Reading Survey

Found this reading survey here, and I thought this is not a bad idea to kill time and share some books that I’ve read.

  1. Favorite childhood book?
    Eeeerrrrrr, is manga included? Because my answer would probably be the Dragon Ball series. If no then I guess it would be Enid Blyton’s books.
  2. What are you reading right now?
    Country of Origin by E. du Perron. Borrowed the book from my office, which would mean the book belongs to my boss. I blame the title, the cover design, and the summary for making me curious to read this.
  3. What books do you have on request at the library?
    Eeerrrr, I’m not really a member of any public library right now, but a friend of mine generously sending me books from her office’s library (which is opened for public) and I’d request any books available from my reading list if there’s any. Last time, I requested a book by Lisa See, titled Peony in Love.
  4. Bad book habit?
    Hmmm, taking too much time to finish a book? Is that a bad habit? Or smelling the paper (unless the book is very dirty), or feeling the paper especially when it comes to new books? Eeerrrr, underlining words or sentences that I like (doesn’t apply if the books are borrowed) ? Reading before sleeping and then shove the book away somewhere on my bed?
  5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
    From my friend’s office’s library? Schindler’s List by Thomas Kennealy and Peony in Love by Lisa See. From my office’s library: Country of Origin by E. du Perron. From my other friends and families’ private library: A huge pile of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s works.
  6. Do you have an e-reader?
    Not specifically an e-reader, I suppose. E-books that I read would be from my Galaxy Tab II and my iPhone. But no, I’d prefer read books to ebooks.
  7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
    One book at a time. The idea of having a book unfinished would bother me a lot. I’d leave a book unfinished if I think it’s really, really boring or I found it too difficult to understand. If it’s the latter I’d usually get back to the book someday soon.
  8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
    Hmmm, not really.
  9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?
    Coelho’s By The River of Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. An utter disappointment.
  10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
    Eeerrr, wow, this is tricky. Maybe I’d pick the one I consider the most entertaining: Planet Word by J. P. Davidson. Quite a light reading, but not too light.
  11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
    My comfort zone being those genres I like? Hmmm, quite often, I guess. Books that I pick for myself (and buy) are usually those with genres I like, but I’d usually read anything any of my friends recommend me to read. That should explain why my reading list got expanded pretty fast.
  12. What is your reading comfort zone?
    Hmmmm, regarding the genres I like: anything related to philosophy (such as Gaarder’s work), historical fiction or non-fiction, debate between religion vs atheism, pantheism, agnosticism, and such, and life struggles. And maybe the works of those authors who are highly skilled to play with words (and I’d include Michel Faber here).
  13. Can you read on the bus?
    I can read everywhere, as long as I don’t have a headache or dizziness, and as long as I have enough light to read the printed words. This habit always irritates my mom.
  14. Favorite place to read?
    My room. Coffee shop. Cafés.
  15. What is your policy on book lending?
    Take good care of them. Do not fold any pages, not even the cover unless it’s already folded before borrowed. And do not lose them.
  16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
    NO. Especially with borrowed books. I used to do this in the past a few times whenever I’m lacking any bookmarks, though. But now I’d rather use anything that I could use as a bookmark when I don’t bring any rather than folding its pages.
  17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
    Nope. I know some friends who do, though.
  18. Not even with text books?
    Well, they are two different kinds of books. So yeah, I do that with textbooks sometimes.
  19. What is your favourite language to read in?
    Eeerrr, this is tough. I speak English and Bahasa Indonesia, and with authors such as Pramoedya or Ahmad Tohari (Bahasa Indonesia) and Faber, or Stieg Larsson, I can’t decide. I love reading in both languages if the authors narrate the words beautifully.
  20. What makes you love a book?
    Errrm, the language style (definitely Faber), the theme and genre (I’d probably refer to Gaarder most of the times, but Jonathan Franzen and Stieg Larsson also never ceases to amaze me).
  21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
    How infatuated I was with the book, or how inspired I was with the story (again–I hope you’re not bored yet, I never tire myself recommending Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, or Gaarder’s The Castle in the Pyrenees, as well as Vita Brevis, also Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy).
  22. Favorite genre?
    Oh well, I discussed the genre already in no. 12 (which means that no. 12 definitely didn’t refer to the genre–but I can’t think of anything regarding the reading comfort zone other than the genre).
  23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
    Eeerrrr, politics? Law? (These two are my grandad’s favorites.)
  24. Favourite biography?
    Wow, erm, I can’t think of anything. I don’t remember reading so much biography, really. I usually read information about someone famous via Wikipedia rather than through books.
  25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
    Does Personality Plus by Florence Littauer considered a self-help book?
  26. Favourite cookbook?
    Okay, why is this question included? Moi and the kitchen? Not compatible.
  27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
    Aaarrrggghh, this year? Inspiring? Hmmm, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, I guess (and I answered this only after I retraced my steps through my reading list, again).
  28. Favorite reading snack?
    Aaawww, Amanda Scott’s Scottish historical romance!
  29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
    Eerrr, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho. As for me, I really think Coelho’s overrated.
  30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
    Not very often, really. But I sometimes check out reviews from the internet to get me another perspective of the book. In case I miss something, I guess.
  31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
    Quite bad, actually, especially if the book is a friend’s favorite. I’d usually argue with my friend if this happens.
  32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
    French. And Norway. It’d be super to be able to read Gaarder’s works in his native language.
  33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
    That I’ve ever read? Hmmm, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, and perhaps The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński.
  34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
    Dicken’s classics. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave. Read the introduction (which is actually a verse from the bible, geez!), and I thought to myself, “No. I’m not ready to read this. No way.”
  35. Favorite Poet?
    Hmmm, I’m not really into poet, to be frank. I do have the Selected Works of Henry Lawson in my room, though. Still trying to read it.
  36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
    From my friend’s office’s library? As much as my bag could hold. They told me that I could borrow as many books as I want (devil smirk). From my office’s library? 1. From families and friends’ libraries? As much as they allow me to, huahahaha.
  37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
    Almost never these days. This is why I usually prefer to borrow from libraries where they allow me to borrow books as long as I want to, because if not then I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the book. I used to do return books unread during my high school days, though, since they only allow me to borrow the books for a certain amount of period of time.
  38. Romola Garai portraying Sugar

    Favorite fictional character?
    Lisbeth Salander (from Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy), Sugar (the smart whore from Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White), and Flora Aemilia (from Gaarder’s Vita Brevis).

