Friday, June 26, 2009


One of my concern and also obsession for city development in Indonesia is to create a children friendly city. A city where children can play outside for free. A city with public places which are safe, green and accomodative to children's needs. This should become a policy for city development. We all talk about sustainable city and environment, and a children friendly city should be included. If you are a father or a mother, I am sure you would share my concern. Where will I bring my children this afternoon? A playground in McDonalds? A game centre in a mall?

For something good, I don't mind to learn from other country like Holland. At least where I live, it is part of policy to provide a playground every 500 meters. So there are several relatively small playgrounds and one relatively big playground plus a water pool. As far as I know, the same policy of creating children friendly places are common in Holland.

I have to say that this is the most logic policy but sometimes I wonder why all playgrounds dissapeared from cities in Indonesia. Where do the children suppose to play during their free time? How many places they can go for free? I grew up in Bandung and then I could still play in a playground in Gandapura street or catching frogs in paddie fields around Brigjen Katamso street. Now my daughter went to McDonalds, malls or even paid 90 thousand rupiahs to play in the Kidz City in Jakarta. I remembered four children of my helper back in Medan, how could she afford to pay such amount?


I have a lot of sympathy for my fellow Indonesians in several cities like Jakarta and Yogyakarta who try to promote "Bike to Work." It must be hard to bike in a city of 12 million people like Jakarta, where no bike infrastructure at all. I have experienced it in Medan and decided not to put myself in danger.

But in Holland, between spring and fall, if the weather permits, I bike in the evening after dinner for one to two hours around villages close to home. Mostly it is about 30 to 40 kilometers. I can tell you that it is addictive, once you do it. Just to give an idea why, I share some spots that I see along the bike paths.

The start, in front of my house in Amsterdam

Public art work


Public recreation (inclusive children playground)

Very cozy bench

Farm house with summer flowers

Farm, farm and farm

A restoration project

Water, water and water

Sufficient maps for the bikers

Old windmills were replaced by the new ones

Old bridge

A good place to balance the lost calories

A quiet bike path

Crossing highway

Then back home....


Most of us know how sweet ice cream is. But there is a community who never ever taste the sweet of ice cream. That is community in Rwanda. "If people never know about ice cream while they produce milk, then life has never been sweet, either, to them, " said Odile Gakire Katese, from National University of Rwanda, who shared her experiences in Cafe Curiosity, Amsterdam, 25 June. She delivered a presentation related to her artistic activities to address trauma post-genocide of Rwanda. One of her activities called Blue Marble Dreams Rwanda which to explore the transformative potential of ice cream not just as a source of fun and joy but also as a means of sustainable economic growth in developing countries with local but underutilized dairy resources.

I quoted Odile's beautiful narrative about it, "Because we struggle most of the time, we find ourselves aggressive against happiness, love, joy, life. When we have children, we teach them that happiness doesn't exist; that there is no pure love and as legacy, we give them our despair, our debts, our doubts, our tears, our failures...Now, we want to share moments that are not embossed by despair and death... We want to create a space where poverty, disease, illiteracy... are not obstacles to happiness and barriers between human beings... We have to, for the health of our soul. Ice cream will have the power to reconcile people with life by reminding them that it is also sweet."

I tried to hold my tears while listening to her story about the ice cream. And that was not all, Odile shared more ideas and practices how to help Rwanda's people dealing with their past in 1994 when the genocide took place. It was not all sad stories, about her initiative to invite women of Rwanda to play drums, for example. Playing drums used to be only for men but she believed that women were as capable as men to do it. More than 100 women involved in drums playing project and they had tour even to Europe to share the beauty of culture of Rwanda. This project called Ingoma Nshya that has given women a voice in the cultural landscape of Rwanda, and allowed them to speak out about their female identity and their traumatic past. In recent years Odile has also presented Des Espoirs (Hopes) throughout her country. This show, which mixes theatre and dance, is a testimony to humankind’s ability to rebuild itself, even after a trauma. Odile also wrote and co-directed the short film Isugi in which a young girl, who survived the genocide, is living with the memory of her deceased parents and suffers harassment from her adoptive father.

Odile explained that culture almost doesn't exist in Rwanda and that is probably explain why people became so aggresive to each other and led to genocide.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Nonton pertunjukan wayang Ki Enthus Susmono di Tropen Museum, 20 Juni. Acaranya dimulai tepat waktu, hadirinnya tertib dan tidak riuh rendah, harga karcisnya lumayan.

Ketika Ki Enthus mulai bercerita tentang petualangan Bima di Kerajaan Hastina, rasanya seperti sedang berada di Jawa Tengah saja. Gamelannya dinamis, kisah wayangnya banyak improvisasi, tidak banyak kesempatan untuk mengantuk. Tapi begitu tenggat waktu tiba, ingat lagi bahwa ini sedang terjadi di Amsterdam karena disuguhi jus jeruk dan juga ada bir dan kopi, bukan wedang jahe dengan kacang rebus panas. Apalagi ketika harus pulang karena jatah waktu parkir mobil sudah habis. Maklum tarif parkir di Amsterdam per jam 4 euro dan kebetulan cuma punya koin untuk 2,5 jam saja. Aduh, aduh.

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If you are a tourist in Amsterdam, try to find one of the green area in the suburb of the city. Vondelpark is right in the middle of the city, but Amsterdam has many larger parks at its edges. One of them is called Amsterdamse Bos, means Forest of Amsterdam.

