40 years no go out

Just as there are its own spritis and ghosts in Tartu, Paris or London, we could aslo find some of incredible souls in the deepest corners of Yogyakarta, Java. Our local friend,  performance artist Iwan Wijono invited me and Kiwa along for a visit to these legends – born artists, who have totally abandoned the norms of the conformist society. 

Through thick rain shower and rivers of water floating under my motorbike wheels we zigzag ourselves along the narrow streets until we find the house of P’trus. Coming from the gray of the outside we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of the striking psychedelia – the walls are covered with colorful dragon paintings, various masks are hanging on the door. There’s a little baby riding a weird machine on the floor, singing merrily a tune, that somehow reminds me of  Pink Floyd‘s early psychedelic chords. 

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P’trus

P’trus is a legendary street artist, who supposedly used to ride a huge high bicycle around the town, blowing trompet, which sound was known all around Yogyakarta. With this trompet, he sometimes intervened some concerts, no-body minded, it was rather seen as a bliss. Or he was organizing performances on a daily basis, making people happy to be together and share the passion of making art out of life. For him esthetics and ethics are the same. Experiment and spontaneity are his keywords for life. Life is art. Art is life. Smile with tears, as he sais. 

Three years ago he found himself a young women, who cleaned his house and made the eyes of this old hippie shining even brighter. 

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P’trus blowing his magical trompet

When the rain was finally over, we took a ride to a man, who’s living even more radially underground. Iwan told us: “This man, 40 years no go out.”

In the house of Puthut al the things are left as they are. Here’s no electricity, no water. He cooks his meal outside on a tiny gas lamp. The man with dark pony tail smokes his thick roll of tobacco happily and seeks for some pieces of wood under our butts. What first seems to be a pile of trash now rather takes a form of some of his creatures – there are tiny sculptures made of cigarette packages, some retro-spirit works of collage and many other things that Puthut has created along his daily blows of inspiration. 

So you never leave the house?

Why don’t I?! As soon as I run out of tobacco I have to go outside to get some more. 

He gets the tobacco from just around the corner – 40m walking. He smokes from the moment he wakes up until his eyes fall close again. And he doesn’t fall into bed when it happens, he sleeps gently where he happens to be at the very moment of falling asleep – in a chair, on the floor or on the pile of these unidentified objects, usually in lotus position. 

If he doesn’t find a canvas, he can use any other piece of paper, seems to be his artist statement. As we wander around his dark house, I come to realize that probably he approaches any piece of paper or furniture with equal creativity and good-hearted apathy.   His monthly costs are around 100 000 rp (10 euros). 

The most important … (he first laughs loud at my question)… is to be happy in this life.

What makes a person happy?

There’s nothing particular. It gotta be flow. There’s no certain thing – you can sit in your house and be happy, or travel from Estonia to Indonesia just like you, and be happy.

Just the feeling!  sings P’trus happily and Puthus plays some blues. 

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Exactly one year later I was back in Yogyakarta. I visited Puthus again, and you know what – nothing had changed! Still no bed in his house,  no electricity, some wonderful miniature sculptures had appeared in his garden that wasn’t there before, he’s shown some creativity, and… his eyes have the same happy shine, just as a year ago.

Seems like nobody cares if these guys live or die, but I do. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe myself how much I care for people like Phutus and P’trus, whose existence seems to amplify the colors and richness of life on this planet. Personally even more – when  looking back at these sweet encounters now, me and Kiwa consider these two gentelmen giving us the first direct input that led us to the path of the hippie-underground of Soviet Estonia. 

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Puthus in in his house 2012  – nothing much had changed since one year

Travel in time – a journey into the psychedelic underground of Soviet Estonia

News from the meanwhile – had my very first curating experience, welcome for a visit in Estonian National Museum in Tartu!

It’s long time since I’ve posted a story to share. Not that we would have buried the blog and lost the passion for writing, but just the past winter has been incredibly busy.  In fact I have been busy with another kind of avant-tourism, this time it’s about travel in time – to the period of time that has been haunting me my entire life, that I almost feel nostalgic about although I’ve never directly experienced it. This period of time has inspired me in the music I make, the life me and Berit have led on our vagabondage travels, the values I care for, the smile I shine, the dress I wear, the spirit that burns me inside.

Something important happened in late 1960s. Not only in America, not only in France or London. But you can also find the traces of this  – what i’d like to call as psychedelic revolution – in countries with radically different social background such as Soviet Union or Indonesia.

When me and Kiwa were living in Indonesia couple of years ago, we visited some local crazy hippie-artists. They made their turning years of youth in early seventies, they became legendary street artists in 1980s in Yogyakarta and now leading their weird lives in their personal private kingdoms of their little lebenswelt, totally abandoning the norms of the common Indonesian society. One of them hasn’t left his house for 40 years, sleeping wherever happens, there’s no bed, no electricity, but bunch of creatures that have become part of his life, his art, which for him are all the same. Happiness? Happiness is just the flow.

Just the feelin’” as P’trus sings some blues on the guitar that has lost around 3 strings.

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P’trus, happy in his house, 40 years no go out

When already back in Estonia, couple of months later visited Tallinn a legendary hippie a writer and researcher Vladimir Wiedemann, the author of the juicy novel “School of Magicians”, which is the first thorough investigation of the hippie-underground of the Soviet Estonia published in Estonian. As a big fan and curious to draw the connection between the souls of psychedelic revolution between the continents, me and Kiwa settled a 3-days date with him in Tallinn.

We were wandering around places where Soviet hippies used to gather and… got stuck in it… for another couple of years, or perhaps a life-time. Well, time is just another construction, so no matter much of that, but what I’m trying to say is that these interactions with Indonesian old hippies and these days with Wiedemann planted a seed into a project that has now laid out its first eggs – all those in Estonia this summer, welcome to visit the multi-disciplinary exhibition at Estonian National Museum in Tartu: Soviet hippies: The Psychedelic Underground of Soviet Estonia. Yes, the one I had joy to curate together with Estonian artist Kiwa, the one that kept me away from blogging, the one that burns my soul.

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Aare with his girlfriend visiting Estonian philosopher Mihkel Ram Tamm who became a source of spiritual inspiration for many Soviet hippies. Photo: from the collection of Vladimir Wiedemann

Soviet Hippies: The Psychedelic Underground of 1970s Estonia

The hippie movement, which converted hundreds of thousands of young people in the West to the cult of “peace, love and freedom” during the 1960s and 1970s and shook the entire world, also had an impact on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Coveting Western freedoms and spiritually inspired by the cultures of the East, a counterculture of flower children developed in the Soviet Union, which was disengaged from the official ideology and expressed itself through rock music, the cult of love, pacifism, actual and cosmic travel, and a physical appearance that was considered unacceptable for Soviet citizens.

