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IEEE Tensymp 2016

The 2016 IEEE Region 10 Annual Symposium (TENSYMP 2016) has been carried out in Sanur Paradise Plaza, Bali Island, Indonesia, in 9–11 May 2016. TENSYMP is the second flagship conference belongs to the IEEE Region 10. But TENSYMP is relatively new: this event was only the fourth TENSYMP. The aim is to serve IEEE contribution to the development, progress and welfare of countries in the Asia-Pacific region by disseminating technological knowledge and experience.

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There were almost 213 papers submitted to the conference this year, of which only 96 papers were accepted, and 72 were presented in this conference. So, acceptance rate was 45%, and attendance rate was 75%. The conference was opened by IEEE Region 10 Director, Ramakrishna Kappagantu, accompanied among others by:

  • Satriyo Dharmanto, IEEE Indonesia Section Chair
  • Dr. Ford Lumban Gaol, IEEE TENSYMP 2016 General Co-Chair
  • Kuncoro Wastuwibowo, IEEE TENSYMP 2016 General Co-Chair
  • Prof. Gamantyo Hendrantoro, IEEE TENSYMP 2016 TPC Chair
  • Dr. Basuki Yusuf Iskandar, Head of Research & HR Development of the Indonesian Ministry of ICT

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The topics for TENSYMP 2016 were selected by considering the position of Asia Pacific area as de facto centre for the ICT research, development, and industry. Digital devices, services and applications proliferate in unprecedented growth; but only a small number will become success stories. The others, despite their idealistic technical plan, will succumb the poor access to technology, market, community, or investment. It is the duty of the IEEE Region 10 as a community to arrange a coherence among those technologies, infrastructures, and business opportunities, to accelerate our common growth toward a digital society. Other big challenges are to develop and deploy our technology in meaningful ways – in real applications to enhance the value of human life. This is the expectation to choose the topic of TENSYMP 2016: Smart Computing, Communications, and Informatics of the Future. While we carry out deeper researches on those smart services and platforms; we keep in mind that our works are to enhance the quality of life.

On the Opening Speech, IEEE Region 10 Director Ramakrishna Kappagantu mentioned that with TENSYMP, IEEE Region 10 aims:

  • To provide a prestigious international forum for specialist presentations and interactions in one or more areas of Electrical, Electronics, Computer and Information technology through papers, exhibitions, plenary talk, tutorials, and other activities;
  • To contribute to the development, progress and welfare of countries in the Asia-Pacific region by disseminating technological knowledge and experience.
  • To encourage the study and discussion of technology and technological applications in a broad social, political and human context;
  • To polish and boost the interpersonal and professional skills of volunteers with the guidance of leaders and the renowned personalities in the respective field of Engineering & Technology.

The conference presented five prominent keynote speakers:

  • Prof. Kukjin Chun: Microelectromechanical Systems Technology Development.
  • Prof. Benjamin Wah: Consistent Synchronization Of Action Order with Least Noticeable Delays Ini MultiPlayer Online Games
  • Prof. Rod van Meter: Analyzing Applications for Quantum Repeater Network
  • Prof. Soegijarjo Soegidjoko, Biomedical Engineering Advances for a Better Life in Developed & Developing Countries
  • Dr. Basuki Yusuf Iskandar

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The conference also presented 7 tutorial sessions, presenting tutorial speakers from spreading countries in Asia Pacific Region.

There was a Gala Dinner session on the first night of the conference, attended by all participants of the conference, and also by Prof Kukjin Chun as the Director-Elect of IEEE Region 10.

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Other programs related to IEEE TENSYMP 2016 were, among others:

  • IEEE Region 10 Young Professional Gathering
  • IEEE Region 10 Women in Engineering Sharing Session
  • IEEE Region 10 Education Activities Sharing Session
  • IEEE TENSYMP 2016 Industry Forum
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APCC 2012, Korea

The twin conference IEEE Comnetsat and IEEE Cyberneticscom in Bali last July, apparently leaving continuing effects. While the organisers evaluated that everything is far from perfect, the two keynote speakers might have different impression. Dr Ford said that Prof. Lightner (President of the IEEE, 2006) at a meeting in Hong Kong praised the twin conference as fully IEEE compliant, including small things like the visual designs; then suggested Indonesia to submit a proposal to host the  IEEE TALE conference in 2013. Prof. Byeong Gi Lee (President of IEEE Comsoc, 2010-2011), in a communication after the Comnetsat, also encouraged Indonesia to host APCC 2013. Prof Lee himself is the General Chair for APCC 2012. Then we were invited to submit proposals, at APCC 2012. Prof Lee are extremely intelligent and gentle, but firm. So albeit his tone soft, we interpreted his message as a command.

