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February 2015

It has been a few days now since I got back to Sydney, after joining a group of amazingly passionate people on the 50th anniversary Freedom Ride through regional NSW from 18-22 February 2015, but I can tell you that I am still buzzing from the experience. It is certainly a challenge to detail five days' worth of insights, thoughts, feelings, emotions, expectations, conversations, observations into one neat little blog. What I can say straight up, to kick-off the post-Ride reflections, is that it has been an absolute privilege to meet some of the people connected with the 1965 Freedom Ride, other Sydney Uni students and staff, two amazing Aussie music legends, and the many Kooris and Murris from the Aboriginal communities we visited.

Smoking ceremony at Walgett, to cleanse people of negative energy.
Copyright Mariko Smith 2015.


For one of my draft PhD chapters, I referred to a famous phrase coined by Canadian communication theorist, Marshall McLuhan, in his influential work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), which is "the medium is the message". It can be interpreted to mean that in choosing a particular channel to communicate information, that medium effectively influences how the message is perceived by and how it impacts on its audience.


50th Anniversary cake for the Freedom Ride, courtesy of the lovely mob in Dubbo.
Copyright: Mariko Smith, 2015.


David Plouffe was the man who spent a lot of time trying to convince people that Barack Obama was going to be president. “And I had a lot of people laugh at me,” he admits.

It’s hard to believe that the architect of President Obama’s two successful political campaigns was so easily dismissed. In both of Obama’s campaign runs, he won the highest percentage of the popular vote of any Democrat since Lyndol Johnson in 1964. And in both campaign runs, David Plouffe was integral to molding Obama’s campaign strategy.



Last Friday marked the end of a busy week, and the end of the Field School. The Engineering and Business groups split up to do our own faculty-related activities, with us in Engineering spending the week looking for problems or areas where the University may be able to look further into, with the theme being transport or humanitarian related.

To approach this, we visited a variety of companies and organisations that are doing work related to transport and humanitarian aid, including the Asian Development Bank, Ford, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the UN, UNICEF, the Jakartan Ministry of Transportation, and the Jakartan Traffic Control Center. All of these organisations were kind enough to invite us into their offices so that we could inundate them with questions related to our areas of interest, and to talk to us about the work they were doing to try and improve the condition of transport or water and sanitation in Indonesia. We also conducted other activities to try and gauge the potential of our projects, with several of us creating and conducting surveys (with the indispensable aid of our Indonesian counterparts from Universitas Indonesia).


In 2002 Dove attempted to redefine the notion of beauty in their ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. Dove claimed society’s concept of beauty was informed by highly unrealistic images of supermodel size zero’s who showcased the world’s leading beauty brands. They featured high cheekbones, toothpick legs and chins so sharp they could cut through steal. They’d fit in better on mars than earth. Recognising this, Dove’s campaign aimed at widening the definition to include life forms from the planet earth. Subsequently, Dove released a series of campaigns featuring more realistic representations of the womanly figure, communicating that beauty was natural and accessible.

Most importantly, Dove recognised powerful brands were symbolic resources of meaning which individuals use to construct or extend the self. Thus consumers who agreed in the morality of Dove’s attempt to liberalise society’s perception of beauty would express or confirm their morality by purchasing Dove products, empowering the consumer. The consumer was engaged in a social movement where Dove formed the connective tissue.

Yet this unitive outcome did not emerge when Unilever brought the US campaign to Jakarta.


Students from the USYD Business School had an opportunity visit Sinar Mas, one of the largest conglomerates in Indonesia, which has subsidiaries in pulp and paper, agriculture, financial services, property, telecommunications, energy and infrastructure. Interestingly, the visit came about through a chance meeting a USYD transport academic had with an employee at a bus station. The company is the largest producer of palm oil in Indonesia (accounting for roughly 10% of total production) and the second largest globally (Sinar Mas, 2015)

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So why is this an issue?


