Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Is The Year Of Freelancing

This was shot at Istora Senayan Stadium, but it looked as if it was taken in either Korea or Japan (Amin yra) :)

Hello, 39-year-old me, let's hope the last year of my 30s will be awesome. But before we bade farewell to 2018, here are some recaps on the year of the freelance works.

First of all, I admit that the older I become, the less post I have on this blog. It could be either I was too lazy to write the small things that matter in my life, or I've just gotten too busy. I think it was the latter. When I was a journo, I only had one responsibility: to report for my workplace. Now that I am a freelancer, I have to build networks, meet people (future clients!) and, of course, finish the works in a timely and perfectly manner. It's all challenging and giddying.

I kicked off the year by falling down at Manggarai station and injured my knee badly. Then I was sent to Sumba on that bad knee condition. It was the last field assignment to Sumba before the project concluded in March. I was a bit sad to leave the project because I felt like I haven't learned much. Then I helped the workplace to write down a project proposal (my first stint as a proposal writer!). However, there was no follow-up from the job.

This year, things happened out of my expectation, but actually it was what I had envisioned. For example, I started to work as a freelancer. It was not something I expected to happen this year, but I did consider to try freelancing some times later in my 40s. Lo and behold, I got the opportunity to work as freelancer last April!

What started as one half-day daily freelance report has evolved to a weekly report, and then a bi-weekly report. There was another weekly report job from another workplace. Then I also got other one-off jobs. Some of the one-off jobs were as simultaneous translator, book editor, and report editor. They were all exciting jobs, and yet, I missed writing, which is one of the reasons I still keep this space.

Anyway, the freelance works have given me enough time to rest (I have been taking a nap in the past 10 months), meet up with friends or visiting members of my extended family after office hour and explore other hobbies (I have been trying my hands on gardening and baking).

Also happening this year was, after years of bugging and begging to my parents, I finally got my own space right above the garage. The space has been a work in progress and still far from perfect, but so far I enjoy it and can spend hours inside my room.

This year, my wish to enjoy Ramadhan at home came true. Although it was still far from what I envisioned to be (still had to work to complete those reports), I loved that I could stay inside during the hot days.

In August, Jakarta and Palembang became hosts to Asia's biggest sport competition, the Asian Games 2018. I had tried to find freelance works on Asian Games, but in the end I got no freelance works and I had to enjoy the event as a spectator, which was quite interesting too.

The surprise came in October when I got the offer to support the official tabloid of Asian Para Games 2018. It was the first time I ever wrote sports news and I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity.

D underwent the cataract operation in late October (right eye) and then in early December (left eye). The road to recovery was still ongoing. He could not read book (low close range vision), but he could drive as his long range vision was quite alright (well, to some extent, that is). I knew M&D would not admit it, but they were relieved to have me around the house at almost anytime. And if I'm not at home, they would know that they could find me working in a nearby cafe.

This year, I managed to squeeze some times to escape Jakarta. The first trip was going to Solo to visit my travel buddy Aneen, who is now mom of a cute toddler. Since they could not travel too far, I just hang out with them in the city and did a culinary tour.

Also, in between D's cataract operations, a friend asked me to accompany her to her hometown in Kudus, Central Java. Encompassing Semarang-Kudus-Jogjakarta, the trip was done in impromptu and I couldn't take any leave, so I decided to take the laptop with me. I made sure that the accommodation had WiFi so that I could do my morning work. It was a fun road trip, and made me wonder if I could spend one month working outside of Jakarta to keep me sane.

The year was not always painted in a beautiful color. I had bad days, people played trick on me, and the anxiety on whether I had done the right thing by becoming a freelancer. Sometimes, when I looked at the social media timeline and saw how much my friends have progressed in their life and career, I would feel a bit discouraged. But then, one or two posts on gratitude slid into my timeline, and I became embarrassed that I ever questioned His decision.

I think I have said this in almost every Yearender post, but I would always repeat it: I am grateful to Allah for whatever happened in the year and I look forward to the year to come. 

Friday, December 21, 2018

Waiting For Better Accessibility In Public Transportation Infrastructure

With Jakarta is building the double-double track railway that connects the capital with the railway network in Java island, the stations have been in construction work too. Some of Jakarta's inner city stations now have underpass, such pas Tebet and Manggarai, while others, if not all, are undergoing major renovation as the double-double track project requires the stations to be rebuilt on different locations.

Let's start with the underpass in Tebet station. As I was working in Tebet area last year and had to use train to reach office, I noticed something about the station. In the past, cars and people could cross the Tebet railways. But in the past few years, commuter train company PT KCJ had closed road access on Tebet station. Cars should drive on the overpass, while passengers could use the underpass in the station. 

