Monthly Archives: December 2011

Bali Trip: A Visit to My Family

Earlier today I went to visit my grand father in Denpasar. For someone who admit to be awkward in socializing with others, not to exclude family, I have to say I had a great day.

As I’m not a morning person at all, I woke up earlier today at about 11ish. 10.30ish. 10.45ish. Around that time. And then my mom finally managed to make me take a shower. (Yes, finally!) So after I cleaned myself, ate my breakfast, and took care of the laundry, I called my grandpa and told him that we’re coming soon. That was around 12 PM.

So we tried to stop a taxi, and finally arrived at grandpa’s house at around 1. Not to mention that we were lost before we finally found his house.

Now, let me get this straight first.

I was born in Java, and I have Javanese, Balinese, and Chinese Indonesian heritage from my parents. My grandpa here is a Balinese. The sad thing is that the last time I visited him and met my Balinese family was 2 years ago. And before that, it was about 19 years ago when I was only 4.

So not only I don’t know my Balinese family very well, I was as well having trouble finding my grandpa’s house in Pekambingan area.

I’m also suck–really suck–at navigation, FYI.

So yeah, we almost enter a stranger’s house, mistaking it for grandpa’s house.

Anyway, I finally called him and asked him to show me direction through phone, and we finally arrived.

Yay! Let me do the happy dancing for a while.

* * *

Okay, happy dancing done.

Then we did some catch up, gave him a Tempe Kripik, which is the traditional food from my hometown (a small city called Purwokerto) and chatted for a while.

After that, we went to visit my grandmother–or my grandpa’s sister-in-law, which I should refer to as Kompyang, or simply Nenek. Oh, she’s actually my great grandma. Then as we chat and chat, I start to recollect the family I have here. Apparently, aside from my grandpa, who I refer to more as Pekak, I have plenty other grandpas (Pekak) and grandmas (Oda): Pekak Ned and his wife, Oda Endang, Pekak Made, Pekak Nyoman, Oda Catri, and Pekak Tude, the youngest of all, who could be simply mistaken as my uncle (Uwe). And then the uncles and aunts: Uwe Sunan, Uwe Leila, and Uwe Surya, my 8 years old uncle (according to the family tree, he’s supposed to be my uncle!).

After visiting each one of them (except for Uwe Sunan who’s in Lombok atm, Pekak Nyoman and Pekak Tude), my Pekak and Oda Endang invited me to see Denpasar Festival 4 which was held in Udayana. The traffic–as it has gone crazier and crazier towards New Year–was a complete disaster. So instead of driving to the location of the festival, we parked the car somewhere near the festival, and then decided to go there on foot. Oh yes, there was a heavy traffic jam.

So there, I held my Pekak’s arm tight, while my mom and Oda Endang went window shopping and ended up shopping, indeed. As we separated ways in the festival, I finally managed to persuade Pekak to have dinner with me as he had not eaten anything since we arrived at noon. It was around 9 at that time. I would definitely starving by then, but he kept reassuring me, saying that he’s fine and I don’t have to worry at all about him.

Of course I was worried.

So finally we stopped at this place selling Kambing Guling, Sate and Soto Ayam.

Gulai Kambing

Soto Ayam

Now, this is my favorite part of the day.

As I accompanied Pekak while he ate his dinner, I started to ask him about the books he has at home.

Pathetically, I just found out earlier today that my grandpa apparently is really smart and open-minded, as well as a devoted reader like me. Only he doesn’t read novel. He read non-fictions about Politics and Philosophy. I was really tempted to steal his Dialogue with Socrates as I glanced at it. But of course I didn’t.

He said he likes reading about Politics and Philosophy, and he’d wanted to major in Social & Politics earlier in the university, but as he was born on October 12th 1940, by the time he entered university, there hadn’t been any university which provides good quality of Social & Politics study around. So he went to study law instead, at Airlangga University in Surabaya.

And that was the time when I finally had enough courage to ask a question I’ve been wanting to ask him for years:

“So, grandpa, I was actually wondering… Were you involved with PKI during the 60s?”

And I got a firm “No,” along with a head shake as an answer.

I think I was actually almost disappointed.

To answer your question: No, I didn’t ask that question out of nowhere.

There has been a rumor–well, not actually a rumor. When I was a kid, my grandma and my dad told me once that my grandpa once joined the PKI, and when the national army went around Indonesia to capture PKI members, he was captured and kept in prison for years.

