Swedish – Indonesian Intercultural Exchange

Through my contacts in the Swedish Embassy in Jakarta, I found out that a talented Indonesian artist that live in Sweden (who also happen to be my acquaintance) named Tatum Maya was about to launch her exhibition in Jakarta. More interestingly, it was on an intercultural exchange between Indonesia and Sweden! The name of the exhibition was Intra-Chromatic, from the Sacred Bridge Foundation of Indonesia and Skövde Konstmuseet from Sweden. It was impressive to see the colors of Indonesian traditional culture of Sumba meets the unconventional contemporary art of Sweden. Both cultures blends within the art shows – such an interesting experience!

The opening ceremony
Revenge of the Uncanny by Jonas Liveröd och Tobias Bradford
My favorite piece from Tatum – Vänern

After the event, however, things went south for me. I got sick! I had a fever, cough and cold for around two weeks. Not nice especially that I have some interviews lined up. I managed to do one introduction interview, but then my condition gets worse, even after multiple lozenges, vitamins, and rest for almost two weeks. Good thing they have this app called “Halodoc” here in Indonesia, they offer consultation chat to a GP, where the doctor would then prescribe some medications to you. It feels great to skip the usual monthly queue of Vårdcentralen in Sweden! The medications will then be ordered from the nearest pharmacy from your place, and it will be picked up and delivered to you by a Gojek driver, the widely-known motorcycle driver service. All takes an hour and I got all of these, including (sadly) a possible bronchitis diagnosis (might be the pollution & AC):

Antibiotics and all that

I have lost so much time because of this – since I need to reschedule my interviews, some of them become unavailable before I move to Bali, so I need to shift the interview to zoom interviews. That was so sad. In the meantime, I am ordering some tropical fruits to try to get me to eat more greens. So easy and they’re delivered right to your door!

It’s not the best picture but i got lengkeng, mangosteen, avocado and guava in this package 🙂 Have you tried any of them?

Stay healthy!


Back to Indonesia!

The 4th of February marks my arrival in Jakarta, Indonesia. Was quite a drastic change from -2 C when I left Stockholm, to the it’s-always-30-degree-celcius here. It’s been a year since I last visited for a quick 2-week off, where I sadly did not get a lot of time to do other things than doing my personal errands, cause it was still in the middle of the pandemic. This time, there is no quarantine enforcement anymore to enter the country, we can go places without having to “check in” with an app called PeduliLindungi, that shows whether or not you’ve been vaccinated (or if you’re currently tested positive for Covid). Hurrah, the Covid ban has been lifted! Time to celebrate with lots of amazing food!

Sate Lontong
This dish is called sate domba & lontong (lamb satay and rice cakes). So hard to recreate the “burnt taste” in Sweden cause you have to have an open grill, and the coal was made of coconut shells
Now this one is oxtail soup, with emping (gnetum gnemon crackers) on the side. Great for the rainy days!

Indonesia prides themselves for their food, and the culture tells you to share food with each other. I wouldn’t do them any justice if I don’t post any pictures of their national food. So apologies if I put some food pictures here and there – it’s just part of respecting the culture 🙂

So, I was very fortunate to get the Minor Field Studies stipendium from SIDA! I am studying Communication for Development in Malmö University, and I have always wanted to do my research about Indonesia, to contribute for more research for this country, from a local’s persective. In fact, that relates to what my thesis is going to be about – applying postcolonialism perspective into the practice of international communication practices in Jakarta and Bali. I am reaching out to some local environmental movements, organisations, sociopreneur, journalists that are communicating environmental issues here to people in Indonesia, to get their insights and perspective of doing things locally. I’ll talk more about my work in the later posts, I am not scheduling my fieldwork to start straight away because I need some time off to settle in, fixing some personal bureaucracy issues that I could only do while I’m in town, and meeting lots of familiar faces.

Remember when I say Covid ban is lifted? It means more people are not allowed to work from home anymore, so they have to go to the office in Central Jakarta. It means that more than 3,2 million people are commuting from Greater Jakarta to Central Jakarta every day. Which resulted in… pollution.

