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Sunday, May 31, 2020

The First Impression

Recently I wrote a story about how it felt for a small town boy to travel abroad for the first time. Since then, I thought, why stop there? Each country is special! I definitely could go further and continue writing from the perspective of someone who came from Pontianak. Somehow, someway, it didn't matter how far I had been. There was this little boy from Pontianak in me that was always impressed by the new countries I visited. 

In fact, let's start with Bali first. Yes, I know Bali is still part of Indonesia, but it felt so different! I always said Bali was like a different country that happened to use IDR and Bahasa Indonesia. I remember the car ride we had from Gilimanuk to Legian and I was like, "is this still Indonesia?" I mean, if you had travelled a bit in Indonesia, you'd notice certain similarities that were shared by the cities. They were roughly the same regardless where you went, but these shared characteristics were surprisingly almost non-existent in Bali.

First time in Bali, 2004.
Photo by Sudarman.

I'd say Bali stood out proudly on its own. Bali that I remembered was a cultural and natural beauty shrouded in mysticism (probably due to the fact that the extremely pronounced Hinduism in the island was so new to me then). One thing that I also couldn't forget was, for the first time ever, I felt safe and accepted in Indonesia. You see, being a Chinese Indonesian, you'd feel discrimination from time to time, but Bali was so welcoming that for all I know, I could have been in another country! 

Next, I'd told you about Kuching, so we'd skip Malaysia and move on to Singapore instead. I know City of Light is Paris, but Singapore would always be the one for me. Coming from Pontianak where candles were often lit at night (even in the bathroom, when we wanted to shower), Singapore was the wonder of the world with skyscrapers that shone brightly at night. Then there was this first McDonald's beef burger, too! Singapore felt so modern that it redefined the word civilisation! Pontianak looked even much more dimmer after that first trip to Singapore.

At Madame Tussauds, Hong Kong, 2005.
Photo by Deddy Iskandar.

Then came Hong Kong, the first foreign country that I visited as a working adult in Jakarta. I didn't expect to go there. I never even dreamt of it, because how could I? The salary was so low for me to make ends meet, so I never thought of going abroad. But I was selected by my boss for a business trip, probably because I had a passport and I spoke English as well as broken Chinese (the moral of the story was, please learn the foreign languages). 

I grew up idolising heroes like Bruce Lee and Stephen Chow, so I was ecstatic that I'd be going to Hong Kong! As we stopped over in Singapore before flying to Hong Kong, I couldn't help comparing both countries. Singapore was organized whereas Hong Kong was more lively and rowdy. Everyone seemed to be rushing there! They also spoke Cantonese, just like those Hong Kong movies I watched in the 90s. Loud and sounded rude, haha.

With Soedjoko in Bangkok, 2012.
Photo by Endrico Richard. 

Bangkok, Thailand, was the first foreign city I went for a proper holiday after I started living in Singapore. Well, not so proper, because we sat at the back of a lorry as we went for sightseeing. But, hey, no complain here, because we surely had some fun. Thai people smiled a lot and I liked the way they greeted us. They would bow a bit with both hands in a prayer-like fashion, then they'd say sawasdee. It was culturally infectious that before long, I did the same, too! In 2007, Bangkok was already much more modern than Jakarta. The traffic jam was comparable. However, the city felt safe for tourists. 

One year later, I visited Manila. I remember feeling ambivalent about the city that chased away the Beatles. As I was in cab (and they never had any change, so whatever amount you paid them was often considered as tips), I saw a bible verse on the marquee. I was reminded that it was the first Catholic country I ever visited! The look and feel of Manila was quite similar with Jakarta with following exception: the KFC came with gravy, the pork menus were brilliant and the city felt less safe than Jakarta after dark. Intramuros was also a great introductory for a Pontianak fellow who only studied a bit of Spanish occupation in high school. It was like see-it-yourself experience. The name Magellan kept lingering in my mind when I visited the place!

In Ho Chi Minh City, 2009.
Photo by Endrico Richard.

I went to Vietnam in 2009. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, was the first communist city I ever visited. By the way, if you grew up in Indonesia, you'd notice that the word communist was sort of a scary stuff. It was very much feared or probably the worst thing ever. If a person ever ran out of cursing words in condemning someone, he could shout, "damn you, communist!" But what I saw there was nothing scary. If there was anything that I found lacking, I observed that the Vietnamese didn't really smile, but then again, I had doubts that it was because they were communists. 

There were two things memorable in Ho Chi Minh City. First one was the overhead cable on the street. Even Pontianak didn't have much of this anymore, so I was surprised to see the tangled cables above my ahead. Totally unexpected! Then, secondly, the number of motorbikes was so overwhelming, even for someone who came from Indonesia!

In Phnom Penh, 2009.
Photo by Endrico Richard. 

I actually didn't do much of sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City as we went to Cambodia after our short stay in Vietnam. None would have prepared me, not even the previous travelling experience, for Phnom Penh. This was the first time I saw a capital city so poor that I felt lucky I was born in Indonesia. The city was dry, the money looked like Monopoly money, the cows were skinny and I would never forget the dusty cyclone that engulfed the bread sold by the street vendor. How one earth was one going to eat that? But the Cambodians persevered and they enjoyed their lives by dancing real slow and skipping rope at night. In a way, they taught me that happiness was to be joyful with what you already had.

I'll end it first before this gets too long for a blog post, haha. But now that I wrote this, it was kind of interesting to realize that I couldn't take away the Pontianak fellow in me. I still subconsciously looked at things from the perspective that was based on my childhood and formative years. Not necessary a bad thing, though! As a result, I got to appreciate things using the standard that suited me!

