Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Once a while I joined a conference, like I did last week, two days conference in Mechelen, Belgium, to get back to the heritage habitat and got recharged. Especially the habitat of volunteers who talked about role of civil society in the field of heritage. I have to say this is the first time I mingled with heritage non-government organisation group in Europe. I remembered how exciting the similar meetings with the groups in Asia-Pacific, and I expected the similar experience.

The initiative for this conference has been taken by an existing cooperation network of three Belgian heritage NGOs. This joint action is based on a shared belief in the importance of active citizenship for enhancing democratic values in society, a shared belief in the importance of the role of heritage organisations with regard to local and European policy and a shared commitment to propagating a broader concept of heritage.

A big surprise, I met an old acquitance in heritage from Macedonia. We met in 2002 in Salzburg and now we met again during breakfast in our hotel. What a small world.

To make the world even smaller, I met some contacts also during the conference whom I knew for some time. I could never have a chance to run away too far, couldn't I?

From two days full of presentations and discussions, my favorite went to Raphaël Souchier from France, who talked about Heritage Care through Active Citizenship : What Does It Take? He has a down to earth approach in his project which close to my heart. His projects are heritage preservation in European Cultural Cities and the meaning of heritage in this case is in a broad understanding. One example is how to campaign a slow lifestyle back to the community through slow food with local ingredients and local people. In this way, community is encouraged to produce their local food, appreciating local culinary skills. The economic impact of this effort can not be underestimated.

During his presentation, my mind flew to traditional markets and villages in Indonesia. What a big potentials for heritage preservation. We don't have to learn to be back to the slow life style. We are experts already in enjoying life at our own pace; with our own local culture and food. We take our time to do things (even to the level of world famous rubber time philosophy.) But in positive ways, the people in those traditional markets and villages are on the right track. Probably we could invite Raphaël Souchier to Indonesia to help us appreciate what we have.

Still part of the recharging, I found this text in the city center of Mechelen is also inspiring. Do you think so?


On Monday, 23 March, as part of a conference, I joined a night tour in Mechelen, Belgium, to see artworks using lights from neon to LED. These artworks give a new dimension to places where history has left its marks: streets, squares and gardens. I myself felt entertained by these artworks; it was nice to know that artists could be very imaginative and creative. As the guide said the idea of Contourlight is creating a teaser for the Mechelen historic centre before the big summer festival. I imagine if historic city centers in Medan or Bandung or Jakarta could create another sort of teasers also, even in the evening when traffic is calmer and temperature is not burning. Just to have some ideas :

Mischa Kuball (DE)Walk and Talk, 2009 (spots, revolving mirrors, voices, red carpet)

Kuball likes to make hidden aspects of the city visible by means of small changes. Here he discovered the so called Klapgat (chat hole), a dark alley where many inhabitants not only walked and talked but also enjoyed fleeting episodes of love. Kuball creates a stage where spots and sounds circle around in search of the lovers.

Jan van Munster (NL)Circle of Energy, 2009 (steel, Perspex, LEDs, computer; diameter: 600 )
High above the houses the artist has installed a circle that appears to be about to roll away from the roof terrace of the former hospital across the street. By day it’s an elegant silvery grey form that radiates calm. At night it comes to life in a whirling glow of blue, green and red, symbolizing the energy of the city.

(resource : http://www.contourmechelen.be)

Friday, March 20, 2009


Despite the sunshine, colourful flowers and lovely spring atmosphere, I am curious about burnout. What is burnout? Why can someone get a burnout?

I have never known the term burnout before I came to Holland. I learn it here and notice that quite a number of people in my surroundings claimed to have it. In Holland if someone has a job and get a burnout leave which could happens for months, this person still get big part of his/her salary. I find it as a very interesting phenomena.

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive an prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

Most of us have days when we feel bored, overloaded, or unappreciated; when the dozen balls we keep in the air aren’t noticed, let alone rewarded; when dragging ourselves out of bed requires the determination of Hercules. If you feel like this most of the time, however, you may be flirting with burnout.

You may be on the road to burnout if:

Every day is a bad day.
Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
You’re exhausted all the time.
The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life – including your home and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away.

Causes of burnout

There are many causes of burnout. In many cases, burnout stems from the job. But anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout – from the hardworking office worker who hasn’t had a vacation or a raise in two years to the frazzled stay-at-home mom struggling with the heavy responsibility of taking care of three kids, the housework, and her aging father.

But burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and certain personality traits. What you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing burnout as work or home demands.

Work-related causes of burnout

Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.
Lack of recognition or rewards for good work.
Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.
Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging.
Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment

Lifestyle causes of burnout

Working too much, without enough time for relaxing and socializing
Being expected to be too many things to too many people.
Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others
Not getting enough sleep
Lack of close, supportive relationships

Personality traits can contribute to burnout

Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough
Pessimistic view of yourself and the world
The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others
High-achieving, Type A personality

(resource : www.helpguide.org andwww.cartooncreator.nl )

This statement above : What you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing burnout as work or home demands, is the most interesting part for me. How you look at the world! Why is it interesting for me? I have learned from my surroundings here that being materially prosperous doesn't guarantee someone's happiness. And being poor doesn't mean someone is unlucky. Bingo. My lesson in the spring.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I have never enjoyed the sunshine as much as in the four seasons country, especially after the chilled winter months!
And on top of that, flowers are everywhere...