In the second week of the field trip, it was more centered towards our faculty. The business students had the opportunity to visit several companies in Jakarta. These companies included; Lowe Indonesia, Sinar Mas, Unilever Indonesia, Garuda Indonesia, MarkPlus institute and Nielsen Indonesia. During these visits, students had the opportunity to learn about how each respective company uses marketing tools and strategies. We were also exposed to how consumers behave in Indonesia.

However, there was one company that intrigued me instantly. This was Garuda Indonesia. Garuda Indonesia is a service airline that values being efficient and effective, loyalty, customer centricity, honesty and integrity. Moreover, Garuda seeks to promote national economic development by delivering professional airline service to the world.

Given their past, this company visit gave me great insights about their present market position in both the domestic and global market. Despite this, it is important to appreciate that Garuda experienced many obstacles in its past. During the 1996-97, Garuda suffered two major accidents- one of them being Indonesia’s worst aviation disaster. Moreover, the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 also hit Garuda very hard, resulting in them reducing flights and suspending certain flight routes.

Subsequently, in 2009 Garuda announced a major five-year expansion plan called the ‘Quantum leap’. This expansion involved image overhaul, including a change in the airline’s staff uniform and logo. Reflecting now, it is evident that their expansion plan was successful.

The success of the ‘Quantum leap’ has given Garuda a solid platform now. For instance, Garuda is currently the market leader in its domestic market for middle-high income earners. This market stance has also been supported by Garuda’s reputation of promoting safe flights, loyalty to its customers and great customer service. Moreover, Garuda has also successfully addressed its present challenges in its domestic market. Their major challenge is to be able to compete with budget airlines such as Sriwijaya Air, Batavia Air etc. This has been primarily addressed in its focus of Citilink. Citilink is a low-cost airline subsidiary of Garuda and seeks to cater for the lower-middle income earners.

In spite of this, one aspect of the company visit that I found interesting was when they told us how Garuda differentiates itself from its international competitors. Garuda attempts to differentiate from its competitors through “Garuda experiences”, meaning that they develop products in relation to Indonesia’s culture. For example, in their entertainment, Garuda has a section dedicated to only Indonesian movies and music. Reflecting now on our company visit to Garuda, I feel extremely grateful and blessed to have been given the opportunity to learn more about Indonesia’s leading aviation airline.

But more importantly, I feel extremely blessed to be able to visit Jakarta for the past fortnight. I have learnt to not just compare Jakarta with Sydney, but to appreciate the beauty of Jakarta and distance myself from comparing the two together. I already miss Jakarta. I miss the people, their smiles of happiness. I miss the company of my peers every night. For sure, the two weeks here in Jakarta will be in my memory forever.

Juan Tjiong
New Colombo Plan 2015 (Jakarta)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust

With Indonesia’s growing strategic importance in the ASEAN region, rich resource base and proximity to Australia, it makes sense to proactively bridge corporate and trading relations with South East Asia’s largest economy, especially considering the rise of the “Asian century” (Commonwealth of Australia 2012). Post program closure, I am definitely in accord with the government’s New Colombo Plan initiative to building more salience and longer-term engagement with the South East Asia region within young graduates; after all a fair few of us (myself included) believed Bali was a country of its own prior to pre-departure training.

During the second week of the field trip Business students were warmly received by leading professionals in various global and local firms and exposed to areas of market research, public relations, product and project management, strategy and publications. Among these visits I became increasingly intrigued by Lowe Indonesia CEO Joseph Tan, Graduate Management Trainee Andrew Tobing and Sinarmas International Relations Manager Cannia Susanto’s decisions to embrace dynamic, fast-paced international careers, and the importance of finding your ‘own voice’ within an organization. Moreover, discussions at Unilever pertaining to the competitiveness and saturated state of the hair, health care and beauty (FMCG) market appears to be far more challenging than the Australian market, however such conditions undoubtedly implores more creativity and innovation. Out of all the advertisements we viewed at the Lowe workshop, Unilever’s ‘Lifebuoy Tree of Life’ resonated with me the most; its disruptive message and grand scale emotive appeal is certainly more powerful than most advertisements aired and geared towards the Australian market. Prior to these industry workshops, I was never exposed to the idea or possibility of working in Indonesia, however I now feel challenged to assess how much of the concepts and knowledge I have learnt in my Business degree at USYD would be relevant and applicable in the Indonesian region or South East Asian context.

