Why I’m writing about this

Pretty much anyone who meets me for the first time asks me about this, especially Indonesians, so I thought I’d write a little bit about my thoughts here. Honestly, writing about this feels incredibly pretentious, but I’m hoping this might be helpful for someone thinking about making a similar decision in life. Also an important caveat: I feel that while I’m writing this it may seem like I’m advocating for the choice I made or that I’m saying it’s morally correct in some way – I just want to make clear that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to life choices like this, I just felt that it was the right choice for me.

To cut a long story short, I am Indonesian by nationality like my parents, however I was born and raised in a neighbouring country – Malaysia. I had lived there my entire life prior to moving to Indonesia, and I still consider it my home country. So yes, I didn’t exactly move ‘back’ to Indonesia because I’ve never really lived there (still, I often visited extended family and travelled there every year). Just less than a year ago I moved to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, to study in university and (if everything goes well) eventually settle down and work in Indonesia. Originally when I pitched the idea of moving there to my parents and friends, many were opposed to it, and to their credit, with good reason.

Should I have moved to Indonesia?

Photo by Ifan Bima on Unsplash

I’m sure you know Indonesia is still a developing country. If you didn’t know Indonesia was even a country, that’s exactly why. And while Malaysia is also a developing country, I can honestly assure you that living in Malaysia long-term is a more comfortable experience. Indonesia is an incredible place to visit as an exchange student or tourist, with delicious food, countless attractions and numerous paradise islands, great for exploring or just spending the week off. However, when it comes to living conditions, environment, healthcare, public transport and so on, Malaysia is somewhat ahead. If you’re curious about why, it’s a lot to do with history and colonisation.

Additionally, being Indonesian is an important factor here, mostly because I feel like I am expected to know a lot. Although I am continuously learning, I still feel like I am letting a lot of people down. I can tell you that I have a lot to learn about the cultures and traditions in Indonesia, as there are just so many. Living in Indonesia also requires adequate knowledge of the Bahasa Indonesia language – while I can speak the basic Bahasa one hears in the household, formal Bahasa Indonesia, which is sometimes used in my studies, is not exactly my strong suit. I speak better Javanese (a local language of the Java island) than I do Bahasa Indonesia, which most people find amusing.

Maybe, maybe not

So why did I actually move? Although I had opportunities to pursue my education in other countries, I ended up wanting to make a return right away. This was partly due to the nature of my field, which is largely influenced by environmental and geographical factors, as well as the fact that it requires sufficient knowledge and understanding of local culture and beliefs (particularly in a country like Indonesia). Additionally, if I were to move to Indonesia after studying elsewhere, I would have to pass licensing exams which would require me to learn about all those things myself.

But why Indonesia? To be honest, I’m not 100% sure where my own patriotism comes from. As a child I often complained about Indonesia’s flaws, which my parents didn’t really like. I’m grateful however, that they made me care. For me it wasn’t about the country’s identity, its flag, its anthem, or even our cultures and diversity. I often thought about the people before me, who suffered greatly and sacrificed everything for future generations, including me, to live in a free Indonesia. I now feel as though I owe it to them that we do not get left behind. I definitely do not want their struggles to be in vain, so I decided that I’d like to contribute to the country now, while Indonesia is moving in the right direction. While I do not know what that contribution will be, or even what impact it will have, I believe that I will be fulfilled and content knowing that I made an effort.

People work hard in Indonesia. Indonesia in 1955.

And that’s all from me! Now that I’m re-reading this I realise that this post might be a bit hard to follow. Sorry about that :). Regardless, I hope that you’ll be happy with the difficult choices you make in life, even if, or especially if rather, they are not the most popular ones. Till next time.

– Verrel

Featured image by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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