Food, Fashion, and Islamic Finance in Indonesia. · 16 September 2013 by Madeline H.
My name is Madeline Holden. In June 2009, I left Canada, for 15 months, on a solo world tour. My objective was to learn about foreign cultures, strange customs, and subsistence economies through immersion. I was in the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and understanding and attempted to achieve these by living in remote villages, studying difficult languages while observing people’s daily economic activities.
Photo above: My home away from home! Click on any of the photos for a larger view
It was when I was in Dubai that I first heard about Islamic banking and finance and it was when I was in Indonesia that I first saw it in action. I have a passion for business and I have always been very curious about religion and spirituality. In September 2012, I began my Master of Arts at the University of Victoria. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I ever have imagined doing a Master’s thesis on such a cutting edge, exciting, and controversial topic as Islamic microfinance in Indonesia.
What exactly is Islamic microfinance and how does it work? I am currently in Indonesia to find out. I am living in central Java in a busy, smoggy city called Solo (also known as Surakarta). I live in the suburbs, in a small municipality or district surrounded by rice fields. My neighborhood is bordered on one side by a fruit tree farm and on one side by a busy, two-lane road.
photo above – with some of my lady friends
The other two sides of the neighborhood continuously morph into other neighborhoods until they are interrupted by rice fields or the river. Small, single-lane roads, measuring 8 feet across, form of a north-south-east-west grid and make up the little “streets” of the neighborhood. The houses vary in size, style, and color. Some appear run down, decrepit and abandoned with chickens running through the dirt yard; seemingly the only living thing around. Other houses are fenced in with ten foot high walls protecting the lush gardens and rich, extensive interiors from the harmless buskers and food peddlers. I live in a one-story, three bedroom, unassuming, ground level house with a local, middle-class, university educated, Indonesian family.
This neighborhood is unlike any that I have ever seen in Canada. Most houses seem to have a sign above the door advertising a home-based business. For example, every couple of blocks someone is offering laundry services. For Rp. 2,500 per kilo (approximately $0.25) you can get your clothes washed, ironed, folded and ready in four days. If you are willing to pay double the price you can have next day service. Other houses have the front entrance set up to sell candy, food and toiletries. Local university students can rent a single room, known as a kost, which is built alongside up to nine other rooms, all in a row, in someone’s backyard. The enclosed veranda of one house is set up as an internet cafe where the local children pay Rp. 3,000 per hour (approximately $0.30) to play video games every afternoon (instead of surfing the net to learn about the world. I digress). If you forget to go to the gas station on the way home you need not worry. Some of the neighbors sell gasoline by the liter which is kept in clear, glass, bottles in a locked box or set up on shelves on the street.
Photo of gas vendor above – petrol by the bottle!
My host family’s adult daughter offers English and Arabic lessons for children. The business possibilities are endless.
The streets of Indonesia never sleep and the streets of this neighborhood are no exception. Peddlers drive or walk around the neighborhood dogging chickens, dogs and playing children from five in the morning until long after the sun has set. The peddlers sell everything from toys, balloons and brooms to fresh guava juice, meat-ball soup and spicy fried-rice. The food sellers have their “kitchens” set up on the back of their motorcycles, bicycles or in a cart with wheels and honk their horn or tap a spoon against a bowl to let everyone know they are in the neighborhood. There are more permanent food establishments set up along the main road bordering the neighborhood. There is a variety of food available including fried whole fish, tofu, peanut-sauced chicken, spicy vegetable salad, noodles, and rice. Fancy restaurants serving local delicacies such as cat fish or foreign foods such as steak or sushi can be found closer to the centre of town and in the popular shopping malls. About 2 miles down the main road there is a large traditional market where, in addition to live and freshly killed chicken, fish, vegetables and fruit, one can also find almost any household item imaginable including motorcycle accessories, shoes, and pots and pans. However, it is unnecessary to walk more than a half a kilometer along the main road to find many of these items as small pharmacies, stationary shops, copy shops, clothing stores, ATM’s and, of course, Islamic microfinance cooperatives are in abundance.
The Islamic microfinance cooperative where I will be spending the next three months is a 20 minute leisurely walk down this busy two-lane road from my house. The building, set back from the road, is a two story structure designed to house up to 10 businesses on the main level with the option for living accommodations or more business space above.
Photo – Food, food everywhere – from carts and motorcycles – the variety!
The microfinance cooperative is the third store along the row, painted bright yellow and green, with ample employee and customer parking in front. The cooperative is sandwiched between two mini-marts which are housed in the same building. A couple of mobile snack stands are set up just in front where the cooperative employees often go for their morning coffee break. Across the street there is a restaurant, a mobile phone store, an internet cafe, a few bicycle and motorcycle repair shops and another Islamic microfinance cooperative.
Female employees and managers of Islamic banking and finance, including Islamic microfinance, are required to wear the hijab (face is NOT covered; only the head is covered). I have agreed to do the same. Although I am not required to wear the hijab outside of the Islamic microfinance cooperative, I have discovered that doing so affords many benefits. Status is extremely important in Indonesian society and wearing the hijab generates instantaneous respect both personally and professionally. It baffles people when they see a pasty, white foreigner wearing the hijab and renders them speechless which turns to awe and delight when they discover that I am not even Muslim. Additionally, the hijab silences the daily whistling, hollering, and marriage proposals I receive when I do not wear it; it is 100% more effective than wearing a fake wedding band. Furthermore, I have found that when I wear the hijab I do not need to wear sunscreen, a hat or mosquito repellent and that I never have to worry about having a bad hair day!
