Thursday, 23 December 2010

Hari Natal

The Indonesian term for Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of Isa Almasih (Jesus Christ) on December 25, is Hari Natal.1) Indonesians do not have specific traditions associated with Christmas in the way that Western countries do; every family builds its own Christmas traditions. Seen as an imported religious holiday, Christmas in Indonesia borrows western traditions such as Christmas parties and exchanging Christmas gifts. As children, I was also familiar with the story of Santa Claus and his presents under the Christmas tree. Recently, youngsters belonging to Christmas carol groups have begun to visit homes in their neighborhoods to raise charity funds.

The most important aspect of Christmas for Christians in Indonesia is going to church, either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day. Almost all churches in Indonesia have more visitors than usual on that specific day. The story of the birth of Christ amongst the poor, after His parents were rejected at inns, is repeated in churches, reminding us to care more about the poor around us. For some years now, my children have taken Christmas gifts to the church. They put them under the Christmas tree in the church (or in front of a model of the Bethlehem cave if there isn’t a Christmas tree), or give them to those in charge at the gate to be collected for orphans or other children who need those presents. It is suggested that we give something useful for education, so we may give school bags, books, pens, pencils, etc.

As Catholics, my parents had an Advent candle tradition during the four weeks leading up to Christmas. While waiting for Christmas, we lit one new candle every week saying a special prayer. We had four candles alight by Christmas. We also had our own special Christmas gift tradition. The presents from Santa would be under the Christmas tree during Advent. They appeared one by one every time we children did our good deeds. When I was a little girl I used to carefully count my presents under the Christmas tree. I would find one was missing when I did something bad. Children nowadays have more questions about Santa Claus and I do not continue this tradition in my house now. The Christmas tree with lots of presents is in their grandparents’ house.

We did not hold parties during Advent, so we celebrated Christmas only after we had our Christmas mass (a special church service). My family doesn’t have a special Christmas Eve dinner, but we have a special family lunch on Christmas Day. It is kind of a Lebaran (Eid Mubarak) gathering too. The extended family will come and have a family reunion. My parents’ friends and neighbors used to come to greet them late in the afternoon or in the evening of Christmas Day. During Lebaran, it is the other way around: my parents (sometimes with children) visit them.

Some Indonesians open their presents on Boxing Day (the first day after Christmas day). However, while I was growing up, presents were kept under the tree until the New Year in my family. The focus of the present opening is the children. The adults (especially the unmaried uncles and aunts) enjoy seeing the enthusiasm and surprise in the children’s expressions when they open their presents. Now that my brothers and I are grown up we have our different New Years activities. Sometimes one of us is out of town. So, we open our presents on Christmas Day when we can all gather together. We used to put some gifts for the staff who help us at home under the tree too. It was to show that they were also part of the family, and that we cared about them. But now we just give the gifts to them privately, as not all our helpers are Christians. Recently some of our Moslem friends are reluctant to say “Merry Christmas” in case they are seen to be celebrating Christmas. So we considered it wiser not to include our gifts for those helpers under the Christmas tree.

For the Christmas lunch my family have some of our traditional food such as kanre minyak (greasy rice), nasi campur, and coto Makassar. One of my brothers is dating a girl from Palembang, so sometimes we also have pempek Palembang that comes directly from her hometown. We usually have this family lunch at my parents’ home. When my grandmother was still alive, and after she became a Catholic, we used to visit her on Christmas Day too. Occasionally we had our Christmas lunch at my aunt’s home when grandma was staying there. My cousins, whose parents are living in Makassar, also come to my parent’s house. We call their families by phone to wish them “Merry Christmas” too. My aunt, whose daughters are married to foreigners, used Skype for her Christmas gathering.

Christmas traditions in families also depend on ethnic backgrounds. Those from Menado or the (Christian) Batak would perhaps be more familiar with having a Christmas party after the Christmas Eve Mass. But the essence is still the same throughout the world - it’s time for a family gathering.

1)Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia IV (KBBI IV), the Indonesian language dictionary, stated that “natal” has two meanings: the birth of somebody and the birth of Isa Almasih (Jesus Christ). The word “natal” is accepted as an Indonesian word without the need to mention that it came from the Latin language.

Note: This article was published for the Indonesian Heritage Society Newsletter November - December 2009. I put it here for all friends and family who are longing for their families. May the spirit of Christmas bring joy in our heart...God bless us!

Picture was taken in 2007 when my grandma was still with us, her last Christmas before she went back to God.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

(Asian) Women's Problems Seen Through (Korean) TV Drama

Picture taken from

In "All About Marriage" (Please Marry Me), Jung-Im potrayed the Cinderella style of Asian married women. In Cinderella, girls share the dream of their prince charming to come, to rescue Cinderella from her sad story and to find the happily ever after ending. Indonesia has this kind of story in our lines of traditional stories, Bawang Merah dan Bawang Putih. But those are stories for girls. In this Korean drama the girl changed into a married woman. Aired by KBS in 2010, this film is probably inspired by the story of Susan Boyle who inspired the world by her performance in the Britain's Got Talents 2009. Cinderella is of course can be found anywhere. For some Indonesians the story of Cinderella is a bit out of date. The translation of Cinderella in Bahasa Indonesia is Upik Abu. While we used to say being an Upik Abu for those who work hard at home, now another term is better accepted..."Oshin". That Japanese film "Oshin" was so popular here in Indonesia that changed the perception of Upik Abu. May be because Oshin struggled in her life without the significance present of a prince charming, so she was a leading character for struggling women.

"All About Marriage" is not a serious drama like "Oshin". Yet, it blend the basic problems that women (perhaps it should be read as Asian women) are dealing with. This film shows us problems faced by different generations, not only by Jung-Im, but also by older generation like her mother-in-law. I think the most important idea from this film is the fact that Jung-Im like most Asian women did all her best to help her husband Tae-ho in his career. While sacrificing her days at home (without kids, which for some Asian men could be used as a reason to adultery) her husband enjoys his advancing career by flirting with Suh-young, his co-worker. How she survived her days and be able to stand up again as a woman is really wonderful (although it's still very Cinderella, as she was helped by another man, Hyun-wook)

I haven't got a lot of chances to watch Korean films. And, actually my interest in Korean films started up after my visit to Seoul. But from those Korean films I learned about problems that are faced by Asian women. The problem of being a daughter-in-law who need to serve the family of her husband. The problem of choosing between her own life and career and her family commitment. And also the communication problems in the family.

In another film, "You Are My Destiny", we can also see the problem between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in generations, and also problems on communication.

In this other film (picture above is from KBS World), Jang Sae-byeok has to face both the urgency of a being a modern working wife, and the high demand of her mother-in-law to fulfill her duty as a traditional wife who moved into her husband's family. This film also shows how the different social status also played important source of problems and miscommunication. Perhaps the situation isn't always the same, there are other inspirational films that can enriched us with real daily life problems, yet it's clear that we are facing changing generations without leaving our old attitude of perceiving women's traditional tasks.

It's very obvious that Cinderella's dream is still shared between women, may be not just in Asia... While seeing Oshin as an ideal example of a struggling woman, I have to realized through these Korean films the bridging of the old tradition into the new era, the progress of understanding a woman position in the Asian society and how to deal with it in our own daily lives.

I think Indonesian women in my generation (and in big cities) are lucky as we're not really attached to traditional obligations to move into the husband's family. Even if you're moving in, I don't think that there is an obligation to serve for the whole family as I've seen in those films. Yet, similar problems (especially those communication problems) do exist. Seeing it in a film can help us reflected on our own daily problems and hopefully make us wise enough in facing our own problems.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

My "me time" in blogging

Every mother should have a "me time" to keep themselves strong enough to do their daily routines. At least, I need that "me time". My usual "me time" is reading, but after I found the world of blogging then I made blogging and blogwalking as my top list of my "me time".

I was afraid of being addicted, so I tried hard to balance my life. I know that real life is more important than my cyber world. Yet, being a netizen gave me a larger horizon. I can meet people that I wouldn't probably meet in my daily life as a housewife. We don't really need any schedule to meet. With three boys and their various activities I'm the least ideal person to meet at a certain schedule. Blogging can help me knocking at any friends' door without interrupting her/his activity, without even thinking about the hours (imagine if I call my friend at would she react? Or, how would her spouse react?)

