I bought a book recently at Jogja’s airport before I went home to Bogor as they have bigger variety of books than the one downtown. I came across this book called “Indonesia Etc. Exploring the Improbable Nation” by Elizabeth Pisani. This has been in the corner of my eye for a while, but most days I find no interest in reading books on Indonesia, written by foreign authors as I feel like they couldn’t capture the true essence of my country. Therefore I took a moment to read what this book is all about and the author, Elizabeth has been experiencing Indonesia a little bit over two decades, dating back to the fall of our former president Suharto in 1998, as his 32-year dictatorship was coming to an end. She traveled to remote places, witnessed ancient traditions and commented on changes in the hustle and bustle of the capital today.
Those facts alone drove me on to get the book and when I went to the cashier, the middle-aged man smiled, commented on my purchase, which indirectly tells me that he has read it himself. “There’s quite the criticism of this country by her, but I guess that’s the way for all of us to learn”. There is truth to that because if we close our ears at the mention of our own faults, there is no way of moving on.
So, I do admit. This developing country has its grey areas with conflicts arising among society, displays of increasing consumerism among the elite and capable of Jakarta, the never-ending religious tension, and shocking yet gradually non-surprising corruption cases within high officials. And I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of horrible natural disasters and people who have lost their homes due to the rules of law. Basically, there is so much to work on.
But then again it has moments where I feel nothing but wholesome pride of being an Indonesian. We have islands that exquisitely flaunt the rich culture, where culinary adventures is an everyday phenomenon, and hospitable people that are constantly curious about you. What I’m trying to say is, no matter how much I shake my head at the flaws that this country has to reveal, its charm will never stop pulling you in and so far, Elizabeth Pisani has expressed this idea as well. In the book, she refers to Indonesia as the Bad Boyfriend which I thought was a funny and endearing term, “you know it will end in tears, but you keep coming back for more”. Therefore, despite the endless traffic jams, I know I will miss being in one as ridiculous as it sounds. With this book in addition to my own experiences, I do hope that I can make a difference in my own country as it develops. No matter where I’ll be in life, I’ll never forget where I’ll come from.