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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Return Of The CDs

I remember going to Jakarta with my comrades Jun Fui and Parno a day after my graduation, getting a job in Jakarta and, for a while, I thought I'd be settling down there. With that in mind, I brought my treasures with me: the CDs I bought online from the US.

This was back in the early 2000s, when purchasing from online stores was entirely a new thing in Pontianak. Dial-up internet access itself was only started in 1998, more like a leisure thing rather than a basic household requirement then, and available only at internet cafes. That was when I first discovered Google, which I preferred over Yahoo! due to its much simpler homepage design and, after one link to another, I found Amazon.

Even then Amazon.com offered a vast collection of stuff, so amazing that I wrote about the online retailer for my mid-semester assignment. What caught my attention, however, was the Beatles related CDs it was selling. I was a five years old Beatles convert at that time and Pontianak was not exactly an ideal place for a Beatles fan: one could only find a decent collection of Beatles cassettes (minus Yellow Submarine) and a John Lennon compilation or two.

In order to do online transaction, one was required to have a credit card, so with the payslip of only IDR 600K (SGD 60), I applied one and got approved (and it triggered my lifelong interest in applying all sorts of credit cards, even the obscure ones such as Diners, UnionPay or JCB). Now that I was fully equipped with Master (I remember applying for Master because they used the song Money (that's what I want), which was covered by the Beatles), imagine my excitement when I browsed Amazon.com, carefully selecting the CD based on the rating and price, then adding on the shipping fee and converting the total price to IDR (see the amount stated on the payslip above? I had to do it right or else I'd burst my savings!). When all was set, I clicked the Place Order button, but guess what happened? Shortly after that, what was supposed to be my first online purchase ended with a cancelation of order. Amazon.com declined to process it because credit cards issued by banks in Indonesia were notorious for being involved in fraudulent cases.

After going through so much to do my first online purchase, this was a truly devastating experience. Only after browsing and trying around, I eventually managed to purchase from other website which I can't remember the name now. I waited for a month and finally received my first CD from overseas: The Anthology... So Far, by Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band. I bought it because it had three CDs inside, not really because of the songs that I like, haha. I did a couple of purchases afterwards, getting Ringo, Give My Regards to Broad Street and, perhaps, Beaucoups of Blues.

Fast forward to few years later, when I was in Jakarta and making slightly more than before, I made it a monthly activity to buy a CD or two. Visited places called Disc Tarra or Music Plus, which had quite a number of outlets in many shopping malls in Jakarta. The impressive one, however, was called Aquarius in Pondok Indah. It was easily a two hours ride from where I stayed and I needed to change from air-conditioned bus to metro mini (a public transportation that looked like a rusty red can rolling on the street, with no aircon and had a low to medium risk of getting robbed), but it was definitely worth the time to go there. Aquarius was a building by itself, looked kind of exclusive, with two stories full of CDs. There were rarities that could only be found here, such as Extra Texture by George Harrison.

The routine, which probably started from 2004 or earlier, came to an end when I quitted my job and went back to Pontianak on January 2006. I left my collection under my uncle's care in Bekasi and never saw it anymore, until few days ago, 11 years later. There was this tinge of sentimental feeling when I saw the red plastic storage drawer again. There my treasure trove was, sat on one corner, looked the same but covered by a fair bit of dust, waiting for me to return. When I opened it, I realized that I have replaced easily half of the content, especially the Beatles CDs, with a newer, remastered version that I bought bit by bit throughout last decade, after I moved to Singapore. I left those half, bidding them farewell quietly, perhaps for good, and took only the other half. The CDs, which you can see below, have finally returned to their rightful owner after more than 10 years. You see the one from Paul, in the middle of fourth row from the top? I think I'll start the whole collection with listening to No More Lonely Nights, my all time favorite, the one I bought online many, many years ago...


The treasures of 5x5

Kembalinya CD Musik

Saya ingat tatkala saya berangkat ke Jakarta bersama Jun Fui dan Parno sehari setelah saya diwisuda. Kita mencari kerja di ibukota dan saya kira saya akan menetap di sana selamanya, oleh karena itu, saya juga membawa serta harta karun saya: CD musik yang saya beli dari Amerika.

Kisah ini dimulai awal tahun 2000an, ketika membeli barang secara online masih merupakan hal yang jarang terdengar di Pontianak. Akses internet lewat modem baru bermula tahun 1998. Saat itu internet masih belum menjadi kebutuhan sehari-hari dan hanya bisa dinikmati oleh khalayak ramai lewat warnet. Saya ingat bahwa saya pertama kali menemukan Google sewaktu saya berada di warnet STMIK. Saya suka Google karena tampilannya lebih sederhana dari Yahoo dan, setelah berpindah ke sana kemari, akhirnya saya menemukan Amazon. 

Bahkan di kala itu pun Amazon.com telah menawarkan bermacam-macam barang dan koleksinya sungguh mencengangkan. Saya ingat bahwa saya menulis makalah tentang ini untuk dikumpulkan sebagai tugas pertengahan semester. Akan tetapi, dari sekian banyak barang yang dijual di Amazon.com, yang menarik perhatian saya tentu saja beraneka CD the Beatles. Sebagai penggemar the Beatles, Pontianak bukanlah tempat yang ideal. Saya hanya bisa menemukan kaset-kaset the Beatles (kecuali Yellow Submarine) dan dua album kompilasi lagu John Lennon. 

Untuk melakukan transaksi online, saya memerlukan kartu kredit, jadi dengan slip gaji sebesar Rp. 600.000, saya mengajukan permohonan kartu dan disetujui (dan ini memicu hobi saya dalam mengajukan permohonan kartu, bahkan untuk yang jarang dipakai sekalipun seperti Diners, UnionPay dan JCB). Setelah dibekali kartu Master (saya sengaja mengisi aplikasi untuk Master karena iklan kartu ini menggunakan lagu Money yang juga dinyanyikan oleh the Beatles), dengan hati girang saya mulai berbelanja di Amazon.com. Saya memilih CD berdasarkan peringkat bintang yang tertera dan harga yang terjangkau, lalu menambahkan ongkos kirim dan menghitung total harga dalam rupiah (oh ya, gaji saya cuma Rp. 600.000, kalau tidak dihitung, bisa-bisa pengeluaran saya lebih besar dari pemasukan). Ketika sudah mantap dengan pilihan yang ada, saya menekan tombol Place Order, tapi coba tebak apa yang terjadi? Transaksi saya ditolak oleh Amazon.com karena kartu kredit Indonesia termasuk rawan penyalahgunaan dan penipuan.

Setelah melewati begitu banyak perjuangan untuk melakukan pembelian online perdana ini, penolakan yang terjadi benar-benar mengecewakan. Saya cari alternatif lainnya dan akhirnya berhasil membeli dari sebuah situs yang sudah tidak saya ingat lagi namanya. Saya menunggu kira-kira sebulan lamanya dan CD pertama yang saya beli dari Amerika pun tiba: The Anthology... So Far, by Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band. Saya beli karena album ini memiliki tiga CD, bukan karena saya menyukai semua lagunya, haha. Setelah itu, saya melakukan beberapa transaksi lagi untuk membeli Ringo, Give My Regards to Broad Street dan Beaucoups of Blues. 

Kembali ke masa-masa saya di Jakarta dimana penghasilan saya sedikit lebih banyak dari sebelumnya, belanja CD musik menjadi aktivitas bulanan. Biasanya saya membeli satu atau dua keping dari Disc Tarra atau Music Plus yang tersebar di banyak mal di Jakarta, terkadang saya juga mengunjungi Aquarius di kawasan Pondok Indah. Jarak tempuhnya dari Cempaka Putih berkisar dua jam dan saya harus berganti dari bis ke metro mini, sebuah angkutan umum yang mirip kaleng merah karatan dan memiliki resiko dirampok). Meski jauh dan tidak aman perjalanannya, Aquarius layak dikunjungi. Toko musik ini memiliki bangunan tersendiri dan dua lantai yang dipenuhi pernak-pernik musik langka yang hanya bisa dijumpai di sana, misalnya Extra Texture dari George Harrison. 

