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Monday, February 22, 2021

The Gas Stove

I wrote about my high school chat group last year. The WhatsApp group was fun, but admittedly quite tense in its early years. You got people saying the wrong things, temper would flare and before you knew it, someone had already left the group. With all kinds of characters grouped into one and the egos unchecked, that was bound to happen.

But it'd been almost six year since the group's troubled infancy and by now, the group had been matured and so were the dynamics. By natural selection, the members filled in roles such as a fake CEO, a morning newscaster nobody really cared about, a tiny bully, a factual uncle-man or a good doctor. If this was not unique enough, we even got a controversial man who always abused the 😂 emoji! Then there was me, the one they nicknamed the gas stove.

The gas stove.

So what did the gas stove do? In short, I heated things up and burnt them down real quick, haha. It was neither a friendly nor a noble role, but hey, somebody gotta be the antagonist. Otherwise, it'd be a boring group. The whole idea of it was to make the group more lively. While I might appear as a nuisance, what I did helped bringing random topics that involved many people. Due to this, they ended up participating in the conversation, too. 

As a big fan of Stephen Chow and comedy in general, I was naturally cheeky. It wasn't difficult for me to pick up any lines and turn them upside down. My trademark would be, "nobody/everybody always blablabla these days," where blablabla was a placeholder for something nonsensical. Alternatively, it'd be, "want to know something blablabla?" The blablabla was normally something over the top. The basic guideline was to oppose anything in any way. If you felt confused, this favorite sketch of mine might be able to paint the picture:

Why did I do all this? What was in it for me, actually? Well, life could be stressful. I'd been serious when I was working the whole day. Being a parent required attention and energy, too. All this was tiring. Hence whenever I could, I'd just blow off steam by doing something I loved. And I had always loved nonsense. It cheered me up. The group was my outlet that allowed me to simply be myself. 

The question now was, was my role as pseudo-antagonist well-received? I couldn't say that I never offended some throughout my long, illustrious career. But there was a time when I was missing in action for few days last year due to one big IT issue and they actually missed me. Some friends even pinged me personally to find out what happened. It was heartwarming to learn that the chat group could use a little bit of nuisance they knew and loved...

Kompor Gas

Tahun lalu, saya menulis tentang grup WhatsApp yang beranggotakan teman-teman SMA. Grup ini menyenangkan, tapi tak luput dari ketegangan, terutama di tahun-tahun pertama. Begitu ada yang salah bicara, yang lain lantas tersinggung, lalu cekcok dan meninggalkan grup. Ini sulit terelakkan mengingat begitu banyak karakter berbeda yang terhimpun dalam satu grup. 

Akan tetapi grup ini sudah berjalan hampir enam tahun lamanya dan sekarang menjadi lebih matang serta mengerti satu sama lain. Masing-masing anggota memiliki peran tersendiri. Ada yang menjadi CEO palsu, ada pembaca berita tidak penting di pagi hari, ada tukang buli yang mungil, ada encek yang bijak, ada pula dokter yang baik dan masih banyak lagi. Kalau semua ini masih belum cukup unik, kita bahkan memiliki pria kontroversial yang sering memaksakan penggunaan emoji yang satu ini: 😂! Kemudian ada saya yang dijuluki kompor gas. 

Kompor gas.

Jadi apa yang dilakukan oleh kompor gas? Secara singkat, saya menggoreng isu dan mengadu-domba secara jenaka, haha. Ini bukan peran yang baik, tapi setiap grup perlu pemeran antagonis. Kalau tidak, pasti membosankan grupnya. Apa yang saya kerjakan membuat grup menjadi lebih hidup. Secara sepintas, saya sering terlihat menyebalkan, tapi saya membawa beraneka topik yang mengikutsertakan banyak orang sehingga mereka pun bisa berpartisipasi dalam percakapan. 

Sebagai penggemar berat Stephen Chow dan komedi, pada dasarnya saya memang iseng. Tidak sulit bagi saya untuk berkomentar apa saja yang bertolak belakang dengan apa yang disampaikan. Gaya khas saya yang berlogat Jakarta/Melayu biasanya seperti ini: "hari gini dak ada yang/semua orang blablabla," dimana blablabla adalah sesuatu yang tidak masuk akal. Selain itu saya juga sering menggunakan kalimat, "mau tau yang lebih blablabla?" dan blablabla biasanya sesuatu yang hiperbola. Prinsipnya adalah menyampaikan sesuatu yang kontradiktif. Jika anda masih bingung, gambar berikut ini mungkin bisa memberikan penjelasan: 

Kenapa saya melakukan semua ini? Apa untungnya buat saya? Hidup ini penuh yang hal bikin stres. Saya sudah serius sepanjang hari selama bekerja. Sebagai seorang ayah di rumah, saya juga perlu memusatkan perhatian untuk anak. Semua ini melelahkan. Oleh karena inilah saya melepaskan kepenatan ini dengan melakukan sesuatu yang saya sukai. Dan saya suka segala sesuatu yang konyol dan menggelitik karena hal-hal ini membuat saya gembira. Keberadaan grup ini menjadi sarana bagi saya untuk menjadi diri saya sendiri. 

Pertanyaannya sekarang adalah, apakah peran saya sebagai antagonis jadi-jadian diterima dengan baik oleh teman-teman? Saya tidak bisa menyangkal bahwa ada beberapa yang tersinggung oleh saya, haha. Kendati begitu, di tahun lalu, ketika saya menghilang beberapa hari karena masalah besar di kantor, ternyata grup merasa kehilangan. Beberapa teman bahkan menghubungi saya secara pribadi untuk mencari tahu, apa sebenarnya yang telah terjadi. Kesimpulannya, saya merasa tersentuh karena grup teman-teman SMA ini ternyata membutuhkan seorang yang menjengkelkan di tengah-tengah mereka...

