My Jakarta: Heiner von Luepke, Advocate for the Environment

In the smoggy streets of Jakarta, Heiner von Luepke is an advocate for the environment. The six-foot-tall expat from Germany begins with his own life choices, like riding a bike to work every day, but he’s also trying to clean up the country at large.

As a climate change adviser for the German NGO GIZ, von Luepke is working to curb global warming in Indonesia, which is in the top-five list of developing countries with the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions. Here, he discusses his work with the Indonesian government, his passion for distance running and a few simple ways that everyone can live a more eco-friendly life.

What kind of projects are you working on in Indonesia? 

I work for GIZ, a company that’s partly owned by the German government. I’m currently focusing on the climate change negotiations between the Indonesian government and the German government, which is what brought me here originally.

Do you work with a particular Indonesian organization? 

I work closely with the National Development Planning Agency [Bappenas], which is my main counterpart. It’s responsible for developing the action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Why did you decide to focus on climate change in Indonesia? 

Years ago, there was an NGO study financed by the World Bank and a report by the British government, and they showed how Indonesia has really high rate of gas emissions, just behind the US and China. So the topic came up at the 2007 Climate Change Conference in Bali.

Nobody was really expecting Indonesia to be mentioned like that in the reports. It was controversial because of the uncertainty. For example, palm oil plantations emit a lot of greenhouse gas, but it’s hard to know how much.

How do you measure greenhouse gas emissions?

You can estimate it, but it’s hard to measure exactly because Indonesia is so diverse with so many ecosystems, from Sumatra to Papua. But from my experience in East Kalimantan, I know deforestation led to a higher per capita emissions rate there than in the US or China.

What’s it like to work with Indonesians? 

I really appreciate what they do, though I can’t say that there is one type of Indonesian. Stereotypically, Germans are direct people, straight to the point. But working with Indonesians helps us get the job done and go places that otherwise would be closed.

Part of my job is bringing people together and finding a common interest.

In Jakarta, is traffic still the major cause of emissions? 

It’s obviously a significant cause of pollution here. The government has to regulate, maybe by restricting cars and motorcycles to 20 liters of fuel or to 100 kilometers of driving every week. It can also build greener office buildings, apartments and malls, even starting with lighting and window designs. Unless Jakarta reduces traffic, provides a good mass public transportation system and improves its waste management, it will never be a green city.

Do you enjoy living in Jakarta? 

Within moments of arriving in a city, I can usually tell whether I’ll like it. When I first came to Jakarta, I felt like I was able to find my niche immediately.

In the beginning, I lived in Kemang, then I moved to Menteng, Mega Kuningan and finally an apartment in Sudirman. I think what I need is a place where I can run in the early morning with humane temperatures and not much traffic, which I can do on [Jalan] Sudirman on Sundays. Four and a half years later, here I am.

So, you’re a runner ? 

Yes, I’m a runner, and it’s a challenge to be one in Jakarta. I usually run from my apartment to Gelora Bung Karno. I’ve joined several marathon competitions in the city over the years. When you run in the morning and you’re still sleepy, you have to be really careful and watch the road, especially crossing Casablanca. It’s quiet dangerous, seriously! [Laughs]

What steps do you take in your own life to be greener? 

To reduce my own carbon footprint, I use a bicycle. The only downside is getting sweaty before meetings [laughs]. I really like the idea of Bike to Work [bicycle community], people can enjoy the outdoors.

The biggest thing that I feel guilty about is a trip I took between Europe and Indonesia because the flight emissions are so high.

Where do you go to relax in this busy city? 

I play sports to keep my mind balanced. I also listen to punk music, so sometimes I watch live bands at a bar in Menteng, and I also enjoy eating out or getting drinks at Die Stube, a German pub and restaurant in Kemang.

Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?

Not just an environmentalist, but actually also a professional forester. I started working on climate change when there were still ongoing negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to fight global warming and deforestation.

A climate change forester isn’t a career that many people know about, but I take it as a challenge to be on the front lines, trying to find new solutions and implementing a climate program on behalf of the German government.

