Thursday, December 14, 2017

Either Becoming A Journalist Or A Communications Person, It All Starts From The Heart

A newspaper stand in Macau

In a time where print media switching to online and some even go as far as stopping publication at all, where do print media journalists find their Noah's Ark?

That first paragraph was an attempt at writing a dramatic lede, which I kind of missed (Ha! Former journo through and through).

To answer that question, anyone, journos or not, can always make the career switch. To quote the adage: You can do anything!

Tangent: I stumbled upon Justine Le Conte's You Tube video on her career story, which elaborates why and how she made the choice to change her career. She was not a famous person, so her experience was real and something we can relate to. I like that her channel gives off positive vibes.

But I digress, where was I? Oh yeah, many of my journo friends have made the transition to analysts, entrepreneurs and also, the inevitable role as public relation people. A few weeks ago, I saw one journo friend wrote in her FB status that she did not want ever to be a public relation person.

As a former journalist with around 10 years of work experience, I was once guilty of this sin too: looking down on the profession (and practitioners) of public relation. I used to think that the public relation people sell their souls to the corporations they work at and create a false utopia through the press release. Ok, this is overly dramatic, but I was young and idealistic once.

Fortunately, several years later I had an opportunity to write advertorials. Then it all came to my senses: both journalist and public relation were paid to do their work. There were times, when I was a journo, that I felt uneasy to write the news, because the news angle could not always cover both sides.

Sometimes an editor asked me to write from an angle that I did not like, other times another editor edited my news to suit his/her point of view. I was furious when I read the newspaper and saw that the lede had been severely mutilated (again, drama queen).

I love writing, always have been and will be, but I don't want my writing to benefit just one or two people. I want my writing to give impact to many people. Therefore, I decided to walk away from the profit sector and searched for jobs in the not-for-profit sector that matched my interest. I would prefer to call my current profession as communications person, instead of public relation.

Working for not-for-profit sector has its own drawbacks, though. Most jobs in this sector are usually under one-year contract, with possible extension. I consider myself fortunate, because I'm a woman, still single and my parents give full support on my decision to work in the sector. What about people who are married and have children? What would they do when the contract/the project ends?

Believe it or not, there are men, who are married and have children, in the not-for-profit sector. They work from one project to another, and they survive. These men are my reminder of Allah's abundant blessings. The ultimate factor that makes my heart at ease is the thought that Allah provides for each living being, even if we sometime (or most of the time, astaghfirullah) don't remember Him.

Blessings are not always in the form of monetary gains. Faith in God, health (physically and mentally), fresh air, a smile from a handsome fellow commuter, the rain, the sun that comes after the rain, family (parents/siblings/spouse/children), and good friends, those are all blessings. To sum it up, your life is already a blessing.

Also, I believe everything starts from the intention of the heart. I try to remind myself on a daily basis that I work not just to get money, but to have contentment in the thought that I have helped people. A good intention brings lots of good things into your life. It will also be great if my work gets appreciation through the high remuneration.

I'm not saying that everyone should just quit their permanent jobs and work as contract employees. I just want to say that each profession has its pluses and minuses (so don't look down on other people's profession), never put your faith on humans (and corporations), give the best of yourself on every thing you do while finding opportunity to grow your skills and always be grateful for everything that you have.

Oh geez, have I bored you enough with my ramblings? Wishing you a terrific Thursday, lovelies.

Monday, December 11, 2017


2016 | Director: Denis Villeneuve | 1 hour 56 minutes |

I have just watched this movie during a weekend's movie marathon. Although it's a sci-fi movie on alien, it has been giving me some philosophical thinking.

"Memory is a strange thing, it doesn't work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time, by its order." 

The words of linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) opens the movie, followed with a quick recap on her life with her daughter Hannah who later died of cancer. Then it brings audience to the day 'they' arrive. They are 12 unidentified extra-terrestrial objects that land on 12 locations worldwide. One of the objects is in Montana.

Charcoal gray and rough to the touch, the objects are suspended in the air with their tips facing downward, making a pretty cool way for an entrance. A few days after their arrival, no humans are abducted, no threats are announced. The objects stay in silence and grace, while the aliens make appearances and give messages in certain time.

Due to her linguistic expertise, Louise is recruited by the US Military to translate the messages and figure out why they are here. To be able to understand the language, Louise goes with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) inside the objects, where gravity takes a holiday. Both manage to establish communication with the heptapod duo, who are later named as Abbot and Costello, after the famous comical duo.

The movie is a bit lagging in the middle, giving audience little bits of information along the way. The conflict in the movie is built through excerpts of missed communication between the 12 countries where the objects are located, news that escalate fear and distrust among the military personnel and scenes of the expert duo working hard to translate the message. I think Amy Adams nails the role perfectly as a calm linguist who works hard to hold everyone down until she manages to get things straight.

