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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

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

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

Shakhimardan – An Uzbek Island Surrounded by Kyrgyz Mountains

Shakhimardan, an Uzbek “island” surrounded by Kyrgyzstan As artificial as any other thing in Central Asia was the border lines between the countries. The nations created by the Soviet rulers now had to be provided their homeland. Stalin might say, land populated by most Uzbek should be Uzbekistan, those inhabited by mostly Mongoloid Kyrgyz then became Kazakhstan (the Kazakh was called as Kyrgyz) and Kyrgyzstan (of which people was called as Black Kyrgyz). But the matter was not simple in the Ferghana Valley. Ferghana Valley was always a boiling pot in Central Asia. The people were renowned as deeply religious Muslim, if not fundamentalist. It was more than necessary for the Russian to divide this huge mass with the highest population density all over Central Asia. Then, besides the division of ethnics (who were Uzbek, who were Kyrgyz, and who were Tajik), there was a clever intrigue by dividing the border lands to divide the people. Then, the identity in Ferghana Valley [read more]

April 7, 2007 // 1 Comment

Khorog – The Capital of GBAO

Driver is a respected job in Tajikistan, especially in GBAO where most people still struggle of unemployment “Thanks to God, thanks to Aga Khan, for their kindness to us” – Mamadrayonova Khurseda The provincial capital of GBAO, Khorog, is a little town set in a valley surrounded by vertical cliffs of high mountains. It is cool and lazy, and despite of its proximity with Afghanistan, it is quite laid back. The appearance of military still can be felt intensively in the town, thanks to the neighbouring Afghanistan, which is just across the river and notorious for opium export and illegal border crossing. Young soldiers have to patrol every morning along the misty and freezing river. The 1300 km long border with Afghanistan gives much headache to Tajikistan, and its patron – Russia. Russian guards were playing a big role in ‘saving’ the war torn Tajikistan from further deterioration. But as the situation of the country had been stabilized for almost ten years now, the [read more]

October 19, 2006 // 0 Comments

Islamabad – Mahfil-e-Naat

June 3, 2006 Hysteric sea of audience in the party of Naat Syed Abid Gilani and Syed Rashid Kazmi, both I knew from the NGO working in Kashmir earthquake, were two among the people who organized a Naat concert, or Mahfil-e-Naat in Rawal Town, an area between Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Naat is an Islamic tradition here, to chant teachings about the religion in melidious way. It’s comparable to Nashid music in Malay tradition, minus the musical instruments. So a Naat singer (actually the people dont like to say Naat as song/gana, as Naat is from Quran and even it’s melodious we should avoid calling Naat as song) will chant the religious melody, and someone might accompany him with beating background vocal and it somehow turned to be like Acapella music. The background vocal sounds like Kalimah (the holy sentence) to be pronounced over and over with a certain beat. Today, the Naat star tonight is Syed Awais Qadri. My friend said that he was the Michael Jackson of Naat. No [read more]

June 3, 2006 // 1 Comment

Islamabad – Friday Prayers

June 2, 2006 Most mosques are not for women I am staying in a friend’s house, whose father is quite a renowned religious leader in the country. Syed Asmat Gilani had been in Danmark and other parts of Europe in last few years, and his modern teaching of the religion had converted thousands of people to grab Islam. Today is Friday, the most important day in the week for the Muslims. Mr Asmat was invited to give speech in a mosque nearby, and he also invited me to attend the prayers. The speech was delivered in Urdu. Even not all parts of the speech that I understood, I could grab little bit of the teaching. The speech was about the soul of religion (mazhab ki ruh), that is feeling the existance of God in your heart. Religion should be from the heart. There are three phases of the religion, that are shariat (religion), tarekat (spiritual), and hakikat (truth). Somehow the teaching resembles what we learnt in Taoism, that the Truth, what they call here as Hakikat, is to be found in [read more]

June 2, 2006 // 0 Comments

Umerkot – A Failed Nation?

