Posts Tagged ‘nationalism’

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)