Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Masjid Istiqlal Jakarta

Masjid Istiqlal (Independence Mosque) in Jakarta is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. Located right across the Cathedral, the mosque was inaugurated in 1978, 17 years after Indonesia's first president placed the first stone to mark the beginning of the construction. 

The mosque has welcome many visitors -- both commoners and dignitaries -- with the most recent visitor was German chancellor Angela Merkel.  

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited the mosque too. Taken from Tempo

Under the dome of the mosque. Taken from wikipedia

I would like to publish my own pictures of the mosque for this post. Unfortunately I've been pretty tied up with the house chores on the weekend. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thank You, Postcrossing People!

Have you said 'thank you' to someone or something today? 'Thank you' sounds like a simple word, but the effect is powerful. With Ramadhan is a perfect moment to exercise our gratitude, allow me to introduce thx thx thx, a blog that chronicles Leah Dieterich's daily exercise of gratitude. The blogs shows that there is always something to be thankful for.

In the spirit of Ramadhan, I'd like to say thank you to Stefanie from the Netherlands and Arthur from the U.S., two Postcrossing members who sent me beautiful postcards from their hometown. Thank you guys, you made my days! :)

The first postcard came all the way from the Netherlands and I almost screamed when I saw the picture. Tono dan Tini was one of my favorite childhood storybooks! I read this book when I was a kid, because D worked in the publishing company that released the Indonesian translation so he brought one book for me. Stefanie said that in her country, the title was Jip en Janneke

The second bore the picture of above-ground tombs in New Orleans cemeteries, often referred to as Cities of the Dead. Since the water table in the area is high, people can not bury the caskets because unpredictable flooding will pop the casket out of the ground. Arthur said that we could take tours to this area. Hm, interesting.

Have a superb Sunday!

P.S. If you want to know more about postcrossing, click here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Let The Games Begin!

Found here

The Game I'm referring is actually the Olympics, which starts today and will last until Aug. 12 in London, the UK.

Vanity Fair photographer Brigitte Lacombe and her sister Marian traveled to the Gulf and North Africa, photographing and interviewing female Arab athletes. Below are some of the photos they took. 

 Reem Al Sharshani, shooting, Qatar

The Egyptian women's basketball team

Hania Fouda, archery, Egypt

Aia Mohamed, table tennis, Qatar

See more photos in Vanity Fair

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Preparing For Idul Fitri

Sugar and spice: Although the Islamic holiday of Idul Fitri is still a month away, Sri Rahayu, 62, and her daughter-in-law have been busy since Friday preparing cookies at their home in Sidoarjo, East Java. Sri aims to sell most of the cookies to middle-class consumers, who will give the cookies as gifts to their families during Lebaran. Photographed by Wahyoe Boediwardhana for The Jakarta Post.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Last Pre-Ramadan Potluck Supper

Oh dear, I just coined a Biblical term with Islamic one, hahaha.

My colleagues have this potluck party tradition where they bring foods to share together with the rest of the office employees. Yesterday, they held the last potluck party before Ramadan. The dishes were (from top bowl clockwise: rawon (beef soup), fried noodle, white rice, red rice, tempe and tahu (soybean cakes), perkedel jagung (corn fritters), rendang (beef cooked with coconut milk), telur asin (salted duck eggs) and in the middle box-shaped container is fried chicken. 

I could only take a few pictures before things got rowdy!

More and more people were coming after I took the last photo. So I had to stop photographing and started to pile up the foods to my plate. It was a fun gathering at the office.

Have a terrific Thursday!

Good and Funny Bosses Do Exist...

...and mine is one of them.

If you are a regular to this blogs, you'd knew about my current boss, a British guy with a pair of blue eyes. Let's call him Blue-Eyed Editor (BEE). When we are not working, we are having funny conversations. Below are just some of those conversations.

#1. Gossip Tabloids
Situation: WW (one of my colleagues) and I were discussing about an article in an entertainment tabloid about the coming of age of teenage soap opera star Cinta Laura Kiehl.
BEE : (with a serious face) WW, I've told you once and now I'm telling you again that you should never bring a gossip tabloid to the office.
WW: But this is yours!
BEE : Really? Well, you should never told anyone about it.
Me  : *trying to hold my laughter*

#2. Do You Need Me At The Office?
Situation: The Jakarta administration announced that the gubernatorial election day that fell on July 11 would be a day off, to give people a chance to exercise their political rights. But since our office would still publish newspapers on that day, we needed to finish works before the dates.
BEE : Now, about the election day. Would you go to the office on that day?
Me  : Do you need me on that day? I'm a Bekasi resident, I won't be casting my vote.
BEE : That's a good attitude you have there. Do I need you at the office? Yes, I do. I'm giving Fith and Fem a day off, but you will have to come to the office. There are so many articles I need to edit and you will help me with that.
Me  : What???
BEE : I'm just joking. You guys can have a day off. But if you ask, I always need you at the office. You know that.
Me   : -_-

