I have been living in this place for 4 months now. While I spent the first 3 months observing and studying my new environment a.k.a the Indonesian Embassy community more specifically and the Indonesian community in general, the last 1 month was spent observing and getting to know the local community. To be honest, my general observation of Indonesians (especially those connected with the Embassy) and Myanmarese are both communal in nature. For the 4 months I was here, I attended at least 27 meetings including national days celebration (ceremony), Dharma Wanita Persatuan (DWP) regular monthly meeting, arisan (don’t know what it’s called in English), at least ad hoc DWP meetings, and embassy organised dinners. I could probably tolerate the Indonesian national days celebrations though I also question the effectiveness and the effect these celebrations have in increasing or improving our own feeling of nationalism, pride as Indonesians and determination to be the front-liners of our nation in the face of international diplomacy. I could accept the other meetings as well, because I am practically stuck with those for as long as I live as part of this community. What I could not accept is the reason for these meetings: the so called ‘togetherness’, hence if for some reasons you can’t or prefer not to attend you will straight away be labelled deviant. In addition, if you are different in how you dress, have different ideas, suggest different ways of doing things, you will straight away be excluded because you are ‘destabilising’.
Going back to the celebration of Indonesian national days, in the month of December alone there were 3 ceremonies that I attended, 2 of which were conducted on the same day, plus 1 ceremony for the opening of the Indonesian Information & Cultural Center. The 2 ceremonies that were conducted on the same day were the celebration of the Anniversary of Dharma Wanita Persatuan and Indonesian Women’s Day. They didn’t actually happen on the same day but because of Sea Games and other things the ceremonies to commemorate these two days had to be conducted on the 26th of December. What I couldn’t understand was, why on earth did we need to have 2 different ceremonies on that same day, one at 8am and the other one at 11am, if the context of these ceremonies was about women?
For the time I lived in the different countries following my father and now husband, this post is the first post where the embassy is so into having ceremonies, sometimes to the point of forcing us to have it done for prestige sake. Take the Anniversary of the Indonesia Arms Forces this year for example. While most Indonesian embassies around the world didn’t have a ceremony nor reception, our Defense Attache was made to have a reception because the prestige of our nation and the prestige of our arms forces will be tarnished if we didn’t have one. For heaven’s sake! Would others judge our arms forces based on whether or not we have a reception commemorating its anniversary? The Embassy of the United States, Thailand Embassy, Russian Embassy and so many other embassies here didn’t throw a reception for their arms forces day, but did the reputation of their arms forces change? As far as I know, it is still the same. Did the reputation of our arms forces change after the reception? I don’t think so, we’re still known in Myanmar as the best in shooting and as arms forces that use second hand or obsolete equipments!
I think our officials here need to change their mindset. The reputation of our nation is not seen from how lavish our receptions are and the ways things were celebrated. The reputation of our nation is not seen from whether or not the car we drive is expensive, whether or not the clothes we wear are branded, or other extrinsic attributes we have. But the reputation of our nation will be seen from how competent we are, how well we relate with others and how confident we are in the face of others. As long as we still perceive reputation from materialistic point of view, I think we will only be perceived as a materialistic nation, a nation that can be bought.