Heiner von Luepke was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Heiner von Luepke, Advocate for the Environment

For more on GIZ visit

My Jakarta: Doreen Biehle, Psychotherapist

With Jakarta back to its old self after the Idul Fitri holiday, the nightmarish traffic has returned in full force. But instead of ranting and raving as usual, we looked for someone to talk us down off the ledge. But if you’re expecting Doreen Biehle to start blabbing about the stress-related complaints of Jakartans it’s not going to happen. There’s a little thing called doctor-patient confidentiality, which means Biehle, who splits her time between work in Jakarta and relaxation in Bogor, isn’t about to tell you whether it’s the traffic or the hectic pace of the city that has everybody pulling their hair out.

How did you end up in Jakarta?

I’m from the US and have been working and living in Jakarta since 1992. I came here after marrying my husband, Widjanako.

I’m a widow now, after he died in 2003. I’ve done many things professionally in Indonesia, mostly with international public health projects, as well as providing private psychotherapy for expats and Indonesians.

Have you ever dealt with traumatic events in Indonesia?

I have over 20 years of work experience in the mental health field. Early on in my career in Indonesia I was recruited as a technical assistant for the counseling and mental health components of dealing with HIV/AIDS.

I have work experience with USAID, international NGOs and UN agencies. Recently I’ve been focusing on trauma work. I manage a capacity-building project for mental health professionals in Aceh, which started after the tsunami.

Is there a big demand for psychotherapists in Jakarta?

Yes. I mostly get referrals from embassies, international agencies and schools.

How does someone know which therapist is right for them?

It’s important to know something about the therapist’s experience and license to practice. If the therapist holds a professional license, you can contact the license board and inquire about their standing.

This is important since there can be fake professionals out there or professionals who have violated their code of conduct.

Can you talk a bit about confidentiality?

The confidentially principles are the same as with your doctor. The exception is if there is information that may affect the client’s or another person’s safety or welfare.

In these cases I must encourage the client to tell a family member or their doctor, or if they do not agree, to assist them in telling someone.

What is the most common problem among people in Jakarta who seek treatment?

There are myriad problems, similarly to any other urban setting. There are many mental health issues such as depression, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, addiction, relationship problems and behavioral problems with children.

There are many requests for counseling about sexual orientation and cross-cultural relationships.

What do you think is the No. 1 cause of stress in Jakarta?

Work, or lack thereof.

Do you spend more time giving advice or simply listening to people’s problems?

The role of the therapist is to listen and assist the client to heal their problem. There may be some practical advice I can give, but unlike a doctor, the therapist does not say, ‘Take this or do this and you will feel better.’

How do you listen to people’s problems day in and day out? It would drive me crazy.

Yes, there is a real art in listening and helping. It can bother you after a while, especially when you hear very horrible stories about the trauma people have endured.

That’s why a therapist needs to have ongoing mentoring, supervision and support in this profession.

For someone who can’t afford a psychiatrist, are there any other alternatives?

There are many therapists who provide pro bono work or have some arrangement with reduced fees. Public health facilities and some NGOs have psychologists with reduced fees. In Jakarta there are also help lines staffed by volunteers.

You split your time between Jakarta and Bogor. What do you like about Jakarta?

I love many things in Jakarta. I enjoy the arts, movies, fine dining, exercising at Plaza Senayan, but mostly I enjoy my home in Bogor where I mountain bike, run in Kebun Raya [Bogor’s city park], hike and socialize with neighbors.

Do you participate in any other organization or association?

I am active in church and in organizations related to my profession. I’m a founder of Yayasan Sejiwa, which tackles the problem of bullying.

Some friends and I run a mountain biking community in Bogor. You can rent a bike and ride around with us. Visit our site at

What is it that you find in Bogor that is not in Jakarta?

I work out of a small apartment in Jakarta. I don’t get to breathe clean air or have green space. This is why I have my sanctuary in Bogor. It is therapy for me.

What do you like the most about Jakarta?

