Saturday, April 25, 2009

Never Afraid to Try

There are times in our lives when we just get too comfortable with something, that we just feel the need to shake ourselves off to get more energy. I sometimes look at it as rejuvenating the mind, challenging it, hence it gets new energy so it does not get to a status quo. So happens, according to some theories of aging, it is a good thing so the mind does not get old sooner than it should.

But, aging aside, I guess the spirit to never afraid to try something new is crucial to have in the most of our lives. Because that spirit will always enable us to get somewhere that we never expect to get. And most of all, that spirit will open our eyes about new things to learn, that may make us to be better people.

To me personally, my most meaningful, eye opener experience, was when I did a couple of jobs that were actually beyond what I thought I would do, if I were not outside of my comfort zone.

In my final year to get my master degree in Melbourne, I decided to try getting a part-time job. My objective was very simple: I just wanted to know what it felt like working in a very different culture, and a totally different environment. So, I searched the newspaper, and tried applying to almost every little vacancy that I could find. Then finally, I landed on a job as a tele-marketer for a roof-sealant company.

First of all – I had no idea what roof sealant was. And secondly – telemarketing was something that I would definitely avoid if I were back in Indonesia. I was never comfortable making cold sales calls. But then, I said to myself, why not try – at least for once in my life I should try something that I thought I would never do. And the work place was actually far from where I lived – and I thought it would be quite interesting to see other sides of the city. So with that thought, I took the job.

In doing this job, what I had to do was to call people from a list of numbers that my boss would give me every day that I came to work, which was 3 times a week, from 10am to 4pm. I had to persuade them through using the script that explained what the product was all about, then if they agreed to give it a try, my boss would go to this person’s house and do the survey to determine prices and everything else. These calls, were called ‘leads’. The aim of the calls was not to make final sales, but just getting our foot in the door, so to speak.

God knows how many times I got the f*** off word, slammed at, screamed at, cursed at. But there were times when I really could get a lead – though not necessarily gave my boss the final sales (thankfully I still got paid!).

About 2 or 3 months I did this job, then I thought of searching another job which was closer to where I lived. So I landed on a job as an interviewer for a call survey centre in a marketing research company called Colmar Brunton Research (which apparently was a very respected agency for sensory research). I had curiosity driving me to take this job. A call survey centre did not exist in Indonesia and I was curious at how it worked. And I guess I could not forget the researcher in me – I wanted to know how Australians reacted to call surveys.

Again I experienced getting the same experiences that I got when working as a tele-marketer. All the f*** off words, phone slamming, cursing, screaming. Some people also answered the survey with phoney answers, just to make fun of it (which would have annoyed me but I just sighed and moved on). But there were times when people really reacted to my calls – and I actually enjoyed doing the calls.

These two experiences taught me a great deal of patience, and a great deal of ability to persuade others to just listen to me for 3 minutes. When you only had your voice to persuade people, you really had to work hard. Though I was bored, I could not ‘sound’ bored, I still had to put a big smile on my face so my voice could sound cheerful and nice enough for people to want to listen to me long enough (before they slammed the phone down).

But most importantly, through doing these jobs at the stage of life when I actually ‘had it all’ to have a better career, I learned that doing these more menial jobs at that stage was energizing. For its sense of simplicity – to some extent, and the sense of having to put different tactics to make the boredom actually worked for me rather than killed me. And imagining how many people actually relied on such jobs to survive, just made me wanted to persist more in finding tactics to fight my boredom and make it meaningful, each time I came to work.

I am not saying that to learn something one would have to go to the extent that he or she has to do the menial tasks. But maybe, each one of us should ask ourselves the same question everytime we feel that our energy is down, “What have I done differently lately?”. And the answer to that, may be is the energy that we are looking for.

In many ways, I guess, doing different things is the fuel to our souls, because they are challenged, charged up. I know some people will say that it is obvious. My question is, do we really do that, often enough, so our soul is fed regularly with different experiences, different learnings, different taste of life. And they can come from many different angles.

A friend of mine told me that it was difficult for her to play with her kids the first time she had to be a full time mom again. Until, she read Pippi Longstocking and got inspired to ‘act crazy’ like Pippi. And that, not only helped her to connect with her kids, but also actually gave her a sense of freedom. And that sounded to me, that she has found a way to rejuvenate her soul. And she was not afraid to act crazy – because she knew it would only lead her somewhere better. And it did, from the way I looked at how she connected with her kids when I met her.

So, let’s see how far we are willing to try many different things at every angle of our lives. And who knows what we will find right there at the corner that we never even bother to look at – our hearts or heads or both, may find that it is the corner that the soul has been wanting to go to. And at the end of the day, even if that corner turns out to be a place that is too hard to journey on, at the very least, you have tried it, and you have nourished your soul.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Apa sih Cip, arti rumah ini buat kamu?"

