Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Goodbye Samali!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

Perhaps this will be my last post from this house we've been living in for the past year. Where I spent my 9 months of pregnancy and my son spent his first 5 months of life. After moving 4 times in the past 3 years, there's a sense of bittersweet when thinking:

This will be our last move.

To be blessed enough to raise our child(ren) in a place we can call home for hopefully years to come, I cannot be more grateful.

And to experience this with an amazing person named Arya Sakti Toekan, I can't think of anything more to ask.

Ibu! Aku sampai!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

One of my favourite stories of the year was told by a dear friend of mine, about her daughter taking part in a swimming competition.

Gita: Lomba itu apa sih Ibu?
Ibu: Artinya kita berusaha untuk sampai di sisi satu lagi dengan secepat-cepatnya.

When she swam, she was the 4th to arrive - which won her a medal. Instead, when arriving to the other side of the pool, she said:

Gita: Ibu! Aku sampai!

Bukan menang. Tapi sampai.

It's that sincere concept of knowing we did our best, regardless of the result, that I want to instill in the young man I call my son. That our winnings will be irrelevant when compared to the learning process we go through.

That ambition, praise and wealth won't get us anywhere. But humility, contemplation and sincerity will bring happiness.

I can't stop thinking that it seems my son is already teaching me more than I will ever be able to do for him.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

30 Rock: Between Comedy and Social Criticism

Sunday, 14 December 2009
Haji Samali, Jakarta

For the past 3 seasons, I have been hooked, both as a viewer and as an observer, to the critically acclaimed 30 Rock. Aside from the fact that punchlines are smartly written and the unconventional shotlist and cut outs of frames, 30 Rock shares the social criticism that in American Pop Culture, I think, has only yet to be done by Saturday Night Live.

Favourite examples are The Rural Juror where Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), CEO of NBC, explains to show star Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) how to sell his celebrity endorsed defective 'Tracy Jordan Meat Machine' to an unknowing market with lack safety regulation. Another example is the ridiculous social experiment in Believe in the Stars between Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan about who has it worse in terms of social marginalisation, black men or white women (comparable to the race between Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton).

Difficult as it is, this show has successfully criticised social, economical, and political issues in the Unites States by means of comedy. What boggles me most is that by employing comedy (the assumption is that comedy is a significant tool since it requires a sound 'shared meaning' in order for something to be culturally acceptable as funny - in other words, funny = viewers), it ensures the engaging of viewers - and ensures the agenda setting of certain issues worth noticing about.

In Indonesia, political satires through comedy are on the works. Although still not up to par, Extravaganza shares some common qualities with Saturday Night Live in terms of formatting and, to some extent, content; by employing symbols of New Order national identity and re-introducing them into the pop cultural context. A more solid programme in political criticism is former showNewsdotcom: Republik Mimpi, where each actor plays a current political leader.

I must say, as a rationally loyal consumer to American comedy shows, Indonesian TV programmes are still behind in quality, both formatting and content. But in terms of the preservation of democracy through social criticism in comedy programmes; I am an optimist that we will see more of what's to come.

The Discourse of Celebrity Culture in Indonesia

Sunday, 14 December 2009
Haji Samali, Jakarta

Celebrity culture in Indonesia is a discourse that is currently emerging. One of the most recent examples is the phenomenon of political parties and celebrity candidates. You name it, PAN, Golkar, PDIP - most of these high-profiled political parties chose to affiliate themselves with celebrities (I refuse to use the more popularly used term 'artists' since not all of them produce art in the conventional sense of the word). Nevertheless, their literature findings proved that this is a phenomenon worth studying.

Last month, I moderated a seminar on 'Celebrity vs Self Beauty' where one of the speakers argued on the fact that although several celebrities may be more intelligent and argumentative than others, they still remain unqualified to speak on various political and social issues as compared to academics, experts and/or politicians.

So why do we listen to them?

His argument was that it is their attractiveness and our fetishism on the ideal concept of beauty is what engages us. And it is this uncritical and over-willingness (for lack of a better word) that needs educating.

This discourse reminds me of an episode in 30 Rock. I'd like to second Tucker Carlson's quote on this.

"Perhaps this is the state of our political discourse nowadays and that's ok. Let's embrace it."

