Remembering 1997: The Sweetest Year in My Life (Part 18):

By mid-September, we have graduated to higher class. Now we move to another class with different teacher. Our teacher’s name is Linda*. She is quite a charming and warm blonde haired teacher, with a bit of Indonesian language knowledge (as she used to stay in Bali for quite a long period). Just like other teachers in here, she is a nice and welcoming person. But unlike previous ones, she gave us freedom to play our music cassette during the class, as long as the tune is pleasant to listen to anyone.  She also seems to like my Chicago songs as well.

It was during this period that I also get to know some other Indonesian students as well.

One that was very close to me was Alvin Adhitya. Just like me, he was a newly graduated high school student who took the English language course in preparation of the college entrance. He is a polite and humble guy from Jakarta. We often spend our time together during break time, or sometime in library, as we were in different class. I also introduced him to Sung Ho and Heinz, and he got along very well with them.

Students relaxing on the classroom building balcony during a lunch break. On the left is Alvin Adhitya.

Alvin also taught me on how to save money on lunch, while on the other hand enjoying varied menus. He showed some Japanese restaurants near the campus, who sell nice Chicken and Beef teriyaki. He also shows me Daily Supermarket, just across the street from our campus, where we can buy variety of food ingredients from many Asian and Middle Eastern countries. The supermarket also sold some ready to eat menu on its counter, such as Nasi Lemak, Biryani Chicken Rice, and some noodles (I never purchased the noodle as it contain pork).

Daily Supermarket was my regular destination to buy lunch in my latter months in St. Mark’s, as it sell cheaper food than in canteen.

He also shows some milk beverages in the supermarket. The milk is produced by “Brownes” dairy company. Unlike fresh milk in Indonesia, who only came in plain, chocolate, or strawberry flavor; those in here also came in vanilla, eggnog, mint, cappuccino, roses, and also several other unusual flavors that I can’t recall. The good thing about the milk is that it’s so creamy that if you shake the package, frothy bubbles (like those in milk shake) will form on the top.

Once in a while, we would go on together every weekend to explore the city, where he would show me some Indonesian restaurants over there. The most famous was Matahari, which was located in a basement floor beneath a souvenir shop in Murray Street. The taste is up to you to judge, but the cheap price made it favorite among Indonesian students in Perth.

We often talked about current affair, like what happened in Indonesia while we’re away, the relationship between Indonesia and Australia, and also criticism towards hedonistic life of some Indonesian students in Australia. The contrast between liberal life of Australia and strict life (especially under Soeharto’s dictatorship) often become subject of our conversation.  We also criticize Indonesian students in Australia, either in our college or elsewhere else in Australia, who led a hedonistic life like indulging in nightclub life, visiting striptease clubs, and spending on luxurious items. Those were the last days before 1997 economic crisis, where the Australian price tags were still affordable by visiting Indonesians, yet they’re already garnered criticism. We also criticize those who choose to stay with the host that actually also Indonesian. These students simply do not pay enough effort to develop their English as they were largely staying in their comfort zone.

The other Indonesian guy (also from Jakarta) that I get to know was Hudiono Handoyo, also known as Hudi. Contrary to Alvin, he is an adventurous, rebellious, and colorful person. He is a bit of naughty and also quite a bully. He is the type of guy who was probably a trouble maker during his high school days, and seems to attempt to carry such poor attitude all the way to Australia. Hudi frequently visiting nightclubs, engaging in beer drinking match (including with Woo Jae, which is why both are actually close pal), and frequenting striptease clubs too. And although he said he is Muslim, I often caught him eating pork bacon. His reasoning is “I’m not a practicing Muslim!”

Another classroom photo. This was actually taken on the advance level. Left to right: Milo Bogdanovich (the teacher in that class), Hudiono Handoyo, me, and three Japanese girls that I forgot their names. The nearest girl to me latter become Hudi’s fiancee.

He loves making troubles and controversy (not in the extreme way that would land punishment from authority), in order to gain popularity. Whenever the Indonesian students gather, he will be the one who will be try to seek attention, someone who will dominate the conversation, or trying to become the most popular guy. He often teases or bullies fellow Indonesians too.

He sometime made some brush with nightlife, gangsters, and even prostitution. I recall how he once bragged about his drinking bout match with Woo Jae, in which he lost. And also his habit of going to striptease clubs with fellow Indonesians, or sometime Woo Jae.

He came from wealthy and powerful family: his father was an Army General, and during Soeharto era, top ranking Army Officers enjoyed plenty of privileges. At one point his father forced him to enlist in the army, but his rebellious nature led to his expulsion from Military Academy. His father, fed up with his uncompromising attitude, decided to send him to study in Australia and the rest is history.

Sometime Hudi tried to mock me, but my better English ability allowed me to socialize with students from other countries and avoiding his pranks. Despite of his annoying attitude, I didn’t antagonize him completely and we sometime can get along and also going out together amiably.  I sometime paid visit to his flat. And once at home, he is actually a peaceful and amiable person.