Harm, his friend Roel and I are following news lately about the re-use of the ex-Immigration Office in Teuku Umar Street, Jakarta. The Dutch called it Kunstkring Gebouw built in 1913. Kunstkring means network of art. It used to be a building for art and artists in Batavia. After the Independence, it had various functions before it ended up as the administration building for the Immigration office. Harm and Roel were the Dutch tourists who were impressed with the beauty and elegance of this building that led them to produce a website and tried to raise awareness about heritage value of this site. Not so much happened from their side but the Indonesians in Jakarta were fully aware of the value of the location, the ex-Immigration Building is in a prime downtown area, and this is the selling point which made this building handed over from one hand to other hand over the years until the Jakarta Government has bought it and spent almost 3 million US dollars for its renovation.

In December 2008 the building was launched as a venue for the French lounge chain Buddha Bar, following its predecessors in New York, London, Dubai and Kiev. So it is the first Buddha Bar in Asia. With cathedral-high ceilings, a restaurant upstairs has a six-metre (18ft) Buddha overseeing seating for 240. A cocktail club downstairs throbs with lounge music. It has quickly turned into a hotspot for the young and wealthy.

But this new life didn't last long. Opposition to Jakarta's Buddha Bar escalated this March when the Indonesian religious affairs minister, Maftuh Basyuni, asked the French operator, Paris-based George V Hotels and Resorts, to consider closing down or changing the name. Jakarta's legislative council repeated requests to close the club, saying it would be the best way to ensure Buddhists are not offended. Protesters say it is wrong to associate Buddha with a bar because the faith prohibits alcohol. And then Corruption Watch will investigate the ownership of the heritage site by the daughter of the Jakarta Governor whose administration approved the building's restoration, and the daughter of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

My opinion? I don't want to get involved with the issue of the name and ownership. Simply too complicated as an outsider although I am familiar with the situation since I was involved in similar complications before. But talking about the re-use of the building itself is a big dillema in Indonesia; it bumps always to the unavoidable situation that the new function go to the direction of elites and the have's. Or re-use as a museum and almost empty without sufficent income for maintenance. So far no example of re-used historical building which makes everybody happy. It seems (because I could only observe) difficult to find compromise in between. From perspective of finance and conservation standard are complicated enough, plus added by social, religious and political dimensions. No wonder that heritage conservation efforts in Indonesia challenge the best of the best experts if they exist at all, although I am afraid this doesn't help either since no conservation theory teaches someone how to solve power conflict and social tension in a building re-use function. The unspoken situation is much more challenging than the physical conservation side.

So far there were two sorts of news (which reached me) related to the historical buildings or sites : demolition which lead to demonstration and protest of the public which in most cases were too late or not heard; and re-use of historical buildings which were not fully approved by all parties. I wonder if this is a phase that Indonesia should go through to reach a maturity phase in heritage conservation when we will see a lot of re-use of historical buildings with peaceful pride and joy of its community, when re-use of histroical buildings generate sufficient finance for their maintenances without involvement of the Corruption Watch, when regulations and rule of games are clear to every stakeholders, when...when...does it happen?
(pictures are courtesy of Buddha Bar and Kunstkring webite)

Friday, March 13, 2009


This fact is new to me : Netherlands has the highest museum density in the world, about one thousands. Yes, 1000 museums in a country with about 16, 5 million populations. I realized there are a lot of museums in this country but I didn't think that many and the most in the world. Wow.

I have to say that every year I was impressed with the number of people who joined the "Museum Nacht" (Museum Night) when museums open their doors in the evening. This is a very good idea and special because I am sure in Indonesia nobody thinks to go to a museum in the evening. It breaks a paradigm that museums are identical with sun and light.

Other thing is a "Museum kaart" (Museum card) membership which opens access to about 400 museums. It is relatively affordable, 35 euro per year. Considering ticket price individually someone has to pay for a museum entrance, this membership fee is absolutely low. And that is include magazines they send directly to your address.

I could go on and on with a lot of initiatives here to boost interests to museums which for my standart are excellent enough. Nevertheless I still read or hear complains from museum professionals in Netherlands how to get better and more, it means that actually museum world here could be better than already it is. Just imagine.

My mind wanders around Java or Sumatra from museum to museum and wish that all of them could have a better life than just above survival line. Museum which actively become part of community life (act as entertaining points, children education, economic wheels) and not merely exist due to cultural historical obligations because only a big nation could appreciate their history. It sounds cynical and I didn't mean to. It meant sincerely to share the long wonder why museums in Indonesia are not places to meet friends, to enjoy afternoons with kids or to generate decent income for young professionals?

Monday, March 09, 2009


One of the benefit of having foreign guests is a reason to visit touristic areas. One of them is Volendam, in the north part of Netherlands. This fishing village is hillariously famous for tourist and no visit to Holland is completed without Volendam. And that is exactly the reason why many locals avoid this place : crowded with tourists. Once a while I let myself to be a tourist in Holland, like when I had a visit of my Japanese friend, MH.