It is the symbiosis of many shareholders that has created such a discourse. Political parties will most probably employ the most efficient way to reach voters, thus affiliating themselves with celebrities. Celebrities, on the other hand, chose smartly to switch to a political career since most of their limelight ends when they reach 30 (although in rare cases this doesn't happen, but the general trend remains so).

So then the ball lays in the audience's court.

It is one thing to give in to our fetishism in beauty and there's nothing wrong with that. After all, I argue that all art forms are indeed related to beauty (e.g. sculptures, paintings, architecture). If art is a form of cultural products then one may argue that the forming of celebrities are the forming of cultural products.

But it's another thing to mix our fetishism and our political positions.

I do not criticise the phenomenon by saying that political parties should stop using celebrities as their endorsements, because I do think these personalities gain the much needed attention to politics. I admire Angelina Jolie's work with the UNHCR and the media attention that she's successfully directed on refugee-related issues. But I do criticise the involuntary behaviour of imitation (comparable to 'latah') in the form of ill-informed voting decisions (i.e. Dede Yusuf's popularity among Indonesian female homemakers).

With the current political instability in the country visible in the ridiculous amount of new political parties (although this is a testament to democracy but it's not a testament to political stability), as a voter, I think it's mandatory that we choose on a sound basis of sufficient information, not on the fact that our favourite sinetron star is a nominated candidate.

As a media scholar, it's hard not to put the media on trial. Taking into consideration the uneven educational levels of voters, it is the media's responsibility to provide objective information on all parties and candidates (UU Pemilu). Now with the General Elections Law on media campaign, it is much more difficult for the media to cash in on political advertising.

Regardless, it is a discourse worth thinking about, for scholars, and more critically, for voters.

Friday, December 12, 2008

ALA Farewell Reception

Friday, 12 December 2009
10.41 AM
Haji Samali, Jakarta

Yesterday evening was ALA's farewell at the Australian Ambassador's house. Since Arya and I don't have a sitter, we brought Malik with us. When I entered the packed room full of people conversing and their hors d'oeuvre; I was afraid we made the wrong decision.

'I hope it's OK that I brought my son, we don't have a sitter,' I said to the hosts.
'Oh don't worry! We're very family-oriented here,' said Madamme Ambassador.

But Malik was very content throughout the evening. Perhaps it was all the funny looking, various hair coloured people who kept smiling at him and spoke to him in funny languages. Perhaps it was the mind-boggling fact that everyone clapped their hands at the same time whenever a person stopped talking. But he was very much well-behaved.

Regardless of the fact that it was an honour to receive the award and be put up to par with such amazing people from various backgrounds, I felt that my biggest pride (if that is not a bad thing to have) is that my son is able to cooperate with his parents from such a young age.

'He can sleep even with this much noise?' a person asked Arya after seeing Malik snoring in his arms.
'Too much wine,' Arya said. Hehe.

I guess it's true. When you treat your child as an adult, they will act like an adult.

'Dari semua kejadian tadi malam, Malik, Mama paling bangga sama kamu,' I said on the ride home. He stared blankly at me and yawned.


The second thing that caught my attention was all the praise they gave to Arya. They were all amazed with the support he's giving his wife and the opportunity he's giving to his son. This treatment, we've never received from Indonesians.

Whenever people found out that the wife is getting her PhD and the husband is joining her, people look at Arya condescendingly as if thinking, 'Kok mau sih lo 'dibawa' istri.'

'Kalo orang yang kenal Arya sih, Na, gak bakalan mikir gitu,' a friend said to me.

Not many people know the fact that Arya was the one who drove me to the interview and held my hand in support 8 days after labour. Not many people know the fact that Arya was the one who forced me back into working after giving birth to Malik. Not many people know the fact that Arya consciously chose to be an entrepreneur for flexible working hours so that he could also be an active parent.

That these were conscientious decisions. And that this is, I think, a sign of strength in character and will, instead of a sign of weakness if seen from a patriarchal view.

It's just sad, I think, that people from different cultural backgrounds can comprehend and respect Arya and my decision more that people we grew up with and have known us for years.

Madamme Ambassador, stroking Malik's back, 'Just remember, all of this is for him.'

And then I smiled. From my heart.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Malik and the Changes He Brought with Him


I actually wrote this quite a while ago. Here we go.

Oh. And I got the scholarship :). Beginning my PhD next year.


Saturday, 30 September 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

On Experiencing Labour

It’s hard not to rant on how labour was. No matter how often I repeat it to others, it still feels worth the storytelling.

