Friday, August 16, 2013

On the road in the night

Jetlag is not all bad. At 1 in the morning, I went out onto the street. I was hungry and awake. The night is friendly in Indonesia, warm and throbbing with life, particularly here at the entrance to Taman Mini. I ambled aimlessly (careful to avoid motorcycles) and quite arbitrarily selected a spot where I could ask for a package of instant noodles. I sat down on a piece of plastic on the sidewalk beside the seller….and wouldn’t you know it, I heard her speak Batak to the two young men beside her. So I joined in as well as I could, to their surprise.

Seeing that I knew a little about Batak culture, the young man from Bakkara leapt to conclusions about Westerners having more access to his culture than the youth in the Batak area. There was certainly some truth to what he was saying though not exactly the way he conceptualized it. I decided to use his words as a kind of entrance call to share with them my concept of ‘Pulang Kampung’. I talked about the importance of getting the information out of the museums and back into the villages and schools, the possibilities that digitization offered, the need to take responsibility and share knowledge with the youth.

They listened thoughtfully. I wondered how they felt. They are the ones losing their culture and the ones without the means to do anything about it. They are poor, on the street, earning a penny here and a penny there. I shared my vision, mentioned possibilities that I saw. They were thoughtful. I wondered if they felt hopeless, whether they were just being polite?  They recognized that an infusion of funds was needed to rebuild the Batak area, to have solar energy, to distribute information from the libraries in Holland etc. etc. I pointed out that a new ethic would have to emerge, that the Bataks with means would have take responsibility for what is happening in the villages. 

Or is this whole Pulang Kampung thing is too late? Will it build in momentum quickly enough?

Those people selling on the street said they would try to make it to our launch on 24 August.

We shall see what happens.

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