But how about pedestrians who just want to go to the other side of the railway? An option is to pay Rp 3,000 just to use the underpass. The other option is to cross the railway through the gap made by the people. It is dangerous, but I have seen many people use it. 

Should we wait for an accident in that area to think about accessibility? I pray that we should never have to face such thing. But we should at least prepare some measures to prevent it from happening. I'm looking at you, PT KCJ and Jakarta administration!

Then let's talk about the stairs on new station design. I am in my late 30s and consider myself fit enough for the stairs. But after I fell on Manggarai station last January, which made me unable to walk fast for one month, I have tried to ease the burden on my knees. I can't imagine the struggle people with disability have to face with the station's new design.

The station's new design forces passengers to climb up the stairs in order to reach the entrance gate, then go down another stairs to reach the platform. I understand that accessibility-friendly design may need more budget to build the walkway. But if it means more people can use it, then why not? After all, it is built from the tax that we, both the able-bodied and the disabled, had paid to the government.

Friday, December 14, 2018

On D's Cataract Operation

It is inevitable, but the topics of being septuagenarian, illnesses and recuperation will likely be found in this blogs, apart from the travel, food and relationship (as if I were an expert, ha!), as I accompany my parents in the road to recovery. A quick background info: D is a diabetes type-2 and apart from the pills, he has started on insulin injection a few years ago.

In early October, D complained about abdominal pain and finally went to see an internist. The doctor told him to get an X-Ray and a USG. In the X-Ray room, the radiologist took a good look at D and asked if he liked reading. D answered: yes, but now it had been hard to read due to poor eye sight. The radiologist told him to go to the ophthalmologist, in which he did after getting the doctor's referral letter. The ophthalmologist gave a quick check and then scheduled him for an operation in the upcoming week. The doctor told him that he should get the operation because the condition worsened and led to blindness.

What surprised me was: he later admitted that his bad eye sight had been happening for quite some time and he did not even complain about it. He only demanded that M accompanied him every time he went out. I guess parents have this habit of not wanting to make the children worried, unless we ask them. I have made this mental note to be more attentive and ask regularly M&D if they have any health issues.

Back to the operation news: D was shocked, and so were M and I. We thought that D would come home with a thorax/abdomen X-Ray photo, instead he told us he was going to get an eye operation after getting his sugar blood level checked. Long story short, his sugar blood level was low enough to get into the operation and he went to the operation room on Oct. 25 for his right eye. The operation was only between 20-30 minutes. There were two other persons getting the operation on that day.

After the operation, he went for checks up. In the following weeks, the other patients could already see, however, D's condition did not seem to improve. The other patients did not have diabetes. My uncle and my friend's mother also underwent the cataract operation, both could already see, and both did not have diabetes. We concluded that people with diabetes need more time to recuperate. 

Some few weeks later, he could tell which was M and which was I, but he still had blurry vision on his right eye and it made him frustrated. We told him to be patient and continue praying for the best, as we waited for the second operation for his left eye, which should be held three months after the first operation. Lo and behold, on a random check up, his doctor told him to get his left eye operated the next week. And he went to the operation room again on Dec. 5.

Unlike his right eye, his left eye seemed to have better condition. D said that his left eye had been catching up to his right eye. It was interesting to learn how a human body could achieve different result on the same operation. Each body part is unique, but all should be treated carefully.

Anyway, the abdominal pain miraculously disappeared for the time being. Perhaps it was just his body trying to give a sign for him to get his eyes checked. Either way, I think I should be prepared on other news ahead. I only wish that God grants me the strength and patience to take care of my aging parents. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Another Short Trip to Semarang-Kudus-Yogyakarta

A friend suddenly asked if I could accompany her to Kudus to pay respect to the elders in her extended family following the death of one of her aunts. D has just been told to undergo a cataract operation, so I said that I needed one-two weeks to see if the operation went well (I would write in a separate post on this).

After D had the first operation, there was an airplane accident and it made both of us rethinking the means of transportation. We decided to use different kinds of transportation during the trip: train, bus, and plane, which is not Lion Air, of course.

Long story short, we finally left for the trip between Nov. 29 and Dec. 3, 2018. I could not take any sudden leave, so I decided to take my laptop and find an accommodation with WiFi to finish the daily work. Here was how it went.

Nov. 29, 2018
I finished my daily work and headed to Gambir station. We were to take Argo Sindoro, which departed at 15.45. The ticket price was Rp 310,000, and the service included with a full air-conditioned car, a small pillow, a blanket, more leg space, but alas, no dinner. I did remember how awful the dish in the restaurant car was, so we bought KFC in the station.