Labour was a paradox. Ladies, you hear these horror stories of how painful it is and how close to death you’ll feel when it happens. And then you hear that no matter how painful, it’s all worth it. They are all very, very true. At least for me.

It was painful, but bearable. It was unimaginable. You truly cannot fully prepare yourself for what will happen. It doesn’t matter how often you do your pregnancy yogas and Lamaze class practices – you can’t quite prepare yourself for the mental trial labour will be. But for me, the second I gave birth, I honestly couldn’t remember the pain. Not even the cutting of the perineum, the contractions, the stitches. I can’t even rationalize it, but it’s true. It is worth it and I have no problem doing it again. It’s not only the happiness of being a mother, but it’s the chance of learning new things every single (and I mean every single) minute of every day. You realize that you are more than you’ve ever thought you could be.

I honestly thought I would be a wuss. That I could not handle the pain. That I didn’t have the mentality of pushing a 4kg baby out of me. But it turned out sometimes – sometimes – our bodies know better than we do. Darwinism. In order to survive, we will physiologically know what to do. And I testify, the female of the species, if they’re blessed, get to find out the true capacity of their bodies at least once in their lives.

On Bringing Home a Newborn
“Lo kemasukan setan apa Na, pulang ke rumah sendiri gak ada yang bantu?” Chida wrote to me. And boy, was she right.

I think it was an idiotic combination of nekad and sotoy.

It’s an anomaly in Jakarta for a young married couple in Jakarta to live alone, not with their parents, early in their relationship. But Arya and I do. It’s an anomaly that we don’t have live-in help. It’s an anomaly that we don’t want to have a babysitter. It’s an anomaly that none of our family members stayed over for the first days of bringing home our newborn.

It’s not an anomaly that we were on the verge of going out of our minds.

After a frantic series of the baby crying, bleeding nipples, a spilled bottle of frustratingly pumped breast milk, more frantic pumping, the mother crying (ha!) – I finally said “Yes” to the question “Mau Mbak Yem kesana?” my mother asked (fyi, Mbak Yem was my childhood nanny).

“Na, dimana-mana itu pemulihan dulu, baru belajar ngerawat bayi…” my mother said.
Now you’re telling me.

But I guess I would have been too stubborn to listen. So, slowly Arya and I learned how to (correctly) bathe the baby, which cry is a hungry cry, which cry is a diaper changing cry. Nights became bearable since we could rest during the day. Mbak Yem began helping us 7 to 5 and now she goes home at 11AM and I get to be with the baby all day.

And now, after a tiring process of learning, I am going back to work 3 times a week, teaching at the university and maybe taking small research projects. I’m waiting to hear from my scholarship granters whether or not I get to start my PhD next February. And even with all these splendid career choices, I get to go home to my baby boy. If that’s not a life blessed I don’t know what is.

On Going Back to Work

The first day I went out of the house without Malik was for the ALA interview on 5th August. Malik was 8 days old. My stitches were raw. But we survived.

Malik was home with Mbak Yem and my sister with expressed breast milk in the fridge. Arya came with me to the interview to calm my nerves, but it turned out it was the other way around (you truly see the commitment another person has for your life choices if they’re more anxious than you are).

I thought I would be too tired due to lack of sleep but I was a-ok. I was so happy I got the chance to get out of the house and I even enjoyed the ride. The interview went great, I think it was the knowing the ‘not getting the scholarship won’t be the end of the world’ state-of-mind that helped. I left the interview room knowing that I did my best. If I didn’t get the funding, then nothing I could have done would change that.

That trip made me realize, though, that I need to get out. I need to do something. I love Malik and I thrive in taking care of him. But it can’t be the only thing I do. That’s when I realized that I want to go back to work.

If I want to be a full-time lecturer at UI, I need to continue teaching (plus get my PhD degree) until I get my tenure. In the academic field, there’s no such thing as a 3 month maternity leave. First semester starts in September, baby or no baby. But all of my lecturer teams are very understanding. I chose the subjects I was best at, so that I won’t have to do so much research before teaching. I don’t have to attend all classes when I’m not teaching if I don’t want to.

I think being a lecturer is one of the best professions a new mother could choose, time-wise. Leaving Malik for 3-5 hours a day alone is hard enough for me, I can’t imagine parents having to leave their child for 8 hours minimum plus 2-3 hours of traffic. The sacrifice they make to ensure the livelihood of their families has my full respect.

