Indonesian writers don’t have to write about calamities to interest Americans. We’re on the opposite side of the Earth, and we don’t know a thing about your country. Furthermore, we won’t find out about it unless you tell us.
Once a year the fruit Indonesians know as jeruk bali comes to our grocery stores in Atlanta, Georgia. Although it’s slightly more common in citrus-growing areas, in my city it comes only to specialty grocers that offer unusual foods. In fact, the jeruk bali is so unusual in the English-speaking world that our language has no single common name for it. Theyare called Chandler fruit, shaddocks, and pomelos, among other things.
Last year I saw them for sale in a grocery and asked about them. The store manager didn’t know the name of the fruit, but he looked it up for me. I like citrus fruit, so I bought a pair to try them. When I attempted to peel one, I knew I was in trouble. I removed the outer skin easily enough, but all I could find below it was more peel. Fortunately, I found a video on YouTube explaining how to peel a jeruk bali. I had much less trouble removing the peel from the second fruit.
I tell the story of my trouble with the jeruk bali to show how unfamiliar something common in Indonesia may be here. For another example, I’d like to mention the short story “Curse the Jackfruit” by dodolbete, which recently appeared on Authspot. I certainly enjoyed the story, but I’ve never seen a jackfruit (nangka) in my life. I wouldn’t know a jackfruit if it fell on my head. Her story is a good example of how to write about daily life in Indonesia.
China, China, and More China
Although I’m ignorant of many things Indonesian, I’m well informed, as Americans go, about your country. In a survey of Americans ages 18-24, three-quarters couldn’t find Indonesia on a map. In general, Americans are very poorly informed about your country. It’s no wonder because our media don’t help us much. I did a search on the website of my local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and found it only ran ten stories with the keyword Indonesia in the first half of March. Three articles were recipes. What kind of stories about East Asia do American media report? Unless the story is about a disaster or a nuclear threat from North Korea, the reporting is about China, China, and more China.
If I want to eat a Chinese meal, I can step out the door of my apartment and walk to a Chinese restaurantthat’s about half a kilometer away, but I don’t need to. I can get Chinese food delivered to my door. Chinese culture is that close. If I want to try Indonesian food, I can either wait for an invitation to an Indonesian’s home or attempt to make the food myself from a recipe on the Internet. Everyday life in Indonesia is unknown to Americans.
The United States is literally on the opposite side of the Earth from Indonesia. The time difference between where I live and Jakarta is twelve hours. Our countries are as different as noon and midnight. You can write about anything for us. Where to start? Try telling us where you live.
Krakatoa, East of Java
The commercial for the American movie “Krakatoa, East of Java” popularized this phrase. Indonesians know well that Krakatoa is west of Java, but we don’t. An imaginative and memorable article about the basic geography of Indonesia would help us. What do I mean by imaginative and memorable? As an example, people from Suffolk in England can explain where they are from as follows: Britain looks like the outline of a little dog sitting down and holding up a paw, and Suffolk is part of the paw. If you can come up with an easy way for Americans to find Indonesia on a map, you’ll do us a service. You’ll also help Indonesians visiting the US when they want to explain where they are from.
Will you get fast cash for writing these articles? No, but a steady number of views may come to your articles each month. After all, you won't have much competition. On the other hand, if you write about disasters or events that might be embarrassing to your country, you’ll be writing about the same things as American media, and the Google search engine will bury your article under pages and pages of commercial media reports. Be different. Tell us how you live.
This article originally appeared on Triond's Trifter website http://trifter.com/asia-pacific/indonesia/everything-in-indonesia-is-news-to-us/