Kerokkan and Masuk Angin

September 1, 2010

I think this treatment is unique to Indonesia.  You can see in the clip, one guy is applying minyak gosok (rubbing oil) on his friend, then he uses (traditionally) an old coin to brush it in.  The brushing action causes the patient’s skin to go red.  The redness can last a few days but it’s not sore and the treatment doesn’t hurt. 

They usually do it in a pattern, similar to what you see here, and it’s typically done on a person’s back but it can extend to the neck, arms and legs.   Sometimes, when you’re in a mall, standing behind someone on the escalator, you might see kerokkan marks on the back of their neck.

Kerokkan can be used to treat many different illnesses and you might use a different oil for different sicknesses, although there are many oils which claim to cure almost everything.  The main thing which it is used for is masuk angin “entry of air into the body”, or chills.  It seems that Indonesians are quite suseptable to masuk angin, which is why they try never to shower after dusk and always close every window they see open, regardless of how crowded and hot the bus may be.  For some reason you can’t get a chill from having the air conditioning at sub zero temperatures.

Smoking Mango Trees and Spinning Stones

August 25, 2010

Two stories here.  Each one showing the craziness that can occur when someone discovers a new ‘paranormal’ (metaphysical) concept that  captures the public’s attention.

In the first part, someone in Tanggerang (West Jakarta) noticed that a kind of smoke rises from their mango trees every evening at dusk.  Personally, I don’t know if it’s normal for some trees to release moisture at a certain time of the day.  Maybe they release it all the time and it’s more noticable at dusk?  Maybe the temperature changes that happen at dusk cause the trees to lose moisture?  Whatever the reason, I’m sure there’s a plausable scientific reason for the phenomenon which I can grasp at to settle my pragmatic Western mind.  Not if you’re a resident of Tanggerang.  They think it’s uncanny that the smoke only rises when the imam starts the call to evening prayers, so there has to be a paranormal reason to it. 

Whatever the reason, scientific or metaphysical, I can’t see how it justifies people coming in their thousands to witness the spectacle.  But this sort of thing happens quite often in Indonesia.  I guess there isn’t much free entertainment appart from the shopping malls.  At the time of the clip it had been going on for 10 days.  I guess by now the circus has moved on to another place.

In the second part of the clip, a dukun (witch doctor) has a magic stone (batu ajaib) which he hires out for people to spin on.  Dwi says she had a spin with her baby and it cured his fever! 

The dukun says that he found the stone while walking in his fields.  He says he knew it was a magic stone because his eyes were drawn to it.

I’ll reserve judgement, but it looks like a fun game, spinning on a stone.

Unemployed before, now Unemployable

August 23, 2010

These two were in the news a couple of years ago.  According to the story, a village chief (kepala desa) received an sms from someone claiming to be a government officer and promising jobs for the two if they tattooed their faces with a ‘dragon’ pattern. 

All three of them claim to have been hypnotised by the sender of the sms and went along with the idea.  You can see the results above.  It must be pretty strong magic to convince two people to do such a mad thing.  Or it shows what lengths people will go to for the promise of an exciting job.  I could have told them from personal experience, government jobs aren’t worth it!

Anyhow, I suspect there are other possible explainations.  The one they gave might not be the full story.  Maybe it was punishment for unpaid gambling debts?  Gambling debts usually end in broken bones or death, though.  Perhaps they did it as part of a magic ritual to try to gain special powers.  What do you think?

Here’s the article where I first read about them:

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=645946

Jakarta Street Food: Mie Goreng

August 21, 2010

Fried noodles are almost as popular as the national dish, nasi goreng.  You can see why – its cheap, delicious and easy to make.

You can see from the clip how easy it is to make it.  And the main ingredient is dried noodles – cheap as chips?  Cheaper.  If you were having friends over to watch a game on tv, you could save pizza money and impress them no end by knocking out a few dishes like this from your stove top.

Of course, if you’re in Indonesia it’s even cheaper.  And you don’t have to clean your wok afterwards.

We have moved!

August 17, 2010

To www.aboutindo.com.  The address is the same, but without the ‘.wordpress’ bit. 

This site has been an incubator for the blog, allowing me to get a feel for blogging without needing much initial knowledge.  I certainly recommend anyone who wants to try blogging to use WordPress.  But to make better progress, I know I should have my own site, so I’m taking it to the next level. 