Any day now, I’m sure I’ll find the balance between juggling motherhood and career. But when push comes to shove, if I had to choose, in a heartbeat, Malik has my everything. I love you, tiny thing.

On Cooperating with an Unconventional Partner

I think one of the reasons I didn’t get the blues for so long is because I have a very supportive husband. You know the saying ‘Behind every great man is a great woman’? Well, for the past month my saying is ‘Behind a sane woman is a great man’. Honestly, Arya is truly an unconventional Indonesian husband.

He can bathe the baby, he changes diapers, during the newborn stages, he took the 2AM to 7AM shift of taking care of Malik while my shift was 9PM to 2AM. He works the next day and makes money. He is even better than me in carrying the baby and doing the tummy flip to burp him. He held me when I cried and toughened me up when I was whining. He took care of Malik (without help! No maid no babysitter) at home while I met Philip Kitley.

”Sekalian kamu kenal dia sekalian kamu cari udara seger,” he said.

He supports me to go back to work and reminds me of my motherly obligations of continuing breastfeeding while doing so. He. Never. Whines. About. Our. Son. Or the fact that he’s doing the things most Indonesian wives/mothers do.

The past month says a lot about the qualities in Arya. Him as a father, him as a husband and him as a person. I am not exaggerating when I say, ‘Every single human being is very lucky to have the chance of having Arya in their lives.’ I love you, tiny thing’s father.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Ideologies of Child Rearing and Bearing

Saturday, 19 July 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

It’s perhaps safe to say that everything, and I mean everything, that is related to human beings are ideological. From the more complex things in life that we are used to debating about – religious choice, gender construction, human rights – to the day-to-day concepts. Being a pregnant woman on her ninth month, I am exposed to (or have exposed myself to) the ideologies of child rearing and bearing.

I find it very interesting, and somewhat mind-boggling, that even the most natural processes in life are also embedded with interest. Newspapers are ridden with arguments that breastfeeding is the best way and that no matter how advanced, formula milk may never become an equal substitute for Mother Nature’s gift. It seems like a logical argument, especially considering the trend of women’s rights to social self-actualisation (read: working) which has led most mothers to opt for formula over breastfeeding since is frees them of the obligation of breastfeeding. But the argument also ignores the fact that some women do not produce breast milk. It wasn’t their sound choice, but a physical barrier. It seems ignorant at best and cruel at worst to advocate for breast milk being the best source of nutrition for babies. Please, continue to rub salt on their wounds.

The same goes for the choice of natural birth versus C-section. I’ve realized that currently Indonesian newspapers are advocating for natural birth as opposed to C-section since several hospitals in Jakarta have an 80% C-section rate. Today’s Koran Tempo newspaper stated researched facts that babies delivered by C-section are not as healthy as babies born naturally. Lung development, bacteria providing advantage for vaginal deliveries, which helps the baby’s digestive system – you name it. It seems like the similar stance for breast milk over formula. Because of the tendency of pregnant women to choose C-section over natural birth due to non-medical personal and/or social reasons (e.g. fear of pain, fear of losing vaginal elasticity, etc), the movement heads towards pressuring women with guilt into returning to opting nature’s way. Again, a logical argument. But what about women who have medical complications and had to go through C-section because they had no other choice? Not only had they gone through a physical complication that led them to getting a surgery, but they are also reminded of the fact that their physical limitations deprived their babies of certain advantages that most ‘able women’ receive.

Again, ignorant or cruel?

The list goes on to working mothers or stay-at-home mothers, both with their pros and cons and partial ideological arguments. Involved fathers or uninvolved fathers, to hire a nanny or not hire a nanny, etc. All of which could be argued otherwise but all of which have a single hegemonic idea, which is consistently being advocated through the media nowadays.

I have my personal choices which are irrelevant to be shared here, but I do want to share one thing: I advocate for being smart parents. That we, as rational, educated and responsible human beings who have chosen to bring little people to this world, should equip ourselves with knowledge necessary to rear and bear a child. It is a responsibility we took on the day we decided to raise offspring to make rational and informed decisions – alleviating society from the responsibility to remind us of the facts that counter-argue our selfish choices. It is not the sole responsibility of women just because we can get pregnant, it is the responsibility of all parents in its broadest meaning (that includes husbands, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends actively involved in the child’s primary environment) to seek information about what is best under their circumstances.

