Vince Gebert: Indonesië
For my master programme Spatial Planning at Utrecht University I wanted to do an internship abroad. Indonesia was my preferred option for three reasons: spatial planning in Indonesia is a relatively young discipline, Indonesia’s emerging economy requires proper management for urban planning to which I wanted to contribute and, last but not least, I expected Indonesia to be an interesting personal and professional experience. As I already held a master in Architectural History & Heritage Conservation, my ambition was to combine both disciplines during my internship.
To find out what the possibilities were I contacted dr. Pauline K.M. van Roosmalen, of whom I had read several interesting publications on architectural history and urban planning in the Dutch East Indies. Pauline was very helpful in considering several different organisations dedicated to heritage conservation and/or spatial planning. Because they are less frequently studied, we first discussed the cities of Semarang (Central-Java), Medan (North-Sumatra) and Balikpapan (East-Kalimantan). We then discussed possibilities in Jakarta, Surabaya and Bandung (Java), where conservation movements were more solidly established. After much mailing to several organisations ? of which many did not reply ? the Bandung Society for Heritage Conservation, in collaboration with the Centre for Urban Design Studies (PSUD) responded positively to my emails and eventually became my work placement. The combination between Bandung Heritage and PSUD guaranteed I would be working on both architectural preservation and urban planning issues.
Before leaving for Indonesia I basically prepared myself and my trip in various ways. The first think I did was follow a language course at the Volksuniversiteit Utrecht. This course provided me with a basic proficiency to express myself and to understand other people’s comments. Especially when ordering food, it proved helpful, as most people do not speak or understand English. The second thing I had to arrange was a visa that allowed me to ‘work’ in Indonesia.*
To avoid getting too much surprised or disappointed, I left for Indonesia with an open mind. But eventhough I anticipated the working and living environment to differ tremendously from what I am used to in many – and possibly all – ways. I did not think that many aspects of life and work in Indonesia were not very different from life and work in the Netherlands. Sometimes things were formal and organized, notably meetings and activities, and sometimes things were much more informal: the very long lunch breaks or sudden team soccer competitions during working hours, for example.
One slightly problematic issue I encountered while being in Bandung – that I had not anticipated – was a professional misunderstanding: Bandung Heritage nor PSUD really understood what spatial planners do. As a result, I was initially to design. It was hard to explain that my study did not teach me how to design plans but to conduct research to help design plans. Once this small but fundamental problem was solved, I was able to help Bandung Heritage and PSUD in activities that were in line with my interest and skills. I documented housing types within a historical, former Dutch neighbourhood (which was part of the garden city extension plan for Northern-Bandung) and formulated urban design guidelines to help regulate the future development plan of that area.
Besides my internship activities I did fieldwork about the local heritage conservation discipline in Bandung for my master’s thesis. The aim of my research was to examine why (protected) monuments are still being demolished; which actors are involved, or excluded; what could be a suitable solution to the deficiencies in the functioning of conservation management and regulation. In other words, I wanted to explore the governance capacity of this local heritage conservation. With regard to this research, thanks to my Bandung colleagues I was able to conduct eleven interviews with local stakeholders active in local heritage conservation in Bandung, and made very useful observations.
I stayed in Indonesia for almost four months. For my stay in Bandung, Bandung Heritage provided me with housing: a pavilion in the garden of the neighbours of the Bandung Heritage chairman. They were a very warm elderly couple. Because I sublet my room in Utrecht, my accommodation in Indonesia was free of charge and food on the street is not only very nice but also very cheap – around one euro per meal – my stay in Indonesia was hardly any more expensive than if I would have done an internship in the Netherlands. Besides practical merits, my internship in Bandung has been a wonderful experience in a foreign country and made many new friends and helpful contacts.
*Although obtaining this visa was not difficult, it did take a month to process it from sending the first documents until picking up my passport. Far more difficult and unclear was how to extend my visa in Indonesia after 60 days. The ‘Kantor Imigrasi’ proved to be a tedious bureaucracy: for each extension I had to return to the office two or three times.