APCC, Asia-Pacific Conference on Communications, is a very prestigious regional conference in one of the regions with the highest growth in the IT world. For the international level, the IEEE Comsoc has ICC and Globecom. For the general technical issues, the IEEE Region 10 Asia Pacific has IEEE Tencon (hosted by Indonesia in 2010). APCC is like a slice for both. However, due to its specific field, personal and professional relationships among its Steering Committee (ASC) are very closed. APCC, besides sponsored by IEEE Comsoc, also supported by the KICS in Korea, IEICE in Japan, and the CIC in China. APCC was first held in 1993 in Taejon, Korea. The 18th APCC is conducted this year in Korea too, but in Jeju Island.

Comsoc Indonesia (Indonesia IEEE Communications Society Chapter) has started the plan. Assessments has been conducted since Ramadan this year. But Comsoc officers in Indonesia are small and very busy. So we just made a brief proposal; expecting that we will have the opportunity to discuss with the ASC about it. After some discussions, Indonesia will send, as delegation to APCC 2012: me (as Past Chair Comsoc Indonesia), M Ary Murti (IEEE Indonesia as Chair, but indeed also a Past-Past Chair of Comsoc Indonesia), and Agnes Irwanti (Secretary of Comsoc Indonesia).

I departed from Jakarta on October 13 evening, had flight with Garuda Indonesia, and arrived at Incheon October 14. At Incheon, I joined Ary and Agnes. We had a small visit to Seoul, followed by Korean Air flight from Incheon to Jeju. Jeju is an island located in the south of the Korean Peninsula.

APCC 2012 commenced on 15th morning. Opening was conducted by by Prof. Jinwoo Park, President of KICS; Prof. Byeong G Lee, from IEEE; then Prof. Yang Zhen, Vice Chair of the CIC. Plenary session was presented by Prof. Tomonori Aoyama, who is also one of the pioneers APCC, with the theme New Generation Networking (NWGN) and Inter-Cloud Computing to Handle Big Data. NWGN, also called Future Internet, is not just a development of TCP/IP suit, but a design of new network architectures that might be based on Post-IP Network.

Break, we took pictures with some of the participants from Indonesia, who are students in Korea and Japan.

After the break, the ASC held a separate session, to discuss the organising of the APCC. Included is a discussion of the next APCC host. So the we joined the ASC meeting. The meeting occupied a seminar room; attended by the members of the ASC, the titan in Communications Technology. Beside them, the delegations from Indonesia and Thailand also attended the meeting to bid for the next host. Thailand performed first, with excellent presentation, detail, and supplemented with some souvenirs from their country. Presentation of the Indonesian delegation was presented clumsy Koen.

I had only a simple presentation, but I put the focus on the selection of the theme, time, and the situations. I guess both delegations could show good plans and commitments. Soon, we were asked to leave.

About fifteen minutes later, we were asked to enter the meeting room. The ASC had decided to choose Indonesia as the host for APCC 2013, with Comsoc Indonesia as the organiser. We were also asked to give a short speech at the banquet the next day.

On 16 morning, I still attended the Plenary Session. Prof. Zhisheng Niu discussed the theme of Rethinking Cellular Networks – A Novel Hyper-Cellular Architecture for Green and Smart ICT. Then I just realised that I was a bit tired. We took time to freshen up with a walk to the beach just about the hotel.

That night, we were invited to attend the Banquet of APCC. As the next host in 2013, we were asked to sit at one of the VIP tables. Of course in such events, toasts were so routine. Kempai! But they provided a bottle of Coca Cola for people like us who does not drink alcohol. I asked Mme Agnes to represent us giving a speech about APCC 2013. Some VIP also came to our table, discussing the next plan for APCC 2013.

The next morning, I woke up very early, and ran away from the hotel. I found almost no taxi in Jeju that early. But there was a Korean asked me to join him with a cab to the airport. From Jeju Airport, Korean Air flew me to Gimpo within 1 hour. After a brisk walk about 500 meters, I got into Arex (Airport Express). Arex is a train connecting Gimpo to Incheon, in about 40 minutes. At Incheon, I simply checked in on Garuda, walked fast immigration desk, walked faster to the connecting station, and got by Gate 107 when the passengers started boarding.

Seven hours later, I’ve arrived in Jakarta.

