Tag Archives: Aceh

99 tips for a better world: enjoy a hot shower (4 of 99)

It’s tip day over at Lip!

I hate cold water.

I wanted you to know that before we embark on a discussion about my complicated relationship with gratitude. Allow me to lie down on the therapist’s couch and tell you about it.

As a kid, the nuns at my school would tell us, ‘Eat all of your lunch. Remember the starving children in Africa’. They said that to you too? Classic teacher move.

I would respond, ‘If the kids in Africa are so starving, why don’t I send them my leftovers?’ You said that too? Classic smartarse kid move.

Ever since it dawned on me that my life was one of privilege by global standards, I had a lot of guilt about it. I found it hard to enjoy many of the pleasures available to me knowing that it was largely the luck of the draw. Born in Australia = have a nice life. What about the people who didn’t have a nice life? Bully for them?

It was hard to grasp what my lunch had to do with children in Africa though. What I realise now that I didn’t realise then is that the nuns were setting up the building blocks of gratitude.

Gratitude is very popular these days. It sits right up there with peace, love and understanding as a term roundly celebrated by people who like inspirational fridge magnets. I agree that being thankful for what I have and not taking it for granted is important. So why then do I feel a bit icky about expressing gratitude?

If I think about all that I am grateful for, my next thought is about all that other people who don’t have those things. And then I ask myself, ‘Sarah, how can you sit here and bathe in all this wealth and prosperity when others have so little?

Buzz kill.

When it came time to make decisions about my career I followed a path into international development. I thought it would allow me the greatest chance of addressing inequality in the world. Perhaps I was also hoping to alleviate some of my guilt.

One of my first jobs was in Aceh, Indonesia, which had been devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

I arrived in Aceh three years after the tsunami hit, and while the basic recovery mission was over, there was still a huge international presence working to re-establish infrastructure, services and governance.

Life was different there, and I took most of it in my stride. I had to conform to clothing restrictions, couldn’t walk far alone, the food was ordinary, and frequent earthquakes gave me the jitters. These things, at their worst, prompted a whinging session with a friend over some mie goreng.

There was one thing however that could have brought me to tears every single day.

I didn’t have a shower. Instead I had a bak mandi.

The bak mandi is, for all intents and purposes, a well in the corner of your bathroom. It sits full of water most of the time, ready for you scoop out water and splash it all over yourself. It is very effective.

But the water was cold, and the mornings in Aceh were cold. I had to slowly and methodically pour cold water all over myself again and again until I was clean. Do I need to remind you that I hate cold water?

Do I need to remind you that Aceh experienced unimaginable destruction of life, property and livelihood as a massive earthquake brought building to the ground and then a giant wave tore through what was left of the crumbling province? Over 170,000 people were killed and 500,000 made homeless.

And I don’t like cold water.

So my guilt skyrocketed…right?

Surprisingly, it did the opposite. My longing for a warm shower taught me about my own wants and needs. I realised that I could live without most of the comforts I had grown up with, but there were some things I did want and no amount of acknowledging suffering in the world would take my longing away.

I came back to Australia so deeply grateful for all that my life in Australia afforded me, even the things that are far from necessary: raw vegetables, fast internet, soft sheets, footpaths, and hot showers in every home.

Finally, I understood what the nuns were trying to teach me. Only when we feel deep gratitude for the privilege and comfort in our lives can we truly appreciate what it would be like not to have it.

Imagine the impact if everyone on earth felt gratitude for all that they had, whether it is money or love or good health. We might also truly have empathy for those without money or love or good health.

Wouldn’t that make a better world?

(Image credit)

New Law in Aceh Allows Stoning to Death of Adulters


I’ll write more about this later, but for now, just want to share. Article from AFP.

Indonesian rights groups condemn new stoning law

By Nurdin Hassan (AFP) – 19 hours ago

BANDA ACEH — Indonesian rights activists condemned as “cruel and degrading” on Tuesday a new Islamic law calling for adulterers to be stoned to death in the country’s staunchly conservative Aceh province.

The law — which also allows punishments of up to 400 lashes for child rape, 100 lashes for homosexual acts and 60 lashes for gambling — was passed unanimously Monday by lawmakers in the region at the northern tip of Sumatra island.

The law replaces elements of Indonesia’s criminal code with sharia, or Islamic law, for Muslims. It allows the death penalty for married people and 100 lashes for unmarried people found guilty in cases of adultery.

“The laws that have been approved in Aceh are cruel and degrading to humanity,” National Commission on Human Rights head Ifdhal Kasim told AFP.

