Monday, October 8, 2012

the city of insanity

The good news is: six months ago I moved to a new apartment and this time it's not rented. It's a 46-story high superblock apartment, with 2 towers and 6 wings, located on a prime location, meaning I share the building with thousands other people from around the world. Aside from Indonesians, the apartment has its share of Westerners, Chinese, Indians, Africans, you name it. It's like a mini planet. 

The bad news is: within the six month I stay there, I am now convinced that 3/4 of Jakarta populations are insane. I've realized for a long time that Jakarta is not the friendliest city to live in, but now living among so many people I realize that the majority of the people in this city are just simply rude and selfish bastards who will only destroy the already damaged city, and it's happening fast.

Case no 1:
There is a taxi queue in the building. During morning rush hour, an attendant will list down our names and call us when the taxi arrives. I was in the line with this lady, she's about 45. She gave her name to the attendant right after me and her name was Dewi, which sounded nothing like mine. When the attendant called out my name, she confidently walked to towards the taxi and opened the door, causing to me shout in protest, "Hey lady, that's my cab." She looked at me and told me, "No, it's my cab, I'm Patty" I didn't see that one coming so I was dumbfounded for a while. Even the attendant was confused. Of course with so many people on the list he couldn't remember which one was who. Now is there any other way to tell a crazy person off other than being crazier than her? After I regained my composure I stepped in front of her and simply pushed her aside and told her, "No, that's my name. Your name is Dewi you crazy bitch." and I got on the cab. Had I been more polite, I would've lost the cab to her.

Case no 2:

The lady at the unit right above me has some plants she puts on the railings on her balcony. By rule, we are not allowed to have any plants out on the balcony because it will involve watering the plants and the water will wet the unit below us. And that's exactly what happened. On the first day we moved, it was like a local rain because she watered her plants. The unit that I bought had been empty for a long time so she could just do as she wanted. I did the right thing, I called the management to sort things out with her. But it didn't stop. The lady kept her plants and continued watering it, wetting my balcony. I called the security. She stopped for a few days and started again. My husband went up there but she refused to see him, she sent her niece to meet my husband. Her niece told him she would give her aunt the message. As predicted, the watering started again in a few days. Finally I emailed a complain letter to the management, demanding this matter to be taken seriously. It finally stopped after the management threaten to switch off her water.

Case no 3:

At the parking lot, a man as old as my father deliberately drove in the wrong direction probably because it was too much of a hassle for him to follow the rule. So he blocked my car. A sane person would've backed off because he was the one who's wrong. But no. Maybe because he thought he was an older man, he told us to back off. My husband refused to back off, so he just stopped the car there, waiting for the man to back off. A security guard came. But instead of telling the man, who was clearly breaking the rule, to back off, the security told us to back off, maybe simply because that man's car was more expensive than our car. That angered us so much. My husband stormed out of the car and asked the security guard "Why are you telling me to back off? I'm right. He's the one who's wrong." The security guard replied "Yes, but he won't move." What kind of stupid answer is that? My husband walked to that man's car and asked "What's your problem? You took the wrong direction. You should back off". Do you know what his answer was? He told my husband: "Yes, but I always go this way." How arrogant was that? My husband lost it and called him nasty things. It took almost a beating from my husband to make the man move his stupid expensive car.

Those were just 3 examples. Not to add the daily annoyances like people who won't give you way on the elevator, or people who park their cars and taking up space. Too much selfishness and arrogance are happening in the city.  Now tell me that those three incidents were not insanity.

I am not a big fan of Foke, but I think it's not him that brought the city to this sorry state and it surely takes a lot more than Jokowi to fix this city. It has to come from the people. What exactly can you expect from people who are heartless, selfish, insensitive to others and the worst thing is that they don't think that they are wrong at all.

People of Jakarta, in my opinion, are just hopeless beyond repair. And I can't wait until I can escape.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

why you no speak english?

Another post that was inspired by a tweet :)

A friend tweeted that most upper-middle Indonesian kids now speak fluent English and broken Indonesian, and was wondering whether it is a bad thing.

