Native Sicilian and former lawyer Michela Linda Magri is the director of the Italian Cultural Institute ' Indonesia's hub for all things Italian.
The institute runs Italian language classes, promotes cooperation between universities and other educational institutions of the two countries and organizes exhibitions, public lectures, concerts and events.
Above all, the institute promotes and facilitates the exchange of culture and friendship between Italy and Indonesia.
This exchange is Magri's top priority, and her first year as director in Jakarta has certainly been a successful one.
It is the intrinsic sense of curiosity and artistic ability within the Indonesian people that empowers her to do what she does. The institute runs events with Italian and Indonesian artists, musicians, photographers and everything in between.
On Feb. 4, the center and the Italian Embassy will present An Italian Cello Night by Matteo Montanari, featuring Andy Winata.
Magri said the institute was the center for cultural collaboration between the two countries, and Magri could not be prouder of the difference she gets to make every day.
'It is never boring here ['¦] you learn about a different aspect of this beautiful country every day,' said Magri during an interview at her office, a room that blends Italian and Indonesian culture in a unique way.
Among Balinese statues, traditional Indonesian paintings and masks sits a snow globe of Siena, an Italian town in central Tuscany.
The office feels like a combination of Italy and Indonesia ' a blend between the two countries that reflects the work that she does at the Institute, located in Menteng, Central Jakarta.
It is not Magri's first time in Jakarta, but after a six-year posting in sunny Los Angeles, California, came to an end, it felt like the right time to return to Indonesia.
'I am always curious. I decided to come back because I love this city,' she said.
After one year of living in Jakarta and immersing herself in the language and culture informally, Magri is set to take the next step by enrolling in Bahasa Indonesia classes at a local university.
'Despite just wanting to learn the language to have a simple conversation, it's also a symbol of respect,' she says.
'And the people here are wonderful. The people are very open; they open their hearts. And there is such a curiosity here ' we all want to learn, to share experiences and to progress.'
Magri gave the interview on the final day of a photography exhibition called La Vespa, un Mito: Storia e Storie at the IIC Auditorium.
The exhibition showcased images of the classic Italian Vespa, with a uniquely Indonesian spin. That day, the institute was filled with photographers, artists, photography lovers and onlookers ' all excited to participate in this artistic mixture of cultures.
Magri was the most excited of all, as there's a brand new bright yellow Vespa waiting for her out the front.
A keen driver herself, Magri has yet to hit the streets of Jakarta since her arrival. But with this new vehicle in the Institute's possession, she's excited to explore the streets on this classic Italian mode of transportation.
When asked what she loved most about Indonesia, she said, 'it's not an easy city [Jakarta], but the people are so kind. This really is an incredible country.'
When Magri has visiting friends, she encourages them to see and experience as much as they possibly can.
'If they are interested in history, I tell them to go to the National Museum, to Monas [the National Monument], to Old Batavia [in West Jakarta] to experience and learn. To go to Bali to see the nature and to get out of Jakarta and see Manado [in North Sulawesi], Flores (in East Nusa Tenggara) and to try Indonesian food.'
In her own time, Magri loves to run marathons, exercise or relax with a cup of tea, as well as making time for meditation in her busy schedule.
Running marathons was different here, she said, when compared to Italy or Los Angeles. 'Because of the weather and terrain, you have to adapt your body and your mind in order to succeed.'
But it is her philosophy and 'motto' that strikes the loudest chord.
'I am a marathon runner. In marathons, if you want to go fast you go alone. But if you want to go far, you go together. We built and shared our culture, Italian and Indonesian, together. It is better that we go together.'
' The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post
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