Kesan Pertama

Baru-baru ini saya menulis cerita tentang bagaimana rasanya menjadi orang dari kota kecil yang pergi ke luar negeri untuk pertama kalinya. Semenjak itu saya jadi kepikiran, kenapa tidak dilanjutkan? Bukankah setiap negara itu istimewa? Saya tentu bisa menulis tentang kesan pertama dari sudut pandang orang yang berasal dari Pontianak. Ya, meski saya telah merantau cukup jauh, tetap saja saya terkesima dengan setiap negara yang baru saya kunjungi. 

Dan mungkin kita harus mulai dari Bali dulu. Ya, saya tahu bahwa Bali merupakan bagian dari Indonesia, tapi sungguh berbeda suasananya. Saya seringkali mengatakan bahwa Bali itu bagaikan negara lain yang kebetulan menggunakan rupiah dan Bahasa Indonesia. Saya ingat ketika saya melihat keluar jendela mobil di sepanjang perjalanan dari Gilimanuk sampai ke Legian. Saya sempat berpikir, "benarkah ini masih di Indonesia?" Maksud saya, bila anda sudah pernah berkelana ke beberapa tempat di Indonesia, anda akan bisa merasakan semacam karakter yang sama di berbagai kota. Ada suatu kemiripan yang susah dijelaskan, tapi bisa dirasakan, misalnya antara Jakarta, Semarang dan Surabaya, namun Bali nyaris tidak memiliki nuansa serupa.

Pertama kali ke Bali, 2004.
Foto oleh Sudarman.

Bali terasa menonjol perbedaannya. Yang saya ingat itu budaya dan alamnya yang sedikit banyak terasa mistis (ini mungkin karena kentalnya pengaruh Hindu yang asing bagi saya). Satu hal yang juga sulit dilupakan adalah, saya merasa aman dan diterima di Bali. Orang Tionghoa tidaklah asing dengan perlakuan diskriminasi, tapi Bali begitu ramah sehingga terasa seperti negeri yang berbeda. 

Selanjutnya, saya sudah pernah bercerita tentang Kuching, jadi kita lewati Malaysia dan langsung menuju ke Singapura. Saya tahu bahwa City of Light adalah julukan kota Paris, tapi bagi saya, yang pantas menyandang gelar tersebut adalah Singapura. Di Pontianak, kita sering mengandalkan lilin, bahkan di saat mandi, karena listriknya yang sering padam. Ketika saya pertama ke Singapura, saya takjub melihat gedung-gedung tinggi yang terang-benderang bermandikan cahaya lampu di malam hari. Saya juga tidak akan lupa dengan burger McDonald's saya yang pertama. Singapura terasa begitu modern, sampai-sampai mendefinisikan ulang arti dari peradaban yang selama ini saya pahami. Pontianak terasa kian temaram setelah kunjungan saya yang pertama ke Singapura.

Di Madame Tussauds, Hong Kong, 2005.
Foto oleh Deddy Iskandar.

Dan berikutnya adalah Hong Kong, negara asing pertama yang saya kunjungi setelah saya mulai bekerja di Jakarta. Saya sebenarnya tidak pernah berharap untuk pergi ke sana. Saya bahkan tidak pernah bermimpi untuk ke sana, sebab bagaimana saya bisa? Gaji saya sangat kecil saat itu dan untuk makan enak pun susah, jadi tidak terpikir untuk keluar negeri. Namun siapa sangka saya justru dipilih bos saya untuk turut serta dalam perjalanan bisnis? Saya rasa ini mungkin dikarenakan saya memiliki paspor serta bisa berbahasa Inggris dan sedikit Mandarin (moral dari cerita, kuasailah bahasa asing). 

Saya senantiasa mengidolakan Bruce Lee dan Stephen Chow, jadi saya sungguh gembira bisa ke Hong Kong, tempat asal mereka! Karena kita singgah di Singapura sebelum lanjut ke Hong Kong, saya jadi memiliki perbandingan antara dua negara ini. Singapura lebih teratur, sedangkan Hong Kong lebih hidup dan gegap-gempita. Semua orang seperti tergesa-gesa di sini! Mereka juga ternyata bercakap-cakap dalam bahasa Kanton, persis seperti di film-film Hong Kong yang saya tonton di tahun 90an. Ribut dan kasar kesannya, hehe.

Bersama Soedjoko di Bangkok, 2012.
Foto oleh Endrico Richard. 

Kota Bangkok di Thailand menjadi kota di negeri asing yang pertama kali saya kunjungi dalam rangka liburan setelah saya pindah ke Singapura. Saya ingat bahwa kita duduk di belakang truk lori yang membawa kita berkeliling kota. Rasanya seperti ternak, tapi seru juga. Orang-orang Thai ramah senyum dan saya suka cara mereka memberi salam. Mereka akan membungkuk sedikit dengan dua tangan dalam posisi berdoa, lalu mereka mengucapkan sawasdee. Tidak berapa lama kemudian, saya pun turut membalas sapaan mereka dengan cara yang sama. Di tahun 2007, Bangkok sudah lebih maju dari Jakarta, walau macetnya sama parahnya. Kendati begitu, ibukota Thailand ini terasa aman bagi turis untuk berjalan kaki hingga malam hari. 

Setahun kemudian, saya mengunjungi Manila. Ada perasaan campur aduk terhadap kota yang pernah mengusir the Beatles dulu. Sewaktu saya berada di taksi (dan para pengemudinya seringkali tidak memiliki uang kembalian sehingga apa yang anda bayar dianggap sebagai tips), saya sempat melihat ayat injil di papan reklame. Saya lantas menyadari bahwa ini adalah negara Katolik pertama yang pernah saya kunjungi. Sebagai ibukota negara, Manila agak mirip dengan Jakarta, tetapi memiliki beberapa pengecualian sebagai berikut: KFC-nya disuguhkan dengan kuah kental, daging babi yang lezat ada di mana-mana dan Manila terasa lebih tidak aman dibandingkan dengan Jakarta di malam hari. Intramuros juga merupakan situs bersejarah yang cocok buat pemula dari Pontianak yang pernah belajar tentang sejarah penjajahan Spanyol. Nama Magellan senantiasa terngiang di benak saya saat berada di sana!

