Total Pageviews

Translate

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Day At The Museum

I remember the museum in Pontianak, but I don't remember visiting the museum before. The only time I'd been anywhere close to that museum was when I parked my car in front of it, waiting for the sudden driving license inspection by the police to end. Having said that, if I were to use myself as an example, I don't think visiting museums was ever an interesting activity for Pontianak people.

It got better, though. When I was in Jakarta, my girlfriend and I went to a couple of museums while we were in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. Years later, when I went to Malacca, I visited the red building and the Portuguese ship museums. They were alright, not very charming, but few names such as Hang Tuah and Admiral Zheng He that I read there brought me back to the history lessons during my school days.

My daughter Linda, having fun at the National Gallery.

Then, when my elder daughter knew what museum was all about, she would drag us for a visit. That's when I frequented the museums, this time in Singapore, more often than before. It was almost like our monthly affair. It did help that the museums in Singapore were well curated and taken care of, so they were really nice places to visit. My daughter's favorite were the National Gallery and National Museum of Singapore. Both were very cozy and just nice for a day activity. On top of that, there were always new exhibitions going on, so they were worth visiting again.

When I went to London, I thought the museum there must be something like what I had visited before in Singapore. Much to my surprise, it was nothing like what I'd seen before. The British Museum was huge! I'd think that the museum had the artefacts from every civilisation in the world. Didn't it sound interesting?

Nuryani, in front of the British Museum.

I thought so, too. When I walked into the exhibition room, the first thing I saw was the Rosetta Stone. How cool was that? The Rosetta Stone! Then, right behind it, there were Greek, Persian and other ancient civilisations filling up the whole left wing of the building, enough to quench my thirst for history. However, having too much history in a span of few hours was like getting overdosed. After a while, it was very hard to maintain the interest. To think that we just explored one third of the building, that was discouraging. I just wanted to get out of it.

It was the same experience for the Louvre in Paris. Long before we went to France, the Paris Pass free access to many museums in Paris seemed to be a good deal. What I didn't know was how big a museum in Europe could be. Louvre was a palace in the past and the European meant business when they built their palaces. It was beyond imagination and you had to be there to witness how spacious it was. As a result, the collection was extensive. After few iconic paintings such as Mona Lisa, as the interest faded away, the rest eventually looked like just another painting of Jesus. It didn't matter anymore who painted it, because from the eyes of a laymen, I couldn't tell the difference anyway.

The moral of the story? Museum is an interesting place to be, but only if you can sustain the interest itself. Don't be greedy and don't force it through. If the museum is too big for few hours of visit, just do the section that you like and ignore the rest, especially when you can come back next time. In the end, it's better to have a memorable visit rather than one with an awful impression...

My kind of museum, the Beatles Story.


Sehari Di Museum

Saya ingat tentang sebuah (dan mungkin satu-satunya) museum di Pontianak.  Saya tidak pernah masuk ke dalamnya. Saya hanya pernah parkir di halamannya sambil menanti bubarnya razia SIM yang diadakan oleh polisi. Jika saya menggunakan diri saya sendiri sebagai contoh, saya jadi cenderung berpikir bahwa mengunjungi museum sepertinya tidak pernah terlintas di benak orang Pontianak.  

Saya baru memasuki museum saat berada di Jakarta. Kala itu saya dan Yani berada di Taman Mini Indonesia Indah dan kita pun mengunjungi museum di sana. Bertahun-tahun kemudian, ketika saya ke Malaka, saya mengunjungi museum berwujud gedung merah dan kapal Portugis. Kondisinya lumayan, tidak terlalu bagus, tapi cukup berkesan karena mengingatkan saya kembali tentang Hang Tuah dan Laksamana Cheng Ho yang saya pelajari di sekolah. 

Museum Serangga di Taman Mini Indonesia Indah.

Kemudian, ketika putri pertama saya mulai memahami tentang museum, dia sering meminta kita untuk membawanya ke sana. Oleh karena itu, kunjungan ke museum pun boleh dikatakan menjadi kegiatan bulanan. Untung saja museum-museum di Singapura sangat terawat dan bagus, jadi enak untuk dikunjungi. Favorit anak saya adalah National Gallery dan National Museum. Dua tempat ini sangat megah dan nyaman untuk acara kunjungan di akhir pekan. Selain itu, pamerannya pun selalu diperbaharui sehingga masuk akal untuk dikunjungi berulang kali.

Ketika saya pergi ke London, saya membawa serta pengalaman dan kesan selama di Singapura. Siapa sangka museum di London teramat sangat luas? Saya rasa museum ini memiliki berbagai peninggalan dari berbagai peradaban di seluruh dunia. Tidakkah ini terdengar sangat menarik? 

Batu Rosetta di British Museum yang akhirnya membuat ilmuwan berhasilkan memecahkan tulisan hieroglif Mesir. 

Awalnya saya berpikir seperti itu juga. Ketika saya memasuki ruang pameran, yang pertama terlihat oleh saya adalah Batu Rosetta yang tersohor. Luar biasa! Setelah itu saya melihat berbagai peradaban, mulai dari Persia, Yunani dan lainnya di sekeliling ruangan di sebelah kiri gedung museum. Apa yang saya liat sungguh memuaskan dahaga saya. Kendati begitu, sejarah yang berlimpah di depan mata ternyata terasa seperti overdosis. Setelah beberapa jam, saya tidak lagi merasa tertarik. Ketika saya teringat lagi bahwa yang saya jelajahi hanyalah sepertiga gedung, saya justru merasa putus asa. Akhirnya saya keluar karena tidak tahan lagi. 

Perasaan yang sama juga tidak terelakkan ketika saya berkunjung ke Louvre di Paris. Jauh sebelum kita ke Perancis, akses gratis ke berbagai museum yang ditawarkan oleh Paris Pass terasa sangat menarik. Apa yang tidak saya mengerti adalah betapa luasnya museum di Eropa. Louvre dulunya ada sebuah istana dan orang Eropa serius dalam membangun apa yang dinamakan istana raja. Arsitekturnya benar-benar sulit dibayangkan dan anda harus berada di sana untuk memahami betapa luasnya sebuah istana raja zaman dulu. Oleh sebab itu, koleksi museumnya pun sangat ekstensif. Namun setelah beberapa lukisan terkenal seperti Mona Lisa, minat terhadap seni pun perlahan-lahan mulai meredup dan akhirnya semua terlihat seperti lukisan Yesus biasa yang bahkan tidak bisa dibedakan siapa pelukisnya oleh mata seorang awam seperti saya.

Moral dari cerita ini? Museum adalah tempat yang menarik, tapi itu sepenuhnya bergantung pada minat anda. Jangan pernah berpikiran untuk melihat semuanya, sebab di saat minat sudah memudar, akan muncul perasaan terpaksa. Jika museumnya terlalu besar, kunjungilah ke bagian yang anda suka dan tinggalkan bagian lain, terutama jika anda masih bisa kembali lagi di lain waktu. Pada akhirnya lebih baik memiliki kunjungan yang berkesan daripada kenangan yang membosankan... 

Termenung membayangkan kapan selesainya kunjungan ke Louvre ini.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

From Nanning To Rotterdam: A Story Of Ferlin

I remember the time when I was in Nanning, China. It was late 2009. We visited my sister-in-law, Leny, who were studying there thanks to the student exchange programme. If I got it right, there were only three Indonesians there: the quite girl, Leny, and then this cheerful looking girl. She was so full of life and always seemed to be surrounded by local and overseas friends whom happened to be in the same campus. My sister-in-law told me that was Ferlin and she was into sculptures.

Fast forward to 2013, as my wife and I walked with Leny to the start line of 10km run held by Standard Chartered Bank, we talked about those days in Nanning again. I asked about her friends and Leny told me what they did. Ferlin had many exhibitions that were quite successful and she also met government officials ranging from the Mayor of Bandung to the ambassador of Indonesia. That was quite a feat. Upon hearing that, I remember thinking that she got both the talent and the personality that would bring her far. Little did I know that she'd be in Rotterdam today as the first Indonesian who received the entrepreneur visa from the Dutch government to start up her business there!