Rutinitas yang berlangsung dari tahun 2004 ini berakhir ketika saya berhenti kerja dan pulang ke Pontianak di bulan Januari 2006. Saya tinggalkan koleksi saya ini di rumah paman saya di Bekasi dan tidak pernah melihatnya lagi sampai beberapa hari yang lalu, 11 tahun kemudian. Ada rasa sentimental saat melihat laci plastik berwarna merah yang saya gunakan sebagai tempat penyimpanan CD ini. Ini kotak harta saya, masih terlihat sama tapi agak berdebu di pojokan gudang, dengan setia menanti pemiliknya kembali. Ketika saya buka, saya menyadari bahwa separuh dari isinya, terutama CD the Beatles, sudah tergantikan oleh versi baru yang saya beli ulang setelah saya pindah ke Singapura. Oleh karena itu saya hanya ambil apa yang belum saya beli. CD musik ini, seperti yang bisa dilihat di foto di atas, akhirnya kembali ke pemiliknya. Anda lihat album Paul McCartney yang berada di tengah baris keempat? Saya rasa saya akan mulai mendengar ulang koleksi saya ini dengan lagu No More Lonely Nights, lagu favorit saya yang saya beli secara online bertahun-tahun silam... 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Oath

I still read comics, mostly DC and a bit of Marvel, and it's like a weekly affair. It must be so regular that my wife was puzzled by this routine sometimes. For her, she did read stuff such as Asterix or the Smurf, but that was like ages ago and she had stopped reading since then, therefore what's with me and comics? I remember telling her that it was exciting because Superman was no longer just saving a cat from the tree.

While it was meant to be a joke, it also wasn't further from the truth. Comics are indeed more exciting nowadays. Although it gets a bit darker than before, but at the same time, it only goes to show that we need heroes more than ever. That, in general, is what makes comics more entertaining.

On a personal level, however, there's this little known fact of why I always enjoy comics: the moral of the story. I tend think that people learn the fastest from easy reading like this. No point asking people to read thick books about moral values, because readers will end up with all sort of perceptions. It'll be different, however, when you have characters such as Captain America saying it.

Steve Rogers is one of the few well-known characters that embodies the truth and justice, even when he's not donning his red, white and blue costumes. With Cap, it is as if he can't go wrong (except the hail hydra ruckus recently), hence when he says it, the words that come out from him carry the weight. I mean, here is a man that even Thor, a thunder god, listens to and leaps into action without any hesitation when this mere mortal says, "Avengers assemble." Moreover, when it comes to choosing side among the good guys, if you ever read Civil War 10 years ago, the moment Cap disagreed with Superhuman Registration Act and fought his way out of S.H.I.E.L.D, you know you'd root for him and Tony Stark would end up as the bad guy here. That's how trustworthy Cap is and why using him as a character to convey such a message is so believable.


Anyway, remember a song called the Greatest Love of All? George Benson (or Whitney Houston, depends on the version) sang this particular line: everybody's searching for a hero, people need someone to look up to. I believe this verse wholeheartedly as it certainly works for me. And this is what the 'S' logo in Superman represents. It gives us hope, and that's what people in Metropolis look for when they look up to the sky, hoping to catch the glimpse of Superman. Regardless how trying the situation is, there's always hope that things are going to be alright. Same goes for Barry Allen when he outran the Black Racer, the impersonation of death. While it was logic defying, the triumphant return of the Flash in Final Crisis was, in a way, an inevitable moment of long waited hope (it took him literally 22 years to finally return!) came true. You may call it childish, but then again, this is why people indulge in comics: simply because it reminds us again that hope is not as frail as it seems to be.

At the same time, those superheroes also set the examples of standing up and fighting for what's right, even if it means die trying. Such actions speak volumes about how sacrifice is not only unavoidable sometimes, but also a must, as shown by Superman when he fought Doomsday, and by many others who also did such feat such as the Flash, Green Arrow or Elongated Man.

In Batman's case, we learn that there's a line that we shouldn't cross or else it is likely to be a point of no return. The Dark Knight would never bring himself down to the Joker's level, even during a Death in the Family event, when Robin (Jason Todd) was killed by the Joker. In another story called Crisis of Conscience, there was also this scene where Batman tried to stop the Justice League from lobotomizing Doctor Light, only to be outnumbered by his fellow members. However, being the world's greatest detective, he eventually figured out that they, too, had wiped out his memory. I surely love the memorable scene when Hawkman brought this up to confront Batman and immediately got himself punched in the face and being told off that, "my friends would never have done that to me." With Batman, it's clear cut: there are things that you simply don't do, no matter what.

Then of course, when we talk about superheroes, there's this world famous, often quoted wisdom from Uncle Ben: with great power comes great responsibility. This is especially true and definitely applicable in our lives.

Power does corrupt if it's not wielded responsibly. In a smaller scale, Peter Parker learnt it the hard way and bears the consequence throughout his life. This was nothing, however, compared with what Hal Jordan went through: he was a hero who fell out of grace during Emerald Twilight, a villain in Zero Hour, and a lost soul who managed to redeem himself in the Final Night.

The greatest Green Lantern of them all lived through it all and, this being comics, eventually got his second chance in Green Lantern: Rebirth. A man who believes that whenever there's a will, there's a way, Hal was tempted by Parallax to give up, but much to the surprise of the fear entity, Hal replied that he didn't know how. That was when he recited the oath again:

"In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship the evil's might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!"

And the green light of willpower was burning bright. The world was saved once again. That, to certain extent, is pretty much like my current job, actually. We're here to save the day, even when it seems impossible...

Everybody needs a hero and we start it early...


Kisah Sebuah Sumpah

Saya masih membaca komik, baik DC maupun Marvel, setiap minggu. Karena saya begitu teratur meluangkan waktu untuk rutinitas yang satu ini, kadang istri pun merasa bingung. Dia sendiri juga membaca Asterix atau Smurf, tapi era tersebut sudah lama berlalu dan dia tidak lagi membaca komik sejak itu, jadi mungkin aneh baginya bahwa suaminya masih membaca komik. Akan tetapi saya katakan padanya, ini karena cerita komik sekarang bukan lagi sekedar membahas bagaimana Superman menyelamatkan kucing dari atas pohon.

Walau saya hanya bercanda, tapi pernyataan saya itu ada benarnya. Komik sekarang berbeda ceritanya dengan terbitan tahun 60an. Ceritanya menjadi agak kelam sejak peristiwa terbunuhnya Superman saat melawan Doomsday, tapi di satu sisi justru menunjukkan bahwa kita lebih membutuhkan pahlawan sebagai panutan di zaman sekarang.

Bagi saya pribadi, hal kecil yang senantiasa berkesan adalah moral dari cerita itu sendiri. Saya sering berpikir bahwa cara termudah bagi orang untuk diingatkan kembali tentang pegangan hidup adalah dengan bacaan ringan seperti ini. Tidak ada gunanya meminta orang membaca buku ini dan itu tentang moral, karena setiap orang akan terbelenggu dengan persepsinya sendiri. Akan beda ceritanya jika pesan tersebut disuarakan karakter seperti Captain America. 

Steve Rogers adalah salah satu dari sedikit tokoh yang merupakan perwujudan dari kebenaran dan keadilan, bahkan ketika dia tidak sedang mengenakan kostumnya yang berwarna merah, putih dan biru. Jangan lupa bahwa dewa halilintar seperti Thor pun menurutinya dan langsung terjun ke medan pertempuran ketika Captain America berseru, "Avengers assemble!" Dengan demikian kata-katanya tentu tidak bisa bisa dianggap sepele. Bahkan saat kita harus memihak di antara dua sisi yang bisa dianggap benar dalam cerita Civil War, ketika Cap tidak setuju dengan undang-undang registrasi manusia super and menerobos keluar dari S.H.I.E.L.D, saya rasa kita tergerak untuk mendukungnya dan Tony Stark akhirnya terlihat sebagai orang jahat di sini. Di sinilah keunggulan Cap sebagai tokoh yang bisa dipercaya dalam menyampaikan pesan akhlak. 


Dalam lagu the Greatest Love of All, George Benson (atau Whitney Houston, tergantung versi yang anda dengar) menyanyikan lirik berikut ini: everybody's searching for a hero, people need someone to look up to. Saya percaya lirik dengan sepenuh hati karena benar adanya. Dan ini juga yang dilambangkan oleh logo 'S' di dada Superman. Lambang tersebut memberikan harapan, dan itu dicari oleh warga Metropolis ketika mereka menatap langit, berharap melihat Superman melesat melewati mereka. Tidak peduli betapa sulitnya keadaan, harapan bahwa semua akan membaik itu ada. Sama halnya ketika Barry Allen berlari meloloskan diri dari Black Racer alias malaikat maut yang mengejarnya. Walau tidak masuk di akal, kembalinya Flash di serial Final Crisis turut melambangkan terwujud penantian yang panjang (para pembaca menanti 23 tahun lamanya, terhitung sejak tahun 1985). Mungkin anda berpikir bahwa ini sangat kekanak-kanakan, tapi karena berikut inilah seorang pembaca menggemari komik: karena komik mengingatkan kembali bahwa harapan tidaklah serapuh yang dibayangkan.

