Thing Indonesians Dislike: Masuk Angin

Masuk angin is a native Indonesian illness that I found hard to described. Masuk itself means enter, while angin means wind. Thus, it is a condition where the body has too much gas and causing diarrhea, burp, vomit, trouble to fart and hiccups. I talked to a doctor and discussed about this illness and according to her,  masuk angin is not a medicine term. In medicine field, it is called common cold. Though Indonesians are concern about this illness, they never bother to ask doctor to cure them. Most of the time, Indonesia self-diagnose the illness and decide the best medicine to cure it.

Prevention

One can prevent the wind to get into the body by avoiding staying late (outside the house). If staying outside couldn’t avoided, then one must wear a jacket, a thick one. Standing in front of fan is also believed to be caused of masuk angin, so no matter how hot the weather is, staying away from the fan is a must.  Some people also blame room with AC, gladly,  I am not one of them.

Another secret to prevent masuk angin is to put thick jacket when riding a motorcycle. The jacket will not only prevent masuk angin but also reduce the change of getting dark from the sunlight. Parents also forbid their kids to drink cold water and playing water. However, they could go to swimming pool. And finally, one should always avoid walking under the rain and immediately grab an ojek payung. Let the ojek payung guy gets masuk angin.

Transition season, between dry to wet is often considered as the season where people easily get sick, so a real Indonesian would always staying away from the things mentioned above.

Medication

Kerokan

There are few traditional ways to cure masuk angin, including the famous Kerokan. It is the action to draw with pressure, using coin and balsam on the back, neck and also upper arms.

kerok

picture was randomly taken from the internet

Is it painful? I do not know, because I have never experience it and not interested to. However, I read that it is dangerous, because the friction between coin and the skin might causing wound. Hence, open invitation for bacteria and virus to have a party in the body. I am sure though that this is a very rare case. Kerokan also widened the blood vessels, that is why the skin becomes red.

Something Warm

Indonesians believe that masuk angin should be cured with something warm. So apart from drinking ginger, people rub oil to their body. The common oil that people use is cajuputi or telon. We likes oil so much that after a bath, a kid will be rub with telon oil to keep them warm.

Tolak angin

Tolak angin is a herbal liquid that use to combat masuk angin. I’ve only known this herb couple year ago, when I suddenly thrown up. A dear friend diagnosed that I had masuk angin and introduced me to the magical tolak angin. I love it so much that I brought two boxes to Ireland.

In its advertising, foreigners from all over the world  thanks Indonesia for inventing tolak angin. Two weeks ago, someone googled (and was directed to my blog) about:  bule minum tolak angin. This person might be watched the ads but did not believe that bule take tolak angin. I was thinking to ask Mr. G to drink tolak angin for fund, but then I found out that Abang Mike, a colleague and also a friend, likes tolak angin.

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So meet Mikel everyone, a foreigner bule who enjoys Tolak Angin especially when he has too much gas in his stomach (It’s call masuk angin Mikel). Anyway, Abang Mike isn’t the only person who enjoys Tolak Angin because her mom enjoys it as well. Well done Mama Mikel, we are so proud of you!

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How do you cure masuk angin?

Disclaimer: the view expressed in this post doesn’t represent the view of neither Indonesians nor bules. Author is neither marketing nor a buzzer of tolak angin. Should the marketing of Tolak Angin decides to send few boxes to the author and Mikel, both of them will welcome it with open arms.

How to Buy a Husband in Hong Kong

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What do you have in mind when you see this kind crowd? I am sure you will be attracted and naturally, you will come closer to see what they are selling.  I did the same and found this interesting banner:

husband

Being a shopaholic, I immediately bought one without trying to bargain. So, the next time someone ask when will I get married, I would tell them that I have bought my husband in Hong Kong.

Buy your husband in HK

For the single ladies out there who are interested to buy a husband, please book your ticket to to Hong Kong and take ferry to Cheng Chau Island in Hong Kong. Go grab your husband!

