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Friday, August 30, 2013

The Path for Better Wage (and Life)

I remember doing the same thing he did: riding on my (now ex) boyfriend's Vespa as we drove the lengthy 1.5 hour drive through Jakarta's horrendous traffic from my house in suburb, him on the steer and I sat on the back trying to cram some more materials in my head before the test that morning. I had to work late the night before, catch a measly nap and then start studying and cramming materials until 4 in the morning. I was so tired I kept falling asleep on the scooter and he had to drive with one hand on the handle and one other hand holding me so I wont fall off the scooter. I arrived at the nick of time, when the door was closing and the test was starting. I passed the test. Barely.

Fast forward a few years later I was working in one of Bali's best wedding company, dealing exclusively with international clientele and living the life to the fullest. Fast forward a few years later I am currently in US, being given a wonderful chance to be a full time writer. My education and hard work paid off.

The fast food workers that demand higher salary was old news. Really. It was uncannily similar with the factory worker in Indonesia that demand higher salary. Even though some of the factory workers really do deserve to be paid better, a whole lot of them that worked in better and/or bigger factories can easily spend a fifth of what they are making per day (or more) for cigarettes. And of course their Blackberry service and sleek smartphones. I am into human equality and such, but it really is not fair to spend two third of my life in education trying to get a better life when a non-educated labor can earn as much as I earn per month. It is not fair that I spent 20 years of my life (and counting) to honed myself to be a better person and have someone that can hardly speak in correct grammar (let alone write it) telling me I should honor him. I would happily honor and even blindly help man or woman who despite their condition still thrive for a better living, but not those that come down me and blame me for being better than them and ask me to take responsibility for it.

When you put equality in mind, it's easy to see the unfairness for these unskilled workers to live the less-than-better life compared to others who just happen to born in a better family. They too deserve the fun, the better life that the others had. And I believe there are people who despite their hardest effort still find themselves in the bottom of the food chain. Let's end this. Rising wages is not the answer though, not with the inflation that might come up. Nor is wealth-distributing since a good many people do deserve the wealth that they earned from their own sweat and blood. The answer is education. The answer is good parenting. The answer is goals. The answer is hope.

It is easy to say that if the government do not provide good education than all is lost, or if the rich can easily get better education thus leaving the others at their mercy. It is easy to say because it is true. But what else is true is that you can always have hope. You can always have pride. You can always have dignity. It is a hollow ring, too true. A cliche remark from someone who had a better start. But that's just it: you'll never know what one endure to be who he/she is, their journey might actually be easier than yours or it might be far more gruesome. You can choose between cursing other people for being better than you and stormed up excuses on why it is unfair, or you can focus on yourself and simply be better. Educate yourself both in terms of knowledge and/or degree that can give you a better job, and also in manners and other skills. Go to the library. Save the money that you allocate for a weekend drinking to pay online tuition fee instead, or hit the library as your weekend getaway. Be inspired. Be inspiring.

One factor that we can not change is who or in what condition we are born into. Being a parent means preparing our offspring to face the world: and the best weapon that he/she can have are education and self-esteem. If you can't give or not sure you can provide this for your offspring please do not have any. Get into birth control, play it safe. If you already have child(ren), then strive to get the best for them, to provide them with better future. You owe them that much, because it was your decision to have and to keep them. And yes, this goes to any human be it men, women, or transgender. No exception.

You hated the greasy fryer. You loathed those rude and demanding costumers. You wished for once you have enough money to pay every bills on time. You dislike your life so much you often wish the morning will never come. Get a move on then. And if you say too late for that, well move for your child(ren). Give them a better opportunity in this world, and see how they bloomed. Know that there will never be "equality" in terms of everyone owning the same thing, because basically human is greedy. But there can be "equality" in terms of improving yourself as well as enjoying and appreciating your life and what you have, and those are achievable. Now go and get it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dream a Little Dream Tonight

"Heeyyy .... Miss youuu much... I am very happy for you dear.. You got exactly the life that I am dreaming of hihihihihi.... I am really happy for that..." - A friend's message

My friend's message left me speechless. I know my life is good, and I am happy for it, but did I dreamed of this life? The sad reality is, I never dreamed. Oh yes, I had my share of fantasies just like anybody else: me being excel in my work and adored by others, me being a fabulous writer, me being loved and wanted, me retaliate against those who wronged me, etc. But it was merely a fantasy, a short-lived daydream. A real dream would work as a talisman against all negative thoughts and propelled me further, up up towards the star. It is both passion and ambition, and will make my life so complete that when Grim Reaper finally came I can grin back and say: I did it, man! But I never had any. I was too lazy to change, to dream and to achieve that dream. I am a conformist, I am highly adaptable on any kind of situation thus eliminating the need to change. You need a good, strong, solid reason to change, to dream. I made my life so easy and enjoyable that there is no reason to leave my comfort zone and dream of a better life. 