#3. U Is For Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Uganda and Uruguay
Situation: A month before I left for Ukraine, I told BEE about my plan. He said that as long as I had finished my works, I could go. Then a day before my departure, I told him that I got the visa.
BEE: You've got the visa? So you're going to Uzbekistan tomorrow?
Me  : Yes, I got the visa. But I'm going to U..ganda.
BEE: What?
Me  : I'm just kidding. I'm going to Ukraine, not Uzbekistan.
BEE: I was pretty sure I heard you're going to Uzbekistan. But on second thought, perhaps it's U...ruguay. Hey, we can do this game the whole day!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Ukrainian Courtesy

The Klitschko brothers. Yes, I watch boxing matches sometimes, thanks to D. Found here

Knowing I have an interest for Russia and ex-Communist countries, a friend (a man) once said that Eastern Europe men were rough and rude. It's a judgmental comment from someone who never been to Russia and Eastern Europe, because what I experienced in Ukraine was unlike everything I had imagined before.

Apart from the Ukrainian embassy staffers (in Jakarta) and immigration officers (in Boryspol airport), Ukrainians are mostly nice and friendly people. My first encounter with Ukrainians was during the flight from Istanbul to Kiev. As I said before, I only brought one backpack with me. When I tried to put my backpack to the overhead cabin (Gosh, it's heavy), an Ukrainian man standing behind me pushed the backpack into the cabin luggage space. Aww, that's very sweet of him. Even the Turkish Airlines stewards did not help me. Hmh.

I snapped this billboard along Dnieper River. Seeing this photo always brings smile to my face :)

After I came out from the passport control, the Ukrainians I met were Dima and Yura (one of the drivers). They drove like racers, full speed ahead! But when approaching a zebra crossing with pedestrians walking on, they would hit the brake.

Also, they like listening to mellow songs! It made me feel mellow too. During the city tour, Sasha played Celine Dion's All By Myself and according to a source who refused to be named, Yura once play Michael Buble's Home. In Indonesia, we'd call them "tampang preman, hati roman" or "tampang Rambo, hati Bimbo". #eaa

I would always remember the man who took off his jacket for a lady to sit on during the Euro opening match between Poland and Greece. It reminds me of Sir Walter Raleigh taking off his cloak on puddle for lady's passage:).

Everytime I took public transport, Ukrainian men would jump on their feet if they see elderly lady, pregnant women or women with children standing within vicinity. It's a common thing to do, but still it warmed up my heart everytime I saw it.

When I went to a post office, a grandpa gently pushed me to a window on the corner so I could hand over my postcards. He realized I couldn't speak Russian and since he couldn't speak English, we'd just let the body gesture talked :).

This photo was taken in Lviv. During the musical festival at a plaza (I already forgot the name), these men suddenly jumped on their feet and danced around.

The language barrier was there, but every Ukrainian I met had been very kind and polite despite having the icy facial expression. However, in Odesa, the people were more relaxed, they smiled and joked around. Perhaps it's because of the warm weather.

Another Ukrainian courtesy took place during the train ride to Lviv. As I closed the seat and put my backpack on my berth, a man came into my cabin. He was tall, blond, blue-eyed and had the cold expression most Ukrainians put on their face. He put his bag into the luggage area under the berth (he also got the lower berth, in fact he's sleeping right across my berth) and pulled out a T-shirt from it.

And then...he slowly unbuttoned his checkered shirt! I stared at him. He glanced at me, realizing that there was another person (a woman!) in the cabin, so he turned his back to me and continued taking off his shirt. Nice back, but I believe the front side is more appealing :P.

And then...he pulled out a pair of shorts out of his bag. I began to feel a bit panic. If he really took off his jeans in front of me, I didn't think I could handle it calmly. At that time of crisis, another woman came into the cabin. Phew! At least, if that man really took off his jeans, I had a companion to share the view. And no, with two women in the cabin, the man decided to postpone taking off his jeans. Too bad, eh? *devil grins*

Another man came into the cabin. He could speak English so we had a small chat. His name is Andriy, lives in Moscow and was going to Lviv to visit relatives.

Darkness fell and one by one fell into sleep. The man next berth still had not taken off his jeans. We kinda sent furtive glances until I snuck under the thin blanket, covering myself head-to-toe. I heard some ruckus, and after all was calm, I quietly peeked my head outside my blanket and saw that the man had worn his shorts (hahaha!) and he slept without his blanket (ouch!). I had a hard time to sleep that night.

