Day 4: Yogyakarta

I woke up early in the morning to the sounds of four Indonesian master snorers practicing in their sleep. Inspired by the animism of Pokémon, I imagined that the Snorlax (a huge snoring Pokémon) must be native to Indonesia. I was rescued by my earplugs and slept until 7:30AM when I got up and ate a polite breakfast with my snoring assailants – four well feed men from Borneo (The Borneo Band).

Then I went to the palace to see a concert. The concert isn’t playing because it is Christmas holiday until New Years. The man working at the palace directed me to a different tourist trap. I was quietly amused that even the ticket attendants were in on the hustle.

Then I spent an hour walking around the castle-town sweating and being misdirected by Google to a few bad or nonexistent cafes. I settled on a place run by emo boys. I decided that I will go home do my laundry and take my computer to a real cafe for the day. I am going to get out of the city tomorrow as this hot gray city isn’t my thing anymore.

Void of parks and sidewalks Yogyakarta doesn’t hold a candle to tourist cities like Thailand’s Chiang Mai or Vietnam’s Hoi An. I was talking to someone at the hostel and they said, “this city is really nice, most Indonesian cities are shit holes”.

I contemplated the progressive elaboration of the proletarian (the expansion of the middle class) as vital for urban development. Without a strong and wide middle-class cities suck. That Southeast Asian countries that are experiencing the rapid urbanization of the 21st century, but don’t yet have the strong middle class, they are creating cities of aspiring squalor. Unlike NYC with the sons and daughters of the bourgeoisie moving back into Brooklyn, Southeast Asia has the aspiring bourgeoisie coming to the cities to make something of themselves – Like NYC in the 19th century. That’s it, I’m going to get more involved in Smart City Development projects because urban sprawl sucks.

I think I’ll get into Smart City projects next. Smart cities are cities with technology infused in their planning and maintenance. ASU is helping HCMC with a large data analysis project for traffic and resources management. We have a supercomputer in our office that we will soon give to the city government to use for traffic monitoring. Of course, there are no supercomputer technicians in the city government yet so we have sponsored a cohort of technicians to study data-driven decision making in Arizona.

Yes, I’m turning away from my love of cities. But I must mention that the cities I’m seeing are very populated and poorly planned. Indonesia has 200,000,000 people to the US’ 360,000,000 – so it is populated as can be.

One thing I’ve noticed about Indonesia is that it is the 2nd most populous democracy after India. There are various political parties’ flags flying throughout the city. With the US struggling to uphold virtuous democracy, I can’t imagine what compromises are made to unite thousands of islands together.

Today I was in the palace museum and mildly impressed with the photos on display. Skinny Indonesia men from the 1800s wearing oversized Dutch ceremonial army uniforms without shoes standing next to mustachioed Dutch Vanderbilts wearing white trousers – tempting the Mud Gods of irony to splash them.

I thought about how technology had helped Europeans conquer the world. And how technology is undoing the notion of national borders. It’s not caravans that are destroying borders but online payments.

Let us imagine that all transactions must take place in the currency of the nation you are in. This is actually a law in almost every country. Online payments apps create the ability to pay in different currencies while physically within any nation. For example, Alipay, China’s E-banking giant functions transactions all over the world. Chinese in Thailand can pay for things at 711 Thailand through Chinese banks. Thai people can’t do it, and the payment goes to 711 China despite being in Thailand. Expats world wild exchange Euro/USD on PayPal for services outside the US. These payments circumvent taxes in one or both countries. They only benefit the elite who can hold various bank accounts. I was impressed to learn that the US and Canada are forcing non-resident foreigners to close their US bank accounts, because this issue is becoming more problematic.

For now, this payment is still tied to a national currency but just wait until the Star Buck is a global currency, taxed by whom? and responsible to what population? shareholders?

Let me further illustrate, imagine you wanted to start a new nation within an existing one. You can now use the blockchain to create and monitor a new currency easily. As your devotees multiply, so will the value of your new currency. You can in a sense withdraw an invisible portion of the population from their national currency and taxes. Your blockchain currency is also anonymous and unsanctionable. Creating a shadow economy within and between nations. This is what will undo the nation-state!

