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Monday, July 13, 2015

Operation Ketupat

Back in 2014, the Indonesian police decided to give a name to their security procedures during and immediately after Ramadan and they called it Operation Ketupat.

Ketupat is a boiled rice cake that whilst eaten throughout the year, is synonymous with  the Indonesian post-Ramadan holiday of Idul Fitri. It's therefore little surprise that the period of heightened  security procedures to 'protect' the large numbers of people travelling back to their home villages for the holiday, known as mudik, was given this moniker.

The idea is that during this time everyone needs to be aware that places that are usually heavily populated may now be deserted, so residents need to be careful in how they lock up their homes and belongings and the police need to be extra mindful of criminal activity.

There is also the increased numbers of people travelling to take into consideration. It's a time when trains are packed to Indian-style capacity, aeroplanes have been booked up months in advance and roads that are already gridlocked can stay that way for an even longer period of time. It is because of this that understandably cynical Indonesians have given the name of Operasi Ketupat to the Indonesian police's unique form of either a) fining someone for breaking the law, b) tax collection, or c) mugging, depending on your point of view.

In a country that imposes its laws in what can best be described as a laissez-faire manner, and that where the size of the punishment seems to depend on your ability to pay, this period sees police roadblocks and gauntlets set up to take advantage of all the people who are not following the dubious details of a Highway Code that, if it exists at all, is known only to a select few.

I know it's idealistic, but to change this will require some very simple rules on the part of the governemnet and the police.

1. The people need to know, very clearly, what the rules of the road are and the punishment for breaking them.
2. Rule breaking needs to be dealt with consistently and fairly
3. There can be no money changing hands, instead payment should be made where there is an ability to track that payment, either at a courthouse or an office set up for the recording of these payments where transactions are electronic.
4. Genuine drivers licences and insurance certificates should be pre-requisites, along with vehicle maintenance certification.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Penny Dreadful - Season Two (Spoilers!)

"Abandon hope all ye who enter here"

Over the last few weeks I've been binge-watching quite a few tv shows, catching up on things like Person of Interest, Peaky Blinders, Agents of Shield and Justified, along with introducing myself to other new shows with less success.

Two shows that I won't let slip and that I even watch every week rather than waiting until the season's end,  are Game of Thrones and Penny Dreadful and for me they really are, along with Peaky Blinders,  the best damn programmes on tv at the moment. The quality of the casting and the writing certainly show where the money has been spent and because of this the latest season of Game of Thrones has been, for me at any rate, on a par with all previous seasons that came before it. But the real revelation has been Penny Dreadful and unfortunately I can't write about this show without spoilers so, if you haven't seen season 2 yet, I'll give you chance to leave and I'll continue after the jump...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What would you do with a Wetwang?

So what would be your answer to the title question? Would you eat it, offer it as a service to someone, or live in it? 

The fact is that I love names. Indeed the whole aspect of naming someone or something sould require imagination or knowledge, or it may be something as simple as a feeling. Depending on your cultural background there may be a ritual involved where perhaps the first thing that you see following the birth of a child is used, or, for the sake of posterity, the taking of your father's name and adding a number at the end.

In his book "Notes From a Small Island", the author Bill Bryson takes great delight in highlighting some of the more unusual place names that may be found on a trip around the UK. I am ever curious to know how places wind up with the names that they do. Sometimes it's a simple process of moving from an olde English name where -brook, -ton, and -ford all have meanings to their suffix (eg. the ending -ton, as in Darlington, could mean homestead). The name of the village of Wetwang in this blog's title, and also my favourite place name ever, is supposedly derived from an old Norse word meaning "Field for the trial of a legal action".

Our own names and family names are equally fascinating. It would appear that my family surname of Stoker has a number of possible origins. Firstly it may be attributed to an inhabitant of the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Examples of this could be, say, Lyndsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac or David Coverdale of Whitesnake, but probably not Hannah Montana . Secondly, the job of a stoker was to put coal into a furnace so it could come from that, or there is even a link to arsonism too. I've been able to go back 4 generations on the Stoker family tree with no sign of residency in Staffordshire however my brother lives there nowcoincidentally and neither is there a link to stoking or arson.

Before Indonesia I lived for a short while in Thailand and the general feeling is that most short surnames are from indigenous Thai families whereas the longer surnames are more often linked with Chinese immigrants. The Thai nicknames are much more visual and often relate to something around you. If you wish to convey size, you might use a nickname for something that represents that size.

Western names are generally family linked in the surname but the first and middle names are not averse to representing the parents love of sport or gardening, or even the city of conception.  Here in Indonesia that doesn't necessarily have to be the case as families are not bound by the same constraints. Depending upon your ethnicity you may have one or more names and none might represent any familial link. This freedom allows parents much greater flexibility and only recently I came across Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln. Indonesia is blessed with such different tribal and religious ethnicities that it is reasonable to find many varieties of names and structures. My wife falls into the cateogary of only having one name, Yohana, but due to the need to synchronise forms and paperwork on her passport it says Yohana Yohana and she only refers to herself on social media with my family name.

When we do eventually get around to having a family I can only hope that propriety isn't our only focus and we choose something suitable...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Good days and bad? Put them into perspective.

As with any job it would be naive to think that all days will be good days. It took me a long time to work out that the job that I was doing previously was giving me less and less satisfaction and, if I'm honest, encouraged me to spend more time than I should have in continuing, and to put less and less effort into it. I had been inspired when I started on the road to becoming an area manager in the pub trade and benefitted from working with some incredible people, many of whom I am fortunate to still call friend.

In hindsight there were numerous other reasons for this trajectory as my personal life was in perhaps even more disarray than my professional one and trust me when I say that that's saying quite a bit!

Suffice it to say that it was a risk in leaving the UK and heading to Chiang Mai to take the CELTA. It could have amounted to an intense month spent learning the disciplines of the EFL teacher but with nothing at the end of it, or even worse the discovery that teaching was as equally demoralising as working in the pub/restaurant trade.

The CELTA was as tough as I'd been led to believe but I can unequivocally confirm that it, and the following 6 years that have brought me to where I am now, have been some of the best years of my entire life. Sure there have still been good days and bad days, there always will be, but even the bad days aren't all bad, are they?

Today has been one of those mixed days but the way it started was just the warmest justification for why I chose this new path. I arrived to find this photo on my desk and signed by the students on the back. Somehow puts everything else into perspective.

I was once told that if you have a bad day, write it down and it becomes the benchmark for all future bad days. If ever a day is worse than the one that you wrote down, that replaces your previous benchmark. I can heartily recommend this to anyone struggling for perspective and who wants to enjoy each day as much as they can...