Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
Feedback: indonesia.anonymus at gmail dot com


Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The journey of a broken heart 7 - The End

7. Life

(Note: this is part 7 of 'the journey' series. To read from the beginning, click here.)

I have been racking my brain trying to find things from my trip that I think is worth sharing, alas to no avail. Oh well. Too bad I did not keep notes along the way. So I guess this would be the last post of the series.

It would be nice, of course, if after I got back from the trip, and after all of my posts, my girlfriend took me back. Or if during my trip I met someone new. But no. This is not a tv drama. Life does not work that way.

But at least I learned a lot.

So, if you have never done this kind of trip, I would really recommend it to you. Trust me, it will worth your while.

I will use this post to share a few pointers that I learned, to hopefully help you have a better trip and better experience than I did.

1. The logistics

You all know this: Travel light, make sure the clothes you have are easy to clean and quick to dry (that means no jeans). Wear comfortable shoes, bring a raincoat (not umbrella) and bring enough cash. (Do not rely on ATM). Secure your cash in separate pockets. (I used a pouch that I hang on my chest under my shirt for my 'cash reserve', and put just enough for the day in separate pockets for easy access.)

2. Go alone

I am not sure I recommend this to the ladies because I am not sure if it is safe, but if you are a guy like me, do try to go alone. Of course it is more fun to go with your friends, but unfortunately, it won't be the same. If you are in a group, you will care more about your group and less about your surrounding. You will talk more among yourselves and less to the people you meet along the way. When you are alone, you have no choice but to listen to yourself and to the people you meet.

3. Set yourself free

I had my cellphone with me during my trip, and from time to time when I lost signal coverage on my phone, I got really anxious.What if someone called me? What if something happened at work that needed my attention? What if I received an important email? What if this and that and the other?
Every moment felt like my life is passing me by.

After a while, I realized that actually it is the opposite:
Actually, when I spend my time worrying about all the above, THAT's when my life is passing me by. Life is what you see, what you hear, what you feel. Life is what happen at this moment. Not the what ifs.

So don't be like me. Set yourself free. Turn your phone off.

In your deathbed, you will never wish to have a little bit more time to use your cellphone or to check your email. No. But you'll probably wish you had more time to go places, see more, hear more, taste more, know more, experience more. This is your chance.

4. Not too long, not too short

I went for about three weeks in total. To me it felt a bit too long. After a while, the experience became increasingly similar from one city to the next, and the vanity started to wear off. I began to feel tired and bored. When that happened, I failed to experience things. I failed to appreciate my surroundings. I lost focus.

In the future, I probably would go for two weeks max. Three weeks is a bit too long and one week is probably too short.

5. It is not a walk in the park

I am not going to lie to you. The trip will be tough. It's not easy, and at times, no fun at all. There were moments where I found myself eager to just drop everything and go home. (In fact, if I did not have all my friends betting against me, I probably would have given up).

My most favorite thing about my trip is this:
The people. They are nice. Beautiful wonderful amazing people.
And the least favorite thing is:
The people. Some of them are just plain annoying.

Sure, the nice people outnumber the annoying ones, but it just takes one annoying a-hole to really ruin your day. And unfortunately, They are not in short supply. Annoying people are everywhere, ready to draw your anger and make your day miserable.

To handle this, let me tell you a story:
When I was a kid, my neighbour had a monkey (The small grey type we commonly see in Bali). The monkey was chained by his waist at the front yard, by a tree. Obviously, he was one grumpy monkey. (I would be too if I were chained like that. Not sure why my neighbour would do such a thing).
So this monkey would throw stuff at people passing in front of the house. He'd throw his food, branches, anything. And the worst that happened to me was when he threw his feces at me.
Bad, bad monkey.

But even after all that, I was never angry at him. Never. He's a monkey. Monkey does not think like us. I understand that. I understand him.