Alhamdulillah. Tujuh tahun menikah, dan akhirnya kami bisa juga mencicil rumah. Petak mungil tanpa kamar pembantu, dan juga tanpa tetangga muka. Hanya cemara besar, kecil, tegak atau condong, dan sesekali suara deru kereta.

Beberapa bulan terakhir ini, rumah mungil ini adalah tujuan akhir pekan kami. Melupakan taman, merry-go-round, mal, museum, Sudirman-Thamrin, toko buku, dan galeri. Bermalas-malasan sepanjang hari sembari sesekali mengaktifkan alat pacu jantung. Sekedar menengok face-book atau sesekali bergelut dengan tenggat. O iya, alat pacu jantung adalah istilah mesra kami untuk laptop..

Di rumah ini, saya menghidupkan kembali kebiasaan kampung saya tanpa merasa risih. Selonjoran di teras rumah, makan siang dengan kaki ditumpangkan ke kursi, juga di teras rumah. Bahkan pernah juga menarik kabel, mendengarkan Fleet Foxes dari compo murah yang di-jembreng di teras rumah. Saya juga memandikan Tara dengan selang, di halaman depan, seperti saya sering melihat anak-anak kecil dimandikan, puluhan tahun lalu di kampung kami di Ungaran.

Kalau berhasil mengelabui anak kami, saya dan Riri, tak jarang melarikan diri ke sini. Sekedar berlama-lama menikmati keheningan, berdua saja. Seperti sore itu, ketika ia bertanya: “Apa sih, Cip, arti rumah ini buat kamu?”
Saya berhenti sejenak, tapi segera menjawab: “Freedom! Rumah ini berarti freedom, buatku..”
Dia hanya mengusap-usap punggung saya, dan tersenyum, “Lucu banget sih, formulasinya..”

Saya sendiri lupa menanyakan, kalau buat dia, apa arti rumah mungil kami? Belakangan jawabnya saya terka sendiri. Di suatu sore, di tengah suntuknya melihat angka-angka penjualan, sebuah catatan kecil melayang ke kotak surat saya. A Fleeting Moment Of Happiness, rekaman Riri tentang sebuah sore bersama Tara di rumah mungil kami.. Membacanya, saya mengerti. Buat dia, rumah kami berarti “Kebahagiaan sederhana”.


Friday, April 17, 2009

A Fleeting Moment of Happiness

This week started just as usual. I have experienced the losing of my daughter’s sitter before. So this week created no panic, and thankfully this time Tara’s sitter was sensible enough to tell me 3 weeks before she had to go, so I had time to ensure work was fine so I could be with my daughter fully while she is away.

Today, just like any other day since Monday, I took her to school. Afterwards I have promised her that we would go to our coccooning place – just to clean the place up for tomorrow until Sunday as we are planning to spend some nights there for the very first time.

At 11, I picked her up, went to pick up some stuff first, and then off to our ‘second’ home. When we arrived there, rain was pouring. The car port did not have any roof (talk about budget – these days house renovation can really kill one’s appetite to do anything more on the house once the basics are done!). We both had to rush getting out of the car so we did not get too wet. We entered the house laughing ourselves silly, because the umbrella that we used was too small so we had to squeeze and ended up getting rather wet anyway.

In the house Tara immediately lounged herself comfortably at the sofa, singing, creating stories, while I was busy cleaning up. Then she helped me, or rather watched me, making the beds so they are ready for tomorrow. And all the time her little mouth just did not stop talking, singing, asking questions, and just making me felt so happy that there were just the two of us in the house so I could fully enjoy her sometimes non-sensical yet mind-intriguing talks.

Tired of cleaning up and feeling a bit peckish, I made myself some instant noodle. Tara asked for the same. I very rarely allow her to eat that poisonous stuff but I thought what the heck, her last noodle was 2 months ago. So I made her the same thing and she said very sweetly, “Thank you mommy” while hugging me from behind.

The rain has stopped outside – leaving the fresh air and cool wind. And suddenly I realised it was already 4pm. I gave Tara her shower, and afterwards asked her to play outside while I sat on the front veranda.

And that was a moment when I felt really very good inside. The wind was cool, the street where our home is located was very peaceful, there were only sounds of the crickets and Tara singing at our little front garden, while she was busy making her feet wet on the grass and puddles of water on the street. I watched her and wondered how many more times will I have these kinds of moments. When there are just the two of us enjoying a peaceful afternoon.

As a working mom, I have had my guilt. But when I am really alone with her, many times I think I have done justice to her and to myself. Those scarce moments when we can really be together, actually blow up the happiness when we are together. I am not looking for excuses for not being able (or rather, not willing) to be a ‘stay home’ mom – but I think we are better off like this. The scarcity of times when we can really be like what we were this afternoon – actually made us enjoyed it fully.

