Java Notebook


My field notebook began over the Pacific
and continues in Jakarta. . .

Tuesday, March 12, 1996

[Indonesia: Java: Jakarta:] . . . Arrived in Jakarta about 1030 hrs.

The airport is a trip, at least it was. On the plane, I filled out a customs declaration and a embarkation/disembarkation card. I was worried aobut making a mistake, and had to leave my address in Indonesia blank, so I expected trouble. That wasn't a problem. But my visa wasn't numbered. The immigration officer laughed, so I laughed and acted like I had no idea of what was going on (an easy act). I was told to follow a police officer into an adjoining room. I tried to remember to smile. Apparently that was the proper behavior at the time. I was led to some beaurocrat behind a desk. He acted hurried and inconvenienced, I acted amused and dumb (another east act), and after another question about my place of residence he stamped my passport and allowed me to live [sic].

Then, in baggage claim, I began to run the gauntlet of janitors, porters, and taksi (taxi) drivers, all of whom were concerned about my long trip and who where eager to help me find the best accomodations possible. Nevertheless, I managed to avoid being shanghaid [sic], and found Paul Krusic's wife, Rachel, waiting for me. We are all now staying rooms [sic] in the Hotel Margot (fairly inexpensive), where I am now dozing uncontrollably. Good night.

Wednesday, March 13, 1996

Indonesia: Java: Jakarta: I woke up shortly after 0200 hrs. Jakarta time. I heard a huge clap of thunder at 0213. I was pretty wide awake so I decided to stay up. I pulled out my shortwave radio. It still works!

Let's see [Dr. Laurence M.] Hardy taught us to only write the name of the month in the text portion of the itinerary. I added the day (i.e., Tu or We) because we need to keep track of the day of the week in order to take our anti-malarials (Lariam -- Mefloquine) at the right time.

FountainJakarta is wild! Sprawled out in the shadow of a volcano (to the east), it is an eclectic hallucination of ancient and modern, East and West, rich and poor, powerful and downtrodden. It is fascinating, crowded, polluted, frenetic, under construction and falling apart. All sorts of smells, from exotic foods to raw sewage, assault my insensitive nose. Traffic is chaotic, and you cross the street in constant fear of being run over (but don't show it!).

TrafficLast night we ate at a West Sumatran restaurant. Two of the dishes were brain and lung. Paul and Rachel wouldn't try them, but I did. The lung, which was hard and crispy, tasted similar to bacon, just not as strong. The brain was similar in texture and as tasteless and soybean curd. I mostly tasted the spices. While I chewed, though, I had so suppress a revolt by my stomach, which found the idea of eating brain revolting. So did I, but I kept on chewing. Now I can say "Been there, done that," and never touch it again.

Rush hourI was enjoying the food and had started a soup when I began feeling a tingly, burning, scratchy feeling at the base of my tounge [sic] and top of my throat. I quit eating, fearing an allergic reaction, but Paul and Rachel said it was probably due to the particulate pollution in the atmosphere. I now am inclined to agree with them.

At 0300 hrs [Jakarta time] I began listening to the news on Radio Australia (6150 kHz). I guess that that would be +7 UTC. They just had a story that Mexico is launching a program to reduce the number of smoggy days in Mexico City. I hope the idea catches on. Radio Oz was also on 7260 kHz.

Rachel took me to a part of town that had a grocery store, tourist info, etc., yesterday. This was at the Jct. [Junction] of M.H. Thamrin and K.J. Wahid Hasyim Sts. I can't tell you how disappointing it was to find a Chili's restaurant. I was prepared for McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken. But Chili's? Hell, I wouldn't eat there back in the States. So why would I here? Later on I saw a Sizzler, too. How disappointing, and disgusting. The arrogance of the West.

We are staying at the Hotel Margot, on Jl. [Jalan] Jaksa. It's nice, inexpensive. At first, Paul and Rachel had me in a hostel down the street. . . It has air conditioning and cable TV. I just turned off Radio Australia and am now watching International CNN, one of our worthwhile exports, I should say.

The stores here are interesting. You select what you want. Someone fills out a receipt, you take that somewhere else to pay, then try to find your way back to the original counter to claim your purchase.

There's a story about two European women just released in Costa Rica after being held for two months by kidnappers. (Have they been released yet? I should have paid attention). [sic] The potential for similar events here is comforting (Ha!).

