Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ Category

One of the first events that set in motion the birth of this blog was the Tedx Terry Talks conference way back in October (nerd-central to the maxxx).  I was so excited about being able to cross of something from my list of “UBC things I have one year left to do” that I forgot to come up with an actual idea.  Well, application to talk turnover was about 2 weeks, so with that in mind, I was pretty sure it would go horribly, and I was ready to bury it in the back of my head afterwards.   It went up today, and actually, it doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would.  I also realized that I’m getting used to seeing myself on camera.

It’s essentially the story of how environmentalism is a first world luxury.

And Shiggy’s.  I had to follow his unfortunately and was the walking non-tradiction. 😦

Now I’m awesome though.


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I am working on a term paper for FRE 340.  It is due on New Year’s Eve, but damnit, I will finish this before tomorrow night ends!

The topic is about trade restrictions on Indonesia’s export of raw rattan affecting farmers and the forests around them.  The research process has led me to discover that one of the leading researchers in this area, an R. Godoy, worked at the Harvard Institute for International Development back in the 90’s.  And this was also the unfortunate topic of my public policy admissions essay.  Let’s cross our fingers that he’s not actually reading this and terribly disgusted with my rudimentary analysis of the actual problem.

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Train crashes, earthquakes, and volcanoes? Ever since I left, it seems like everything is hitting the country at once.



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While I was in Bogor, Indonesia this summer, I spent most of my time at the CIFOR (Centre for International Forestry Research) building, which had a fully stocked, cheap cafeteria with consistently yummy options.

The first day when Marie and I left CIFOR to make a visit to the university, IPB, we noticed a marked paucity of any food options.   We suddenly realized that it was Ramadan, and so no one, including us, would be eating until 6 pm that day.   Being genetically half hobbit, I need at least six meals a day, and I was not prepared for this.

The situation resolved itself at 6 without my stomach eating my spleen as I feared it would, but I went home feeling extremely worried.  How on earth would I get through weeks without food when the sun shone?  Being one from a politically incorrect family, I’ll just say it: I didn’t like it very much.    No one keeps Gu from getting her six meals a day!

Bogor, at least where we lived, was one of those smaller towns with those quintessential open gutters lining the unpaved roads and the shops selling single packets of shampoo.

Bogor, Indonesia

I noticed that it was a *big* deal for the children to get dressed in white robes, and pretty much the entire town would come out at 8 pm every night for prayers, once Ramadan started.  The streets would be pitch black, but everyone would be either praying, or the younger kids would be playing outside or buying puffs of tofu from a street vendor for ten cents.

I remembered when the Olympics hit Vancouver, and on the last day, the entire country held its breath as we spanked defeated the Americans in men’s ice hockey.  Here’s one of my favourite videos:

What’s not to love about a Canadian-flag-turbaned-middle-aged-Sikh-man hugging and screaming a probaby-a-stranger-and-also-conspicuously-half-naked-college-aged-caucasian-and-also-probably-not-Sikh-man?  It’s everything great about being Canadian, wrapped up in a youtube video.

I started to notice that one of the great things about the Olympics, and the hockey game specifically, was that it allowed the country to channel our collective psychic powers on a greater good.  Hell, even my extremely Chinese mother looked up “power play” for that game.  In Canada, a land of immigrants, we are all so varied it is difficult to find those things that tie everyone together, and I think that after the Olympics many were still craving the feeling of national unity and a sense of community that is almost impossible to cultivate.   The funny thing is, it takes something as trivial as a game where people shoot rubber pucks around to bring us together, because anything more meaningful than hockey would surely elicit a greater degree of discord.

Imagine if an entire community could come together over something as powerful and substantial as spiritual faith.   For Bogor, every night, especially during Ramadan, was like watching the gold medal hockey game.  Every night was the collective channeling of energies, and every night was a chance to share in something more significant than menial individual worries.  Ramadan was not about getting cranky from a lack of food; it was a celebration, and it involved everything from special desserts to widespread participation in a common celebration.  And it happened every night.

I eventually came to believe that Ramadan was quite beautiful, and my stomach soon adjusted to the idea that meals were sometimes less predictable than would be back home.   CIFOR did serve us amazing food during this month, and one of the best parts of Ramadan was the amazing, syruppy goodness that is kolak.   O, the simple joys.

coconut milk + palm sugar = kolak

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