Di Ho Chi Minh City, 2009.
Foto oleh Endrico Richard.

Saya berlibur ke Vietnam di tahun 2009. Ho Chi Minh City, yang dulunya dikenal dengan nama Saigon, adalah kota komunis pertama yang pernah saya kunjungi. Di Indonesia, kata komunis ini merupakan sesuatu yang tabu dan mencekam. Jika seseorang kehabisan kata-kata makian, tidak jarang yang muncul berikutnya adalah kata komunis. Tapi apa yang saya lihat di sana tergolong normal. Jika ada sesuatu yang kurang di Vietnam, itu adalah penduduknya yang kurang senyum, tapi saya ragu bahwa ini disebabkan karena mereka adalah komunis. 

Ada dua hal yang selalu saya ingat saat berada di Ho Chi Minh City. Yang pertama adalah kabel listrik yang berada di jalan. Bahkan di Pontianak pun sudah jarang terlihat, jadi saya terpana saat melihat betapa semrawutnya kabel listrik di sana. Satu hal lagi yang menarik adalah jumlah motornya. Saya kira Indonesia memiliki paling banyak motor, ternyata motor di Vietnam lebih banyak lagi jumlahnya!

Di Phnom Penh, 2009.
Foto oleh Endrico Richard. 

Saya tidak sempat melihat sisi lain di Ho Chi Minh City karena langsung berangkat ke Kamboja setelah kunjungan singkat ke Vietnam. Apa yang saya jumpai di Phnom Penh sungguh membuka wawasan saya. Terus-terang sampai sejauh ini, saya belum pernah melihat yang seperti ini. Phnom Penh adalah ibukota negara, tapi terlihat begitu miskin, sampai-sampai saya merasa bersyukur karena terlahir di Indonesia. Kotanya kering, uangnya seperti uang Monopoli, sapinya kurus dan saya tidak akan pernah melupakan pusaran angin berdebu yang menggulung roti yang dijual di tepi jalan. Bagaimana pembeli bisa memakan roti ini? Tapi warga Kamboja sangat tabah dan mereka bersantai dengan menari dan lompat tali di malam hari. Saya belajar dari mereka bahwa kegembiraan itu berarti menikmati apa yang telah kita miliki. 

Saya akhiri sampai di sini dulu sebelum tulisan ini menjadi terlalu panjang untuk blog, haha. Bagi saya sendiri, setelah menulis, saya lantas menyadari bahwa saya masih melihat banyak hal dari sudut pandang orang yang tumbuh dewasa di Pontianak. Bukan hal yang buruk, sebenarnya. Saya jadi bisa menghargai apa yang saya lihat berdasarkan standar yang cocok untuk saya! 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Group Chat

It's no secret that I'm still very close to my high school friends. I can neither understand this phenomenon nor fully explain why, but  it is probably because they were there when I needed friends the most. 22 years had passed since we graduated from high school and that was a long period of time to lose touch, but we managed to resume our friendship, albeit virtually, thanks to the WhatsApp group chat. 

Yes, the group chat. And I had this urge to write about it after Jimmy uploaded the same old picture of a birthday cake. He always used back the same picture when it happened to be someone's birthday, haha. He did it so often that it now felt like a permanent fixture or a tradition! That somehow reminded me that the group had been around long enough for it to be felt like a part of my life.

One of the earliest group photos in 2015.

I didn't start the group. It was started by someone else, I couldn't remember whom, and it began in April 2015. Nevertheless, I was probably one of the most chatty guys in the group. It was a mutual relationship, I'd say. I loved having an outlet to vent out all the nonsense I had. On the other hands, the group fed on those bizarre comments and then it became lively. 

We could be talking about anything. If it was me leading the topics, you'd hear me planning for the events such as our next hangout or holiday. Sometimes we'd look back and being nostalgic about our younger days. Otherwise we'd talk about life, work, religion, money and politics. Just like any other groups, we'd have people that talked a lot as well as silent readers. Some would post our latest photos, others would upload random stuff. From time to time, a friend or two would get creative and come up with stickers that would last until now.

The "Haha! Idiot!" sticker that started all.

The group surely had its moments. There were times when we realized we could roll up our sleeves to help a friend in need and we did exactly that. We'd become sombre and reflective when we learnt that a friend we knew had died. Sometimes we'd be a bit too much in what we were saying. That's when chaos ensued and some of us, me included, would have some fun by adding fuel to the fire. You'd see offended people leaving the group, but more often than not, we'd be buddies again after some time. Yes, some never came back, but that was probably for the best. The chemistry just wasn't right for them, haha. 

And this eventually brought me to what struck me the most: the group's dynamics. We'd been together for five years that it seemed to me we had a certain place in each other's life. I couldn't speak on behalf of others, but when one of us, let's say Budiman for example, left the group temporary or hadn't appeared for quite a while, I felt like something was missing. The characteristics of the group was defined by us that when one was not around, it didn't feel right. 

I personally thought that probably we needed each other more than we ever realized. We were of the same generation, we were on the same boat and perhaps this was us growing old together. Worlds apart but virtually together, bound by the fact that we were from the same school. It has been great thus far and I surely enjoy being part of the group while it lasts...

The birthday cake Jimmy used and reused.

