“Complex Language” versus “Easy Language” in Writing

I am not a native speaker of English, but I am sure I have learned this language since more than seven years ago. Even I have learned this language since I was ten years old. Does it mean that I have already possessed this language as mine? The answer is, sadly, “no”. Then, why should I learn it? Why should I have to learn how to write well, especially in English? What does it mean with the ability as the bilingual speaker? Why are there such complex and easy language in writing? These questions came to my mind when I wanted to write about this post. Well, my major in graduate studies is Teaching of Writing (Rhetoric and Composition). Therefore, I am pretty sure that I know and comprehend the distinction between complex and easy language in writing.

Now, I ask myself and I answer the questions by myself. (Sounds weird, huh?) At least, that is the way to do critical thinking, as the Professors said. You ask questions (being the philosophers) and you answer the questions by yourself (being the rhetorician)

Learning English since childhood means having the abilities to own this language fully to its extent. My question is, “Really? Does it really mean so?” Why should I learn it?

First of all, I learn English because it was simply a ‘required’ subject at school. I remember my English teacher said, “You have to pass this subject; otherwise, you will not be allowed to enter the next stage of education”. I was so horrified at that time. So, it was a ‘must’ to study English. English did not come to me through that ‘lovely ways’ like many other students. English came to me through the channel of ‘academic’. Since that time, I enjoyed learning this language. Possessing this language, though only in non-native level, helps me understand how things are going on in the world. Even when it is added with the existence of internet, the beauty of this language seems to be more powerful than I thought it would be. The more I learn it, the more I could see how this language is shaped through different times.

Second of all, I learn English because the songs, movies, and even cartoons that were shown through my old television program, back in the 90s, were mostly in English. I just couldn’t believe that I was a product of a thing people call as ‘English culture’ or ‘American culture’. This channel is different from the above one, which is academic. Through this channel, I came to English through the understanding of how Minangkabau culture as well as Indonesia cultures, as a whole, influence the ways I think about English. Days and days passed until I could see that this language is more than just an ‘international language’, but it is a language of how people get connected through different continents in the world. What a great language, isn’t it? Well, it does not mean that I do not like Bahasa Indonesia, but this language is my second language. My first language was Sundanese language, then, when I was ten years old, I had to ‘socially’ learn how to speak in Minangkabau language. At the same time, I also have to learn Bahasa Indonesia at school, starting from elementary until university degree! See, Bahasa Indonesia is not my first language but the second one. Then, here comes English, which clearly shows to me that English is my third language. Sometimes, when I speak in Japanese, this language becomes my fourth language. How weird it is, right? Weird or not, I am proud for what I have from my background. English does not come to me easily. It comes through many obstacles and different zones of language activities. You should be surprised to meet with someone who would be willing to talk to you in English if you are native speakers of English.

From that background, the statement of “Being able to write well help life become easier, being unable to write well help life become more miserable”, leads into a simple yet challenging question. The question is, “Come on; is it true?”

The answer is, “yes, it is true, but it depends”. People can write anything in anywhere, even in the restroom or toilets. Young naughty children like to write in this area because they found that this area is a place for self-expression, even though what they wrote might be a little bit ‘vulgar’ or ‘offensive’ by some people. Somehow, this is the clue to see that everyone can write, right? However, I challenge this notion with a question. What does it mean to write? Writing something for the pleasure of the self, writing something for the pleasure of the readers, or writing something for the pleasure of earning money? Which side that a writer might decide, there simply is the writer’s mind. For me, I write for the pleasure of my mind, especially in this blog. I can write because I can think. If I write and publish it to the newspaper, my writings tend to be ‘politicized’. The writings that I produce will not be that pure any longer because the content has been modified for the readers’ satisfaction. I even notice that publishable writings tend to be political as well. Sometimes, I also question the notion of how some great writings could be rejected by a “great” publisher? After several years understanding this phenomenon, I came into conclusion that it could happen because the writings are not “marketable” or simply “not making money” for the publishers. See? In here, I could see that writings could also mean political. In a sense, it also means difficulties for the writer, especially the basic writers, in terms of ‘following’ the readers’ mind. Then, my question is, “is it the same published writers with unpublished writers? How are they different? What are the things that make them be seen to be different?” I think, through my solitude intellectualism, they both are the same. It is only the perspective and evaluation that make them look different.