Ferlin Yoswara, wearing her fine jewelry, a 2018 collection.

Ferlin's story of passion and hard work started when she first grabbed hold of drawing tools. What was started as doodles eventually turned into some children's art that won her the bronze award in Tokyo, Japan. Many years later, as she was progressively moving from 2D to 3D art, she enrolled herself to the student exchange programme simply because it had a sculpture major. Her passion landed her in Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi Autonomous Region. She originally spoke no Chinese, but she was in her element and she felt at home more than ever. 

Her short stint in China didn't disappoint. Ferlin studied hard, often started early in the morning and ended very late at night, but she was happy doing what she was doing. And she learnt a lot about concept and techniques, not only from those well-known professors, but also from the guest lecturers including Ai Weiwei, a living legend. Soon she joined several exhibitions in various cities in China, culminating with her artwork being collected by the National Museum of China in Beijing.

The statue, surrounded by the creator and her friends, during an exhibition in China, 2009.

Life after college was a busy one for the young artist. Her days were filled with one exhibition after another. First locally, then onto the world stage. Opportunity knocked when she was in Den Haag. What was supposed to be a five-day exhibition ended up as a three-month tenure when she met Fanny Habibie, the younger brother of third Indonesian President as well as the Indonesia ambassador to the Netherlands at that time. He was looking for someone young and talented to represent Indonesia and she fitted the bill, so she became the resident artist at the embassy. A very productive era, Ferlin did enough paintings for a solo exhibition. When she did that, 30 out of 33 paintings were sold, including to the Royal Family of the Netherlands. That's when she realized that her art was well-received by the people in this foreign land. The warm welcome persuaded her to stay there and days were changing into years now.

But the weather, literally speaking, was not as warm as she'd expected. As a sculptor who used basic materials such as gypsum and resin, she needed the sun to dry her artwork, but that was a luxury she couldn't have. That's when she pursued the art of making jewellery. She took up the goldsmith course and, as jewellery was basically a smaller form of sculpture, it was quite natural for her to easily get the hang of it. She soon launched her first brand, Ferlin Yoswara Fine Jewelry (www.fyfinejewelry.com). The brand focused on contemporary and sculptural jewelry. The product was the high end and limited edition made of gold, diamond and other gemstones. Then, as she became more and more experienced, she learnt that the Dutch government was very encouraging and willing to facilitate even the non-European foreigners to be startup entrepreneurs. And the rest, as you might have seen from Kompas TV, was history. She got the visa and she is now a businesswoman running Market Your Jewelry B.V. in Rotterdam with her team. Under the management her new company, she also launched Saaraa Jewelry (www.saaraa.nl), a collection of jewelry from silver and Swarovski crystal.

The launch party of Saaraa Jewelry at Ferlin's office, 2017. 

One could only imagine how competitive it would be for Ferlin in the Netherlands, but she wasn't without any advantages. Not only she was inspired by the all time greats in Surrealism such as Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo, she also had the Asian upbringing and the European exposure. She knew Europeans like something simple and bold and she understood that Asians like their jewelries blinking and colorful. Through such a unique vision, the art of Ferlin Yoswara was born: the best of both worlds, something modern with a classic Eastern touch.

And mind you, she's only just begun. As we wish her a successful career, let this also be an inspiration for us all that we shouldn't stop believing in our dream and passion...

A collection from Ferlin Yoswara Fine Jewelry, inspired by the Cube House of Rotterdam. 


Sebuah Kisah Dari Nanning ke Rotterdam

Saya ingat ketika saya berada di Nanning, akhir tahun 2009. Saat itu kita mengunjungi adik ipar saya, Leny, yang menuntut ilmu ke negeri Cina lewat program pertukaran pelajar. Jika saya tidak salah, saat itu cuma ada tiga orang Indonesia: teman sekamar Leny yang pendiam, Leny sendiri dan gadis yang terlihat ceria dan senantiasa dikelilingi teman-teman sekampus dari mancanegara ini. Leny menjelaskan bahwa mahasiswi ini bernama Ferlin dan dia sedang mendalami seni patung. 

Beberapa tahun kemudian, di tahun 2013, selagi saya dan istri saya mengantar Leny ke tempat lari 10km yang diselenggarakan oleh Standard Chartered Bank, kita berbincang tentang kunjungan kita ke Nanning dulu. Saya bertanya tentang teman-temannya dan Leny pun bercerita. Ferlin ternyata sudah mengadakan banyak pameran yang cukup berhasil. Dia juga bertemu dengan berbagai pejabat, mulai dari walikota Bandung sampai duta besar. Ini prestasi yang cukup mencengangkan. Saat mendengar tentang hal ini, saya sempat berpikir bahwa dengan bakat dan kepribadiannya, karir Ferlin pasti akan berkembang pesat, tapi tidak pernah saya duga sebelumnya bahwa dia akan berada di Rotterdam sebagai orang Indonesia pertama yang menerima visa wiraswasta dari pemerintah Belanda untuk memulai usahanya di sana!

Leny, Monica dan Ferlin di Nanning, 2009.

Kisah Ferlin dimulai ketika dia pertama kali menggenggam peralatan menggambar. Apa yang bermula dari corat-coret akhirnya menjadi sebuah karya yang membawanya ke Tokyo dan memenangkan perunggu untuk kategori seni kanak-kanak. Bertahun-tahun kemudian, dia beralih dari seni lukis ke seni patung dan karena ketertarikannya ini pula maka dia ikut serta dalam program pertukaran pelajar. Minat dan upayanya membawa dia ke Nanning, ibukota Daerah Otonomi Guangxi. Walau tidak bisa berbahasa Mandarin, seni adalah dunianya dan dia tidak menemui kesulitan yang berarti untuk belajar di sana.

Hari-harinya di Cina tidak mengecewakan. Ferlin belajar keras dari pagi hingga malam, tapi dia tidak merasa terbebani karena dia menyukainya. Di sini dia belajar banyak tentang konsep dan teknik, bukan saja dari para profesor yang sudah terkenal, tetapi juga dari dosen tamu, salah satu di antaranya Ai Weiwei yang tersohor. Selama berada di Cina, dia juga ikut dalam pameran di berbagai kota dan hasil karyanya pun kini menjadi bagian dari koleksi Museum Nasional Cina di Beijing.

Ferlin saat menyampaikan kata sambutan di KBRI di Den Haag, 2010.

Hidup setelah kuliah adalah masa yang produktif bagi seniman muda ini. Dia sibuk berpartisipasi dalam pameran. Awalnya di panggung lokal, kemudian berlanjut ke ajang internasional. Kesempatan akhirnya datang ketika dia berada di Den Haag. Apa yang semestinya hanya merupakan pameran lima hari akhirnya menjadi magang tiga bulan. Di saat itu dia bertemu dengan Fanny Habibie, duta besar Indonesia untuk Belanda sekaligus adik dari presiden ketiga. Saat itu kedutaan sedang mencari seorang seniman muda sebagai pelukis di kedutaan untuk memperkenalkan seni lukis Indonesia di Belanda. Lowongan ini ditawarkan kepada Ferlin dan ia pun menerimanya. Ferlin menyelesaikan banyak lukisan di masa ini sehingga bisa menggelar pameran tunggal. Hasilnya sungguh di luar dugaan. 30 dari 33 karyanya terjual dan beberapa bahkan dibeli oleh keluarga Kerajaan Belanda. Di saat itu ia menyadari bahwa karya seninya disukai oleh masyarakat di negeri asing ini. Merasa diterima, ia akhirnya menetap di sana dan tanpa terasa, hari pun berganti tahun.  