Reflecting on this experience, I felt a heightened degree of cognitive disruption towards how often and quickly I used my own biases and automatic assumptions to determine how I felt about certain industries and career paths, and that these biases and beliefs are inevitably difficult to challenge or change. This sense of “felt difficulty” (Dewey 1933 cited in Carson and Fisher 2006, p. 709) in having a previously unconscious presumption challenged further prompted me to contemplate how Indonesia has been portrayed in Australian media and how much I have allowed this to unconsciously shape my preconceptions about the country. This further reveals that our assumptions emanate from political and economic institutions, infiltrate our belief system and can only be recognised and contested through the process of reflection. Acknowledging that I have been quite rustic in my thinking, and where good and bad are no longer so clearly defined means that I will have to re-evaluate many of my other beliefs regarding cultural empathy in the corporate space and the ‘Asia fit’ concept.

The field trip and reflective assessment component have definitely created disturbances in my thinking and provided a perfect opportunity to reconsider the skill and knowledge gap which I need to proactively fill to prepare myself for potential short-term international work experience.


Google App Storyboard Workshop with Andrew Tobing at Lowe Indonesia


Unilever (Wall’s floor)


Commonwealth of Australia 2012, Australia in the Asian Century, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, ISBN 978-1-921739-93-4, viewed 5 February 2015,

Carson, L. and Fisher, K. 2006, ‘RAISING THE BAR ON CRITICALITY: STUDENTS' CRITICAL REFLECTION IN AN INTERNSHIP PROGRAM’, Journal of Management Education, vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 700-723, viewed 6 February 2015, ProQuest Central, 195721938.

Vicki Xin
Commerce Liberal Studies
New Colombo Plan 2015 (Jakarta)

The second week of our field school has been more faculty-centric and allowed us to focus on building our understanding of Indonesian consumers. We were welcomed by staff from Lowe, Sinar Mas, Unilever, Garuda Indonesia, Nielsen Research and MarkPlus consulting.

Our company visits and workshops provided curious insight into not only the Indonesian market, but the experience of doing business in such a dynamic economy. It is worth noting that all companies we visited mentioned the logistical challenges that accompany the distribution of goods and services to over six thousand inhabited islands. Further, the expanse of the world that these six thousand islands are scattered across itself consists of over seventeen thousand islands - magnifying the obstacle of supply.

Not unlike Australia, distance is a significant hurdle – the key difference, however, is that even the smallest islands of Indonesia present huge economic opportunities, given the sheer size of the population. The success of Indonesian companies in this era, where the burgeoning middle class make up over 55% of all Indonesians (Nielsen 2014) is dependent on their ability to service the sheer breadth of their own country. The reality of this alone is demanding, and needs to be navigated alongside the cultural distinctions that exist between every community. It’s clear that catering to the Indonesian market is no easy task, and that the overwhelming diversity that we’ve seen in Jakarta is merely a ladle in the deep melting pot that is Indonesia.


Reflecting now on the fortnight that has just flown by, I’m confident that the greatest aspect of this field school has been the facility of perspective. I feel that as an Australian, I initially observed the complexity of Jakarta but could only compare it to what I am accustomed to – the very different lifestyle of Sydney.

After two weeks, I've found that the real value in spending time in an unfamiliar environment, especially within the field school format, has been distancing myself from the exercise of comparison and coming to understand a place like Jakarta in its own right.