Persahabatan Virtual

Bukan rahasia lagi kalau saya masih sangat dekat dengan teman-teman SMA. Saya sendiri tidak begitu paham dan tidak tahu pasti apa alasannya, tapi saya kira ini disebabkan karena mereka dulu hadir di kala saya sungguh membutuhkan teman. 22 tahun sudah berlalu semenjak kita lulus dan ini adalah periode yang panjang untuk kehilangan kontak dan putus hubungan, namun kita ternyata bisa melanjutkan persahabatan, meski secara virtual sekarang, melalui grup di WhatsApp. 

Ya, grup WhatsApp. Dan saya jadi tergelitik untuk menulis tentang grup SMA ini setelah Jimmy mengunggah foto kue ulang tahun. Dia selalu menggunakan foto yang sama ketika ada teman yang berulang tahun, haha. Begitu seringnya dia melakukan hal ini sehingga terasa seperti tradisi. Hal ini lantas membuat saya berpikir bahwa grup ini sudah berlangsung cukup lama sehingga terasa seperti bagian hidup sehari-hari.

Salah satu foto bersama yang diunggah saat grup bermula di tahun 2015.

Bukan saya yang memulai grup ini. Saya tidak ingat lagi siapa pelopornya, tapi sepertinya grup ini muncul di tahun 2015. Meskipun saya bukan pencetusnya, saya boleh dikatakan sebagai salah satu orang yang paling ceriwis di grup. Bagi saya, ini tak ubahnya seperti hubungan yang saling menguntungkan. Saya senang bisa memiliki tempat untuk menuangkan ide dan celetukan yang konyol. Di satu sisi, yang lain pun seringkali terpicu oleh komentar saya yang hiperbola sehingga grup pun menjadi aktif.  

Kita bisa berdiskusi tentang apa saja. Jika saya yang mengarahkan pembicaraan, biasanya saya akan berbicara tentang kapan kita akan berkumpul atau jalan-jalan bersama lagi. Ada kalanya kita melihat kembali dan bernostalgia tentang masa lalu. Kita juga kadang mengobrol tentang kehidupan, pekerjaan, agama, uang dan politik. Seperti grup-grup lainnya, ada yang banyak bicara, ada pula yang hanya diam dan membaca. Ada yang mengunggah foto-foto teman, ada juga yang berbagi video atau berita. Dari waktu ke waktu, ada saja yang kreatif dan menciptakan stiker yang kemudian dipakai sampai sekarang.

Stiker legendaris yang memicu karya-karya selanjutnya.

Ada saja yang kita alami bersama di dalam grup ini. Terkadang kita terdorong untuk melakukan sesuatu demi membantu teman yang sedang membutuhkan. Ada juga saat dimana kita berbagi kabar duka dan mengenang kembali teman yang baru saja meninggal. Kemudian pernah terjadi pula peristiwa dimana kita tidak bijak dalam bercanda dan akhirnya salah satu pihak malah tersinggung. Suasana pun menjadi rusuh dan beberapa di antara kita, termasuk juga saya, kian memperkeruh suasana dengan provokasi lebih lanjut. Kalau sudah begitu, seringkali ada yang meninggalkan grup, tapi biasanya kita akan berdamai lagi setelah beberapa saat kemudian. Ya, ada yang tidak pernah kembali lagi, tapi itu mungkin keputusan yang terbaik, soalnya mungkin memang tidak sama frekuensinya, haha. 

Pada akhirnya semua ini membuat saya tertegun dengan satu hal: dinamika kehidupan dalam grup ini. Kita telah bersama lima tahun lamanya sehingga saya cenderung merasa bahwa kita memiliki tempat di hati masing-masing. Saya tentunya tidak bisa berbicara mewakili yang lain, tapi bagi saya pribadi, jika ada pemain inti yang meninggalkan grup cukup lama atau tidak terdengar suaranya setelah beberapa waktu, saya merasa seperti ada yang hilang. Karakter dari grup ini dibentuk oleh setiap kepribadian anggotanya sehingga ketika salah satu dari kita tidak ada, rasanya seperti ada yang kurang. 

Saya berpikir bahwa kita mungkin tanpa sadar memerlukan satu sama lain. Hanya kita yang memahami seperti apa rasanya berasal dari generasi yang sama. Mungkin inilah cara kita bersama-sama mengarungi hidup ini sebagai sahabat dan teman lama yang berasal dari sekolah yang sama. Sejauh ini luar biasa pengalamannya dan saya senang bisa menjadi bagian dari grup ini...

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Faith, Dreams And Regrets

I was listening to Frank Sinatra's My Way the other day. It was a good song and my favorite part was when he sang, "regrets, I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention." Frank's voice was so captivating that he made you believe in the lyrics. It was so thought-provoking that it got me pondering, what kind of life I had lived.

Looking back, I realized that I had gone through a lot. No, I didn't live a life full of dangers such as growing up in a war-torn country or something. Those moments in my life were just slightly unfortunate, but not as bad as they seemed. In a way, whatever that happened gave me the perspective about faith, dreams and regrets.

Faith was something that I learnt gradually. I believe things happened because they were intended by the One above. It might not be pleasant when bad things happened, but through the passing of time, sometimes you'd see why they worked out that way. Faith is like never losing hope that it'll be alright.

My life had been a long chain of events that not only brought me to Singapore, but also shaped me into the person I am. I often think that the turning point was when I finished secondary school. I missed the registration period of this newly opened elite school because I was still holidaying in Jakarta. As a result, I enrolled myself to the same school I was graduated from (it has secondary and high school). 

Then the unthinkable happened. My Dad had a financial crisis and my family had to leave the town. Was it bad? Kind of. I mean, life changed overnight. But one thing for sure, if all this didn't happen, I wouldn't have such a close friendship in high school, go to Jakarta, meet my future wife and end up staying in Singapore. I would have led a very different life instead. 