Back into my case as a non-native speaker of English, the term of “bilingual speaker” is interesting for me. I have read in an article published in New York Times in which the article explained that bilingual speaker is simply ‘smart’. At this point, then, I am smart, aren’t I? Can I say that? I can speak Indonesian language and English at the same time (of course, in a chronological mode). Even the greatest thing is that I could translate these two different languages at the same time without ‘completely’ drowning myself into learning the theory and practice of translation. Well, I did, of course, learn such subject. However, the process of encoding and decoding language from source language into target language means possessing the abilities to understand both languages equally. In writing, this aspect is playing crucial in ways the writers tries to convey their ideas. If the writers are native speakers of English, their ideas will likely be acceptable by readers who are considered to be in the same group as them and will be understandable by readers who are considered as the non-native speakers of English. Meanwhile, the second language speakers, or non-native speakers of English, could also write the same ‘stuffs’, but the way they express the ‘stuffs’ through selected vocabularies, mechanics, grammar, and style will likely differ from the native speakers of English. They could speak and write in the same language, but the dynamics of how this language is used makes them slightly different.

Therefore, there comes a question. “Complex” versus “easy” language in writing; now, what are these things? Do they even exist?

If I remember back the way I learned English and the way I came to this language, I understood that a text would be simply “complex” because of my deficiency in English, especially because I did not know the words the writer uses in the text. This situation happens in reading practice. As always, if I did not understand a particular text, it would be simply because of the deficiency of my English. Blaming me for being in that condition was the very common thing I did, although I knew that such thing was not solving the problem. Here, after studying all these writing concepts and terminologies, I finally realized that it was not because of deficiency of English. The blame should go into the writer, not the readers. The fault then should be put under the writer’s side. How does it so? How could it be?

I would try to differentiate these two types of languages through these two examples.

Example of easy language:

“Woodward suffered the worst of the destruction from the storms, which also struck in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel said 89 homes and 13 businesses were destroyed, and bloodied survivors in the 12,000-resident town emerged to find flipped cars and smashed trailers.

Retired firefighter Marty Logan said he spotted the tornado when it knocked down power lines, causing flashes of light, and saw a radio tower’s blinking lights go black. He later saw a man emerge from a twisted, wrecked sport utility vehicle that had been tossed along the side of the road” – taken from Washington Post through this link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/reported-tornadoes-large-hail-hit-midwest-amid-warnings-of-life-threatening-weather/2012/04/14/gIQAw756HT_story.html?hpid=z4

Example of complex language:

“Molecular approaches to understanding the functional circuitry of the nervous system promise new insights into the relationship between genes, brain and behaviour. The cellular diversity of the brain necessitates a cellular resolution approach towards understanding the functional genomics of the nervous system. We describe here an anatomically comprehensive digital atlas containing the expression patterns of ~20,000 genes in the adult mouse brain. Data were generated using automated high-throughput procedures for in situ hybridization and data acquisition, and are publicly accessible online. Newly developed image-based informatics tools allow global genome-scale structural analysis and cross-correlation, as well as identification of regionally enriched genes. Unbiased fine-resolution analysis has identified highly specific cellular markers as well as extensive evidence of cellular heterogeneity not evident in classical neuroanatomical atlases. This highly standardized atlas provides an open, primary data resource for a wide variety of further studies concerning brain organization and function.” – taken from the following link: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v445/n7124/full/nature05453.html

From the two examples above, I would say that the first example uses common words for common meaning. The use of these words help readers easily understand what the writer of the text tries to communicate. It means that the readers are people who like to read news. The words that are used in that article were meant to be understandable. Compared to the second example, there are words, which sound to be common, but the words indeed are seen to be directed into specific meanings. This short text seems to be written for specific readers. Any reader could still understand what the text means; however, specific meaning from specific words needs to be considered well to get the overall message implied by the writer. The relationship between the writer and the readers would be simply seen through how the text could work between these two.

Differentiating the “complex” and “easy” language could not be seen through the writer’s standpoint. It should be noted as well that each writer has his or her styles in using words. Unfortunately, though, using irrelevant words for different context would lead into dysfunctional system of how such words could work. For instance, writing literary works versus writing scholarly works will need completely different abilities of using language, especially in the level of diction, grammar, vocabulary, and mechanics. When the writer simply writes for the readers, the writer should negotiate with how many specific words that the writer could use in his or her writing. An old saying “write in your own terms” will no longer work for readers who are subjective and are lazy to articulate their mind in evaluating the text they read. Conversely, if the readers are thinkers, whatever types of text given to them, they will evaluate the texts through their capacity. If it means to be that ‘much’, it should be reduced into a normal one to make the writing ‘readable’. I usually find myself to be attracted with writings that are written by native speakers of English than those which are written by non-native speakers of English. Why? The reason is that the words used by such writers are having meanings that I would have not associated with in my mind. The process of thinking happens through reading texts with simple words. This is why I usually get frustrated to read some writings done by non-native speakers of English that use words which were not that “common”. The words are understandable, but the way the words are arranged in the text, that makes the writing becomes complex. Complex language tends to destruct the meaning that is being transferred to the readers. Therefore, easy language always becomes the winner. Easy language breaks the notion of “how intellectual the writers are”. Complex language tends to show the intellectualism of the writers; however, it does not show how the creative and intellect things are related when the writers are producing readable text. It is simply requiring the readers to easily understand what the writers mean in their writing. If the readers fail in understanding what the writer intends or conveys in their writings; eventually, the writing could turn into ‘unreadable’. (This is a nightmare when I find my writings to be ‘unreadable’). Analogically, the writer could mean the producer while the readers could mean the buyers. If the product is good, the readers might evaluate the product in such a way because they like it. If the buyers find the product to be bad, it means that the readers and the writer do not have the same taste in the text. The solution is, of course, using easy language.

