Monday, February 18, 2019


Water expertises of the Dutch fascinates me. It has been and it always. Netherlands is a country below the sea and all children MUST learn to swim. Taking care of dikes and dams are priority number one in this country, otherwise all population sinks into the sea. This obligation forms certain mentality that are positives: discipline and strive for the best solution. You tell the Dutch your problem with water and watery areas, they always have answers.

That was my impression yesterday when I attended a symposium about water management during the Dutch Indies colonial period and post Independence Indonesia in Bronbeek. On a sunny Sunday morning and afternoon. It was worth listening. 

As the Indonesian Ambassador, H.E. I Gusti A. Wesaka Puja, yesterday said that Indonesia has had its local wisdom about water management, such as Subak irigation system in Bali, far before the Europeans came to colonialize the country. It is true and Indonesians should be proud and conserve it. And Indonesia does its best to improve its water management on all levels as the Ambassador tried to convince the audience. These all are positive development. 

But what about mismanagement of canals, rivers and dams so they all full of waste and lose their functions as water traffic and water resource? What about sinking cities in Java about 12 centimeter per year? What about deforestation of mangrove in North of Java? It used to be the largest mangrove habitat in the world and provide  so much benefits for Indonesia but now almost dissapears and in such a poor condition. All these problems are man-made creations that actually could be avoided from the first place. So sad and so worrying.

Saturday, February 09, 2019


When I am in Netherlands, I like to explore villages or better to say, suburban areas. Mostly close to home around Amsterdam but often are also far away in other provinces. 

Last weekend, I explored Monnickendam and Broek in Waterland in North Holland.

The reason that brought me there was a presentation from Tim Voors about his walking adventure in the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. This Literature Cafe took place in a church called Sint-Nicolaas in Broek in Waterland. 

First, the Broek in Waterland. Such a cute little village with expensive cars parked a long the roads. This is a village for the have's, absolutely. It is not a village like my friends in Indonesia think about. Some houses have solar energy panels on the roofs. It is not something for farmers in Kandangan, Central Java, with buffalo's and dark dirty nails.

I love both types and enjoyed Broek in Waterland as much as I enjoyed Kandangan. No sin to be rich as long as you earn it honestly. What I found admiring is that even in a small village like Broek in Waterland there is a restaurant slash cafe on Sunday afternoon with live music. That was besides that attractive presentation of Tim Voors next door. Living in a small village with style!

I think that what people should do in villages in Indonesia and everywhere in the world. Creating interesting programs to enjoy and making villages as up-to-date as cities. There are enough interesting people in villages to share stories and skills. Farmers can tell a lot. Youth can play a lot. Look at Broek in Waterland. The speaker, the music palyers, all come from the village. Being creative and proud of themselves. I heard too much complain that villages (in Indonesia) do not get attention from the government, do not have enough resources and brain drain is on the way. We probably have to contemplate more often before we complain.

Second, the church of Sint-Nicolaas. This church is still used for mass on Sunday morning and the rest is used for social cultural program like the Literature Cafe. All is organized by local volunteers. They are professional (on time, accurate info on website and newspaper) and wholeheartedly did their taks. They sold drinks and delicious homemade lemon cake to collect money for maintenance of the church.  

Lastly, the village of Monnickendam. I visited Museum of Waterland telling history of the village completed with historical carillon and its amazing water management skills. I was the only visitor of the museum on that afternoon, so apparently this kind of situation happens too in Netherlands. Not all museums are busy. 

I noticed some announcements about Historical Walks and a jazz performance in Monnickendam. Being in a village doesn't stop creativity and involvement of the residents. Living in a village doesn't mean a boring weekend. 

What I am trying to say is: stop complaining about village being a stranded place for backward lifestyle. We can make it as a cute, original and creative place. Placemaking!

Broek in Waterland

Museum of Waterland in Monnickendam

Sunday, February 03, 2019


Lately I visited two places that show spiritual diversity. Fascination for spiritualism brought me to these places.

First, I stayed over a weekend in the Gedong Gandhi Ashram in Candidasa, Bali. This place was established by the late Ibu Gedong whom I met in my 20's in one of conferences I attended. Ibu Gedong is a spiritualist based on Hindu teachings especially Gandhi philosophy. The ashram is now run by her family and local community. 

I went to the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India, some time in the early 2000 but only as a passerby. I didn't stay. This time I allocated time at least 3 days to absorb more atmosphere of an ashram. 

The Gedong Gandhi Ashram lies beautifully between the famous Candidasa Temple and beaches. Everyday, there are two yoga sessions, chanting in Sanskrit language at 5 am and 8 pm, meditation and three times vegetarian meals. For me as a guest, all programs are optional. 

Just being in this peaceful and well maintained ashram gave me positive energy. Vegetarian meals were delicious and specially prepared by experienced local cook. I loved one dish made from a pink flower that I couldn't remember the name. The smell and taste of this dish stay until now in my mind. 

Listening to the chanting during the dark of early morning and evening was calming. I didn't join the chanting sessions but I did listening from my veranda. 

I took a walk to the surrounding areas, beaches, hills and kampongs. 

The beauty of this ashram is that the Gandhi teachings are in subtle ways conveyed and practiced. This ashram is not demanding all guests to be Hinduists or followers of Gandhi teachings. Respect is enough.

Second, last January I joined an open day of the Ortodox Jewish Synagoge in Amsterdam called De Raw Aron Schuster Synagoge (RAS). I never been to a synagoge before, at least not an active one. Mostly I went to a synagoge that has been transformed into new functions. 

During the open day, some speakers delivered presentations. They talked about the architecture but also history of Jewish in Amsterdam and socio cultural customs of Jewish community played comically by a female artist. I learned a lot about Jewish and Jews during this half day open day. 

Friday, February 01, 2019


Shared heritage, common heritage or cross border heritage? Those are terms that mentioned a lot in a symposium on Sunday, 27 January 2019 organized by Kanazawa University, Japan. The symposium topic was "Cross-border Cultural Heritage: Transcending Differences in Interpretation and Building a Common Future."

I was one of the four speakers and my paper titled "Heritage Conservation in Indonesia: Shared Heritage from the Colonial Past?" Basically I talked about paradigm shifts of heritage development of Indonesia from colonial period until now by providing facts and figures. The audience could draw their own conslusion whether or not the colonial past influence it. 

I think bilateral cooperation of Indonesia and the Netherlands in cultural heritage is relatively  constructive compared to other case studies in the symposium: Israel-Palestine, Turkey-Anatolians (Greece, Armenia) and Japan-Korea. First of all because there is no political conflict anymore. Second, both sides need each other in many ways. 

I am thankful that I have opportunities to get involved in this bilateral cooperation for almost 20 years now, 14 years of it from the Netherlands. Indonesia surely goes through an exciting period of raising awareness about importance of cultural heritage. Ensuring that cooperation between the two countries goes well is a privelege for me in my capacity as an independent consultant with passions for cultural heritage.