Then my partner came, and he made me dream. It started out slow: a desire to keep him mine, a desire to be with him physically, a desire to have someone I can share my life with. These desires lead to dreams: dream of having someone that speaks with me lovingly every day (even if it's only on text), dream of going to US to be with him, dream of spending a fulfilling lifetime with him. Slowly but sure I have achieved all the goals in my list, completing my dream. And now what's next? I spent a couple of months trying to snap myself out of my comfort zone. My partner keep urging me to write, to achieve more from my life. But I was too happy to be with him. I don't need to dream anymore, to fly out of my comfy nest. I had him and was thoroughly content with the simple life I led right now. The only thing I need is a job, and as soon as I got a job we will live happily ever after. The end. Or that's what I think. I was so wrong.

Last Saturday I woke up from my nap to the sound of him playing his resonant guitar. The sound of music he made lulled me and soon I was drifted to sleep again. It was so relaxing it had somewhat narcotic effect on me, and my heart was filled with such calmness and joy it almost felt like I could've died that day and will have absolutely no remorse for my life. Last night he rolled in his sleep to hug me. I felt electrified and tears swelling up in my eyes. That simple gesture reminded me the deep bond we have, the special kind of love we both possessed and shared. Maybe my friend did dream of this special kind of love, but not me. It was the kind of love told in story books and comics and movies: one that can shook the world with its intensity, one that can made others look in awe and spread happiness inside their heart too. But in my mind this kind of love is reserved for someone as pretty as Helen of Troy, as smart as Cleopatra, as innocent as Juliet. It is not the kind of love someone like me would have, someone who is "not [insert positive adjective] enough". Yet despite my low self-projection, I had exactly that kind of love.

As I write this article I realize I had dreamed all along: a dream to be accepted and loved. Even as I killed the dream in my head and convinced myself I don't deserve that privilege, subconsciously I made decision towards it: escaping from a relationship I was not happy with (yet refuse to acknowledged my unhappiness), my strive to find a companion for life, my trials and errors in hope to find someone who will accept and love me. Even before he looked at me in awe and tell me how special I was, even before his constant encouragement and thus fixing my low self-confidence, even before I believe I deserve to dream and to have a shot at my dream, even before all that I have dreamed. The love I shared with my partner is a dream that I have subconsciously achieve. It is something that you can't take from any human: their ability to dream. Even as they convince they do not (deserve to) dream, deep inside that sliver of hope, that fragment of dream lives on. It is a part of our survival as human: to be better, to be content, to to be happy. 

I had always called myself a writer-to-be, or a writer-in-process. My partner cut that shit and said I am a writer and it's time to write like a writer should be. I was willing to try full time writing for him, to fulfill his wish. But not anymore. Today I realize perfectly that I can be anything I want, and I should be anything I want. And I want to be a writer. I want to sway people with my words and touch their lives and made them enjoy life just like I do, all with the help of words. He has his dream of getting the best of me, of making me bloom and thrive with all the potentials that I had. Yet his faith in me backfired. I always stumbled and paralyzed myself, unable to make good progress for fear of disappointing him. That is why it is so wrong to live for someone else's dream. You can try but you will never succeed, not with your full potential; because in the end it was not what you wanted to be, it's what they wanted to be. I wanted to write for myself, and I don't care if I don't succeed. Should I fail the only heart I would break is myself, and knowing myself I would be amazed if I don't just get up and try again. I am the keeper of my own destiny and dream.

I can (consciously) dream because of the faith and support my partner has given me, and numerous encouragement from people who read my writing. And when I achieve this dream, I am ready to dream bigger dreams and achieve them as well. This knowledge is empowering, gratifying, and I wish to share it with the world. It takes all kinds of things to trigger change, to dream. Some people, like me, need assurance that they are entitled to dream. Some people dream out of necessities, because life was already so bad it couldn't get worse anymore. But it was always there: the need to be better, to be content, to be happy. And nobody can take that away from you. You can always dream, no matter what.

Dream a little dream tonight my dear, because you are entitled to it. Write your biggest, most daring wish in a piece of paper and look at it. Look at those words intently and visualize how you can achieve it, and how you feel when you achieve it. Don't shy away and say, "Oh, I couldn't do it anyway. It's too [expensive/far/impossible/any excuse you wish to use] for me." or do the old run-around of "I don't want it that badly anyway". Stay with it, visualize it, dream that dream, and see how the doors of opportunity would unlock themselves to allow you get what you dreamed for. It may look like a labyrinth or an endless path, but stick with it. Just like Alice that had to keep walking on the opposite direction to get to the Garden of Live Flower in Lewis Carrol's Through The Looking Glass, sometimes the road you took may seemed to drove your further away from what you dreamed of. But never lose hope and keep your dream alive, held to it tightly like a compass that will lead your way. Dream my precious, dream. You are entitled to it.

