The Indonesian Factor in Our Blood
Posted March 5, 2008on:
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.