A Month in Indonesia

I spent January in Indonesia, mostly in and around the urban sprawl of Jakarta. It’s a city that is in motion — things are happening there and I find myself returning to this place of concrete and boulevards again and again. The first time I was acquainted with Jakarta was in 2007 when I attended Pesta Blogger, a massive gathering of online innovators from all over Indonesia’s many islands. I went back in 2008 to work on a magazine story about urban flooding with my friend and colleague, photographer Jacqueline Koch.

Jacqueline invited me to go back once more, this time to delve into religion in Indonesia. There are so many little known facts about this dynamic place. It is the fourth most populated country in the world, and largest majority-Muslim country in the world. While it is difficult to get an accurate count, the number of Muslims in Indonesia is as many as, perhaps more than, the Muslim populations of all Arab countries combined.

We spent the month exploring the diverse religious practices of this country. Islam does not just come in the Saudi Arabian brand so ubiquitous in the American press, and a visit to Indonesia makes that fact clear almost immediately. We wanted to know what the future of religion looks like in Indonesia, and how the rest of the world might incorporate the diversity of the country into their often limited views of Islam.

There was never a dull day.

emerging in California

flight to Los Angeles

After just over a week in semi-hiding, I am proud to say that I’m back in California. It’s been one year and one week of traveling and teaching and writing (and eating) in Asia and it feels good to back where the avocados are cheap and the toilet paper is two-ply, even in public restrooms.

And lucky for me, there are no Korea-withdrawals. Diamond Bar, California (where I went to high school) has two great, very large Korean markets. And just down the road I had a fruity drink and som tum and soft rock with a friend to fulfill my southeast Asia craving.

My semi-hiding week was for family and writing. I’ve found a surprisingly good work space in my sister/grandmother’s room and I’m starting to get back into the routine of writing everyday. A group of reviews from the week I spent in Busan just ran in Asia Pacific Arts, including one of the Malaysian drama/comedy/musical Sell Out! That shout out was just for you, Joon Han.