That’s when my grandma decided to remarry again.

PKI Symbol

Anyway, just in case you’re confused what the hell PKI is, it’s a communist party that once dominated Indonesia. Its career ended after the 30 September Movement, and not until Soeharto resigned in 1998 did people start to wonder and talk about what happened. Sadly, these ‘people’ mostly refer to foreigners who study or interested in Indonesian culture and history. I don’t really know many Indonesian who put so much interests in their own history.

(You could click the link for further, clearer, and more complete information.)

Then my grandpa continued and set things straight:

“I wasn’t involved in PKI, to be precise. I was actually involved in the youth organization in campus. The thing is, after the 30 September Movement, the army started to slay and capture those who either actually involved in PKI or those who simply didn’t oppose PKI’s idealism. As a university student, you know, we were full of idealism and thoughts. We want things to be better, and we urged the government to do it. It’s not that we were pro PKI or against it, but we opened ourselves to good ideas and thoughts, especially related to this country. If PKI offered good solutions for this country’s problem, why should we oppose? Sure, were there any other good solutions offered by others, we’d definitely support it. The problem is, the army didn’t see us that way. At that time, there were many prejudices, and our youth movement in campus was not excluded. They simply accused us as PKI supporters, so they captured us and put us in jail. Without proof.”

I also told him that I’ve watched the movie Sang Penari, which was inspired by Ahmad Tohari’s novel Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk and has the story set in the 1960s–sometime before and after the 30 September Movement. I also told him that I read some articles about the PKI and watched The Year Living Dangerously.

I think he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t prejudice toward him, so he asked me first, what do I know about the ‘Movement’ and the party itself. So I told him all I know and all I read.

“There are two kinds of history. One that is told from this perspective, and another one that is told from that perspective. Only reading and listening from one side of the story could mislead you. The more you read, the more you know the truth.”

I’m not gonna argue with someone whose grades in history are always next-to-excellent. I saw his school certificates earlier–from elementary school up to university. He’s really fond of history, turns out.

“So grandpa, how long were you in jail?”

“10–(noise on the street)–minus 1 month.”

“10… months?”

“No, sweetie. 10 years,” and he chuckled.

“10 years!”

My eyes widened.

“Yes, minus 1 month. Your grandma was pregnant with your dad at that time. 3 months pregnancy. I had to leave.”

I remember my dad told me that it wasn’t until he was entering primary school that he found out that his dad at home is not his biological father. He said he called my grandpa a loon who thought he’s my dad’s dad.

I couldn’t imagine being in a cell for 10 years, with… nothing to do. So I asked him what did he usually do there. He told me about the size of the cell. It’s about 1.5 m x about 3.5 m, if my memory serves. They usually fit 3 skinny men in there, so my grandpa simply chat with them. Playing chess sometimes. Take a shower at 8 AM and later 4 PM.

“And?”

“Well, there’s really nothing much you could do in a place like that. If you’re not strong psychologically, you’d crack.”

Deep in my heart, I was thankful that he was still alive up to now.

Then I told him that in the article I read, many influential and smartass were in the PKI and they were put in prison. One of my favorite author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer was in it.

“Oh, Pramoedya? Yeah, he’s really smart. And kind, too. He used to walk around, back and forth–remember there wasn’t enough space in there, so you could simply go back and forth in the same direction–he’d usually walk with dignity.”

“He was there?”

“Yes, yes.” And he nodded.

My grandpa was talking about my favorite author like he’s this cool guy who you usually met at school. “Oh, him? Yeah, we were in the same class. He’s the one who’d usually ask the most questions in class.”

“It’s just unfair how the government treated those people, pops. I mean, they are not criminals who’d steal your wallet or kill you for your money, right? They’re smartasses, who’d actually be very useful to this country.”

My grandpa nodded. “Yea. I changed cell mates for about three times, and almost all of them are educated abroad and very brilliant.”

Holy shit, my grandpa was there to witness the history! He’s there!

And then we went back to the festival.

While we wait for my mom and grandma as they shopped around, I continued my discussion with grandpa. We changed the subject though, this time.

I don’t really remember how it started, but what I remember most is that I was asking him about Sesajen–the offerings made by the Balinese Hindus for the gods.