If we succeed to do this, there will be no need for ideological hegemony, the bombarding of a partial, usually singular argument. We will receive information balanced on both sides, the pros and cons of each choice. Parents who had to choose formula milk, C-section, go back to work (or stay at home) won’t have to be reminded of the disadvantages of their choices – because they already know.

After all, everything in life is choice. The ones who will truly enjoy the reaps of their labour are the ones who did the hard work. It becomes ridiculous that we would think we are wiser than those who had to make the choices and live with the consequences. But then again, this is assuming that they have done their jobs in finding out the necessary. So the question becomes: have we done enough to deserve a child?

Note: Edited version available at

The Inconsiderate Things People Say

Saturday, 19 July 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

I was at Mothercare PIM2 browsing through some baby thingies when a Mothercare employee called out to me.

Mbak2 Mothercare: Ibu, Ibu!
Inaya: (menengok)
Mbak2 Mothercare: Ibu anaknya laki ya?
Inaya: (confused as to where this is going but is willing to be amused anyway) Iya kata dokter sih gitu, kenapa emang Mbak?
Mbak2 Mothercare: (seraya berbicara ke ibu-ibu hamil di sebelahnya) Tuh kan Bu, bener. Kalo anaknya laki yang gede perutnya doang, dari belakang gak kelihatan hamil. Anak Ibu perempuan, jadi keliatan…
Inaya: (what the… What a mean thing to say. I smiled to the other pregnant lady seolah bilang: ‘Forgive her.’)
Ibu2 hamil satunya: Mbak hamil berapa bulan?
Inaya: 8 bulan (smiles).
Ibu2 hamil satunya: Hah? KECIL BANGET PERUTNYA?
Inaya: (GRRRR, keki sampe ke ubun2. Harus ya nyakitin balik kalo disakitin orang lain??) Iya ya? Tapi malah disuruh diet sama dokter soalnya bayinya udah kegedean.
Mbak2 Mothercare: Iya tuh Bu, bener, kalo kegedean nanti gak bisa normal lho (I wonder apakah mulut orang ini ada remnya)

But that’s life I guess. Kalo bukan ini, komentar-komentar keji tentang kapan kawin, kok ngga lulus-lulus, kerjanya kok disitu bukan disana aja kan katanya gajinya lebih gede dan lain sebagainya. Memang kadang ada baiknya masuk kuping kanan keluar kuping kanan (kalo masuk kuping kanan keluar kuping kiri sempet lewat otak, this isn’t even worth the hassle).

Egal, a German would say.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Wednesday, 8 April 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

One of the many things I realise during pregnancy is: my belly tends to freak people out. By people, I mean those who are not yet married or plan to. I seem to be a walking reminder that they need to walk faster.

Sometimes I ask myself: why?

I mean, why do we have to see it as a linear decision? Why do we have to finish school, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, and die? Why do we have to see it as a path instead of a choice?

Marriage is not for everyone: since my premise is I'd rather be single and happy than marry someone just because it's about time. Having kids is not for everyone: I'd rather donate money and help other children than have children and not raise them properly. It also goes the other way around: full-time jobs are not for everyone, traveling is not for everyone, living on the edge is not for everyone.

I think basically, we all feel threatened by those who remind us of who we are not. Because they disconfirm our choices, they make us re-question our decisions. After all, we all need validation. Evidence that what we are doing is right.

Problem is, right and wrong is not left and right. My decision to quit working is not less than the fact that other pregnant women are capable to continue working. I knew my limits and I chose my priorities. My limits and choices are not applicable to other people and vice versa.

So I guess it's mostly about knowing who we are and what we want. Instead of dwelling on the things we think we should have, we could focus on the things we know we do. Family, a job we love, friends we can really talk to. After all, no matter how rich, how high up the career ladder, how beautiful and brilliant your children might be, none of these are solid indicators of happiness.

So why worry?

Ways to Freak Out Your Partner

Friday, 22 February 2008
Kalibata Utara, Jakarta

Have you watched that episode of Friends where Phoebe reads Ross' journals and recites them to freak him out? (If you don't I think it's in 'The One with the Soap Opera Party'.) But anyway, I tried it out with Arya by memorising daily football analysis (biasanya di halaman belakang Koran Tempo).

