The Indonesian Factor in Our Blood

Posted on: March 5, 2008

This article was published by The Jakarta Post on March 5, 2008. Read the article on The Jakarta Post, here.

This is the country where I was born. This is the land where I spent most of my childhood and early adult life. This is the place where I first learned how to cry and this is also the place where I learned how beautiful it was to laugh. This is God’s beautiful paradise and it is called Indonesia.

I’m not sure if I have the right to claim myself an Indonesian. What are the qualifications to be called Indonesian? I don’t live in Indonesia at the moment, does that fact make me unqualified for such title? Look at my proud name, it doesn’t sound like an Indonesian name. But, I do speak Bahasa fluently. I do love to eat rendang and sop buntut. I do have Indonesian friends who shared the pain and joy in my past. So, can I call myself an Indonesian?

But if an Indonesian is simply someone who lives in Indonesia then I should be called more than just a regular Indonesian because I have lived in various places in the country. I was born in Jakarta but soon my family moved to Cirebon. After that, I had the opportunity to live in more cities like Dumai in Riau, Malang in East Java, Cimahi in West Java, Semarang in Central Java, and Kebumen in Central Java. In Malang I first learned how to speak Bahasa Jawa, an ability that so I’m proud of. And after spending three years abroad I came back to Indonesia and spent six years in Jakarta.

Now, I have been living in Washington, D.C. for more than 16 months. And if you ask me whether or not I enyoy living in this country with no doubt I will say that I have so much fun. What’s better than living in America in this 21st century? What’s better than living in a country where you don’t have to worry to find a tukang ojek or warung rokok every time you try to locate an address? Just go to Google Map or Map Quest on the internet and get the exact directions of the place that you want to go to. And if you are too lazy to do that you can get yourself a GPS for less than $500 that you can put on your car dashboard and it will tell you when to turn right or left. I mean, what’s better than living in a country where ordering a pizza can be done on the screen of your computer?

As a person who loves to travel, the opportunity to live in America is something that I’m so thankful about. I have seen The White House with my own eyes. The one place some people call the symbol of American political arrogance. I have been to New York City and seen its famous statue of Liberty. I have been to other places too to find great attractions.

Living in America has also made me realize how much I love to spend my time in a park since Washington, D.C. has a lot of great parks and outdoor attractions. When the weather is good and the sun is shining what could be better than going to a park with a good book on your right hand and a cold drink on your left hand? Something that I was never able to experience in Indonesia.

And as a person who appraises good food living in America surely has spoiled me to taste a lot of different kinds of food. I have tasted food from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America itself. McDonald’s which was a weekend food for me and my friends back in Indonesia is now something I can eat everytime I want. Even Starbucks is my reguler drink now, something that I would never consider buying when I was in Indonesia.

But with all those good things that I’m experiencing right now if you ask me whether or not I want to spend the rest of my life in this other people’s land you will have a firm answer: Of course not, I’m an Indonesian for God’s sake. The same kind of notion was expressed by John McCain when someone suggested that he should run as an Independent or Democrat in the 2004 presidential election against Bush. He said, “I’m a Republican, for chrissakes.”

Somehow there’s something that tells me I’m an Indonesian. It is a factor that lets me know where I belong. It doesn’t take a look or a name to justify this fact. I have it inside and I know it’s there. It’s like a feeling of proudness that you have because you know you come from a place that will always welcome you no matter what.

I miss the moment when I could talk to my close friends in Bahasa Indonesia and have ourselves discuss various things in a humble way. I miss the moment when I could talk to them about the things we saw every day around us and discuss what kind of country we would someday become. I miss their humble smile and laughter. Their unique timidity is something that I can’t find in America. And while I enjoy eating the best steak I can find in America my tounge tells me that nasi padang is still much more delicious.

And if people say that America has a lot of great places to go to then I will say it’s true. But at the same I would like to inform that Indonesia has places that are as good as other countries’ places or even better. Indonesia, just like you know it, is the largest archipelago in the world with more than 17,000 islands. It has natural resources that other countries envy, the reason why the West occupied Indonesia for more than three and a half centuries.

I wish every young Indonesian could have the same proudness to be an Indonesian. A feeling that they will happily share with other people. A feeling that they know comes from a place they call home. It’s the place, the people, the food, and everything else. It’s the Indonesian factor in our blood.


