So what do you think about Indonesia?

I just got a promising lead on a job teaching English in Semerang, Indonesia. They are very intersted in me.

On the plus side: I love Southeast Asia. I know I’d love the climate, the art, and many aspects about the culture. Plus I know I’d take well to being an ex pat in general, and it’s a great jumping point to travel (and close enough to Australia in case I get some serious culture shock).

But there are some big negatives. First off, I just don’t know about about the place. I know they are largely Muslim (which I’m not such a big fan of) and I always think of them as a pretty buttoned down, somewhat unstable place. Would I face any special difficulties being a woman? Could a somewhat free spirit (who knows how to be polite, respectful and discreet, of course) be happy there? What do people do for fun- I’m not a big nightclubber or anything like that- more of an artist type. Am I going to find friends there? From what I can find, Semerang seems to be pretty industrial and not much fun. What do you guys know about it? Is this whole venture going to be safe, or is Indonesia in danger of economic or political collapse?

Then again, I am a wanna-be expat journalist, so economic or political collapse might start up that career…

There are a lot of places I’d rather be- like India or Vietnam. But I’d like to know more before I pass this one up.

Semarang is the capital of Central Java. It is industrial and very crowded. It is, of course, not as cosmopolitan as Jakarta, but it is not a small city either. It does have its share of night clubs, fast food chains, etc.

I can’t really say that it’s one of the more interesting cities in Indonesia. I have been to Semarang a few times and honestly found it a bit unremarkable. The people are generally friendly. AFAIK, things have been quite peaceful in Semarang (unlike in a few other places in Indonesia).

Indonesia itself is rather unstable as you know. Things have been hard. The economic collapse in 98 and the political instability since the fall of Suharto created huge unemployment. Next year is election year which may bring about more public disturbances. Plus the current terrorist problem.

There are a few flash points such as in Aceh, Papua, Celebes, etc. (except for Bali and Jakarta, mostly in far flung areas though). Plus there has been an increase in militancy. There have been some problems with Islamic miltancy in Jogjakarta (to the south of Semarang (a much more interesting city, I might add and is really worth a visit)) and in a few other smaller cities around Java. In bigger cities, it’s pretty common to expect demonstrations, protests, etc. Most are peaceful.

I may be wrong but Semarang, I think, has a relatively significant Christian population as well. Muslims there are pretty moderate. Javanese culture and tradition basically are pretty strong. Not to mention Hinduism and Buddhism influences.

If you’ve been to SE Asia and know how be polite and respect the culture, you’ll be ok.

I don’t have many links I can give you but here’s a couple:


Jakarta Post
(A leading Indonesian daily in English)

It’s actually not that close to fly to Australia. Sydney is about 7 hrs from Jakarta. Darwin is much closer though.

If you need a more western-like environment to escape for the weekends, Singapore, Jakarta and Bali are pretty close.

Indonesia is Muslim, but very relaxed about it, so as long as you don’t ruin around in t-shirts and short-shorts, you’ll be OK. Comments like this, “I know they are largely Muslim (which I’m not such a big fan of)” are not a good idea. You may be surprised at how friendly and open the Indonesian people are once you get to know them. The key to getting along in a foreign culture is to be open-minded, flexible, and to abandon the idea that the American way is always the best way. There are twin traps the novice expat canfall into–one is to be overly paranoid and let the smallest cultural differences force you to retreat to the safety of McDonald’s and the International Herald Tribune. The other is to think that you can impose your standards on the surrounding culture and offend local sensibilities with impunity.

The cost of living is very low, so even though the money you’ll be offered may not look like much, you’ll be able to live very comfortably while you’re there.

The food is FANTASTIC! The local fruit, like longans, rambutans, starfruit, and so on are wonderfullly fresh and tasty, and you must try local specialities like nasi goreng (fried rice with yummy toppings) and sate (skewered beef with peanut sauce).

I’ve included some links for info on Java and Indonesia in general

I think I am going to hold off. Semarang doesn’t seem to be the right place for me. I’m worried about my reaction to being in a largely Muslim environment (oddly, it wouldn’t bother me to be in most places in the Middle East- maybe I’m just more familier with them). I’m also a little worried about terrorism and I really don’t see that region getting much better any time soon.

In short, I can think of so many places in the world I’d rather be, and I don’t think I should run off to the first vaguely exotic place I am presented with. And I guess I also have a lot of thinking to do. My first thought when actually presented with the idea of moving out of the country was “But I’m vegetarian! I’m nearly a lesbian! My wardrobe largely involves sparkly fishnets! My hair is usually pink!”

Yeah, I can see that moving out of the country is not for you. Your parochial American attitude would just cause you more trouble and you wouldn’t have the resources to deal.

Sheesh, I’ve just been living in a bubble for too long.

This town is seriously isolated from the rest of the world. The other day, I saw a housing ad that said “Guests are okay. No loud music after ten. Meat is allowed in kitchen.” Thats right- they had to specifiy that meat was allowed in their household., It was a big selling point. The day after September Eleventh, every house in town either had a “Hate Free Zone” sign or a peace sign. We are offically a “Nuclear Free Zone” and city council regularly votes to disfavor wars. We have a Medical Marijuana Inn (and many pot farms, some of which have been raided by the feds recently). Everywhere you go you hear the beat of hippy drums and on any given bus ride there is bound to be at least one other pink-haired person. Women and women and men and men walk the streets hand in hand. My friend took out her nose ring because she eally was sick of looking like everyone else.

A lot of people never move out of here because it’s a bit of culture shock to rejoin the real world. I’m just thinking I might need to ease myself into the rest of the world. I grew up in some serious realness and I’ve traveled pretty widely (and dirt cheaply) and I am not pampered princess of any sort. It never dawned on me how deeply immersed in this bubble I’ve become (I’ve got a love/hate relationship with Santa Cruz, like everyone else here it seems, but nobody ever leaves) and I was expressing shock over my unexpected reaction. I don’t see why you have to turn that honest bit of self-reflection into a personal attack.

That was not an attack–trust me, if I meant to attack you, you’d know the difference. No, my comment had the same content as the opening sentence of your last post, "Sheesh, I’ve just been living in a bubble for too long. "