(Setting: Inaya dan Arya dalam mobil, lewatin penjaga gerbang yang lagi nonton TV)
Arya: Wah, Arsenal ya?
Inaya: Iya, mereka harus menang nih, kompensasi atas Tottenham.
Arya: ????????????????????????????????

Saking lucu mukanya Arya, I do it routinely.

(Setting: Lagi-lagi Inaya dan Arya dalam mobil, lewatin TVnya penjaga gerbang)
Arya: Arsenal MU nih.
Inaya: Menurut kamu yang menang siapa?
Arya: MU sih, abis di kandang mereka.
Inaya: Aku pinginnya Arsenal.
Arya: ..... (mungkin dia berpikir: Do I dare ask why. Tapi dia tetep nanya) Kenapa?
Inaya: Pingin tahu bener ngga pendapat orang yg bilang Adebayor susah ditebak mainnya.

I actually don't know crap of what I'm saying :p but it's just too damn funny.

(Setting: Inaya dan Arya di kamar, lagi ngobrol sebelum tidur)

Arya: (tiba-tiba aja ngomong) No peanuts for my little peanut.
Arya: Sama kan freak-nya sama Adebayor.


On the Many Approaches to Being Pregnant

Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Kalibata Utara, Jakarta

Well, the first reaction would of course be happiness.

It took Arya and I (and by Arya and I, I mean me) 2 years of marriage to finally be ready enough to have children. My biggest fear was that there were so many flaws in me as a person, that would deprive my baby of true growth in its broadest sense. I was afraid that I would be inconsistent, set double standards, be too demanding, be too loose, be too light, be too anything – that might screw my kid up for good.

But then, once in a blue moon (why blue? Why moon?), I said to myself: ‘I will never be perfect. Neither will my kid ever be. No matter how good I raise them, the flaws in me and in them are the aspects what make human, well, human.’ So why avoid something inevitable? Why not embrace it and just make the good out of it (cliché, yes). That just as I will never be a perfect person, I will never be a perfect parent. And from this realisation, it can only mean that I still have room to grow.

So then my fears went away.

Inaya: Pernah punya ketakutan yang sama?
Arya: Iya, tapi ngga dipikirin. Ngapain nyape-nyapein otak.

So then God (or for some of you, nature) created one spouse for everyone. Sigh.


Somewhere Between 4-6 Weeks

There was this one day when I was feeling very melancholic. My body was changing, my hormones were kicking in, and then there was that first sonogram which kind of made me realise that something is growing inside me.

I also realised that for the upcoming 9 months I’ll go through a life-changing phase of learning and adjusting. Of learning to be unselfish and give. That my body will take its course and take care of something which is not its own. If my body is capable of doing this, I’m pretty sure it means my heart and mind can too. I guess being a woman gives us the remarkable chance to learn selflessly.

Then I realised that men are deprived of this chance and that they will never feel the physical bond that a woman can to their child. It’s sad in a way. It makes you reconsider what society means by ‘the privileged gender’.


Somewhere Between 8-10 Weeks

Between feeling like having a constant hangover 24/7 and barfing after every meal, losing weight and having aches all over your body – you tend to be a little cranky. I don’t blame the hormones I blame the SHEER TORTURE.

I was lying in bed, not having the energy to do anything. Next to me was Arya, sitting oh-so-healthily and it really made me hate his guts (‘Ayo Yang, jangan lemes dong!’ ‘Ya makan mesti dipaksa, jangan dimanjain.’ ‘Salah sendiri, siapa suruh kerja ya sekarang kamu mesti berangkat.’). There he'll be, I thought, healthy as a pickle all throughout my 9 months, not going through a single change physically and POOF, the baby’s there and he’ll receive the equal glory of being a parent.

Lucky bastard.

Then he absentmindedly reached for a pregnancy book and started reading.

Arya: Yang, ternyata sebaiknya kamu sebelum tidur makan cracker dulu biar bangunnya ngga terlalu mual.

Then I remembered that he tries. I suddenly forgot why I was so pissed in the first place.


Somewhere Between 10-16 Weeks

I feel healthier, more sober, I barf less and whine less. I can’t fit into my old clothes and my lower back aches each morning (the pressure from the uterus). I begin questioning who I want to be in 5 years and for the first time, it’s not for career-purposes. I want to be a hands-on Mom who is there morally and mentally for her family. I want to develop myself intellectually because I want to be able to answer my kids’ questions. I want them to learn as much as I know I’ll learn from them. I want to be their ‘home’.