The Khrushchev Thaw (1956‒1964) that followed Stalin’s repressions brought a breath of fresh air to some places in the Soviet Union.  In Estonia, foreign radio broadcasts kept people updated on the happenings elsewhere in the world. Young minds were enthralled by iconic hippie-era albums from the West that were illicitly distributed and the knowledge that their contemporaries in the “free world” were rocking in the spirit of the slogan “Make love not war.” The stagnation that accompanied Brezhnev’s rule did not leave much room for hope or personal freedom. Thus, against the background of contemporary politics, the generation that grew up in the late 1960s could not do anything but accept the fact that the world was one big lie and it was better just to deal with your own things.

The hippie movement in Soviet Estonia was not a clearly defined phenomenon, but rather the distinctive flow of the era, an explosive youth culture with a perception of life that could unite vagabonds and academicians. However, the mere trend toward hippie fashions, long hair and great rock concerts was enough to make the Soviet authorities see a political threat that could subvert the regime.  But the more absurd the reality, the more fanatical the Soviet flower power became. They created their own world in the shadow of harsh rules and repressions, and opposed the ruling system through symbolic expression.

This multi-disciplinary exhibition documents and analyzes the unofficial youth culture and presents an alternative trajectory in Estonian cultural memory by focusing on the manifestations of the hippie movement in Soviet Estonia. In our approach we have also included individuals from Estonia’s music, art, and literature worlds who ignored or opposed the official socialist code of behavior.

KIWA & Terje Toomistu

Exhibition curators

Peace and love! More background stories follow soon…

I made it into the fifth life cycle

Some first nation people in North America talk about 7-year life circles. Each of them carry some specific function for personality, each of them opens up some new layers in life. Since I was child, I somehow never imagined my life lasting longer than the age of 27. I just didn’t see it coming afterwards, except perhaps an image of driving a motorbike when already retired. But apart from that I didn’t really relate to any imaginations that would go towards the period of life which would start the fifth life circle.

IMG_8823Exactly one year ago I was raising some glasses with my friends in Yogyakarta, joking, that I sure will have a great last year of my life. And I felt I didn’t want any party, but at the night of my 27th birthday I wanted to pray. Pray for some absolute energy, ultimate vibration, null-energy, tone of the universe. And Shiva, yes. Hindu temples could possibly raise this connection. So I told my friends that I’ll be taking a motorbike an hour drive away from the city to a small hindu temple at night, feel free to join me. Instead of couple of friends (I didn’t expect anyone care to drive out in the middle of the night), we were altogether seven people – Berit, Marie, Monica, Jali, Ethel among them.

What happened though, was that our crowd turned out to be joyful people, full of life and… bigger plans. So on the way we managed to set up another plan for a much bigger Hindu temple. The one which was so heavily calling.

What followed, was the most exciting, beautiful, breathtaking birthday one could ever imagine. And then what followed, was the most absurd, ridiculous, embarrassing and terrifying birthday one could imagine. Which eventually still ended without any real problems, but the threat was real – to be fined for 10 000 rp!! And we only wanted to pray… Luckily, we were left with just the bittersweet memory of an adventure of layered meanings, absurdities, guilt, joy and a fortunately, a sweet follow-up.

Although I probably knew a year ago that setting my age of 27 as the last one to remember must be a joke, I was still curious enough – am I gonna make it or not. The year blessed me with moments, when I almost didn’t care for further. But even then it also striked my mind that the exhibition I was curating was supposed to open when I would be already 28. That kind of meant that I should become 28. How otherwise?!

Anyway, I still love, therefore I am. Now 28, silently entering my fifth life circle. It will be a blessing. How otherwise. 

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Revolution of Monty Cantsins

Interview with the founder of Neoism, Hungarian born video and performance artist Istvan Kantor. He’s amazing.

In the city of Yogyakarta in Java,  in the cultural capital of Indonesia and the Mecca for artists and academics – flames arise in front of hundreds of deep brown eyes.  I see ten hot women dancing in monotonous electronoise. They dance as none of us is used to see the women in the beginning of 2011 in  moslem-dominated Indonesia.  Istvan Kantor, the agitator and founder of the neoist artists network, rises up on his arms and walks on his hands towards the light – and this fire is in red flames. As a dextrous 62-year-old somersault he falls into the fire, that swallows the sign: “I SWEAR TO GOD I’LL NEVER MAKE ANY BORING ART”.  He sticks the spike into his vein and sucks out some red capsules of blood (he also has papers in medicine).

Blood. That’s what Kantor loves.

Then he turns his ass towards the audience, reveals his buns and sticks the blood capsule to the anus. The secret police hiding in the audience observes it with frustration and calls his boss. Ten dancers in the style of femme-fatale turn into girls whose dignity has somehow suddenly been violated. Here in the moslem mainstream the body has completely different meaning. And also one of my dearest friend Kiwa, a recognized Estonian artist and curator, possibly a neoist himself, is right here. For the first time he flirts with the idea of inviting Kantor over to Estonia.

 

Kantor is damn good in it – to bring some scandal in the art world. He has been playing tricks in the museums around the world,  splashing crosses of blood on the ‘holy’ white walls of galleries, but possibly also on some drops spilled on the works by Picasso. But definitely it’s not only scandals that have caused him some haunting fame. By using various mediums his works deals with downspirals of the technological society, body corporeality, he criticizes mainstream thought (or the lack of it), and seeks for rebellion against authority.

He signs all his works as Monty Cantsin and warmly welcomes all of us to use the  name already since 1970s, when the open pop star Monty Cantsin came to life. All different kinds of Monty Cantsins are drawn together by the principle of anti-authority.

Kantor is a legend and a somewhat syperstar – but the one whose fame has not been so easily convertible into money. He condemns the expensive Toronto, although he has risen up three kids over there. But how the hell could a man, who’s guiding line is “REVOLUTION OUT OF CONTROL” accumulate anything else than ideas, fresh and bloody ideas?!

Visiting borobudur temple in java with kiwa and istvan, february 2011

One and half years after our meeting in Indonesia (we three with Kiwa and Istvan even visited the holy Borobudur temple together, see the pics above), Kiwa indeed brought Kantor to Estonia. Rebellious technorobotism, machine-like sexuality and The book of Neoism, which includes all the information in the world conquered Estonian contemporary arts museum (EKKM) with the exhibition “Rebellious neoist” (17.06-18.07), but there were also some neoist action happening around Tallinn, Riga and Pori. Bitter flavor of burnt blood was floating in the air during the opening night. We had bodies turned into zombies, that were exposing signs such as 24H BRAINWASH or BURN BABY BURN, calling up to rebel against sexualized corporeality, lighting up some irons in flames.

