Category Archives: Indonesia

Civil Disobedience


I am sure that most of you have by now heard of the song Despacito by Luis Fonsi and featuring Justin Beiber.  This month it became the world’s most streamed song of all time with over 4.6 billion streams.  In fact, you have probably seen the video and heard the song so many times that you are beginning to lose your grip on sanity.  Everywhere you turn, the song or the video is playing for the umpteenth time.

Well, not in Malaysia.  If you need relief, come to Malaysia.  It is a Despacito free zone; at least you will not hear it on any government run radio station or see it on any government run or government related TV channels.  The Malaysian government, at the behest of self appointed religious police, has declared the song lyrics obscene and banned the song.

These are the same people who recently tried to ban the use of names like hot dogs, pretzel dogs, Coney dogs etc because it was offensive to those who considered dogs to be unclean.

Anyway, being a passive aggressive squirrel, I have decided to do an act of civil disobedience by posting this cover version of the song that is being played using the traditional Malay “gamelan” instruments – although it is by a group from  our neighbor, Indonesia.

………..because you just can’t stop the squirrel!  Hope you like it.

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Derailing the Horror


Do you know what’s scary?  Answer:- the way I procrastinate.  If you look back over the years, readers will find that I will be making New Year Resolutions and wishing every  one a Happy New Year sometime towards the end of January.  Likewise, I tend to leave my Christmas decorations up and try to disguise them to make it look like I put them up specially for Chinese New Year a few months later.  So just yesterday, I finally got to watch the movie that I had set aside for Halloween.

It’s a Korean movie titled, “Train to Busan”.  As if train journeys are often not horrific enough, they throw in large numbers of evil, undead zombies.  It is a big hit in Korea and you know what?  In my humble squirrel opinion, it deserves every good review it has received.  As with any zombie movie, it is not so much a  spine chilling horror experience but more of an adrenaline racing, heart pounding action movie.  But the human element is well crafted into the story and the acting surprisingly good; especially the young girl in the story.  I recommend it.

You know what else is scary?  The real world!  Starting with Korea where the Korean President is alleged to have been unduly influenced by the daughter of a cult leader (BBC story); to Indonesia where thousands took part in violent and fatal protests in the capital Jakarta because they do not want a popular (and generally held to be an effective) non-Muslim governor overseeing a majority Muslim city; and finally the insane circus of the current U.S. Presidential elections.  Hilary or Trump?  The squirrel shakes his head at both but trembles in fear at the thought of President Trump.

squirrel-screaming

And so, we squirrels have decided to intervene for the sake of the world.

Squirrel knocks out power to Miami County elections board

Hungry squirrel tampers with presidential election

We try to help.

War Dance


It all started a week ago when Rais Yatim, the Malaysian Minister of Information, Communications and Culture, made a statement that the Tor-Tor dance and Gordang Sambilan drums would be added to the Malaysian National Heritage Law.  This created a furore in Indonesia and with passions high and anger stoked, a riot ensued in Jakarta which led to the burning of the Malaysian flag and damage to the Malaysia Hall from missiles of rocks and pieces of wood thrown by the rioters.  The Indonesians are upset by what they perceive as a Malaysian attempt to claim Indonesian culture as their own.

The problem lies in that many South East Asian countries share cultural elements that pre-date existing national boundaries.  The Tor-Tor dance for example, is a dance of the Mandailing people of North Sumatra.  Although their cultural heartland lies within Indonesia, from very early on, the Mandailing were seafaring and the Mandailing people have planted themselves throughout the region and with that, many of their culture has contributed to that of their host countries.  Some Malaysian Mandailing have  supported the move of the Minister of Information, arguing that the Minister’s statement that the Tor-Tor and Gordang Sambilan  would be added to the 2005 National Heritage Law was only meant to be a recognition of the heritage of the Mandailing peoples of North Sumatra that have lived in Malaysia for many years.  However the Indonesians are concerned that the wording of the law seems to imply a claim of ownership.

This “cultural dispute” is not the first of it’s kind between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Star Newspaper reported;

“Irate Indonesians took to Twittershpere to vent their anger over the Mandailing Tor-tor dance issue, calling Malaysia a country that is “deprived of culture”.

Twitter hashtags like “#tortorpunyaindonesia (Tor-tor belongs to Indonesia)” and “#MalaysiaMiskinBudaya (Malaysia is poor in culture)” were trending among Indonesian users of the micro-blogging site ever since the controversial issue came to light over the past week.

