Archive for May, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Dear Sis,

Did you know that you are about 10264.8 miles from me? (Sorry, London is the closest I can get).

Did you also know that you are more rare than Mom and Dad? I have two parents, but you’re my only sibling. Remember how Buyah kept on saying, “You guys have to get along with each other. You are each other’s only sibling. You are each other’s only family after we are gone” whenever we fight with each other? Or how Bu always say, “What are you going to be when you grow up? A maid?” whenever she is disappointed with us? Or how Yah always spends 15 minutes waking us up for school, singing that silly song? Or how we both thought England was a big village filled with cows and sheep when we first arrived from the glitzy cosmopolitan Asian cities? Or how I always borrow your clothes because they are so much nicer than mine? (Which I still do, even with 10,000 miles separating us. Actually, I confess I am now wearing your white sweater while I write this, hahaha)

I don’t know if people can say we are “close.” I am not regularly in touch with you; it is mostly random emails and facebook messages (and those free gifts.. coz we both know I’m too much of a cheapskate to spend $1 for a proper facebook gift). And we both know you only contact me when you want/need something from me ๐Ÿ™‚ Even when we were just 32 miles apart, when Buyah told us to visit each other at least once a month, the truth is probably closer to once every two months.

But I know I am very comfortable being around you. I can drop my guard, my pretenses and social norms (lol) I can be loud, quiet, loving, bitchy, chatty, stupid, sarcastic, witty, intelligent, sly and downright-mean (yes, confession #2) and still be reassured that you will be there 5 minutes later if I need something. And we both know the same goes for you with me ๐Ÿ˜‰ The best part is, there is no need for that awkward “I’m sorry” moment. We just know we are, and that’s good enough (though it is still nice to hear sometime, sis lol)

I can tell you things I can’t tell Buyah or anyone else, and I can depend on you for giving me the truth and nothing but the truth even when it hurts (see, no social norms). In short, we can hurt each other without losing the love. I mean, really, who else will still stay with me after:

a) I painted her face with markers

b) I waved a kitchen knife inches from her face

c) I made her believe she’s adopted after Buyah found her being cared by a mob of kangaroos

d) I spread her nickname to the rest of the English-speaking world ๐Ÿ™‚ (No, I’m not so mean that I will reveal it here in my blog.. or am I?)

OK, there’s my confession #3.

Or how about that time in Park Guell, Barcelona? Where we had the biggest fight ever, in a foreign country where we neither speak the language nor fully understand the transport system nor have cellphones? Hahahaha! Those were scary and fun times (or scarily fun?), huh? Where we left each other, eyes crying, only to start looking for each other about five minutes later. No phones, no Spanish language skills, and no picture of you so I can ask “Have you seen her?” And that’s a big park, with off-beaten paths and buildings to visit. I tried to enjoy the park while looking for you, but it just wasn’t the same. Plus I need you to explain all the artsy-fartsy and architecture tidbits to me ๐Ÿ™‚ But confession #4, I was really scared there, sis. Let’s not do that again, OK? (the fighting in a foreign country, not the travelling together part).

More Most importantly, did you know this is the longest we have gone without seeing each other? I guess what I’m saying is: I miss you ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy birthday.



Buddha’s Pink Slip

A few weekends ago I went to the Buddha Birthday Festival here in Brisbane. One of the stalls offered a big glass bowls filled with little pink slips, each with its own predictions/wise words/poem. Mine says (in the original punctuations and grammar style):

Most wonderful is the eye that can

See boundless scenery. And so is the

lamp that can light up. Heaven and

earth. ten thousand families live

beyond dense willow trees and the

bright flowers, you knock a door any

place, someone will open it for you.

If we break it down, the following sentences emerge:

Most wonderful is the eye that can see boundless scenery, and so is the lamp that can light up heaven and earth.

Looking up, I’m afraid my boundless scenery is blocked first by my laptop screen and then my bedroom wall. If I can see through the walls, then I’ll see my bathroom. Where is my boundless scenery? Note to self: go to a poster shop and get a huge nature picture of boundless scenery.

As for my lamp, I personally think it’s the most awesome lamp in the world. It keeps me company while I’m awake, and keeps me awake when I don’t want to. Pretty powerful little lamp, I must say. But to light up heaven and earth? Man, that’s a tall order for a 20W bulb! Maybe one at a time, but definitely not both ๐Ÿ™‚

Ten thousand families live beyond dense willow trees and the bright flowers, you knock a door any place, someone will open it for you.

As I have recently re-watched Lord of the Rings, the description fits either the Elvish wood of Lothlorien or Rivendell. But whether or not they have a population of ten thousand families will remain a mystery. Any suggestions of a similar place in our world? Then I might go there, see boundless scenery along the way, and knock on a door where the lamp of heaven and earth is kept.

Growing Old in Indonesia

Yesterday I attended a friend‘s half-thesis defense on the subject of Aging in Place. In essence, her project aims to discover ideas on how to design Smart House technology that will help maintain social contact for elderly people who are living alone.

I am fortunate enough to have three grandparents alive and well, and they are currently living with my aunts and uncles. It is my basic understanding that the Indonesian, and perhaps the wider Asian, culture dictates that the responsibility to care for the elderly falls on the children. The Singaporean government even goes as far as making that “cultural” attribute into a national law, thus allowing parents to take their children to court for inadequate support/care.