From this point of view, which side that we would like to prefer will likely depend on how well we would address our meaning to the readers. Some complex language works better for readers who like to making things complex. However, easy language is most preferred by people in general, because it is simply “understandable in no time” and “comprehensible in a short-cut mode”. Which type of writing you choose goes to you. The exception is only in academic writing. In this type of writing, the language can mean to be “easy”, but the meaning is explicitly written. There are no vague ideas in this type of writing. The only thing we need to consider is the meaning that we would like to inform to the readers. Once we establish this thing, then, let the readers decide the meaning of what we write. Everything they do to our writing is things that make our writing deserves proper attention. Writing is enjoyable, isn’t it?


“The only reason why I like blogging is because a blog provides a freer-space for me to express my thought without thinking ‘too much’ for the interest of political parties and some related people as the readers. It is simply a space for sounding my voice as a uniquely different writer compared to other writers. However, readers have rights to agree or disagree with what I argue” – Syayid (Sparkling Silent Silhouette, 2012)

Reflection on Composition and Teaching of Writing: An Indonesian Perspective

This article is one of my works in studying Teaching of Writing at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. It is only one of the works that I have written so far. It’s just for an introduction. This writing might need some improvements but you could give feedback if you like. I publish this writing as a way for me to share what I have written to my friends and students who might find this writing useful for them after reading this article. Note: Please do not plagiarize this article. If you do, you will have to pay me with thousands of dollars! Thank you.


Response for Bartholomae’s, Gilles’, and Chase’s Ideas on Composition and Teaching Writing

Getting involved as a lecturer of English at College of Teacher Training and Education in Padang makes me thinking about developing ways of how to teach writing in effective and efficient way without sacrificing too much times reading students’ papers and grading them. Usually, I got used to applying the system of rubrics. Later in the second year of my teaching experience, I realized that this system had consumed much of my times until I could not have times to read other textbooks to adjust my understanding beyond materials that I usually teach. Since I was teaching Writing I and Writing II, or, let’s say, Composition 101 and 102 at the college, I found that teaching writing needs specific method which is applicable in the classroom setting. After reading Bartholomae’s, Gilles’, and Chase’s Ideas on Composition and Teaching Writing, I found that teaching writing should not be as hard as I had experienced. In my case, which is absolutely different from the case happening in the United States, English is not the first language that my students use in their daily life; however, they have to know this language, especially its written system in order to enable them in reaching their career paths in the future as teachers of English at senior high school. At this point, Chase’s ideas are relevant. As Chase points out, “composition seeks to help students develop skills and abilities that will enable them to be more successful as they take courses in their academic programs” (14); it means that, at this time, I reflect myself as a lecturer who is professionally involved in the process of guiding them in terms of developing their writing skills although writing itself is commonly known as “sophisticated” skill by a large number of my students. Therefore, I admit that the knowledge that I learn in composition studies so far would be highly useful in the process of teaching writing to my students. My students will have an ability to make use of their writing skill so that they can be academically successful in the discipline that they study. In the same time, they will have skill that they need later in the next scene of their life, which is commonly known as applying for a job.

In relation to teaching, the concept of what Chase has mentioned is applicable as well at the college in which I am professionally involved. “Teaching is fundamentally about community, about the relationships between individuals and the larger groups of which they are a part. In terms of composition, this means helping students write more effectively so that they become more fully contributing members of the communities in which they live and work” (Chase 15). After knowing this concept, I say myself that teaching means, analogically, functioning as a bridge. This bridge connects students and their community. Connecting students to their community through the aspect of writing would be a high involvement of what teachers of writing should do. I would be a part of the community, too. Therefore, what I can think of as an instructor of writing at this time is that the usability of the students in their community in terms of the students’ writing skill would be the best outcome that teachers of writing could have fulfilled and realized.

In this respect, Bartholomae states that “…the goal of writing instruction might be to teach an act of criticism that would enable a writer to interrogate his or her own text in relationship to the problem of writing and the problems of disciplinary knowledge” (17). This idea seems framing my thought that “the relationship” of writing and the “disciplinary knowledge” is crucial thing to be considered by teachers of writing. Since I am teaching Cross Culture Understanding at the College as well, I assume that the instruction that I give to them should be designed thoroughly as a way for me to expand the students’ writing skill, while the content is derived from materials taught in the Cross Culture Understanding subject. I predict that this method would be a great step in designing writing assignment in the classroom. The reason is that in one side, the students would learn how to write well and in the other side; they also could have an ability to express their “thought” through the content that they have learned.