This is one of the common view from the main street in Jakarta

They have built a new MRT system in 2019, but it hasn’t reached the suburban areas in Greater Jakarta. Other means of public transport like the Commuter Line or TransJakarta are pretty crazy to take in the rush hour, you need a better strategy to be able to get in. Therefore, most people still resort to cars and motorcycles- the automotive industry are still very profitable here . Now you can see why the roads are always full with vehicles, and the air with pollution. But I have faith that things are going to get better, new infrastructures are going to be built in the near future and fights towards a better climate situation always exists.

Well, that’s it for this introductory post. I’ll be back with more posts, so until then, eat some good food and take care!


The Gambia: Last week

I have during these weeks done numerous visits at the school, visited a Study Center and a Private International School. I am so grateful for all the teachers and students that have participated in the interviews and letting me attend lessons, record, and take photos. I now have ten full interviews and ten lesson observations in different subjects. I couldn’t be more pleased about the material that I have managed to collect for my field study in The Gambia. A lot of work remains to be done, in writing the thesis of my Master, but I am looking forward to summarizing, reflecting and analyzing through text about my topic.

My stay in The Gambia has been unforgettable. It’s hard in just a few words to express all the feelings and experiences that comes with a long stay abroad. I have made life-long friendships with people here and the memories I will forever keep in my heart. It’s not until you get to know people and a society close-up, that you really are able to understand and realize how different our conditions in terms of living are, and yet at the same time, realize we are very much the same.

The most difficult part for me, I must say, has been the loneliness and the long time being apart from my family. I’ve learned to solve problems in a way I didn’t know I was capable of before. I think it is good to struggle when the feeling of longing home gets too strong. It only makes you a stronger person. This, I couldn’t have managed without the help from my loving and caring host-family in The Gambia and from my family, friends and colleagues at home, always encouraging me by texting over WhatsApp. I will forever remember all the friendly smiling people here, and I admire the way they take things as they come. Showing me that a simple way of living can be rich in many other ways.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you The Gambia!

The Gambia: Visa and Cleaning Day

After one of my school visits I went to Immigration Office as I have the right to stay in The Gambia for only 28 days, and now needed to apply for a Visa. When my driver was going to start the car upon my return, the battery was not working. In less than 30 minutes he had solved the problem, lending a new one from another driver.

I had now interviewed six teachers and was thinking of getting the students’ perspectives as well. I therefore asked 5 students whom I had observed during previous lessons to participate as they seemed quite active. It turned out to be very interesting since they all had different local languages: Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, Jola and Serer. The following day four of them came to the teachers’ office with a consent from their parents. I recorded it all and it turned out to be very good material for my thesis.

Saturday was the National Cleaning Day. Every last Saturday of the month it’s Cleaning Day, where you are supposed to clean your house until one o’clock. After one o’clock you can go back to regular work duties. I was told almost no one takes this seriously any longer (they did with the previous Government when president Jammeh was ruling). A better word for the day in my opinion, would be “National Sleeping Day”.

The Gambia: Lesson observations

During every taxi ride to the school, I am accompanied by a woman from Sierra Leone. She’s a lawyer and is working for an American organization for a project to observe the human rights in The Gambia. She told me she studied Migration Policy in Lund, Sweden a couple of years ago. The world is indeed a small place! When I arrived at school, I was very surprised to see the crowded schoolyard. All students and teachers from Upper and Secondary School (about 3000) gathered for assembly in the morning to listen to my presentation. The principal introduced me like a royalty and handed me the microphone.

I could after the long wait finally start attending lessons and the first one was math. After the lesson I was asked to run a lesson, because a teacher who was sick didn’t show up. So, I did, and as I was unprepared I had to improvise. I chose to teach about languages, Swedish, English and Gambian local languages and comparing them. Many students were asked to get up and write on the blackboard and I noticed they were not used to do this.

