Java, Indonesia Wed. March 2, 2016
Tomorrow we land on the island of Java, the most populous island on earth (140 million people), and the place that was heart of the English and Dutch trading posts in earlier times. In fact, the Dutch East India Company (or so we have been told) was the first “megacompany” in the world – 4800 ships, huge profits, shareholders, employees and slaves, and its own colonies and quasi-governmental processes.
Java was ruled by the Dutch for about 350 years, endured Japanese occupation in WWII, and eventually obtained its independence (as part of Indonesia) in 1949. In its history, Indonesia has served as a melting pot of sorts for many ethnicities and religions from China, India, Arabia, Europe and other places. Today Indonesia is largely Muslim (except for Bali, which is largely Hindu). Temples, mosques, pagodas and churches abound, and Java is home to Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. We understand that the country is largely harmonious, with certain exceptions such as areas where Sharia law prevails and tolerance is limited.
After obtaining its independence (the fight led by Sukarno), Indonesia was courted by Western powers to prevent its alliance with communist powers, so that its valuable natural resources (copper, nickel, bauxite, forests, etc.) could be available to major western companies, and its critical location would be a platform for western influence in southeast Asia.
Suharto became President of Indonesia in 1968, and the country enjoyed three decades of substantial economic growth (Suharto was forced to resign due to widespread corruption, but he enjoyed a “severance payment” of US$15 million).
We’ll post pictures as we can – the connection via satellite to the internet is not so reliable as we hoped.
Hope you are all well.