Regarding the process of teaching writing – as a teacher of writing – one needs to view this profession as a medium to collaborate with other teachers. “Being a teacher means working with other teachers. It means connecting what we do day by day to the outcomes for our own classes and for the curriculum as a whole” (Chase 16). In this point of view, it seems clear that the teacher needs to improve his or her teaching style. The way how to do this is by collaborating with other teachers and by sharing the teaching experiences in improving curriculum. One teacher might find or have useful technique in teaching; meanwhile, the other teacher would still be in the process of finding which technique that is useful and suitable for him or her personally. Therefore, what I can comprehend in this way is that the writing teachers could advantage themselves whenever they do the discussion or the sharing activities in teaching writing within their peers.

Dealing with composition, composition programs are somehow new for department of English in Indonesia. Even though the Department of English is already available in almost all Indonesian universities and colleges, it seems that the distinction of this department into Composition studies will create new dynamics in the movement of teaching English in that country, especially in the dynamic of teaching writing. In general, the most well-known concentration within English department in Indonesia is Linguistics. This field of study develops into TESOL (Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages), as in the Applied Linguistics, which is now known as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Meanwhile, the concentration of Composition and Rhetoric for English department graduate students seems to be unavailable in Indonesia. In this respect, Gilles emphasizes three reasons of why composition programs are important. The reasons are “service mission”, “literal arts mission”, and “working collaboratively” (2-8). This would seem to be able to answer such phenomenon above. By looking at these three important reasons, as explained by Gilles, it is clear to say that Composition Studies could be placed and developed as a discipline within the English department that is available in Indonesia. In a holistic point of view, I think that the purpose of improving democracy in Indonesia would be positively reached because students will learn that the concept of learning writing is not learning how to write per se, but more on how to be able to express their thought in a way that contributes positively into the democratic society.

Besides, by establishing Composition Studies as concentration in the graduate level within English department in Indonesia, Indonesia will, in the long run, have candidates of writing teachers who will positively contribute to the education of student writers whose thought would be needed for the development of Indonesia. As Gilles mentions, “Indeed, the ability to use standard written English effectively creates options for students; it gives them freedom in choosing lives and career” (6). It means that it is a job opportunity for the students. They will have chances as well as opportunities to go global. In terms of lives, the students have their own freedom in expressing themselves as long as the writings that they produce are informative, critical, thoughtful, factual, useful or beneficial for the community in which they are involved. Moreover, by having a degree in Composition Studies, the students will have core concept in viewing the importance of writing and the value lies within the process of writing production. This skill can help them grow better as a qualified person for the country. “It is, rather, a set of problems produced by a wider, more diffuse set of practices and desires, usually brought into play by instances of language change or variety (or by the possibility that writing might change or be various)” (Bartholomae 11). This idea stresses that writing itself is developing, especially its content. The content could be from everything that is happening around the students. Then, the students could elaborate the “content” that they see from daily life into meaningful texts that can be read, evaluated, or even used by every interested readers.

Above all, what I conclude from Bartholomae’s, Gilles’, and Chase’s ideas is that the best way I could do as a lecturer is to engage with the students in the classroom setting and to understand their way of thinking through the mutual interaction so that I could play a role either as a teacher but also as a facilitator. As Gilles points out, “Guided practice in writing is what developing students need most, and some students need more time to develop than others. (6). Chase also mentions the same thing. Chase states that “teaching writing has the power to be an intellectually transformative experience, but transformation will occur only if we are prepared to engage our students on the one hand and to engage with our colleagues around issues of curriculum on the other” (Chase 16). Through their ideas, it is obvious to say that the role of me, as the writing teacher of my students, or, possibly as the lecturer of writing, would be to make the students engaged with things within and beyond classroom. In the same time, working collaboratively with other lecturers who are working in the same department as I do is also a good thing to do, especially in developing the capacity of mine as a lecturer whose one of his professional tasks is designing and developing curriculum for teaching writing to the students.

Works cited

Bartholomae, David. “What is Composition (if you know what that is) Why Do We Teach It?”. Composition in the Twenty-First Century: Crisis and Change. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Donald A. Deiker, and Edward M. White. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996, 11-28.

Chase, Geoffrey. “Composition, Community, and Curriculum: A Letter to New Composition Teachers”. Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Ed. Duane Roen, Veronica Pantoja, Lauren Yena, Susan K. Miller, and Eric Waggoner. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2002, 14-16.

