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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nana Podungge on the Jakarta Globe

by Michelle Udem

Blogging In English
Michael Jubel Hutagalung, a Web designer based in Bandung, West Java, started Jubel and the Unessential, an English-language blog, primarily to improve his written English. The blog offers Hutagalung’s random musings on Indonesia’s politics and culture.

Within a year of Hutagalung starting the blog in October 2007, the traffic to the site was so high that it was exceeding the bandwidth limit on the platform he was using, and he had to move his blog to another host. The traffic explosion, mostly from Indonesians living abroad, gave him an incentive to do more than just improve his English skills.

“I want to tell the world what Indonesia’s really like — how the people really live,” Hutagalung said. But readers may not always get much on how Indonesians are living on an up-to-the-minute basis, or even about the day-to-day concerns of his countrymen.

Hutagalung last posted on Monday, after a two-month hiatus, filling readers in on his university plans and his personal debate in choosing between studying in London or the Netherlands.

The total number of Indonesian bloggers is difficult to quantify due to the constant deletion and activation of blog accounts. A top Indonesian-language blogger and internet publisher, Enda Nasution, says that Indonesia has about one million bloggers, based on information, Wordpress information and blogs hosted personally — there are about 20 blogging communities in Indonesia, one in ever major city.

For Indonesians blogging in English, many are simply interested in trying to reach an audience beyond their own country and to give a perspective not available in the foreign media. Out of the 10 bloggers listed here, seven do not have a degree in English, nor have they studied abroad.

Budi Putra, a freelance writer and full-time, self-employed blogger living in Bintaro, South Jakarta, writes in English about new gadgets from an Indonesian perspective. Though many of his topics involve global technology news, he feels he provides a unique perspective as an Indonesian.

“My main demographic is both Indonesians and foreigners, especially those who love technology and digital life issues … Blogging is about conversation, so I want to talk to them through my blog. That’s why my blog’s tagline is ‘Talk With Me.’ ”

Hutagalung and Putra’s blogs focus on specific topics, but the majority of the Indonesians bloggers writing in English are diarists, who post as the mood strikes.

Devi Girsang, a 22-year-old medical student born, raised and living in Jakarta, operates the site “It’s My Life,” last updated May 5. With a tagline, “Love & Tears. Laugh & Cry. Achievements & Regrets. Welcome To My Life!” Girsang’s blog ranges from discussions on everyday topics such as poor customer service to inquiries on why people do bad things.

Such topics written from an Indonesian perspective and in English help readers realize that people worldwide run into the same problems and share the same emotional inquiries.

In another blog, “Republikbabi,” 23-year-old Calvin Sidjaja from Bandung posts updates about growing up with a mixed heritage in Indonesia. On his blog, Sidjaja discusses the role of mixed heritage Indonesians, such as Dutch-Indonesians and Chinese-Indonesians. He delves into the history of mixed heritages in Indonesia and how society views these people today.

“Many international students were helped because of the personal essays [on my blog],” he said.

But the Internet is not always the safest place to express personal and sometimes controversial opinions.

Girsang has “been accused of being an ‘American-wannabe’ from an anonymous commenter,” and Sidjaja notices how any type of neutral post he writes on religion always causes controversy.

Regardless of the hate mail and negative feedback, the bloggers find that voicing their thoughts and opinions in English is beneficial. “Though difficult to write in English, I like challenges. I love the rhythm of English words. It’s more personal and subjective,” Budi Putra explains.

To these bloggers, writing in English is their key to communicating to the outside world as they find freedom in abandoning their own tongue for just a few moments a week or month.

“Bahasa can be so difficult because of the formality of the language. I can express myself more casually in English” Girsang said.
These ten English-language blogs appear in the top 50 Indonesian blogs tracked by Web site

Three Popular Blogs Written by Expats Living in Indonesia:

These three blogs written by expatriates living in Indonesia are ranked in the top six on

1. Brandon Hoover
Consisting of high-resolution photographs, Brandon Hoover’s blog takes a look at Indonesia’s natural beauty and his life here as an American. Aesthetically pleasing, Hoover’s blog illustrates how Indonesia has influenced his thoughts and photography. A fan of Indonesia, Hoover’s blog provides an American’s perspective on the joys of living in the country.