“Semiskin itukah Malaysia sampai mengklaim kebudayaan kita?? #TorTorPunyaIndonesia (Is Malaysia that poor that they have to claim our culture?)” read a tweet by @Anak_Twitter.

User @ranyaani said: “Tor tor has been indonesia’s for centuries, so dont you just claim that its yours.. #taritortormilikindonesia”.

A tweet by @Shafwan_MZIFC read: “Banyaknya Budaya & Makanan yg diKlaim Negara malaysia menunjukan betapa Kayanya Indonesia (Malaysia has claimed so many of our culture and food, it shows how rich Indonesia is)”.

Some extreme comments include a tweet by @ANTI_MALAYSIA4 which read “ayo kita bersatu ganyang malaysia (Let’s unite and crush Malaysia)”.

Angry users established a hashtag called “#HapusMalaysiadariASEAN”which literally means “kick Malaysia out of Asean”.”

 

Wow! Such Aggro!!!  Well, to be honest, most Malaysians have no idea why our Minister has gotten us into this mess.  Over here it is a storm in a tea cup.  I am not ridiculing the Indonesian concerns but frankly the Tor Tor dance is not really something that is all that well known amongst Malaysians and most of us could care less.  I think my position is shared by Malaysian Twitter users who rushed to the defence of Malaysia over the issue ……… well, kind of……

“Malaysian Twitter users were not too defensive over the issue, with many claiming they were not even aware of the existence of the dance.

“What on earth is TorTor?” tweeted @TheRealAzrul while @pretty_chanteq wrote: “Who ever wants that tortor dance, please take it.”

Other Malaysian users meanwhile used the haze issue as a bargain chip.

“Keep your dances and your culture. While you’re at it, keep your haze to yourself too. Thanks,” said @mediha_m.”

So, what do you say?  Wanna dance?

 

 

Rolled Pig


Vegetarians may want to skip this post.  It is also very, very non-kosher and non-halal.  Dieters should also avoid reading this.  There! That should take care of all disclaimers.

“Babi Guling” literally means “Rolled or turned pig” in Bahasa Indonesia but it actually refers to “suckling pig”, a famous Balinese dish.   The suckling pig is stuffed with herbs and shoots and then roasted on a spit until cooked and with its skin crackly and crispy.  And if you were in Bali, everyone would tell you that one of the best places to try this local delicacy is at a small stall or warung caled “Ibu Oka”.

Ibu Ora's the place to go for the best Babi Guling

Ibu Oka is located in Ubud which is a town in the foothills of central Bali.  Ubud is well known as a centre for culture and the arts.  The local temples are full of artistic carvings and are often the sites for cultural dances and performances.  Beautiful pastoral scenes of green paddy fields surround the town and are often the settings where some of the best restaurants and warungs are found.

The Crowd Gathers Early for Lunch

 

The crowd gathers early for lunch and seating is limited so it would be wise to go early.  There are some tables and seating in the garden area.  Inside, everyone sits on the floor and eats from a low table.

 

You're lucky to get seating on the floor.

Once you have found a seat, then all that you can do is wait for the pig to arrive.  Watching them prepare the pig can be quite entertaining.

 

The Pig is Roasted with Herb Stuffing
Yum Yum Yum

 

With so many hungry customers to serve, the wait at Ibu Oka can be long but if some of your group holds on to the seats, you can wander off to the nearby temple and admire the carvings.

Cultural Distractions Nearby

But the connoisseur generally prefer to wait patiently and try to reach a zen state while waiting to have their  senses blown away by the taste of sweet roasted meat, crackling skin and herbs.

Or You Can Wait and Beg

Kecak


Our friend Mago does a series on his blog called “Sunday Music” and just recently he covered a song by Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985).  In his post, he included the use of that song in an animated version of the Ramayana story.  A rather unusual combination which you should check out.

Anyway, this reminded me that I had a related post that had long been on the back-burner and I decided it was time to bring it to a boil.