However, as my friend’s thesis suggests, social contact (as well as financial support) plays a vital role in the well-being of elderly people. Though living with their children and grandchildren provides *some* social life, today’s busy and fast-paced lifestyle might mean that this benefit from living with family is overstated. The now-adult children will be out during the day in the office, and the kids will be busy with schools, friends, music lessons and extra tutorials. This means that the grandparents would be left most of the day at home, alone with the maids.

Over-protective family could also lead to safety measures that limit the movement of the elderly outside their homes. In developed nations such as Australia and England, I can see a large number of elderly people out and about: in the city, on public transportation, and even in University. In my opinion, public safety and facilities are the main reason that allows this freedom and independence for them to brave the busy hectic world that is usually reserved in Indonesia for the young and healthy (and brave?).

Perhaps a simple solution would be similar to SAGE. Here, while they do not provide around-the-clock live-in accommodation, they provide a venue for the elderly to meet and socialise — something similar to YMCA for the youth perhaps? I think this is an amazing idea: to provide activities suited to the aging population, where they can meet others from the same generation. It’s hard enough to make and keep friends for the able-bodied, with Jakarta’s infamous traffic jams and the growth of sprawling urban cities. I can only imagine how hard it is for my grandparents to meet and make new friends. An organisation such as SAGE provide a mutual meeting point for the elderly, allowing them to continue exercise their physical and mental capability while simultaneously fulfilling their social needs. Numerous research has proven that a healthy social life can contribute to their health. The “center” also provides the additional benefits for the adult children as they do not have to worry about leaving their aging parents alone at home. They can safely be assured that there are other people around to keep a watchful eye on their parents, and provide fast notice and help in case of an emergency. Maybe instead of drawing an analogy with YMCA, perhaps it’s more similar to a daycare service for kids with working parents?

I am interested to hear if there is a similar facility in Indonesia. It could perhaps be joined with an existing retirement home, where elderly people who are staying with their family outside could still (maybe for a nominal fee) come in to join the activities and use the facilities provided by the retirement home. It’ll provide additional income for the retirement home, and new friends to those people in the retirement home (especially beneficial if we assume that they are living in the retirement homes precisely because they do not have family outside to care for them).

This post is dedicated to my beloved grandparents in Jakarta and Lampung… and the one I’ve never met.

Pictures are taken from here and here.

Good deed of the day

I woke up yesterday at 6 am, then did my morning prayers. I then proceeded to sit in front of my laptop to start the day. Just another ordinary day.

Then I did something extraordinary, or at least different. I made my first loan on Kiva. I decided to lend to Elly Widyawati. My $25 loan was the final amount needed, and so I hope she can now start implementing her plan to expand her store. FYI, she and her husband sell spare motorcycle parts in Denpasar, Bali.

I’m looking forward to hear her progress. Watch this space.

Counting My Blessings

With exams and deadlines looming, I have unfortunately been using my brain too much while neglecting the heart. I find it harder as the days go by to concentrate and focus — the brain knows what it has to do, but not why.

So this little post is meant to let the heart take control for a few minutes and talk to the brain. So listen up, up there.

1. God

The one constant force in my life. She might not always be at the forefront, but She is always there nonetheless. I may not adhere to Her advice all the time, but I hope I can always hear it.

2. Family

A very close second to God. My parents are exceptional people, who truly give their all for my sister and me. My only aim and prayer is their happiness. Simple.

My mom is the firecracker, who will go BANG unexpectedly (though never provoked). We had our differences, but then again I was a very bad teenager. She is now my anchor, and the engine that keeps the family running smoothly amidst all the changes. A strong-headed woman who gives her all and her best to anything she does.

My dad is the goofball, the good cop to my mom’s bad cop. My debate partner, my reference point, and my joker. A hardworking man who takes life in strides because he knows he has done it right.

My sister is the knock-in-the-head, toe-stubber that jolts me back to the reality. I love her deeply for that (or maybe inspite of that?), and for providing me with endless entertainments (mostly at her expense).

The three people I will willingly give up everything for.

3. Friends

As is often said, “Friends are the family you choose.”

Since I left my born-into family over seven years ago, separated from them by thousands of miles and hours of dull flights, I have full faith in this adage. I have been lucky to have such amazing friends, who have opened up their hearts, minds, and homes to me. They moved my stuff from different homes/cities (even when I’m not there to help them!), drove me up and down England for various purposes, cooked food, proofread my assignments (and handed them in while I recover from stress), made chicken soup when I was ill, bungee-jumped with me, and some even braved the heat of Indian summer with me! But mostly, and most important, they were there for coffee and random ramblings.

To name them all will be both pointless and tiring, but suffice to say I owe them all I know and will learn.

4. Health

Often take for granted, but I include it in my prayers.

5. Opportunities

I have been extremely fortunate to have the world as my oyster. Truly. I have travelled extensively, lived in several countries and schooled (and uni-ed) around the world. As mentioned before, I started where most people aim to end. Compliments to my beloved parents for all… and for continuing to support me to explore all the world has to offer.

May I never take for granted all that I have been given, and may I make the most of it all.