Things to do before you turn 50

What to do on the beautiful summer afternoon before your 50th birthday? Learn something new, obviously. I chose trapeze flying. I could draw comparisons between this exhilarating leap into nothingness and Indonesian politics in its current phase of and heady uncertainty, but I think I’ll just let it swing.


Generous Granta: Indonesia Etc ebook for (almost) free

Lovely Granta, who publish Indonesia Etc. in the UK, Australia and many Commonwealth countries, have generously agreed to try a new experiment: they are making the e-book available for next to nothing to people who have already bought the hardback. If you own a smartphone and physical copy of Indonesia Etc that has the cover pictured above, you can claim a copy of the plain ebook for just 99 cents (less than 70p). Here’s how it works: 1) on your…


Let the cow-trading begin!

Well, it’s official. Over 133 million Indonesians cast their votes peacefully, had them counted repeatedly and now have a new president elect. Congratulations to Indonesians for staying unflustered in the face of Prabowo Subianto’s schoolboy tantrums….


Keep calm, Indonesia. But not too calm.

“Indonesians are not idiots!” I proclaimed in my final post before the election, waxing lyrical about the common sense of the Indonesian electorate. They wouldn’t, I predicted, be swayed by Prabowo Subianto’s bluster. By election day I was getting very nervous indeed. Then the Quick Count results came through. “I told you so” is never a pretty sentence, but I was inordinately happy to be able to pronounce it. It appears, though, that I was wrong about a large minority…


[I really hope] Indonesians are not idiots

Originally written for New Mandala under the title “Indonesians are not idiots”. Interesting comments @ the original post. As Prabowo Subianto’s messianic nationalism chomps through rival presidential candidate Joko Widodo’s once-unassailable lead in Indonesia’s opinion polls, New Mandala and other fora have flared with concern. Prabowo is a thug, they say (though a lot more politely); he will shut down democracy, he will take Indonesia back to the bad old days of autocracy-in-the-name-of-stability. If he’s elected, he may well do…


Department of Self-Promotion: The Economist loves Indonesia Etc!

Update: So does Simon Winchester (writing in the Wall Street Journal) — “…a spectacular achievement and one of the very best travel books I have read..” Pallavi Aiyar, in The LA Review of Books — “I found myself nearly trembling with excitement…I was finally holding in my hands that elusive Indonesia book: a rollicking good adventure that knits together a complex of stories and insights” Tim Hannigan, in The Asian Review of Books — “A formidably insightful and engaging book…


Prabowo or Jokowi: does it really matter?

With two televised debates down and three to go, opinion is divided on which of Indonesia’s two presidential candidates is looking most, well, presidential…..


Not-quite remembering Tiananmen Square

Late last night, one of the many friends who helped me celebrate the launch of Indonesia Etc reminded me of where he and I had been at exactly that hour 25 years earlier. We were both Reuters reporters at the time; Andy Roche was being banged up by Chinese cops in the backstreets not far from Tiananmen Square and I was in the Square itself. I was watching as tanks rolled towards me and trying to figure out how I…


Extraordinary Indonesians: Menuk Suwondo remembered

After what seems like a loooooong gestation, Indonesia Etc. is finally born today (at least in the UK; the US and Indonesian triplets will follow very shortly). When I got my first copy of Indonesia Etc from Granta a couple of weeks ago, I took it straight to the post office and sent it to Menuk Suwondo in Magelang, in Central Java. I don’t know if she ever saw it; I do know that what I learned from her over…


Can a movie cure blindness? Jalanan reveals urban poverty

I got an e-mail today from film-maker extraordinaire Daniel Ziv. His documentary Jalanan, about street musicians and urban poverty in Jakarta, has been playing to great acclaim around the world, noticed by publications such as The Economist and the Wall Street Journal, that tend to devote more column inches to the winners of Indonesia’s erratic growth-fest than to the losers. The film deserves their attention. But in his e-mail, Daniel was rightly more excited about the attention the film is…