Having the opportunity to compare our firsthand observations of the city with the life experiences of the households we interviewed for our field work formed a starting block of sorts. From here, we were able to reconcile our own interpretations of the new environment that was around us with the familiarities of the people who comprise it.

In speaking to local university students and unlikely friends out and about – street vendors, shopkeepers, ‘taksi’ drivers and even beauticians – it seemed that for two weeks, my default role in a conversation was to end every sentence with a rising intonation. Questions, questions, questions – for every query I had, I was thrilled to be met by a kind willingness to share anecdotes and opinions.

I am grateful to have experienced even a small part of the fantastic and intricate culture of our neighbours in Indonesia. I already miss the noise and the constant sense of adventure, and admittedly, even the shocking macet (traffic jams) as Jakarta could never be less than exciting, even from the seat of a sedentary vehicle. Terima kasih – thank you Jakarta!

What a hectic week it was! From touring the kampungs of Jakarta to skipping meals to get our work done on presentation day, the Jakarta Field school has been a challenging, yet interesting experience. From the minute you step out of the Soekarno-Hatta airport, and breathe the musty air, you know you're in for a journey.

Upon arriving at the hotel, it was obvious to us the dynamics of this wonderful city. Street food sellers sprawled along Jalan Sabang – right next to our hotel. Warungs share footpath with pedestrians and often pedestrians risk collision with vehicles by walking on the road. There’s just something about eating alongside exhaust fumes that makes food tastier and where the dishes get “washed” in buckets of murky water - adds flavour to the dish I guess. Kwe-tiaw goreng gila – meaning crazy fried rice noodle was probably the best dish I’ve had on this trip.

It's safe to say that all 15 of us have mastered the art of crossing the road. The trick is to walk calmly as possible and believe that the drivers are not going to hit you and wave your hand at the drivers while crossing. Whatever you do, do not make any sudden changes in speed. I found that motorcyclists rarely stop for pedestrians but they'll drive around you.

On Tuesday we were shown around Jakarta, by our local Indonesian student, Tri. We visited the National Monument (MONAS) just a few minutes ride by busway. We noticed there is a separate section for women on the bus, which intrigued us. Tri told us that the separate section for women is to keep them closer to the driver for safety. We took the lift to the Puncak (top of the tower) and we were, literally, blown away by the view – it was very windy up there. A security guard was nice enough to give us a free tour of the monument and a little History of Indonesia. I was amazed at the fact that 17 August 1945, the day of independence of Indonesia, were intentionally interspersed through the design on the tower and the national emblem, the Garuda Eagle. The 45m square platform of the monument was 17m high off the ground and the tower being 8m wide at the platform referring to, 17th day of the 8th month of the year 45 (1945). Our tour guide was not the only example of the social nature of the Indonesian people. I found it very comforting that if you ever get lost, asking the nearest person will happily show you the right direction. It is actually faster to ask the security guide at the mall than looking around for a directory.


Our household interview was both interesting and unexpected. Our host family were wealthy family living in dense residential area. It was very surprising to learn the perspective of the rich in Jakarta on public transport and traffic. Our journey on Jakarta roads further adds to our research project. I found that traffic lights in Jakarta are merely a suggestion and lane markings are redundant. All the traffic rules we follow in Sydney just went out the window. There’s no such thing as “right of way”.
And lastly, what is better than the shopping mall closing late at 10pm every night?

The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta is an enormous metropolis located on the island of Java. The city is experiencing significant urbanisation and economic growth, which is presenting number of issues as the country seeks to assert itself in the Golden Asian Century. With this in mind, a group of 15 students, including myself travelled to Jakarta to explore how traffic congestion and a lack transport infrastructure is affecting the people who call this city home.