No Less Human


Now that's what I'm talking about. There's nothing better than juicy sex-related-stop-the-press news in my Facebook newsfeed to start my day. Yes dear, I'm being sarcastic.

The news itself was not news for me, and actually it's a good thing to get all the health regulations and such up and running for people in this industry. The comments that followed the article was of course precious, a not-so-subtle reminder that human's worst enemy is indeed another human. All the scathingly "You deserve it!" by the women and the cruel joke by the men, all singing the same chant that these actors and actresses deserved their fate because they brought it down to themselves. That, is not entirely true; and we are soaked up in their blood as well.

Seriously, who hadn't watched porn? I'd be very much surprised if at this era we can find a male species who never watched porn in one way or another or taking pleasure in sexual voyeurism (peeking your hot sexy neighbor during her, ah, "vertical dancing session" included). Even if you are the holy never-do-wrong vestal virgin, once you married (or having sex with) a man chances are he had watched porn before and that (at some point) helped his bold signature move that keeps you screaming in delight the whole night long. These actor and actresses were there for your enjoyment. Their disease risk also comes a price of your enjoyment, to keep that fantasy alive. Who wants to watch porn with condoms on? People watched porn to feel the excitement: that they, if only just for a little while, living on the edge and fantasize what would it be to be the mega sexy hunk that fucked his boss or his cute next-door neighbor, or the perfect size babe that got laid with the handsome dude and for the life of him seemed to enjoy every part of her. Trust me, it sounds way better than the reality of just sitting there and vigorously getting your private part well acquainted with your fingers and hands.

If these people did their job for our enjoyment, why such hatred towards them? A commentator retort that animals are better protected because they are in our mercy, but these people can think and decide for themselves. My question is, how? It's either they do what they are told to do or risk losing employment, there aren't many choices. One of the actress said that if she wanted to use condom, the movie people can easily find another one that is willing to do without and simply replaced her. If somebody needed anti-radiation suit to work but the company won't provide it due to the high expense and decided to hire another worker that is willing to risk him/herself without the protection, everyone will cry foul and the injustice of human's rights or whatever. What's so different about these people that they are treated less than human?

It is because of the nature of their work, one would say; which they celebrate the filthy sin of the flesh and ruining the sacred union of man and woman by parading it for the whole world to see just for a handful of money. Yet even so, the presumably sacred union that everyone seemed so full about does not prevent casual sex and one night stands and any form of pre-marital sex. Porn is a staple in teenager's life and for some it goes way beyond adult life, and even marriage life to "spice things" up. Yet if it's so deplorable, if it's so ugly and unnatural, why can't we banned them? Why can't we look at it as grisly and as unacceptable as ultra-hard-core sadistic videos, or pedophiles sex video or animal cruelties? One would argue that it is unacceptable because animals and little children and people who got caught and torture don't have a fighting chance, it was forced unto them and thus making it morally unacceptable, and it's just "not right". But isn't a vivid display of how unholy sexual union can be is morally unacceptable as well, that it is also "not right"? They got paid for the use of their body, true. Yet some of us got paid for the use of our brain, and some of us got paid for the use of our brawn. It's just a different kind of trade. And why does the fact that they are getting paid for sex makes them a lot less human than the "normal" people, who would at times jump into somebody's bed freely just for the sake of fun and because "alcohol said so"?

The society we lived in relish and thrive on sexual encounters, of the teenager sex drive and young adult's sexperiences, of sexual conquers and orgasmic delights. Just check your Facebook newsfeed especially after weekends where you will be greeted by a number of sexual revelations or sexual related memes. We enjoyed it, it's our little not-so-guilty pleasure. So why the rock was cast towards the actors and actresses? You don't have to be ultra supportive or extra nice, one is entitled of one's own feeling. You can still disagree on what they do for living, just as you disagree on others' political view or even the celebrity that others' idolize, but please never ever considered them as less than human. Our advanced brain and line of thinking more often than not deluded us into thinking that we are superior than others, that we are entitled to play God and decide what is right and what is not. We are not. You can cringe for somebody's profession or feeling distaste for it, but none of us owns the right to think it made them less human, just as none of us owns the right to think skin color or religion or nationality made others less human. It takes all kinds to make a world. That is what made it beautiful. That is what made it precious.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Treat for The Taste Buds

Cold cherry lemonade with raspberries and freshly picked mint... Oh my!!

My husband made the delicious drink for our lazy Sunday, it was a perfect complement for such a beautiful summer day. I thought, how fun life could be! Then I thought, will I miss it when I return to Bali? Will I nag and whine for such treat during our Bali visit?