Gilles, Roger. “The Departmental Perspective”. Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Ed. Duane Roen, Veronica Pantoja, Lauren Yena, Susan K. Miller, and Eric Waggoner. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2002, 2-8.


Thanks to my Professor, Dr. Henderson. The class discussion empowers me even more as a student, especially as an active listener and thinker.

A Narrative Essay from Minangkabau land, “The Bright Sun in Ulak Karang”

This essay is completely personal in tone and is actually one of my assignments for the course Advanced Composition in SIUE. The name of the lecturer is Dr. Anushiya Ramaswamy. I had a great class with her. I guess that all students were happy to study with her, too. You may give respond to this essay and give your feedback about this post. Your feedback is very much needed for the improvement of my writing. Thank you.


The Bright Sun

The Bright Sun in Ulak Karang

There was a time in my life when I saw the sun shined brightly in the morning. The sun looked beautiful because of the faint and mellow light. It was not too bright actually. It seemed like having the gold color in the sky, in which the light tenderly touched the earth. It felt like a gift from God to all the living creatures on earth. As usual, the sun had started the day and it looked as if it was saying, “Good morning” to everyone who realized that there was the sun, which always started the morning time. Moreover, the nature also started the morning with beautiful things to see and hear. The birds were singing, the air was fresh, the trees were green and calm as if they provided the peace and relax feeling, and the grass in the ground was wet by the fresh aqueous vapor left by the night. That was a perfect moment for me to see the beauty of nature in Ulak Karang, a small town in Padang city of West Sumatra, Indonesia. Not only the nature but the way people live and the culture that was alive in it were things that made me interested and fascinated with the place.

One time, I asked my mother the meaning of the words Ulak Karang. I lived in Ulak Karang since I was a little child. I was curious to know the meaning of the words because I thought that perhaps, someday, a friend of mine who came from other places in Indonesia and even from other countries in the world would ask a question about the name of the town where I had been growing. She said that the words were derived from Minangkabau language, one of ethnic languages used widely in West Sumatera, Indonesia. Minangkabau language was unique because it had no specific connection to Bahasa Indonesia, an official and a national language used by all people in Indonesia. However, there were not many Indonesian people who could use this language because each province had its own ethnic language. Even the greatest thing is that in one ethnic language, there would be more sub-ethnic languages that were diverse one another in terms of accent, dialect, and tone.

In spite of having these thousands forms of ethnic languages, Bahasa Indonesia was a language that helped many Indonesian people could be united and connected one another across the archipelago and the thousand islands. Nevertheless, the language of Bahasa Indonesia was not possessed fluently by old generation, such as grandfather and grandmother whose age was more than ninety years old. They knew ethnic language but they did not really know Bahasa Indonesia. This could happen because they had no education at the time when they were young people in their generation. The colonization performed by the Dutch, Japanese, and Portuguese, which were later called as the colonizers for more than ten centuries ago in Indonesia had influenced the education of the local people at that time. In spite of that, the old grandfather and grandmother could speak Dutch, Japanese, and Portuguese language although many of whom were passed away before 1990’s.

I assumed that they could speak the languages because they made an intense interaction with those people under depressed condition every day. In order to keep their life went on; they had to deal with the language used by the colonizers. Recently, there are not many of the Indonesian young generation could understand the languages of the colonizers because the colonization had been over but, somehow, as a way of the colonizers’ to “fix” the broken history, they provided scholarship for Indonesian students. No matter what, things that had happened years ago would last in history and what is happening now will be history in the future.

In relation to the Minangkabau language, one word could mean something else in a given context. This was one of the particularities that I understood well about this ethnic language. In this case, it was the meaning of the words Ulak Karang. Ulak meant strong waves and Karang meant corals that lay in the coastal area. Therefore, Ulak Karang meant, in epistemological perspective, coral that had always been hit by the strong waves. The adjective for the coral would be strong and tough although big and waves come to the coral and tried to break it into pieces.

I asked my mother this question, “So, what is the great thing of naming this area as such?”

She said, “Well, as you already know, coral is strong, isn’t it? Then, when it comes to understanding the words Ulak Karang, you should see that from the philosophical perspective. Can you try to get the meaning from that perspective?”

At that time, I was just a teenager so I had no idea what that meant with philosophical perspective.

I answered, “No, I don’t know. I know the words that but I just don’t know the meaning of it”.

After listening to my question, she began explaining it in longer sentences.

“Our ancestors were sailors and traders. Why? It is because we are living near the sea and the wide ocean. They like to go sailing and communicating with other people in overseas and go back home bringing a lot of good things, and, don’t forget one thing, a story. They have battled the waves in the sea. The waves are hard and strong, and sometimes, the wind blows so hard that it makes the ship hard to keep sailing. Then, because of facing the strong waves, they named their effort to live in the sea as Ulak Karang. Karang refers to them and Ulak refers to the strong waves.”