Akan tetapi cuaca di Belanda tidak sehangat sambutan orang-orang terhadap karyanya. Sebagai seorang pematung yang menggunakan bahan dasar gips dan damar, Ferlin memerlukan sinar matahari untuk mengeringkan karyanya, namun sering kali cuaca tidak mendukung. Dia lantas berganti haluan dan mulai membuat perhiasan. Dia mengambil kursus pengrajin emas dan, karena perhiasan pada dasarnya adalah bentuk mini dari seni ukir yang biasa ia kerjakan, ia dengan cepat menyesuaikan diri. Tidak lama setelah ini, ia pun meluncurkan Ferlin Yoswara Fine Jewelry (www.fyfinejewelry.com). Merek ini berfokus pada perhiasan kontemporer edisi terbatas yang terbuat dari bahan emas, intan dan batu mulia lainnya. Kemudian, setelah ia kian berpengalaman, dia menyadari bahwa pemerintah Belanda sangat mendukung dan juga memberikan fasilitas bahkan bagi orang asing yang bukan berasal dari Eropa untuk memulai usaha di sana. Dia mengajukan permohonan dan hasilnya, seperti yang dilaporkan oleh Kompas TV, adalah sebuah sejarah. Dia membuka Market Your Jewelry B.V. di Rotterdam dan meluncurkan Saaraa Jewelry (www.saaraa.nl), sebuah perusahaan yang merancang dan membuat perhiasan dari bahan perak dan kristal Swarovski.

Ferlin saat merancang sebuah perhiasan di studio kerjanya di Den Haag, 2017.
Foto oleh Ifa Chaeron, Belanda. 

Kita hanya bisa membayangkan betapa ketatnya persaingan yang dihadapi oleh Ferlin di Belanda, akan tetapi itu tidak berarti dia tidak memiliki persiapan sama sekali. Sebagai orang yang sudah lama berkecimpung di bidang ini, dia bukan hanya sekedar terinspirasi oleh pakar Surealisme seperti Salvador Dali dan Frida Kahlo, dia juga memiliki nilai tambah karena dibesarkan di Asia dan juga berwawasan Eropa. Dengan kejeliannya, dia melihat bahwa orang Eropa menyukai sesuatu yang sederhana tapi menarik perhatian, sedangkan orang Asia menyukai perhiasan yang berkilau dan warna-warni. Dari sinilah lahir karya seni Ferlin Yoswara yang berkesan modern dengan sentuhan budaya Timur yang klasik. 

Dan karirnya baru saja dimulai. Kita ucapkan sukses untuk usahanya dan semoga kisah tentang dirinya juga menjadi inspirasi bagi kita untuk tidak melupakan impian kita sendiri...

Sebuah karya Saaraa Jewelry.
Foto oleh Thandiwe Teisko, Swedia.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Intolerance

I can't be too sure how many Chinese Indonesian my age share the same sentiments here, but I'm always fond of Sukarno, my first president. I first read about him almost two decades ago, not long after Suharto was toppled in 1998. Sukarno was ever charming, even in a written form. He was genuine, never shied away from expressing his view about women, from the honourable ones to whores. He loved the beauty of God's creation and he loved them all. He was a very proud man, too, and he had all the rights to do so, for only Sukarno could lead us to our independence. He was very humble at the same time and his story about the declaration of independence and what followed after that couldn't be more vivid and poignant. He was also funny, perhaps the only President whose first presidential instruction was for a street food vendor to provide him a plate of satay, a food that he enjoyed while sitting on roadside. He was that poor, but he was rich at heart, giving his entire life for the country. Our country's independence were not given to us, it was fought for, proclaimed and defended by the people of Indonesia. And at the center of it was Sukarno, the founding father and the pride of Indonesia.

Reading about Sukarno reminded me again how this country was built. Throughout his time of being jailed and exiled to many places around the archipelago, Sukarno surely had realized how diverse Indonesia would be. Right at the beginning of his autobiography, he already acknowledged that the people of Indonesia was originated from all sorts of ethnics, including Chinese. He knew it well and he wasn't a racist, therefore he believed in unity in diversity. In fact, he was so visionary and pragmatic that he chose Malay as the foundation of Bahasa Indonesia instead of Javanese, his own mother tongue and a language known for its complexity. As a result, the whole country, from Sumatra to Papua, is able to converse today.

More than that, Sukarno also came up with Pancasila, our national ideology. He might have said that he merely dug deeper to the history of Indonesia and he shouldn't claim credit of it, but Pancasila was definitely his brainchild. Now, did you ever wonder why a country with a biggest Muslims population in the world is not a country based on Islam? It was due to the existence of Pancasila. The first of the five principles, belief in the one and only God, granted our freedom in having a religion.

It was no coincidence, of course. Sukarno himself was a Muslim, but he was not blind to the facts around him. Long before there was a country called Indonesia, he already realized that it was going to be multicultural nation, one with various ethnic groups, languages, culture, religions and way of life. For the whole country to be united, it had to be done in an Indonesian way, which was respect and tolerance to others. Sukarno proved it by crushing many Islamic rebellions, including one that was led by his old friend, Kartosuwiryo.

Fast forward to today's situation, it was saddening to see such a growing intolerance. Those people who said they were defending Islam, were they genuine and thinking clearly? If it was supposed to be that way, wouldn't our founding fathers implement it already? They were the leaders of their generation, back when people were sincere and didn't expect anything in return during the struggle for independence, so why didn't they do it then? Because they had thought it through and it simply couldn't be done.

Islam is good. Any religion is good. It is only bad when a political motive is sugar-coated with religion. It gets worse when people are not using their brains to think but to swallow such belief foolishly instead. What's so great about shouting and prosecuting others when you could have been proven guilty yourself? Ain't that a shame? Eventually, isn't religion mainly about the relationship between a believer and his God? Give it a thought, get a clear conscience and let's live the Indonesian way, just like how our founding fathers intended it to be.

Bung Karno, once the voice of our people. 


Miskinnya Toleransi

Saya tidak tahu berapa banyak Tionghoa Indonesia seusia saya yang merasakan hal yang sama, tetapi saya selalu suka membaca tentang Sukarno, presiden pertama Indonesia. Pertama kali saya membaca buku di atas adalah sekitar dua puluh tahun silam, tidak lama setelah Suharto ditumbangkan di tahun 1998. Senantiasa berkharisma, kisah Sukarno bahkan terasa menarik dalam bentuk tulisan. Dia terasa tulus dan apa adanya, tidak pernah malu untuk berbicara tentang wanita, mulai dari yang berjasa besar baginya sampai kaum pelacur. Dia mencintai indahnya ciptaan Tuhan, karena itu dia menyayangi wanita. Dia juga orang yang bangga dengan dirinya dan dia sesungguhnya berhak untuk itu, sebab hanya Sukarno yang sanggup membawa Indonesia ke alam kemerdekaan. Yang menarik lagi, dia juga rendah hati. Ceritanya tentang proklamasi dan apa yang terjadi setelahnya sungguh menyentuh hati. Terakhir, dia juga lucu dan mungkin satu-satunya presiden di dunia ini yang mengeluarkan instruksi presiden yang pertama kepada seorang tukang sate. Saat itu, setelah dia diangkat menjadi presiden dengan suara bulat, dia menikmati sepiring sate di pinggir jalan sebagai Presiden Sukarno. Dia miskin harta, tapi kaya hatinya, dan segenap jiwa raganya diberikan kepada bangsanya pula. Jangan pernah lupa bahwa kemerdekaan bangsa kita itu tidak diberikan penjajah, melainkan diperjuangkan, diproklamasikan dan dipertahankan oleh rakyat Indonesia. Di tengah semua itu adalah Sukarno, Bapak Bangsa dan kebanggaan Indonesia. 

Membaca tentang Sukarno mengingatkan saya kembali tentang bagaimana Republik Indonesia dibangun. Ketika dia dipenjara dan diasingkan, mulai dari Pulau Ende sampai Bengkulu, Bung Karno pastilah sudah menyadari bahwa bangsa ini sungguh majemuk. Di awal biografinya pun dia sudah mengakui bahwa apa yang kita sebut sebagai rakyat Indonesia hari ini dulunya berasal dari beragam suku, termasuk juga Tionghoa. Sukarno tahu dan paham betul akan hal tersebut, oleh karenanya dia bukan seorang yang rasis dan maka dari itu pula dia bisa mengadopsi Bhinneka Tunggal Ika sebagai semboyan bangsa. Dia juga seorang yang praktis dan memiliki pandangan jauh ke depan, oleh sebab itu dia memilih bahasa Melayu sebagai dasar dari bahasa Indonesia. Sukarno adalah orang Jawa, tapi dia sadar bahwa bahasa ibunya sangat rumit dan demi persatuan bangsa, dipilihlah bahasa Melayu yang saat itu sudah mulai dikenal luas. Hasilnya, bangsa kita, mulai dari Sumatera sampai Papua, kini bisa bercakap-cakap satu sama lain. 