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Singapore: Carrier Ethernet 2011

Tori Bennett and Ingerid Sørgaard, the EO of Carrier Ethernet World Forum I attended last year in Hong Kong, contacted me in the middle of this year, asked me to join the annual event this December, to perform the similar rituals similar like in Hong Kong last year. This year, the conference took place at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. I thought that at the end of the year I would have enough spare time, so I agreed. But this November I was again too busy with requests in the office, plus the preparation of Indigo Fellowship 2011 and the IEEE Tencon 2011, plus others. The result was like a déjà vu of Hong Kong.

But at last I landed in Singapore on the first evening of December. The weather was still fresh, sprinkled with spotty rain, with scattered clouds in the sky. Disregard the proposal of the conference organisers, I chose to stay at Porcelain Hotel, on Mosque Street, around Chinatown. I am indeed nosy: always try to find a different atmosphere each time I visit this small island. This time I got the right choice: Porcelain is a small hotel but fresh and comfortable. And with the MRT, I was just about 10-15 minutes only from Resort World Sentosa.

This conference series discusses the Carrier Ethernet, which is the backbone, regional, and access network to deliver information in high-speed packets. In the backbone network, CE is implemented with DWDM with tera routers. Regional networks are developed using Metro Ethernet as aggregator that is connected via DWDM or SDH. And the access networks are deployed using various schemes of optimised GPON FTTX with MSAN and XDSL. Various schemes of networks architecture and design optimisation will require interconnection and interlayer supports among network, service, and applications. This is the theme I presented at this conference, titled Service-Optimised Broadband Internet Technologies.

My presentation was scheduled on the second day, 2 December at 12:55, just before lunch & networking time. The presentation began with a general view about Indonesia and how the public consumes information here. Then I jumped into the development of tera routers and metro ethernet by Telkom Indonesia, and then also its broadband access network. IPTV is also presented, emphasized to the usage of metro ethernet, GPON, and MSAN/XDLS  in its network. For the upper layer, I described how the network planning would be linked to service development, that are expected to grow through a new partnership, incubation, and community-generated applications (Internet 2.0). Here the schemes of IMS and SDP are discussed. We intend to set up future products and business models that are personalised and customisable, integrated with the network, and easily commercialised to market (as opposed to the current expectation of startups for advertising or acquisitions only).

This year, I was not the only speaker from Indonesia. There were two other speakers: Mr. Ahmad Rosadi Djarkasih, who presented Enabling Cloud Services to the Enterprise; and Ms. Candra Agnesia Sulyani (aka Mrs. Djarkasih), who presented Driving Profitability in Carrier Ethernet Services for Business the previous day. Unlike last year, this year I refused Ingerid’s request to speak at the panel session. But during the break session (a.k.a. networking session) I talked quite a lot to some of the participants of the conference, discussing the interesting things we had presented, and also discussed the opportunities for them to enter Indonesia IT industry.

After the conference finished, I wandered to Somerset, to visit my favorite bookstore: Harris Bookshop. I knew this unique bookstore last year by accident. I used to visit HMV at Orchard to hunt music CDs that were not easily found in Jakarta. But then HMV moved to Somerset in 2010. And next to HMV, I found Harris: a bookstore with a niche segment. Even for a fans of eBooks like me, who could easily enter Kinokuniya without buying any books (other than buying eBooks even more via the Kindle), Harris is always tempting and enchanting.

The next Carriet Ethernet World Forum will be carried out next year in Hong Kong. Again. I don’t know whether I will be invited. But, with or without me, I suggest you, professional Internet network and service providers, to attend the event next year in Hong Kong.

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Kyoto: Comsoc AP-RCCC

This year the IEEE carried out the annual ICC conference in Kyoto, Japan. As usual, this greatest infocomm conference is accompanied by a couple of technical and organizational meetings, held by the IEEE or IEEE Comsoc. Representing the IEEE Comsoc Indonesia Chapter, I had to be present in Comsoc AP-RCCC. I got the invitation on April, so I had enough time to renew my passport, prepared the visa, airline tickets, hotels, etc. However, these are also the busiest month here at Multimedia Division of Telkom. I could not find enough spare time to relearn hiragana, katakana, kanji, and basic Japanese expressions, or to prepare the social visits.

I got the most affordable airline. It took me from Jakarta to Tokyo via Kualalumpur, and landed at Haneda Airport around midnight. I took the first Shinkanzen super-express train from Shinagawa to Kyoto. I reached Kyoto on June 8th at 9 o’clock. After reporting my attendance to the organiser, I took a couple hours to explore Kyoto.