Recently I was thinking about my reason in blogging. As I entered blogging from citizen journalism websites, I used to think that I blog as a contribution from me (as a housewife) to my country. I'm not forgetting that I'm raising my boys (and help teaching some more kids), but I feel that I should do more. Yet, time is my barrier. I can't do all my activities in the same working hours. Blogging gave me that time...

Yet, blogging as a citizen reporter wasn't as fun as blogging just as a blogger. I've got to think carefully before pressing my finger to publish a story. When I found an old friend's blog, I can feel how much she enjoyed being a blogger. Being just a blogger (and posted personal stories) doesn't mean that she didn't share knowledge. She did it even more successful than a featured story in the magazine. I've always been fond about Japan but I found more knowledge on Japanese culture (and books...I won't be able to know more than just the story of Momotaro) if I didn't read her blog.

The conversation about citizen journalism usually made me avoiding personal stories. The critics said that bloggers can only post opinion, personal stories, etc. In my process of blogging I can't avoid being personal. As a citizen without a real journalistic background (except for those short time in the University), I came with the eyes of a citizen. Sometimes a small stuff that I posted made me ventured more into a personal story. When I wrote about my great aunt (actually I prefer to call her "Oma" or grandmother) in this blogpost, I was never thinking about meeting Ibu Claudine Salmon. The internet is amazing. My meeting with Ibu Claudine reminded me how powerful a writing is. Imagine...who knows my grandma? I don't think many people know her, not even Ibu Claudine. But she did have a remarkable information on Oma Nora's articles. I wasn't success in convincing my family about the continuation of Oma Nora's bibliography. I was even labeled "fake journalist" by my own mother in front of my big family. If I was a bit optimistic at the beginning, now I stopped talking about it (or doing anything about it). This is also the reason I became very sensitive in using the term citizen reporter over the term citizen journalist. It's better in Bahasa Indonesia as we have very different translation, "pewarta warga" and "wartawan". Journalist or wartawan referring to occupation, while "pewarta" has wider aspects which in general means those who deliver news.

These several last months I was stuck in blogging, mostly because I need more time to balance my work at home, at school, and in the community. I've also got problems with my internet connection (sometimes it's surprising if we count how expensive the internet for middle to lower financial income. A student without internet connection at home will spend more money in the internet kiosk than for us who have computer, modem, and unlimited internet package).

It seems that the need to manage time in blogging is universal. I was blogwalking to a blog that has a unique name "Mommy of a Monster (I Mean Toddler) & Infant Twins", and read this post. I have a teenage and two "little monsters" (I mean twins...and please imagine the monsters in Disney's monsters inc.), I'd like to peek into a life of a mother with three under three years old children. I can't imagine myself blogging in her situation. When I had my twins, my eldest son was already four years old...and I don't even have time to make their photo scrapbook. It's so comforting that there are other people who are also trying to balance their being in the internet with their real life.

I've also found this other blog (thanks to this blog...the links within the blogosphere is really unlimited!). I like one statement in this blog: "No one is paying me to write, I write because I enjoy it. I no longer enjoyed it when it became like a job and I felt guilty for not doing so." So, when I wrote for citizen journalism websites I did it because I like it, because I want to share something. That was why writing for Ohmy News International (OMNI) was a bit hard for its deadline. Writing with a journalistic concern in mind is a bit harder. But I also realized that citizen need a kind of guidance to be able to produce quality news in this era of the internet. I've learned a lot from OMNI. In a national seminar on citizen journalism organized by the Indonesia Open University, I also mentioned the need of educating citizens to write. We have layers of citizen journalism, and we have to know where we should put ourselves. Indonesia is a very big country, but we are still learning to live in democracy.

So, as I'm entering the last few months of my four years of blogging (which is actually a rookie for those who blog earlier) I'm going to learn how to blog in my own style. I won't care if it's a bit more personal than journalistic, or it's too journalistic and serious than a personal diary. You're welcome to come, visit and read a part of me. You're also most welcome to give your comments and critics to improve my's my "me time" and I'd like to have fun with it, enjoying it as the way I enjoyed it when I was first starting this activity. I won't be apologizing for not writing if I don't really have time to do it. Thanks to the blogosphere, now I've got more varieties of "me time", and I hope I can have more friends from my neighbourhood in the blogosphere. Let's enjoy our "me time" together...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Obama, the Euphoria

Actually I was a bit skeptic about Obama's plan to visit Indonesia. After the prior cancellations, I wouldn't be too surprised if he cancel it again this time. The Mount Merapi volcanic ashes and the hot cloud could also be a good reason to cancel it. I had news about the preparation in the University of Indonesia (UI) from my Facebook wall. A friend who works in the University of Indonesia posted her comments about the preparation. Yet, I smiled and asked her to be prepared for the cancellation. We were also asked her to take Obama's picture if he did visit the university. It turned out that she was not invited to the event.

I didn't get any invitation myself, but I was too busy to care about being invited or not. I was still preparing the speech for the Open University about the future of citizen journalism. I'm usually not able to attend events on weekdays as I'm more into my household commitments. Yet, the most important thing is perhaps the skeptical thought about the realization of his visit to this archipelago. It was not only one cancellation, but also another cancellation in June. Will he really come this November? With the earthquake in Wasior, the tsunami in Mentawai, and the volcano eruption in Central Java? Another reason to cancel his trip is the demonstration of protest against his coming. In my logical thinking I decided that he would cancel it again, but deep in my heart I hope he will come. A friend in need is a friend indeed, his coming here will show the world that the eruption isn't that dangerous for traveling. Indonesia has got more than 17,000 islands to visit. Tourism is one source of income for small traders in Indonesia. Without visitors they won't have income. Jogjakarta's biggest lost after the eruption would be the decline of visitors. Borobudur is now covered with ashes, as one printed newspaper said that Merapi made those statues wept.

It seems that some of my fellow bloggers were lucky enough to get the invitation to attend the open speech in the University of Indonesia. One of them is Ndoro Kakung, the pen name from Wicaksono, a senior professional journalist who share it in his blog, Pecas Ndahe. They were even luckier as they have the front seats which was really unusual for the Indonesians. They sat in front of other well known senior citizens such as the former President Habibie.

Another blogger was in Singapore when he knew that he was invited to the speech. He needed to call the embassy to make sure that he should pay his ticket cancellation fee to fly back to Indonesia for a good reason. Yes, doubt about another cancellation was really thick. Even in the United States my friend was also doubtful about the possibility of Obama's visit, especially when he was facing a hard time in his own country...he's got a downfall popularity and lost his voters. Luckily, this time he moved ahead with his plan.

I was surprised that he really came. I couldn't watch the television as I was taking my kids to their language course. Most of Indonesians were glued in front of their television to see his arrival, but I kept myself informed through my facebook. For some people, including my husband, his arrival meant a bad traffic jam. They were stranded as the streets were blocked for security. For some others, who were lucky enough to have the empty streets opened for them, they thanked Obama as they had never had the chance to feel Jakarta without traffic jam (except in Lebaran/Eid holidays).

It was embarassing that we weren't ready to receive the Austrian President while we knew that we're going to have two important visitors that afternoon.

I've missed one big news as I was preparing the presentation for the Open University National Seminar on citizen journalism. I came to it when I listened to a young girl, clad in her veil, who mentioned it in the seminar. It is about one of the minister who claimed that he wasn't going to shake hand with the first lady, Michelle Obama. I have friends who wouldn't shake hands with women, but they will show it clearly and it wouldn't need a clever girl to understand that they won't shake hands. We do have our beautiful culture of presenting both hands clapped in front of our chest, far away from the other person. It could be the sign to honor your guest without the need of touching, and I think others will understand this sign...even if they aren't familiar with this culture. That minister was perhaps in the euphoria of meeting an important person, and was carried in. Why blaming someone else? It just made him a fool in the eyes of the big crowds...from the cyber space into the real world. Even a friend from Europe asked me through FB chatting about this fast the news traveled in this cyber space!

