Indonesia (English version) 🇺🇸 🇬🇧



It was May 12, 2019, when I arrived in Indonesia. The first Asian country that I stepped on, my first encounter with cultures completely different from what I was used to. The culture shock was as huge and abrupt as it was inevitable and unpredictable.


There are many things that I have learned from this country that I did not know. I was very surprised to learn that it ranks fourth in world population.


Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world in terms of area and is in fifth position in terms of number of islands with more than 17,500. To get an idea of how big it is, here I show you a comparison against the territory of the United States.


The middle island, Borneo, is not only the largest island in the archipelago, it is also the third largest island in the world.


Volcanology

From the air you can see geographic formations that stand out above the clouds and the funny thing is that all of them are in the shape of cones, they are all volcanoes, some great others small.



Over time I learned that the volcanoes of Indonesia are big tourist attractions and I began to plan visit those that I would like to climb. But it wasn't until after 2 years that I learned how impressive the data was in this regard.


Most of Indonesia's volcanoes belong to the Sunda Volcanic Arc, which extends over 3,000 kilometers, associated with the islands of Sumatra and Java, the Sunda Strait, and the Lesser Sunda Islands. A chain of volcanoes forms the topographical backbone of these islands.



The arc marks an active convergent boundary between the eastern Eurasian plates - especially the Sunda plate and the Burma plate - which includes Indonesia, and the Indian and Australian plates that form the seafloor of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Bengal. .


Indonesia leads the world in many volcano statistics. It has the highest number of historically active volcanoes (76), its total of 1,171 dated eruptions is only surpassed by 1,274 in Japan, although not much is known about volcanic activity in the time before the arrival of European colonialists from the XV century. Indonesia has suffered the largest number of eruptions that have resulted in fatalities, damage to arable land, mudflows, tsunamis, domes and pyroclastic streams. Four fifths of Indonesian volcanoes with dated eruptions have erupted in this century.


Two of the most devastating volcanic eruptions in history took place in Indonesia: the massive Tambora eruption in 1815, the largest known eruption in the world during historical times, had such far-reaching effects on climate that, for example, Europe experienced 1816 like the year without a summer. In 1883, the disastrous eruption of the Krakatau was deeply etched in the collective memory of mankind. The Krakatau eruption was followed by severe tsunamis that killed 30-40,000 people.


In 1920, the government led by the Netherlands established a study of volcanoes, which led to much better monitoring and reporting of volcanoes. The Indonesian Volcano Survey (VSI) now operates a network of 64 volcano observatories that continuously monitor 59 volcanoes.


The good thing is that I did not know anything about this data in December 2019 when I went camping on the slopes of the Rinjani volcano in Lombok, considered active.


In this photo I am looking at the cone of the Rinjani volcano and on my left you can see a small volcano of recent origin called Gunung Baru Jari that was smoking on that day.



Economy

Its currency is the Rupiah (Rp) and 1Rp = 100 sen. These coins and bills are the most fragile I have ever had in my hands and the most abused. People are not used to organizing bills in a wallet and they keep them in a lump and crumpled up. The old bills emit a very peculiar smell, like musty.


The cost of living in Indonesia is very low. GDP per capita in Indonesia is expected to reach $ 4,450.00 by the end of 2021. Here the money from Western economies pays off so there is a lot of foreign investment and a large population of expatriates taking advantage of this situation. If you are attracted to visiting Indonesia, its exchange rate is a real incentive to do so. You will be surprised how cheap everything is here. The exchange rate is very favorable, around 14,000 RP for $ 1.


To give you an idea of how cheap life is, I will give you some examples here.


The working class or any person with limited resources who goes out to buy something to eat, regularly buys a Nasi Jinggo, this is a portion of cooked white rice with small portions of 1, 2 or 3 stews with a small piece of meat of chicken or fish and sauce wrapped in paper or banana leaf to take away, its cost is between 5,000 and 7,000 RP or between $ 0.35 and $ 0.50 USD.

This is chicken (ayam) shredded (sisit) and it cost me 5,000 RP



The working class or any middle class employee who goes out to eat regularly pays between 10,000 and 20,000 RP or between $ 0.70 and $ 1.40 USD for a larger portion of cooked white rice with 3 or 4 small portions of stews on a plate and they sit down to eat it in places called Warung that are range from small pop up stands on the street to big established restaurants and they are everywhere.