I was still in doubt to make the relationship of the meaning into the identity of mine as a young man. If it would be so important for the young generation to understand the meaning then there had to be a certain connection within the words into current globalization situation.

I asked, “What is the relationship with today’s condition?”

She said, “It means that whenever the waves hit you as strong as they might be, you should be as strong as Karang in facing the waves. Your life, your principle, your self-esteem, your dream is symbolized as Karang and the waves are the obstacles that you were facing or will face in your world. Because of that powerful meaning, then, this is why this area is called as Ulak Karang.”

I nodded after knowing the meaning.

To my mind, that was the way for me to know that Minangkabau people were creative and they had a great way in symbolizing meanings through words that they used to illustrate specific event or values reflected in nature. The philosophy “Alam Takambang Jadi Guru” (Nature as the Teachers) had made me understood that all things in human’s life were connected to the nature. Human being was a central part of the nature and, in the excellent ways; the nature taught human how to live in the world through sciences, technologies, and knowledge. However, these three things could not be formed well if human did not make themselves to get involved in everlasting the nature so there would be no reason for human to say they were not a part of it.

This was the thing that could be seen in the big cities in Indonesia. There were many buildings with more than fifty floors built but the sanitation and the environment did not receive any attention from the authority. Trash could be found in canals and in some places like in Jakarta. The government had tried to clean it through the Department of Health but the main problem was in the mindset of the people. They were busy to collect money from their jobs and business but they forgot about the environment. Conversely, things were different in the rural areas of Indonesia, especially Padang, West Sumatera. This city was clean and the students were taught how to stay clean with the environment and pay attention to sanitation by not throwing trash everywhere but directly to the rubbish bin.

Actually, I was born in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia but I grew up in Padang, West Sumatera, Indonesia. Java was an island that had millions of people lived in it. Among the five big islands, Java was the most crowded island in terms of population. There were several provinces in Java island. One of the provinces was West Java, located in the western side of Java and it was close to Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. In West Sumatera, there was an ethnic called Minangkabau; meanwhile, in West Java, there was an ethnic called Sunda. West Java had its capital city called Bandung. Bandung had many Sundanese people lived in it. Because I was born in Bandung; therefore, I thought that I was completely a Sundanese but then I realized that I was a Minangkabau person as well.

I realized that I was a Minangkabau person after my mother informed me about in which clan I would be associated. “What does it mean to me?” I asked my father.

My mother was a Minangkabau woman and my father was a Sundanese man. It meant that my mother was born in West Sumatera while my father was born in West Java. My father answered my question by relating his answers to the family system that was legally accepted in Indonesia.

In terms of family system, Minangkabau and Sundanese had differences. Minangkabau had matriarchal system, which meant mother was put as the central figure of the family system. In contrast, Sundanese had patriarchal system. This system made father as the central of the family system.

My father said, “If you are living in West Sumatera, you are a Minangkabau person and if you live in West Java, you are a Sundanese. You have two associated clans that are highly known and appreciated in Indonesia. It doesn’t matter, son, but, you just need to know your family root so that you know where you belong. However, wherever you go, you are an Indonesian. That is the most important thing”

I felt that I was fortunate to have these two amazing clans. Since I had spent my time in West Sumatera; consequently, I knew more about Minangkabau culture than Sunda.

To understand the Minangkabau culture as a whole was not an easy thing to do. For me, to understand a culture took times and a lot of effort. If someone wanted to understand culture; interacting with the people and having an open-minded way of thinking were a must. Although I had been growing up in a place where Minangkabau culture was practiced in every part, it did not mean that I understood it completely. I started to learn the place where I had lived and all of its uniqueness when I was in Junior High School.

Studying local culture in Junior High School was a great time for many Indonesian students because it was a perfect moment in their life to know where they lived and how they would see their own local culture as the young generation. There was a subject called BAM (Budaya Alam Minangkabau) – The Knowledge of Minangkabau Culture and Nature) that I had to learn at school. In that subject, I learnt that the basic thing about Ulak Karang was that it was one of the places of where Minangkabau people lived their life in the nature-based way of thinking. It meant that all aspects and cultures as well as habits of the people who lived in Ulak Karang were based on Minangkabau culture.

However, due to globalization and the influence of technology, some cultures of Minangkabau had been being improved into some degree. For instance, girls must be at home in the afternoon but now girls were allowed to go outside as long as their parents knew where they wanted to go and with whom they went. The time to go for them should be before nine at night. If the girls were out after that time, they should contact the parents immediately in case something bad happened and be ready to go home. However, when the girls had reached the age of twenty five, then, the parents would allow her to go outside. They should be responsible for what they did.