Thanks for all your comments and help so far.  If I didn’t have so many readers, I would have stopped writing months ago.  I think you’ll like the design of the new site  See you over there!

Baris Gede for UNESCO Heritage Listing

July 29, 2010

The traditional Balinese warrior dance, the baris gede (literally: great line) is to be given protection under UNESCO’s heritage register.  The dance has its origins in ritual preparations for battle and is traditionally performed en masse.  Performing the dance often results in the dancers achieving a trance.

Balinese warriors had a fearsome reputation and were often used as mercenaries by the Javanese sultans.  The island, which is a tourist paradise today, was a horror posting for Dutch soldiers during the colonial period as their losses during the guerrilla war following its conquest were horrific.  This clip from 1932 will give you an idea of how it might have been, but by that date the fight had been taken out of the Balinese:

Today, other than important temple occasions, there’s a very good chance you can catch a performance of this dance at a tourist venue.  The quality might not be up to what you’ve just seen, though.  I’m not exactly sure how UNESCO is going to save this dance.  I’ve always thought that if the people don’t care to perform it, it loses its cultural significance and becomes a museum piece (or an amusement for tourists).  So it’s up to the people, not some foreign agency.

Also to be protected is Aceh’s Saman dance.  Traditionally performed on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday.  It’s quite energetic and therefore usually performed by men.  But in this excellent performance, it’s an all girl show:

Why Indonesians Don’t Drink Beer

July 24, 2010

The reason is awful advertisements like this one.   Nobody’s drinking!

In the first scene, we see our man is a construction worker.  Any job that involves manual labour is low status in Indonesia.  At least they could have put him on an  oil rig, which everyone knows pays big money.

At the endo of a hard day’s work, the classic time for a refreshing beer, what’s he do but wash his face?  Maybe we’re supposed to think he’s washing in beer?  Otherwise, there’s no beer consumed after work at this site

In the second half we move to the pub.  Surely this is the place to drink beer, if anywhere?  Apparently not.  In this pub, everyone stands around playing pool, not a glass in sight.  Actually, it’s typical of a lot of Indonesian pubs I’ve been to.

So what’s the reason for the advertiser’s coyness?  Maybe there’s an unannounced censorship of showing people in the act of drinking?  There’s quite a taboo against drinking in Indonesia.  It’s not only because of the large Muslim population, even Catholics are unlikely to be big drinkers.  I once attended an Evangelical service where they used cordial instead of wine for their communion (talk about drinking the cool aid!)  Hmm, can any reader tell me if that’s a common practice among Evangelicals, to drink cordial or juice during their services?

Anyhow, despite the existence of native alcohols such as arak, there just isn’t a drinking culture among Indonesians generally.  People seem to fear it and have little understanding of it’s actual effects.  You will find a lot of people who think that a single drink will turn them into raving alcoholics.

Having said all of that, alcohol is readily available.  You will even find it sold by the case at supermarkets.  I don’t know who drinks it, I guess they do it on the sly.

Here’s someone who appreciates a good drink:

Nanna takes a sip

Superheroes Convert to Islam

July 19, 2010

Superhero Sholat

A number of the world’s superheroes, have converted to Islam. So far, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Captain America, Daredevil, Wolverine, Cyclops, The Flash, The Thing, The Incredible Hulk and Robocop have been identified among the converts. The Indonesian superheroes Gundala, Gatotkaca and “Si Buta dari Gua Hantu” have joined the lineup.
This painting, found in a noodle shop / art gallery in Yogyakarta, Central Java, provides convincing evidence. Perhaps this initiative came while the group was taking R&R from their covert activities on behalf of the US Government in Afghanistan. Clearly tired and distressed from the effects of 9 years of everwar, they were open to conversion to the gentler form of Islam practiced in Java.
Proof that these events occurred in Java can be found in the architectural style of the mosque where they are praying and in the clothes which their imam is wearing. Some have said that the imam is Sunan Kalijaga himself, but this is impossible as he passed away in the 15th century, long before the technology for Robocop existed.
If you happen to like this style of painting, and would like a similar one made to your own specifications, leave a comment and we can arrange a quote.

Jakarta Street Food: School Meal

July 13, 2010

Outside every school there are always a few vendors serving hungry kids.  The one in this clip is selling omelettes made from watered-down egg, topped with cheap tomato sauce and sprinkled with beef flavouring.  Not the most nutritious meal, but the kids like it.

