Making a Home For Indonesian Prose Online

The Jakarta Globe

Think of us as failed short story writers,” said Prasodjo Chusnato Sukiman. “This is why we’re doing this.”

The 35-year-old was referring to, an archive of published short stories in Bahasa Indonesia, which he co-manages with a number of avid readers.

The project traces its beginnings to the 1990s, when Chusnato and fellow students Sjaiful Masri and Taofik Hidayat used to meet under a kapok tree at the Bogor Agriculture Institute to swap books and talk about and cut out short stories published in newspapers.

Calling themselves Salju Bogor (Snow of Bogor), after the cottony fiber that floats from a burst kapok pod, their activities back then attracted the attention of Yanusa Nugroho, a short story writer who taught them literature and writing, and who also introduced them to big-name authors like Ayu Utami and Djenar Maesa Ayu.

Over the years, though, the group’s scrapbooks of short stories began to yellow and fall apart. It was then that Chusnato came up with the idea of retyping the stories and uploading them on the Internet.

“Our goal was to compile literature from print media [in one place],” he said.

Taofik designed a Web site, which they named, after a small bird with an injured wing that they found under the kapok tree one time.

“We treated it and the next day it flew away,” Chusnato said. “It was a very moving moment.” was born on Aug. 15, 2000. It was not easy at the start. “Back then, not many newspapers uploaded short stories onto their official Web sites,” Chusnato said.

Chusnato and Taofik worked on their own for three years, paying for the site’s maintenance out of their own pockets.

The Web site, however, grew steadily. More people joined the project, including Sjaiful Masri, Anggoro Gunawan and Bany Akbar, churning out weekly installments of short stories published in national newspapers like Kompas, Media Indonesia, Republika and Suara Pembaharuan, as well as local publications like Jawa Pos, Batam Pos and Pos Kupang.

Occasionally, a writer would ask to have their story removed from the site. For the most part, however, writers have had no reservations about It now has a collection of 3,394 short stories written by 935 authors and previously published in 53 print media outlets.’s popularity among Indonesian readers has prompted several publishing companies to approach the site’s moderators for a compilation of selected short stories in book form. For a time, most of the site’s moderators held out, saying they did not have the editorial authority as readers and were not as capable of story selection as members of the mainstream media.

Bany, however, had a different opinion. “He said that if we want to get involved in Indonesian literature, we have to produce something that everyone can read, not just those with access to the Internet,” Chusnato said, adding that it was also Bany’s idea to allocate the proceeds of the published project to finance maintenance for the Web site.

They decided to take up Gramedia Pustaka Utama’s offer. Early this month, “Bob Marley dan 11 Cerpen Pilihan 0809” (“Bob Marley and 11 Chosen Short Stories by 0809”) was published. The book is a compilation of 12 short stories archived from January 2008 to August 2009.

The group had initially chosen 15 stories, but had to drop three because the authors would not give permission for their stories to be included in the anthology.

Bamby Cahyadi, 40, whose short story “Aku Bercerita Dari Pesawat Yang Sedang Terbang” (“I Tell a Story From a Flying Airplane”) was previously published in the July 26, 2009, issue of Koran Tempo, said he had no problem having his work archived on Bamby, who manages a fast-food restaurant in Jakarta, said the Web site was “a milestone for Indonesian literature.”

“Though what they are doing seems simple enough, they nevertheless are playing a part in the development of Indonesian literature,” he said, adding that had helped introduce readers to authors from around Indonesia who have only been published in local media.

Mirna Yulistiati, from Gramedia Pustaka Utama, said was highly recognizable among readers. “When they can’t find a story anywhere else, they turn to,” she said.

Kenyan Safari Offers Glimpse of the Wild

The Jakarta Globe

Elisabeth Oktofani

When was the last time you didn’t shower for four days? Or stepped out of your comfort zone, away from the luxury of your clean sheets and warm bed?

I did this in 2009. Just four days before Christmas, I landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya, fully prepared to sleep next to a river full of crocodiles and wake up to the sound of hyenas in search of breakfast.

My friends thought I was crazy. After all, it was an 18-hour flight from Jakarta to Nairobi. Why would somebody would go on a three-week trip to a place like Kenya, which is dry, poor, undeveloped, unorganized and bereft of shopping malls, they asked. Wouldn’t it be better to just take a trip to New York, Paris or Milan, where there are shopping centers everywhere?

