My friend who backpacked around the world said that Canadian backpackers have a great nationalistic spirit. “Everywhere they backpacked, they never forgot to bring Canadian national flag,” he said. The flag they brought usually in a small size hanging on backpack. I’ve seen some backpackers hanging Canadian flag on their backpack. I’m not sure if every Canadian backpacker doing that or it’s just happened to be.
In fact, I’ve never seen Indonesian backpacker hanging Red and White national flag on their backpack. Indonesian Red and White flag usually display to celebrate when we reached the highest mount in the world like Himalaya. For backpacking abroad we don’t need to bring our national flag. “Because our flag isn’t colourful,” the youth usually say like that. Sorry, just a joke.
It might be right. Red and White is not enough to be an identity for us while we backpack abroad. Red and White flag or Indonesia is not popular in other countries outside South East Asia. “Where is Indonesia?” is a common question if we say where we’re from. “Is it near Bali?” Oh my God, how a pity we are. They don’t know Indonesia and even Jogja!
One day when I looked around in a Hong Kong shopping mall in 2001, someone came near to me with a smile on his face. He said something but I didn’t understand. Then he spoke in loudly and I still didn’t understand his language. “You from Philippines, right?” he asked me. “Sorry, I’m not,” I answered and shook my head. “I come from Indonesia,” I said smiley.
Then he apologized as thought me a Philippines woman. He was a Philippines migrant who lived in Hong Kong for several years. He said that he was really surprised when met a face look like Philippines in HK. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “Never mind,” I smiled. Before he left, he asked me where I live in Indonesia. “Jogja. Yogyakarta!” I answered proudly. I asked him if he knew about Jogja, the cultural heart of Java that I really proud to live in. He smiled and shook his head. Then he left me in disappointed feeling and smiling.
The same experience happened again when I visited Cambodia and Thailand. Cambodian people thought I was a Thai woman. When I said no, they said, “Oh I see, you must be from Philippines.” During my holiday in Thailand, every Thai people I met, in the bus, train, market, shop, etc, spoke in Thai language to me. They thought I was a Thai woman. Thai people are look like Indonesian, especially Javanese. But they have bright-skinned than us. Being too often to be supposed as Thai people, I’ve bored to say “Sorry guys, I don’t speak Thai. I come from Indonesia.”
Why anybody couldn’t recognize my Indonesia face? A big mark question in my mind and keep hanging inside now.
But, wait, I’ve so surprised and didn’t believe that there was an English woman recognized my Indonesia face. It was in Edinburgh, Scotland, thousands miles from Asia. I was window-shopping in Mark & Spencer when an old woman came near to me. “Are you from Indonesia?” I so surprised hearing her question. “Yes, I’m. How do you know, Ma’am?” I asked in confused. She held my shoulder and said, “I’ve been to Jakarta and Bali.” Then she told me how Bali is beautiful and she hoped someday would be back to Bali.