Happy Birthday, Indonesia

AS Indonesia celebrates its 67th Independence Day, Marcella Purnama reflects on why she’ll always be proud to call the country home.

Photo: snydez

It’s raining.

I’m sitting here with a cup of latte to the left of me and passion fruit cake on my right. So Western, I know.

I am the only Asian (by far) in this small local cafe in North Melbourne, and yet I feel like I’m home.

And I’m home. I love Melbourne and all it has to offer.

But I have a lot of homes.

Indonesia is one of them.

I come from a very busy capital city, Jakarta, with a lot of traffic jams, and it often takes you two hours to get anywhere. Like most Indonesians, I often complained about the humidity, played badminton, and ate street food after school every day.

Even now, I eat Indomie once a week, and I listen to weird Indonesian songs about breaking up and cheating on others. True story.

I grew up reading news of corruption and injustice. Shopping malls were the places to be on weekends.

During primary school, I was the flag bearer. I learned how to walk like one, and talk like one. I memorised the Proclamation of Independence by heart. And despite every criticism  I’ve made about my country, I still love it.

And yet I’m not a very patriotic Indonesian. Deep down, I want Indonesia to become a better place, but I just don’t want to be involved in the equation it takes to get there.

A street food vendor in Jakarta. Photo: diloz

Coming to Melbourne and befriending other nationalities, I’ve realised Indonesians are – in a sense – a bunch of followers. Everything that is done by Western societies allure us. We value branded stuff. We use Blackberries like they are our lifelines. We are loud talkers. We hate going out of our comfort zones. But you know what? Indonesians have a very strong sense of community.

Some of my fellow Indonesians are patriotic, some are patriotic one day a year, and some want to detach any connection they have their home country.

Truth be told, there are a lot of reasons to hate Indonesia.

Money rules, power rules, and corruption is everywhere. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. We lack political figures who stand for the country out of genuine love (and not money), and we have too many people who in the end, become corrupt.

But there is one reason to love it.

Indonesia is Indonesia.

It’s the place where I was born, my homeland. And I’m proud of it.

I grew up there. It’s my first world. My first taste of life. It’s the language I speak, and the food I eat.

It’s my home.

Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta. Photo: frosynova via flickr

I read an Indonesian novel once. In it, the author Donny Dhirgantoro wrote,

“And even though you know how bad the news in the papers and…how broken our country is you will always say that you love this country.”

I agree.

I’ve said this before, but let me say it again: no matter how many sandwiches I have for lunch, how much coffee I have for breakfast, and how much I talk and write in English, at the end of the day I crave for rice and hot tea.

Because I’m Indonesian, and I will always be.

Yesterday was my country’s 67th birthday. And I’m sitting here in a Melbourne cafe, trying to be patriotic – listening to Indonesian songs, commenting on friends’ statuses of how proud they are of their home country.

I’ve now realised, Indonesia will always have a place in my heart. And maybe that makes me just a little bit patriotic after all.

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