Last Day in Jakarta

This is my last day in Jakarta, and I must admit that I have nothing new to report, as my co-authors and I have been crushed to try to put our survey instrument together before we leave.  I’ll sign off again from Doha.  I’m sure that after 11 hours on a plane, I’ll have thought of something more substantial to say.
UPDATE:  I had forgotten how silly Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is. First off, they do not open counters until 2 hours before your flight leaves, so if you mindlessly assume that you need to be there three hours before your flight, you’re in for a long wait in the lobby.  But, the lobby has free wifi.

It occurs to me that there is a very Indolaysia themed bit of new going around these parts, and that is that the President of Indonesia and the Prime Minister of Malaysia have agreed to form a standing committee to investigate cases of cultural theft.  Some background: Malaysia is more developed than Indonesia, and for that reason is nicer to visit.  However, the creeping Arabization of Malaysian society means that much of the local "Malay" culture has been lost.  So, the Malaysian government has been borrowing aspects of Indonesian culture, like folk songs and old stories and the like, for itself.  Well, the Indonesian people are none too happy about that.  Many of my friends say things along the lines of "they don’t have their own culture so they steal ours" or "it’s not our fault that they all want to be Arabs."

Now.  At a basic level this is a dumb argument, because the borders between Indonesia and Malaysia are artificial.  It would make more sense probably to group Sumatra with Malaya, and Kalimantan with Sabah and Sarawak, and Java by itself, as this is how the old kingdoms used to be.  So when Malaysia borrows stories and histories, these are all Sumatran stories and histories (until the founding of Malacca by a Sumatran king in the 14th century, all the kingdoms of any note were Sumatra-based).  Nevertheless, people do have nationalist feelings associated with colonial borders.  If you were really forced to choose, just about all of the old stories like the Kisah Kelana Sakti are originally Sumatran, and therefore Indonesian.  Too bad there’s nothing that Indonesia can do about it.  The only thing left for Indonesia, really, is to trade on the fact that most of the really interesting stuff in the two countries that is of any historical significance is in Indonesia (Bali, Borobudur, and so on), most of the beautiful scenery and nature is in Indonesia (Lake Toba, Manado, Papua, etc.), and all Malaysia really excels in is the architecture in Kuala Lumpur and the history in Malacca.

Comment 1

  1. Julie January 12, 2008

    I do think it’s a little unfair to say Malaysia only has architecture going for it. They do share Borneo with Indonesia, and we saw some pretty spectacular creatures and scenery there!

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