National Geographic : 1955 Sep
392 Walter Meayers Edwards, National Geographic Staff Bonneted Backseat Driver Takes a Dim View of Things on a Sumatra Plantation Rice powder protects this child's face against the sun. Her parents, chatting with the wife of a company official, work for one of Indonesia's "Big Four" tobacco firms. Sumatran leaf is favored for cigar wrappers. By prewar standards especially, the lot of a foreigner in nationalistic Indonesia is not enviable, and many have left. I like to re member one Dutch friend of mine, however, who is staying on. In the prime of life, his eyesight has begun to fail. Yet he works all day for a government agency-and then gives his evenings to teaching the Indonesians who will eventually replace him. Time All-important to Indonesia In some parts of Indonesia, if you ask a man in the paddies how far it is to a certain town, he will calculate it by the number of pots of rice you will have to cook. He may well have seen a watch, but time in the Western sense is still a bit unreal to him. Among a great many Indonesians, however, an awareness of what time means to their young Republic is becoming increasingly sharp. They know that independence by itself is no simple panacea. They know that, while their economy rests on the solid foundation of a fertile soil, its business superstructure is still rickety, and that its shoring up must begin now, before it is too late. An industrialist in Medan said to me: "We are making progress. Our export and import trade is in balance at last. But to conquer our chief problems will take us 25 years, maybe a hundred. What I ask myself is, will the world give us even five?" That was the question uppermost in my mind as I left Indonesia. At the Kemajoran airport the flags of the 29 countries which had attended the historic Asian-African Con ference in Bandung were still flapping from their newly erected masts (page 380). One of them was the blood-red banner of Commu nist China, whose armed legions are poised now above strife-torn Viet Nam and whose shadow falls across Thailand, Malaya, and the rich archipelago beyond them. "Selamat djalan!" my friends called after me. "Good fortune in going!" I gave the conventional rejoinder: "Sela mat tinggal! Good fortune in remaining." I hope they will have it.