About the Author: Jason P. Rebholz serves as the Assistant Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.
I just returned to the office from the last stop on Secretary Clinton's two-day trip to Indonesia -- a visit to a neighborhood called Petojo Utara (North Petojo) in Jakarta. This neighborhood is home to about 3,000 residents and has undergone a dramatic change in the past few years. USAID, in partnership with NGOs and private sector partners, has worked with the residents to help resolve the issues that matter most to them, such as sanitation, clean water, and maternal health.
During her walk around the neighborhood, Secretary Clinton learned how community members utilize used materials, such as plastic bags and bottles, to make handicrafts, such as handbags, wallets, and cell phone holders. The Secretary spoke with the residents who made the bags and they demonstrated for her how they carefully fold the plastic and weave it together. It was really amazing; many of these pieces look like artwork. As one of my colleagues put it -- these bags look like they were inspired by Andy Warhol, with real laundry detergent packages.
In addition to the micro-finance and small business taking place in the community, Secretary Clinton was able to see first-hand how the residents are working together to keep their community safe and clean. She was really impressed by the commitment the community has to the environment. The residents have planted trees and plants and use composting to improve their neighborhood, making it a more comfortable place to live. The residents are committed to living as "green" as possible -- they ensure that waste water is cleaned before it enters the nearby stream and reuse as much waste material as possible, reducing the amount of trash in their community. They even use bio-gas for cooking.
While walking through the neighborhood, Secretary Clinton stopped at the home of a pregnant woman. The woman explained to the Secretary that she was able to receive prenatal health care and has a lot of support from the community. She shared her very personal story with Secretary Clinton; for me, this woman is emblematic of all Indonesians. As a foreigner living in Indonesia, I have been amazed by the hospitality and kindness of Indonesian citizens. They are always friendly and open, welcoming guests as family.
Secretary Clinton was treated to famous Indonesian hospitality during her stop in Petojo Utara today. The whole community was thrilled by her visit and welcomed her with open arms. They all waved and said hello to her; everyone wanted to have a chance to meet Secretary Clinton and take a picture with her. The streets were so crowded with people -- it was amazing. She couldn't have received a warmer welcome.
From Secretary Clinton's expression, it was clear to me that visiting Petojo Utara and meeting residents there was the highlight of her visit to Indonesia. As she continues her visit to Asia and then returns home, I know that she'll fondly remember all the people cheering her as she walked through the streets of Petojo Utara this afternoon.