Meanwhile, Minangkabau people had culture called as “merantau” for boys. “Merantau” had a meaning that was, going far away from home to gain some experience and learn how to make life in a foreign land. For boys whose ages were more than 20 could go wherever they wanted in Indonesia. Recently, there were many of them went to countries in the world, like the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, India, China, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries. They build the interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship with people in those countries. When they become someone in that country, or, being successful people, they would eventually help their family, brothers and sisters to develop their homeland.

The good thing in this aspect was that they had been taught how to obey the rules and discipline. The principle of “Dima bumi dipijak, di situ langik dijunjuang” was widely known by all Minangkabau youth. In English version, it gave a sense as in “wherever you go and wherever you are, you have to understand local culture and respect the people there. They are your family when you are not at home”.

This principle had changed the mindset of many young men in Indonesia, particularly those who were from West Sumatera. They wanted to go abroad to study or to work everywhere in the world. They never cared too much for what they did to earn something for living but they knew very well in what way they should work. On the other words, they wanted to work in “hallal” jobs instead of working in clubs, bars, or hotels where they served people who had a lot of money but treated others as they wanted promiscuously. However, when I thought over this principle, it was as a good one since mutual understanding and respect of different cultures of the world could happen and be realized when this principle was taken into account. People were so different in some ways, but in so many ways, people were the same in the world.

In terms of the matriarchal system applied through motherhood and sisterhood, it made me amazed. In West Java and some parts and provinces in Indonesia, the system was patriarchal, which fatherhood was the role but in Minangkabau, women and sisterhood took the role. As it was in my family and generally in Minangkabau families in Ulak Karang, a mother had always been respected. People knew that mother was the person who had given birth in such a hard and difficult way.

A mother in a big family was called as “Bundo Kanduang”. Bundo Kanduang was a respected mother in a big house of Minangkabau. The big house itself was called as Rumah Gadang. Bundo Kanduang and the rest of the family lived in the big house. Nowadays, this house was only used in village; and in the cities, this kind of house was used for official administration buildings like governor office or legislative office only. The unique thing from this house was the roof. It looked like two sharp things that were in the same form as in the horn of the beef and cow, and they were put by pointing the sharp flank into the sky. There were some places where people could find house like this in Ulak Karang. One of them was in Lamun Ombak, a well-known restaurant in Padang city.

Although this traditional house was traditional in its form and use, the cost to build this house was higher compared to the cost spent for building a common house; therefore, traditional house was no longer used in big cities except in villages where old traditional houses were still standing and being used by the villagers. People who lived in big cities would prefer to live in an apartment instead of in traditional house but when there was time for holiday, they usually spent their holiday times in such house.

Bundo Kanduang played a significant role in the big house. Her husband was categorized into Niniak Mamak – people who played role as the executive in the Nagari, a term used to refer to the Minangkabau region in West Sumatra and this group consisted of males in the big house. When Bundo Kanduang passed away, the big house would automatically belong to the first daughter of Bundo Kanduang, together with all wealth that was possessed by Bundo Kanduang.

Then, the daughter would continue the role of her mother until she died. Unfortunately, this system had no longer been applied since modernization and national Indonesian law influenced many aspects of the way how Minangkabau people lived. Some people might stand on and followed the rules applied in Minangkabau system of law and some people might refer to the national law applied in Indonesia. In general, Indonesian people would refer to the national law since it was applicable to a large number of Indonesian civilians. Therefore, local law would take place only in the local level while national law would be applied in the national scale.

Although I was born in Bandung, West Java, another big island in Indonesia, I loved to live in Ulak Karang, Padang. It was actually a city with many cultural aspects and things to see and look. However, if it was compared to Bandung, Padang was, in some ways, more traditional than Bandung. This could happen because Padang people loved their culture and they wanted to maintain it until the next generation. Meanwhile, the influence of Jakarta to Bandung had made Bandung to be one of the dense cities in Indonesia in terms of population. That was why I did not really enjoy myself when I went to Jakarta and Bandung.

In spite of having less advanced way of life in terms of technology and current fashion, Padang had become the second better place in Indonesia to study and live. There was no traffic jam and the food was widely known as the delicious one in the world. One of the most favorite food which was in the good graces by western people who came to Padang was Rendang, a food that had meat and coconut flavor with spicy taste. International people might never know this food in their countries but once they tasted it, they would love the food. For the most part, that was what I had seen from a large number of people from overseas who visited Padang city.

I loved looking at the sunrise and the sunset in Ulak Karang,. If I wanted to see the sunrise, I did not have to go anywhere. I would just sit in front of the door of my home because the sun shine is directly showing up in front of me while standing at the door. When I had a spare time in the afternoon and wanted to see the sunset, I usually went to Bung Hatta beach. The location of the beach was in the southern part of Ulak Karang. Ulak Karang itself was similar in comparison with Edwardsville. However, the difference was that Edwardsville had a Cougar lake while Ulak Karang had a beach because it was located near the coastal area. When the sunset was set, the beauty of the sun was felt as if it was like a lady who was smiling in the golden dress, dancing in the open sea and her dress was shining, glittering, and sparkling.

