The writer’s blog tour: My writing process

I was invited to join this blog tour by Si Koper Biru, Eva, an Indonesian Engineer who lives in Copenhagen. She writes many interesting stories about travel, living in Scandinavia and recently 30-day movie challenges. Visit her post about this tour here and follow the trail back and forth.

 The rule of this post is simple; I have to answer 4 questions related to my writing process. I researched googled to find out more about this blog tour to give me a clearer idea. It appears that this tour was actually for a writer (book writer, poet, novelist; someone who gets money from making beautiful writing). But well, blogger writes and put beautiful words together, so let’s do this tour!

What am I working on?

I have few draft posts sitting quietly on my folder, from dukun to my travel experiences. The one post that I am going to publish soon (yet I have not drafted the outline) is a post on community gallery near Borobudur. This gallery produces few interesting things, including ceramic designed by Jenggala and jam. The jam is special, because the recipe was bought from Kou, a jam shop in Ubud. At the end of this post, I will give away a beautiful Borobudur name card holder for one of you. So keep reading.

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How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing is not only influenced by my own observation and experience, but also by the people whom I met. As you know, I do love people watching. I enjoy observing how people behave, react, engage and write (and criticize) it. When writing for post not related to human behaviour, travel for example, I try to put the human element. Why human? Because the beach from one side of the world to the other side looks almost the same, it is the people that actually make the beach different.

There are many bloggers who write posts about human behaviour, but I guess what makes my blog different from other is because I can be very sharp. A good friend said that it is because karetnya tiga, jadi pedes banget.

Why do I write what I do?

Initially, I wanted to write about the life as a wife of foreigner, ‘binibule’ (pardon the use of the word bule here are there in this blog, but I, like many other Indonesians, intend neither harm nor discrimination), the challenges, the excitements and the cultural shocks. However, I found out that it is not easy to write about relationship between Indonesian and foreigner. It is much easier to post about human behaviour, travel, or any other random things. So here I am writing anything that pop up in my head and trying to change the world with my posts. Eh.

How does my writing process work?

It starts with a lot of observations and conversations. I talk with foreigners who live in Indonesia, listening to their adventures, experiences and of course, their complains. In addition to that, I observe the way people behave and list all the key words in my Moleskine that I bring around inside my wallet. Then, during weekend (when I am not travelling), I develop the outline and expand it. Travel does not stop me from writing though; I am more productive when I am on the airplane, as long as I am not seated next to an annoying person.

When writing, there are rules that I set. First, it has to be informative; if it is not informative, then it has to be at least funny. Secondly, I have to at least draft two posts during weekend and schedule them to be published during the week, at around 11 am. The time selected, because I would like you to have something to read before or during the lunch. Lastly, my post should contain at least 500 words and less than 1000 words. Since I set the rule, I am allowed to break it; so do not try to complain.

In order to continue this post, I would like to nominate two persons. Noni Nowak, an Indonesian blogger who lives in Medan has been nominated but she hasn’t posted anything. So let me give her a bit of pressure and ask her to write. I am sure we are all want to know how she get her inspiration and ideas to write interesting posts. I also would like to nominate a writer, a travel writer, Fabiola Lawalata, who has been travelling to more than 60 countries with her Indonesian passport.

Xx,

Tjetje

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Things Indonesians Do when Eating

I have a lot of respect to the nannies in Indonesia, their job is tough. In order to feed their employer’s kids, or should I call them the Queen and the King, they have to run around the mall, wedding hall, house, park or other places, while holding a bowl full of rice. The nannies, who are often wearing white, pink, or blue uniform with a rucksack on their back, have an important job to chase the kids and to feed them. Although we, Indonesians consider eat while walking (or even running) as rude, when it comes to kids, we make an exception.