42 Responses to "The Indonesian Factor in Our Blood"

I’ve just read it, so proud of you, Tasa! 🙂

Mba Jennie! I guess you’re online right now. Well, I guess you’re the first person I have to thank for this matter. Thank you for your support and encouragement. I wish you the best! 🙂

The only person you should thank is yourself. I’m waiting for your first book. I think if you write a short book on what you think about Indonesian vs. American culture, it would be great. Just an idea, though. 🙂

Tasa…this is a vivid explanation about yourself that makes me smile :mrgreen:

when i misread you previous article about How I Love Christmas, i thought you’ve been living in USA for 10 years hahaha…maybe beside the misread also i believe you are a permanent resident in USA or a USA citizen because of your surname, Barley :mrgreen:

well, i have to admit that was my silly opinion and i want to learn bahasa Jawa with you.

I’ll be back to give different comment for this article, i just can’t stop laughing at myself right now.

matursuwun sanget, dimas 🙂

Jen: A book?! Writing a book is tempting indeed, but it’s obviously not easy. A good idea though, hehe. Let me think about it Mba. Thanks so much.

Yonna: Now, you know right. Hehe. My last name is a bit confusing, I admit. But hey, I’m still 100 percent Indonesian! I’ll be happy to teach you some Bahasa Jawa. 🙂

you’re lucky you have a nice surname,….compared to me…has a confusing and unusual first name, it’s not Indonesian name but I’m an Indonesian, it’s given name but some may think it’s only a ID for internet incognito. In the real life, not to mention many people always call my name wrong, write it wrong too. but it makes me get used to it…accept the fact that my name is quite difficult to mention for some people, my ears are already familiar with name “Yoan, Yoana, Yola, Dona, Fiona, etc” not to mention some people always wondering where i came from, and many funnu stories to tell that rises from my unique name.

i don’t have indonesian factor in my first name.

still, i have different comment for this article, wait ya?!

haduh ralat….komentar di atas

you’re lucky you have a nice surname,….compared to me…have a confusing and unusual first name, it’s not Indonesian name but I’m an Indonesian, it’s given name but some may think it’s only internet ID for incognito. In the real life, not to mention many people always call my name wrong, write it wrong too. but it makes me get used to it…accept the fact that my name is quite difficult to mention for some people, my ears are already familiar with name “Yoan, Yoana, Yola, Dona, Fiona, etc” not to mention some people always wondering where i came from, and many funny stories to tell that rise from my unique name.

i don’t have indonesian factor in my first name.

still, i have different comment for this article, wait ya?!


Here’s my different comment (can’t wait to tell it) 🙂

There’s a saying in bahasa “Jauh bau bunga, dekat bau tahi” I assume your article shows you are in “jauh bau bunga” situation. hehehehe.

It is a must for every citizen to love and be loyal for their country. Right or wrong it’s my country.

I agree, in spite of complaining all the time, we should make a first move, first step, to reach a better result of a situation. It is OK to be angry, to give critics, objection, for the government, the people, the system, the rules and regulations enforcement, etc but too much for them is no longer good….your anger is a cost that doesn’t give any benefit.

I love to be an Indonesian, although sometimes I’m not proud to be an Indonesian because Indonesians are already well-known as lazybone, stupid (not well-educated), servant nation, get angry easily (high-tempered manner as a reaction for new thing they don’t know it before) for instance the vocab “run amok” shows the true color of Indonesian that become English vocabulary, and so on.

For those negative characteristics, I try to avoid them become my own characteristics. Maybe some of them are still inside me, but there are also some efforts to get rid of them. However, I am a human being with two elements of good and bad. And I’m trying to enlarge my good sides and minimize my bad sides…and that is a lifetime effort.

Maybe, I hope, I have the good sides of Indonesian factor in my blood, amin. Thanks, another nice article! 🙂

Hi! Got here from this article published in Jakarta Post. Great post! I’m gonna subscribe an RSS for your blog.


First of all, I did not know that you used to live in Dumai too, I was there for two and half years when I was 3-5 years old. Maybe we had already met in warung baso or toy store there.

