What Am I Here?

This post’s title isn’t supposed to be plaintive navel-gazing, but rather informative of the content of the post.

I am here because there is a fortunate overlap between my research interests and current events.  For about 13 days or so, I will be here with some coauthors to oversee the beginning of a large nationally-representative survey of Indonesians.  Now, I don’t want to give away too much about what I’m doing, but the survey is designed to probe the relationships between Islam, democacy, and the economy in Indonesia.  This is an opportunity for us to get some really interesting data about the country that we can then use to answer some fascinating research questions that are relevant to current events.  For example, given that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country (and one of the world’s only Muslim democracies), when do people vote for Islamic parties in free and competitive elections?  It would be very interesting for current events in, say, Iraq and Pakistan to know how real democracies work.

The reason why I’m only here for a very short time is that I have to be back in Colorado to teach by January 15.  So to do that, I need to back in the US by the 14th, and to do that, I need to leave here on the 12th.  Thus the very abbreviated trip.  It’s also most inconvenient that New Year’s is on a Tuesday, because today is no good for work (weekend), whereas neither tomorrow nor the next day will work either.  So I’m trying to use this as a time to get acclimated to the weather and the time zone, and to do some prep work on the survey by myself. 

And to eat as much yummy food as possible.  I was fed on the airplane approximately 15,000 times, so I just had some quick street food last night at 7:30 for dinner.  Tonight I’m going for the real deal, a big spread of masakan Padang, pretty much the national cuisine here.  I may also do some more exploring.  I decided upon arriving that I’d like an updated copy of the Lonely Planet Indonesia, as our is from 2003 and I forgot it anyway.  But my favorite English language bookstore has disappeared, or at least, I couldn’t find it when I was looking.  So I may head to one of the gigantor malls here in search of a Kikokuniya.