2. Jakartass
Jakartass, written by a Westerner living in Jakarta, consists of witty posts chronicling the life of an expatriate in Jakarta. Posts on the blog discuss local news as well as personal experiences illustrating quirks in Indonesian culture. Most recent posts discuss power cuts in Jakarta and a list of books by bloggers. Information on Indonesian acronyms and slang words are found on the sidebar of the blog.

3. Treespotter
Treespotter is a personal blog containing posts mostly on daily life in Indonesia and current, local events. Posts include idiosyncrasies in Jakarta culture, such as how there is always a place to smoke. The personal posts are both entertaining and in depth, while the posts pertaining to politics are written from an outsider’s point of view.

Ten Blogs by Indonesians Who Are Writing in English:

These ten English-language blogs appear in the top 50 Indonesian blogs tracked by Web site

1. Michael Hutagalung
Web designer Michael Hutagalung maintains a blog that consists of his personal perspectives, his design portfolio and discussions on Wordpress themes and Indonesian social issues. His blog offers readers the opportunity to learn about the Wordpress program as well as read an Indonesian perspective on the upcoming election.

2. Budi Putra
Blogger Budi Putra of this self-titled blog provides commentary on local news and technology gadgets. Mixing local technological news, such as Indonesia’s launch of digital TV, Putra also updates readers on more esoteric news such as the discovery of Indonesian sea horses. Technologically-savvy Putra comments on how information from the upcoming election will be broadcast via SMS.

3. Devi Girsang
Attracting both Jakartans and foreigners, Devi Girsang’s personal blog gives insight into the life of a young, Indonesian medical student. Girsang blogs on topics ranging from laptop malfunctions to bus-riding etiquette. Girsang’s blog gives expatriates the opportunity to observe a young Indonesian’s experiences, while peers can relate or rebut Girsang’s critiques of Jakarta culture and society.

4. Merlyna Lim
Blogging from her home in Arizona, Merlyna Lim’s blog focuses on her craft as an artist and her thoughts on both Indonesian and American issues. In between posts of her personal drawings and collages, Lim touches on local topics such as the construction of urban space in Bandung and internationally relatable topics such as inequalities within society.

5. Martin Manurung
Martin Manurung’s self-titled blog covers topical news issues in Jakarta. Providing his own commentary and critique of social, economic and political topics, Manurung tries to counterbalance foreign media reports that he feels are often “misleading.” Straying away from gossip, Manurung’s blog gives foreigners an inside look from a local’s perspective.

6. Calvin Michel Sidjaja
Touching on sensitive topics such as his search for his family tree and being of mixed heritage, Calvin Sidjaja’s blog consists of posts on his personal life and experiences. Sidjaja’s Indonesian heritage is a main theme of his blog, a topic that many young adults can relate to.

7. Ecky
Known on her blog as Ecky, the blogger writes from Australia. Though she mostly posts on personal subjects such as shower rituals and the perks of being a woman, Ecky also writes about the difficulties that come with change and leaving the comfort of her home country, Indonesia. Ecky also posts topical news from Jakarta, such as the upcoming election and President Obama’s effect on Indonesians.

8. Carla Ardrian
Blogging on various topics from gardening to photography, Carla Ardrian provides an Indonesian perspective on everyday things. Accommodating her Indonesian readers, Carla posts innovative recipes and political commentary, while foreigners may be more attracted to her travel and cultural tips. One of Carla’s posts comments on her experience of receiving incorrect directions as a tourist in Bali.

9. Nana Podungge
Nana Podungge’s most recent post on her blog, “A Feminist Blog,” discusses the topic of religion. Podungge considers herself a secular Muslim. Her religious views are mixed with the other main focus of her blog, a woman’s role in society. A unique combination, Podungge’s blog provides insight into controversial topics.