With the mushrooming of posh international schools in big cities in Indonesia, it is inevitable. The classes are taught in English, the books are in English. Those kids spend most of their time at school conversing in English. Their references are mostly in English. I guess the only time they converse in Indonesian is when they talk to the maids at home or to the taxi drivers.

I went to school in the mid 80s and early 90s. English was taught in class only when I was already in Junior High and we had no English literature as reference. As a result, save for those who went overseas for uni, most of my generation don't speak fluent English. I work in a multinational company, most of my clients are multinational companies, but only a select few can speak fluent English like a native. For the rest of us, we speak Indonesian English.

Any skill is useful. It makes people interesting. It makes people employable. And English is certainly useful. There are many times I was hired simply for my ability to write in English with minimum grammatical error, for a local fee. I created a niche.

Brown skinned Indonesian children living in Indonesia conversing in English may seem annoying, but it's probably not such a bad idea because it will increase their chances to enter the global market in the future. Ideally one should be bilingual and can speak both languages fluently, or even multilingual. But not everyone is born smart. If for some reasons their brains can only manage to master one language fluently, for me English is more useful than any other language, simply because it's the international language.

As for broken Indonesian, the sad truth is that nobody speaks proper Indonesian anyway. Written Indonesian and spoken Indonesian are two different things entirely. Spoken Indonesian is a mixture of slang and dialects while proper Indonesian remains in the books and newspapers. I should know this because many times when I proposed a copy or headline using proper Indonesian in the ads that I wrote, the consumers did not understand it.

What about our nationalism then? I'm not an expert in that subject, but for me it's simple: if we do useful things for our country, such as creating employments like the broken-Indonesian-speaking Indonesian Chinese business owners do, that should do the trick.

I guess next time we sit next to English-speaking-brown-skinned Indonesian children in an international chain coffee shop in Jakarta, we should go easy on them :)

pic reblogged from

Monday, December 26, 2011

a short note before it's 2012

We had our annual christmas potluck dinner two days ago. It was the 4th year we held the potluck dinner at our tiny rented flat. We never really planned it to be an annual thing, but every christmas our close friends just drop by bringing food and booze and we have a good time. The past 2 years a little boy was added to our group and no matter what toys we gave him he was only interested in taking down my fridge magnets :D.

Each dinner was a hit, with people leaving at 3AM, not sober. (including the little boy, because he was high on sugar, therefore he too was not sober)

I'm thankful for this, because I know that real friends are hard to find. And the fact that I have so many people on my list whom I can call at 4 in the morning when I have a flat tyre or a mental breakdown is a fact to be cherished.

I'm not into uploading personal pics in my blog and I didn't like any of the "friendship" image I found on the internet, so I chose this picture to illustrate my feeling instead

Just like a glass of vodka, those beloved friends never fail me :)


Sunday, October 30, 2011

at the risk of sounding like a Gleek: don't stop believing.

I'm sorry for the title but I spent two days thinking about it and this is the best that I could come up with, so deal with it :D

But don't worry, this is not some motivational piece. I met up with my best friend over beer a couple of days ago and he told me this interesting story that happened to his father and it really moved me because although I'm not a religious person, I believe in miracles.

My friend's father is a retired army officer. A couple of years ago, when he was already in his 80s, his father lost his house. To lose the house one has been living for years, especially at that age, was a severe blow. But there was nothing he could do. Being a strong man that he is, he accepted the fact that he will have no house in his old age, rented a house from one of his relatives and moved on with life.

One day, he received a sad news. The older sister of his close friend back from his youth passed away. The woman was a professor and a very prominent figure in women's health in this country (I missed the detail on this one, sorry).

Back in the 1940s, when Indonesia was still at war and he was still a young army officer, my friend's father once guarded the professor on her dangerous journey from Yogyakarta to Jakarta to take the admission test to be a doctor at the University of Indonesia. The journey from Yogyakarta to Jakarta takes 8 hours by train at present day, so in the 1940s it must have been 16 hours or more. And remember both cities were in turmoil so that was one dangerous trip the professor had to take and my friend's father made sure that she arrived in Jakarta safely to take the test. She aced the test and became very successful.

