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:: Bukunya: Teman Perjalanan Agustinus Wibowo
PermalinkPermalinkTue, Jun 21, 2011 @19:06 by Avgustin, Categories: My Publication

http://bukunya.com/teman-perjalanan-agustinus-wibowo/

Agustinus Wibowo mengisi liburan kuliah di jurusan ilmu komputer di Cina dengan melancong ke Mongolia. Hari pertama perjalanan, pria kelahiran Lumajang 28 tahun silam ini nyaris dirampok pemabuk di kereta. Malam harinya ia dicegat begal di jalan.

Tapi pengalaman delapan tahun lalu itu tak membuatnya kapok. Ia terus bepergian ke Tibet, Nepal, dan India. Ia masuk Pakistan lalu menembus ke Afganistan tempat konflik senjata tak pernah berhenti.
Ia juga satu dari sangat sedikit orang yang berpetualang ke negara-negara di Asia Tengah, seperti Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, dan Uzbekistan.

Kisah petualangannya ke negeri “Stan” itu ia bukukan dengan judul Garis Batas terbitan Gramedia Pustaka Utama. Sebelumnya ia juga menerbitkan Selimut Debu yang bercerita soal perjalanannya di Afghanistan.

Disebut-sebut beberapa editor media massa sebagai salah satu penulis perjalanan terbaik yang dipunyai Indonesia, Agustinus mendulang kisah travelling yang mendalam lewat buku-buku yang dibacanya sembari menanti truk tumpangan yang tak jelas kapan datangnya. “Buku yang dibaca akan sangat mempengaruhi perasaan dan pikiran saya tentang tempat yang dituju,” ujarnya.

Berikut ini petikan obrolan bukunya dengan Agustinus soal buku yang jadi sahabatnya dalam perjalanan:

Membawa buku saat travelling, hukumnya wajib atau sekedar pelengkap saja?

Wajib. Buku yang dibaca selama bepergian itu akan mempengaruhi cara pandang, cara berpikir, dan observasi kita dalam perjalanan. Buku juga teman yang sangat baik ketika harus menunggu kendaraan atau buat menyegarkan kepenatan dari perjalanan yang panjang, khususnya untuk orang yang melakukan perjalanan berbulan-bulan atau bertahun-tahun tanpa henti.

Mengapa buku bisa mempengaruhi mood seperti itu?

Buku bisa mempengaruhi cara kita memandang perjalanan kita apalagi jika isinya berhubungan dengan tempat yang kita kunjungi. Misalnya ketika saya ke India, saya membaca buku City of Joy (Dominique Lapierre) yang berkisah tentang kehidupan kaum papa di Kalkuta. Buku itu membuat saya jadi lebih perhatian terhadap orang-orang miskin yang tinggal di India. Banyak aspek kehidupan mereka yang sebelumnya tidak pernah saya tahu sebelum membaca buku itu, saya jadi meluangkan waktu ke daerah pemukiman kumuh untuk melihat lebih dalam kehidupan mereka dan merasakan sendiri apa yang ditulis dalam buku itu.

Bukankah itu membuat traveller tidak bebas berimajinasi dan pikirannya justru terkungkung dengan yang ditawarkan oleh si penulis?

Buat saya, travelling bukan untuk berimajinasi, tetapi untuk belajar dan berhadapan dengan realita. Dengan membaca buku yang berhubungan denggan tempat yang dituju, si traveler akan lebih mempunyai gambaran yang mendalam dan punya berbagai pemikiran baru yang sebelumnya tidak ia pikirkan. Jadi waktu ia di lokasi, dia akan lebih kritis dalam melihat realita, tidak sekedar menyalahkan realita yang tidak sesuai dengan harapannya.

Musafir-musafir besar yang menulis itu semuanya juga membaca atau melakukan riset loh. Mereka punya pemikiran yang lebih dalam dari orang yang sekedar datang dan bertualang.

Kalau begitu buku teman perjalanan paling pas itu fiksi atau nonfiksi?

Fiksi atau nonfiksi tidak masalah, saya lebih sering membawa buku nonfiksi, tapi terkadang juga fiksi, yang berhubungan dengan daerah atau masyarakat yang saya kunjungi. Tebal tipisnya juga enggak masalah, yang penting isinya bagus dan berkualitas, dan memberi sudut pandang baru yang segar.

Sebaiknya buku itu dibaca sebelum perjalanan atau dibaca saat perjalanan?

Sebelum, saat, dan sesudah perjalanan. Idealnya sih seperti itu. Intinya, membaca itu tidak pernah putus.

Saat bertualang ke Afghanistan, buku apa yang Anda baca?

Banyak sekali. Beberapa di antaranya, adalah An Historical Guide to Afghanistan (Nancy Dupree), Afghan Caravan, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (Ahmed Rashid), The New Central Asia: The Creation of Nations (Olivier Roy), Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (Ahmed Rashid), dan Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep (Siba Shakib)

Anda sendiri akhirnya membukukan kisah perjalanan, apa alasannya?