I find the city to be quite vibrant and complete with all the modern amenities. The driving and rules of the road are quite unique. Yes, I’ve driven in Jakarta for nearly 18 years now.

Where can we find you on a Sunday morning? Saturday night?

In Bogor, mountain biking; having a laugh and drink with friends, looking for romance.


Doreen was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Doreen Biehle, Psychotherapist


Picture by Iwan Putuhena

for more information on Bogor mountain biking visit

My Jakarta: Rizki Firdaus, Custom Bike Shop Owner

Pimping out rides is Rizki’s business. He’s been breaking down and building bicycles since he was old enough to reach the pedals and mastered the art of customization while studying in London.
Today, Rizki, whose shop is located in Panglima Polim, South Jakarta, shares his passion for bikes and asks why it costs as much to park one of his custom creations in the city as it does a Mercedes-Benz.

How did you come up with the name of your store, Velodome?

Basically, velo is French for bicycle and dome is shelter, so our store is a bicycle shelter.

How did you get into the bicycle business?

A while back, I broke up with my girlfriend. I felt this kind of freedom, like I’d just been released from jail. So I decided to get back into building bikes.

But I’ve actually been interested in breaking down and rebuilding bikes since I was in elementary school.

When did you start getting back into bikes again?

It was January 2007. I started all this in London, while I was attending college at London Metropolitan University. That’s when I started customizing bikes.

I got back here in December 2009. It was a perfect time because bikes are starting to make a comeback, especially around Jakarta.

Where do you get your bikes?

All of our stuff comes either from a consignment shop here in Jakarta or from people around the city, but the stuff we pick up at secondhand places actually comes from Thailand, Japan and other Southeast Asian countries.

And all of our parts and accessories come from Britain and other European countries, and we like to keep it that way.

What was the sickest custom bike you ever built?

The sickest bike I ever built was an all-black bike that we called the “stealth” bike. It had carbon wheels. I built it when I was in London for a friend in college. He wanted to bring it back to his home country, India.

But two weeks before he was about to go back, somebody stole it. The bike cost around $3,000 to build, but my friend wasn’t bitter about the whole thing. He just looked at me and said, “Hey, the reason it got stolen was because it was a really good bike.”

Do you have friends that you go biking with here in the city?

I go out with a bike community. We hang out every Wednesday and Sunday and ride around Jakarta from the south up to the center of the city. We go around taking pictures and eating around Menteng.

We just ride and have fun. The club is growing. Every week we have more and more members. Today we have around 50 or 60 riders.

Is riding a bike a way of life? What are you guys trying to tell the people of Jakarta?

Well, everyone knows about global warming, so that’s the big thing right now. We want to bring back the bike culture. It was slowly disappearing, but now it’s coming back. We try to raise awareness about the condition of the earth.

How is business then?

So far, business is really good. Most of our customers are from around Jakarta and Bandung.

What segment of the market are you aiming at?

All kinds of people, from people who are really into bikes and looking to purchase their sixth or seventh bike, to someone who works near their office and just wants to avoid traffic.

Or people who just want to lose weight. They all have different reasons to ride and buy a bike. But obviously — if they buy from me — they have style [laughs].

And you guys customize everything?

Everything. Everything from the color to the wheels, to the size and shape of the frame. We deliver a personal touch to your bike, something that fits your character.

Can you explain the process?

It’s kind of like getting a tattoo. You really have to give it some thought. You consult with us and tell us about yourself; what do you like and what you don’t like … kind of like a bonding session.

Then we build mock-up, and if you don’t like it we can redo everything. It’s very detail-oriented, and sometimes it ends up being a long process.

How much does it cost to customize a bike?

It starts at around Rp 8 million [$880] and there’s really no ceiling. There’s bike frames out there that cost $90,000 alone, so it depends on your buying power.

Do you ride a bike to work?

I live near Blok M and I ride a bike every day to the store at Panglima Polim. I try to ride my bike whenever I can.

Do you think there will be more or less people cycling in the next five years?

I’d like to see more people cycling and being comfortable about it. Not refusing to try biking just because it’s hot or because of the pollution. They have to act to make it better.

