Absurd


Bad language is bad for Indonesian business

Indonesian bureaucrats are making it harder for Indonesians to learn good English. This handicaps Indonesian firms, as well as making them look foolish in international markets.


From Indonesia’s Department of You Couldn’t Make It Up

The department of You Couldn’t Make It Up has been working overtime in Indonesia lately. Parliament has just confirmed a notorious corruption suspect to head the police, and the President thinks he can make fishermen richer by sinking ships.



An easter treat: Catholic kitsch from around Indonesia

There are just seven million Catholics in Indonesia — a drop in a mainly Moslem ocean. Yet they have managed to make their mark aesthetically, with an astoundingly wide variety of statues, murals, graveyards and churches that range between Kitsch and High Kitsch….


Vocab lessons for expat lawyers in Indonesia

So Indonesia is going to require expatriate lawyers to take an ethics test, in Indonesian. I think this is a splendid idea; though they are not actually allowed to practice law in Indonesia, foreigners certainly have a lot to learn from Indonesian lawyers when it comes to ethics. Here’s some essential vocab to get them started: Suap “Salary supplementation”. It literally means “to spoonfeed” and some cynics translate it as “bribe”, but they haven’t studied legal ethics in Indonesia. Cuci…


Indonesian President signs off on semen

In the windswept west of Ireland, I’m struggling with notebooks written in “Bahasa Gado Gado” — a mixture of English and Indonesian which at times catches me by surprise. This bit, for example: “Local rich people count their capital in hewan, dan dengan ratusan ekor pun tidak bisa beli semen”. Which translates as: “Local rich people count their capital in cattle, and even with hundreds of cattle you can’t buy semen.” Oh wait, no, you can’t buy cement. The moment…


Rubber time: new departures for an old concept

Many of you will be familiar with Indonesia’s approach to timekeeping, affectionately known as “rubber time”. Like rubber (and the patience of many Indonesians), it can be stretched almost infinitely. Unlike rubber, it tends only to stretch in one direction. Buses start filling up on a notional schedule but don’t leave until they are full; ferries board passengers from a given time, but probably won’t ship out until the tide is right. Meetings are set for time x, and start…


Bouncing back

Having been very rude about the Indonesian educational system in an earlier post, I offer up this example of genius from a junior high school teacher in the small town of Singkil, in Aceh province. It was his labour-saving solution to the fact that his baby cried unless it was being rocked constantly. I might note that this scene was filmed on a school day. The genius teacher was watching TV at home. “It’s raining,” he explained. “And anyway, they’ve…


A comfortable T-shirt culture

If I had the courage to stick my camera into people’s chests, I’d by now have a vast repertoire of photos of absurd and inappropriate T-shirts. Pretty young school-girls sporting obscenities that would make a punk blush. Elderly crones decked in gyrating boy-band idols. Moslem clerics declaring their love for Jesus. And plenty of slogans that just make no sense at all. Most Indonesians love to pose for pictures; it’s me that’s uncomfortable snapping things that will make people look…