Monday, August 30, 2010

So Far So Good

Hello, my darlings! Or should I say "Annyong Haseyo?" It's the greeting here in Korea:) Everything did go well, no delay, alhamdulillah. My plane was Korean Air, we took off at 10.05 p.m. I was impressed with the service: the food is good (I had fish with rice), the seat is quite spacious (at least for me), and there is TV for every person! I knew I should be sleeping, but I couldn't help to watch Shrek Forever After and The Back Up Plan, both are so funny.

After the nine-hour flight, I reached Incheon airport at 07.05 a.m. in local time, it's still 05.05 a.m. in Jakarta. Seoul-Jakarta only has two-hour difference, it's beginning to feel as if I was just going to Kei Islands, instead of South Korea. The more I travel, the more I realize how big Indonesia is.

If you'd like to know, the fellowship is from Seoul National University (heretofore will be called as SNU) and LG (engg, anyone knows LG, right? If you don't, well, it's one of the best Korean brands for electronics). I am staying at Hoam Faculty House at the SNU. It's located in the southern part of Seoul, just like University of Indonesia's Depok campus.

I've met the other fellows, from India, China, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and Poland. So there are seven of us. This reminds me of the early days of TJaP, when I had six colleagues and the mentors called us the Seven Samurai, hehehe.

I was picked up by an SNU student, and then shared a cab with the fellow from Brazil, Wharryson. It was a one-hour ride, so we spent the time talking about our national dish, hahahaha. Food really bonds people. Since it was raining very hard, I spent the first day sleeping. And going online (the wi-fi is very fast here, I'm impressed). And trying to figure out what the people are saying in TV. There are several channels here and most of them in Korean. I wish there is HBO here.

You are a good-looking soldier, my dear actor. But I don't understand you. Gosh, I miss the subtitles.

This is my room for now. Sorry for the blur, I'm still learning on how to operate the camera.

You know what? The Brazilian fellow went out twice, to buy a microphone (he had to complete his work during his stay here) and to buy dinner. And he underwent 23-hour flight! OMG, he should have been very hungry.

Today we had opening ceremony, then lunch (I had my period, I was not fasting, so I had lunch, and the food is good, I took the seafood), then some orientation about the program here. We had a few free hours, I went for a walk with the Indian colleague. But it was so hot, we decided to get back to our rooms and found happiness with the air conditioner.

The observatorium at the SNU.

Then we went to Mt. Namsan. If you're a Korean drama fan, you should be aware that there are so many Korean drama's scenes taking place here, such as My Name Is Kim Sam Soon. Without further ado, here are several photos I took.

On the way to the cable car, I saw this stairs had floor information on every step. I find this very interesting.

After climbing all those steps, we found a new god that ruled our happiness: the air conditioner:P

Seoul is a very dense city, it has 10 million people in population. But they manage to keep the greeneries. Ohh, how I wish Jakarta could take example from other cities.

With the fellows, people from LG Sangnam Press Foundation and the volunteers

 I miss you, Jakarta! Is it only 5,000-something kilometers away from Seoul? It feels so far away.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mudik And The Good News

Taken from here

Mudik, a Bahasa term meaning to return home, is a nationwide phenomenon that we can see  in Indonesia during Idul Fitri. Mudik comes from the word udik, which means rural areas, village. People will pack their bags and leave the cities to reunite with the elderly who still live in the rural areas just a few days before Ramadan ends.

To do mudik, people use all means of transportation, from airplanes to trains to ships. While Java is the most developed island, the transportation system is still not good yet, so people rely on their private cars and motorcycles. With so many people hitting the road at the same time, traffic congestion takes place everywhere. It feels like seeing the salmons going upstream. If you don't like crowds, then I suggest you stay in the cities.

I've been doing mudik since M&D owned a car in 1982. With D's parents living in West Java's Bandung and M's parents living in Central Java's Kebumen, we would make a stop in Bandung before going to Kebumen. We almost always use Java's southern trail as it is less crowded compared to the northern trail.