Volendam is well-known for its old fishing boats and the traditional clothing still worn by some residents. The women's costume of Volendam, with its high, pointed bonnet, is one of the most recognizable of the Dutch traditional costumes, and is often featured on tourist postcards and posters (although there are believed to be fewer than 50 women now wearing the costume as part of their daily lives, most of them elderly). Visitors can have their pictures taken in traditional Dutch costumes. And guess what? I saw many Indonesian celebrity pictures on displays, including two ex-presidents of the Republic of Indonesia.

My Japanese friend and her son have enjoyed themselves, I supposed. They had fried fishes (this is a fishing village!), poffertjes (Dutch small pancakes), "gevoelde koek" (Dutch almond cakes) and of course we made a lot of pictures as every tourist does. It was nice to walk on a Sunday afternoon along the sea, the cafes and souvenir shops.

We could argue of course how fake this place is since it is a touristic destination. But on the other hand, what is wrong with a small village like Volendam which tries to generate income by exploring their culture and customs? For short stayed tourists, this kind of place is a perfect destination to get a flavour of Dutch in a glance. I myself thought it is smart of Volendam to be able to attract a lot of big buses year in year out despite of the fact nothing new in this village except normal life of the locals.

And I must say that domestically Volendam has relatively a lot of exposures on television since they are proud of a pop singer named Jan Smith. Later almost the whole village involved in a reality show on television basically triggered by Jan Smith. I never listen to even a song of Jan Smith but seeing how often he appeared on mass media, this guy must have a good show business in Holland and he becomes a kind of icon for Volendam. It seems that Volendam is a cheerful place to live, fishermen and artists mingled to create a sustainable business for the village. A smart positioning for Volendam considering that so many places in Holland with similar characters.

Probably experts of city marketing has something to learn from Volendam.

Friday, March 06, 2009


A friend of mine in Canada has suggested me to read "Three Cups of Tea" and I put it in my reading list. But then a serendipity happened when one of my colleague in the office one day brought me several books and the "Three Cups of Tea" was amongst them!

I was caught by the story of Greg Mortenson, an American who build schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan since mid 1990's. You have to read it yourself to understand how genuine Greg was to help the children, especially the girls, to get a proper education. Originally he didn't have a record of managerial or organizational experiences to do this so what he used to realise his intention was common sense and sensitivity. But probably that is why he was so natural in his approach to the locals despite the fact how fragile it is relationship between Islamic communities and a western country like America.

He reminded me a lot of my mother who had a dream to build a house for homeless poor old women in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, around the early of 1980's. She hardly write and read in her life but single handedly she managed to build a ten bedrooms building and accomodated about 15 homeless poor women which is still exist until today. My mother took care all of them on daily basis, from helping them in the toilet until raising fund for the foundation to survive from month to month. She did that every single day until cancer took her life in 1997. My father and then later I helped her with basic administration but that was not even worth mentioning comparing to what she has done.

Passion and genuity of Greg (and my mother) that I caught from "Three Cups of Tea." A passion & genuity to do something real in and with communities. In a particle scale, I used to do it for years and I miss it now. I knew and know that I will do that again someday when the time comes.

Thanks for my dear friend, S, and my colleague, B, who helped me to find back my good memories through the book.

For more stories about Three Cups of Tea click :

Book tour, reviews and media on www.threecupsoftea.com
Central Asia Institute website www.ikat.org
Pennies For Peace website http://www.pennniesforpeace.org/

(Images cortesy of Central Asia Institute.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Our regular family holiday destination is Texel, an island in the north part of the Netherlands, about 1,5 hours driving from Amsterdam. We have to take a 15 minutes boat trip at the end of the journey which create a sense of holiday despite the fact that it is relatively short distance.

Texel is "only" about 16 thousands hectares with 13 thousands people. What makes it special is its traditional atmosphere with farming lifestyle everywhere. You can buy potatoes, flowers, eggs or strawberries on the street simply by putting some coins in a can and nobody watch you. The trade is purely based on honesty as if it has been done in the past when this world is full of trust and nobody cheated. The view is farming as far as you can see with farm houses and several village enclaves : Den Brug (the capital), De Koog, Den Hoorn, Oosterend, De Waal, Oudeschild and De Cocksdorp. They are village's centres which are small but offer quite a lot : old buildings, shops, restaurants, cafes and cultural happenings.

Around Texel we can do a lot : swimming on beaches or indoor, horse riding, visiting the Ecomare - seals rehabilitation centre, biking, going to fruit and vegetable gardens where you can harvest them yourself, cow milking and cheese making, tandem jumping from an airplane and the list doesn't end here.
But why do we go to Texel regularly? It is a family tradition since Harm's childhood. Now he inherited it to Dian and I. Even the boat trip is part of the tradition with a cup of coffee and "gevoelde koek" ( a cookie with almond filling.) Being a tradition, Texel offers a sense of place for us, a feeling of well being and refreshing everytime we visit it.