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The Quick Fix

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As you all may know by now (since some of this information is written in my other articles) I was born and spent most of my youth in Yogyakarta, the city where the Sultan of Yogyakarta resides. Known for its well-preserved culture – Yogyakarta is the center of Javanese culture in fact. Yogyakarta is famous for the graciousness of its people, its rather exceedingly sweet snacks, its ‘becak’, horse carts, the ever persistent batik sellers, manure-scented ‘Borobudur’ Bar, the dark-skinned long-haired gigolos and other things I can’t name. Aside from the slightly intriguing products I mentioned at the end of the previous sentence, basically Yogyakarta is especially famous for the soft spoken, gracious, humble ladies which reside in the Sultan’s palace. If you are not fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of the ladies of the palace, the ladies found in the villages throughout the province are almost as gracious.

Don’t get me wrong. Though I’m a Javanese, I’m nowhere near those ‘G’ spots (read: I’m far from the description of ‘gracious’). Perhaps spending a few years of my life in Western European countries, associating with the expatriate community in Jakarta and the fact that I’m married to somebody from Down Under have depleted or even worse – nipped off the traditional Javanese traits from my blood.

Knowing my background, one sunny day my Irish buddy and I were involved in the following conversation:

“Aida, do you have any sisters who might be interested in a relationship with a foreigner?” he initially asked me. Mind you, this friend of mine had been burnt badly by an unsuccessful long-standing relationship with a gal from his hometown.

“Nope. Both my sisters are already happily married. One married an East Javanese and the other one married a complete d***head from Jakarta. Even if I still had an available sister, I doubt that she would be interested to get involved with a foreigner. My family is still quite traditional. I’m the only strange case in the family who has a taste for ‘white meat’. You should be aiming at the ‘foreigner chasing families’. I know a couple of families where all of their daughters are married to foreigners. Do you want their phone numbers?” I took a deep breath after such a lengthy explanation. I don’t remember how many times I have exercised the same litany to my male western friends.

“No, that’s exactly the problem. I want somebody traditional. I want to go back to Ireland with this little traditional token, a humble, gracious, Javanese princess. I don’t want a woman like you. Gees Aida, the lot like you is abundant in my country. No offence. Well, they are not really exactly like you. The point is … wait I have an idea,” he stopped abruptly and looked at me with mischief in his eyes. I didn’t like that look.

Since I love this friend dearly, I didn’t have the heart to refuse his request. That afternoon, I wrote an ad, to be published in the local Yogyakarta newspaper ‘Kedaulatan Rakyat’. Written in Bahasa Indonesia, the ad said:

“A good looking, nice, patient, non-temperamental Irishman is looking for a traditional, humble and gracious lady from Yogyakarta for a serious relationship. Please send a letter with your background information and recent photos to: …”

Of course since my delightful friend wanted to keep his identity secret, he asked me to put my address on the ad. And he also asked me to go through the ‘application’ letters and sort them out according to his taste. I told him that he owed me three bottles of good Tawny Port for the task.

A week passed, and we received hundreds of letters from Yogyakarta. The letters were from women of various professions - single mothers, tourist guides, career women, servants, farmers, prostitutes, and even students in their junior high school uniforms. They sent photos of themselves posing in traditional outfits or merely standing in front of a traditional ‘kampung house’. One photo befuddled me though; it was of a girl wearing a black belt karate uniform, acting out a deadly kick. Wait – a traditional Javanese girl and black belt karate? Duh?

The result of the skin-hunter project was not successful. Shortly after the ad was published, my buddy found a prospective traditional girlfriend from Jakarta and he didn’t pursue any of the applicants any further. I felt a bit guilty for helping him sow such hopes in those women. Anyway.

A couple of days ago, I received a letter from a woman who had read my published articles. To make the story short, basically she explained that she recently had been through a divorce, she was fed up with Indonesian men, and now she asked my opinion on how to get to know and eventually marry a foreigner … so she could live happily ever after.

I just don’t get it. Why do some people think that changing their old partners with new partners who have a different skin colour will solve all problems they had with their previous partners? Is there anyone out there who can prove that an Indonesian love partner for a Westerner will fix all marital/relationship problems?

It’s like when someone is ill. One doesn’t choose a medicine based on the colour of its box. One chooses a medicine based on the ingredients of the medicine. And one doesn’t get completely cured by only taking the medicine, without trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Do you get what I’m trying to say here? Okay, my grey cells will try to translate: one should not choose a partner based on her or his skin colour, or nationality, but the choice should be based on his or her personality. And if one has problems with one’s partner, there are two things to fix: the partner and one’s self.

So – should I change my profession? What about establishing a company called ‘The Quick Fix MatchMaker? Our advertising slogan could be: “We supply white guys (for the Indonesian girls) and traditional local girls (for expat guys). Fee: a dozen bottles of good Tawny Port”.

First published in the Jakarta Post, on Sunday, August 31, 2003

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

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