Socrate Georgiades was born in Paris in 1966. He remembers rollerskating and sliding down handrails in the hilly and lively entertainment district of Montmartre as a young boy. In the course of his professional life, he has worked as a teacher, journalist, director, scriptwriter and photographer. In June 2005, Socrate and his Balinese partner I Made Sudirat inaugurated the first issue of the French-language La Gazette, one of the very few foreign-language newspapers published in Indonesia. In April 2013, this popular independently owned monthly for lovers the beautiful language of Molière celebrated its 8th anniversary and 85th edition.
What are your hobbies?
I have a great love of nature. I run twice a week with the Bali Hash House Harriers, one of the best ways to discover Bali’s breathtaking natural beauty. I have organized treks to some of Indonesia’s most famous volcanos – Kerinci in Sumatra, Semeru in Java, Gunung Agung in Bali, Inerie in Flores and Tambora in Sumbawa. During my last holiday in France, I walked alone for 5 days in the mountains of Mercantour Park, a gorgeous landscape where there was still snow on the ground in June. I’m also a member of “Komunitas Gunungan Indonesia” and “Bali Eco Patrol.”
What person has had a big influence on you?
The famous French TV journalist Martine Mauleon taught me how to be a critical thinker. She improved my self-confidence, which enabled me to interact with ministers of states and celebrities. These social skills have allowed me to learn more about the less fortunate on the fringes of society. I made sure that tramps, prostitutes, artists and the mentally challenged were given an opportunity to express themselves in our TV program “La Grande Famille.” On a more personal level, a French sailor named Bernard Moitessier, who spent his whole life at sea, has been a great inspiration for me, instilling in me a desire to sail the world’s oceans.
What did you study at university?
My dream was to become a teacher of Classical Letters, which is to say Latin and ancient Greek literature. I have a masters degree on the comical 5th century B. C. Greek poet Aristophanes known for his caricatures of intellectuals, among them Socrates. Though teaching is a noble profession, I realized I could reach a far wider audience if I worked in television. TV is actually a classroom except that instead of 30 students, you can spread your message to millions. I eventually became a broadcast journalist and worked on stories about sexual harassment, genetically modified organisms, the quality of tap water and the hidden sugars in fruit juices.
Have you travelled extensively overseas?
Before my 30th birthday I set out to become a sea gypsy and live a life of adventure like Robinson Crusoe, so I joined the crew of a 13-meter sailboat and crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a voyage that changed me profoundly. At one point we went 20 days without seeing a bird. While living on a boat in the West Indies, I met my lovely wife Lidia. Together we bought an old Dutch sailboat constructed from a Van Der Meer blueprint. Though it took on a lot of water, we sailed the world from the West Indies to Morocco and from Cabo Verde to Venezuela.
Why did you publish a French language newspaper on Bali?
When I arrived in Bali in 2004, I was surprised by the large number of French-speakers living on the island. I felt at the time that not only did French-speaking people not have anything to read in their own language, but all the available Indonesian and English print media did not hold out much interest for them or appeal to their way of thinking.
Is your readership only French people?
Our main clientele is of course French, but Belgians, Swiss and Canadians also read La Gazette. Many foreign residents of Bali are keen on improving their French by reading our newspaper. Five thousand Indonesians who have studied in France are members of the IAPI Association (Ikatan Alumni Perancis Indonesia) of ex-students. Some IAPI members such as Fortuna Alvariza, a consultant on intellectual property law, Ananda Idris who writes about the mining industry and volcanologist Hendra Gunawan write for the La Gazette.
Can you tell us a bit about the content of the newspaper?
We publish about 25 articles in every issue on the various media, news stories taking place on Bali, and articles about Balinese animals such as snakes, kingfishers and bats called Le bestiaire de Ron. Other articles concern themselves with the environment, health and local French entrepreneurs. Reflets is a column written in French by our Indonesian contributors, Café du commerce covers business news, Bali on the Rocks announces cultural events, and Bali Nostalgie is about Bali in bygone eras. We never publish any news about France. If people want to read about the home country, they can always get Le Monde, Le Figaro and Soir.
Do the French have a long history in Indonesia?
Bernard Dorlean’s book Les Français et l’Indonésie tells the fascinating story of a French diplomat who traveled all over the archipelago in the 16th century. Herman Willem Daëndels, one of Napoleon’s generals, was appointed Governor-General of the East Indies from 1808 to 1811. After ridding the island of the British Army, Daendels organized mammoth construction projects such as the Great Post Road across the Java from Anyer to Banyuwangi, unfortunately causing the death of thousands of corvee workers. Arthur Rimbaud, the great libertine French poet who has had a huge impact on modern world literature, music and art, served in Java as a member of the Dutch army in 1876.
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Copyright © 2013 Bill Dalton
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