As I waited for my train to Kiev in Lviv Vokzal, a woman pointed to my gloves and said something in Russian. Yes, I wore gloves because it's frigging cold! I shrugged and said,"It's very cold today." She switched to English and asked which train I was taking. Ahh the happiness of talking in the same language:).

There were two trains going to Kiev that night, the first train was already there while the second (my train) would come one hour later. The woman was very worried that I did not board the train. "That train is going to Kiev. You should board the train," she said.

I tried to explain that it was not my train, but she did not understand. She finally went to talk to the train conductor and came back with a relieved face."Yes, it's not your train," she said. Perhaps I looked like a high school student lost in a foreign land so she felt obliged to help :).

On the train ride from Lviv to Kiev, I met two Russians and an Ukrainian who spoke English. They're a bit drunk. But they did no harm, one of them even gave me a fridge magnet. We played a drawing game called Mustik, where each of us continued the line made by the person drawing the last time. They also taught me some dirty words in Russian :D.

 Meet Alexei, Sergei and Dalina, my cabin fellows for the Lviv-Kiev train ride. Alexei was a bit shy

The last took place a few minutes before my flight. Dima and Yura drove me to the airport. As we waited for the check-in time, Dima suddenly asked,"So when are you coming back to Ukraine?" Aww, that's very sweet. But after the big spending this year, I need to stay grounded for a while before planning for another travel.

Traveling has taught me to try getting to know others before giving judgmental comments. This reminds me to Q.S. Al Hujurat: 13 >> "O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware."

Let's get to know other nations and tribes, and stop the prejudice. Hope you have a magnificent Monday!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jakarta At Its Best

Jakarta is notorious for its traffic jams. But here are the photos of Jakarta at its best, probably taken during Idul Fitri or during the monthly Car Free Day. Photo found in Yahoo.

View of Jl. MH Thamrin

View of Jl. Jend. Sudirman

View of Kuningan bridge

Hotel Indonesia traffic circle

A Solo Muslim Female Traveler On The Streets Of Ukraine

Prior to my departure to Ukraine, my colleague Fith expressed her hope that I would get my period during the trip. Hmm, that's a weird hope, don't you think? "At least, you don't have to worry about finding a mosque," she said. (For those who don't know: when a Muslim woman is having her period, she does not have to pray. Oh, by the way, Muslims pray five times a day.)

And Fith's wish came true, for I got my period on the flight to Istanbul. -_- The good side was, well, as Fith said I didn't have to worry about praying. On the other hand, traveling when you're having period was not a comfortable experience. Enough said.

Anyway, I was in Ukraine for more than 10 days, so there were days when the period was over and I was back to the five-time-a-day praying schedule. In Kiev, I was lucky to be able to stay with Amr's family, who are Muslims too. Staying in Kiev is like staying in Indonesia, I could even get a dinner with petai (stink bean) and sambal terasi (shrimp paste) :).

Almost everyone I know says that Ukrainian foods contain pork. Since I don't speak Russian and too lazy to explain with body gestures that I don't eat pork or drink alcohol, I simply searched for Japanese restaurants and ordered raw fish. Hahaha. 

Although Ukraine is mostly Christian Orthodox, there are Muslim communities. In Kiev, I managed to go to The Grand Mosque (thanks to Yura who drove me there and Mas Haris who ordered me a taxi to get me back to home).

The Grand Mosque of Kiev. That's Amine.

Yours truly

You have to either master Russian or Arabic. Sigh.

When I arrived at the mosque, a woman approached and asked me questions in Russian. We couldn't understand each other, so she beckoned me to follow her into the mosque, where there was a sermon. The ustadz was happy to see me. He was from Chechnya and could speak a bit of English.

"Welcome, sister. Can you speak Russian?" he asked.
"No." (feeling guilty)
"No." (feeling even worse)

So he switched to English. The sermon was about Allah's oneness character. It's pretty basic, but Mas Haris later explained that the mosque often held classes for the reverts. In the middle of his sermon, the ustadz asked if he was explaining it correctly.

"This is my first time giving sermon in English."
"Er, please continue in Arabic if  you like. Actually I come here just to see the mosque, not joining the class."

He looked so relieve and asked a girl to give me a tour around the mosque. Her name is Amineh, an Ukrainian revert. She told me that she decided to be a Muslim when she was 14 year old, and somehow I forgot to ask how old she was now (would that be a too sensitive question?). She said that while there was no law banning hijab wearing in Ukraine, the stigma was still there and she still could not get a job. Oh dear, my heart is with you, dear sister.