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Book Review: A Long Way Home

I once said that India is probably the most fascinating country that I never visited thus far. The movies I saw and the books I read told me about the exotic cultures and great food that are equalled only by the harsh living conditions and poverty. They just don't add up and I can't help feeling that India is a place where one will need to be there in order to experience it properly. This is why I want to visit the country one day.

But despite the hardship, the story of India is also often a story of hope. A year ago, I read about a man who cycled from to Europe for love. This year, I had a chance to read this one. It started with a friend of mine telling me about a movie called Lion starring Dev Patel. The story was somewhat familiar, I think it was on the news years ago. I gave it a try and was blown away by it. The film was beautiful and it left me wanting more. That's when I browsed the library collection and found the book.

In essence, the book was divided into three parts. The first section was about Saroo's childhood in India. He was a poor boy from Ganesh Talai, an impoverished village in Madhya Pradesh. When he was five, he went to Burhanpur with his brother Guddu and he accidentally boarded a train that traveled to Kolkata. 

That was like more than one thousand kilometers away from his house and in India, it meant he ended up in a foreign land where people spoke a different language and nobody there had heard of Ginestlay. Needless to say, he became a homeless kid roaming the streets, eating whatever he could find and encountering near-death experiences. Lucky for him, he was eventually picked up by an adoption agency. 

Thus began the second chapter of his life. Saroo was adopted by the Brierleys and he moved to Hobart, Tasmania. His adoptive mother, played by Nicole Kidman in the movie, was an amazing person who chose to adopt less fortunate children when she could actually have her own kids. This selfless act saved his life. Saroo then grew up as an Australian, but at the back of his head, he never really forgot his family back in India. 

With the help of Google Earth, he started searching for his village. It was a gargantuan task. His vague childhood memories clearly didn't help as it never occurred to him that his hometown was very far from Kolkata. In fact, because he was illiterate, he got many names wrong, including his own. What he pronounced as Ginestlay and Berampur, were actually Ganesh Talai and Burhanpur. No wonder he never found them!

It took him three years and close to 10,000 hours to be on the right track. And even when he finally made it, 25 years had passed and he couldn't be sure that his mother was still there. But that's the thing with India. When all hope seemed lost, miracle happened and story ended with the closure Saroo was looking for. It was as happy as it could be, but not without a tragedy. 

The movie was good and it showed you a glimpse of India, but certain parts of the story were changed and/or omitted. If you'd like to hear from the man himself, pick up this book and read. It is an easy reading and most importantly, it will remind you that kindness and miracle still exist regardless how hard the life is...

The book and the film on Netflix.

Ulasan Buku: Perjalanan Panjang Ke Rumah

Dua tahun lalu saya pernah menulis bahwa India adalah negara paling menarik yang belum pernah saya kunjungi. Film-film yang saya tonton dan buku-buku yang saya baca mengisahkan tentang negeri dengan budaya yang eksotis dan makanan lezat. Negeri yang sama juga terkenal dengan kehidupannya yang keras dan kemiskinannya yang sulit dipercaya. Sungguh fakta yang bertolak belakang! Karena inilah India perlu dikunjungi. Negara ini perlu dialami sendiri dan tidak bisa sekedar diketahui dari film dan buku. 

Meskipun parah kesejahteraannya, India juga merupakan sebuah cerita tentang harapan. Setahun yang lalu, saya membaca tentang kisah seorang pria Indian yang bersepeda ke Eropa demi cinta. Tahun ini saya berkesempatan membaca buku ini. Awalnya ada teman yang bercerita tentang film Lion yang dibintangi oleh Dev Patel. Sepertinya saya pernah baca kisah ini di berita beberapa tahun silam. Saya lantas mencoba filmnya dan saya sungguh terkesan, sehingga saya pun mencari tahu lebih lanjut. Akhirnya saya temukan bukunya di perpustakaan

Secara singkat, buku ini bisa dikatakan terbagi menjadi tiga bagian. Yang pertama adalah tentang masa kecil Saroo di India. Dia adalah bocah miskin di Ganesh Talai, sebuah perkampungan kumuh di negara bagian Madhya Pradesh. Sewaktu berumur lima tahun, dia pergi ke Burhanpur bersama abangnya Guddu. Di sana ia secara tidak sengaja menaiki kereta ke Kolkata. 

Kolkata itu kira-kira 1.500 kilometer jauhnya dari Ganesh Talai. Ketika ia turun dari kereta, dia tiba di negeri asing dimana orang-orangnya tidak lagi berbahasa Hindi. Tidak seorang pun yang tahu di mana sebenarnya Ginestlay. Alhasil, bocah miskin ini pun menjadi anak jalanan yang mengorek sampah untuk makan dan berkali-kali hampir mati karena berbagai kemalangan yang menimpanya. Nasib baik akhirnya membawa Saroo ke panti anak-anak yatim piatu. 

Dari sinilah babak kedua hidupnya bermula. Dia diadopsi oleh keluarga Brierley dan pindah ke Hobart, Tasmania. Ibu angkatnya yang diperankan oleh Nicole Kidman di film adalah seorang wanita luar biasa yang memilih untuk mengadopsi anak-anak yang malang nasibnya, padahal dia sebenarnya bisa saja melahirkan anak sendiri. Perbuatan baik ini akhirnya mengubah nasib sang bocah. Saroo tumbuh dewasa menjadi warga Australia, tapi di benaknya senantiasa terlintas kenangan tentang keluarganya di India. 