After what I went through, I have faith that only the best happens in life, even though it may not look like it when it first occurs. A lot of things didn't happen the way I wanted, but they turned out to be better than I expected. That's not to say I just give up and don't do my best. It's just when my best was not enough, I made my peace when shit happened, knowing that it was not entirely up to me and things were still going to be fine.  

Now let's move onto the next one: dreams. These were what moved me so that I made good changes in life. I dreamt of making a film, then I woke up and did a couple in 2006. I was so curious about Laos that I eventually made a trip to Vientiane in 2010. Then, in 2013, I thought it'd be possible to watch a Paul McCartney concert. I made it happen in 2015. I loved We Are the World and had been thinking about producing my own version since 2014, then I finally did one with a little help from my friends in 2016. I remember staring at Abbey Road album cover in the mid 90s and finally crossed the zebra-crossing myself in 2016.

The list goes on and that's always the case. I dream a dream and try to fulfill the dream. Sometimes I achieved them, sometimes I didn't, but that's alright. Without dreams, life would be just a series of boring, repetitive activities. Dreams made life colourful.

The question now is, with life based on faith and dreams, do I have still have regrets? Yes, I have, and that's the reason why I was fascinated by how true the particular lyrics above were. Regrets, I had a few, but then again, too few to mention. The only one I could think of now was the fact that I couldn't read/write Chinese and I also couldn't speak the language really well. To think that my Mum had a degree in Chinese literacy! How ironic! 

That aside, I had lived my life the way I wanted it and I had the most fun out of it. I'd seen enough to have faith that things happened for a reason and they were going to be alright. And dreams brought me forward when they became reality. That probably explained why I didn't have much regrets in life. While I couldn't claim that everything was perfect, I'd say I'd been a happy person thus far. If you had read until here, I sincerely hope that the positive thoughts would rub off on you, too!

Life has been good, though not without difficulties.
From left: the teenage years, 20s and 30s. 

Iman, Impian Dan Penyesalan

Baru-baru ini saya mendengarkan kembali lagu My Way yang dinyanyikan oleh Frank Sinatra. Saya suka lagu ini dan bagian favorit saya adalah saat dia menyanyikan bait ini, "regrets, I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention." Dalam bahasa Indonesia, artinya, "saya memiliki penyesalan, namun terlalu sedikit untuk disebutkan." Suara Frank begitu menggugah sehingga dia membuat saya percaya dengan lirik yang dinyanyikannya. Saya jadi merenung, kehidupan seperti apa yang telah saya jalani.

Kalau saya lihat kembali, sudah begitu banyak peristiwa yang saya lewati. Oh, saya tidak hidup di negara yang dilanda peperangan atau mengalami hal yang sama parahnya. Kejadian demi kejadian di dalam hidup saya rasanya tidak seburuk itu, hanya naik-turunnya saja yang tidak begitu lazim. Kendati begitu, apa yang saya alami lantas memberikan perspektif tentang iman, impian dan penyesalan. 

Iman adalah sesuatu yang saya pelajari seiring dengan berjalannya waktu. Saya percaya bahwa sesuatu terjadi karena sudah ditentukan oleh Yang Di Atas. Saat suatu peristiwa buruk terjadi pastilah tidak menyenangkan rasanya, akan tetapi dengan berlalunya waktu, terkadang kita mengerti bahwa apa yang terjadi ini ada hikmahnya. Iman membuat kita tidak patah semangat dan yakin bahwa semuanya akan baik-baik saja. 

Hidup saya boleh dikatakan sebagai rangkaian kejadian yang bukan saja akhirnya membawa saya ke Singapura, tapi juga membentuk kepribadian saya hingga seperti yang anda kenal hari ini. Saya sering berpikir bahwa titik balik dari kehidupan saya adalah ketika saya lulus SMP. Saat itu saya masih berlibur di Jakarta sehingga melewatkan peluang untuk mendaftarkan diri ke SMA Taruna yang baru dibuka dan merupakan sekolah unggulan pada saat itu. Oleh karena itu, saya pun kembali melanjutkan SMA di sekolah yang sama.  

Kemudian yang tidak pernah terpikirkan pun terjadi. Ayah saya mengalami krisis finansial dan akhirnya seluruh keluarga pun pindah ke Bekasi, kecuali saya. Apakah ini buruk? Kira-kira begitulah. Maksud saya, hidup berubah drastis dalam sekejap mata. Meskipun demikian, kalau ini tidak terjadi, saya mungkin tidak memiliki persahabatan yang erat di masa SMA, mungkin tidak mencari kerja di Jakarta, mungkin tidak bertemu calon pasangan saya dan mungkin tidak pindah ke Singapura. Hidup saya mungkin saja benar-benar berbeda dengan apa yang saya jalani sekarang. 

Setelah apa yang saya lalui, saya memiliki keyakinan bahwa hanya yang terbaik yang terjadi dalam hidup ini, walaupun mungkin tidak terlihat seperti itu pas kejadian. Banyak hal yang tidak terjadi seperti apa yang saya inginkan, tapi ternyata justru akhirnya lebih baik dari apa yang saya harapkan. Ini bukan lantas berarti saya terlena dan bersantai tanpa berusaha. Justru sebaliknya, di kala upaya terbaik saya masih tidak cukup, saya sebisa mungkin menerima ketika kegagalan terjadi karena saya sadar ada hal-hal yang berada di luar kendali saya dan saya juga percaya bahwa semua akan indah pada waktu-Nya. 

