Thursday, September 11, 2008

Well, it's Indonesians! Is it?

Last weekend, I went out with some friends for a dinner. I haven’t met some of them for quite a while, so it was a nice reunion. My German friend, Christopher, who has been spending some time in Indonesia for his study, brought along his friend, Christine. Both of them are currently having an internship as part of their study in Indonesia.

As usual we talked about random things, such the traffic in Jakarta, the overload parking lot in most of shopping malls during weekends and our activities now. Soon, we got bored and started to bother the Germans with stupid questions about how they ended up here and how they adapt so far.

For Christopher, Indonesia is not too unfamiliar of a country, since he has been here in couple occasions and in a quite long period. I met Chris on November 2005, in Semarang, where he became a facilitator in a conference that I attended. Since then, he has been travel to some parts of Indonesia and stayed in Yogyakarta and Bali for his study, now in Jakarta. He even drove a car here. Pretty impressive. Then, I asked him about his experienced of driving in Indonesia, and the answers are quite amusing, even though I have predicted it.

Christ said that the traffic is quite understandable for a big city like Jakarta, but what makes it worse is how the drivers are very undisciplined and chaotic. “Indonesians don’t drive in a straight line” he exclaimed. As sad as it was said, it is very true. I just smiled bitterly. Once, he got caught by police officer for violating the traffic light, which he said it was still yellow but unfortunately he was the last one in the queue. The officer yelled that the traffic has turned red and asked him for his driving license. It went worse. The officer started to wave a piece of paper and exclaimed that Chris have to pay one million rupiah for his mistake. Experienced by his journey in Indonesia so far, Chris handed him twenty thousand rupiah to him and he got through. Way to go for promoting the country to foreigners!

This time, I asked Christine about how she thinks about Indonesia. She said that Indonesia is beautiful. She had traveled to Bali, Lake Toba and as far as Flores. She really liked Flores, for the beach was so beautiful with the white sand as far as eyes can see. The sea is so clear that you can see three meters below you. The downside is the transportation is so bad. The road is so bumpy and made the usual 30-45 minutes travel to be more than one-and-a-half hours. She also said that there should be more decent motels with decent sanitations. Something that we need to improve since we have roared out loud to the world with Visit Indonesia 2008.

On my journey home I pondered to myself about the impressions of Indonesia by my foreign friends. I am amazed they are so understandable about the things that happened here. The bad sanitation, the law, the traffic and etc. Chris even became so understandable to the custom that he bribe the police officer to let him go. They just said, well, it is so Indonesian. Well, it might be is. And it is sad.

And what will I do? I remember what Pramoedya Ananta Toer wrote in Bumi Manusia (This Earth of Mankind), it goes more or less like this, “Learn from European countries, from there you can learn about your country”. I will learn more about my country, understand the strengths and weaknesses and therefore, able to make a positive change.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A simple gesture...

There was a time when I travel by bus everyday, waiting at the same spot, waiting for the same bus and recognizing all my surroundings by heart. I was always leaning back against the fence, waiting for my bus to pass by. It was never been an easy task since most of the bus look the same, even though they go to different directions. I have to always be ready to wave my hand and jump in to the right bus. On my right, beside a bench, there is always this fat guy selling drinks and cigarettes. And on my left, there are always the same bunch of bus drivers, resting and joking, waiting for their turn to take the ride. Everyone else are just like me, waiting eagerly for the right bus.

One day, a lady caught my attention. She walked slowly towards the bench, carrying her daughters on her back, holding her son on her left hand and a big duffel bag on her right hand. She seems very tired, as if she carries the world's burden on her shoulder. And I just stared. Then, her daughter began to cry. Maybe because of the heat, or maybe she was thirsty. The lady, now placing her on the lap tried to calm her down. And I just stared. Not knowing what to do and try to mind my own business. Waiting for the bus.

Suddenly, the fat guy handed out a cup of milk coffee to the girl, said that she might be thirsty because of the heat. And I just stared. This time pondering about a very nice gesture that the fat guy made. Helping a complete stranger. Then, the fat guy asked where she wanted to go, and shouted the direction to the fellow bus crew afterwards. When the bus arrived, one of them grab the boy and the duffel bag and lead her into the bus, and managed to find a seat for this lady in the crowded bus. The fat guy yelled to the driver to take the lady to her destination. And the lady never paid for the milk coffee.

And what did I do? I just stared. This time with smile on my face and a sudden disappointment on myself. I am happy because there are still some people who actually ready to offer a helping hand to a complete stranger. And these people, they are not even wealthy and maybe, they are in need as well. What they give was not expensive at all, but it is priceless. And what did I do? I just stared. I did not give any helping hands nor any attention. I just stared.

Today, as I was reading this sentence from Paulo Coelho's short stories , "the greatness of God always reveals himself in the simple things", I thanked them for the lesson learned. God do always reveals himself in the simple things. That time, the simple thing help two people; the lady and me. It made me realized that compassion is not only to have, but to undertake.

Now, I still smiling every time I remember what they have done.

A simple gesture? Maybe.
Priceless? Indeed.