You mentioned one important question here about the qualifications of being an Indonesian. Some people might say that if they have 100% Indonesian blood running through their vein, they are Indonesian. I do not really like this idea. Maybe I have to tell you my personal story, although I have “Tobing” as my family name, I am not 100% Indonesian, my Indonesian blood was “contaminated” by my mother’s European blood.

Despite all these things, I truly consider myself as pure Indonesian, if I wanted I could just simply change my nationality before and got lot of advantages, but I did not. I hate when people start to distinguish us from the “real pure” Indonesian, I hate those calling Chinese Indonesian or Indian Indonesian by Chinese or Indian. I am more Indonesian than them.

For me, the qualification to be called the real Indonesian is when you are dare to proudly say that you are Indonesian and have no regret of it. I believe you have met lot of people questioning why they were born as Indonesian, instead of American, Japanese or whatsoever. I believe you have met lot of Indonesian who keep saying bad things about our country without having any idea about how to make it better.
I also want to let others know that there are actually lot of Indonesian abroad who refuse to admit that they are Indonesian and identify themselves as the people of the country they are living in. For me, those kinds of people are not the real Indonesian. Shame on them.

I really am an Indonesian, I prefer tempe to American junk foods, I have tried my best to introduce our culture to foreigners, I can be very sentimental every time I hear our national anthem, I always bring one big Indonesian flag in my car, I love to discuss the future of Indonesia, etc.

Lastly, I was not trying to be arrogant when writing this comment, for those who get offended, I offer my apologize.

(Despite my Japanese pseudonym, I’m an Indonesian)

to be honest, I used to dislike Indonesia despite having lived here for 80% of my life…. In truth, I’m Indonesian by blood, but American by birth. I used to prefer identifying myself with my American-ness than my Indonesian-ness, especially since there is much more to boast in being an American than an Indonesian.

However, over the last couple of months I’ve finally come to realise the real sense of identity that I should’ve embraced since a long time ago; despite all its flaws, it’s still the country where my parents originate from. Despite all the traffic woes and high poverty problem that most ppl (like me) would like to have improved, I doubt if I could ever forget the taste of Gado-gado, Chrisye and Ratu’s songs, and the sound of tukang roti that passes by my house every afternoon.

And yeah, despite ppl’s praise of my English fluency, I always know that my Indonesian is always better than my English, and that is the reason why I’m proud to declare in my blog that my native language is not English, but Bahasa Indonesia.

anyway, just like yonna, by reading your commentary in The Jakarta Post, I always thought that you have lived there in US for a long time, and it comes as a surprise to me that you have barely lived there for 2 yrs, yet you have promoted a lot of the Indonesian paraphernalia to the American public.

What an exemplary young Indonesian blogger you are… I’ve linked up to your blog. Great posts you have here!

Kebanggaan menjadi orang Indonesia, akhir-akhir ini sedikit mahal. Maklum, hidup makin sulit. Tapi kalo dipikir, hidup di negara maju juga ada plus minusnya. Jadi sedikit banyak hampir sama. Seperti yang sampeyan bilang, kebanggaan sebagai orang Indonesia ada di dalam hati, bukan di mana-mana 😀

I didn’t know you’re half Indonesian, pantes waktu liat foto elo kok wajahnya bule gini, Batak ganteng hehehe :mrgreen:

hehe, glad knowing that I’m not the only one who have wrong opinion about Tasa’s origin and knowing you’re half Indonesian too, if i’m not mistaken your first name is Atsuyama right? and Toshihiko is your surname. if I’m wrong, please forgive me 🙂 Many Japanese, Chinese and Korean nowadays reverse their front surname and put to last name.

@Sherwin dan Atsuyama
sebagai separo Indonesia, kalian berdua baik banget udah mau cinta Indonesia 🙂

Setuju ma Hadi, hidup di Indonesia mahal tapi kemana uang yang udah kita serahkan untuk pajak dll itu gak jelas arahnya. mau bangga, mau sebel…pada akhirnya kita cuma bisa bilang right or wrong Indonesia is my country 🙂

@yonna: haha… atsuyama tuh surname gw tau… Gw kan disini pake Western Order krn ini konteks bhs Inggris, hehe 🙂

mba yonna ngga punya blog yah? tengkyu buat visitnya ke blog saya.. 🙂

ohohohoho bener, western order ya istilahnya, mmm biasanya kalo campuran gini, punya nama Indonesia juga, bener gak tuh?! Toshihiko punya nama Indonesia gak? jujur ribet nulis TO-SHI-HI-KO karena gak biasa nyebut bahasa Jepang hehe.