Birthday Party à la Indonesians

Having many friends from other countries exposed me to different style of birthday celebrations. In many of it, foreigners opt to go Dutch. Everyone pays for their own meal and chip in to cover the birthday person’s meal. To end the celebration, a present is usually given. There is of course a celebration where everyone is invited, and the cost borne by the birthday person, but it’s quite rare.

Contrarily, Indonesian students have a tradition to throw rotten eggs, flour and pour water to the birthday person. The tradition is being kept for years to make the birthday person feels special. Sometimes, it can go beyond, and one can be thrown to the pond. A friend of mine was so terrified with this idea, she put a sling on her hand the day after she was thrown out. Nobody cares, she still had to pay dinner for everyone. In Indonesia, paying lunch or dinner for everyone else, is a must. We call it, sharing happiness. In many cases, the birthday person ended up with neither present nor a birthday card.

As I grew up, birthday celebration changes, not much, but at least birthday no longer involved rotten eggs. Birthday person is still socially pushed to take their friends out for lunch or dinner. Upon wishing happy birthday, a friend (or acquaintance) will unashamedly ask the venue for lunch or dinner. The main problem is that Indonesians have too many friends; I think it’s because we categorized everyone as friend and do not segregate them into different level of friendship i.e acquaintance, travel buddy, colleagues or class mate.  Everyone that you meet, even for an hour, is a friend; hence more than 1000 Facebook friends.

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Invited these ‘friends’ for a nice meal and ended up soaking wet (2003)

Another problem, Indonesians do not know how to say NO to such request. They feel bad if they do not invite people for lunch or dinner. Consequently, someone who has lot of ‘friends’ must throw few dinners (and or karaoke) with different group. Wallet and credit cards will of course “scream in pain” as many of these friends often order the expensive meal (and pretended to forget the present). Amazingly, Indonesians do not mind feeding these friends (or maybe they do mind, but they couldn’t say that), even if the price to please these friends will make them live on budget for the next few months.

I celebrate birthday different at work. The birthday person has to buy the cake themselves, give it to a colleague who will arrange a so-called surprise celebration. The birthday person has to act surprised (and touched) by this act of love and thank everyone. If the birthday person wishes, lunch can be arranged, but there is no social pressure for this. People gather, chat and laugh together over a nice cake. Simpler yet nicer.

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My last birthday was celebrated in the ICU

What about me? I am very selective in inviting friends for my birthday. Call me proud, call me miser, I do not care. For me, birthday is a moment that I shall only spend with family and close friends over a nice meal to celebrate life. Present is not something that I care about, presence is. I do appreciate birthday card more than the present.

A ritual that I do on the morning of my birthday is to call my mom and my aunt (who raised me) and thank both for showering me with her love.

What do you usually do?

Thing Indonesians Dislike: Walking

Foreigners always complain about Indonesians who do not walk in public space.  They sometimes wonder why Indonesians walk for hours in a treadmill in gym but refuse to walk  and insist on taking taxi.  Most of the sidewalk in Indonesia is not safe, or should I say that most of the roads in Indonesia have no path walk. If we walk, it means we are endangering ourselves as we have to compete with cars and motorcycle.

If the place has trottoir, like the famous Sudirman road at Jakarta, it is usually occupied by street vendors and ojek, motor taxi.  The street vendors take some of the room and leave us with little space to walk (like the one in front of the Ministry of Education’s building). In this little space, we have to compete with ojek drivers too, who’s driving against the flow and is driving on the sidewalks.

Walking for people with visual impairment in Jakarta is even harder. Yes the Indonesians, government are doing better by providing Braille guide block in the path way to guide them. However, there are not many people (particularly the street vendors and the builders itself) who are not aware that the guiding block is to help people with visual impairment and not to kill them. People with visual impairment should struggle to find the guiding block, avoid the street vendors and safe their life from getting hit by ojek. How safe and inconvenience is that?

