Category Archives: Life

Why I’m Keeping My 100-List and What I’ve Crossed Out This Year.

From picnic-dating to ‘flying’ a fighter jet, I crossed 6 more things out of my list this year.

summer tips

In 2012, I published my 100-list: a random list of 100 things I’d like to do or experience in life. Some of the things I listed down there had been on my wish-list since I was still a teenage girl, while some others had been jotted down quite recently. I revisit my 100-list every year-end to see how far I’ve come, how many things I’ve crossed out, and what are the next things I can pursue.

I also feel like I’ve changed a bit (or even a lot) throughout the years, and it’s only natural that the things that once excite me didn’t excite me any longer–or vice versa. So, each year, apart from leaving the crossed-out list intact, I also examine the rest of my list to see if I want to alter one wish for another.

Why I’m Keeping My 100-List.

I keep my 100-list because these random (and somewhat silly) things reminded me of how, as a child, I looked at the world every single day with wonder and amazement. Of how I imagined a future of my own freely, without thinking about what’s possible or what’s impossible. Of how I believed that wishes–no matter how odd, could actually come true.

Climbing a tree, for instance, is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little girl, and until today, I still haven’t crossed it out of my list. It is indeed such a childish and simple wish. However, seeing this particular wish has never failed to remind me of that childhood thirst: to wonder, to dream, to imagine, to experience something new, to venture to the unknown.

The 6 Things I Crossed Out of My List in 2015:

Until today, I have crossed 42 things out of my list (58 more to go!), and these are some of the things I managed to cross out of my list in 2015 (in no particular order):

ONE: Learning how to ‘fly’ a fighter jet/helicopter.

I received a message from my ex-colleague one day: “Do you want to learn how to fly a fighter jet?” I didn’t even know why she had to ask! I have always been fascinated by helicopters and fighter jet even before I watched Top Gun, so when Eurofighter Typhoon set-up a fighter-jet simulator at a military exhibition and invited an innocent civilian like me to try it out, of course I said YES!

The fighter-jet simulator was actually there to be tested out by Indonesian Airforce’s fighter pilots, but on one sunny afternoon, I jumped into the simulator happily to learn how to fly a fighter jet. When we were about to start, the instructor asked me, “Have you ever flown this before?” and I replied with, “Oh yes, all the time!”

We looked at each other for a moment until he realised the absurdity of his question and we burst into laughter. And yes, it wasn’t easy to fly a fighter jet. I was so proud for being able to have a smooth take-off and get the jet balanced, but when I had to shoot other planes and check the altitude and everything else… *facepalm*

TWO: Learning how to give Thai massage.

I have always wanted to know how to give a proper massage. I think it would be lovely to help my loved ones relax after a long day by giving him/her a massage. In the end, it wasn’t really a Thai massage; but I took a 2-day massage class where the masseuses have combined Thai, Swedish, and Balinese traditional massage into a technique of their own.

“It’s important to know the right technique to do the massage,” said my instructor. “For instance, your body position must be correct, or else, after giving massage, you’ll get back pain or shoulder pain. This is not the way to go. Yes, we are taking care of others, but we need to take care of ourselves first and foremost, too. Self-care is important.”

That message about self-care was so profound.

My instructor has worked there–as a masseuse, for more than 8 years. “I used to be a gardener at the owner’s house,” he told me as we went out for lunch together that day. “I mowed the lawn and threw away the garbage, those kind of things. Until one day the owner called me and taught me how to do basic massage, so I could massage him when he was tired. I started learning how to give a proper massage, and soon after, when some of his friends came over to the house, he would also ask me to give them a massage. They liked it, and along the way I learned some more techniques and massage more people. When I had finished my training, I was recruited as a masseuse at the owner’s massage place, until today. Now I have learned English as well, to communicate better with the customers.”

THREE: Picnic-dating by the beach or in the park.

