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 Indonesia  Scholarship Program Indonesian Life  Komodo   Sumbawa
Lombok   Growing Rice   Bali   Royal Funeral   Java   Borneo

  Indonesian Life

 

Life in Indonesia is incredibly hard yet the people are some of the happiest we have met.  Almost everywhere we went we were greeted with big  smiles and constantly happy, helpful people.    

Cost of living of course is relative but for us the cost of everything in Indonesia was astonishing cheap.  Due to a very weak Rupiah our cost for the average lunch was about 80 cents.  Dinner out for 2 with drinks in an average place never came to more than $5.   In Bali, the main tourist area times are hard because 2 bombings have reduced the tourist flow to almost nothing.  Here a waiter in a restaurant makes about $75 per month.  He can afford rice but certainly not a computer.  Offering Balinese massages to tourists is a popular profession and to help the local economy Rob had them daily - at a cost of $4 per hour. 

No matter what the industry almost everything is done by hand here.  Machines are nearly non existent - even in the pottery shop, or the wood shops there were not even power hand tools.  Machines are expensive and labor is nearly free.  

With 220 million people most with no education or skills a majority of the population  is involved in rice farming or fishing .   The stocks of fish are almost gone due to years of over fishing, so now fisherman stay out all night and may only catch 1 or 2 small fish-- not enough to feed their families and certainly not enough left over to sell for cash to buy other goods. 

 Many of the rice farmers grow enough rice and vegetables to feed their families but may see almost no cash in a year. Rice farming is very labor intensive  and like nearly every task in Indonesia is done by hand.  One day we were out touring the rice fields and we stopped to talk to some rice farmers.  It was only 9 am so I said in my limited Indonesian "good morning,"  this prompted a fit of laughter and a reply of , "good afternoon, " followed by his shouting to all his co-workers in Indonesian,  "this stupid Palangi just said good morning, even though it is 9 am and we all know it is afternoon because we have been working for 6 hours already". My having said ' good morning,"  was repeated from worker to worker with each of them laughing uproariously in turn. 

In one area we saw people who had no jobs so they created their own jobs of selling rocks for use in home construction.  This involved hiking down to a river bed, digging river rocks out by hand, carrying them manually up a hill about 300 vertical feet to a roadway where they would sort them by size or break them down with hammers, then sell them for pennies each.  These people would make on average less than $50 per month for this backbreaking work in 90 degree temperatures. 

Meet Suroyo
In Java while visiting Yogyakarta we happened upon Suroyo.  He drives a bechak or bicycle rickshaw and he became our driver for several days.  Seeing his constant beaming smile you would have no idea of the difficulty of his life.  For him times are hard.  In May of this year a major earthquake hit Yogyakarta damaging many buildings and knocking down homes for miles around.  The government promised to pay homeowners to rebuild their homes but so far after 6 months no one has seen a penny.  When we asked him about how his home was he laughed as if it was the biggest joke in the world and told us his house had been knocked down and he and his wife and young son were living in a tent, like many in their village.  At present he had no prospects for rebuilding. 

The first time we met Suroyo we were having dinner in a small restaurant and saw him outside patiently  waiting and hoping for some business.  After dinner I spoke with him and told him we wanted to go see the shadow puppet show.  We bargained for the fare as you must do for everything in Indonesia and he agreed on $2.50.  For that he drove us about 20 minutes to the puppet show, waited for us during the hour and half performance then pedaled us back the 20 minutes to our hotel.  (I later gave him double the agreed upon fare). 

Over the next few days Suroyo drove us around more and we got to know him better.  He was always smiling and happy no matter where we asked him to take us or how big the hills were.  The harder things seemed to be the more he smiled.  Like all the Indonesians we met their difficult lot in life seemed to them a big joke by the gods and the response should be laughter and smiles.  Suroyo's  village was 14 miles away and there was a bus from his village to the downtown area where he pedaled locals and tourists about.  Unfortunately the bus cost about 90 cents so instead of taking the bus he rides his bike 28 miles round trip each day before working all day pedaling his heart out for pennies.

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Webmaster- Rob Dubin                             copyright 2003-2006   Rob  Dubin               Page Last updated 10/27/2006