Sekarang mari kita pindah ke topik berikutnya: impian. Ini adalah apa yang menggerakkan saya sehingga saya membuat banyak perubahan yang membuat saya menjadi selangkah lebih maju. Suatu ketika saya bermimpi tentang membuat film, lalu saya membuat beberapa episode di tahun 2006. Saya begitu penasaran dengan Laos sehingga saya akhirnya pergi ke Vientiane di tahun 2010. Selanjutnya, di tahun 2013, mendadak terpikir oleh saya bahwa sepertinya mungkin bagi saya untuk menonton konser Paul McCartney. Dua tahun kemudian saya berhasil mewujudkannya di Tokyo. Saya juga suka lagu We Are the World dan saya berangan-angan untuk merekam versi saya sejak tahun 2014. Dengan bantuan teman-teman, impian saya ini pun menjadi kenyataan di tahun 2016.  Satu contoh lagi, saya ingat ketika saya menatap album Abbey Road di pertengahan tahun 90an. Di tahun 2016, saya pun melintasi zebra-crossing yang paling terkenal di muka bumi ini. 

Apa yang saya kisahkan di atas hanya merupakan segelintir contoh saja dari daftar yang ada. Intinya senantiasa sama: saya bermimpi, lalu mencoba untuk mewujudkan impian tersebut. Kadang saya berhasil, namun tidak jarang pula saya gagal, tapi tidak masalah. Tanpa impian, hidup tak lebih dari rutinitas yang membosankan. Adalah impian yang membuat hidup ini menjadi lebih berwarna. 

Pertanyaannya sekarang adalah, dengan hidup berbasis iman dan impian, apakah saya masih memiliki penyesalan? Ya, jelas ada. Karena inilah saya jadi tergelitik dengan lirik lagu My Way. Saya memiliki penyesalan, tapi terlalu sedikit untuk disebutkan. Apa yang terpikirkan pada saat ini hanyalah fakta bahwa saya tidak bisa membaca dan menulis dalam bahasa Mandarin. Bahkan berkomunikasi pun juga belepotan. Padahal Mama bukan cuma sekedar guru bahasa Mandarin, tapi juga sarjana bahasa Mandarin. Betapa ironis bahwa anaknya dulu malas belajar dan akhirnya sekarang tidak menguasai bahasa Mandarin! 

Di samping penyesalan yang saya sebutkan di atas, boleh dikatakan bahwa saya sudah hidup seperti apa yang saya mau. Saya juga banyak tertawa dan menertawakan banyak hal dalam hidup ini. Saya sudah melewati berbagai hal yang membuat saya beriman bahwa sesuatu terjadi karena ada alasannya (meskipun kadang kita tidak pernah tahu kenapa) dan semuanya akan baik-baik saja. Selain itu, impian yang menjadi kenyataan juga turut mengubah hidup saya. Dua hal ini mungkin menjelaskan kenapa saya tidak memiliki banyak penyesalan dalam hidup ini. Saya tidak bisa berkata bahwa hidup saya ini sempurna, tapi sampai sejauh ini saya bisa katakan bahwa saya memiliki kepribadian yang riang gembira. Jika anda membaca sampai pada kalimat ini, saya sungguh berharap bahwa ada nilai-nilai positif yang sekiranya bisa anda petik dari cerita saya ini! 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Days Of Future Past

My last blog post was published two years ago and it was all about mystery and unexplained phenomenon. This time I will write something about myself. This is also to remind me of not taking things for granted.

The title, Days of Future Past, resembles X-Men movie title. Yes, I took it from there. The movie is about Logan traveling back to the past and it somehow reminds me of the past that has changed me into who I am now.

Let's start with secondary school days (SMP) 

I was a very naive and innocent boy. I didn't even know what porn is. But one day, when I rent a Slam Dunk VCD, the shop offered me adult movies. With a lot of hesitation and curiosity, I rented one. 

For me, it was an eye-opener and mind-blowing experience. And guess what, I started to host porn movies at my home for all my bros. Yes, I hosted for three years... till the day my mum found all the hidden VCDs under my bed. The only advice was, "do not watch too much."

Then came High School (SMA)

Everyone was heavily inspired by Michael Jordan. We drank Gatorade, wore Nike elbow sleeves, wore number 11 for basket ball jersey (Slam Dunk comics) and tried to be a basket ball star. I was one of them. While I might be the shortest in the team, but I was a starter and a school representative. I told everyone that I got three key strengths and they were, "cun, cun and cun," which means accuracy x3! 

It was lame, but it reminded me how over-confident I was!! Talk about puppy love, my first love was during high school. She was an elite student and she got a boyfriend before me. I believe that competing with one boyfriend is easier than compete with number of suitors.

As a foreign student (Diploma - Degree)

I came to Singapore for my Diploma and Degree. I scored a hattrick here (my student pass was rejected 3 times) due to bad academic results. Finally, after several applications, I ended up at a private school.

As a foreign student, on my first day at school, I was overwhelmed by so many students from other countries. I mixed myself with all Indonesians and started to get along with a lot more friends.

Few events that I still remember during university time
  1. A random guy stopped my friend at female toilet and asked her permission to touch her, as he wanted to buy her a new dress. I was called for help and I rushed to school. I dragged that guy to the car park and I was immediately surrounded by all his gang members. He threatened to gang up on me and I told him to go ahead, because I would only aim at him and make sure he would be crippled before me. The fight was eventually stopped by a security guard (lucky me!). 
  2. My friend called me at night and asked me to help her out. Her landlord was allegedly peeping when she took a shower. As I rushed over, I offered to call a police. She declined as she did not want this issue to go public. I kicked the landlord's main door and smashed his flower pot. Managed to claim back the deposit and payment for two months. 
  3. I was humiliated by a school teacher when we submitted the first assignment. While everyone printed theirs on paper for submission, I used handwriting instead. In front of the class, he returned my assignment and asked me to redo. Yes, I did not have a laptop during 3 years study at Singapore. I used library computers or rent from cafe to survive. I lost interest in listening to that teacher, so I normally slept during his lesson. One day, he again tried to humiliate me. He challenged me in front of all students to compete in a typing test. Of course I accepted his challenge. In the end, he lost the challenge and I also got my Top Student Award in my third year. 
Before my first job and after... 

