Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jakarta Art Teachers & I

On Words

Jakarta Art Teachers & I


Jakarta – Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Each day, art teacher Neil Bunting works at solving this problem with his dedication in his international school’s classroom and through the organization he founded, Jakarta Art Teachers & I.

Formed two years ago this November, JATI was, like much in the art world, crafted out of a sense of anxiety and loneliness.

Bunting, who has lived in Jakarta since 2002, recalls in a written interview, “I first thought of an arts organization in 2004. I felt as an art teacher, and an artist, I was living in a state of cultural disconnectedness and desperately needed to forge links with other schools, teachers and people connected with the arts.”

JATI’s inaugural meeting in 2005 was attended by five international-school art teachers. These initial members were enthused by JATI’s dream and spread its message and now around 20 members from thirteen schools take part in each meeting.

In addition to the monthly meetings the members are in near daily contact with one another in order to bounce ideas around and share practical information about such things as exhibitions of interest and where to buy art equipment. “The organization has made significant progress during the last two years,” says Bunting.

Open to all Indonesian schools, JATI promotes the values of expression, individuality, and creativity. Bunting explains that the organization “encourages collaboration and sharing of expertise between art educators, facilitators and anybody who cares passionately about the visual arts” by developing and promoting art through exhibitions, workshops and all kinds of artistic relationships between students and teachers.

Bunting says that it is key to JATI’s vision that local, national and international schools are involved, “This is imperative. The organization is not simply an international school organization. Many of our schools use the International Baccalaureate curriculum. To apply the philosophies of IB we must involve Indonesian schools. This is not just about paying lip service to a school curriculum. This about doing what is right—walking the walk.”

“We,” Bunting continues, “are still striving to involve Indonesian schools and the local community more. We want Indonesian art teachers to take a more active role and we are seeking to not make them feel alienated in any way by producing our minutes and agendas and statements in Bahasa and English.”

Past workshops have featured stations teaching a variety of techniques from book-binding to chocolate moulds and transcriptions in mixed media to printmaking and watercolor painting.

Both students and teachers are encouraged to stretch, to grow at JATI workshops. The students experience new techniques and ideas while the teachers are able practice team-teaching methods and observe their peers at work.

JATI continually strives to create and maintain mutually supportive working environments. Bunting believes its members understand that in order to be creative, the fear of mistakes must be abolished.

Bunting says, “Workshops are particularly beneficial for students from less well resourced schools, who, for example, have never had the opportunity to use a printing press or be involved in photographic processes.”

The new year should be fruitful for the club. Bunting and JATI colleague Dave White are hard at work securing a location for JATI’s next exhibition. Showcasing the work of students of all ages from the organization’s 13 schools, Bunting promises the show will be "huge."

This next exhibition is just a step. Bunting says, “"JATI will go from strength to strength. There will be more exhibitions, workshops and opportunities for the art community.”

For further information about JATI, visit its website at, email the organization at or telephone Neil Bunting at +62 813 10921265.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Public Speaking: Rehearsing and Giving the Speech


Rehearsing and Giving the Speech


Jakarta – The moment has arrived, for today, we rehearse and we give our speech.

First of all, as we prepare to conquer our oratory fear, we need to remember that the key is in the preparation. It is as coaches preach, “You play as you practice.”

Confidence in front of your audience comes from complete familiarity with your material. Tentativeness and an over-reliance on notes rob you of your confidence and therefore your credibility.

As you practice your speech, you need to remember where your signal words are. How did you organize your speech? What are the most important points? Once you understand and are fully acquainted with the skeleton of your speech you will be more capable of presenting it in a natural manner.

Mind-mapping, also called clustering, brainstorming and a whole list of other names, is one effective way of memorizing your speech’s notes due to its visual nature.

To mind map, you begin by writing your subject in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. You next circle the subject and then write your main ideas radiating out from the circled central-subject. From these main ideas you branch out your supporting details. Once you have finished, you are left with a series of webs that clearly delineate the relationships between the subject, its main ideas and their supporting details. Some people feel that color coding the map by order of importance is of further help.

After you have memorized your speech using whichever mnemonic techniques you are comfortable with, you will need to rehearse it. At first it is fine for you to practice with your note-cards, but eventually you want to be able to deliver your speech without them, only having them on hand in case of emergency.

When you begin to practice aloud you may initially feel awkward. After all, for most of us, it is not natural to speak all alone. What you should aim for is the ability to give your presentation in a conversational, normal manner. As you give yourself feedback on your rehearsals, ask yourself if you appear natural. Drill and drill until the speech becomes second nature.

Where are you going to give your speech? Are you going to use any sound or lighting equipment? If so, try to get practice time in the actual venue and with the equipment that you will be using. The time to first hear your own amplified voice is not when you are parting your lips in front of the audience.

When the occasion to give your speech arrives, there are a number of tips for you to keep in mind.

Most importantly, you need to remember that you are ready. You are completely prepared and it is you who knows your material the best. Next, you need to always bear in mind that the audience is there for you. They want to go on your journey with you. They are not looking for faults; they want you to succeed.