This park is about one thousand hectares and built by about 50 thousand workers as part of government effort to solve economic crisis in 1930's. Government promised to provide jobs for at least five years for them. The project (famous as het Boschplan) lasted until 1970 when the last tree was planted there. The main idea of this forest was not only functioned as greenbelt of the city but also to be used by the people.
In this park, there are water areas for rowing, canoing and water biking. Facilities for children are tremendous : climbing, walking, learning about natural phenomenons. Families could gather here for picnic, BBQ or parties.

One of my favorite attraction here is getting on an antique tram. It was organized by volunteers who love antique trams. They run also a tram museum here.

The whole park was designed by two architects Cornelis van Eesteren and Jacoba Mulder. They adopted an English style park with waving meadows, dispersed tree clusters, winding water streams and bending forest edges. But there was an architect who specialized in designing bridges, Piet Kramer. He adopted the Amsterdam Style for 67 bridges in this park and none of them are similar. In total there are 116 bridges in the whole park which connect rivers and paths.
If you visit this Amsterdamse Bos, which is far away from touristic spots, you will see and experience the local's life.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Globalization brings comfort of possibility to enjoy various fruits of any seasons anytime but the best local fruits still have to wait according to the natural cycles. For summer, red fruits like cherries, strawberries and raspberries are at their best tastes in Holland : not only sweet but also stunningly beautiful.

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I usually try to go to places where I could pick those berries by myself. It is more for the "feeling good" than simply buying the fruits in supermarkets. In Holland many places open their gardens for public in summer. They are usually a kind of organic farm that promotes back to nature and everything natural. So they have not only fruits but also vegetable and delicious home made non-preservative ice creams. Some even have bed and breakfast facilities.

I think this kind of recreational farming initiatives are very good for an agricultural country like Indonesia. I know in Java there are already few agricultural tourism sites. Probably more places with locations closer to big cities are good, especially with attention for children education about agricultural life and provide alternative for family outings so they don't have to come back to malls every weekends. Make these farm affordable. In Holland most farms are free and we pay only for the fruits that we harvest. The "feeling good" effect is free although I think it is the priceless aspect which actually the most expensive you can think of. It doesn't give impression that they do this only for business. It is about passion for nature. Most farms here run by families and relatively small scale initiatives.

Back to the summer fruits, for the Father Day on 21 June, I tried a receipt from "the American domestic guru" Martha Stewart, Strawberry Cake. This turned to be a treat of the day and dissapeared in a matter of hours. Will try another receipts next time.

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A small effort to have strawberry on my own balcony.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Salahsatu berita hangat yang hampir setiap hari muncul di media massa di Belanda saat ini adalah tentang Museum Sejarah Nasional.

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Dua politikus dari Partai Sosialis dan dan Partai Kristen Demokrat pada tahun 2006 menulis sebuah pledoi tentang pentingnya sejarah bagi sebuah bangsa. Mereka mengusulkan dibangunnya Museum Sejarah Nasional yang mempromosikan sejarah bangsa Belanda secara aktual kepada publik. Pledoi ini ditanggapi ramai dan didukung oleh para anggota parlemen. Dibentuklah sebuah badan yang tugasnya mempersiapkan museum tersebut dan dipilih tiga kota sebagai kandidat lokasi : Arnhem, Amsterdam dan Den Haag. Setelah melalui berbagai prosedur dipilihlah Arnhem.

Mengenai materi museum disepakati bahwa perjalanan sejarah bangsa yang dirangkum dalam 50 Jendela Canon akan ditampilkan. Kelimapuluh Jendela Canon sendiri terangkum melalui proses panjang yang dilakukan oleh kelompok ahli dari berbagai latar belakang dan sudah mendapat pengakuan nasional. Canon merangkum sejarah Belanda sejak 3000 tahun sebelum Masehi hingga bergabungnya Belanda dengan Uni Eropa. Pendudukan Belanda di Indonesia menjadi salah satu jendela Canon juga, tepatnya nomor 40 dalam urutan kronologis sejarah Belanda.

Persiapan membangun Museum Sejarah Nasional seluas 10.000 m2 sudah berjalan, namun ternyata tidak sesuai dengan kesepakatan semula. Pertama, materi museum bergeser bukan lagi berdasarkan 50 Jendela Canon namun berdasarkan pendekatan tematis yang lain. Kedua, lokasi museum yang semula direncanakan dibangun di kawasan hijau di sebelah Museum Terbuka Arnhem dipindahkan ke tengah kota di sepanjang sungai dekat Jembatan John Frost.

Maka berdebatlah Menteri Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Belanda, Ronald Plasterk, dengan para anggota parlemen. Pengamat dan penulis opini juga menuliskan pendapat mereka di berbagai media. Bapak Menteri tidak keberatan dengan berbagai pergeseran rencana di atas, sementara para anggota parlemen tetap ingin berpegang pada rencana asal. Semua debat dan diskusi di media massa begitu ramainya, saya sendiri panasaran seperti apa jadinya museum ini kelak ketika resmi dibuka tahun 2011?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Welcome in Strasbourg......

When the sun shines, terraces are the best places.

Beautiful signs everywhere. Better than huge billboards.

Once a while having cookies, sweets and chocolates is not a sin, isn't it?

Public parks and open spaces are important in every city in every scale. They contribute to social life of the community. I miss this kind of public space in big cities Indonesia.

Strasbourg has a lot and a lot of cute alleys.

I see many people bikes although not as fanatic as the Amsterdammers.

Historical buildings dominate the city centre.

But there is also a modern building. This one is a government office.

Strasbourg is still busy with renovation of its assets.

It is nice to see colours amongst dark coloured buildings in the city.

Painters are part of life in France, no exception in Strasbourg.

Children should be able to play also in the city centre.

The main point of Strasbourg where people gather and the city breaths.