Brace Yourself, SBY, a Sack of Postcards is Coming

First published at Latitudes on May 21, 2012

Postcards for president (Card to Post archive)

In the award-winning clay-animated film Mary and Max, the two main characters find a best friend in each other through letters. Mary Daisy Dinkle and Max Jerry Horowitz feel so excited every time an envelope comes, immediately write back after one does, then can’t wait to receive another.

The story is set in the 70s, a time when people were not yet familiar with modern “space-and-time compressors” like cell phones and the Internet. Today, we obviously are. Yet, as shown by Card to Post; an independent project run by writers Rizki, Putri, and Dea; the excitement of keeping in touch by post is back! The long distance and time as well as the human effort involved in sending — and waiting for—postcards, apparently have a nostalgic effect on our generation.

Card to Post is a wordplay on kartu pos, the Indonesian word for postcard. As the name suggests, it promotes the sending of postcards among people. Here, anyone can write to anyone; anyone can share with anyone; and sure, anyone can make friends with anyone.
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Taru Martani: A Story of Cigars and Indonesia

First published at Latitudes on March 14, 2012

While its liking of cigarettes is no longer a secret, the fact that Indonesia produces (and consumes) cigars remains less renowned. One of the country’s cigar factories is located in Yogyakarta, called Taru Martani. As a venture that has managed to survive after decades, Taru Martani has become part of Indonesian history.

Source: Taru Martani Company Profile Book

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Karimunjawa – a Tropical Island Getaway near Central Java

Featured at Latitudes, September 5, 2011

Tanjung Gelam, Karimunjawa

Looking for a tropical retreat, but no time to fly to Bali or even further? The Karimunjawa Islands lie in the northern waters of Central Java Province, 120 km north of province capital Semarang. The nearest Javanese town, however, is Jepara, from which people usually depart for the islands. It takes a 6-hour ferry trip covering 83 kilometers, but it’s definitely worth it. Renowned for its picturesque beaches and rich biodiversity, it was established as a national marine park by the Indonesian government in 1999 and turned into a marine protected area two years later.

The name Karimunjawa can refer to either the cluster of islands or its biggest island, where tourists usually stay in hotels or in the cheaper option, locals’ houses. The second biggest island, separated by only a thin line of water with Karimunjawa on its south, is Kemujan. Together they are surrounded by as many as 25 smaller islets, not all open for recreational visits. The two mentioned before, along with Parang, Nyamuk, and Genting, are the only inhabited islands.

Karimunjawa has only recently attracted attention as a tourist destination. Visiting the islands, there are indeed many interesting things one can do and see. This brief introduction will outline some.

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Economy Train

Featured at Latitudes, June 6, 2011

I live in Yogyakarta. Not long ago, Nick, an Australian friend of mine who stayed in the city for several months, told me he was going to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, 786 miles away in the northeast part of Java island. That he was leaving did not shock me—he travels a lot—but his insistence on taking an economy-class train did.

I asked him why. “I heard it would be interesting,” Nick said. And by ‘interesting’ he was referring to the usual picture of this train: crowded couch, busy hawkers hustling all the time, and all. “What do you think, man?” he asked me. I frowned, then gave him a smile.

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A Short Guide to (New) Indonesian Movies

Featured at Latitudes, March 29, 2011

Indonesian cinema seems to mirror developments in Indonesian society. During colonial times most movies had Dutch involvement on one level or the other. Then, during the Sukarno years,  the newly gained independence added a nationalistic and anti-Western tinge to most movie productions. Foreign films were even banned! During Suharto’s reign, censorship gave filmmakers a tight rope to walk on, but also spurred a lot of creativity. After reaching its peak in the 80s with the likes of Catatan Si Boy (Boy’s Diary), Nagabonar, and Warkop Trio’s comedy, Indonesian film industry died down over the following decade. This was mainly due to the fact that foreign import of films resumed. Indonesian cinema had no answer to the sudden competition. As a consequence, flicks made in the 90s are mostly adult movies of poor quality. Filmmakers and fans often refer to this as the Krisis Film Nasional.

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New Year Celebrations x3 in Jogja, True Tolerance & Fire Crackers

Featured at Latitudes, January 2, 2011

Together with the rest of the world, Jogja just celebrated the coming of 2011. People thronged the streets and public spots with friends and family. Peddlers hawked on the sidewalks, selling food, trumpets, fireworks, and whatnot. Musical shows were held since early in the evening when people began to come out of their houses. As the clock struck twelve, big fireworks were lit to mark the transition of the year.

The festivities downtown were mirthful as always. Though, it was not the first New Year that we, Jogjanese, had celebrated last year.

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