ICC and the other meetings were held at KICC, a quite vast resort in north-east end of Kyoto. Apparently this place is well prepared to carried out international scale conferences and summits. I did not attend any ICC sessions more than some workshop sessions. But the AP-RCCC I attended was held in the same place.

Last March we had conducted the IEEE Region 10 Meeting in Yogyakarta, which was the highest annual organizational meeting of the IEEE in the Asia Pacific region. IEEE Comsoc AP-RCCC is the annual organizational conference of the IEEE Communications Society in the region. Focusing on the issues in Asia Pacific region, the meeting was attended by President of the IEEE Communications Society, the VPs and directors, a representative of both North America and South America, and the chairmen or other representatives of the Asia-Pacific Comsoc chapters.

Comsoc President, Byeong Gi Lee, keynoted by describing the current challenges in the field of communications field. The convergence has been passing some stages in the digital information, and now we are in the middle of the convergence of digital services and management. The convergence is not just among the fields of communications and computing, but extends also to consumer electronics, media, and other areas. Comsoc has anticipated this with various approaches: educational approach and content, industrial approach, and the standardization approach. This is also trailed by restructuring the organization of IEEE Comsoc. Various aspects relating to further convergence has sparked fairly interesting discussions.

Then, some VPs and directors presented some reports and guidances. And each chapters presented their reports, plan activities, and other things. The first chapter to deliver the report is Indonesia. From Indonesia, I delivered a report, exploring the chapter’s activities that are still focused on technical and organizational campaigns, including our supports in the formation of the first four IEEE student branches in Indonesia, serial roadshows, and other approaches. Our plan ahead includes the preparation of a larger conference (more than the current form of thematic seminars or lecturing). However, it would require assistance and support from the Region 10 and neighbouring chapters. Also presented are the preparation of TENCON in Bali in November 2011, and our request for distinguished lecturer & distinguished speakers on recent progress in the field of infocomm. Some officers expressed their support for IEEE Comsoc activities in Indonesia.

After the conference, I returned to the Kyoto centre by the MRT with Prof. Hsiao-Hwa Chen of IEEE Comsoc Tainan Chapter. I know this gentlemen even before the conference. Last year we made some correspondence to arrange a seminar in Singapore. But in MRT, he showed his other side: an avid culture observer. After talking about chapter management and infocom platform management, we spent the time to talk about the history of Japan, Kyoto, etc. He suggested me to spend more days to explore Japanese cities and cultural centres.

So the next day I spent my time to pay a visit to historic areas: Nara (the first capital of Japan as an emerging imperial), Kyoto (the capital of Japanese Imperial for 1000 years), before finally returned to Tokyo (the capital of Japan since the Meiji Restoration). In Kyoto, I got the opportunity to visit the Imperial Palace for about 1 hour. An excellent palace, I must admit. Also I visited Tokugawa shogunate palace.

I know I should now spend more time to report my cultural journeys. Indeed I have written them in my travelling blog, koen.cc, but only in Indonesian. I guess I will someday translate them and put them here.

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Hongkong: Carrier Ethernet World

This week I got a request to give another presentation at an international forum. The event was titled Carrier Ethernet World, which is the official conference of the Metro Ethernet Forum. It took place in Hong Kong from 1-3 December 2010.

Carrier Ethernet is a family of network technology, developed for telecommunication operators and Internet providers to transport higher bandwidth traffic. Since the network convergence implemented more than 10 years ago, various information networks (telephony, data communication, media and TV) have switched to IP. At the user level, Ethernet (IEEE 802.3 family of standards) has become general standard for wired communications networks. At the carrier level, it is considered more effective to deploy the networks that are high-speed packet-based; instead of the old TDM systems (such as SDH / SONET and ATM). Some examples include MPLS and CET. And beyond the core network, we should also talk about access network, the Metro Ethernet network.

The conference presents major forerunners in this technology. Its main sponsor are Juniper — which is known as an old player in the field of high-speed packet data transport, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson. So of course I was not expected to compete with them telling those cutting-edge technology developments.

I delivered my on the afternoon session of the First Day. It was at the stream A, which discusses innovation. My presentation was directed to discuss innovations that will support business development and the technology of Carrier Ethernet, including the regulatory side. Imagine how many layers I should dig.