Now, what’s really interesting and unique about Bali is the custom of offerings. Other than having tons of Pura’s, every Balinese Hindus has at least their own Pura at the front of their houses. Depends on the size of the house (and depends on how rich you are), the size, height and beauty of the small Pura varies. Well, the term Pura might not be the right one, but this ‘small Pura’ is used to put Sesajen, or offerings. Some houses (mostly the wealthier ones) would also have an altar–like a small hall–aside from the small Pura.

The altar at Kompyang's house. Sure is big.

My Pekak’s and Kompyang’s house are not excluded.

The small Pura at my grandpa's house. Sorry, we were standing in front of of it. Say hi to my pops, though!

The one at Kompyang's house.

Then I asked him about the Sesajen.

He told me that the usual Sesajen is called Canang. People usually make Canang as soon as they finished cooking their breakfast. Before they eat their breakfast, they ought to put chunks of whatever they eat for breakfast in the offerings and then put it in the small Pura. Once they finished this, they could then eat their breakfast. Unless you’re sick or away from home, you should put the Sesajen every day as a prayer for all the meals that you’re gonna eat that day. Praying that the nutrition will fill your body and improve your health, and to make sure you’re not to starve.

Another one is called Banten. This one is only made on special occasion. Tourists could see Banten everywhere in malls in Bali where people would put Banten near the front door, or somewhere on the corner of the street, as a prayer for luck and success for their business. When I was here, my mom’s best friend (who mostly pay for my trip and fun here in Bali) hires a driver. He’s a Balinese and whenever we go around to visit some tourism resorts, I would always see a Banten on the car’s dashboard next to the steering wheel.

Banten in Kuta Square. Apparently neglected, due to the heavy, disastrous traffic. But they say it's fine once the Banten is made and offered.

I love Bali because it’s one place where you’d see art and culture blended into one in harmony.

Later we continued on talking about random subjects and random stuffs.

I found out that apparently our ancestors were part of the Ksatrias. But since we don’t really believe in caste system and instead, believe that caste system would only create further discrimination and prejudice, so we no longer use nor acknowledge it. Awesome, though.

Also, apparently, my great-grandfather used to be in the Dutch army. He was trained in the Dutch school for police, and later, he switched side and join his fellow Indonesian to fight for independence. He died sometime later after that, which caused my grandpa to be fatherless. But my great-grandmother and my grandpa received some benefits as a reward for my great-grandpa’s patriotism. Awesome, again.

I learned a Balinese word “Sing Ken Ken” which means “No problem.” Also awesome.

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2012 Book Resolution

I’m currently in Bali, and I’ve been telling myself to start blogging about my days in Bali, yet have also been procrastinating so far, so I thought I’ll just write something in between.

So earlier today, my mom’s friends and I have been relaxing in the hotel, as we’ve occupied ourselves in the previous days with heaps and heaps of activities. So today’s theme is definitely relaxing. Then later today, finally we went out shopping (well, most of us) in Kuta Square, and so my mum and I went inside Matahari in Kuta Square only to draw some cash from the ATM machine. Apparently, as we strolled along, we passed Times.

Oh the stupid nerd, geek, silly old me.

Just in case you have no idea what is Times or what ‘Times‘ I’m talking about, Times is a bookstore.

Uh-oh.

A bookstore selling only imported books, and most of them are English.

UH-OH with big letters.

So why it mattered?

Because that’s where my mum had to suffer and stuck with me for a while as I spent hours browsing with hungry eyes, the books and novels.

Lord sweet Lord, they have Coelho’s By The River of Piedra I Sat Down and Wept!

My mum left me for a while to do some window shopping, and by the time she got back, I still haven’t finished.

Oh, seriously, like she doesn’t know me at all.

So as she waited impatiently, I finally ended up buying Coelho’s and boy, they have Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro too!

I swear I was jumping in excitement–literally–in Times.

* * *

Now I’m taking a short break in The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf near Matahari, and while I was browsing the internet, opening facebook, resuming my downloads, I also remembered that earlier in Times I saw a novel that seemed interesting. Yet, because I’ve never heard of the title, nor the author alone, I decided it would be quite risky to buy it. I’d probably get disappointed–especially because the book is quite expensive, considering I already had two books in my hand, and I had not the slightest intention to let them go.