In Bali there are a huge numbers of restaurants that sell Western food. Come to think of it, even in the small dingy restaurant they will inadvertently sell fries or spaghetti. They are inexpensive, easy to cook (viva frozen food!), and in such  high demand. The locals love their little western treat once in a while, the tourists just wanted to eat, and the expatriates are homesick. But if you are in a foreign country for just a few days, wouldn't you like to be more, ah, adventurous?

For tourists, it was not always easy to explore (and enjoy) the local food to its fullest potential. Hygiene seemed to be one of the main concerns, if not the top. Then there is the gastric incompatibility, as Balinese food use a whole lotta herbs and chili and coconut milk and various local vegetables that the westerner probably never heard of. And of course, the strange, strange taste. I had to convinced my husband that the Indonesian mutton curry (gule kambing) he cooked for us was just perfect, as he kept asking me: "Are you sure it's ok? Is the taste correct? Did I messed it up by putting too much coconut milk?" when in fact his curry was so good it reminded me of home. 

But let's just say, let's play pretend that you, a tourist, manage to stay in a good hotel where food hygiene is not a problem, or you found a good restaurant that you are comfortable with, wouldn't you like to try and let your taste buds experience the sensation? After all, why only let your other four sense hogging all the fun of your trip? If you are not comfortable with getting a full portion, ask for a half portion, or even a sampler. And if you are still not convinced with cooked traditional food, be adventurous with traditional fruits instead: manggis (mangosteen), salak (snake fruit), jeruk bali (pomelo), apel malang (local apple), wani fruit (a kind of mango), and the real tropical papaya. These are only a few of the wide fruit selection available in Bali. If the so-called tropical fruit tray in your supermarket excites you, this is your chance to experience the real thing and to understand why Balinese settled with fruits instead of "desserts". 

Eating locally is not only fun, it also helps the local farmer and the earth. I had a mango and a Hawaiian papaya once, and they tasted so different than the one I had at home. Why wouldn't it? Each land has different soil, different amount of minerals, different textures. That is why one area can produce a more superior, say, grapes than other. Heck, I guess that is why some tap water tastes better than others. The farmers can make their living, and mother earth wouldn't get that extra carbon footprint to jet off imported fruits from a different country. As a matter of fact, eating whatever produce that grows or obtainable near you is a neat way to show your appreciation for the earth and the community you visited. If you insist on going green, it kinda killed off the purpose to order your vegetarian meal with that specific berry only found in the mountain of Andes (or something similar), unless of course you lived in that specific mountain. 

If money is your concern, rest assure that the 99 cent you spent on nectarine or sunkist in your local supermarket translates to at least a couple of mangosteen or a big ripe papaya or 2-3 snakefruit. You will definitely get more for your money. $6 may get you a combo of cheeseburger, fries, and soda; but in Bali it can also get you the suckling pig combo that consists of rice, REAL pork in Balinese spices, vegetable side dish, soup, and even es teh manis (sweet iced tea).  As for the $34 you spend on that steak house for a rib eye steak with lobster tail and baked potato, add up another $15 and that can be easily translated to meal for two with total of 15 dishes at the Bumbu Bali Restaurant in Nusa Dua. Seriously, delicious meal with fancy presentation for $25 per person? Our Independence Day dinner at a Tucson's hotel costs almost $40 per person and it was an all-you-can-eat buffet.

If you are not keen on spending your money, there are many other places where you can get good local meal with only $5 or less. Be adventurous, be inquisitive. If haggling for fruit at the traditional market is too much for you, go to supermarket or a dedicated fruit shop that has fixed price. You can utilize travel forums and websites to get info on where to eat traditional food, but do note that chances are these "recommended places" are chock full with tourists and already have the tastes tampered to suit western taste buds. If you are comfortable with it, so be it :) . But if you want something different, you can always ask the locals. Try to get connected and plan ahead: you can ask the hotel you are sleeping with, or try to get in touch with the local Balinese from website like BaliHub or the expatriate veterans at BaliPod. Afterall Facebook and e-mail are actually penpal made simple ;) .

You have allocate your time for this vacation, and spend so much money for the accursed plane ticket, and sat uncomfortably on that plane for about 12 hours straight or more. Your skin thank you for the warm sea water, delicious sea breeze, and tantalizing sunlight. Your eyes thank you for the beautiful view of hot babes an/or dudes, erm I mean the beautiful view of the beach and mountains and nature in general including the awesome temples and such. Your ears thank you for that beautiful gamelan music and fun happy laughter all round. Your nose thank you for the sweet smell of flower and incense and salty sea air and delicious cooked meals. Your brain thank you for the temporary getaway it gets, away from the daily monotony of the job you didn't like and from socializing with people you can actually live without (what a bliss if it comes true!). Now it's time to spoil that taste buds of yours. Go on, they'll thank you.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Women be Women, Please

"You're a f--king idiot for even going to going to f--king talk to your f--king retard brother. I don't give a f--k. We can't get along with those people. They're jealous, no-good idiots. I don't want to hear about them any more. When I say something, you f--king listen -- and shut up!" - Real Housewives of New Jersey

Whoaaa.... Easy there, mister...

