Tue, 25 Oct 1994


Like Amy Oravec (On politeness, The Jakarta Post, Oct. 19, 1994), I, too, am an American woman living in Jakarta. I, too, am sometimes (not "constantly" -- there is a big difference!) stared at by Indonesians. (Is it my streaked gray hair? My height and stature? Is my slip showing?). Although this apparent scrutiny was initially uncomfortable for me, I realized that I also stare at Indonesians! I am fascinated by the diverse facial characteristics and rich skin tones. I marvel at the magnificent heads of usually jet-black hair! The warm, dark eyes often mirror my own curiosity and interest. I smile a lot, and often I'm smiling in response to the smile or nodded greeting of an Indonesian.

As for the oft-repeated "Hello, Mister!" I find it usually is uttered by a child or a young adult, and I feel pretty sure that most of them know they are speaking in error. To me, it is simply a benign, friendly greeting game. I sometimes counter with Pagi, Ibu! (Good morning, Madam) to a male child, which elicit peals of delighted laughter. Or, I explain that Saya Mrs., bukan Mister (I'm a Mrs., not a Mister). And, I smile.

I can honestly say I have never been treated with anything but courtesy throughout the parts of Indonesia I've visited: Java, Sumatra, Bali, Lombok, Kalimantan, Pulau Seribu. I am genuinely saddened by Ms. Oravec experience, and I hopes she encounters people who can help make her perceptions more positive. I'd be glad to spend some time with her exploring ways to make her stay here more enjoyable. (I know some Indonesians who would probably do the same thing). Perhaps she could drop by ICAC (International Community Activity Center) on Jl. Kemang Raya and visit the Newcomers' Center. I think she might meet some very friendly, caring international people there.