Obama didn't have the chance to visit his old school, neither did he manage to have a reunion with his old classmates and teachers (who, according to TIME, will receive him with unreserved welcome). But he did give an inspiring speech, reminding Indonesians of how rich we are, and how important the unity in diversity for us. Do we really need a charismatic Obama to tell us that? To awaken our nationality? I don't need to be in the crowd with the euphoria of his visit to recognize our golden key to success. But I thanked Obama to help reminding Indonesian people about the foundation of the building of this Republic, the foundation that was helped built by our national heroes.

Picture: thanks to Yoris who gave me the permission to use this picture in my blog.

Will Citizen Journalism Die?

I had a chance to join as a speaker for the national seminar on citizen journalism in Universitas Terbuka (the Indonesia Open University) in early November. The most interesting topic for me is the future of citizen journalism. My paper titled "Will Citizen Journalism Die?" I wrote that paper in October 2010. OhmyNews International was already changed its face by launching its new blog in September 2010.

I can't erase from my mind a statement forwarded by Vincent Maher in 2005, "Citizen Journalism is Dead". That's why I wrote my paper in a title that might sound very pessimistic. Actually I'm not pessimistic about the future of citizen journalism. Voices of citizens are heard now, number of blogs are growing up, social media gave wider alternative to share news. But, the existence of citizen journalism websites seemed at stake as the leading brand of citizen journalism website OhmyNews closed its international section.

I reminded the audience about the high potential of Indonesian citizen to gain their power of voices. This diagram below shows how different the number of internet users in Asia if we see it through the number of internet penetration within the citizen. In the last ten years, the growth of internet penetration in Indonesia is 1,400% while in South Korea it's only 17.1%. As the statistic shown, Indonesia has only 12.3% internet penetration while in South Korea it is already 81.1% internet penetration. Imagine that we can still expect a huge growth of netizen voices in Indonesia. This is actually the same thing (with current data of growth) that I wrote in my first article for OhmyNews International "Indonesia Citizen Journalism on the Rise".

It was a process of how I prefer the use of the word 'reporter' over 'journalist', or even 'blogger' than 'reporter'. Yet, at the same time the word 'reporter' also bring a sense of responsibility over written facts. As a blogger I can choose to see things only through my eyes, but as a reporter I need to enlarge my point of views to see other possibilities. It's true that every citizen is a reporter, no matter how short or how simple the report, it can help to verify the fact. Being a homemaker is already time consuming, writing for citizen journalism websites is my way of contributing myself for my country. In a more global view, it is also my way to build a better world (Read my articles after the International Citizen Reporters' Forum: Toward a Better World, and Citizen Journalism Looks to a Better World)

It is important to make people we know through the cyber space be seen as real. Get to know each other in a real meeting is very important. From the local citizen journalism meetings to the international forum, meeting new friends made us build more communication. It helps us to spare time to visit their articles, blog, or just to say "hi" in their social media's wall. It's also working for other institution to reach out for the citizen. The picture below show visiting the Indonesian navy.

While building a closer community as a nation, we are also building our way to communicate in a more democratic way.

The new media is about rapidity. You can have the same moment captured and aired almost instantly. Learning from OhmyNews International, I knew that it's not as easy as that. New Media will also need indepth reportage to make people interested in reading their news. Mainstream media in Indonesia also came into citizen journalism progress, they made their own citizen journalism outlet. Kompas has Kompasiana, Koran Tempo has Politikana, and recently the Jakarta Post also has i.m.o.. Being a public blog or a citizen journalism website seems not really important for public.

Actually, since 2009 in Indonesia we can feel that social media like facebook and twitter also took the interest of people to express their voices online in quite a big percentage. Indonesian people who has a better oral tradition than written one seemed that social media is an easier way to air their voices. That is why I wrote my article for 'A note from a citizen reporter: Do we still need citizen journalism?' This thought came out two years after my visiting Seoul as a citizen reporter.

In the same year, Indonesia had the case of Prita Mulyasari. She was brought to the court for writing her complain letter about the service of a hospital and its medical team online. This case brought lots of articles from contributors. We can clearly see how people perceived one problem from different angles. I noted that the letter published unedited has different tone with the one published through edited website. The aim of a citizen to publish such a letter was usually to let others take precaution. There were also the possibility that prior complain wasn't answered properly, or not even answered at all. The solidarity came out for Prita came from all directions. Social media, mainstream media, electronic media are all helping citizen to gather their voices, and at the same time gather Coins for Prita. (Read also From a cyber letter into a real prison, Free Prita Mulyasari, Prita is Free...Are We?, and Prita will not be free anymore?). Citizen need to learn about the ethical code and law in uploading their thoughts too.

So, Vincent Maher's points in his Ethics, Epistemology, and Economy also reasonable. Yet, I don't think that it will kill citizen journalism. Citizen journalism is a growing up, evolving, and will still alive as long as it serve its reason to exist: to bring good deeds for citizen. We can help it grow by contributing with our conscience.

The economic stand is one reason for our meeting in Seoul in 2007. It seems that the business model is unsolved yet. In a personal conversation between meetings, Dan Gillmor said that it will be an experiment to go through. The experiment can shut citizen journalism websites, but lesson learned from that experience is already gained.

What is important is now people realized that they aren't just a consumer of news, they are also producer of news. It is obvious in this picture taken from Pesta Blogger 2008, a national bloggers gathering in Indonesia.

So, will citizen journalism die? No, as long as we keep the spirit high!

Friday, 29 October 2010

The beauty and the beast

The eruption of Mount Merapi brought another misery to Indonesia. Mount Merapi means the mountain with fire. The traditional Javanese believed that Merapi, the Palace, and the South Sea are placed in one straight line. That's the line of the three stages of life. The sea is the underworld, the palace symbolizing the earth-the world where we live, and the mountain is the place for god, goddess, and ancestors' spirits. The Balinese also have the same belief. They are even placing their houses and their temples (pura) in line with this axis.

This picture is taken from

Merapi in its sleep is beautiful, it is one of favourite destinations for trekking. Indonesians who loved to explore the mountain will usually have it in their trekking wish list. Sometimes it became a problem if these trekker climb up while the volcano is in warning status.

(picture taken from here).

Those who climbed this mountain usually knew Mbah Maridjan. He was given the duty from the Jogjakarta Palace to be the gatekeeper of Mount Merapi. He was really loyal to his service, he once said: "Everybody has their duty. Reporter, soldier, police, they have their duty. I also have a duty to stand here". So, he stayed in his village until the mountain came and fetch his soul. He passed away in a praying position. The 1,000-degree Celsius cloud of gas and ashes, known by the local as wedus gembel (named like that because the clouds are so similar to the sheep's curly hair) that came down from Merapi took him away.

(picture taken from this blog).

So beautiful Merapi can turned into a beastful Merapi in hours. Its breath swept away living creatures and burnt them. Perhaps that shows why the Javanese were making more Shiva statues than other Hindu God's statue. They feared Shiva as they took him as the volcano who destroyed but afterward will give more fertile land. They adored the fertility gift while being afraid of his amok...we adore the beauty of Merapi while we are afraid of the beast part of its beauty.

picture googled from this blog.

Interesting articles about Indonesia and Merapi can be read here and here.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Can I live without the internet?

My modem was broken, so I've been without a real connection since July. I still have my chance of peeking into the internet through my blackberry (thanks to my kind brother who gave it to me to help me live my cyber life). Yet, with my age it is inconvenience to read or write in such a small screen. I used the "zoom in" off course, but that won't give me the pleasure of quick reading. I can't open several windows at the same time so it is time consuming. Time is something that I struggle to manage well. So many things to do, so little time to share...I hope I'll be able to have my new modem soon. I missed my cyber world. I'm sure that I'm not as attached as before, yet I still need my cyber life to colour my real life.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Social Media Day

I'm not the kind of woman who frequently go out for clubbing. Being a mother of three sons is already consumed my time. Then, my being involved in citizen journalism websites also took my leisure time to write in front of the computer. The very short stealing time to go out are usually to meet neighbours or to keep me active with the museum matter through Indonesian Heritage Society. Guiding in the museum might be once in a month, and attending tour guide meeting is also once in a month (yet, I skipped it more than attending it. I was more active before I had my twins). So the existence of the cyber world is something valuable for me. Yet, I'm not really sure where to stand in facing the social media.