Language and communication are the things we do every day and yet, many still can not get or send their messages right. The movie reminds us, through its many beautiful quotes on language and communication, that those fields of study most people look down are actually the ones that tie human together.

  • Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict. - said by Ian Donnelly to Louise Banks in the military aircraft, it's a passage from the preface she wrote.
  • The language you speak determines how you think and see everything. - quoting the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
  • Like their ship or their bodies, their written language has no forward or backward direction. Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question,"Is this how they think?" - Ian Donnelly on translating the heptapod language
  • The weapon is their language. They gave it to us. If you learn it, when you really learn it, you begin to perceive time the way that they do, so you can see what's to come. But time, it isn't the same for them. It's non-linear. - Louise Banks

The movie also has a mind-bending ending, which is quite refreshing for a Hollywood production. There is a question in the movie that has been lingering in my mind:

If you can see your whole life from start to end, would you change things?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Finding Yourself During A Loss

In the zen zone. A throwback photo of me in Seoul, South Korea, in 2010

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me messages about his bag being stolen while he fell asleep on board the commuter line. Inside the bag were wallet, mobilephone, and most devastating of all, his 15" MacBookPro laptop that he just bought January this year. He blamed himself for falling asleep in the train while leaving his bag unattended on the overhead shelf.

I could only say,"Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rojiun." To Allah everything belongs, and to Allah everything shall return. I told him to let it go and start anew again.

A few months prior, I have lost many personal photo files in my portable hard disk. I have uploaded some of the photos to this blogs and other social media, but the rest were totally gone. I grieved the loss of life mementos for a few days, then I pushed myself to see things in bigger frame.

Material things such as the mobilephone and the laptop, we can always replace them with the new ones. One may argue that the contact numbers in the mobilephone and the files in the laptop are difficult to regain. But hey, in this global era, we can find a way to connect to the people and we can always recreate the files that were started as tiny abstract ideas in our grey cells. In the case of lost photos, make new ones. Nothing is impossible, as long as we are alive and doing well.

What if you lose a person that means the world to you, such as parents, siblings, spouses? What if you lose your eyesight or a body part?

The second paragraph will still be relevant. After all, we don't really own anything. Our bodies, our parents, our worldly things, and even our souls, we borrow them all from The Almighty. We only have time, such a short time for some people, to prepare our journey for the eternal hereafter. We don't even know how much time we would have.

Just like humans are only visitors on this planet, feelings are also visitors in our hearts, they come and go. Don't stick around too long with a particular emotion. Remember that this too shall pass.

Being grateful helps reduce the sorrow of losing. When losing someone dear, we should be grateful that we have met/have the opportunity to get to know that person. When losing one of the five senses, we can be grateful that at least we are still alive. There is always a lesson we can take from a loss, hence not everything is lost.

Also, if we have accepted that we don't own anything, then the life journey would be a lot easier.

Sorry if today's post is loaded with deep philosophical thoughts. I have a lot of things going inside my head and my heart lately. Writing some of them down in this space helps reducing the noise and hopefully will strengthen me during the time of loss in the future.

What would you tell yourself when you experience a loss? 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Marlina, The Murderer In Four Acts

2017 | Director : Mouly Surya | 95 minutes

A co-production between Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and France, the movie tells about the story of one Sumbanese woman Marlina and her journey to find justice.

The movie opens with Act I, The Robbery, where the newly widowed Marlina (Marsha Timothy) receiving an unexpected visit from Markus (Egi Fedly), who nonchalantly told her that there would six more men coming to take her money and her livestock. "And if we have time, we'll sleep with you," he said while playing a small string instrument next to Marlina's mummified dead husband.

He told Marlina to prepare food (chicken soup) for his robber gang, and even demanded to be served betel nut and coffee, just like a respectable guest. Marlina does as told, but adds a secret ingredient that leaves four robbers die after consuming the soup. When she tries to serve Markus the soup, she drops the plates and then decapitates him as he forces himself on her.

Two other robbers already leave with her livestocks: 10 cows, 10 pigs and seven chicken. She spends the night burning the small string instrument in the kitchen and leaning to her dead husband in the living room.

Act II, The Journey, shows Marlina leaving home the next morning, with Markus' head in tow, to report the case to the police. She runs to her heavily pregnant neighbor, Novi (Dea Panendra), who is on her way to the city to reunite with her husband Umbu. The chatterbox Novi as well as a lady who is delivering two horses for her nephew's wedding do not balk at the sight of Marlina's weapon and "evidence". They even share tips and stories on how to have smooth labor as they share ride on a truck.

