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 http://www.giz.de/en/

My Kemang: Erita, Public Relation Coordinator

When rain pours in Kemang, puddles form everywhere in no time. Erita Santosa is a Kemang resident who works for IHE Indonesia, a flood management consulting firm. As a public relations coordinator, Erita helps raise public awareness about flooding. Here she shares her views on a subject close to the hearts of Kemang residents.

How did you end up in Kemang?
I have worked at IHE Indonesia since 2008, and their office is here in Kemang.

What kind of company is IHE?
It’s a consulting firm that focuses on everything related to water. We have workshops, seminars and training programs on water and the environment.

What do you do there?
As a communications and public relations coordinator my job is to maintain networks with the media and stakeholders. I write press releases and organize press conferences to raise public awareness about flooding,

So what’s the best way to solve the flooding problem around Kemang?
I would suggest not building any more high-rises in the area. The investors in Kemang have to gather and find a solution to solve this problem before they start another construction, because the main streets that get flooded are the only access. They cannot rely on the government to do something about it.

The traffic and flooding puts many people off. So why do you think it’s still the “hip” place to be in Jakarta?
I heard about Kemang even when I was living in Jogjakarta. There is a history to this area and people talk about it. It’s an entertainment center.

What do you think about the new high-rise buildings in the area?
Personally I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think their impact has not been carefully considered. Like I said, Kemang is an entertainment center and it is an asset for tourism. I don’t think there should be any high-rise buildings in the area. The roads do not accommodate this.

What other activities are you involved in?
I enjoy doing volunteer work and being involved with social organization activities. I’ve been volunteering at Flowgi Foundation (www.flowgi.org) since 2006 as a coordinator for public relations, and I conduct social activities to enhance the education of poor children who live on the streets and in orphanages. We fundraise by doing several small projects.

Where are you from originally?
I’m from Jogjakarta. I moved to Jakarta in 2006 after the earthquake and after my father passed away.

What do you like about living in Kemang?
It’s near my office and I can walk or ride my bike anywhere. Everything is near — boutiques, spas, bars and restaurants. Everything is here. I enjoy the festivals when the streets are blocked. I also believe that Kemang is a safe neighborhood.

What don’t you like?
The wide gap between the rich and the poor. Just around the corner in the Bangka area you can still spot poverty, while on the other side is luxury. At Bangka you can still find food that costs less than Rp 10,000.

How do you get to work?
I ride my bike to work. Since we have such small streets in the area, and too much traffic, it is convenient for me to ride my bike. Unfortunately, there aren’t any proper places for me to park my bike.

Where are you on Saturday night?
I have a favorite place for Saturdays. It’s called Birdie. It’s an affordable drinking place where you can still find a cup of coffee for Rp 5,000. Or I go to Bremer to have a few beers with journalists.

And Sunday morning?
You can find me at church or at The Wall Street Institute where I study English.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Kemang?
My favorite place is a street stall in Bangka Raya that sells chap chay (mixed vegetables). I’ve been eating there since the owner had only one stall; now he has three in the area.

Erita Santosa was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Erita, Public Relation Coordinator

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

For more information on IHE, go to www.iheindonesia.com

My Jakarta: Patriana Sonia, Business Analyst

Patriana Sonia hides her addiction for adrenaline and all things extreme behind a bright smile and cool demeanor. Patriana, a Washington-based business analyst at Freddie Mac, left Jakarta four years ago. In between skydiving over the Grand Canyon or lapping a Nascar circuit in a race car she makes time to come back to Jakarta.  Patriana tells us what she thinks about the city’s housing market, reminisces over how inexpensive it used to be to go to the movies, and reveals how the move to the United States taught her to become more independent.

So you work for Freddie Mac, what exactly does that company do?

We lend money to the banks and they lend money to the customer. We focus on the residential mortgage market and help create opportunities for home ownership.

What is your position there?

I’m a business analyst. I do pricing for customers, mostly major banks like Bank of America, HSBC and Citibank.

Do you enjoy your job?

Pricing is fun. I do programming. I have to consider all aspects such as the inflation rate, market price and so on to analyze their ability to pay back.

How do you release the pressure from work?

I like extreme sports. Recently, I drove a Nascar circuit in a stock car and I was going more than 200 kilometers per hour. The gas pedal and the steering wheel are really heavy.

In Arizona, I went skydiving and got to see the Grand Canyon from the sky.

Then just last month, I was in Africa for the World Cup where I went bungee jumping. I’ll do anything at least once. Next, I want to fly a fighter jet.

Have you done anything extreme here in Jakarta?

Not yet, but I heard they have base jumping, where you jump off a building. I want to try that, but I bet it’s scarier than skydiving. I want to do all these things before I start having children [laughs].

What did you study in college?

I went to school in upstate New York, got my associate degree and then moved to Washington, DC, to attend George Washington University where I graduated with a degree in economics and religion.

Right now, I’m taking an MBA in finance, [management information systems] and software engineering, so I’m combining IT and finance.

That way I hope I can make my bank account fatter [laughs].

How’s the housing market in the United States right now?

