Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Revenge is Best Served by A Policeman: My Biggest Frustration about Driving

Like all cool things, this post is double-titled. Triple or quadruple would have been even better. Ask Puff Diddy/P. Diddy/Diddy/Sean Combs.

So the WP PostADay team asked me (yes, just me) what my biggest frustration is about driving. I don’t know if they have ever been to where I currently live — Jakarta — but I doubt it. Why? Well, the suggestions include things like “people who don’t know how to merge”, or  “the ones who leave their turn signals on for decades.” Oh, I wish these were my biggest frustrations! You hard-core fellow Jakartans can laugh along with me here.

To the rest of the world, here’s the Jakarta version of things-that-make-driving-fun:

1. Buses that stop anytime, anywhere. The world is their bus stop, apparently. Yes, even in the middle of a 4-lane road with 10 seconds left on the green light.

2. Same bus crossing the red light, while you (of course) dutifully stop.

3. Motorcycles going counterflow, on possibly every single road in Jakarta.

4. Motorcyles cutting across the lane without the slightest acknowledgment of my car.

5. Same motorcyle, with his wife and kids riding without helmets, who looked back in anger when I honked him.

6. Vehicles taking up the bus lanes dedicated to TransJakarta. There are portals blocking the lanes (they only open when the buses come) and lane barriers, but those with the  SUVs (i.e. rich people who are supposedly well-educated) just drive across the barriers after they’ve passed those portals. These include cars with the government/police/military license plates. Yes, even our Minister of Social Affairs did it!

7. Cars that go on the right lane, but you just know that they will cut in front and turn left. Vice versa for those turning right.

8. Cars that go sloooooooooowwww on the right lane in a 4-lane highway. And they are blind/deaf to all the honking and light-flashing that you give ’em. Seriously, dude. This is what they mean by “all talk, no action.”

9. Even worse, cars that hog two lanes. You can’t even pass these b*stards!

10. This is actually more heartbreaking than frustrating, but… cars that take advantage of someone’s emergency: those that tailgate an ambulance.

On a brighter note, on Friday I got my revenge on offender #7. See, usually you just have grin-and-bear-it when you see any of these Top 10 offenders… short of chasing after and ramming them in the back for the joy of it. But, lo and behold, the police was in action and actually stopped a guy who cut right in front of me to turn left! I honked, and tried to defend my lane as he inched closer, but I was already pressed against the side pavement and so I had to let him go first. As he turned left, the policeman came in front and stopped him! Yay! Eat that! Mampus lo! Rasain! Oooooooh, the joy of watching him trying to defend himself!!! *grin* You just made my day, Mr. Policeman.

“I Sold My Soul for a Bag,” She Said.

Apparently, the new currency for a human soul is.. a bag! Meet the first customer (well, first I’ve heard of anyways) of this I-hope-not-too-popular deal. I shall name her the Bag Lady (yes, creativity is not one of my strong points).

The Bag Lady - "If you're not the shape of a bag with an expensive logo stamped on your forehead, then you are not worthy of my time... or my chair"

The story goes like this: Once upon a time, (well, 23 June 2011 to be exact),  there was a friend of mine who walked around the food court in Vivo City, Singapore looking for a seat and a table. Lo and behold, she chanced upon this empty seat — pending the removal of a bag. She asked kindly to the nice (wrong assumption #1) lady to remove said bag. Alas, the lady said refused! Her defense: This is an expensive bag. (read: “No! This bag is my soul! I have no human decency left, so leave me alone!”)

My friend offered several solutions offered — so that she won’t have to put it on the floor —  such as 1) hold it on her lap, 2) sling it on the chair, 3) put it behind her back, thinking that if she does not have any decency left, then maybe at least her common sense/logic will prevail (wrong assumption #2). She said “no no no”, then resumed eating.

Really? REALLY?

I cannot even begin to image what I would have done in such situation! Spill my food on the bag? Just sit anyways, and see what happens? Laugh?

Just reading it already makes me so angry and speechless! I have never thought such level of arrogance and selfishness can exist… but I guess that’s wrong assumption #3. With the Singapore Great Sale now on — where surely many expensive bags will be bought — maybe we should all avoid food courts there until it’s over.

What has the world truly become?

“Seems like everybody’s got a price…” — Jessie J, Price Tag

Bless the Sneeze

I don’t actually know why we say it, but I find I do say “bless you” when someone sneezes. I guess it’s more like a habit, a reflex. Similar to the heart-stopping, eyes-widening effect of the ice cream van music.

However, to another Moslem, I would say “Alhamdulillah” instead, which in everyday use can be loosely translated to “Thank God.”

In essence, “bless you” (which in completeness should be “God bless you”, since I know for sure it’s not me who’s giving the blessing!!) and “Alhamdulillah” both refer to “God” in whatever form you see “God” as, but the differentiation is simply to avoid offending a non-Moslem who *might* be thinking I’m “Islamifying” (?) them. Perhaps because “bless you” nowadays has more of a cultural reference, rather than a religious one.

In fact, a quick Google search shows up various possible origins to this expression — most of which are linked to religion in some way. One theory states that it originated during the bubonic plague, where sneezing was considered one of its symptoms. “Bless you” therefore could either mean i) a prayer for you to get well soon, or ii) an acknowledgment that your infected, and thus prays for your soul to God as they can no longer help you in this mortal world. Another theory is that because we sneeze so fast, our souls can get thrown out of our bodies! It is therefore either our souls that are vulnerable out in the open and can be snatched by the Devil… or, alternatively, our bodies are empty cases without our souls and thus the Devil can quickly take over. In either case, saying “bless you” was a way to shield our souls or physical bodies from evil spirits before they join back together.

For the Moslem, saying “Alhamdulillah” when someone sneezes has its origins in the hadith, or the narrations of the Prophet Muhammad. My (basic) understanding is simply because sneezing itself is a blessing from God, a form of relief as it releases the germs from our bodies. Thus, we thank God by saying “Alhamdulillah” (or “Praise to Allah”). Like those times when I have that I-want-to-sneeze-but-I-can’t feeling. My nose tickles then, and there’s pressure in my head and nose. And it really is a relief when the sneeze finally comes. And so I thank God.

“Bless you” or “Alhamdulillah”, either one, for me it means that I wish the person health and that the sneeze rids them of all those nasty lil germs! No harm in thanking God at the same time 😉

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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 🙂

*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)