You want to speak to friends, not strangers. The international nonprofit organization Toastmasters suggests you greet members of the audience as they arrive. This gives you the chance to “Know your audience” and in turn boosts your credibility.

During your speech it is helpful for you to look out over the audience and make eye contact with individuals. This calms your nerves and in turn puts your listeners at ease.

As OnWords’ final public speaking column comes to a close, I would like to ask you a few questions. What public speakers do you admire? Why do they appeal to you? Is one of their main strengths that they seem to belong on stage? That they are natural speakers? I am guessing your answer to these last two queries is, yes.

What we all need to keep in mind is that when we are observing those gifted speakers, we are witnessing just the tip of a long process that involves writing, editing, and a whole lot of practicing. They have put in the time perfecting this skill so that it does in fact become natural. The good news for all of us is that we too can work at public speaking. We too can transform it into an activity we come to enjoy.

For information on how to join Toastmasters or on how to even start a chapter within your company or group please contact Kebayoran Toastmasters’ Vice President (membership), Monica Sugiarto, at 062818155119 or Toastmasters also has a website,, loaded with public speaking tips and membership information.

Until next column,

Happy Speaking,


This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Public Speaking: Clearing the Mud


The Speech: Clearing the Mud


Jakarta – Now that you have finished your speech’s draft, it is time to tighten it up. You do this by going through your writing and weeding out the clutter.

During this phase, it is helpful for you to keep in mind that your primary goal is simply to communicate your message. Show no mercy when it comes to editing your speech; it is dangerous to fall in love with your own language skills.

The following points will help you while you edit.

Adjectives deaden. “Show, don’t tell,” is the old axiom. Adjectives, words such as pretty, good, best, important, do not tell the listeners much about your subject. They just tell the audience how you feel about the subject.

Have you ever asked your kid how school was and all you receive in return is a reply of “good?” Of course you have. All parents have. Why is this common answer so frustrating? Because, what we want to learn are the hows and whys of our children’s days, not just that they are good or bad or awright. Your audience is no different. An over-reliance on adjectives keeps your listeners from going on the thinking journey with you.

Awaken the senses. Can you see, taste, feel what you are trying to say? If you cannot, neither can your listeners. The noun happiness is just a word, an abstraction, an idea. It is no stronger than an adjective. A warm puppy, coffee served in bed, a phone call from an old friend, those are all concrete ingredients that make up the experience of happiness. By replacing telling words, adjectives and abstractions, with concrete details, that is showing words, your listeners experience your speech.

Public groping is distasteful. When you have got something to say, say it! Do not stand in front of all, reaching for meaning as you try to clarify your position. Phrases such as, “What I’d like to say…” and “What I’m trying to get across today is….” only tell the audience that you do not understand your own message. By having chosen a subject and focus that you believe in, you can avoid these trust-killing phrases and stick with the concrete details audiences thrive in.

Confidence. Before your listeners can believe in you, you must believe in yourself. Saying, “I feel that…” or “In my opinion it’s clear that …” weakens both you and your message. If you do not feel it, do not say it. Your audience understands that what you say is what you believe.

If you need to share someone else’s thoughts, attribute them to that person so that your own message maintains its integrity.

Which sentence is the strongest from the following four examples?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an underrated band.

I believe that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are an underrated band.

You need to understand that The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an underrated band.

He feels The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an underrated band.

The first sentence is the most powerful since it is stated as a fact. There is no belief, no feeling, no wiggle room involved in the declaration. When speaking this is the most effective format to follow.

Stop on and ons. Many of my students love to use etc… This is wrong. When you want to give a list, give the list. Then stop that list concisely with your final item. Your listeners do not need to hear “etcetera” or “and so on.” Keep your message clear, by just sticking to your message.

Repeat by repeating. During your introduction and your closing you will wish to restate your thesis. Also, throughout your speech you will need to reinforce your speech’s main ideas and theme. However, it is important for you to do so without muddying your words with things like “Let me reiterate now…” and “Once again, I need to stress…” When you need to restate, do it. Do not ask for permission, do not explain. If your message is clear and strong, your listeners will be smart enough to follow.

In the next OnWords, our final installment in the public speaking series, we will go over rehearsal techniques and tips for the actual presentation.

Until then,

Happy editing,


This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Speech Writing

On Words

Speech Writing


JakartaOnWords’ last column went over the importance of a speech’s subject, purpose, audience and occasion. Today, we will explore speech writing.

First of all, we need to realize that while there are commonalities in all forms of writing, the fact that a speech is heard, not seen, presents us with some unique challenges.

A reader is able to highlight important details, reread complicated passages and even take breaks. The listeners of your speech will not have these liberties. They will just have a single go at it and it is up to you, the speech writer, to craft a message that is both comprehendible and interesting. You have got to write something that is as listener-friendly as possible.

To help your listeners, it is important that your speech has a theme that can be referred to again and again. The theme will largely be determined by your speech’s subject, purpose, audience and occasion. It is the single thought you would like to leave your audience with.

If the subject of your speech is “success” then perhaps your theme could be “never giving up on your dreams.” This gives your subject a focus and provides your audience one easily remembered point.