This is actually very old "news", published in May 2012, but I just stumble across it today and can't help being horrified. He actually talked to her that way in front of the TV? Whatever happen with respect in marriage? Or, whatever happen to respect and "protect" your woman? I do know it is reality show, and as most reality show it is probably scripted. Which to me,sounds even more ridiculous. Why deliberately scripted something degrading like that? If the argument scene happens in real life I think most people will think she is an idiot to choose a terrible man like that, or that she deserves to be treated like that. Then why? Why promote degradation and humiliation?

It is something that has bothered and puzzled me for quite a while: why are there so much hatred in the media? Gone are the days when the bad girls (a.k.a the rivals) were being talked about in a sensible and classy way, without degrading them nor humiliating yourself. Take Avril Lavigne's "Skater Boy" for an instance, it made me really dislike the ballerina girl and totally rooting for Avril. She's classy, I can relate to her feeling, and she deserve the hot dude. But on the other hand Taylor Swift's "Better than Revenge" made her look like (in my honest opinion) a poor demented love-craze chick, and what's worse she also kinda promote "hearsay": "She's an actress/She's better known/For things that she does on the matress" 
 Now, how did she know that? Did she followed this "actress" around and actually seen her in action and gotten praises for it? This troubles me because I watch a scene in "The Craft" where a girl was taunted and jeered by the whole school because her date told everyone she was the worst (sex) he ever had, as a revenge because she rejected his approach (yes, actually they never have sex AT ALL). Another great example is Nicki Minaj's "Stupid Hoe" vs TLC's "Silly Ho". The main difference is TLC's "Silly Ho" was clearly dedicated for the boys, while Nicki Minaj's "Stupid Hoe" clearly attacked another woman. I mean, what dafuq bro?  
I have long observe and rejoice the (western) women's movement. The roaring 20s, the fight to get voting right, the struggle to wear trousers and short skirts, the crusade to be treated equal and free from gender bias and discrimination. Yet now we have women being publicly humiliated either by her man or other women, and it is a form of entertainment. Isn't it sad? Instead of being the equal of men, women again being reduced to a bunch of jealous vindictive group who can't do anything except being bitches. To be fair, men are sometimes silly too, sadly it doesn't change the fact that in current society they have more advantages (especially in terms of professional work). Women need to keep going, and by going I mean stop being a bitch to one another or just letting someone give them verbal bitch-slap in public. 

For those who complains and say: But those songs and TV shows are not real!, I got news for you. There are people who thinks Jersey Shore is real, there's even an article that discuss whether it is real or not. In case you wonder, the soft thud thud sound that you hear is the echo of me slamming my forehead on my writing desk out of disbelief and frustration. So yeah, let's show some respect for women whether you are another woman, a man, or someone in between, it really doesn't matter. And women, please play nicely with other women, men, and frankly anyone in between. Humans help and respect each other regardless of what gender they are. If dolphins and chimps can respect their fellow species, I don't see why we naked apes can't. Care to find out?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Selamat Hari Lebaran / Happy Eid Al Fitr

It's that time of the year again, and may I say one of the best time of the year in Indonesia: The Idul Fitri (Eid-Al Fitr)

Picture this: dining table is heavily laden with hearty and savoury dishes: chicken, beef, vegetables. At the living room various kind of cookies in small jars are neatly arranged on the coffee table. Cold sweet flavored water (usually done with syrup) and/or bottles of soda lining up in the refrigerator, to be served to the guests. Small change is neatly tucked inside a bag, ready to be given out to the delightful children. Hellz yeah, this is the way to p-p-p-party!

The Idul Fitri holiday (I am using the Indonesian spelling which I am familiar with) is a special day to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, where the Muslim endure 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting. It is celebrated by Muslims around the world, but my most vivid recollection is when I spend it in Indonesia. Good feelings all round, good food to boost, and meeting your family and friends in a relax and happy manner (dispute and disgruntles can be continued after the day, but not on the day). I couldn't think of a better way to spend a day.

