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February 10, 2017
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  • “I wouldn’t have reached this position if it hasn’t been for you.” (A person who just got promoted following my advice on taking up a degree in tertiary education);
  • “Thanks to you, now I have the skills that I’m using to improve myself.” (A person who joined a training I organized many years ago and applied the skills in actual work);
  • “Would you give me a reference? I’m applying for this job.” (A former team member, applying for position that is better than mine);
  • “That is a really good advice. Thank you.” (A former colleague).

Apart from those expressions of thank-yous and gesture of respect from fellow colleagues, what made my day today comes surprisingly unannounced:

“You are in my top 10 of best hires I made.” – A former employer.

I think when the going gets tough, I shall remember that I made that cut, no matter how big or small the size and ranks of the “best hires”. For me, it’s always the trust that matters.

To anybody who’s interested in aid industry, the world is your oyster. Go get ’em, Tiger!

Image source:


Tom at Toho

November 14, 2016

Movies are great escape from daily turbulences called life.

People would stare at me when I said I saw three movies in a day, in three different locations. But that was Surabaya in the end of the 90s.


Scala Siam

Scala Theater in Siam Square. Bangkok’s most elegant and oldest cinema in the heart of the city. The newest and most glamorous cineplex is just across the street, inside Paragon Mall.

Cinema hopping in Bangkok, in the wake of mobile Internet (2008-2009), was a lot of fun as it required finding cinemas that would actually screen movies in a language you understand and planning your ways to and from the cinema, which may involve assorted transportation mode. The IMAX theatre was huge and at 300 THB (about US$10) it was a steal (this was 2009 price. When Jakarta finally had an IMAX cinema a few years after 2009, it costs similar but with smaller screen). Independent, foreign, and festival-winner movies have its own community and cult viewers. Although the cineplex, RCA House, is rather far from the city grid (took me an hour by train, subway, and an ojek ride to get there).

Before a movie starts, apart from regular array of coming-soon trailers, you would be required to stand up and pay respect for the Thai King. There is a mandatory documentary of the King with The King’s Anthem playing in the background. And if you don’t stand up, you may end up at “Bangkok Hilton”. Don’t mess with this one.


Nay Pyi Taw Cinema Hall Yangon

Nay Pyi Taw Cinema Hall, Sule Pagoda Road, Bangkok. Next to Sakura Tower and within walking distance from Sule Pagoda, the zero kilometer of Yangon, Myanmar.

The most interesting theatre I went was in Yangon. It was Bond’s Casino Royale. Having seen the same movie a few months before in a glitzy, sleek cineplex in Bangkok, I felt like being transported back to the 70s. The biggest screen in Yangon is centrally located and it’s a single screen with folding chair. People would yell and scream if they like or do not like the scene (Myanmar’s neighboring country is also famous for this traits). They brought snacks and their favorite was roasted salted peanuts in shells. As the lights went on when the movie ended, my sympathy went for the cleaning service.. Let’s not ask whether the copy (of the movie) was legal or not..


I splurged on Tom Cruise’ own production and franchise sequel in what probably planet Earth’s most expensive cineplex: Toho Shinjuku. Who in their sane mind would pay 22 friggin’ bucks to see Jack the Reacher (post Trump winning that is) in an IMAX theater (which screen was rather small)? Perhaps because the zen-self in me wanted to have a few hours of quick nap and shelter from the chilly November breeze.

Toho Cineplex Shinjuku Tokyo

Toho Cinema in Shinjuku often screens Hollywood movies in English with Japanese subtitles in kanji (and some hiragana/katakana). This is where the famous Godzilla statue also located. Cinema Qualité, a few hundred meters across Toho building (to the direction of Takashimaya Department Store) often screens foreign movies.

I’m not sure whether they slowly sucked on their popcorns and let the kernels melt in their mouth or else. Not a single chew. Not a single crunch. Not a single slurping sip (except from the guy next to me who gave in after the second half — who wouldn’t, BTW). Not a single exhale! I wasn’t sure whether they understand the subtle humor of an American Bond (Reacher) handling a millennial teen or not. Perhaps it didn’t translate well into their culture. The movie itself was pretty quiet (D’oh!).

Nevertheless, that was the most intensely quiet movie experience I’ve ever been. Still want more? 90% of the viewers were still sitting down until the lights went on at the end of the credit. Only those sitting down along the aisles left earlier. Speaking of Japanese and their strong adherence to rules and regulations..

I’m dying to fly..

February 29, 2016


Like the lady in front of me. Donning a knee-length batik dress with a matching navy blue cardigan and medium-heeled dark blue stilettos. She put down her dark blue trapeze leather bag on her aisle seat. As she was scanning the cabin compartment to place her four-wheeler slim cabin bag, a cabin crew helped her mount her carry-on. The luggage was as slim as her.

So slim that I believe it only fits her laptop and a night gown.

She took her seat, buckled up and sat poised. She did not bother to read the paper and definitely did not open any laptop nor gadgets. She just sat there quietly, lightly held onto her handbag.

Here I am, sitting three seats down, hurting my thumb while lifting my carry-on baggage onto the overhead compartment, filled with clothes for three days and two nights trip, a laptop bag in which a 2.5kg laptop resides, a DSLR camera that weighs slightly more than a kilogram, some guidelines on village boundary delienation and demarcation, papers full of my scribbles. On an international flight, I would certainly be barred from entering the cabin.

Economy class aisle seats tend to be cold when the plane reaches five digits altitude. Born with allergies to cold, I packed up a jacket. I opened and read a newspaper so that as it spreads, it warms my feet. At least I had a pair of leather loafers, lined with socks.