Bekasi-Bandung-Kebumen stretches at about 400 kilometers, and we almost always go every year. Every year M&D vow not to do mudik before Ramadan ends, but almost every year I find the three of us trapped in  a traffic congestion either in Cikampek tollroad, or Nagreg, or Malangbong.

There were times when I didn't go though. In 2007, I didn't do mudik because I was still in probation period, I couldn't take a leave. But M&D still went anyway. I was home alone (sobs). I've been telling them to do mudik after Idul Fitri, because D is not as healthy as he used to be. He fell ill every time he overworked himself.

Although I have my driving license, D would never let me drive. Nagreg, which has roads going up and down the mountains, is already a challenge for young driver. Having just celebrated his 62th birthday this year, D would find getting stuck in Nagreg as a torture.

Last year, we did mudik after Idul Fitri, so we're not fasting and it's a lot easier for D. This year, however, M&D and I will do something we've never done before. Ah, this is the moment to tell you the good news.

*drum rolls*

Dear people, remember this post? And also this one?

It is with great joy to tell you that I'm going to South Korea for a three-week fellowship! My plane is supposed to leave at 10.05 PM on Saturday. If everything goes right, I'll be in Seoul on Sunday morning.

This will be the first time for me celebrating Idul Fitri in a foreign land. I'm excited.

I have packed tons of food to eat for the sahur and iftar (Of course I bring my all time favorite snack-slash-energy bar: Beng-Beng). I've checked prayer time for Seoul, qiblah direction and the locations of mosques. I guess I'm ready for fasting and celebrating Idul Fitri in Seoul.

However, it was hard finding the right time and words to tell M&D. Actually, I got the verdict in June, but I just told them on August 11, the first day of Ramadan (so that they could not get angry with me:P).

Since I've known them for almost 31 years, I knew that if I told them from the beginning, they would sink in the ocean of sorrow. It's better to tell them when the departure time is near, so they don't have time to be sad or worried. Anyway, it's only for three weeks. I'll be home before they even miss me.

Good night. I'll keep you posted if I had the time:)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Fish Fall In Love -- An Iranian Movie

Ever since I watched Majid Majidi's Children Of Heaven, I know that Iranian movies are something worth watching. The films have humanitarian themes, beautiful pictures and do not always have a happy ending. For the last reason, I have many friends refusing to go watching Iranian movies with me.

I usually hunt for the Iranian movies in film festivals or other events that screen  non-mainstream movies, such as Jiffest. I've been lucky enough to watch Taste Of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us,  Willow and Wind, Turtles Can Fly, and Hayat. The last Iranian movie I watched was Cafe Transit in the 2006 Jiffest because Jiffest has been focusing more on Hollywood movies to attract more audience. (Why, Jiffest, why?)

After years of Iranian movies deficiency, I finally got a dose of it last night as Bentara Budaya Jakarta screened six Iranian films this Ramadan. The movie I watched was The Fish Fall In Love that tells the story of Aziz, a man who comes home after 20-year of disappearance and finds that his home has been turned into a restaurant by four ladies, one of them being his former fiancee Atieh.

Taken from here

The ladies believe that Aziz plans to sell the house. So they try to change his mind by serving his favorite food everyday. The inspiration is perhaps taken from Persian legend Shahrazad of the Thousand and One Night who tells her husband one story every night for a thousand and one night in a bid to stop him from killing her.

While the movie has open opening, this one has a rather predictable plot, though. Beside the actors and the actresses, the food also takes the center stage, just like in Cafe Transit. Oh the foods look delicious.

Found here

In Jakarta, there are Lebanese restaurants, Indian restaurants and Turkish restaurants. I wonder if there will be an Iranian restaurant. I'd love to try.