I started with simple things: introducing the telematics world in Indonesia, the user-centric approach to system architecture, the comparison between the vertical architecture and the horizontal one. Since we are still in migration period, the transition between the architectures has not found the final form. Then I compare several schemes, including the SDP, and how various types of applications (network-domains, IT-domain, Internet 2.0) will be placed in it. With NGN fortified with SDP, the network is expected to be a platform not only to meet the necessity of information infrastructure, but also as the platform for developing technology, application, content, and the business in those fields. These things are aggressively growing in Indonesia. Approach to the regulator, thus, should not start from the classical things like tariffs, and the easily biased desire for liberalization; but instead about common interest to foster the economic development of the digital ecosystem, which includes innovation, production, commercialisation, and lifestyle. It would create the contexts to develop NGN with a more optimal architecture.

After my presentation, I was asked to be involved in a panel session. Here, we discussed widely about the projected necessities of innovations in the next 5 years, related to the opportunities of business development and network expansion. There were quite a lot of interests here about the ideas of Indonesia. I did not feel in vain to come to Hong Kong then :).

This was, however, my premier visit to Hong Kong. But last July I gave another presentation in 4G (Mobile) International Forum in Taipei. Enchanting that I could convey ideas in two major forums in both wired and wireless technology. Weird, wired, and wireless :). Hong Kong greeted me with a comfortable weather for walks. Hilly landscape with a fairly spectacular views, contrasted with the strait, bay, seaside, and skyscrapers. Unluckily, an unending thin fog made it difficult to take landscape photographs.

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Taipei: 4G International Forum

Still related to 4G Mobile Technology, this month I was invited to give a presentation in the 4G International Forum, held at the Sheraton Hotel, Taipei. I found it interesting and challenging: it is a rare opportunity for me to give presentations in the official forums abroad, in a cutting-edge topic that is still a mainstream conversations in the telecommunications technology and business world.

Taiwan does not have visa-free agreement with Indonesia. So first I had to apply for the visa. Luckily, it was not a complicated process. Indeed, there is no Taiwan embassy or consulate here in Jakarta. But there is a Taiwan trade office in Artha Graha Building, where we can apply for Taiwan visa. And there, we’d find very friendly officers serving our visa process. All it requires is a letter of recommendation from the organiser, another one from the office, a document called “Kartu Keluarga” :), two photos, and a fee of about US$ 50.

I had sent my paper at the end of June. Accommodation at the Sheraton Hotel is provided by the event organiser. For transportation, initially I chose Garuda Indonesia (GIA). But presently there is no Garuda flight from Cengkareng to Taoyuan. They offered their partner airlines, though: China Airlines. However, I found their schedule did not quite fit mine. Eventually I bought online tickets at Singapore Airlines (SIA).

I departed early morning on July 11, at 4:00 o’clock from home. SIA flew me at 6:00 (all in local time), and I arrived at 8:30 at Changi. Waited a few hours in a comfortable place, then SIA flew again at 12:00, and arrived at 17:00 at Taoyuan Airport. The Forum would be held 12-13 July 2010.

Monday, July 12, the Forum began. Speakers came from universities and research institutes, developers and manufacturers (Nokia Siemens Networks, Ericsson, Alcatel Lucent, Huawei), consultancy agencies, regulators, operators, etc. I learned a lot about various aspects of 4G Mobile viewed from various sides. Fairly balanced between those discussing LTE and those choosing WiMAX, with various issues of interoperability and applications. Very enriching :). We had almost no time for a break. Coffee time and lunch time were used for networking and other conversations. If I took some time for tweeting, Mr. Tan (the organiser) would introduce me to one of the important figures (he emphasized that) to chat with. Was a real fun :). Oh, I had the time for tweeting while listening to the presentations :).

The organiser did not prepare a program for the evening. So I spent my time to visit three points in Taipei: Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Taipei 101 Tower, and Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. In Taipei 101, I misled myself to a bookshop (a mandatory mislead, indeed). I bought two editions of Le Petit Prince in Chinese language & letters.

Tuesday, July 13th, the forum continued. The second day was filled with a combination of presentations and panels. My turn was at 09:00 to perform my presentation, in 20 minutes. My presentation is classically titled “4G Mobile: opportunities & challenges in Indonesia” :). I began by telling the current conditions in Indonesia: how the public enthusiastically adopts the digital mobile lifestyle, proven by the rank this country get in term of Twitter, Facebook, and Opera Mini usages. Then the preparations Telkom Group has been taking for deploying 4G Mobile Network (LTE and WiMAX) through its subsidiary and divisions. Then how these issues could be matched with potentials and demands from the community developers, enthusiasts, and lifestylists (no, I did not really use such terms like these) throughout Indonesia. A bit about Indigo, IPTV, and the SDF / SDP. Then I discusses some LTE implementation model for the diverse regions and segments, with different migration models. Then to the regulation of WiMAX.

