Caraka is a magazine owned by the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and is published every quarter. It is geared towards Indonesians living in Malaysia and contains news and stories that are of relevance and interest to them.
In the Januari-Maret 2005 edition of Caraka, MyIndo.com was made into a two-page feature by in-house reporter Nasrullah Ali-Fauzi, who runs a segment called "Nota Malindo."
I was excited, touched and honored as I had never seen so much attention being paid to my website before! It's not everyday that my work is recognized by a very observant Indonesian working for a very influential entity. Terima kasih, Nasrul.
Thanks to some hard translation work by my friend Laura, you can read the article in English and learn some trivial information about MyIndo.com that you might have not known before.
Nasrullah Ali-Fauzi (Indonesia)
Her full name is Farah Eleena Ahmad Mahdzan but sheís usually called Farah or Fairy Mahdzan. A little bit of a tomboy, she is lively and talkative. I first met her at a press meeting in Kuala Lumpur in May 2004. She introduced herself as a journalist from MyIndo.com.
What is MyIndo.com? As far as I know, there isnít any form of media with that name in Malaysia. Out of curiosity, I went to the site. And after browsing it for a while, I found out.
MyIndo.com is Farahís own website. It contains her writings in English about numerous Indonesian-isms (banyak hal tentang Indonesia): from the culture, the people, the development of music, food, drink, and much more.
"Really, the content is a variety of stories about things that have awed me about Indonesia. Whatever interests me about Indonesia, I discuss based on my view as a Malaysian," she says.
Try opening www.myindo.com. There are over 100 articles Farah has written about Indonesia. For example, about bajaj ("From Jakarta with Love"); bakso ("Bakso Bola Tenis"); ketok mejik ("Ketok Magic: The Cheap Alternative to Expensive Car Repair!"); Candi Prambanan ("Prambanan Temple: Why Lovers are Discouraged to Visit"); and so on.
There are also articles about the development of Indonesian music. The result of Farahís interviews with a line of artists and popular musicians such as Project Pop, Ruth Sahanaya, Kris Dayanti, Ika Putri and Gigi are showcased there. More interestingly again, Farah has not forgotten to include artistic photographs (her own work) of the things she has written about.
For Indonesians, articles such as these are perhaps the stuff of everyday life, therefore not so interesting. But in the eyes of this 26 year-old, who was born on the 28th of January 1979, things such as bajaj, ketok magic, street vendors of bakso, wonton, siomay, and fried tofu and tempe, are unique.
"I really enjoy writing about everyday matters which are truly Indonesian, such as teh botol (bottled tea), or bakso and the rooster-sporting bakso bowls. Itís things that are specifically Indonesian, and not ones Iíve come across in Malaysia," she states.
More importantly again, as Farah herself has acknowledged, she is truly impressed (in the true meaning of the word) by Indonesia. In her view, Indonesia is the closest neighbour and has many similarities with Malaysia (language, culture and even more, history). The people are kind and friendly. The specialty foods are delicious. The music is also progressive.
"Indonesia is full of creative energy and freedom, which sometimes I feel is missing in Malaysia, especially in the arena of music and art," she argues.
Other than her impressions of Indonesia, the existence of MyIndo.com also can not be divorced from the educational background and interests of Farah herself. The third daughter of Prof. Dr. Ahmad Mahdzan Ayob and Prof. Dr. Noran Fauziah Yaakub, Farah is a graduate of Ohio University, USA (1997-2001) in Information Systems Management.
Other than that, reading, writing, travelling, collecting CDs and cassettes, and most importantly, website production, are the primary activities of this lover of teh botol and Palembang fried fish cakes (pempek).
Farah says that when she was studying at high school, she spent more time making websites than studying. In 1997, she started to compile an online dictionary entitled Jom Ngomong2x! (Ngerumpi, Yuk!) which contained popular Indonesian and Malay slang.
"I made the site just for fun. I took funny Indonesian slang words and found the Malay equivalent".