The Gambia: Wedding

I was invited to join a wedding ceremony in a village outside Brikama. It was a Muslim wedding where all the women and children were gathered to wait for the wedding couple to arrive by midnight. The children stared at me, pointing and shouted Toubab (white person)! One little girl looked terrified and started crying. After a while they got used to me. The children took care of themselves, and the women were chatting and eating from one and same plate, sharing the food. Soon the drums started to play and people were dancing!

Arriving home after the wedding, I lit the lamp and saw a big cockroach running on the floor. I tried to kill it with my shoe, but it was hiding behind the fridge. I hardly slept that night… The day after I had the room cleaned with insect’s spray, too strong to inhale so I had to move temporarily into the main house of the compound.

The Gambia: Transcriptions of interviews

It’s very interesting to relisten the interviews for transcriptions, but it takes a lot of time. In my room, there is no fan working or any air condition, so it gets really hot in the daytime. I don’t have a proper working space or comfortable chair to use where I am living, and it often happens that I am without electricity for a while. However, this being a temporary issue and not something I will have to cope with at home in my everyday life, so I will get by and manage. When I am sitting here in my room or outside writing and reading, the other tenants in the compound often stop by to have a talk and socialize. It feels very nice and heartwarming. Like today, I was told by one of the young girls in the house, that if I had problems or was feeling sick, she could recommend me to see a Marabout. This is a kind of medicine woman that can spell your future and also give some good advice. When I asked the girl why she believes so strongly in this, she replied that it was obvious, because this woman can read it in your hand and she throws a bunch of herbs on the ground to see a certain pattern.

The darkness arrives very suddenly in the evening. It is so dark and no streetlights at all outside. I always bring my flashlight because there are many holes in the ground and street dogs are lying everywhere. The cars are in a very bad condition, some even broken without windows or doors. At times you have to jump quickly a side as they are passing by very fast. You see old lorries from the 60’s and wagons pulled by donkeys, crowded pick-ups and at rare occasions some brave bike riders. Poor kids come running with plastic bags between the cars to sell their goods to the taxi drivers. It looks very dangerous. It’s not unusual to see goats or cows crossing the road. The drivers have great skills to manage this kind of traffic and how to avoid getting stuck in the sand. They are often very patient and try to help each other if one gets stuck.

The Gambia: More interviews

I got an opportunity to meet one of the French teachers for an interview. She preferred to have it in French. The teacher told me about all the difficulties in teaching large classes with a minimum of 60 students. In Upper School, French is a compulsory subject for three years, as the official language in their neighbor country Senegal is French. Actually, The Gambia is situated within their neighbor country. In Secondary School it’s no longer compulsory but an option of choice to continue learning French.

As I was starting to relistening to the recorded interviews when I got back, I noticed that my computer was acting a bit strange. I opened a word document to start writing transcriptions, but then suddenly things disappeared on my desktop! Whitin a flash of a moment, I could not use many of the apps and tools that I am so dependent of! This was just too much! First the school strike and now this! I must admit I panicked, but then decided to make a call to Sweden to get help. As I reached out for my cell phone, I had forgotten my code and password during my panic over the whole situation. This had never happened before and as the stress came over me, I simply couldn’t remember the right numbers any longer. I told myself to calm down, and layed down on the bed for a couple of minutes. After resting for half an hour, the numbers returned to my mind. Very relived I sat down on my bed and by mistake broke my glasses. Luckily, I had brought an extra pair. What an unlucky day! Was it possible that it had something to do with the date of today, Friday the thirteen…?

Later that day, I was chatting with a young student, who was renting a room in the same compound. He is a very ambitious young man, working and studying. He told me he wants to start a plantation of bananas, and is now waiting for a response from his application for scholarship, to study for two years at Washington University in the US. I wish him all the luck! My hostess went to Senegambia in the night to join a very popular music concert with the Gambian singer Jousu Ndure. During spare time, people here like to watch TV series from Senegal or Nigerian films.

The Gambia: Interviews

Today I have been in The Gambia for one week! I am slowly getting more and more used to the life and routines here. Now, I even sleep well during the nights. I had a visit from our foster child and she brought her kids as well. It was so nice to see them again and to hand over the presents I had brought from home. I also called the teacher Mr. AM, and since there are no lessons yet because of the strike, I suggested to start doing my interviews instead. There is no time to lose so this was arranged for the following week.
No Wi-Fi for a couple of days now….