Lebih dari itu, Sukarno juga membidani lahirnya Pancasila, dasar negara kita. Di dalam bukunya dia berkata bahwa dia hanya melihat kembali kepribadian kepulauan nusantara kita ini dan dari situ terwujudlah ide Pancasila, namun tidak bisa dipungkiri bahwa itu adalah buah pikirannya. Kalau bukan karena dikemukakan oleh Sukarno, mungkin Pancasila tidak akan pernah ada. Sekarang, pernah anda pikirkan kenapa negara dengan populasi muslim terbesar di dunia ini bukanlah sebuah negara Islam? Itu karena keberadaan Pancasila. Sila pertama, Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa, memberikan kita kebebasan dalam menunaikan ibadah menurut kepercayaan masing-masing. 

Ini bukanlah suatu kebetulan, tentunya. Walaupun Sukarno sendiri adalah seorang muslim, tapi dia sangat cermat dengan fakta-fakta di sekelilingnya. Jauh sebelum negara bernama Indonesia ini lahir dan dikenal oleh dunia, Sukarno sudah menyadari bahwa negara ini akan terdiri dari beragam suku, bahasa, budaya, agama dan cara pandang. Jika kita hendak bersatu, maka ini hanya bisa dilakukan dengan cara Indonesia, yakni saling menghormati dan toleransi kepada sesama. Bertahun-tahun setelah Indonesia merdeka, Sukarno masih membuktikan kesungguhannya dengan membasmi dan menghancurkan berbagai pemberontakan, termasuk DI/TII yang dipimpin oleh kawan lamanya, Kartosuwiryo.

Jika kita lihat situasi hari ini, miskinnya toleransi terasa sangat menyedihkan. Orang-orang yang berkata bahwa mereka membela Islam, apakah mereka tulus dan berpikir dengan jernih? Jika memang Islam adalah jalan bagi bangsa ini, kenapa para bapak bangsa kita dulu tidak mendeklarasikan Indonesia sebagai negara Islam? Mereka adalah para pemimpin yang cerdas di zaman ketika orang masih tulus dan tidak mengharapkan imbalan apa pun saat berjuangan demi kemerdekaan, jadi kenapa mereka tidak menjadikan Indonesia sebagai negara Islam pada saat itu juga? Ini karena mereka sudah memikirkannya dan mereka tahu bahwa ini tidaklah cocok bagi bangsa Indonesia yang majemuk.

Islam itu baik. Semua agama itu mengajarkan yang baik. Yang buruk adalah niat-niat buruk politik yang dibalut dengan agama. Dampaknya akan menjadi semakin buruk ketika orang-orang tidak lagi menggunakan otaknya untuk berpikir, melainkan menelan paham yang sesat itu bulat-bulat. Yang benar saja, apa hebatnya berteriak kafir dan mempersekusi orang lain ketika satu demi satu akhirnya terbukti lebih buruk dari yang ditentangnya? Tidakkah itu memalukan? Pada akhirnya, bukankah agama itu adalah hubungan pribadi seseorang dengan Tuhannya, jadi kenapa musti dipaksakan? Pikirkanlah kembali, jernihkan hati kita dan hiduplah dengan tata cara Indonesia yang penuh toleransi, seperti yang diajarkan oleh bapak-bapak bangsa kita, bertahun-tahun yang lampau...

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Life Before Jakarta

The Life Before series, which started with Life Before Marriage and continued with Life Before Singapore, had been a fun writing experience so far. Not only I got a chance to look back, but I also finally could show the appreciation to all those people whom played pivotal roles in my life. Here's one that follows the same trend, focusing on the last four years in Pontianak, right after I graduated from high school, when I had a plan but fate chose to intervene.

I always wanted to go to Jogja for my college. However, after discussing with my uncle, the elder brother of my Dad, I had to accept the bitter fact that I just didn't have enough money to finish the study ("you'll only last a semester," were his exact words). I thought this was it for me, but both my aunties, my Dad's younger sisters who lived in Taiwan but happened to be visiting Pontianak, insisted that I should continue studying. They gave the combined amount of NT$ 5,000 and asked me to register to a local college, so I thanked and promised them I'd enroll myself into one. Hendri Muliadi, a good friend of mine, said he was going to STMIK Pontianak. Since he was smarter than me, I thought it'd be safe to just tag along, so I followed him there for registration, too.

With Hendri Muliadi, on the porch of my uncle's house. 

At the same time, another uncle of mine, this time the husband of my Mum's younger sister, put me on his payroll. I'd been living with them since high school, so the moment I graduated, he decided to employ me and gave me the first exposure of working life. He was running the operation of Kartika Hotel, a two star hotel in Pontianak, and a smaller inn across the Kapuas river called Wisma Siantan Indah, so he made me a so-called stock keeper cum procurement staff. After I knew how to drive, I also worked as a driver over the weekend. I was working seven days a week! By the way, studying in Pontianak didn't mean that "you'll only last a semester" situation wasn't applicable anymore, but now that I was working and earning Rp. 600K per month, I made just nice to pay for my study.

Still, by any standards, I was financially poor. At the price of Rp. 180K, my road bike was the most expensive possession I ever had at that time, one that costed me months of saving to buy. In a world where almost every youngster had a motorbike, I remember being very shy about the fact that I could only afford a bike. More often than not, I'd be going to campus with Hendri Muliadi, who'd been kind enough to fetch me everyday with his motorbike. If I had to go by myself, I would go very early to the campus and be the last one who left so that not many people would find out that I rode a bicycle. It was only in the fourth and last year of my college days that I learnt to live with it and became more comfortable in riding my bike openly.

The ladies and the lighting man.
From left: Taty, Suhana, Yoviana, Angelia, Angelina and Eday.

Aside from that moment, it was actually quite a happy period. Looking back, I had been capable of being happy since then. I didn't have much, but I always felt that I had enough. I had friends that I never lost touch with. Some such as Parno, Hendri Muliadi and Ardian were friends that I met almost on daily basis. Others like Endrico, Eday or Muliady were studying outside Pontianak, but when they came back during holiday, we would always hang out. I wrote books during my spare time, played a bit of music with the boys, wrote some tunes with Ardian and celebrated a couple of birthdays, the most notable one being Parno's birthday: we prepared everything for him as a surprise for his 20th birthday.

I also managed to travel to Kuching several times. The road trips were made possible because, among my peers, I was the first to apply for passport. It wasn't difficult, but it involved a lot of work that wasn't necessary to begin with, for example, just because I was of Chinese descent, the process was rather long-winded and there was at least one time where I had to go down just to shift my document from one table to another. Not only it was inefficient, but it was also racist and discriminating back then.

With Junaidi, our bass player. 

Work-wise, even though it was seven days a week, it wasn't as bad as it sounded. On the contrary, it was quite enjoyable. The colleagues, both in office and hotel, were very nice to me. I was especially close with the chef, probably because I was always aiming for free meals, haha. They were like older relatives to me, telling me things that I didn't know (they got all the original quotes based on their real life experiences, from motivational ones such as, "whatever you do, even when you only pick up shits, do your best to be number one," survival skills like, "make noise with your frying pans so that the boss knows you are working," to life irony, for example, "water spinach is, when eaten by rich people, they call it healthy, but when eaten by poor people, they call it a pity).

I'd start my day by doing the stock-keeping with each department, namely housekeeping, restaurant and kitchen, then I went around the town to top up the inventory, especially those that had to be kept as fresh as possible such as a loaf of sliced bread. When there was a wedding party, I did what I could to help out, from slicing the mushrooms to peeling the prawns. I'd drive to the wet market on weekend, a real test for any driver where even the slightest miscalculation in parking meant bumping into other vehicles. Sometimes I'd tag along for debt collecting, too, with Sukiman Ali, a middle aged Chinese man with a Malay name that camouflaged his surname, whom could talk about everything under the sun!