May 15, 2006 Giving understanding to the people and the leaders is a main task for the development programs here Sami Samaj Sujag Sangat is a small NGO in Umerkot dealing with the welfare of the people in the rural areas of Umerkot, bordering with the vast Tharpakar connecting this interior Sindh with Rajasthan and Gujarat in India side. This part of Pakistan had quite a substantial amount of Hindu people, and especially in deep desert, the rural villagers were mostly Hindus from the lowest caste. Umerkot itself had a glorious history as the birthplace of a Mughal king, Akbar. The town had a very ancient fort, but not much was left from the ruins. Parkash, a friend of mine, was working in this NGO with a teamwork which consist of people from the two religions: Muslims and Hindus. They work together without any problem. Religions had never been problem here, as people from both religions respect each other and live harmoniously. Beef was even not served in restaurants here, as about [read more]

May 15, 2006 // 0 Comments

Bahawalpur – The Christian Community

May 7, 2006 Father Nadeem Joseph That morning, 28 October 2001, just few minutes before 9, the Christian Protestant devotees were just finishing their weekly mass. The church was a Catholic curch, St Dominic Church, in the Model Town area, a well-to-do area in Bahawalpur. The Protestant were allowed to do mass here, with the concession with the Catholic fathers. They were given the morning shift, from 8 to 9. The mass has just almost finished, the pastor walked toward the gate, and the people following him, ready to receive blessing. Suddenly two strangers with machine guns came through the door, splashing the bullets from their weapons to all directions. The hungry bullets flew to the breasts, legs, chests, women, children, men, everybody. The casualties was not few, 16 people killed by the firing. This was the first in Pakistan history of brutality against Christian minority. But it was not the last. The church is a small building, very simply decorated, with only three rows of [read more]

May 7, 2006 // 0 Comments

Multan – The Mausoleums of Multan

May 2, 2006 Bahauddin Zakariya Mausoleum in Multan The old city of Multan was among the first places in Pakistan to be converted to Islam by Mohammad bin Qasim. At that time Multan was a center of a Brahmin kingdom, led by a Brahmin king of Darra. Nothing left in Multan of its pre-Islamic history. The city had became a major pilgrimage for the Muslims all around the country as many of the mausoleums of the holy men of the religion are located here. The most famous mausoleum of Multan might be the Mazhar of Sheikh Rukn-i-Alam. The building of the mausoleum was fantastic, reminded me to the Moghul mosques and mausoleums of Uzbekistan (they were all Moghuls anyway). Rukn-i-Alam means pillars of the world. A large number of pilgrims come here everyday, to pray around the tomb inside the mausoleum building. Rukn-i-Alam is a leader of the Suhrawardiya Sufi sect, so both of Sunni and Shiah pilgrims come here. To come to the mausoleum, one should leave the shoes and sandals outside. There was [read more]

May 2, 2006 // 0 Comments

Lahore – Badshahi Masjid

April 27, 2006 Badshahi Mosque Lahore is burning. It was 42 yesterday, and again, 42 degree Celcius today. Walking on the street just resembled being boiled by microwave open, with the invisible waves from any directions. I got emotional. But I was not alone. I am sure that the heat makes impact to everybody’s head. I got irritate easily, and I am sure other people were also. These days were the first time I felt annoyed in Lahore. When I walked on the steet on that Sunday, when all of the shops were closed, there were a bunch of boys playing cricket on the street, seeing me, and yelled “Chinni chinni” resembled a chorus. That day I still had quite a sense of humour, that I replied, “main chini mini nahi hu, main namak hu” (“I am not sugar and stuff, I am salt!”). In Urdu, the word “chini” means “Chinese” and “sugar”. But now, with this heat and harassment, I didnt quite have sense of making fun. Because I [read more]

April 27, 2006 // 0 Comments

Lahore – Do You Know that ….?

April 26, 2006 Watch out! Some interesting things that make Pakistan differ from Indonesia. Do you know that: 1. It’s better not to plan your shopping day in Pakistan on Sundays Because all shops, hmm, maybe not all, but most, closed on Sundays. It’s bizzare that Sunday is the only holiday in the week, and it’s the chance for office workers to shop. But, eh, all of the shops are closed. Only food maybe is easy to find on Sundays, but not any other things. I am still thinking that the habit of people sleeping and staying at homes on Sundays was made by the closing shops, or it is the other way round. Once I asked a friend, whether it was only on Sundays that people can go shopping, as in other days they busy for works. He answered, “they are not busy at all any other days, hmm…, you know how we Pakistanis work” Sundays are also not good time for shopping in Indonesia, but for contrary reason: the bazaars and malls are too crowded on weekends. 2. [read more]

April 26, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Where is the Bride?