I looked like a Moose and that lady in blue embraced the pressurized cabin temperature. She was probably the older version of Princess Elsa from Disney’s Frozen.

The Field

February 25, 2016


In an office-bound work setting, field work presents such an immense appeal for many people, be it firstjobbers who are starting with their career or oldtimers who badly need a change from their desk-bound routine.

A colleague, whose desk is practically an elbow away, loves the field because he can get a lot of actual work done.

I find field work as fresh air that puts myself in a bubble and let me focus on one single mission, whatever that is; from sitting down with a partner organization to get a logframe done, years ago I introduced e-mail to NGOs in the province, tracking garbage pick-up route from residential area to final dump site to justify the cost of garbage cart with dividers, jotting down notes like crazy until my wrist went frozen (I’m not used to recorder) while a colleague (who interpreted the whole conversation) finally snapped, “My God, you ask too much!”, to breaking the ice by distributing clove cigarettes to a group of foreigner-shy farmers in the Delta of Irrawaddy to get them talk about rice harvest in post-disaster situation,

It was very rewarding to hear comment of that colleague of mine upon reading my write-up later on, “All this was from our last visit? I think I should ask more from now.”

In the midst of a bad burnt out episode, field work helped me refocus and re-thinking about which direction I need to take as the road not taken has the same drama with the road taken.

Lucky Number 15 – Wrap up post

November 30, 2015

This is a wrap up post for a reading challenge — my first, actually — in my years of being a book nerd.

I like this challenge because I happen to have all the books in the categories and I can choose which book I wanted to read. I’m a sucker for reading challenge with predetermined books/authors.

Of all these books, “Everything I Never Told You” and “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” left a personal impression, simply because in one way or another, I’ve been there. I understand they way people look at you when you have different color and look (as in “Everything I Never Told You”) and being a World War II history junkie, I visited the setting of “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”. The narrow path of the Hellfire Pass was indeed eerie. Although what shocked me was the number of forced laborers from my country — that did not exist until the end of World War II — compared with those other countries.

I put “The Secret History” under freebies, although I ended up leaving a small amount of money as tip for the caretaker of an inn in Sanur, where I bumped into the book that I have been looking forward to read. It could have been free as the innkeeper told me to bring the naked book. But I didn’t feel like it does justice to the seminal work of Donna Tartt.

The reading challenge indeed gave me some deadline and direction in finishing up my backlog of books. I have probably several dozens of them.


To escape. To go somewhere. To nurture empathy. To find who you are. To enjoy a good story. To ask questions. To have a company.

Lucky No. 15 Reading Challenge

November 2, 2015

Bumped into this challenge from a fellow Goodreads member. This is a master list of this challenge.

Participants need to read at least one book in each of the 15 categories listed as published here:

Here are the categories and books that I have read throughout 2015 and links to my reviews in Goodreads:

Chunky Brick:
The Goldfinch

Something New:
The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Something Borrowed:
Crazy Rich Asians

It’s Been There Forever:
The Lowland

Freebies Time:
The Secret History

Bargain All The Way:
Thailand Confidential

Favorite Color:
Everything I Never Told You

First Initial:
Lingkar Tanah Lingkar Air

Super Series:
Flood of Fire

Opposites Attract:
How to Get Filthy Rich in Raising Asia

Randomly Picked:
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane — Perjalanan Ajaib Edward Tulane

Cover Lust:
Aruna dan Lidahnya

Who Are You Again?
After the Banquet

One Word Only!

Dream Destination:
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Vaccine hunting

October 9, 2015

Reviews said this is one of the best movie in 2015. So far. Next, I found my feet occupying two seats in an almost empty theater, two hours before midnight.

The opening scene could have been randomly plucked from some episodes of True Detective TV series. It’s widely known that TV series are getting better, bolder, and big screen actors and actresses are seen all over the small screen.

I was waiting. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and the enigmatic Benicio del Toro entered the screen. But so what? Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, Damien Lewis, Claire Danes, even Joe Morton have been part of smaller screen. The private jet in an almost empty airforce base was meaningless. The Criminal Minds gang crisscrossed the States using a private jet.

The wide screen turned khaki. A bird eye view of vast Chihuahuan Desert filled the length of the screen. Helicopter blades were whipping from my back, thumping music score followed in the background. The camera closed in down below. Hello, Juarez. Now that was eerie.

I no longer slouched.

The long convoy to the heart of the city reminded me of “Clear and Present Danger”. The two main characters peered warily outside. Nothing happened. The convoy went through the same way back to the border. Still nothing happened. The thumping score was replaced by some sort of string orchestra.

As the movie rolled, my mind was busy digging through my gray cells. I felt like I have seen the scenes before. It was in Tom Clancy’s “Against All Enemies”, sans war on terror.

Sicario was very focused on war on drugs that had taken place in Juarez, the most dangerous city in the world. Juarez has not always been about drugs, but also human trafficking and other things that gives you nightmare. (BTW, Jennifer Lopez starred in Bordertown. Quite okay movie.)

Sicario was the mind of mysterious “Medellin”, the name of Colombian Cartel that was dismantled by the US many many many moons ago. Medellin here is a person, whose Spanish is most probably recognized as Colombian accent by the local Juarez people who heard it.

Benicio del Toro has effortlessly immersed himself in the role. Every time his eyelid bats, every look he threw around, every single word he said. Let’s not go to gestures. Total bad a** As for Josh Brolin. Did we find the American Sean Connery? Emily Blunt lived up the expectation. She graduated from Edge of Tomorrow and presented herself as someone new, sans accent.

Watch the trailer here and get those movie tickets ASAP!