Tak semua orang punya kesempatan travelling, karena itu saya ingin berbagi tentang perjalanan saya. Saya juga ingin menyampaikan suara orang di tempat-tempat yang kebanyakan tak pernah kita dengar atau pedulikan, supaya kita bisa mengambil pelajaran dari kehidupan mereka dan menerapkannya dalam kehidupan kita. Buku perjalanan adalah refleksi kehidupan, jadi bukan sekedar tentang kisah di jalan, tetapi tentang kisah kehidupan.

Ada kawan yang membaca Selimut Debu sewaktu backpacking ke Vietnam. Dia bilang, membaca sudut pemikiran yang ditulis dalam buku itu, membuat dia melihat banyak hal baru yang tidak terpikir sebelumnya. Saya hanya berharap, kedua buku ini bisa memberi pandangan baru, bukan hanya tentang perjalanan tetapi juga tentang kehidupan.

Terakhir, adakah buku baru yang sedang Anda siapkan?

Saya sedang menulis buku tentang Pamir, Mongolia, dan Tibet. Tentang cara bangsa-bangsa di negeri yang berbeda mengubah diri untuk mencapai impian mereka. Juga tentang perjalanan panjang yang saya lakukan tanpa henti ini akhirnya mengubah cara pandang saya tentang kehidupan.

Note:
Dapatkan satu buku Garis Batas dengan memberi komentar pada wawancara ini, tinggalkan alamat email asli yang bisa dikontak. Komentar berhadiah ditutup Rabu, 22 Juni 2011, pukul 16.00

 
:: Whiteboard Journal : Interview with Agustinus Wibowo
PermalinkPermalinkMon, Jun 20, 2011 @14:06 by Avgustin, Categories: My Publication

http://whiteboardjournal.com/features/roundtable/interview-with-agustinus-wibowo.html

Forming a passion for traveling, Agustinus Wibowo has spent most of his years in a foreign country. Referred as a world backpacker, Agustinus Wibowo whose profession is as a journalist, has taken the road less traveled by going to the depths of China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran to the unfamiliar countries of Central Asia.

His contemplative nature and literary adeptness has pushed him to compile his travel stories in a publication called ‘Selimut Debu’ in 2010, and ‘Garis Batas’ recently in 2011.

Whiteboard Journal had a chance to learn more of his purpose of travels and the turnings points that have defined him as a word traveler.

W: How did everything start? What initially drew you to be so engulfed in traveling?

Everything started from childhood, when my dad introduced me to philately. I collected stamps from almost all countries, and stamps were my “window” to the world. I always dreamed to visit the countries of which stamps I have collected. I also loved geography, wanted to learn different languages and cultures. As I was raised in a small town, everything seemed just merely a dream. But then when the chance came, I went to Beijing as a student, and I saw how my fellow students from Japan wandered around the world independently, I just knew the meaning of “backpacker”. I made my first journey in 2002, to Mongolia, where the travel was really adventurous, and that made me really fond of the taste of adventures in travel.

W: Your travel destinations are not conventional to say the least, is there a reason behind your choices of travel?

I started my journey in Mongolia, where in my first and second day consecutively I was robbed and mugged. This experience is kind of near-to-death experience just exactly on my first day of traveling. This made an impression in my mind that the taste of adventures is important. The second year after the trip in Mongolia, I went to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and enjoyed every single step in those countries. But now after traveling for several years, I understand that destination does not really matter. The most important is how your eyes observe and how your heart learns.

W: What do you look for the most in your travels?

In the beginning, I was searching for myself. Until a point that I found, there is no point of searching ourselves, because it’s always together with us. Now when I travel I try to “lose” myself, being totally open to learn what the people, the culture, the history, the world teaches us. From their life experience we can make a reflection of our own life. We can learn from other people’s success and failures and learn from their wisdom. I think this is the meaning of life, because life itself is a journey.

W: Amongst your quest to conquer a new territory, you ended up staying in Afghanistan the longest, what formed this attachment?

I don’t regard travel as “journey to conquer”, it’s not matter of conquer because we as human being is indeed nobody in front of the world. I stayed in Afghanistan because I love the country, the people, and the nature. Afghanistan is like a Pandora box for me. Everything is full of surprise. Of course, there is war and poverty. But besides of that dusty color of Afghanistan, there are so many beautiful colors in the country. And that’s the reason of the love.

W: Your latest publication ‘Garis Batas’ tells about the border that we people set to define our identities (nations, religions, tribes, and so on) for yourself, where do those ‘borders’ lie?

