When will the discrimination end?

Im lost for words… this act of racial violence against a fellow #indonesian is atrocious. Ignorance feeds hatred and violence. “Pribumi Privilege” is sickening. I stand in #solidarity with those “labeled” as a “non-indonesian” because what Indonesians with Chinese heritage go through in Indonesia is what myself and other Muslims living in America and other Western world go through. If you discriminate against Indonesians with Chinese heritage, why don’t you do it to Indonesians with American or European heritage?

View on Path

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Three Secrets to Heartfelt Engagement

This is very enlightening especially because I’m currently looking for a job aside from my research internship. I felt I could never engage with the interviewer and I guess I just talked too much about myself. Also I think it’s beneficial to folks who are in management because it will help you garner respect without needing to assert your authority explicitly.

Link

Lombok Fisherman

Al Jazeera: Indonesia relocates families to build resorts? (Link to Article)

So I decided to take my opinions to a more appropriate space in the interwebs, having understood that maybe Facebook isn’t really the best place to offer food for thought to my friends. With that said, hopefully my two cents are appreciated and will improve my writing skills to prepare me for grad school. I hope none of my comments offend anyone and allow a space for folks to engage in calm, direct critical discussions.

Summary

Al Jazeera recently featured an article discussing a phenomenon that started a few years ago in Indonesia where “100 islands have been effectively sold to investors… in bid to boost tourism.” In the article, the writer, focused on Gili Sunut Island located near the Eastern side of Lombok where 109 families used to live there but have been relocated as Ocean Blue Resorts, a Singaporean development firm, is planning to build a “six-star resort“. The families were against the idea of relocation but had no choice in the end.

The People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice in Indonesia (KIARA), a sea and land rights advocacy group, says many more islands will effectively be sold to foreign buyers, trampling the rights of fishermen and threatening traditional livelihoods.”

As compensation for the relocation, Ocean Blue Resorts has built new bungalows for the families in their new living site and given each household between 3 – 5M Rupiah or $246 to $411. The article also says that tourism is booming on the island of Lombok and that development “promises to bring new wealth to the region, but for many villagers the pace of change has been disruptive.” In addition, despite the benefits of jobs and roads, it’s apparently against the Indonesian Constitution as it is illegal to sell the islands. According to KIARA, the government has bypassed the Constitution with an “Island Adoption Programme” where the owners/investors manage the island for 30-50 years. Gufrin Udin, an official from the Lombok regional government has “downplayed” the complaints and believed that these projects will create job opportunities and the rise in tourism will improve the locals’ livelihood.

Response

There are many things that are wrong with the events described in the article but I will focus it into three ideas. Firstly, it is alarming that islands could be bought for a monetary value when there are folks living on it for hundreds of years or more for the sake of tourism demand and view it as a project of development. Second, the compensation for relocation is not enough because  money and housing is a shortsighted gesture not capable for sustaining life. Lastly, it is shocking that an “Island Adoption Programme” is used to dodge the Constitution, which is nostalgic to Freeport’s rental agreement with Indonesia for exclusive mining rights on West Papua’s copper and gold reserves.

The expression “out with the Old and in with the New” seems to epitomize the development rhetoric utilized since the mid-20th Century. This is very true in Indonesia as it is struggling to transition to become a “modern” country that is largely famed for its unique, rich and diverse traditional culture. With its beautiful environmental features, Indonesia offers a paradise-like atmosphere that people around the world would pay top dollars to experience it. As a result, it becomes a double-edged sword. It is, then, difficult for a country who has been recently labeled a “rising-economy” and member of the ever-prestigious G20 to compete to get ahead.Thus, Indonesia’s agricultural lands and forests have been one of the cornerstone for the development projects as found in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Now through the lens of tourism, islands are the next marketable space to engage in development projects.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the beauty of a country’s natural and built assets; however, to reclaim land from people in order to convert them into a cash and leaving those residents out is problematic. This would be a different story if the locals were able to stay as they have a better chance to participate in the wealth creation than to be relocated. Just because the local government has the authority to move the people, it doesn’t mean it is right. Development is suppose to be benefited by all members of those impacted by it. However, the Jamaica would disagree as it has become dependent on foreign aid, despite a thriving tourist industry as seen in the documentary Life and Debt. Only the resort areas will see investment and areas outside will be neglected. The fact is that benefits of development are unequal as those investing or directly connected will receive them. In this case, the former residents will be left out when the resort will be finish and the environment that these people have acted as stewards of will also suffer.

