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|Dutch Guy, Fascinated with Indonesia, Creates Indahnesia.com|
|by Farah 'Fairy' Mahdzan (16-Mar-2003) | Readers Say|
While surfing for information on Kalimantan, Indonesia in January this year, I came across a unique website called Indahnesia.com. The name itself intrigued me as I thought it was a cleverly made-up name. I wasted no time in clicking on the link.
A montage comprising of a young Indonesian girl wearing a white-polka-dotted red top with a matching red skirt and slippers standing behind a tropical scenery greeted me as I entered the main page of Indahnesia.com. For a while, I thought that the website was owned by some travel agency, designed to entice tourists to come visit Indonesia. After some extensive browsing, I discovered that Indahnesia.com was actually the personal property and creation of a young man whose interests revolved around everything Indonesian.
Meet Jeroen van der Linde, a 21-year-old bule (orang putih or Caucasian) from the Netherlands whose website will reveal that he means serious business when it comes to talking about and exploring Indonesia. From personal travel photos and stories, political news sourced from various sites, and even an English-Indonesian dictionary, Indahnesia.com warmly invites us to engage in a culture different from our own. Most interestingly, Jeroen hails from a country that had once colonized Indonesia for 300 years!
Immensely fascinated with Jeroen's website, I immediately shot out an email to him, excited that I had found someone young who, like me, was an "Indonesianist" (someone who studies Indonesian intensively - but in our case, studying Indonesia was a hobby).
Jeroen responded very well to my email and ever since we have fostered a friendship that is based on mutual interest in Indonesia. Through our emails we shared travel experiences, exchanged knowledge of what we knew of Indonesia (and of each other's countries), glanced at some historical aspects and voiced out concerns for Indonesia's future as a nation. In essence, we were being true Indonesian-nerds.
I also asked Jeroen about Indahnesia.com and what the deal was. What has motivated Jeroen to build the website and why is he so interested in Indonesia, a country that is so different from his native Netherlands?
In this exclusive interview, I picked Jeroen's brains and dug the dirt out on, among other things, why he's into Indonesia, his opinion on the so-called biased Dutch history education system, his worst Indonesian travel experience (and I thought my 12-hour train ride to Jogja was bad), and which Indonesian 'girl' holds a special place in Jeroen's heart...!
[Note: The following interview has been edited for clarity]
Jeroen: I was born on 13 April 1981 in Geldrop which is near a big town called Eindhoven where I now reside. I do programming for a living at a small Internet company that acts as a consumer representative for getting discounts on fuel, energy and mobile telephony.
Enlighten us about your home country.
Jeroen: The Netherlands, also called Holland, is located in Western Europe and is an active member of the European Union (EU) since it started. Since 1 January 2002 we have a common shared currency with 11 other countries in Western Europe and one in Asia - East Timor (Timor Leste): the Euro. It is currently valued at about the same level as the US dollar, which is between Rp. 9,000 and Rp. 10,000 against the Indonesian rupiah.
The Netherlands currently has a population of 16.2 million people, and that makes the Netherlands one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Of course Hong Kong is far more populated, but that's because it's in fact one big city. But on the other hand, there are more people per square kilometer on the island of Java than in the Netherlands.
The capital is Amsterdam, and the administrative capital is Den Haag (The Hague), which are both located in the western side of the country. The big international airport Schiphol is located near Amsterdam, and is about 1.5 hours by train or car from my hometown of Eindhoven.
Eindhoven currently houses just over 200,000 people, and is expecting to have 250,000 in a few years because of big building projects in the northwestern part of the city (where I work, and where the local airport of Eindhoven Airport is located as well)
Before Indahnesia.com, I used to have a small personal website with all kinds of information. I became more motivated to build Indahnesia.com when my number of visitors mounted to more than a thousand per day.
A few months ago, I also started a dictionary website, KAMUS-online.com which used to be a subsection of Indahnesia.com. That dictionary site now receives about 200 visitors a day.
Indahnesia is a very unique name. How did you coin it?
Jeroen: The name Indahnesia.com is a made-up name because indonesia.com was taken (of course). I thought it should be nice to have a domain name with at least "nesia" in it because it means archipelago. "Indah" means pretty or beautiful in the Malay/Indonesian language, and also sounds very similar to "indo"
Have you been to Indonesia? What were your favorite places there?
Jeroen: I have been to Indonesia four times since 1999; I usually go there during June or July. I had been dreaming about visiting the country ever since I was 15! My dreams were first realized when I turned 18.
I liked downtown Jakarta because of its crowds. I liked being on the train to Yogyakarta because of the green mountains I saw while entering the province. I also enjoyed my visit to the Borobudur Temple because of the magnificent view and the fact that the colossal temple was constructed during the early European Dark Ages.
The splendid temple of Borobudur in Central Java
There are many more places to discover in Indonesia. Each place that I have visited has a unique look, feel and smell to me. That's also why Indonesia is so interesting to me.