10. Martha
“Frank and Martha’s Blog,” written by Martha, captures the life of a young family in Jakarta. Martha’s updates illustrate the charms shared by all families worldwide, such as receiving her first written letter from her elementary school-aged son. Chronicling the life of a mother, Martha shares her thoughts on baking experiences, the workplace and raising a young child.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


In one encounter with a cousin of mine

A: Why did you get divorced?
N: We were no longer suitable to each other.
A: Tidak ada dua orang hidup bersama, kemudian langsung cocok begitu saja. Keduanya harus saling mencocokkan diri satu sama lain. (There is no case of a couple living together where the two of them directly suit each other. Both of them have to struggle to do that.)
N: Aku tidak mau mencocokkan diri dengannya lagi. (In that case, I no longer was willing to do that.)

This part of the conversation reminded me of one cynical or rhetorical question of one post in a friend’s blog, some years ago: “Enak saja bilang ‘kita berdua ga cocok lagi.’ (How could people easily say, ‘we were no longer suitable to each other?’ What did you consider before getting married in the past?”
The answer is simple actually: “People change.” When only one of the couple changes, the other doesn’t change, the two of them will not be compatible anymore.
In one scene of “Definitely Maybe” movie, Sarah was worried to let Will go to New York. “You will change …” Sarah pleaded. “Let us change together,” Will responded.
When the love disappears between the couple, or perhaps only in one of them, living together will be like in hell for both of them, or especially for the one whose love has disappeared.

A: Kalau kasusnya begitu, ya repot. Aku ga bisa berkomentar apa-apa lagi. (So, if that is the case, I cannot comment anything else.)
N: You had better not.


A: You have a boyfriend?
N: No. Not yet.
A: Is he already married again?
N: Not yet.
A: Ah … why don’t you two get back to each other?
N: Naaaay … No way.

(What a stubborn cousin. LOL. Haven't I told him before that my ex and I are no longer compatible? Just blame me, if you want, because I have changed alone, I have left my ex far behind me so that he could not catch up. Just blame me, if you want, because my love for him has disappeared with the wind. But, blame him for making this happen. A long long time ago.)

A: Have you ever heard a hadith saying that blessing of a woman is on the husband's hands (or feet? I forgot what he said. LOL.)?
N: Bless me because I am not married! My blessing is directly on God's then.

This cousin of mine must be dreaming thinking that I would be easily cheated by such a misogynist hadith. Wake up, cousin! My role models are Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud for Muslim feminists. Another role model of mine is Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a Deist. My favorite reading is JURNAL PEREMPUAN.
Anyway, that conversation happened on our first encounter. He obviously doesn't read my blog thoroughly, though he found my blog first, then me.
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sure you can ask me personal questions (2)