Borders is something to engulf an identity, a difference, something that people can be proud of, and something that people can find their safety zone . In my childhood, I experienced racial discrimination, so the borderlines lied between minority and majority. When I was a student in China, the borderlines lied between the locals (Chinese) and foreigners (including me), which emphasized my Indonesian-ness. When I was living in Pakistan or Afghanistan, the borderlines was between Muslims and non-Muslims. These are just few examples how borderlines can be relative. But after crossing different borderlines, experiencing life at different sides of the borders, the meaning of identity and borderlines itself also changed. Now for me, the universal identity which united all human beings on earth is “humanity”, as we all have something in common as human being, with our dreams and struggles. By having this as our new borderlines, our world would be much wider and universal.

W: Do you think those borders are important? Or would you prefer that we could live as one without these differences?

Yes, borderlines are important, and that’s the nature of human being. With borderlines, we have varied and colorful life. We have diversities and differences, and we have pride. Life without borderlines would be scary, it reminded me to 1984 by George Orwell, where a utopia (or dystopia) means creating a gigantic nation with common enemy, same ideology, same thinking, same values, etc. It’s daunting and inhumane.

Borderlines engulf identity, and identity brings pride. A man without identity, without pride, is a blank man. If I can put it this way, identity and pride is like your financial wealth. You don’t need it all the time, nor need to show it every second, but when you need it, you have it. The point here is, borderlines are always there, but the reality now is how artificial borders (including artificial nationalism, fanaticism, etc) then made a certain group of people feel having the rights to disregard, attack, or even kill others outside their boundaries.

W: After assimilating in different cultures, has this changed your perception of your own country, Indonesia?

Yes, so much. In Indonesia I used to learn that our nation is the most respected country in the world, being praised for its wealth and hospitality of its people. But when I traveled and lived in different countries and cultures, I felt that this claim is arguable. Moreover, I understood the fact that Indonesia is similar to many Asian countries, building our nation and nationalism from the relics of colonization. Our country boundaries were the result of creation of Western powers, thousands miles away. There are many myths created, and we believe them for granted. But, surprisingly some of these myths were very successful to unite Indonesia and becoming our national identity.

W: Are you more aware of where you come from? Or do you feel you have grown a sense of alienation, feelings of both an insider and outsider at your own country?

Insider or outsider is matter of borderlines, and it’s borderlines in mind. For example, I’m from Lumajang, a small town in East Java. When I studied in the province capital, my strong identity was my Lumajang-ness. When I went to Jakarta, it might be my Java-ness or East-Java-ness. When I became an international student, my identity was being an Indonesian. That’s natural, but this was my world view before I traveled. By traveling you would change much of your point of view. Travelers are actually refugees, we are taking refuge from our life and our routine, we try to lose our ego. And when you lose ego, you become nobody, you become easier to adsorb new values, and you will respect differences. I don’t feel differences as a wall which prevents me from blending with people. I might have a different thinking or a different view from other people, but I respect the differences and is eager to learn from the people.

W: With your personal experience, you’ve mentioned in an article, that “not all countries dream of independence and democracy”, would you care to elaborate?

Ex-Soviet Central Asian countries were not expecting the collapse of the USSR, and suddenly they became independent countries, despite of the fact that they were unprepared for the independence. The matter in C.A. was that the countries were artificially created by USSR, so when they got independence, the nationalism, economic, and identity problems became very obvious. All those countries experienced economic difficulties in their first years of independence, while some of the countries are still in a terrible situation. In some countries like Kyrgyzstan, which adopt democracy, the political situation is in turmoil, and recently we saw riots and ethnic clash there. Tajikistan also experienced bloody civil war years just immediately after gaining independence from the USSR. Democracy might be bloody, and citizens are starving. No wonder, I met many people from those countries who are in nostalgia of life under USSR. What’s the meaning of freedom of expression, when you have nothing to eat and when the future is blurred?

W: You also stated that you let go of your attachments of things and people, and have the ability to work anywhere to survive, does living without a sense of having anything to hold on to make life easier?

It’s not matter of easier or not. It’s matter of happiness. When you don’t have much burden or unreachable dreams, you tend to be happier.

W: Thus, what do you prepare for your travels?

I used to prepare nothing, and let every step became adventure. But now the purpose of my travel also changed, it’s a not matter of conquering the world, proving myself, or answering to challenges. But traveling for me now is process of learning. Before visiting a destination, I try to learn their cultures, language, historical background, and look for local contacts that can bring me deeper to their life. I read books, mostly travel narratives and history books about the destination and anything related.

W: What have been both your biggest challenge and most memorable event in traveling?

Biggest challenge is financial. I’m financing all my travels by myself, which means I have to stop many times to earn some money before being able continuing my journey, and sometimes this means I’m stuck for years, for example in Afghanistan, and now in Beijing, China. But I also regard this as the path of my travels, so I also enjoy the struggle. The most memorable was when I got hepatitis in Thar Desert of Pakistan, a local family brought me home and took care of me with full passion for weeks. They were my life savior.

W: Your travel stories are not mere journals; it is packaged in a way that involves elements of history combined with many contemplative thoughts, irony and discovery? Has this always been your thought process?