Here I show you a menu as an example and also what I usually eat. It's called Nasi (rice) campur (pronounced champur and means mix or cocktail). I eat a lot more than the locals so my plate is full. On my plate there are 6 medium portions of assorted casseroles plus a bowl of soup and I pay between 15,000 and 20,000 RP depending on the location.

(Slideshow of 4 pictures)



For the upper or privileged class, going out to eat sushi or a good cut of meat or to some American place like Kentucky Fried Chicken that is considered expensive and normally prohibitive for most of the population costs between 50,000 and 100,000 RP per person or between $ 3.50 and $ 7 USD.

(Slideshow of 2 pictures)




Health

Despite being one of the most populous countries in the world, it has been able to achieve food self-sufficiency in strategic crops and increase general levels of food security. Even so, it has a high rate of malnutrition among its population. Other nutrition indicators show that around a third of Indonesian children are underweight and children under 5 are stunted, worrying statistics for a middle-income country like Indonesia.



On the other hand, at 71 years of age, the average life expectancy is relatively high.


I had lived the pandemic here and I must say that since Covid-19 arrived in the country I had not met anyone who has suffered from it, until just a few days ago and much less have I known someone who has died within my social circles. It is as if the Coronavirus does not exist. Apart from the fact that everyone here wears face masks, they all continue their normal lives.


Idiom

The national language is known as Bahasa Indonesia (Bahasa = Language or idiom), although later, when I visited Malaysia, I found out that they share the same language only that there it is officially called Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language) but there they commonly call it Malay. Over time I learned that in the 70's they decided to unify their languages ​​into one and today it is spoken in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and East Timor. The normative standard is Bahasa Riau, the language of the Riau Archipelago, considered the place of origin.


Although Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, it should be noted that there are more than 580 regional languages ​​and dialects. For example, on the island of Java they speak Javanese, in Bali its inhabitants speak Balinese, on the island of Lombok where I lived for more than a year people speak Sasak and on the island of Sumbawa they use a dialect that bears the same name.


Unlike the vast majority of Asian languages, Indonesian uses a writing system based on the Latin alphabet. The pronunciation of Indonesian does not pose difficulties for Spanish speakers as the pronunciation of its letters is very similar with few exceptions. The c is always pronounced as ch. A very common example is the car wash signs that you see everywhere. Cuci Motor Mobil (Cuci = wash, Motor = motorcycle and Mobil = car) is pronounced <chuchi>.


Bali

I arrived in Indonesia landing in Bali, this terminal is very different from western airports.




After assembling my bike I went out to the street and was again surprised by the roads and their traffic dominated by scooters. Fortunately, I was already used to riding on the left side from New Zealand, but even so it was difficult at first to move in this new, quite chaotic and fast-paced environment.



Roads and traffic

Wherever I have traveled, whether in Bali, Lombok or Sumbawa, which are the islands that I have visited, I must be very vigilant because violations of traffic laws are the most common, in large part because the police shine for their absence. It is very rare to see policemen patrolling the streets. In the 2 years that I have been here, I have only seen patrols escorting politicians or large vehicles such as trailers transporting heavy machinery and supporting demonstrations or mass events. I have never seen them stopping violators or giving fines. Before the pandemic, in Bali, corruption seemed to be the police focus, they liked to grab tourists to extract dollars from them under any pretext of infringement. They pulled me to the side of the road at a red light where there were many motorcyclists and they looked for a pretext to fine me, which they did.


Here are some examples of what I have had to learn to be alert while traveling in Indonesia:


Motorcyclists

They run red lights with ease.

Regardless of the size of the road, for them it is very easy to circulate in the opposite direction.

They invade the opposite lane, the wrong way, assuming they have already been spotted.

They indicate that they are going to turn almost at the moment of doing it, they do not signal with enough anticipation.

Many circulate without lights at night, I call those ghosts.

Rear-view mirrors are conspicuous by their absence, and those who have them, do not use them to change lanes or turn, most have them adjusted to see themselves, vanity over safety.

Therefore, they are used to change lanes without checking who is next to them.

They enter the transit flow without considering the traffic.


Motorists

The vast majority drive extremely slow, as many are new drivers, first generation as car-owners.