  39. Favourite fictional villain?
    Villain? Bad guys? Rigaud/Blandois from Dickens’ Little Dorrit. Played very brilliantly in the TV series by Andy Serkis.
  40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
    Hmmmm, I usually bring anything that I’m reading at that moment of the holiday period, so… no particular book.
  41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
    Okay, I really don’t remember this one.
  42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
    The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński, and I’d nominate C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series.
  43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
    My Macbook and my iPhone for sure, hahaha.
  44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
    Honestly, I never really like film adaption, unless I watch the movie first before I read the book, because if I read the book first I’d usually be disappointed. Hmmm, I guess my favorite though, would be…. The Millennium Trilogy and… The Lord of the Rings. And if I could nominate a TV series, I’d go with Little Dorrit (a 2008 BBC series).
  45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
    Definitely Harry Potter (sorry Potter fans, but to me, none of the movies really satisfied me. Watching the very last HP movie instead make me miss the book even more, but DIDN’T make me want to watch the movie again and again).
  46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
    150-190 thousand-something Rupiah. I know for sure I wouldn’t spend more than 200 thousand Rupiah for just a book, no matter how much I love the book–unless the book is really good, or something that I reaally, really, really want.
  47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
    Do it all the time before I start to read a book, or buy a book.
  48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
    If the plot’s too boring or too complicated for me to understand (at the moment of reading). If it’s the latter, I’d usually give it another try.
  49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
    Yes. I have a bookshelf in my room, and I always laminate my books (and often, my friends’ books as well), before I start reading them.
  50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
    Keep books. A friend of mine told me that I ought to sell those books one day, and I simply told her I’d give it a thought, but not now. I’m not ready to let go of my “babies.”
  51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
    Yes. Goosebumps. I avoid anything horror. Including movies and TV series. Never watch The Ring, Ju-On, and Jelangkung.
  52. Name a book that made you angry.
    Because it turns out to be a complete disappointment and completely time-wasting? By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Coelho.
  53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
    Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I wasn’t so much captured by her previous work Eat, Pray, Love, so I didn’t really expect to actually like this one. But it turned out I did. As well as Lamott’s Bird by Bird.
  54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
    By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Coelho. That’s why it’s such an utter disappointment.
  55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
    Hahaha, romance, though I don’t read all kind of romance (and I usually read them only to criticize them later). Historical romance would definitely caught my eyes. And sometimes I read chick lit, too, although usually it would revolve around Meg Cabot’s or Sophie Kinsella’s works, hahaha.

A Short Trip to Bangkalan, Madura

A friend of mine once told me that I’m not the kind of person who can be spontaneous. And she said that I need to slack off once in a while, and be more impulsive once in a while.

So last Friday evening, when a friend of mine took me home after dinner and then asked me to join him and his friend to go to Bangkalan, Madura and watch the sun rise in a lighthouse he once found when he was there, I got persuaded and finally decided to go. Of course, I made the decision only after they assured me that I’d be home soon enough to get to work on time.

Well, to me that’s probably one of few spontaneous thing I’d ever done.

So, barely getting enough sleep (because I went home pretty late that night and so I was afraid that if I’d slept soundly that night, I wouldn’t be able to get up on time), I woke up at 3.30 the next morning. Preparing stuffs that I needed, my friends picked me up at my boarding house 30 minutes later. The three of us would travel by motorbike.

FYI, in order to get to Bangkalan, Madura, we would need to cross the Suramadu (Surabaya-Madura?) bridge first.

As we crossed the bridge, I regretted my choice of clothes right away. I wasn’t wearing shoes (sandals instead) or scarf (to cover my neck–I was worried about my cough considering how strong the cold wind blew at that time, especially since I’m on a motorbike) and I thought that I should’ve worn something warmer. But of course, it was too late to go back at that time, and I thought that I could stand the cold just fine, and that I only do this kind of thing once in a while, and lastly, I tried to reassure myself by saying that my immune system is not that weak.

And putting such troublesome thoughts aside, my friends and I managed to stop somewhere in the middle of the bridge (we were lucky that we didn’t got caught, really!) to see the night view from the bridge. I tried to take some picture before we moved on, but it was really hard for me to get a good shot.

My failed attempt to take a picture of the night view (using my digital camera).
The only successful attempt (which was taken with my iPhone).

Afterwards, entering Madura, the path we took was pretty scary for me. It was really dark all around, and I could only imagine what the surrounding was like from my friend’s saying, “In daylight, you’d see rice fields, trees and wild grass here and there. Well, just imagine the scenery of Africa you usually saw in the movie.” Well, Africa may be too extreme, I think, but my mind flew to Disney’s The Lion King right away.

Getting closer to our destination, we could see the sky beginning to lighten up. Uh-oh. No good. The sun’s about to rise. So we rushed.

But then something happened. More specifically, flat tire happened. And worse, there weren’t any place where we could patch the tire that early, none of them would have open at that time of the day. But we tried and tried.

After dragging the motorcycle for some miles, the sun rose higher and finally we realized that we’d just skipped the sunrise. There’s no way we could get to the lighthouse on time. So we thought we’d just call it a day and decided that we’d come again another day.

Finally, my friend decided to park his motorbike on the side of the road, and the three of us would use the only motorbike left, used by my other friend (remember, there were 3 of us, and 2 of them were riding the motorbike while I hitchhiked on one of the bikes) to get to our destination.

By the time we arrived there, it was bright already, but we got there.

I’ve never seen a lighthouse before, and that was my first time.

Apparently it was an old lighthouse built long time ago, when Indonesia was still the Dutch East Indies. All we knew (and heard) is that during the World War II, when our country was invaded by the Japanese, whenever a Japanese ship was nearby, the lighthouse would stop operating.

Getting a bit sleepy already from my lack of sleep, I couldn’t believe my ears when my friends told me that there were 15 staircases to climb before we get to the top.

So after several rests, dizziness (all me, really, the boys didn’t seem like they’re tired at all), and complaints, finally we got to the top.

And the view was breathtaking. I didn’t travel very often, and I hate to admit that I’m actually more of a mall-person than a hiker, nature-lover or such person, so I got really awed to see such view which I rarely come across.

The view is superb. Too bad the trashes were all around.

Of course, we didn’t come empty handed. We brought instant noodles and coffee–we thought it would be nice to have an early breakfast and morning coffee while watching the sunrise, and one of my friend brought his portable mini stove.

Inside the lighthouse, ready to eat our instant noodles.
Sipping my morning coffee. Mmmmm coffee! :-9

After getting enough shots using our smartphones and digital cameras, we decided to go back home. It was around 7.30 AM, if I had not mistaken.

First, though, we need to deal with the flat tire. We got back to the place where one of my friend parked his motorbike (which luckily didn’t get towed or stolen–theft is a pretty common issue here), and since it was a bit later than when we first arrived, we finally managed to find a place to patch the tire.

And then we went home.

Rice fields on our way home.

Lewat Djam Malam (After the Curfew) (1954)

Lewat Djam Malam (After the Curfew) is actually a 1954 Indonesian movie which was played in the Cannes Film Festival last May, and was restored by the Italian L’immagine Ritrovata, funded, not even by the Indonesian government, but instead by the National Museum of Singapore and the World Cinema Foundation, based on an article I read in The Jakarta Globe.

This is an old movie, even older than my parents, so why oh why, instead of making a newer version of the film, they insisted on restoring it instead? This has sure piqued my curiosity.

