The Indonesian Joke

February 2011, Turkey

It was a Sunday. We usually gather during weekends to see the country or just to plain hang out.

Katya’s friend from Russia who was currently staying then in Czech Republic came over for a short visit to Turkey.


A picnic was arranged for her in Degirmendere.

We were invited.

Degirmendere is about an hour or so bus ride from Izmit, the city we were currently in. The place is popular for short trips out of the city. Turkish people usually go there to spend time with family and friends drinking cay and eating Turkish delights while smoking some nargile or playing tavla which we commonly know as backgammon.

We were then a group who sticks out like a sore thumb. Austrian, Brazilian, Russian, Moroccan and Filipino, that’s who we are. And all were in Turkey then for an exchange program which is actually just a better way of saying we were just looking for an excuse to travel.


After having our fill of simit, cay, antepfistik, cekirdek, and karisik meyve suyu that we got from the merkezi, the group decided to have some sicak cikolata or hot chocolate from a nearby place and smoke some nargile.

After settling down in one shop and placing our orders, we were given a backgammon to while away the time. The others have no idea how the game works. I actually just learned how to play it a few nights before that. Driss, the Moroccan, claims he is familiar with it so we decided to give it a try.


I am not really sure which version of the rules was more correct but after a few minutes, Driss and I got into an argument. He was telling me I cannot do that move but being the feisty me I asserted that what I did was very legitimate. We got into a heated discussion and being Driss with his temper to watch out for, he gave up on the game, pushed the board towards me and bellowed a loud remark, “Fine! Go play it your Indonesian way!”

Which made me all the more irritated considering we have been together for months and he still can’t get his facts straight. So I quickly retorted the first thing that came in my mind, “Oh sure Saudi Arabian! I will definitely play it my way.” which made everybody in the group laugh that then broke the ice.

And that’s how the Indonesian joke began.

I don’t know what’s wrong with their eyes but they can’t seem to place me in the map. I will often catch the more prudent Turkish people whispering Japon, Cin, Kore (Japanese, Chinese, Korean) while pointing at me as I walk down the street while the brave ones hoot as they call me so and so nationalities.

But the worse is when these people you have spent several meals and cay together still forget where you are from.


It has happened several times. Even with Fernanda, my Brazilian friend who should know better. 🙂

Well, I really can’t blame them. We call it the out-group homogeneity effect in Psychology. All people look the same when you are not familiar with them.

Anyway, we never resolved the backgammon issue but we surely had a new inside joke which until now we bring up once in a while when we find ourselves online in Facebook or Whatsapp.

I will always be their Indonesian friend and he will always be my Saudi Arabian enemy.

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And by the way, I am living now in Indonesia. The friends I met in Turkey will never let me forget that they were right all along, that I really am an Indonesian.


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