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You’ve been too long in Jakarta when you..

April 19, 2012
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  • Have been contorted, squeezed against the door of Transjakarta Bus and/or commuter train posing like a fridge magnet;
  • Are out of breath, feet don’t touch the floor in a commuter train;
  • Know every moves of pickpockets in a bus;
  • Have been sent home early/evacuated/displaced due to floods;
  • Can recount every single bomb incidents;
  • Have a personal tab at your regular (if not favorite) “warteg” (road diners, Jakarta style);
  • Opt for motorbike taxi to transfer you quickly from point to point;
  • Use of your swear words intensify during traffic jam;
  • Know that there is no such thing as “riverside view”;
  • Leave home before sunrise and get home after sunset;
  • Master the art of getting off from a bus using your left leg first;
  • Text like there’s no tomorrow to a person across the desk during a meeting;
  • Nap in a very noisy tri-wheeled vehicle called “bajaj”, made from World War 2 quality steel;
  • Do not wait more than five minutes for virtually anything;
  • Dengue mosquitos don’t freak you out. You’re too focused on saving your pets during on-request dengue spray by a neighbor whose child is hospitalized due to dengue fever;
  • Do not roll down tour car window, not because of high crime rate, but more because you cannot stand the pollution;
  • Consider the person next to you (whose visual features are very similar with you) as your long lost brother/sister;
  • Decide to write a book/write a song/make movies/produce a play/do photo exhibition about your stay in Jakarta;
  • Try (at least once) anything sold by the street, laced with carbon monoxide and tropical germs;
  • Plan 2-3 hours ahead before going anywhere, any distance;
  • Speak a word or two English and continue with local language;
  • Believe that the ubiquitous motorbikes are public enemy #1;
  • You’ve been too long in #Jakarta when you take rusty old buses while hogging on your newest smartphones & tablets..




April 19, 2012

Everybody wants to get higher education for thousands of reasons. Starting with thinking that it’s the right thing to do, following a boy/girl, getting better money (and not ending up poor later in life).

However, our educational background is often not compatible with our work. Many people who studied Literature ended up as stock broker; or there are those who studied their asses off in medical school but ending up as a writer.

There is a word called “passion”.
Younger and older people alike are keen to follow their passion.
Many people ditched their six digits salary to become a chef or florist.

Burnt out.
This might be another reason why someone with high-flying career with full-fledged company facilities decided to become spiritual leaders.

My professional education was international affairs, while my secondary training was applied sociology. During my career, I got sidetracked into developing websites, annual reports and feature writing. In my line of work, professional training is as rare and expensive as truffles in Asia (unless you work for big organization).

I self-taught myself to write quite properly in a language that is not even my own, take photos without blur and shake (long before anti-shake feature is installed in digital cameras), design print publication (down to understanding production process), learn how the media works (including fact that journalists are not morning person), embrace Twitter and Facebook beyond number of followers and high school nostalgia.

The work did get me into weird corners of the Earth. Various conflict spots, closed countries, places where women are advised not to walk alone, villages where boars run free, and squeaky clean cities. My worst nightmare (so far) was being arrested by military junta government due to misuse of my tourist visa and my employer disavowed any knowledge of me.

If you ask me what do I do with my primary degree in International Affairs and secondary degree in Applied Sociology, I train people how to use Blackberry (the ubiquitous smartphone in Asia) to update Facebook Page :D

Eh, bulunya rontok!

March 14, 2012

Dua ikan cupang (Betta sp.) dan dua rumpun tanaman air pindah alamat ke meja resepsionis sebuah kantor:

“Ikan cupang kan nggak boleh berduaan.”

“Yang berwarna dan lebih banyak bulunya, itu betina. Lebih menarik. Yang item, itu jantan.” (Sejak kapan ikan berbulu?)

“Eeehh.. bulunya rontok!” (Lagi-lagi “bulu ikan”)

(+) “Aduh kasihan, ikan ini butuh oksigen!”
(-) “Ngg.. Katanya ikan cupang nggak butuh.. Eh butuh dikit aja (oksigen).”

“Siapa yang bawa ikan ini?” (tiap orang datang pasti menanyakan ini)

“Ikannya idup?”

“Udah dikasih makan belon?”

