By Tania Butterfield, JPP 2010
AsiaNZ Foundation

Indonesia is rarely reported in the news here in New Zealand and so when I applied for the AsiaNZ scholarship to take part in the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies Journalism Professional Practicum [ACICIS JPP] I knew it would be the experience of a lifetime.

‘Be careful,’ everyone told me when I announced I had been accepted on the AsiaNZ scholarship.

‘Indonesia is full of terrorists, bombs, pickpockets, homeless people, Muslim extremists…’ and the list goes on.

But after spending 6 ½ weeks in Jakarta I can honestly say that the people I met here were some of the nicest people I have ever met.

I never once felt scared walking down the street. Not once was I pickpocketed or hassled. Even on my last day as I wandered around the neighbourhood taking photos, every single person stopped me to say Halo and wanted their photo taken.

My fondest memory has to be spending time with the ojek drivers who were based at the corner of my street. Every morning on my way to the bus stop they would cheerfully say ‘Pagi Ba Tania’[Good morning Mrs Tania] or ‘Apa Kabar?’ [How are you?]. Although my Indonesian was not very good they appreciated me making the effort to speak to them.

Every evening when I came home from work they would ask how my day was, or stand with me admiring their pet monkeys. Every night, without fail one driver would ask me if I wanted to take one of his monkeys home. While I didn’t want to get too close to them, those monkeys became like pets to me and my friend at the kos, and those ojek drivers were like a substitute family.

Eating at warungs also became a regular event while working at Garuda Magazine, and it was such a great time to get to know my work mates better and eat like a local. Tempe, a fried soy bean fritter thing quickly became my favourite food, especially when every afternoon the office boys would bring us platters of freshly fried Tempe or some other hot food. My workmates and I spent some good times bonding over our afternoon snacks – all eager to see what I thought of their food.

The 4 week placement at Garuda In-Flight Magazine was good. The people were great to work with, and I became very close to many people there.

While working for Garuda, I wrote several features among smaller articles. The first article to be published in the February edition of the magazine was about a new concert hall in Jakarta- the first to be built in Indonesia. I then wrote a 2 page feature on Setu Babakan, a Betawi Cultural Preservation Village. That was my own idea, and surprisingly no one in the office actually knew there was a Betawi Cultural Preservation Village in Jakarta! One of my photos was also used as a full page photo.

My favourite feature was a 3 page feature [to be published in the April edition] on Aula Simfonia Jakarta- the new concert hall. It was very exciting being able to properly interview someone and hearing the background to building the concert hall and how the workers have to teach concertgoers international concert etiquette. The concert hall itself was beautiful, with gold Roman God-like statutes standing on top of podiums that had the pictures of some of the most famous composers of all time.

In addition to those, I also wrote an article about ACICIS and Garuda; Java Jazz Festival and another feature on the bird market in Yogyakarta. I sub-edited other articles and found and wrote up events for the world events page.

I was very pleased to be offered a freelance position with the two of the magazines [Garuda and Jalan Jalan] to write about New Zealand. I think this is a fantastic opportunity to introduce our little country to Indonesia and I am really looking forward to building on the relationship I formed with the company. Jakarta now feels like a second home to me and I definitely want to return in the near future. Without this scholarship from AsiaNZ, I would never have thought of travelling to Indonesia and the memories, life experience, knowledge and skills are things that will stay with me for the rest of my life.