It developed. When I started my journey in Beijing in 2005, I dreamed to reach South Africa by overland journey. It’s a high target, and kind of putting travel as “conquering a challenge”. But the more I travel, the slower I become. Numbers of countries being visited or numbers of visa in passport became meaningless. I started to learn about life, about culture, and about struggle. And I think that’s the real meaning of traveling, and learning from life.

W: Do you have role models or things that have inspired your travels or writings?

Marco Polo, VS Naipaul (travel writer), Paul Theroux (travel writer), Ryszard Kapuscinski (Polish journalist and writer), and Lam Li (fellow traveler from Malaysia, whom I met several times in Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now in Beijing)

W: Looking at your photographs, you seem to be very in tune with your visual sense, are you a trained photographer? And is there a creative process behind those photographs?

I have never been trained in photography, just the same I have never attended writing class. I learned the techniques by doing. For photography, as I take mostly human interest picture, I understand the power of expression. And to get the natural expression, communication is a must. That’s why I build extensive rapport with subjects before taking their photos, and then follow their daily life to get the most natural photos and to understand their story of life.

W: At the same time, you also have an astonishing ability to master various languages, how do you manage mastering many different languages?

I like languages since I was young. When I was in junior high school, I learned Japanese by myself. Then when I studied in China, I learned Chinese, Russian, Japanese, German and French. Learning several languages made me easier to grab new languages. On the road I learned Urdu/Hindi, Farsi, Mongol, and Turkic languages. I grabbed self-taught books of those languages, and made myself memorizing the basic grammar and vocabulary. Then practice the languages directly in their natural environment. This is an effective way to boost language competence, and also to break the ice with the locals.

W: Where are the next destinations that you would want to explore before finally settling down? And why?

I’m very much attracted by the Middle East culture and dynamics, so I wish to learn Arabic and become a journalist in Middle Eastern countries.

Interview by: Athina Ibrahim

www.avgustin.net

 
:: Janna: Jadi Travel Writer, Siapa Takut!
PermalinkPermalinkWed, Jun 15, 2011 @16:06 by Avgustin, Categories: My Publication

Majalah Janna
Jadi Travel Writer? Siapa Takut!

Nyali Agustinus Wibowo melebihi besar tubuh dan tinggi badannya. Bagaimana tidak, pemuda usia 29 tahun ini mengunjungi dan tinggal di Afghanistan ketika negara tersebut sedang dalam kondisi terburuknya. Agus juga menjelajahi negaranegara pecahan Uni Sovyet yang bertetangga dengan Afghanistan seperti Kazakhstan, Kyrgistan, Turkmenistan, dan Uzbekistan. Tidak sekedar berkunjung, Agus menegaskan, dirinya sebagai musafir yang menyelami kebudayaan negeri lain tapi tetap menjaga jarak sebagai pengamat.

Di balik itu semua, Agus tetap bisa selamat sampai tujuan dan kembali dan menuliskan pengalamannya kepada pembaca di Indonesia. Sebuah ‘bisnis’, kalau bisa disebut bisnis, yang luar biasa. Menggabungkan kesenangan pribadi dan profesionalitas diri. Berikut wawancara Janna dengan pemuda asal Lumajang, Jawa Timur ini di Bandung:

Profesi kamu ini unik. Sebagai penulis perjalanan di daerah-daerah yang berbahaya. Kira-kira profesi ini menjanjikan gak sih buat anak muda?

Bisa! Kita memang perlu menggerakkan ini. Kalau saya lihat sih sudah arah ke sana ya. Ada beberapa penulis perjalanan yang menerbitkan buku yang bagus.

Ada tapinya?
Tapi… Di sisi lain, profesi ini di Indonesia rasanya kurang. Kurang maksudnya kurang rasa aman. Bukan rasa aman ‘keamanan’. Tapi rasa aman untuk masa depan. Maksud saya, kalau dibandingkan dengan di Eropa, di sana banyak melahirkan penulis perjalanan karena masa depan mereka terjamin. Orang Eropa bayar tunjangan masa tua, izin cuti panjang diperbolehkan, jaminan kesehatan dan pekerjaan ada. Travel di negara-negara ini sudah jadi bagian dari kehidupan mereka. Meski serba mahal jadinya. Kalau di sini sukar. Belum kita mau jalan, urus izin dari kantor untuk cuti satu tahun saja tidak bisa. Bisa-bisa keluar kerja. Pulang dari jalan-jalan, mau cari kerja susah, malah bisa jadi pengangguran. Jadi sukar.

Duit dari jalan-jalan dikumpulkan dari mana Gus?
Uang jalan-jalan saya kumpulkan dari kuliah. Tadinya saya berniat mau coba jalan dari Cina sampai Afrika Selatan. Eh ternyata sampai Afghanistan uangnya sudah habis duluan. Hehehe. Di Afghanistan saya kerja jadi fotografer, jadi wartawan, jadi penerjemah. Sempat juga kerja jadi staf PBB untuk dua proyek selama enam bulan. Saat ini saya kerja di bidang media di Cina.

