Fresh not Clean

In the Jakarta Globe.


Returning from Makassar, a city with a population of approximately 1.5 millions in South Sulawesi, and Kendari, a city with a population of about 275 thousands in South-east Sulawesi, I realised the paradox of clean air. In Makassar and more in Kendari, one gets clean air outdoor, which is fresh, but often not indoor. In Jakarta one gets clean air indoor, which is not necessarily fresh, as it is recycled partly by air-conditioning system, with a risk of circulating with it among others flu virus. Less and less people smoke indoor.

The reason for the fresh-but-not-clean air outdoor in bigger cities is obvious: the pollution by cars are ever increasing. The typical solution is close tight homes and offices, and air-condition them. The reason for not having clean air indoor in Kendari and Makassar?  The men smoke indiscriminately indoor, even in the smallest rooms in kampong houses, even in air-conditioned hotel dining rooms during breakfasts.

After a few days of workshops with kampong people in the smaller cities, they might have realised how i keep trying desperately to be at a distance from the smokers, making me actually less effective in our collaboration. I can not think of any solution so far. I was looking for a compromise that would not be too embarassing for all of us. I am sure it is more than just an environmental issue, and I would like to argue on manner, etiquette and good taste. Yes, good taste–I mean why would anybody spoil the good smell of breakfast with that of a cigarette, and the good smoke of hot rice with that of a cigarette?

There was indeed this considerate man, a Daeng Sampara, who seems to understand my dilema. He said, “If my smoking is bothering you, sir, I will let it off…” He saved my breath.

Later I found out that he is more than considerate. He is insightful and good with words. When I was trying almost too hard to explain that security of land tenure is essential for people’s economic productivity, and that it is proven by the Kampong Improvement Programme in Jakarta 1(972-1979), whereby the income of the beneficiary families rised by 15 to 17 %, he interupted, “Ah, yes sir, it is like chicken, they need places to stay put to be able to lay eggs.”

I am hoping that he could help me phrasing some words together to explain why clean and fresh air is important both in- and outdoor, on the ground of both environment and good taste. I miss him.

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