Mireille van Reenen: Nederlands-Indië/Indonesië
For my master thesis Art History at Leiden University (the Netherlands) I have been involved in a project concerning the documentation of the Ministry of Finance-building on Lapangan Banteng, Jakarta. The building dates from the early nineteenth century and was intended to be the palace for the governor-general. For my research I joined an new project set up by the Documentation Centre for Architecture (Pusat Dokumentasi Arsitektur - PDA) in Jakarta in cooperation with Passchier and Consultants (PAC) in Den Bosch. I was referred to these two organisations by Pauline van Roosmalen (Delft University of Technology).
I stayed in Jakarta for approximately 2 months to assist in the historical research, this implied among others research in the National Archive in Jakarta (ANRI). During these months I was 'in de kos' with an Indonesian family - the address was obtained by my Indonesian counterpart by looking up newspaper advertisements. As an intern I had a small salary, the University of Leiden granted me a small fund. I spent most of this fund on a ticket (ca. € 1000,-), housing (approx. € 200,-/month), taxi's (ca. €4,-/day), lunches and dinners (ca. € 15,-/day). Additional money was spent on vaccinations and visa.
My main problem was communication. As I did not speak Indonesian (apart from some basics learned on a language course I took in the evening hours at ILP, an institution that provides mainly English courses to Indonesian children), communication sometimes was very difficult. My idea that Indonesian would speak English did not always come true. Another thing I found remarkable was the fact that Indonesian organisations and institutes can be very formal. Officially, to do research in the National Archives of the Republic of Indonesia (ANRI), one needs a research-permit from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in Jakarta. This permit officially can be obtained via a procedure that takes approximately 6 months and requires a lot of documents to be filled out or, when the permit is needed for ANRI only, via the National Archive in The Hague. Since I worked for an Indonesian organisation I was allowed to work in ANRI without the required permit. This was obviously a very extraordinary situation.
Early planning when preparing a research period in Indonesia (avoid the word 'research': use 'study' instead) is therefore necessary. A visitors visa (valid for 30 days, no work allowed) can be obtained via the Indonesian embassy in The Hague. A visa that permits work and study ('sosial budaya') is valid for the duration of the work/study but with a maximum of 6 months. This type of visa requires an Indonesian counterpart. Check out the website of the embassy (www.indonesia.nl) for information on types of visa and the required paperwork. Working in Indonesia requires a lot of patience. When making a planning it is wise to account at least twice the time you would need in The Netherlands. Also, notice that on national events ('tanggal merah' = 'red days': i.e. August 17, end of the fasting month) all activities in the entire country come almost to a standstill. When doing research in ANRI notice that during the rainy season (October-April) it is sometimes impossible to transfer archive material from the depot to the reading room when it rains since there is no roofed passage between the depot and the public building and that electricity sometimes fails.
While working and living in a new country for some time you can truly discover its culture and its people (and make new friends). 'group portait'Also, I was amazed by the amount of Dutch colonial archive material still preserved in Indonesia, including drawings of good quality. Although a lot is already demolished, there are still enough old buildings (both originally Indonesian and Dutch) to see history in present Java.