Pada saat yang sama, para superheroes ini juga memberikan contoh untuk bertarung memperjuangkan kebenaran, meski besar taruhannya. Aksi kepahlawanan ini memberikan contoh bahwa pengorbanan kadang tidak terhindarkan, misalnya ketika Superman tewas melawan Doomsday. Cerita dengan tema yang sama juga dilakoni oleh Flash, Green Arrow, Elongated Man dan masih banyak lagi.

Lewat cerita Batman, kita belajar tentang adanya batas yang tidak boleh kita lewati atau kita tidak akan pernah sama lagi dengan sebelumnya. Bruce tidak pernah menjadi pembunuh seperti halnya Joker, bahkan ketika Robin (Jason Todd) dibunuh oleh Joker dalam cerita a Death in the Family. Dalam cerita lain berjudul Crisis of Conscience, ada adegan dimana Batman mencoba menghentikan Justice League yang hendak menghapus ingatan Doctor Light, meskipun akhirnya dia gagal dan ingatannya tentang kejadian itu juga dihapus. Akan tetapi, sebagai detektif terhebat di dunia, dia akhirnya tahu bahwa dia sendiri juga turut menjadi korban. Saya menyukai bagian dimana Hawkman yang mencoba untuk berdebat langsung dihajar dan seraya dijawab oleh Batman, "seorang teman tidak akan pernah melakukan hal ini!" Hikmah dari cerita Batman sangat jelas: ada hal yang tidak pantas dilakukan, apa pun alasannya.

Dan kalau kita bicara tentang superheroes, tentu saja kita harus menyinggung tentang ucapan terkenal dan bijaksana dari Paman Ben: kekuatan datang bersama tanggung jawab yang sama besarnya. Ini tidak terbantahkan dan bisa diterapkan dalam hidup, karena kekuatan bisa menyesatkan. Peter belajar tentang hal ini lewat pengalaman pahit yang akan selalu ditanggungnya seumur hidup. Hal yang sama juga dialami Hal Jordan: Dia terpuruk dan gagal sebagai pahlawan dalam kisah Emerald Twilight, menjadi penjahat dalam Zero Hour dan menebus kesalahannya dengan nyawa dalam Final Night.

Green Lantern terhebat sepanjang masa ini mengalami semuanya dan, karena ini komik, dia akhirnya mendapat kesempatan kedua dalam Green Lantern: Rebirth. Sebagai seorang yang percaya bahwa selama ada keinginan maka selalu ada jalan, Hal dibisiki Parallax untuk menyerah, tapi entitas rasa takut itu dibuat terkejut oleh Jordan yang menjawab bahwa dia tidak tahu bagaimana caranya menyerah. Kemudian dia pun mengucapkan sumpahnya lagi: 

"In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship the evil's might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!"

Dan cahaya hijau yang tercipta dari tekad itu menyala terang dan menumpas Parallax. Sekali lagi dunia terselamatkan. Saya suka ini karena saya melihat kemiripannya dalam kehidupan sehari-hari, terutama dalam pekerjaan saya. Kita hadir untuk menyelamatkan hari ini dari masalah, tidak peduli betapa pelik dan mustahilnya masalah tersebut... 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Once Upon A Time In China (Part II)

Talk about memories, you either wait for it or create one yourself. The difference is, of course, when you are being proactive, normally you'd try your best to work towards a happy result. That's what I did when I planned for a holiday with my parents. In life, we're either playing the lead, supporting role or merely a cameo to others, so there I was, in the bullet train, fulfilling the role of a son, taking a break from my schedule to spend some quality time with my parents.

As told in previous article, we left Zhuhai on the first day of Chinese New Year. We passed by Foshan and eventually arrived in Guangzhou. After looking and asking around, I realized that we had a slight problem. Apparently the hotel that I booked was nearer to the airport than city center. This was back in the day, when I started learning how to plan for a holiday. It was a total blunder, alright, but yet another moment worth for, "do you remember when we were lost in Guangzhou?" 

As a result of my rookie mistake, we ended up commuting to and fro throughout our stay in Guangzhou. There was this shuttle bus that would bring us to Baiyun airport early in the morning. We would search for the eateries there and that's when we developed a special affinity with the Bruce Lee fast food stall. And hey, on my defence, the hotel we were staying was actually quite good! Even my Dad remembers the hotel name to this day (although he would chuckle a bit when he mentioned it): Henry Business Hotel. Anyway, in hindsight, I tend to agree that from the name alone, it is quite obvious that the hotel shouldn't be associated with holiday, hahaha.  

In Guangzhou, we went to places such as the house of dr. Sun Yat Sen, Guangzhou zoo (I dragged my parents there by using panda as a bait) and the statue of five goats. Since entering China, we also had a habit of buying bullet train tickets in advance. That means our stay in Guangzhou also included the scouting session to find our way to the next train station that we would depart from. (Do take note that cities in China are so big that when you arrive, let's say, at the East Station, it doesn't mean you'll depart from the same station. For all you know, you could be departing from West Station to next city, depends on which train you are taking). 

It was during that particular journey to the train station that I took the picture below. If I have to say it myself, I think it's beautiful and definitely a personal favourite. There Dad and Mum were, embracing the beginning of spring season, looking so relax and still lovingly close to each other after 33 years of marriage. There is a certain tranquil quality in the photo that stays there eternally. If you ever heard of the phrase a picture says a thousand words, this must be the one.

Anyway, from Guangzhou, we went to Shenzhen. We were expecting a warmer weather, but boy, were we wrong! The nights in Shenzhen were too cold for our liking. The hotel room was so spacious that it even included a living room, but it didn't come with the heater. If I compared it with our experience on the next trip, it seems like only hotels in Hangzhou and above come with heater, so if you can't stand the cold, you may want to factor in this to your plan. 

In Shenzhen, we went to the iconic Window of the World, a grand example to show that China can replicate anything from around the world and also has a place big enough to store them all. I remember that we, too, went to some sort of giant book store or library. Those places were fine, but our fondest memory of Shenzhen was a small eating place nearby our hotel. The place served the food in a wooden rice bucket, which was unique, and much to our delight, it tasted good, too!

Eventually, as the saying goes, all good things must come to end. I'm not talking about the holiday, because we still crossed to Hong Kong, but that's where the good things ended and the expensive things started. Joke aside, that was exactly how it felt. Things were cheap and spacious in China, but the moment we stepped into Hong Kong, I could immediately feel the sting; places were cramped and expensive, from hotel room to tea house. By the way, this was Tsim Sha Tsui I'm talking about. 

Still I can't say that we didn't enjoy Hong Kong. We have a relative or two there and we met them somewhere in the East side of Hong Kong Island. We went to the Peak for a visit to Madame Tussauds. We took a ferry ride back to the Avenue of Stars and that was pretty much it. The inverted U shape road map that started from Macau, covering Zhuhai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, finally ended in Hong Kong. It was not perfect, but then again, it wasn't meant to be. While it's good to have the clear destinations, after all things are said and done, it is the journey that we remember best. Those laughter, those memories...

Once Upon A Time in Guangzhou


Suatu Ketika Di Negeri Cina (Bagian Akhir)

Bicara tentang kenangan, anda bisa menunggu atau menciptakan kenangan untuk anda sendiri. Bedanya adalah, ketika anda berniat, biasanya anda akan melakukan yang terbaik. Ini yang saya lakukan ketika merencanakan liburan bersama orang tua saya. Ketika liburan tiba, saya pun melepaskan diri dari aktivitas saya untuk menjadi seorang anak yang meluangkan waktu untuk orang tuanya.

Seperti yang dikisahkan dalam episode sebelumnya, kita meninggalkan Zhuhai pada hari pertama Tahun Baru Cina. Kereta cepat yang kita tumpang melewati Foshan, kota asal Ip Man dan Wong Fei-hung, dan akhirnya tiba di Guangzhou. Setelah bertanya sana-sini, saya pun menyadari bahwa kita ada sedikit masalah: hotel yang yang pesan ternyata lebih dekat bandara daripada pusat kota! Ini sebuah kesalahan konyol, tapi lucu jadinya setelah dijalani dan kadang muncul mendadak saat kita sedang berbincang, "masih ingat saat kita terdampar di Guangzhou?"

Karena kesalahan saya ini, kita akhirnya selalu menuju bandara Baiyun selama di Guangzhou (ada bis gratis dari hotel ke bandara), kemudian naik kereta bawah tanah menuju kota. Alhasil, kita jadi kenal baik seluk-beluk bandara di sana dan mulai menyukai tempat makan yang bergambar Bruce Lee. Di satu sisi, untungnya hotel tempat kita tinggal itu cukup bagus. Bahkan Papa masih ingat namanya, walaupun dia seringkali tertawa kecil saat menyinggung tentang hotel bernama Henry Business Hotel ini. Kalau saya lihat kembali, harusnya saya tahu bahwa dari namanya saja, hotel itu tidaklah mirip hotel untuk liburan, haha.