Some, if not most, kids in Indonesia are not taught to eat by themselves. They need to be fed so that the nannies have job  so that their clothes and the tablecloth remain clean. Apparently, appearance is more important that the ability to be independent. Being fed feels good, the hands could freely doing anything else, while the mouth can chew the food. Maybe that is why many people do not want their parents to stop it until their adulthood. The menu however is replaced by cars, money, apartment, house, allowance for the monthly bills, or  a job. Providing for children is never wrong, but at some point the parents must teach their children to stand on their own feet.

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If the West opt for seating dinner during wedding party, many Indonesians opt for standing party. Some people might find it impolite, but standing party is the only way to accommodate hundreds if not thousands guests. In most of our wedding parties, chairs and tables are only reserved for VIP guests or family of the bride and groom. Eating while standing is impolite, but again, we make another exception.

Speaking about wedding, there a general rule about it, when invited, eat every single thing served at the buffet table. Mix the salad with the rice, pasta, beef, chicken, fish and the soup. If one can put everything in one plate, why put it in different plates? Our desire to mix food, might have been the reason for the invention of nasi campur, rice which served with many condiments. This meal allow us to taste as many food as possible. This might explain why set menu is not popular in this country, it is just too boring and not varied enough. Therefore, the next time you see Indonesia seating in a fancy French Restaurant, sharing foie gras or steak please do not be surprised. As I mentioned above, Indonesians tend to want to taste as many food as possible. Mr. Foreigner Chef, please do not complain about this. 

Any foreigner Chef who work in Indonesia should also never be offended when Indonesians put ketchup on foie gras or salad. No matter how good (and how expensive) the food is, if it is not spicy, then it does not deserve a place in the stomach. Providing a bottle of ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, sambal on the table is a must.  Italian might find it sinful to put sambal in spaghetti carbonara, but again, if they want to rest peacefully in the stomach, then it has to be spicy. One might find joy in juicy steak, while other find the comfort in a spicy steak.

Beside proper three times per day meal, Indonesians also have ngemil time! If tea times come in the morning or in the afternoon, ngemil or snacking, comes at anytime. We love it so much that we do it all the time, even during working hour. Having gorengan, kerupuk (chips), keripik (also chips), bread, and/or other snack during working hour is important for us. Never mind the silence that needed by the other colleagues, just keep chewing.

Having a box of snack during meeting is also a common practice here. An institution or company might be considered miser if there is no snack served. Should there is a budget limitation, then at least coffee or tea should be provided. Make sure you put few spoonful of sugar to show that your company is wealthy enough.

Another interesting thing about Indonesians is that many of us remember the lesson taught from our tender age: to burp after meal. These babies who have the elephant’s memory, bring the lesson to their adulthood and do it anywhere they want. Some do it at warung (small and often less expensive eatery), while some do it at restaurant. Basically everywhere. Burping, sometimes, is not considered rude here.

Finally, foreigners are often surprised by our table manner, custom and etiquette. They often feel that Indonesians are just impolite. They are able to afford expensive meal but lack of manner. They also find it weird that we eat pre-cooked and re-heated meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What these people should remember is that we, Indonesians enjoy food in different way, it doesn’t mean that we do it better, but not worse either. We just eat different things in different way and we are happy with it.

If there is only one thing that you should complain about our eating manner is when one could not close the mouth while chewing. That you can complain!

Thing Indonesians Like: Karaoke

I have never been to any karaoke place outside Indonesia, but I heard, karaoke outside Asia means singing in a karaoke pub, in front of strangers. We do it differently; we rent a private room equipped with modern karaoke facilities. The price range from USD 7 – 30, depend on its capacity. As you might be aware, Indonesians tend to go in a big group with friends, family, relatives or colleagues rather than in small group. The more, the merrier and of course, the cheaper it gets.

The family I explained above is a family karaoke and Jakarta also offers a non-family karaoke. We call this ‘karaoke plus plus’ which usually more expensive because it involves girl(s). One will get a right to select as many girls as he wants for the sake of pleasure. There are many awful ways of selecting the girls, including by point a girl(s) in the aquarium or the photo (either in the album or on the wall). Another way of selecting is by requesting them to line up in the karaoke room and choose the one that suitable. The price for the girl and the service are negotiable, but it is usually above USD 50. Karaoke plus-plus usually provide shower in the private karaoke room is. What an excercise eh that one should shower after singing?

