My Indonesian Pride

A friend asked me recently, after listening to my not-so-Indonesian life history, whether or not I am proud being an Indonesian (the question of my Indonesian-ness, which also came up, is subject to another post). My immediate reaction: I held my breath. I honestly could not answer that question straight-up… but after a few seconds’ pause, and a fast battle between logic and heart, I said “yes….but.”

But the “but” is not why I write this post. There are lots of blog posts, newspaper/journal articles, essays and books out there that can better express this “but” than me. I too have had my share of “but” stories on Indonesia with my friends, family, colleagues and random strangers.

But, no. This post is on the “yes” part.

I personally found writing on this subject harder than I initially thought. But no country is perfect. Perhaps mine is further away from perfection than others, but it is no reason to dismiss it. Beauty is, after all, in the eyes of the beholder. I realize that, when it comes to anything, it is always easier to complain than to compliment. That’s why we have customer complaints call centers, but no customer praise ones. So I will perhaps try the other side, pray, cross my fingers and hope someday I can just say “yes, PERIOD.”

In the meantime, here are my current “yes” reasons.

1. Cultural/Ethnic Diversity

Spanning from Sabang to Merauke, I love Indonesia’s breadth of ethnic and religious diversity. I enjoy standing side-by-side with my friends from Papua, Java, Kalimantan and Sumatra friends (have yet to make friends from the other islands) and seeing my non-Indonesian friends’ mouths open in disbelief. I love having to think when answering the questions “What is Indonesian food/national dress/dances like?” only because there are so many to choose from… that we are not tied to a single particular type of food or clothing or even house. From Minangkabau’s Rumah Gadang to Toraja’s tongkonan (more description here), from Java’s wayang kulit to Madura’s bull racing to, from Aceh’s Saman dance to Bali’s Kecak. Let’s not forget the breadth of ethnic languages, some of which have their own alphabets and are totally unrelated to Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia). I regret that since my parents are from different provinces, I can only speak Indonesia and none of my parents’ languages.

2. Natural Beauty and Resources

With over 17,000 islands (another fact I like to boast to my other “islander” friends), and a width spanning 5,271 km (3,275 mi) (in comparison, Dublin to Moscow is 2784 Km (1729.9 Miles)) Indonesia offers some breathtaking natural wonders. I have personally taken the role of Indonesian tourism ambassador (since our official tourism department seems to be defunct*) where I tell them Indonesia has beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers, rainforests and biodiversity that should not be missed. In fact, we have the world’s largest lake on an island (Toba Lake) and also the largest island in a lake on an island (Toba Lake, too). Puncak Jaya, Papua is one of the few equatorial glacier mountains and is Indonesia’s highest point (extra point: we have the highest number of volcanoes in the world). Indonesia supports the second highest level of biodiversity and is also second in its endemism. Don’t forget that we have the world’s largest flower and lizard (weird combo, but it works.) (info from here).

3. Food

My favourite subject, but will not dwell on it for too long because I’m already starving. Closely related to cultural diversity, our food diversity ranges from its taste, ingredients (for example, some provinces use weed as a cooking herb), cooking methods and even the way it is being served (if in doubt, check out any Padang restaurant where the waiter carries on average ten plates at once and where all of the restaurant dishes are brought to your table. No need to put pictures on the menu! Come to think of it, there’s no need for a menu either.) From Padang’s spicy satay (oh-so-different from Madura’s sweet satay), Palembang’s pempek, Java’s rawon, the numerous sotos.. Not to mention the tropical and so-called exotic fruits such as durians, mangoes, salak, rambutan, etc.

4. People

I have met many Indonesians abroad and at home, and recently in the blogsphere, who are intelligent, able-bodied, analytical and realistic about Indonesia’s current situation but yet are hopeful, optimistic and committed to its betterment. They have experienced the other side and have the choice to stay where life is arguably easier, and yet some still choose to go back. While family is a common reason to return, not a small number of them profess that they hope to change Indonesia for the better, to change “what should be” to “what is.” Within Indonesia itself I also see this new batch of optimistic, well-educated generation that is tired of the status quo and want to change it (for example, the JBRB and BUAB team). In a conversation with an Indonesian lady here in Brisbane:

Lady: “Nanti selesai kuliah, nanti cari kerja aja di sini. Balik ke Indonesia-nya nanti kalo udah bener Indonesia-nya.”