Interior of Semarang Tawang Station, kind of remind me to Ukraine's vokzal :)

The trip with Argo Sindoro was only six hours, and we arrived at Tawang station at around 22.15. I had booked a room at an Airy Room establishment on Jl. Tri Lomba Juang, Mugas because I received a voucher from Google as a contributor (thank you, Google!). With the voucher, we only pay around Rp 104,000 per night.

This accommodation is located right in front of Tri Lomba Juang stadium in Mugas area, Semarang

The room is clean and neatly organized

The bathroom had hot water, but smelt like it had been urinated, ugh

There were welcome snack and two bottles of water

This toiletry set gave a nice touch

Due to the low price of the room, I did not expect much. I chose the room because it had the most strategic location, close to Simpang Lima area but a bit hidden so the traffic was not that heavy. But it turned out to have a good WiFi in the reception area, the AC was working, the shower had hot-cold setting and there was a packet of welcome snack! Before anyone protest, I must underline that food is an important element in this trip, and you will find even more food photos down below. You have been warned.

Nov. 30, 2018
In the morning, I found that the WiFi was slowing down. I had browsed several potential workplaces around Mugas area, but then Yana found Peacock Coffee, a 24-hour cafe with WiFi on Jl. Gajah Mada. She had been up and went around the city to find eateries that opened in the morning. Her findings included Asem-Asem Koh Liem and Nasi Kebuli Ibu Aminah.

Asem-Asem Koh Liem is an eatery selling mainly meat soup cooked with tamarind (hence, the name 'asem-asem', asem means sour in Javanese, because tamarind gives the sour flavor). 

I forgot to take a picture of Nasi Kebuli Ibu Aminah, because I ate that later at night. Yana was glad that I could eat all food that she bought and could not finish.

Asem-Asem Koh Liem

Anyway, back to Peacock Coffee. A quick chat with the barista informed us that there were three Peacock Coffee in Semarang and one in Yogya (which I had visited back in 2016!). The owner used to study in Semarang, decided to open a cafe and somehow found that doing business gave more satisfaction than getting a degree so the cafe owner dropped out of college. Here are some photos of the cafe.

If you're wondering why I made such a big fuss on this cafe, well, Semarang is not Jakarta in the sense that there are not that many 24-hour establishment like this. There might be people like me, who is on a trip to Semarang and need to work at night or in early morning, so this one is for us.

The facade

Things you can order in the cafe

Shelf love

Backyard patio

Green tea latte and chocolate pie

Across Peacock Coffee was a shop selling fabric in kilograms and also in pieces, and in cheap prices. We peeked inside the fabric shop with innocent eyes, and the last thing I knew, I had two pieces of hijab in my hands. This place is dangerous. When I reached Jakarta, I regretted the fact that I only took two hijabs, because the fabric quality was quite good for such cheap prices. Ahhh, the adage that says "nothing haunts us like the things we did not buy" is so true.

Things that haunt me

We went back to Mugas to check out, and to store the bags while we went out for lunch and souvenir shopping. But then the Singapore office rang to ask if I could revise the report. It was lucky that I was still in the reception area. I opened my laptop and quickly made the revision.

After the drama with the report, we had lunch at Soto Bangkong on Jl. Brigjen Katamso. The place held such wonderful memories as it was the place where my parents and I dined when they accompanied me to do the university registration, whenever they visited me in Semarang and after my graduation ceremony.

Soto Bangkong, a legendary cuisine and a must-try when in Semarang

View of Soto Bangkong restaurant from across the street

Then we bought lunpia on Jl. Mataram for Yana's family in Kudus. One lunpia is now priced at Rp 13,000. Back in 1997-2003, it was only Rp 2,000. 

I did this price comparison almost all the time in Semarang, and whenever I did that, Yana gave me a deadly stare and said,"It was 15 years ago, get over it." Hahaha, silly me to think that Semarang would stay the same. It was such a bittersweet to go around Simpang Lima-Gajah Mada-Mataram and then saw how much the city had changed. But then I realized, I have also changed, grew and developed to the person I am today.

We came back to Mugas to collect our bags and then booked Go-Car for the trip to Kudus. We could just take a bus from Mangkang-Terboyo Terminal. But I still remembered how the terminal looked like back then and Yana also preferred to rent a car, so we paid Rp 185,000 for the ride to Kudus.

Leaving Semarang at around 17.00, we arrived in Kudus at around 20.30. The traffic was bad (as expected), but the road condition had improved from the last time I saw it. I fell asleep during the ride, in which Yana commented,"This sleeping ability of yours, it's a superpower. Not everyone can sleep anywhere like you do." Hmm, ok.