saya punya blog tapi di multiply, bukan blog ya tapi diary persisnya hehe. itu udah saya cantumin di nama saya, thanks juga 🙂

@yonna: wah, ga bs tulis nama asli saya dsini dunk.. ntar banyak yg ngefans lg, hehe… ^^

Saya pm aja deh di multiply-nya

Yuki Tobing wrote: “I really am an Indonesian, I prefer tempe to American junk foods, I have tried my best to introduce our culture to foreigners.”

Well, Yuki, I can only echo your food favourites, especially tempeh, and I too have tried to introduce Indonesian culture to foreigners. Trouble is, I am not Indonesian.

Perhaps identity is a personal, rather than nationalistic, matter. Trying to fit in to whichever community you reside in can, over a long period, offer a sense of national pride. For example, consider the history of the USA, a land built by immigrants.

It’s good to remember one’s heritage, unless it was a state founded or managed through subjugation. It’s also good to make a contribution, so I hope that when you return you’ll bring that love of parks, for example, and do your best to ensure that your fellow citizens (and foreigners 😉 ) can enjoy them too.

BTW. I’m adding this blog to my blogroll.

Our identity is partly decided by the conditions we live in. So, as an Indonesian living the American way of life your bound to be bi-cultural.

Your mental solution is great: this post of yours is a double declaration of love. To two loves, the US of A and RI. As long as this is the case there is no cause for feelings of guild. Because the old love is still in tact. Perfect ( as long as love in both cases doesn’t cause a too rosy image of the object of one’s love).

It would be great however if in due time RI, the old love, will benefit in a direct way from your many talents and global experiences. The new love is perfectly able to manage on its own.

I’ve heard about you and your blog several time before and, shame on me, haven’t checked it. I thought you were an Indonesian, haha.

anyway, just in case you misunderstood my comment above, all the facts I mentioned in last paragraph were just an additional materials. indeed, you’re absolutely right when you said that identity is personal matters instead of nationalistic matter. I totally agree with this. however, what I tried to elaborate above there was the difference between being an Indonesian and being the real Indonesian. in my humble opinion, for me, nationalism is what distinguish them. thanks for the response.

good article tasa….
patriotism raiser….
let’s hope our young one’s are proud of who they are now, and trying to make their successor even prouder.

ask yonna, we have our beloved new half-blooded celebrity who are crazy about indonesia right now:

bener ga yon?? heheheheh…

hai bung tasa, how are you?
i am proud to be Indonesian. Indonesia is my country, my home land which always welcome to me no matter i am.
Indonesia has a fresh air which i can breath. Indonesia has a water which i can drink. Indonesia has a beautiful scene which i can see. it is great gift.
when i live in saudi, i have to buy a water for drinking. not like in Indonesia, in which i can make well and take a water from it.
but here, it is impossible to make a well because it is to much desert which does not contain the water.
anyway, my taste still like Indonesian food more than others. but it doesn’t mean that I do not respect the others style of food.
sorry if my English is not good, because i am still learning in it.

Tasaaaaaaa you got published agaaaiiinn! *uuurrrrgh*
Gue satu pun artikelnya belon jadi. Parah ya.
Procrastinating suck. 😐

Hear hear! Proud to be an Indonesian.
Hope your article can inspire many, Tasa.

But if I may add..

I wish every young Indonesian could have the same proudness to be an Indonesian.

That is, even if some of us aren’t proud of being an Indonesian, there has to be a cause and reason to everything. And it’s our responsibility to seek out what those causes are.
I’d like to suggest a reading for Tasa and everyone here: Sebuah Percakapan by Sultan Hamengkubuwono X. Feel free to read it in my blog or just google it. 😀

tasa! I love this article! dan karena article ini aku jadi terinspirasi untuk nulis komentar, tapi komentar berupa post on my own blog, karnea too long to post here lol komentar perspektif dari seorang Indonesian-American.

