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mercredi 12 décembre 2012


Indonesia is an enchanting land, mainly because of the open mindedness of its people and welcome it extends to the visitors to its shore.
I was on the receiving end of this enchantment today on my visit to Bandung, the colonial city from the time of the Dutch. It is very obvious, unlike anywhere else in Indonesia, that Dutch were here. Trading house signs in Dutch are still evident. There is a nostalgia in the air, and I was drinking it up to the fullest.
After a lovely lunch with included a newly founded favourite, Soto Tangkar (Batavi) at a heavily nostalgic café  Kaffeehuis Oey in Braga street, was walking slowly along, chatting with my Indonesian friend and guide.
He stops suddenly, I am used to this as he is gregarious and given to talking to complete strangers and I saw him talking to a few young girls, in school uniform of a Moslem School with their white hijabs. He turned to me and asked: they wonder if you would mind answering their questions?
In not many other Asian countries would you expect to be stopped by a gaggle of girls, in hijabs nevertheless, so that they can satisfy their curiosity about this stranger among their midst.

They were 15 and 16 years old, spoke a bare minimum of English but were comfortable asking me questions in Bahasa Indonesia which my friend readily translated. My friend was explaining to them who I was, where did I come from, what am I doing in these parts, to the best of his ability.
Then a cherubic 15 year old asked me: in your country, how do you get along with your neighbour.
I told them that I will give them examples of Cuba, Miami and Paris: the three places I call home these days. They were wide eyed and fascinated with my answers and chatted on for a while.
Two of the girls would like to become Psychologists, the cherubic one would like to study Tropical Fishes. The two boys in the group both wanted to be Businessmen. That alone says a lot about the Indonesian culture and aspirations among the young.
They wrote down their names, some addresses and their telephone numbers. I expressed my hope that I see them again in the future in Bandung, or at another place in Indonesia or in places where I am wandering about. They were very pleased.
After they left, I was so full of an innocent joy. Condemning someone just because they wear a hijab for reasons unclear to us, would only make us fall into the trap of judgement. These girls were as sweet and innocent and open minded as any other fifteen year old in any part of the world. What distinguished them was their curiosity to want to ask a foreigner some questions in their mind.
I wrote a collective sms and sent to all their telephone numbers. By the time we got back to Bogor after a very pleasant day in Bandung, an sms was waiting from the cherubic one, which my friend translated. I reproduce his email as is:
dear dr. yehuda,

hi dok...this is a replay message from ……kita..
" t…. juga sangat senang sekali bisa mempunyai pengalaman bertemu dokter dan pak wowo, semoga saya bisa melakukan pekerjaan yang sangat mulia seperti dokter disuatu hari nanti. terimakasih dokter menginspirasi saya. terimakasih telah meluangkan waktu.
terima kasih banyak.
salam hangat,

in english :
" t…. very pleased  can had an experience to met dokter and mr.wowo, 
hopefully I can do a very noble job as a doctor in one day. thanks doctors who inspired me. Thank you for taking the time. thank you very much ....
warm regards,

what a wonderful day that we went to bandung dok...
thanks for everything that we had together..

best regards,