Posts Tagged ‘Indonesian people’

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:

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.

Drive Safe

July 8, 2010

Happy travels!

On a rainy day, helping to cart rice husks and there’s no room in the cabin.  These labourers have come up with a solution so they can ride along and not get wet by making a kind of hammock under the overhang at the back of the truck.  What can go wrong?

Is this the Way to Treat a God?

July 1, 2010

This video is 15 minutes, but well worth watching all the way through.

I wasn’t aware of this clip when I wrote my post about mental illness in Indonesia.  Lack of treatment of psychotic patients leads to them being chained or imprisoned for years as their families have no other means of restraining them.

I did not know that there are already some Indonesian doctors who have taken it upon themselves to liberate the mentally ill.  This clip shows the miraculous changes that modern medicine can bring to the psychotic.  In every case, they were able to recover sufficiently to contribute at least something to their communities.

Unfortunately, many of the families involved are too poor to afford the drugs.  As the funding for this program has been dramatically reduced, there is a danger that some of them will have to revert to their previous life in chains.  There is an interview with Bali’s Governor, who was responsible for cutting the funding even though his own grandmother suffered the same fate of being chained for her insanity.  I would love to know the true story behind this budget cut (anyone able to enlighten me?).

Every person deserves to be treated with respect.  Maybe not as much as we would give to a god, but at least better treatment than the mentally ill are getting in many countries today.

Mental Illness = Life in Chains

June 20, 2010

Life is hard if you are poor and living in a developing country such as Indonesia.  But it can be miserable if you also suffer a mental illness.  For most, there is effectively no treatment.  In the most severe cases, I’m sure that many are abused and eventually ‘disappeared’.  Those that have the protection of their family are usually condemned to a life of confinement, chained to a post or in stocks (pasung), often kept in tiny shacks.  The idea is to protect the patient and the community from each other.  Sadly, what should be a temporary solution becomes a life sentence.  Unable to easily find a cure, the family must leave their loved one in stocks for decades, causing disfigurement, withering of unused limbs and worsening their mental health.

The Western media in Australia have recently taken up this cause with this article from the Age:

The article talks about one particular facility where the inmates are chained naked to their posts with nothing to rest on but a tiled floor.  An open sewer runs past each inmate.  This makes it easy to clean, but what’s the point of that when the place reeks because of the uncovered feces and many of the inmates become sick from contact with the contents of the sewer?  I use the term ‘inmate’ rather than ‘patient’ as there is apparently no useful treatment.  According to the article, the chains are blessed before they are put on, perhaps there is some form of exorcism and if the inmate gets excitable, he is shown a big snake (I didn’t make that up).  This facility is in Bekasi, within the Jakarta metropolis.  Even though it’s not in an isolated location, I’m told there are other better facilities in Jakarta, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this one in Bekasi is better than many others.

For patients living in the country, the situation is not greatly improved, although at least they have the comfort of their families.  It is in the country that patients are most likely to be kept in pasung which are often huge tree trunks which look positively medieval.

A recent study sponsored by the University of Melbourne surveyed Samosir Island, which is situated in Lake Toba, Sumatra.  The researchers discovered 15 cases of pasung in a population of 130,000.  Surprisingly, of those cases, 9 had been given psychiatric treatment, but the families were unable to continue because that would require travelling to the city of Medan, which is prohibitively expensive for them.  Even more surprising was that the researchers were able to treat and free all of the ones they found, trained the local puskesmas (government clinic) staff , educated the community and at the end of the 6 month study only two had returned to being restrained.

The study is easy to read and contains much more fascinating information:

Of course, you are unlikely to see someone in pasung if you are a normal traveller in Indonesia, however it is quite common to see people who are obviously mentally ill.  They are often naked or in rags, their skin blackened by the sun, long hair and beard, they look like ancient mystics.  Despite their appearance they are usually under the care of a family member who is not far away.

The following link will take you to a video composed by the same Age journalist responsible for the article cited above.  It’s quite harrowing to watch, the story of Suharto and Darwina, which he relates, is pitiful:

Please bear in mind that this practice is not unique to Indonesia.  It is also common through many parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.  Furthermore, it was not very long ago that Western medicine treated the mentally ill much like this.  The people caring for these ‘pasung people’ have the best intentions, but lack the knowledge and the capacity to give better care.  For those who can afford it, treatment is available, there are special schools which in some cases are better staffed and resourced than many in the West.  As the research report says, when better treatment is offered, the carers jump at the opportunity.

Campur Sari: Nyidam Sari Sung by a Girl!

June 15, 2010

This song is part of the campur sari genre, but you’ll find that it contains many more elements of traditional Javanese music (compared with the Didi Kempot song I wrote about last week).  The most obvious is the way the music slows down, stalls and stops for a little while before it picks up again.  I don’t know the purpose of this, it happens several times during this performance.  Maybe it’s to create interest?

Anyhow, I think the performance itself is quite good considering it is probably the singer’s debut.  If you listen carefully, right at the beginning, the boss in the white shirt tells her to smile (“ayo kasih senyum!”).  Later, the backing vocalist/flautist also tells her to smile and then to dance when the percussion picks up.  She doesn’t waste any time scurrying back even before she finishes her song and sits down in her place among the other female singers before the music stops .  Must be scared, poor thing. 

The unusual thing about the performance of this song, Nyidam Sari, is that it’s being sung by a girl.  It’s very unusual for a Javanese girl to sing a song which is written for a guy. 

Umpomo sliramu sekar melati

aku kumbang Nyidam Sari

Umpomo sliramu margi

wong manis, aku kang bakal nglewati.

Which means:

If you are a jasmine flower

I’m the bee longing for nectar

if you are a road

pretty girl, I will pass through it.

Here is a more typical version of this song:

Very Javanese, this version.  The singer and the girl are wearing traditional Javanese dress.  She’s very demure.  Notice the furniture and the style of the architecture?  So Javanese.  But you would hardly guess it was the same song.

The other interesting thing about the first clip, for me, is that it was taken at a wedding reception.  You can see the guests arriving and being greeted, maybe by the groom.  Notice how he touches his chest after shaking hands?  It’s customary.  You don’t need to turn up at the right time if you’re invited to a wedding, the important thing is just to show your face.  Once you’ve been greeted, you’re free to go anywhere, but the best policy is to head straight for the food.  Indonesians don’t hold back at buffets, you really need to dive in if you want the best dishes before they’re gone.  That’s my experience, anyhow.

After getting their food, you can see the crowd segregates.  The bapaks (men) go to watch the singer while the ibu (mums) settle down with the food and the kids.  In fact this crowd is spoilt because it’s quite unusual to have more than just food at a wedding reception.  They seldom put on any entertainment.  It’s quite a mixed blessing to be invited to a Javanese wedding.  On one hand, they will be disappointed if you don’t show up.  On the other, there will be no alcohol or dancing, musical entertainment (such as you see in the  clip) is rare.  It’s a bit like a Methodist wedding.