Finally I graduated. When I went back to hometown waiting for the transcript, I was shocked. My Dad's shop used to sell big items such as fridges, TVs, washing machines, etc. But now he was only selling lamps and irons. In fact, he had used up all savings and did his best to let me finish my school. Then my Mum told me they would no longer sponsor me, even a ferry ticket to Singapore to find a job.

I borrowed money from my university friends and promised to pay them back once my first salary was in. With a lot of struggles and efforts, I found my first job in two weeks as the office boy cum application support.

I did not have money to buy formal shirts and leather shoes as I only had t-shirts and sneakers. With limited amount of money that I borrowed, I bought all the yellow colored, long-sleeves shirts at Giant as well as the cheapest formal shoes available there. I also bought a lot of socks, as the shoe sole got a hole after three days. I changed my socks every few hours, especially on rainy days.

It was while wearing this office attire that I found my first job. Since my first salary till now, I never stop sharing it with my family. And now, I thank God that I can afford to help my parents financially. They no longer need to worry about life and daily expenses.

Yes, for those who just got to know me, the first impression might not always be great. I might look arrogant, but I love to share. I could be fierce, but that's only because I protect my family.

Now I can say that I am at the comfort zone and I know midlife crisis might hit me. Before that happens, I am adjusting my habits, hoping the following will help:
  1. Read more from Blinkist. It's an app where we spend roughly 15 minutes to read the summary of some books. 
  2. Meditate using Calm app. It helps to clear my mind. 
  3. Exercise at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes. It helps to detox my mind and soul. 
Writing this blog reminds me that nothing ever comes easy. Yet nothing is ever too late. As long as you are moving, you are winning. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The First Time

About a year ago, I mentioned this idea to Hendra, a fellow roadblogger and a high school friend that joined our recent trip to Semarang. I told him that people from Pontianak normally visited Kuching when they first travelled abroad and he was probably the only person I knew that went to China for his first overseas trip. The holiday must be quite an eye-opener for him. It'd be nice to hear the story and I encouraged him to write one. 

The idea was never materialised, but it also didn't fade away. The world through the eyes of someone who came from a small, backwater town such as Pontianak sounded like a good story to tell. Then it occurred to me that since both Hendra and I were from Pontianak, I could be that someone, too, haha.

Hendra, during our trip to Semarang.

In order to understand how significance the first visit to other countries was, one had to know how it was like to grow up in Pontianak. Back in the 80s, electricity was inconsistent and every household always kept at least a box of candles inside the drawer. Home phone was a luxury and I remember walking to a phone booth to call my Dad's office using a public rotary dial phone. Unless the family was quite well-to-do, your TV would only have one channel: the state-owned TVRI. Kapuas Indah was the only plaza with an escalator, but throughout my childhood, I didn't recall it ever worked. ATM machine existed only in the mid 90s. KFC came in even much later and it was like a big deal then. 

That was the kind of place I grew up in. The years I spent in my hometown definitely shaped the way I saw and perceived things. I was four when my parents brought me to Jakarta for holiday and I was in awe with the escalator when I first saw it moving at Gajah Mada Plaza. A staircase that moved. How magical! More than that, the city had neon signs and tall buildings! I felt like a naive village boy and the capital city was surely beyond my wildest dream.

With my brother, Herry, when we first visited Kuching. 

But not even Jakarta would prepare me for my next destination. Kuching was nice, clean and so modern that it made Pontianak look dirty and undeveloped. The waterfront was so neatly done that ours suddenly looked like a half-hearted attempt. I remember being impressed by the Chinese words that the Malaysians used freely on their signboards. Never saw that before. The Malaysians didn't speak Bahasa. They spoke a mixture of Malay, Mandarin and English instead. Their currency was called ringgit and the notes looked classy when compared with the often crumpled rupiah. They had Kellogg's breakfast cereal, Paddle Pop ice cream and all those things that I only saw on their TV channel but never had a chance to try before. I remember laughing at their KFC that didn't come with steamed rice. Little did I know that only fast food chains in Indonesia provided steamed rice. Finally there was a seafood eatery in Buntal, which reminded me of a similar restaurant in Sungai Kakap, not very far from Pontianak. 

The weirdest memory, I must say, was the fresh milk and the comment made by my Dad's friend. He said he'd always have stomach ache when he drank it. At that time, I only ever saw Bear Brand milk in small tin cans before and I thought you only drank that when you had fever, so the sight of a healthy adult drinking a big bottle of Dutch Lady was rather bizarre to me, especially when he knew he'd go to toilet right after that. 

Like I said earlier, it was an eye-opener. I was about 10 years old and yes, I was aware that there was a country called Malaysia. But to actually be there, to feel the very existence of the culture, to taste the food, to listen to the language they spoke, or even an action as simple as seeing a different flag waving in the sky, all this was a special experience that would shake your senses to the core. 

Back then I was too young to appreciate the experience, but in hindsight, it was like a brutal awakening. Suddenly I was made aware of where we were as a country and apparently we were lagging behind. I mean, just nine hours drive away from Pontianak, there were people who lived an entirely different lifestyle in a seemingly better place. It was good to know that we had options should we choose not to live the same way as we did. Hence go travelling and be inspired. Oh yes, be very inspired by your first time abroad...

Back to Kuching with Keenan, Isaac and Bernard in 2012.
Yes, the camera resolution on mobile phone was still bad back then!