We all turned into Monty Cantsins. It was always six o’clock.

 

Istvan Kantor, EKKM, Tallinn 2012

In the booklet IRVE (see here) that was produced for your exhibition in Tallinn, among other things there was also published your writing about how Monty Cantsin came to be. There was a passionate description about sexual activity, topped with a question – does it change the activity when you change how you name it or you change the context?

In the book of Neoism I use lots of porn texts, which get plundered and changed into Neoist theoretical writings. Sex and Neoism go hand in hand. The work of Wilhelm Reich was always very important for me, as an inspiration. He was the one who made the statement, that sex is the driving force of the society. I added that sex and technology are the driving forces of the society. When he said that sex is the driving force of society it was a very radical statement to be made in the 1930s. He was a student of Freud, a psychoanalyst, who went deep into research of sexuality. His work has been an inspiration for me to create some performances with “Machine Sex Action Group” which explore technology and sex.

You can plunder things from other people, you learn something and you change it into your own theoretical ideas and rename it, which is almost same thing, but it generates more interest, because all ideas with old names become boring. For example, when you take a work of a painter, like Picasso, you are already bored to look at Picasso! But when you add something to Picasso or you take the image and vandalize it, it becomes very interesting. It renews the work and puts it into different perspective and changes people’s perception.

If you do something under the name of Monty Cantsin, what will happen with the substance?

We just let people to use the name of Monty Cantsin. But you have to be conscious about this. All those who use Monty Cantsin can be part of the endless game that can always bring out new ideas, because each Monty Cantsin is different. They are just using the same name. When you use the same name for different people, then control is impossible and total freedom rules.

Just to provoke some thoughts – if you say that name yourself Monty Cantsin and do everything in the name of Neoism – does not that itself sound a bit authoritarian?

No, it is not authoritarian. I’m not demanding that you do that. If you want to call yourself Monty Cantsin, call yourself Monty Cantsin. In the context of Neoism there is no rules. If you don’t want to use the name Monty Cantsin, you don’t have to. If you don’t want to do everything in the name of Neoism, you don’t have to. It’s just that if you want to be part of the game, that’s the way it goes, because otherwise there’s no background for it. Basically there are two names that determine the situation, but it’s not anything forceful.

When a baby is born, then the baby doesn’t have a name but we give a baby a name to be defined. But this name doesn’t mean anything until this baby grows up and through history creates content for that name. That’s the same with Monty Cantsin. It becomes more important when it’s in use. Without the use it doesn’t mean anything.

You strive towards revolution out of control – this is one of the principal guiding forces in Neoism. If I were to name myself Monty Cantsin, then I would do it, because chaos is also part of me. And revolution out of control –  isn’t it the most chaotic thing?

Definitely revolutions are very controlled, and basically that is what destroys every revolution at the end, because when the revolution is very victorious, then the system changes the revolution into different system that wants to present this force to the people and will basically subject them to that authority. That’s why I always say that only the failed revolutions are real revolutions, because they never loose revolutionary ambitions because they never get corrupted. It’s because every revolution gets corrupted after the victory. Hungarian revolution was a failed revolution, so it never got corrupted. But for example, the Cuban revolution degraded into system that today is not serving at all what it was supposed to. It’s only serving the dictator that keeps the system going and people are not really happy with the situation.

The revolution that you express in your artworks rarely wants to exceed the world within art world. 

Basically when I talk about revolution, it’s not always an organized kind of system that would have all the necessities what a revolution needs – that is a conspiracy to get rid of the old system. When I talk about revolutions I’m not necessarily talking about political revolution, but I’m dealing with smaller communities where everybody has some place, especially in culture, arts, in the creative parts of the society. I’m opening up questions and discussions and want to keep talking about revolution, which seems like in the society that is so much about control and authority, is obsolete.

But in today’s system it’s not obsolete, because there are newly organized somewhat victorious revolutions going on all around the world. It’s interesting to have this discussion to bring history in today’s situation and to deal with art system as a place where revolution is needed. It’s a smaller system that also has all the structure that the political system has. The artists are the slaves and museums and galleries are basically the government. They all relate to each other in a similar way that the political system works. I’m interested in the system, how artists can find themselves and keep themselves free from this kind of authority.

It’s also interesting that your struggle becomes most real within the institution that is the closest to you – that is the art world. Is it because this is the closest authority you have to face with? Or you feel that you have the authority to fuck it up, because you are an artist?

I don’t have any authority. The only authority I have is how I define Neoism or create my own works. But besides that we don’t have any authoritarian system or corporation, not even a registered group. Everybody shares the same space. We communicate with each other in a brotherhood type of way, that obviously uses certain iconic images and ideas of dictatorships and religious faces, all kind of conceptual ideas that makes it look like an organized system. But in fact it’s not – it’s a kind of fake science.

But based on the current exhibition and your previous activities we could see that this is the sphere where your revolution becomes most real – this fight with institution of museums and galleries.

I’m not fighting against them, but I’m fighting against their way of dealing with artists. I find museums are important places for communication and they should be like temples. But they are not, because they are taken over by banks and corporations, by all kind of rules that the board of directors would present, how things have to look like and be exhibited. They create their own esthetics that is very much like mainstream and similar to television and other communication systems that are serving mainstream culture.

 

One of these days I was visiting you in EKKM.  You were making a mural and you said that you don’t want your work look too finished. I added that they should remain open.

 I understand that artist have some sort of authority, that an art has to be finished in some ways and that it represents a certain authority and determine certain esthetics and makes a statement that would provide people with the way of thinking. But that’s the same with philosophy and science or anything else that concerns thinking and communication.

To leave the artwork open for interaction, for somebody else to continue the work – that’s what’s happens when you plagiarize or plunder. That’s what already Marcel Duchamp introduced first by taking any random object from the street and calling it artwork or vandalizing a postcard of Mona Lisa. Today when we talk about Neoism then that would open up the situation and we would like to see every artwork open. In the museums also, they artworks should have different access not like as today under total control as if the museums were prisons, as they are guarded by security and surveillance, absolutely alienated from people.

You have the concept of open time also – why it’s always 6 o’clock?