After the presentation, I had to wait another 20 minutes to listen to a presentation about the implementation of 4G, WiMAX in particular, in the Philippines. Then I had to go on stage again to join the panel discussion which took about half an hour. So I finished my tasks.

Done? Apparently not. Mr Tan told me to see a Professor from PRC (I would not write his name here, he could google it). He holds a position of considerable importance, and must be escorted by several people :). A serious discussion about regulations, about the IEEE, of the other conferences, etc. Then again another discussion with an officer from Taiwan ministry. Then I had to say goodbye to Mr Tan to leave earlier. My flight was scheduled at midday, so I could not attend the conference through to completion.

About an hour later with an orange juice at Taoyuan Airport. About seven hours later with a big mug of Chai Latte at Changi Airport. About ten hours later with a cup of Earl Grey at home. The week will be continued with IPTV implementation issues :).


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Les Ecureuils

Three times the squirrels messed up our journeys: in Leamington Spa, in York, and at Greenwich. In Leam, we met them in the late afternoon, after we finished having our meal in the city park. Walking for a while, we saw some small grey squirrels playing on the grass. We were so engrossed in playing and chasing them, forgetting that we should instead chase a coach from Coventry to Leeds. Finally we got to Coventry before it was too late. But we must draw our luggages at high speed into the Pool Meadow coach station.

In York we were deliberately looking for the squirrels. Nine years before, I found a park where I could easily spot tame squirrels. But the park was not easily found. I forgot the name of the park, and I didn’t want to ask about “the park with squirrels” to the citizen :). At last I found it when I compared the photos I took 9 years ago with tho location of the York Minster. When we managed to find it, we spent some time to play with them, until almost too late to pursue the coach to Thirsk. In the late afternoon after returning to York, the squirrels there were already reluctant to play. Seems that they have more confidence in the clock in their nests than the sun that was still shining at 19:00.

In Greenwich, again we encountered the squirrels, wkwkwk. This was not a part of our plan as well. I didn’t even know that there are so many squirrels like to live in a city as big as London. Indeed at that time we were not chasing the bus, coach, or train schedule. However I think the squirrels were making our time at the Royal Greenwich Observatory became much reduced. Naughty squirrels.

I’ve read that peanuts are not good for squirrels. Peanut consumption make the squirrels get deficient of certain essential proteins, which ultimately makes them susceptible to disease, and their growth is also affected. Luckily we have always brought some nuts and seeds. Hey, we also like seeds :). There were many kinds of  seeds, which we purchased everywhere: from a traditional market in Cardiff, from Tesco Supermarket in Coventry, and from Sainsbury in York. Chris, our friend who we visited in London, commented that we gave too expensive foods for the squirrels. I had no other choice. I could not possibly give them peanuts.

Here are some nuts that we gave them:

You can judge how we pampered those naughty squirrels. Never mind — it’s not for every day. And the way they greatly cheered our journeys had given more value than the price those nuts.

Well, unfortunately, we could not also meet the red squirrels, which are actually the native squirrels of the British isles.

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Darrowby

For some reasons the bus was suddenly shocked. I found myself awaking among the grassy hills of the Yorkshire Dales that were almost entirely green, spreading to the distant blue swell of the hills. There were various green tones of the meadows and those trees. From the windows, I could see the cultivated lands and solid grey-stone farmhouses among them. Farms with horses, cows, and sheeps. Sunlight still tried to sneak into the gray clouds when the bus passed along narrow streets of a small town. Less than a minute, the bus had stopped next to a small clock tower. It must be the market place, with the gravel streets. The market place was functioned as parking area for the cars. It was surrounded  by various colours of shops, and narrow streets. A “Co-operative Shop” sign over a grocer shop caught my attention, and made me smile. We stepped down, and set foot on Darrowby.

I often blog this town in both my Indonesian and English blogs. Thirsk, a small town in Yorkshire. A veterinarian who was also a powerful writer, with a pseudonym James Herriot, has introduced this city in his books to the world as Darrowby. It is his first book — If They Could Talk — which led me to this city. A photographer from The Darlington and Stockton Times, Richard, had waited for me just beside the clock tower. While I admired the clarity in the air, he took some pictures of me with Herriot’s book. Then we just walked, following Herriot’s steps. Kirkgate was a quiet street leading off the square and I had my first sight of the Skeldale House. Richard left us there.

Unlike James Herriot when he first saw this house, I did not feel breathless. I came with a smile, to a house I wanted to see since my childhood. I knew it was the right place even before Richard told me, I knew by the ivy which climbed untidily over the mellow brick to the topmost windows. It was like Herriot mentioned – the only house with ivy. It was Georgian with a red door and white-painted windows.

