Category Archives: Culture

Indonesia and Trump

id-mapA few months back I wrote about the future of relations between Indonesia and the US under the new presidency. Well, since then Trump has moved into the White House and begun a swift set of executive orders. One of the most talked about has been the executive order that targets seven Muslim majority countries, and though Indonesia is not on this list it is home to 220 million followers of Islam. Those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are now not allowed to enter the US for the next 90 days. Syrian refugees are indefinitely banned.

Indonesian Foreign minister Retno Marsudi said that her government held “deep regrets about the policy.” Indonesian President Joko Widodo have not yet addressed the ban.

While there is no ban on those from Indonesia entering the US, what could this mean for relations between these two countries? The only thing that is certain at this time is uncertainty.


Tech in the New Year

vrA new year, a new set of tech is on coming our way. We all remember when the Ipod was released so many years ago, and truly that may have been the birth of our modern tech boom. Since then it seems like every year something new and increasingly fascinating has been released; smart phones, personal drones, fitness tech, etc. So what’s on the rise for 2017?

Tech is ingrained in every part of our lives, many may resist this—but the overwhelming trend is clearly leaning towards smart technology. We have already dipped our toes into this first trend, but it is clear that virtual reality will continue to grow in 2017. Virtual reality will begin to take shape and become more mainstream within gaming. Call it the new Atari, rough and imperfect now—but clearly leading to something bigger down the road.

Next up is something that everyone uses, even the most tech-resistant among us; cars. Yes, self-driving car technology is only going to get bigger in 2017. Take a drive through the Bay Area and you are likely to see a plethora of these self-driving cars whizzing around from Stanford to San Francisco and everywhere in-between. This form of transportation will start to expand this year to more locales no doubt.

My last prediction is more people turning to get their news from social media. We already saw this trend in 2016; people pulling away from mainstream news sites and shows and turning to the news they see on Facebook and Twitter among other alternative sources. We already rely on social media, so it becoming a big source of our news only seems logical at a certain point. Will it be a turn towards more truthful news coverage or a rise of fake stories? Only time will tell. 2017 is surely going to be a volatile year, and news coverage will be more important than ever to follow.

Cheers to the new year and cheers to new tech.

A Bad Year for the Amazon Rainforest


The Amazon Rainforest has long been a symbol of ecology and preservation. It is often been at the center of the hot topics of deforestation, pollution, abuse of indigenous people and their rights, and extinction of both plant and animal species. However, I find more often than not and despite the serious issues surrounding this epicenter of the earth we see the Amazon Rainforest as only but a symbol—and not a real place. Our removal in part because we are not there, we do not see it on a daily basis, and to us it only exists maybe as some exotic place rather than a concrete location with real daily problems.

However this must end, as the Amazon Rainforest has had a bad year.

Between August 2015 and June 2016 more than 3,085 miles of the Amazon Rainforest were destroyed—a marked increase of 29 percent from the last year. This place is real. The impact on the world is real. The deforestation effects more than half of the total tree biodiversity of the forest and impacts near 180 indigenous groups that live in the Amazon.

While overall the annual loss of the forest has decreased, this is the first time since 2004 that the destruction increased. Why the sudden turn? What has changed? Illegal logging, taking care of stock animals, clearing the forest for living space. As population grows and we need more space and animals surely the forests suffer. Action needs to be taken and we need to stop seeing the Amazon as a distant magical place and instead as a real location that needs help. Solutions must be put in place if we have any hope of letting the forest remain its current size—or better yet grow once again.

President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 4


Finally we are brought back to our original inquiry; what would Clinton and Trump do to continue the United States relationship with Indonesia? As expected the evidence behind what each candidate would do is extremely different.

In 2009 Hillary Clinton said “If you want to know if Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.” As Secretary of State, Clinton, made a detour to Jakarta on her trip to Asia in 2009. She held the same desire as President Obama; to recognize the importance of Southeast Asia, a region that the Obama administration believed was neglected by the Bush administration. Hillary Clinton was very global during her years as Secretary of State, having visited over 112 countries.

At this year’s DNC, an Indonesian woman named Ima Matul Maisaroh was invited to speak in front of thousands of attendees. Ima was appointed by President Barack Obama to be a member of the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking in December last year along with her fellow Indonesian and victim of human trafficking Shandra Woworuntu. Hillary Clinton has long worked to try to end human trafficking.  Due to this Ima said she was looking forward to the Democratic National Convention as she really wanted to meet Hillary Clinton in person, praising her work to end all forms of human slavery. These tales bode well, Hillary Clinton would certainly be a global president willing to reach out and continue the bonds set up by Obama with Indonesia, as well as address ways to improve the human condition when it comes to those who have had to live like Ima.