Marisa, memang selalu ada cause and reason behind everything, even behind one’s lack of pride at being Indonesian. As disheartening as that is, sebagai observernya kita tak bisa menerima begitu saja karena, seperti kamu bilang, kita harus mencari asal usul dari pendirian itu dan apakah kita bisa perbaeki kondisi yg menghasilkan asal usul pendirian itu bukan untuk orang itu saja, tetapi untuk semua orang.

Toshihiko Atsuyama:
yes, that one… the one and only Cinta Laura Kiehl…

Yonna: Thank you for your comment. I support your motivation to be the best Indonesian you can be. Btw, I always thought your name is an Indonesian name. Perhaps I got it wrong. Hehe.

Carla: Welcome and I’m glad you like it here. I guess I’m gonna see you around 🙂

Yuki: Yeah, that’s the Indonesian factor in your blood and I’m happy to know that you’re proud of it. Reading your comment, you might be more “Indonesian” than me bro. And yeah, we might have met somewhere in Dumai, my friend. Lol.

Toshihiko Atsuyama: Nice to know you 🙂 A young Indonesian who is proud of being an Indonesian. I hope I could meet more people like you. I guess I’ll see you around my friend. Maybe sometimes we can meet and eat gado-gado together.

Hedi: You got it right there. It’s in our hearts, right.

Jakartass: Hi and nice to know you. I have added your blog on my blog too. I agree with you completely, it’s what we can contribute is what matters the most. Btw, I love tempe too. It’s just so Indonesian.

Colson: Thank you for the comment. Well, I hope I can do something big to Indonesia, my country. I’m not sure if I have the power to do so, but at least I’m dreaming big already.

Ary: Yep, setuju 100%!

Ahmad: I’m good, thank you. And how are you? I hope you’re doing great in Saudi. Well, I agree Indonesian food is always the best. Oh my God! C’mon, nothing can be better than nasi Padang or masakan Sunda. But, just like you, I do also enjoy eating other countries’ food. It’s our country, home sweet home.

Marisa: I’m sure your time will come. Just be patient and keep producing quality articles, I mean, you’re a better writer than I am. Thanks for the book recomendation, I’ll look it up.

ns: I’m glad you like it. Ok, I will check out your article then 🙂

mode on: invisible, especially in front of Ary


my name is in bible, i guess, similar to Jonah, Jonas, Yonah, Yonas. Means Yunus in christian. If I’m wrong, please correct my explanation 🙂

Tasa: that should be Boso Jowo hehe…

we should and surely proud as Indonesian, no more and no less of those 😉

hello Mr. Barley.

udah ah bahasa inggris gue cuman segitu, hehe.

nice blog 🙂

wow published by the jakarta post, what a great..

anyway, are proud to be an indonesian mas tasa ? just curious, although I’m sure you are 😀

*nice to be back here tasa

tasa, i made comment yesterday but guess something wrong with the system?

anyway, salam kenal. and ..
Yes, i am proud for being Indonesian, especially being Betawian. I use to declare;” i am the indigenous people from the capital, my family are conservative mid-low class Indonesian and people acknowledge our tribe as the stupid Indonesian” and then i laugh, hahaha. I honestly feel proud for being Betawian 🙂 .

what i am not proud of is..some Indonesian mentality. And i am not ashame to say that i am not proud of it. I also use to declare;
“It’s a crazy place to live. too much corruption, but never been in any place where people’s are so compassionate like in Indonesia. We have the largest biodiversity and at the same place, the biggest gold mining company. We have richest people and at the same time hunger and cannibalism. If you want to feel alive, you should visit my country. Don’t die before you visit Indonesia.”

I still have faith one day, miracle could happen from young souls like you 🙂 .

halo, kak tasa. susah sekali baca tulisanmu yang pake bahasa dari belahan bumi lain itu, tapi dikit2 ngerti lah… hehehe…
oh ya, makasih yah, untuk kunjungan kak tasa ke blogku beberapa hari yang lalu.
seneng deh, kalo banyak orang indonesia yang kayak kak tasa. meskipun udah tinggal di negara nun jauh di sana, masih cinta sejati sama indonesia. padahal, banyak banget orang indonesia yang abis ninggalin indonesia, tinggal di negara lain, lupa deh sama negaranya sendiri.
bahkan, yang ada di dalam negeri ajah, banyak yang gak bangga sama negaranya.

