I arrived in Bali on Thursday night. I’m enjoying my weekend off before the classes on social science research methodology officailly begins tomorrow. from the short intros I pieced together of our lecturers for the next four weeks, it seems like I’ll be in high company. They are among the foremost intellectuals in Indonesia. The first week would be on oral history. John Roosa will be the instructor. He wrote about the political violence in 1965 in bali. I already got my thick package of readings for the next week. It would be a good change from all the cultural activities I experienced for the pass two and a half weeks.
Intellactual discussions so far had been mostly informal. In 1965 Park Community, the place I’m living right now and the NGO I’ll be doing research for the last four weeks of my internship, much discussion happens sporadically and informally. It is intended to be informal. Reasons being, one it encourages people to talk more openly; two, they want to get away from the discourse formality of the government. But there are some planned discussions such as the one on friday about the history of 1965 massacre. 1965 park is located right at the familiy compund of our in-country coordinator Termana. After dinner community members of 65 gather on the compound green. At the center of the green is a gravel-paved square that says “Taman 65″. 1965 park is dedicated to provide a space for all to have discussions on social issues. Discussions can range from the endangered snakes in Bali to women in Indonesian society to the 1965 massacre in Bali. They make an effort to involve the ibu (mothers) in the family compund in the dsicussion of Bali’s violent past, against the dominant ideology in Indonesia that only men can talk in public.
Few rectangle mats around the “Taman 65″ square provide seats for over 15 people. Many memebers are artists or musician or both. every night discusssion is accompanied by guitars and songs range from Nirvana, Beatles, to RadioHead. Cigarret and Arak (a local liquor) seem to be as essential as the music. The birth of “Taman 65″ is closely tied to “nongkoron”, a Balinese slang means having nothing to do and talking casually. The people in Taman seems to savor the art of “nongkoron”. In American eyes nongkoron might seems extremely unproductive but for the people in Taman 65 it is a way people feel comfortable discussing the most sensitive issues. Music and nongkoron can easily last 4 hours.
Taman is invited by a NGO to select two representatives for a youth alternative media summer camp in Jogya. Hati (Termana’s youngest brother) and Gina was slected and Taman hosted a meeting last night before their departure. Termana informed me that they would speak in Indonesian. I stayed nevertheless.I wanted to practice my listening. I managed to understand that they were rehearsing how to reprent the image, missions of Taman during the camp. I jogged down words I heard but didn’t understand. People stayed and started talking casually. Sansan, a student in Culture and Religion program in sanata Dharma taught me all the words I wrote down and patiently explained to me the correct usage despite some difficulty with spoken english. for the next four hours I listened and talked. we talked about what would never be mentioned in the tourist guide or in many books about Balinese and Indonesian culture. In Taman 65 I’ve getting the dark side of bali. I heard the unequal treatment of cheap Javanese laborers in Bali; the burden of Balinese to maintain colonial legacy of “culture tourism”; the overt discrimmation against again the local Balinese, unjust privileging of the tourists. But my nongkoron buddies seem optimistic. Bali is beautiful, no doubts. But I’m still looking for the beauty.