So, if I should make any New Year’s resolution, the only resolution that I would make is probably a new reading list. It’s the least I can do, considering I’m an excellent procrastinator. I can tell myself that I’d definitely stop scratching my pimples, or stop cutting my hair, but I don’t even have the faith in myself. With books and novels, it’s different. At least, out of–let’s say… 10 books, I could at least make 7 by the end of next year. So here goes my list for books that I want to have, or at least read:

  • Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw

    This is the book that I saw earlier in Times, and then browsed in the internet for the review. The review and summary quite interest me, so I thought I’d give it a try. Maybe next time I go to Times. Or I could always find the ebook. Perhaps anyone who’d ever read this can confirm how good this book is?
  • Any book by Jostein Gaarder
    He’s definitely my favorite author, and I would love any of his book. ANY.
  •  The Year Living Dangerously by Christopher Koch

    Watched the movie, and now getting curious of the  novel.
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

    A friend told me about this book after a vivid conversation about books that we like. Apparently we have something in common: we both like similar themes about cross-cultural understanding. And then she gave me this title.
  •  Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

    As I wrote my Bird by Bird journal, a blogger friend recommended this book to me. As I’m making it a habit to read things that are recommended and offered to me, this book is definitely on my list.
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

    I thought this one is also by Lamott, but as I googled it, apparently Natalie Goldberg wrote it instead. My Safari’s still loading while I’m gathering information about this book, but similar to Traveling Mercies, this was also recommended by a fellow blogger when she read my Bird by Bird journal.
  • Daughters of Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera

    I was considering this book before I finally bought Ugly by Constance Briscoe. This one seems interesting, and this is also related with the cross-cultural theme that I’m into, so I’m not crossing this out yet.
  • Room by Emma Donoghue

    This too, was into the consideration before I bought Ugly. I saw this one as well earlier in Times, but oh well, Coelho won. I just need to save some more money to buy this one later. Perhaps someone could give me more teaser about this book?
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene

    Another recommendation by a friend. She saw me reading Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao, followed by a conversation, ended up with me telling her that I want to get my hands on Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley (got the book already now, thanks to Danielle), and then she told me about this book. Still on my list!
  • Juktaposisi: Cerita tuhan mati by Calvin Michel Sidjaja

    A recommendation from a friend as well. As soon as he found out that I’m also interested in themes revolving in religion/agnosticism/atheism (which should explains why I love Gaarder’s The Castle in the Pyrenees so much), he told me about this philosophical book.
  • 170.8 FM Radio Negeri Biru by F. X. Rudy Gunawan

    Recommended by the same friend who told me about Juktaposisi. Reading the review, I suppose this one is also philosophical. About God. About life. Not crossing this one out.
  •  Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

    Reading the plot summary in Wikipedia (didn’t finish reading, though), this seems like a heartbreaking story. And a tearjerker as well. I usually love stories with intense emotions. But I usually avoid tearjerker as well. Not that I hate it, it’s just… I’d usually prefer to avoid it. As a proof, even after several months possessing Flags of Our Fathers, the book that I’ve been dreading and dreading for months, I still haven’t touched it. Because I know my eyes would swell just like when I was watching the movie Iris. By the end of the movie, you could see a huge pile of tissue next to my bed, and ON my bed as well. I’d probably read this after I read the other books.

I think that would be all. I’d probably update it once I got another recommendation. But whew! Now that I finished the list, I finally realized how long it actually is! Not to mention I still want to collect Phillipa Gregory’s books. Now how the hell should I actually accomplish this resolution?

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Sang Penari (The Dancer)

I promised myself that I would write something about the movie Sang Penari (The Dancer) which was inspired by Ahmad Tohari’s book titled Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk as soon as I finished the book.

And now I’ve finished the book. So here we go.

First of all, I usually try to discipline myself in a way that I ought to always read the book first before I watch the movie (of course, we’re talking about movies which are adapted from the book). But then Sang Penari came up, and I was so intrigued by the trailer alone. Then I met my friends and we talked about it. I was actually thinking: “Okay. Let’s gamble. I’ll ask her if she’d watch the movie with me, but if she–like me, insisted on reading the novel first, then I’d read the novel first no matter what. The movie came later.” Yet when I met my friends, my lips are locked. I don’t know. I feel like I ought not to gamble on this one. Or maybe I’m just too afraid of getting the answer and see how it’d turned out. (Really? Over a movie and a novel?–Yes, really really.)

