Amazing Indonesian Women, Racing On

Like a lot of people who aren’t in denial on how American politics influence our world, I started the week by picking my jaw up off the floor after listening to the video of Donald Trump’s very vulgar conversation on women. Watching the presidential debate later, I was more appalled that far from acting repentant, Trump spent time either mansplaining or hovering behind Hillary Clinton’s back.

In Jakarta, went around memes comparing the wives of gubernatorial candidates on their looks.

Women have gone to space, won Nobel prizes, presided over countries and organizations like IMF and World Bank, with another woman just another step of leading the United States, and yet misogyny is often written off as “locker-room talk” while remaining very physical.

I had a choice to call the wrath of Zeus upon men, or focus instead on women. For my sanity I chose the latter. So let me tell you the stories of two amazing women.

The first one is Louisa Kusnandar, who I met during my business commentary segment on the now-defunct The Indonesia Channel where she was the anchorwoman. We soon discovered that we lived in the same compound, so a friendship blossomed and continued even after we moved on to other projects. Me and my usual drama, she and her 2-year-old son, would bond over sugary treats from time to time.

It was a big surprise a while ago when she announced that she’d be representing Indonesia in Amazing Race Asia season 5, a franchise from TV reality show Amazing Race. With only days left from departure I rushed to her apartment and, while listening to the story, ended up helping pick and pack necessities to make a compact, 7-kg backpack manageable for her toned yet petite posture.

The 29-year-old Louisa had spent her girlhood as a reporter traveling and adventuring, like scuba-diving, while silently yearning to challenge herself further in competitions like Amazing Race Asia. But as in the case of many women, marriage and motherhood took place– and the ambition took backseat. Yet the difference between her and many other women is that she decided not to let go off the ambition. She and 30-year-old lawyer Treasuri Tamara decided to apply this year, and lo and behold, were picked with 20 other contestants from 2,000 applicants across Asia.

As I hugged her goodbye that afternoon, I sensed palpable anxiety underneath her excitement. I told her that regardless of the result, her braving the challenge, that also included leaving her family during the quarantined taping, was already something to be proud of.

I was glad to see a hint of pride when I welcomed her home recently. The iron-clad rules disabled her from spilling the beans prior to show airing that premiered last Thursday evening in AXN channel, but she let out that through the physically-demanding and mentally-challenging race that was also peppered with team politicking and finicky luck, she learned that she could get stronger than what she already knew she was. And regardless of the outcome, which she’s still barred from stating, that discovery of her inner steel, a source of both pride and humility, is something nobody can ever take away from her.

The other woman reclaiming the path to long-held dreams is my former colleague Shima. In her early 40s with over a dozen of years of cushioned career in multinational companies, Shima could no longer shake off the earthy call of farming. Yes. My finance wizard friend, whose expertise would typically send the regional Finance Director to tizzy whenever she took a long leave of absence, quit her well-paid job to become a farmer. Real farmer– dirt, soil, seed, mud and whatnots.

She’d spent months surveying lands, vegetation, crop cycles and everything in between, all the way to Thailand. She found a business partner and is now set to farming once deciding on the land parcel– that invariably will be out of any city limit, so far removed from her usual station by Jakarta’s Golden Triangle. Trading her leather pumps with rubber boots, for a venture that she’d never tried her hands on before. As a friend I offered cheers, but without first asking her if she’d perhaps lost some of her marbles.

Her husband has a great corporate career and with their only daughter now in her teens, the family has indeed got their finances in order, a much-awaited time career women typically look forward to finally enjoy for themselves—to splurge on vacations, handbags or beauty treatments. Instead, Shima is taking such huge risk on uncharted waters. She said time waited for nobody including her to give this long-held challenge a go, boom or bust risks well understood. I finally nodded, gave her a hug, and said that, boom or bust, she’d unwaveringly have my support.

Women in 2016 have indeed come a long way. They’re educated, well-versed in career, and are starting to stop shying away from pursuing dreams that only aren’t domestic, but also predate domestic life. These are seemingly regular women around us who nevertheless are so ballsy in racing for their dreams, taking that leap of faith, that it makes Trump’s pussy-grabbing braggadocio and Pilkada DKI memes much more insulting.

Many guys may have never left 1950s, but most women have. Now, which ones that you’d rather your daughters and nieces aspire to? I’d start with these two women on their amazing races.

As published:

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