Sunday, December 9, 2018

Madakaripura Waterfall in Java, Indonesia

Madakaripura waterfall on the island of Java competes with Sipiso-piso waterfall on the island of Sumatra for title of Indonesia's #1 waterfall. I loved them both. 

You can get to Madakaripura by a 3 hours' drive from Surabaya. Many visitors combine a Mt. Bromo visit with the waterfall, but you'll need an overnight stay to do this, and I didn't have the patience for such a long trip. (I'm also not sure the sulfur at the mountain is good for anyone's health.) For Madakaripura, you'll need an experienced driver who knows how to use the new toll roads/highways. Tolls *roundtrip* will total about 64,500 rupiah (about 5 USD). Parking will cost about 8,000 rupiah (less than 1 USD), and park entrance fee will be 26,000 rupiah (about 2 USD). (All numbers accurate as of December 2018.) 

I found my driver through my hotel and paid 1 million rupiah (about 70 USD, *including* gas) for up to 8 hours, with each additional hour charged at 100,000 rupiah. My roundtrip totaled about 7 and a half hours from Surabaya's city center. 

Once at the parking lot, you can hire a motorbike for between 10,000 or 15,00 rupiah (about 1 USD) to get closer to the waterfall, but I enjoyed the 4 km hike. You can hire a guide at the park entrance. My guide and I didn't agree on a price beforehand, but 100,000 rupiah was the going rate for foreigners/bules. I tipped him an additional 50,000 rupiah because he was incredible. He carried my backpack and also put my shoes under his parka to keep them dry. You don't really need a guide until the very end, when you reach the waterfall, but unless you're an expert climber, it's worth it. It's very difficult for anyone not used to climbing to get to the final (and most spectacular) waterfall on his/her own, but I saw most Indonesian teenagers able to make it. I brought my own sandals, but I also saw several touts selling them along the way. Obviously, you'll get wet, so if you bring hiking or athletic shoes, you'll need a plastic bag to protect them when you switch to sandals at the waterfall. 

Travel and Language

I love watching English-subtitled foreign films for many reasons, but specifically, it is a godsend for language acquisition. 

I just learned my favorite Bahasa Indonesian insult: goblek! (which means fool!) 

I also learned an Indonesian phrase originating from Persia: "Buru buru" is borrowed from the Iranian "Boroh boroh." (Hurry! vs. go, go!) 

[The movie I recently saw was a well-made comedy, Sesua Aplikasi (2018).] 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Jepara, Indonesia

Jepara, Indonesia is known for its exquisite woodwork but not enough is written about its natural scenery. Equally suitable for raising a family and adventure tourism, Jepara has thus far managed to be a hidden gem on the island of Java/Jawa. After Medan, it is my favorite city in Indonesia. 

If you visit, you can fly into Semarang's airport (I prefer Garuda or Scoot airlines) then take a shuttle or Grab/GoJEK to Jepara. I suggest staying one night in Semarang, where you can purchase a Telkomsel SIM card (I find the app useful but also frustrating) and see the city's outdoor food markets. 
Mini-Aquarium at Pantai Kartini 
Raden Adjeng Kartini, teacher, feminist, heroine.
Died shortly after giving birth to her child.
Air Terjun Songgo Langit;
Not an impressive experience but the easiest waterfall to get to.

A small example of Jepara's woodwork. In a restaurant.
Niagara Gorge Manten aka Air Terjun Jurang Manten.
Impressive waterfall and experience. Intermediate difficulty to reach but avoid if recent rain. 
Niagara Gorge Manten aka Air Terjun Jurang Manten

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Politics, Summarized

Most political debates can be condensed into variations of a single question: 

Would you rather live in a town with 10 police officers, 3 lawyers, 20 citizens and 10 immigrants, or 3 police officers, 10 lawyers, 28 citizens and 2 immigrants? 

Few people realize the mix is less important than integrity of each group--and whether the immigrants have a reasonable path towards citizenship. 

Bonus: if American police culture protects its worst offenders by collaborating with police union lawyers, how can dispersed individuals create a culture of accountability or integrity within their communities? 