Merdeka SquareThe part of town we're in is just a little south of the Gambir Railway Station and the MONAS National Monument. Possibly the biggest phallic symbol in Jakarta, it is readily visible outside my window.

Well, yesterday Paul [Krusic] went to LIPI (the Indonesia Academy of Sciences) and got our research permit and then obtained our Surat Jalan (a police letter, or permission to travel). Unfortunately, we only have permission to do research on Java, Sulawesi (Celebes), and the Moluccas, which were the locations mentioned in Rosanne's [Rosanne D'Arrigo, the principal investigator on the grant that funded the research] original LIPI application. We don't know how that will affect our plans to go to Sumatra and Borneo. I guess we can always go as "tourists," but would ahve to be careful and discreet [sic]. Also, some of our contacts (especially on Borneo[)], are very sensitive about us having all the paperwork in order. Paul has already talked to Yves Laumonier (our contacts for Sumatra) and he is willing to take us there if we can obtain permission to sample from the World Wildlife Organization. Paul has also been in touch with Willie Smits, our contact at TROPENBOS in East Kalminatan (Borneo). He may be similarly inclined to let us "visit." But I believe that the guys at ITCI, also in East Kalimantan, and the guys at the Asian Wetland Bureau, who operate the Danau Sentarum Preserve in West Kalimantan, may be a bit sensitive about this Surat Jalan thing.

The walls are a bit thin here. I just heard someone getting some action in an adjoining room. At 0415 hrs, the breakfast of champions. Oh well, what little I heard (the guy was pretty quiet) was much more interesting than the Hosny [sic] Mubarak interview on CNN. For the guy's sake, I hope she wasn't acting. . .

Today I plan to go to the U.S. Embassy and visit a contact my mom gave me (I hope I remember to ask about oral rehydration salts or Gatorade powder). Also, I will see if I can find a scientific liaison officer about this Surat Jalan thing. Then, I'll find a bookstore (like the one mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide). I guess we also need to get in touch with Mike Omsted (Asian Wetlands Bureau) (No, it's Wetlands International), and Abbas Adhar (ITCI). At the embassy I need to find out how broadly we can define the Moluccas. I fthe embassy tells us that the Suran Jalan thing is no big deal, or if we can define the Moluccas broad enough to include the Lesser Sundas, then we can worry about our contacts for those islands.

You know, Rosanne only budgeted $1,260 for field work and $1,000 for field and computer supplies. We've blown the hell out of that. I must always remember to give proper attention to planning and logistics. Like the Boy Scouts, "Be prepared."

At about 0440 hrs. they began the morning call to prayer. It's broadcast over a loudspeaker. I think it's coming from the Istal [sic] Mosque, just north of here. [Actually the name of the mosque is Istiqlal.] I opened the window to listen to it. There's something exciting, vital, sublime in the prayer, heard among the urban chaos and the thunderstorm over the Java Sea. I may feel like hell this afternoon, but it was worth waking up at 0200 hrs and being awake to hear it. That was more powerful and spiritually rewarding than any of my feeble attempts at meditation.

Someone's rooster just said "good morning" at 0510 hrs.

I just spent an half hour looking for my pocket-sized Indonesian phrasebook. It was in my pocket.

0650 hrs. -- Picked up Voice of America on 11760 kHz. I spent 4000 Rp [Rupiah -- the Indonesian monetary unit] for breakfast, but forgot to get a receipt.

I met Jeri Lockman, a nurse at the U.S. Embassy, and chatted a bit. She gave me some info on what to do in case of real emergencies, or if we're in Jakarta and someone gets sick. She recommended the AEA International Clinic, at Puri Sakti 10, in Jakarta. They handle minor stuff as well as emergencies, and do medical evacuations as well. Their phone number is 750-6001. She said if hospitalization is required, Singapore is a much better place to be than Jakarta. I will return to the embassy to speak wike [sic] Bill Martin about our Suran Jalan "problem." He is not the science officer, but handles little problems when the officer is not around, like this week. They are in the economic affairs unit. Knowing that may save a lot of aimless wandering around the embassy compound.

Martin told me our best bet was to go back to LIPI and ask, beg, bribe someone to amend the letter. We have to play the game. He said we should cultivate someone who could champion our cause at LIPI, both for now and in the future. All are good suggestions.

