Yesterday I had a very busy day, three interviews. It’s really amazing how much it takes out of you when you have to talk about politics for an hour and a half or so in a foreign languages, and it’s even more amazing how tired you can get after you’ve done that three times in one day. Suffice it to say that I really slept well last night.
My last interview was with a journalist who has great connections with the Indonesian business elite. He also has a great Indonesian business and politics blog. We had a very nice time discussing all sorts of things related to corruption and cronyism during Soeharto’s time and these days now, and discussing the types of reforms that have been successful and the types that have not. A wonderful conversation, very useful for my research, full of insights. The guy has contacts everywhere, and we discussed some of the more interesting shenanigans of Soeharto and his cronies both during the crisis and after Soeharto’s resignation. Helps to explain why Soeharto is still a free man, and why Soeharto’s son Tommy was only sent to jail after he arranged for a judge to be murdered. (Tommy, by the way, got out of jail a couple days ago because his tummy hurts.)
Our meeting was at Plaza Senayan, a very very upscale mall. Malls in Indonesia, as we’ve discussed before, are really the center of all glamorous living. It seems weird, but it’s true. Tommy Hilfiger, the Body Shop, Ermenegildo Zegna, all were there. We met at the fanciest restaurant at Plaza Senayan, Kafe Wien, a mock-Viennese cafe. Seeing all of the waitresses in their dirndls was certainly the high point of my day, although it caused some weird cross-cultural mental interference remembering the time I spent in Austria while I was in high school. The coffee was delicious, the clientele was very wealthy, and they even had a string quartet playing Mozart. But like good Indonesians, the reporter and I ordered sop buntut instead of wienerschnitzel, and it was great.
As an added surprise, I was walking through the Freedom Institute today and ran into an old friend, a PhD student in history at the University of Wisconsin but originally from Sumba and currently living in Jakarta. Great to see him, and he’ll me and James around to see good stuff this weekend.