They consider themselves superior to motorcyclists and make maneuvers that put them in danger.

They overpower motorcyclists by forcing them to brake or pull over.


Others

There are many animals on the rural roads, mostly dogs and chickens.

The absence of curbs or sidewalks in the countryside forces pedestrians to walk on the asphalt strip.

There are sections with trees on the side of the road and sometimes in the lane.


Highlights

Here is what has been outstanding for me during my stay in this country.


Society

Wherever I go, regardless of whether they are Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, it highlights that their communities are organized in villages, with a strong ancestral family roots. Society in Indonesia is very respectful and gentle. They have a smile always ready for you, they are generous and hospitable.


In Lombok I found a typical Muslim restaurant called Sukma Rasa where from the beginning I was welcomed with open arms. From the employees to the owners they made me feel like part of the family. Here is a photo taken the day I said goodbye.



Agriculture

Traveling through Indonesia I have realized that it is a country dedicated mostly to agriculture, the basis of their diet is rice and in that they are self-sufficient. Below is a photo of the beginning of the rice cycle. First the seeds germinate and it is at this point that they collect the tender shoots in bunches and then take them to replant in the fields. There they sow them by hand one by one but more apart.



No matter where I go, there are rice fields everywhere, it is what strengthens the social fabric of Indonesia, I even see them in urban areas and overpopulated cities. Here I show you a semi-important road that crosses a plain and connects the south coast of Lombok with the east coast of the island.



Industry

Due to being a developing country with a growing economy the general population cannot pay import prices. I was very surprised to see that almost everything that is consumed in the country is domestic, that is, made in Indonesia. It is very rare to see imported articles for popular consumption, these are reserved for the consumption of expatriates from developed countries who already live here, tourists in general and the growing middle and upper classes of society who can now pay the high cost of imported goods.


Safety

Nowhere have I felt safer than in this country and especially during my stay on the island of Lombok. No matter where I went, or the time, or with whom I met, I always felt safe, without any fear of any kind. In the 2 years that I have been here I have not witnessed any violent act, not even people yelling at each other. As far as I have seen they are people of peace.


Terrorism

Two attacks and the arrests of nearly 100 suspects in recent months show that Islamist terrorism remains a substantial threat in Indonesia, both from pro-Islamic State cells and a possible resurgence of an old regional network.


A suicide bomb attack on March 28 in front of a church in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province, took the nation by surprise, given the collapse of the Islamic State in Syria and the perception that the pandemic was suffocating to local cells.



Fourteen people were injured and only the perpetrators, a newly married couple in their 20s, were killed. The couple were affiliated with Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD), a local group that has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State.


Another threat comes from Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a regional terrorist network linked to Al-Qaeda whose cells spanned Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines during its heyday. The group was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and a few other major terrorist attacks in Indonesia in the 2000s.


JI, seen as anti-IS, has been largely dormant in the last decade, with JAD and other pro-IS cells and their weaker capabilities dominating the Indonesian terror scene.


Fortunately I have not had any encounters with any of this during my stay.


Inclusivity

It is also very pleasant to see how nationals and foreigners coexist in peace together with the different religions of the world, respecting their individualities. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians celebrating their holidays and observing their dogmas and principles in complete freedom and inclusion.


Religion

Indonesia is the country with the most inhabitants who follow the precepts of Islam and profess the Muslim religion.


The island of Bali is the exception where more than 90% of the Balinese are Hindus. Although they practice a very particular form of Hinduism known as "Balinese Hinduism" that mixes belief in Hindu gods and doctrines alongside animistic beliefs and worship of Buddhist saints. Other religious minorities in Bali are Muslims (mainly coastal fishermen), Christians and Buddhists. For this reason Bali is known as the island of a thousand temples because Hindu temples abound throughout the island.


Apparently, on the neighboring island of Lombok, there is the highest concentration of Muslim population in the world. Known as the island of a thousand mosques for its abundant number, which according to public figures are around 400,000 scattered throughout the island.


There are many differences between our cultures and societies because in all cases they are governed by principles based on our religions. That is why the following title is dedicated to those differences that for me turned out to be surprising.



Peculiarities

Below I am going to describe events and situations that turned out to be strange to me and potentially will be to anyone who comes from a Western culture. Upon my arrival in Bali this is what stood out.