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karaoke room; picture was taken from internet

Private karaoke room provides freedom to sing, no matter how terrible the voice is. For many Indonesians, karaoke is place to release stress by screaming singing and having fun with the closed ones. Some Indonesians even go beyond having fun and consider karaoke as a serious exercise for their vocal and for their confidence level. So once they get out from the karaoke room, they think the have wonderful voice and capability to perform anywhere.  These overconfidence people will usually grab any opportunity to torture entertain others with their awful voice.

I recently attended a wedding where relatives of the newlywed (relatives are easily identified by the same-color dress they wore) took the microphone and sang a sad song that ruins the festivity of a wedding. Ideally, any single sad song should be forbade from a joyful occasion. However, many Indonesians do not care about ruining someone else’s wedding party, all they care about is to perform. Anyway, this person sang confidently with her terrible voice and a very bad English pronunciation. IMHO, it was a disastrous performance, yet no one (including me) stopped this person. I guess our society is so tolerant, or too tolerant. We would be more than happy to see people humiliating itself in public and fulfilling their need to be exist.

Wedding singers in this country also love to invite anyone in the wedding party to come to the stage and sing for the newlyweds. My brother did it better, he forbade everyone, including the relatives to sing. He even threatened to cut the band’s fee.  Was it effective? I say it was with a little hiccup. One person still managed to go to the stage and stole (literally) the moment by singing Titanic’s famous theme song. For the love of God, my brother is starting his journey and the last thing he wanted, I’m sure, is a sinking ship. Btw, she brought her own keyboardist.

To all the brides-and-grooms to be, please stop your relatives and friends from ruining your party. Ensure that your wedding singer(s) wouldn’t invite any stranger to the stage. Forbid them if necessary. Remember, you would want a sweet and memorable wedding. If you foresee that your relatives will still hijack the stage then hire a violinist who can only play classical music.

Until then, please refrain yourself from hurting someone else’s ears.

Love,

Tjetje

Disclaimer: Not all Indonesians like karaoke and behave like the description mention above. 

Thing Indonesians Dislike: Masuk Angin

Masuk angin is a native Indonesian illness that I found hard to described. Masuk itself means enter, while angin means wind. Thus, it is a condition where the body has too much gas and causing diarrhea, burp, vomit, trouble to fart and hiccups. I talked to a doctor and discussed about this illness and according to her,  masuk angin is not a medicine term. In medicine field, it is called common cold. Though Indonesians are concern about this illness, they never bother to ask doctor to cure them. Most of the time, Indonesia self-diagnose the illness and decide the best medicine to cure it.

Prevention

One can prevent the wind to get into the body by avoiding staying late (outside the house). If staying outside couldn’t avoided, then one must wear a jacket, a thick one. Standing in front of fan is also believed to be caused of masuk angin, so no matter how hot the weather is, staying away from the fan is a must.  Some people also blame room with AC, gladly,  I am not one of them.

Another secret to prevent masuk angin is to put thick jacket when riding a motorcycle. The jacket will not only prevent masuk angin but also reduce the change of getting dark from the sunlight. Parents also forbid their kids to drink cold water and playing water. However, they could go to swimming pool. And finally, one should always avoid walking under the rain and immediately grab an ojek payung. Let the ojek payung guy gets masuk angin.

Transition season, between dry to wet is often considered as the season where people easily get sick, so a real Indonesian would always staying away from the things mentioned above.

Medication

Kerokan

There are few traditional ways to cure masuk angin, including the famous Kerokan. It is the action to draw with pressure, using coin and balsam on the back, neck and also upper arms.

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picture was randomly taken from the internet

Is it painful? I do not know, because I have never experience it and not interested to. However, I read that it is dangerous, because the friction between coin and the skin might causing wound. Hence, open invitation for bacteria and virus to have a party in the body. I am sure though that this is a very rare case. Kerokan also widened the blood vessels, that is why the skin becomes red.