“Paaakk.. Nanti ganti airnya tiap minggu yaaa..” (kepada office boy)

“Sebenernya aku punya mangkok ikan yang kotak juga. Tapi lebih lucu yang ini, ya..” (Fish bowl is so last year. It’s fish box now!)

(+) “Say, kalo cupang jangan dijadiin satu. Kalo cupang kan nature-nya gitu.. menyerang.”
(-) “Ini kan cowok-cewek. Di rumah seminggu nggak apa-apa tuh. Sekarang udah gak serang-menyerang lagi kan, Pak?”
(#) “Masih..”

Ice cream for dessert

March 14, 2012

The airline has graciously rewarded passengers of its two hours flight with a cup of chocolate vanilla ice cream for dessert. I’ve never had ice cream at 20,000 feet in my life. Even on international routes. The frozen cups came out from a freezer box, blanketed with frost. Obviously they seemed to have been sitting there longer than this flight.

The passengers lazily finished their bland dinner, but eagerly spooned the ice cream, letting it melts into foamy liquid in their mouth. Savoring the sweet, cold and creamy sensation. Making up for the bumpy ride.

I toyed my teaspoon in the cup, holding the paper lid with my left hand, thinking really hard whether I should have it or not, since I happen to have this lousy sore throat. I winced my eyes behind glasses, trying to read what is this dessert that fits for a king made of.

There is no single dollop of cream.
The eggs are still in the hens house.
There is no drop of milk. (Uh, powdered skimmed milk, if you count that as milk).

Water, vegetable oil, whey powder, soy protein were whipped together to substitute for heavy cream.

Powdered skimmed milk and water replaced liquid milk.

What holds the soft, creamy texture are glucose syrup, stabilizer and vegetable emulsifier. They’re basically whipped fats.

Adding vanilla extract into the mix would make the company bankrupt. So dear costly vanilla beans were substituted for artificial flavors.

Cocoa powder alone wasn’t strong enough to give chocolate color, therefore additional colorings with names as fancy as beach cocktails were added.

Don’t ask me what on earth maltodextrin is. Sounds like one of those glowing alien plants from Avatar scene.

I’m not asking for zabaglione with tropical fruits for an airline dessert in economy class. I just want sliced local fruits. It’s the real thing.

Been flying lately? Dinner/lunch/brekky was served on board? What was your in-flight dinner?

What have we been drinking?

March 9, 2012

You know there is an American in the house or in the office, when there is a four pack Diet Coke cans in the fridge.

A friend who had spent a year in the United States told me the household where she used to stay had stocked up crates and crates of Coke bottles, while her friend drank Dr. Pepper on daily basis.

When they went out and bought drinks, she remembered how her choice of drink, which was water, had generated a lot of surprise. She surrendered to a bottle of Sprite.

I remembered my summer in Germany as an exchange student. My host mother prepped our lunch bags and my host sister (her daughter) asked for a can of Coca Cola instead of bottled “Apfelsaft” or apple juice that her mother had bought in bulk and poured into small bottles for lunch bags.

“Coke is not healthy. You cannot have Coke. That goes for you too,” she said and I replied, “Where I came from, Coke is expensive. We only get to drink that for special occasion.”

That was the 90s.

Where I came from, my house didn’t have a telephone because installing one was way too expensive. Coca Cola and other sodas were only served at weddings and other special occasion.

My late mother used to boiled a very big pot of water for us to drink. We didn’t buy bottled water in gallons because that product did not exist. When we dined out as  family, my father would order hot or iced tea. I think because those two beverages were the cheapest.

When we took a trip to visit my late grandmothers two hours from where we lived, my mother prepared special cold drinks for my father, (because he was driving, so he got all the good stuff) which was water mixed with ice cubes and syrup.

For us kids, she prepared boiled water in school water bottles with plastic cups. No chug bottles. Chugging water straight out from a bottle was considered as inappropriate. I’m sure my late mother would have slapped me if she found out I’m chugging water from my bottles now.

Nowadays, drinking habits have changed drastically.

You have all sort of fruit juices, from the cheap ones with artificial flavor and sugars to expensive imported one with pulps, sugar free, and rinds (perhaps).

You buy your drinking water in plastic bottles or gallon bottles. People rarely boil their water anymore, thinking that it wastes energy. Although boiling water is still one of the healthiest and safest choice of drinking water.

There is even milk that doesn’t have any drop of real milk sold in supermarkets, hypermarkets, you name it.