Bathrooms

This was my first culture shock, the most shocking of all, the most radical, the most decisive to which I was forced to adapt quickly with lasting and permanent effects that I maintain to this day. What do you do the first day you arrive in an unknown country, ask to use the toilet, go in, and all you see is this?



I remember standing there looking at "it" on the ground for a couple of minutes thinking.

What now?

What's up with this?

How is this used?

After analyzing it for a while I said to myself ... well, I think it is a matter of squatting hahaha


But the surprise did not stop there, when I finished my 'business' the first thing I looked for was the roll of paper and the handle to flush the 'toilet' and no matter how much I looked around I did not find either of them. Being a cautious man who roams the world I always carry what is necessary for that type of eventuality and that day I passed the test but that day also began a new stage in my life to which I have been adapting and which has not ended yet.


The next day they gave me accommodation in a mosque and things got even weirder because I had to walk through a corridor covered with water to get to the toilet. I took this little video on that occasion and if you pay attention to the end you can see what a classic toilet in Indonesia consists of. A squat toilet, a water tank next to it and a basin to wash with a hand soap.



I can tell you that I have adjusted so well that I have not used toilet paper in over 2 years. But the squatting thing to 'do my business' I have not been able to master because my heel fracture and the subsequent recovery have not allowed me.


I asked my friend Fikri about it and recently I learned that the sanitation habits of a Muslim are governed by the Quran. This establishes the way to go to the bathroom. I was very surprised to learn that both men and women squat to pee and poo. The man is instructed that it is not correct to pee standing up because it is the way of the animals. Another reason they avoid it is because they get splashed and that makes them "unclean" and prevents them from entering the mosque to pray. They also have an argument that, biologically speaking, it is healthier to urinate squatting than standing.


Emptying the intestine for a Muslim implies other customs that surprised me a lot. Instead of using toilet paper, they use the middle finger of their left hand EXCLUSIVELY and when doing so they must make a sound every time it is passed underneath. The hand should be washed very well with the basin and soap. Other measures are established in the Quran for when you are in the field without access to water that explain how to clean your hand by passing it through a rock, branches or vegetation up to 4 times, the objective is that there is no bad smell on the hand.


Over time I realized that traditional Indonesian bathrooms are almost always wet and there is a lot of humidity, they are characterized by having the floor always splashed with water, especially if it is a Muslim bathroom.


Obviously those who only visit tourist sites may not even realize the differences, since hotels, restaurants, bars, government offices and any establishment dedicated to serving foreign tourists have adapted to our customs and offer "western" toilets. They know we are used to walking into a room with a toilet, toilet paper, and a sink. There are some places where they offer both styles, traditional and western.


I also found toilets where both worlds merge. This is the increasingly popular case for a western toilet but with the addition of a jet shower next to it.



I was able to experience toilets that have a mechanism under the seat. When you finish emptying the intestines, turn a handle that is located on the right side of the seat and a mechanism is activated by extending a tube under the seat that in turn streams a jet of water directly to the anus. At first it was an experience that left me perplexed because I had never experienced it, after using it several times I got used to it and began to enjoy it because the truth is that it produces a very nice feeling. At the end, when finished, the tube retracts to its original place, remaining out of sight under the seat.


In conclusion, I believe that this is the case for the rest of the Indonesian population and I suspect that in the rest of Asia. The vast majority of Indonesian people do not have a seating toilet and it is very likely that they have never used toilet paper in their lives.


The sacred foods

The next surprise was the first time I shared food with local people. It was the day after I arrived, my birthday. A group of Muslims who hosted me were about to break their fast because this happened during Ramadan and they invited me to eat with them.


You can imagine my amazement when I began to see that dinner would take place on the floor. They do not use chairs or tables, they are used to spreading synthetic mats or mats made of palm fronds on the floor where they put the viands with food and drinks in the center and everyone sits around barefoot.



That day began my immersion into the customs of an Asian culture radically opposite to mine, and what better way than to eat on the floor, barefoot, without cutlery, with my hand and a menu where I could not recognize any of the dishes offered.


Dining rooms with chairs and tables are absent in most of the traditional homes that I have visited. They are only found in restaurants, places dedicated to tourism, communities and westernized wealthy homes, particularly in large cities with a high influence of the West.