In Bali, Indonesia, there is a dance called the kecak dance in which dancers enact the Ramayana story with musical accompaniment provided by the rhythmic, hypnotic chanting of a large group of men.  It is quite an experience.  I have had the good fortune of witnessing it twice.  Once, I saw it as part of a dinner performance at an international beach hotel in Nusa Dua (which is where all the photos  below were taken) and once at a sunset ceremonial performance at the clifftop temple at Uluwatu.  Of the two, I really must recommend the spectacular setting at the Uluwatu temple which also includes a fire dance.  If you are ever in Bali, this is definitely one of the highlights not to be missed.  To tantalise you, I have included a video by Hawaiian filmmaker and reknown hula dancer Kimokekahuna at the Uluwatu temple.

The Ramayana is a classic Hindu story.  In brief, the kecak dance is about the hero Rama and his beautiful wife Siti.  One day while in the forest, Siti sees a golden deer and begs Rama to capture it for her.  He leaves Siti under the protection of his brother Lakshmana and chases after the deer.  Sometime later, Siti is misled into thinking that she hears Rama calling for help.  Fearful for her husband, she pleads for Lakshmana to go and search for Rama.  Lakshmana is reluctant to do so at first but eventually gives in to her pleas and disappears into the forest looking for Rama.

But it was all a ploy to get Siti alone and unprotected and she is kidnapped by the demon King Ravana and taken to his kingdom of Lanka.  The rest of the story is about how Rama defeats Ravana and rescues Siti with the help of the white monkey king, Hanuman and his army of monkeys.

 

Kecak Dance and Dinner at the Grand Hyatt, Nusa Dua, Bali.

 

The Bad Guy Appears

 

Fight! Fight! Fight!

 

Left to Right: The Golden Deer, Little Tourist and Some Character that I Can't Remember

 

The Bad Guys After Losing Again

 

The White Monkey King Giving Me the Thumbs Up

 

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Isn’t Nature Entertaining?


“Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,

And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.”

Have you hear this rhyme before.  Apparently it is part of a nursery rhyme called “The Siphonaptera“.  I actually learned this at University. Honestly.   My Professor introduced the rhyme to us to make the point that all creatures harbour parasites….even parasites have parasites.
Now it seems the same principle holds true for mimics.  In 1998, scientists studying the shallow seas off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia found a strange species of octopus which has a talent of mimicking other sea-creatures.  The Indonesian Mimic Octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus is the first known species capable of mimicking multiple species.   One would think that ol’ T. mimicus might be pretty smug about his talents.  But it seems, what goes around, comes around.  Just recently, scientists discovered a small jawfish that turns the tables on the octopus by mimicking it.  Now isn’t nature entertaining?

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This has inspired this poet squirrel to mimic a famous rhyme………

“Some creatures are plagued by mimics that mimic them,

But these mimics have their own pesky mimics and so ad infinitum.

 

A Hammock With a View


You can’t escape from your roots.  We can’t escape from the strong influences of our childhood experiences.

I like traveling and if you were to ask me what my travel or holiday preference is; I would naturally say that I enjoy being near rivers and lakes and in the mountains.  I do not think of myself as a beach person.

But here’s the thing.  When I was growing up. about the only holiday that we had as a family was a beach holiday in a place called Port Dickson in Malaysia, which in its heyday could rival the best beaches in the world (today it has been ruined by excessive and irresponsible development).  So I grew up with a great love of the beach and sea.

I am not sure, why I drifted away from this early passion but I spent most of my adult traveling away from the beach.  However, in the last five years, I have had the opportunity to visit Bali, Indonesia on three occasions.   Now Bali is much more than just the beach.  It has culture, arts, crafts, history, festivals, music, rice fields, temples, volcanoes, a unique way of life, charming people and much, much more.

But especially this last trip, I re-connected with the sea and the beach.  This trip I made it a point not to travel all over the island in pursuit of culture and sight seeing.  This trip was all about relaxing on the beach; enjoying a dip in the sea, playing with the exciting surf and beach-combing during low tide.  And for most of the time, just lying in the shade of beach side trees, catching the cool sea breeze, snoozing or enjoying the view.  And though I was enjoying the experience in the “now”, it also re-awoken the child in me and the childhood memories of Port Dickson.

So, the Lone Grey Squirrel went away on a mission to be a beach bum………mission accomplished!  I just wanted to share with you the view that I had from my spot under the shade trees which I lazily took with my camera while still in a reclining position.

The View Above Me - Blue Skies
The View In Front - Blue Seas
The View to the Side - Blue Bikini

Ah, a feast for eyes and senses.