Dengan menggunakan Google Earth, Saroo mulai mencari kampungnya. Ini adalah sebuah misi yang boleh dikatakan mustahil, sebab India memiliki banyak kota yang hampir sama namanya. Ingatan masa kecilnya tidak banyak membantu dan malah menyesatkan, sebab tidak terpikir olehnya bahwa rumahnya sangat jauh dari Kolkata. Karena dia tidak sekolah di masa kanak-kanaknya di India, banyak nama yang dia salah sebut. Bahkan namanya sendiri pun keliru. Apa yang dia ucapkan sebagai Ginestlay dan Berampur sebenarnya Ganesh Talai dan Burhanpur. Pantas saja dia tidak pernah menemukan tempat asalnya.

Butuh tiga tahun dan hampir 10.000 jam lamanya bagi Saroo untuk menemukan jalan pulang. Ketika dia akhirnya berhasil, 25 tahun sudah berlalu dan dia tidak tahu pasti apakah ibunya masih tinggal di kampung yang sama. Tapi inilah uniknya India. Ketika harapan hampir pupus, keajaiban terjadi dan cerita ini berakhir nyaris seperti apa yang Saroo dambakan. Ada kegembiraan yang luar biasa, tapi tak luput pula dari tragedi yang tidak terduga. 

Filmnya bagus dan memberikan gambaran seperti apa kehidupan miskin di India, tapi ada pula bagian cerita yang diubah dan juga dihilangkan. Jika anda ingin mendengar cerita seutuhnya dari Saroo, maka buku ini adalah pilihan yang lebih tepat. Gampang dibaca ceritanya, tapi yang lebih penting lagi adalah hikmahnya. Buku ini akan mengingatkan anda kembali bahwa sesulit apa pun hidup ini, masih ada kebaikan dan keajaiban bagi mereka yang membutuhkannya... 

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Colleagues

At which stage do colleagues become friends? In my opinion, it's when you start meeting them outside the office regularly to do something else such as coffee break, lunch or dinner, drinks and even travel together. This happens in life sometimes.

With Phil, Keenan, Franky and Steven.

Now, there's no doubt that I'm very close with my high school friends. But even though I enjoy chatting with them, we don't hang out together everyday. On daily basis, I interact with a few ex-colleagues from Ong instead. 

I came to realize this when I was with these colleagues-cum-friends at The Coffee Bean earlier this year. As we sat down and chuckled while listening to the phrase best digital bank in the world for the fourth time in two hours, it dawned on me that I'd known these guys for more than a decade. We wouldn't stay in contact for so long if we were just colleagues. Only friends do that.

With Franky and Hendra, when we were in Ong.

I remember the time when we actually worked together. I don't think we were that close. I mean, I knew Hendra and Afuk from Jakarta office and of course there was some sense of camaraderie if you were a fellow Indonesian. It was all the more true with Franky, since he was at the same Singapore office. Bernard was my boss, my mentor and, in a country where things were new and foreign to me, he was like an older brother I never had. Isaac was always friendly and he was the first colleague from Ong that I ever travelled with. I didn't really know Keenan then as we seldom crossed path. As for Steven, he was the dealing head of Insti Desk and he didn't smile, so I actually found him scary, haha. Then there was the slow-talking Jerold that joined IT team later on. 

I remember the outings we had back in the days, be it BBQ or even trips to Batam. The events were fun but no, they didn't bring us together. All this happened only after Ong and I think it was the courtesy of Franky. Prior to that, Bernard, Isaac, Jerold and I had this regular meetup dubbed Gratitude. Minus Jerold, we even had a trip to Kuching with Keenan. But it was Franky who brought us together. 

The last Gratitude with Jerold and Isaac. 
Photo by Isaac. 

It all started with that trip to Yogyakarta. It was fun, so fun that the next trip was planned. But the funnier part is, despite the togetherness, all of us actually never hang out together. Whether it was the visit to Jogja, the short getaway to Batam, Hendra's wedding in Bali, the Malang/Bromo trip or the Bon Jovi concert in Jakarta, there was always more than one member missing, haha. In fact, the only time Jerold ever traveled with any of us was, perhaps, that trip to Surabaya and Madura.

From top left, clockwise: With Keenan and Bernard in Kuching. Isaac took the photo.
With Hendra, Keenan, Steven, Franky and Bernard in Yogyakarta.
With Franky, Bernard, Steven and Phil in Batam.
With Jerold in Madura.
Attending Bon Jovi concert with Franky, Hendra and Steven.
That trip to Malang and Bromo that I didn't join. Afuk was there, though.

Only God knows why it turned out to be like that. Oh yeah, talk about God, there's this guy named Phil and nicknamed God. He is the only one that was not from Ong. I first knew him in 2011. Originally a friend of Bernard, he's the one that popularized the word envy in a funny way.  He fitted in right away. With him around, we get to use phrases like God is down there, God's blessing or God is omnipresent, haha.

The first envy comment. The year was 2012.

Looking back, the last 10 years had been great. I wasn't born here in Singapore, but I am lucky to have these people I can call friends. We can talk about life and about work. We can also have some fun eating, drinking and travelling together. That is, indeed, a God's blessing. No pun intended...

With Isaac, Phil, Bernard and Keenan.
Photo by Isaac.

Kolega Yang Menjadi Teman

Kapan kiranya rekan kerja berubah menjadi teman? Menurut pendapat saya, perubahan ini terjadi ketika anda mulai bertemu dengan mereka di luar kantor secara rutin untuk aktivitas seperti menikmati makan siang dan kopi, makan malam dan minum, serta berlibur bersama. Kebersamaan yang mengubah rekan kerja menjadi teman ini terkadang terjadi di dalam kehidupan.

Bersama Phil, Keenan, Franky dan Steven di Starbucks.

Saya sendiri dikenal dekat dengan teman-teman SMA. Kendati saya senang berbincang dengan mereka lewat grup WhatsApp, kita tidak kumpul setiap hari. Dari Senin sampai Jumat, saya justru lebih sering berinteraksi dengan beberapa mantan rekan kerja dari Ong, tempat saya bekerja dulu.