Something Warm

Indonesians believe that masuk angin should be cured with something warm. So apart from drinking ginger, people rub oil to their body. The common oil that people use is cajuputi or telon. We likes oil so much that after a bath, a kid will be rub with telon oil to keep them warm.

Tolak angin

Tolak angin is a herbal liquid that use to combat masuk angin. I’ve only known this herb couple year ago, when I suddenly thrown up. A dear friend diagnosed that I had masuk angin and introduced me to the magical tolak angin. I love it so much that I brought two boxes to Ireland.

In its advertising, foreigners from all over the world  thanks Indonesia for inventing tolak angin. Two weeks ago, someone googled (and was directed to my blog) about:  bule minum tolak angin. This person might be watched the ads but did not believe that bule take tolak angin. I was thinking to ask Mr. G to drink tolak angin for fund, but then I found out that Abang Mike, a colleague and also a friend, likes tolak angin.

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So meet Mikel everyone, a foreigner bule who enjoys Tolak Angin especially when he has too much gas in his stomach (It’s call masuk angin Mikel). Anyway, Abang Mike isn’t the only person who enjoys Tolak Angin because her mom enjoys it as well. Well done Mama Mikel, we are so proud of you!

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How do you cure masuk angin?

Disclaimer: the view expressed in this post doesn’t represent the view of neither Indonesians nor bules. Author is neither marketing nor a buzzer of tolak angin. Should the marketing of Tolak Angin decides to send few boxes to the author and Mikel, both of them will welcome it with open arms.

How to Buy a Husband in Hong Kong

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What do you have in mind when you see this kind crowd? I am sure you will be attracted and naturally, you will come closer to see what they are selling.  I did the same and found this interesting banner:

husband

Being a shopaholic, I immediately bought one without trying to bargain. So, the next time someone ask when will I get married, I would tell them that I have bought my husband in Hong Kong.

Buy your husband in HK

For the single ladies out there who are interested to buy a husband, please book your ticket to to Hong Kong and take ferry to Cheng Chau Island in Hong Kong. Go grab your husband!

Birthday Party à la Indonesians

Having many friends from other countries exposed me to different style of birthday celebrations. In many of it, foreigners opt to go Dutch. Everyone pays for their own meal and chip in to cover the birthday person’s meal. To end the celebration, a present is usually given. There is of course a celebration where everyone is invited, and the cost borne by the birthday person, but it’s quite rare.

Contrarily, Indonesian students have a tradition to throw rotten eggs, flour and pour water to the birthday person. The tradition is being kept for years to make the birthday person feels special. Sometimes, it can go beyond, and one can be thrown to the pond. A friend of mine was so terrified with this idea, she put a sling on her hand the day after she was thrown out. Nobody cares, she still had to pay dinner for everyone. In Indonesia, paying lunch or dinner for everyone else, is a must. We call it, sharing happiness. In many cases, the birthday person ended up with neither present nor a birthday card.

As I grew up, birthday celebration changes, not much, but at least birthday no longer involved rotten eggs. Birthday person is still socially pushed to take their friends out for lunch or dinner. Upon wishing happy birthday, a friend (or acquaintance) will unashamedly ask the venue for lunch or dinner. The main problem is that Indonesians have too many friends; I think it’s because we categorized everyone as friend and do not segregate them into different level of friendship i.e acquaintance, travel buddy, colleagues or class mate.  Everyone that you meet, even for an hour, is a friend; hence more than 1000 Facebook friends.

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Invited these ‘friends’ for a nice meal and ended up soaking wet (2003)

Another problem, Indonesians do not know how to say NO to such request. They feel bad if they do not invite people for lunch or dinner. Consequently, someone who has lot of ‘friends’ must throw few dinners (and or karaoke) with different group. Wallet and credit cards will of course “scream in pain” as many of these friends often order the expensive meal (and pretended to forget the present). Amazingly, Indonesians do not mind feeding these friends (or maybe they do mind, but they couldn’t say that), even if the price to please these friends will make them live on budget for the next few months.