After she passed away, her family called my friend's father and told him that the professor left him some money because she was grateful for his help a long time ago. The family asked for my friend's father bank account number and he gave it and quickly forgot about it.

Until one day, he received his bank statement and was utterly surprised to see that the professor actually left him Rp 1 billion (US$ 100,000). My friend's father quickly called the professor's family and they confirmed that indeed it was in the professor's will to leave him Rp 1 billion. The professor felt forever indebted to my friend's father because had it not been for him, she wouldn't have made it to Jakarta and wouldn't have become a doctor. My friend's father was rendered speechless by the act of kindness. The professor did not know about his financial difficulties because they had not been in contact for so long. That she decided to leave him a significant amount of money was a miracle. Pure and simple.

Rp 1 billion is more than enough to buy a house. My friend's father bought a much better house that the one he lost and he can now spend his old days in comfort.

So there.

Miracles do happen.

I've always believed that. It happened to me. It happened to people I know.

The next time I'm in the brink of desperation, I will remember this story. I hope you will too, and that's the reason I'm posting it in the first place :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

rethinking jakarta

I've been living in Jakarta since 1991, minus the 3 plus year I spent studying in Australia, and have never developed a liking to this city. The only reason I'm still here is because I haven't been able to find work elsewhere. The minute I have the opportunity to leave Jakarta, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

So naturally, when I first found out that the city was going to close down for one whole week for the Lebaran holiday, I was freaking out because I didn't have any plans. How could I not have any plans? I guess that was my punishment for not bothering to read the email from HR (who reads emails from HR anyway?) a couple of weeks earlier. I thought Lebaran holiday was only going to be two days, how was I to know the government had decided to give us all a week holiday? (well, I guess by reading the email from HR)

Anyway, I found out about it only 2 days before the holiday started through conversations with my colleagues. And so began the frantic search of air tickets and hotels, all to no avail of course. To make things worse, my passport has expired so going out of the country was out of the question.

So it looked like I was stuck in the city. The city that has nothing but malls. And I hate malls. Hate it with contempt.

I thought I was going to be bored out of my skull and planned to spend the holiday intoxicated, but surprisingly, today, at the last day of my Jakarta holiday, I found out that not only did I manage to stay sober for the entire week, I also had a lot of fun in the city.

What did I do? Surprisingly a lot.

Since the bars are closed for the Lebaran holiday (even the most dedicated bartenders are entitled for some time off you know), my husband and I decided to sleep early and wake up as early as 5 AM to ride our bicycles. We went biking at the University of Indonesia campus that has a lot of greenery and an okay park where one can sit on the grass and have picnics by the lake.

As you can probably tell by now I'm not really into sports so our bike rides were more leisurely rides along the campus rather than one of those endurance rides. The morning air was surprisingly fresh, it was hard for me to believe that the air could be that fresh in Jakarta, but it apparently could. Although technically the campus is not exactly in Jakarta, but in Depok, which is more in the outskirts of Jakarta, but you get the point.

So we rode our bikes and we sat on the grass and watched the sunrise. Now, my experience of catching the first ray of sun in the city usually involved some stumbling out of some dodgy clubs and cursing the damn sun, so when I actually sat there on the grass, flushed after my bike ride, took a deep breath and felt the fresh air filling my lungs, I felt so good, so healthy and almost holy. I enjoyed the experience so much that we went on this early morning bike rides almost everyday for the whole week.

But of course I couldn't stay holy for so long. My body was just not built for healthy stuff. A friend of mine told me of this place that sells yummy pork rice at Pluit area. Since the roads of Jakarta are practically deserted during Lebaran, it was a good time to check this place out, so off we went. Our friends and their toddler son came along and it turned out to be a hilarious experience with the son taking a poop on his diaper just as the four of us adults were busy digging into this super delicious pork rice.

Now, a holiday would not be complete without a picture of sunset on the beach would it? Problem was, Jakarta has only one sucky beach, which is Ancol beach that is dirty and jam packed with people. Good thing there's this one overpriced bar cum restaurant at Ancol called Segarra where one can enjoy the best part of the beach in private, away from the maddening crowds.