There was once my husband said that in this life, sometimes we are not looking for the ‘big happiness’. Many times, we are after the ‘fleeting moment of happiness’, because the ‘big ones’ are harder to come by. I think, this afternoon was one of those moments for me. It was not long – but as I cruised the car along the toll road to go back to our ‘first’ home, with the easy listening jazz songs from Ecoutez, and Tara entertaining herself (and me) from the back seat, I could not help smiling along the way. That moment: of us in the house alone chatting about non-sense, Tara singing loudly at the front garden with the crickets singing at the background, was a moment that really crafted a beautiful picture in my heart and mind. A picture, that I can go back to whenever I need to momentarily feel good (which I guess, happens often amidst the games and tears and wears of the corporate world!).

As soon as we were home, I sent a text message to my husband who is now miles away from Jakarta. I just told him I enjoyed the day very much. And his reply to me was, “Uve been workin very hard. U deserve it once in a while…”

I wonder, if we all have to be working ‘that’ hard to deserve these fleeting moments of happiness. I am sure, we do not have to. I am still looking for that answer myself (and yet at the same time I know, the control, after all, is in my own hands).


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Malang - A Gem in the East of Java

I cannot really decide what I love most about this charming little town. Unless you are a mall-rat, or someone who sees shopping is a must do in all your travels, Malang has lots to offer: charming places populated with lovely colonial buildings, a variety of local food – from those in restaurants to those sold by street food hawkers, beautiful little parks, shady boulevard and little streets, and lots of nature oriented tourist destinations. We did not go to all those places, and certainly did not go to Bromo. But each place that we visited, we just loved it.

My highlights of our 4 days visit to this town are not long. Let's start with food.

Inggil. I knew nothing of a society called Inggil Heritage Society. Came to know about it when we went to this restaurant for dinner. A lovely restaurant – with lots of antique, including fossils, around the main dining area which is also a place of a stage where on certain nights they hold performances like wayang or Javanese gamelan. You can almost trace back the history of Java in this place alone – with lots of artefacts as the restaurant’s decoration. Food is nice, too. We loved its variety of sambal, or ground chili mixed with other spices.

The main dining room

Some of their antique collection

Toko Oen. A famous old restaurant. This pattiserie, ice cream parlor, and restaurant has been standing on the corner where it still stands now since 1930s. It has a nice olden days ambience. They still keep everything intact – its furniture is the same ones as those used in the old days. Its ice cream is superb, and I tried its oxtongue steak which was splendidly cooked, melted on my tongue. And the ice cream was great. My husband tried Corn Ice Cream – which will give you a different taste experience.

The corn ice cream - really tasty and different

Toko Oen

Melati Restaurant, in Tugu Hotel. If you are familiar with Shanghai Blue, Dapoer Babah or Loro Djonggrang, three of the renowned restaurants in Jakarta owned by the group that owns all Tugu Hotels in Indonesia, you will perhaps be more fascinated with the quality of food at Melati. I actually almost always got disappointed when going to all those three restaurants – they are so overpriced, and the taste, to me, has been tamed too much to the likes of a local food lover. But Melati was different. It has the same exquisite service that this group of hotels and restaurants has, lovely ambience, and the food was just excellent. I chose a very simple dish for a purpose, to see how far they have gone to 'tame' its taste. I chose Pecel Pincuk Madiun (Indonesian’s style of salad with peanut sauce), and the taste was just the same with the one I tried in one of the small restaurant off Gondangdia street in Jakarta. Still had the same level of spiciness – no ‘tameness’ at all though this restaurant is visited by foreigners. And, the price was still reasonable, Rp 25,000 (or around US$ 2), for a restaurant under the wing of Tugu Group, is excellent to me. I do not think I have seen such price in Shanghai Blue, Dapoer Babah or Loro Djonggrang – I guess being in Malang or Jakarta makes that huge difference.

Pecel pincuk Madiun - still retains its really spicy and tasty feel, albeit in a restaurant frequented by foreigners. Thumbs up for Melati!

And with the restaurant located in Tugu Hotel – which for some people is known to be spooky, you may as well go around. I guess the existence of so many antique stuff in this hotel does give it a rather spooky feel. And the ‘spookiest’ of them all is the painting of a princess – which my husband said there was a great sadness in her expression. I still get goosebumps when I look at it.

The spooky photograph - do you feel it? I do!

Bakso Gun – you can find them almost at every corner in Malang. It is the kind of ‘bakso’ or meatball, that is so loved by most Indonesians. My husband went there and according to him, “It is worth to export those bakso to Jakarta, they are excellent!”. I tried the fried one and it was really tasty – not one of those bakso that seemed to ‘fight back’ when you bite into it as it gets cold. It was still soft, and very tasty, not too oily.

After food - then let's go sightseeing. We only went to very few places...but they all left an impression to us.