Mike Omsted, of the Asian Wetlands Bureau, seconded the Go Back to LIPI approach. All are convinced of the necessity of playing the game. This is fun! [Not really.] Omsted also told me, as Paul found out, that you need more than LIPI's blessing and a Surat Jalan. You may also need permits from PHPA, the Indonesia Forestry Bureau (or something like that). Omsted is also our contact for Danau Sentarum in West Kalimantan. I told him of our permit troubles, and that we would call him later if we thought we could make it. He estimated that it would take two weeks to do, or two weeks to get to, sample, and return from Danau Sentarum. I tried calling Abbas Adhar, of ITCI Weyerhauser in East Kalimantan, but he is out until tomorrow. I'll try Willie Smits, of TROPENBOS (also in East Kalimantan) again later today. He was out when I called earlier. I've tried twice more, found out that his son plays center field on a baseball team, but I keep missing Dr. Smits. Damn.

I've met a couple of American tourists today. One, named Karen, I keep running into. First, I've run into her twice at the telephone place. The second time I ran into her there I learned, from her, where the nearest American Express agent is. Now I can begin cashing travelers' checks. At that time I met her friend, who I ran into once more time as she worked on a fax she needed to send. The third time I ran into Karen was at the grocery store. From here, I learned where the fruit was. From me, she learned where the bottled water was. I also told her about the ritzy Plaza Indonesia, to where she wandered off next. I had gone in search of the Times Bookstore, mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. It proved a wasted of time. The was [sic] supposed to be another bookstore nearby, but I was too tired to remember to look for it. I was told of another bookstore I might search for later. It is nearby.

Try as I might, I couldn't get in touch with Willie Smits. Paul will try tomorrow. I may try to contact Abbas Adhar tomorrow. Damn, I'm dozing again. It's been a long day. I'm going to Bogor tomorrow. But first, I better convert more cash to rupiahs.

Thursday, March 14, 1996

I'm now at Gambier [sic] station waiting for the train to Bogor.

Ticket 650 Rp; 5000 Rp for drinks [bottled water].

Bogor Bogor

[Indonesia: Java: Bogor:] I tried to change money at a bank. Next time I get cash to travel with, get clean, new unmarked bills. If they're worn, stained, stamped, or written on, the bank people may not accept them. We've been busy today. It wasn't worth getting the Travel Indonesia air pass or whatever it is called. Let's see, the current plan is to leave for Bali on Sunday and work the East Java sites first. I imagine we'll head to Borneo next, for the ITCI guys aren't worried about our permit problem. Then we'll do Sulawesi. Paul has been in touch with the ITCI people, the TROPENBOS people, and with the forestry contacts on Timor. It will be good to find out how all that goes. In late April, Yves Laumonier is willing to take us to Sumatra. I may be willing to go to Ceram [Seram] myself, depending on what I learn in Bogor.

BogorIndonesia: Java: Bogor: I couldn't reach Paul tonight. I tried calling but I think I kept getting the fax machine. I am staying at the Wisma "Ramayana" guest house. Facilities are spartan, but pretty good by Indonesian standards. The guest house is across the street from the Botanical Gardens and down the street from the Herbarium Bogoriense. We got hit with a pretty good thunderstorm this afternoon, so had no chance to go anywhere. I was too tired anyway. . .

4,300 Rp -- dinner; 1,500 Rp -- water.

Flying foxes Flying foxes

I'll call Paul early tomorrow morning. While walking . . . at dusk I saw several flying foxes [large fruit-eating bats].

What else? The exchange rate at the bank was 2,297 Rp [per U.S. dollar].

Friday, March 15, 1996

Baby flying fox Baby flying fox

Paul has received favorable responses form Willie Smits (TROPENBOS), Abbas Adhar and Suwardi Suwasa (ITCI), and Richard Lindsay (of the forestry concession on Sumbawa). So Borneo and some of the Nusa Tengarra [sic] are on the list. We should be busy. Paul is talking of leaving for Bali tomorrow, but maybe we should wait to see what I can find out today. I doubt I'll have time to research sites and see the trees in the botanical garden in one day. I think I'll head to the herbarium first.

I need to write about the train from Jakarta to Bogor. I was too tired to do it last night.