One day I was lectured on what not to do at lunchtime. Remember what I explained above when going to the bathroom? Well, that is the reason why they only greet each other with the right hand and NEVER use the left hand at mealtime, they consider it dirty. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lefty or ambidextrous, it is the norm, because with that hand everyone cleans their "butt" by tradition.


Depending on social status are the customs of how to serve and eat food. In privileged homes, food is served in such a way that everyone can take their portion and eat it without reaching where everyone is served. But I found that it is very common to put food in the center and from there everyone grab and eat until they are satisfied or run out of food.

Another peculiarity is that they usually put a small bowl or container of water for people to rinse the hand with which they are eating. Napkins are a western thing. In Indonesia and apparently in all of Asia (the same I lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) it is normal to eat without cutlery, but if they are available the normal thing is spoon and fork only, the knife is always absent.



While I was in Bali I was meeting Hindu individuals and families and I was learning some very interesting facts. Balinese children are named according to the caste to which the family belongs and the order in which they are born. Since 90% of the population belongs to a caste, names like Made, Wayan, and Komang are extremely popular.


Balinese society is based on the Hindu caste system, although it is not as complex as that practiced in India but with a very strong tradition of interdependence and communal decision-making. This simplified version places people in 4 different castes:


○ Brahmana (priest)


○ Ksatria (ruler / warrior)


○ Wesia (merchant / officer)


○ Sudra (rice farmer)


Idiom

Members of the four castes use various dialects of the Balinese language to address people of a different caste. Middle Balinese is generally used to speak to people whose caste is unknown, to avoid possible disrespect. Once the caste status of the participants is established, the appropriate language is used to address each other.


Names

Each caste has names that are unique to that caste and, confusingly, both boys and girls use the same names. To differentiate between men and women with the same name, boys will use "I" before their name and girls will use "Ni" before their name.


Brahmana (priest)

This is the caste of priests and holy men who perform the most important religious ceremonies.


Ida Bagus - for men

Ida Ayu or Dayu - for a woman


Ksatria (ruler / warrior)

Members of this caste include some nobles and kings (that is, members of the Royal Family).


Anak Agung, Agung, Dewa - for a man.

Anak Agung, Agung, Dewi, Dewayu - for a woman


Cokorda, Dewa Agung for the members of the kingdom's ruling clan.


The Ksatria caste also usually has the following middle names:


Raka - older sister / brother

Oka - child

Rai - younger sister / brother

Anom - young woman

Ngurah - an indication of authority


Wesia (merchant / officer)

Gusti (sir) - for men and women

Dewa - for a man

Desak - for a woman


Sudra (rice farmer)

The majority of the population (over 90%) of Bali belongs to this caste.


Wayan, Putu, Gede - first born male child

Wayan, Putu, Iluh - first girl born

Made, Kadek, Nengah - second male and female child

Nyoman, Komang - third born male and female child

Ketut - fourth male or female child born


A fifth child returns to the same name as the firstborn.


This unique system is just another fascinating part of Balinese culture. So don't be surprised if you scream

Wayan! in a crowd and several people turn to you.


In Lombok

Upon reaching the neighboring island of Lombok the peculiarities multiplied.


The first thing that was extremely noticeable to me was hearing a kind of chanting on loudspeakers everywhere. At first they affected me in my rest because the first call is heard at full volume before the sun rises between 4 and 5 AM, just when the birds and roosters also begin to sing. And from then on I listened to them several times throughout the day. I didn't know exactly what they were but I got used to it and eventually succumbed to its charm.


Adzan (pronounced Azan) or call to prayer. It can be found transcribed as adhan, adan, azan or azhan or some other variants. This is the traditional way used in Islam to summon the faithful to Sholat the obligatory prayer. I borrowed this video from YouTube and it will give you an idea of ​​what is heard 5 times a day 365 days a year through loudspeakers from every mosque throughout the island. The only places where they cannot be heard are the mountains and jungles far from the town.



This call is issued five times a day. The first prayer, called Fajr, is performed before dawn; the second, Thuhr, after noon; the third, Asr, occurs in the middle of the afternoon; the fourth, Maghrib, is just after sunset, and the last, Isha, takes place at night. Each one of them is announced to the four winds.