If you also like non-mainstream movies, Bentara Budaya Jakarta has regular screening of said movies. Just check the website. Next month, the cultural center will screen movies by Serbian director Emir Kusturica. I hope I can watch at least one movie.

Have a happy Thursday!

This Is Just One Of Many Reasons Why I Don't Like Hollywood Movies

Source: here

Here's a confession: I'm a fan of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Legend Of Aang, The Last Airbender. Don't worry, this post won't elaborate on the storyline, you just have to google the words if you're curious on this subject. Anyway, back to the topic of Hollywood movies. I follow every episode of Avatar's animation series, from book 1 to book 3. I even borrowed the DVDs from my colleague Naf. Yes, I can be very devoted when I'm obsessed with something:P

I was excited upon hearing that it was going to the big screen. But when I saw the cast, I was like, whaaaat? Aang, Katara and Sokka is played by very pale kids, while Prince Zuko is played by Dev Patel (previously starred Slumdog Millionaire). 

I mean, seriously guys, in the animation series, Aang is a monk,  and from his robe, we can concur that he's either a Chinese or Tibetan monk. Katara and Sokka have darker skin and are from the Pole region, so they're probably Inuits. I'm not sure about Prince Zuko, but from his outfits, he can pass as a Chinese, a Japanese or a Mongolian. 

This means either (a) they don't watch the animation series (which I doubted), (b) there is no Asian movie star who match the criteria (which is impossible, given the fact that China is the world's no. 1 most populated country, there must be talented movie stars there), or (c) Hollywood is downright racist. 

Since we are on the subject of movie and racism, let's talk about Sex and The City 2. While I like the first installment, I think the sequel does not pay respect to the Muslim world. In the movie, the ladies go to Abu Dhabi to have fun in the 'New Middle East', a term they keep saying throughout the movie. 

They find that the black garb and the veil worn by the Arab women are somewhat amusing, especially during eating out at a restaurant. There is a scene where Samantha ignores the local culture, goes out in mini pants and causes havoc in a souq, which I find nonsensical. If someone travels a lot, s/he will find out about the local culture before the departure. 

The most unbelievable part is when Miranda says that "hanji" (sorry, I don't know how to write the right word) means "yes" in Arabic. While I'm not an expert in Arabic language, I can feel that "yes" in Arabic is not that word. Later I asked my friend AMR, and she said that "hanji" is "yes" in Urdu language, while Arabs says "na'am" for yes. That fact almost got me died laughing. Oh boy, the scriptwriters should really learn geography. I was glad I watched the movie for free.

Anyway, this experience has reminded me that I must read the reviews before going for I don't want to spend my precious time and money to watch a bad movie. Well, unless if it is an assignment:)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fruit (and Drink) Of The Month

Timun Suri (Curcumis lativus ity)-- Source: wartakota

Avocado Timun Suri Ice. Found here, (there's recipe too)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Mid-Ramadan Post

Hello, lovelies. How is your Ramadan going? Today is the 15th day of Ramadan, it's halfway done. During the holy month, offices usually cut the working hours so workers can focus on religious activities, such as going to mosque and reciting Al Qur'an. 

But for media workers, Ramadan (as well as Christmas and New Year) is the time when workloads double, and even triple. Since there are colleagues taking leave, those staying behind must cover other people's work. We also have to pile up several stories to anticipate the vacuum of news during Idul Fitri. Well, people still need something to read during the holiday. 

But enough with jobtalk. What do you usually do in Ramadan? For me, Ramadan is the moment of contemplation and reunion. I evaluate everything I've done and make plans for the next year. This activity will take place again during my birthday. Fortunately, my birthday is only a day before the New Year. Otherwise I'll conduct three times evaluation in a year. I'm such a weirdo, I know.

Ramadan is also the right time to have reunion with friends since there will be break fast events. Sometimes I go, sometimes I don't. If the location is too far or my schedule is pretty tight, I'll skip the invitation. During the holy month, I prefer having break fast with M&D at home to having break fast with friends in a posh mall.