We automatically ordered mojito when we arrived but was told that they did not serve any alcohol to respect the Lebaran holiday. Okay, so it looked like the whole universe was conspiring to make me healthy. There is always the first time for everything and I guess that was the first time in my adult life I actually watched the sunset with a glass of non-alcoholic drink in my hand.

How was the sunset?

Not too bad at all.

To conclude, yes I enjoyed my Lebaran holiday in the city so much. I spent some quality time with my family: my mom, my sister, my dad, my mom in law, my dad in law, my brother in law and my husband's baby nephew and was fed yummy home cooked meals. I spent some quality time with my best friends as well. I went to places I had never been, sampled new food and was exposed to some new experiences.

For once, Jakarta did not dissapoint.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

on being happily deskbound

More and more of my friends are leaving the corporate world to pursue other interests. One designs tutu dresses, one opens a bakery, one designs huggable pillows, some become full time mothers. They all seem to be enjoying themselves being creative and exploring many things.

I’m sure the question of “when will I quit my job and do other stuff that really interests me” crosses the mind of the majority of us corporate slaves. It crossed my mind too, many many times.

So, when will it be for me?

Four months ago I left the company where I’d been working for 6 years to take on a bigger role at another company. It was quite a big decision for me because I never really saw myself taking a managerial role. People has never been my strong suit. I simply don’t care that much about others. And for that reason, I had no interest in climbing the corporate ladder.

But I was in a place where I felt that I was not giving myself enough challenge. Everything got too easy and I was simply bored. I knew things had to change when I started to feel sleepy at 4 PM everyday due to lack of stimulation. I asked for more tasks, but unfortunately, in this country, we simply must take a managerial role if we want to move further. There is no path for specialists. Not in my line of work anyway.

The choice for me was either going freelance or move up the ladder. I had tried freelancing before. It was fun and I might go back to doing that when push comes to shove. But at the moment I like going to an office and work with people and be a part of a team. Or a more honest reason would be: I’ve just bought a car on installment therefore a steady monthly income will come handy. So I chose the latter. I accepted this post at this company.

I thought it was going to be tough, new role at a new environment and all, but it turns out to be okay. I’m adapting well and I’m having a good time. It helps that my team consists of a bunch of crazy people who don’t take themselves seriously and laugh about virtually everything.

Here’s what our typical working day looks like:

So, back to the question: when will I quit being a corporate slave and work on something that is more nourishing for my soul?

Maybe tomorrow, maybe never. I don’t love or hate this job enough to have a serious thought over it. I like that it occupies my time - the time I’d otherwise waste on unwise things like being unconscious – in a fun way. I like being around the people, sometimes they inspire me to do stuff. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to do when I’m not working. I don’t have any great ideas for a novel or a film, I have no talents in arts and crafts, I have no business sense whatsoever and I don’t have a freaking clue about investing. So I guess I will be doing this until some publication somewhere is crazy enough to give me my own Carrie Bradshaw-esque column where I can impart my non wisdom to a paying public on a weekly basis and spend the other six days lazing around sipping vodka tonic.

Until then, you can find me at my desk, like always.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

childless in Jakarta

I sort of knew sooner or later I’m going to write about this. I avoided talking about my decision on not having a child because I didn’t want to make a big fuss out of it. And yes, for me it is not that big a deal. It ranks up there with other people’s decisions to choose between buying a house in Bintaro or Cibubur. It’s important, but not controversial.

But apparently in this city, admitting that one chooses to be childless for the rest of one’s life is as controversial as admitting that one is an atheist or gay, neither of which I find to be controversial.

Didn’t come as a surprise. After all, we are a bunch of people who are trained to see things only from one perspective.

Yesterday, a famous financial planner came to our office for a presentation. She was talking about children’s tuition fee and what kind of investment that we should make to have those fees covered.

I casually tweeted: this financial planner reassured my decision on not having children.

It took no less than ten minutes for me to get a lot of replies. And it came as a surprise to me because my twitter account is not public, so those who follow my tweets actually know me personally. And yet, I received a lot of judgmental replies.

Now, which part of “reassured my decision” that these so-called friends fail to understand?