The law undermines the secular basis of Indonesia’s law, Kasim said, adding the rights group was appealing to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to review the legislation.

“This will bring Aceh back to the past. Throwing stones is like Aceh in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries,” Kasim said, adding the law would likely embolden conservatives pushing for sharia on a national level.

The controversial legal change was passed in Aceh just weeks before a new, more moderate provincial assembly — dominated by the Aceh Party of former separatist fighters of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) — is due to take power.

The administration of Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, himself a former GAM fighter, is opposed to the strict sharia law, but has said it is powerless to stop the law, which will come into effect in 30 days with or without his signature.

“(The law) only deals with petty crimes, adulterers, but it doesn’t deal with (significant crimes such as) corrupt officials,” Human Rights Watch spokesman Andreas Harsono said.

“In our opinion it is against the principle of human rights,” he said.

Human Rights Working Group head Rafendi Djamin said the punishments set out in the law were “humiliating and degrading” and a product of politicking among local leaders.

“They’re more interested in private issues than issues of the wider public interest like corruption and measures to empower people who have been suffering in the wake of conflict,” Djamin said.

Arif Budimanta, a senior official of the opposition Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, condemned the law — despite local members having supported it in the Aceh assembly.

“We are deeply concerned about this cruel law as it is against our national ideology and values of pluralism,” he said.

Spokesmen for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a liberal ex-general re-elected by a landslide earlier this year, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ma’ruf Amin, the head of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, Indonesia’s top Islamic body, welcomed the new hardline law.

“The Council supports sharia law in areas where it is allowed, like Aceh, which has special autonomy. It’s not a matter of good or bad.

“For Muslims, sharia law is the best and can be implemented anytime, anywhere. As long as there is agreement from everyone, there’s no problem,” Amin said.

Aceh had previously adopted a milder form of sharia law in 2001 as part of an autonomy package from Jakarta aimed at quelling local separatist sentiment.

The sharia code enforced religious observation and offered lighter punishments — including caning — for gambling, drinking and association between unmarried members of the opposite sex.

Separatists in Aceh had been fighting the Indonesian government since 1976 until a peace deal in 2005 in a conflict that claimed over 15,000 lives.

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million people are Muslim, but the country also has significant Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Confucian minorities. Most Muslims practise a moderate form of the religion.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

Sneaky blog post 3

Aceh has a new baby. Her name is Nadifah and she’s miniature!

Sleepy Nadifah. I know where you're coming from girl.

Sleepy Nadifah. I know where you're coming from girl.

We bonded for a few seconds...before Nadifah was so overwhelmed by her love for me that she started crying. I know Nadifah, these emotions are powerful...

We bonded for a few seconds...before Nadifah was so overwhelmed by her love for me that she started crying. I know Nadifah, these emotions are powerful...

Welcome to Rushworth

I spent last week at home in Rushworth, the small town where I was born and raised. MJ and I hung out a bit and worked in the garden, and when MJ was at work I wandered around the house, read books, made lunch, lit the fire, that kind of thing.

One day I set off around town to take photos for a blog post. As you can imagine it’s impossible to compress 26 years of memories into one blog post’s worth of photos, so rather than comprehensively showing off Sarah’s Rushworth, I will give random stories about the things I walked past as I did a loop of the town.

Flowers on the footpath

Flowers on the footpath

These flowers are very much in vogue at the moment and I especially liked the way they were used along this path.

I followed Moora Rd towards High St, and came across these spooky places:

Haunted house

Haunted house

This place is spooky for obvious reasons. It’s a haunted house…duh.

The Masonic Hall

The Masonic Hall

The Masonic Hall is spooky more specifically because it was the site of one of my most vivid and weird dreams ever. I had it when I was maybe 8 or 10 or something, and I still remember it. There was a monkey swinging on the pole that protruded from the front and we were inside it getting chased around by some mysterious figure. I’m guessing that my subconscious chose that location as the scene of my dream because Masons are weird and mysterious. On that point, that means this place is doubly spooky.

U Clipped Us (Har Har)

U Clipped Us (Har Har)

Please allow me to introduce you to a great Australian (and perhaps global) tradition: The Hairdresser Pun.

This clever hairdresser decided to call their business ‘U Clipped Us’ (if the joke isn’t immediately clear to you, think of the big, native Australian trees). Bravo bravo.

The Agitator

The Agitator

The Agitator Laundromat has only come about since I moved out of Rushworth, but it makes me giggle. Next door is the newish store, Rushy Recyclables.

