Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
Feedback: indonesia.anonymus at gmail dot com


Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Can you hear the bajaj?

One of our colleagues has a maid at home to help with her cleaning, cooking and occasional grocery shopping. Since the supermarket is quite a distance away from home, the maid would take the Jakarta's beloved bajaj, the orange three-wheeler.

One day, the maid went on her regular shopping trip and didn't make it home in time. When she finally got home, she complained about the bajaj driver. Apparently the bajaj driver misunderstood her desired destination and took her on a completely different route. When the maid realized she was not heading towards the supermarket, she tried to tell the driver, but somehow he didn't hear her. The driver finally stopped, but only after the maid started yelling and pricked the driver's head with her umbrella.
That was when the maid found out that the driver had hearing problem. She had to talk to the driver face to face to make him understand what she was saying. Yes, the driver had to read her lips.
In short, she managed to tell the driver the correct destination, and she got there safely (although totally annoyed).

Our colleague told us about her maid's story in between one of our boring meetings. The story certainly woke us up, and we couldn't help wondering:
Is the bajaj driver's hearing problem caused by the bajaj engine noise?

The bajaj engine is notoriously loud, and the bajaj drivers are exposed to the noise day-in day-out. Surely that can cause some kind of hearing problem.
That also means all bajaj drivers will eventually have the same problem.

What a scary thought.

So we did a little browsing and here's what we found out:
dr. Jenny Bashiruddin from the faculty of medicine, University of Indonesia did a research involving 350 bajaj drivers. She found out that 72.28 percent of the drivers have some kind of problem: 17.14% with hearing problem, 27.71% with balance problem, and 27.43% have hearing and balance problem. Only 27.72% are considered healthy [1].

It's the noise, all right. It is called NIHL (Noise-induced hearing loss). NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to loud sound as well as by repeated exposure to sounds at various loudness levels over an extended period of time. Continuous exposure to loud noise can damage the structure of the hair cells, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus [2].

The maximum loudness to be considered safe is 85 dB, with exposure of less than 8 hours a day. Bajaj engine noise can reach an average of 91 dB [1], and God knows how many hours the drivers are exposed to it in one day.

Oh dear. That is scary.

We thought it was time for our own little experiment. We will do the same experiment (on a lot smaller scale of course. No way we can afford to test 350 bajaj drivers) and see it for ourselves. We thought it would be useful to meet the reality face to face.

One of our counterparts has a daughter who is a young doctor, specialized in ear, nose and throat. (We believe the english term would be an otolaryngologist.. but we could be wrong), so we invited her to help us. Not surprisingly, she agreed to sacrifice her Sunday afternoon for us, and she would do the exam for free.
So there we go. On Sunday afternoon, we scout our doctor's neighborhood in search of bajaj drivers. We offered Rp. 50.000 (about 5 US Dollars) if they would just come with us for half an hour and have their hearing examined.

If you think that's an easy thing to do, think again. Some bajaj drivers actually got offended. One of them said: "Just because you have money to burn, doesn't mean you can insult us. My hearing is fine !"
Geez. It was just an offer, Mr. Bajaj driver. Chill out.

To make a long story short, we finally got our 5 volunteers (sorry, budget forbid! We could only afford 5). Our kind doctor examined them one by one.
Sure enough, 4 out of 5 have a certain degree of hearing problem.

The one person who was fine happened to be the last one. His name is Hasan. The reason why his hearing is fine was because he only started driving bajaj 3 months ago. The other four have driven more than 2 years. One person has been driving for 6 years.

Knowing the result of the previous four, we felt obligated to tell Hasan about the risk involved in his profession. My dear Hasan, you are risking your hearing. Do something before it's too late!
You could see the concern in Hasan's eyes, but then he said: "I have a wife and three kids. I have no choice. There's simply no other job out there."
Hasan was unemployed for more than 2.5 years before he landed on this job, "I am really fortunate to have this job. I can't give it up."

That just breaks our heart. It hurts even more knowing that there are many many Hasans out there.

On our way home, everytime we hear bajaj roaring on the street, there is this painful feeling in our chest.
It hurts to know that in every roar, there is someone sacrificing his hearing for a living...

[1] Kompas -- Kebisingan dan Getaran Bisa Akibatkan Kecelakaan Kerja..!
[2] National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders -- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Picture is linked from

Monday, January 23, 2006

Land of the Honkers

Jakartans love to honk. Yes we do. We love the blaring sound of our car's horn.
Don't want to admit it? Here's the proof.

For the past two weeks we have done a little research to answer this one question:
On our way from home to work everyday, how many times on average do we hear people honking?

So we equipped ourselves with a counter, and when we drove from home to work, we clicked the counter whenever we heard vehicle's horn blared.
We did it for 2 weeks.

The result is quite astounding:

On average, everyday, from home to work, we hear people blaring their vehicle's horn 48 times.
Our record high? There is one particularly bad day of which one of our colleagues logged 152.

48 times! Everyday, from home to work. Goodness. We never thought Jakarta is that noisy!
No wonder we are grumpy when we arrive at work.

So here's what we decided to do. We came up with a pact among us. We will not use our car horn unless it is absolutely necessary.
We will try to keep it quiet. We'll consider it our contribution to a quieter Jakarta. To a more livable Jakarta. A more civilized Jakarta.

So no matter how annoying the other motorists are, we will not honk. We will be very quiet about it.

That, however, does not mean we won't give a finger.