But what really moved me to start learning more about Indonesia were the May 1998 riots. The riots, which commenced on May 14 1998, brought down then-President Suharto after 7 days of massive rioting, killing, looting and burning. I was horror-stricken upon learning from watching television about the four Universitas Trisakti students who were tragically killed while demonstrating their anti-Suharto campaigns in capital city Jakarta.
A year after the horrific incident, a memorial was erected for the deceased to mark the first anniversary of the dreadful tragedy. I could vividly imagine the soldiers responsible for the killings on the bridge from which the students were killed.
Indonesian friendliness and tolerance are also evident if you observe Indonesian traffic. Naturally, people always want to be the first in line, but if they don't make it, they just smile and will give way to you. I think this is great, people here in Holland don't quite believe me when I tell them this. Here [in Holland], too often is aggression the solution to many things. But not in Indonesia, in my opinion, people there do a lot more talking and joking.
Indonesia has its dark sides, of course. Most people are poor, the unemployment rate is exceedingly high, floods occur at random in many places due to poor city planning, and people suffer from countless diseases as people do all over the world. I know I can't directly change these situations but I'm willing to help the people in any way I can.
Jeroen: Our learning about the colonization of Indonesia would always start with the founding of V.O.C (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or East India Company) and its trading activities in the Southeast Asian region in the 17th century. However I really didn't learn much about it from our history teaching. We were just taught that Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony until somewhere in the 1940's, and that this all ended with the Second World War.
All of this, I never learned at school; there is so much that I don't know. I personally think it's a big shame that our government has pushed this part of world history away as far as possible. It's okay to be ashamed of your past actions, but I don't think it's right to push something away like it never happened.
The Indonesian people aren't bothered by the past anymore because they are very forgiving. They even want to talk Dutch to you if they can; some people over the age of 50 generally know some Dutch.
I still hope that the Dutch government will one day change the way we talk about Indonesia in our textbooks. However as we delve further into other aspects of Dutch history every year during our term in school, I think the education system will never be changed to reflect history that way that it actually happened, especially the history and conflicts that occurred between the Netherlands and Indonesia.
Jeroen: Bahasa Indonesia is a nice language. I do regret it sincerely that I don't speak the language fluently. Most of the time I can make up something from separate words. Also, since I'm also working on the dictionary website, I remember certain new words. I think it's about time that I spend much more time on learning Bahasa Indonesia.
I also think the best way to learn a language is to live among the people who speak it. That ultimately means that I would have to live in Indonesia, if I wanted to pick up Bahasa Indonesia right away. However, for the time being, a move to the country is not feasible.
With Dutch colonialism so deeply rooted in Indonesian history there must be some reminisce of that past present in today's Indonesian spoken language. Are there any Dutch words that you have heard commonly used in Bahasa Indonesia?
Jeroen: It's funny that you should ask me this. Most people wouldn't even think about it, but there are hundreds of words in Bahasa Indonesia that are similar to current Dutch or at least very similar to it. These words root back until the 17th century actually, and most of the very early words have changed dramatically over the time.
The word 'handuk' (towel) was the first Dutch-originated word that I found in Bahasa Indonesia. Handuk came from the Dutch word 'handdoek'. The pronunciation is the same but differs a little because of the fact that the Indonesian language has slightly different stresses than Dutch. I can give a very short summary of Dutch and Indonesian words which are the same, but that would be a huge list to start with. The only thing I'm still thinking about is where 'jalan' came from... I can't figure that one out, street or 'straat' (Dutch) would be an easy word to use in Indonesia, but they didn't.
Just as a side note, there are some English words in the Indonesian language, as well as some French and other European languages. For example, "sabun" (soap) originated from the French word "savon".
Jeroen: Over here in the Netherlands, everything is so rigid and strict; everything has to be done at a certain time. It's not that I can't live with that, but often, everything is overdone. And if that's not good enough, people tend to be angry instead of understanding. This is what I often feel, and I don't like it very much.
But perhaps I have not stayed in Indonesia long enough to decide whether or not I would prefer the way of living in Indonesia to that of Holland's. You can only learn so much about a place from just a two-week vacation; what I would like is to have a two-month vacation thereÖ! I would also really like to have a try at residing in Indonesia, as my opinions about the country may still sound naive.
But my first impressions of Indonesia are generally very good, and people who are currently living as expatriates in Indonesia also tell me good things. However they also tell me it takes a long time and a huge sum of money and patience to actually live to Indonesia.
Right now, my desire to move to Indonesia has toned down, mainly because I have a job here and a girlfriend as well.
Jeroen: The worst thing I have done in Indonesia is traveling to Bali from Jakarta by bus. The way to Bali took 24 hours, but the way back to Jakarta took an astonishing 37 hours!
However the decision to travel to and from Bali that way was purely out of my own will; I thought that I should at least have the experience. I don't remember much anymore from all of that. Most of the time I half-conscious because I was so tired. I felt nauseous for a long time and only drunk warm water. Worse of all, the bus had to actually stop near Cirebon for several hours to install a new engine!
The Bali bus trip was not all was not bad though. I think it's very nice to travel city by city and take your time in every one, although I was not satisfied with being at these cities for just a short while; I wanted to see more.