Selama di Guangzhou, kita mengunjungi tempat-tempat seperti rumah dr. Sun Yat Sen, kebun binatang Guangzhou (saya pancing orang tua saya ke sana dengan iming-iming melihat panda) dan juga patung lima kambing yang menjadi simbol kota tersebut. Sejak memasuki Cina, saya juga memulai kebiasaan untuk langsung membeli tiket kereta ke kota berikutnya. Ini juga berarti saya harus mencari tahu, bagaimana caranya mencapai stasiun kereta. Perlu diingat bahwa kota-kota di Cina biasanya luas, jadi misalnya kalau kita tiba di Stasiun Timur, ini tidak lantas berarti kita akan berangkat lagi lewat stasiun yang sama. Tergantung keretanya, bisa saja kita berangkat lewat Stasiun Barat. Oleh karena itu, saya lebih cenderung mencari tahu letak stasiun tujuan saya dulu daripada kalang-kabut di hari keberangkatan.

Dalam perjalanan ke stasiun Guangzhou, saya sempat mengambil foto di atas, yang kemudian menjadi favorit saya. Di foto tersebut Papa dan Mama terlihat santai menyongsong datangnya musim semi dan, setelah 33 tahun menikah, masih terlihat begitu rukun satu sama lain. Begitu damai dan bahagia. Jika anda pernah mendengar tentang pepatah satu gambar sebanding dengan seribu kata, maka foto ini cocok dengan peribahasa tersebut.

Setelah Guangzhou, kita melanjutkan Shenzhen. Karena posisinya di selatan Guangzhou, kita berharap bahwa cuaca di Shenzhen lebih hangat. Siapa sangka justru lebih dingin? Kamar hotelnya luar biasa luas dan bahkan memiliki ruang tamu, tapi tidak dilengkapi dengan penghangat ruangan. Jika saya bandingkan dengan liburan kedua di Cina, sepertinya hanya hotel di kawasan Hangzhou ke atas yang menyediakan penghangat ruangan, jadi jika anda tidak tahan dingin, mungkin ini perlu dipertimbangkan.

Di Shenzhen, kita berkunjung ke Window of the World, kawasan wisata yang juga merupakan contoh bagaimana Cina bisa membuat replika apa saja dari berbagai penjuru dunia dan sekaligus memiliki tempat yang cukup luas untuk menampung semuanya. Kita juga mampir ke semacam toko buku atau perpustakaan yang menyerupai lautan buku. Kendati begitu, kenangan yang tidak terlupakan dari Shenzhen adalah tempat makan kecil di dekat hotel. Nasi dan lauknya yang disuguhkan dalam bakul kayu itu enak rasanya!

Pada akhirnya, semua hal yang baik harus berakhir. Oh, yang saya maksudkan bukan liburannya, tetapi harga yang terjangkau di negeri Cina. Dari Shenzhen, kita masuk ke Hong Kong melalui Luohu dan langsung naik kereta menuju Tsim Sha Tsui. Begitu kita masuk ke Hong Kong, semuanya langsung terasa mahal dan sempit, mulai dari kamar hotel sampai tempat makan.

Meskipun mahal, ini tidak berarti saya tidak menikmati Hong Kong. Mama memiliki tante di sana dan kita mengunjungi kediamannya di sebelah timur Hong Kong Island. Selain itu, kita juga pergi ke Madame Tussauds di kawasan Peak sebelum kita naik feri ke Avenue of Stars.

Rute berbentuk U terbalik yang dimulai dari Macau, Zhuhai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen akhirnya berakhir di Hong Kong. Terlepas dari segala kelebihan dan kekurangannya, perjalanan ini terasa berkesan. Tempat tujuannya sesuai harapan, tetapi yang lebih istimewa lagi adalah kebersamaan serta tawa dan canda selama liburan...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Once Upon A Time In China (Part I)

I always like a relaxed conversation that starts with, "do you remember when we..." for a simple reason that by the end of the day, for all the achievements and failures that come and go, all we have are memories. I do this from time to time with my loved ones: family, friends and, of course, parents. With my parents, sometimes we do reminisce about the holiday we had in China. It was just the two of them and I, few years ago, when they were physically stronger than they are today.

When it comes to parents, I think we can all safely agree in general that they brought us up and never ask anything in return. Regardless how naughty or troublesome we were back then, it seems like bringing us up was an experience rewarding enough to them. But still, on the flip side of the coin, now that we are grown-ups, especially when some of us could have been parents ourselves by now, the question is, do we still spend enough time with our parents?

At Zhuhai train station.

To certain extent, I clearly don't (you see, that's the problems of having boys, haha). I was separated with them when I was younger, then we crossed path again few years later, and I left once I completed my degree and only managed to do a few sporadic visits throughout the years. Perhaps it was me feeling guilty subconsciously, I don't know, but that was when I decided that I would bring them for an affordable holiday. Being a son, that's the least I could do to have some quality time with them. And it had to be China, because for some strange reason that I failed to understand, they seemed to be so proud of being Chinese and surely they must have felt like going back there one day.

For that particular trip we had, we entered China from Macau. It was cold (and the worse was yet to come), especially for us who came from a tropical town situated right at the equator line. In fact, the preparation was very poor when it came to the weather as we were clearly caught by surprise. I mean, how would I know the cold air would get into the jeans and stay inside? This could be the reason why the noodles soup that we had for our first lunch tasted so delicious: it could be simply due to the fact that soup was hot enough to keep us warm under such a cold weather.

Mum and Dad at A-Ma Temple, Macau.

Macau is a small city, even smaller than Singapore, which made it easy for us to navigate around. We took the bus to go places and walked quite a bit to reach destinations such as the Ruins of St. Paul's. There was this funny moment where my Dad was genuinely surprised that he mumbled to himself about how the famous site was apparently just a wall.

Mum was more expressive. It was good to see her light up, looking very cheerful when she saw colourful flowers. She would also gleefully ask me to take pictures of her and Dad, the side of her that I never saw before until then. You see, sometimes we could have been so accustomed to the fact that the parents are Mum and Dad throughout our lives and we become oblivious to the fact that they are, too, normal human beings with feelings and emotions like us. It was really priceless and worth the while to see them enjoying the holiday.

Exploring Zhuhai. Mum surely knew where the camera was!

We went to Zhuhai on the next day, crossing the border on foot. As it was the eve of Chinese New Year, we didn't have much to do, but we did break the myth that we heard prior to the visit by witnessing the truth. Apparently shops weren't closed during Chinese New Year. Majority of them were opened and Gongbei was as busy as it got. It was there that the weather dropped even further and, much to our surprise, while the hotel looked rundown, our room actually had spare blankets. To this day, when we talk about cold weather, we would go, "do you still remember our time in Zhuhai?" Then we would laugh afterwards.

Guangzhou was our next destination. We left Zhuhai the next day, after celebrating our first day of Chinese New Year by eating a bowl of hot century eggs porridge. We took the bullet train for the first time and it was a rather amusing experience, I'd say. I was just being cheeky when I asked the station officer whether I could take the next train even though my departure time was an hour later. To my surprise, he actually took my question seriously and said yes, I could, but I might not get a seat stated on my ticket if somebody who held the ticket for that particular train showed up. To think that he actually said okay! Amusing, wasn't it? However, the departure itself was not much fun, even though it was worth remembering. Being lined up on an open platform to wait for the train under the constant cold and biting wind was very much a torture for us. We could only look at each other while trying our best to stop the teeth chattering. Luckily it didn't last long and off we went to Guangzhou...

Mum took a quick pose with the bullet train as we alighted at Guangzhou station.


Suatu Ketika Di Negeri Cina (Bagian Pertama)

Saya selalu menyukai percakapan santai yang dimulai dengan, "apakah anda masih ingat ketika kita..." karena pada akhirnya, ketika semua kesuksesan dan kegagalan berlalu, yang tersisa hanyalah kenangan. Saya kadang melihat kembali dan mengenang masa-masa ini dengan keluarga, teman dan tentu saja kedua orang tua saya. Sewaktu bersama dengan mereka, ada kalanya kita berkelakar tentang liburan kita bertiga di Cina beberapa tahun silam, saat mereka masih lebih sehat dan bugar dari hari ini. 

Berbicara tentang orang tua, saya kira kita rata-rata setuju bahwa mereka mengasuh kita dari kecil hingga dewasa tanpa meminta pamrih apa pun. Tidak peduli senakal apa pun kita dulu, sepertinya hari-hari bersama anak-anak adalah pengalaman yang berharga bagi mereka. Akan tetapi, sekarang, setelah kita sendiri dewasa dan menjadi orang tua bagi anak-anak kita, pertanyaannya adalah apakah kita masih meluangkan cukup waktu bagi orang tua kita?