Interest rates are still low, but at the same time it’s not easy for banks to lend money because there’s a restricted lending program. But overall the market is doing better than last year.

What do you think about the housing market in Jakarta?

With all the new development happening in the outskirts of Jakarta, housing is more affordable especially for the middle class.

Do you think the housing market in Jakarta will crash like it did in the States?

No. I think it will remain stable. Our biggest issue has always been a shortage of housing, lack of supply and high demand. We weren’t impacted by the global housing crisis because our economy is isolated.

So how long have you been away from Jakarta and how long are you going to be here?

I’ve been away for more than four years, and I’m only staying for a couple of weeks.

When did you move to the US?

When I was 16. I always wanted to move there. I traveled so much when I was younger and I saw New York as the land of opportunity [laughs].

I love the States because that’s where I learned how to be independent and make my own money. It’s different to living in Jakarta where you have a driver and maids. Living is easy at home.

How has Jakarta changed over the past four years?

More traffic than ever before, but I think the busway is not a bad idea. There have also been improvements in the government with the KPK and efforts to clean up the old system.

What do you think about the lifestyle in Jakarta?

The middle class is becoming more upscale. We have a lot of places to hang out at I think we are getting that taste for luxury.

I notice that people are speaking English everywhere and more international schools are opening, so there’s increasing evidence of globalization.

Where do you hang out when you’re back in town?

I’m out checking out new places, restaurants and malls. I spend time at Grand Indonesia, Plaza Indonesia, Social House, Immigrant and all those hip new places [laughs].

I realize that the prices are more expensive here when compared to the States where you can still find beer for a dollar during happy hour.

My favorite beers like Budweiser and Hoegaarden cost $10 in Jakarta.

When shopping here, do you convert prices to dollars in your head?

Yes, I have a tendency to think in dollars, so everything is either very cheap or more expensive. Since I’m only here for a month and I’m still earning dollars, it’s alright [laughs].

Not so long ago in Jakarta, Rp 50,000 [$5.50] could buy you a movie ticket and food, and you’d still have money left over, but not today.

 

Patriana was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Patriana Sonia, Business Analyst

 

Pictures Courtesy of Patriana Sonia Paago

My Jakarta: Matt Nye, IT Consultant

Matt Nye is fresh off the boat. The 32-year-old American has been in Jakarta for a month, having moved here to start an IT consulting business. Born in California, Nye has lived in 10 different US states, but this is the first time he has worked overseas.
Nye tells us how he is adjusting to life here and how Indonesia allows him to combine business with pleasure.

Why Indonesia? 

At first it was the beaches. I came here for a visit two years ago and I went to Bali, Lombok and the Gilis. I fell in love with Indonesia and immediately tried to find a way to come back.

So for the past two years you’ve been dreaming about the beaches while sitting in your work cubicle? 

I’ve told my friends that when I die, I want my ashes to be spread on Gili Trawangan.

What was your previous job in the States? 

I was the director of professional services for the business intelligence practice at a consulting firm based out of the New York City metropolitan area.

That’s sounds complicated but also like a good job. Why did you quit your job during a recession? 

Yeah, well, I felt like I had gotten all that I could in that position and that if I was going to progress I would need to look at other opportunities. The recession factor actually encouraged the decision since competition tends to be the lowest during and especially after a recession. Additionally, an increased demand for technology-driven data services, combined with the investment opportunity in Indonesia and the fact that Asia is going to be the dominant global market in the next decade or so, if not quicker, led me to believe this was a great time to start this venture. 

Have you had experience working with Indonesians?

I haven’t, but I have local partners that I’m working with who are getting me acclimatized. Something I’ve noticed in my job and my personal life is that people across the world have a very segmented view of themselves and their country.  The same struggles you find in the US or Europe market, I’ve heard framed as Indonesian-specific traits; lack of motivation, difficulty in corporate politics, etc. There is the thought that because two people speak a different language their worlds are so far apart that their cultures are vastly different. But our world has become so small over the past 30 years with the Internet and other technologies that I feel cultures have been moderately joined in a way.

What do you do for fun? 

Benhil is fun. They have great street food and at the corner, near Sudirman, is that two-story shopping area that has everything you could want. Few people speak English, so it challenges me to use what little Bahasa I do know. Also, it’s way cheaper and the vegetables tend to be fresher and more diverse than the mall grocery stores.

Have you had a bout of food poisoning yet? 

No food poisoning yet, even though I have braved the food vendors, but so far, so good. I think the amount of chili sauce I ingest kills off all the bacteria.

Have you had experience working abroad before? 

No, although when I was young, I traveled a lot. Once I started my career I didn’t leave the States for 11 years. I had an opportunity to start traveling quite a bit in 2007 and have been exploring many different countries. I jumped at the opportunity to live and work here as soon as it presented itself.

Could you explain your job again, because I don’t get it? 

It’s essentially helping companies understand and manage the information within their organization, utilizing a strong technology infrastructure. With the advent of the technological age, you have access to far more information than before. I think the story goes that there is more information in a single issue of The New York Times than a person during the Renaissance would get in their entire lifetime. The companies that learn to control, understand and empower their employees with that information will be the ones to thrive in the post-recession global economy. Our company has several decades of experience in this and is hoping to share that with Indonesian and Southeast Asian companies.