I wasn’t campaigning against having children. I was saying MY decision. As in ME, MYSELF, and I. MY life. Other people can breed like rabbits for all I care. I wasn’t talking about anyone, I was talking about myself so what’s with the attacks? What rights do people have on my life?

I replied none of them because I knew it would lead to a stupid debate. I’m writing this instead, hopefully those who bashed me yesterday read this. Don’t get me wrong: this is not an effort to explain myself. I don’t need to explain myself to anyone. It’s just a positive outlet for my anger. I believe it to be much more constructive than scratching their faces.

I don’t want to have children because:

Unlike other women, I never feel that biological click ticking. I was never drawn towards children and I dislike having to take care of anything. Why? I don’t know. I’m not big on existentialist questions so I just let it be, accept that I am an extremely egoistic person and do the responsible thing: I chose to not produce a child, because I cannot undo it! Why would I want to go through pregnancy and labor and parenting for the rest of my life when I have no desire to do it? I don’t believe that every woman must become a mother. I believe it’s a choice. One becomes a mother because one wants to be a mother, not because other people seem to be doing it.

I don’t believe in gender roles either. It does not apply in our household. My husband and I never care about assigned traditional gender roles. The way we divide our chores is based on preferences rather than gender. He is not a morning person so preparing breakfast is my job because he is barely alive in the morning. I hate grocery shopping while he likes the supermarket, so that is his chore. He cooks more often too because I am practically useless in the kitchen.

Another thing is that I don’t want to be trapped in a typical middle class lifestyle of suburban house, a family car, kids to be dropped off to school, nannies and such. I’m not saying that it’s wrong, it’s just not for me. I want to be able to drop everything I’m doing and sail off somewhere if I fancy it. A kid will be a liability for the kind of life that my husband and I are building. We are traveling partners and we want to go on as many adventures in our lives.

Yes, I am lucky to find someone who shares my idea. That is why I married him in the first place.

Someone told me that he’s going to want to have a child someday and that he’s going to leave me. You know what? Husbands leave for many reasons. If he wants to leave, he will leave. If he wants to stay, he will stay. There is nothing I can do to make him leave or stay. I know that only too well.

Another told me that being childless, no one is going to take care of me when I’m old. I don’t want to judge here, but I think having children for that purpose is kind of selfish. Those children are going to have their own lives too, and looking at how country is shaping up, it looks like they’re going to have it tougher than us.

But then again, if that eases your mind and makes you sleep better at night because you know someone will be there for you to push your wheelchair around, I’m not the one to judge. Do whatever. In my opinion, there are no guarantee that children will stick around taking care of aging parents, just like there are no guarantee a husband will stay forever. I will never put my life in somebody else’s hand. So if I happen to outlive everyone and live alone in my old age, at least I know that it would come to that. I never exercise any fantasy of grandchildren crying on my deathbed.

Another one said that I was insensitive towards those who want to have children but can’t. I fail to see how. Is my saying that I don’t want children decreases their chances on conceiving a child? How?

One of my best friends is trying to have a baby at the moment, been trying for some times, and I support her. I will be ecstatic if she does get pregnant because I know that it would make her very happy. I probably won’t play with the kid so much because I’m not into kids, but I’m all for her having children, as many as she wants.

In retaliation, I'd say those who keeps pestering people to have children are the insensitive ones. How is your constant pestering going to help anybody pregnant? If anything it’s putting more pressure on them so you might be responsible for them not getting pregnant.

In Indonesia it’s very common to have this kind of conversation with someone you barely know:
“Are you married?”
“How many children?”

Now for me, that is insensitive. But it happens all the time.

The funniest conversation I had went like this:

“Are you married?”
“How many children?”
“Don’t want any.”
“Don’t say that! You might not be able to have children forever!”

D’oh. Didn’t I just say I don’t want any? Why would I care about not being able to have children forever? That’s the whole idea, isn’t it?

But I have made my peace a long time ago, I know that in this country it’s more acceptable to have two or three wives rather than not having a child.

So there, I said my piece. I’m expecting a decline in the numbers of followers on my twitter account soon :)