我们驶入了合肥政务新区——一个标志这座省府城市已达到国际标准的城市新区。 [read more]

November 8, 2011 // 6 Comments