Saya menyadari kebersamaan ini tatkala saya berada di Coffee Bean di awal tahun ini. Selagi kita duduk dan mendengarkan kalimat bank digital terbaik di dunia untuk keempat kalinya dalam dua jam terakhir, saya lantas teringat bahwa saya sudah mengenal orang-orang di sekitar saya ini lebih dari 10 tahun lamanya. Kita tidak akan rutin bertemu kalau hanya sekedar kolega. Hanya teman yang melakukan hal seperti ini. 

Bersama Franky dan Hendra, sewaktu kita bekerja di Ong.

Saya terkenang dengan saat kita bekerja di kantor yang sama. Sejauh saya bisa mengingat, kita tidak seakrab ini. Saya kenal Hendra dan Afuk dari kantor Jakarta, dan sebagai sesama orang Indonesia, tentunya ada rasa solidaritas tersendiri. Hal serupa terasa lebih nyata lagi dengan Franky yang juga bekerja di kantor pusat di Singapura. Bernard adalah bos sekaligus mentor bagi saya yang saat itu baru setahun di Singapura. Isaac adalah seorang yang ramah dan juga orang pertama dari Ong yang berlibur bersama saya. Saat di Ong, saya hanya sekedar kenal dengan Keenan. Akan halnya Steven, dia adalah pimpinan dealer bagian Institusi yang jarang tersenyum, jadi terlihat agak menakutkan, haha. Kemudian Jerold pun bergabung menjadi rekan satu tim saya di IT. 

Saya ingat beberapa acara sewaktu bekerja di Ong, mulai dari BBQ sampai liburan ke Batam. Ya, acaranya memang seru, tapi kita tidak dekat saat itu. Setelah Ong, barulah keakraban ini terjalin dan semua ini adalah berkat Franky. Sebelumnya, Bernard, Isaac, Jerold dan saya seringkali menyelenggarakan acara makan malam bersama yang kita namakan Gratitude. Selain itu, kita bertiga (tanpa Jerold) pun berlibur ke Kuching bersama Keenan. Adalah Franky yang membuat kita berbaur menjadi satu grup yang lebih besar. 

Gratitude terakhir bersama Jerold dan Isaac. 
Foto oleh Isaac. 

Semuanya dimulai dari liburan ke Yogyakarta. Liburan itu menyenangkan, begitu serunya sampai kita pun merencanakan liburan berikutnya. Namun yang lebih lucu sebenarnya adalah, meski kita tergabung dalam satu grup, tidak pernah sekali pun semua anggotanya berkumpul bersama. Baik wisata ke Jogja, akhir pekan di Batam, pernikahan Hendra di Bali, liburan ke Malang dan Bromo, maupun konser Bon Jovi di Jakarta, selalu saja adalah dua atau tiga orang yang tidak ikut, haha. Sesekalinya Jerold pernah berlibur bersama kita adalah sewaktu saya dan dia ke Surabaya dan Madura

Dari atas kiri, searah jarum jam: Bersama Keenan dan Bernard di Kuching. Isaac yang memotret.
Bersama Hendra, Keenan, Steven, Franky dan Bernard di Yogyakarta.
Bersama Franky, Bernard, Steven and Phil di Batam.
Bersama Jerold di Madura.
Menonton konser Bon Jovi bersama Franky, Hendra dan Steven.
Liburan ke Malang dan Bromo yang tidak saya ikuti. Afuk ada di foto.

Hanya Tuhan yang tahu kenapa seperti itu. Oh ya, bicara tentang Tuhan, ada satu dari kita yang bernama Phil dan dijuluki God. Dia adalah satu-satunya yang tidak berasal dari Ong. Awalnya dia adalah teman Bernard. Saya pertama kali bertemu dengannya di tahun 2011. Dialah yang mempopulerkan kata envy dengan nuansa komedi sehingga tidak terkesan negatif. Karena kehadirannya, kita jadi bisa menggunakan kalimat bercabang yang konyol seperti God is down thereGod's blessing atau God is omnipresent, haha.

Komentar envy pertama di tahun 2012.

Kalau saya lihat kembali, 10 tahun terakhir sangatlah menyenangkan berkat kehadiran mereka. Saya tidak lahir di Singapura, tapi saya beruntung memiliki orang-orang yang bisa saya panggil dengan sebutan teman ini. Kita bisa berbicara tentang hidup dan pekerjaan. Kita bisa pula makan, minum dan jalan-jalan bersama. Jujur saya katakan tanpa maksud iseng, sungguh ini adalah God's blessing...

Bersama Isaac, Phil, Bernard dan Keenan.
Foto oleh Isaac.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Coast-to-Coast Trail: The Journey Continued

When I did Coast-to-Coast Trail last December, I never expected to repeat this trail again. I thought once was enough, but then my ex-housemate Lina asked if I was going to do it again. Since there was an interest, I didn't mind organizing it. That's when the journey continued.

Checkpoint 5.

We resumed where Yani and I left off: Checkpoint 5. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is located around the centre of three stations. Two of them were where the Park got the name from. The other one was Marymount. We decided to start from Bishan. It looked quite close from Google Maps, but it turned out that checkpoint was still quite far from Bishan MRT, haha.

We weren't complaining, though. It was a fine morning and the other half of the park before the checkpoint looked amazing, thanks to the greenery and shallow river. It was so beautiful that we actually went for a proper visit a week later, haha. What's more fascinating was the signboard about what to do if we encountered a stingray. When I saw it, I was like, "really?"

Visiting Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, a week later.
Photo by Yani.