Although compensation has been distributed by Ocean Blue Resorts, housing and some money for repayment is inadequate. Relocation has been done to many groups of people throughout history from the Native Americans to the Jews, which has and will still be unlawful. Frankly, how do you determine compensation to a group of people whose livelihood is majority depended from the land or water and not in sales? These are the same people who produce the very rituals and “culture” that Indonesians are proud to show off when they go abroad. Economic models cannot and WILL NOT quantify in monetary value the worth of practices found in traditional way of life, unless ticket sales for a culture show counts. The Lombok official, Gufrin, suggested that jobs and the tourism demand will increase their livelihood. Those jobs that he claims will appear are not guaranteed and without the proper education these folks cannot utilize the burgeoning market to become entrepreneurs if in fact tourism is booming. The article does not mention it but like any site offering labor with paid compensation will attract folks outside of the area, thus, possibly squeezing out the locals, or in West Papua’s case, migrant workers are brought in by the employer to fill the labor need. The issue of transportation is not addressed too and what if they can’t manage the daily commute? What will possibly happen is that as folks do not have skills or way to cover costs to adapt in their new “home”, poverty and the potential for crime will develop. If the government actually did their job, services and oversight would be organized with the influx of revenue so that folks can adjust to their new surroundings and have a chance to thrive instead of leaving these locals’ welfare at the hands to the market’s mercy. In the end, government officials are then the real beneficiaries of the so-called “new wealth” as they reap the tax revenues and/or kickbacks.

With respect to this new flow of capital, it seems that such an “Island Adoption Programme” is a crime as it not only jumps over the Indonesian Constitution but it also denies the rights of the people living on the land that is proposed to be bought. In city planning, I’ve learned that “imminent domain” is a useful tool utilized by planning and zoning commissions across the US to take land. However, such tactic is the last resort if residents are unwilling to sell or move after the vested parties have gone through the necessary steps in reappropriating the land which includes in compensating residents. In this situation, it does not say what the stakeholders have done to work with the locals. It only says that the residents have sought for many “consultations” but it was inevitable for the move. Such compensation is not enough because the value of the land will be worth far more than their payment and that is literally stealing from these people. It is basically what happened in West Papua when Soeharto gave the exclusive rights to Freeport to mine for gold and copper for 100 years denying the local people’s voice to object it. The communities on the mountain were relocated to a place where they have no knowledge of surviving as their way of life was tied to the mountain. Many if not all of them did not see a single drop of the ridiculous amount of wealth excavated from their mountain as migrants from other islands took the jobs with the company. Now this part of the country is ravaged by poverty and in constant uproar for justice as they know they were cheated out of their own land. This is what I predict would happen in many of the islands that have been bought up by “investors”.

Today’s society values money, consumerism and innovation as the defining tenets of culture. It is frightening that the livelihood of some are worth more than others in order to accomplish these items. With every island bought, more cultures and traditions are lost as the attachment these folks have to the land and water are severed. To add insult to injuries, these officials’ claims for “new wealth” and jobs are just empty promises. They are unsupported until the benefits of the projects do reach the locals. One factor for China’s quick jolt in economic growth was largely in part to it’s government’s brilliant negotiation victory for technical training is mandatory by the companies for its workers. Many of these individuals were able to use their knowledge to get a formal education and become successful. If the government want to save some headache and potential public relations nightmare, they can do their due diligence and provide social services for the folks they have displaced or negotiate a clause with the new anchor tenants of the islands in guaranteeing jobs or some social mobility opportunity for the people. If not, the infamous mid-20th Century public housing project in St Louis called Pruitt-Igoe is clear cut example of what happens when low-income folks are given housing but do not have access to services to increase their mobility and prevent the cycle of poverty, which can happen to these folks. Indonesia wants to be like its Global North peers but it shouldn’t have to sacrifice its traditional ways and people’s welfare to be  modern or global. With that respect, if these investors are really investing instead of buying the land, why can’t the people stay on land that is still public?

Seven Ways to Exploit Persistent Dissatisfaction

I’ve always had trouble addressing dissatisfaction of people’s performance in my student groups, results or just current events that are affecting locally in my community. I really think these tips are great in helping navigate through such feelings when they arise. Though they aren’t tangible solutions, but it’s a good start to have your mind focus onto something as an exit strategy or mitigation plan on dissatisfaction. Great stuff.

New Year, Let’s Try it Again

 

Balcony Sunset in Berkeley

Balcony Sunset in Berkeley

I meant to compose this first blog of the year yesterday. Unfortunately, I had internet issues when I got home from the gym, so I had to push back my post today. Before I say what I have to say, I want to mention that the post that was published today prior to this one was actually composed in November, however, I never got around to editing the draft until today. What a shame. Well let’s try this blogging thing again.

Different Year, A New Start?

I’ve realized after reading a question in a job app the other day – Write in 150 characters or less what makes you unique – that I don’t know what makes me unique. Maybe capturing the events in my life on a regular basis, I can recollect on tangible moments if I’m ever asked that question again.