So then I decided to resign from my office-hours job as manager and focus on teaching and researching. Maybe write now and then. In the long run, being a lecturer is a good career line. I get to work until my 60s (industry only hires people till they’re 50), I get to manage time between taking my kids to school and teaching. I get to take them to meetings and conferences. If I'm lucky, I'll be one of those academics who get to travel around the world for researches and seminars.

Though, financially, I hope I’m making the right decision. It’s either I can really be a good academic who can provide for (at least) herself, or I end up a burnt-out teacher with no research orders. But what is life without risks?

Needs and Wants

Sunday, 2 December 2007
Haji Samali,


Inevitably, we’ve all, in some point in our lives, experienced failure. Whether it’s not getting the job you really wanted, not getting into the school you’ve studied your ass off to get into, or, most commonly, trying your best in a relationship and still ending up alone. We console ourselves by saying, ‘Everything will be OK’ or ‘This was not meant for me, happiness will come another time, another place’. Slowly we feel better about ourselves and learn how to deal with life better and just be sharper the next time around.

But. What constitutes failure?

It’s when we’ve determined an objective and decide the mechanisms we choose to employ in order to achieve it. Remain consistent with the mechanisms chosen and weigh the pros and cons. However, at the end, no matter how consistent, perceptive and agile we were, the objective was not achieved.

A premise pops in my head: you need to set an objective in order to succeed or to fail. It’s the social construction that has so effectively been introduced to our mindsets that we need to know what we want, do our best to achieve it and all other outcome is considered failing. Jobs, grades, salaries, networking, building a family: all the conventions. But how do we know that that is our ‘objective’? We all know the oh-so-cliché saying ‘When one door closes, another opens’. We all take for granted the things we want and consequentially ignore the things we get. During all failures, it becomes mandatory to take into account everything comprehensively in order to call it an actual failure.

So with each failure, success is also inevitable. When we don’t get the job we want, it might be because we are actually good at the thing we are currently doing. When we don’t get into the school we want, maybe it’s not yet time for us to learn and it’s time for us to do. If we are going through yet another painful break up, maybe it’s because it’s time for us to learn who we are instead of how we are with other people.

For those who believe in God, He indeed has mysterious ways of showing us the things we need instead of the things we want. For those who believe in nature, She has certain ways to sustain a meta-balance which involves not only us, but also the others who evolve around us. It’s always never what you want, it’s what we can take at the moment.

At the end of the day, I guess it’s about taking care of the things you already have instead of dwelling in the things you think is good for you. If life is about choices, then I choose to keep trying, but be content with whatever life throws back at me.

On Many Things

Sunday, 11 November 2007
01.50 PM
Haji Samali, Jakarta

On Moving Back Home and Its Complexities

Continents and months have has gone by since my last ponder. Everytime I begun to write, I decided that no words could best convey the hard work of learning I had to go through in such a short period of time. Well, at least for me.

Some are too personal to say. Sometimes even to myself.

But all in all, all is well.

Arya and I have our own place. Yes, we’ve been living on our own for 2 years in the Netherlands but it isn’t the same. For Indonesians, especially those who live in Jakarta, you’ll understand this completely. Living alone abroad and living alone in Jakarta are two totally different things. I actually knew of this theoretically in my head all along, but knowing it and experiencing it are very, very different. But who am I to say. The most I’ve learned so far could be the least of what’s to come.

Being far away from family was not a trip to the zoo. Seeing my brother all grown up and missing most of the process was painful – but I kept reminding myself that I made a conscious choice and that this was part of growing up. I knew in my head, then, that once I’ve returned home – things would be much more complicated. The thing called family politics: everyone means well but nobody quite does anything effectively. Aunts asking much too personal questions, customs left unchallenged often resulting in silent ‘sighs’ (if you know what I mean) – be it ‘Kalo kerja terus, kapan kawinnya?’ challenged by ‘Selesein dulu deh kuliahnya, cari uang tuh bisa nanti-nanti.’ to ‘Kapan punya anaknya?’ to ‘Kamu tuh laki-laki, pemimpin keluarga, harus bisa cari uang.’ These black-and-white values of family life are too much accepted without contest, much so for my taste.