Anyway, back to Checkpoint 5, we reached there at 9.20am and started walking from there. We passed by Ang Mo Kio Hub and Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West as we made our way to Luxus Hills Park. I don't know if it's just me, but half way through our journey, the view all became too familiar. Probably because I had passed by the road quite often.

Checkpoint 6, before Kampong Lorong Buangkok.

It got better after we reached Checkpoint 6. The next route brought us to Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last village in Singapore! I'd heard about it, but this was the first time in 15 years that I ever had a chance to check it out! It looked like... well, if you came from countries like Indonesia, Kampong Lorong Buangkok looks familiar, except it is located next to one wide canal that somehow reminded me of Japan.

We had a detour for lunch before reaching Checkpoint 7. Since all of us love kolo mee and the three who studied in Kuching were feeling nostalgic, we went for it. After a long walk, it was good to sit down and drink something cold, haha. The meal could have been better, but the togetherness was splendid. 

Enjoying kolo mee.
Photo by Liwana.

It was noon time when we resumed our journey. With a full stomach and waning enthusiasm, the last leg of the trip felt challenging. But still we shouldered on. The scenery around Punggol was new to me and it did help in maintaining the last shred of interest. But once Liwana parted ways with us and we decided to had a toilet break at the Waterway Point Mall nearby, that was it. We called it a day, sat down to drink Koi and went home after that. 

We never made it to Checkpoint 8. In hindsight, it had lost its excitement and started to feel like a chore. It was fun to do it the first time, because we didn't know what to expect and the experience was entirely new. The second time, not so much. It's like, "been there, done that." This doesn't mean I dislike going for a morning walk. I still love doing it, but I just need a new trail. Only by walking one can discover and appreciate the beauty of Singapore! 

Last stop: Checkpoint 7.

Coast-to-Coast Trail Lagi!

Ketika saya menjajal Coast-to-Coast Trail di bulan Desember lalu, saya tidak pernah berpikir untuk mengulanginya lagi. Saya kira sekali saja cukup, namun Lina, mantan teman serumah di Kembangan, bertanya apakah saya akan berjalan pagi lagi. Karena ada yang berminat, saya pun tidak keberatan untuk mengkoordinir. Perjalanan menyusuri Coast-to-Coast Trail pun berlanjut. 

Checkpoint 5.

Kita mulai dari Checkpoint 5, tempat terakhir di perjalanan sebelumnya. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park terletak di antara tiga stasiun MRT. Dua stasiun dipakai namanya sebagai nama taman dan yang satunya lagi adalah Marymount. Kita memutuskan untuk mulai dari Bishan, sebab posisinya terlihat lebih dekat di Google Maps. Ternyata jaraknya lumayan juga setelah ditempuh, haha. 

Akan tetapi kita tidak mengeluh. Pagi itu cukup cerah. Hijaunya pemandangan dan juga sungai dangkal yang kita lalui sangat memikat mata. Begitu indahnya sehingga kita memutuskan untuk mengunjungi taman ini di minggu berikutnya. Satu hal yang unik di sini adalah papan peringatan tentang ikan pari. Pas saya pertama kali melihat ini, reaksi saya langsung, "ah, yang benar saja?" 

Mengunjungi Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park di minggu berikutnya.
Foto oleh Yani.

Kembali ke Checkpoint 5 yang kita bicarakan barusan, kita sampai di sini jam 9.20 pagi dan memulai rute perjalanan dari sana. Kita melewati Ang Mo Kio Hub dan Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West sewaktu menuju Luxus Hills Park. Mungkin ini cuma perasaan saya semata, tapi rute yang kita lalui setelah Ang Mo Kio tidaklah terlalu menarik. Ini mungkin dikarenakan saya sering melewati jalan tersebut.

Checkpoint 6, before Kampong Lorong Buangkok.

Setelah Checkpoint 6, barulah sesuatu yang baru muncul di depan mata: Kampong Lorong Buangkok, kampung terakhir di Singapura! Saya sudah cukup mendengar tentang tempat ini, tapi setelah 15 tahun tinggal di Singapura, baru kali saya melihat langsung keberadaan kampung ini! Suasananya seperti... kampung yang biasa terlihat di Indonesia. Bedanya cuma kanal lebar di samping kampung yang mengingatkan saya tentang Jepang. 

Sebelum mencapai Checkpoint 7, kita menyimpang sedikit untuk makan siang. Karena kita semua menyukai kolo mee dan tiga teman kita yang pernah kuliah di Kuching ingin bernostalgia, jadi kita pun menyantap mie yang khas Sarawak ini. Setelah berjalan cukup lama, enak rasanya duduk dan minum minuman yang dingin. Mienya lumayan, terbantu oleh kebersamaan kita sebagai teman lama. 

Menikmati kolo mee.
Foto oleh Liwana.

Usai makan siang, perjalanan terasa lebih menantang dari sebelumnya. Hari sudah siang, perut kenyang dan semangat pun kian pudar, namun kita tetap lanjut. Pemandangan di sekitar Punggol terlihat baru bagi saya dan masih menarik perhatian, namun ketika Liwana berpisah dan kita memutuskan untuk mampir sejenak ke toilet di mal Waterway Point, acara akhirnya bubar. Setelah bersantai menikmati Koi, kita pun pulang ke rumah masing-masing. 

Kita tidak pernah mencapai Checkpoint 8 yang sebenarnya sudah tidak terlalu jauh dari mal. Kalau dilihat kembali, antusiasmenya memang sudah pudar dan acaranya mulai terasa seperti pekerjaan, hehe. Di kali pertama saya menyusuri Coast-to-Coast Trail, rasanya seru karena terasa seperti petualangan baru. Di kali kedua, rasanya sudah pernah dan tidak terlalu menarik lagi. Ini bukan berarti saya kini bosan dengan aktivitas jalan pagi, tapi saya jelas butuh rute yang baru. Berjalan kaki adalah cara yang tepat untuk mengagumi keindahan Singapura! 