After you have chosen your theme, organizing the speech is a pretty straight-forward affair. There are three main parts to a speech: the introduction, the body and the conclusion.

Beginning the speech writing process with an outline is a good idea since it provides you with a visual layout that is easy to remember. While you build your outline you need to remember to come back to your theme at the end of each main supporting idea.

Once the outline is finished, the time to write the speech arrives. The introduction needs to jump right into the action by stating your theme and then giving a preview of your talk. This will provide your listeners with a clearly demarcated path.

The introduction should say something like, “Today we are going to discuss three ways in which never giving up on your dreams leads to success. First, … Second, … Third, …” These words, “First, Second” and “Third,” act as signposts which lead your audience where you would like them to go.

When it comes to speaking, simple is beautiful. A speech’s sentences need to be precise and short. If you use complicated sentences you run the risk of losing the audience. Generally speaking, more complicated subjects demand more concise structures. Specialist vocabulary and acronyms need to either be avoided or explained in full.

Pronouns present a danger too. They can be difficult on the listener. It can be tough trying to keep tract of what “it” or “this” or “he” refers to. In speeches it is usually best to stick with concrete nouns.

Transitions are especially important in speech writing. As mentioned above, these are your speech’s signposts. By the proper use of words such as “but,” “however” and “despite” listeners know that a contradiction is on its way; while using “additionally” and “another point is…” informs the audience that you are about to buttress your position.

Do not be a statistics slave. Only present the most salient factual details that support your theme. This is the information that listeners are not going to easily forget. Your audience can get lost if you throw too many numbers and data at them.

After you have written the introduction and the body of your speech you will need to write your conclusion. An effective conclusion lets your audience know that the speech is coming to an end and more importantly restates your theme. A sound way of testing your conclusion is to see if people get a good general idea of what your message is just by listening to the conclusion.

By paying attention to vocabulary, sentence structure, theme and its reinforcement along with its overall simplicity you will soon be writing speeches that you will be proud to present.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Speech Writing: Subject, Purpose, Audience, Occasion


Public Speaking Organization: Subject, Purpose, Audience and Occasion


Jakarta – As promised in the last OnWords, today we will begin to explore how to become better public speakers.

Public speaking success is in a large part determined by your attitude. You can maximize this positive attitude potential by keeping in mind the four organizational basics of subject, purpose, audience and occasion while you plan your speech.


You cannot have confidence in front of others, if you do not have confidence in your subject. That is why it is essential for you, especially if you are a beginning orator, to choose a topic that you know well, something that genuinely interests you and something you understand.

There are numerous techniques which can help you whittle down broad subjects until they become specific enough for you to give a concise and, therefore, effective talk on. Some methods, such as brainstorming, listing, the journalist approach, and freewriting have been explained in previous OnWords columns which are archived on my blog,

If you are able to sum up your topic, your thesis, in less than half a minute, you have most likely sufficiently narrowed it down. Later in the process, as you write your speech, you will need to keep coming back to your thesis asking yourself if what you are writing is relevant to the topic.


Once you have uncovered a topic you feel comfortable talking about, it is time to for you consider the purpose of your talk. There are three main motivations behind a speech, to entertain, to inform and to persuade.

George Grice and John Skinner say in their textbook Mastering Public Speaking that you are an entertainer when you want to amuse, a mentor if you wish to inform and an advocate when you persuade.

The most memorable speeches combine elements of more than a single purpose. At the early stages of your speaking journey it is usually best to stick with entertaining and informing.

While going through this step, you need to ask yourself what you would like the audience to do or to learn. What do you hope they gain from their giving of their time?


Who you speak to greatly influences the subject and the purpose of your speech. To be an effectual communicator you must never forget who your audience is.

Have you spoken to the group before? If so, what did you learn about them? If it is a new group, you need to ask yourself what the audience members have in common. What is your connection to them? How can you establish a rapport with them? What do they hope to gain from listening to you?

Different audiences have different needs and different expectations. Although they share a subject, a speech you give to your child’s class on career day would be completely different than one you would give to a panel during a group interview. Vocabulary, tone, grammar, body posture and gestures are all determined by who you are speaking to.


Related to audience and purpose is the occasion. You need to know if you are going to be the event’s only speaker. If you are one of many, you will need to be more aware of how disconnected your audience may be feeling by your time to speak arrives.

Time constraints are likewise important. Always leave the audience wanting more by wrapping up your speech before the audience begins to tune out. The last thing you want to see as you look out over the audience is a sea of glazed-over fish eyes. Remember, listeners will complain about you speaking for too long before they complain about you being too short.

After you have organized your speech while always being cognizant of your subject, purpose, audience and occasion the time to write it comes. OnWords’ next column will help you with that.

Until then, good organizing,


This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Public Speaking: The Greatest Fear of All

On Words

Public Speaking: The Greatest Fear of All


JakartaI have a confession to make. For years I could not speak.