Sholat (as it is called in Lombok), commonly known as Salat (Salah) comes from the Arabic whose basic meaning is "a reverence, homage, adoration, prayer". Translating salat as "prayer" is not usually considered accurate enough, since "prayer" can indicate several different ways of relating to God; such as personal prayer or supplication.

Likewise, Muslims use several terms to refer to it depending on their language or culture such as azalá, zalá, sala or, in English transcription, salah, all of them refer to the ritual of the Muslims in reverence to Allah; and especially to the five daily prayers of Islam mentioned above.


Salat is one of the five pillars of Islam. As such, ritual prayer is obligatory (fard) for every Muslim. Performing salat is the highest obligation of any sincere follower of Islam,

The salat must be conducted in the Arabic language, within the abilities of the speaker.


During our ascent to Mount Rinjani I was able to capture my friends in their religious ritual and made an edited video clip with Adzan in the background.



So that no one misses the prayer while they are away from home and cannot appear in a mosque, there are countless Musholas, they are small spaces dedicated to prayer, usually in places away from the bustle within the same building where they are and accessible to the public in popular places such as shopping malls, schools, universities, offices, terminals, on sea ferries. What surprised me the most was finding them even at gas stations, like this one.



It is imperative to be clean to carry out the Salat, for this they have to clean themselves before starting. There is a whole protocol to follow for this.


In each mosque and mushola there is an area with access to toilets and water. It is important to go to the bathroom before praying, otherwise the Quran states that if you feel like going to the bathroom during prayer, it will be considered void as it is considered "dirty".


For the same reason, they wash their feet, hands, face, and head before praying, with the understanding that their clothes are clean. Again, this is the reason why men do not pee standing up, so as not to splash themselves and be able to do the 5 prayers of the day without problem.



Normally they determine the direction to Mecca, spread a mat on the ground and perform Salat on it. I noticed that the men carry their little mat on the way to the mosque. Friday is the most important day of the week for them and they all dress up to go to the mosque for the noon prayer. It is rare to see men in pants, only those foreigners who pass by and stop to pray wear them. The rest, the inhabitants of the village wear a sarong, a white shirt preferably and cinched at the waist with a band similar to a scarf and complemented by a kind of mini turban or hat on the head.


Social coexistence

On the other hand, when I began to eat in Muslim homes, I began to notice the absence of women at mealtime, we were always men sharing the food and the women of the house cooking, serving, staying together in another room or sitting at a distance. When asking if they were not going to eat with us, there was always an answer such as "they already ate" or "they are going to eat later." Nobody gave me a sincere answer, perhaps thinking that they would be judged by me or that I would not understand, but the fact is that women do not sit down to eat where there is a man outside the family, unless he is a trusted friend .


I learned that it is not well seen when Muslim women interact with men who are not their father, brother or husband, much less if they are single. For that reason it is rare to see a woman walking alone, they are always accompanied by her husband, children or friends. This has been relaxing over time due to the great influence exerted by western tourism first, and then by other influences such as TV, cinema, literature and more recently social networks. More and more individuals, families and communities have become less strict about it and have relaxed traditions.


Berugak

Due to the above described, the Berugak (pronounced bruga because the e tends to lose its sound and almost becomes mute like the k) is the space for social coexistence for excellence in Lombok. Regularly only the family that inhabits it socialize inside the home, the rest gather and socialize outside, in spaces similar to porches, portals or terraces in front of the house, like here at the entrance of the house of my friend Idham's family.



But mostly in a berugak. These are wooden and / or bamboo structures normally located in the front of the house. They look like gazebos and abound throughout the island, it could be said that it is an indispensable element not only in the home but also in workplaces and public places like these on the beach



They are everywhere, even in the fields where farmers rest and eat.



In the berugaks people take off their shoes and sit down for any activity, like these mothers taking care of the children.



One also finds them behind the houses when they have a large plot of land.



In restaurants like this which offers the opportunity to eat in both, the traditional or western way.



These structures are so widely used that even office meetings are held like this one between my friend Fikri and his team.



Lombok people socialize, rest, sleep, drink coffee, work, in short, all social activity outside the home is usually done in a berugak. This was the last time I ate at one, my friend Handam invited me to dinner as a farewell before leaving Lombok.