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We also love to grab taxi, even if it is only walking distance because it really is convenience. The AC keeps us for sweating at the very low price, flag fall for regular taxi in Indonesia is only 50 cents. Plus, we are helping the taxi driver company to get money. So we are killing two bird using one stone, being generous and convenience lazy at the same time. The people in smaller city usually walk more, and those who do not like to walk, could always grab rickshaw. I guess we are raised to avoid walking.

There are of course Indonesians who love to walk, they are Badui people. Often called as Orang Kanekes, Badui is a native tribe from Banten who walk all the time. Badui people preserve their customs by refusing any modernization including means of transportation, water and sanitation, electricity, education, but they do accept money.  They are so committed to walk, well their village behind the hills (yes hills) could only be accessed by walking. These people are often visit Jakarta by foot to sell honey and other handicraft. If normal Indonesian spend a day to reach their village, Badui people only spend one day or two to reach Jakarta.

There are also the modern versions of people who like to walk; they are the mall-goers. Go to visit one of the malls in Jakarta and observe how Indonesians committed to walk wearing high heels around the mall and window shopping. One should make sure that the AC in the mall works, because if not, they will stop walking and go home. Again, appearance is everything and sweat on the armpits is sinful.

I was recently on mission with some VIPs to one of the capital cities in Indonesia. The car that was supposed to pick us was not able to enter the area due to the traffic. We then walked because the car parked not far from the exit door. The organizers considered this as an incident and profusely apologize for “the inconvenience”.  I guess in our culture, it is sinful to let VIPs walk even for less than 5 minutes.

To conclude, Indonesia do walk, but only in the mall, when travelling to Bali or abroad. This is because the path walk is often better, there is less pollution and most importantly, there’s no flat dead rat on our way.

Do you walk? Do you know about guiding block?

 

Kisses from Hong Kong, the city without smiles,

Ailsa

The Wedding Gift

As you might be aware, Indonesians love to throw a big wedding. The bigger the better. Inviting thousand people to a three-hour party is something that considered normal for many people. The Indonesian way of calculating invitation is not one invitation valid for two people, but one invitation valid to a bunch of people, they are father, mother, son, daughter and the nanny (ies).  Any bride and groom should ensure that they will not running out of the food, thus, they have to empty their bank account. If they do not have enough money, they should not worry because parents in Indonesia are are always ready to borne the damage. Consequently, most of the invitees are the colleagues and friends of both parents and that the presents should go to parents who have invested their money.

Closer friends usually give a personal present like jewel (my favorite), tea set, spa voucher, hotel voucher of even lingerie.  While the not-so-close friends or even stranger (to the bride and groom) normally give cash. The amount is varied from five to thousand dollar, depend on the financial situation of the guests. Surprisingly, there are always guests who come empty-handed or those who unashamedly giving an envelope without neither money nor name.

Anyway, the money which is supposed to help the bride and group starting their new life (or paying debt if they take loan to hold the wedding party) is often become source of dispute among the parents. Parents who spent invested more are often feel they are entitled for more return. There also parents who spent nothing, but forcing the bride and groom to share the gift with them because they feel that the gift are from their friends. There’s even parents who took away the money box right after the wedding party because they are afraid that parents from the other side might take it away.

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Forgive me, but I didn’t know remember where did I get this photo

The Chinese Indonesians do differently. They invented a numbering mechanism in the envelope. Guests do not drop the envelope to the box directly, but hand it to the usher. The usher will be the one responsible to put the envelope in the box. Before dropping the envelope, the usher will put a number (using sticker or pen) based on the wedding guest book. For Chinese Indonesian, knowing the exact amount of the present is very important. In the future, when the guests hold a wedding or funeral, they will “return” back the money. So if you give empty envelope you will get empty envelope. Smart!