Ah Leng, a colleague at Kartika Hotel.

From the late afternoon to night time, I'd be attending two lecture classes from Monday to Friday. Frankly speaking, college days were like a blur, probably because there were too many things going on at the same time. I was busy with my work all week long, then there was my writing hobby as well so with what little time I had in between, I spent it with my high school friends. This was, perhaps, the reason why I wasn't really close with my college friends, except those who were originally from the same high school.

That's not to say that there wasn't any memorable moments. I once rode my trusted road bike the whole night just to gather all signatures for a petition to bar a lecturer from ever teaching us again. This lecturer was trying to bargain and have some personal gain after he failed my friend in her final exam, so he had to go. On a more personal level, I didn't understand a thing he taught, so yeah, he definitely had to go. On a lighter note, I did have some fun with my monthly newspaper publication. I also met four freshmen who'd become the inspiration of Crazy Campus, the first book I ever published later on in Jakarta.

Towards the end of my study, after considering the easy access to lecturer and computer, I quitted my first job and spent my last year in college by working and studying on campus. I was a computer lab assistant in the morning (best job ever to know girls and one that introduced me to Jun Fui, a computer genius who built the whole Lab B on Linux Red Hat), then worked on my dissertation in the afternoon, and carried on with classes in the evening. It went well as planned and I was the first to submit my paper and pass the final exam. After graduation, I flew with Jun Fui and Parno to Jakarta to begin the job hunting...

The freshmen (and women). 
From left: Muliady The, Budi Hendra, Anni, Suhana, Sylvia and Angelia.


Kehidupan Sebelum Jakarta

Serial Life Before, yang dimulai dengan Life Before Marriage dan dilanjutkan dengan Life Before Singapore, merupakan pengalaman menulis yang menyenangkan. Saya bukan saja bisa bernostalgia dan mengenang kembali masa lalu, tetapi juga berkesempatan untuk menunjukkan apresiasi saya pada mereka yang memainkan peran penting dalam hidup saya. Berikut ini adalah kisah serupa yang berfokus pada empat tahun terakhir saya di Pontianak, tepat setelah saya lulus dari SMA, ketika rencana saya dalam melanjutkan sekolah diintervensi oleh takdir.

Saya ingin kuliah di Jogja dulu. Akan tetapi, setelah berdiskusi dengan paman saya, akhirnya saya harus menerima nasib bahwa saya tidak akan punya cukup uang untuk menyelesaikan kuliah di sana ("paling kamu hanya bisa bertahan satu semester," demikian ucapannya saat itu). Sempat terpikir bahwa mungkin saya tidak akan kuliah lagi dan harus segera mencari kerja, namun dua bibi saya yang berdomisili di Taiwan dan kebetulan berada di Pontianak menasihati saya untuk tetap melanjutkan pendidikan. Tidak hanya itu, mereka juga memberikan saya 5.000 dolar Taiwan. Saya berterima kasih dan berjanji untuk mendaftarkan diri ke perguruan tinggi. Saat itu Hendri Muliadi, teman baik saya, berkata bahwa dia akan masuk ke STMIK Pontianak. Karena dia lebih pintar, saya percaya pada pilihannya dan turut serta untuk registrasi.

Mahasiswa Jogja dan Jakarta: Hartono dan Muliady AW.

Pada saat yang bersamaan, seorang paman yang lain pun mempekerjakan saya. Sejak SMA, saya sudah bersama paman yang satu ini dan begitu saya lulus, dia memberikan saya kesempatan pertama untuk memasuki dunia kerja. Saat itu dia menangani Hotel Kartika, sebuah hotel bintang dua, dan juga Wisma Siantan Indah yang berada tepat di seberang sungai Kapuas. Saya lantas diberikan pekerjaan untuk menangani inventaris kebutuhan hotel dan wisma. Setelah saya bisa mengemudikan mobil, saya juga mengisi lowongan supir yang kebetulan memang kosong di akhir pekan. Boleh dikatakan saya bekerja tujuh hari seminggu! Oh ya, kuliah di Pontianak tidak berarti bahwa saya tidak lagi berada dalam situasi "paling kamu hanya bisa bertahan satu semester," namun saya bekerja sekarang dan dengan gaji Rp. 600 ribu per bulan, saya kini mempunyai penghasilan yang cukup untuk membiayai kuliah saya. 

Kendati begitu, berdasarkan standar apa pun yang berlaku saat itu, saya masih termasuk kategori ekonomi sulit. Sepeda balap saya yang berharga Rp. 180 ribu adalah harta benda saya yang termahal saat itu. Butuh waktu menabung berbulan-bulan sebelum saya sanggup membelinya. Di lain sisi, saya hidup di dunia dimana hampir setiap pemuda seumuran saya memiliki motor ketika itu, jadi saya sebenarnya sangat malu dengan fakta bahwa saya hanya sanggup membeli sepeda. Oleh karena itu, saya sering pergi berboncengan motor ke kampus bersama Hendri Muliadi. Di kala saya harus pergi sendiri, biasanya saya akan pergi paling awal dan pulang paling malam supaya tidak banyak orang yang melihat saya mengambil sepeda di parkiran. Hanya di tahun keempat sekaligus terakhir saya mulai menerima kenyataan hidup dan bersepeda di depan rekan-rekan mahasiswa lainnya.

Semalam suntuk di rumah Ali.

Kecuali hal kecil di atas, periode ini sebetulnya cukup menyenangkan. Kalau saya lihat kembali, sejak saat itu saya mulai menyadari bahwa kegembiraan itu asalnya dari dalam hati, bukan tergantung pada apa yang saya miliki. Di kala itu, saya nyaris tidak mempunyai apa-apa, tapi saya hampir tidak pernah merasa miskin. Saya memiliki banyak teman dan tidak pernah putus hubungan dengan mereka yang satu SMA dengan saya dulu. Beberapa sahabat seperti Parno, Hendri Muliadi dan Ardian adalah teman sepergaulan setiap hari. Kawan-kawan lain seperti Endrico, Eday dan Muliady kuliah di luar Pontianak, tapi kita pasti berkumpul sewaktu mereka pulang ke kampung halaman di saat liburan. Saya juga sibuk menulis di kala senggang, bermain sedikit musik bersama Budi Hendra, Junaidi dan mereka yang satu aliran, menulis beberapa lagu bersama Ardian, serta merayakan beberapa ulang tahun, satu di antaranya adalah ulang tahun Parno: kita mempersiapkan segalanya sebagai kejutan untuk Parno di ulang tahunnya yang ke-20.

Dalam kurun waktu tersebut, saya juga sempat berkelana ke Kuching beberapa kali. Perjalanan dengan bis antar negara itu menjadi mungkin karena awalnya saya iseng mengurus paspor sendiri. Prosesnya tidak susah, tapi bertele-tele karena melibatkan berbagai hal yang tidak efisien dan rasis. Sebagai contoh, hanya karena saya adalah orang Tionghoa, aplikasi saya dibedakan dan ada suatu ketika dimana saya harus ke kantor imigrasi hanya untuk memindahkan berkas saya dari satu meja ke meja yang lain.

Di Kuching.

Mengenai perihal kerja, tujuh hari seminggu tidaklah seburuk yang dibayangkan. Justru sebaliknya, saya cukup menikmatinya. Para rekan kerja, baik yang di kantor maupun di hotel, sangatlah ramah. Saya paling akrab dengan para koki, mungkin karena saya selalu bermaksud untuk makan gratis, haha. Mereka ini seperti kerabat yang lebih tua sehingga sering berbagi cerita tentang pengalaman hidup, mulai dari yang memotivasi seperti, "apa pun yang kamu kerjakan, meskipun itu hanya memungut tahi, tetaplah menjadi yang paling unggul." Lantas ada lagi wejangan tentang dunia kerja, misalnya, "bikinlah keributan dengan panci-pancimu supaya bos tahu kamu bekerja." Yang lainnya, yang juga sering dibicarakan, adalah ironi kehidupan, contohnya, "kangkung itu, kalo dimakan orang kaya, dianggap sehat, tapi kalau dimakan orang miskin, kesannya justru kasihan karena ini adalah sayuran murah."