Bogor Botanical Garden

Friday is not a good day to do business in Indonesia. The director of the Herbarium Bogoriense was out in the field, their library was closed, and all the offices shut down about 1100 hrs. This is because Friday is the main day of worship for Moslems. I did buy two PROCEA [sic; actually PROSEA] (Plant Resources of Southeast Asia) volumes on commercial timber (major and minor ones). I almost copies something on the plant geography of Java, but because of strange pagination the wrong right pages were copied. The library at the Bogor Botanical Gardens closed at 100 as well, so I couldn't do anything there. I found a bookstore and bought a copy of The Ecology of Sulawesi as well as [James A.] Larsen's The Boreal Ecosystem. It's out of print and a bizarre find in Indonesia. I also learned where the agricultural and forestry school is. I was guided by a pleasant finance and management student named Falak Alatus, from Aceh Province [in Sumatra]. Since everything was closed, however, I learned little about the forests of Lore Lindu Park [in Sulawesi]. I may have to stick around until Monday for that.

Bogor Botanical GardenMonday I could return to the Herbarium Bogoriense and talk to the director, maybe use their library. I could also go to the botanical garden library and return to the university. I may also try to locate the World Wildlife Fund and see what they can tell me about Lore Lindu National Park on Sulawesi. I could also pick theirs and Mike Omstead's [sic] brains about hiring guides. . .

Monitor lizard Monitor lizard

It is definitely the rainy season here in Bogor! I thought it rained hard yesterday, but now (at 1600 hrs) it's really pouring! I walked around the botanical garden a bit today. I met an older woman whose husband was the Swiss ambassador to Indonesia during the Soekarno era. She had always wanted to visit the temple complex at Borobodur, but back then it was dangerous for westerners to travel the countryside. Well she decided to do it now! She was fascinating, which is the way she described Soekarno. She said he was brilliant, fluent in several languages, but somehow lost his way. She spoke of him with sadness. She is also saddened by the destruction of natural lands, especially the rain forest. She talked about her dogs, one a spaniel she had while here in Indonesia who always found out that the large [aquatic] plants similar to lilypads could not support its weight the way. The dog would test the leaf with one paw, find it OK, then jump on with all four and emerge wet, muddy and confused. She has frogs in her garden in Switzerland, and she says she talks to them and tells them stories while they sit captivated. She likes to talk to plants and animals, usually to tell them that she appreciates their being here. We left the park together. I bought her a water, which she appreciated, and we talked some more before I left. I should have asked her name, but didn't. She'll always remain a mystery, as she should. Paul didn't like the idea of splitting up. So he and Rachel may go down to Bandung to meet our sponsors. I'll work the sources we have here on Monday and find out what we can on Sulawesi and Lore Lindu National Park. . .

Saturday, March 16, 1996

Bogor Botanical GardenI think Paul's right. We should probably go to Balikpapan first, then Sulawesi, then. . . [Ellipses in original text] Paul and I talked things over this morning. We now have a plan and a time budget. We are going to Borneo first (hopefully on Tuesday the 19th) and expect to spend two weeks there (including travel time). Then two-three weeks on Sulawesi. This puts us at about April 20, and we'll probably split up. Paul and Rachel will go to Sumatra with Yves Laumonier, and I'll go either to the Nusa Tengarra [sic] or the Moluccas before leaving for Hawai'i. . . [Ellipses in original text]

Check out PHPA on Jl. [Jalan] Juanda 15 next to main gate of botanical garden.

I talked to a Dr. Rusdy Nasution at the Herbarium. He said we could find low-elevation Agathis in Morowali Forest Preserve in the S part of Lore Lindu park at about 300 m.

Bogor Botanical GardenLet's back up. I went back to the library to get a copy of the "Concise Plant Geography of Java." I got the right pages this time. I prowled around their stacks, but didn't find much. primarily because I didn't have a clue of what to look for. As I left I noticed that the doors of the Herbarium Bogoriense were open, so I invited myself in. I met the director, who was busy, but he told me to come back on Monday and gave me the name of someone to talk to, a Dr. Irawati. I left Dr. Mogea (the director) and spoke to Dr. Nasution. He told me about the PHPA office and library, and a little about Sulawesi and Ceram [Seram]. He was yet another pleasant person to talk to.

The Indonesians are incredibly friendly. They stumble over themselves to say Hi! to foreigners, and I've run into a few whom, after they learned that I was from American, professed to be great friends fo President Bill Clinton. A number have been impressed by my beard.