Also unlike Herriot, I didn’t need to press the bell and heard those five dogs barking loudly. Margaret had been in front of the house and a welcomed us friendlily. We shared a crunchy and fun chat, until finally she told us to buy the tickets in the house next door. “Follow me, Luv,” she said. Then with her Yorkshire accent (it was much better than West Midlands accent, btw), she told us what had happened after those books. James’ children are still living in Thirsk: Jim as a vet and Rosie as a medicine doctor. The historical house has been converted into a museum since 1995. Margaret also asked, how someone from the other end of the earth could find Skeldale House. Haha. It is surely the magic of the Internet.

Finally I was allowed to enter the house. First I read the name “D.V. Sinclair MRCVS” on the brass plate, and the name “J.A. Wight MRCVS” on the other plate, white over black. I rang the bell. Rrrrrring. Still no dogs barking. We had to open the door by ourselves. Inside the house, the rooms are maintained as the original: the formal dining room, family room, medicine room, surgery room, breakfast room, and the hallway to the living-room behind. I could imagine Tristan riding his bike in that little alley. Everything seemed like a dream that manifested itself out of the books I read and read again for many years. I might even drive James’ old Austin, but not exceeding the speed of 0 mph.

Behind the garage, a room was prepared to get to know James more personally. I have blogged this too often too. James Herriot’s original name was James Alfred Wight. He was called Alf, born in Sunderland but grew up in Glasgow. His parents chose Glasgow to build families and raise children with good culture. Alf loved classical music and liked to write a diary. I was amazed and fascinated to read the diary of young Alf, written almost every day.

But a professor came to his school and made him suddenly want to explore science and become a veterinarian. He enrolled at Glasgow, where the students attending college not seriously. But eventually he graduated. He worked in the Northern part of England, then moved to Yorkshire, for a veterinarian named Donald Sinclair in the town of Thirsk. Yorkshire, its environment, the citizen, and the challenges, had made Alf felt at home in this city. He got married and and raised his children here. Herriot book series are guaranteed to make you understand why he did not want to go from here.

He enjoyed his life. Enjoying classical music, journal writing, educating the children. But hard work did not always make money. His savings was only £ 20. He got the idea to rewrite his diary into a book. Joan, his wife, commented that none could begin to write at the age like this. But he started writing, and after several years of rejection, the book was finally published and became a great success on both sides of the Atlantic, then translated into various languages, including Indonesian.

Entering the next room, which is already part of a neighboring house, a black telephone rang. I felt as is the old Donald a.k.a. Siegfried instructed: “Pick up the phone!” I picked up the phone. A farmer’s voice was at the other end, in a dialect I could not recognise, complained about the condition of his livestock, and then he immediately slammed his phone. I put the phone slowly.

We walked around Thirsk. The marketplace is surrounded by a crowded store: bookshops, café, sweet shops (hey, maybe this was where Alfred the cat lived — a cat that required surgery because it has hair balls inside his stomach), the banks. Continue to the outside, a bridge stretching over a creek, etc. Darrow river, wrote James in his book. On the alleys: the houses of red brick; and behind: the hills and valleys livestock animals were released on the vast grassland.

Life did not seem complicated here. I walked slowly in the city that for years has always been inspiring me to be optimistic, to see all aspects of life as a bless, to face the world with love but also with tough endeavour, to admire the heterogeneity of human kind and thought. A city that in its way has constructed me the way I am now.

“Jump in,” shouted the coach driver. We jumped into. Back to York.

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Coventry Revisited

Coventry welcomed me with a familiar aroma of frozen air. Quite startling, presenting the illusion as if I’ve just left this town only a few months ago. Many things were seemingly frozen by the time: the buildings with the same labels, the same texts, the same smells, and the same tones. Even the the sun that has not been set at 20:00 was so Coventry :).

But actually many things have changed too. The lower precinct had been renovated, and now become a neat mall, which is linked to the upper precinct that is not changed. I read somewhere that this is the first pedestrian precinct in England of this kind. It was then copied in many other cities. The new millennium arc has also been completed, adding an attractive area around Pool Meadow and the Museum of Transportation.

We started exploring my Coventry from none other than Coventry University. We stayed for two nights in Ibis Hotel, which is just behind the Technocentre of the University. This campus shares a phoenix as its mascot as the city, as the symbol of reawakening after a catastrophe. The phoenix always re-creates itself from its ashes, and presents a new shining life to fulfill its purpose to safeguard the world. The university itself becomes another symbol of the city, that reawakens and reshapes itself by the capabilities and pioneering in technology. We started exploring the technocentre, the Lanchester library, the Jaguar building (where I got my lectures nine years ago), and also the headquarter. The new logo (i.e. the old logo that is mirrored) now adorns almost every buildings on campus.