Kali Pertama

Kira-kira setahun yang lalu, saya menyarankan ide ini pada Hendra, sesama roadblogger dan juga seorang teman yang ikut serta di trip Semarang. Saya katakan padanya bahwa biasanya Kuching menjadi tujuan utama orang Pontianak saat mereka pertama ke luar negeri, jadi Hendra ini mungkin satu-satunya kenalan saya yang berkesempatan untuk ke Cina di kali pertama bepergian. Saya rasa liburan ini pasti mengesankan baginya dan tentunya menarik untuk dijadikan cerita. Saya lantas menganjurkannya untuk menulis pengalaman tersebut. 

Ide ini belum terwujud, namun juga tidak pudar dari benak saya. Melihat dunia dari sudut pandang orang dari kota kecil yang tidak begitu maju seperti Pontianak terasa seperti sebuah kisah yang menarik. Kemudian terpikir oleh saya bahwa saya pun berasal dari Pontianak dan memiliki perspektif serupa. Kalau begitu, saya saja yang menulis ceritanya, hehe.

Hendra, during our trip to Semarang.

Untuk memahami dampak dari kunjungan pertama ke luar negeri, anda harus tahu seperti apa rasanya tumbuh dan berkembang di Pontianak. Di tahun 80an, listrik tidaklah konsisten dan setiap rumah menyimpan setidaknya sekotak lilin di laci. Telepon rumah adalah barang mewah. Saya ingat saat saya berjalan ke kotak telepon umum dan menggunakan telepon kuno yang masih diputar nomornya untuk menelepon ayah saya di kantor. TV saat itu hanya menayangkan TVRI. Siaran lainnya hanya bisa ditangkap dengan antena parabola. Kapuas Indah adalah satu-satunya pusat perbelanjaan yang memiliki eskalator, tapi seingat saya, eskalator tersebut tidak pernah berfungsi. ATM baru muncul di pertengahan tahun 90an. KFC masuk ke Pontianak bertahun-tahun setelah kemunculan ATM dan menghebohkan seisi kota dengan kehadirannya. 

Seperti inilah tempat saya lahir dan dibesarkan. Sudut pandang yang unik pun terbentuk sebatas apa yang saya lihat dan ketahui selama bertahun-tahun di Pontianak. Saya berumur empat tahun ketika pergi ke Jakarta untuk pertama kalinya dan saya terperangah saat melihat eskalator yang berfungsi di Gajah Mada Plaza. Sebuah rangkaian anak tangga yang bergerak naik dan turun secara otomatis. Betapa menakjubkan! Lebih dari itu, Jakarta memiliki lampu neon warna-warni yang terang-benderang serta gedung-gedung tinggi yang tak pernah saya lihat sebelumnya. Saya merasa seperti bocah kampung yang naif dan terpesona dengan majunya ibukota Indonesia.

With my brother, Herry, when we first visited Kuching. 

Namun siapa yang menyangka bahwa bahkan pengalaman di Jakarta pun tidak bisa menyaingi apa yang akan saya lihat di tempat tujuan berikutnya? Kuching adalah sebuah kota yang berbeda, begitu bersih dan modern sehingga Pontianak terlihat kotor dan terbelakang. Kawasan tepi sungainya sangat rapi dan membuat Alun-Alun Kapuas terlihat seperti pekerjaan setengah hati. Saya terkesan dengan tulisan Mandarin yang ada di papan nama toko. Belum pernah saya lihat yang seperti ini sebelumnya. Orang Malaysia tidak berbahasa Indonesia, namun bercakap-cakap dalam bahasa Melayu, Mandarin dan Inggris. Mata uang mereka adalah ringgit dan uang kertasnya sangat bagus bila dibandingkan dengan uang rupiah yang seringkali ditemukan dalam kondisi lusuh dan mengenaskan. Mereka memiliki sereal Kellogg's, es krim Paddle Pop dan beragam makanan yang hanya saya lihat di TV3, tapi belum pernah saya coba sebelumnya. Saya tertawa saat melihat KFC mereka yang tidak disajikan dengan nasi. Tidak pernah saya sadari bahwa hanya restoran cepat saji di Indonesia yang memiliki menu nasi putih. Dan kemudian ada daerah pesisir bernama Buntal yang suasananya mirip seperti Sungai Kakap, tempat orang Pontianak menikmati makanan laut. 

Kenangan yang paling aneh adalah susu segar dan komentar dari teman ayah saya. Dia berkata bahwa dia selalu sakit perut kalau minum susu segar. Saat itu saya hanya pernah melihat Susu Beruang yang dikemas dalam kaleng kecil. Setahu saya, anda hanya minum susu tersebut kalau sedang panas dalam. Aneh rasanya melihat seorang pria dewasa yang sehat meminum sebotol susu segar Dutch Lady, apalagi dia tahu kalau dia akan berakhir di toilet. 

Ini adalah sebuah pengalaman yang luar biasa dan tidak terlupakan. Waktu itu saya berumur 10 tahun dan ya, saya tahu bahwa ada negara bernama Malaysia. Tapi beda rasanya saat saya berada di sana, merasakan sendiri budaya mereka, mencoba makanannya, mendengar bahasa mereka dan juga melihat bendera yang berbeda berkibar di langit biru. Semua ini adalah pengalaman istimewa yang mengguncang panca indera.

Di kala itu saya masih terlalu muda untuk bisa menghargai semua ini, tapi saat saya lihat kembali, rasanya seperti dibangunkan dari tidur. Tiba-tiba saja saya disadarkan bahwa negara kita sebenarnya agak tertinggal. Bayangkan saja, di pulau yang sama, ada bangsa lain yang berbeda gaya hidupnya dan tinggal di kota yang lebih modern dan tertata. Adalah baik bagi kita untuk mengetahui bahwa kita memiliki pilihan bilamana kita memilih untuk tidak hidup seperti apa yang selama ini kita lakukan di Pontianak. Oleh karena itu, pergilah berkelana dan carilah inspirasi. Oh ya, terinspirasilah dengan pengalaman pertama anda ke luar negeri...