Before commencing field research, academics and students participated in a walking tour of the cities ‘kampong’ (slums). Indonesia has some of the highest rates of urban poverty in East Asia, with at least a quarter of the Jakarta’s population living in kampong. Our tour guide was Ronny Poulan, a former film producer, who has been running the tours since 2009 despite significant opposition from local media and government who claim it commodifies poverty. Whilst the tour provides tourists with unprecedented access into the kampong, I couldn’t help but feel as though our presence was demeaning, invading the little privacy these people had. Needless to say, the families did seem genuine in temporarily welcoming us into their lives. Half the tour revenue is redirected towards the communities we visited, funding regular doctor visits and infrastructure projects.

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We also had an opportunity to visit Istiglal Mosque, the national Mosque of Indonesia and largest in South East Asia. Interestingly, Frederich Silaban, a Christian, designed the mosque in 1978 following a design completion. The architecture and grandeur is simply astonishing, which is appropriate considering Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. The mosque has a capacity of 120,000.

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On Tuesday we started our field research. Sophie (Engineering), Alexandra (Occupational Therapy) and I visited Walter (59) and Linda (56) Hutapea in Depok, on the outskirts of Jakarta. The purpose of the trip was to conduct an informal interview, attempting to understand their traveling habits, attitudes and perceptions of vulnerability as road users. Walter worked for an international mining company in West Papua before retiring recently, whilst Linda has busy raising the 5 children. They were undoubtedly the best respondents I’ve ever had in any qualitative study! (Note: May be slightly biased due to the homemade dessert on offer – sweet rice balls dusted with coconut and stuffed with molasses).

We presented our findings to the academics on Friday. I thoroughly enjoyed working in an inter-disciplinary team with Alexandra and Sophie (engineers are definitely a little cooler than I thought - not sure if anyone will believe me though!). As a team we got along very well and had a great work ethic, which was reflected in our presentation.

Looking forward to next week!


The below image is from an orphanage we visited on Saturday:

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Jakarta is a city where stark contrasts sit comfortably alongside an indescribable social cohesion. If you’ve just touched down, you might see it as chaotic - perhaps lawless. Once you have spent time here, however, the unwritten collective codes of what appears to be the largest village on Earth reveal themselves.

In this day and age, technological systems may be baffling in their proficiency, but Jakarta makes it clear that they are not a replacement for the incredible links created by simple human interaction and strong community ties. You can hear roosters crow unfailingly every morning as they herald the sunrise, and I’ve yet to see a taxi driver use a GPS. If they’re ever unsure about where they’re headed, they will unabashedly stop by the side of the road and consult the nearest person they can find – there’s no stigma around men asking for directions here!

Against all odds, Jakarta seems to have preserved the best aspects of old and new world society – elevating traditional values and a fiercely strong regard for community while simultaneously forging full speed ahead into the future. This balancing act truly has to seen to be believed. Over nine million people live in Jakarta – but the sense of anonymity and isolation that is often associated with big cities cannot be found here. You never feel alone.


Observing the many transport systems that mobilise millions daily and interviewing Indonesian households about their experiences with them has been an exercise in both cultural competence and exchange. Indonesia’s establishment as a G20 economy and exponential population growth has seen its colossal amount of inhabitants grapple with the challenges that inevitably come from such hard and fast development. The result is truly mind blowing – ‘taksi’ drivers, motorcyclists, those behind the wheel of their own vehicles, buses and bajaj (three wheeled automatic rickshaws) all navigate the same thoroughfare whilst watching out for pedestrians.

Back at home, the sound of car horns on the road always makes me shudder. In Australia, we are conditioned to process them as angry and aggressive. Here, incredibly, they are more clinically perceived - as a necessity in negotiating road space. Rather than a way of expressing frustration, horns are used expectantly and above all, frequently. I explained my surprise at this to a University of Indonesia student and she laughed, “if you didn’t beep on the road here, people would think there was something wrong with you!”