Candi (or temples). Unfortunately we could not visit all temples in Malang – it is always tricky to do these types of things when you have a little child. We visited 2 of the most important ones: Candi Singosari and Candi Jawi.

Candi Singosari is actually one of the most important site - one of the very important kingdom of Java in ancient times. The location itself is actually scattered - there are two huge statues which seem to 'guard' the way into the area, which is now very much a residential area.

Candi Singosari

One of the statue

Candi Jawi is actually the tallest temple in the Eastern part of Java – and it is one beautiful temple, very ‘feminine’ to some extent. And I must say the backdrop is even more stunning – Mount Penanggungan is there at the back of this temple and in clear weather, I bet the view is really stunning. It was raining when we got there and still, it looked just as lovely, very serene, and peaceful though located right by the road.

Candi Jawi - feminine beauty

The main stairs of Candi Jawi

Niagara Hotel – on the road towards Pandaan. This was the first high rise building in Indonesia!. A very well-preserved building with art nouveau details, with all the panels still intact. Unfortunately the old elevator that they had no longer functioned, it would be such a great treat to get on it!. We only stopped and ate at its restaurants so we could have a look around. Service and food were not great, their food list was rather sad, but not far from it within walking distance you could find a nice restaurant – Mungil (or petite, as one would say in French). A renowned chain of restaurants in Malang known for good food with good price. You can also find local chips and crackers to bring back with you, if you’d like.

So, staying at this hotel will not give you any trouble in terms of food. Not sure in terms of a peaceful sleep – heard from friends that it is haunted. But I guess, every old building will have its own story, which makes it fascinating if we could have stayed there for a night. We fell in love with the fa├žade, all the glass windows, wood and ceramic panels, its stairs, its balconies. Each floor has its own charming looking living room, though unfortunately the furniture is lacking in taste but still the ambience is really nice.

The facade and balconies of Niagara Hotel

The well preserved art nouveau tiles

The well preserved glass windows with its artistic art nouveau details

Sendang Biru. About 2 hours from Malang, Sendang Biru is a fishing village. The journey to this place is quite interesting – the trees around are still pretty thick, and you must go through hills and winding roads which can be pretty sickening if you are prone to motion sickness (Tara actually vomitted half way through), but the view is really stunning at some places. Unfortunately there is no place to stop and take pictures as roads are pretty narrow. Right in front of the beach where there are colourful fishing boats, there is an island, called Sempu. This island is a nature conservancy – it is said that there are still tigers in its thick forest. In the middle of the island there is a lake – that is believed by the locals the water is sacred. One can go to the island by getting on one of the many boats from the beach, it only takes about 5 – 10 minutes to get on the island, a hundred thousand rupiah per boat (or approximately US$ 9). And within a 2 hours walk, you can reach the lake in the middle of the island. The sea is very calm – because it is actually a strait.

We got on a boat – to go closer to the island not to try getting off and going to see the lake (with much difficulty as Tara just would not get on the boat, until, mommy found the power of bribery that she knew would work all the time: get on the boat and you’ll get an ice cream. Did wonders…not good to do, but well, we were desperate!). It was very refreshing to see the beautiful beaches on this island from the boat – the sand was very soft, and creamy in colour. The water was also very clear. It looked really tempting to get off one of the open beaches of the island and played in the water. Unfortunately our daughter just would not hear of the idea.

Sendang Biru

Fishing boats at one of Sempu island's beach

Tamban Indah is another beach around forty five minutes drive from Sendang Biru. This is where one can play with the sand, which is also soft and creamy coloured, but, no swimming because there is a very strong under current. It actually looked like a desolated beach – we only saw fishermen getting ready to go off to the sea, no visitors. But thanks to no visitors, the beach was very, very, clean!. Really worth a visit to this place though maybe, after sometime, it can get pretty boring to see the sea in front of you without being able to plunge into it. Nevertheless, a peaceful place where you can just watch life goes by.

A lone child playing on the beach :-)

A stretch of clean, soft sand to play with. But do not get fooled by the calm sea - its under current can easily take you off somewhere else!

So…not a very long list as we only had a short time there – only four days and three nights, but as I said, every place we visited has spoken for itself. Right now we just forget about Bali – the next destination will be Malang, again, especially Mount Bromo. Then off to Madura…..I think I have this one for over a year now!.

Anyway….there is a lot to see outside Bali (not that I have anything against Bali) – so why must we always think of that one when wanting to have a holiday?. Explore more! – and Malang is definitely worth your exploring time, believe me.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pada Mulanya Adalah Kata

himpunan ketidakwarasan,
atau kewarasan,
namun tak
pernah sebuah titik.

Di ujung pencarian

Dulu, saya juga pernah minta cuti 2 bulan. Saya capek ternyata menghadapi semua tanggung jawab dan kerusuhan memimpin perusahaan. Padaha...

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