March 26, 2006 A night before I started to suspect the so-called ‘sexy gabshab’, sexy conversations of the boys, which included physical jokes like touching, hugging, and kissing. Yesterday a boy successfully reached my bed and found his way to hide under my blanket, and gave me massage. I thought it was just a normal massage of friends. But his hand always tried to guerilla to ‘that’ place. I prevented him to. And accidentally touched ‘his’ and I was surprised that he was erected. I jumped. I cursed, “Harami!”. End of joke. It was raining the whole day yesterday. It was a sudden, like weathers in mountain areas, changed drastically in minute basis. It was terribly hot day the day before. But the radio forecast that the rain would be for three consecutive days. For sure the main road which connected the village and the outside world was blocked by the landslides. See my cupboard! For today, after doing a short time of documentation of [read more]

March 26, 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 – Majlis in Noraseri

March 22, 2006 Roof top gathering Yesterday was the Chehlum, the forty day of the mourning period of the death of Imam Hussain, the third Imam of Shia Muslim sect. Farman Shah telephoned to our office and invited me to join the majlis which would be held in his house. Farman Shah lived in Noraseri, not far from our camp in the village. Farman Shah and his family were all from Shia sect, the Aliwallahs. Majlis, the speech which was held everyday during the mourning period of Muharram until Chehlum, would deliver the story of the death of Imam Hussain. And more than often, the speech brought tears to all of the audience. The Chehlum majlis, as the Ashura majlis (the death day of the Imam) was among the biggest and the most important. I departed early in the morning from Muzaffarabad together with Tajjamal (I called him Taj Mahal), a guy from Noraseri who lived in Muzaffarabad. He came early in the morning, when I was not prepared yet and was still shocked by the whole day of Chehlum [read more]

March 22, 2006 // 0 Comments

Rawalpindi – Dannish Cartoon

A demonstration day, a hartal day, means all shop and businesses and schools have to be closed February 22, 2006 Still stucked in Rawalpindi, waiting the departure with an NGO (Dannish Muslim Aid) to go to Muzaffarabad. The NGO itself bearing the name of Danmark, the most unfavorable country name in Muslim countries nowadays. The situation in Pakistan, in many parts of the country, is in unrest condition. After the huge disorder in Lahore, the bigger destruction happened in Peshawar – understandably with more traditional society. In the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, many of educational institutions are closed until the 23rd. Last Monday, 19th, was the biggest day in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Most shops were closed, hartal. The main roads connecting the twin cities were blocked by police. There was call for demonstration, and the police worked hard to prevent the demonstrators to reach the capital, where the government institutions and embassies are located. Still, the [read more]

February 22, 2006 // 2 Comments

Rawalpindi – Do Nambar

Women are rare on Pakistan streets. But when they are, mostly they are totally covered February 21, 2006 I have written many stories of examples of male to male sexual harrassments in Pakistan (personal experiences) and it’s unfair if I dont write the sexual harassments that happen to women, which are far more common. I was in a crowded bus today, heading to Islamabad. When I entered the bus, the seats next to the drivers (supposed to be seats for ladies, and it is really pronounced as LADIES instead of ‘aurat’ in Urdu) was occupied by some men also. The ticket men allowed me to sit in front seat also, maybe because I was foreigner. Then there were about five seats left for the ‘ladies’. But as there was only one woman passengers, the seats were again occupied by male passengers. Then everytime coming a female passenger, those male passengers have to move away and give the seats to the women so that no women will sit next to unrelative males. Something [read more]

February 21, 2006 // 0 Comments

Lahore – Not an Ordinary Valentine’s Day (Riots in LAHORE)

Anger in the name of God The day started very quietly in Lahore, Pakistan, today. The restaurant at the basement of my hotel didnt do their business. I asked why, they said hartal (strike). Tried to find internet, but everything is closed in my area. Went to Regale Inn where most of foreign backpackers stay, and I was sure I could get internet connection. I asked the Pakistani guy working there what special day today was, as most of the shops were closed. He said that today was Valentine’s Day, and it was day of love in Pakistan, and it was national day nationwide. :question: He even asked me to go to park where I could see couples showing love each other. I thought there should be a little bit mistakes in his information. Later on I found on newspaper that today is strike day, the whole city is recommended to stop their business. Yes, indeed today is ‘hartal’ day, to protest the Dannish blasphemical cartoon, in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I just questioned [read more]