Last stop: Checkpoint 7.

Monday, January 25, 2021

COVID-19 Case #58502

It was a joyous occasion coming back to Singapore after almost six months. I was scheduled to be quarantined for 14 days before heading home. But it did not turn out the way it supposed to be.

Let's rewind to the eve before my departure. That night I was catching a bad cold and I couldnt sleep well. I kept telling myself it was normal flu. Upon reaching Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, temperature was taken, and I was fine. The flight was not crowded. It was pleasant. I had one row by myself and I comfortably watched Ford v Ferrari during the flight. 

Upon arrival, we were shown the way to bus that would then send us to our stay for the next 14 days. I was checked in to Regent Singapore.

Regent Singapore.

Day 1

I was feeling cold and got myself under the blanket. I turned the aircon off and get a towel to cover the gap under the main door to prevent the cold air from coming in. I told myself it was due to the lack of sleeping.

Day 2 - Saturday

Almost my whole body, up to the neck, was aching. I didnt prepare any medication so I used minyak kayu putih (eucalyptus oil) to keep myself warm. I also drank lots of hot tea. 

Day 4 

As I felt better, I finally switched on the aircon. My work kept me busy all day and I did some light exercise at night. I was no longer feeling cold but the body aches were annoying. I didn't have a good night sleep. However, since I had body aches from time to time when I wasn't feeling well, I didn't really suspect anything.

Day 11

Fast forward to day 11, I finally could step out from my room to do swab test. It was a compulsory test before releasing us to the communities. By the way, there was daily call and check to make sure I was fine and not under any form of stress.

The alleged scam.

Day 12

My wife called in the morning to inform me that she received SMS stating she was in contact of COVID-19 case and should immediately return home and avoid close contact with others. it also mentioned that a MOH officer would call her soon. 

It was such a coincidence that I had my swab test the day before and she received SMS the day after. I thought that even I really was positive, that had nothing to do with her as I was quarantined. I told her it might be a scam. 

Shortly after that, I received call from MOH and a doctor told me the news: I was infected with the virus and swab test came out positive! I was told to pack my belonging and put them outside the hotel. All my luggages and bags were then disinfected. Around 2pm on the same day, I was escorted by the hotel and hospital staff with protective suit to the ambulance and was sent to Alexandra hospital. 

Upon arrival, there was this guy escorting me to my room and chasing away all the people in front. I somehow felt like an important person, LOL. Joke aside, on the very same day, my blood was drawn for serology test. ECG and X-ray were also performed. While waiting for the results, doctor ask me not to worry. 

I was given a set of hospital pijamas. The room was not as comfortable as the hotel room but I felt more secure as I knew the experts are just around the corner. The food was surprisingly better compared to the hotel food (or I  was simply too damn bored after eating the hotel food for many days).

When I was finally alone, I tried to exercise. I could feel breathless after like 10 minutes. Probably that's how the f**kin' virus messed around with the body system. 

The hospital room.

Day 2 in Hospital

Three visits from the nurse and doctors to check on blood pressure, oxygen level and, of course, the temperature. At this point, i started searching more on what the blood test meant and what to expect when I was declared safe

Day 3

The blood test result came back positive, but it's a good positive. It meant I had the antibody now. Nevertheless, I was still required to be quarantined for another seven days after the earlier 14 days.

The recovery center.

Day 4 (or Day 1 at D'Resort)

I was in a van, transported to recovery center. Together with me was an Indian and we fetched a Chinese guy from another hospital before we headed to D'resort, the recovery center. I couldn't help feeling sad when I saw the empty BBQ pits. The silence was eerily disturbing. I mean, it was December, a festive season, and D'resort was supposed to be a happening place for friends and families. 


Day 2

I was required to do heart pressure, oxygen level and temperature check three times a day and the report had to be submitted online. i was provided with a finger clip pulse oximeters and termometer to do the necessary.

By this time, I was better already, i could to my exercise without any breathing difficulty. It's also worth noting that I was not prescribed any medication at all during my stay in the hospital and recovery center. 

Day 5 - Check Out 

Like any other normal person would do, I was worried that the virus was still inside my body and the last thing I wanted to do is unknowingly spreading it. I had asked the doctors several times and they assured me there was no need to do another swab test and I was safe to go. The explanation was long, but the summary was the virus no longer contagious.

I am lucky to survive this saga and I certainly hope that this pandemic will end soon. Some of us were upset because we couldn't travel, couldn't have big gathering,  couldn't eat out or couldn't have the usual lifestyle. But we got to remember, there were also many people out there has lost the source of income and even their lives. I strongly encourage readers not to take the pandemic lightly. Please stick to the health protocols.

Note: This experience was written and shared but do take note that this is not an advice on how to handle coronavirus. Do consult the expert if needed.

I'm back!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Food Tourism

A few years ago, I did mention that Singapore has a lot of good food. The local delights such as mui fan or chicken rice are delicious and affordable. Then, if you felt like trying something different and foreign, you could go for Thai food, Japanese or even exotic cuisines from Middle East and Europe. 

In normal circumstances, you'd go for your favourite restaurant to have some food your were craving for every once in a while. However, last year had been anything but normal. Many of us, I believe, went through the lockdown for the first time ever. What were normally taken for granted turned out to be privileges that had to be stripped off. With not much left to do, anything that was remotely entertaining suddenly seemed to be worth trying!

From left: Winter Soldier and God. 

Thus began our story at a Lebanese restaurant called Urban Bites. In late August, I had lunch with two friends of mine. One looked like Winter Soldier, the other was nicknamed God. Both, as you might have guess, were such colourful characters. As we enjoyed hummus, flatbreads and kebab, it dawned on us that trying out foreign menus on regular basis sounded like a brilliant idea. Since we couldn't travel at all, the least we could do was to have food from other countries.