What have we been drinking to come at this habit?

Wanita Baik-Baik

March 22, 2011

Seorang kawan berkunjung ke dokter untuk mencari penawar atas volume rambut yang kian berkurang di kepala. Ada dokter yang praktek dekat rumah. Berjilbab dan perempuan.

Kawan: Dok, rokok ngaruh gak ya?
Dokter: Kamu merokok? Agamamu apa?
Kawan: Islam
Dokter: Merokok kan haram!
Kawan: Bukannya mubah ya, Dok?
Dokter: Nggak usah cari-cari alasan. Kamu minum juga ya?
Kawan: Kadang-kadang, sih Dok.
Dokter: Minum apa? Topi Miring gitu ya?
Kawan: Nggak dong, Dok. Saya minum wine.
Dokter: Emang nggak bisa berhenti merokok?
Kawan: Dulu berhenti waktu hamil dan menyusui..
Dokter: Jadi kamu punya anak?
Kawan: Rambut saya gimana, Dok?

Ini Budi

August 10, 2010

Obrolan tentang Budi, nama yang paling sering disebut-sebut dalam buku pelajaran Bahasa Indonesia untuk SD pada 1980-an bermula ketika saya ngobrol di Internet dengan teman lama.

“Sekolah skarang overpriced, sok ribet. Sebel gue. Apa gak ada sekolah sederhana kayak jaman dulu.”

Di Indonesia, 10 tahun terakhir (saya baru selama ini mengamati) untuk masuk TK, anak sebaiknya sudah bisa mengenal abjad. Saya ingat teman saya yang syok ketika TK terdekat dari rumah kontrakannya menguji anaknya dengan pertanyaan, “Coba ceritakan jalan pulang menuju rumahmu dari sini.” setelah ujian membaca.

“Anaknya adik gue udah bisa mengeja pake Bahasa Inggris, tapi Bahasa Indonesia nggak bisa.” Tambah teman saya tadi. “Ancur lah.. Gak kenal Keluarga Budi.”

Budi yang kemudian kami bahas, adalah tokoh utama dalam buku pelajaran Bahasa Indonesia untuk Sekolah Dasar di Indonesia pada era 1980. Penerbitnya adalah PN Balai Pustaka. Balai Pustaka adalah penyedia buku paket untuk sekolah dasar pada 1980-an.

Waktu SD, saya merapal “Ini Budi” dan belajar betapa harmonisnya keluarga Budi. Betapa perempuan yang baik memasak dan mengurus anak dan laki-laki baca koran ketika semua itu terjadi. Budi punya adik Ima dan Andi. Ketika pelajaran makin kompleks, muncul tokoh Arman dan Iwan. Entah ke mana Ima.

Saya ingat nama seorang teman asal Jawa Barat. Dia juga dipanggil Arman. Saya curiga nama asli Ima adalah “Imah”, tapi supaya keren ditulis dan disebut “Ima”. Jangan-jangan penulis asli buku ini orang Sunda :D

Melihat jumlah anak dalam keluarga Budi, nampaknya keluarga berencana atau KB, bukan prioritas utama. Anak perempuan juga bukan produk unggulan..

Saya tidak tahu, seberapa banyak kontribusi buku paket wajib ini dalam penggunaan Bahasa Indonesia sebagai bahasa nasional, mengingat Wikipedia Indonesia mencatat ada 748 bahasa lain di Indonesia yang digunakan sebagai bahasa ibu oleh orang Indonesia. Sampai sekarang, banyak teman saya yang masih menggunakan bahasa daerah mereka, termasuk saya. Tidak terhitung jumlah penutur asli Indonesia yang masih menyambung kata “disini”, meskipun “di” adalah preposisi yang menunjukkan lokasi dan harus terpisah penulisannya.

Saya yakin generasi Indonesia dalam dua dasawarsa terakhir tidak kenal Budi karena dunia penerbitan Indonesia sekarang sangat kompetitif, termasuk untuk sektor pendidikan dan urusan membaca. Buku pelajaran anak sekolah di Indonesia juga makin mutakhir karena tidak lagi terbit hanya dalam Bahasa Indonesia.

Ada banyak cara membaca cepat, bahkan untuk para bayi, tanpa perlu kenal si Budi.

* Sumber gambar:


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