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Bad Hair Day

September 27, 2015

“Spiky? Not too short? With patterns on the side? Okay!”

The victim was sitting on a kiddie ride. A female hairstylist grabbed a hair clipper, her assistant was busy blowing bubbles and squeezing a squeaky toy.

He was a baby of approximately 15 months, still cannot utter any word properly. Her mom was sitting in the back, busy Whatsapping. The little guy did not have much hair. He was clean and looked well-cared. But he certainly was not the ubercute baby.

I never went to a beauty salon for a haircut until my late mother fell ill and passed away a few years later. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood, she was our private stylist. I did not have any preference when it comes to haircut. She would cut my hair short. Boy short. But not crew cut. These days, a new jargon was invented for my childhood style: Pixie look.

My mother had never wasted a week worth of grocery money for my brother’s and my haircut. Whenever we need a haircut, she would ask us to sit on the floor, grabbed her rattan bag where she kept her hair cutting kits and started working on our heads. One by one of course. We are not some two-headed dragons. Although more than a few times we acted like one 😀

None of us needed diversion such as toys, kiddie rides, bubbles, moreover a set of PlayStation game for us to sit still and receive the haircut.

My late mother took a haircut course. She also made all my stuffed dolls. She cooked our food, although her staple was mostly boring since she had to save money. Had she taken sewing course and immersed herself in serious gardening, we would have been self-sufficient like farm families.


Mall Rats AD 2000

September 27, 2015

What do you see in megapolitan malls these days?

Fashionable families in trendy culottes and pastel-shades bermuda shorts?

Adorable same-sex couples of all ethnics and ages?

Recently settled expats trying to find cold cuts, boxed juices and cheeses?

Those were yesterday.

Nowadays, it’s kids running around bumping into people without saying any excuse, screaming their hearts out as if they have just been released from solitary confinement for a week.

Kids touching and grabbing things they like, from toys to whatever they see in store shelves. When the goods fall down, very calm parents would put things back, saying in a very zen voice, “You can’t do that, Sweetie.”

Kids with strong feet sitting prettily on strollers, simply because they can’t keep up with the coverage area of their parents shopping spree trip.

Nannies shove a pair of shoes to kids, who are big enough to put them on by themselves.

Nannies wear face mask so that their breath are not in direct contact with babies and kids under their care.

Kids repeatedly screaming what they want, dying for their parents’ attention, oblivious to their surrounding.

Angry kids (without any behavioral issues) who are not getting what they want and putting up their best act for the world to see. Often involved stomping their feet the ground or yelling or crying.

Let’s not forget puzzled toddlers dragged into the cinema to see “The Ironnettes of Stark Industries” flashing their booties, Megan Fox’s lock lips with Shia LaBoeuf’s, or a gangster giving a pointblank shot to someone in a car.

Did you do something? Of course not. You’re their doting parents. Let’s find someone else to blame.

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 😀

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?