Bule usually gives money. They usually estimate the cost of the meal and give a little bit more to help the bride and groom cover the expenses. When the guest come as couple, the amount of the gift always doubled. In their custom, making RSVP to a wedding and not showing up is unacceptable. If one does that, then one has to send the gift as ‘compensation’. That’s why when bules don’t have money they would prefer not come to the wedding (and present an empty envelope). In the USA, guests sometimes put the receipt of the present so if they bride and groom do not like the present, they can always return it to the shop. It is also common to register gifts from certain shop so guests could easily pick present that match with budget. Please note that not all bules give presents, there are always bules who do not give gift or give crazy present. Here is one of the example of bridezila vs crazy guest. Both, in my opinion, are crazy.

Some people see wedding party as a way of celebrating their love with the world and do not care about the present. Some only want to spend it with closer friends and do not care about the present. The presence of close friends and family members in the wedding is already a present for the bride and the groom that will treasured for the rest of their life.

What’s your favorite wedding gift?

Thing Indonesians Like: Whitening

One of the first comment that people say when the baby born is the skin. People adore it when the baby skin is white or even pink. If you are born in this country with dark skin then you are ugly. Beauty, in Indonesia, defined as white skin. The people are so obsess with white skin that  in a death ceremony, the albino buffalo is better appreciated rather than the regular one. The price of the white skin buffalo is even higher than the dark one.

Indonesians, both man and woman, want to be like that albino buffalo. They want the white skin and once they have it, their “price” in the society will rise & they can be beautiful. Well, who does not want to be beautiful? In order to attain the absolute white skin, these people do everything, from swallowing a pill to putting anything with whitening on their skin. They do not care if the product contains mercury.

The beauty producers see this obsession as a great opportunity, so they created various product with whitening. Toothpaste is not the only product that contains whitening, here, soap, body lotion, facial wash, deodorant and shaving cream are contain whitening too. Nobody buy things without whitening. Those who have white skin,should always maintain their skin color by puting more and more whitening and be as white as ghost. The motto is clear: the whiter the prettier.

Beside putting lot of whitening products on their skin, these vampires also prevent themselves from sun exposure. Well, they are vampire, so they need to be afraid of the sun. Umbrella, long sleeves and shades are suppose to be their bestfriend. Interestengly, Indonesians do not like to bring umbrella and wear sunglasses. Indonesians only wear than when they are on holiday in Bali. As for the long sleeves, Indonesians go beyond that. Take a look at bikers in Jakarta. In order to minimize the tanning effect of sunshine, bikers put on gloves and jacket before cruising the city. To put on cover when the weather is -5°C is not crazy, but to put the jacket and gloves in a tropical country when the weather is 32°C? Well, only Indonesians would do that.

The rich people do more than just putting whitening cream. They throw away their money to the doctor’s pocket. Rich vampires in Indonesia have themselves injected with vitamin C as it is claimed could make the skin lighter. An ampoule of vitamin C every certain time wil do the job. Those who have more endurance (and money) usually opt for an infusion bag. In Jakarta, you can always request a doctor to come to your house and do the IV therapy for whitening your skin. Patient happy, doctor is happier. Ka-ching..ka-ching.

Indonesian girls who are in relationship, or even married to white skin man, are always accused of improving the quality of their offspring. People always remark on how beautiful the future kids will be, the skin will be white and the nose will be long. I do not like that comment because I am not marrying my fiance because of his skin. I agree to marry him because he is wonderful. Wanna know how wonderful he is? Well, he is the only man who ever say that my skin is beautiful. When I told my 19-year-old cousin about this, she said: “No wonder Indonesian girls like to be with bules. They see things that are considered imperfection as perfection.”

Embrace your skin people and throw away those whitening lotion!

Thing Indonesians Like – Maid

The biggest hunting tournament in Indonesia has just begun: the maid hunting! And no, we are not excited about it.

Attended by millions desperate housewives, who usually live in a big city, the annual event, always take place after Lebaran (Ied Al Fitri/ the Moslem Festival at the end of  Ramadan). Thousand, if not millions domestic workers usually head to their home two weeks before Lebaran, leaving their employer in desperation as they often do not want to do domestic workers. Some of this workers promise to return back to their employer, but many choose to find a new employer. One who can offer better wage and better condition.

