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 Post Weekender (2008): Time Stands Still BEYOND BORDERS: Time Stands Still Sparsely populated and well hidden from the rest of the world, Wakhan Corridor is as medieval today as it was over 700 years ago when Marco Polo passed through. Agustinus Wibowo visits the region. The awkward tongue of Afghanistan, located at the northeastern tip of the country, is a 200-mile-long valley that stretches between Tajikistan and Pakistan. A strategic territory created by the once-reigning British Empire at the end of the 19th century, Wakhan Corridor was first attached to Afghan territory as a buffer zone between Britain and Russia. Though the battle for supremacy between the two giants has long ended, little seems to have changed since then. Time has been suspended for what seems like eternity. Deprived of the comforts of modern living, Afghans tend to paint rosy images of Tajikistan, where women are not required to wear the burqa and children receive the education they deserve. [read more]

January 25, 2008 // 2 Comments

Maimana – Bacchabazi

Friendly Maimana men “Playboy is good” – Massoud The public vehicle going to Maimana from Mazhar e Sharif departed as early as 4 a.m. Traveling in Afghanistan is painful. Road lights don’t exist at all so that traveling should be only done during the daylight. Road to Maimana starts to deteriotae at Shibargan, when the road turned into Dasht-i-Laili desert. I took a Town Ace, 500 Af, which is 100 Af more expensive than the crowded Falancoach. But the extra money was really worth for the comfort. The Town Ace only takes 8 passengers while Falancoach 18, and the road in the desert is not a nice roller coaster trip in a jammed minibus. The distance between Maimana and Mazhar e Sharif is merely 341 km, but it took 10 hours to reach. When arriving in Maimana, the driver tried to extort money from me. I gave 1000 Afs then he said, “sahih shod, everything is allright.” Instead of giving me 500 Af bill, he gave me much filthy smaller money, and when I counted, it was only 400 [read more]

August 13, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kandahar – From the Heartland of the Pashtuns

Pottery making is a traditional industry from Peshawar which still survive till today. “Everything here is expensive. But human life is cheap” Kandahar, the second biggest city of Afghanistan, had been lingering in the legends of the country since centuries ago. The description of old folklores about the heatwaves, about the tough desert, and about the hospitality of the Pashtun tribes are still up to date, but no doubt, the prolonged wars and the spread of fundamentalism has changed the face of the city. Living in Kandahar at this peak of the trend “war on terror” is overwhelmed by the concern of security problems. Suicide bombs can happen anywhere, and random shootings on street may deliver hot bullets just next to your feet. Taliban is the one who is always blamed to be the cause of everything, but nobody does really know who was the real actor behind all of the terrors. The politics in Afghanistan is complicated. Not only religious extrimists (thus those [read more]

July 10, 2006 // 2 Comments

Islamabad – A Wedding in the Capital

Dancing to celebrate April 8, 2006 Today was supposed to be my last day in Kashmir. Syed Ijaz Gillani offered me to go together to Islamabad where I could stay in his family house. He said that there would be a wedding ceremony that I probably interested to attend. He said that he would pick me very early in that morning, at 8, to go together to Islamabad. But not until 1 pm that he came. This kind of little bit delay of appointment is quite common in Pakistan. Some of my friends in Muzaffarabad would like to meet me for the last time. They came at 8 in the morning. Ali insisted to take me to his house to have breakfast. I refused as I was worrying Ijaz would came early. Ali, the 16 year old boy, said that he knew his countrymen much better than me. And he was right. Waiting, waiting, and waiting. They look so bored The morning was full of waiting. Those little boys of 16-20 years old were also enjoying the sexy gabshab (conversation). One scene I was so surprised to spot, that one [read more]