A. N. Alcaff as Iskandar

The movie summarize the story where idealism meets reality as Iskandar, who, as a soldier, once fought for the Indonesian revolution, hoping that the country he fought for would become a better country, which would provide a better future for its citizens, ended up in a broken heart as he found out that apparently the country turned out to be nothing at all like what he’d imagined. First of all, as he returned to a society life in Bandung, West Java, and stayed at his fiancé’s house along with her family, he found that readjusting to a life post-independence wasn’t as easy as he thought. Initially he told his fiancé, Norma, that all he wanted was to live a quiet life in the suburbs as a peaceful farmer with Norma by his side. But as he started his first job in the governor’s office due to his future father-in-law’s pressure, he started to question himself. Whether his very definition of his country actually exist at all. Whether his fight back then during the revolution was really a fight for the cause of the country he loves. Then he met his friends who used to serve with him in the army, and he became even more brokenhearted finding out that the fight he fought was merely to fulfill his the personal ambition of his superior, Gunawan to get his hands on wealth and fortune. Iskandar had suspected all along as he saw how the figure he used to honor and follow became a part of a corrupted capitalists. And despite trying her best to understand him, Iskandar didn’t think Norma ever understood exactly his grief of the nation’s fate going down, because Norma came from a bourgeois family, belonged to the upper class society, who were not familiar with despair, hunger and tarnished wishes. On the other hand, when he met Laila, a prostitute kept by his former subordinate in the army, Puja, he saw the suffering of the low class society as they could do nothing but hope for a better life they’d never cease to wish for, yet in the end, the hope stays merely as a hope, an unfulfilled one.

Laila

As the frustrated Iskandar tried to resolve this problem and agitation on his own, his own fate was determined toward the end of the movie.

“Siapa yang tidak kuat melawan kelampauan akan hancur.” ~Gafar, Lewat Djam Malam

“Those who cannot fight the past would vanish.” ~Gafar, After the Curfew (roughly translated by me)

“Lewat Djam Malam” old movie poster, taken from Wikipedia

Starring A. N. Alcaff as Iskandar and Netty Herawati and directed by Usmar Ismail, I think this movie is totally a must-watch one, despite me being put off now and then by Laila’s brief-but-constant singing in a few scenes (I mean, they didn’t have Sinetron back then, right?). I agree with the review I read in the Hey Diaspora! magazine that the movie deserves more attention, because of its first class quality in the themes, plot, and act. Of course it’s incomparable in the matter of cinematography and sound effects (it’s a restored movie, come on!) with the modern-day movies as they did admit that the restoration took “great pains,” but overall, I was glad that I decided to watch the movie. Yet despite all that, there were hardly 20 audiences in the theater when despite it being only the 2nd day it was played in Surabaya (and only one theater out of fifteen), and less than a week after I watched it, it was no longer played when I checked the 21 Cineplex website. Too bad. I love every part of the movie (yes, despite the brief-but-constant singing), the story, the act (how deeply explored each character was, in my opinion), the language–oh yes, the language! The movie used a more formal, Malay Indonesian, or more of what I’d like to refer to as the Transatlantic Indonesian. There are many terms and expressions unfamiliar to the Javanese-Indonesian used around me nowadays, such as, “Mengekori sarung kebaya,” (means chasing women; “sarung kebaya” refers to the outfit worn by women at that time), or “Kita mesti gasak semua penghalang” (means “We must banish all the obstacles,” but “gasak” is a word seldomly used in the contemporary Indonesian now, as far as I know). And I can’t even believe that I’ve forgotten the existence of the word “Semampai.” I remember getting really excited as the movie started, seeing so many Indonesian words in the movie credits (the verb “Mempersembahkan” instead of “Presents,” “Tjerita Asli dan Skenario” instead of “Original Story and Scenario,”Iringan Musik oleh” instead of “Music Accompaniments by,” or “Produksi” instead of “Production”), and all of them are written using the old Indonesian Spelling (“Tj” for “C”, “Dj” for “J,” also “J” for “Y”). Yes, yes, I’m such a nerd, but those are words and language that I don’t think I ever find in the modern day movie nowadays (as we now become more and more of an English mania).

As for the title itself, “Lewat Djam Malam” which is translated into “After the Curfew”, although I kind of think “Past Curfew” might fit better, refers to the curfew first pointed out at the beginning of the story, which was 10 PM, and the scenes occurred after the set curfew at that time.

I kept thinking that I would definitely go and watch the movie for the second time, but now, knowing that it’s not even played anymore, I suppose I’d go for the DVD instead. Yes, it’s worth-watching, and yes, now I see why they went through “great pains” to restore an old movie such as this.

* * *

“Kepada mereka jang telah memberikan sebesar-besar pengorbanan njawa mereka

Supaya kita jang hidup pada saat ini dapat menikmat segala kelezatan buah kemerdekaan…..

Kepada mereka jang tidak menuntut apapun buat diri mereka sendiri.”

~Lewat Djam Malam

“To those who have given the biggest sacrifice in the form of life

So that we who live today could have freedom and all that come with it…..

To those who did not pursue their personal desire.”

~After the Curfew, roughly translated by me (they did have the translation in the movie, perhaps a more proper one)

Soegija: A Movie About Humanity

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since I watched the movie on the 8th of June, but of course, procrastination always gets the better of me, so here I am, finally writing this post. (SPOILER ALERT!)

The title of this movie is taken from the name of the first Javanese Catholic pastor in the former Indonesia (known as the Dutch East Indies) who was later named as one of Indonesian national hero, Albertus Soegijapranata. Soegija is said to be his nickname. Nevertheless, the movie itself is not actually a biographical movie about him, but instead, it involves around the life of multiple character around Soegija. There were at least about 7 notable characters, including Sogija (played by Nirwan Dewanto) himself, each with their own life turmoils in the midst of a chaotic country, looking for an identity of a nation.

Nirwan Dewanto as Soegija
Hendrick and Mariyem

There were Mariyem, a Catholic nurse (played by Annisa Hertami Kusumastuti) who was entangled in a search of her brother and the pursue of a Dutch reporter falling in love with her, Hendrick (played by Wouter Braaf). Meanwhile, Hendrick himself was torn between his love for Mariyem, passion and pity towards Indonesians’ fate intertwined between one colonialism over another colonialism (the movie moves chronologically forward from the end of the Dutch colonialism, Japanese afterwards, and then the Indonesian independence, and lastly the Dutch military aggression post-Independence day in order to re-colonized Indonesia), as well as his loyalty towards his own country. His friendship with a Dutch soldier, Robert (played by Wouter Zweers) didn’t help either as Robert is cruel and racist towards Indonesian, thinking that he’s way superior than Indonesian (which was a typical mindset at that time). He always looked down on Indonesian thinking of them as nothing but people who ought to be ruled by his country. One scene stands out, though. It was during the post-Independence time, when the Dutch was trying to take over Indonesia once again, and he searched the citizens’ houses to look for Indonesian soldiers, a native man didn’t want to move from where he stood even when Robert and his soldier threatened to kill him because they thought he was trying to hide something or someone. Only when they finally shot him did they realize the native man was merely trying to protect his baby. Then Robert approached the baby, and when I thought he was about to kill him, instead he took the baby into his arms, and then cuddled him. When the baby was crying, he was trying to calm him, and kept on doing so whilst walking out of the house. That scene really touched me, as it shows how someone portrayed as cruel as Robert is also shown to have a gentle, soft side within him.

