Tear drops slithered down my face, one after another as ‘Kali Kedua’ (‘The Second Time’), a track by Raisa, a popular Indonesian singer was playing on my iPod while I was on the plane, departing from the cultural city of Yogyakarta where my fellow Americans and I have spent two and a half months studying bahasa Indonesia at. There I was, wishing that I could return to that magical place for the second time. Studying the local language we did, and that greatly helped us in establishing relations with the local people during the course of our limited time in the Southeast Asian nation. If someone were to ask me what I miss most about Indonesia, however, I would definitely have to honestly reply, the people; the uber amiable and hospitable Indonesians whom I have had the privilege of bertemu-ing (which in my brain translates to ‘meeting’ as I struggle not to use Indonesian upon my recent return to American soil, but Indonesian manages to slip out and into my daily attempts of self-expression somehow) will be something that will remain engrained in my cherished memories for as long as I live.
On (A Different Kind of) Diversity
Having spent my teenage years growing up in Baltimore, Maryland and attending university at the nation’s capital, I was no stranger to the diversity that existed among the people in the aforementioned East coast cities. After I have spent a bit over two months in Indonesia, however, I realised that the country was as diverse as the American melting pot back home, but it was a berbeda (different) kind of diversity though – one that was perhaps less manifested in terms of appearance and accents but more in terms of localities and religions. For instance, most orang asing (foreigners) like myself would not necessarily know that an Indonesian is from this one town on this one island simply by looking at him or her unlike in America, where an individual may look Indian, but he or she may actually be from Indianapolis.
One extraordinary trait that I have found the majority of Indonesians possess is their warm and welcoming demeanour towards foreigners. From the host families on the island of Java whom I have spent my summer with to the locals on the island of Lombok whom I have never met before in my life, both were almost always willing to lend a hand and go beyond the definition of hospitality, especially in situations where most typical Americans will hesitate to offer help when they see someone, let alone foreigners in need. (To our defence, the culture of liability and suing is more prevalent in American than in Indonesia, but still – you get my point.)
The Young, Wild and (Relatively) Free
This last note concerns the lives of typical Indonesian youths who primarily reside in the college town of Yogyakarta based on my observations during my time there. Like most of my fellow USINDO Summer Studies participants, I found the pervasiveness of Western, namely American music in Indonesia, especially among the youth to be astounding. What do I mean? For instance, an Indonesian teenager can sing perfectly and effortlessly to ‘Back that Ass Up’ despite speaking broken English in real life – a phenomenon not uncommon in Indonesia. Moreover, most young Indonesians whom I have interacted with dated freely but not as wildly as American youths, if you know what I mean. Granted, some Indonesian families are stricter than others, depending on the family’s religion in a good number of cases, but in general, Indonesian youths of today are of course young, not as wild as the typical American teenager, and relatively free to say and do as they please.
Rose’s Testimony for the Two-Day Post Programme Event in Jakarta
The post programme event brought into perspective the views of representatives of the Indonesian public sector that complemented our experience in Indonesia as a whole since we have already spent the majority of our time interacting with the Indonesian people, mostly youths in the relatively liberal city of Yogyakarta. Thus, it was nice to hear from what the people running the country had to say after having spent some time getting to know its people.