This is the basic concept of Neoism. We see the whole system of communication at different perception. It’s not linear anymore – we are not talking about the history that happens at certain year. So we are not going on the axis of X, but we take the Y, which is vertical. It’s basically a visual representation of this idea that everything accumulates and gets bigger and bigger. This is how I imagine this 6 o’clock time – that past, present and future are not separated, but they are happening at the same time.

When you cut a second in film into frames – you get 24 frames. Usually we watch the movie from the beginning to the end, so it follows the linear time. But if I cut the film into frames and throw them in the air (he takes some coins and throws them in the air), I can see the whole film at the same time.

For me, your works often communicate the very essence of creation, the really deep essence that is always about chaos and destruction. Am I reading you right?I don’t think it’s about chaos and destruction actually. I definitely have to recognize the fact when I was a child and the Hungarian revolution happened. I came out from the shelter and I saw all the destroyed streets, buildings, all the dead people and fire and blood all over the place. That had a big effect on me and ever since that’s the kind of esthetics I like. I like decay, I like ruins, death, all the destructive landscape. But this is not something unusual, because that exists in today’s technological society. It’s not that you would see dead bodies and ruins everywhere, it’s hidden, but when you enter the junkyards and you see all this trash and wasted material, you are shocked. But this is the landscape of our society – destruction. The whole idea of technological society is built on this destruction, because all the nature has to be destroyed in order to build cities and rebuild cities.

 I was stunned by one feature in your art practice. What is a stripbot?

Stripbot is a stripper robot. These are very exotic creatures. If you go to strip bar you will see all these exotic dancers and in real life they are also extended by technology, they relate to music, especially when they are dancing. They relate to the beat.

I see them as robots, just as much I see fashion models as robots. Stripbots in my work represent the changes in this technological society where everybody is extended with technology and uses technology to change their body. Use silicon to create different body and all kind of little devices to make your heart work better or change bones, even your brain soon. So people are becoming more like androids. People are really changing in the relationship with technology.

I pretty much see people as technological units and machines. There’s nothing new in that, because I think in history people were more robot-like than they are today. I think that the brain got diminished and we have forgotten some ways of communication like telepathy that was used when people were more like machines.

 

Neoist disaster performance, Kiwa with accordion

Stripbot, EKKM, Tallinn

The book of Neoism, EKKM, Tallinn

Oh mirror mirror, who’s the greatest neoist in this world?

When the trajectories of two souls meet in a geographical point x

 

While thinking about Monica, whose photography was briefly introduced in my previous post, I first get a warm feeling in my stomach. This feeling is usually yellow and it knows that some interesting time with a steady partner is now guaranteed for me, and it radiates simple love and respect for each other, support. This is friendship in its wonderful form. We share, we support, we’re proud of one another’s success.
Monica and I have born the same year, only about a month apart. She was born somewhere on the West coast of the USA, in San Francisco, I was born in Eastern Europe, far in the North, in central Estonia. The paths of our lives have run on absolutely different geographical radius, we grew up one on the one side, the other on the other side of the world. Despite this we share a lot. Starting from the cultural room – we value similar music and understand certain things in visual culture, and finishing with the fact that although  we’ve experienced different things we’ve separately reached the same things. We’re both radicals what comes to certain things, and absolute relativists what comes to some other things. Sometimes I’m more radical than she is, and sometimes I learn from her radicality. I believe she’s right. I know she’s right.
I also believe a person has a good nature – our souls are good, like angels are. When thinking about several global issues it often rises a wish inside me that people would shape themselves according to their souls, and not so much according to the external pressure.  If they don’t do it, they’ll shape too much according to the hopes and wishes of the society, where certain groups of power have gained strength on discursive surfaces, which would do everything to paint a picture which would be beneficial for them only. Who once has the power will create the world according to their face, just like gods, or they’ll do it so that the latter would remain pretty – this means well rested, healthy and definitely in a big car.
As this picture still motivates many, they work endless hours to achieve it. In order to enjoy even a little bit of luxury they take loans to have a big car and to spend each year a week i Egypt. At least your face is pretty.
Or they take alternative genders and sexualities and place them into the box of sins, they pee on them, and this is how power structures that are harassed with “morality” are kept alive – the structures where too often a woman is below and a man is above. And those harassed souls accept the forced shapes – like proper women they wear head wears, men marry women, although they’re MSM (men who have sex with men), or look for jobs that’d bring more in, forgetting to do something else besides shopping.
And every time I enter a shop in Estonia I see how a father padding before me sighs. Once again he has to start the saga, he’s in the current of his own desires, clogged by the size of his wallet and yet dumbstruck by all of it.
In many cultures they talk about a human being as a trinity which consists body, mind and soul. The body keeps us on the physical surface, it offers us pleasures and carries our mind and soul through this world. Our mind is our intelligence, our culture. But our soul is something more abstract, it’s our living force, it’s also love, friendship, power, light, balance. And since in modern society dealing with our soul has been left behind the other poles, it’s more difficult to shape ourselves – our identities and it’s different expressions – so that the shape would also correspond to our souls. What I mean here is something like : you do what you r e a l l y feel, you say what you r e a l l y mean. If you don’t pay attention to your soul then how can you know what your soul is like, where are you from, what do you feel and what is your consciousness capable of. Alas we are shaped in conformity.
See-you-soon-party, no farewells
But Monica is a woman who has her tanned thigh covered with tattoos showing her city experiences (a chair, a mail box etc.) and plans to cover those with her future tattoos depicting fleshy plants. Monica says that this is not alright when there’s someone who fixes misunderstandings with money or doesn’t show respect towards her as a woman. Or more precisely, towards her as a human being. But as we know it’s true that a woman’s respect quite often gets scratched when a man looks at her in a way as if their communication was based on the fact that the other side is a woman – as if only the difference in sex would bring the chemical attraction about. Usually an interest of that kind, which is often constructed socially, turns the preceding events lame, violent or boring.My friendship with Monica seems to show that physical distance and cultural roots are no longer the most important, because the world is more and more connected. Although everything gets more balanced, it still erodes differences and peculiarities. When the trajectories of two souls meet somewhere between the rice fiels in South Yogyakarta, build themselves a nice home in a haunted house with high ceilings, and melt into Indonesian everyday systems but still keep alive this something that makes those souls Monica and Terje, or Monica and Ce in the Indonesian context. And this homely feeling was exactly what led me to ask Monica to edit “Seven worlds”, a soon coming book written by Berit and me.

We have to meet again, no matter where, no matter how.

Between the worlds: airport in Dubai

“Are you a friend of Mr. Eddy?” – “Mr. Eddy? I knew her as miss.”

