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Indonesian update #4

10 August 2007
Written by

Selamat pagi (Good Morning), Vote-Smarters!

Unfortunately I was unable to send you an update yesterday due some problems with the Internet here, but yesterday's activities are very similar and very different than today's. Both days were filled with visits to schools and colleges here in Indonesia, but the schools and universities were very different places that both shared many similar

Thursday's sole event was a tour of and lecture at the Peesantren Darunnajah, which is Jakarta's most prestigious Islamic boarding school. The picture here is of me talking with the head of the school's protocol section, Ahmad Parlaungan Tanjung as we toured the
school. It is an incredible facility where hundreds of students from the age of 4 to 18 are studying and living. The campus was not only incredibly vibrant and beautiful, but a learning place in each nook and cranny. Simple things on campus such as a door or gate would have signs on it that would name the place, its function and related
words in Bahasa (the national language), Arabic and English. Every student that studied here was doing so in three languages simultaneously! After the tour, I provided a lecture and presentation on Project Vote Smart and took a number of questions about democracy and its value to the future of Indonesia. Many of the students and teachers were interested in talking about whether democracy had universal values and ideas or whether it was different in style and substance completely from each culture to the next. My suggestion was only that democracy is like food--we all need it to flourish and grow, and that even though we could all eat food from around the world, each person and culture couldn't be faulted for liking their own kind the best. The additional picture here is in front of the main sign for the school--the Arabic writing here was so beautiful that I really wanted to make sure I captured this as so symbolic of the faith and pride that filled everyone at the school.

Today (Friday) I had the privilege to give a lecture at another educational institution in Jakarta: the Universitas Pelita Harapan, Catholic university in the suburbs of Jakarta. UPH was founded by James Riady, an Indonesian billionaire, and it really was an incredibly impressive campus. The facilities were state-of-the-art and felt incredibly new, well-designed and yet completely comfortable and liveable. The campus was opened in 1994, so it is still a very new university. It is growing by leaps and bounds though and is building dorms like crazy to keep up with demand. One of the commitments of the university though is to provide a greater international and global focus and this has led UPH to make connections like the one that brought me to lecture there today. The president of UPH is also an America, Dr. Sheldon Nord, who is pictured below with me and Chodidah Budi Rahardjo, the senior cultural affairs specialist from the U.S. Embassy. You can see behind us a banner advertising my lecture. When I pointed out that I was impressed with the effort they put forward to publicize my talk
but that I was glad I didn't have top-billing, the president pointed but that I actually did--he pointed out that my sign was the one at eye-level. The lecture was the most pleasant and engaging event of my entire trip. I was joined on stage by Edwin Martua Bangun Tambunan, the head of the International Relations Department at UPH
and a very gracious and gifted moderator and host. Edwin most impressed me that he knew seemed to know the names of each of the 200+ students in the room. Although these have been rewarding days though, they have been exhausting. My sponsors at the embassy though have thoughtfully given me Saturday off before I fly to my second city on my tour on Sunday. I will deliver my next update after I have had a chance to settle into Medan, which is at the extreme western part of the Indonesian archipelago and very near Bandeh Aceh, where the 2004 tsunami had the worst impacts. Until then, selamat tinggal (good bye)!

Related tags: blog, democracy, Indonesia, staff-members

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