Rutinitas setiap pagi bagi saya adalah mendatangi setiap departemen, yakni bagian kamar, restoran dan dapur untuk mendata apa yang mereka butuhkan, setelah itu saya akan berkeliling kota untuk membeli apa yang kurang, terutama bahan makanan yang harus selalu segar, misalnya roti tawar. Di saat ada pesta pernikahan, saya membantu sebisanya, mulai dari mengiris jamur sampai mengupas udang. Di akhir pekan, saya akan mengemudi ke pasar Flamboyan, tempat dimana kemampuan saya senantiasa diuji karena sedikit kesalahan pada saat parkir berarti menabrak motor atau mobil lain yang diparkir berdempetan. Kadang saya akan ikut turut menagih ke langganan dan juga instansi pemerintah bersama Sukiman Ali, seorang Tionghoa setengah baya yang memiliki nama Indonesia yang menyamarkan marganya. Paman yang satu ini sangat lucu dan bisa bercerita apa saja.

Ahim, kasir restoran Hotel Kartika.

Menjelang senja hingga malam, saya bisa mengambil dua kelas dari Senin sampai Jumat. Secara jujur, tidak banyak yang saya ingat dari kegiatan saya di kampus, mungkin karena terlalu banyak aktivitas yang saya jalani ketika itu. Saya sibuk dengan pekerjaan dan juga hobi saya setiap hari, lalu sisa waktu biasanya dimanfaatkan untuk bertemu teman. Ini juga mungkin alasannya kenapa saya tidak begitu akrab dengan teman kuliah, kecuali mereka yang berasal dari satu SMA.

Akan tetapi ini tidak lantas berarti saya tidak memiliki kenangan masa kuliah. Saya ingat ketika saya bersepeda ke sana kemari di malam hari untuk mengumpulkan tangan tangan guna memboikot seorang dosen. Saya mengajukan petisi setelah mengetahui bahwa dosen ini terbukti mau memeras teman saya dengan memainkan nilai jika dia dibelikan buku. Secara pribadi, saya ngotot untuk tidak diajar lagi olehnya karena saya tidak mengerti apa yang diajarkan olehnya pada semester lalu. Akhirnya dosen ini pun tidak lagi bertemu dengan kita pada semester berikutnya. Kenangan lainnya yang lebih riang adalah koran bulanan yang saya terbitkan di kampus dulu. Selanjutnya masih ada lagi pertemuan saya dengan empat mahasiswa semester awal yang kelak akan menjadi inspirasi Crazy Campus, buku pertama yang pernah saya terbitkan di Jakarta.

Di tahun terakhir kuliah, setelah saya mempertimbangkan kemudahan dalam akses ke dosen dan komputer, saya akhirnya berhenti dari pekerjaan saya di hotel dan pindah ke kampus. Saya menjadi asisten di laboratorium komputer pada pagi hari (profesi yang populer untuk berkenalan dengan mahasiswi), kemudian menulis skripsi di sore hari dan melanjutkan kuliah di malam hari. Sesuai rencana, saya akhirnya menjadi mahasiswa pertama di kelas saya yang mengumpulkan skripsi dan lulus sidang. Setelah acara wisuda, saya pun berangkat ke Jakarta bersama Parno dan Jun Fui (kolega saya yang jenius dan membangun jaringan komputer Linux di kampus) untuk merantau dan mencari kerja di sana... 

Di kampus STMIK bersama Cicilia, Muliady and Yuliana.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

The First Trip To China

Just in case the title got you wondering, the holiday to Macau, Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong was my parents first trip to China, not mine. My first trip happened three years earlier in 2009 and the recent article about Ferlin got me reminiscing about those days in Nanning again. It was such an odd destination for the first time visitors to China. Initially, when I heard of it, I thought Yani had mispronounced it and I assumed she was referring to the more famous Nanjing, but no, she really meant it.

My sister-in-law went there for a student exchange programme, so we went there to visit her. We took our time and flew from Kuala Lumpur to Guangzhou, therefore Baiyun International Airport was my first impression of China. It was unbelievably huge, but the very short time we were there was marred by a small incident. It could be a luggage arrangement went wrong or I simply misunderstood things in Chinese, but as as we needed to change from international to domestic flight, we collected our luggage and rushed for the connecting flight. During the luggage check, the officer confiscated the liquid stuff, so after kissing our Bango brand sweet soy sauce goodbye, we flew to Nanning.

The night time in Nanning, not very far from Guangxi Arts Institute. 

After seeing how grand Guangzhou airport was, the one in Nanning paled in comparison. It was tiny, but when we stepped outside, we were immediately reminded again how spacious China was. This was in year 2009 and Nanning wasn't even the most talked-about city in China, but yet it already looked much better than Jakarta. Always a city man, I was amazed by its rapid development and how everything in China seemed to be bigger and wider than anywhere else in the world!

We stayed few days in Nanning, mostly visiting Guangxi Arts Institute where Leny was studying. We had a glance at the dormitories, classrooms, canteen and auditorium. Then of course I had a bowl of Guilin rice noodles or two. It was a famous local delicacy, but it did take some time to enjoy it. Leny also brought us from her campus to Walmart on foot. We went to the zoo as well. By the time we went to railway station for the second time (the first time was to check the timing and buy the train ticket), we made our way to Guilin.

We took a very old train and it was a five-hour ride on a hard bench. The train would often stop and vendors would come up to sell their goods. It was interesting to see how the little red book from Chairman Mao was still a hot commodity that found a lot of buyers.

Yani and Leny, dressing up as what I suspected to be the Zhuang Princesses. The Zhuang people are largest minority China and they live in Guangxi.

Guilin always gave me the impression of Jakarta in the 80s. It had an old and tiring atmosphere in the air, but of course we didn't visit the city just for that. What famous here was the scenery. The Reed Flute Cave (芦笛岩) was great. It was filled up with stalactites and stalagmites, artificially lit and, this being a Chinese cave, each shape of the rock formation was named in a highly imaginative way! Apart from that, we also had a boat ride to see the Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山). Believe it or not, the Chinese was so creative in naming such a natural wonder that it got me thinking, what if it was a real giant elephant that dipped its trunk to drink from the river?

Then there was Yangshuo. If I had to single out the most memorable scenery in this trip, it must be the Li river cruise in Yangshuo. The karst mountains that surrounded the river was beautiful. That's when I actually realized why the mountains in Chinese painting was drawn in such a weird looking shape. Apparently it was real and the inspiration came from here. That day, when we were slowly cruising the river against the wind in the afternoon, was definitely a moment to remember.

My ex-colleague Benjamin Ho once jokingly said, the places I went was for old folks. He wasn't exactly wrong. Based on what I heard from people around me, China isn't a popular destination for Southeast Asian adults below 60 years old, but it is surely not a bad place to visit. It's a big country with a lot to offer. I myself have my fair share of wish list and it includes Xinjiang and Yunnan, so yeah, don't be discouraged but go and visit China, guys!

Yani, Leny and the Elephant Trunk Hill at the back. 


Perjalanan Pertama Ke Cina

Kalau anda pernah membaca kisah serupa sebelumnya di roadblog101.com, perlu saya jelaskan bahwa liburan ke Macau, Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen dan Hong Kong adalah perjalanan pertama orang tua saya ke Cina. Bagi saya sendiri, petualangan perdana ini terjadi tiga tahun sebelum saya berangkat bersama mereka. Tulisan saya tentang Ferlin membuat saya teringat dengan kota Nanning lagi dan betapa kota tersebut adalah tujuan yang tidak lazim bagi mereka mengunjungi Cina untuk pertama kalinya. Ketika saya mendengar tentang kota ini, saya sempat mengira bahwa yang dimaksudkan Yani adalah kota Nanjing yang lebih sering terdengar, tapi ternyata dia tidak salah sebut. 