February 14, 2006 // 6 Comments

Islamabad – The Capital of Pakistan

The modern Faisal Mosque, named after the king of Saudi Arabia February 3, 2006 The capital of Pakistan, Islamabad- the name means the city of Islam, is a new city created just few decades ago. The designer of the city was a European, and it was designated to be a modern city. The roads are long, straight, with blocks of commercial regions, residential regions, and government offices. The names of the blocks and the roads are even in number, like F-7 for ths Jinnah Supermarket, or G-7 for the block opossite F-7 separated by the main road called ‘blue area’. The using of letter and number is not quite user-friendly. But it seems how it also goes in the West. Nevertheless Islamabad is a new city, the roads are wide, but the population is not that much. The buildings looks more modern and clean than the nearby Rawalpindi, with obvious reason that the strata and level status of the inhabitants are higher, but the feeling of the city is totally empty. Not so much live, [read more]

February 3, 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 – Trapped

A journey to no-men peaks January 16, 2006 Planned to leave Karimabad already, awaiting for the coming jeep from Sust which I can hitch for free, but the friend who is going to go together delayed his journey for unlimited time. Meanwhile the bus ticket from Karimabad to Rawalpindi arouse to 821 Rupees, too expensive for me. And another bad news, there was road block somewhere between Gilgit and Pindi, so all buses will not operating for these 2-3 days. What a luck. Again, I am trapped in Karimabad. Yesterday, to pass the time, I decided to join some local guys climbing up to the Eagle’s Nest. From here we can see the whole valley. I have been there two years ago, and it was a terrible walk in summer. Now in super cold winter, nobody is up there. All hotels and houses are empty, and the road was slippery of ice and glacier. Luckily I was not alone, so there was someone (Mr Karim) who held my hand along the way…. Totally deserted in winter The snow was thick up there, and [read more]

January 16, 2006 // 1 Comment

Karimabad – Pakistan Will Open

Pakistani movies are actually quite …, well, “sexy” January 11, 2006 Talking about films with the locals is always interesting, because I believe that films are also part of the culture. The satelitte dish in my hotel restaurant is broken, so for a temporary moment we have to say good bye to Raj and Rani (lit. means king and queen, a typical of Indian movies where the hero is named Raj and heroine Rani and they both will be married) from the TV series of Vuh Rahnewali Mehlon Ki. But quiet life is unimaginable in this house, that the guys then rented a VCD player to fill up the emptiness due to the absence of the TV programs. They only had one very old (of 1960’s) VCD of an Indian woman singing all the way with super high voice. The movie itself is black and white, and soon they got bored. They asked whether I had some interesting VCDs. I brought mostly DVDs with me, but yes, I have some VCDs. First I played Inul. This Indonesian diva with her famous pumping [read more]

January 11, 2006 // 3 Comments

Lahore – Sufism

Regale Internet Inn 150 Rs Berputar… berputar… berputar… Bagi kita, sufisme mungkin sudah tidak asing lagi. Kisah-kisah tentang Syeikh Siti Jenar sudah sering kita dengar berkali-kali. Dan penggabungan antara mistisme dengan religiusme Islam sudah bukan merupakan hal baru lagi di Indonesia, di mana Islam berbaur kental dengan hembusan nafas kehidupan Pra-Islam (Hinduisme, Buddhisme, dan animisme). Lagu adalah bagian dari spiritualisme kaum Sufi Menari demi sang Kekasih tercinta Di Pakistan pun sufisme merupakan bagian dari kehidupan Islamnya. Setiap hari Kamis siang, pemusik-pemusik sufi berkumpul di Masjid untuk memainkan musik-musik yang membius hati. Tak kurang dari 40 grup musik dari penjuru-penjuru desa datang ke sini, dan setiap grup menampilkan pertunjukan dari 5 hingga 7 menit. Alunan akordion dan gambus seakan merupakan ekstasi bagi sebagian penonton, yang tak hentinya menggelengkan kepala dengan cepat mengikuti alunan musik, bahkan ada pula yang [read more]

December 15, 2005 // 1 Comment