“If you give them something to do, they would ask you for the solutions before trying themselves.”

We crossed the quiet road. A red car came from the left, the sunshine was reflected by its passing windshield. My sunglasses minimized the dazzle.

“That’s the bad thing about Indonesians. They don’t want to think.”

I did not respond. We walked on the wide Fremantle sidewalk. Summer was still knocking on the door, hence the 37-degree-day warms the city. I adjusted the position of my sunglasses, trying to ignore the weather and listen to his story.

He talked about his friend, a couple years ago, who called him to invite him for a barbecue party. On the phone, his friend kept insisting him to come because he could not turn the barbecue on. Eventually, he came. I imagined our guy went through Jakarta traffic just to deal with the gas and fire. Fremantle stuffy air helped me to imagine Jakarta better. He interrupted me.

“If you can’t turn on the barbecue, what would you do?”

I looked at him, stared at the reflection of my tiny face on his black sunglasses. I flicked my thumb quickly, twice. A lighter.

“Exactly”, he said, concealed his smile with words, “that is only one example.”

We crossed the road to find some shaded pavings. I thought we would talk about the weather like the Australians when they have nothing to say. But, he kept digging his memory. He then talked about a remarkable event that happened several months ago in Indonesia. Due to the extremely low price, some farmers threw away their tomatoes in the ditch. Was it about pride? Rumour has it so.

But my friend did not buy it.

“Why didn’t they can it?”

Then he explained about shelf lives, market price, and other reasons.

“They are not well educated, I think.”

Somehow, I was answering on behalf of my country. My first denial of the day.

“It’s about common sense. We don’t need to go to school for that.”

Senses make neurons emit signal to the same part of the brain as before where the memories stored. Hippocampus is the place where those processes take the action (credit to the Breaking Bad series for that cool explanation).

We just passed a two-story red brick building on the left. A secondhand bookshop which, well, activated my hippocampus. That homey window display reminded me of the little book shelf in my room. Then those silent nights in Bandung. Then the images of Andrea Hirata, A. Fuadi and Agustinus Wibowo on the last book pages. Then more travel writers’ faces and names. All of them had written their adventures only to summarize; leave your country to learn more about it.

On that day in Perth, out of nowhere, I witnessed it. I saw Indonesia through a different perspective. Only one odd thing, that perspective was coming from another Indonesian.


Fremantle is like a rainbow which is surrounded by the rain and the sun, it is owned by two opposite characters. The lonely ones would spend their money at the top of the Ferris wheel. They can also enjoy their private time on a city train, where the clear blue Indian Ocean would accompany the journey to the CBD. Yet the livelier people would be filling the cafés’ chairs along the main road, or grabbing fish and chips on the crowded jetty, just like what we did, 45 minutes before crossing the road.

“Tell me about work in Jakarta.” He asked me.

After one bite of the tasteless chips, I told him about the daily routine of Jakarta people. The workers who leave for work before the sunrise, some of them prefer to sleep in the parking lot till eight in the morning, then leaving office after Isya pray. They endure all of those for one single reason: avoiding the traffic jam. People who are not used to bringing lunch from home, the coffee shops are getting more and more popular, and the peaceful road during the weekend when they go to Bandung for shopping.

I am not sure if I explained the ‘right’ point of view.

A regret smile showed on his skinny face. A train whispered in the distance.


Are Indonesians that bad?

I kept asking myself. But the more I resisted, the more people faces came from the half remembered memories. The one who neglected her thesis because she did not know how to deal with her supervisor, my friend who needed money but did not try to find a job, and myself four years ago who liked a girl but had no action.

They confirmed my friend’s statements. They wished their problems were solved by themselves.

We walked faster under the hotter weather. He was going to his cozy air-conditioned office, while my mind was on the train that would bring me to the city. After a moment of silence, he gave me another question and answer.

“You know why? Because labor in Indonesia is so cheap. Kalo ada masalah panggil aja tukang disuruh benerin.” (If you have problems, just call the tradie to fix it)

Finally he spoke in Indonesian. Maybe that particular kind of anger could not be expressed in English. I nodded. Agreed. The cheap human resources in Indonesia can be explained in several ways. Technology, over population, inflation, low UMR (minimum average salary), and other painful reasons. We were at the narrow shopping area, some children were running around under the shady trees. One more block after Adelaide Street and I would turn to the left to Fremantle Station.

But he did not leave me in peace. He wasn’t finished, there was another closing sentence.

“They let someone else to solve their problems. They don’t want to think. They are not used to learning.”