Wouter Zweers as Robert
Olga Lidya in Soegija

Then there’s Ling Ling (played by Andrea Reva), who got caught up in the midst of chaos in the country as well, as her mom (played by Olga Lidya) was taken away by the Japanese as they took over Indonesia in the 2nd World War. She and her grandfather (played by Henky Solaiman) were forced to take refuge in the Catholic church, and this was where their fates crossed over with other characters in the movie since the church was where everybody else sought comfort and protection as Soegija shielded the people from colonialists. And that was also where Mariyem cared and tended the locals and at the same time tried to look for his missing brother amongst the war victims. Hendrick was also there, trying to help the people and reporting as well, including trying to win Mariyem’s heart. The first time they met, Hendrick called Mariyem as Maria, but she refused and insisted to be called Mariyem. By the end of the movie, though, she addressed herself as Maria. I suppose this would mean that she’d come to love Hendrick, eh?

Another notable character is a Japanese comrade, Nobuzuki (played by Nobuyuki Suzuki), who was not free from conflict as well. Once the Japanese ruled, he captured the Dutch soldiers and killed them, and many times local people also got involved. Every things related to the Dutch were banished and forbidden, and there was this one scene where he met a bunch of musician and prohibited them to play any western song. Then after he asked them whether they could play any other pieces, they played Bengawan Solo, and he grew fond of it. Later I found out from this blog that Bengawan Solo is a famous song in Japan. It is a beautiful classic, indeed.

The main character himself didn’t really stand out to me. I mean, it was clear that he was trying to protect the people as a pastor and as an Indonesian as well. Since he was an important person, the people looked up to him and listened to what he said. And as a pastor, he was having the privilege to do certain things that others couldn’t do. For example, when both the Dutch and the Javanese were trying to take the church down, he defended the church because it was actually a refugee for the poor and starving citizens. And he cared for the people. When people were trying to give him comfort (since, of course, he’s no ordinary person), he told everyone to care for the people first, and not him. One line that really touches me is when he said that whenever there’s food, pastors and evangelists are supposed to be the last to eat and they are also supposed to be the ones to starve when food is scarce. Touché. Then during the aggression by the Dutch, he seek recognition for Indonesian independence from Vatican right away, and Vatican was amongst the first countries to acknowledge and admit that Indonesia is one free country.

The movie itself is very good and vivid portrayal of Indonesia at that time. We know that many, many people lived under poverty at that time, and many times they got killed for no reason. The movie gives a very good depiction on how difficult that time must seemed, and the cinematography is awesome. At least that’s what I think. There’s one scene where people were marching at either dawn or dusk (I couldn’t tell the difference, sorry) and it shows the silhouette of people lining up. It was so beautiful.

Yet, I hate to admit that the movie itself looks like nothing but a documentary with a very good cinematography to me. Watching the movie from beginning to end, I felt like I was merely shown an event over another event in history chronologically. It lacks heavy conflicts and climax, and if it’s line graph, it would be a flat line to me. Of course, this is merely what I think and it might differ greatly with others’ interpretation. Despite showing how significant Soegija’s role at that time, his image throughout the movie felt to me like someone so far above the people, where, in contrast with the citizens’ struggle with the situation at that time in the movie, he looked well-fed, healthy and always at peace to me. I mean, if he was fighting for the people, sure he couldn’t look that good! He was mostly siting, writing, walking around, thinking, and constantly in comfort behind the walls and under the roofs. There was even a scene where he got his servant cut his hair while he was reading the news paper, and they looked so relaxed talking to each other and even joking around. It was completely different with the depiction of other characters’ conflicts.

Another thing is the act. I mean, they acted well, but nothing too wow to me, except for Wouter Zweers’ act as Robert, perhaps, because his portrayal of a loony, cruel, yet somehow with little compassion left in him looked so convincing to me. And some scenes looked too staged for me, like when Mariyem was trying to sent the Dutch soldiers away from the hospital when they were looking for Indonesian soldiers. As Soegija pointed out, she told the soldiers that everybody in the hospital were patients, not soldiers or anything else, and as a nurse, she and the doctors ought to do their job that is to care for them. Then suddenly she simply crouched, on her knees, and tending an old woman lying sick on the floor, yet that old woman barely did anything significant. She looked like she was sleeping to me, so what on earth did she crouched for, out of the blue? Or when Ling Ling was praying in front of Mary’s statue, and then out of nowhere, she just slowly (veeeeery slowly, and, of course, very dramatically) turned around, only to found her mother was standing behind her. Wow, did she have a sixth sense? The next thing that happened was even more dramatic as Ling Ling and her mother were running toward each other, and there was this slow motion until they finally hugged, cried, and laughed.

Again, that’s just my opinion.

Nevertheless, I think the movie is worth-watching. What really excites me throughout the movie is how each character switched from one language to another. I mean, the Dutch were speaking Dutch, and sometimes speak Indonesian a little, and most Indonesian in the movie speak Javanese, and the Japanese speak Japanese. It was really fun watching how the movie depicts a radio announcer reporting events in a high level Javanese (we called it “Krama Inggil”, a Javanese language used only when talking to noblemen, royalties, and elder people; see, Javanese has three different kinds of language for talking to people with different social class and status–the Ngoko, Krama Madya, and Krama Inggil). Since the movie was set in Central Java and more specifically Semarang and other regions near Semarang, the dialects used are mostly of Semarang dialect (I didn’t say Central Javanese dialects since the dialect from my hometown which is also located in Central Java is completely different).

All in all, this movie was not one without controversy. Even before it got premiered on June 7th, a group of a hard-line Moslem, famously known as FPI–Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defender Front)–(and news about them never fail to piss me off) protested that this is a Christian movie and meant to change people’s belief. Even Garin Nugroho (the director) commented that this is a movie about humanity. Whatever it is, the protest itself sounds ridiculous to me, for it sounds like nothing but FPI people’s insecurities that Moslem people would convert into Christians or Catholics. What the hell is that if not insecurities?

Festival Malang Kembali: Malang From the Past

It’s been a while ever since I wrote my last post, and after procrastination after procrastination, I finally able to write this one.

So let’s do a little flash back to avoid confusion.

Starting from June 2011, I had been living in a wonderful city in East Java called Malang. Without realizing it, I apparently have gotten more fond to this city more than I intended to. And I realized that only now because on the third week of June, I will have to move again to the bigger Surabaya. It’s only about 3-5 hours from Malang, really, but still, the thought of leaving Malang so soon makes me feel sad.

Anyway, another reason to love (and hate, actually) Malang is because every year, the city held an event called Festival Malang Kembali or also known as Malang Tempoe Doeleoe (the word “Tempoe Doeloe” is written in the old Indonesian spelling). The best English equivalent that I could think of is “Malang From the Past.” Why so? Because on this event, you could see street sellers and sponsor institutions or organizations recreate warung (a diner where they usually sell food at a cheap price, and the food sold is usually traditional food, or Chinese food nowadays) or buildings in a way that it feels like you’re back in the colonial and post-colonial era. Simply put: Indonesia from the past. Well, Malang, to be more precise.

Aye, THAT crowded.

So this event was held on 24 June – 27 June on two big streets (nearby my place, luckily) called Ijen and Semeru. The latter was, thankfully, only used for a few km. Apparently this event caused the traffic route to change as well because starting from several miles around those two were blocked, and this caused another street (also near my place) to be extremely crowded and even caused traffic jam (which doesn’t usually happen in a small city like Malang unless you’re lining up for the basement parking lot at the mall) because all vehicles were rerouted over there.

