In less than five hours I will be flying back to Adelaide via Sydney – it has been a long and momentous trip so far. I landed in Indonesia as a single man, and returning with a wife. I’m having quite a mixed feeling every time I leave Indonesia in recent times. Having used to the lifestyle in Adelaide and the greater degree of reliability and predictability over there means that I am very much relieved that I will not have to deal with the complexities and the intricacies of life in Indonesia. However, I am also aware that my parents are getting on with age – there is always the fear that I will be summoned back to Indonesia hastily.
Of course I love my life in Adelaide – however, the adagio life tempo can be quite boring (adagio = slow and stately). You don’t get to read a lot of bizarre or interesting stuff on the papers, the politicians are all relatively well-behaved and boring and websites stuff themselves with gossips of celebrities who just happen to bare their torso on the beach. Big deal.
Life in Indonesia is vivacissimo (very fast and lively). You get frustrated at the incompetent politicians who love big words and know nothing of the subject. You are confronted with endless rotations of infotainments where they mix stories of celebrities mixed with a big dose of gossips. Rather than TV shows with great scriptwriters and storylines, you get to watch over the top sinetrons (locally produced soap operas) and reality shows. Indonesians love shows that can squeeze and stir their emotions – shows on domestic quarrels or celebrities lending their hand to help the needies apparently rate really well. However, if in the West the producers moderately use music and cinematography to muster emotions, in Indonesia, they simply crank the tuner and bombard the viewers with the music and over the top cinematography. Shows that can last for fifteen minutes end up taking half an hour because of endless shots from various points, freeze frames, close up of tears or arguments. Very educative indeed.
During lunch with my ex-colleagues the other day, I raised the issue with a friend of mine who happens to be the wife of a president director of a local television company. I mentioned to her that both Yani and I had been following a TV series called Bukan Sinetron (Not a Soap Opera), where the host tries to mediate warring members of the family. Stories like I don’t want my daughter to be a lesbian, or My future father-in-law is a beggar are played on a daily basis. She laughed and said that I was not meant to be part of the target market. She said that such shows rated really well and because people loved them, the TV stations then needed to comply.
Even with politics, you are confronted with the endless investigations of corruptions that go nowhere. Too many important politicians are implicated – that makes lawmakers and the police too scared to make any meaningful actions. At least the media are more open now, so we also have programmes after programmes where so called experts air out their opinions that really don’t add any iota to the solutions.
As a postscript, I want to include a locally-made television ad for cheese crackers that has kept me transfixed every time it is aired. Apparently it is a copy of an ad in Japan but nevermind, it is as badly addictive. It is so bad that you can’t help watching it without even wanting to buy or sampling the product. I’m loss for words at what relationships two rotund men cladded in lycra, a girl dancing as if she were having haemorrhoid, with cheese crackers. Anybody?
You just have to love life in Indonesia with all of its lebay-ness. Lebay (pronounced Le-buy) is a local term for over the top or excessive unnecessary behaviour. They make life interesting with all of the ups and downs and make people cope with the gruelling challenges of life. Life is pretty tough here, and rather than mope around, Indonesians opt to have fun in the face of adversities.