So that's what I do when I meet annoying people.
I picture them as my neighbour's monkey.
That way I can prevent myself from getting angry and ruin my day.
(And now that I am back at work, I started to see more and more monkeys at work too...)

The point is, you are the one in control. Not them. Do not let anybody or anything ruin your day.
Your trip can be fun, or it can be miserable. It's (mostly) up to you.

Well, that's it from me. Feel free to add more if you think you have some pointers that would be useful for me and other readers.

Before I go, I would like to thank all of you who set aside some time to leave comments on this series. Among them are: Felicia, Piqs, nCy.vLa, Ronzak, Colson, Hendro, John Orford, Hilmy, Silverlines, Kamil, Michael, Oscar Guo, B4nch4, YuGho, Kutubusuk, Roi, Nancy Indrawati, Nena, and others I may have missed.
When I started this series, it felt like I was talking to myself when I wrote it. But after a few posts and receiving your comments, everytime I started a new post, it felt like I was talking to you. As if I was telling you my story. Suddenly writing is not a solitary activity anymore.You guys are great and I thank you all.

I also would like to thank Jakartass, who has been very kind in giving me a few pointers to correct the grammatical errors in this series, as well as a generous plug.

Lastly, thank you to my Indonesia Anonymus (IA) colleagues, who lend me this space and showed me the joy of writing. I shall seriously consider your advice to start my own blog someday. I never thought writing can be so much fun.

Thank you. To all of you.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The journey of a broken heart 6

6. The Big Sister

(Note: this is part 6 of 'the journey' series. To read from the beginning, click here.)

One day I was on a bus, on my way to the next city. At one point, we passed a market, and the bus slowed down into a crawl. It was a hot day and the bus of course had no air conditioning. So while struggling to overcome the heat, I looked outside and tried to find fresh air through the gap in the window.

And then I saw this:
A girl, probably not older than fifteen years old (I am not good at guessing kid's age), walking on the side of the street, moving forward skillfully avoiding the crowds. On her back, she was carrying... a younger boy. Probably her brother. They looked alike. Both were wearing school uniform.

My mind started to wonder.
"Why is she carrying him?"

My eyes automatically went down to the boy's legs, and then I got it: the boy's legs were small as if they were only skin and bones.

I am guessing it's because of polio. (I could be wrong, but if it were polio, it is such a shame, since polio is a preventable desease).

My mind started to make up a story about the two kids: Maybe they're going back from school. the brother cannot walk, so the big sister everyday has to take him to school and pick him up afterwards. What a sweet big sister.

But sooner or later the brother will grow heavier, and probably bigger than the sister. What would they do then?

Why don't they use a wheelchair?

A few seconds after I asked that question, I realized how stupid that was.
Really: is this the kind of place where you can get around on a wheelchair? No.

Long time ago, my parents took me on a trip to Europe, and as we travel in some cities in Germany, from time to time I noticed people on wheelchairs, going about their business. I was a kid then, and that was a sight I almost never saw in the street of Jakarta.

So I asked my father: "How come there are more people on wheelchairs here? I don't see many of them in Jakarta..."

My dad was of course too busy with something else to care, so I did not have the answer then.
That time I foolishly thought, there must be a lot less number of disabled-people in Jakarta....

Oh how stupid.

You don't see them in Jakarta because THEY CANNOT GET AROUND.
They cannot go anywhere without help. That's why you don't see much of them.

This boy that I saw, could not go to school if he had no big sister to carry him.

I started to think about my world when I was a kid. What would happen if I were on a wheelchair? I thought about the neighbourhood where I lived: Would I be able to go to school by myself?
Could I go to the bookstore to buy my comic books by myself?
Could I go visit my friends and play?
On my own, I would not be able to go further than the front yard. Further than that, I would need help.

I thought about my school. There was no lift in my school. No ramp. Just stairs. How could I go to the classroom without any help? Impossible.
Elementary school, Junior high, High school, all stairs, stairs, stairs.