Herbert Museum, the cultural and historical centre of Coventry, was the next target. Coincidentally there was an exhibition about the origins of Coventry here; from its prehistoric times, the formation of the city, the story of Lady Godiva, the civil war, the industrial revolution, and the reborn of Coventry after being were destroyed by the world war.

We spent the time also to visit Waterstone’s bookshop, to walk around the city centre and the famous precincts, and other areas around the city. Seeing the sight of the city, one would understand another pun of Coventry. “Coventry inspires” as I blogged earlier, does not refer only to the phoenix and the high spirit of the city :), but also to the fact that this city has three spires as its landmarks. Yes, Coventry in spires :).

We spent the second days in some cities around the old county of Coventry and Warwickshire. Stratford-upon-Avon with dozens of large white swans on the river Avon. Hey, you know that in Welsh (Cymraeg), the word Avon or Afon itself means river :). We also took a sight to the magnificent Warwick Castle. The last city we visited in the old county was Leamington, where we had a rest in a green park. Also we spent the time to played with the cute squirrels.

But I had to leave my city. Again. I had to visit another city that marked my history: Thirsk :).

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British Customer Services

Being stranded in Kualalumpur, the most uncomfortable thing was the very-very limited access to the Internet. I could not easily contact the hotels, train & coach operators, and others to rearrange my plan. Somehow I could partially do it. I contacted the hotels; Chris Prakoso (@mahadewa) helped me contacting the National Express; and at last I could also contact the train operators. The results varied. Hotels were accommodating (pun intended). National Express expressly and positively responded. Train operators chose to be the parties to gain the benefits from the catastrophe (I mean it).

Here’s their responses to my requests of rescheduling:

Hotel Bowen:

Hi Koen
It is certainly an unusual situation and we will endeavour to accommodate you when you are on the move again.
Please let us know any information as soon as you can.
Regards
Diane and Peter Ford


Ibis Coventry:

Dear Mr. Wastuwibowo,
We would be happy to amend the reservations to a future date, i have temporarily changed the dates of the reservation to beginning of May till you could provide us with a new date. Please let us know when you would require these reservations and we would make alterations depending on our availability.
I look forwards in hearing from you.
Best Regards,
Ranuka De Fonseka

Ibis Cardiff:

Dear Mr Kuncoro,
Thank you for your email.
I have changed the booking for next sunday the 25th. Once you know the date let me know and I will change it for the correct day.
Kind regards.
Jane Hanuskova

National Express:

Dear Kuncoro Wastuwibowo,
Thank you for getting in touch with us.
If you are rearranging your flight and need to reschedule your coach travel, we will be happy to amend your ticket, even if your original departure time has passed. All amendments will be subject to our normal amendment fees. However, if you are cancelling your ticket we will not be able to offer you a refund. We appreciate your patience at this time and ask that you refrain from calling us until your new flight details are confirmed. Amendments can not be made via email, please call us on 08717 818181 (0044 8717 818181 from overseas). I hope this information is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further information.
Yours sincerely, National Express

Cross Country:

Dear Mr Wastuwibowo,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us.
I’m sorry to read that your flight has been cancelled due to the recent volcanic activity in Iceland. Unfortunately, I can advise that the advance ticket you have purchased is non refundable and we are unable to amend the date or time of travel. I am sorry that I can’t be of more help in this case and hope you are able to travel despite of these disruptions.
Kind regards,
Chris Dade

First Great Western:

Dear Kuncoro,
Thank you for contacting First Great Western.
Unfortunately, we have been experiencing a high volume of contacts recently and although we are working hard to reduce our response time, we are still experiencing delays. I understand that you wish to get the refund on the booking. You have booked an Advance ticket for the journey. Having reviewed the terms and conditions of your ticket, I can confirm that this is a non-refundable ticket. To view the terms and conditions of this and all other bookings made in the last 90 days please log on to ‘My Account’ then click on ‘order status and refund applications’ on our website. If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Kind regards,
Harold

Thumbs up for those, who in the greatest post-war European transportation catastrophe still have clear and great minds to make exception policies for their customers who get stranded in other part of the earth. For Cross Country & First Great Western, congratulation for your great revenue taken without using too much brainware. Even in a great country, not all things are perfect 🙂

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