Apa syarat utama untuk jadi penulis perjalanan?
Punya tekad dan buku harian. Buku harian penting karena di situ kita menuliskan perasaan kita yang paling jujur saat di perjalanan. Ketika kita marah saat itu kita tulis marah. Di situ juga kita wajib mencatat ditel ditel mulai dari peristiwa, perasaan, wajah lawan bicara, dan ditel apapun. Yang penting juga adalah observasi kita terhadap lingkungan. Gunakan pancaindera untuk melihat lingkungan. Setelah itu tulis. Kalau mau menulis lengkap dan rapih, saya biasa mengendapkan pengalaman itu selama sebulan. Baru saya bereskan catatan dengan riset-riset. Dari sini kita bisa punya sudut pandang lain karena euforia perjalanannya sudah lewat. Kita bisa lebih objektif memandang peristiwa.

Kamu bisa survive di negaranegara itu, terutama di Afghanistan bagaimana?

Kunci utamanya adalah bisa berbaur. Begitu sampai di terminal manapun di negara manapun kita harus sudah bisa mempraktekkan bahasa setempat. Orang lokal, walaupun kita buruk mengucapkan bahasa setempat, akan terasa dihargai kalau ada orang asing yang belajar bahasanya. Yang kedua, belajar budayanya. Jangan pernah menyinggung perasaan penduduk. Pengalaman saya, di Mongolia saya paling sukar untuk berbaur. Ini karena wajah saya kelihatan sangat Cina sementara mereka tidak suka dengan Cina karena dianggap penjajah. Jadilah 10 menit pertama saya sampai Mongolia kamera saya sudah hilang dan saya dipukuli orang mabuk. Hehehe.

Pernah bertemu petualang lain asal Indonesia?
Tidak pernah bertemu muka, hanya lewat internet saja. Di Kirgiztan dan Turkmenistan saya bertemu backpacker asal Indonesia. Tapi di Afghanistan tidak pernah. Afghanistan kan (bahaya) yah..

Ada rasa takut gak?
Pasti ada! Ketika saya baru terima visa Afghanistan saya, ada rasa takut. Bagaimana nanti kalau pulang tinggal nama. Bisa pulang tidak dari sana. Semalaman tidak bisa tidur. Soalnya ketika pertama kali ke sana itu saya benar-benar buta Afghanistan. Cuma ingin ke sana saja.

Ada pesan untuk para anak muda yang ingin jadi seperti kamu?
Jadilah wisatawan yang bertanggungjawab. Maksud saya, tiap wisatawan itu membawa ‘racun’ budayanya sendiri ke budaya asli setempat. Kita temui di mana-mana, daerah wisata pasti banyak yang berubah dari aslinya, ada bar, minuman keras, dan lain-lain. Kalau kamu mau berwisata, belajarlah dari sana dari budaya tempat kamu berwisata. Usahakan sesedikit mungkin mempengaruhi mereka dengan budaya asal kamu.

Foto-foto: Forum National Geographic/Agustinus Wibowo

 
:: The Jakarta Globe: An Indonesian's Lust for Asian Travel
PermalinkPermalinkMon, Jun 06, 2011 @19:06 by Avgustin, Categories: About Turkmenistan

This is an interesting piece of Jakarta Globe, taken from interview during presentation session with the National Geographic Indonesia, 14 May 2011. I offer a small correction, actually I was not refusing generous offer of a male prostitute, but I was refusing to be raped by a homosexual in Afghanistan, that’s why I was kicked out.

—————
An Indonesian’s Lust for Asian Travel
Lisa Siregar | May 26, 2011
http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/lifeandtimes/an-indonesians-lust-for-asian-travel/443364

For Agustinus Wibowo, a travel writer who has explored and lived in some of the most dangerous parts of Central Asia, traveling is all about gaining fresh perspectives — even if it means going unshowered for months or getting kicked out of an Afghan man’s house for refusing the generous offer of a male prostitute.

“It’s not about the number of stamps in your passport. It’s the traveler’s point of view that matters,” he said last week during the launch of his new travel book, “Garis Batas” (“Borderlines”).

He showed up to the launch proudly wearing a white flowing tunic known as a shalwar kameez from Afghanistan, where he had lived for several years.

Agustinus, now a translator based in Beijing, is famed for his travel columns published in Kompas newspaper as well as his first book, “Selimut Debu” (“Blanket of Dust”), published in January last year.

Most people like holidays in luxurious, or at the very least comfortable, spots. Agustinus is a bit more adventurous. His new book, for example, details his sometimes nightmarish experiences in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Once, his things were stolen in an attack dubbed “vodka terrorism,” the Kazakh term for when drunken locals rob hapless travelers. He did not shower for two months while living with a nomadic tribe in Pamir, Afghanistan. Another time, he was kicked out by his Afghan host because he turned down an offer of a bacha bazi, or a young male prostitute.