The patient communication that takes place on roads is reflective of the way that the diverse, hard working people who call Jakarta home are so united. I have been astounded every day by their unspoken and measured awareness of one another. They are connected by an invisible web – and, despite being the world’s most active ‘Twitter city’, it’s not just the ‘world wide’ one.

“If you find what you want to find as opposed to what you can find, you will probably find it and not discover anything new.”

This was a key message I walked away with from Pre-departure Training, and definitely underpins my experience with our transport research project.

I felt excited to partake the messy, holistic, interpretive, ambiguous, challenging process of qualitative research where I as the researcher am both a learner and in a position to consciously make decisions that affect the direction of the study. Although this was my first exploratory research venture in the area of transport and visit to Jakarta, I was hopeful for our group to hit the ground running from the get go given the tight time-frame we were given to gather, analyse and present our findings. Our preparatory secondary research into Jakarta's background, regulatory landscape and current issues within the transport sector had proven to be intriguing yet fragmented and difficult to coalesce, prompting us to consult a few academics for further insight. This enabled us to formulate a few hypotheses which link closely with the broader theme of vulnerable road users including 'safety', ‘poor public transportation system’ and 'poor regulatory enforcement', with the preconception that these issues would at the very least affect the majority in Jakarta.

However, during the family interview I was disillusioned to hear our household's attitudes and responses to traffic and transport issues conflicted with our expectations, whereby all family members confirmed a high sense of confidence and control in navigating the traffic and coping with risk when commuting in Jakarta.

Post transcribing and listening to a recording of our interview for the second time we identified a misalignment between the family’s behavior and beliefs; although our household advocated the use of public transport in Jakarta, they rarely used modes of transport other than their private vehicles. It became evident for us to delve deeper, cease passively absorbing data and reconsider our standpoint. I began to see the importance of reflexivity (Rossman and Rallis 2012) in this research process where a conscious awareness of self, my group members, research components and the interplay of all three can skew the results presented.

We thus altered our approach to discover multiple perspectives and analysed existing scenarios against our own experiences on TransJakarta buses, the Angkot and Bajaj whilst consulting our Indonesian student helper and accompanying academics. We came to realise that the strong internal locus of control our household members showed undoubtedly represents a ‘coping mechanism’ to avoid dependence on unreliable external forces such as legal enforcement. However, it was evident that those from lower socio economic segments and women travelling alone on public transport were in much less position of control. It was confronting to learn that two of our student helper’s female friends were previously targeted on various modes of public transport, thus affecting her choices in public transport use.
This unequal degree of perceived and physical vulnerability in commuters implored my awareness to the importance of altering my own perspectives to see issues through locals’ lens as a critical step to genuinely understand our research environment and its people.

Through the initial stages of this exploratory research journey I have come to acknowledge the hermeneutic process of research (Rossman and Rallis 2012), learning to suspend disbelief and manage ambiguity rather than seeking for a sole ‘true’ answer.


Rossman, G. and Rallis, C. 2012, Learning in the Field: An Introduction to Qualitative Research 3rd Edition, Sage Publications, California.

Vicki Xin
Commerce Liberal Studies
New Colombo Plan 2015 (Jakarta)

As I sit here, multiple things are happening. Djokovic and Murray are battling it out on the TV, whilst somewhere outside, a mosque is calling people to prayer. It's an odd mix, yes, but all apart of the experience that has been Jakarta.

A week ago, I could immediately establish I was in South-East Asia, but the differences were both obvious and subtle, reeling me in slowly.


This week has been such a joyful and enjoyable learning experience that has allowed so many students to broaden their horizons and consider new possibilities. It has been such a fun time experiencing and learning more about Jakarta. However, one of the things that will always be in my memory is the scenes of the Jakarta’ ‘hidden tour’.