Sure, when sitting around a table with friends or standing in front of my students I was cool, coherent and as charming as a Pomeranian kissing a Hollywood starlet. But, when it came time for me to slip out of my comfort zone and speak to groups or strangers, I fell apart time and time again.

Public speaking was my greatest fear.

I did not tremble alone. Many western studies have found the fear of public speaking to be the most dreaded of them all, greater even than the fear of death itself. Monica Sugiarto, Vice President Membership, Kebayoran Toastmasters, says that although she has not seen any statistics on the subject she believes it to be the top fear in Indonesia too, saying it is “the same all over the world.”

For me, the pain would start as soon as I found out I was to speak. Right away, my mind would begin to play over and over the upcoming task and visualize all that could and surely would go wrong. As the days passed, the anxiety would fold up upon itself filling my days with worry, my sleep with nightmares.

I did not know how to prepare for a presentation. I used to write out my speech in full and then practice it over and over, memorizing each comma, full stop, letter, word.

When the time came to deliver, I’d stand there, my hands clenched into balls of fear, vomiting out my message as quickly as possible. I only had one goal: get out of there! With adrenalin pumping through my body and mind I was purely in 'fight or flight' mode. The emphasis, squarely on the later.

I honestly did not care how effective I was or what my audience got out of it. As far as I was concerned, once the words left my mouth, they were no longer my responsibility. It was up to the audience to dig through the quick-speak, mumbled message. I had done my part.

And this is the state my skills would still fester in if I were not a teacher. Just over a decade ago, I began to learn the secrets about how to speak effectively by having to critique others when I was given a class of business executives who wished to sharpen their presentation skills. At that early point I was living the old axiom,those who can, do; those who cannot, teach.”

However, my students’ blossoming abilities drove me to study the subject more deeply. It turned out that public speaking consisted of a skills set that could be learned the same as cooking or drawing. True, not everyone will become an Obama, but by learning how to properly prepare for, practice and give presentations even the most leaden-tongued of us can come to approach these tasks with confidence.

As I acquired more knowledge, my confidence grew and I began to give presentations to prospective clients and lead training workshops at my school. Although I still did not genuinely enjoy public speaking, I was at least able do the job when need be.

Learning these skills will enrich your life both personally and professionally. Sugiarto says, “We get more confident by overcoming fear. Since we do this ourselves, with no teachers, we give giveback. This improves our listening and communication skills along with showing us how to look at things from different points of views… We become better parents and teachers.”

In the next OnWords, with Sugiarto’s help, we will go over some public speaking techniques and learn how to practice them. Hopefully, with time, they will become some of the most-frequently-used tools in your language skills toolbox.

Good presenting,


This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lake Toba: Samosir, world's largest island within an island

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Lake Toba: Samosir, world's largest island within an island

Andrew Greene, Contributor The Jakarta Post, Samosir, North Sumatra

Looking out over Lake Toba, it is evident that it is a basin of superlatives.

With a surface area of 1,130 square kilometers and possessing a maximum depth of 529 meters, it is the world's largest and deepest crater lake.Resting in the planet's largest caldera (collapsed volcano formation) on the world's fifth-largest island, the flat waters of Lake Toba belie the violence that gave it birth.

The Toba caldera is believed to have been created in stages by super eruptions taking place about 840,000, 700,000, and finally 74,000 years ago. The last, probably two weeks in length, is thought to be the world's largest in the last two million years.

The ash and gases it shot into the atmosphere triggered a six-year volcanic winter which, according to some geneticists, killed all but 10,000 humans worldwide.

The ash from the blast blanketed the entire Indian subcontinent with an approximately 15-centimeter-thick coating. The global climate did not to recover for a millennium. Fortunately for today's traveler much has changed in the last 74,000 years.

Now, embraced by a chain of mist-swaddled peaks, the lake is North Sumatra's leading tourist destination.

Stretching from northwest to southeast, its landscape sprinkled with Protestant Christian church steeples and ribbons of cascading waterfalls, Toba's setting is among the most spectacular in the archipelago.

Attached by an isthmus to the middle of the lake's west coast towers a testament to the lake's great size, Samosir Island. The peninsula-island's emerald walls climb a nearly vertical 700 meters straight out of the lake's surface, dominating the scene.

Nearly the size of Singapore, Samosir is the world's largest island within an island and serves as the area's main tourist hub.

Specifically, Tuk Tuk, a tiny circular peninsula hanging onto Samosir's east coast, is the foothold for most of Toba's visitors.

With restaurants pushing magic mushroom omelets, bookshops, bars, tourist shops and hotels strung along its circumference, Tuk Tuk is the ideal base for those wanting to explore Samosir or simply to relax.

The frequent ferries from Parapat on the lake's east coast stop at nearly all of Tuk Tuk's hotels. All a traveler needs to do is tell the ferry workers where one would like to stop and the ferry, colored like a Philippine truck, will pull up to that hotel's private dock.

Center of Batak culture

The rest of Samosir is well-worth investigating. The island is the heart of the Batak culture.

Originally Neolithic mountain peoples from northern Thailand and Burma, the Bataks were displaced by traveling Mongolian and Siamese populations.