Rushworth historical history

Rushworth historical history

Rushworth is very historical. It’s all about the history, yes siree. Above: Historic Wagon and Historical Museum. I am trying to ascertain and will gladly take suggestions on whether a historical museum is a museum about history, or a very old museum. I think Rushworth’s Historical Museum is both of those things, but I wonder if there is a distinction between the words historic, and historical that I don’t know about…Anyone?

Some more historica or historical things in High Street Rushworth:

Robur Advertisment

Robur Advertisment

Rushworth Shire Hall

Rushworth Shire Hall

The Shire Hall is where I had my 21st birthday party and Jess and Mark had their wedding reception. Countless other moments in Fortuna history happened there. Marcus played Danny in Grease, for example. It was also the place where I got my finger stuck in a hole in the floor during a concert when I was about seven and was sure my teacher would have to chop my finger off.

Hairitage on High

Hairitage on High

This building is the old Waranga News office. It now enjoys a more glamorous life as the home of Rushworth’s other hair salon, Hairitage on High. That’s right…Hairitage on High.

High St, Rushworth

High St, Rushworth

The Park

The Park

This is the park closest to my house and like ever other park in the world the best parts of the park was considered unsafe years ago. The steamroller in the background use not to be behind a fence. We could play all over it. There was a hole in the roof and a strange red substance that fueled stories that some kid a long long time ago fell through the hole and had his head chopped off. I never asked an adult for verification and just assumed it wasn’t true but secretly was a bit scared every time I played on it.

St Mary's Primary School

My primary school, St Mary's.

Then my camera battery died. Tour of Rushworth over. I hope you liked it.

Talking about work and other things

I just got back from visiting Nicole down the road where we drank Vietnamese coffee and ate mini muffins in her sunny and stylish apartment. It was also the first time in two weeks that I talked about work related stuff….WORK!

Almost every conversation in Aceh related to work in one way or another. Maybe someone was venting about a problem with a project, or someone had a new philosophy on “where we’re going wrong!” or maybe someone would mention the weird/delicious cake that was brought it for a snack (it was green and you drizzled this maple syrup stuff on it!). We were, after all, simply bodies attached to organisations in that place. Hi, I’m Jean, I work for Red Cross. Hi, I’m Dan, I work for Oxfam. Or if you want to get really personal: Hi, I’m Jose, I work for Save the Children and I’m from Spain. Once in a yoga class that my friend Sarah was leading, she asked each person to introduce themselves and say one thing about them that WAS NOT related to their work. There were audible shrieks of fear in the group.

Since being in Melbourne my brain (very easily) switched off from work and switched onto:

  1. how to burp a baby (I am VERY good at this, if I do say so myself)
  2. remembering to have change for the train or tram
  3. deciding what to eat when there is more than one choice

Looking after babies obviously requires more brain power than deciding what to eat for lunch, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the stress either activity causes me. I am absolutely certain that I do not like having choices. I don’t deal well with choices.

Back to visiting with Nicole, she is a smaaaaart cookie, in the early stages of a PhD that’s about all sorts of things that interest us both so there was a lot of talking we simply needed to do. We talked about the kind of stuff that, when we worked together (she was the BOSS), we would get stuck in her office talking for hours about. Big picture stuff about the state of development (and the world for that matter). For her it was relevant. For me, who probably should have been calling someone to chase up something, or sending off a contract to be signed, it was the most fun part of my day.

We wandered down to A1 Bakery for some tasty Middle Eastern baked goods for lunch and talked about work some more. Eventually I had to let Nicole get back to applying her thoughts in a meaningful way.

On the way back to Benjamin’s place I stopped in at the Book Grocer and bought eight books! I don’t have a bookshelf to store books on, and I certainly can’t take these eight books (along with the others I’ve already earmarked) to Bangkok with me. But they were only $5 each and I was convinced I needed each one. The Bonds of Freedom: Simone de Beauvoir’s Existentialist Ethics. Can you believe I didn’t already have a copy?!

Yes, I admit I just bought eight books which will probably be read to the 20th page and put aside for another time.

Now I am back on Benj’s couch coughing and spluttering and enjoying the warmer weather (the icy winds have finally moved on! Come forth Spring!) Maybe, now that I am committing to the couch for at least an hour or two I will read one of my new books (my favourite title of today’s bunch: Breaking Hearts: The Two Sides of Unrequited Love)

Speaking of matters of the heart, I scanned this picture and sonnet from a book in MJ’s collection called “The Poetry of Artists” or something like that (MJ has had this book since before she was MJ Fortuna–more than 40 years ago I’m estimating–so I’m having trouble locating it on Amazon).

Raphael Sonnet

Raphael Sonnet (click to enlarge)