Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Finnegan in Indonesia

Two weeks ago, at a Lang on the Hudson lecture, Bill Finnegan, Rob's friend, spoke to the class about the Hudson and East River waterfront and its ties to New York and New Jersey mobsters. Finnegan is a writer for the New Yorker and an avid surfer (which, in New York City, is kind of hard).

I looked Finnegan up before he came to the class because his name was familiar. (We read him in Rob's Introduction to Non-Fiction class.) What caught my eye was the preface to many-a-biography statement describing his reportage of South Africa and apartheid: He went to Africa to fund his Asian trips. Now, since I'm interested in traveling around that part of the world, I wanted to hear what he had to say about it.

After talking to Finnegan about New York's waters and the such, I made my way towards Asia. I mentioned how I looked him up and read that he'd been to Asia. We started talking about Indonesia. He said that no one there really knows the language (Indonesian) which makes sense because the country is wholly made up of many, many different groups of people. This, in addition to the lack of conjugations (everything is spoken, or was spoken, according to Finnegan, in one tense--no pesky past perfect or indicative tenses to worry about) made the language pretty easy to pick up. He mentioned how he felt the Muslims were friendlier than other groups.

Granted, he was there in (I might be remembering this incorrectly) the 1960s, during Sukarno's dictatorship, but Finnegan made it seem just that more real to me.

There is more I can say about what I talked to Finnegan about, but I'll save that for next time.

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