Atatata.... wait.... You're going to close this article just because I am talking about Muslim holiday? Yeah yeah, you think they are a bunch of terrorist that marries bride-children and have a deadly affection towards bombing and hate democracy in general and yadda yadda yadda. You know what, you haters need to chill out and start opening your eyes. I mean, dawn-to-sunset fasting, man. No food OR drink from dusk till dawn, and also full emotion control too: you can't get angry or crying or saying/thinking hateful stuff. And this needs to be done from dawn to dusk (roughly about 14 hours in Indonesia, can reach up to 18 hours in US). Seriously, I got panic attack when I only found a jug of milk in my refrigerator, let alone no food or drink in the whole 14 hours; and the only time I can spend with my emotion checked and fully in control is when I am locked in my room with no internet (internet trolls and shoddy biased news always get the best of me).

Since I have had the pleasure to see these fasting in action ever since I was a little girl, I can totally relate on their joy and happiness when the Idul Fitri day finally come. They have mastered their "wants", and thus conquering themselves and defeating their vices. I read all my friends' Idul Fitri messages in Facebook (which commonly run as: "Happy Idul Fitri, Please accept our apologies for any wrong doings") with sheer joy. I am just so happy for them, and so proud of them too. My family used to visit the Muslim side of our family, and when they move out to Bali I am always invited to my friends' Idul Fitri celebration. It's the time for family, and whether they have 6-7 lavish dishes on the table or a simple 2-3 dishes it didn't matter. What matters to me is the warm smile on their faces and the welcoming look in their eyes. It's a happy day and they invited me to be a part of it. The feeling is priceless.

Sure, this holiday is not perfect. Just as any kind of holidays these days, the Idul Fitri is also rife with overspending and for some is turned into a pitiful charade where these misguided souls think they need to show-off their wealth and "compassion" in order to be better than others. Outrageous shopping spree for Idul Fitri outfits, new phones and accessories to match, redecorating house to look nicer for guest, excessive purchase of meat and poultry and other kind of foods, you name it we got it. But it was not the holiday to be blamed. This happens on Christmas too, and Balinese Nyepi/Silence day or Galungan, and I believe in any major holidays celebrated around the world. It was never the holiday or the religion, it was the human. Always the human. Their insecurities and competitive streaks blinded them, making them focused on being better than others and forget what the Idul Fitri is all about: quality time with family and friends, and sharing joy and happiness in the name of God.

I won't deny that there are a number of self-proclaimed Muslim out there that is spreading threats and terrors. In the news I heard about the Muslim group in Indonesia that attacked and hurt others for being "disrespectful" during the Ramadan month, even setting up a bomb at Buddhist temple. I myself have seen quite a few shows where a supposedly Muslim priest in Indonesia telling bad things about other religion, even saying that one must not accept Idul Fitri greeting from someone with different religion. It hurts me bad. Yet to me it was never the religion, it was the human. Name your religion and you will find extremists and haters like they are, hidden under the protection of verses and hymns to satiate their own black twisted desires. And some did it borrowing the name of Democracy or Human Rights, or whatever excuses they can come up with. Same man different hats. It is the blood-thirsty hateful human that you should shunned, not one its many excuses to do wrong doings. 

To me Islam is best represented in the Ramadan month, and the Idul Fitri day at the end. The story of perseverance and dedication, the celebration of faith and inner strength, the time for family and friends. Closing my eyes, 8000 km away from Indonesia, I can visualize the excited frenzy as my mom and sisters in Bali cooked various Idul Fitri dishes in Betawi style as a tribute to my late grandmother who was a Muslim. I can visualize the excitement my friends' little children for a day of feast and merry-making ahead of them. I can visualize the glee and pride as the Muslim break their final fast. I can visualize the overwhelming joy and sense of humbleness as they kneel down to pray in the morning of Idul Fitri, silently saying: "Yeaaaaah God I did it!!!!!" (oh wait, that's probably me.). To all my Muslim friends, families, and any random Muslims that happen to read this article: Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri, Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Batin. Love you all. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Oh Lookie! Barbarians!!

I was was waiting for my doctor's appointment when I watched this documentary about "coffee hunters" that embark on an adventure to Papua's mountain to get the best coffee. And I was like, "Dude, seriously??"

Adventurers are always welcome in my book, and nothing excites me more than watching or reading about adventures in faraway land etc etc etc. But this documentary seriously give me the creep. He made it sound his journey looked so dangerous and alarming, at one point even "sneaking in" to a coffee warehouse and dramatically cut open a sack of coffee to find the precious coffee he was looking for... only to be greeted by the manager afterwards which happily divulged where he got the great coffee from. D'oh. He described the dance/war cries like shrieking and moaning as if someone was getting tortured, complete with the "horrific expression" (this was supposed to be one of the climax/pivotal moments of the documentary). He also kept saying "Third world country", and even go as far as criticizing the farmers for not having a combined coffee plantation/handling to achieve better quality coffee and thus making more money. Uhhh......