All humor aside, the growing popularity in Indonesia among the young women in their 20’s and 30’s in choosing to wear the hijab of their own accord has been explored here:
In this really great film which effectively gives evidence to this growing fashion industry. Indonesians are extremely fashion conscious purchasing the latest and greatest coming out of Korea, North America and Europe. Regardless of their financial situation, fashion takes precedence. Though fashion has never really interested me I find myself mesmerized by the colors, accessories and infinite number of styles and ways of wearing the hijab. I am embracing my new found fascination and am having quite a bit of fun with mixing, matching and accessorizing while learning about Islamic microfinance in Indonesia.
Madeline Holden has a Bachelor of Commerce (Honors) from Memorial University of Newfoundland and has worked in accounting, finance and policy analysis. She is a fellow in residence at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria in Victoria Canada. You can contact Ms. Holden via email at email@example.com
Talking coffee on CKNW with Gord MacDonald · 6 August 2013 by colin newell
Listen to the Podcast |
We were talking coffee with Gord MacDonald from CKNW – 980 from Vancouver — with some really good questions.
This podcast (interview) is around 11 minutes long – so strap yourself in.
I average around 20 radio, TV or newspaper interviews annually and this was one of the better ones – a lot of these radio hosts are affable, enthusiastic and well read before they undertake an interview – honored to chat on the subject of my passion. Coffee. Love it.
Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.
Talking Rockin and Roasting Coffee with Joey Kramer of Aerosmith · 28 June 2013 by colin newell
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We spoke this morning with a man who is very passionate about the coffee bean – and so much so he has decided to do it right… for himself, for the consuming public and the farmers who grow it – and beyond!
And with 40 plus years, under his belt, with the band Aerosmith – a demanding full time job all its own, a very youthful Joey Kramer has managed to visualize, develop, and market a potentially winning concept.
Chatting with Joey today, I quickly realized that he is a team player – not only with his band of brothers but also with all the mechanisms and machinations that make for a successful venture into the fairly cluttered and confusing coffee marketplace. Because, as Joey pointed out, a lot about coffee is in the education and in the awareness.
Years of touring into every nook and cranny of this Rock and Roll hungry planet left Joey with the sense that he needed a better and more accessible cup of coffee. For Mister Kramer, an avid coffee drinker since his early days, his daily caffeine rituals were often interrupted by simply bad coffee in some unexpected places. The only solution (knowing full well what a great cup of coffee tasted like) was to have some part in producing his own personal great cup of coffee… a cup of coffee he could enjoy on the road, at home, and a product he could share with the rest of the World.
The idea for Rockin and Roastin coffee was born.
And, he added, you cannot do it all yourself. He has a great coffee team – and like the boys in the band, everyone has to pull their weight and find their strengths. If you are going to do it right, you need the right people. And with the full schedule of the touring cavalcade that is Aerosmith, he was not always able to get to all the farms and see all the stages of production – that said, he has been hands on on testing, sampling, testing and brewing his trio of great coffees – at this point he has picked 3 of the World’s most beloved origin beans; Ethiopian, Guatemalan and Sumatra coffee – three classics.
Joey and I talked about the importance of understanding the “value chain” of coffee, its path from farm to cup, the delicate nature of the coffee plants and their caretakers – the farmers who also need to receive a fair compensation for their work. Joey Kramer has done his homework – he knows the value of shade grown and organic coffees – being friendly to the environment, growing coffee in a sustainable way and not harming anything in the process.
Joey admits, “I drink a lot of coffee. Particularly during the creative stages with the band… composing arrangements for new songs…” Coffee is creative fuel, and for Joey Kramer, there is clearly a lot of coffee in his music. I found him exceedingly passionate and easy to talk to.
My next task will be to try some of this bean – and if you want to check them out, I encourage you to head on over to their colorful website
Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3.
Hot Wheels · 31 March 2013 by colin newell
Hot Wheels. Got my first one in 1968. Played with them for a long time. Loved them. So long ago. Eventually, one has to move from one set of toys to a newer, brighter and faster set of toys…
Which brings up to this blog – hosted on a server that I run myself… to serve you better.
Welcome to the Coffeecrew.com Blog on my own server cluster — administered by… me.
AND (whoops!) sorry for the brief black-out. Look who forgot to do some pointing and clicking and setting this and that!
And now that I am getting into some more stable hosting, please expect some more regular blogging! And to those that have been with me through the years… Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!
Talking Coffee on Shaw GO Island · 15 January 2013 by colin newell
Had a blast talking to Dan Kahan of Shaw community cable on Go Island South – great show…
The topic: Coffee culture… at its best, right here in sleepy Victoria B.C. Canada.
Talking Geisha coffee on Newstalk 1010 in Toronto · 29 November 2012 by colin newell
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We were talking to Jim Richards, affable and chatty host of Newstalk 1010 AM Toronto’s afternoon show.
The topic was coffee, $7 coffee at Starbucks – Geisha coffee – the exotic beans from Central America, what they are worth – who is drinking it and why.
If you cannot see the audio thing above, click here for the mp3.