Once they had found their way to Lake Toba the Batak lived, cocooned by the neighboring mountains, largely unaffected for centuries by the outside world.

Today, with a population of six million they are one of Indonesia's largest Christian communities. Lutheran German and Dutch Calvinists missionaries introduced the Batak to the faith in the 19th Century.

Though the majority of Bataks are practicing Christians, the area is replete with reminders of their animistic past. The ubiquitous traditional rough-hewn wooden-planked Batak houses, with their upswept roofs, have three levels.

Each represents a different plane of their world. The high roof corresponds to the home of the gods; the middle elevated level, where the family lives, represents the space that humans occupy; the final bottom space beneath the house is for the dogs, pigs and chickens and is the lair of a mythological dragon.

These houses are ornately decorated with large, carved animal heads at the ends of the side beams. These heads are protectors and, as is believed by some Bataks, are able to radiate positive energy, shielding the residents from disease and evil.

More common than the traditional houses are the family tombs. In fact, they are so widespread that it may be impossible to find a vista from which one cannot see at least one.

The tombs range from the simple to the elaborate. Some are whitewashed concrete boxes with the rounded tombstones that are ordinary in the west. Others are many meters in height, tiled and topped with large crosses and life-sized statues representing the departed.

These tombs are everywhere: in the rice fields, buffalo pastures, next to houses, beside the road. A day or longer could easily be spent just examining and photographing these extraordinary tombs in their picturesque surroundings.

There is no public transportation on the Tuk Tuk peninsula so to travel inland one needs to walk or rent a car, motorcycle or bicycle.

Traveling by foot is a pleasant way to experience the countryside and meet the outgoing people. Even with stopping to take photos and shake hands it should take no more than an hour from anywhere on Tuk Tuk to reach Samosir's main road.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Friday, September 07, 2007

An Island of Your Own: Traveler's Tips

Traveler’s Tips

For Pulau Seraya Kecil


  • A guest to Pulau Seraya Kecil needs to book through Gardena Hotel (0385-41-258). There is a minimum two night stay on the island.
  • Watch your valuables at all times while at the mainland Gardena. There are many tales of money and cameras being spirited away from locked rooms.
  • There are two airlines plying the route between Bali and Labuan Bajo. Indonesian Air Transport (0385-41-088) departs Bali at 10.00 and returns from Labuan Bajo at 12.15 daily for Rp 650,000 one way. Trigana Airlines (0385-41-800) has daily flights between the two destinations from between Rp 541,000 and Rp 761,000 dependant upon class.
  • It is possible to return to Jakarta by air-conditioned executive bus. An all inclusive ticket is Rp 490,000.
  • Traveling to Labuan Bajo from Jakarta by bus is not as simple. Exchanges must be made in Bali and possibly in Lombok.
  • Snorkeling during low tide on Pulau Seraya Kecil must be done from the beach directly in front of the restaurant. There is a bamboo pole in the water marking the path to the far side of the reef.
  • Snorkeling on Pulau Seraya Kecil can be done from anywhere during high tide. The reef is accessible from anywhere during high tide.

This article was published in The Jakarta Post’s Weekender Magazine, June 2007.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Six Alternatives to Television


Six Alternatives to Television


Jakarta – Television watching is the stinking ashtray on the dining room table. Though most profess to believe it is detrimental to our well-being, we refuse to turn our TVs off.

True, there are benefits to having a television. After all, it provides us with the cultural images that bind us to our communities. The Challenger exploding, O.J.’s white Bronco chase, the subsequent L.A. riots and the more-recent toppling of the Saddam statue are all events that I have, at least, virtually experienced.

Also, of course, there are sports to consider. Without television most of us would never be part of a World Cup or even, more importantly, the scrumptious shirtless-Beckham post-match interview. For many, sports are the main reason to have a television.

But, all of that notwithstanding, once we have made the decision to live a telly-free life, we need to think about how to fill the void. After much thought and research at sites such as,, plus other publications, I have assembled a selection of half-a-dozen activities that I myself start today as my own television-less existence commences.

Read it. Most of us have those books that we have always wanted to read. Ulysses and Under the Volcano head my list. I have started and quit both on numerous occasions and now that I have shut my box, I will open the first again and, this time, finish it.

Connect it. Sit down with your family. Have focused conversations and learn about one another. Go out, meet your neighbors, join clubs. The Living in Indonesia website at has a list of clubs that can help you connect with people who have the same interests as you do. Go nuts and use your free evenings to start dating your spouse or partner again.

Play it. The classic games of Monopoly and Uno never, in my opinion, go out of style. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my family and I playing Risk, Monopoly, Spoons, and Uno.

Chess is a game I came to appreciate once I moved to Indonesia. This is a wonderful place to hone your game. Most drivers and security guards are willing to school you free of charge.

For card enthusiasts, the websites at and are stocked with rules of games you have probably long forgotten how to play along with many you most likely have never heard of.

Learn it. Many universities now offer online degree and certificate programs. These can make productive use of your newly-found surplus time and hopefully even help you secure that next promotion.