I found mailing lists as informative medias, but I don't really like them. I prefer blog than mailing list to communicate. Lately I came into facebook and twitter too. Facebook is a nice tool to connect me with old friends and new acquaintances. Twitter seems nice to get the updated news from certain sources. Yet, I'm not really falling in love with twitter.

I gained more information through the cyber media. For example I've got "Aditi Shankardass: A second opinion on learning disorders | Video on There are some talks and seminars that I would love to join but I couldn't come. It could be because of my lack of free time, or also my limitation on budget, so the online speech is the great source of learning for me.

Well, social media in the internet helped me to go through lots of activities and information without really going out there. I missed the real meetings, but I had to be wise on using my time. On the evening of June 30, I joined others who came to the FreSh meeting to celebrate the social media day. It was fun to meet new friends, to know how those singers are using the social media to gain their new fans and keeping up with their old fans. I've been learning a lot from both the cyber life and the real life. Sometimes blog is not really about the content. Some people aren't really focusing in the content but in the popularity and economic intentions. I've been learning about this too. Yet, I aim to keep my idealism in blogging. It's great that I've found some bloggers who shared their personal stories and gave me another perspective in blogging. I still think that citizen journalism is important, yet personal blogging (also a part of citizen journalism) is also interesting and important. The need of news are varied and we are just presenting our news. There will be readers who need that news and there will also be more people who don't really find it interesting. It is really up to the writer to feel the reward of writing online journal like this. If it satisfies the writer's feeling, or it can arouse the communication that she/he wants...then, it is worth writing. For those who don't really have the time, or the energy, to write the microblog or other social media outlets can be used as their way of cyber communication.

I celebrated the social media day by enjoying the gathering with FreSh. I came back a little bit late that night, and I didn't even write any article about it. I would like to feel just like a blogger, I will write when I feel that I like it. I don't want to have a feeling of being obliged to write something after attending it as I usually had when I came to an event with a feeling of being a citizen reporter. I will still seek the balance of being a citizen reporter and a blogger.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Thumbs Up for The Three Brothers (Korean Film)

The new trend here seems to be the Korean film. Youngsters are crazy about the young Korean artists, while the older generation are more interested in their television soap opera. My mother said the Korean films are more real than the Indonesian soap opera. This time I agree with her (think of how we usually disagree on many things...)

Now I'm not attached to television as I used to be several years before. Having children made my choice of the program mostly to their desire. I felt the need to accompany them watching their choice of films, and I don't have enough spare time to do it on my own. So I'm not really a special fan of soap operas.

I watched The Three Brothers because my parents were watching it. I came to like it, as I've written in my previous post. And it made me came every weekend to my parents' home. So, we've got several things done altogether. My sons and my parents enjoyed their time together, I visited them and keep developing our communication (mending old wounds hopefully, not making new one...), and off course a bit freedom for me (including on watching the Three Brothers hehehe...)

For those who have not seen this film, this is the synopsis:
Sun-kyeong is a retired police officer and father of three sons.
He had high hopes for his eldest son Gun-gang, but he has fallen short of expectations almost every time. He has made wrong decisions many times in life, ending up being divorced and going bankrupt. Sun-kyeong was not happy with Gun-gang's decision to remarry Chung-nan, but after finding out Chung-nan's secret, he keeps it unknown and wishes the couple's happiness.

His second son Hyun-chal is the envy of the town and pride of his father. Compared to his older brother, he was not favored as much by his parents as a child, but now he runs a number of businesses which are quite successful. Sun-kyeong always feels indebted to Hyun-chal's wife, Wu-mi who has long sacrificed her happiness for the benefit of the Kim family.

Sun-kyeong feels proud of his last son Yi-sang as he follows in his father's footsteps by becoming a police officer. However, due to the generation gap, oftentimes the father and the son clash each other.
As opposed to Sun-kyeong's expectation, Yi-sang married Eo-yeong, the daughter of his deadly foe, an ex-convict Sun-kyeong traced and eventually arrested a long time ago.

The unique three sons and three daughters-in-law!
"Three brother" revolves around their relations full of conflicts and love.

There was an episode where Eo-yeong was forced to help her mother in-law at home. She then questioned about her valuable time that she would waste at home instead of giving something to her country and to herself. That is the same struggle in the heart of women who are between the need to stay at home and to go out working.

I love that Wu-mi opened a restaurant. And (not as narcissistic as I would be) she did it together with her mother and her husband. So they were all shared the same portion of hard work. It helped us see how she gained back her husband, and how a misery put them closer together.

Another interesting facts of life is how the old couple Sun-kyeong and his wife faced his retirement, and how their three sons backed them up.

Yet, there is one thing which make me write this one down. It was the episode where Chung-nan and her mother-in-law went to the ATM booth ready to transfer the content of Chung-nan's deposit to a number that would be given by an "authority of the bank" who will help her to save that account as someone else is trying to take it out. We then saw Gun-gang running as fast as he could to stop them from doing any silly action that would empty their deposit. Even though it turned out that Chung-nan didn't have money in the deposit, but it is some message that was already transferred to the audiences. It was so real and it wasn't preaching. I like it.

Recently, we also have those kind of hoax. Not only the one from the phone, or worst through hypnotizing people, but this one is using the social media. That crook were using other YM to chat with friends of the owner of that YM and then asked them to transfer some money saying that she was in trouble and couldn't retrieve money from her account. She needed her friend to transfer it through a friend's account. And then it turned out to be a deceiving action to get money.

If things like this shared through film like in this Three Brothers film, it would help a lot of low educated people (yet those who were deceived were not low educated) who was probably not really listening to talk shows, or do not really understand the real process by just listening to the infotainment. Film is a way to reach people. It is so sad that Indonesian soap operas these days seem so unreal...Thumbs up for The Three Brothers, hopefully we are learning from this film too.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Celebrating the Lives of Yasuo "Pepe" Hara and Mizue Hara

I don't really remember if I had an oppotunity to come to a tribute that remembering passed away friends. Tributes for singers or musicians perhaps, but for friends? I think a Tribute celebrating the lives of Yasuo "Pepe" Hara and Mizue Hara was the only tribute for friends that I have attended. I don't know why I felt the strong need to come. On the same day I had a wedding invitation. The bridegroom was a long time neighbour from my childhood, but our family are really close that it's like we have a family relation. That morning was the wedding ceremony, I usually don't miss the church invitation from relatives and close friends. It would be better to skip the wedding party than skipping the wedding ceremony in the church. Yet, there was an urge from within my heart that brought me to the Jakarta International School where the Tribute was held. May be because I wasn't been able to pay my last respect before that event. But, I gained lots of life messages, a better way to learn how a married couple complemented each other, and how they supported each other.

After signing our notes either in the book or on the white clothes which were hang on the wall, we went into the Fine Arts Theater. Some very gentle boys assisted us. They are perhaps the students from the Jakarta International School. "Good manner, good upbringing...," whispered one of my friends.

The Tribute was opened by a welcoming bow from the three children of Yasuo "Pepe" Hara and Mizue Hara; Yuichiro, Chisato, and Mizuho. Smile were on their lips. It is really comforting to see them so tough. They did sent their family note to the Japan Embassy concerning that the impact of the press coverage might affected the good relationsip between Indonesia and Japan. I think as an Indonesian, I do feel somehow guilty that they lost their parents through a tragedy like that in our beloved country, but seeing them in the willing, so caring and tender...It showed how their parents guidance and examples had ripened in them. They shared the life story from their parents:
Yasuo [原 康雄] and Mizue Hara [原 瑞枝] were both born in Japan; Yasuo on 23 November 1940 in Tokyo and Mizue on 11 March 1943 in Kanagawa prefecture. Yasuo is an alumnus of Sophia University, where he majored in Spanish; Mizue is an alumna of Yokohama Futaba Gakuen, where she discovered her love for culture and languages.