On a lighter note, I really like this idea on making our own Idul Fitri cards. Perhaps, I'll send some postcards this year. To tell you the truth, I miss the letters and postcards after cellphones (and SMS) took over our lives. Let's reconnect with everyone using the old-school ways:)

Happy Ramadan!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Loving The Little Things In Life

Menanti Jemputan Di Paltuding (Waiting For A Lift At Paltuding) 
Photo by Andi Ari Setiadi

My darlings, do you love your job? I love mine, although sometimes it takes a toll on me. Dealing with the traffic jams I face when going to the field and back to office and to home, trying to find the sources only to be turned down later, writing the articles but then they are badly mutilated (read:edited), racing against deadlines etc etc. If all of those crushing down at the same time, sometimes I stop believing in the career I chose six years ago.

When that happens, it feels like a flame in my heart is almost burnt out. Someone whose opinion I value highly told me to keep the flame and do something I'm passionate about to avoid it getting burnt out. This is where blogging comes handy:) Other passions I pursue are learning new languages, going to cultural events and taking pictures. However, sometimes those are not enough. Sometimes it's plain boredom.

Then Ramadan comes. This is the month when we reduce our pace of life and be grateful for all those little things we have, such as the food we eat, the roof that hang over our heads, and the job we do to earn a living. Those things look simple and I usually take them for granted, but the truth is not many people can have one or all of those.

I've met people who only eat meat once a year (every Idul Adha). I had a live-in experience with people living under the bridge or in shanties along the riverbanks. I've talked to people who work for pittance, such as collecting trash, selling cheap goods or doing prostitution.

The photo I use in this post is of two sulfur carriers in Kawah Ijen taking a momentary rest. (I made an article about the photo exhibition. I even suggest it for this blog's Weekender ideas.) There are many carriers there. They carry at least 70 kilograms of sulfur for 4.5 kilometers along the mountain's ridge, exposing themselves to the poisonous sulfur gases. After all they have gone through, they only received Rp 600 (6 US cents) for each kilogram they carry. Do your math. The photo above shows that despite the hardship they endure, they still have time to lean back, relax and just enjoy life.  

When I remember them, that flame in my heart goes ablaze. 

Have you ever had boredom at workplace? What do you usually do to keep the spirit?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Let's Do Good Things For Indonesia

Found here

Hi, good people out there! Indonesia will celebrate its 65th independence anniversary tomorrow. How do you celebrate it? (If you're an Indonesian, that is)

My family (read: M&D and I) will hoist the Red and White flag and then spend the day just like any other day. We don't celebrate any kind of anniversary or birthday, because we're a bunch of practical people who show our affection in any given day regardless of the date.

Usually neighborhood units hold competitions, such as panjat pinang (betel pole climbing), makan kerupuk (cracker eating contest), balap karung (sack race) and bawa gundu (marble-on-spoon race). While the competitions are fun to watch, sometimes I think there are other important things we can do during that day.

For example, we can clean the neighborhood together and teach the residents about recycling their waste. Most neighborhoods here do need some motivational urge to start cleaning up. I'm sure they are willing to clean up. They just don't know where to start and how.

M&D and I are too tired to preach the importance of clean environment, so we try to show our neighbors that we care about environment by planting trees in our yard and keep our litters out of other people's way. I guess this is the thing I can do for working in a paper-consuming company:)

My colleague Ika and her husband hold a weekly class for underprivileged children around her home. They teach the children any subjects, from English to Math to origami-making to yoga. Sometimes they take the children to visit museum and parks. Oh, how I really want to do this! Soon, I hope, soon.

I still have many ideas in my head. But for the time being, I write good things about Indonesia and post them here, in my blogs. People can point so many ugly things about Indonesia, but the country also has potentials to grow. So let's just focus on the good simple things we can do and apply them in our daily lives.