Then something unexpected happened. My friend, out of nowhere, became the one who asked me, “Hey, do you remember the movie Sang Penari? Do you want to watch it togehter?”

I could hardly contain myself, really. The movie it is!!

So, anyway, here’s a bit of the trailer for you guys to see:

In brief, Sang Penari tells a story which revolves around a girl, which turned into a beautiful woman called Srintil. Srintil was born and raised in a small village in a rural area called Dukuh Paruk. This village is crucial as it becomes a place which pretty much shape Srintil’s destiny and personality.

There’s a tradition which has been going on and on for years in Dukuh Paruk, where they would always have an icon called Ronggeng. Put it in a simple way, Ronggeng is pretty much similar to Japanese Geisha. The difference here is the role of Ronggeng in the society especially the society of Dukuh Paruk. Ronggeng is the symbol of art and sex, I’d say. Ronggeng usually dances and performs in various villages and places during the day, and though the dance is pretty much a Javanese dance, but from what I’ve seen and read, I got the impression that the dance is more of an erotic dance, where people would shout remarks which refer to sex. The audience were also able to give tips to the Ronggeng by slipping money in the inside part of her clothes which cover her breasts. Later at night, men, who are mostly married, would pay as much as they could to have sex with her. Surprisingly, their wives would not mind at all since they believe that after their husband have sex with the Ronggeng, their husband would be able to give them offsprings. There’s this one scene where a housewife picked up her husband, and thanked Srintil the Ronggeng then expressed her wish that she now hope she could get pregnant again.

Srintil had been dreaming to become a Ronggeng all her life, so when she finally became a Ronggeng, she was really excited. There’s only one problem: Rasus. Rasus is her childhood friend and later became her lover. At least until she finally became a Ronggeng. To think logically, who could stand having your girl friend becoming a public’s “property” anyway? So Rasus fled the village and joined the army, leaving Srintil broken hearted.

Basically, the movie is a love story between Rasus and Srintil who ended up getting caught up in the midst of the chaos of the 30 September movement. Srintil and all her friends and relatives in Dukuh Paruk ended up suffering in a concentration camp for  suspected communists while Rasus is a part of the army who put people in the camp. He was tormented between choosing to follow orders as a soldier or to follow his heart in Dukuh Paruk. He ended up going from camp to camp looking for Srintil though. Did they finally reunited and get the happy ending? Well, do you really want spoilers?

Now, the book.

My curiosity was pumped after watching the movie. And I’m getting even more excited as soon as I found out that I could get a 20% off in the bookstore if I purchased the book with the movie ticket. So I called the bookstore. After making sure that I’d get the 20% off, I bought the book. (Okay fine, it’s only 20%, but it could actually save me a meal, believe me. It’s worth it!)

Now, one thing you must know is that this newer version of Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (the cover above) is actually a 3 in 1 version of a trilogy. The whole movie itself is actually inspired by the whole trilogy.

The first part of the trilogy is titled, of course, Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk, followed by the second part of the trilogy: Lintang Kemukus Dini Hari, and the last part: Jantera Bianglala.

The decision to name the whole 3 in 1 version as Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk is not a bad one, I guess, since the story itself focus indeed on the Ronggeng.

Reaching the first five pages of the book, I thought, “Damn. Thank God I watch the movie first.” I know I’m gonna hate the movie if I read the novel beforehand.

The thing is, for you who actually expect the movie to be exactly or at least 80% similar to the book or vice versa, you’d definitely get disappointed.

I mean it.

But then, I also remembered that ever since the trailer came out, it was never said that movie was “adapted from” the book. They always put it as “inspired by” the book. Not adapted. Inspired.

So I was kinda guessing, actually, (with fear, of course) that the book might actually be completely different from the movie.

And my hunch was right.

One of the main difference that I noticed right away is the age of the main characters.

In the movie, both Srintil and Rasus were already grown-ups (at least Srintil must be in her early 20s) when she became a Ronggeng and finally lost her virginity. In the book, Srintil was only 11 and Rasus was 14. Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise considering the area where they live and grew up. They was born and raised in a rural area, where young marriage (an extraordinarily young marriage) was considered pretty common, not to mention it was only 1960s at that time, which make it more common, supposedly. Yet the movie make it so different. On the other hand, I think many people would definitely surprised and protest if they actually bring an 11 year old girl to merely act like she was losing her virginity to a 14 year old boy. Fine, of course, that might happen here and there, but to display that in a movie might still be a contradiction. I remember that they actually need to ask for Olivia Hussey’s permission before she could actually showed up naked in the 1968′s version of Romeo and Juliet.