I celebrate birthday different at work. The birthday person has to buy the cake themselves, give it to a colleague who will arrange a so-called surprise celebration. The birthday person has to act surprised (and touched) by this act of love and thank everyone. If the birthday person wishes, lunch can be arranged, but there is no social pressure for this. People gather, chat and laugh together over a nice cake. Simpler yet nicer.

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My last birthday was celebrated in the ICU

What about me? I am very selective in inviting friends for my birthday. Call me proud, call me miser, I do not care. For me, birthday is a moment that I shall only spend with family and close friends over a nice meal to celebrate life. Present is not something that I care about, presence is. I do appreciate birthday card more than the present.

A ritual that I do on the morning of my birthday is to call my mom and my aunt (who raised me) and thank both for showering me with her love.

What do you usually do?

Thing Indonesians Dislike: Walking

Foreigners always complain about Indonesians who do not walk in public space.  They sometimes wonder why Indonesians walk for hours in a treadmill in gym but refuse to walk  and insist on taking taxi.  Most of the sidewalk in Indonesia is not safe, or should I say that most of the roads in Indonesia have no path walk. If we walk, it means we are endangering ourselves as we have to compete with cars and motorcycle.

If the place has trottoir, like the famous Sudirman road at Jakarta, it is usually occupied by street vendors and ojek, motor taxi.  The street vendors take some of the room and leave us with little space to walk (like the one in front of the Ministry of Education’s building). In this little space, we have to compete with ojek drivers too, who’s driving against the flow and is driving on the sidewalks.

Walking for people with visual impairment in Jakarta is even harder. Yes the Indonesians, government are doing better by providing Braille guide block in the path way to guide them. However, there are not many people (particularly the street vendors and the builders itself) who are not aware that the guiding block is to help people with visual impairment and not to kill them. People with visual impairment should struggle to find the guiding block, avoid the street vendors and safe their life from getting hit by ojek. How safe and inconvenience is that?

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We also love to grab taxi, even if it is only walking distance because it really is convenience. The AC keeps us for sweating at the very low price, flag fall for regular taxi in Indonesia is only 50 cents. Plus, we are helping the taxi driver company to get money. So we are killing two bird using one stone, being generous and convenience lazy at the same time. The people in smaller city usually walk more, and those who do not like to walk, could always grab rickshaw. I guess we are raised to avoid walking.

There are of course Indonesians who love to walk, they are Badui people. Often called as Orang Kanekes, Badui is a native tribe from Banten who walk all the time. Badui people preserve their customs by refusing any modernization including means of transportation, water and sanitation, electricity, education, but they do accept money.  They are so committed to walk, well their village behind the hills (yes hills) could only be accessed by walking. These people are often visit Jakarta by foot to sell honey and other handicraft. If normal Indonesian spend a day to reach their village, Badui people only spend one day or two to reach Jakarta.

There are also the modern versions of people who like to walk; they are the mall-goers. Go to visit one of the malls in Jakarta and observe how Indonesians committed to walk wearing high heels around the mall and window shopping. One should make sure that the AC in the mall works, because if not, they will stop walking and go home. Again, appearance is everything and sweat on the armpits is sinful.

I was recently on mission with some VIPs to one of the capital cities in Indonesia. The car that was supposed to pick us was not able to enter the area due to the traffic. We then walked because the car parked not far from the exit door. The organizers considered this as an incident and profusely apologize for “the inconvenience”.  I guess in our culture, it is sinful to let VIPs walk even for less than 5 minutes.

To conclude, Indonesia do walk, but only in the mall, when travelling to Bali or abroad. This is because the path walk is often better, there is less pollution and most importantly, there’s no flat dead rat on our way.

Do you walk? Do you know about guiding block?

 

Kisses from Hong Kong, the city without smiles,

Ailsa