And what about Mr. Trump? Well, he already has a tainted name in Indonesia. Trump as a candidate has not been one to shy away from controversy and the world has not let this go unnoticed. Trump has made it clear he doesn’t trust Muslims, and as a country of mostly Muslims Indonesia has not found this favorable. After all, how do you set up good relations with a country of people you do not trust. This leaves little ground to grow on.

Interestingly enough, Trump has a resort in Indonesia called Lido Lakes One Stop Adventure Hotel. But is investing in the country enough to make up for all of his words? Maybe not, the hotel is now run down–though Trump claims he will be revamping it soon and building an entirely new resort in the country. This investment is at odds with his beliefs about Muslims. “How come he won’t allow Muslim people to enter America while he has money in Indonesia, investment in Indonesia,” asks Indonesian cabinet minister Luhut Panjaitan back in May. It seems that in an interview with CNN, Panjaitan suggested that Indonesia would turn to other trading partners if a future President Trump shut US doors to the more than 200 million Indonesian Muslims.

Simply put, starkly different candidates create starkly different futures for the relationship between the United States and Indonesia.




President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 3


Many Americans underestimate the significance of Indonesia—sometimes described as the most important country in the world that people know the least about. With 230 million inhabitants, how has it gone unnoticed by mainstream USA as a whole?

Perhaps the main reason why Indonesia is not well recognized by Americans is that the United States has never gone to war with the country. Largely our collective memory is much more knowledgeable with countries that we’ve fought/allied in the past: like Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, North and South Korea, and the whole of Europe to name a few. Indonesia, while deeply affected by WWII, was never a part of the war like the allies or the axis of evil.

Another reason could be that few Indonesian immigrants and students have come to the USA Compared to other Asian countries, Indonesia today remains distinctly more inward-looking.

Indonesia has rich resources that certainly carry over to the products we can buy here in the states. This though has been more of a curse than a blessing. Over-exploitation is occurring in virtually every square mile of the country, in its territorial waters as well as it 17,000 islands. Insufficient investment in infrastructure has made Indonesia a high-cost production base. A host of impediments to domestic as well as foreign investment are making it harder for the private sector to create jobs at the pace required to absorb new entrants into the labor force. The combination of these clashing ideas could also add to the ignorance that the USA holds when it comes to Indonesia.

What Americans have missed out on because of this lack of knowledge is seeing how raising Indonesia’s profile could benefit the United States by helping to maintain a balance among Asia’s three leading powers: China, Japan, and India. Furthermore, Indonesia’s success in creating a durable system of democratic governance holds great potential benefits for a world struggling to address the problems associated with weak or conflict-ridden nations.

Indonesia would like to see United States economic and developmental assistance scaled up, but it will be difficult to meet their expectations in this area. The most problematical area is military cooperation because Indonesia has yet to articulate, let alone implement, a defense and security strategy that will gain strong support from the United States. Indonesia could learn a lot from American policies, if we partnered with them to help the country figure out the gaps in their governmental policy. Certainly together our two countries would benefit from each other if only we spend the time to learn and engage with each other.

President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 2

Before delving into the future of America and Indonesia’s relationship we should take a very quick look at the history of Indonesia.

Indonesia is the world’s largest island country, with more than thirteen thousand islands. It is home to over 258 million people. With a historical connection to the Islamic world starting in 13th century, today the country is over 87% Islamic making it the most populous Muslim majority country in the world. The first regular contact between Europeans and the peoples of Indonesia began in 1512 leading to being colonized by the Dutch by the 19th century. Indonesia was occupied by Japan during WWII and an estimated 4 million people died due to famine and forced labor. Following the war, between 1945-1949, the Dutch tried to gain control of the country again.

Indonesia lived through an armed and diplomatic struggle that united Indonesians on the whole to fight for independence. During this time Sukarno, an influential nationalist leader, came into power. Democracy slowly led into authoritarianism, which led to huge loss of life under his rule. The head of the military, General Suharto, outmaneuvered the politically weakened Sukarno and was formally appointed president in 1968. Suharto himself was also an authoritarian leader who lead a corrupt government and supported the suppression of political opposition.

However, eleven years ago, Indonesia began an impressive transition from 30 years of authoritarian rule by former President Soeharto to become arguably the most democratic country in all of East and Southeast Asia. What makes the transition all the more remarkable is that the majority of Indonesia’s citizens are Muslim, showing how democratic values and Islamic beliefs can combine to build a “just and prosperous society,” the main societal goal specified in the Indonesian constitution.

A set of four amendments to the constitution since Soeharto was forced to step down in 1998 has produced a solid political framework, notably including the direct election of the president. Free and fair nationwide elections have been conducted three times and are now routine at the provincial and district/city level. A sweeping decentralization law was passed in 2001, vesting more power in its 440 districts and cities than in its 33 provinces. Civil society has flourished, reinforced by a remarkably free press.