Not Your Typical Trip

Agustinus, born in Lumajang, East Java, caught the travel bug when he went to Beijing to study computer engineering.

At the beginning of his journey, his goal was to travel through Asia and end up in South Africa, because it was “the farthest point one can go from Beijing without taking a ship or plane.”

“At first, I had the typical backpacker ambition to conquer the world,” he said.

But his original plan took longer and longer to accomplish after he was “gripped” by the sights he saw along the way. While traveling through Pakistan, he finally got a visa to Afghanistan in 2003 and found himself unable to resist the pull of the conflict-torn nation — even if this took him further away from South Africa.

He was strangely excited by Afghanistan’s dangers after the United States-led war.

Back then, he was still an inexperienced backpacker. When he arrived, Agustinus said he found the country rather peaceful, compared to his second visit in 2006.

He had initially planned to spend four months sightseeing on his second trip to the country, but ended up getting a job as a photojournalist in Kabul, the Afghan capital, where he lived for two years. Over time, he said, the sight of the horrible devastation wrought by bombs became a normal sight.

“In 2008, even suicide bombings did not shock people anymore,” Agustinus said. “They happened so often that Afghans would casually joke about human heads in the markets being cheaper than animal heads.”

Although his books touch upon the many traumatic experiences from his travels, they also highlight the kindness and hospitality of people from various cultures.

He discusses at length how countless people helped him throughout his journey, such as the kind tea-shop owners who let him spend the night for free. When public transportation drivers demanded exorbitant fares, locals would often intercede and help him negotiate a fair price.

It is precisely the kindness of strangers and the generally warm welcome he receives as a guest in a foreign land that keeps him coming back.

An Indonesian Perspective

Agustinus’s books are uniquely compelling because they offer an Indonesian perspective on war, hegemony and identity. “As an Indonesian, I know how it feels to be a citizen from a nation that was born out of colonialism and adores nationalism,” he said.

Indeed, his writings often reflect on the nature of citizenship and how arbitrary borders and identities are.

Human struggles, he says, inspire him to travel and write. “Selimut Debu” described Afghanistan as a country covered in a blanket of dust and ruined by war, yet filled with minority groups and tribes filled with the desire to live and survive.

In his latest work, Agustinus details the Central Asian countries’ struggle to find a national identity in the post-Soviet Union era.

“I have learned that not all nations dream of independence and democracy,” he said.

Agustinus, who is Buddhist, also had his brushes with sectarian conflict. He had to hide his religious affiliation during his years in Afghanistan.

The Indonesian Embassy in Kabul advised him to pretend to be Sunni while in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, for safety reasons. Due to his looks, Agustinus said he was often suspected to be a member of the Hazara, a longtime enemy of Kandahar’s Pashtun people.

Although he took care to don a Pashtun-style shalwar kameez, he never forgot to wear a peci to display his Indonesian identity. The hat was a way for him to keep a part of his homeland with him at all times, no matter where he was in the world.

However, he said this was often not enough to convince the sometimes hostile locals, who would belligerently question him about his religious affinity.

“Apparently, being a Muslim is not enough. They need to know whether you are Sunni or Shiite,” he said.

He said the Pashtun favored Sunnis and were hostile to Shiites.

In certain places, such as Kandahar, Agustinus said, having the “wrong” religion could cost you your life.

But Agustinus said he had an answer that always saved him: “My religion is humanity.”

This almost Zen-like response is something he learned from the Ismaili, an isolated tribe in the remote area of Wakhan, the only place in Afghanistan where women rarely wear burqas and can freely leave their homes or go to school.

Augustinus said those four simple words often saved him from violence, and that the assertion was something he believed in to this day.

Fresh Eyes

When he travels, Agustinus always brings a camera, camcorder, voice recorder and journal. He can write up to five pages of travel notes every day.

“A camera and voice recorder can be a good icebreaker,” he said.

His facility with languages — including Pashto, Farsi and Urdu — also helps him relate to the people he meets on the road. In this way, he can glean more information from people and can learn things ordinary travelers fail to or do not care to know.

Agustinus says he sometimes spends whole days simply taking photos and not writing at all, enjoying the scenes and expressions on people’s faces. His colorful pictures can be seen on his personal travel blog, www.avgustin.net.

With much of the world still unexplored, Agustinus says his plan is to work and save enough money for his next journey. When asked where he wants to go next, Agustinus shrugged his shoulders and said: “I never know.”

 
:: Majalah Tempo: Tujuan Berikutnya, Asia Tengah
PermalinkPermalinkMon, May 16, 2011 @07:05 by Avgustin, Categories: My Publication

• 16 Mei 2011
Tujuan Berikutnya, Asia Tengah
http://majalah.tempointeraktif.com/id/arsip/2011/05/16/GH/mbm.20110516.GH136711.id.html

Negara-negara berakhiran “stan” di Asia Tengah makin digemari para backpacker sebagai tujuan petualangan mereka. Mereka ingin menelusuri Jalur Sutra.