For me (and Arya), although it’s customary (in Indonesia) for men to be in charge of the household, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the woman is left idle. Household means cooperation, communication and realisation – both in making money (male in social gender; e.g. career, investments) and taking care of chores (female in social gender; e.g. house chores, taking care of children if any). It takes two to tango. You can’t clap with one hand. You get the gist.

But of course, my values aren’t the absolute truth. What works for me doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for others. We are all entitled to choice and we are all entitled to difference in opinions. With that, goes the requisite of understanding and accepting difference. Again, this is a two-way-street. Unfortunately, not everyone is driving.

So there are moments when energy spent is not energy saved. It serves no good to explain yourself to those who can’t or won’t listen. Without feeling that everyone is beneath us, there is the art of ‘leaving things be’. Of realising that you cannot change the world with your own bare hands. There are things you can do and there are things that will cost more than you’ll ever get back.

This art – I’m pretty sure no one can ever master. But at least we can try. And hope that in the mean time we get to be just a tad bit wiser than we were yesterday.

On Work and the Bigger Picture

During my first week of jet lag, I got called back by my old office to help manage the production house that provides the services (documentaries mostly) for the communication strategy campaign I used to help coordinate. The next week, I was back to work. On that first week, I started thinking: ‘Why didn’t I take a short vacation before rushing back to work?’

But no, Ms. Inaya and her snotty idea of being a hardworker had to get in the way.


But again, all is well.

It was quite a transition from being a student and back to working again. Regardless of getting flexible hours, the workload and my own unrealistic standards get in the way of enjoying free time. Again, this was, and still is, a personal struggle of finding the balance between paying the bills, reaching for my own goals, retaining my life values, and being grounded (and maintaining sanity!).

Being my complicated self (eye-rolling permitted), I keep questioning my choices and re-evaluating my life. How is this going to affect my personal relationship with Arya? When am I going to plan to have children? Will I go back to school? Will I develop an academic career or a career in the non-profit industry?

What do I want most in life and how will my work be a part of this?

I guess we all have these questions in our heads and I’m also pretty sure that you can never have an absolute answer for any of this. You can only hope that you make the right decision (if this even exists) and make the best of the process. The only underlying value that I can sustain is: if I lose myself in the process (be it religion, life values, family), then I should let go of anything it is that is detaching me from the things that should hold me together.

Because at the end of the day, if I cannot sleep sound at night and remind myself that I am still me – and that by doing what I do, I am achieving a much bigger thing than just myself – it is just not worth doing.

Well, we’ll just have to see what the day brings.

On Planning Ahead: Realistically and Conceptually

I’ve been observing my friends and colleagues (most of which fall into the 20 to 30 year old age group), and in growing up socially, there are these two general groups (please forgive my over-generalisation). First are the planners. Those who think about insurance, hospital bills for labour, pregnancy costs, planning for mortgage, calculating their monthly expenses: in short, those who build up their personal lives according to their financial capabilities. In character, they are pessimistic, accurate, and not risk takers. The second are the do first, think later’s. In Indonesia, they are the ones who will respond in this manner: ‘Rejeki gak kemana’, ‘Banyak anak banyak rejeki’, and others in the same category. They are usually more confident, take temporary projects to pay this month’s bills and stress less.

There’s this teacher of mine who seems to think that Indonesians pray most of the time they should work. ‘Kalau sakit, berdoa supaya sembuh tapi ngga ke dokter.’ It is this philosophy of life that to me is very interesting.

How do we find the balance between being overly anal about planning ahead and being overly confident that everything will be OK (because face it, sometimes everything is not OK!)?

I guess for the planners, the limit is when we stress too much. What is the use of avoiding troubles with careful planning when we create new troubles by overthinking everything?

For the do-ers think lat-ers, the limit is when we end up making other people clean up our mess. What is the use of self-confidence when we end up asking other people for favours and loans?

I suppose none is the wiser and both types have their pros and cons. It is our obligation to identify which type we are and act accordingly. Be it by calculating our expenses and generating the necessary income (and if it is still insufficient, just lower our standards!) or accepting the worse case scenarios, accepting our failures and just start living!

Afterall, it’s not the successes that make us learn best, it’s the mistakes.


So there you go.

I think I need a vacation.

Oh, and by the way, my niece is adorable.