Last night . . . Between the guest house and the main entrance to the botanical garden stands a naked boy or young man. I can't tell. I don't know if he is some kind of primitive tribesman or mental patient. But he leans against a fence, facing traffic, and quite un-self-consciously holds his penis in his hand. . .

Sunday, March 17, 1996

I woke up early this morning, at 0530 as usual. . .

Paul and I squabbled over a tentative schedule today. He wants to be completely flexible. This seems ridiculous since I thought we agreed on a schedule yesterday. . .

First for 16 Mar [16 March] 11,000 Rp for food and drink

10,000 [Rp] for a guided tour of the garden and 10,000 for food and drink.

Monday, March 18, 1996

Javanese landscapeYesterday, a Mr. Umar shangaid [sic] me at the botanical garden and led me on a tour. It was quite informative, but I probably won't be too useful in the field at identifying the trees. He told me of a teak plantation in Puncak Pass which may be reasonably old. Afterwards, Paul and I talked over Sulawesi and it seems wiser to concentrate on the teak plantation at Muna, off the SE coast of Sulawesi. My tentative schedule seems to be holding up. . .

700 Rp train to Jakarta; 3,000 [Rp] bus to train station; 2,500 [Rp] losmen; 3,000 [Rp] water; 4,500 [Rp] dinner. . .

Tuesday, March 19, 1996

Javanese landscapeIndonesia: Java: Jakarta: Well, I am worried about getting to Bali. I'm not sure the buses can handle the amount of baggage we need to carry. I don't know what to do. I guess we'll all show up and hope for the best. I assumed their buses had baggage compartments, but apparently not. What a big fucking mess. The logistics of what we're trying to accomplish is nighmarish to say the least. Maybe we'd better flying and paying overweight charges.

I may be getting a bladder infection. I'll have to watch it. I should probably dramatically increase my water intake to account for what is lost through sweat. Anyway, yesterday, After arriving in Jakarta, my urine was incredibly concentrated and my lower back hurt. I drank a lot of water and laid down, and felt better after awhile.

Javanese landscapeTravel agents on Jalan Jaksa don't handle train tickets, which turned into a real hassle yesterday trying to arrange travel to Denpasar. You have to go to the station (in this case Gambir) to get the tickets. It's all a confusing mess. Last night I booked up passage to Denpasar on a bus: This morning I booked three tickets on a Jakarta flight to Denpasar and cancelled the bus. I got the impression that buses here aren't like the ones in the States, with nice baggage compartments and all. Besides, the ride is extrememly long. I lost 10% on the bus tickets, but what the hell. We're much better off.

Garuda has a 30 kg limit on checked baggage, anyway, and the overweight charges aren't all that much.

Javanese landscapeI currently have a bit of a cough and a sore throat. But they're not too bad. I've drunk a lot of water today, which has helped my problem of yesterday. . .

We got a fax from Rosanne today, more or less confirming our plans. I still don't think she appreciates the logistical and political intricacies of working in this country. Paul has hold her of our squabbles, which I think is giving the folks back home the wrong impression of me. It's a bit frustrating, but I will keep my mouth shut about it. It's not a big deal, and shouldn't be made out to become one. Paul just takes the squabbles a bit too personally, when the argument is over procedure and not over individuals. My main point of contention is that we should have a well-focused strategy, and not go shotgunning through the archipelago. Right now we have a plan, and a schedule, and I am happy. . .

We rode in a minibus to the airport today. Riding through Jakarta is interesting, to say the least.

800 Rp McDonalds; 6,000 [Rp] water; 7,000 [Rp] breakfast.

Part of the personal difficulties stems from the fact that I prefer to remain apart from the group, to have my time remain my own. My attitude doesn't do much for group bonding, but I'm not inclined to apologize. Maybe I'll have to explain myself at some point, but I'd rather be left alone.

We'll be off to Bali shortly.

Continue with my notes from Bali. . .

We passed back through Java
on our way from Bali to Borneo. . .

Thursday, March 21, 1996

[Indonesia: Over Eastern Java:] On the flight from Denpasar to Surabaya we saw Mt. Semaru erupt. It was only a small plume, but was still exciting! From a different angle it appears to be a smaller peak adjacent to Semaru.

Continue with my notes from Borneo. . .

Return to the Java index.

Return to my Travels in Indonesia home page.

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