PERJALANAN Agustinus Wibowo menembus Afganistan membawanya ke tepian Sungai Amu Darya di ujung utara negeri itu. Menunggang keledai di jalan berbatu dan terjal, ia melihat di seberang sungai berseliweran mobil di atas jalan beraspal.

Pemandangan itu membuat Agus penasaran dengan kehidupan di negara-negara pecahan Uni Soviet yang berada di seberang sungai. Agus, yang menetap di Beijing, sebenarnya bisa dengan mudah naik pesawat dari Cina. Tapi ia memilih jalan darat dari Afganistan masuk ke Tajikistan. “Jalan darat itu makan waktu lebih lama,” ujar pria berusia 28 tahun ini. “Semakin lama perjalanan, semakin banyak yang bisa saya pelajari.”

Dimulai pada 2006, Agus satu tahun lamanya berkeliling Tajikistan, Kirgistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, dan Turkmenistan. Hitungannya, ia menghabiskan uang US$ 400 per bulan. “Itu relatif lebih murah daripada ke Eropa,” ujarnya.

Kisah perjalanan di negara-negara berakhiran “stan” begitu ia menyebutnya-dibukukan dengan judul Garis Batas. Ahad dua pekan lalu, buku itu jadi bahan diskusi Komunitas Back-packer Dunia di Kafe Pondok Penus, Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta. Selama lima jam nonstop, Agus menceritakan perjalanannya kepada para “petualang ransel” Tanah Air. Diselingi penayangan foto dan film pendek, Agus diberondong pertanyaan seputar cara memasuki negara-negara itu.
“Agus menginspirasi agar travelling itu tidak sekadar lewat tapi dekat sama masyarakatnya dan belajar bahasanya,” kata Muhammad Fadli, 27 tahun. Setelah mengikuti bedah buku itu, fotografer yang sudah pernah menjelajahi India dan Nepal ini berniat mengikuti jejak Agus di negara-negara “stan” yang terletak di Asia Tengah itu.

Nah, mengapa Agus jatuh cinta pada negara-negara “terbelakang” di kawasan Asia Tengah?
Selalu ada kebetulan dalam setiap perjalanan. Kisah Agus bermula dari petualangan pada 2003 di sela-sela liburan kuliah ilmu komputernya di Cina. Ia memilih Mongolia sebagai destinasinya. Hari pertama perjalanan ia hampir saja dirampok di kereta. Malam harinya ia dicegat begal di jalan. Tapi Agus tak lantas kapok. “Perjalanan kalau datar-datar saja juga kurang berkesan,” ujarnya.

Karena itu ia tak gentar ketika mendengar cerita tentang “terorisme vodka” alias kejahatan yang dilakukan orang-orang yang mabuk vodka di negara-negara pecahan Uni Soviet. Ia pun masuk ke Afganistan tatkala negara itu tengah dilanda perang antara milisi Taliban dan tentara Amerika Serikat beserta sekutunya.

Agus berpendapat, perjalanan ke Asia Tengah tidak cocok buat mereka yang mencari kenyamanan dan kemudahan. Perjalanan dari kota ke kota kadang harus ditempuh berjalan kaki atau menunggu berhari-hari sampai ada truk yang melintas buat ditumpangi.

Persiapan bahasa juga penting. “Paling tidak harus bisa bahasa Rusia karena daerah itu dulunya di bawah Uni Soviet,” ujarnya. Selain itu, Agus juga mempelajari bahasa Turki dan Farsi. “Itu modal utama supaya mudah mempelajari bahasa dan dialek Asia Tengah,” kata pria asal Lumajang, Jawa Timur, yang fasih berbahasa Kazakh dan Kirgis ini.

Bagi Agus, bahasa mengantarnya pada tipe perjalanan yang diidamkan. “Saya tidak ingin sekadar numpang lewat tapi mau belajar dari orang-orang di negara yang saya kunjungi,” ujarnya. Karena itu juga agenda perjalanan Agus bukan sibuk berfoto atau mengunjungi tempat wisata. Ia lebih banyak keluar-masuk rumah penduduk sampai ke desa terpencil. Salah satu yang diburunya adalah pesta pernikahan setempat. “Pernikahan biasanya berisi kristalisasi budaya dan konsep kehidupan sebuah masyarakat,” ujar Agus. “Tapi, untuk bisa sampai ikut pesta itu, ya harus lama di sana dan bisa bahasanya.”

Agus tak keranjingan “stan” sendirian. Petualang ransel dari berbagai negara memang tengah mengarahkan perhatian mereka ke kawasan Asia Tengah sebagai tujuan wisata alternatif. Situs rujukan para pelancong seperti Lonely Planet pun dipenuhi permintaan saran tentang perjalanan ke negeri-negeri “stan".