Considering the price, it’s probably outside a government school.  Private schools normally attract hamburger or bakso vendors and prices are more like 5,000rp.  Even so, the burgers are dreadful.

Some schools have their own canteens, but the food they serve isn’t much better, it’s usually white rice with something deep fried.  Well, that was my experience about 8 years ago.  I guess the object of the canteen was to provide an alternative to going out onto the street for a snack, since some parents are concerned about their child being kidnapped (a crime which hasn’t yet become popular among Indonesia’s underworld).

Updates on Recent Stories

July 11, 2010

For those who follow this blog but don’t keep a close eye on Indonesian news, I thought now would be a good time to update you on developments concerning some of the more popular stories. 

Starting with the most recent:

Mental illness

In my second story concerning the practice of pasung, or chaining of the mentally ill, I found a clip which told about a local doctor, Suryani, who is working on this problem in Bali, applying modern medical techniques and showing miraculous results.   The sad thing was that the local government had cut funding to this project, putting a question mark over its continuation and bringing those patients who could not afford to pay for the medication the fear that they will return to their psychotic state.

I have since heard a rumour that the reason the funding was withdrawn was political jealousy.  Dr Suryani comes from an influential Balinese family and her detractors say she is conducting her work under her own name and not giving the government the credit for its funding.  They also imply that because she is seriously rich, she should pay for the treatment from her own pocket! 

Personally, I think people should put political issues behind them and consider the victims.  Even if she is capable of funding the entire clinic from her own resources, public health is a responsibility which the government has taken upon itself.  The potential cost to Bali’s economy if tourists shunned the island because of their handling of this issue is far greater than the cost of funding the clinic.  Government funds need to be allocated according to where they can do the most good.  Finally, I think it’s something to be encouraged when a member of the elite rolls up their sleeves and does some practical work, something Indonesia’s elite are not famous for.

Dr Suryani has a website for her institute if you would like more information about her work.  You can donate towards her work if you feel inclined to do so.

Tempo’s ‘Sold Out’ Edition

The publishers of Tempo ran a second edition of the magazine which was sold out.  The police are saying they were not involved in buying up the first edition and that it was just a publicity stunt on Tempo’s part.  Members of the police force are now taking a different approach.  They are suing Tempo for defamation in comparing them to pigs.  They are deeply offended because pigs are supposedly haram to devout Muslims.  I may be out of line here, but it has always been my understanding that it is the eating of pigs which is haram, not the pigs themselves.  So perhaps they are being a little precious in being offended on religious grounds.  Seldom mentioned is the fact that unbelievers in Islam are haram, yet I doubt any police general would shun his Balinese colleague on that basis.  More to the point, it is also haram to steal and it is also haram to use one’s position in a corrupt manner.

Perhaps the police would suffer less ridicule and criticism if concentrated on solving corruption within their ranks and got on with actual policing.  It is my feeling that the people respond well when they see their police giving a good example.

Peterporn

At this moment, Nazriel (Ariel) Irham is still being held in custody while Luna Maya and Cut Tari are free.  The prosecutor is obviously trying to avoid provoking the public’s sympathy.  All three have undergone physical examinations to check whether their body shapes match the images in the videos.  Intimate measurements were taken, including those of Ariel’s genitals. 

Meanwhile, police have announced they are ‘about’ to arrest eight suspects for actually uploading the videos.  That was a few days ago, I haven’t heard anything about that so far.

Smoking Baby

CNN have sent a camera crew out to Sumatra to verify that, yes, the story is true.  Although somehow they managed to misspell his name and the American public now know him as ‘Aldi’.   I deeply suspect this whole fuss is a beat-up by the big US tobacco companies to disparage Indonesia in the current trade dispute.  The US is banning flavoured cigarettes, including the kreteks which Indonesia exports.  However, somehow they don’t include the menthol cigarettes which the US manufacturers make in their definition of ‘flavoured’.  Self interest creates double standards.

This Site

There are now two people working on Aboutindo.  Neither of us full time yet :)  You might have noticed the marked improvement in quality. 

We are planning to make some big changes soon, including self hosting.   I started a bit less than six months ago, but it seems like only three.  Thanks for your support and comments.