In this patriarchal country, men do not do chores. As a consequence, women, whether they are working or not, have to do it all by themselves. Many of Indonesian women are not born to manage a household, so they rely on the assistance of the maid. A maid’s tasks in Indonesia are not only to clean the house, but also to cook and raise the children. That is why to hire one is never enough. Should there is kid in the house, a baby sitter is normally hired. A rich family will  also hire driver, security and gardener. For many middle and upper class Indonesians, a life without domestic staff are not worth living. I am too sarcastic.

bibi

Bibi, who survived the torture from her employer and as a consequence has a hearing impairment. She does not understand sign language and reads lips to communicate with others. She is illiterate and my cousins and I took the pleasure of teaching her how to write and to read.

Forgive me for using the word maid and not domestic worker. I do not mean to insult the domestic worker, but I chose the word to to portray the real situation. Unfortunately, in Indonesia domestic workers are never considered as workers. They are merely pembantu or assistant. They do not have working agreement and their working hours are not clear. They are often have to work more than 8 hours per day and have no holiday during the weekend. Not to mention that they receive neither health insurance nor annual leaves. To make it worse, they are underpaid.

The government of Jakarta sets the minimum regional wage at 2.217.000 rupiahs (USD 222). However, live-in-maids in Jakarta receive only USD 30 – 100/ month, while baby sitters receive a bit more, from USD 120 – 240/ month. Living decently in Jakarta with that amount of money is nearly impossible but these maids, who are often uneducated, have no other choice. There is no job in their village thus, they have to work in the big cities and take whatever offered. The one with experience usually receives higher wage while the young one receive less, still they are underpaid. Note that the young maid can be as young as 13-16 years old, yes child labor exists in the household.

During lebaran, the demand for maids are very high but the supply is very low. Under this circumstance, the price for the temporary maid (or infal pembantu) is rocketing, sometimes as high as USD 10/ day. Interestingly, Indonesians are willing to pay. I remember there’s one cruel person who hired a maid during this lebaran period. This person made the maid clean her house in the morning, then send the maid to her sisters’ houses, and her cousin’s in the afternoon until the evening. She rotated the maid to different houses and make her, the maid, exhausted. The maid of course left after two days (and she moved to our house, full of anger and hatred).

When I lived in Medan, I remember that one of my aunt’s temporary maid does not know how to use stove. The maid, who was going to work in Malaysia, leaked the gas to the whole kitchen. I had to unplugged the regulator to avoid the explosion. Fortunately, there’s no flame and everyone were safe (what were I think!). This maid was going to go abroad with no knowledge on how to use household appliance. Unfortunately, many maids in Indonesia do not know how to do things and the maid agency does not bother to train them. These type of maids, who have no knowledge, are often abused by the impatient employers.

The demand for maid is not only in a household, in my kost the landlord provide maids too. One maid for 10 rooms (there are 50 rooms in my kost). They clean the rooms and do the laundry everyday, except on Sunday and bank holiday. Although they are lucky to have better working condition, they are still underpaid.

I asked around why the employers do not pay wage as per the government regulation. According to them, it is because they are live-in maid; they got free room and do not need to pay for their meal. Poor them, they have to live in small room, eat the leftover of the employer (oh yeah some employers are that cruel) and underpaid. Sounds like slavery eh?

Twelve years ago, I was at a friend’s house and we were going to have lunch together. I took a plate in the kitchen and put some rice on it. My friend said, “You took the wrong plate. That’s a plate for the maid, not for us”.

In Indonesia, maids are considered second class that even the plate has to be different. What kind of human being does that?

xx,
Aitje

Thing Indonesians Like: Fake Handbag

A shop assistant in Switzerland recently refused to show an outrageously expensive bag to Oprah Winfrey. The Indonesians fakeshionista should thank Oprah and the shop assistant for this  saga, because soon, the bag will be available in Indonesia. What the fakeshionista should be grateful of is that the price won’t be as expensive as the original. The original bag price tag is USD 38,000, while in Mangga Dua (the Mecca for fake bags), the Jeniffer Aniston handbag – I predict- will be sold for around USD 38.