They met through a matchmaker in the traditional manner, were married on 04 October 1968 and honeymooned in Nikko. The family moved to the United States in 1977, when Yasuo was transferred to Houston, Texas, to open a representative office for Satake Inc. [サタケ], a manufacturer and distributor of rice milling and processing machinery.

In 1986, the Hara family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Yasuo opened a general representative office for Satake. He worked towards establishing a Japan-Indonesia joint venture to help develop the country's agricultural sector until the financial and political crises of 1998. Yasuo, believing that the time presented an opportunity to create jobs and alleviate the situation, took early retirement from the company and sought another job that would allow him and Mizue to remain in Indonesia and contribute to its future.

This opportunity came in 2000, when he became Director of Cultural Affairs at the Jakarta Japanese School (JJS), a post that falls under the auspices of the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture. Over the next three years, Yasuo worked to expand the school's ties with its surrounding community, local schools and students, while encouraging JJS students and teachers to learn about the culture, history and people of their host country.

Since the Hara family came to Indonesia, Mizue has been involved with a variety of community associations, such as the Women's International Club, the Indonesian Heritage Society, and the International Community Activity Center (ICAC). She has held several executive positions in her career as a community service volunteer, including chairman of the Jakarta Japanese Club's women's division and chairman of the Indonesian Heritage Society. As a Heritage member, she studied the cultural wealth of Indonesia and established close ties with the Museum Nasional.

Mizue found her calling in the ICAC Leadership Development Scholarship Program, which provided support to exemplary university students who did not have the financial means to complete their studies. The program was created by the ICAC Community Service Committee in 1999 as a direct result of the 1998 crises.

In March 2004, the program was established as an independent foundation, Yayasan Goodwill International, and Mizue was appointed its Executive Chairman. The scholarship program marked its tenth anniversary in October 2009, by which time it had supported 540 students at the University of Indonesia (UI) and the Bogor Agricultural University (IPB).

When Yasuo's contract at JJS ended in 2003, the couple decided to retire in Indonesia, which had given them their life's purpose. Yasuo and Mizue were looking forward to celebrating their 25th year in Indonesia on 26 January 2011.

The first tribute came from Juliana Roe. She was a long time volunteer working through the Indonesian Heritage Society. She told the story of how she met Mizue in the transition between the Ganesha Volunteers into the Indonesian Heritage Society in 1994. How Mizue worked not only in the Japanese section, but she chaired the Indonesian Heritage Society for four years. Being a close friend of the Hara family made her shaken a bit in delivering her tribute. She didn't forget to mention Pepe's ponytail while describing how supported he was to his wife's activities.

It seemed that all friends who delivered their speeches were shaken. Budi Iskandar Dinata from PT Rutan was giving the second tribute. He was an ex colleague from Pepe. He said that Pepe insisted that his colleagues called him Pepe instead of Mr. Hara or Hara-san. He also mentioned how Pepe was describing his ponytail when he saw that his friend looked at his hair, "This is the mark of my freedom. While working I need to cut my hair to have a neat appearance. But now I'm not working, I'm free to have it long." It shows that he was low profile and very committed to his responsibilities. He was also very dedicated to his colleagues, he would stand to defend them if they were accused wrongly.

I didn't have the chance to meet Pepe, or perhaps I was just not giving my attention. His face seemed familiar, but it might perhaps blurred with other Japanese faces that I've seen before. Those who knew him seemed to agree that he was quiet and he loved taking pictures (which reminded me of my uncle), and he was always the best supporter of his wife's social activities.

After two tributes, we were given the chance to see the Goodwill Dancers performed Tari Piring from Minangkabau, West Sumatera. Tari Piring as written in the Indonesian wikipedia is the symbolization of the farmers' movement when they are working in the field. While holding the plates on their hands they moved their hands in quick movement to show how they plant and harvest their plants.It is also a way of showing gratitude for the result of their hard works. A friend who understand the Minangkabau traditional language told me the translation of the words they shouted; they were apologizing to the audience. In the middle of the dance one plate was accidentally broken. Seeing how good and smooth that girl dancer was dancing, I whispered to my friend, "If my grandma was still alive, she would say that the couple was here saluting us." As I've mentioned in my post "Good Bye...", older Indonesian generation believe more in spirits. When I was a little girl and my grandfather passed away, I was probably about five years old. I stumbled and lost an earring. People said that he was greeting me. Off course if we used our logical sense we would say that it is only an accident. Yet, the magical atmosphere was felt when the boy dancers broke their plates and dancing on those sharp broken glasses. Reviewing it now, I knew the meaning of the dance (this is personal view) that the couple had worked hard during their life, planting and harvesting their works and then they were showing their gratitude to all the audience who helped them during their work and who will help them to continue their works.

I was being sentimental...lots of friends were sentimental that day. I'm glad that we were seated in a theater where the audience was covered by darkness, the light was focused on the stage.

Next tributes came from Charles Pollard (Yayasan Goodwill International), and also from Toru Asai (Jakarta Japanese School/JJS). I couldn't write notes as it was really dark in the seat where I seated. And I shed tears so many times that I couldn't really remember words by words. But from both of them I learned how dedicated this couple to their works, especially in their volunteer work. I remember Toru Asai said about how Pepe became the consultant, even after he was retired, for teachers who teaches in the JJS. Both Goodwill International and Jakarta Japanese Scool are working in the field of education. The Hara couple believe that education is the key to change the future.

There is a poem wrote by Mizue Hara, printed in the flyer of Program.

An Open Horizon (by Mizue Hara)

Fly Students, fly high

Fly and see this world
A world of people
A world of nature
A world of endless horizons

Fly and open your eyes
To people in joy, in agony
To people living
And others, merely surviving

Fly high, Students, fly
To discover what we can do
For the world around us
And the people within

We can only do so much, perhaps
And a little at a time, at that

But believe, we can make life better
We can change this desperate world
Into one united in its diversity
And joined by its humanity

But only if we try
Try,try very hard

So fly, Students, fly
To discover yourselves,
Your happinesses
Your sorrows

Above all, uncover your strengths
And fly, Students, fly high...

Let's fly, and learn to soar

From the songs that the Goodwill Singers sang that day, I remembered mostly Bengawan Solo a very famous Indonesian song (I've just heard this song yesterday sang in Chinese language in a Chinese film through the television. This song is very popular in Japan too). The writer of the song, Gesang passed away on the 20th May 2010. The day he passed away was also the day to commemorate the Indonesian National Awakening days. The foundation of that awakening movement was also the education.

M. Rashid Izada was introduced in the program as Pepe's Indonesian brother. He was sharing the story of how Pepe helped building the relation between Jakarta Japanese School with An Nissa school. Yos Dappu, who was introduced as the Goodwill family, is actually one of the first alumni of the Goodwill International Foundation. He shared how hard work and commitment were the two basic things he learned from the departed couple. I think from other tributes we also traced the same essence: hard work and commitment. One specific note from Mizue Hara that he delivered to us is the magic word "share your life". Pepe and Mizue had share their life with others, and that is how they coloured their lives. I was not a close friend, but I can still grab their messages. The Goodwill International Foundation had helped more than 500 students to finish their study, no wonder if so many people were mourning for them. Another in memoriam notes was from a recipient of Goodwill International's scholarship, written in the Jakarta Post. Then, a love letter was published in a blog of another alumnus.

Three little girls came forward as Taiko players from the Jakarta Japanese School. They ended the tribute with their beautiful drum play. The closing remark was given by Yuichiro, Chisato, and Mizuho. I remembered that Yuichiro said that his parents was intended to write a book about their journey in Indonesia, and that we who came to the tribute will continue writing it. Perhaps not in the literary meaning, but to continue their hard work and dedication to the education and to create a better world.

I remember reading a poem from David H. in the slide show (it's only the essence, not exactly the same words as I just put it in my forgetful memory) "You can choose to cry or you can choose to stand up and celebrate their works." It seemed to me that Yuichiro, Chisato, Mizuho, and Kartini have chosen to stand up and continue their parents' works. I can hear my heart promised them to try my best to share my life too. Happiness or yourselves!