Suatu hari di Macau, saat salah jalan dan arah, hehe.

Bagi saya pribadi, rasanya saya lebih cenderung sibuk sendiri. Saya berpisah dengan mereka sejak SMA dan hanya tinggal bersama lagi untuk sementara waktu setelah mereka kembali ke Pontianak bertahun-tahun kemudian. Saya lantas meninggalkan rumah begitu saya lulus kuliah dan hanya bertemu mereka dalam beberapa kunjungan singkat. Sedikit banyak mungkin saya merasa bersalah, oleh karena itu saya putuskan untuk membawa mereka liburan karena dengan demikian, saya bisa melewatkan waktu bersama mereka. Tempat tujuan kita adalah Cina karena sebagai orang Tionghoa, di hati mereka senantiasa ada keinginan untuk melihat seperti apa negeri Cina sesungguhnya. 

Rute perjalanan kita ke Cina dimulai dari Macau, Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen dan akhirnya pulang melalui Hong Kong. Cuaca di bulan Januari 2012 terasa dingin (dan akan semakin menggigit nantinya), terutama bagi kita yang berasal dari daerah tropis di garis Khatulistiwa. Saya tidak menduga bahwa temperaturnya akan sedingin itu, jadi salah mengenakan kostum akhirnya. Maksud saya, bagaimana saya bisa tahu bahwa angin dingin yang bertiup masuk ke jeans akan bertahan dinginnya di dalam celana? Ini mungkin menjelaskan kenapa mie kuah yang pertama kali kita makan setelah tiba di Macau terasa begitu lezat: karena kuahnya yang hangat terasa nyaman di cuaca dingin. 

Macau adalah kota/negara yang kecil, bahkan lebih kecil dari Singapura, jadi tidak terlalu sulit untuk dijelajahi. Kita naik bis keliling kota dan juga berjalan kaki ke berbagai tujuan wisata seperti reruntuhan gereja Santo Paulus. Ada kejadian lucu dimana Papa terperangah dan bergumam sendiri, seakan tidak percaya bahwa situs terkenal ini hanyalah sebuah tembok.

Papa dan reruntuhan gereja Santo Paulus di kejauhan.

Mama jauh lebih ekspresif. Senang rasanya melihat dia begitu riang. Dia kadang meminta difoto bersama Papa. Ini sudut pandang yang menarik. Karena terbiasa dengan peran mereka sebagai orang tua sepanjang hidup saya, saya tidak pernah berpikir tentang Papa dan Mama sebagai dua insan manusia yang memiliki perasaan dan emosi seperti saya. Liburan ini membuka mata saya dan saya juga turut bergembira melihat mereka bersuka-cita dalam menikmati liburan di Cina. 

Kita berangkat ke Zhuhai keesokan harinya, menyeberang perbatasan Macau dan Cina dengan berjalan kaki. Hari itu adalah malam Tahun Baru Cina, jadi tidak banyak yang kita lakukan di Zhuhai selain berjalan-jalan di sekitar Gongbei dan menyaksikan sibuknya toko-toko di sana. Ternyata kabar bahwa toko-toko tutup saat Tahun Baru tidaklah benar. Banyak toko yang masih buka.

Selagi kita berada di Zhuhai, suhu cuaca turun lagi. Kendati kita tinggal di hotel yang terlihat tua dan kumuh, kamar kita ternyata menyediakan selimut ekstra sehingga tidur pun terasa nyaman. Pengalaman tersebut pun berkesan di benak kita sampai sekarang. Oleh sebab itu, bila kita sedang berbicara tentang dinginnya cuaca, ada kalanya kita berujar, "masih ingat saat kita berada di Zhuhai?" Kemudian kita pun tertawa saat teringat kembali tentang Zhuhai.

Di dekat perbatasan antara Macau dan Cina, di kota Zhuhai.

Kita merayakan hari pertama Tahun Baru Cina dengan menikmati sarapan bubur telur pitan yang hangat, lalu berangkat ke stasiun kereta api cepat. Saat itu saya hanya iseng bertanya kepada petugas stasiun, apakah saya bisa menaiki kereta berikutnya meskipun jadwal keberangkatan saya masih satu jam lagi. Di luar dugaan saya, petugas itu mengiyakan pertanyaan saya dengan serius sambil menambahkan bahwa saya mungkin tidak akan mendapat tempat duduk jika penumpang yang memiliki tiket kereta tersebut menaiki kereta yang sama. Ternyata peraturannya tidak sekedar yang saya bayangkan, hehe.

Saat-saat menjelang keberangkatan tidak senyaman yang saya harapkan, tetapi menarik untuk diingat. Kita diminta untuk membentuk beberapa baris di tempat tunggu terbuka untuk menanti datangnya kereta. Dinginnya angin yang bertiup benar-benar membuat gigi saling beradu! Syukurlah penantian ini tidak berlangsung lama. Setelah menaiki kereta, kita pun berangkat ke Guangzhou...


Saturday, January 21, 2017

How Deep Is Your Love (Part II)

Tales from the Brothers Gibb were my Bee Gees 101 lesson. A very long one at that, since the album covers from New York Mining Disaster 1941 to their One for All concert. When I got hold of the VCD, the particular show introduced me to Bee Gees, the performers. While I didn't really like the concert (due to the chorus of the songs being repeated much longer than the records), I was totally impressed by the Brothers Gibb.

What caught my attention was the rather unusual format of the band. The Bee Gees as live performers consisted of a supporting band and the three front men: Maurice Gibb on the left, either playing keyboard or guitar, Robin in the middle and Barry with guitar standing on the right side of the stage.

Maurice was the multi-instrumentalist and the joker of the band. He didn't sing much and if he did, apart from his quota of one lead vocals per concert, he only contributed mostly to the chorus or the three parts harmony.

Barry sang the lead for most of the songs, be it in his normal vocals range or falsetto. If you are wondering what falsetto is, it means the high pitch, girly voice that you hear in the songs such as Too Much Heaven or Night Fever. By the way, also in his repertoire were famous songs such as To Love Somebody, Words or How Deep is Your Love (if I had to name it all, it could form a Bee Gees playlist featuring Barry Gibb. Seriously, again, it was that long!).

Then there was Robin who didn't play any instrument at all. He was the odd one out and it got more obvious when he didn't sing the lead, because he would just stand there, moving awkwardly to the beat of the music while the rest were playing the songs. Only when he stepped in as the main singer that he proved his worth as the band member. Robin could sing with a crystal clear voice or with his signature vibrato. When he did the latter, he would normally cover his ear with one hand while the other was holding the mic, singing tunes such as Massachusetts or his trademark, I Started a Joke, a song that always got the longest standing ovation during the concert. Robin got a voice and style like no other. As much as I like to do Barry's falsetto (especially when singing Love You Inside Out), Robin is always my favourite Bee Gee.

The interesting highlight of the concert was when they retired the band and relied only on Barry's guitar to sing three parts harmony. During this session, Maurice would goof around, Robin was ever serious when it came to singing and Barry would try his best to hold back his laughter. Yet the harmony vocals delivery didn't suffer despite the antics. It was fabulous and so natural that when they did it, you know they couldn't go wrong.

Now, after listening to so many good songs and watching the Bee Gees performing them live, how could a person resist their charm? I certainly couldn't, hence I gave it a try when they released a new album in 1997. Still Waters (it contained a hit called Alone, did it ring a bell?) was my first proper Bee Gees album. Soon to follow was One Night Only, basically a concert to promote Still Waters. With Celine Dion guest starring (she sang Immortality), a duet with their late brother Andy Gibb and songs written but weren't recorded by the Bee Gees such as Grease and Islands in the Stream, this must be their greatest live album! I've watched some other Bee Gees concerts since then, but I certainly love this one the most!

I was a proud Bee Gees convert since One Night Only, even if that meant I'd be laughed at. You know how it worked when you were in high school: if you liked something else that wasn't something hip or mainstream such as, let's say, Backstreet Boys, you were at the constant risk of being mocked at. But I couldn't be bothered, really. I was already considered as an old school for being a fan of the Beatles, anyway, so adding in Bee Gees into my collection was like a walk in the park.

When I look back, it was easily twenty years ago since I hunted down original How Deep Is Your Love. I've been listening to Bee Gees' songs from the last four decades so trust me when I say that their songs age more gracefully than any other boy band's. I mean, I attended a Backstreet Boys concert (yes, they were from my generation, I was that young once and I like their music, too!) when they came to Singapore and much to my dismay, what I saw was Backstreet Uncles singing As Long As You Love Me. That's the problem with boy bands. They are not meant to last whereas the real deals such as Bee Gees, they were destined to have a place in the history of rock and roll.