The reason all social activity takes place outside? The protection of their women. The purpose is to keep the wife, daughters, and intimacy of the home separate from men outside the family nucleus. Because of this, it was explained to me that it is frowned upon for a man to carry out a social visit after sunset, people would assume that the interest would be the daughters of the family.


Social protectionism

Apparently everyone has a cell phone and with it access to the outside world thanks to the internet and social networks. The government and religious leaders are not very happy with it, they recognize the benefits but also the risks and damage that this causes.


I started to realize this when I noticed that I could not access my Vimeo account until it was clear that the site was blocked, this was my first encounter with cyber censorship in Indonesia.



Over time I began to see that the censorship was more extensive. I have not investigated how extensive it is but apparently the emphasis is protectionism against those sources of content contrary to their religion, beliefs and customs such as pornography. A simple search for something that could mean nudity is blocked as shown here.



They know that tourism is very important for their development but they face the paradox that goes against their customs. Yet they continue to open up more and more to the Western world. For Westerners like me, what we find here is a novelty.


Halal Tourism

The word HALAL is of Arabic origin and means legitimate or permitted. And obviously the guidelines are established in the Qur'an where it is stipulated what is halal in contrast to what is HARAM, that is, what is prohibited, what is improper.


Lately there has been a strong push to promote halal tourism in Indonesia focused on Muslim travelers mainly from the Middle East with high purchasing power who usually travel with entire families. Because of this it was interesting to learn that there are hotels dedicated to this segment of the market where they have non-alcoholic cocktails available, the call to prayer is played five times a day through the buildings, MTV has been removed from the list of television channels available in the rooms as it is considered too risky, and the hotel staff kindly rejects singles traveling in pairs.


In Lombok, hotels are also promoting themselves as Islamic, and so far nine have obtained the coveted certification of the Sharia (Law of the Islamic religion that includes all the commandments of Allah regarding human conduct). Echoing the star system of conventional hotels, Sharia accommodation is labeled with the crescent moon, a symbol associated with Islam, with the best of which receives three.


A halal hotel must have signs pointing to Mecca and copies of the Quran in its rooms, as well as a kitchen where halal food can be prepared, to get its first crescent moon.


Despite officials' optimism, there are concerns that the boost from Islamic tourism could discourage other visitors who want to sunbathe scantily-clad and relax on the beach with an alcoholic drink. But the local government insists it can promote sharia tourism without affecting the existing industry, and that party spots in the area, such as the tiny island Gili Trawangan, off the west coast of Lombok, will not be affected.

Authorities are considering clearly demarcating the areas most suitable for Muslim guests, where Western tourists should cover. "We will make zones so that travel agents and guides have clear options based on the wishes of their guests," said local tourism chief M. Nasir, adding that visitors have already been told not to wear scant clothing when heading to cities or visiting religious sites.


Controversial laws

My original plan was to leave New Zealand for Australia, but when I was denied a visa, I had to change my next destination almost overnight because the time had come to leave. And taking into account that when I arrived in Indonesia, where 85% of its 240 million inhabitants profess Islam, considered the nation with the largest Muslim population in the world, I had no idea what I would find because I had no time to read about this nation.


In the two years that I have been here I have been learning about some laws or bills that would make any westerner open the eyes and mouth in amazement, but even for nationals they have been a source of controversy causing massive student demonstrations, some of which I have had the chance to see. I will name only those of which I have heard and I clarify that I do not know if they have already been approved or not.


These initiatives are part of an increasingly long list of mandates announced by the Indonesian Council of Ulemas and local authorities, especially from Aceh province, a former sultanate in the northwestern region of Sumatra, the only place in the nation that in 2001 implemented Sharia, the law of Islam to regulate the good behavior of the population and that has achieved that each year hundreds of people are sentenced by Islamic courts to physical punishment, such as spanking or whipping, for moral infractions such as holding the groom's hand in public or find a single woman alone with a man.


Considering that this is a nation that moves on two wheels where the motorcycle is the main means of transportation, you can imagine the reaction that the following proposal from 2013 caused.


Women will not be allowed to straddle motorcycles as passengers, in order to preserve Islamic morality.