We went outside to free colourful balloons to their journey to the sky. Another friend asked me whether I knew the meaning of it. I don't know, I only knew that the Chinese do this with sky lanterns to pray or to make a wish.

They made announcement of no photographing during the tribute, but this was already outdoor and I couldn't stand not to take a picture. I tried my best not to take a picture with faces on it. I took it with my cell phone. While seeing those colourful balloons flying high and higher, a small boy cried briskly for loosing his balloon (or perhaps the whole balloons?!). I thought we are sometimes act like that boy, we want to hold tightly things that we like, persons that we love, and never let go...

We let the Hara couple go, keeping their memory in our hearts, and trying to write more in their colourful book by continuing their good works. All the money contribution at that event will go to the Hara Tribute Fund. Pepe and Mizue, arigato gosaimazu!

Surprises from the cyber space

Cyber world brought a lot of surprises for me. From the social media, facebook, I came to meet long lost friends. There are friends from my childhood, friends from my adolescent years to those who knew me through my pen writing as we were only pen friends. I have a pen friend whom I've never met in person, and recently we found each other through Facebook.

I love the social media since I can visit my friends at my leisure time. Sad that some friends still do not trust the social media, so they wouldn't join in. For some others, social media is wasting their time. Frankly, it is time consuming! We need to be careful not to fall into an addicted condition. Everything need a balancing partner...time for cyber visit should be balanced with our time to have real visits. Even if we do exist in the cyber space, the in-depth relation will came easier with a real meeting.

Sometimes we have circle of friends. It is somehow surprising to find that some of our old friends (even close friends) is a friend of another good friend. We never know as we don't usually talk about friends outside our mutual circle except if we accidentally meet in events. Or, a childhood friend who was married to a friend I had during my time in the university.

My latest surprise is a bit embarrassing (for a person like me who boasted that I'll never forget a friend). I met a mother of my eldest son's classmate. Her face looked familiar, but I thought that perhaps I've just seen her in several of our parents teachers' meetings. She told me that we came from the same senior high school. Later on we continue our friendship through facebook. She did mention a name from our school days. Later on I found out that she (A) is also writing a blog. She said that she was taught by a friend (I) who now lives in Japan. Again she mentioned the same name, it sounded familiar... but I didn't think that the owner of that name is the same person I'd know.

Apart from that, I also gained friends from my cyber space activities. I made friends from the citizen journalism community, and from the blogging activity. In Facebook we can't make qualification of friends. There is no category of friends. And any friends can take a peek of your friends' status. Off course there is the privacy setting, but to have the network shown out we should let it as it is. People can have the same name or similar name. Without peeking out I won't be sure if those name in my friend's list of friends are the same people whom I knew.

I was wishing Krismariana, my fellow blogger, a birthday wish through Facebook, when my friend "A" commented in a surprised tone: "You know her too?" She insisted that I must know "I".

Browsing through Kris' blog I found the link to I's blog. Her half face picture didn't really familiar to my eyes. Then I came to her page that revealed her childhood story. I was not sure that she is the same person I knew even tough there is an old picture of her and her sisters and brothers. Rolling down to further reading made me jumped from my bed (I was reading on the bed)...I saw my own picture smiling at me. So, she is really the same person I knew! I went down to put my comment without even finishing to read that post.

It turned out that we were sharing the same extra curricular activity in our senior high school days. This fact made me ventured into her facebook profile. To my astonishment, I saw that there is one picture where I posed together with the whole Science group including "I" and "A". Here came my embarrassing moment, so I'm not really that good in memorizing friends.

Wow, it is really a very big surprise! I was not only finding (and remembering) my old schoolmates, but I was also taken into a new networking web of bloggers. I've read comments in Kris' blog, but those comments came from names without faces, and suddenly I found out how close I was with those names.

I knew that cyber space is full of surprising experiences. Being invited to Seoul was the surprising sweet experience, and it also had the negative surprising moments too (one of it was the high internet billings which came unpredictable before I'm using this unlimited IM2 service). I hope that I'll find more positive experiences in the coming years...

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Good bye...

When I first read the story in the daily printed Kompas about a couple of Japanese citizens who were murdered in their own house I was really shocked. I did hope that it wasn't the same Mizue Hara, a great lady I knew from the Indonesian Heritage Society. I wasn't really close to her, nor did I know her husband Yasuo "Pepe" Hara. But I knew how much they loved Indonesia. I joined the Indonesian Heritage Society since 1999, so I have seen her in several occasions. She was not only active for the Japanese section, but she was also active in the board council, and lately in the Board of Supervisors. My doubt was answered by a special online news from the Indonesian Heritage Society which confirmed that the news is related to the same lady I knew. I also read that sad news in the daily Jakarta Post.

I didn't really know what I should say or how did I feel. It was a tragedy that this special couple who did a lot for Indonesians passed away through a cruelty act that came out of poverty. I knew that Mizue had a tender voice, and she was always kind and helpful. (I remembered how she introduced me to the Jakarta Shimbun's journalist in the museum. She was eager to help people to know more about Indonesia. It was a coincidence that the journalist had already read my articles in OMNNI. Soon we exchanged name cards to have a further conversation about citizen journalism in Indonesia.) I thought a kind person like her wouldn't hurt someone's feeling to make him took a cruel revenge. The police investigation found out that the murderer was an ex gardener who only worked there for a month. He said he was upset for being fired, but I think the couple can feel that he was not a good man. That's the reason why they fired him. Off course, if he is a good person he wouldn't come back to steal in that house, and I'm sure that a good person wouldn't kill human being like that.

I felt the irony came out from my ten years journey as a volunteer tour guide in the museum. In the museum I gained a lot of Indonesian local wisdoms, among them are the believe in the living spirit. People who believe in spirits wouldn't kill others as they feared revenge from the spirit. Religions came and introduced the concept of heaven and hell. But it seemed that we do not really believe in heaven and hell. We do things as we pleased. So, if someone considers himself as being poor and think that it is OK to steal from those who have more material things, he (or she) are not thinking about the heaven and hell concept. And when he (in the case of the Hara couple the murderer is a man) was caught in action, he wouldn't think about hell, he was only thinking of avoiding prison and continuing his goal to have those material things that he didn't owned.

Just about a week before, a fellow volunteer tour guide asked me the question that was posed to her from an Australian visitor "Why Indonesians are so kind? They are very friendly and nice to foreigners." Her visitor kept insisting asking that question to her. Being a foreigner herself, she didn't know how to answer it. I didn't really know the right answer but I finally answered her that Indonesians believe in destiny. Being kind to other is just like being kind to yourself, a kind of "karma" philosophy. If you are born unlucky or poor it is a destiny to accept. By accepting it we can have compromise with life and have a better quality of life by accepting our destiny. Yet, I reminded her that sometimes situation can also be very different from what we see. Those who fled from Indonesia after the May riot 1998 were probably shocked to see how those kind personality change their performance like those dancers who used the masks. But we should also remember that we can't make a generalized prejudice. Some people were simply looters, some others were the good neighbours who helped rescuing their neighbours.

Indonesian ancestors were thoughtful to think about the ship that would take you to your upper life. The ancestors helped and protected their younger generation, but the responsibility to build the ship is on their shoulders. So, we...human being are responsible to make our good deeds in order to have a good ship that can help transporting our soul to heaven. I think the couple Yasuo and Mizue Hara did their best on crafting their ship to the afterlife. The agony of how they ended their precious time in the world, ended in the country that they loved and helped, are clouding the fact that they have finished their ship and were ready to be transferred to the upper world.

These all were personal feeling that came around my mind. But at that day I couldn't say many words. I couldn't even make a proper poem to express my feeling. I wrote this Good Bye note in my Face Book notes:

It is sad to hear such a story,
Of friends who do care but parted in a tragic way,
Happened here in the country that they loved.

It is a sorrow to say good bye,
When we still need guidance of wisdom of life,
Yet, perhaps we should bow to the destiny of human being.

When ying and yang struggle every day,
None will take the crown away,
It is the balancing struggle of life.