The humming parade of countless motorcycle wheels emits a cloud of strong fume in the air of  Sunday morning Yogyakarta. I try to keep my breath as I swing on my motorbike through they hideous traffic trying to make my way to the house of the parents or my lost friend. She only died this morning. It’s my last day in Indonesia  before heading back to Europe, which now seems as far as a blurry dream. I’ve grown so much into this world here, this life, this reality, and just after the last night good-bye party – the terrible news.

“Is this the house where the funeral is being held?” I ask modestly.
A young woman trying to find some shelter from the heat of the sun asks: “Are you a friend of Mr. Eddy?”
“Mr. Eddy?”
Right, she had mentioned me the name though.
“I knew her as miss, Miss Sisi Renata.” In Java it’s always a customary to use gender-and age-specific titles.
My eyes travels to the open room, in the middle of which stands the coffin. In front of it there’s a black and white photograph portraying a young man dressed in black suit. His looks is very serious, even sad. Next to the photograph there are some candles and sad flowers. And again I hesitate – am I still at the right funeral?

Sympathetic and modest Sisi Renata grew up in a poor family in Yogyakarta Old Town. Her mother raised her and her siblings alone, which in Indonesian patriarchal context is anything but simple. She wiped away the tears as she told me about her mother for the first time. She did not want to disappoint her mom at all, but already since little she had felt differently. She often found herself playing with girls and in early puberty accidentally fell in love with her male teacher. Later, she kept her love life under strict secrecy, and every night before going to bed, she held a spiritual wrestling with God, to try to deal with guilt of her “abnormalities” and ask for forgiveness for the “sins” she had committed in her fantasy world.

Sisi had worked as tour guide. Once she got an affair with one Dutch visitor. Their  remote relationship with regular meetings lasted for many years, they travelled through half of Indonesia. The man noticed his Javanese friend’s inner brilliance and sharp wit, and decided to give him – back then as Eddy – a respectable amount of money for education. Through her education and life experience she slowly began to move towards deeper self-reflection and harmony. And she realized that she had a soul of a woman, has always had it!
One day her Dutch boyfriend found an elegant lady in front of him when taking her out for a date. Sisi was employed for support organization for warias, where she was an outrage worker for waria sex workers and support person for HIV-positive warias living in the shelter.

Sometimes at weekends, she came up as a singer in clubs, dressed in fluffy bright green, singing tears touching ballads. To her mother, however, she never revealed her new life – she just did not want to create such a burden. Although it was obvious that the heart of a mother surely knows. Also, many guests at the funeral didn’t seem to have much idea of Eddy’s journey towards her better self known as Sisi Renata. Until she was suddenly knocked down by tuberculosis. 

This time we have a guest photographer here – funeral photos by Monica Dominguez. I love her and her touch in photography, see for yourself! 

Want to keep your toe? Pay a few million.

In Indonesia better don’t get sick or have an accident – this leads you down the hopeless world of money and corruption.

“I lost my toe, I lost my toe!” a dear Indonesian friend of mine screams on the other side when Marie picks up the phone. She is panicking and her speech doesn’t make much sense. All we know is the address of the hospital and we take off immediately.

Our friend is resting on a bed of a shared ward, her foot wrapped in bandage and her mood generally good. She would find out the next day if she can keep her toe or it will be cut off for good. But what shocked us even more than the horrific view on her bleeding toe was the story how she had been treated on her arrival.

In stead of proposing an immediate surgery, the doctor asked the amount of money she had with her. After finding a few hundred rupiahs from her wallet (20-30 euros) and promising to pay the rest after the treatment, the caretaker didn’t find it sufficient and took the girl with a toe loosely hanging on her foot to an ATM to withdraw more cash. On a motorbike!

That’s how our friend bought her toe back.

But the saga never ended. To claim the money back from insurance to cover the broken bike and the broken limb, one needs a police report. Still a few months after the accident, she is running between police offices to prove that she indeed had it. Though the proof had been collected long time ago.

The story ends as most of the bureaucratic stories in Indonesia end. She gets her paper to claim the losses at the insurance, but only if she pays a 1.5 million b r i b e (130 euros, which is probably more than the officers monthly pay).

Want to keep your toe? Have some cash for the doctor and some extra for the police saved in your pocket.

Here is the picture she managed to take and the information of the police officer who takes advantage of victims:

Polri DIY, Sleman, Sektor Depok Timur, Jln. Ring road Utara, Mancasan, Condong Jatur. Central Jawa, Indonesia.

Brigadir Riris Dianto

This corruptor asked 1.5 million rupiahs to write a document that says my friend indeed had a motorbike accident to get the money back from the health insurance. 

Everyone who is against endless corruption in Indonesia, please share this story and let’s hope one day the corruptors will finally be punished. 

Serial: Let’s Do the Leaves, Jogja!

By the time of the grand clean-up day I had reached the state of nonchalance as nothing seemed to be working out anyway. The environmental ministry had changed its boss who in turn sent us only three trucks instead of the promised 40. Companies that had been bragging about excessive supports had sunk into silence. And out of the volunteers who praised the flexibilities of rubber-time, only 10 were really reliable and saving us from going thoroughly mad. But even though, two of them ended up in hospital, two went off to a planned trip and one got busy with exams. Intended cleaning was sinking from the ambition of doing the full city and became an action around the riverside only.

To my great surprise, on the final day, the river was full of people. Hundreds of individuals stood in the water, a trash bag in one hand and a glove in the other. The environmental minister was sunbathing against a pier and was observing the workers, doing nothing himself. And the garbage collectors kept throwing huge bags of trash into the trucks. Only when I went closer, a dim reality loomed. Green grass flashed from the mouth of the bin and packaging still floated down the river.

Plastic into sea, grass to the landfill

Old men were sitting on the riverbanks and pulling out grass from between the stones of the pedestrian road. It was then thrown into the river which in turn carried it along to where the volunteers were standing. They, in turn, collected it and stuffed it into a plastic bag and finally sent it off to the garbage truck. When, on the other hand, they saw a piece of plastic floating by, they opened their legs to let it pass towards the sea.

But please tell them that this is biodegradable and can dispose in the water. Instead, the problem is with the plastic packaging,” we tried to find some local to guide the cleaners.

We already said so, but it changed nothing,” he answered with the usual smile. The smile that Indonesians love to get on their face when there is nothing they can do about a problem. 

I then tried my luck myself. A young guy was sitting in satisfaction claiming that it’s all done. There was an immense trash pile at his back, untouched. I started cleaning it myself, bit by bit, and asked if anyone cared to help. But they all shrug and answered:

“This is not on our territory, but a sewage canal that belongs to the house. Anyway, it all goes to the river in the end anyway and the problem will solve in a few days by itself.”