"We want to honor women with this ban, because they are delicate creatures." This decision tries to prevent women from marking the curves of the body in public by sitting with their legs spread apart and one of the purposes is to dissuade women from wearing pants in public, “it will be more difficult for them to straddle a motorcycle bike if they wear a skirt ”.

The initiative has been questioned by the Government of the nation, public figures and activists in favor of women's rights, and described as nonsense by many citizens.


Another that I learned recommends that the faithful refrain from congratulating on Christmas and reminds them that they are prohibited from attending any celebration of this Christian holiday. To prevent "the younger generations from being poisoned by a culture that contradicts Islamic values," they have also banned the celebration of Valentine's Day.


They have extended the interdictions to the world of sports, rejecting tight sportswear and exercises such as aerobics, because their movements can arouse sexual desire.

In its fight to defend religious values, the Indonesian Council of Ulemas has also declared “haram” (sin) the gossip shows about the private lives of celebrities or the songs of artists like Lady Gaga, as well as the meningitis vaccine. , because it requires the pig in its elaboration, the Hindu yoga, the photos at weddings or the blank vote.

And to finish this section I share one that made me laugh ... the reeducation of punks.


Smoking

Another thing that I immediately noticed was the lack of restrictions against secondhand smoke. Places where smoking in public areas is prohibited are extremely rare. Used to the strict laws of California where it is very rare to smell a cigarette in public it was very difficult for me to have to breathe the smoke practically everywhere.


Few things cause me as much disgust as smelling cigarette smoke when I'm eating and here the first thing they do when they finish eating is light a cigarette. Indonesia has a serious smoking problem.

I am too surprised by the fact that in a culture so strict in things that harm being, they have such a high level of smoking among men, despite having a very graphic campaign against it in every pack of cigarettes.



Fortunately it is not well seen for women to smoke and in the time I lived in Lombok I never saw a woman smoke. The first and only Indonesian woman I have seen smoking in 2 years I saw her recently in Bali.


Pets

In Lombok I began to notice 2 things regarding animals, one, that there are a large number of stray dogs and cats, and two, the absence of pets in the homes. In my entire stay on the island, I did not see a single pet in the homes I visited. The only animals I got to see were cows and goats. And the closest thing to pets that I did see were birds, that is common, cages with a variety of birds that fill the environment with their trills. I was struck by this captive bird without a cage.



Regarding the dogs, they seem to be of a single breed, they are all similar as if they were from the same family, they look a lot like the Australian dingo. For their part, cats, not all, but it is very common to see it, they have an incomplete tail, they lack a piece and I have not found why. In this photo I managed to capture 2 of them with a short tail, one is shorter than the other.



Over time I learned that it is "dirty" for Muslims to touch the dog's drool or fur when it is wet.


This is not the case in Bali, many people own pets.


Technology

In some things they are behind and in others they are ahead. It caught my attention that they can pay for electricity anywhere, even transfer funds electronically, they get a number, they go to the meter, they key in the number and voila, they already have credit.



It is fascinating to learn about other cultures, now that I am in Bali I am discovering Hinduism and its customs.


Environment

Unfortunately Indonesia ranks sixth amongst the 10 most polluted countries in the world where the average PM2.5 concentration is 51.71. About 250,000 people die in Indonesia every year because of pollution exposure, the fourth-highest premature pollution deaths in the world. Millions of children are exposed to poor air quality every year, causing them to miss school and leading to possible lifelong physical and cognitive damage. A few decades ago, Indonesia's air quality was considered among the cleanest in the world, while it is the sixth-most polluted globally today.


I don't know about the rest of Indonesia but while in Lombok It was a very unpleasant experience to see that they are used to burn their trash, plastics included with its toxic fumes being released to the environment for everyone to breath.


Generally speaking environmental education is urgently needed. They need to learn how to handle trash because what I have seen is very poor garbage management. It is very sad to see such a beautiful country been spoiled because there is trash everywhere.


I couldn't find a single river, stream, irrigation channel with clean transparent water, they all were murky and carrying a lot of trash. The same repeated when I went swimming to the beach. There were many times I didn't go in the water just by looking all the trash piled on the beach and nobody seems to care about it.


I learned that Indonesia was the number one polluter of ocean, with its rivers carrying the most garbage.

For this reason Interceptor. 001 was deployed first here.



If you know how to make money out of garbage come to Indonesia, you will get rich.


Until next time.