Good bye friends,
My eyes are weeping but my heart is comforting,
You are now with the Source of life,
Travelling in His ship into the eternity.

Some friends who used to be the Indonesian Heritage Society's member were also shocked and sad. We were all grieving to be parted from friends like Yasuo and Mizue Hara. Good bye friends...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Recharging myself

Sometimes life is just a case of routine activities. Boring, dull, or whatever you might call it. Being involved in citizen journalism made me open my eyes wider than before. More interesting things were seen, yet time limitation is still the main handicap.

I don't have any helper to help me at home now, and it shows in the decreasing number of postings. During the year 2009 I wrote less than 100 posts. I came back to teach an elementary school and junior high school, and it was also time consuming, not to count the energy or emotional effect on my daily routine.

Now, the school vacation is's time to recharging myself. My twins passed their second grade, and my eldest son is waiting for the national exam's result. I will use my time to fill in new positive energy into me.

I was always asking myself about the differences of being a blogger and a citizen reporter. I think being a citizen reporter made me more responsible for what I wrote. I knew that other people are able to read this blog, so I can't write as I would do in my diary. I also need to check and rechecking fact before putting it online. Being a blogger would give me freedom to speak out my own opinion without the need to check or rechecking the truth of my own opinion. Later on I can reread it and laugh out loud to read my own stupid opinion. It would also be a better way to share my personal life story to friends. Yet, may be personal stories will only focusing my writing on me or my own family.

Lately I was not really active in citizen journalism. There are several reasons for that. The main reason is that the printed media and the online media (including the social media) are sharing so many news stories that I don't really have something that bothered me so much to force me to write it out.

Then, off course my personal condition came after that (or may be it should be counted as the first reason?). The emerging popularity of social media like facebook and twitter made people tended to comment in social media rather than in a private blog. Time to browse around is augmented, and it did affect the availability of time to write. Comments are something that energized me to write. I am seeking for communication. It was the reason why is more attractive for me than other citizen journalism sites. Over there, I don't find layer of status like in Kompasiana. Kompasiana divides its writers into journalists, guest writers, and community writers. OMNI also differentiates its writers, but only into two categories: featured writers and non featured writers. In OMNI we rarely have comments came in, but in Kompasiana comments are also becoming a way of enriching the writing.

Once I heard Yoris' opinion that citizen journalism websites will emerge just like the printed magazine were. Readers will pick their own reading and community. They will choose the sites where they feel at home. So, the future of citizen journalism websites will really be depending on its contributors and readers. Contributors wrote to serve readers, while readers commented to show their appreciation and to become the part of the online conversation of the topic.

Being a practical person who always adore the theory "form follows function", I sometimes asked myself: "Do I make any contribution to a better world by writing a blog?", or "Does it really functioning?" I don't need to write it out if it is only for me. I can write a conventional diary without exposing my personal life or my personal opinions. I can write short reminders without thinking about the facts, the grammar, or my way of writing it. And most important thing is that I can write my complains or my critics without the possibility of hurting others' feeling.

Yet, blogging made write more than I would write in my conventional diary. My meditation blog made me astonish as sometimes I didn't really know how did I came to write that postings. So I used my meditation blog as a way to reflect back, as a reminder of His helping hands that I received through friends or through the Bible.

One thing is quite clear for me, that is the feeling that God is helping me to struggle in citizen journalism. This is the first time I felt that there is an unseen hand helping me to cope with troubles. While my chances with architecture and museum sometimes were blocked, it seems that I was always been helped out in citizen journalism. It wasn't without problems but there were always friends who helped out, or another coincidence that helped me comforting my spirit to write for citizen journalism websites.

So, I'll take the profit of the school vacation to recharge my writing spirit, to recharge myself...

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Israel never got His messages...

I think that Israel never got the messages from God. They chained themselves in the Old Testament where God promised them the land. Now that they have the land, they don't really care about His will for humanity but instead they put their national priority on the top of their actions. I think people in Gaza need peaceful life, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis. I'm blind for politic, but it is really sad that over these years they have never been able to sit and talk for the future of peaceful life.

Actually I'm a bit speechless. I know that we'll get violence if we planted it. They are planting it, showing it to the world. It should be long gone when the phrase from Torah "an eye for eye" (עין תחת עין, ayin tachat ayin; see wikipedia) was used in human's daily life. It is important to share love and kindness to be able to reach into that promised land, the land of peace and happiness. When it comes to choose between a nation's dignity and humanity, or between politics and basic human's needs, which one is applicable to God's will? Let your heart answer it...

Other readings:
Israel attacks Gaza aid fleet

Friday, 14 May 2010

Envy Singapore....

If I had the time to join friends in the International Museum Seminar in Bali under the topic "New Paradigm of Museum Management" may be I'll have more information to share about the celebration of the International Museum Day in Indonesia. The invitation came from the Museum Nasional (Jakarta), but the event was started while my eldest son is still in his final examination to finish his elementary school. Sometimes it is just not my luck!

I received this brochure through e-mail from

This is how I envy Singapore. They've got a real promotion, hopefully the event will be as good as the promotion (see also In Indonesia, sometimes we do have a very good event but it lacks the promotion. Or, perhaps this year we don't have any celebration... The brochure from Singapore shows me how close it is to the topic of the International Museum Day 2010, "Museums for social harmony". Then they are also offering discounted prices, which is actually not necessary for the Indonesian museums (except for some, like Museum Pusaka in TMII which would cost foreigner US$ 2...which is also not really expensive comparing to the price of museum's ticket around the world).

As the International Museum Day should be celebrated around the 18th May, I do hope we'll still have some interesting activities to celebrate it here.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Should I try writing fiction?

Jane Friedman, in a blog called Writer Unboxed, wrote a post titled “Audience Development: Critical to Every Writer’s Future.” Yes, I have seen some bloggers who published their books after gaining their readers. There are also bloggers who became writers or columnist after gaining the trust from the media. Readers are important for writers. Without the existence of readers, it would just like a music performance without the audience.

The same writer in another blog said that we will start thinking of opportunities we didn't think of before. Perhaps this is the opportunity that is coming unpredictable to me. I never think that I can write an interesting fiction story. I wrote opinions, or things around arts and cultures, but I won't think to try fiction. Writing literary work seems too difficult for my blunt imagination. Yet, one of my blog readers said that he thought I could be a good novelist. Am I? I thought he was just sending me nice words. Yet, my meeting with Claudine Salmon, a French researcher who was awarded the Nabil Award for her contribution to the nation building in Indonesia, made me rethink about that possibility. I remember that I've got a book titled "Panggung Sejarah". In that book there is a section written by Claudine Salmon titled "Fiksi ethnografis dalam kesusasteraan Melayu Peranakan" (Ethnographic fiction in Malay peranakan literature). The writers within the research of Claudine Salmon were introducing the culture of indigenous people such as in Tengganan and Tengger. Just a few days before meeting Ibu Claudine, I read in Kompas about "sastra bibliopolis" (I found it online in a blog named Cabik Lunik, it is in Bahasa Indonesia), and it made me curious on the work of Michael Pearson. The writer in Kompas said that Pearson was more than just a reader. He came to the places that were written by American authors, and ventured into a new experience with his readers.

I loved reading books that were linked to history, places, and psychology. I also loved reading autobiography. If I can't be a researcher in my professional life, then why don't I try to make my own research for my own book? This idea is just jumping out when I read Jane Friedman's blog post. Should I take it as an opportunity which was never been thought before? I'm not sure yet (I still think that my writing lack the smoothness of a novel's language as I'm still writing the way I made my scientific report)! Do you have any suggestion?

P.S. I can't find the name Michael Pearson in the book "Outline of American Literature (Revised Edition)". There is a Michael Pearson in the English Wikipedia whose also an author but his biography doesn't look like a seriously written biography. May be I should wait to read the book myself before giving any link or comment about this author.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Into a time machine at Times Bookstore

Although Times Bookstore in Karawaci was already opened in June 2008, this is my first visit to the bookstore. I was once visited Amir Sidharta in the University of Pelita Harapan, but it was a long time ago! I am sure if Times was not even there at that time. Lately I rarely go to Karawaci. I went there before for interior projects of private houses, then occasionally for its Time Zone to bring my kids to play. Then the Sumarecon Mall Serpong opened another Time Zone (which closed down the one in WTC Serpong), so I still had another alternative than Karawaci. The bad traffic also discouraged me to go to Karawaci from Serpong.