Merasa bosan dengan Eropa, Rusmailia Lenggogeni, 37 tahun, tiga tahun lalu berangkat ke Uzbekistan. “Saya mencari tujuan baru yang punya keunikan sejarah, budaya, dan etnik,” kata Lia, begitu ia biasa disapa.

Bermodal bahasa Rusia seadanya, perempuan yang berprofesi sebagai penulis iklan ini seorang diri berkelana di Uzbekistan dan Kazakhstan. Sebulan di sana, Lia tak banyak keluar uang. “Biaya perjalanan termasuk murah asalkan bisa menawar dan mau tinggal di rumah penduduk,” ujarnya.

Menurut Lia, orang ragu ke Asia Tengah karena memang tidak populer sebagai tujuan wisata. Meski murah, akomodasi dan transportasi kadang terbilang ajaib. “Saya pernah naik pesawat terbang yang lebih mirip angkot terbang,” ujarnya.

Lia bercerita, di pesawat itu tak ada sabuk pengaman. Bagasi di atas kepala juga tak bisa ditutup karena kelewat penuh. Kursi penumpang kadang disesaki barang. Mereka yang kalah cepat berebut tempat duduk pun harus puas berdiri sepanjang penerbangan.

Menurut warga Indonesia yang sudah sembilan tahun tinggal di Uzbekistan, Rosalina Tobing, memang semakin banyak pelancong dari berbagai negara ke Uzbekistan. Rosalina bercerita, awalnya yang datang ke sana lebih banyak pengusaha. Negara-negara muda pecahan Uni Soviet yang ekonominya sedang bertumbuh ini dianggap sebagai lahan potensial buat berbisnis.
Terselip di antara pengusaha itu beberapa turis, baik yang berkoper maupun yang cuma memanggul ransel. Rata-rata turis itu berasal dari Eropa, Jepang, Korea Selatan, dan belakangan mulai banyak dari India. “Wisatawan dari Indonesia mulai berdatangan sejak 2003,” kata Rosalina.

Uzbekistan menjadi negara tujuan favorit karena mengurus visanya lebih mudah. Negara ini juga sering dijadikan transit penerbangan dari Eropa ke Asia Timur. Kini pemerintah Uzbekistan tengah membangun bandara internasional di Navoiy demi menjadikan negaranya sebagai jembatan perdagangan antara Eropa dan Asia. Bila bandara itu jadi, pejalan dan petualang dari berbagai penjuru dunia pun akan makin banyak yang datang.

Apa yang dicari para backpacker ke Uzbekistan? Rosalina menunjuk Samarkand, yang jadi tujuan wisata rohani umat Islam dunia karena ada makam Imam Al-Bukhari. Selain itu, Uzbekistan dan negara-negara tetangganya juga punya daya tarik karena ada di Jalur Sutra-jalur perdagangan tradisional Benua Asia yang menghubungkan Asia timur, selatan, barat dengan Timur Tengah dan Afrika timur laut serta Eropa.

Rute perdagangan sutra dari Cina ke Eropa yang dimulai pada abad ketiga itu melewati Lembah Fergana dan Termez, yang berada di wilayah Uzbekistan. Jalur niaga itu juga melintasi bekas ibu kota Kazakhstan, Almaty, dan daerah Balkh di Afganistan. “Jalur Sutra itu yang membuat saya tertarik pergi ke negara-negara ‘stan’,” kata Lenny Katan. Penerjemah lepas ini pun nekat menyusuri rute dagang itu dari Xinjiang, Cina. Padahal permohonan visa ke Kazakhstan belum dikabulkan.

Mengurus visa memang jadi hambatan besar bepergian ke Asia Tengah. Mereka yang boleh masuk ke negara-negara di sana, kata dia, harus mendapat surat undangan. Agustinus Wibowo mengalami repotnya mengurus visa Tajikistan di kedutaan mereka di Kabul, Afganistan. Kala itu kedutaan libur selama dua pekan. Tak kehilangan akal, Agus minta bantuan ke kedutaan Indonesia agar membujuk diplomat Tajikistan membuka pintu. Akhirnya visa diterbitkan setelah proses tawar-menawar layaknya di pasar.

Karena Agus sukses, Lenny pun minta nasihat kepadanya. Ia disarankan mencari agen perjalanan di Kazakhstan yang bisa mencarikan surat undangan seharga hampir Rp 1 juta. Namun dua minggu menanti di Xinjiang, visa itu tak kunjung datang. Malah akhirnya permohonannya ditolak. “Saya kecewa berat karena saya sudah lama bermimpi pergi ke sana,” ujarnya. “Tapi, seperti banyak backpacker lainnya, saya akan terus mencari kesempatan agar bisa mengunjungi negara-negara itu.”

Oktamandjaya Wiguna

 
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