April 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Living on Faith

In deeply religious Pakistan, it is important to pay attention to their culture and religion so not to offend them March 25, 2006 Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a country which was founded to house the Muslims of India and to establish a country following the way suggested by the religion, was among the most famous countries in Muslim world. From a discussion with a Pakistani scholar, it was stated that the founding of Pakistan was not only to guarantee the freedom of religion (as people were also free to pray in India), but also to guarantee the life in God’s preferred path. What was the meaning of the name of Pakistan? Formally, Pakistan means land of pure. Some other people claimed that the name of the country referred to the essence of Pakistan: Punjab, Afghan, Kashmir, Sindhi, and Balluchistan (Bangladesh, the ex East Pakistan, didn’t find its place in the name of the country). Another man in Muzaffarabad told me that the meaning of Pakistan was Laillahaillallah, the [read more]

March 25, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Urdu for Dummies

Urdu is written in nastaliq style of Arabic script March 20, 2006 Urdu, the national language of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is quite an interesting language to learn, for linguists or anybody else who is curious about the culture of the Sub-continent. You are forgiven if you don’t know that the language is closely related to the national language of its biggest neighbor enemy, Hindi from Hindustan (India). Indeed, the physical form of both languages are completely different, Hindi is written in Sanskrit Devnagari script while Urdu is written in Perso-Arabic script, or Arabic script written in nashtaliq style which was developed in Persia. But the sound of Urdu and Hindi are more and less the same. In fact, in most conversations it was difficult to detect whether someone is a Pakistani speaking Urdu or a Northern Indian speaking Hindi, except when the Pakistani use more Arabic borrowed words and the Indian use the Sanskrit ancient words. The relation between the two [read more]

March 20, 2006 // 0 Comments

Karimabad – Wedding

Prepared to bring the bride home Being delayed is not always bad. The road to Pindi has been blocked for more than a week now, and I am still in Karimabad. I have heard the rumours that Mr. Karim’s brother was going to marry. So 2 days ago I visited him. Mr Karim was busy, preparing for the feasts and everything. He offered me sharbat (the traditional food for 2 days before marriage, made from flour) but I felt he tried to send me home politely as he couldnt entertain me due to his business. From him, I learnt about the tradition of the wedding in Hunza. The ‘nikah’ will be held in bride’s side, in the nearest jamaat khana from the bride’s house. For this, the bride side invited 40 people from the groom side. These 40 people, mostly relatives, were carefully selected and counted. As we might know, the families in Pakistan are all big, that 40 is a very limited number. It seems that the culture is quite closed for outsiders, that I probably might not be [read more]

January 21, 2006 // 1 Comment

Karimabad – Another Night Talk

Tourism also brings cultural impact to far flung places January 17, 2005 At last the guys from the restaurant successfully moved the TV and VCD to my room. They played hide and seek with the old man, the owner, and it was indeed funny to see the games. The sound was mixed with other movie, Bunty and Babli, to distract the attention of the old man. And they successfully made the old man sleep earlier. One accident happened when they moved the TV, the man woke up. Haroun (not real name) told the old man that the Indonesian guy (me) need the TV and VCD to do his homework. Damn! The 2 CDs, both were painfully obtained, were all damaged. One of it, the funniest porn CD I have ever watched, from South India. The actresses were all old, grey haired, bathing in the river. Then came the raper, old, fat, black, ape-faced man. The open sex happened openly in the river side, but it was too ugly, and the Pakistani guys also thought so. Talking about the open sex, I mean sex in open field, Haroun [read more]

January 17, 2006 // 0 Comments

Karimabad – Indian Connection

Indian influence is obvious here India is just a bordering country, but the history of hostility between India and Pakistan makes the relation between the two countries interesting. As we all probably know, the language of both countries, Urdu and Hindi, are 90% similar. Urdu has more Persian and Arabic originated words, and Hindi from Sanskrit. But both languages are mutually intelligble. Though, the scripts are different. The influence of India is very huge in Pakistan, this is unquestioned. Everybody can sing the gigle of Aashiq Banaya, the new popular Bollywood movie, even though that this new film may not reach the villages of Pakistan. “Mujh se Saati Karogi? (Will you Marry Me?)”, Salman Khan’s newest movie, is a famous sentence anywhere here in Pakistan. And it became a laughter when we use this sentence to tease the others. The people in Karimabad, far away from anywhere, stuck their satellite dish to Indian channels. And guess what, a very plain TV drama, [read more]

January 9, 2006 // 3 Comments