Our room in Griptha Hotel, Kudus

We stayed in Griptha hotel that night. After dropping off the bags, we went to Yana's family using GrabCar. They had a long family chat, while I nursed the tea pot (the tea was flavorful!). Her family was warm and welcoming. We returned to the hotel using another GrabCar at around 22.30.

Tangent: when in Kudus, GoJek provides the bike ride service, while GrabCar gives the car ride. The spirit of sharing and 'gotong-royong' (community help) is deeply engrained here.

Dec. 1, 2018
We kicked off the day by going to Menara Kudus Mosque at 03.45 using...GrabCar. I was so surprised that there was actually a GrabCar in Kudus at that hour. I mean, Kudus used to be this serene, sleepy city.

That magical blue sky

Inner court of the mosque

After the morning prayer, we took a walk around. I did not have any work to do, it was Saturday, I was free! 

The original plan was we would head to Yogyakarta in the afternoon. But then Yana wanted to visit SMK Raden Umar Said for her article and I wanted to eat 'sate kerbau' (buffalo satay). After a very long discussion during breakfast at the hotel, we decided to spend another night in Kudus. But tonight we would stay at her family's home, because (1) they offered it, and (2) budget efficiency.

We checked out and ordered GrabCar, which turned out to be a brand new car (the car plate was in red color) and the driver was a polite young man. We asked him if he was willing to take us around for the day and that we would pay for Rp 250,000 for 6 hours. He said,"well, if it was my 'rezeki' (blessing) for the day, how can I refuse?" We took that as "yes".

SMK RUS is a vocational high school, with majors on animation and the likes. It has been receiving help from PT Djarum. The school has been featured in TV shows and news, so there are many news sources on this vocational school. Here are photos from my visit.

A signage at SMK RUS that shows its five majors: DKV, Anim, RPL (visual communication design, animation and software engineering); desain grafika (graphic design) and produksi grafika (graphic production)

When teachers and students work together to develop games, this kind of gadget is considered normal to be found in the teacher's desk.

A sound engineering room,  where the students insert sound into the visual work. And to think that they are high school students *gasp

The school realizes that students need to relax to keep their creative juice flowing, so they have this slider. If you're wondering, yes, I did try it.

After the fun tour around SMK RUS, we went to a local batik shop, where we could also have a look on its production process.

Is it God's way to tell me to buy that batik fabric?

One of the stages to make batik fabric

Some of the batik patterns in Kudus feature the mosque, clove (which is used in cigarette, the main product of Kudus) and badminton (which also has strong tie with Kudus)

We went to Gudang Kaliputu, one of the badminton training grounds owned by PT Djarum. There was an audition competition that day so the place was opened for public. This was such rare opportunity, alhamdulillah!

We had lunch in this eatery. The locals recommended this place, so it must be that good.

There are two options: soto ayam (with chicken meat) and soto kerbau (with buffalo meat). Since I am a curious and adventurous, I chose the buffalo meat hohoho. It's delicious.

It felt like being told to choose between the lesser evil: sate jeroan (innards on skewer) or sate paru (lungs on skewer). In the end, I chose kerupuk kulit kerbau (buffalo skin cracker)

We went to Simpang Tujuh, or Kudus town square, which has seven roads meeting into this traffic circle. The last time I was here was in early 2000, when I got assignment from my university.

A photo with sewer top

People reading newspaper that is placed on one of the square's corners

I did mention that we had lunch, so I guess this is late afternoon snack? We shared one dish for three. This is Garang Asem Sari Rasa (Gasasa), also a must-try when in Kudus.

For dinner, we had sate kerbau (buffalo meat on skewer). The meat is minced with a food processor.

Kudus has many buffalo-based dishes, because in the past it was Hindu-dominated. When the area was having more Muslim residents, the Muslim put buffalo (not cows, which are considered sacred animals in Hindu) for the Idul Adha (Day of Sacrifice). It was part of religious tolerance. While the area has now become Muslim-dominated and has been sacrificing cows on Idul Adha, the dishes stay.

Dec. 2, 2018

The next day, we took a bus to go to Yogyakarta, our final city in this trip. We used Nusantara bus, the ticket was Rp 60,000 per person. We hopped off in Jombor terminal and then headed to Artotel Yogyakarta at Jl. Kaliurang, which turns out to be such cool hotel. Here are the photos.

Urip iku Urup (Life is A Flame), a Javanese adage that means your life should give positive impact on others.

The hotel has a slider. Yes, I tried this one too!

A lovely mural at Roca, the hotel's restaurant

The hotel is very Instagrammable with many corners to take photos

Our bedroom at Artotel Yogyakarta

The bathroom area

I love this bedside table

We only spent one night at the hotel and returned to Jakarta to continue working and saving up money, so we can go on a trip again. This has been such a wonderful trip, which was unexpected as I was taking work with me.