I really didn’t know what to reply to this, but only to accept the reality that our words were just received by smiling walls.

But to be fair to the others, let’s end this post with a positive vibe. We also did have a group of people working their asses off to go through all of this and a large group of people actually cleaning what was necessary. I guess we should be happy for what was done and hope someone will take it another step further next year.

Cultural differences from a new angle

Let’s Do It! project opened a brand new reality within these months. Suddenly everything that I had believed and promoted concerning travelling, cultural differences and any of the kind, turned into a naïve shallow approach of faraway places. I used to believe, deep in my heart, that all the people of the world are existentially the same and, despite all the variations, have similar needs, wishes and hopes, that are made distinctive only by traditionally learned behaviors.

But during the project it grew more apparent that cultural peculiarities are like roots collecting its energy from somewhere so unfathomably deep down in a gulf, that in need to proceed the tiniest change, the whole rootstock should be extracted. To say that the bottle of coke doesn’t belong to the sea, the whole system of material values should be given a new sense. To reduce bureaucracy even the subordination inside of families need to be reassessed. To give up corruption, the cult of giving gifts should be started with.

But also the other way around. To exercise us with the flexibilities of all operations, the traditional belief in responsibilities, transparency, keeping promises and structured worldview all need to be fractured.

** Read how it really works: http://www.letsdoitworld.org and do not get discouraged by my subjective blog posts about leading the project. The stories are intended to be entertaining, therefore I will mostly describe the conflicts instead of successful moments, which there were plenty as well. How ever it all sounds to you, I still believe this one one truly amazing project and should be carried out in all parts of the world. Hopefully, with your help.

Serial: The Secret Language of Corruption

Each step you take in Indonesia, a small bribe goes along. If there is no problem, a problem will be invented and solved for a small sweetener. There are stories where a robbed one is held in police station as long as they lose the patience or at the doctor’s waiting room until the health cannot take it anymore, so that they would pay some bribe just to fasten the process. After that, of course, things get done immediately.

Sometimes they drive you around between different offices, keep your car stuck at the customs or keep visiting your home for some random papers. An European mostly doesn’t surrender and plays along until the corrupters get tired after hours. But an Indonesian tallows the system with cash notes without even questioning why has the tradition grown into something intangible like this.

Nothing without money

Though the West is more likely to be blamed in capitalism, then the power of money seems to have even a bigger role in Indonesia. People would do anything for money and nothing without it. And it is not always money that has to be paid, but an even wider concept – a gift (hadiah in Indonesian) and gifts should always be shared.

The city of Jogja is covered in posters which promise awards for the ones who attend. “Come to concert and win money”, “Take part in out bicycle ride and win a scooter”, “attend the seminar and receive a free language course”, as if a concert, a bicycle ride and a seminar weren’t worth visiting on their own.

Unfortunately also our program was forced to follow the road if we wanted to have any participators, because we started receiving questions concerning the extra profits of cleaning up the whole city, the profits of coming together and discussing about the green environment and the profits of changing something in the mindset of people. And as a cherry on a cake, when arriving at the city hall to fix the final logistics of the clean up day with fifty leaders from the riverside communities, an envelope of 12 000 rupiah (1 euro) was given to participators as a thank you for wanting to clean their neighborhood.

Food and paper as a form of a present

If the organizer has a bit less money and not too many sponsors to back up the activities, then the poor man can buy his guests in another way. Two most effective ways are food and paper.

Food definitely is not a shortage in Indonesia and I never saw a gathering within my time spent there where no food was given out. But even if it is a banquet hall, food is still served in boxes and a new box brought in each few hours. There is rice, snacks, sauce, fruits and everything else packed separately in plastic bags and accompanied by a plastic spoon. Boxes are given and thrown away so easily as if Indonesian kids had never heard horror stories of starving children in Africa in their childhood. 

The same applies for papers. While Kalimantan, Papua and Sumatra’s forests are cut down breathless, a tradition in Jawa follows that the more paper, the better. Therefore a gift can also be given in a form of certificate. To earn it, one really needs to do nothing. He needs to be there, write down his name, gulp down the content of the food box and be awarded with the recognition.

So in this country where things are given out without ever asking: do I or the other really deserve it, how can one ever overcome corruption?

Anyway, we wish a strong will to the new governor or Jakarta!

** Read how it really works: http://www.letsdoitworld.org and do not get discouraged by my subjective blog posts about leading the project. The stories are intended to be entertaining, therefore I will mostly describe the conflicts instead of successful moments, which there were plenty as well. How ever it all sounds to you, I still believe this one one truly amazing project and should be carried out in all parts of the world. Hopefully, with your help.

Serial: Moneygames

Our meeting takes place somewhere in a noodle bar, synth sound playing on the background and an old man in worker’s clothes singing out-of-tune karaoke so loud that we can hardly hear other tones. But I have been invited here by a leader of a female organization who, covered with gold and tinsel, doesn’t seem to fit in the environment, She listens to the overview of our project, brings on an important face and suggests us to join their monthly gathering to find support.

The meeting of women happens on the top floor of a hotel, where an empty echoing banquet hall for 20 people has been set for us. One by one middle aged dames walk in the hall, all of them appearing as if from a Bollywood movie. They waddle there on their 10-cm heels, hardly being able to move their legs under tight dresses. They hug, kiss and chirp between each other, scrutinizing in each other shopping bags.

Then the official meeting starts. The leader opens the get-together with some fancy words and as it is common here, murmurs it all into a microphone that echos so much that one can hardly understand the message, but at least everyone is forced to listen. So here we are, at an important happening where “Javanese culture’s backbones and values are being developed and the traditions carried on,” and a lot more available for a read in a brochure.

This is some kind of a Tupperwear meeting,” Marie whispers in my ear when one of the guests has started to introduce some fabrics and to wrap them around women as a commercial. The women explore and investigate, probe about the tying techniques and marvel the patterns, which all evokes a homogeneous chatter.

Once the presentation of fabrics is done, the microphone is given to Marie. She speaks emotionally about the need for a clean environment and garbage problem, how we are looking for sponsors and people with similar worldviews. I look around and see how the dames start pulling out their golden phones from the handbags. One adjusts her fringe, the other refreshes her pink lipstick and only two of them try to pretend to be interested, but nonchalance is reflecting from their faces.

Once Marie is done with her presentation the leader gets the microphone again and thanks us for the topic. She then takes the lead:

Ok, my friends, now it’s time for some money collection. Everyone, put 500 000 (45 euros) in the envelope. I will gather it all and then…”

Our hearts are beating. Is it possible they will donate something for us? Oh dear, that will be our lucky day, we are so running out of funds already.

