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Proudly Indonesian

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Proudly Indonesian

Orang bilang tanah kita tanah surga

Tongkat kayu dan batu jadi tanaman

Orang bilang tanah kita tanah surga

Tongkat kayu dan batu jadi tanaman

– Lyric from the famous hit “Kolam Susu” by the legendary band Koes Plus

 

It was 2012 when I decided, after almost a decade living in Australia, that I would leave my well-paying job and my cozy apartment in the CBD of Melbourne to go back to Indonesia “for good”.

“For good” which means “permanently”, interestingly, is the term Indonesians living overseas uses to describe relocating back to our home country, and sometimes I wonder why it sounds a little pessimistic. Although as I settled back in Indonesia, and even now, almost 5 years after the fact, many people still ask me: Why did you come back here? And yes, many have that expression on their faces that would justify a swear word between the word why and did.

Like many people who are in the same boat as me, I never had one answer to that question. It depends on who asks and when. The major reason for me was to live closer to my aging parents and to take care of them (my only brother lives overseas as well). However, there was this other reason that almost felt spiritual, and I literally told people this: I felt a wave of change is coming and I would like to be part of it.

Call me a romantic or an idealist, but when I heard of our now-President Jokowi, I knew it was a sign of change. Like many Indonesians my age, I was brought up aware of all the corruption and sleaziness our country’s officers are capable of, but never had this hope that it would one day change, let alone having a President that is clean and full of integrity.

When I came back I was 27 years old and I believed that many Indonesians my age, who feel nothing short but disgust over how this country was run and how corruption has become a lifestyle and mindset, are starting to take up prominent places. Not just in government, but also private sectors, where change is imminent and necessary.

Our parent’s generation, even if they wanted to, could never make the change we are now capable of. The behavior was engraved in their bones so permanently; it is impossible to ask them to change without stripping them off their bones. But for us, the youngsters, we are different. We are the new wave, the fresh start this country needs. The next generation of leaders, change makers, innovators, everything this country needs to reach closer to its full potential. And what a potential it has!

According to a report by PWC, one of the largest professional services firms in the world, Indonesia is predicted to rise from its current position of eighth to become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2050. With a population of more than 250 million and growing, it really is not a huge surprise. Indonesia has so many natural resources, from natural gas, spices, and even many precious metals. Not to mention its rich and diverse cultures spanning thousands of islands, many with still-active volcanoes, making it one the most fertile places on Earth to grow just about anything. Just like what the song by Koes Plus says, translated loosely into English – people say our land is a heavenly land. Put a stick and stone in the earth and it becomes a plant. The song might be exaggerating, but not by much.

A week before I started my job in Jakarta, I decided to travel to Jogja and Solo with a couple of friends. As we arrived, a kind old man who turns out to be our driver greeted us. His name is Pak Bimo. As we sit down to have breakfast, we uncovered that actually, Pak Bimo is not just a driver, he is an entrepreneur. He runs no less than 5 different rental websites and he updates them daily with snippets of paraphrased news item from local and national news outlets. When we advised him to create a Tripadvisor page to complement his websites, he just nodded and smiled.

Later, at lunch, he politely asked me to help him create the page while handing me a mini notebook computer together with a mobile modem. Needless to say, I was impressed. To me, that trip impacted me profoundly. Not only I got to see Jogja & Solo, which offers so many beautiful sights & cultural information that reminded me of how rich my country is, but I also met and learned from this kind man about what Indonesians are great at – perseverance!

This July will mark the 5 years since I left Australia. In these five years alone through my travel business, I have been privileged to visit so many beautiful places such as Komodo National Park, Sumba, Gili, Wakatobi and Raja Ampat. I have encountered not just the beautiful animals, mountains, parks, volcanoes, corals, but also the beautiful people. In many ways, I am grateful that I am Indonesian and I can identify myself as part of this group of people I have encountered during my travels – warm, genuine, hardworking, humble.

Indonesia is indeed the land of milk and honey, and I am excited to be part of this country’s greatest wave of change since its inception. My only wish is for more young people to work their hardest to become the best in their fields and as their influence grows, be the shining example of the change we all need to see more of in this country. Yes, we have a lot of work to do, but promise me, friends, instead of complaining & mocking, be the solution and not part of the problem!

Now, it is only fitting that as we mark the 72nd year of our independence, we boldly say we are proudly Indonesian and start to act like one.

 

By Kennita Kurniawan
Having been away from Indonesia for half of her adult life, Kennie only discovered her full love for travel in Indonesia when she came home in 2012. Two years later, TravelPeople was established – out of the passion to introduce more of Indonesia to fellow Indonesians & the people of the world. Kennie believes that travel is much more than just sightseeing or an escape. It is a great opportunity to learn from the world outside of our own – giving meaning and context to life itself.