In this final site, Farah began to write her stories about her impressions of Indonesia, starting from music, pop culture and her travel stories. What ever I consider interesting about Indonesia, I discuss from my perspective as a Malaysian."
After her English language articles began to accumulate, Farah decided to exchange the name of the site fairy.mahdzan.com to myindo.com. "My" is the internet domain name of Malaysia, whereas "Indo" is an abbreviation of Indonesia. "So the meaning of the name of my website is A Malaysianís Indonesia, or My Indonesia, Indonesia from my viewpoint as a Malaysian."
Farah explains that the name MyIndo.com is the result of an internet chat discussion with her friend Natali "Adhe" Ardianto in Jakarta. The aim of exchanging the name was for people to more easily remember it, as well as being more suited to the content.
Alternately, the logo and design of the site Myindo.com, adds Farah, came from working with Ryan Wijaya, a designer from Jambi. The logo is a cartoon which is dominated by the colours of the Malaysian and Indonesian flags: red, white, yellow and blue.
"I wanted the logo to express a spirit of fun, and illustrate the existence of strong ties and similarities between Malaysia and Indonesia," she clarified.
When Farah found out that the domain MyIndo.com was
still available, she bought it immediately. And in the middle of May
2003, the domain name officially went public.
"Indonesians overseas often say that my site relieves their homesickness. Sometimes I think itís funny, because Iím not even Indonesian."
Malaysians and Singaporeans have also
commented on the web-site. They consider Farah as an expert on Indonesia.
Itís not surprising that she is often consulted about Indonesia:
from food to language and terminology, shopping places, snacks and so
Because Farahís articles are written in English, the site obviously also gets attention from people outside Indonesia and Malaysia who donít speak Malay. "They like MyIndo.com because the articles are written in English. So they can enjoy my stories."
Furthermore, Farah explains that through her site, she can meet others who have similar hobbies and are interested in Indonesia. One of them is Jeroen, a Dutch national who has a similar site called www.indahnesia.com.
That is Farah: a creative girl. By day, sheís a busy IT engineer in Cyberjaya. But outside that, she gives up her time, energy and money to pursue her hobby: reading, writing and photography. More importantly still, she admires Indonesia. And all that is expressed creatively through MyIndo.com.
As an Indonesian living in Malaysia, I Ė once again Ė am so impressed by what Farah has done. For the image of Indonesia and itís people in the eyes of a section of the Malaysian people is not so good, especially in relation to the Indonesian workers there (TKI - Tenaga Kerja Indonesia).
Farah herself acknowledges this. But she also argues that the image of Indonesia in Malaysia is not all bad. In the field of music, for example, many Indonesian artists are greatly liked by the Malaysian public. The number of Indonesian students in Malaysia has also continued to climb.
"That indirectly gives a space to Malaysians to interact with Indonesian friends. In that way, I hope that the people of Malaysia or whoever can see Indonesia from a different and more positive viewpoint".
I agree with Farah, and hope that is really the case. Even more so, if Indonesians themselves want to do similar things. I am also positive, MyIndo.com, directly or indirectly, helps to improve the image of Indonesia overseas. Even more so if its articles could one day be published in a book.
"If there is a sponsor, from wherever, I do have plans to publish the articles in a book. Beyond that, I am also interested in studying more seriously Indonesian pop culture in Indonesia," Farah states.
Finally, we should say thank you to Farah. I, and Indonesians in general, admire her creativity and her admiration of Indonesia. Hopefully there will be a sponsor willing to publish her articles, and also pave the way for her further studies in Indonesia. In that way, Farahís admiration towards Indonesia will not be lost, including her love of eating bakso and sipping Sosro tea, while perched on a bajaj!***
Kuala Lumpur, 27 February 2005
Minister Abdullah Badawi and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
graced the back cover of Caraka that quarter.
Related story: CometoJakarta.com's 10 Questions for MyIndo.com