Bonus II: an advanced student of governance would insist on offering all but one lawyer for at least one good journalist

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Capitalism's Fatal Flaw: the Need for Numbers, at Any Cost

In Martin Mayer's The Bankers (1997), we learn that 
Is modern-day capitalism one giant pyramid scheme with many different sub-variations? Even before MLM, organizations focused more on membership growth than morality. After all, one can leverage membership into profit much more readily than principles. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Interview with Matteo of Semarang's Gelato Matteo

The Italians may not be the envy of the European Union when it comes to economic growth, but their traditions of excellent food and fashion continue. I met Matteo of Gelato Matteo, and we discussed his journey from Italy to Indonesia. 
Q: SemarangIndonesia seems like an odd choice to open any restaurant or cafe. It's not well-known to tourists. 

A: I came here for furniture because my mother was in the furniture business. Then I met my wife. So it's not totally a business decision, but I think it's much easier here than Jakarta. There's more opportunity in Jakarta but costs, such as rents, are higher than in Semarang. I've always wanted to do an ice cream shop, even when I was in Paris. 

Q: But you don't have an ice cream shop. You have a gelato shop. 

A: Ah, but in Italian, gelato is the word for ice cream. Sorbet has a water base. Gelato has a milk base. 

Q: You opened your first location in the old town area [Kota Lama]. Why did you open a new place about two miles away? 

A: Actually, my first shop was in Jalan Mataram, and the old town location is my second shop. The second shop has been open for two months. 

Q: What do you look for when opening a location?

Indonesia is more difficult than Italy. In Italy, we say there are three things to make success: location, location, location. Here is different. You can open in a mall [and get guaranteed pedestrian traffic], but it's very expensive. Outside [air-conditioned] malls, there's no pedestrian traffic, so my first location was a gamble. I just liked the place. I wanted to make sure people felt like they were in Italy as soon as they came in. I wanted people to stop with their cars and come inside. 
Thinking backwards, there are other areas that were more suitable. For example, this new location is in a touristy area. Kota Lama Semarang applied to be a UNESCO heritage site, so they're re-doing everything, including the roads. Soon you'll see the roads filled with stones used in the old time. We hope to obtain this [UNESCO] certification. 

Q: What are your recommendations to aspiring businessowners who want to minimize risks in case they want to move? Obviously, the longer the lease, the more leverage you have, but what criteria do you look for when opening a store? 

A: You need to have someone local. Best thing. My local person is my wife. She's the owner. I cannot own in my name. Actually, I could own a business here, but I would need to change my company and bring more capital. 

Q: You mentioned your work visa costs 1700 USD for only one year. What was the process like?

A: Even though I'm married to an Indonesian woman, Indonesia does not allow dual citizenship, so I'm retaining my Italian/EU passport. The process for my visa was not difficult because I speak the local language and my wife assisted me.  

Q: What are your most popular gelato flavors? 

A: The basics: chocolate and vanilla. I think our pistachio flavor is the most interesting. When we make a flavor, we sometimes use a water rather than a milk base, which brings out the flavor more. You cannot mask the flavor in a sorbet. Without egg yolks and excessive cream, the flavor will stand out. [Interviewer's note: I liked the pistachio flavor, but the dark chocolate and coffee impressed me the most.] 

Q: Funny you mention that. I just tried the avocado flavor and was turned off by it. I tasted unripe avocado, but if you had added more cream, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. 

A: [holds hands up in apology] Before my gelato cafe, I used to run a restaurant. I hated TripAdvisor. We would check it all the time, and it became a distraction. Some people are just mean for no reason. You can also buy reviews or get your friends to post positive reviews. 

Q: What's the most reliable review site?

A: Word of mouth. If I tell you I went to a place and enjoyed the food, that's the best [way]. Instagram is extremely popular in Indonesia, so we use that as much as we can. 

Q: What is the most frustrating aspect of being a businessowner in Indonesia? 

A: The electricity goes up and down, on and off. You need a generator. The employees here also need motivation. 

Q: Some people say employees aren't motivated because the compensation structure doesn't give them an ownership interest or some other personal interest in the business. 

A: I give a percentage of income to my employees. Like in the States, instead of having a tip, I give a commission. It's called a service charge, and it's automatically added to the bill, whether customers eat-in or take-away. Also, the employees who stand out, I give them extra salary. I have six employees in one shop, something I could never do in Italy or America--it would be too expensive. 

Q: What are the biggest cultural differences between Europeans and Indonesians? Both seem family oriented. 

A: People here are not encouraged to take risks. They never had a French Revolution here. They are not used to criticizing institutions, practices, each other, or leaders. Look at what happened to Ahok [Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, former Chinese-Christian mayor of Jakarta]. Two years' jail for blasphemy. In Italy, we criticize everything and everyone, even the Pope.