Indonesian food with Franky and Winter Soldier.

And we did exactly that for the next five months. We made it a mission to have meals that weren't from Singapore. We went to IndoChili for Indonesian food. Of all the menus that we ordered, tempe orek was the only one that I could remember, but not for a good reason. I mean, this was a roadside food, easily the cheapest one in Indonesia, but priced here in SGD. Felt like sucker for having this, haha. 

French cuisines. The one on the right is Poulet Rotisserie.

A week later, Winter Soldier and I thought we should go for Filipino food at Leslie's, not very far from Bugis, but little did we know that the place had closed down. We walked around and eventually decided that we should go French cuisines at Saveur. We had something called Poulet Rotisserie. It was like eating chicken from chicken rice, but this one came with a French name and therefore had a much higher price tag.

Left: lechon. Right: Directornado and God, after we exited Gerry's Grill.

After that, God and I explored Burmese and Filipino food at Inle Myanmar Restaurant and Gerry's Grill, respectively. I had always love Burmese food, especially the crispy eels, since I first tried it with my ex-housemates many, many years ago. As for Filipino food, of course we had to order lechon kawali. But after tasting it, I still missed the one I had in Cebu. It was the best lechon ever. 

Next lunch was organized by STV, a friend who could speak Thai. We had lunch at Beerthai House Restaurant inside Golden Mile Complex and his skill was proven to be useful. It was easier to order a glass of lemon grass in Thai. The food was not bad and I heard the price was kind of friendly, too. We had omelette, tom yum soup and steamed fish and some other menu.

Top: God and Directornado. Bottom: paneer.

Then we went for authentic Southern Indian food in Little India. Brought them to Anjappar. Not exactly near, but still within the walking distance from the MRT station. What's good here? We ordered paneer, mutton biryani, prawn masala, ghee rice and... probably tandoori chicken, too, since it was red color, haha. I always love eating here. The spice taste is so rich.

Top: pytt i panna. Bottom: with God, Directornado and Winter Soldier at Fika.

The next one was Swedish cuisines. Yes, when it comes to anything Swedish, people immediately think of IKEA and the meatballs, but we went to a bistro called Fika instead. I had something called pytt i panna. I couldn't even pronounce it, but it was basically beef. Tasted quite good, too. 

We planned for Italian or Spanish after that, but I almost couldn't make it due to some unforeseen issues. The original plan was abandoned and we switched to Mexican food at Guzman y Gomez nearby our office. I always love having the pork burrito bowl there! While having lunch, Winter Soldier joked that for all we knew, Guzman and Gomez were just some random Mexicans. It was like calling a restaurant Lim and Tan just to make it sounded Chinese. It turned out that he was right! Wikipedia said this is actually a restaurant chain from Australia and its origin got nothing to do with Guzman and Gomez, haha.

Top: Russian dumplings. Bottom, from left: salted herring fish and a glass of sour milk.

A Russian restaurant called Dumplings.Ru was the next one we visited. I had some salted raw fish there. Really salty, but I liked it! Then we shared a few plates of lamb and pork dumplings. To be frank, I couldn't tell the difference between Chinese and Russian dumplings. Apart from the fact that the Russian dumplings didn't come in soup or weren't served with noodles, they were quite tasty. 

Spanish cuisines and God enjoying his meal.

For our next meal, Winter Soldier suggested an Israeli meal at Miznon, but it was full when we reached there. As a result, we detoured and had Spanish in a restaurant named Gaig. Spanish food was all about tapas. It could be hot or cold. By the way, tapas is not exactly a specific name of food, but a general term for snacks, so tapas came in many forms. As the names on the menu sounded alien, I chose the one with rice. I thought rice would be the safest bet, it turned out to be a plate of sticky rice that tasted quite bland. 

God and dishes from Putian.

The Spanish meal became the last one we had together in 2020. There were still plenty to go, though. We have yet to try out African, Israeli and many more. In fact, we just began this year with cuisines originated from Putian, a city in Fujian province, China. Good stuff, but perhaps a story for another time. The bottom line is, after doing it for few months, I realized that Singapore is indeed heaven for food lovers. You have almost everything here, except food from Laos, perhaps. Just couldn't find it!

The food tourism...

Wisata Kuliner Di Singapura

Beberapa tahun silam, saya pernah bercerita bahwa Singapura menawarkan banyak makanan enak. Masakan lokal seperti mui fan atau nasi ayam terjangkau harganya dan murah pula. Kalau anda ingin sesuatu yang berbeda dan berasal dari luar negeri, anda bisa mencoba makanan Thai, Jepang dan bahkan menu eksotis dari Timur Tengah dan Eropa.

Di situasi normal, kita bisa ke restoran favorit kita untuk mencicipi makanan yang kita idamkan. Akan tetapi tahun lalu tidaklah normal. Banyak di antara kita yang menjalani karantina wilayah untuk pertama kalinya. Apa yang dulunya tergolong biasa, misalnya ke bioskop atau restoran, tiba-tiba tidak lagi diperbolehkan. Karena tidak banyak yang bisa dikerjakan, ide sepele pun terlihat menarik. 

Dari kiri: Winter Soldier dan God. 

Cerita kali ini bermula dari restoran Lebanon bernama Urban Bites. Di akhir Agustus, saya makan siang bersama dua teman. Yang satu mirip Winter Soldier di film Captain America, yang satunya lagi dijuluki God. Seperti yang bisa diterka dari penampilan mereka, perangai dua orang ini sangat unik. Setelah menyantap humus, roti pita dan kebab, kita lantas berpikir bahwa mencoba masakan asing secara rutin sepertinya ide yang bagus. Meski kita tidak bisa berlibur, setidaknya kita bisa menyantap makanan luar negeri.