Then, I keep telling myself and my partner also has vouched for me in that I have some interesting ideas to share but I never make the time to put it in writing. So now I’ve committed myself after much discussion with her during her recent trip to the Bay Area. Aside from sorting out our relationship, we hashed out some important activities to cultivate our personal growth. One thing she is pushing me to do is getting back to writing in a journal as well as blogging. I’m proud to say that I did begin a green book prior to her knowledge to channel my daily if not weekly feelings. We also collectively got a Slingshot Organizer which is pretty rad. Although it’s not really a space for composing thoughts but it’s nice to organize my days since I’m always forgetful of my activities. Finally, I sketched out my idea of how I can make this blog more interesting a tad bit. I know as an individual my two cents are valuable but i don’t know if others may take interest. Maybe what I plan or bring up will add one more cent of value to my two pennies.

New Adventures & Ideas

So with this new feature WordPress has conjured up in reminding you to publish a post, I hope it will inspire me to get on my laptop and write something worthwhile. Moving to my idea, I realized that I like reading the news and headlines. There are so many things going on in the world that people just can’t focus on just one thing. But I believe I’m always compelled to comment on news about Indonesia and the world at-large. I may have said this prior, but if not, I plan to write on my commentaries on these articles. My mind struggles to find something interesting or creative to transpire onto paper or the web so I figure something compelling as the news may ignite some flames in the ol’ furnace up there. I will dedicate these commentaries in the Indonesia or International Development section. To address my love for food and agriculture, I plan to start sharing my adventures in food and agricultural endeavors. I know that the organic movement and food justice scene is already everywhere in the country but hopefully my input could offer some insight to folks who may not have been informed like my involvement with Occupy the Farm, East Bay Food Not Bombs and my house garden project. This drive to find equality in food access stems from my passion for supporting local eateries and the love of cooking for myself and others. To round off my initiative with this blog is to have a space for me to just rant on life and experiences that may not otherwise be related to the other topics I have mentioned. Thus, my goal is to give passerbys a look into another human being’s life. I pray my sweat in the metaphorical sense will not be gone to waste.

Happy New Year’s folks! Wishing you all a wonderful 2014!

New Chapter in this Adventure called Life

I just can’t believe how pathetic I am in not posting anything since January. It’s been a year since I’ve been on this damn site let alone write anything significant. I constantly find myself failing in trying to keep a record of my thoughts which I think someday I would find valuable. You would assume I would be on top of writing things down because having a substandard short term memory would somehow force you to practice such note taking activity. However, that is not the case. So with that said let’s try again.

The Fork, Once Again

In the span of 11 months, I have been drifting in and out of a mental trip analyzing every move I made and the ones I will make in order to create a path to a future that I hope shines bright on the other end. I managed to survive my final semester at Cal and graduated with a decent enough GPA. As I write this I find book keeper in my brain access memories of mental pictures and events that led up to the commencement. I quit my position as the head of the Berkeley Indonesian Student Association and relegated my duties to my External Vice President. At the time I thought it would be a mistake but now looking back, it was a choice that I undoubtedly made the right call. A right call is an understatement as I believe now more than ever it was a life changing decision for the better. The cleared space in my schedule allowed me to intern at my only internship of my college career at a small humble nonprofit called Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture or MESA for short. Aside from the getting exposed to the food justice movement by way of learning their work in coordinating a farmer-to-farmer exchange program between the Global South and North, I met my great friend Aileen Suzara of Kitchen Kwento. Through the time I spent assisting her in the kitchen at Hidden Villa Farm, I found my true passion in life while having the opportunity in engaging with food activists and farmers from around the globe. At the time, I didn’t see the impact of my departure from the mainstream society but as the weeks past towards graduation, my path became even clearer.

Graduation Festivities

Commencement went by like winter in Los Angeles. I have bits and pieces of files that point to the events that surrounded the weekend. I went through my finals with reckless abandon, sadly. I wanted to get out of there as quick as I wanted to get into campus when I first got my acceptance letter. I criticize some people for not being involved more on campus functions and less on the education but I have come to realized now how I have wasted some of my opportunities by not showing up to class. I accept it and have moved on. I remember my summer was laid out with hopes to getting accepted by Volunteer In Asia’s Summer Program to Jogja. My hopes was to go to Indonesia and get experience there as quick as I can so I can come back to my girlfriend, Fitri as she was suppose to leave to Indonesia herself for her work with RAN. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t happen due to a mysterious lack of applicants which many of my Professors have responded with similar reactions. Thankfully, my classmate in Bahasa who is now my research partner/adviser, Lisa, approached me to assist her in her project that involved resource conservation and management in Indonesia. I’m up and down with this because its hard to gauge the tangible benefits of doing research. But, I guess with my mom’s unwavering yearning and my subconscious drive, I am focused in on getting into a grad school.