Another difference is the plot. They still do include the conflict and tragedy of the 30 September movement, including the communist influence of small villages like Dukuh Paruk, but the whole story is pretty much more complicated in the novel. (Of course, it’s a novel, AND a trilogy, to be exact, so what do you expect, eh?)

Despite the differences, I have to say that I love both the novel and the movies, and I then realize that to keep comparing the movie with the novel is a useless effort. The movie was inspired by the book, not adapted. So what I’m actually doing right now is treating the novel and the movie as two different work of art and literature. They’re similar but different. That’s it. I love the movie. And I love the novel. I love both plots. I love both endings. (You still don’t want spoilers, don’t you?) I love each of the characters.

Since the novel has no visual, of course it relies heavily of Ahmad Tohari’s narrative throughout the novel. And I have to say: wow. The way he narrates things, I was wow-ed with the way he played with words alone. Not to mention the way he takes his readers to this rural areas where Dukuh Paruk is located, where its citizens all live in poverty, yet none of them seem to want to have better life–they simply thought that that is what life is all about: acceptance of their poverty, despite the fact that they don’t eat good food, they suffer from malnutrition and other horrible stuffs. To them, having a rice and scrambled eggs are already considered luxury.

Prisia Nasution

The movie, on the other hand, has many elements in it. One the most important element is of course the act of the actress and actor. The actress playing Srintil is, later I found out, a new actress in the movie industry: Prisia Nasution and the actor playing Rasus is Oka Antara. I have to say that I’m not very familiar with Indonesian actress and actor since I’m not used to watch many Indonesian movies before. Other than Sang Penari and Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops), I used to have this stereotype that Indonesian movies are mostly teenlit, and is definitely not my favorite genre. Of course I was wrong. There are plenty other movies which are definitely not teenlit or chicklit. So right now, I’m trying to catch up by following some famous titles such as Perempuan Punya Cerita, Merah Putih and Merantau. Anyway, I heard some people said that Prisia Nasution is not the right actress to play Srintil in the movie because she looked like a dark-skinned Japanese. Well, she has narrow eyes, indeed, but I think she did splendidly in the movie. I was wow-ed with the way she played with the emotion inside Srintil: when she was about to lose her virginity to a guy she didn’t like, but then Rasus suddenly showed up. Her despair and broken heart toward Rasus, the way she danced and sing, the way she act like a woman who’s desperate for a child. Wow. I think she acted so well there in the movie. And Oka Antara? Same wow. One

Oka Antara

thing that really surprised and excited me when I was watching the movie is that the language used in the movie is the Banyumasan Javanese–the Javanese with the local accent used in my hometown. Of course, I was then like, “Right. Ahmad Tohari is from somewhere near my hometown, of course his story would revolve around the places around it and of course the people in the story would talk like that.” But still, I was surprised. Now, in the movie, Oka Antara played a young man named Rasus, who went from this stupid guy from a small village and can’t even read, and can barely shout or speak firmly the first time he join the army. I chuckled every time I remember him speaking, “I can’t read, sir,” to his commander in the army with a thick local accent. When the army took him to their place, he looked like this lost little kid and seemed scared of everything and everybody. But the army educated him, and then he became this firm, stern-looking guy who’s considered one of the best soldier in the army. I mean, how many people can actually showed such a progress so obviously and yet so naturally? Really, wow.

Another character that really wow-ed me is this character named Sakum. He’s one of the musician who always accompany Srintl whenever she performs. What’s special about Sakum is that he’s the complement of each show. He’s the one who always make each performance spicy and lively with his obscene remarks. What makes it even more special is that he’s blind. He can’t see. But he’s one of the musician. He is said to have a sharp sense on things around him. He’s one person you look up to because he’d know what you feel inside you just by listening to your voice and smelling your aura. And the guy playing Sakum in the movie picture this perfectly.

Of course there are plenty other elements in the movie, including the costumes, the setting, etc etc. But what really left a deep impression in me is the emotion conveyed by each actors and actresses. I’m gonna say it again: I love them. The movie and the novel. Such a masterpiece.