Tasa kangen, Ian kangen….hmmm serius yah kangennya 🙂

kalo gue jadi kalian bedua pasti kangen ingin denger Adzan 5 kali sehari, nonton adzan Maghrib di TV, denger suara Takbir bersaut2an di malam menjelang Idul Fitri, kangen ketemu tukang jajanan keliling, kangen ma tukang sayur, kangen ma pengamen, kangen ma macet, kangen ma banjir, kangen ma panasnya, kangen liat ayam berseliweran di jalan gang/kampung, kangen liat kebo merumput (di tangerang dan jakarta ada loch), kangen liat kambing merumput (di tangerang dan jakarta ada loch), kangen denger orang ngomong separo Indo separo Inggris, kangen denger orang ngomong Jawa, ngomong Sunda, ngomong Minang, ngomong Batak, atau ngomong Indo tapi pakek logat Jokaw-Sunda-minang-batak, kangen ma Benny & Mice di Kompas Minggu, kangen naek ojek-becak-metro-busway, dll.

eh serius loch, hal2 diatas tadi kalo direnungkan ternyata bisa bikin kangen juga. i love living here, Jakarta apalagi 🙂

Yonna: Yeah I guess you’re right. But hey, it’s just a name. What you have inside is the most important thing.

I miss the sound of adzan indeed but I have this Athan program that gives me adzan five times a day on my computer. I miss the people and of course the FOOD.

Ian: I agree, Boso Jowo. Hehe.

extremusmilitis: Setuju!

Chita: Salam kenal 🙂

Harri: Of course I am and I know you are too.

Mulia: Salam kenal juga 🙂 It’s good to know that there’s someone from Betawi who declares that she’s proud of her being a person Betawi. You should have it and so do your friends, otherwise people from Betawi will keep dominated by outsiders in their own land. Hehe.

I agree with you. Indonesia may not be the perfect place in the world, nothing’s perfect by the way. But if we could see things from different angle we may be able to see the different kind of Indonesia that we can love.

Areta: Nice to see you here 🙂 I promise I will visit your blog more often. The feeling of proudness of being part of a place you call home is probably one of the most important things you should have in your heart. That’s the feeling that will make you happy living in that place no matter what.

Good question. Would you consider yourself an Indonesian if you don’t have a clue on Indonesia’s politics nowadays? Would you consider yourself an Indonesian if you lack of its cultural knowledge? Would you consider yourself an Indonesian if you hate it so bad when visiting home you couldn’t wait to go back to your Western country? And just because you still have your Indonesian passport after so many years living abroad, would you consider yourself Indonesian still?

I want to consider myself as an Indonesian. I so want to. But I bet the expats who live in Indonesia know her better than me. When husband asked me (again) what’s keeping me from applying to be a US citizen -other than the sentimental reasons- I couldn’t give him a good solid answer.

I tried to ‘introduce’ Indonesia in my blog every now and then. That’s the least I could do. Some people at work don’t know or not sure where Indonesia is. They always find it interesting to hear stories about/from Indonesia. I guess that’s how I done my part to be an Indonesian *wink*

I guess I’d still consider you an Indonesian 🙂 It’s the whatever factor in our blood, after all.

But, why do you hate so much visiting your own home and can’t wait so badly to go back to your Western country? Don’t you miss the peope’s warmth and timidity? Hehe.

I guess you’ve done enough.

Exactly my point.
Been reading some Indonesian expats blog out there and also know some Indonesian acquaintances who have been living abraod for a number of years, bickering about Indonesia when they went back to visit. Kind of a reverse culture shock, maybe? 😉

Kata nya proud indonesian kok bahasa inggris melulu….kepala pening nich,,,coba untuk translate ke bahasa indonesia.aku juga bangga jadi orang indonesia,very proud of your comment about ours country,keep the good work.

Drinking enough fluids, as phagocytes and?And stick to, food for theirs.Supplies for scrapbooking, cream or ointment.Second week If masakan, that successful businesses a Scientific Article.Your needs for, favors: You will.,

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guebukanmonyet is Tasa Nugraza Barley. He's a free man with unique thoughts and dreams. He sees his life and this world differently from anyone else. That's because he knows what he wants; and for that reason he doesn't want to be the same. Read why he blogs, here.

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