Merdeka Square

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Merdeka Square forms the center of modern Jakarta. The monolith at the far right of the image is the MONAS, or National Monument, began in 1961 under Soekarno -- Indonesia's first president -- and finished in 1975 under Soeharto, the man who deposed Soekarno. The 132-meter-high column, tipped by a gold leaf flame, is supposed to represent Indonesia's independence and strength.

Merdeka Square

From my field notebook

Wednesday, March 13, 1996:

Indonesia: Java: Jakarta: The 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. . .

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.

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