All the people I meet here are very friendly and open. Even though poverty in the country is a very big problem, people often seem quite happy despite their hard life. The Gambia was the last country in Africa to get independency from the British colonialization in 1965. The average salary is approximately 1500 – 3000 Dalasi (300-600 SEK) per month.

As I arrived at the school, I met the principal by coincidence and was lucky to get his written consent. He was very interested in my upcoming project and asked me to join and introduce myself at the assembly when the strike is over, before starting my lesson observations. Time in The Gambia is something you can’t control. I had an appointment for interviews with a teacher and had to wait for more than 40 minutes. Just the traffic alone can be hard to deal with on a daily basis. It turned out to be a minor problem, having to wait, because as the interviews were done, I was so pleased to have very good material for my thesis. I arranged a focus group of 4 teachers, teaching different subjects and willing to participate. All gave their written consent, generously shared their opinions about the question, of how to facilitate for the students to understand the topic, with support of local languages as English is the language of instruction. It was very interesting. My assistant Ms. WEN was also there to help me with local expressions and words. I recorded the interviews on my I-pad. The discussion about languages and learning continued after the interviews and other teachers came to join. It was obvious that they all started to reflect and look upon this topic as a serious problem.

I was also invited to visit a Study Center in Bakau, where my assistant Ms. WEN is working, to attend lessons, as I am just waiting for the school strike to stop. What a successful day! They are all doing their best to help me! The Study Center is open for students that need help after schooldays during the week and Saturdays. They have lessons in small groups in different subjects that they need to improve. The language of instruction is in English. The lessons I attended was in history and French. I was also offered a job as a teacher, if I would be interested.

The Gambia: Bad luck!

This morning I finally succeeded in calling my contact, teacher Mr. AM and I am so excited! Already tomorrow I will meet him at the School in Bakoteh. I am hoping to meet up with the principal cause I need his written consent to start the process. I also contacted my Gambian “assistant” Ms. WEN, who also will be joining us. The taxi driver, who is my neighbor, will be driving me to the meeting. During the evening I was preparing everything. I am really looking forward to it!

We went to Bakoteh early in the morning because of the traffic. Just outside the school there was no proper road and many cars got stuck in the deep sand. It took us nearly an hour before we reached the school. We still managed to arrive 30 minutes early and therefor had to wait in the hot taxi car for Mr. AM to arrive. We entered an empty schoolyard full of palm trees and sand. A few young students were sitting talking, and gave me a curious smile along the way. On the second floor Mr. AM opened the door to the teachers’ office. I gave him my gift I had brought from Sweden; some office supplies such as paper, notebooks, pens, pencils and two pair of glasses. Mr. AM also dropped some troublesome news, that because of the hard conditions for teachers in The Gambia, the union had called for an urgent meeting. It was most likely there would be a strike! He couldn’t provide me with further information regarding a possible upcoming strike, due to negotiations still in place.

Let’s hope for the best, he said smiling, I think it will be OK. I suddenly felt very disappointed and frustrated. I thought to myself, have I travelled so far by car and for no use at all? My assistant Ms. WEN arrived a little later. Her younger daughter had malaria and they had stopped by the hospital. The girl looked very weak upon arrival at the school.
On my way back towards the compound, I bought a local mobile phone for local calls, without needing access to any Wi-Fi connection. This was necessary to be able to reach the important people with whom I needed to make appointments with. For my own sake, I cross my fingers there won’t be any strike next week…and for the teachers, I do hope the government will accept their demands.

The goats within my compound have been washed with a special soap to prevent more attacks of vermin which smelled disgusting. I’ve been coughing a lot lately, and at first, I thought it was the special goat soap that was causing it.

After reading the label on the spray bottle against mosquitoes, that this was a very strong product, which should only be sprayed on your body outdoors, I realized that this must have induced my coughing. Since then, I have sprayed only outdoors, and haven’t had any cough since.