Where do you park your bike around the city?

Just like a car. I park it and tell the parking attendant to watch over it. I don’t have to lock it up with a chain or anything. Then on my way out, I pay the guy who watched over it Rp 2,000.


Rizki Firdaus was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Oni, Rizki Firdaus, Custom Bike Shop Owner


Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Tineke, Veteran Athlete

Take a long, hard look at that picture. Tineke will be 80 years old in June. She’s won so many medals over the years that she’s simply stopped counting them. She’s been running, sprinting and jumping since the Sukarno era and she’s still got gas in the tank. Tineke’s life is action-packed and she shows no signs of slowing down, either on or off the track. 

Which athletic events do you usually compete in?

Jumping, sprints and relay. I’m good at the long jump, triple jump, 100- and 200-meter sprint, and relay races; in 1988 I broke the 4 x 100-meter relay world record in Taiwan at the Fifth Asian Association of Veteran Athletes Games. 

How many medals have you won over the years?

I’ve lost count. Well over 200 gold, silver and bronze medals from both national and international competitions. 

That’s quite an achievement. How often do you win? 

I always guarantee to bring back a medal in every competition that I compete in. Sometimes, I can win between three and five medals in one meet. 

Which was the most memorable competition? 

Hard to say. I have enjoyed every single one of them and they all mean something, but the most memorable one was the 1995 World Athletic Veterans’ Games in Buffalo, New York. 

What made it so special? 

My family was living there at the time and they got to see me compete. Also, it was a big deal because it was my only tournament in the United States. Even though I only won two bronze medals for the long jump and triple jump, the Indonesian Embassy recognized my achievement and awarded me a free trip around the United States. 

Where else have you represented Indonesia? 

Everywhere. I’ve been to Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Brunei, Malaysia, South Africa, Japan, England, Finland, the United States and many more. I’ve been around the world for free. 

When is your next competition? 

The next one will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December 2010. 

How long have you been running? 

I’ve been running since I was old enough to have a boyfriend [laughs]. I was 17 when I started training. 

How old are you now? 

This coming June I will be 80 years old. 

When was your first big competition? 

It was 1951 at the Second National Games in Jakarta. I won a gold medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay race. 

What age category are you in today? Do you often compete with the same people? 

I compete in the age group for 75–80 year olds and I often see familiar faces, like competitors from Japan and India. When you don’t see them any more, they’re usually dead [laughs]. 

How do you feel when you represent Indonesia at the international level, win a gold medal and hear “Indonesia Raya” [the national anthem] being played for everyone? 

I’m moved, of course. I feel proud to represent my country, but that doesn’t mean that I love the system and the government. 

What else do you do besides participate in athletics? 

Sports are pretty much my life. But I was also a physical education teacher at the Santa Ursula school. I started that when I was 22. 

Do you still teach? 

No, I stopped teaching in 2003. Nowadays, I only give private swimming lessons. I don’t receive a pension for being a veteran athlete or a retired teacher. 

What other sports do you like? 

I enjoy swimming and hiking, but I don’t hike any more; the last time I did that was when I was 70. 

What’s your personal message to your students? 

Look at me as an example, you can do and try any sport you like, but just focus on one that you are really good at and go from there. Don’t worry about winning, but maximize your training, and it’s important to know your limits. If you don’t win a competition, it’s not the end. 

Do you follow a strict diet? 

I used to watch what I ate when I was younger, but as I get older, sometimes my mouth and stomach demand good food. Nowadays, I just eat anything I like, but I also take vitamins. 

What will you do when you get too old to run? 

I’m going to participate in race walking. 

Do you race walk around Jakarta for practice? 

I enjoy using public transportation. I still get around by motorcycle taxi, bus or public minivan. I only walk when there’s a traffic jam. But nowadays I really have to be careful not to get hit by a car or motorcycle [laughs]. 

What do you do for fun? 

I like to watch movies, go to music concerts and plays and readings at TIM [Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center ]. I’m just enjoying my life.


Tineke was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Tineke, Veteran Athlete

Picture courtesy of Tineke