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ramadan Traditions And Some Weekender Ideas

Taken from here

Hello, world! Yes, I'm still alive:). Sorry for the lack of post. I will leave the office in a couple of weeks and  my boss asked me to write stuffs that he could publish during my leave, so I am swamped with office work and my leave preparation. Actually, I'm not taking any leave, it's not supposed to be a holiday. It's.. um...just bear with me for another two weeks, and I'll give you good news:).

I was assigned to make articles of Ramadan breakfasting tradition in several Islamic countries. I'll share the articles (or what happen behind the scene) with you later, but for now, I want to show you an article about Ramadan tradition in Indonesia. You can read it here.

It's Friday the 13th! It's supposed to be the scary Friday, but why should we when we have Aquarius clearance sale? They are closing down their shop in Pondok Indah. You can buy 3 cassettes for Rp 10,000,  a DVD/VCD for Rp 5,000 and 30 percent discount for all CDs!

Do you have plans for this weekend? You can go to a mask exhibition in Grand Indonesia's Alun-alun, a photo exhibition about children living in Indonesia's outer islands in Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara in Pasar Baru or a photo exhibition on Jugun Ianfu (comfort women during the Japanese occupation) in Erasmus Huis Jakarta.

Have a fun weekend:)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy Ramadan!

Hello sweeties, how are you doing today? It's the last day of Sya'ban, the last day before the fasting month of Ramadan commences. I'm excited to face this year's fasting month, especially the last 10 days and the Idul Fitri day.

And before we start Ramadan, I want to share some food pictures I took during my trip to  Kei Islands and Ambon Island, Maluku province:). Since Maluku province consists of a chain of islands, the food are mostly seafood, of course. 

Fried prawn

Calamary cooked with soy sauce

Tom Yam Soup. Yum!

Nasi Kuning with Cakalang fish. Maluku cuisines do resemble Java cuisines in some ways.

These are enbal, made from a cassava family. Unlike cassava, the tuber of enbal is poisonous. So Kei people grated the tubers and sieved it to kick out the poison. It can last for one month. It is so hard I believe it can be used to kill someone. You have to dip it into hot water, coffee, tea, milk before eating them, or you'll break your teeth.

Grilled fish. We had this kind of dish almost everyday. On the plane to Jakarta, when the stewardess asked whether we wanted rice with fish or rice with chicken, all of us said,"rice with chicken, please." I think we had eaten all fishes we needed for the rest of our lives there:P

We had a chance to spend a half day in Ambon island. So we went around the city and tried coffee house Walang Kopi Sibu-sibu. I don't drink coffee, but other people in the group needed their caffeine dose, so we went there.

The coffee house put on the wall the photos of famous people who has Maluku blood. Wow, I didn't know that Vengaboys members are from Maluku! On the other side of the walls, there are photos of the Netherlands soccer players, such as Van Bronckhorst and Heitinga.

Lopis Pulut. Basically it's made from sticky rice. Hmm, we also have this in Java island.

Other snacks, but I don't know their names. The square-shaped cakes on the top is sagu. You have to dip them on hot water, coffee, tea or milk before eating them. Otherwise, you'll break your teeth. (Just like enbal)

Kopi Roribang. Ambon coffee with pieces of kenari (local almond nut) on the surface.

Kopi Roribang is for Olya, the nice guy who took us around Kei and Ambon.

This is Reza from jalan-jalan magazine

And this is Mbak Eny from Kompas.

We went out of the coffee shop and a police officer caught us taking photograph. He wanted to be in the photograph too. Well, we're too afraid to refuse. LOL. It's just kidding!

Hope you like what you see. Happy Ramadan, y'all!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Journey To Kei Islands, Maluku

Good morning, guys! I believe you had a great weekend? Mine include home cleaning and presentation file making. Not a fancy one, but I can't complain, especially after the tiring but fun journey to Maluku. The article is out to read yesterday, so now let's find out what happened behind the scene:)

I went to Kei islands of Maluku to attend the leatherback turtle festival there. It was a really last minute assignment for my boss handed me the letter on Wednesday night, while I was supposed to go on Sunday at 1.30 a.m.