If I were that little boy, where would I be now?

As a saying goes, "A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members".
So what does this say about us, I wonder. We build our world without thinking about them much.

So whose fault is it? The government's fault, for not paying attention to the disabled?
Or is it our fault, for not giving enough pressure to the government to pay attention to our less-fortunate fellow-citizen?

I recalled one time when I was a student, walking with my mother, on the street near my father's office. There were people repairing the sidewalks on both side of the street at the time. I remember my mom once asked one of the people there:

"How come you did not make the sidewalk with ramps on both ends so it is easier for mothers with baby-strollers to use the sidewalk?"

And their answer was:
"Because then motorcyclists will ride on the sidewalks when the traffic is bad..."

That time I thought it was a sensible answer. Now not anymore.

(So, if you are a motorcyclist and you ride on the sidewalk to avoid the traffic, you may have contributed in making the life of people with disabilities more difficult.
Talk about the chaos theory's "the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas" ! )

For us, a sidewalk with no curb ramp is a minor annoyance. For people on wheelchairs, it's everything.

As I watched the boy bouncing about on his sister's back, I asked myself:
What kind of future will this boy have? Would he be able to go to college? Find a job? I really hope so.

And as I watched the girl carrying her little brother, I cannot help thinking on a more personal note. I am an only child. I never know how it feels to have a sibling. And after I saw this girl, I could only think of one thing:

I wish I had a big sister.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The journey of a broken heart 5

(Note: this is part 5 of 'the journey' series. To read from the beginning, click here.)

5. Breakfast at Sutini's

Somehow, when it comes to food, it was not the lunches or the dinners that I remember most from my trip. It was the breakfasts. Lunch was always hectic because I was always running around. And dinner, well, most of the time I was just too exhausted to even enjoy anything.

But breakfasts were always magical.

And no, I did not mean the hotel's freebie breakfast. I am not an early person and hotel's breakfast is always a turn-off when you are late. I always went out to the street to find my breakfast. The more traditional the better. It's part of the 'immersing myself' thing.

It was great. Even now, after I got back for a while, I can still remember the nice smell of fresh cooking emanating from the food stalls'. Just the image makes me hungry.

In one of those days during the trip, my daily search of breakfast led me to Ibu Sutini's food stall. Well, ok, I confess: I don't really know her name because I never asked. I just put Sutini because it sounds better than calling her 'Mrs. X' or something. And yes, because I want it to rhyme with the title of Audrey Hepburn's movie.

Ibu Sutini's stall was one among a few along the street near a market. It was small, with three benches forming a U shape surrounding a counter with food behind a small glass shelf. When I got there two men were already eating on the other side.

I sat and Ibu Sutini automatically served me hot tea. She then prepared the food I ordered silently.

Then when she brought the plate she asked: "So, where are you from?"

I got that a lot. I don't understand why because I thought I did not dress that different from the rest of the population. Maybe it's the bulging backpack. Or the language. Obviously I don't speak the local language.

Since I was frequently asked the same question over and over everywhere, I did not really take it seriously. I just said I came from Jakarta and wanted to go to Surabaya. This would save me from answering the usual next question of "where are you going?"

"You're not working?" she asked. I was struggling to drink the hot tea (when this folks boil water, they really BOIL it. It was almost always insanely hot), so I just shook my head.

Nope. Not at the moment.

And then as I was eating, there was some distant yelling from the back, not sure from where. I could not see. Something about a thing that would not turn on. Ibu Sutini yelled back and turned around.

"I'll be right back," she said to me and to the two other guys.

"No, wait," said one of the two men. "We're pretty much done. Can we just pay so we can go?" He stood up to reach his wallet. "We're in a rush and we can't wait until you..."

But Ibu Sutini was already halfway visible. "Give the money to him." she said pointing at me and then took off.

I choked.´ "Whoa, no, no, no, no. Wait.."
But by then she was gone. I could hear her voice yelling "Yes, I am comiiiing..." fading away.

