The main part of the 39th IVU World Veg Congress in Jakarta, Indonesia, has now ended. So this is just a personal view of the last five days. I've had the privilege of staying at the home of Susianto, IVU Regional Coordinator for Asia-Pacific, leader of the Indonesian Vegetarian and Vegan Societies, and that's just between holding down a full time job, studying for a PhD, and raising a family. Someone asked what he does in his spare time...
The Congress began on Friday, October 1, World Vegetarian Day, with a gala dinner, completely vegan as always, sponsored by the Indonesian Government Ministry of Tourism - the minister is veg, and several other high ranking government officials were also present, even a veg*n from the USA embassy joined the politicians.
The ceremonies continued with displays of dancing from local young members of the IVS:
All of this against the Congress backdrop used in every room:
Everyone present was then given a traditional Indonesian Angklung, tuned to different pitches, which we were taught to play as a mass orchestra - and we kept them to take home:
Above: UK, India and Brazil keeping in tune.
A special feature of this Congress was the activities for children, this is just a corner of a room where hundreds of amazingly well-behaved very young children had an art competition.
They were followed by a children's parade in the main hall, wearing fruit and veg costumes they had made themselves:
Another unusual feature was the huge vegan Food Fair, much bigger than anything we've seen at any previous IVU Congress. It attracted equally huge crowds as can be seen below, 8,000 visitors has been estimated. At peak times it took a while getting through the crowds from one room to another:
At times the crowd was even bigger thanks to visiting parties from two schools, one Catholic and one Muslim, and a local university sent all their nutrition students for one day of the lectures. Below is Susianto welcoming pupils from the Muslim school in one of the side rooms:
Indonesia's population is about 86% Muslim and this gave us a very special occasion when Arash Rashidi, from Iran, found five young men from Afghanistan in the front row for his talk about vegetarianism in Iran (photo right). It's hard to imagine that happening anywhere other than Indonesia. The guys are studying in Jakarta for a while but will hopefully set up the first Afghan Vegetarian Society when they go home in a few months.
We also had visitors from the Philippines and expect an announcement soon about the launch of the first veg society in their country. On the wider Asian level we reached a constructive agreement about the best way of promoting the first ever vegetarian congress in China, which is inevitably politically sensitive.
The media interest in this congress has been enormous. We had a TV studio on site where I did two interviews myself, as well as joining in a TV chat show with Susianto and George Jacobs, chair of the IVU Council. Below is a cookery show:
Tomorrow most of the overseas visitors have a bus tour around Jakarta, then on Thursday we head of to the island of Bali for a few days. Meanwhile I couldn't resist putting in one last photo with a small group of the huge army of volunteers who have kept everything running smoothly:
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