Closer to home, many schools and institutions in Jakarta offer evening and weekend classes that will help you learn that skill you have always wanted to pick up. Mandarin, oil painting, creative writing and pasta making classes are just a sampling of what is available here.

Move it. Use that evening television time to go for walks. Sure, the Big Smoke is not exactly foot-friendly, but deep within the city’s neighborhoods and winding gangs, the roads are less-heavily mechanized and full of interesting sights and people. Walking is also a great way to spend time with your family and a fine way to meet your neighbors. In addition to walking, this evening time would also be nice for starting any fitness plan you are interested in.

Box and Eat it. Start a picnic day. Be creative and get the whole family involved. Each week, another person can select the picnic’s menu and setting. An eating blanket can be spread anywhere, from your master bedroom’s balcony to the Bogor Botanical Gardens.

As I reread the above six thoughts, I realized that they all possess a common thread. They are about paying more attention to those two things that matter most: you and the people around you.

That, to me, is not a bad trade off.

Good luck,


This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Threat of the Goggle-Box

On Words

The threat of the goggle-box


Jakarta Mid election-surprise-holiday day, I sat on the foot of my bed with a mound of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese balanced between my wine-capped knees as an advertisement for something called the Baby Channel was broadcast on the screen of my Digital 1 fed moving-picture box.

I sat up straight. Surely, I thought, as a small-screen enthusiast, this development was to be to my delight.

“Finally,” I inwardly rejoiced, “the cycle was complete. At last, the time had arrived in which we have television programming to pull us wet and swaddled from the womb, propel us all through life, before finally surrendering our wide-eyed, empty-headed bodies back into mother earth’s embrace.”

Cradle to grave goggle-box. How could this possibly be wrong?

But, then I remembered hearing about a study published by the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute just a few days before. It had concluded that popular DVD’s such as Baby Einstein offer toddlers no benefits and that the babies who viewed such fare in fact comprehended fewer words than video-free tots.

Suddenly my comfort food left me cold and with bits of powdery orange-pasta drying in the corners of my mouth, I lowered the bowl.

As a parent of a soon to be ten year old, I am utterly aware of all, ok, some, of the influences children face nowadays. In our enlightened era in which Mc Donald’s is introducing healthy kid’s meals and smoking has been outlawed on the thoroughfares of Jakarta, do we really need to take a step back and introduce our children to an addiction at yet an even earlier age?

How far behind can the Cemal or Pell Mell (their misspellings, not mine) candy cigarettes of my boyhood be? Next thing you know there will be children’s Visa debit cards and Bintang Zero alcohol beer. All props for a twisted make-believe world, these are best relegated to Tim Burton’s silvery screen and out of our more-than-Technicolor lives. The buying on credit, binge drinking, and eating disorders can surely be put off until the university years.

Childhood is the time to solidify the good habits. And since today’s column is about adolescent television viewing, let us get back to that. Simply put, numerous studies have shown that watching too much television leads to, among other things, obesity and low test scores in children.

Watching television dulls your awareness so that you do not notice messages to your brain saying that you are full. This is why it is so easy for you to mine through an entire bag of chips or a pint of Hagen Das while you are distracted by the latest madcap happenings of your favorite fictional family.

Two 2005 studies published in The Journal of Pediatrics said that children who watched too much telly were prone to fatness. R.M. Viner and T.J. Cole from the University College London found that every hour over the recommended 1.5 hours of daily television watched by five year olds raises the risk of them becoming obese by the age of 30 by seven percent.

In the other study, on the Atlantic’s modern side, Doctors Kirsten Davison, Lori Francis, and Leann Birch from the State University of New York discovered that nine and 11 year old girls who exceeded recommended guidelines of television viewing were 2.6 times more likely to be overweight than girls who watched less television.

Low Test Scores

Television in and of itself does not make us stupid. The danger is that it is such a demanding, time-devouring habit that it keeps us away from true life experiences.

According to Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, in 1990, the National Assessment of Educational Progress tested eighth-graders across the United States and found that, “The more they watched, the lower the scores.”

In 1991, other tests of young teens from more than a dozen countries showed that in math and science “Students who watched the most television had the lowest scores.”

A 2005 edition of The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine quoted Doctor Dina Borzekowski as saying about similar tests, “Among these third graders, we saw that … those who had bedroom TV sets scored around eight points lower on math and language arts tests and seven points lower on reading tests.”


Though the above studies were conducted in the West, Indonesian children are not safe. They too are falling victim to the same electronic demon, watching well-above the recommended limit of 1.5 daily hours. The Children Media Development Foundation (Kidia) says, “The average Indonesian child watches between 30 and 35 hours of television per week, or 1,560 to 1,820 hours per year.”

Kidia’s Chairman, Boby Guntarto, told The Jakarta Post just over a year ago during the nation’s first “No Television Day,” Children who watch too much television are more likely to be overweight and unhappy. It also affects brain development and learning."

It is clear that this seemingly-innocuous practice can hook and detrimentally affect us no matter where we live. Next week’s On Words column will explore some techniques that can help you and your family kick the television habit.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Balinese Children's Foundation

On Words

Balinese Children’s Education Foundation


Central Bali Dennis and Nancy Colbert’s Balinese Children’s Education Foundation is making a difference one school at a time.

