Sunday, February 7, 2010

Heading home (at least for now)

The three week assignment with “Bankers Without Borders” has passed quickly and today I return to San Francisco. It has been a fascinating experience. I know I have not done it justice in this attempt at a blog. Jakarta has certainly changed since I was last here in the mid ‘80s. Back then the Japanese had a joke about Indonesia that went: “Indonesia de wa hito oran, go-han nashi.” This is a play on words. “Hito” means person in Japanese. The word for person in Bahasa is “orang.” “Oran” in Japanese means lacking. “Go-han” is Japanese for rice. Rice is “nasi” in Bahasa and “nashi” means “nothing” or not there in Japanese. So, to the Japanese in the 1980s, Indonesia was a country with no people (worth anything) and no rice (worth eating).

I doubt this joke has much currency in Japan anymore. It is truly impressive to see the development of a strong, well-educated middle class that is creating a truly modern, multi-cultural, secular society in the world’s fourth most populous country where Islam is the largest religion. The young people working at PT Ruma are technologically, linguistically and culturally as competent as their peers anywhere else in the world. They are intellectually curious, eager for new ideas, quick to adapt, and intent on ensuring that their country takes its place among the modern, developed nations. With its vast natural and human resources there seems little doubt they will achieve this goal.

The food is also delicious and world class. I was pleased to see that The Oasis, a restaurant I had fond memories, is still going strong. It is located in an old Dutch colonial home that is full of art and artifacts from around Indonesia. They serve Indonesian cuisine in the “Rijsttafel” tradition. It is both a visual and culinary experience not to be missed. It was somewhat disappointing, however, to see that the restaurant seems much more “upscale” these days. Seems to have become a little stuffy and lost some of its old charm. Nevertheless, still a treat.

There is still much to be done to assist PT Ruma achieve its goal of becoming a sustainable social enterprise assisting the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. I have been very privileged to work with them on this endeavor and look forward to continuing helping them in the future. Perhaps there will be more chances to post from Jakarta in the future.


  1. Hi Daniel as being in the same writing class with you in NY I do read with interest your blog and personal involvement. Born in the Netherlands I like the passage about 'rijsttafel' and so. I will follow by twitter the organization you work with. We live now in Rabat for a couple of years,my husband is a ceo in a private enterprise, we move around. Morocco is a country that need micro finance. I visited some women associations in Fez last years. these women are so happy to get out of daily house context and make money. Good luck with your blog. Paulien Martin

  2. Daniel,

    Enjoyed reading your post. I found it to be interesting and well written. I look forward to reading about the progress you make. Safe travels . . . great cause!

    So sorry to hear about your father. Glad to hear that he is getting much love and support. Best of luck to you and your family.