I circled the mall three times without finding any parking lot, so I do need to go inside the mall's parking lot. Fortunately I can park near the gate that is opening the way to Times Bookstore which stand across the road. I thought the last time I went to this mall this gate wasn't open.

Passing the gate I saw people enjoyed their afternoon at the cafe on the pedestrian. It gave me a sparkling memory of other places in Europe. The bell for the zebra cross light reminded me of those similar sound in Singapore, yet here the people were more relaxed than those neighbours who were running for the MRT. I ran into my time machine...

I used to go to Singapore when my father was posted there. I stayed in Elizabeth Tower and I did enjoy strolling along the Orchard Road. Actually I forgot which of the Times Bookstores in Singapore attracted me the most. I only remember that I had enjoyable time at Times. It had various of books, complete books for my architectural text books, and books to cater for my interest in languages and cultures.

Having crossed the road I then entered the bookstore, said to be the largest Times Bookstore in this region. The seats were already half taken. The author Ayu Utami and the moderator Mdm. Venilla R. Pushpanathan then moved to sit in front of those seats, on the edge of a sunken green pool like floor (which made Ayu Utami felt like sitting on the edge of a swimming pool).

I was interested in the quotes that they use as their interior elements. Another quote was printed on the Privilege Card Application Form (this one sounds good, a privilege card that will give you discounted price for Times Bookstore anywhere in the world). The printed quote was the one from Dr. Seuss: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." For me the more that I've read the more places I've been (that's a mental journey which I've already been through...)

It was a nice chance to hear Ayu Utami read fragments of her book "Saman" in English. The poetic segment of the book was made even stronger in English. I ventured back to the first time I read this book in bahasa Indonesia. It was published in 1998 and I was quickly gobbled it up. Critics were all talking about her way to talk about sex openly, some may even say it was vulgar. For me, it was a bit too open, yet I didn't actually found it as something vulgar. Back then, I found a lot of interesting things in that novel, so that I overlooked the impression of her frank way of presenting it. I can still sense the poetry and prose in it but I was busy with other thoughts. I was amazed that the Marsinah's case was already five years away, which made it seventeen years away today. And, it is still lie in the darkness of that "jungle". The jungle where money and power are the acceptable weapons and the law was wheeled under the power of those weapons.

In that afternoon discussion, as she cited the story from the point of Shakuntala's view, I asked why she was brave enough to use that kind of language presentation in Bahasa Indonesia which for some may be a bit too open or vulgar. She answered me that she didn't want to use euphemism in language to soften a chosen word about sexuality. I thought may be that's the reason why I thought she was too open. I wasn't really accustomed to that kind of Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesian novel. We always pick the right, nicer words for those term in sex. I knew how difficult to change the way culture was built upon us. For example I used to use the word "vagina" and "testis" in introducing those genitals, but then I made my son confused as his kindergarten teachers forbid him to use that language and gave him the term "dompet" (wallet) and "burung" (bird) instead. Remember that translated book about how a baby was created and born? It was banned! Actually it didn't have any inappropriate pictures, that book just need the existence of parents to read it for their kids. I can see Ayu Utami's point of view about euphemism. She also reminded the audience about the paradox of our experiences. She said that behind the serene, noble, and peaceful performance we should not forget that there are always the violent parts of living. People usually made a duality separation of body and spirit, while men are associated with logic and spirit, women are said to be attached to their emotion and body. Grim images used in Saman were to show emotion bitterness, a part of the author's personal experiences taken into a creative process where she developed all the blending of characters.

I wrote in my diary (in 1998) that I didn't find the novel "Saman" as vulgar. I've read books that we can call vulgar. And I also didn't find it too focus on the topic of sex. But, it did shaken my head that I might have been blinded and did not seeing the reality about free sex around me (at that time...remember 1998 was the opening gate to get the real information from the media, before that we've only got the censored information. Yet, now the situation seemed worse, may be because it is worsened or because we're exposed to the news).

I always think that we should take the good lesson from the West but leave those bad lesson which is against our Eastern culture (this is going to be arguable...mistress and prostitute existed even in the Bible, who will say that they were not exist in Srivijaya's or Majapahit's era?).

Ayu Utami's "Saman" might not be a new writing approach in international literary. But, to Indonesian Women, it was probably the pioneering work of how a woman portrayed sexuality together with other problems that were considered to be reserved only for men i.e. politic. Later on women writers follow her footsteps, and then the women artists also shared their point of views.

As for the new paradigm vs. Kartini Day, the topic that they forwarded that day, Ayu would like to ask people not to look at Kartini only from the physical appearance like the face and the kebaya (traditional clothes). She asked those who came to realize that women should know their own sexuality and be able to talk about it without feeling guilty. For her, what is important for women are the need to have a choice and to be able to choose her own choice. I couldn't agree more. We do have good man and bad man. There are men who treated their spouse or their women like hell. So do we have good woman and bad woman. I would not use the term immoral as one of the audience who asked a question, as we can't judge one's morality by appearance. But, there are also women who deliberately use their sexuality to gain their own pleasure of life without thinking of others...and that's bad for me. Yet, women who should struggle through their lives do exist. A story that I've read in the Readers' Digest Indonesia showed how a woman (in "Melawan Mafia Prostitusi Anak") survived not only from being a victim of child trafficking but also that she stood up to help her fellow victims. The story didn't conceal the trauma that she had to endure in her life, in which the frightened feeling tied her even after her freedom now. These kind of women are the victim of bad people, either men or women, and they had to bear the heavy cross through their gloomy life.

Personally I think that the new paradigm is actually should not be seen as versus Kartini Day. Kartini passed away in her young age after delivering her baby. That's one of our Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). Fighting the maternal death, and also educating women in order to have better care for the younger generation are really important. The latter was also the basic of Kartini's work, to provide education that can empower women. The new paradigm is that now women knew better about their bodies and their needs. Then, with their education they can have better stand to decide what they would like to do with their lives. Reading has a lot of input in empowering women. Ms. Jo Lee, CEO of Times Bookstores in Indonesia said that Times seek to inspire the people, especially the children and youth, through community activities centered around reading and writing and the growing of their minds. Through her words I can really feel the spirit of Ibu Kartini which aim to spread the education for girls, to plant the seed of what would be the root of our future youth.

Mdm. Venilla R. Pushpanathan who introduced the ASEAN Secretariat Women's Wing
to the audience, said that it is going to help empowering women in ASEAN. They were helping out in health issues, and also they are providing scholarship for women who can't continue their study due to their lacking financial condition.

Yes, education and self respect is the answer to women's problem. Ayu showed how she face the repressive action from the New Order regime. Being banned as a journalist made her concentrate on Saman. She wrote this book in eight months, and it was awarded the Prince Clauss Award in the year 2000. She turned her problem into an opportunity to open her other doors.

Before I went home, I enjoyed this 1,900 sqm Times Bookstore, an outlet where you can enjoy quiet conversation with friends while sipping your coffee or other beverages. Times Bookstore offered the comfortable cozy corner as its café on the second floor. At the cashier I found a special offer showing a bigger discount for women who have the privilege membership card and would like to buy books on that Kartini Day (actually I would prefer to have discounted prices for books about women offered to both gender, so that we can get those men reading about women too). I think the essence of Kartini Day is actually that women keep themselves enriched with knowledge. Reading books is a way to gain more knowledge before we can share it to our younger generations. Then writing is the next step in sharing that knowledge. As Ayu Utami said for her closing word, "Don't be afraid." We can take it as don't be afraid to write out your thoughts, don't be afraid to explore your own limit as a woman, don't be afraid to challenge the world....One short sentence (but so meaningful) that bring me back into the present time. I did the past, and I won't be afraid for my future as I still have my present to strengthened my future.