I almost did this at the end of 2014, when I was in Paris and a guy from Bordeaux asked me to have a picnic-date with him by the Seine. “I’ll bring the wine,” he said. And he did. And we did have a picnic by the river. But I was there with my other two friends. So I hesitated for a while about crossing this one from my list, and I decided not to cross it–yet.

But I finally experienced my picnic-dating–in the park, not the beach–and it was in Vondelpark, Amsterdam. We went to Albert Heijn for some freshly-squeezed orange juice and a bag of Doritos; and I sat on the passenger’s seat of my date’s bicycle, clutching his waist as he rode it skilfully to the park. Turned out there was a culinary fair at Vondelpark that day, so we treated ourselves to some grilled sausages and seaweed burger before retreating to sit on a low-raised stone wall overlooking the pond, reading books.

What? Reading books? If that doesn’t sound like a romantic date to you, trust me: that for a bookworm such as myself, reading books with your date is always counted as a romantic thing to do!

FOUR: Learning Latin dances.

I love to dance. And I always think that Latin dances are sexy–the music and the beat are so dynamic, and the dancers are always looking so passionate and confident. I had trained myself some moves via YouTube videos every now and then, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to really ‘dance’ that way. So the last time I was in Bali, I took a 2-hour private salsa lessons.

My teacher is a Balinese salsa dancer, Made Lasia. He was so good in explaining and demonstrating the steps–and I was surprised to know that in the first half of an hour I could dance salsa already!

Of course, I am still a beginner. Sometimes I still lost count of my steps as I dance, or couldn’t really grasp what my partner was trying to say when he lifted up my hand a certain way. But I’m learning! *baila, baila*

FIVE: Traveling across Indonesia and visiting all the big islands.

Finally! This is something I have always wanted to cross out of my list–and the opportunity came to me in mid 2015, when I got an assignment to cover the stories of various nonprofit organisations from Nias to Ambon, from Muna Island to Pontianak. I traveled non-stop for 3 months, while working on interview transcripts and writing feature stories all the way, and it was really tiring. At the end of the trip I didn’t feel like I want to go traveling again for at least 3 months (but, of course, I travel again in less than a month).

I have to admit, though, that I didn’t have that much time to go ‘sightseeing’ during my 3-month all-around Indonesia trip. So, we may need to erase the images about a relaxing time by the beach or a leisurely hike by the mountains. The schedule was so packed, and I spent my whole days following the activists on their field-duty, but I didn’t regret it at all. In fact, it was a money-can’t-buy experience altogether; as I was exposed to inspiring stories and courageous people throughout–and it made me believe that Indonesia is going to be alright.

In some remote islands, villages, or forests all over the archipelago, there are actually some amazing people doing amazing things for their community. For their country. And this gives me hope.

SIX: Sleeping in the outdoors, underneath the sky.

Sawendui is the highlight of my traveling journey in 2015. To reach this hidden paradise, I needed to fly from Jakarta to Biak and then hopped into Saireri Paradise Foundation’s speed-boat that would took me to Sawendui village in around 2.5 or 3.5 hours, depending upon the mercy of the sea.

There’s only one wooden hut by the beach in Sawendui–it’s a basic hut where the staffs of Saireri Paradise Foundation gather with the Sawendui people every day; either to have a briefing, a meeting, a communal lunch, or to throw an all-night-long musical fiesta. The foundation has worked together with the locals in Sawendui for some time to conserve Paradise birds and turtles around the area.

Yes, there are rooms inside the wooden hut and bathrooms, too. But the staff (one from Sumatera and the other one from Sulawesi) preferred to sleep in the outdoors–either by the beach or in the forest, and they didn’t understand why one would want to use the bathroom if one could jump into the pristine river inside the forest–that can be reached in 30 steps from the main hut.

I spent the days in Sawendui with my friend, Windy–and we did experience the lovely feeling of sleeping by the river inside a forest; to be woken up by sunshine and the cries of the birds and to fall asleep while listening to the serene crackle of the branches from the fire where the staff and the locals grilled some chicken, corns, and bananas close to midnight.

