Once my gut told me to stop and my brain told me to go. My heart said nothing, it was beating too fast to give impressions. A few moments later I was sliding on the asphalt. Close but no cigar. Cycling always gave me a rough ride. 

I Know Nothing

I know nothing.  I have so much to learn.  When you start to think you've learned something you get a new lesson: you know nothing you idiot.

Today I sat and listened as to learn one must keep his mouth shut.  

My guest house host and a visitor chatted.  One had a business since two years in Indonesia and the other had arrived for around two months, also a business owner, but with a lot of experience: in Indonesia, in life, in economics, in businesses.  The first did too, but he was a bit less open about it, perhaps in case some fool is listening and decides to blog about it.  

I was hesitating to go to Bumi Langit as I chatted with my host. Bumi Langit is a small biological village near Yogyakarta, where I am currently staying.  Bumi means earth and Langit means sky. Well chosen name. 

The visitor marched out, my conversation partner yelled "Hey!  Would you not be going to Bumi Langit by any means?"

"Aaah not really" but he pulled over and a conversation began. 

I felt like I could learn from the two.

The whole biological village idea went straight out of my mind. 

Although initiating the conversation, I couldn't contribute a word to it.  I just kept feeding the fire to make sure it doesn't fall short, and tried to soak in as much as I could.  This is 5% of what I learned.


They spoke Indonesian politics, royal family - government relations.  They explained how the first man controlling the trafic with his light saber makes his coin and how the second, who parks your motor cycle dressed in an orange jacket makes his monthly wage. 


They get a 1000 to 2000 rupiah for watching your motor bike, so $0.08 or the double of that. Whether you park your bike to go to the ATM for 45 seconds or to a restaurant for 3 hours that man is getting his coin.

How does that work?

Welcome to a feudal system.

In Bali, the princess of Denpasar owns most of the land.  In Yogyakarta, the Sultan and a few families own the vast majority of the land.

You can't own land in Indonesia.  Let me say that again.

You can't own land in Indonesia.

If the government wants to build roads they have to rent the land from the monarchy, mostly for 30 year periods.  Yes, even the government pays them.  If after 30 years the land owners decide they want it back, time to give it back and build a new road somewhere else.  But wait, who does that serve?  No one. 

Let's settle of rent x3. 

It's this way for everyone, from the government to simple citizens to business owners.

Government controls the official police, who wear the uniforms.

So what's the deal with the non-legit guys stopping the traffic to help you take a right turn?  (NB: In Indonesia you drive on the left)

Well they actually live off of the tips they receive, but they are working on a piece of land, and rent is due.  In between that street guy and the sultan is a guy with big arms, let's put it this way.  He owns a territory.  Erhm, he leases it.*  He pays the monarchy a certain sum to distribute street corners to guys who help you cross and pieces of the side walk to motor bike parkers.

Big Arms doesn't have big arms for no reason.  He will also protect you, against himself.  If you have a business, time to pay for protection.  Now if you don't pay, you'll get problems, from him.  He creates your problems to provide you with his solutions.  That's not how we learn it at school...

But why does the government let their official police be ... useless?

Votes.  In exchange of letting big arms control xyz of a city the government receives a certain number of votes at the next elections from big arms and his friends, and he has many.

Let's recap with the 2000 rupiah I gave to the last guy who watched over my motor bike.  He prolly kept about a 1000 for himself.  Then, 700 went to Big Arms for being so kind and providing him a job while half of that is given from Big Arms to the Sultan for being so kind and letting him be Big Arms.  The other 300 went to the government, because -just- votes isn't quite enough.

Last time I watched Gomorrah and thought Italian mafia was the thing.  Thinking I know.

I know shit.

Do you know?

Your best bet is going to Indonesia.  

Fist Fighting in Indonesia

Road Trip