It is my biggest pet peeves to when people act like underdeveloped countries are staple for so-called nightmarish experiences and so, well, underdeveloped. Hello, it's 2013 dear. True that these places (in which one of them I called home) is not exactly New York or Paris or Geneva, but it is not exactly lawless and "uncivilized" as well. On the contrary, these people more often than not have a set of rules that will allow them to live together peacefully side by side, and also rules to save and preserve the land they are living in. They don't have big strong government on their side which ready to bail them out anytime, it's either they obey the laws they set for each other or face unpleasant direct consequences. 

Take Bali for example, Miguel Covarrubias explained in his 1937 book "The Island of Bali" : A "bad man" does not have a chance in the strict communal Balinese system. Everyone is so dependent on the co-operation and goodwill of others that he whose conduct is not good, or who in some ways fail to be in harmony with his community, becomes a boycotted undesirable." How is this for a change, a community where the rules and law are uphold for the good of all and not merely because the-law-said-so; where people govern themselves in order to achieve desired sustainability and secure future for their offspring? Is it not an ideal situation? Pray tell which "Civilized" country in the world that have been able to achieve this utopia?

If fashion is your idea of civilization, let's stop and ponder that the all-fashionable summer bikinis in the western countries are considered by these people as alien (and perhaps also as barbaric) as the traditional dress that they wear in your opinion. Especially true for us that are born in tropics, there is nothing more weird than seeing an orange-ish fake tan and the concept that someone actually pays to look like that. To be fair, you might think that our tooth filing ceremony is horribly unhealthy too. So? If art is your thing, please consider that the ancient kingdoms in Java, Indonesia built monumental temples such as Borobudur or Prambanan in the 9th century. And it still exist right now, high and proud and enchantingly beautiful. The art of weaving cloth, the songs and lore that is handed from generation, the beautiful object of offerings made for their Gods, is it not Art just because it is, ah, old? Yet the incorrigible musics and abstract paintings and sculptures are hailed as art, the greatest symbol human expression. Why does an ancient song for praising spirits and ancestors be described as "shrieking, moaning, horrible sound" when you can easily hear a number of songs filled with violence and called it a "cool stuff"?

The so-called-underdeveloped countries probably do not have the same amenities as the developed ones, but that does not mean they have a lower quality of life. On the contrary, one might find their life quality is significantly better than their developed-countries fellow human. No rat race, only a leisurely life where you are content with what you have, which is enough to ensure a comfortable life for you and your family. The TV guide's demand (err suggestion?) for an organized coffee handling so they can have similar quality coffee and more money is killing their good quality of life. A better coffee for who? For the customers who want that prestigious coffee both for pride and glut. The people in Papua does not need a better coffee for themselves. True that they will get more money, but who will be benefited? The merchants most likely will. When you have increased amount of money in circulation the price for items and services will definitely increased as well, this is called inflation and is a basic rule of economy. So they will spend more time to cater and work on their coffee farm and less on their family and enjoying their normal quiet life in order to provide some coffee-lovers their daily dose of caffeine and padding up merchants with more profit. Sounds just right.   

The list can go on and on. The worse is of course the exploitation of these so-called uncivilized people in shows like the one I told you about, exaggerating their condition and shamelessly incorporating them as "extra" in the big badass documentary just like old Hollywood will create a thorough set and hires extras to make their colossal movies. In the end, it was just a bunch of pathetic lies, down to where they can always find someone that speaks English to assist them in their journey. Seriously, English is not commonly use in Papua New Guinea, and those that do speak it most likely have spent considerable time with Westerners/ English-speaking natives. This means that this dude is in the hands of "friends" all the time, yet still need to "spice" things up for the audience. (On another note, you don't get killed just for having different color skin or for being an outsider; the reason why you need a guide to enter tribes such as the one in Papua is out of respect for the community and to prevent you from doing idiot disrespectful thing that might cost you, or heaven forbid, tainted the whole village. It happens.)

As my husband said, this is just a made-up movie, no need to get bent out of shape because of it. Too true, and to be fair these documentary makers also exploit and exaggerated other people such as the real housewives of, or the (now-not-so-young) youngsters of jersey shores. It is unthinkable to think real people act like the one they portrayed in the those TV series. They were merely being poorly captured like their fellow human in the third world country (How I hate the word! Come on, these tribes has been around longer than the western civilization and they actually prevailed instead of being devoured by another countries!). However, if by the end of this article you still believe that you are much better than those third-world-country-uncivilized-barbaric-sorry-humans I can't really blame you. After all, as the picture above beautifully illustrate there are people that actually think foreigners expected to be picked up by John Wayne-esque cowboys on horses upon arrival in LAX. They even write articles about it! So yeah, all is forgiven. Evolution is a picky bastard.