Adik ipar saya Leny mengikuti program pertukaran pelajar, jadi kita ke sana mengunjunginya. Kita terbang dari Kuala Lumpur ke Guangzhou, jadi kesan pertama saya tentang Cina adalah Bandara Internasional Baiyun. Lapangan terbang di Guangzhou ini luar biasa besar, tapi saya mengalami sedikit masalah sewaktu berada di sana. Karena harus berganti dari penerbangan internasional ke domestik, kita mengambil bagasi dan bergegas mengejar penerbangan berikutnya. Ketika koper diperiksa, barang-barang yang mengandung cairan pun disita. Setelah kita berpisah dengan kecap manis cap Bango, barulah kita berangkat ke Nanning.

Yani di Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, sewaktu kita transit dalam perjalanan menuju Cina. 

Setelah melihat betapa megahnya bandara di Guangzhou, lapangan terbang Nanning terlihat kecil dan sempit. Meskipun demikian, begitu kita menuju kota, segera terlihat betapa luasnya Cina. Ini adalah tahun 2009 dan Nanning bukanlah kota yang popular bagi turis, namun saat itu pun kotanya sudah terlihat lebih maju dari Jakarta. Sebagai wisatawan yang lebih menyukai kota modern, saya kagum dengan cepatnya perkembangan di sana. Segala sesuatu di Cina tampak lebih besar, lebar dan luas dari negara-negara lain di dunia ini! 

Kita tinggal beberapa hari di Nanning dan sering berkunjung ke Institut Seni Guangxi, tempat Leny kuliah. Di situ kita berkesempatan untuk melihat asrama, kelas, kantin dan auditorium kampus serta kehidupan mahasiswa di sana. Saya mencicipi Guilin mifen (semacam kwetiau atau mie), makanan khas di sana. Kalau ditanya enak atau tidak, saya rasa perlu penyesuaian untuk menikmatinya, hehe. Kita berjalan kaki dari kampus ke Walmart, naik bis ke kebun binatang dan, sewaktu kita pergi ke stasiun kereta api untuk kedua kalinya (pertama kita ke sana adalah untuk membeli tiket), kita berangkat ke kota Guilin.

Perjalanan ke Guilin ditempuh dengan kereta tua yang memakan waktu lima jam. Keretanya sering berhenti dan para penjaja dagangan pun naik untuk berjualan. Satu hal unik yang saya amati adalah betapa larisnya buku merah Mao Zedong. Orang-orang di daerah kecil sepertinya masih menaruh minat besar pada pemimpin mereka ini.

Sore hari di Guilin, setelah melihat Bukit Belalai Gajah. 

Guilin tampak seperti Jakarta di tahun 80an, namun ada kesan bahwa kota ini sudah tua dan menembus zaman. Yang menarik di sana adalah wisata alam yang menakjubkan. Kita mengunjungi Gua Seruling Buluh yang penuh dengan stalaktit dan stalakmit. Gua ini dikelola dengan baik. Tata cahaya dan warna lampunya memberikan nuansa klasik pada setiap bentuk stalaktit yang unik dan penuh cerita ini. Selain itu, kita juga naik kapal mengelilingi Bukit Belalai Gajah. Satu hal yang tidak bisa dipungkiri adalah betapa tingginya daya khayal orang Cina dalam memberikan nama. Ketika saya melihatnya, saya jadi berpikir, bagaimana seandainya bukit ini dulunya adalah gajah raksasa yang mencelupkan belalainya untuk meminum air sungai? 

Dari Guilin, kita juga mengunjungi Yangshuo. Jika saya harus menyebutkan satu pemandangan terindah dari perjalanan pertama ke Cina ini, maka itu adalah saat kita menyusuri sungai Li di Yangshuo. Pegunungan yang mengelilingi sungai tersebut sangat memukau dan membuat saya menyadari kenapa gunung di lukisan Cina seringkali digambar dengan bentuk yang berbeda dengan gambar di Indonesia. Ternyata dari sinilah inspirasinya berasal. Gunung seperti lukisan Cina ini bukanlah imajinasi belaka, melainkan benar-benar ada. Di hari itu, ketika kita menaiki perahu mengikuti aliran sungai sambil dibelai oleh angin semilir, adalah hari yang indah dan sungguh pantas dikenang. 

Mantan teman sekantor saya, Benjamin Ho, pernah berkata sambil bercanda bahwa tempat yang saya kunjungi ini lebih cocok untuk wisata orang tua. Pendapatnya tidak sepenuhnya keliru. Dari apa yang saya dengar dari sekeliling saya, Cina bukanlah negara tujuan wisata yang populer bagi orang Asia Tenggara yang berumur kurang dari 60 tahun, namun sejujurnya Cina cukup seru untuk dikunjungi. Jangan lupa bahwa ini adalah negara besar yang menawarkan begitu banyak hal, mulai dari pemandangan sampai budaya. Saya sendiri masih memiliki tempat-tempat di Cina yang ingin saya kunjungi, misalnya Yunnan dan Xinjiang, jadi bagi yang berminat, jangan berkecil hati untuk mengunjungi Cina!

Leny, sewaktu kita menyusuri Sungai Li di Yangshuo.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Social Media: Do's And Don'ts

How many people have social media accounts these days? I guess almost all people, especially the youngsters, have at least one. Many people share their lives through social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. You can see any pictures, from travelling to their daily activities. People are sharing basically everything, be it general news or private life matters. As a reader, I agree with what my friend said, "if you don't like to read the status or see your Facebook friend's pictures, just skip it." However, I tend to think if we would like to respond to a friend's status, do it wisely and nicely. Well, as much as we would like to have our opinion to be heard, we also have to respect other people opinion, don't we?

Do's and don'ts for the readers:

1. Positive thinking
Pictures can be seen in two perspectives. Someone may see his friend's travelling pictures and feel that his friend simply want to show off by posting those pictures, but others may see the same pictures and get an idea for their next travelling destination. Don't envy, but be inspired instead.

2. Have empathy for others
You may be bored with your friend's daily post about their kids, but please understand that for their mummy, the children are her world. Mothers, especially a stay-at-home mum who spends most of her time with her baby at home, she needs a media to share her life with friends.

3. Be careful with your words
You may not always agree with your friend's status. If you ever decide to comment, choose the right words that will not hurt others.

Do's and don'ts for the writers:

1. Think twice before posting something in social media, especially when your account is open to public. There are some topics that, I think, are quite sensitive and risky to be posted:

a. Uploading pictures of our money
A Facebook friend of mine posted a lot of money she got from her husband after they won the lottery. What if there is a thief out there who is eyeing on her?

b. Uploading personal information
Be mindful not to post our phone number, address, identity card and passport numbers, etc. as it can be misused by others.

c. Uploading our kids' pictures on his/her school uniform
While Singapore may be quite a safe place, I ever read the news about the kid in other country whom was kidnapped by stranger at her school. The kidnapper got information about the kid and her school from her parent's post on social media. Better to prevent this incident from happening rather that regretting it later.

d. Making status that offends other people's ethic, race and religion.
Be sensitive and mindful.

2. Do take note that when you share the news that is still not yet confirmed, you'll end up spreading gossips.

3. You may be angry or disappointed with someone and you want to share your feeling by directly putting up a status about it on social media. I'm not convinced if that is actually okay, but if you do it very frequently, people will get tired of it. Other people will know your personal problem (or you are actually the problematic one) and kindly be also aware that by sharing on social media, your problem will not be solved. You need to settle it directly with the person, preferably without blowing it out of proportion.

4. It's rather eerie, not to mention unethical, to post the photo of a dead person or someone who was in coma or in accident even though he or she is our own family. If the photo is used in order to get donation, that still can be understood. However, if it is only for the sake of sharing, I don't think it is appropriate, considering the privacy of the person on the photo.

5. Share something that will be useful for others, something that will encourage your reader or give them inspiration. People will be more interested to read something that will benefit them.

At the end of the day, social media is just a tool for us to share or to communicate with others. It depends on us as a user to use it wisely. Same like a knife. Knife is very useful when we use it to cut meat, vegetables or fruit (positive way), but knife can also be used to hurt others (negative way). The above tips are just my two cents. I hope it will, in some way, be useful for you.

The social media generation. Oh no, this little girl is just posing for the camera! 