Jen Handbag

As you might be know, my beloved country, Indonesia, is a home to fake designer goods. Not only bags, we also produce shoes, wallet, luggage, shades, even make up! This country is indeed a home (and heaven) for  person who devoted her life to fake fashion designer brand & dress according to the trend of the fake stuff. To honour these people, I coined the word: fakeshionista; everything has to be fake.

Although some of our fake designer products were made locally, there are many thing that are imported from China, Korea or Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I do not know the differences between Korea or Hong Kong bag, but my guess the quality is difference. Hence, expensive price. Fake products imported from Korea and Hong Kong is indeed more expensive than the the locally made. Apart from the country of origin, fake bags in Indonesia are classified into different level based on the quality, material and the finishing product. Quality, or Kwalitas in Bahasa Indonesia, is always shortened as KW (pronunciation: kaa – way). In the fake world, bags rank start from KW Ori (original), KW super, KW semi super, KW 1, KW 2, KW 3. KW 3 offers the lowest quality and will only cost you around USD 5 – 10

A real fakeshionista would not go for those cheap handbags as this person usually quite loaded. She (sorry most of the time fakeshionistas are women) will go for the premium one or KW ori (original). The kw ori handbag is the top-notch bag in the fake world. It is made with real leather, while the cheaper one uses synthetic leather. This premium handbag usually sold from USD 300. Fake Hermes bag for instance could reach up USD 600. The same price for a nice bag (maybe two) from Marc by Marc Jacob, Kate Spade or Michael Kors. But again, a real fakeshionista will always go for the fake one.

Fashion designers issues authenticity card for their design. The fakeshion designer, follows suit, and issue the same card. Fakeshion designer will do anything to catch up with the real designer. If the original brand has only one or two colors, fake bags will offer better selection of color and model. Like fashion, the fake stuff does not last long. In less than a year, the fake bag will lose its humidity and start to crack. Unfortunately, the real fashion designer could not produce this kind of bag. If they could, they definitely will make a lot of money as people will buy more often.

Although Indonesian is a heaven for fake bags, this country also produce amazing bags, even Kate Spade trusts Indonesia company to produce her collection. To hunt the locally made bags, one should regularly visit handicraft exhibition in JCC. Be warned though that it will make you broke as there are too many good things. My favorite is Inacraft, the biggest handicraft exhibition held regularly every May. Thanks to Inacraft, I now know Cadusa, A Yogya based leather shop who produce good bag at a relatively cheap price (compare to the KW Ori). What makes it better is that they only produce one for each design. But still, there are not many people who like to buy local, for them 20 fake bags are way better than one real bag.

A fake bag will still be a fake bag, but Indonesians takes pride in buying fake stuff. The cheaper, the better.

Thing Indonesians Like – Gadgets

Indonesians love to talk, with anyone including stranger, about everything including their personal life. I once met a girl in the airport in Vietnam who shared her life story, including her price for short time. Yes, she talked too much. Well, most people don’t read, so the best way to kill the time is by talking.

In our language, the act of talking, discussing and gossiping are translated into one word: ngerumpi. We love it so much and back then, Yahoo Messenger was our very close friend. Until, blackberry (BB) arrived in Indonesia. BB instantly becomes a popular gadget as the supposed-to-be smartphone, not only provide us with a mean of communication calls blackberry messenger, it also  let us to install the Yahoo Messenger. The blackberry messenger becomes our new hero as it fulfill our needs for ngerumpi. 

phone

The arrival of the not-so smart blackberry changes not-so-smart people’s habit too. People’s eyes are constantly glued to the tiny monitor and they could not leave the blackberry in peace at their hand bag or their pocket. For a brief moment it becomes a symbol of economical status as only those with money could afford it. Mind you, back in early 2009, the price of blackberry curve 8310 was around USD 600, while the income per capita was only USD 2,590.