…will choose the lucky winner. Who will go home with 10 million ruupias?”

She shakes a box with nametags and draws one out of there.

Sari, congratulations! You just won 10 million. A good day to go shopping for you!” 

** Read how it really works: http://www.letsdoitworld.org and do not get discouraged by my subjective blog posts about leading the project. The stories are intended to be entertaining, therefore I will mostly describe the conflicts instead of successful moments, which there were plenty as well. How ever it all sounds to you, I still believe this one one truly amazing project and should be carried out in all parts of the world. Hopefully, with your help.

Serial: The recyceler-cows project

A phone rings and a man speaking in English, claiming to be from the environmental office of Jogja says to have read about our project from the newspaper and is interested in meeting us to discuss possible ways of collaboration. Wow, from the government! Calling us! Want to help and support the program. That kind of attention doesn’t fall on us every day and naturally we are flattered.

We meet up, they show great concern, they appreciate our struggle, promise to give their best to make it work and we agree mutually that they will become the leading force of our logistics compartment. They promise to find us one representative who will follow our meetings.

During our next get-together a silent girl hidden under a headscarf appears from the city office. She hardly says a word during the whole discussion but only smiles in agreement to what ever anyone says. Only when it’s time to talk about the recycling system of the city, her voice raises, she tosses a few brochures in front of us and starts elucidating Jogja’s garbage reuse ideas.

First, a waste truck comes and collects bags from the houses. It will then be proceeded to the landfill where recycling process starts…”

Then the girl turns the page and our eyes grow boiling red. A huge pile of trash, cows and coats walking on it, is presented as something to be proud of.

…Then the neighbourhood people bring their animals to the landfill, who start eating the organic waste.”

A cow with a plastic bag in its mouth looks at me from the picture.

And how could a cow tell a difference, which is organic and which non-organic? And if the cow eats plastic and later we will eat the cow? These questions flew the little girl to the world of question marks for a moment, but she didn’t float there for too long:

This system has worked for years,” we hear as an answer as if it made clear everything.

Despite all the girl promises to draft a budget concerning the logistics of collecting the trash and hand it in in 2 weeks time.  

Pic taken from Dora’s FB wall

Two weeks have passed, but there are no news from the Jogja environmental office. The same time our faith in their wish to do something diminishes in seconds. We walk into one of their cabinets and see the everyday life of officials. In a large classroom type of space at some empty tables a few people are sitting down. One reads a magazine, one stares at a fly, one plays tetris with her phone and the rest two gulp down greasy burgers.

Oh, sorry, we haven’t had time yet to deal with the budget!” one of them murmurs through his beard.

Another week passes and our souls get anxious. I send a SMS.

What about the budget, is it getting ready?”

and I receive as an answer “Ready! It’s 27 000 ruupias”.

Yes, indeed, the local government offered us a budget as big as 3 euros after a 3 week waiting. So there was nothing else left to do than to grab the pen and paper, figure an approximate cost of human resources, trucks and gas, guess the amount of waste in the whole city and put it all together ourselves.

187 000 000 seems fine?”

Yeah, whatever, better than 3 euros at least.” 

** Read how it really works: http://www.letsdoitworld.org and do not get discouraged by my subjective blog posts about leading the project. The stories are intended to be entertaining, therefore I will mostly describe the conflicts instead of successful moments, which there were plenty as well. How ever it all sounds to you, I still believe this one one truly amazing project and should be carried out in all parts of the world. Hopefully, with your help.

Serial: No communication and miscommunication

After a prolonged and tiring meeting with the local government, we settled the deadline – two weeks from that moment they would present us the crucial information. All happy with the agreement, we concentrated on other things. Within the two weeks me met for other reasons, we nodded, we smiled politely and seemed to share a mutual understanding. But on the day of deadline there is just a great silence. Another week passed that we started to ask for explanations. Mildly and overpolitely, like they do here in Indonesia.

“Excuse me, sir, did you, by any change, happened to have an infinitesimal moment to have a glimpse on our project, or not yet?

“No, not yet. I’m sorry, it’s not a problem I hope.”

“Well, dear sir, excuse me for my frankness, but, at the moment, I hope you understand, we have fifty people waiting for the results to continue working. I’m sorry to say that.”

“Oh, dear Lord, I’m thoroughly sorry. I’m sorry. You see, madam, the be honest with you, if I may, we didn’t really understand what we had to do.”

Then everything starts again. Telling the same story, making a new deadline, spending more and more hours explaining and seeing the same faces nodding as they did before. This time we are smarter and call them every few days to make sure we are still in the same boat.

This story doesn’t stand alone but is an exemplary one to illustrate most of our endeavours. If we said a poster was beautiful, only needed to change the colour from red to green, next day the whole design was marred, but still red. If we asked someone to invite our team members to an internal meeting, he forwarded it to all public Facebook groups. There were ones who quitted three weeks before, but forgot to mention it, forgot to share e-mails passwords or forgot to put our logos on event posters. But if you call and ask, then everything is always going flawless. No problems, no questions, no hesitations no negations. Until one day…

..”Sorry, I hope it’s Ok. We just had a miscommunication.”

“So you are sure all equipment and space will be provided by you?”

“Right.”

“And we don’t need to pay rent for space?”

“Right.”

“And our way of saying thank you is providing food for teachers who stay as guards?”

“Right.”

Being exhilarated by the simplicity of our negotiation didn’t last long though. Two days later a sms arrived:

“And where was the transportation for teachers? And no presents? They came there from their free time!”

All this made me want to bang my already fragile head against my phone, as nothing seemed to make any sense at this point. The only way to get myself out of that problem was to reply as an Indonesian would reply. But the same time I thought that the day of me understanding Indonesian subliminal messages would probably never come.

And you can imagine my glee when at the same moment two men at my next table were discussing some business deals when one of them said: “Sorry, miscommunication, iya?!”

It is not just me!

Serial: Anyone responsible here?

Do you know this anecdote about blondes (I am a natural blonde, so let’s all laugh about ourselves during this post). “How many blondes do you need to change a light bulb? Answer: 10. One holds the bulb and the others spin the ladder.”

I find this anecdote suiting perfectly with Indonesian working styles, where it takes three extra people to get something done. To sell three different products one needs six guys, as no one has a very clear overview what they are selling, no one has the right to take any decisions and you always need a friend to delegate the problems to.