Friday, February 2, 2018

The Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is coming! As I grow older, it feels just like another holiday and I don't really bother about it anymore, but there were times when I was so into it. Allow me to reminisce and share with you how it was like in my hometown.

It was always cooler when I was a kid following my parents around to meet our relatives. I'd receive ang bao, the red envelopes with some amount of money in it, then I'd have some snack and soft drink before I hung out with my cousins. However, it was only when I grew up that I got a full grasp of how the Chinese New Year was celebrated.

The fireworks ritual on the eve of Chinese New Year.
Photo by Eday Ng.

It always started with a reunion dinner on the eve of the celebration. When my grandparents were still around, we'd gather there, a big family of uncles, aunties and cousins. On the dining table, there would be all the exquisite Chinese food, from pig trotter to sea cucumber cooked with bamboo shoots. While the dining and the talking happened, we'd hear people lighting up the fireworks.

This ritual musti be uniquely Pontianak: people would line up on both sides of Gajah Mada road and fire whatever they had as if it was a competition! This activity would last the whole night (and my wife, when she had her first and only Chinese New Year celebration in Pontianak so far, curiously asked me at around 10pm if they would ever stop playing). Came the next day (and it was the first day of the celebration with the duration of 15 days), we would visit and be visited by the relatives.

When friends came visiting in 2005. 

The second day onwards were reserved for friends. This, in my twenties, was easily the fun part of the celebration. I didn't go back to Pontianak that often since I started working in Jakarta and perhaps I went back only one time since I moved to Singapore, but I did have good times. I remember the 2005 celebration. We were so young then, just got out from college not so long ago to enter the society, wherever it was. Chinese New Year was like the reason for us to go back home, meet up and hang out again. So there I was, going from one house to another with Endrico and others.

The same event was repeated in 2006, when I quitted without any job, thinking that I'd give it a try in Singapore. What made it rather special was Soedjoko, a friend from Jakarta, whom came visiting. He already knew Parno and Endrico since Jakarta days, but it was through this trip that he got to know more friends of mine. We went to the houses of Heriyanto, Suhendi, Tedy Trisno, Pranoto, Gunarto, Khendy and called it a day at Angelia and Angelina's house.

The stop at Gunarto's house in 2006.

And that was the last time it felt fun, I guess. I don't recall why I never went back again until 2014, but the last time I was there, I was a married man with a child and so were many of my friends. It wasn't the same anymore and gone were the days when we could just hang out and spend the whole day together. Come to think of it, that may be the reason why I'm very reluctant to go back to Pontianak for Chinese New Year celebration these days.

By the way, you did notice that I mentioned it would last for 15 day, didn't you? The last few days were the days the dragon appeared. Apart from lion dance, we had dragon dance, too. The mighty dragon was long enough for everybody from all races, be it Chinese, Dayak or Malay, to join in and play. We might be of different origins, but once a year, in this festive season, we had this spectacular view of racial harmony and it was a beautiful sight to behold...

The dragon dance!
Photo by Rudy Santyoso.


Tahun Baru Cina

Tahun Baru Cina akan segera tiba! Seiring dengan bertambahnya usia, hari raya ini kian terasa seperti liburan biasa dan cenderung saya abaikan, namun ada suatu masa dimana saya bersuka-cita menyambutnya. Izinkan saya berbagi cerita tentang bagaimana Tahun Baru Cina biasanya dirayakan di Pontianak

Perayaan ini lebih berkesan ketika saya masih seorang bocah yang mengikuti orang tua saya berkunjung ke rumah sanak-saudara. Saya menerima ang pao, amplop merah yang berisi uang, lantas menikmati kudapan dan minuman soda sebelum bermain bersama para sepupu. Setelah merayakannya selama bertahun-tahun, perlahan-lahan saya mulai memahami rangkaian acara sepanjang Tahun Baru Cina.

Parno dan Endrico di malam Tahun Baru Cina 2006. 

Di malam sebelum hari perayaan, kita selalu berkumpul di rumah keluarga yang paling senior. Di kala kakek dan nenek masih hidup, kita selalu makan malam di sana, berkumpul bersama keluarga besar mulai dari paman, bibi dan sepupu. Makanan yang disajikan bukanlah hidangan sehari-hari, melainkan menu istimewa mulai dari kaki babi sampai teripang yang dimasak dengan rebung. Kemudian, selagi semua bersantap dan berbincang, suara petasan dan kembang api terdengar di luar rumah. 

Ritual ini sepertinya hanya ada di Pontianak: lautan manusia membentuk dua kubu yang berseberangan di jalan Gajah Mada dan saling menembakkan kembang api bagaikan kompetisi! Aktivitas ini bisa berlangsung semalam suntuk, sampai-sampai istri saya yang kebetulan ikut serta merayakan Tahun Baru Cina pertamanya di Pontianak pun bertanya kira-kira pada jam 10 malam, sampai kapan sebenarnya mereka baru akan berhenti menyalakan kembang api. Kemudian, ketika hari esok tiba, mulailah perayaan tahun baru yang akan berlangsung selama 15 hari. Hari pertama biasanya diisi dengan acara kunjungan keluarga.

Sylvia dan pasangan saat berkunjung ke rumah Anni, tahun 2005.

Di hari kedua, barulah kita mengunjungi teman-teman. Ketika saya berumur dua puluhan, ini adalah hari yang paling ditunggu. Walau saya jarang pulang ke Pontianak sejak bekerja di Jakarta (dan lebih jarang lagi setelah pindah ke Singapura), saya ingat betapa berkesannya Tahun Baru Cina, misalnya di tahun 2005. Ketika itu kita masih teramat sangat muda, baru lulus kuliah dan mulai menjajaki dunia kerja, baik di Pontianak, Jakarta maupun daerah lainnya. Tahun Baru Cina adalah saat dimana kita pulang ke kampung halaman, bertemu dan berkumpul lagi, jadi di sanalah saya berada, berkunjung dari rumah ke rumah bersama Endrico dan teman-teman lain. 

Saya juga pulang di tahun 2006, terutama karena saat itu saya berhenti kerja dan berpikir untuk mencoba peruntungan saya di Singapura setelah Tahun Baru Cina. Yang membuat tahun ini sedikit berbeda adalah kunjungan Soedjoko, seorang teman dari Jakarta. Dia sudah kenal dengan Endrico dan Parno sejak saya bekerja di Jakarta, namun lewat kunjungan inilah dia berkenalan dengan teman-teman saya yang lain. Sama seperti tahun sebelumnya, kita bertemu dari rumah ke rumah, kali ini ke tempat Heriyanto, Suhendi, Tedy Trisno, Pranoto, Gunarto, Khendy dan Angelia/Angelina.

Dari kiri atas: Soedjoko, Endrico, Angelina dan Jimmy.
Bawah: Angelia. 

Dan mungkin itu terakhir kalinya Tahun Baru Cina terasa menyenangkan. Saya tidak ingat kenapa saya tidak pernah pulang lagi hingga tahun 2014 untuk merayakannya, tapi ketika saya kembali, saya sudah menikah dan memiliki seorang anak. Demikian juga halnya dengan teman-teman, saat itu banyak yang sudah berkeluarga. Suasananya terasa tidak sama dan kita tidak lagi bisa berkumpul seharian seperti dulu. Kalau dipikirkan lagi, mungkin itu alasannya kenapa saya kini enggan pulang untuk merayakan Tahun Baru Cina di Pontianak. 

Oh ya, anda perhatikan bahwa saya sempat menyinggung tentang durasi 15 hari dari perayaan ini? Berapa hari terakhir diisi dengan kemunculan naga. Selain tarian barongsai atau singa, Tahun Baru Cina juga diisi dengan tarian naga. Sang naga terkadang luar biasa panjang, cukup bagi semua dari berbagai suku untuk berpartisipasi. Ya, sebagai bangsa Indonesia, kita bisa saja berasal dari suku Tionghoa, Dayak, Melayu dan lain-lain, tapi sekali dalam setahun, setidaknya pada acara yang gembira ini, kita bisa menyaksikan pemandangan hidup bertoleransi para anak bangsa yang majemuk...

Tahun baru 2014 di Pontianak.