In the middle of the journey, the two robbers take over the truck when Marlina and Novi are taking pee stop in the bushes. Novi distracts the robbers to another place and continues travelling with the truck driver, the lady of the horses and the nephew. Marlina later finds a horse tied on a rope and rides the animal to the nearest police station. She arrives early at the police station and decides to have a plate of satay. A little girl named Topan (Safira Ahmad) takes her order and helps keeping a box containing Markus' head in her place.

In Act III, The Confession, Marlina has to wait for the police officers to finish the table tennis practice before she can report her case (which is rape and robbery, but not the murder). The police takes note on her case, but does not really pay attention. He told her that to prove on her rape case, they had to wait for the arrival of the medical equipment, which is scheduled in the next month. She walks out of the police station in a disappointed state, and later being comforted by Topan's hug.

Meanwhile, Novi finally meets her husband Umbu after the lady of the horses and the nephew manage to take over the truck from the robbers. However, Umbu thinks she is cheating on him because Franz (Yoga Pratama), one of the two robbers, insinuates him with the idea when he takes Novi's mobilephone. Umbu hits her and leaves her, while Franz slowly approaches. Franz forces her to call Marlina and ask her to come back home with Markus' head.

The movie concludes in Act IV, The Birth, with Novi decapitating Franz's head and then delivering the baby. Oh my God, so many blood in this movie one would think Mouly Surya tries to copy Quentin Tarantino. 

Just like many (if not all?) Indonesian films out there, this movie also has many scenes that do not  correspond well with the reality. For example, (1) a small eatery serving satay in the middle of Sumba's savana is almost impossible to exist (I'm saying this based on my own experience), (2) they use cellphone for communication, but then light up candle at night (why not show a solar panel?), and (3) in the closing scene, Marlina rides one of the motorbikes, which made me thinking:"Instead of hitching the truck to reach police station, why didn't she use the motorbike in the first place?"

Some of my friends, including those who have lived in Sumba, commented that the movie does not portray the real Sumba. They said that the movie only sold the beautiful landscape of Sumba without really showing the culture that is ingrained in everyday's life. Having visited Sumba myself, I can agree with most of their comments.

We can always criticize everything, but there are a lot of things to be celebrated about this movie. Let me mention the top three from my point of view: (1) It features women as the lead actors, and the women are not portrayed as weak, timid creatures, but active humans that resolve their own problems, (2) Despite the slightly missed portrayal of the culture, it brings public attention to Sumba (and most eastern Indonesia area), because most Indonesian films were shot in Jakarta, Bali or other western Indonesia area, so it really puts the area into the limelight, and (3) It has garnered several nominations from international film festivals.

This movie has been screened in Cannes Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sitges International Film Festival and Busan International Film Festival. Marsha Timothy even won best actress awards in Sitges International Film Festival. It's not everyday that an Indonesian movie gets such a good rap. Go and catch Marlina in the nearest cinema near you.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

On Aging According To Our Age

Aging is  both terrifying and exciting, isn't it? There is an unspoken rule that one should be wiser as they turn older, but it is not always the case. Everyone grows in their own pace. There is no guide book on becoming wise. On the other hand, aging will take place in real time.

As the signs of aging is upon us -- wrinkle, sun spots, grey hairs, and discolored skin tone -- many would focus on the outer appearance, which is also important to take care by the way, but mostly forget to take care the inner self. What would our soul need as it gets older? And while kids look forward to be adult, why do people afraid to be old?

I will be 38 years old in one month and still have two more years before I reach the ripe age of 40, so I intend to gather as much information on that particular age. In Islam, the age of 40 gets a special mention in Al Qur'an, on Al Ahqaf, verse 15 to be precise.

The verse says;"We instructed the human being to treat his parents kindly. His mother bore him laboriously and gave birth to him laboriously. Carrying him and weaning him takes thirty months. Then, when he reaches maturity and reaches the age of forty he says,"My Lord, enable me to give thanks for Your blessings which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to do the good deeds that please You, and grant me righteous descendants. I have repented to you and I am one of the Muslims." 

From the verse, I can conclude four things that we should do upon reaching 40 years old:
(1) Be grateful for every blessing that Allah have bestowed upon us
(2) Do good deeds that please Allah
(3) Have descendants, if Allah will it
(4) Repent for all the wrongs we have done in the past years

With my birthday to come in about a month, I have been giving some time contemplating on life. You may as well prepare yourself to read more philosophical posts in this space in the next month.

Do you have any advice on how to become a wise and graceful 40-year-old? Please share :).