The grandparents of five visited Bali for the first time in 2000 to see Nancy’s sister Christina Welty who had recently moved to a village north of Ubud. They were struck by the kindness of the island’s people and once back in their Northern California home, decided that they had to try to help them.

With humble ambitions, they started their non-profit foundation with the hope of just building an elementary school library to encourage reading. Dennis, in a written interview, says about the beginning, “Nancy and I have always loved being with children, always very interested in their education, as well as knowing how the love of reading can enhance a child’s education.”

Nancy, a former elementary school teacher, and Dennis, a retired business executive, wanted to find a school in need of a library and, just as importantly, one with which the Colberts could forge a bond.

Dennis says, “Having a connection in some way to the school really helps with the overall communication and receptiveness to looking at new learning techniques.”

Returning to Bali in early 2005, Dennis searched for such a school. He visited a number of elementary schools before selecting one in Kalabang Moding. “The connection in this school,” he says, “is through the local village families that live in the villages near my sister-in-law’s house; we got to know them and they in turn went with us to the school to introduce us to the headmaster and teachers.”

The library is located in a building off the school’s main wing which had not been “painted or maintained in any way for 20 years.” The foundation started with the basics: getting the building’s inside and out painted, the floor retiled, a new ceiling installed, the leaky roof repaired, and new books purchased.

Then with the library completed, the foundation found it hard to ignore that the school needed much more than a simple library. The school still needed to be modernized and cleaned up.

To meet the first goal, they added five desktop computers, a printer and a computer teacher to teach all of the grades and teachers in after-school classes. All of the teachers participated and learned the basics of word processing and creating spreadsheets. Currently, the foundation is preparing a computer education program whereby the local inhabitants can earn a computer proficiency certificate.

Then, in May 2006, the foundation started a recycling program to help clear away the plastic and trash that littered the school grounds. They found a recycling business in Ubud to provide recycling bags and a weekly pick up service at the school.

Next came perhaps the biggest challenge of all, educating the students, teachers and locals as to how recycling would improve their health and their collective environment.

The foundation posted charts around the school detailing how long plastic takes to decompose. A two-page Indonesian flyer explaining the benefits of recycling and the health dangers associated with burning plastic was distributed to the students. The students in turn used these to educate their families.

Then with the recycling program in place they held a school assembly, where the entire recycling program was discussed and, following which, everyone went straight to work cleaning up the area. Dennis is proud of the program’s success, “In our subsequent visits to the school, usually every three to four months, we have found the grounds very clean and a real pride in the neat grounds.”

Dennis says that all of this assistance has been deeply appreciated, “We found that our work was also a motivational thing for the headmaster and teachers, as they poured concrete for new pathways, improved the gardens and showed a new enthusiasm for their basic job, teaching the children.”

Infused with the spirit of success from its first school, the foundation began the search for a second in late 2006. Assisted by the local Rotary club, an elementary school in Belang-Singapadu was located. This village turned out to be the home of Ganesha Book Store manager, Made Rohani. The foundation had been purchasing most of its books at Ganesha at a discount, so the foundation was fortunate to once again have secured that connection that is so important to its work.

On the foundation’s visit to the school, Dennis says it found, “One of the wings just needed painting. The other wing…was in terrible shape; one of the rooms could not be used because of the leaking roof, floors had many holes, windows and doors broken…The school also had an unused building that could be repaired and used as a learning center.”

Following a meeting with the village school committee the heavy construction was started in January 2007. Utilizing the skills of the local villagers, the classrooms, learning center and library were repaired and painted.

In April of this year, Dennis, Nancy and Nancy’s sister Susan returned and turned the school grounds into an educational project by having the students design the grounds and select the plants that would landscape the area.

Always a businessman, Dennis has been able to measure success at the two schools of about 135 students each, “When we were in Bali in April 2007, the library checkout system for the two schools showed that the books had been checked over 1,000 times over the last three months, which [is] way beyond anything we had expected.”

“We are now working on obtaining government statistics on how our two schools have done in the past few years, in terms of testing results, number of sixth grade graduates… to compare to current results.”

With the two schools thriving, the foundation is now ready to expand its reach.

Dennis reports, “Once again, with the success we have had having a connection to the schools we have selected, I am going to look at three schools in September, that have been attended by Balinese that have worked for us on various jobs in Bali and for my sister-in-law, and now have children attending these schools. If the schools need libraries, recycling programs and some repair work, we will do all three.”

By working school-by-school, forgoing contractors and using the labor of local inhabitants as much as possible the foundation keeps costs down to a minimum. Dennis says, “The advantage someone would have in donating to our foundation is that I personally oversee 100% of the funds and disburse them myself, so it guarantees that 100% of the money goes to help the children.”

“I handle all payments directly to people I hire,” he continues. “With as many as possible from the local village to do the work at the school, and do not use contractors for the work. I found that this ensures that the money gets to the right people.”