Out of the blue,  Indonesians act like a CEO of a very big company who’s about to loose a good deal with a big client and thus could not miss any important message. But here, we are not afraid to loose a good deal, what we fear is to be left alone and not updated with the latest gossip and other not-important-at-all news.

The other change is that today, sharing phone number is no longer enough. It becomes important to share KakaoTalk, Whatsapp, Line and blackberry PIN number. To fit the new era, people are racing to buy a new blackberry (or now android). They are all running towards a new world, where ignoring others in real life is common. Communication works better through messenger and people are no longer worry about their inability to see other’s emotion, thanks to the cute emoticons.

This new way of communication bothers me (and I am sure others) a lot. I found it very rude to be on the same table, sharing food, but busy with their own mobile phone. Today, all we care about is how other comments on the pictures of food we recently upload in the social media, rather than the human connection. Can you believe that even my dermatologist cares more about her gadget rather than the patient. She was once excuse herself for few minutes to care for her virtual pet. Poor soul. However, most of Indonesians find it not very rude to answer the phone on the dining table. If you are caught up in such situation, don’t bother to excuse yourself, just sit calmly and response the phone loudly. People will not complain as they understand the importance of the call.

When meeting close friends, I usually ask them to stack the phones on the middle of the table. The first person to touch the mobile phone should pay the bill.  I usually ended up paying the bill because no one wants to touch the phone even until the bill comes, but at least we had a real conversation. There are of course the moment when friends and I are hanging in the coffee shop for the sake of sitting, free wi-fi, OK coffee while our thumb busy with the tiny monitor.

Credit cards, whom Indonesian love dearly and could not live without, are the life safer for those who could not afford the gadget. A normal Indonesian usually has more than one credit card and credit card companies are competing each other, offering the best deal. This deal including installment for smart phone, ipad or laptop. The real Indonesian will go for 0% installment, from 3 months to 12 months. The first credit card is usually allocated for the blackberry installment while the other credit card for Ipad or Galaxy Tab installment. Life is easy, until the bill comes. Anyway,  a normal Indonesians usually have two phones (just combine blackberry, iphone and android), an ipad/ a galaxy tab, and a power bank.

The monthly bill for the phone is not a problem. Provider like Telkomsel, XL, Three and Indosat are offering affordable internet package for blackberry, smartphone or ipad. Users could freely select the package that suit their budget. XL even offer IDR 500/ day for 2 MB. If one really want to save the money (to pay the installment), then visiting the nearest Starbucks or Seven Eleven for free wifi is a must.

Finally, I notice that many parents in Indonesia love to share their gadget with their kids. The parents could have a peaceful lunch or dinner and at the same time, the kids could have fun. The other guests in the restaurant are also benefiting from the the scream-free environment. I do not judge them for that, after all, they are all their kids, not mine.

Do you often check your social media and ignoring your friends who are sitting close to you?

Thing Indonesians Like: Oleh-oleh

“So you are going to Medan?”

“Yes, I am going to Medan”

Ah…..oleh-oleh ya.”

And then from the other corner someone will say: “Don’t forget to buy bika ambon, bolu meranti, lapis legit. Ohhh and Risol Gogo.”

That’s a conversation that you will hear anywhere in this country when you make the mistake of telling others that you are going somewhere. Here in Indonesia, it is best to keep your traveling plan with yourself and not share it with others. If you do share your plan, most of the time, you will be bombarded by request of oleh-oleh from close friends, relatives and colleagues. Do not worry about the damage, because it is always borne by the traveller. Oleh-oleh (noun) itself is a present, often delicacies, brought from a place we travelled to.

