Indonesia May 2014: The Outset

Leaving London at the cusp of summer behind, I packed up and joined my friend Kartika in Jakarta to go on a fact finding mission and do some idea plotting for her Kartika Soekarno Foundation. I have always loved this archipelago of more than 16.000 tropical islands sprinkled along the equator. I connected with Indonesia a long time ago, in the seventies, when I learned how to swim at the Kartika Plaza Hotel and tried my own version of temple dancing at Borobudur with my sister, who came to us from Manado.

Indonesia is a kaleidoscope of hundreds of different cultures with its courteous, spiritual, yet eccentric and charismatic people, united into a hub of multiculturalism. It seems this diverse island state is confidently zigzagging towards a complex, democratic, 21st Century nation.

As a newly appointed trustee of KSF, I better acquaint myself with the ‘new’ Indonesia and gather some on-the-ground facts and local intelligence.

Here I am, on a field trip to buzzing, rumour breeding, pre-election Jakarta and a 24-hour stint to Surabaya. I cannot wait to delve into this manic momentum, just before this fourth most populous nation goes to the polls. I have tried to get the gist of Jakarta’s politicking, but despite my self-prescribed daily doses of Jakarta Post and relentless quizzing of Jakartavites, I did not manage to see through the gossip jungle and short lived alliances, that get cut like lianas overnight.



Jakarta has mushroomed into a vast and vibrant metropolis, dominated by a new generation of glam, success-hungry hipsters that even the perpetual asphyxiating traffic disaster cannot hold back. In swanky restaurants and bars they talk about pollution and education, as the elite in all global capitals does, but this does not yet translate into action for the wider public, especially not beyond the expanding city limits of Jakarta.

That’s why last November, Kartika, together with Erasmus House, had initiated a major screening of the film ‘Trashed’ with Jeremy Irons attending, to get the debate going. A jump-start initiative, which also included a new awareness campaign at the KSF Posyandus, to get the kids on the right track: Get rid-off the plastic epidemic, cut the stinging smog and ban garbage abuse.

Besides pollution, there is another sore issue in Indonesia: Education, the Raison d’être for the formation of KSF with the purpose to instigate and imply change on the school front. A humble contribution towards a prosperous and democratic Indonesia of the future. At the moment the average Indonesian child attends school about six years only and the quality of teaching is of sub-ideal standard. So KSF has launched a teacher training programme to remedy the status quo.

Author: Joana Schliemann