So what’s your plan for the next six months? 

Professionally, I want to build a name in the market. But more importantly, I want to get my diving certification. I’m planning a trip to Karimunjawa in April and want to do some diving.

If you had to survive on $10 a day, how would you spend it? 

On printing a resume and an ojek [motorcycle taxi] to take me to apply for a job so I wouldn’t have to live off $10 a day.

How is your Indonesian? What words have you learned? 

“Tolong saya tolol ” [“Help, I’m stupid”].  I think this phrase can be used in almost every situation. The other essential one is “ satu lagi ” [“one more”].  I’ve started counting in Bahasa when I work out. I’m switching to counting in thousands, which gets some interesting reactions from people in the gym. Either they think I’m amazingly fit or I’m delusional.

Nye was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Matt Nye, IT Consultant

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

For more information visit www.westwind-consulting.com

My Jakarta: Melvyn, World Traveler

Melvyn knows her way around the country. But in due time, she may know her way around the world as well.

As a travel consultant, she has virtually figured out the global road map like the back of her hand. But her recent trip to Europe as a lone backpacker gave her a more intimate insight into other countries to which most of us only dream of going. It also helped her gain a better understanding of herself and how to travel on the cheap with help from a very useful Web site.

You just recently came back from a trip to Europe. Tell me about that experience. 

It was great. I finally got to travel by myself. I’ve been dreaming of going on a backpacking trip all my life, and I think I just spent all of my life savings [laughs], but it was worth it. I went to Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands in 45 days. I gained a lot of experience during that trip. There are just so many stories to tell.

Do you think it’s better to travel alone or be with friends?

I used to be indecisive when I was with my friends, but because I went on this trip alone, I felt like I learned to make decisions on my own. Traveling alone is nice because you make decisions by yourself. If you want to do something or go somewhere, you just do it. But I did constantly meet up with people everywhere I went, mostly from CouchSurfing.org

Tell me a little bit about CouchSurfing.org. 

It’s a nonprofit organization with members from around the world. Basically, it’s a Web site that helps you find a host who can accommodate your stay in a country you choose to visit. And you can also be the host yourself. To be able to experience a new culture right at your home is cool, but it’s also a good way to meet people. And not everyone just wants to find a place to crash. Some just want travel tips from locals.

You are a couch surfer representing Jakarta. How long have you been doing this? 

About two years. I’m living with my cousin, so I can’t always invite people to stay at our place. But being a host doesn’t always mean that your guests have to stay at your place. You can also serve as their guide and take them out for a good time.

Where do you usually take your guests? 

Standard sightseeing, which includes going to Monas, the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, the old city and the highlight, of course, is making them eat durian. I also take them out to the city and ride the ojek , the bajaj and the bemo .

Where do your international guests usually come from? 

From Singapore, the US, Portugal, Holland and England.

How many couch surfers are there in Indonesia? 

In Indonesia there are thousands, but in Jakarta there are only a few hundred. I don’t know the exact number, but I know not everyone is active.

Don’t you think it’s dangerous to invite strangers into your own home? 

There are people who think it isn’t appropriate to invite strangers to their homes. But by letting them stay, I think you’ll eventually get to know them better. And there’s a reference system that you can also use. I’m sure there are incidents, but that can happen at any networking site.

Where are you do you originally come from? 

I’m from Palembang, South Sumatra. I was born there and I stayed there until I was in high school. I moved to Bandung to study at a university where I took up communications science and public relations. I moved to Jakarta in 2005.

Why made you decide to move to Jakarta? 

When I lived in Bandung, I spent most of my weekends in Jakarta. After I graduated, I got an offer to work at a company that was into wedding photography. Then one day I saw an ad from a travel agency, and I thought it could be interesting. I applied, got accepted and I’ve been working in the field ever since.

Tell me a little bit about working at a travel agency. 

I work as a travel consultant. I make reservations for plane tickets and hotel accommodations. I’m also into product development and serve as tour leader. I do a lot of research, organize information and get in touch with local travel agencies everywhere that can work with us. I’ve arranged tours to China, Egypt, Thailand and several more countries. I’ve also served as a tour guide for destinations around Southeast Asia.

So you managed to ‘couch surf’ throughout your recent trip? 

Pretty much. I was serving as a host before my recent trip, so when it was my turn to travel, some of the people that stayed at my place kind of returned my hospitality. I was sleeping in all sorts of rooms. I stayed in a living room, a guest room with a private bathroom and at times on the floor with only a blanket. You just can’t be picky.

Have you been able to coach-surf around Indonesia? 

Yes, at Bandung, Bali, Solo, Semarang and Yogyakarta. Even though I have friends living in Bandung, I stay with other couch surfers because I travel with a guest. This is to meet people from other parts of Indonesia with the same ideas in mind: traveling on a budget.

Melvyn was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Melvyn, World Traveler

Picture by Iwan Putuhena