Indonesia is my second home. Whenever I am away too long, I begin to relive memories, picture places and feel and smell the humid air. I have lost count of the times I have found myself sitting in class in Melbourne drifting back to hour-long tours (taxi rides) of Jakarta, particularly when it’s a cold wet Melbourne day like today. I can’t remember the first time I visited Indonesia as a very small child. When I was very young, Indonesia was so special to me because it was full of not only friendly familiar faces but also a constant stream of warm encounters with strangers. My memories have blurred together, running through every season of my life with Indonesia a constant element.
In my memories familiar elements repeat themselves in a comforting rhythm: the call to prayer, good food, constant summer, relaxed and friendly faces, endless smiles and laughter. These experiences taught me the true meaning of pluralism; “Unity in Diversity”. It taught me how to be open-minded and tolerant in the face of cultural diversity by providing me constant opportunities to encounter those from different faiths, backgrounds and dreams. I believe that knowing more about what others believe in strengthens and enriches my own beliefs. It also allowed me to embrace notions foreign to many in Australia, such as ‘rubber time’ (jam karet). First resisting and resenting, then succumbing and surrendering, I embraced ‘rubber time’ and learnt that what needs to get done does get done, but it takes its time and requires sensitivity and patience because people are more important than ‘to-do’ lists.
However, as time has gone I have become poignantly aware of how fortunate I am to not only being able to regularly go to Indonesia, but also to be living in Australia in remarkable comfort and security, which is so easily taken for granted. Indonesia, like all other developing countries, is plagued with great socio-economic inequality. Inevitably friends there are mostly drawn from the wealthiest section of Indonesian society. They have drivers, cooks, maids and so forth. Whilst I enjoy middle-class comforts with them it isn’t hard for me to see those who are far less well off only metres away from where we stay, such as street kids trapped in the cycle of poverty, drug abuse, pain and despair.
Nevertheless, in all of this I see hope and positivity. Indonesia is a nation of in genuity, vibrancy and creativity. I believe that Indonesia will thrive as a nation because it provides people with political, social and economic hope, opportunities and optimism. I cannot wait to see where Indonesia goes in the future. I know that Indonesia will always play a very important role in my life.
Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws Monash University
(Foto: dok. Neng Yanti)