So what are you waiting for? In this time of day where you can opt for music streaming or online purchase of digital audio, you can easily go for Spotify or iTunes Store. There'll be a lot of Bee Gees' greatest hits collection that you can find there. However, if I may recommend, see if you can find the album called Their Greatest Hits: The Record. It's a personal favourite and I hope you like it, too!

PS: Now here's a little anecdote that I heard before. The drumbeat tempo of Stayin' Alive and Another One Bites The Dust (Queen) actually can be used for a CPR practice, but judging from the song titles, I reckon people would tend to use Stayin' Alive?


From the left: Robin, Barry and Maurice


How Deep Is Your Love (Bagian Akhir) 

Tales from the Brothers Gibb adalah perkenalan saya dengan Bee Gees.  Masa penjajakan ini luar biasa panjang, karena album ini mencakup lagu-lagu dari tahun 1967 sampai 1989. Ketika saya mendapatkan VCD konser One for All, untuk pertama kalinya saya menyaksikan Bee Gees sebagai grup musik di atas panggung. Walau saya tidak begitu menyukai konser ini karena chorus lagu-lagunya yang diulang terlalu banyak kali, saya sangat terkesan dengan Gibb bersaudara.

Yang menarik perhatian saya adalah format mereka yang tidak lazim. Sebagai grup, Bee Gees terdiri dari para musisi pendukung dan tiga artis utama: Maurice yang memainkan gitar atau keyboard di sebelah kiri, Robin di tengah dan Barry dengan gitarnya di sebelah kanan.

Maurice adalah musisi dan pelawak di grup. Dia jarang bernyanyi dan selain jatah satu lagu per konser, dia hanya bernyanyi saat mereka membawakan lagu dalam tiga suara. 

Barry adalah penyanyi utama dalam banyak lagu, baik dalam suara normal maupun falsetto. Bagi yang belum pernah mendengar istilah ini, falsetto adalah teknik bernyanyi dengan menggunakan nada tinggi yang menyerupai suara wanita, contohnya adalah lagu Too Much Heaven dan Night Fever. Oh ya, koleksi lagu populer yang dinyanyikan Barry mencakup To Love Somebody, Words, How Deep is Your Love dan masih banyak lagi. Jika harus saya sebutkan semua, bisa jadi daftar lagu Bee Gees tersendiri nantinya.

Kemudian ada Robin yang sama sekali tidak memainkan instrumen musik apa pun. Ketika dia tidak sedang bernyanyi, dia hanya berdiri di tengah sambil bergoyang mengikuti irama musik. Janggal kelihatannya, namun ketika dia menjadi penyanyi utama, barulah terlihat kemampuannya sebagai anggota grup. Robin bisa bernyanyi dengan suara yang jernih atau vibrato yang menjadi ciri khasnya. Ketika dia menggunakan suara getar, dia seringkali menutup sebelah telinga dengan tangannya sementara sebelah tangan yang lain menggenggam erat mikropon di depannya, lalu menyanyikan lagu seperti Massachusetts atau lagu yang identik dengannya, I Started a Joke. Dari beberapa konser yang saya saksikan, lagu ini selalu mendapat tepuk tangan paling panjang dari para penonton. Dengan gaya dan suaranya yang unik, Robin adalah anggota Bee Gees favorit saya. 

Hal lain yang pantas disebutkan tentang konser mereka adalah saat mereka tampil hanya dengan satu gitar yang dimainkan Barry. Pada sesi ini, Maurice biasanya melucu, Robin senantiasa serius dan Barry akan berusaha menahan tawa. Kendati begitu, vokal hamoni yang mereka lantunkan terdengar sempurna. Tiga suara menyatu dengan alami ketika mereka bernyanyi. 

Setelah mendengar dan menyaksikan pertunjukan Bee Gees, saya menjadi penggemar grup ini. Ketika mereka merilis album baru di tahun 1997, saya pun membelinya. Judul albumnya adalah Still Waters yang berisikan lagu hit berjudul Alone. Segera setelah itu, mereka merilis album konser One Night Only yang juga menampilkan lagu-lagu dari album terbaru mereka. Celine Dion juga muncul sebagai bintang tamu untuk lagu Immortality. Selain berduet dengan adik mereka yang telah meninggal, Andy Gibb, mereka juga menyanyikan lagu-lagu yang mereka tulis untuk bintang lain dan tidak pernah mereka rekam sebelumnya seperti Grease dan Islands in the Stream. Saya telah menonton konser-konser Bee Gees lainnya semenjak itu, namun tidak bisa dipungkiri bahwa ONe Night Only masih yang terbaik!

Saya menjadi pengagum berat Bee Gees sejak One Night Only, meskipun itu berarti saya akan ditertawakan. Di masa SMA, jika anda menyukai sesuatu yang tidak populer di saat itu, anda akan selalu menjadi bahan tertawaan. Tapi saya tidak peduli. Saya sudah dianggap salah zaman saat menjadi penggemar the Beatles, jadi gampang saja bagi saya untuk menambahkan Bee Gees ke dalam koleksi musik saya, haha. 

Ketika saya melihat kembali, sudah lebih dari dua puluh tahun lamanya sejak saya mencari kaset yang berisi How Deep is Your Love. Saya sudah mendengarkan lagu-lagu Bee Gees dari empat dekade, jadi percayalah bila saya berkata bahwa lagu mereka semakin lama semakin enak didengar. Beda misalnya bila dibandingkan dengan lagu-lagu boy bands. Ketika Backstreet Boys ke Singapura, saya menghadiri konser mereka, namun aneh rasanya melihat orang-orang setengah baya menyandang nama Backstreet Boys dan menyanyikan lagu As Long as You Love Me. Ini lantas membuat saya mengerti kenapa grup seperti Bee Gees pada akhirnya memiliki tempat tersendiri di sejarah musik rock and roll.  

Jadi apa yang anda tunggu lagi? Di zaman sekarang, anda bisa mendapatkan lagu-lagu Bee Gees dengan gampang lewat Spotify atau iTunes. Akan tetapi, jika boleh saya rekomendasikan, coba cari album yang berjudul Their Greatest Hits: The Record. Itu adalah favorit saya dan saya harap anda pun menyukainya!

PS: Berikut ini adalah sebuah anekdot yang pernah saya baca sebelumnya. Irama drum dari lagu Stayin' Alive dan Another One Bites The Dust (Queen) bisa digunakan untuk latihan CPR, tapi dari judul lagunya, saya rasa orang lebih cenderung memilih Stayin' Alive, haha. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How Deep Is Your Love (Part I)

For those people from my generation who were teenagers in the 90s, do you still remember a band called Take That? The boys were hugely popular back then, with hits such as Back For Good and Never Forget. However, I only got to know them through their so-called last single (they broke up afterwards before regrouped again many years later), How Deep Is Your Love. The music video was heavily played by MTV and Channel V that it was virtually impossible to escape from it.

Anyway, it was a good song and it surely gave a lasting impression. The only thing that bugged me was -I can't recall if I was told by somebody or I figured it out myself, which could be tricky as this was 1996 and internet only came to Pontianak two years later- the little fact that the song wasn't written by Gary Barlow and friends, but by some group called the Bee Gees.

I didn't know much back then, so imagine my curiosity when I heard of the group name. I couldn't help wondering that it was weird name, but a group that was able to write such a song shouldn't be that bad. I remember I was visiting my parents in Bekasi then (we didn't stay together as I was doing my high school in my hometown) and equipped with only the knowledge of the group band's name, I went to search for the album that contained How Deep Is Your Love. I got the cassette (this was back in the days where cassette ruled and was definitely much more affordable than CD), an album called Tales from the Brothers Gibb: A History in Song, Volume III.

I rushed back home, put the audio cassette into the player, fast forward to almost the end of side A to play the original version of How Deep Is Your Love, and it blew me away immediately. Regardless of how good Take That's version was, the original sounded as it was intended to be. It was beautiful. After that, as I couldn't be buying an album and listening to just one song, I played the entire album. The songs, apart from Boogie Child (and, to certain extent, Jive Talkin', which I never really like) are brilliant. I mean, we're talking about stuff such as Stayin' Alive, Tragedy, Too Much Heaven and so forth! Good stuff!

Needless to say, I was sold. I noticed that what I had was volume III, so I started saving money and bought the rest of the albums. The four albums were filled up with songs recorded from 1967 to 1989. One song in particular, First of May, was like a blast from the past. This was one of the songs from my Dad's collection that I used to hear in a living room when I was a toddler! From then on, through the experience of listening to those four albums, I grew to love the Bee Gees. By the time my friends were into Words sung by Boyzone, I just laughed and told them, "but that was actually the Bee Gees' song, you know."