Some scenes from Jeroen's Bali trip
Another plus was the road from Cirebon to Semarang which runs directly along the beach and coastline for the most part, so that was very nice.
All together the bus ride to Bali was quite an experience, but I would never do it again...!
Jeroen: Since I founded my website, there are many people whom I have met with over time. I have spoken to most of them just a few times, others I have regular contacts with. Several of these friends are Dutch but were born in Indonesia. When their parents decided to move back to the Netherlands after Indonesia's Merdeka (in the 1950's mostly), they decided to come home too.
These Dutch Indonesian-born friends of mine are much older than I am, so they are surprised when I tell them I'm 'only' 21 and that I am very interested in Indonesia. I suppose it's not common that many young Dutch people are into this sort of thing.
What are your Indonesian friends like?
However I hope one day that I can live in Indonesia without working so hard and live off the riches I earned during my hardworking and younger days, haha. But I know that's a lot to wish for, but who knows one day...
Now that Megawati is the President of Indonesia, she has a very difficult and heavy duty to get Indonesia economically going again and to protect it from terrorist acts like the ones that have happened in New York and Bali. Unfortunately terrorism in Indonesia is not coming from the outside, but very much from the inside, which makes things much more dangerous for her.
I hope Megawati can keep Indonesia together as it is now. I think it's better for people all over the country to maintain a single nation. However I sort of agree with East Timor's recent independence from the Republic in 1999; there were lots of controversy about Indonesia's annexation of East Timor (now Timor Leste) back in the 1970s.
With the departure of East Timor from the Republic of Indonesia, Aceh, which is located in Northern Sumatera, is putting mounting pressure on Indonesia to grant them their own independent Islamic state as well.
I have hopes that Indonesia will be able to tackle and solve its problems head on over the coming years. Once everything is ok, I hope to visit both Aceh and Maluku. Some day.
What are your hopes for the future of Indonesia?
Jeroen: I hope that Indonesia will not be discouraged by the challenges that it faces as a nation, and remain united and work hard towards the betterment of their country.
Currently 25% of Indonesia's population is unemployed. After the Bali bombings in October 2002, the economy has taken yet another painful blow since the Asian Economic Crisis of 1997. I hope that tourists will go back to Bali [and other places] right away. If they are scared to do so, they can take me along for a small extra fee, and I'll guide them on their holiday. :-)
With Indahnesia.com, I hope that I can be a helping hand for the promotion of Indonesia, so people can see the good and bad sides of the country from a neutral and educated perspective, a privilege that is often lost in hard times like these.
Terima kasih banyak-banyak Jeroen for sharing with us your thoughts. I wish you all the best!
Jeroen: Dank je (thank you) too, Fairy.
Visit Jeroen at Indahnesia.com!
Photos courtesy of Jeroen van der Linde.
|WHAT READERS SAY ABOUT Dutch Guy, Fascinated with Indonesia, Creates Indahnesia.com:|
Iím a man in search of truth. I was born in Lombok, Indonesia in 1955. My parents survived the Japanese occupation of Indonesia and were forced to leave the islands when I was only two years old and found ourselves in the Netherlands until the decision to immigrate to the U.S. in 1960. There were some painful times that were buried to start a new life. I am amazed at the resilience of the Dutch-Indonesians that came out of those stressful times, my Pop and Mom included. I was plucked out of a frying pan and am trying to look back at what happened from a distance of space and time. Itís hard to look back when there are so many horror stories to sort through. I am saddened by the way that people were treated in those days when the lives of so many were traumatized. Some day, Lord willing I would love to go back to my roots, young as I was and see the beautiful islands that used to be a peaceful home for many Dutch who were part of the colonization. I think it would be good for the Dutch to not forget the past but try to understand it and learn from it. I commemorate those like my parents who did not allow what happened to cause them to become bitter but chose to pick up the pieces and go on to make a better life for their families. A special thanks to Dorothy Sumner who took a family in who needed a new start and opened up her home to us in Colorado Springs. Thanks for your website and keep searching for the truth about the honorable Dutch who helped make Indonesia a better place!
Yours truly, John
Posted by John Lucardie - Website † on 16-Nov-2010, 18:37 MYT
#7. nice story...may i be your guide when you come again to indonesia i will show you many interesting place in indonesia
#6. Jeroen van der Linde has a fascinating site. Jeroen's views may sometimes seem a little naive, but, one should remember that he is still a young man in his early twenties. Which of us, in our twenties, was not a little ignorant about the Machiavellian ways of the world. My advice to Jeroen would be to read veteran journalist Allan Nairn and Father Sandyawan Sumardi . Jeroen's Forum is sometimes a bit of a disappointment because Jeroen does not seem to like anything that is not in tune with the propaganda pieces from Fox News.
#5. Thanks Ed.
#4. Hello Fairy
#3. My compliments about Jeroen van der Linde Story on the page. I do contact him and I hope to meet him soon. I Umberto Hagen was in Bali 2 years ago. We have a private foundation helping children. We have 3 Pantis. Two in Bali and one in Java.
#1. whoah! i'm so impressed with this Dutch guy's effort! way u go Jeroen!
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