Forrest Gump’s mother always said that life was like a box of chocolate. You’ll never know what you’re gonna have.
A fortnight ago, I had the rare chance to meet this incredible guy personally. In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s a journalist, the author of China, Inc. as well as Shock of Gray. This guy was once a lecturer in Universitas Gajah Mada and is now on a two-month trip in Jakarta. He was about to treat me a Big Mac–if only I hadn’t bought my own meal.
Ted: (to a mas-mas) “Terima kasih!” (“Thank you!” in Bahasa)
Afu: “You must’ve been here before. You speak Indonesian!”
Ted: “Well, actually, yes. But you only see the part of language that I know. There are parts that I don’t–and that’s a lot more!”
Afu: “Haha, alright.”
Ted: “Okay. So…”
Afu: “So, yes. What would I do, as a research assistant?”
Ted: “Well, I think I’ll have to tell you how I work. I never have specific things in mind when I decided to write something. I just talk with people–talk with almost everyone, and then I observe their thoughts, I discover the concerns that they have, and then I narrow my topic down.
Afu: (that’s pretty much what I myself do)
Ted: “I contacted a friend of mine to help finding these people…yet, instead of bringing me to the market or kampungs, he made appointments with far too great people–like the ministers and all those politicians. I don’t think I’m smart enough to meet them now. So I freaked out.”
Afu: (what a humble guy–he can’t even tell who’s smarter than whom)
Ted: “Basically, I need someone to be a translator–to falicitate me converse with real Indonesian people in the suburbs, in the market…preferably in the afternoon. Because that’s when people slow down from their morning rush.
Afu: “Well, I’d love to. I think it’ll be a great opportunity to directly learn from the field.”
Ted: “Really? Great!”
Afu: (asks technical questions)
Ted: (answers technical questions)
Afu: (nods in agreement)
Ted: “Your English is excellent, by the way. Did you grow up somewhere abroad?”
Afu: “Thank you. Nope. Actually, no. I just watch movies.”
Ted: “Wow, that’s great. So, tell me about yourself. Your interests, your dream…your plans in the future?”
Afu: “I…aspire to be a writer…just like you. An academic one, who argues about something. I also want to give lectures in classes, and I hope I can do both simultaneously. But I’m not really sure where to start.
Ted: “Well. I think Indonesia is a great place for writers. The people here are hungry for information. There are a lot of newspapers to start writing for.”
Afu: “True. But that’s exactly why we can’t tell which news is worth reading and which is not. There are too many of them.”
Ted: “Well, the thing that you have to bear in mind is that books are not newspapers–nor magazines. People buy your book because they like your idea. Newspapers and magazines, on the other hand, are issued frequently. People buy them on a habit, for example.”
Afu: “Can’t agree more.”
Ted: “I’m not saying that magazines are bad–I subscribe to a number of them. But you know, you’ll have to have the idea to sell a book.”
I don’t know what point I’m making by posting this up, but I think when you’re really great, it would be hard for you to realize that you are. He’s such an increadibly smart, family-loving, and amicable man. He has all the checklist that ladies compose for their candidate husband. I fell so fortunate to have met him in person, on a table at McDonald’s Pasar Festival.