I am a Muslim, if you think religion for you to know. But I am a secular Muslim. Sometimes I even label myself as an agnostic, especially during my journey to be an acclaimed feminist and a secular.
Don’t get me wrong. I shaped myself as a secular from books I have read. My background was strict, religious family and somewhat conventional Islamic elementary school.
The turning point in my religious or spiritual life was when I was pursuing my study at American Studies, Gadjah Mada University; the reading materials from some classes, plus books I bought using the allowance I got from BPPS, mixed with my rebellious nature and ‘wild’ interpretation changed me to be the present Nana.
Surely, I felt very alone and weird afterwards, thinking that no one could understand my way of thinking. Blogging has helped me a lot to overcome this problem. Joining some mailing lists—whose members are broad-minded—obviously made me feel “I am not the only one to be a secular (and sometimes agnostic) and a feminist. Nevertheless, when facing ‘real’ people’ in my ‘real’ world, I still feel weird. Anyway, I have to move on with my life, right?
Recently I have been busy working especially since August 2008 so I don’t have much time left for blogging. That’s why I seldom post in my blogs, only some trivial poems (sometimes )
My daily schedule is
• Monday till Friday 07.00-15.00 in an international school. My teaching schedule is around 26 slots per week. During 2008/2009 academic year, I taught Senior English level 1, Bahasa Indonesia for grades 7, 8, 9, and supervised library sessions for the same grades.
For 2009/2010 academic year perhaps I will handle Senior English level 1 and 2, English literature for grades 7, 8, 9, and IGCSE Sastra Indonesia for grade 10.
• Monday till Thursday 17.00-19.00, Friday 16.00-18.00 and Saturday 08.00-12.00 and 16.00-18.00 I teach English as a foreign language in one English course.
• Monday AND Thursday 19.00-21.00 I teach Poetry and Drama Analysis classes in one private college in my hometown.
Very hectic, isn’t it? :)
Practically I don’t have much time left to do exercise. Therefore I usually bike around the town around 30-60 minutes after teaching. I bike to work from Monday until Thursday.
Well, b2w has become my lifestyle since July 2008, after I joined b2w Semarang community. At first, someone named ‘Aluizeus’ read my post at ‘multiply’ blog complaining about the soaring price of gasoline. He suggested that I b2w to overcome the problem. :) To read more complete writings of mine about b2w, you can visit my blog at under tag ‘b2w’.
Being born in a Muslim family that belongs to the so-called ‘indigenous’ ethnic in Indonesia absolutely made my life easier, not much discriminative treatment I have ever got. Though I don’t have Javanese blood, living in Java island is very ok for me since I look like the majority of Javanese people, brown complexion, dark hair, and dark almond-shaped eyes. If bloody events happen (such as a tragedy in May 1998), I will certainly NOT be targeted. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy for my fellow Chinese Indonesian citizens. Just read my posts thoroughly at
The “only” discriminative treatment I have ever got, as far as I remember, is because I was born with vagina, breasts, and womb. However, this “only” thing means BIG when coming to the life of women in this patriarchal society.
Some reasons why I blog in English:
• English is my second language, since I graduated from English Department.
• To sharpen my ability in writing in English—one thing I oftentimes had to do during my study at American Studies Graduate Program. I work in a place where I am not obliged to write a lot. Writing in English for blogs helps maintain my ‘spirit’ as a Graduate Program student. :)
• To reach wider audience. I sometimes address people living out of Indonesia to talk about what has happened in my home country.

LL Tbl 10.20 120609

Sure you can ask me personal questions (1)

Nana Podungge is my name.
Well, I was born in Semarang, but both of my parents are from Gorontalo, North Sulawesi.
Yup, I got my family name from my parents. Both of them happen to be Podungge; in fact they are cousins.
I am a teacher, especially an English teacher.
The most interesting thing from my profession? Well, I love sharing knowledge I have, and love to know my students’ experience too, so there is a kinda exchanging knowledge between us.
I love reading, writing, blogging, listening to music, biking, and swimming. In fact swimming is my most favorite sport although since I bike to work, I don’t go swimming regularly anymore.
Blogging? Ya you can say this is my most favorite pastime. I have loved writing since I was a kid. Blogging has enabled me to expose my writings so that other people can read my writings too. (I am absolutely a narcissist for this. LOL.) Moreover after I was awakened by feminist ideology, blogging has obviously helped me a lot to express my anxiety.
Wanna know my blogsites? Easy. Just type NANA PODUNGGE in any search engine, google, yahoo, or any other. You’ll be led to my blogsites.
Single or married? Hmm … do you think I look like a single or married woman? LOL.
My favorite reading is JURNAL PEREMPUAN. One favorite book of mine is SI PARASIT LAJANG written by Ayu Utami.
I was born and raised in Java island so my favorite dish is Javanese food, such as ‘pecel’, ‘gudangan’. I also like fried rice and ‘kwetiau’.
My favorite drink is coffee. The second is tea. The third is orange juice. No, I don’t like soda drink. :) Well, I don’t think I am a coffee addict, though. :-d
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This is 'kwetiau'. :)