When I went to Lviv, I asked a favor to Katerina, a nice lady at Tourist Information Center to lend me a space for five minutes. It was difficult to explain the Islamic concept of praying to people of different faith, but she finally pointed to a corner and asked if it was allright. Yes, I said, it was great, thank you. So I prayed there.

In Odesa, it was a different story. There was a Tourist Information Center, but the ladies there just didn't get why I needed a space. One of them finally pointed to a chair nearby and said,"You can use the space if you want." When I asked permission to use the toilet first, they also didn't give permission, saying that "You can use the toilet in McDonald's." Argh.

So I opened the city map and tried to find places that I could use for praying. Park? Port? Restaurant? Then I read "Arabian Cultural Center" right on the intersection of Velyka Arnautska and Risheliyevska streets. I quickly went there and found that the so-called cultural center was actually... a mosque! There was a place to do ablution, a mihrab and a praying area, it has got to be a mosque.

The mosque in Odesa

An officer saw me entering, pointing to the black robes hanging and spoke to me in Russian. I nodded, although I didn't know any words I could guess that he told me to wear the robe before going inside. The magic thing about not understanding local language is you pay attention to the body language and make the most of your good intention. I planned to stay in the mosque until 8 p.m. (my train was at 9 p.m.), unfortunately the mosque was closed at 5 p.m. :(

It was much easier once I boarded the train. I would just pray there. During summer, Magrib and Isya are at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. respectively, so I'd just wait until everybody fell asleep.

Although I am wearing a hijab, a woman and obviously traveling solo, I've been feeling very safe in Ukraine. Several people (who could speak English) asked me why I wore the headscarf. A few kids playing with water hose on a street in Odesa asked me,"Muslim?" I smiled and nodded. As I passed them, some taxi drivers asked me,"Kazakhs?" (as in Kazakhstan. I would love to go there one day). But other than the curiosity, they did nothing harm.

There were news about racism in Ukraine just a few days before Euro Cup started. To tell you the truth, I was a bit afraid. But working in media has taught me that it was only part and parcel of what really happened. Either you are a man or a woman, traveling solo or in group, a Muslim going to a non-Muslim country or the other way around, the caveats of traveling are basically the same: beware of pickpockets and scams, stay away from dangerous/dark places and respect local customs.

Going to Ukraine for the holiday (and see how it's like during the Euro Cup) was definitely something I would never regret. Now I'm pondering to go to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. After all I do have a friend in Sao Paulo (Hi, Wharrysson!). Hahaha. Wishful thinking, my dear readers, just wishful thinking.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Woman, A Backpack, Thirteen Days

My faithful backpack. See that cabin tag? :)

I've read a lot of articles about the fun side of traveling light, such as no need to wait for the luggage. So when I piled my stuffs to pack, I decided to give it a try. Since I was going to the northern hemisphere during spring-summer, the weather would be (usually) sunny and dry. To anticipate torrential rain, I brought my green Satcas waterproof jacket with me. Here are the things I brought to Ukraine:

-- three T-shirts : black (wore it on the airplane), white, grey
-- three trousers : cargo (wore it), black (business look) and blue (for sport/sleep)
-- one knee-length gray dress
-- four headscarves: green (wore it), white, reversible black-white pattern and black, gray 
-- five undies, bras (the kind of textile that can dry overnight)
-- three pairs of socks
-- foods: Beng-Beng chocolate bars, Silverqueen, MiGelas
-- souvenirs for my friend and her family
-- one pair of shoes: Kickers 

And here are the combinations I made.
Yours truly :)

It's true that bringing only cabin luggage will make you be the first to leave the airport. I only needed 10-15 minutes to pass the immigration check. After 14-hour flight and 12-hour layover, the last thing I wanted to do was waiting for my luggage and then queueing for the immigration check. I got a sponsor in Kiev and the steely blue-eyed immigration officer still took a long time to let me pass. 

Other benefits from taking one cabin luggage are >> (1) You can refrain yourself from excessive shopping, because hey, how are you going to fit those stuffs into your backpack? (2) Being on a shopping freeze means you can focus on the trip, the scenery, the people (3) You learn to be creative in mixing and matching your outfits (4) Since you only bring several items, you'll remember if you lose one of them (5) It makes you realize that you only need the essentials.

There are many websites about packing light, but the one I regularly read was Pack Lite.

Recently found a video titled The Art of Packing from Louis Vuitton, which made me wanting an LV cabin luggage. Hahaha.

Do you travel light? I'd like to hear your experiences!