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Christmas Flashback

I woke up yesterday on December 1 morning with The Christmas Song playing over and over in my head. And it stuck there all day until I went to sleep.

Okay. Lie.

I actually woke up with butterfly in my stomach, remembering that I’m gonna be teaching at 9 in the morning and how I hate waking up in the morning and having a morning class, mainly because I’m not a morning person.

But, hey, life goes on, right?

So I there I was, teaching my student the proper way to write their paragraph in TOEFL iBT’s Integrated and Independent Task.

My next activities is one of my guilty pleasures: killing some time playing The Sims Social on facebook.

Alright, on my defense, The Sims is a very interesting and productive game. Okay?

So I was playing The Sims Social on facebook and then all these Christmas decorations started popping out around the neighborhood (in the game, of course).

Well, of course, I’ve predicted that. They made a Halloween week on Halloween with some impossible quests and tasks which expires after 4 days, then followed by another Pink week or something full of pink (arrrgghh) and sci-fi week, and as December’s approaching, definitely there’s gonna be Christmas week, if not month.

That’s when The Christmas Song sneaked into my head and stayed there the whole day.

FYI, I’m currently listening to The First Noel by Clay Aiken while writing this.

 Anyway, one impossible, if not horrible, thought came to my head: The closest thing I could ever have to Christmas this year is probably playing The Sims Social and decorating my house (in the game) with Christmas decoration.

I knew some friends who would put a long face and told me how sad that sounds.

Just to make it clear, I don’t hate Christmas.

And no, I don’t really think that’s sad, actually. That’s simply a fact, and I’m surprisingly okay with that thought.

But really, time flies, I grew up, and… and maybe I’m not really crazy about Christmas anymore now.

Says the woman whose playlist is filled with Christmas song since the first day of December (currently playing Kelly Clarkson’s My Grownup Christmas List).

Okay, let’s take a look back to a couple years in the past:

Christmas 2005: celebrating it at church, participating in Christmas celebration in Youth Service, Sunday Service, and the Christmas celebration itself on December 25th. I sang, I danced, I praised and worshipped the Lord as I tried my best to carved the actual meaning of Christmas deep in my heart: the birth of the Savior.

Yep. This was 2006.

Christmas 2006: My first Christmas in Salatiga, the city where I studied for my undergraduate degree. Of course I went back to my hometown later for Christmas, but I wasn’t really participated in anything anymore… I guess. I think some church mates back then made me sing some songs at church–which I think I did. But yeah, I was still a church activist who’s looking forward to Christmas to be with my friends at my hometown.

Christmas 2007: I think I’ve began singing and joining the celebration in my church in Salatiga that year, so yeah, I was participating in the Christmas celebration.

Me? The only one with white shirt and green fake vest and blonde hair.

Christmas 2008: I guess this was the time when I started to withdraw from church communities and activities. Partially wanting to concentrate on my study and thesis, partially personal choice. But I was still quite involved with some Christmas concert with the university choir back then! I remember going to Solo (a city one and a half hour away from Salatiga) for a home Christmas concert. My favorite piece at that time was Go Tell It On the Mountain-Sing Noel Medley in Bahasa Indonesia. One kickass song.

Me and my beautiful friend, Nella, before the concert began.

Christmas 2009: Went back to my hometown and having some arguments with my mom before she finally able to make me go with her to the Christmas celebration at church in my hometown. Well, I wasn’t so devoted anymore back then. But karma hit me, though. As soon as I got back home, I was struck down with fever and got diagnosed with typhus the next day. Ouch. Which is why I’m wearing jacket throughout the celebration in this pic:

Me, my cousin and my friend, Tika, in front of one of the hugest Christmas tree I've ever seen.