Currently Indonesia is a multiparty democracy, led by President Joko Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 1

As the President of the United States, Barack Obama has visited Indonesia twice so far while in office. In 2010 he headed to Jakarta. There he had the opportunity to visit the home where he lived as a young boy for two years, and see the primary school he attended where he learned the local language. A year later President Obama returned to Indonesia, this time staying in Bali. Both visits included meeting with President Yudhoyono among other leader from eastern countries. None of the other 43 American presidents have had this kind of exposure to a non-Western country.

One of the President’s political objectives for these trips was to raise Indonesia’s global profile. Many Americans underestimate the significance of Indonesia—often described as – the most important country in the world that people know the least about. With 230 million inhabitants, it is the fourth most populous nation after China, India, and the United States.

Indonesia is also important because of its strategic location astride the sea-lanes between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to the west and the Japan, China, and Korea to the north. In addition, it is richly endowed with natural resources: oil and gas, coal, copper, nickel, fish, timber, and many more. It is key for America to have a continued positive relationship with this industrious country.

Indonesia is a country we must look to, as our President has, in the coming generations. So how will this upcoming election affect this forwards momentum? With Clinton and Trump vying for the most important job in the country, we have to wonder what each candidate would do to continue this working relationship with Indonesia.

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year, a new resolution! This year I’m resolved to keep up with the blog! Sorry for the hiatus over the last few months. The daily grind of life combined with the holidays and a very exciting New Years Eve in Times Square has led me to take a bit of a digital hiatus. But now I’m back and ready to write about the things I love. If you’ve been here before you know I am passionate about food, photography and endangered animals, specifically the red haired orangutan. There are so many great organizations and individuals throughout the world, working hard to ensure that these magnificent animals are cared for and protected. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on all of their great work as well as a potpourri of other topics that interest me. Happy 2016!

AY3R0927 AY3R0918

Is Our Waiter a Robot?



As technology improves and robots become more intelligent–and in many ways more human–the future seems to be slowly approaching Hollywood’s classic model of it. Picture robots serving us food, selling us clothes, and taking over the service industry we depend on. If you think about it, we might already be in our Hollywood-like future.  We have self checkouts, which eliminate the use of human tellers, automated phone receptionists, robotic assembly line workers, and so on. If the future is indeed here, the question isn’t whether or not robots will take our jobs, it’s whether they’ll come to dominate the these kinds of industries entirely. While that may sound terrifying and interesting at the same time, it’s not unreasonable to think that it might actually happen. The University of Oxford published a paper in 2013* that estimated in the next few decades there’s a 92% chance fast-food preparation and serving will be automated. Where will that leave those who fills those jobs now?

 The idea of humans facing off against robots has been around for some time. We’ve clearly benefitted from the machines, but we’ve struggled with them, too. What’s more, finding the middle ground is often easier said than done.  On one hand, we want to be the “masters” of technology and, on the other, we want to incorporate it into our lives such that or creations sweep away the tasks we don’t want or care to handle. –There’s no shortage of popular fiction that tries to grapple with this opposition.  We seem to always have had this push and pull of fearing and loving tech. It might just reside in the fear of change that the future promises. Will the benefits of these robots outweigh our fear? Time will tell.  However, seeing as tech has become so entrenched in our lives, we may very well be sipping on drinks delivered by apron-wearing androids.

How much would you tip a robot?


World’s oldest cave paintings could be in Indonesia (and not Europe)

A collection of primitive paintings in a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi may include the oldest cave art known as of yet. Last year, a group of researchers proposed that a hand stencil may date back 40 millenia. The team was lead by Maxime Aubert and Adam Brumm of Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. While the images were first discovered in the 1950s, they were considered to have been created only 10,000 years ago. Scientists assumed that humid conditions would have destroyed anything older. Aubert and her team reported, however, that it’s likely the paintings were crafted around the same time as their French counterparts in Chauvet Cave.* They used a method called uranium-thorium dating, where a thin layer of calcium carbonate—otherwise known as “cave popcorn”—is sampled and tested to determine the rate at which the uranium decayed into thorium. In other words, the researchers were able to test a piece of cave popcorn that covered some of the paintings and figure out how old it was. That, in turn, allowed them to estimate the age of the artwork underneath. It was really, really old.


Credit: Kinez Riza

What does this mean to us? First, it challenges a Euro-centric theory that the level of self-awareness needed to create art was achieved in France or Spain before anywhere else. This simply doesn’t bear out  if Aubert and her team’s findings hold up. It also suggests that our predecessors may have been equally as reflective before they migrated from Africa. Secondly, it speaks to the value of Indonesia as a region rich in invaluable artifacts that deserve to be protected. These artifacts not only promise to advance our understanding of human evolution, but also enrich our knowledge of Indonesian culture and how it came to be.

Click below** to read the about the story in Nature.