Mama Dede and Adrian came up to Berkeley along with my parents, Tante Shiela and company, and Dominic and Ryan. Fitri flew in from Indonesia and stayed with me through the weekend. I can’t express how much she meant to me that weekend and the days we’ve been together. Without her, I don’t think I would be able to manage the in flux of guests, events and activities. Commencement was crazy stupid. I regret walking with the BISA kids because I ended up by myself to my knowledge when we walked across the stage after fighting a swarm of students bum-rushing the stage to meet the Woz. Hugging my parents, family and friends didn’t sink in at the time. Only after the days beyond did I realize how special it was. But really all that matter that day was realizing a dream I had with Fitri. I left Honda to take a chance at a new career path that Fitri and I forged – dedicating a life of public service to the betterment of Indonesia’s welfare. It was a big gamble because I hadn’t been able to get into a good college since high school and being removed from focusing solely on education for a few years would be difficult. But by the power of the Big Man upstairs, he made it happen and that was what Fitri and I celebrated. This path I had chosen was the right one just like stepping down from BISA. The celebration at night was great having had my friends take me out to a few bars but sadly Fitri couldn’t hold herself up and knocked out early. In the days after, I just realize and still I struggle with this in that its not how large your circle of friends are but rather having tight knit group of friends is better for me. It did suck when walking across the department commencement and no-one cheered me because my parents was only accompanied with Fattie and George – both whom aren’t the yelling type. It didn’t matter, Professor Hart hugged me and whispered in my ear “Selamat Jalan” which means Good Luck  or a literal translation means Good Path. It served a nervous heart as a reassurance that I am doing the right thing and that someone with the stature of Professor Hart to acknowledge that meant something correct.

Uncertainties of the Future

The days of celebration ended and life began immediately after for me. I started my research gig with Lisa and it seemed all fun and games in the beginning. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and kind of approached it with a sense of arrogance. I may be mistaken for it for just a recent college grad’s swagger possibly. But nonetheless I was riding on the high of just having finished college from the Number 1 Public University in the World. It seemed like I was on Cloud 9 spending my mornings just spending time with Fitri and soaking up as much fun and joy we can before she left for Indonesia. There was this dichotomous split in my life of a happiness and uncertain layered back to back of each other. Uncertainty also came in the shape of the grants I would be applying to. I had 6 months to gather up my act and find a job. I took it with ease thinking the recession was over and it shouldn’t be hard to find a job.

My suspicions would be supported as I had met with a couple of non-profit representatives prior from graduating at a career fair where one of them actually believed I would make a strong addition to their company for the summer. That was for Rising Sun Energy Center. Then a month later my dad called me to tell me about a job with Asia Pulp and Paper. Though they are a hated company in which my girlfriend was currently trying to fight to protect Indonesia’s rainforests, it was a job nonetheless. Much later, a Whatsapp rep messaged me to apply for their position as a rep for Indonesia. Life was good so what was there to be scared about?

I thought to myself when I get back from LA after being with Fitri in her last month in the US and spend time with family for Ramadan I would be able to come back and find a place as well as a job to support my research endeavors. Having had found a place for the summer really quick helped create a false sense of ease in life that later would have repercussions. Let me tell you though it was a hard time leaving my apartment that I shared with Audrey, Daniel, Sue and Richard. Aside from being a part of the Dragon family it was because the last months were shared with Audrey and Fitri after having gone to Coachella together. When she left to UW for law school months later, I felt a part of me left. I really felt us three bonded particularly well and wished our close friendship could have extended despite her always feeling like a third wheel. Moving into a new space brought excitement yet again as well as a void waiting to be filled in my emotional space. Luckily, the people I lived in my transition period were awesome – Matt and Kevin.

Those last weeks in Berkeley and the Bay Area with Fitri were certainly emotional. We had never been far apart for more than a month since we became close and this new opportunity for her would find once again a way to tease that uncertainty feeling. Sadly and regretfully we couldn’t do everything on our list which bothers me today and I hope when she comes back we could try to do. On our way down to LA, we took PCH so that she could embrace the beauty and magic of the state she called home for the last few years or so. I think of all the things we did on that trip from stepping out on virgin beach to Big Sur and from surviving fog covered winding roads to sharing stories that I don’t want to do anything without her being there with me. The whole trip accumulated into one big review of our relationship together from happiness to uncertainty to a sigh of relief. We got to her home only to be greeted with a familiar face and great joy. Somehow and thankfully us three have become a force to be reckon with. I guess understanding life’s trials and tribulations will eventually lead you to your destination if you trust in yourself and a higher power.