The tour began in ‘Kota’, which is also known as ‘Old Batavia’. ‘Old Batavia’ brings a lot of past history and memories to Indonesia and its people because it has a collection of Dutch colonial buildings that are partially collapsed, but also buildings that has fallen into significant disrepair. After briefly visiting this place, we disembarked from Plaza Batavia to start our walking tour. From just walking a few steps, it became apparent that Jakarta is not just a city of business districts but also a city of insufficiency. Once we arrived at our second destination by riding an ‘Angkot’, the scenes quickly continued to change. The place was filled with dirty roads, rusty bridges and rubbish in the river. However, what made it more disturbing was the look of suffering on everyone’s faces. Fathers, mothers and children were all walking without any hope. Their expression told it all.


I couldn’t help but tear up. It really made me realise how privileged I am to be living in Australia. A prosperous nation that provides adequate shelter, clean drinking water, food and education. After stumbling through the tunnels, we visited a house in that village. The house was small and rusty, but it was a house full of peaceful memories and happiness.

In the house, many photographs of the owner’s family were on the wall. It was quite obvious and clear that those precious and delicate photographs were the mother’s greatest memories. You could tell that every one of them excited a fragment of her mind to recall some of her fondest moments. Those photos surely provided keys to unlocking her most cherished file in her memory.

You could tell that she was not angry about her situation. You could see that the mother was certainly making the most of her opportunities. It was evident that she was a mother who has a brave heart and a bold mind. A woman who continually strives for excellence even though the storms of life consistently rage at her.

After visiting her home, it made me realise how I sometimes take things for granted, things that not everyone has, things that I should be grateful of. To be honest, I was really comforted to know that our tour guide Ronny really cared for their community. He was doing everything he can in his power to help this village. With the tour fees, half of the amount raised goes into funds for the villages’ Education, Empowerment and Emergency purposes.

The day was filled with great lessons and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Juan Tjiong
New Colombo Plan 2015 (Jakarta)

Some seem to think that because Jakarta and Singapore are both in South East Asia and host a majority Asian population, that they are essentially the same. Essentially in the sense that they are both cities on the planet earth with inhabitants primarily constituted of the element carbon, yes.

In all other senses however, I am here to inform you, that this opinion is wrong.

The only other thing Jakarta and Singapore have in common, is the weather; seriously, it’s like breathing through a sponge. Oh and the haze. Though Singapore is innocent (ha!) in this regard. Air currents blow over smoke created by Indonesian rubber plantations (unethically?) burning forest to clear land. The haze seems to loom over Singapore’s gum-free streets in spiteful (ominous?) reminder of Indonesia’s (growing?) global presence.

The fact that forest burning was banned in 1997 under President Suharto’s (despotic?) office of leadership, and yet continued none the less (bribery?), gives a slight indication towards one of the differences between Singapore and Jakarta. In Singapore, if the government introduces a regulation, no matter how far fetched, absurd and borderline insane, it will be enforced. To quote Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, I bet LKY Jnr’s chums (ministers?) “are so anally retentive, they’re afraid to sit down for fear of sucking up the furniture”. While in Jakarta I stroll down the unsupervised streets hoping I don't get (stabbed? pick pocketed? charged too much for nasi goreng?), in Singapore I doubt I could pick my nose without some official making a public announcement about my (vulgarity?).

It was this sheer lack of regulation and supervision (nannying?) which struck me the most about Jakarta. There’s no safety net here like Singapore’s HBD’s for those who fall (gush? tumble?) through the cracks and can’t afford a home. Given an apartment in the city costs upwards of 300 000 USD, its not surprising this number is high. Consequently, vast swathes of Jakarta’s ‘undesirable areas’ have been converted into slums, home to hundreds of thousands. (forgotten people?). We were lucky (privileged?) enough to be guided through these (haphazard? chaotic?) areas by local documentary maker Ronny. My first feelings weren’t of repulsion or fear as I expected, but of (escapist?) admiration. With the materials they could gather from abandoned construction sites and dilapidated ‘old world’ buildings, these enterprising and resourceful individuals had built a mini-city. And dare I say, much more effectively organised than the job Jakarta’s opaque (corrupt?) bureaucracy has done with the city infrastructure. I cannot claim to empathise with how these people live from that brief visit, but I can attest to their welcoming generosity, ‘keep-on-keeping-on’ spirit and genuine happiness. Everyone smiled at us, shook our hand and touched their heart, the kids sang Fiere Jaques for us and took lengths to communicate with us in the ways that they could - an offer of water, a nod of the head.