In the situation where no real power is given to workers, no one cares to take the responsibility either. So each time they screw something up they can just shrug carelessly as nothing depends on them anyway. Probably it was the friend’s fault, who even more probably doesn’t know anything about the issue. So all in all, no one knows who should be answerable, but definitely not him and not concerning the matter that has just ruined the customer’s life.

The only solution then is turn to the boss, where all the fingers point, but mind you to go down that road. The Boss is a mythical creature who floats somewhere between the mundane and the divine and whose time is so precious that he can only be reached through the endless corridor of stamped, signed letters carried on a velvet pillow. The letters will linger between offices for so long that the details of the case have marred to the point they become unidentifiable. The only solution to the problem will be the predicted: Maaf iya? Tidak apa-apa iya? (Sorry, hope it’s ok).

A poor European, who mainly tries to keep promises, will perish in anguish. Especially if the poor European has promised to feed 150 people during two days but nothing goes according to the plan:

By the breakfast of an important morning exactly half of the promised sushi arrives to our environmentally-friendly event. And it arrives in fifteen plastic boxes in six plastic bags even though we especially emphasized that we need to set an example with how we are supposed to serve food*. The boys give us some vouchers and say that they hope they can use those another day. But they won’t be hungry the other day, they are hungry now!

Before lunch when the stomachs of underfed participants rattle, Marie and I go to the next restaurant to double-check if we will get what we were asking for. The ibu had met the requirements beautifully and wrapped everything in banana leaves, but once I try, it seems strangely light. “We didn’t have time to make enough, we gave half a portion for everyone,” she looks at me with such an innocent face that I even feel ashamed to be overloaded by anger. We try to imitate her guiltless face when handing over the food to 150 hungry people.

And on top of all we receive a phone call from a restaurant just before dinner saying they cannot provide us what they have promised. The boy suggests us to call the boss, but as no one has the bosses number we could instead try to send him a stamped letter.

Being totally browned-off we organize some emergency food to the participants and then do like Indonesians would do in that case. We ask our volunteers to apologize politely and if someone has a problem, to lead them down the path where no one has responsibility. Send a stamped letter, maybe. Maaf ya?

* For those non-indonesians who don’t know, at all Indonesian events they give out food boxes where each piece is wrapped in plastic and it’s all accompanied by a plastic glass with a plastic cover and a plastic straw. For those Indonesians who don’t know, at least in Estonia food at events is served on tables on reusable dishes.

** Read how it really works: http://www.letsdoitworld.org and do not get discouraged by my subjective blog posts about leading the project. The stories are intended to be entertaining, therefore I will mostly describe the conflicts instead of successful moments, which there were plenty as well. How ever it all sounds to you, I still believe this one one truly amazing project and should be carried out in all parts of the world. Hopefully, with your help.

Serial: Kafka-like Days in Indonesian Bureaucracy

Pretty soon we figured out that bureaucracy in Indonesia is not only a party of the everyday life, but the only way to do things, because without bureaucracy a huge punch of mess is created.

When building our environmental project, our first goal was to reduce bureaucracy to its minimum. Everything had to be as simple as possible. There were two leaders, a few advisors to guide us and the rest of the work was done in teams of different topics, where the team leader was the link between us and the team. So that if anyone had a question, he just needed to ask the team leader and if he didn’t know the answer, he would ask us.

We even thought it would be making a favour to Indonesians – the communication would be fast and direct, without any paperwork or twiddles, and the locals suffering in the bondage of bureaucracy could finally be set free. Of course, a naive Westerners view as always.

When we introduced our innovative plan to our volunteers, a loud confusion rose.

But if we want to ask something, where shall we go then?”

You will get the answers from the team leader who, in case doesn’t know the answer, asks us.”

But usually (biasanya – and if something is biasanya it has to be like that forever) in these cases we would go to the headquarter to the secretary, who sends the question to the secretariat, then they will send it to the secretary-general, who in turn communicates with the director who is advised by the initiator of the project. Then the process of answering starts and depending on the severity of the question it will be sent either via letter or a meeting will be held.”

You see, it’s pretty complicated, isn’t it? Now we do it the easy way. You have a question – call my number.”

A long silence followed my insane idea and a row of confused eyes investigated my each movement.

We don’t understand this system. It would be easier if we did like usually.”

I felt like we had just done the world’s greatest outrage trying to favour easy collaboration instead of running between offices, like we had to do each month eight times between immigration bureaus. 

The Holy Trinity

We finally reached the stage where 30 crucial letters were to be sent out. So important they were that it took us a week to reach our goal. Because in Indonesia a procedure is like a ceremony – only when you have served the God well, he will treat you generously in return.

The more time and effort the procedure takes, the more authoritative it seems. Therefore each letter must be accompanied by a set of ritualistic decorations, the Holy Trinity: letterhead, stamp and permission (izin).

Somehow Indonesians think that the letterhead and stamp are the ultimate proof of reliability. Therefore the letterhead as well as the stamp are always owned by a small circle of bosses and even if the secretary has it, she will answer you,

Sorry, I have no permission to use it”.

Instead, she proposed me to drive all the way to Merapi, where a conference was held, to meet the boss who could then add the stamp. Much easier would be to go around the corner and copy the stamp for some pennies, as the fakes are done by the same people as originals and no ethics is ever followed. Also to get the letterhead nothing more than some basic knowledge of Photoshop is needed.

So, to add some extra extra reliability to the letters, you will need to write at least two of them. One is the letter you want to send and the other one is to prove that you really have the right to send it. An izin from the almighty. To get this mystical izin, it could take you days, weeks, months, as nobody really knows who should give out this permission.

It also turned out to be important w h o sends out the letter. It cannot be done via e-mail as no one reads emails more often than twice a month and local post is pretty much a hazard. Therefore we needed at least two volunteers to go together to all 30 places because likewise with letters, one carries the message and the other one is like a proof that it is indeed an authorized deed. To make them reliable, each of them needed a neckline. The neckline, of course, had to be covered with the Holy Trinity. 

Once this was also done and the letters sent out, we received a response.

We don’t have the izin to accept your letter, because the envelope you sent didn’t have the letterhead nor stamp.”

So the procedure started again.

Now you wonder what did these highly authorized letters consist of? It was just a letter to highschool teachers that they would tell their students about the possibility to take part in our debating competition. That’s what all the fuss was about. 

** Read how it really works: http://www.letsdoitworld.org and do not get discouraged by my subjective blog posts about leading the project. The stories are intended to be entertaining, therefore I will mostly describe the conflicts instead of successful moments, which there were plenty as well. How ever it all sounds to you, I still believe this one one truly amazing project and should be carried out in all parts of the world. Hopefully, with your help.