Christmas 2010: Probably one of my best Christmas ever. I was working part-time while working my ass off for my graduation, in a Language Training Center in my campus. I was a receptionist, of course, and one of my job is to decorate the place with Christmas decoration. I was excited as much as pissed, probably. Partially because I was kinda lazy, but at the same time excited, because it was probably my first time decorating a place with a major Christmas decoration. They have this big Christmas tree back then, and, as there was a competition amongst the faculty at campus for Christmas decoration, my friends and I were thinking of the decoration as well. The theme at that time was something related to Justice and Peace, if I had not mistaken. So my friends and I googled some stuffs, only to find out that the color symbolizing those two words are green and purple, and one of the symbol is butterfly. So we had this most un-Christmas decoration except for the Christmas tree. We began printing words of “Peace” and “Justice” in many different language in blue and green paper, and we cut plenty of those papers and shaped them like butterfly, only to sticked them all around the place, as well as hanging the little butterflies we cut throughout the whole 6th floor of the campus library (which happen to be my workplace). Tiring, exhausting, but it was really fun. Another thing that’s really fun is the Christmas celebration that followed: we created Christmas games, such as Pyramids, and Win Lose or Draw. Then there’s this amazing tasty apple pie and salad and all those that I don’t remember except for the amazing hot chocolate, and finally: Christmas presents. Heck yea I wanna turn back the time and get back to that moment.

Christmas 2011:

I’m clueless. A part of me wanna get back to my hometown for… what?

As much as I love Christmas, I know by heart that I don’t celebrate Christmas like I used to, other than accompanying my mom to church for the Christmas celebration.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas celebrating, whether it’s about the birth of Jesus Christ or not.

I’d chuckled whenever I remember a friend who always send a Christmas greeting via sms one day after Christmas to remind us that that’s the whole point of Christmas, not the celebration and the wow of it, but the meaning behind the birth of Jesus. I think it’s very sweet and sentimental, and I love how he gave a special meaning for Christmas.

Truthfully speaking, I don’t know whether I wanna celebrate Jesus’ birth this year or not. A friend once told me that he doesn’t celebrate Christmas because Jesus didn’t even born in December, so celebrating Christmas is basically celebrating a pagan celebration, where the Roman emperor decided that December 25th, which is actually the day where the Romans honor the god of light (or something like that). Put it KISS-ly: It’s a fake Christmas. Well, but I told him that the point is celebrating it and thinking of the true meaning of Christmas with your loved ones. I do hope he’s enjoying the holiday season as much as I do.

All I keep thinking this past two days is the only Christmas occasion I remember when I was a kid–probably 4 or 5, but I knew for sure I was definitely in kindergarten. It’s probably the first Christmas that I can ever remember. My very first Christmas, probably, ever since the hippocampus in my brain finally worked properly.

FYI, we didn’t believe in elf. At least I didn’t know a thing about elf as Santa’s helper until a couple years later. And we didn’t hung our stocks by the fireplace–it’s a tropical country, please, so we don’t really need a fireplace. But I remember Piet Hitam (‘Hitam’ means ‘Black’), or what is also known as Black Peter as Santa’s assistant, who’d be delighted to punish the naughty kids and took them back to Santa’s place to make those bad kids pay for their inappropriate behavior throughout the year. Oh yes, we kids back then were terrified of Black Peter. There would be Christmas celebrations at the mall where they’d have Santa Claus (or what is more familiar here as Sinterklas–from the Dutch word ‘Sinterklaas’–we used to be Dutch East Indies, remember?) and two Black Peters. Most of the time Black Peters would bring this big sack–a place to kidnap and take the naughty ones, and keep their eyes on every kid who’d come and visit Santa. I remember visiting the Santa and there were one or two kids who cried, and Black Pete asked fiercely, “Who’s crying? Are you being naughty? Come here and I’ll take you away!”

I gotta admit, though, this Black Peter is WAY scarier than the ones I used to see when I was a kid.

Okay, for a 4 and 5 years old, it was a horrifying moment, I swear.

Then back at home, my mom would told me to get some grass and put them on top of my shoes, and put my shoes in front of my room’s door. Of course, before I went to sleep, I wrote a letter to Santa, telling him that I’d behaved well, and my mom also told me that I’d been a good kid, including my wish list (I think I told him I wanted a magic wand and a crown at that time–just finished watching Cinderella) and a promise not to upset my parents ever again.

The next morning, I woke up and find a big box of present on top of my shoes. I was jumping and screaming happily and told my mom, “SANTA WAS HERE!!! HE GAVE ME A PRESENT!!! MOM, LOOK!!!!”

And I opened my present and found a letter from Santa telling me that I have to behave well and that he hoped I like the present.

Of course I like the present.

Despite I almost had a nightmare that night, thinking what if I woke up and found nothing but darkness around me, only to find out that I was being taken by Black Pete because I was naughty, yes, I did like my present.

Christmas 2011: I hope it’s gonna be a wonderful Christmas for everyone, including me and my mom. Happy December, people!

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