The first leg of our study tour was in Jakarta and altogether, we will be here just over 2 days. The places we visited provided us with a wide variety of new & interesting perspectives covering aspects of both Jakarta history and education.
Our first stop was the Australian Embassy, Australia’s largest Embassy largest embassy in the world, thus demonstrating the importance our government places on strong relationships between Australia and our closest neighbour. Once through very tight and impressive security by both local and Australian personnel, we were seated in an auditorium while several people talked to us about several programs supported mutually by both the Australian and Indonesian government. A representative from AusAid spoke about the various scholarships available for Indonesians to study in Australian universities for example. There was a lot of interest from our group keen to discover if there are any existing programs through which we can invite our partner school teachers to visit us again to further strengthen ties between our schools but it seems that unless they are involved in undergraduate or post-graduate study, it is not so straightforward. Such a shame for both governments as this is without doubt a misssed opportunity improving relationships at the grass root level.
In the evening we dropped by Sunda Kelapa, the very old Jakarta port situated on the estuarine of the Ciliwung River. While a minor port today, in the past it has played a significant role in Jakarta’s history. It was so lovely and cool being late afternoon by the waters edge. The view of the huge ‘pinisi’ ships (traditional two masted wooden sailing ships) all lined up along the wharf was gorgeous. Apparently ships incur huge fees if they stay longer than 24 hours which encourages captains to load and unload quickly. These ships transport freight around Indonesia.
From Sunda Kelapa, we went to Jakarta Tua, old Jakarta Town. By this time, the sun had completely set and it was dark and the lights were on around Fatahillah Square lighting up the buildings which by this hour were all closed. (Fatahillah was a 16 century commander who recaptured Sunda Kelapa from the Portuguese.) This visit was very different to my last experience with Ibu Valentina in 2013 when we visited during the day and could walk through and explore the nearby historical buildings surrounding the square. After a quick walk around the Fatahillah square to take some photos, we headed into the Cafe Batavia. Cafe Batavia was built mid 1800’s and was used origninally as the VOC administration office. It is such a beautiful building and feels as though little has changed since Dutch occupation. Seated at the tables in the restuarant, being waited on by Indonesian staff, felt decadently colonial and at times quite uncomfortable! I had to keep reminding myself that I am still in the 21st century!!
Our visit to the Mesjid Istiqlal (Independence Mosque) was fascinating. It was brilliant visiting with 2 tour guides, a Mosque guide and our 2 tour leaders as between the four of them, we learnt so much. Apparently the location of the Mosque was chosen by Sukarno. Originally the site was a Dutch castile, so after independence, with great symbolism, it was demolished to make way for the mosque. It was built after independence because there was a desire to build a national mosque for the new republic which has the largest Muslim population in the world. The mosque itself is enormous anbd was designed by Frederich Silaban, a Christian architect from North Sumatra. It has a huge floor space for prayer and then around the edge of this floor space are 5 levels of balconies about 3-4 meters deep. At full capacity, the mosque itself can accommodate 60,000 devotees, yet if you include the prayer area outside in the courtyard, it can accommodate up to 200,000!!
Acros the road from the Istiqlal Mosque is the majestic neo-gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jakarta, currently Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo hardjoatmodjo. The official name for the cathedral is The Church of Our Lady of Assumption, yet is more commmonly known as the Katedral Jakarta and was consecrated in 1901. The church also houses a museum on the second floor which contains many historic artifacts including gifts from papal visits.
We’e also visited Kementerian Agama Republic Indonesia, the Federal Department of Religion where we were supposed to meet the minister, however due to his busy schedule, the session instead was led by 2 junior ministers both of whom spoke excellent English. They showed 2 presentations about Madrasah’s (Islamic Schools). Apparently origninally Madrasahs were similar to seminary colleges with a curriculum centred on the Qur’an. Tuition, food, lodging and medical care were all provided free to students. Madrasah’s are considered by Indonesians as institutions which provide very low quality education thus this presentation explained how the government is now attempting to address their perceived shortcomings by assisting them with the implementation of the new 2013 curriculum. I’ve discovered online that 500 have been selected for upgrading – wonder what provinces they are in?
Our final stop in Jakarta before heading to the airport for our flight to Jogjakarta was the National Museum. This museum is easily the best Indonesian museum I’ve ever visited. Artifacts are displayed beautifully and are very well cared for. There are 2 buildings and we looked at various Balinese ceremonial items that date back several centuries before heading over to the 2nd building to look at a gold exhibition. This was a fascinating collection of artifacts made from gold sourced from all over the achipelago. An Australian author that we will be having dinner with one night in Jogja has written a book for teenagers and this collection features in it. Will try to get my hands on a copy after returning home.