The light of the sun in that late afternoon was beautifully reflected in the surface of the sea. The reflection of the sun light became beautiful scenery to be seen. The surface of the water was sparkling as if they were the stars that swam in the open sea. They seemed like dancing in the blue sea far away from the shore. That kind of scenery had always been lasting on my mind since then. I still remembered the time when my father, mother, brother, and I went to the beach. I was looking for starfish and dead coral as well as beautiful green or brown stones; my father and mother were sitting in the rocks, not too far from the place where my brother and I were playing. I had made a castle and my brother made a small car with a picture in it by using the grounds in the area where we were standing. In a few seconds, the waves came and they destroyed all the things we had created. We were all happy and laughing at that time. I could see that my father kept watching us carefully from afar because he did not want something bad happened to us.

The beach itself was named as Bung Hatta because it was located next to Bung Hatta University. The campus of the university was beautiful because it had green garden around the beach. While I was watching for the sunset, I usually spent my afternoon hours in that place to read a book or just to write anything on my diary. Looking at the open sea and enjoying the sound as well as the way the waves moved in the beach made me wondering about the world and all the beautiful things that it might and always had inside. In that moment, I wrote a poem that was reflected in my mind. Writing a poem had always been a way for me to let go all complex and abstract things that I had in my mind. It would be a long writing if all that things were written. After I wrote the poem, I usually published it in my blog, entitiled The Silent Corner.

One of the poems that I had written was this:

As I opened these eyes to see the darkness
I barely couldn’t sleep well that night
I was trying to look out from the window
to see the silent of the night

That moment,

the stars were standing prettily above
smiling and dancing one another

On the left side of the stars

there was the moon
standing lonely surrounded by the stars
on the dark night in the sky
his face was so pale and blue
as the king of all dreams of all nights

And then,

I was searching for the warm side of the night
it was barely nowhere, but…
ever since I put these hands on this chest
there was a melody,
of the every beat of this heart
it speaks as the calm and peace sound of a lake
saying, “I am the moon”

It was such a pain to love

for never expecting to be loved
It shines lonely in the night
as the moon that hides in the dark cloud
feeling so shy…

When all the stars and the sky were silent

there was only a smile
smiling in the morning whisper
to welcome the sun,
restoring all the pain and sorrow
oh, morning whisper
I am smiling into the sun…

(Syayid Sandi Sukandi, March 6, 2011, 19.30 WIB, after having dinner with my family)

I published the above poem in https://syayidss.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/smiling-in-the-morning-whisper-a-poem/. I wrote the above poem to reflect feeling and emotional background about Ulak Karang beach and the sun. However, the beach was so simple in nature, with some coconut trees in the shore, white sand, waves, and sea birds that were flying, and some of them were catching up some fishes for their food. Sometimes, I threw a stone to the beach and it sank in the strong wave as if it was eaten by a monster. The same thing happened over and over again when someone threw a stone to the beach.

Slowly but sure, the sun went down as if it was saying “good bye” to all people who saw it and it was disappear deep down into the golden-orange sea. In its climax, the sunset turned to be glowing in the orange color and the sky turned to be reddish. In that way, the feeling would be so peaceful and relax because it felt like bringing your mind to welcome the night time. As I walked step by step to go back home, I could still hear the sound of the waves from a distance. They felt like singing from far away. Slowly, the sound was disappearing when I reached home and got inside. At last, I said to myself, “That was really a bright sun in Ulak Karang and I love it untill now”.


This narrative essay was inspired by my family and all positive friends in Minangkabau. Finally, I could get good grade for this essay. However, the good grade is not the only thing I want to achieve but more on how I could improve myself.

JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman and Stephenie Meyer including Nh Dini (Indonesian author) on Being a Writer

This video reminds me somehow to the process of being a young writer. I really wish I could publish my writing!

In Indonesia, NH Dini is my inspiring author!

Morgan Freeman – The Power of Words and Toni Morrison talks about Her Motivation to Writing

Words, they can do anything… “Change your words, change your world”

First video: Morgan Freeman – The Power of Words

Amnesty International for Human Rights around the World

Second video: Toni Morrison talks about Her Motivation to Writing

Toni Morrison is one of talented and well-known authors in the United States. It’s a good video for students who are interested in improving their own voice in writing, especially in creative writing. I chose this video because her motivation was good as an author. Her motivation was to invite people to see we all as the same, not through the “skin”. Besides, “In celebration of her new book, “A Mercy,” NVLP presents this 2004 clip of Nobel Prize winning author”, as written in this video.

More information about Toni Morrison can be found in this following link (Toni Morrison).







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