Menikmati tempe orek bersama Franky dan Winter Soldier.

Dan inilah yang kita lakukan dalam lima bulan ke depan. Misi kita adalah menjajaki masakan asing yang kita temukan. Pertama-tama kita coba yang lebih lazim: makanan Indonesia di IndoChili. Masakannya tidak terlalu lezat dan satu-satunya yang saya ingat adalah tempe orek. Ini sebenarnya masakan kelas warteg di tepi jalan, tapi malah dipesan di restoran. Konyol rasanya harus membayar tempe orek dengan dolar Singapura, haha.

Makanan Perancis. Yang paling kanan adalah Poulet Rotisserie.

Seminggu kemudian, Winter Soldier dan saya berada di sekitar Bugis untuk menjajal masakan Filipina di Leslie's, tapi ternyata sudah tutup restorannya. Setelah berjalan sana-sini, akhirnya kita sepakat untuk mencicipi masakan Perancis di Saveur. Kita pesan menu yang namanya Poulet Rotisserie. Rasanya seperti ayam yang disajikan di nasi ayam, tapi yang dihidangkan di meja ini memiliki nama Perancis dan oleh karenanya menjadi berkali-kali lebih mahal.

Kiri: lechon. Kanan: Directornado dan God, setelah kita keluar dari Gerry's Grill.

Setelah itu God dan saya pergi ke Inle, restoran khas Myanmar, dan Gerry's Grill yang menawarkan menu Filipina. Saya selalu menyukai makanan Myanmar, terutama belut garing yang pertama kali saya cicipi bersama teman-teman serumah beberapa tahun silam. Akan halnya masakan Filipina, tentu saja kita harus memesan lechon kawali. Kendati begitu, saya masih merindukan lechon yang saya santap di Cebu. Sepertinya itu yang paling enak. 

Berikutnya adalah masakan Thai. Seorang teman lain berinisial STV menjamu kita di restoran Beerthai House di gedung Golden Mile Complex. STV bisa berbahasa Thai dan kemampuannya terbukti berguna, sebab pelayannya lebih memahami apa yang kita pesan dalam bahasa Thai. Makanannya cukup enak dan saya dengar harganya pun tidak terlalu mahal. Kita memesan omelet, sup tom yam, ikan kukus dan beberapa menu lain. 

Atas: God dan Directornado. Bawah: paneer.

Selanjutnya kita mengunjungi Little India untuk masakan India Selatan yang otentik. Restoran Anjappar cukup jauh dari stasiun MRT, tapi masih bisa dicapai dengan berjalan kaki. Apa yang enak di sini? Kita memesan paneer, nasi biryani domba, udang masala, nasi ghee dan... kalau tidak salah, ayam tandoori, sebab merah warnanya, haha. Saya suka masakan di sini. Rempah-rempahnya sungguh terasa. 

Atas: pytt i panna. Bawah: bersama teman-teman di Fika.

Yang berikutnya adalah masakan Swedia. Ya, jikalau bicara tentang Swedia, biasanya yang langsung diingat adalah IKEA dan baksonya, tapi kali ini kita ke restoran bernama Fika. Yang saya pesan adalah pytt i panna, semacam masakan berbasis daging sapi. Rasanya lumayan. 

Menu Italia dan Spanyol menjadi topik perbincangan minggu berikutnya, tapi misi kita hampir saja batal karena ada masalah di kantor. Setelah isu selesai, kita hanya bisa mampir ke Guzman y Gomez, kedai masakan Meksiko di dekat kantor. Selagi makan, Winter Soldier berkomentar, jangan-jangan Guzman dan Gomez cuma sekedar nama Meksiko. Ini sama halnya dengan menggunakan nama Lim dan Tan sebagai nama restoran supaya terdengar seperti restoran Cina. Ternyata dia benar! Setelah saya cek di Wikipedia, restoran ini berasal dari Australia dan asal-mulanya tidak ada kaitan dengan Guzman dan Gomez, haha. 

Atas: Pangsit Russia. Bawah, dari kiri: ikan herring asin dan segelas susu asam.

Sesudah Meksiko, kita mencoba pangsit Rusia di Dumplings.Ru, sebuah restoran di dekat MRT Tanjong Pagar. Saya memesan ikan mentah yang luar biasa asin, tapi enak. Selain itu, kita juga mencoba pangsit isi domba dan babi. Jujur saya katakan bahwa saya tidak bisa membedakan pangsit Cina dan Rusia. Rasanya sedap juga. 

Masakan Spanyol.

Masakan Israel di Miznon, Stanley Street, harusnya menjadi menu berikutnya, tapi tempat makannya penuh ketika kita tiba di sana. Alhasil kita pindah lokasi dan makan di Gaig, sebuah restoran Spanyol yang juga berada di jalan yang sama. Menu Spanyol menawarkan aneka tapas, baik yang dingin maupun panas. Oh ya, tapas itu cemilan, jadi banyak bentuknya. Setelah tapas, kita juga memesan menu utama. Saya pilih yang ada nasinya, tapi ternyata lengket dan agak tawar rasanya. Agak kurang nikmat rasanya. 

Dan masakan Spanyol menjadi menu terakhir di tahun 2020. Masih banyak lagi yang bisa dicoba, misalnya menu Afrika. Di awal tahun ini kita baru saja menyantap masakan dari Putian, sebuah kota di provinsi Fujian, China. Enak nian. Setelah saya jalani wisata kuliner di Singapura, saya yakin bahwa Singapura adalah surga bagi mereka yang suka makan. Hampir semuanya ada di sini, kecuali makanan Laos. Sampai sekarang belum berhasil saya temukan!  

God dan masakan khas Putian.