PS: I have no idea who John Wayne is, but upon my arrival in LAX I do think I would see people dressing up so free and crazy. I mean, this is USA, the land of the free. My husband takes me to Walmart that night to shop, and I saw this young woman in Supergirl costume (complete with cape) and sunglasses (with the price tag still on) driving between the isles on some kind of motoric vehicle that the elderly often uses. My wild accusation and vivid imagination did not disappoint me.

Being Normal in a "Foreign" Way

"Even more important is that I learned that sometimes you simply can’t control everything. Sometimes you have to trust the most unlikely of people. It’s a good lesson to learn, especially when you are on the road." - Taken from NY Times article:

Damn right you are ;)

You know what? I really miss Indonesia. Now that I reflected upon my own condition I can totally relate how the zoo animals must've feel, taken away (or born) outside their natural habitat and think how strange things are in their living area/cage. The thing is, I have stubbornly refuse to "adapt", and prefer to do some things Indonesian way. There are new manners that I have to learn, and also new rules I have to memorize and understand by heart, especially when it comes to the law. But others? It's just the same.

Take food for instance. My family (as with most middle-class family in Indonesia) has extremely high food efficiency. This means I am used to cook good food with minimum ingredients and with the right amount of serving so there will be very little (if any) leftovers. The organic waste are being "recycled" as well: the rice goes to our ducks, the vegetable/fruit peels and unused parts goes to our pigs, and the bones/uneaten meat goes to our dogs.

At first my fiance thought it is queer, how I look so distracted when we had to threw away food we cannot eat or my efforts to keep leftovers to minimum and if possible even reuse them; more than once he assured me that he indeed can support me and I shouldn't worry about the money. But it was not about the money. In my mind, wasting food is just not right. Does that makes me un-American? Surprisingly, I don't think it is. Food and family blogs like Yahoo Shine have been advertising on the best way to re-do your leftovers for years, and also how to keep your groceries to the minimum yet with maximum use; I simply do it based on my habit in Indonesia.

As for the type of food itself, even though my fiance makes a to-die-for fajitas (which, in my mind, based on the ingredients are 3-5 different meals rolled together in one) I still cook my Indonesian food from time to time. Mostly stir fry though, but made from the so-called exotic vegetables, which in my mind is my country's local vegetables: Chayote, Bitter gourd, Eggplant with delicious spicy Indonesian salsa (which we called sambal), and many more. I also use the regular vegetables like bell pepper and such on daily basis, in fact I have to have a hearty portion of vegetable at least once a day. As green and healthy as it sounds, the main reason lies to the fact that Indonesian are accustomed with rice and vegetables and only minimum amount of meat in their diet. This translates to the constipation I will have to suffer if I don't have enough vegetables. Is this un-American? Again, if you look closely you will find there are tons of health website and blog out there that promote healthy dining (a.k.a less or even no meat). What people preached here has been done for ages in Indonesia.

This goes the same with style/fashion. Before I come to US, my fiance told me that I might find fashion style a little different here and offers me to get new clothes once I am in US. I got a few non-descript/generic type t-shirt and shirt, and it has all work pretty well. No doubt that he was right to some degree, and once I am starting to work I might have to have good sets of "office clothes", but for day-to-day or casual basis I didn't see much difference. As a matter of fact, I think I've seen more "what-the-hell-are-they-thinking" clothing here than I usually do in Indonesia. But that's the beauty of America. Strutting out your style is expressing yourself and I believed is covered in US' First Amendment, freedom to make free speech. If you are treated differently based on how you look it's called discrimination and can actually be contested in the name of the law.

Of course, I know nothing of this. My society taught me not to make rude remarks upon people, and if I really have to make remarks I better keep it to myself or to my close circle. There is nothing good about making people feeling bad about themselves; and seeing how in Indonesia we rely most on our interaction in society instead if the government or the law, it is obviously not a good idea to offend people or made ourselves look like a jackass, that is if you still want a smooth day-to-day life without any drama. That is why I am still confident on using things I want: if it's too weird then I probably deserve that judging look or harsh comment (not that I care), if it's not that weird but you are still judging me openly I won't care either. That is why I am still going to use my hand-tailored brocade Kebaya blouse (a traditional Balinese style) for my wedding instead of the western bridal gown. It suits me more. Oh and the common sandals I brought from Bali? Everyone I met compliment it, even the tough-looking wild west lady in the shop where we take our old-west pictures at Tombstone.

There is more than one way to bake a cake (and I just happen to read one where they use rice cooker for the task. Yup. RICE COOKER). Just like the dude in the Bali computer shop did with the guy's laptop, sometimes people do things according to what they are accustomed to. If you are a foreigner away from your home country, relax and make yourself at home.If you happen to see foreigners near you behave in a way uncommon to what you are used to, as long as it did not bother you just ignore it. Different ways are not always "wrong ways", they are sometimes just... different. So chill out, and enjoy your life :) .

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