I was pretty excited about this event because, of course, what else could a person who always dream that time machine really exists other than reenacting the days from the past through this event? Although the event turned out to be quite different than what I had imagined, I did had a lot of fun. The event turned out to be a very, VERY big kind of pasar malam (translated literally to “night market,” which is indeed a market that usually opened during the evening and usually offers cheap food, drinks, goods, toys, snacks, etc), and a very crowded one, too. Of course the only difference is that the goods being sold were goods from the old times, the sellers were dressed in Javanese traditional dress, and their kiosk were built like Javanese huts or gazebo that you would usually see in the middle of a rice fields or in villages in rural areas. I’ll post a lot photos below, and you could see that they actually sold old coins and paper money, dating back to the era where the Kingdom of Majapahit still reigned (around 1293-1500; at least they claimed the coins to be from the Majapahit era) as well as newspaper dating back from the 1900’s. (I mean, where the hell did they get those!?)

“Ojo Dumeh.” A Javanese old saying. My Javanese is very poor, but I suppose it could mean “Don’t be (a) Proud (Person).” Feel free to correct me, though.
This reminds me of Japanese’s Hinamatsuri. The dolls, I mean. I guess if Javanese has its own Hinamatsuri, these would be the perfect dolls for display. This shows a Wayang performance, with the mastermind called “Dalang” responsible to move the Wayang as well as doing the storytelling. The other people around him are playing background music with Javanese traditional music instruments known as “Gamelan.”
A guys making a traditional snack called “Gulali” (sweets). Unhealthy snacks but we love it because the seller can shape the gulali into anything. In this picture he was trying to make a rose.
Another traditional entertainment known as “Topeng Monyet.” It’s actually pretty cruel, as the guy would chain the monkey’s neck and make them imitate human’s behavior with mini bicycles, desk, chairs and such. I once heard that the monkeys are treated cruelly in order to make them obey the masters.

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I was exploring the festival only on the night of the first day and the third day on the afternoon. Then I met this old man selling a toy kids used to play with in the past. I asked him–let’s refer to him as Pak S (FYI, ‘pak’ is how you refer older man in my country to show respect–it’s an abbreviation of “Bapak”)–about the toy because even though I recognize the shape, I never played with it when I was a kid. He told me it was his toy back when he was a little kid (he’s 72 years old now), and he was there in the festival only to sell those toys. On his usual days, he told me he’d usually stay at home with his family, and sometimes repair shoes in his workshop in Sukarno-Hatta (a street name in Malang) if someone’s shoes needs repairing. Anyway, I asked him what it is called, and he said something that sounds to me like, “Tulup,” but again, my ears might deceive me. Later I found out that it’s more famous with the name “Pletokan.” It’s a kind of toy gun made of bamboo. You put crushed papers or newspaper into both sides of the Pletokan, and then, with the thinner stick, you pulled from one side, and the paper on the other side would fly out, though it won’t be so far, really. He kindly showed me how to play with that, and he was so nice.

Pak S showing me how to use Pletokan

Since I’m moving to another city, this might be my first and last festival, although I wouldn’t wish so. But I’m glad that I took many pictures. I’m just hoping I could see another one next year, but we’ll see, aye?

The Raid: Redemption (Serbuan Maut)

I’ve been noticing (and waiting impatiently) for the movie The Raid, ever since I saw my cousin posted its trailer on his facebook wall. I was awed by it, and even more surprised that this movie had gone international, going to release worldwide. Well, I’m not really that devoted to Indonesian movie industry until after I watched Sang Penari (The Dancer), so you could later confront me for this next sentence: I knew that it’s not the first time Indonesian movie goes international. I don’t really own a complete list of Indonesian movies which have gone worldwide, and what I could think of so far is only Pasir Berbisik (Whispering Sands), which has gotten about five awards in movie festivals, such as the Asia Pacific Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival and Brisbane International Film Festival–and even up to now, I still haven’t watched the entire movie. I’ve seen it played and watched it for a while in one Indonesian channel once, but didn’t finished watching it eventually. I don’t remember whether it’s because I got bored in the end or because I had to do something else which apparently was more important and urgent than watching Dian Sastro and Christine Hakim.

Anyway, this movie was previously known as Serbuan Maut in Bahasa Indonesia, or just The Raid internationally, but as he explained in his blog dedicated for the movie, Gareth Evans and his team had to make a bit change in it in order for the movie to enter the United States of America. (Seriously, Americans, what the hell is wrong with ‘The Raid’??) Now it’s known officially as The Raid: Redemption. Gareth Evans (the director) also said that this probably is better since he was considering a trilogy–The Raid being the first part of the Trilogy.

The director, Gareth Evans, is apparently a Welsh, and seems like a big fan of Indonesian martial arts, known as Pencak Silat, or merely Silat. Other than guessing this based on all reviews I read from Times to some blogs reviewing this movie, I also assumed this based on watching a movie from the same director, collaborating with the same actor, Iko Uwais, called Merantau. In the one that I downloaded, it has the title Warrior, and I’m not really clear whether this supposed to be the English title for the movie, but the word ‘merantau’ itself doesn’t mean ‘warrior’ at all in English. In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘merantau’ is when you move from your parents’ lovely and comfy house, to a faraway places (mostly big cities) in order to get a better job, to make money, so when you return home, you could give back and repay what your parents had given to raise you and make you a decent person. The process of going away (and being far away from homeland) is called ‘merantau.’ (Seriously English, do you have words for that?) Now, the movie Merantau is also a full action movie. The storyline centers on a guy named Yuda, a guy from Minangkabau, West Sumatera, who went ‘merantau’ to the capital, Jakarta, to teach Pencak Silat to people there. That sure is such a naive and and nice goal for such a young man, but as he met another passenger in the bus on his way to Jakarta, the dream seems like too good to be true. After seeing a young beautiful girl being physically harassed on the street, Yuda ended up protecting the girl instead. Little did Yuda know at that time that the girl was actually one of the victim of human-trafficking business, led by a hot-headed European businessman, Ratger (Mads Koudal). The movie, just like The Raid, is of course, all full-action.

Merantau Movie Poster

Now, as much as I love the action as well as the beauty of the kicks, punches and the blood spattered captured magnificently by Evans, I hate to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the movie. The storyline is very simple, and quite predictable to me. But in terms of action, it blew me away. Super awesomeness.

Well, I’m not here to talk about Merantau, of course, but in one review I once read (I forgot which one, and I’m too lazy to track it back just so I could put the link. I would probably do this later), The Raid is said to be a prequel of Merantau.

It could probably make a perfect sense, especially since the main character and his estranged brother in the movie is played by the same actors in both movies, with the exact same relationship in their roles, except for the different names for both characters.

Iko Uwais

First of all, Iko Uwais’ character in The Raid: Redemption is called Rama, not Yuda. And this movie starts with the scene where Rama was waking up early, preparing himself by practicing his martial arts, and shalat (Islamic prayer) before he finally woke his pregnant wife, to say goodbye. Of course he said that he’ll be back soon.

Then we’re led to a truck where it’s filled with special cops (described as the Indonesian SWAT team) who were  preparing themselves to ambush a drug lord, Tama Riyadi (played by Ray Sahetapy), living in a 30-storey apartment, which is filled with criminals in most rooms.

