Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wow. I spent the night in the Singapore airport. I went from a 5-star hotel to a cot-and-TV room in a transit hotel. But I'm in a 5-star airport. I'm not referring to shopping and restaurants--though they're here--but to the amenities. Free Wifi is not a big deal but how about free video game playing rooms to pass the time, numerous fast-connecting email statioins and free movie theaters to pass the time. It's also just a lovely airport to walk through.

That transit hotel wasn't bad either. For $40, I had an air conditioned room, comfortable enough bed and a place to take a hot shower the next morning. I can't add Singapore to my "places visited" list (to count, I think you have to go through immigration).

Talk about irony: As I'm checking in at the transit desk, the waiting area is full of young women (teens to early 30s) who have slept on the floor or in chairs. They're all Muslims. There's in traditional clothing for the region, including having their heads covered by hajabs. While they sleep, the TV is blaring Rachel Ray's talk show. The segment I see focuses on new bra styles to enhance or better show a woman's cleavage. I'm glad the women were all asleep.

There's irony everywhere.
Where does the time go? It's Tuesday afternoon, 4:40 PM in Surabaya, Indonesia. I've been on the road for about 10 days and what a wonderful trip it has been. I've conducted two media workshops for radio managers, covering broadcast journalism and news management. The participants were a joy to meet. They're business people but they've built radio station in a somewhat hostile environment. There are cultural and religious issues, government censorship, a sometimes chaotic economy, a lack of adequate human resources and of course a basic need to also support community development. It's a tougher environment than US stations face.

We also talked about the continuing challenge for radio to remain relevant in a world dominated by television news and increasing levels of Internet access in Indonesia.

The trip has been mostly work but I've had fun with the people I've met. As always, I've tried new foods--including jellyfish and chicken feet. Perhaps the greatest was trying durian, a large and smelly fruit grown in much of Southeast Asia. Durian is covered with sharp prongs on the outside. You break open the fruit and pull chunks of flesh from the oversized pod. It's a different taste--I really can't describe it. Go to Youtube and watch one of the videos for a look and description of what others have said.

As always, the trip has left little time to ponder on the blog about the people I've met and things I've seen. Indonesia is an interesting country--clearly not the sort of transitional place I have previously visited. But outside of the major cities, fundamental issues of development remain. The press is reasonably free but there's still a free speech chill from criminal libel complaints. I hope that I can come back.

I suppose that's enough...it's almost time to board.

Safe travels to all. I'll overnight in Singapore at a transit hotel then catch my morning flight home.