"Don't worry," said one of the men calmly. "Just give this to her when she gets back." They put some money next to my plate and left.

This is crazy, I thought. Ibu Sutini is out of her mind. I could just walk off right now and got myself some free money and a free breakfast. What was she going to do? Chase me? Either she is a really good judge of character (that she somehow knew that I would not run with her money), or she is just careless (and someday someone will rob her blind because of it). I would think the latter is more likely.

A while later Ibu Sutini came back. I was glad nobody came when she was gone. What was I supposed to do then? Start serving food?

I gave her the money that the two men gave me. I did not know what the amount was, but Ibu Sutini did not seem to care. She just said thank you, took the cash and put them in a tin without counting. My God. I could have run away with that tin too. She would have lost even more money.

So I told her: "You souldn't do that, you know. I could have run away with your money."

She looked at me puzzled.
"But you didn't. I know you won't. So what's the problem?"

Whatever. If she said so. I took that as a compliment.

When I was done, I paid for my meal and got up to leave. As I was stepping out from her stall, I heard her say to me:

"Mudah-mudahan cepat dapat kerja ya!" (
I hope you find a job soon!

What? So all those time she thought I was unemployed? Oh well. Whatever. After all, she asked whether I was working or not, and I shook my head. It's not her fault if she made the conclusion.

I just said thank you nicely and left.

While walking, I looked down to see myself. Well of course. My clothes were not exactly clean, my shoes were dirty from the dust of hot dry days on the road. Top it up with a bulging disheveled backback, it is no wonder if she thought I was a poor unemployed bum.

And yet she still trusted me with her stall? and her money? What's all that about? If it were me, I wouldn't keep my eyes off this stinky bum.

I did not think much about it until later, at night when I was about to go to sleep.

Up to that day, I had been absent from the office for almost two weeks. Someone else was doing my job while I was gone. And that someone probably would do the job just as good, if not better. I could just disappear right now and everything at the office will go business as usual.

They don't need me.
My job does not need me.

It's me who needs my job. I need it to define who I am.
When I see myself in the mirror, I do not see ME. I see a job description. I see a person working at bla, with a bla title and a bla position with a bla salary. Bla bla bla. When I ask myself who I am, I cannot answer without invoking something related to my job.

Without all that, who AM I? I can't say.

In the meantime, here in this city, Ibu Sutini, a lady I have never met before in my life, see a poor unemployed bum, went way past that and managed to see ME. She did not let my bum-look affect the way she thinks about me.

I let my job define who I am. Oh, what a big mistake it was.

My girlfriend -- well, ex girlfriend -- dumped me. And she dumped me because she said I never got my priorities straight. Her classic example was this:

One day, she was at work, rushing in the hallway when someone opened a door really fast from the other side and somehow hit her face and broke her nose. At the time I was busy in the middle of something "important" and did not go to see her until she was released from the hospital.

Looking back, that was just insensitive and stupid.
That work-thing that I said was important? The one that kept me from going to the hospital? I honestly cannot even remember what it was. (If it was really THAT important, I would have remembered. So clearly, whatever it was, I could just drop everything and go).

I was a jerk.

And aparrently, there were many other occassions where I just failed to be with her, because I had something 'more important' at work.

I was a frequent-flyer jerk.

"It's just a job!" she said always when she was angry. And she was right. No wonder she dumped me. It's the logical thing to do. After all, what can she expect would happen in the future? Anniversaries forgotten, kid's birthday missed, sick families ignored? What kind of life would that be?

I can't believe it took me a breakfast hundreds of miles from home just to open my eyes.
I felt really really stupid.

(If there is anything, I surely hope she reads this. Did I mention I called myself 'jerk' twice in this post? That should count for something, right?)

note: my apology to the rest of my IA colleagues, for turning this blog into a sad attempt to apologize to a girl. But hey. You guys did told me I can write anything I want. So there.