Ray Sahetapy

Sneaking their way in to the apartment, they quietly kill and slay the criminals in each room, room by room, and floor by floor. It seems like everything was going really well.

Until they reached the 6th floor, where their existence is finally uncovered.

As the drug lord noticed them through one of his surveillance cameras (the building was apparently filled with cameras everywhere), he told the residents to welcome this unwanted visitors and “have fun.” The task already seems like an impossible task by then, and the future of those SWAT team seems so predictable.

The handsome Joe Taslim, who apparently is also a Judo athlete. Work that six-pack, Joe!

As already suspected by the leader of this ill-fated team, Sergeant Jaka (Joe Taslim), the team was actually sent for a suicide mission, being a part of a black-ops, and the backups promised to come earlier was nothing but a fake promise. They’re on their own.

As the team breaks and getting separated from each other, Rama (Iko Uwais) also needs to fight in order to survive–and to find his estranged brother, Andi (played by the charming Donny Alamsyah), who turns out is the right hand of Tama the drug lord. In order to do this, eventually he would later fight Tama’s deadly brutal and cruel hitman, known as Mad Dog (played by Yayan Ruhian, also co-coreographed the fighting in the movie with Iko himself).

Donny (also spelled as 'Doni) Alamsyah
Yayan Ruhian

Well, I’m not gonna give you any more spoiler, of course, but I hope my summary tease you enough to buy the ticket and watch the movie yourself in the theater.

Anyway, other than what I’m going to write next, the movie itself has received 3 awards internationally as well as positive critics.

I was actually worried about watching this first since I remember that I don’t really like Merantau. I don’t want this to be another cheesy, all action movie with meaningless expressions and acts. I mean, Iko Uwais (and Donny Alamsyah, hahaha) is definitely a good actor, but there’s not really much exploration in terms of storyline and acting. What he did in 90% of the movie is kick, punch, and show off his skill in Pencak Silat. And boy, isn’t he charming. It’s very obvious that Iko is definitely the man when it comes to Silat. But other than the fighting, Merantau is a cheesy romance, and towards the end of the movie, I was so bored that I immediately deleted the movie as soon as I finished watching.

But apparently, there’s not even 1% element of romance in The Raid, which probably lead to a conclusion that I may not be a huge fan of romance, really (says the woman who’ve read Amanda Scott’s Border Wedding twice and watched Ever After more than 5 times).

Anyway, as you’d probably read in most reviews (if you did read them, hopefully after watching the movie, not before), the movie is purely action, that without the action, it would probably be… super suck.

If you’re the kind of person who’s looking for a meaningful, heavily-themed, and serious movie like A Dangerous Method or Sang Penari (The Dancer), and not a fan of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Rush Hour, you’d probably be disappointed.

But if you’re crazy about the French movie Banlieue 13 and its sequel, adore Cyril Raffaeli and can’t get enough of Jet Li, this movie is definitely for you.

The movie does reminds me a bit of Banlieue 13 with all its action and plot, although, of course, the storyline is different, along with its setting, character, and style, but I do think they both have similar theme, especially towards the ending of the movie. I’m pretty curious about the sequel already.

Which would mean that I love the movie. Of course this would probably be a contradiction, since I already stated that I don’t like meaningless movie, with cheesy romance and such. But this one does not have a bit of romance in it, and despite its full action scene from beginning to end, again, I have to applaud Gareth Evans for making all the fighting looks so breathtaking, with the detail of each movement, capturing how Rama takes down all his opponents one by one. Oh, and slow motion effects, especially when the leader, Sergeant Jaka fired his riffle is just too awesome to miss. Despite being a very violent movie, I did managed to finish my large-size popcorn throughout the movie, while at the same time, watching Rama and Mad Dog slit their opponents’ throats. Of course, watching with me, you would need to bear the swearing and cursing which I shouted almost every time someone fall, or got bombed, or stabbed brutally, or when Rama awesomely took down his opponent. I guess everybody’s adrenaline got pumped as we got too excited watching all the never ending action because one time, when Rama amazingly took down one of the bad guy so skillfully, the audience around me were clapping their hands, applauding Iko’s mastery in his Silat. A guy sitting next to me was watching the movie with his peers, and he kept praising Iko’s skills, commenting his expertise on Silat with awe.

I do agree with one review I read which says that other than the action, one irrational thing about the movie, more specifically about the main character Rama, is the unrealistic stamina he has. I mean, Rama has been kicked, thrown, punched, despite punching and kicking himself, and fallen down several stories down out the window before landing on a kind of balcony thingy on a lower floor, yet he never seem to show exhaustion or tiredness and still managed to fight till the very end of the movie. I remember the same thing also happen in the movie Merantau. I mean, I know that this tireless trait is one thing that we are always looking for in every hero of martial arts movie. It’s what we always look for in legends such a Bruce Lee, Jet Li, or even the manga character Chinmi from Kung-Fu Boy. But even such legends never seem to own this trait. At some point, they would lose their power and energy, after fighting non-stop for quite a long time. Yet Rama (and Yuda in Merantau) appears to be some kind of superhuman with limitless energy. This might be something to think about for Gareth Evans for the next two sequels. Of course, the chance of him reading this is very little, but I’m hoping to see more of the storyline, and more down-to-earth, weakness, human-alike character for Rama in the so-called sequel, Berandal (meaning ‘thugs/brat’ in English).

Pierre Gruno

Another thing, perhaps, is the contradiction I found as the head of the operation, Lieutenant Wahyu (played by Pierre Gruno) complained to Sergeant Jaka for bringing rookie officers for such a dangerous operation (which is confusing–I mean, who would ever take rookies for that risky business? At the same time, it seems make sense since the operation is indeed, a suicide mission).

…but probably my Indonesian pride also created some biased arguments here, and perhaps explains why I really like this movie, because… it’s an Indonesian movie, for crying out loud! (Says the woman whose movie list is actually filled with Hollywood movies–oh, but I’ve been putting some Indonesian movies as well now.) Whichever it is, I’ve been considering to watch it for the second time. Perhaps this time, anyone would like to come with me?

Lobakan: Antologi Cerita Pendek (Kesenyapan Gemuruh Bali ’65)

I have no idea what ‘Lobakan’ means. I’ve checked both Google and Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian Dictionary) and found nothing about the word, but the words after the colon mean: “A compilation of short stories (The silenced thunderstorm of Bali in ’65).” The number 65 at the end of the title there refers to the year of 1965.

That is the title of the book that I just read.

*edited March 20, 2012 – Just found out from my grandpa that Lobakan is actually a Balinese term for lamp–the old, ancient, petromax lantern. (Doh, I’m such a fake Balinese!)

So, back in December, my grandpa gave me this book Lobakan after I shared with him my interest and findings on one of the darkest history of Indonesia about the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia). After getting enough courage to finally asked him about the incident, my grandpa decided to give me this book ‘if I’m interested.’ (He’s gotta be joking. Of course I’m interested!)

Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a bit of background information based on my findings:

Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia, once proposed a political concept called as ‘Nasakom,’ which literally is an abbreviation of three words: ‘Nasionalisme’ (nationalism), ‘Agama’ (religion), and ‘Komunisme’ (Communism). This is the notion invented by Soekarno as a part of his vision to unite three big political parties existed in Indonesia at that time–PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia/Indonesian National Party), Islamic parties which were divided into two parties at that time: Masyumi (Partai Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia/Council of Indonesian Muslim Associations) and NU (Nahdlatul Ulama–a traditionalist Sunni Islam group), and PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia)–in order to create harmonies between the three, and hence: peace amongst society.

By 1965, the member of the communist party had rapidly increased to 3 million people, and this worried the other 2 parties. Negative sentiments against Soekarno also grew as he supported and protected PKI, along with his ideology as it’s similar with his own.

Long story made short, the tension finally broke by September 30, 1965 as a movement called the 30 September Movement kidnapped several Indonesian war heroes in the army and killed them. Hence, General Soeharto (later the 2nd president of Indonesia) took control and provoked massacre of those known or suspected as “communist allies.” As the army publicly announced that the communists had killed Indonesian respected war heroes to encourage and approve the killings (of the PKI partisans), the Islamic forces did the same thing as they labeled those “communists” as atheists–a word that does not make any sense to most Indonesians, even until now, as Indonesia is not an “atheist country.”

Today it is speculated that the movement was actually a coup d’etat provoked by Soeharto and his army friends, backed by the CIA as they were afraid that Indonesia would become a strong ally to the communist (remember the Cold War?) and the PKI and its “allies” were merely victims of false accusations.

Of course, I might get this wrong, so feel free to correct me.

Here are the links to the sources (most of them, of course, will be Wikipedia):

*

Okay, enough about history. As my old man put it, “History is about perspective. The more you read, the more you find out.” Well said, grandpa!

Now, aside from the fact of who actually did what, or who was the bad guy, or even who was right or wrong, the thing is that the massacre killed a lot of innocent people. The army encouraged citizens to kill their neighbors, friends, and even family members without trial. And those were the people who might not even know what on earth PKI actually was. Most of them were actually those who merely hired to entertain the actual PKI members in one of their events/propagandas, or hired as a guard during a PKI meeting, and these people are poor peasants who, even if they actually owned the land or the field they were working on, they were really poor that eating rice was considered a luxury for them. Worse, they could even be poor farmers who didn’t even own a land, and merely working on a landowner’s land and gained almost nothing as a result of their hard work. Uneducated people, already suffered, and then suddenly stabbed or even tortured for reasons unknown to them.

Meanwhile, the religious parties (those who does not want to be associated with atheists) also made propaganda as they identify all communist partisans as atheists. They used folklore, myth, legend, belief, and they toyed with people’s faith to encourage the killings. They believed (and I am not referring to a specific kind of religion here because this includes all kinds of religion existed in Indonesia at that time) that killing communists was a religious duty. I am not a big fan of religion so of course I mock this idea. Were I lived during that time, I would definitely be assassinated.

Many believe that at least half a million people died during that time. In one article I read, people were getting used to seeing tons of dead bodies in the river, floating from one village to another village, spreading awful smells of rotten corpses. “No one wanted to risk coming out of the house,” said my grandpa. If I had not mistaken, the biggest killing happened in either East Java and Central Java or Bali, where they said that it was one step closer to become an anarchy.

These are the stories I read in Lobakan. All of them are, of course, fictionalized, because, as I read in the foreword, most of the victims interviewed (or talked to) tried so hard to erase those tragic events from their memories that most of them tried to deflect or even talked about something irrelevant instead of retelling the truth. In the end, no one actually ever find out what actually happened, and I doubt anyone will ever do.

One of my favorite stories is titled Monolog (Monologue), by Putu Fajar Arcana. It contains a speech of one of the victim of the massacre, who told his story of how he got involved with the PKI (although it is not explicitly stated whether he realized and fully acknowledged PKI at all) and later caught and killed. He said he came from a very poor family, whose field were taken by landowners and later were forced into a huge amount of debt by those landowners where in the end they had to work on the land they were supposed to own. The PKI held meetings talking about possibilities to get their land back, and as a poor peasant, how could they say no? The idea alone already seemed like ‘water from the moon’ (meaning impossible) to them. Later, of course, it costed him his life.

Another favorites are Warisan (Legacy) by Putu Satria Kusuma and Menanti Tantri (Waiting for Tantri) by Soeprijadi Tomodiharjo. The first one tells a story about Wayan Guru who was suspected as a PKI partisan and were hiding at his parents’ house while many people were waiting in front of the house, ready to ambush and slay him. His parents told the masses that Wayan Guru was away in Java, yet they waited. At the same time, Wayan Guru begged to see his son, Kadek, who stayed with his wife in his house near his parents’. He was determined to see Kadek, even if it would cost him his life, but his parents asked him to think it through, because death means missing his son’s 3 months ceremony, as well as watching him growing up.

The latter, Menanti Tantri tells a story about Made Arka Wiratma, an activist in fighting against illiteracy, who got a visit from a respectable figure: The governor of Bali, when he was lying sick on a hospital bed, suffering from malaria. His wife who accompanied him at that time was pregnant with his son. The governor suggested to name the unborn child Rai, taken from Balinese war hero: I Gusti Ngurah Rai. To them the visit was such a great honor. Little did they know that the governor was a leftist, and hence, a PKI partisan, as well as what the visit would cost them later.

What’s ironic is how I Gusti Agung Ayu Ratih put it in the foreword about how the government seemed so easily dismissed the tragedy and instead polished the so-called “The island of the gods” with monuments, malls, hotels and clubs to attract investors and tourists from around the world by making the native of this “island of gods” to work (I actually intent to use the work “slavery”) for these visitors who’d see Bali as, indeed, their “heaven on earth.” Try ask the people whether they think it’s a heaven on earth to them.

*

What? You didn’t expect me to write the complete stories as well as all of the short stories included, right? That wouldn’t be fair to the writers (says the person whose life is devoted to download free stuffs). >:D

I owe my grandpa for willing to give and share this with me, and I love the inscription he wrote on the first page of the book (I always love inscriptions on the first page of my book!) for me:

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.

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.

Of Bees And Mist by Erick Setiawan

When I first saw this book, I was curious. Partially because Erick Setiawan is, of course, Indonesian. Another thing is because he wrote this book in English instead of in Indonesian. Not to mention the positive reviews it gets and that it’s his first novel.

I mean, really? What’s the appeal?

So, of course, I hunted the English version.

Not that I don’t respect the translator or my own native language, really, but I just thought that a book is best read in its native language. Meaning the language in which it’s originally written. And since the book is written in English, so I tried to restrain myself not to buy the Indonesian translation. (I’m curious, though, so I might gonna read the Indonesian translation as well soon.)

Of Bees and Mist is basically a more modern, and more complicated version of Romeo and Juliet. That’s one way to see it.

Under the title on the front cover, it is written: “Three strong women. Two feuding families. One singular story of enchantment.”

The three strong women are obviously a referent to the main character–Meridia, her mother-in-law–Eva, and her mother–Ravenna. Although other than those three women, there are other women as well, who are just as tough, like Meridia’s sisters-in-law, Malin and Permony.