The foundation says that a library usually costs between US$600 and $2,000 depending upon how much building repair is required. Computers are up to $3000, while ongoing training expenses are about $1,000 per year.

Thus far, the foundation’s work has been funded by the Colberts, an Indonesian businessman in Jakarta, and the sale of products from Bali that are sold in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Colberts say, “All proceeds from the sales go to the Foundation and then back to Bali schools.”

Registered with the National Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, American citizens are able to make tax deductible contributions to the foundation. If you have any questions regarding the Balinese Children’s Education Foundation please contact Dennis Colbert at

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

Doctor H. Arief Rachman on Education: Part Two

On Words

Doctor H. Arief Rachman – part two


JAKARTA Today’s On Words’ column completes Professor Doctor H. Arief Rachman’s interview.

Coming into being just a few years before Indonesia gained independence; the educator has matured alongside his nation. And, similar to his younger sibling, he does not hesitate to stand up for what he believes to be just. This trait has landed him in prison on two separate occasions.

The first was in 1966 when he fought against communism because, he says, “Our philosophy says to believe in God, while the communists claimed to be atheists. For me it wasn’t political. I just went against what I thought was wrong. All the fighters who went against communism were imprisoned.”

A dozen years later, the man who spends his free time helping drug abuse victims was locked up a second time while he was a dean of students. He explains, “All the students went against the government due to its corruption and instead of the students being caught, the Dean of Students was caught. I was in for eight months without ever being charged.”

With his forty plus years in classrooms, schools, and universities, Rachman has witnessed the development of education in Indonesia. He says, “The city universities and teacher colleges are changing, though evolutionary, not revolutionary as we need.”

Despite this sluggish pace of growth, the heart of the man remains rose colored and he says, “On the micro side we are OK, with many good universities flourishing along good high schools and international schools.”

Rachman was just a teen of 16 when he first experienced the joys of a multicultural classroom after he was accepted into the American Field Service foreign-student exchange program in 1959. He was enrolled in a small high school in New Jersey, America, becoming the program’s first Muslim student to move in with a Jewish family within a Jewish community.

He recalls about that pivotal time, “In that high school we exercised cross-cultural understanding, active learning and discovery learning. I saw teachers as friends. It was then, that I began to think in the back of my mind, I’d like to go into that field and help students.”

Now, Rachman envisages a land where schools are genuine societal reflections. He says of the late 1980’s, when he was a member of the team that established Lab School’s integrated culture, “I discovered that a school should not only have intellectual input. So we tried to have a healthy population of children from the poor, the middle, and the upper classes. We did this both for financial and intellectual points of view along with cultural diversity. A homogeneous-school society cannot create a strong school.”

“We should have,” he explains, “Muslims, Christians, Hindus and more, all in good proportions. Additionally, we should not only have clever students, but also average and slow learners. With that blend, we’ll have a healthier, intellectual society.”

“Fast learners understand that life is a learning process in which we all live together with people who are not on the same track, different races, and religions. The good schools have a mixture of fast and slow learners that help each other. Multiculturalism should be emphasized.”

In keeping with his assimilation goal, Rachman’s vision as an educator has always been to develop well-rounded people. He remembers, “We aimed [at Lab School] to develop good personality and character based on good faith and strong healthy nationalism… Our teaching curriculum was accompanied by lots of extra-curricular activities that involved: intellectual development, emotional development, spiritual development, social development and physical development.”

“Those five potentials,” he adds, “we realized by using the school culture, the relationship between the parents, the teachers, and the students. We became a strong family.”

Unfortunately, Rachman feels this spirit and vision are lacking throughout much of the archipelago. “The state system of putting all the clever in the same schools is a mistake because not much learning takes place in those schools. It’s more like training.”

“I think we have a weak and narrow way of looking at success,” he adds. “Perhaps it goes to the love of materialism and status of the tangible, instead of the soft power of the intangible that education brings, like values, music, dance, culture, and religion.”

Elaborating, Rachman continues, “Even at the global level, Greenpeace and WWF have not been successful,” says the professor who also is the executive chairman for the National Commission for UNESCO. “In UNESCO we have a motto: ‘Learning to know. Learning to do. Learning to be. Learning to live together.’ I think now we [Indonesia] are only at the stage of learning to know.”

He feels that second-language instruction in Indonesia remains at that same stepping-off phase, saying, “Language is an arbitrary system used to communicate. For English, the communication is not there, what teachers are doing is giving the knowledge of rules. Here, English is knowledge, not a skill. The teachers realize this, but do not yet have the capacity and skills to go beyond the rules.”

Aware of English’s importance in today’s world, he says, “The role of English in Indonesia is as an open window to knowledge, a window to the world. People who do not speak English, do not know the world. Secondly, English is a path of international friendship. Without English you are confined in a box.”

Rachman has long been propping open that window to the world for Indonesians. For ten years, more than 20 years ago, he was the presenter of a televised English language quiz show on TVRI. “I entertained and motivated people to like English,” he says. “Everyone watched me since there was only one channel at that time. I was lucky.”

Indonesia is fortunate too, for older brother Professor Rachman continues to watch over her.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.