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 blogger.com 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 www.indonesiamatters.com
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 blogs.indonesiamatters.com.
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.
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.
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 www.indonesiamatters.com.
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.
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.
“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.