Meridia is the only child of Ravenna and Gabriel, who used to be so much in love with each other until “a cold wind” blew into the house and never left ever since. Hence, Meridia’s father, Gabriel, started looking someplace else to find warmth that he could not find in Ravenna anymore. Every evening when Gabriel left the house, a yellow mist would appear, followed by a blue mist in the dawn when Gabriel returned to the house.

For several times in the week, a yellow-eyed ghost would also come at night to haunt the house. Later it would be revealed that the ghost is a manifestation of Ravenna’s anger and frustration toward Gabriel’s affair.

In the novel, it is revealed that Meridia didn’t really have quite a happy childhood. Ever since the cold invaded the house, Ravenna always took refuge in the shelter called ‘forgetfulness’ where she would seem to care for nothing in the world but her cooking. She spent major times in the kitchen, cooking for too many food in which would later be delivered and shared to the neighbor. One thing she never shared, though, is the breakfast  she made for Gabriel because they had this unspoken pact where she and Gabriel would not communicate at all anytime (ever since the cold, yes) but he would always return from his affair on time to eat Ravenna’s breakfast.

To add Meridia’s misery during childhood, Gabriel always showed this hostile attitude toward his own child, letting her into thinking that her father never loved her, and even hated her.

The first time Meridia felt actually happy was when she met her BFF-to be, Hannah. However, throughout the novel, Hannah seemed to be described as imaginary since Meridia (and later her son) seemed to be the only one who could see her. But Hannah didn’t always stay. So Meridia was miserable again. At least until she finally met her husband-to be, Daniel. I chuckled the first time I read the description of Daniel, though:

‎”Eighteen and handsome, he was carefree by nature, and rarely distressed, considered himself immune to temper. He was loyal and generous. He saw no faults in those he loved, and despite his share of skepticisms, believed the world a just and harmonious place.”

Oh yes, he was charming.

Despite Gabriel’s protest, Meridia married Daniel nonetheless, with Ravenna’s help. This was probably the first time ever Meridia felt her mother’s affection.

Escaping to her in-laws house, Meridia soon discovered that she simply moved from a haunted grim house to another one full of anger and bees. Her mother-in-law’s bees, to be exact, for she soon found out (with the help of her sister-in-law Malin) that her mother-in-law was nothing but a backstabber who loved to conspire and deceive others.

The main conflicts throughout the book is basically the dispute between Meridia and Eva, where sometimes got Daniel torn between two side, especially since he was raised and taught into thinking that he’s supposed to be totally obedient to his mother. Hence, it was not until at least the second half of the book that Daniel started to question her mother’s integrity.

The side story includes the life of Daniel’s sisters, Malin and Permony, as well as the love story of Meridia’s parents–what’s behind the cold wind, and how they ended up toward the end of the book.

A review I once read put it that “Setiawan has a supreme grasp of dramatic tension: how to manipulate the reader’s sensibilities and ultimately shift their beliefs and sympathies from where they lay initially.”

Oh yes. That’s true.

I mean, the only constant emotion I have for a character is probably hatred toward Eva, but even that changes.

The story definitely got plenty of dramas here and there, which made me think whether I was actually reading a written version of Indonesian Sinetron.

FYI, Indonesian Sinetron is a TV series, mostly talks about teenage love and life, and it always got plenty of conspiracies with never ending, if not immortal, antagonist. Not to mention the dramatic effect when the protagonist cried or when two enemies met each other face to face where they would stare at each other for what seems like forever, added with this overdramatic zooming on each character’s face over and over along with this never ending drum as the sound background. Oh yes, that happened, my friend, for like at least 1 minute before they finally take an action and start stabbing each other.

I mean, really? So many dramas here and there–really, Americans? You actually love overdramatic dramas?

But I kept reading, of course.

Now, as Erick Setiawan was born in a Chinese Indonesian family–and as I was raised partially in a Javanese family and partially in a Chinese Indonesian family as well–I think it was pretty obvious what Daniel’s family actually portrayed. Of course, this could also be a stereotype, if not racism, as well as the fact that fiction is always a fiction, never a fact.

One thing is the portray of extended families in Meridia’s family as well as Daniel’s, where the bride would later move to her in-laws family, or vice versa, where they would live together with the whole family, although the story didn’t really include grandparents or great-grandparents. But in most American novels or English novels I read, most characters would rarely stay together with their parents unless their jobless (sorry, that’s the impression I got). Of course this might not be true, but still, most characters would find a place of their own–and apartment, a flat, or just a small nice and comfy bungalow.

Another thing is the portray of a Chinese Indonesian, if not Chinese, family, where each of the family members, especially the eldest son, would always be expected to help and maintain family’s business–in this case, a jewelry business (a typical Chinese Indonesian family business as well). As soon as Meridia moved to her in-laws’ house, she was expected to do the house chores, and definitely, served her husband (definitely no liberte, egalite and fraternite in the house).

The most common stereotype is, definitely, the intrigues inside the family as well, and in most Chinese (Indonesian) family, where money matters the most, which lead to deception to get most profits and money and to be as greedy as possible. Eva definitely got this very trait where she would always ask for her shares even from her son’s shop and would criticize and mocked Meridia for trying to get and eat the healthiest food for the baby in her womb, in which Eva would later referred as “a waste of a lot of money.” Not to mention she’d previously stole Meridia’s wedding gift and told her that she gave them all to charity, hence, left Meridia with very little things. Of course Meridia later found out that those luxurious wedding gifts were never given to any charity, which lead to a conclusion that Eva had been keeping it for herself. Yet she barely spent it, for God’s sakes!

Can you imagine how much drama it would be only with such a horrible mother-in-law?

Of course, to make it clear again, those could only be a stereotype or even racism toward Chinese Indonesian, but believe it or not, that actually happened. Those stuffs written in the book–what Eva always did to irritate and control her family with the bees–sound so horrible and you’d probably think, “Really? How could there ever be someone so evil?”

Oh, believe me, there are.

And those stuffs really happen, I assure you.

But I suppose that’s a part of the charm of the book for that definitely contribute a lot the intenseness of the emotion throughout the book. I guess it got a bit boring halfway, when Meridia and Daniel finally settled down in their own place, away from Eva’s interference and everything seemed so peaceful and quiet, and it went on for quite some time that you’d sometimes read and read and wondering whether there wouldn’t really anything significant anymore afterwards.

But by the end of the book, I got definitely fascinated and charmed by the story, and I decided that if this book is really a written version of a Sinetron, this must be a very fine one. And definitely not any Indonesian Sinetron industry should ever got their hands on the book for they would definitely exaggerate so many stuffs every two seconds.

True, hereby I would like to declare that I definitely am not a big fan of Sinetron.

Of course, related to what Lamott said about how writing tends to make you become a better reader, I tried to savor every details of description Setiawan used to describe his imaginary world of the book, and to me, those feel really vivid. The symbolism of the bees and mist definitely add the mystique sense of the story, yet those aren’t supposed to be really hard to be understood by the readers.

I love how Setiawan seemed to take his reader to this imaginary world of his where illogical things happen to each of the character, which make it even more extraordinary and wondrous, yet at the same time, the emotions feel so real and lively.

To me this is definitely worth-reading, although you might need to hang on and try to bear with the dramas presented if you’re not really a big fan of dramas, but I would totally recommend this book to anyone who’s interested.