Obviously, they have bad times too. And obviously, being a sheltered eastern suburbs bubble-boy, I forgot about this until we left. The one thing my business tutor said to me which I’ve remembered is “that two thirds of the world have to live in poverty for us to live the way we do” (so why were we treated like deities?). Is it a convenient (selfish?) fallacy (cop out?) to say that these people are happier than us? That it does’t matter that I (we?) don’t really do anything to help them, because ‘they’re happy’ and ‘happiness is relative anyway’. Though the tour was great, and I think it’s excellent that we got to see this ‘mini city’ (which the tour might perpetuate?), I couldn’t understand why everyone was calling the slums the ‘real Jakarta’. Its as real as the sprawling mansions and city penthouses which host Jakarta’s ultra wealthy [UHNW’s]. I think it’s actually very convenient for the UHNW’s to be considered part of the ‘fictional’ Jakarta. Shouldn’t we be paying more attention to the UHNW’s, are they not primary beneficiaries (causes?) of the ‘problem’? How do we tackle a problem if we deny the existence of its root?

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This weekend brings me to the end of the first week of the Jakarta Field Trip. And the end the first week also marks the end of interdisciplinary team work. Meeting and working with students from Marketing and Occupational Therapy was engaging in how different perspectives on a singular issue coalesced form a case study on vulnerable road users in Jakarta.

From an academic point of view, the cooperative nature of this task that dominated the week forced each of us to think creatively in order for any cohesive argument to be formed around elderly people as vulnerable road users.

As a strong advocate for humanitarian engineering, I saw the cooperative transport study project as a microcosmic representation of what humanitarian engineering should be like; Like minded people with different skill sets, interests and passions should be coming together to investigate an issue and develop a well rounded case for solution development. Although this week was not primarily about USYD's future involvement in humanitarian engineering, it was inevitable for myself that this was always going to be on my mind.

Whilst the city is plagued with developmental issues that come with rapid (and mostly unsupported) urbanisation. But what I learnt through my new Indonesian friends and experiences, the people here have simply adapted to always make the most of what they have. It is human nature that I see all the time when travelling around South East Asia, and a visit to the Australian Embassy on Thursday helped me put a name to it. It is called the 'entrepreneurial mind'. People in Jakarta are constantly given lemons. They respond with a city-wide chain of lemonade stands and innovative lemon products.

You would not be able to tell that the people here are 'suffering' from their socio-economic class. They are always generous and warm, despite the little they do have. This was encapsulated in the visit to a local orphanage.

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I spent my day off with the other students teaching a small group of orphaned children some English while they taught me all about modesty. For humanitarian engineering, I would like to think that these are the types of people in the world that we are helping.

However, with the end of the Transport Study week, our individual projects as engineering students will now become the focus for the coming week. My own experiences with this city's traffic mayhem was not discouraging. It led a spark of passion to want to be a part of the solution through the University of Sydney. As I am a strong believer in education being the foundation for sustainable change, I was perpetually building on ideas for future engagement with our Asia Pacific neighbour. When deeper understanding of the city's culture is gained, is education through appropriated technology going to be the key for our faculty's long term engagement?

Upon arrival into Jakarta for the transport field school, the city was as I expected – a busy, commercial metropolis. Even high up from my hotel room I can hear the humming of motorcycles and international brands lighting up the skyline. However, after the first week of tours and meetings, Jakarta can only be summed up as the city of contrasts.

Unkept canals contrasted with the growing skyline


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