Even if you are traveling on business trip, oleh-oleh is something that you must buy. In the case of civil servants visiting other government institution, the oleh-oleh is usually bought by the institution visited. Here’s how it usually work: during a meeting you could send the hints by asking the special delicacies from the area. They will then explain what are the famous delicacies, or even the famous cloth material (batik, ikat, songket) and other handicraft. You can response by saying, I’d like to buy a, b, c, d, e,…z. Then ask the important question: “Where can I buy it? can someone drive me there?” and as a courtesy, they will response “ah don’t worry about it, we will take care of that”. A day or two passed by, nothing happened and no one drive you to the shop. Then when you are in the airport someone will bring you few boxes full of snack and handicraft and assist you with the chek-in. Magic! When receiving presents like this, it is rude to say no and all you have to do is saying thank you. Another thing that you shall never ask is to reimburse the damage. Don’t worry about it, it is usually come from the taxpayer’s money!

If you are not so lucky, you will have to do your own research about potential oleh-oleh and locate the shop. Don’t worry about it, even google knows well that we like to buy oleh-oleh.

the options

Even Google Knows that We Like Oleh-oleh

In city like Yogyakarta, you don’t even need to do your research. Just walk around the famous Malioboro street and a pedicab driver will be more than happy to take you to oleh-oleh shop, sometimes for 50 cents. The shop usually gives him incentive that is why he does not mind about the low fare. I interviewed a girl from a Bakpia factory in Yogyakarta, she mentioned that the factory does not give pedicab drivers any money, but give them some lottery coupons. The winners are selected in yearly based and the prize are including washing machine, motor cycle and other presents.

If you are travel to Medan, the same method of oleh-oleh hunting could not be applied. The famous Meranti Roll cake has to be ordered few days in advance. Alternatively you can buy other delicacies such as layer cake (lapis legit), bika ambon, and durian (both the pancake of the fresh the stinky fruit).  I am sure you think that Durian is banned from plane, but in Medan, you can always manage to bring durian with you. The durian seller in Medan  found this clever method: put the durian in the box, seal with cello tape,  then sprinkle some coffee around the box  before wrap it with the plastic. You can walk freely to the airplane and no one is going to notice the durian. Even if the flight attendants do, they will just tolerate it and will never remove you (or the durian) from the airplane. Rumour has it that the crashed of Mandala Air flight in Medan on 2005, was caused by the oleh-oleh, 2 tons of durian.

Other than delicacies you can also bring key holders, snow globe, magnets or traditional clothes material (batik, sasirangan, ikat, songket). A famous oleh-oleh shop usually put famous person photo in their wall. Take example of the Irma Sasirangan in Banjarmasin that I recently visited. Upon entering the shop you will be welcome by the photo of RI 1, Susilo Bambang Yudhono and the first lady, both wearing sasirangan. In Yogya, there’s a huge silver workshop who put the picture of Miss Universe to attract shoppers.

Tukul, he's not our president, in Irma Sasirangan

Speaking of key holders, I had more than 10 key holders from different countries in Europe, while I have only one door to lock. I now understand why people opt to buy key holder from Europe, it’s the cheapest thing. In the case of Ireland, it wasn’t that cheap, one key holder cost me Euro 7,5.

If you are in airport and see Indonesians could you queue and rush to the airplane, I am sure you think that we are crazy because there’s no advantage in rushing to go inside the airplane as the seats have been preassigned. You are mistaken! For Indonesians, getting into the airplane as fast as we could is very important, because we need a lot of space for our excess luggage, the boxes of oleh-oleh. The one only hand-carry luggage can not be applied in Indonesia. Anyway a quick way to locate your luggage-especially when there’s no information about the flight number in the conveyer belt- is by seeing the  oleh-oleh boxes. Meranti and Zulaiha from Medan, Aceh Rayeuk from Banda Aceh, Pia Legong from Bali, Manggoes from Surabaya, Bakpia Pathoek from Yogyakarta, and Amplang from Balikpapan.

Bringing oleh-oleh requires lot of energy, time, and money. But to see friends and family enjoying the delicacies, for me, is the greatest joy. This is the Indonesian way to show our love to others.

Tell me, what’s your favorite oleh-oleh?

Also read:

Things Indonesian Like: Dirty Toilet

Things Indonesian Like: Photography