First of all, I was a bit panic because I live in Bekasi, some 30 kilometers away from the airport. How was I supposed to go to airport in the middle of the night? Taking taxi alone in the middle of the night seems not a good idea.When I checked the Damri bus schedule, their last bus departure from Bekasi terminal to airport is at 8.30 p.m., so I took the bus.

It was the quickest airport bus ride I had, only one hour ride! I arrived at 9.30 p.m., met Mbak Eny of Kompas and then waited for Aulia (heretofore will be written as Olya) from WWF Indonesia, Reza from Jalan-jalan magazine and two other WWF Indonesia documentary people. When Olya arrived, we walked to the boarding room, but it was still closed. I felt sleepy so I laid myself down on the floor, just like everyone else did there:).

The airplane took off at exactly 1.30 a.m. It was a 3.5-hour flight but since there is 2-hour time difference, we arrived in Ambon at 7 a.m.! Argh. Since we still had to wait for one hour for our plane to Langgur, Kei islands, I slept. When we boarded the plane and the pilot announced that the flight to Kei islands would take 1.5 hours, I also slept.

When I touched down in Langgur, I was still a bit disoriented. After taking a bath, a meal and another few minutes of nap, I was ready to hit the road. Our first destination was Ngurbloat beach or also known as Pasir Panjang beach in Ngilngof village. I posted one photo of that beach with my feet last week:). Here are more photos on the beach.

This is the most beautiful beach I ever visited in my life. Guys, the white sand is as soft as talcum powder! I regretted that I forgot to bring my sunglasses. The white sand really reflects the sunshine. Ouch, my eyes!

Then we went to Ngur Sarnadan beach in Ohoililir village to catch the sunset. The beach is as beautiful as Ngurbloat, but less touristy. I like the serene atmosphere. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and we couldn't get the perfect sunset. Here are the photos I snapped there.

There is a road system that almost encircles the island, and I saw how the Kei people enjoy lives similar to the ones in Pantai Indah Kapuk real estate houses. Despite the simple lives they lead, most Kei people can enjoy such heavenly views like the photos below in their backyards.

We also went to Goa Hawang, a freshwater cave in Letvuan village. The guide said that it stretched for about 100 meters and to explore it we needed snorkeling mask and torchlight. Too bad we didn't have those when we got there. It is just so beautiful.

Kei people come from various ethnic groups, such as Javanese, Balinese, Bugis and Minahasan. Some local legends say that Singosari princess Ken Dedes fled to Kei island to avoid the invasion of Majapahit troops. She had a daughter called Nen Dit Sakmas, who later become a queen and established a traditional law called Larvul Ngabal.

With so many ethnics living in Kei islands, Kei people clung to the Larvul Ngabal law that unite them regardless of their ethnic backgrounds or religions. An old adage in Kei islands goes that Kei people come from the same chicken egg and breathe with the same gills. It was that local law and that old adage that helped save Kei islands when a religious conflict struck the whole Maluku province in 1999.

I think the picture above speaks for itself. A mosque and a church are standing next to each other  peacefully. Islam entered Kei islands in 1300s, as an Islamic name was found in a headstone of an old cemetery. In later years, Christian and Catholic dominate the population.

However, most Kei people still practice the traditional ritual, such as placing betel nut, betel leaves and coins  in places they deem as sacred, like I found on a tomb a few meters away from that Jesus Christ statue.

Religions aside, Kei people are warm, friendly people. Once I bumped into a group of students walking home from school and every one of them greeted me with a smile and a cheery,"Good afternoon!" In Letvuan village, the people held a dance performance to welcome us. Wow:)

You can read my article here, if you like.