My friend: “Yaaa.. mendingan bantuin nge-benerin πŸ™‚

*I will not complain.

Note: I found through Indonesia Anonymus these interesting feel-good facts about Indonesia:

3rd biggest producer of rice
4th biggest producer of coffee
5th biggest producer of tea
8th biggest producer of fruits

(source: Pocket World in Figures, The Economist, 2008 Edition)


14 responses to this post.

  1. good pooooooooost ! You only need to tag more words, maam, easily accessable by google. Congrats


  2. It’s been a while since I stumble upon a blog that ‘dare’ to proclaim their pride to Indonesia πŸ™‚

    A breath of fresh air … people need to know that there’s so many things in our country that are worth viewing and worth visiting. I’ve always in the opinion that any random good comments about our country that will eventually encourage foreigners to visit or even invest, would be good for the likes of humble tour guide in Jogja or small scooter rental in Bali.

    If time permits, please keep writing about this stuff ya Asti πŸ™‚


  3. Posted by asti on July 10, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    @akhyari: Thanks for the compliment and the suggestion.. will do that! I love your blog’s name πŸ™‚

    @Rishardana: I agree! Indonesia is a beautiful country and could should be a major tourist destination. A bit of nationalism would not hurt either — where Indonesians themselves visit and see their own country instead of others’. I have been to a few places in Indonesia where my family and I were the only local tourists… and on the flip side, there are a few places outside of Indonesia where all I saw were Indonesian tourists!!


  4. Great post Asti!!! been reading your blog but too lazy to comment hahaha…

    Yes Indonesia does have great places to visit. And I’m ashamed to say that I have not been to most of them (would love to do that though!). Since I love cultural stuff so much, I’m so proud that our culture is so diverse and RICH — all those different dialects, languages, traditional dances, etc!!! if we could promote it just like what the malays do… i’m sure more people will visit Indonesia!

    But I’m just being honest now. I cannot classify myself as a person who is a nationalist or is dreaming of going back to Indonesia to build this country right after finish studying etc. I don’t care if people accuse me bad things but I have my own opinion. I think I’d follow my parent’s footsteps to live in other country — I wouldn’t be studying abroad if they decided to go back to Indo. Travelling abroad is already out of reach for my extended families and it’s even too costly to go to private Indonesian universities for them. But you know… reality is sometimes different so… I’m not pusing it too hard. If it means I have to go back and live in Indonesia permanently, I’d do so.

    But deep in my heart I still have the urge to come back, either for holiday or living permanently when I’m already married and have finished funding my children’s education hehehe πŸ˜€ Would love to live on the hills somewhere in Indonesia one day….


  5. I am working with an UK-based institution in Indonesia. My fren always ‘encourage’ me to go overseas and grab a job there, earn (much) more money, big flat screen TV, summer holidays (it’s always summer here in Jogja haha), good environment for my family, good education, and many more. They say that i have the capacity needed to get a good job (read : good pay).
    I took a deep breath, look at their eyes and said, “kalau semua pergi, lalu siapa yang menjaga negeri ini?” One of them SMS me a nite after, said that my ‘short response’ dragged him down, make that nite sleepless for him.
    I’ve been frequently offered to work overseas, but i said, and would surely say (if my frens make further effort) ” SORRY, I CANT LEAVE INDONESIA. I AM TOO PROUD OF MY MOTHERLAND”


  6. Posted by asti on August 3, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    @Amelia: No worries about not commenting, it’s already good for my ego boost knowing you read my blog πŸ™‚ And don’t worry about not wanting to go back to Indonesia.. I believe everyone can contribute anywhere anytime. I’m sure just by you being a successful student, and in the future a successful business woman/IT person/etc you can help spread the good word on Indonesia. It’s a well-known fact that India owes its (current) leadership in the IT sector to the Indian-mafia in Silicon Valley who contributed their expertise and professional networks.

