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EINDHOVEN - In the early hours of 2003, the very early hours, I decided it was about time to expand my world of Indonesia on the world wide web. Since about 4 years I have maintained a Dutch links-website under Startpagina (, ). Iím doing fine with that one, collecting more and more visitors over the year. Most are still Dutch, and thatís the big reason why I made the second step in uniting the Indonesian-loving community in the Netherlands. I started a forum, which was offered by Startpagina for quite some time, but I didnít want to start because I was busy working on my websites.

The forums were launched on January 2nd, and the Bali-forum was opened a few days later, because many people asked for that all of a sudden. And within a few weeks, dozens of messages were posted, and lots of problems were solved because of the help from other people, people which donít know eachother, people of which you donít know anything, but in a certain way people you can acually trust in certain things. Why?

Because they have had the same experience as you. They have been on holiday to the same country, island, location or even hotel as you. You can share your opinion in anonymity with others which are unknown to you, but as they tell you their story, they suddenly seem close relations of you. More than just you have had an experience which you can compare to yours. Actually itís even funny to notice that you were fooled by the TimeShare people trying to lure you to their office to Ďclaim your prizeí, as many other people did as well.

Soon bigger and more intense discussions flared up. The whole visa politics of the Indonesian government was seen as a threat to the Indonesian tourism industry. Itís wasnít the fact that people had to pay for it, because tourists from Indonesia to the Netherlands have to pay for a visa as well. But the main problem was the fact that the Indonesian government will only allow tourists to stay in Indonesia for a maximum of one month. After that period, people have to get out of Indonesia for at least two weeks.
Visitors noticed that such limitations on a visa would certainly force people to leave indonesia after a relatively short holiday. Especially if you keep in mind that many families from Indonesia have left Indonesia after their Independence. Many families were split in a Dutch part and Indonesian part, and is has become increasingly hard to meet eachother, especially for a longer time than those measily four weeks, which are barely enough to get up with the things that happened over the years that you havenít seen eachother. Many people arenít rich enough to go on holiday every year, a very understandable thing if you want to fly with your entire family, and that you have to make a living in the Netherlands as well.

Going on on about the same subject is getting two people which are meant for eachother (being in love with eachother, or even about to get married), to be united. Discussions about this were sometimes fierce, but I got the feeling people were just telling their honest feelings and experiences about this. The Dutch government has a policy of discouragement, by slowing down and making all kinds of restrictions on the Ďimport of personsí from any other country than the countries European Union. For me itís not an interesting thing to talk about, because I have nothing to with it in fact. But itís sad to read that people are sometimes a little or more desparate because procedures are just taking months an months or hard work, travelling, getting the right documents and stuff like that. Itís almost like the names on the forum get a face with a personality with it.

After there were more than 2000 messages posted by about 250 people, sometimes asking for a small answer, others starting a big discussion which drew everyones attention, I received an email from Amsterdam with the question whether is was possible for me to set up a meeting of people which are active on the forum. In a first reply I in fact declined by telling I had too little time at the moment to organise everything, but I would be glad if I could help with anything. The other, unknown, person let me know that it was okay for her to hold a meeting at her place in Amsterdam. I agreed on that, and I would do some work later on as well, though my time was still very limited to me.

Soon we started chatting on MSN to get to know eachother a little. Itís still quite an unknown world, and when you want to organise a meeting like this, it proves that you are either totally crazy, or at least a little crazy in your mind. Enviting strangers to your place. What will become of it? Announcing the meeting and waiting for reactions was actually a good part, people reacted very well on it, and many people subscribed to it.

I didnít expect that many people to react in such a short period of time. All of sudden it seemed like that I wasnít the only one waiting for something more to happen, but it was just a matter of time that it would happen. And of course itís a lot more easy when the webmaster wants to cooperate in such an event. People got enthusiast about the first meeting in real live. It is said, and itís also my experience, that many people react differently in real life, than on the internet, because you can act like whatever you want. Should all these people truly be totally different than I think of them at the moment? They all seem friendly to me, and why would that be different?

No it wouldnít be different. I have to adjust my opinion about people on the internet and people in real life. Most people on the internet behave like young children and kick into anything they find, but a certain group of people actually behaves like they also do in real life, and they canít find themselves in doing stupid things.
Some people on the internet donít seem to be afraid that something will happen after they have met someone (or in this case a bigger group of people), or are even willing to meet because of a certain purpose. Meeting because more people have a connection to you concerning Indonesia it such a thing that can break through the normal rules of internet.

The communal line of Indonesia made it possible for a group of people that doesnít know eachother, from all over the country (okay, itís not big, but still), to meet eachother on a not-so-good-weather Sunday in May. Soon conversations about different subjects concerning Indonesia started. Sometimes a first handshake comes with isbelieve that I was the one with was the webmaster of a versatile group of websites, all concerning Indonesia. But in fact, what do you have to expect about someone you donít know? Prejudices play up, I was likely to be a retired Indonesian-Dutch man, born in Indonesia, left there after the Independence and now willing to have a look back on Indonesia. Nothing proved more wrong actually, but you can also see the fun of it, that it is actually very strange to meet without you have ever seen anybody.

The reason why people meet is because many people share a common thought. Whether itís something small or something big, you are never alone. In the case of Indonesia, about 50,000 Dutch tourists go to Indonesia every year. An increasingly big group of them are the so-called ĎSpain-touristsí, people that go to Bali for the beach, a beer and sex. Some things they will actually not find in the current Bali, and I hope it will stay that way. I donít mind tourists going to Bali, but some people are just.. just different than me.. letís say it that way.

The people I have met in relation to my website, or by meeting via the forum, are not like the Spain tourists, but they have a more intimate relation with Indonesia in my opinion. While one has had itís working experience in Sumatra, another went to Bogor to settle there. And some people even have their own house on Bali. Certain things I will still dream about, but Iím still young, and you will never know what the future will being.

After some year of experience with meeting people on the internet I can tell that people who are honest in their way of behaviour on the internet, are honest in real life as well. Maybe itís also the kind of people Iím Ďaimingí at, the Indonesian people which are willing to make contact with people on the other side of the world, or Dutch people which are holiday-goers to Indonesia, or the people that have once lived in Indonesia. Of course you can never be sure of what is on the other side of the world, or even who is besides you on the forum as well. But my hopes are that these things from the last five years are things that I can tell on to other people for a very long time, and that many people may enjoy this pleasure as well.

Posted in General @ 15 June 2003 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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