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Burgreens Tebet

Healthy lifestyle has been on the rise in the past 10 years, giving ways to eateries that support healthy lifestyle, such as Burgreens, a restaurant chain that serves healthy, plant-based dishes made from locally-sourced produces. There is a Burgreen outlet in Tebet, so I decided to have a dish (or two) with my colleagues.

Located on the third floor of a small building, the restaurant has indoor and outdoor dining area. On the first floor is the organic vegetable shop, while the second floor houses a shop that focuses on healthy ingredients (think chia seed, flax seed, rosella tea).

The walkway to the top

At first, we called the restaurant to ask for a delivery, and they said they could deliver. But then, when we called for the second time, a few hours later, they told us they were a bit overwhelmed and asked if we could just come.

Indoor interior

Information on healthy diet plan

Outdoor dining area

Despite being completely plant-based, the dishes taste great. I had a bowl of mushroom soup, because I felt a bit under the weather, while my colleagues had Mini Quattro (the mini versions of Burgreens' four veggie burgers: Mighty Mushroom, Beans 'n Cheese, Spinach Chickpeas, and Caspian Mungbean) and the Mighty Mushroom (the real size, mushroom patty on a wholewheat bun served with chips).

Price-wise, they are pricey, yes. But if you want to invest on health, this can be one of the options, besides regular exercise and having a positive outlook on life in general.

Burgreens has so far three outlets: Pacific Place, Dharmawangsa, and Tebet. Although I have yet to commit myself to the vegetarian lifestyle, this eatery has stolen my heart and I would definitely try the other dishes in the menu if I happen to pass any Burgreens.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Courtesy During The Technology-supported Communication

Mobilephone has eased both verbal and written communications with other people. But it seems that in this era of modern technology, many people has forgotten the courtesy and often make mistakes in the field of communication.

Here are most recurring phone/Whatsapp conversations happening to me on any regular day. These could be annoying, but I found them quite funny and entertaining due to the exact similar communication patterns.

Wrong Name
Situation: Even though I have left the journalism world more than four years ago, my email inbox is  still receiving invitations for press events. Some even reach out through my mobilephone, but they got my name wrong...

#1 Misspelled Name
PR person of a company/brand: Hello, Mbak Tofa. This is so-and-so from so-and-so company. We'd like to invite you to...
Me: (cutting him/her quickly) My name is not Tofa. You must be dialing/contacting the wrong number.
PR: Oh, I'm so sorry.

I know it's just one letter wrong, but everyone should check and recheck names before placing a phonecall/text message.

#2 Totally Different Name
PR person of a company/brand: Hello, Mbak Aulia. This is so-and-so from so-and-so company. We'd like to invite you to...
Me: (cutting him/her quickly) I'm not Aulia. Sorry, wrong number.
PR: Oh, I am sorry for this mistake. But you're working for TJaP, right? (Note from the editor: please note that the PR didn't ask my name)
Me: I resigned in 2013.
PR: Can you share with us the name of your replacement? (Note from the editor: Why would I give it to someone who does not even care to ask my name?)
Me: I'm sorry, I don't know. I've heard that the person has resigned too. You can call the office, if you like.
PR: Are you still working in a media company, Mbak? (Note from the editor: Even if I am still working in the media, I don't think I'd like to come to an event that is handled by people who still haven't asked my name)
Me: No, I'm now working in a non profit sector.
PR: Ok, thank you, Mbak.

Guess what? The very same PR person has messaged me again several times after that, starting the conversation with the very same opening line and wrong name. I am seriously questioning the quality of the company now. Who the hell is Aulia and why is that name put under my mobilephone number?

Wrong Time To Call
Situation: I totally understand that some professions require them to phone other people. But there are also people who need concentration during work, and a phonecall is just the ingredient to ruin it.
Telemarketer: Hello, Ibu. We're from Bank ABC and we'd like to inform you on our latest...
Me: I'm sorry, I'm still at work. Can you call again at 12 pm, during lunch time?
Telemarketer: Oh, alright.
And then at 2 pm, my phone rang...
Telemarketer: Hello, Ibu. We're from Bank ABC...
Me: (cutting him/her quickly) I told you to call at 12 pm, right?
Telemarketer: Errr yes, I could not call you at that moment.
Me: Then I could not receive this phone call, I'm already back at work.

Wrong Attitude
Situation: When a person is being pushy, you just know that you should end the conversation then and there.
Telemarketer: Hello, Ibu. We're from Bank ABC and we'd like to inform you on our non-collateral loans.
Me: I'm sorry, but I'm not interested.
Telemarketer: How do you know that you don't need it? I haven't even explained it (in an angry tone)
Me: I just knew it. Ok, thanks for calling, good bye.

What are your pet peeves in daily communication's mishaps?