And the reply would be like, "Bee Gee... what?"

Like I said earlier, this was the pre-internet era. They just didn't understand what I meant...

The first Bee Gees album I ever bought...


How Deep Is Your Love (Bagian Pertama)

Bagi mereka yang melewati tahun 90an sebagai remaja, apakah anda masih ingat dengan grup bernama Take That? Grup ini sangat populer dulu dengan tembang-tembang seperti Back For Good dan Never Forget. Meskipun demikian, saya baru mengenal mereka lewat lagu terakhir yang mereka tulis (mereka bubar setelah ini, sebelum akhirnya reuni lagi bertahun-tahun kemudian), How Deep Is Your Love. Video musiknya sering diputar di MTV dan Channel V sehingga saya tonton berulang kali.

Lagu tersebut bagus dan berkesan, tapi konon itu bukan lagu yang ditulis oleh mereka. Saya jadi penasaran, tapi ini adalah tahun 1996 dan internet baru masuk di Pontianak dua tahun kemudian, jadi belum ada Google saat itu. Seseorang, mungkin paman saya, memberitahukan bahwa penyanyi aslinya ada sebuah grup bernama Bee Gees. 

Nama grup yang aneh itu kian memicu rasa ingin tahu saya. Di dalam hati saya berpikir, grup yang bisa menulis lagu sebagus ini tentunya bukan grup yang buruk. Sewaktu saya mengunjungi orang tua saya di Bekasi (kita tidak tinggal bersama karena saya sedang menyelesaikan SMA saya di Pontianak), saya akhirnya mencari album Bee Gees yang berisi How Deep Is Your Love. Saya mendapatkan kasetnya (ya, dulu kaset lebih gampang dicari dan lebih terjangkau bila dibandingkan CD), sebuah album berjudul Tales from the Brothers Gibb: A History in Song, Volume III.

Saya bergegas pulang ke rumah dan memutar kaset itu hingga ke bagian terakhir sisi A, lalu memainkan versi asli How Deep Is Your Love, dan saya pun terkagum-kagum mendengarkannya. Sebagus apa pun versi Take That, karya Bee Gees lebih memukau. Setelah itu, karena tidak ekonomis bagi saya untuk membeli sebuah album hanya untuk mendengarkan satu lagu, saya memainkan album tersebut dari awal. Kecuali lagu Boogie Child dan juga Jive Talkin' yang tidak pernah benar-benar cocok bagi saya, lagu-lagunya luar biasa. Kita bicara tentang lagu seperti Stayin' AliveTragedy dan Too Much Heaven di sini!

Tak pelak lagi, saya langsung menjadi penggemar. Saya perhatikan bahwa yang saya beli adalah kaset ketiga, jadi saya mulai menabung untuk membeli yang lain. Empat album tersebut berisi lagu-lagu yang direkam dari tahun 1967 sampai 1989. Lagu First of May sangat berkesan karena ternyata pernah saya dengar dulu. Ini adalah lagu yang saya dengar di ruang tamu sewaktu saya masih kecil, karena ayah saya juga memiliki lagunya dulu. Saat teman-teman saya mulai menyukai lagu yang dinyanyikan oleh Boyzone, saya hanya tersenyum dan berkomentar bahwa itu adalah lagu Bee Gees. 

Dan jawabannya adalah, "biji? Biji apa?"

Seperti yang saya katakan tadi, ini adalah zaman sebelum internet. Mereka tidak mengerti biji apa yang saya bicarakan...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Indonesia The Beautiful

Living abroad for a long time can change one's view and  sense of nationality. For me personally, I couldn't care less back then, but I tend to get emotional when I hear or sing Indonesia Raya these days. I try to avoid using the word 'patriotic' here as it is heavy and I'm not sure if I'm worthy of that word, but there must be something that inspires me and makes my eyes teary. Such feeling then reminds me again that I am an Indonesian who make a living in a foreign land since ten years ago.

It all began after Joko Widodo and Ahok took over as the President and the Governor. It's been decades since our Founding Fathers proclaimed our independence. We've been busy growing older as a nation since then, but sadly not for the better. So strong was culture of corruption that for the longest time, it was easier to believe that this culture was a bitter reality of Indonesia. Doing something to change it was totally unthinkable until one day, these two guys showed up and did something that had never been seen before by my generation: they work hard and sincerely for the nation.

I live in Singapore, where the negative news about Malaysia is often heard. Indonesia could have been as bad, if not worse, but thanks to the emergence of these two figures, Jokowi and Ahok, suddenly there seems to be a hope again, even long after we stopped believing in it. Changes are taking places in our country and in all sort of forms. Having said that, whenever it is possible, I also want to contribute. If I could write, then I'll do that, hence this article. I want to share the news that as a nation, we do have hope now. If this is the only time we are given such opportunity, let's make the best out of it.

I have been following the development of Indonesia and Jakarta regularly these days. You and I know how both Jokowi and Ahok are tackled almost on daily basis by those who feel that their personal interests are threatened. It will be a difficult journey, but if we can get through, ten or fifteen years later, we'll look back and be thankful that we had made the right choice.

Now, I'd like to touch on a rather sensitive issue, but I do seriously think that it needs to be clarified. I come from the ethnic Chinese, born and raised in Pontianak. I grew up as a minority and lived through the hell of discrimination, but it does not change the fact that I am an Indonesian and I am proud of it, especially after I got to know great people such as Jokowi and Ahok. I learnt that I may be Chinese, but I'm not a China national. Together with many others from Sabang to Merauke, we are people of Indonesia, and Indonesia is a great nation with very diverse tribes, one of which is ethnic Chinese. It's as simple as that.

Well, why does something like this needs to be addressed, reviewed and emphasized? This is because I still see a lot of people trying to undermine the administration of Governor Ahok for various reasons that are very racist and unreasonable. Is there anything wrong if a Chinese like Pak Ahok does his best for the good of Jakarta? Just because we've never seen anything like this before, it doesn't mean it's wrong. Judge a person based on the character, not skin color, ethnicity or religion! What we should really see is, just like Pak Jokowi, here is another Indonesian who has the same vision and determination to work for the sake of this nation. It just happened that Ahok is Chinese.

We've entered the era of the New Indonesia. What happens now will be the future's history and standards. Let these two people work and set an example for the younger generation, with the hope that someday, their successors will begin with higher standards and bring our nation to a better tomorrow. As for us, if we do not participate and fight the challenges together with our government today, we only have ourselves to blame if the country ends up declining in the future. By then, no amount of tears and regrets are ever enough to say how sorry we are. 

Ahok at Indonesia Embassy in Singapore, a historic moment taken by yours truly


Indonesia Tanah Tumpah Darahku

Tinggal di luar negeri untuk jangka waktu yang lama bisa mengubah pandangan dan rasa kebangsaan seseorang. Bagi saya pribadi, saya sering merasa tergugah saat mendengar atau menyanyikan lagu Indonesia Raya. Saya mencoba menghindari penggunaan kata patriotik karena berat artinya dan saya merasa tidak pantas, tapi lagu Indonesia Raya membuat saya berkaca-kaca. Perasaan yang bergolak saat mendengar lagu kebangsaan itu mengingatkan saya kembali bahwa saya adalah seorang warga Indonesia yang merantau dan hidup di negeri asing sejak satu dekade silam. 

Rasa kebangsaan ini bermula setelah Joko Widodo dan Ahok menjabat sebagai Presiden dan Gubernur. Berpuluh-puluh tahun telah berlalu sejak Soekarno-Hatta membacakan naskah proklamasi dan kita sudah tumbuh menjadi bangsa yang cukup berumur sejak kita merdeka, namun belum menjadi bangsa yang maju dan lebih baik. Budaya korupsi begitu merajalela sehingga kita perlahan-lahan percaya bahwa seperti itulah Indonesia. Setelah kita percaya akan hal itu, tiba-tiba muncul Jokowi dan Ahok yang melakukan sesuatu yang tidak pernah kita lihat sebelumnya: mereka bekerja keras dan tulus untuk Indonesia. 

Saya tinggal di Singapura dimana sentimen negatif terhadap Malaysia sering terdengar. Indonesia juga sama parahnya atau bahkan lebih buruk, namun munculnya Jokowi dan Ahok membangkitkan kembali harapan terhadap bangsa Indonesia, padahal harapan saya sudah lama pupus. Perubahan yang baik sedang terjadi di negara kita dan di berbagai sektor. Hal positif ini sungguh menjalar sehingga saya pun merasa harus berbuat sesuatu. Karena saya bisa menulis, maka saya menulis. Saya ingin berbagi berita gembira bahwa sebagai negara, kita memiliki harapan sekarang. Jika ini adalah satu-satunya kesempatan kita, maka kita harus memanfaatkannya dengan sebaik mungkin.