But coming from Yogyakarta, I was ready to ditch the malls, cellphones and hot showers available in the modern world for a chance to see cheetahs, giraffes and lions.

After spending two days shaking off jet lag at the leafy Nairobi suburb of Muthaiga, I began to pack for my first ever safari with my boyfriend and his parents.

It was decided that we would camp under the stars for four days and three nights. But roughing it in Kenya is different from the ordinary camping trips you take in Indonesia.

In Kenya, one is surrounded by wild animals like lions, hyenas, hippos and crocodiles. In contrast, camping in Indonesia means you’re up in the mountains eating Indomie and listening to your iPod.

“The other thing about the African bush that I think is most important of all is that one comes to the understanding of the huge variety that there is in nature,” said Jeffrey Rees, my boyfriend’s father.

“And in Africa, one can experience this both in the flora and the fauna and therefore I think the traveller to Africa has to be ready for that.”

The word safari is Swahili for journey. Maasai Mara, a sprawling 1,500-square-kilometer national reserve, perfectly situated right along the equator in southwestern Kenya, is everything a first-timer could ask for.

The flat, low-lying savanna is home to 57 species of birds of prey and 450 species of wildlife, including the “big five”: lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinoceroses. These are what everyone who goes on a safari dreams of seeing.

As we finished packing the Land Rover ahead of our six-hour trek, Jeffrey and his wife Jenny explained why Maasai Mara, home to the famous wild beast migration from the Serengeti, was the perfect spot for a safari.

“The thing about camping is that you’re in the environment for 24 hours, day and night, and that’s a much more real experience,” Jeffrey said.

Jenny reiterated the importance of the real camping experience.

“When we get to the campsite, we always book a special campsite that is only used by us, so you have no other tourists, no other people. You just have the peace and quiet and wildlife all around you,” Jenny said. “And after you’ve been there for 24 hours, they come to you. You don’t have to go looking for them.”

As we passed through the outskirts of the city on our way to the campsite, the sky began to darken and the warm sun was replaced with cool rain drops. Luckily, the rain was light and we had no problem setting up camp.

Inside the reserve, we set up 15 meters from the river. As we unpacked the Land Rover and set up our tents, we could hear the loud grunts of the four hippopotamuses talking to each other near us.

The lush, green savanna lay out in front of our campsite. We relaxed with a cup of tea before setting the kerosene lamp on the table so the animals would let us sleep peacefully through the night.

“I think that becoming conditioned, immured or bored,” Jeffrey said, “I think it happens to us in an urban environment.

“Young people walk through the shopping malls looking for something to do, something to buy, some form of entertainment. I think that from the point of view of a sophisticated human being, it’s good to change your environment in order to stimulate yourself.”

While this wasn’t exactly roughing it, it was by no means a four-star hotel.

For two days, we trekked around the park in the Land Rover. Normally park visitors would use walkie-talkies to communicate the location of animals to other tourists. But we decided to turn these off, go without a guide, and search for the animals on our own.

“Usually, if you go with a group, the guide will communicate to other groups the location of big animals, such as leopards, cheetahs or lions,” Jenny explained. “But it’s different when you organize it by yourself, just like we did.”

Doing it alone paid off when we spotted a lone leopard in the midday sun.

“We found it by ourselves,” Jenny said. “To see a leopard, like we just did earlier this morning, was just incredible and a rare experience. It’s [only] the second time we have see a leopard since we’ve been living in Kenya.”

For me, going on safari instead of a big city with malls and museums was the right choice. Seeing the hyenas, black-backed jackals, baboons, mongooses, vultures and even secretary birds made it all worthwhile. I didn’t have a schedule or routine. It was all just relaxing.

We spent two full days in Maasai Mara, driving around the reserve and watching the animals. There were hundreds of gazelles, elephants, antelopes, zebras, buffaloes, giraffes and wildebeests. I saw lions, leopard hyenas, cheetah, rhinos, hippopotamuses and crocodiles all living together in one dynamic ecosystem.

It was so relaxing to be away from it all — no Internet, no cellphones, nothing but nature.

As we ended our last night in the reserve by enjoying a cup of tea around the fire, Jeffrey and Jenny recalled the six years that they have spent going on safaris in Kenya and some part of Tanzania.

“No matter how comfortable you are a city environment, for example, I think that going out and doing something which is completely different, like camping, trekking, climbing a mountain or going sailing provides an extraordinary contrast to what you normally do. In so doing, it’s very, very stimulating, refreshing and engaging,” Jeffrey said.