Saturday, January 17, 2009
A huge and usually unspoken part of archaeological research is the process of asking permission to dig. Gone are the days when archaeologists excavated where and when they pleased without consulting local communities, government authorities or anyone else. Foreign researchers in Indonesia must start applying for permission 6 months before they arrive in the country. After arrival there are several more weeks of work to finalize permits. For the past two weeks I have been negotiating the complex Indonesian government bureaucracy to obtain our project’s federal permits. Still to come in the next week are permissions from provincial and local government authorities and communities and individuals in the Banda Islands. Every day Emily and I ride taxis to different offices scattered around Jakarta and Yogyakarta (Ministries of Research, Internal Affairs, Federal and District Police, and Immigration). Each office has to be visited at least twice: once to present a request letter, fill out lengthy forms, give copies of other documents and photos of different sizes. Then a return visit a few days later to give fingerprints, pay fees, and hopefully, pick up a new letter to take to the next office. I am still trying to understand the flow chart given to me on day one that supposedly clarified the process.
Since we arrived in Yogya a week ago, Daud has called in the apparatus of Universitas Gadjah Mada to help us, with great results. A helpful person from the university accompanies us to office visits and urges the process along. What normally takes several days is now done while we wait in an hour or two. My daughter Isabel has been spared most of the visits, but she had to be fingerprinted at immigration in Yogya. She quickly charmed the dour fingerprint man and loved putting her fingers on the red light electronic finger scanner. Although I live in fear that I have filled out some form incorrectly and we will all be kicked out of the country immediately, so far everything has gone smoothly and I now have a file full of documents and identity cards.
Our great students have arrived in Yogya and are studying Indonesian language and learning their own ways to get around and live here happily (and blog poetically). I go to Ambon on Tuesday ahead of the group to start on our provincial permits while Charlotte and Isabel go to Jakarta to attend the Obama inaugural ball (much to my envy!). Everyone else arrives in Ambon on Thursday. With luck, we will board the ferry to Banda on Saturday.