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Merdeka! Climbing the greasy pole in Sentiong

This is the second time I’ve shot the guys in my kampung celebrating Indonesia’s Independence day. In case it’s not obvious from the photos, this involves the erection of a wooden pole, fairly smooth, like a clean tree trunk, which is then smeared with discarded machine oil. At the top of the pole are some […] Read more »

The case of Gregorius Rato

“In 2011, Gregorius Rato, a PNPM district-level technical facilitator with more than ten years’ experience, moved to South Amanuban in West Timor to take up a post there. Observing the project’s procurement processes, he soon came to suspect that the prices of many components for a village-level solar power generation project were being systematically marked […] Read more »

The Nat Pwe: A Festival of the Deprecated Spirit Lords of Burma

The nat are a pantheon of spirits of powerful historical or semi-historical figures, usually royals, powerful rebels, or folk heroes, who experienced violent deaths that prevented their reincarnation and left their spirits to roam the earth and to continue to play a part in human affairs, often by causing natural disasters and other cataclysmic events. […] Read more »

Writing from 1993: The Storyteller

Going through my computer, I found an incomplete scrap of writing that I wrote in 1993, when I was just on the verge of moving from a village near Solo, Central Java, to Jakarta. I’ve forgotten almost everything about that time of my life. It was amazing to read through what I’d written. I drew […] Read more »

Sitor Situmorang: An Island on an Island

I wrote this article in 2005, for the Garuda Inflight magazine, when Pramoedya and Sitor were both still alive. The photograph of the two men together was taken by Poriaman Sitanggang one memorable day when he was taking Sitor up to visit Pramoedya, with me tagging along for the ride. It was the first time […] Read more »

The Phoenix: The blog rising from the ashes

I created this blog about seven or eight years ago, not long after Invisible People was published. At the time, it was intended to be mainly a blog about the process of writing that book. And then … well, after I’d written and published a few posts about it, it began to get stale. I […] Read more »

AIDS: Whose virus is this, anyway?

It’s hard to really remember how frightened we all were of AIDS back in the 1980’s, when the existence of the disease was first widely acknowledged. You could compare it to the fear evoked by Swine Flu more recently, I suppose, except that unlike the much more democratic Swine Flu, AIDS was still the disease […] Read more »

Strange conversations in the village where everyone speaks deaf talk

For the Invisible People project, my first trip was to visit a rural community with a very high rate of profound, prelingual hereditary deafness in Bengkala in North Bali. Around the village, both the deaf and the hearing use a totally indigenous sign language that has developed here without reference to any other sign language […] Read more »

Blogging about Blogging: Stories behind the stories

Last week, I was building the framework for this blog. I wanted to build a platform to display and promote some of the writing projects that I’ve been involved with. In particular, I wanted to create online versions of two books that I wrote, Nineteen and Invisible People. They are both collections of stories by […] Read more »