Take for example, Imagine the Republic of the Coral Sea, a breakaway island of Australia, had to make a currency and transactions. Issuing a paper currency would have been ungodly expensive and insecure. Moving to the “Republic” to the “Coral Coin” would be easy. Wealthy devotees overseas could further support the Coral Coin and technology would make the whole economy run on the blockchain without needing finance nerds, paper currency, or even banks. Presto!

Corporate empires aren’t new, they overtly functioned in Indonesia with the Dutch East India company issuing its own currency and ruling over Indonesia as a business. However, technology allows us to do this a much more efficiently than when the Dutch tried – to herd the shoeless hostage soldiers into a line.

I walked back to the hostel through the sprawl and set up to do my laundry. I committed a travel crime by not bringing enough underwear. Then I took a GrabCar to a cafe to get some work done. I’m trying to keep on top of work. Tonight I will go to a Gamelan concert and call my friends in the US for Christmas.

I worked on the computer is a hip cafe called Blanco and Books. I noticed the clientele were young well-to-dos. The time spent on my laptop passed in the uneventful haze that is computing. I wrote a few work Emails, planned a bit of our trip to Bromo.

After 3 hours, I got off my ass to stretch my legs and I asked the baristas where I could eat. She was a young dark girl with wavy hair. She started to tell me where to eat and I thanked her and started to walk towards her recommendation. 10 seconds later she came after me in the street and told me that the food was better at a nearby food festival. I could tell she was smiley a lot to speak English. I thanked her in my teacher’s voice and walked towards the food festival she mentioned. Intentional or not it was very kind of her to take a liking to me. I always try to rationalize all my own failed flirting as paying someone a kind compliment.

I went to the food festival, but couldn’t buy anything because I don’t have GoPay and they don’t accept cash. Being excluded from the economy because I’m not a member of the right online transaction service… I’m a victim of my ranting.

So I wondered in what I have determined in a fancy neighbor at night. I came across a restaurant named “Indonesian Food”. It was rather fancy and had some le petit bourgeois customers, and I parked myself in front of the door and had the Javanese dish Gado Gado; A type of spicy boiled salad.

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I looked at the other single white man at the restaurant eating in peace. He and I had both come to this restaurant because everything was in English and fake Christmas tree in the window gave it that homely diner feel. The restaurant had some awesome music though. I’m planning to meander to the palace for the music concrete tonight and then go home and call my family tonight.

My meandering was eventful. I ended up walking down Malioboro street; Yogyakarta’s main shopping street. I sped passed easily 5,000 people on the densely packed ten block trek. In my mind, I played my own version Temple Run with a bit of sweaty-palmed deep West Philly get home quickly mentality. I knew that Indonesia was infamous for petty crime and carrying a computer bag on a busy street made me unnecessarily suspicious. I was determined to get to the end of the road. I concluded that it’s the unknown that makes us tense since the street was significantly less abrasive than Saigon’s Bui Vien street. Malioboro was full of dads helping their kids carry ice cream cones and Bui Vien has aggressive trannies – but I was more alert on Malioboro.

To cross the street, I barnacled myself to the largest give-no-fucks Grandma waiting in the crosswalk. I hid my cowardly face under the back of her hijab and we crossed the street like a millipede or maybe a centipede. I still don’t know the metric system.

When I came to the concert hall, I was disappointed to learn that because it is Christmas the concert won’t be playing. The rain began to downpour and so I huddled up with some teenagers to wait out the rain under a tree. The kids started videoing me like a spectacle.

Waiting for over ten minutes, an Indonesia woman and western man appeared. They asked about the concert and when they learned it was canceled for Jesus, they walked to a nearby tea place. With a low battery, I decided to follow them and try to wait out the rain in the tea place. I had nowhere else to go.

When I sat near them I heard they were, in fact, speaking Japanese to each other. I introduced myself and we got to talking in Japanese. The woman was Japanese but lived in Bali and the man was visiting her. We spoke a bit of Japanese and they humored me with some conversation. I thought about how I saw a few interracial couples. That said I have seen two with white women dating Indonesian men. I’m just two days here that it higher than the one or two I know in all of Saigon. I think that is because Bali attracts so many female expats and they like Mama de Obama date Indonesian men.

I think another reason I do I think another reason I don’t see interracial couples is that I don’t see the most basic sign of a relationship hand holding. Ironically, I see men holding hands and women holding hands.

Now that the rain settled I’m going to get a Grabbike out of here. The highlight of the evening was seeing Tabitha and talking to my dad on Christmas.

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