Saya rajin mengikuti perkembangan Indonesia dan Jakarta belakangan ini. Anda dan saya tahu bahwa Jokowi dan Ahok senantiasa dijegal oleh pihak oposisi yang merasa terancam oleh gebrakan dua pemimpin yang bersih ini. Sudah tentu perjalanan mereka akan sangat sulit dan berliku, tapi jika kita bisa melewatinya, 10 atau 15 tahun lagi kita akan melihat kembali dan bersyukur bahwa kita sudah mengambil pilihan yang tepat.  

Sekarang saya ingin berbicara tentang isu yang tergolong sensitif, namun perlu diklarifikasi. Saya berasal dari etnis Tionghoa, lahir dan tumbuh dewasa di Pontianak. Sebagai seorang dari kalangan minoritas, saya tidak luput dari diskriminasi, tapi kezaliman tersebut tidak mengubah fakta bahwa saya adalah orang Indonesia dan saya bangga menjadi orang Indonesia, apalagi setelah melihat orang-orang hebat seperti Jokowi dan Ahok. Saya sadar betul bahwa saya memang etnis Tionghoa, tetapi saya bukan orang Cina. Bersama-sama dengan aneka ragam suku dari Sabang sampai Merauke, kita adalah bangsa Indonesia, bangsa yang besar dan majemuk, dimana salah satu etnisnya adalah Tionghoa. Sesederhana itu. 

Jadi kenapa hal ini perlu dijelaskan, dipahami dan ditekankan? Ini karena saya melihat masih banyak orang yang ingin mengacau pemerintahan Gubernur Basuki Tjahaja Purnama hanya karena alasan yang rasis dan tidak masuk akal. Jadi apa salahnya jika etnis Tionghoa seperti Pak Ahok melakukan yang terbaik untuk Jakarta? Hanya karena kita belum pernah melihat yang seperti ini sebelumnya, ini tidak lantas berarti bahwa ini adalah sesuatu yang keliru. Nilailah seseorang dari karakternya, bukan dari warna kulit, etnis atau agamanya. Apa yang seharusnya kita lihat adalah, seperti halnya Pak Jokowi, Ahok juga seorang pemimpin bangsa yang memiliki visi dan keinginan untuk bekerja demi bangsa ini. Hanya kebetulan saja Pak Ahok itu seorang minoritas. 

Kita sudah memasuki era Indonesia Baru. Apa yang terjadi sekarang akan menjadi sejarah dan tolak ukur masa depan. Biarkan dua orang ini bekerja dan memberikan contoh bagi generasi muda. Harapan kita adalah, suatu hari nanti generasi penerus mereka akan memulai dengan standar yang lebih bagus dan membawa bangsa ini menuju hari esok yang lebih baik. Kita sendiri harus berpartisipasi dan Bersama-sama melawan tantangan yang menerpa pemerintahan yang sudah baik ini. Bila kita tidak melakukan sesuatu, adalah salah kita sendiri bahwa bangsa ini akhirnya terpuruk. Saat itu terjadi, tidak akan ada cukup air mata yang bisa ditumpahkan untuk mengungkapkan penyesalan kita karena berdiam diri...



The Visitors (Part II)

This is the story of two foreigners visiting our hometown, Pontianak, day 2 and 3. Curious?  Read on! For those who missed the day 1 adventure, you can click here

The next morning was almost without a trace of the social unrest from the night before. Our guests seemed to be oblivious to it until I told them what had happened. By the way, when I met them, they were having breakfast, which was rather puzzling given that the hotel booking actually didn't include breakfast to begin with! I wasn't entirely sure whether the hotel staff was in awe with them or misunderstood them, but for some reasons, they actually had breakfast for free during their stay there.

From Harris Hotel, we walked to the famous A Siang coffee shop (note that the local spelling for A Siang is without 'h' after the capital 'A'). The coffee maker, A Siang, was busy making coffee without wearing any shirt as usual so God helped us if his sweaty armpit ever dripped an extra ingredient into the coffee he made. 


While we were on our way there, Lawrence observed that not many people actually walked on the road like us. He was correct. Pontianak is so hot and humid that walking on the road, especially during noon time, is considered as madness. People are used to riding motorbikes, regardless how near the destination is. On the other hand, from a local's point of view, namely me, I can't believe how different he and James dressed up as compared with locals even though I'd informed them that it was better to blend in (at least James gave it a try, although he might want to skip wearing cap, especially wearing it backwards). Bermuda shorts are the total giveaway! No locals wears that, especially when they are on foot! If crime was to happen, they could have been robbed as they were easily identified as non-local Chinese, hence they must be easy targets.


Bumped into Tedy at A Siang coffee shop.

As luck would have it, we bumped into my friend, Ted, whom triggered Lawrence's curiosity as he never smiled at all throughout the coffee break session that we had there (although, on his defence, he did offer them cigarettes). There was also this street vendor who tried to be friendly and stroke a conversation once he got to know that Lawrence came from Singapore (Hokkien is another giveaway since we speak only Teochew or Hakka there and, hey, I did tell you that we're the curious bunch, hence the friendliness).

In front of the Cathedral.

From the coffee shop, we then walked to the cathedral and the building, much to my surprise, actually managed to impress our visitors. It seems like in a town so messy and run down, one certainly didn't expect a fine architecture standing tall (the picture here may not do the cathedral justice, so Google it instead). We wandered there for a while before we reversed and cut through a wet market called Pasar Mawar (literally translated as the Rose Market). It was there and then that Lawrence asked, "what's with two layers of iron doors in the shop houses?"

I didn't realize that it looked weird until he questioned that. Singapore must be so safe a country that such house protection would be deemed as overkill, but in Pontianak, it is just one of the ways for the owner to secure his house and it's completely normal. Life is certainly different down there!

Presenting the MRT card to Harry at Julia's Cake.

After taking a shortcut via the wet market, we went to my friend's bridal and cake shop that is famous for his Kue Lapis (layered cake). His name is Harry. The reason for the visit was this: I actually held some sort of competition few months earlier and the winner would get a MRT card that can be used during Singapore Trip: Walking Tour and Sentosa on June 2017, an upcoming event for school friends organized by yours truly. Harry was voted as a winner so there we were and James, aptly representing Singapore, passed the MRT card to Harry, a symbolic gesture of welcoming him to Singapore. Hopefully Harry will remember to bring his MRT card by then.

Fast forward to lunch time, we were joined by another friend of mine, Tuty, whom mistook Lawrence as my Dad, thanks to his glorious white hair. We then sent the white haired man back to the hotel because he claimed that he got motion sickness and needed some rest. We also abandoned the plan to go to Tugu Khatulistiwa that stands right on Equator line and went to have some ice cream in front of my high school instead. James was there with us when we were trapped by rainstorm. It was kind of funny when James pointed to me that the floor of the ice cream shop was flooded rapidly, because witnessing such thing must be new to him while it was expected by the rest of us. In the end, we were sent to Tuty's car by the shopkeeper. He carried a giant umbrella, the kind you normally find on an outdoor table, to shelter us from the heavy rain.

Going thru the torrential rain. 

That evening, I didn't get a chance to accompany them as I had a wedding to attend (it was the reason why I went back in the first place), so the dynamic duo explored the nearby area themselves. They had noodles for dinner, then went for souvenirs such as Montblanc wallet @ SGD 20. We planned for drinking sessions but had it scrapped as there was a hearsay that the riot were going to happen again. Also gone was the plan to try out snake meat soup which was supposed to be one of the highlights of visiting Pontianak. Too bad.

The last morning the visitors were in town, we tried out kway cap. Same though the name as the one in Singapore, it is totally a different kind of food. In Pontianak, it is made of white kway lumped together with pig skin, that's all. A local favourite, it clearly didn't do wonders for Lawrence and James. A little too plain for their liking, I guess. From there, we went for lontong satay on the stall spotted by James yesterday. As you can tell from the name, it has both lontong, the rice cake, and satay, covered in diluted peanut sauce. This one did a little bit better than its predecessor.

Lawrence would like to take becak (a localised rickshaw) right after that. As there was no way that it could fit in two passengers, Lawrence took off with his ride while I bargained with another for James. When he finally agreed, the poor becak guy made an honest remark about how the fat one should have gone to the other becak rider instead. And the ride brought them back to the hotel, ending their adventure in a small town called Pontianak. We went to airport afterwards, leaving my hometown in the afternoon...


At Aneka Rasa Restaurant.
From left to right: James, Anthony, Harry, Vivi, Tuty and Lawrence