Another Indonesian student that I know was Nicholas*. He was a Chinese Indonesian who is very active and love to join conversation with others. Most of the time he can be rather silly and doing foolish things. But most of the time, he is just a normal kind of guy. He seems to be expert in computer. I remember, just like Woo Jae, he is also keen gamers. Unless that his knowledge of computer games, is much wider than Woo Jae.

Relaxing on the library. Alvin Adhitya is just behind me. The girl with checkered red shirt is a Thai student named Nattaporn.

And then there is Bahrul. He is a Makassarese student from South Sulawesi who came here to prepare for his university study. His outward appearance partly resembles Indigenous Australian. Despite of his rugged and slightly harsh outlook, he is a mild mannered, friendly, and rather low profile person. Although his appearance looked menacing towards fellow Indonesians (especially those from Jakarta or West Java), he was well known as the expert on approaching Japanese ladies. Apparently many Japanese girls were attracted to his tough outlook.

One other Indonesian that I get to know is Geetha*, an Indonesian student from the city of Medan in North Sumatera. She is a rare breed of Indonesian as she is of Tamil-Indian descent. Indonesian people of Indian descent, let alone Tamil, are rarity. While you can easily find Tamil-Indian descent in Malaysia and Singapore, they’re rarely visible in Indonesia. Indeed the Indians are vastly outnumbered by Arabs and (obviously) Chinese. And the majority of Indian Indonesians are the fair skinned Punjabi people instead of dark skinned Tamil.

Like majority of Indonesian students, she is also a high school graduates who wants to pursue university in Australia. She came to the college about a month after I entered. I can’t recall what degree did she pursue, but I think it is related to economy.

She is actually quite an unpleasant figure too, in a rather subtle way. She seems to be rather arrogant. She always speaks with haughty tone. Often brag about something. And it gradually incensed me. Since I don’t socialize very often with her, it doesn’t really bother me. But one day it did. I remember one time, I was browsing the university brochures in the library when she came over and commenting arrogantly “Hah, now you’re going to that college!” I scolded her back: “Shut up! And mind your own business!”

I think her rigid and arrogant attitude is also resulting to her fall out with her host, which resulting in acrimonious departure from her first lodging house. Her typical Indian hard-nosed attitude simply does not go well with the strict old-school attitude of her New Zealander host.

I also get to know Deddy*, and Indonesian in his 30s. He attends the English language course to prepare for his postgraduate degree in one university in Perth. He is generally a polite and mature person, where his insight of the world is just like average Indonesians who rarely or even never been to overseas countries, let alone staying on long term.

He came to Australia with his wife, Santy*. She also attends the English language course at St. Mark’s. I can’t recall whether if she also plans to attend university course in Australia, as her class was different than her husband. She is a nice woman, and also a devoted wife. While many of us would buy meal for lunch, she will always prepare the meal for husband and herself, so they don’t need to spend money to buy their lunch. Indeed, it is very economical way to spend the lunch.

Generally, the majority of Indonesians tend to gather and socialize with fellow countrymen. Very few would spend their break time with students from other countries, especially Europeans. And they still carry the attitude that is very much resembles the attitude of my schoolmates back home in Indonesia. And when grouped with students from other nationalities, like during combined class, I can see how contrasting and backward their attitude can be (except for the likes of Alvin and Bahrul, who respect me).

One good example, when I made mistake in the class, like mispronouncing some English words, it will be the Indonesians who will laugh hardest at me. Other nationalities would largely stay silent (out of respect) and let me proceed with the task. Judging by what I see, it is obvious on why Indonesians hardly able to compete with students from other countries, because they would bully and deride their fellow countrymen. This will hinder the level confidence of a person; inhibit his will to experiment, and stuttering their progress to succeed. And this is the reason why throughout most of my time in Australia, I rarely socialize with most Indonesians, especially if you remember the attitude of Erick* and Danny*.

The Foundation program students do not fare better. Since they’re of high school age, they often bring their unruly and rowdy attitude to Australia. They often shout and tease their friends at public places or public transport, much to the embarrassment of the elderly Indonesian who feels ashamed when they became noisy when traveling together in large group.

There were also several attractive Indonesian ladies that I also attended the course. One lady from Jakarta was said to be a girlfriend of one famous kick boxer athlete (these days, his sport would have been known as “mixed martial arts”). She already held PR status, thanks to her relationship with her boxer fiancée. She worked in some night club in Northbridge, and has met the who’s who of Perth underworld.

There was also one pretty lady that at one point I was slightly infatuated to her, and she was actually fully aware of this, and seems to have a fun with it. She is actually a year older than me, but she doesn’t mind about that.  The reason why I was smitten with her was because one day, I dreamed of being obsessed and falling in love with one famous Indonesian child singer, Agnes Monica. The feeling remained after I woke up, and finding a person who looked like her was like finding an oasis in the dessert. Oh, just like me, she is also from Surabaya. She is “Peranakan Chinese” or a person of half Chinese and half Javanese.

But my relationship with her did not last very long, upon what happened on the following day.

TO BE CONTINUED

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About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
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