    By the way, you should watch Denias (an Indonesian movie about a Papuan boy). It’s got some amazing footage of Papua’s natural beauty (LOTR’s New Zealand has nothing against it!)

    @Akhyari: All my respect to you for having such a strong commitment and conviction to serve Indonesia. I’m sure no one will blame you if you take the opportunity to go abroad, but I’m also sure that a lot of people are thanking you for staying!


  7. Posted by Rumayya on October 22, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    hmmm….well….I’m not sure whether I’m proud being an Indonesian.

    But I surely can say I love HER very much πŸ˜€

    by the way, there is an Indonesia’s national that has the following lyrics:

    “Indonesia tanah air beta
    Pusaka abadi nan jaya
    Indonesia sejak dulu kala
    Tetap di puja-puja bangsa

    Di sana tempat lahir beta
    Dibuai dibesarkan bunda
    Tempat berlindung di hari tua
    Tempat akhir menutup mata”


    see….there is nothing about “mencari kerja di Indonesia”

    Only born (lahir), raise (dibesarkan) and die (menutup mata).

    So working abroad is justified…right?




  8. Posted by asti on October 22, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Well then so far I’ve only got the “born” part. What does that make me then? πŸ™‚

    And is love inclusive of pride? If not, does love at least indicate the desire to be proud? If so, then you should make her worthy of your pride!

    But, yes, working abroad is justified. Though bear in mind it’ll then be a long-distance relationship… and it seems like LDRs hardly ever work πŸ˜‰


  9. A heart warming read. Indeed, Indonesia has so much to be proud of but the bad things are easier to come within our sights.

    And I’m delighted that JBRB has now begun to gain recognition. Our hard work in early days has shown some positive lights.

    So now you’re in Aussie?


  10. Posted by asti on January 5, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    @ian: Thanks for visiting! And yes, it really is so much easier to see the bad things.. and that’s probably because right now there’s a lot more of the “bad” than the “good”.. but I guess I’m the eternal optimistic ms. bright side πŸ™‚

    I’m in Manila now, visiting my parents.. then heading back to Jakarta on Jan 19th. Left Oz for good already, unless someone calls me back for a job!

    Congrats on JBRB, and all the best!


  11. […] could be my last visit “home”, I thought I’ll do another list like what I did for Indonesia. It’s not as well-researched (I’m stealing time on the library computer), but […]


  12. Posted by indo on September 15, 2009 at 3:37 am

    i agree that indonesians have so much to be proud of. i am a second generation dutch indo-american. my grandparents were put into consentration camps by the japaness during world war two after the war they moved to holland and would later move to america. i think we should be proud of where we come from not only because of the landscape, food, but what are grandparents n what there grandparent have went threw. my whole life my family has always told me to be proud of where you came from n always remember your an indo n it just stuck with me after all my friends do call me indo. but i lackin basic skills for being able to call myself an indo i cant speak a lick of indonesian yet i can speak some dutch i always thought to myself does that make me less of an indo? an now that i have gottin older i think about it an no it doesnt ive always been proud of my ethnic background and have never denied being indo an never will. i think are culture is so rich an divers we should share it with as many people as possible. someday i hope to be able to go to indo n vist my family not sure when that will be but one day i will.


  13. Posted by endo on September 17, 2009 at 3:26 am

    i think indonesians should be proud of where they come from. weather it be a from a cultural or food view point indonesia is the most divers countrys in the south pacific


  14. Posted by asti on November 13, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    @indo/endo: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing you’re the same person?

    Definitely agree with you on always remembering where you came from, and the sacrifices that people before have made.

    I find it very interesting that despite your mixed background (and I’m guessing you’ve never spent a subsantial amount of time in Indo), that you “have never denied being an indo.” How would *you* then define “being an indo”? And would you define yourself as an indo, dutch, american, or a mix of the three? Any dominant one?

    I myself sometimes find I have an “Indonesian” value on certain issues, then easily switch to, say, a Filipino one on another. Other times, it’s a confusing mix of the two that no one but my sister understands!

    I do hope you can come and visit Indonesia someday, and when you do, I hope you’ll enjoy it!


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