There was this one time when we came with the locals and the staff at night on their turtle-patrol. We walked through the pitch-dark forest and then along the beach, the wave sounded so furious yet majestic, and the moon was our only source of light. When we were tired after walking for 2 hours, we decided to wait for the locals-on-patrol by the beach, and just slept there until they finished their patrol. The log is our pillow, the sand is our mattress, the sky is our roof. It was the closest moment I have with nature: and it felt so humbling to know that I am only a tiny dot in this Universe of Creation.


What about you? Do you have your 100-list, too? Are there some dreams or wishes from your childhood that are still close to your heart until today?

Windry Ramadhina: On Characters, Choices, and Chronicles.

Windry Ramadhina is the writer of Orange (2008), Metropolis (2009), Memori (2012), Montase (2012), London (2013), Interlude (2014), and Walking After You (2014). She was nominated twice in Indonesia’s Khatulistiwa Literary Award. With a friend, Windry hosts to share anything reading-related. She also appears in the show Breakfast with Author 1: TIGA CERITA CINTA.


Me: Where do your characters come from?

Windry: Every time I write, I start with a conflict. Other elements, including characters, are born from there. Certain characters are only suitable for a certain conflict in a certain story. Thus, each character is unique.

A character becomes unique when we get to know him/her well enough. I am imagining that my characters are alive, just like us. They have certain tone of voice, certain way of thinking, as well as certain values–that are predetermined by the things they’ve experienced in their lives. They have background stories. And I have to know them all.

I even need to know what’s in their closet, what’s in their fridge, or how they look at someone who is meaningful to them, or what they would do if they were bored, or who they hang out with on a Saturday night. It’s a long list.

Often times, sketches help me. The more I know my characters, the more I get to know what to write about them.

Sometimes I also look at the people around me and borrow their characters for a novel. Rayyi’s friends in Montase (the novel), for instance. They are actually my real friends (in real life). This is an easier way to go, but it’s not a done deal that we can always find real-life model that suits our story.

Me: What do your choice of characters tell us about who you are, your dreams, your fears, yourself?

Windry: My readers could easily recognise me through my characters. Each one of them is a part of me. I’m like a tiny jar full of various kinds of candies. When I write, I take a candy to be thrown into the story. The candy is myself–who wants to be a photographer. Or myself–who believes that rain falls down carrying angels. Or myself–who is afraid to get hurt because of love.

To me, writing is an expression. Either consciously or subconsciously, I  guess I always show the real me to my readers. Through a story. Through the world I write. Through my characters.

It’s very important for me to write honestly, by being who I really am. Because I am not writing to be ‘liked’. I write what I like so I can find readers who like the same things as I do.

Me: How is your childhood upbringing and he people you know affect the way you choose your characters?

Windry: In my family, I was raised with such discipline, it was pretty tough. I was taught to be independent, not to rely too much on other people. And I do not have many siblings. I have a little brother who is really close to me–we’re like best friends. But most of the times I am all by myself, because in many occasions, we’re living in different cities.

So it should not be surprising if most of my characters are strong, ambitious woman who find it difficult to compromise. They are perfectionist, cynical, and has the tendency to appear cold. I am not really into weak characters; the way I do not wish to see myself as a weak person.

I grew up influenced by Japanese pop-culture. There were times when I read more manga than novels. Shounen manga, especially Naoki Urasawa’s, made me fall for witty, dominant, and complex characters.

Only after I got acquainted with Ichikawa Takuji’s novels, I learned to like sweet and sloppy characters, who make insignificant mistakes, something we can laugh at. I learned to have fun with them.

Me: What do you find interesting about people?

Windry: I believe that everybody has a story. I like watching them, and then asking myself, who are they? What are they like in their daily lives? How do they live their lives? And in the end, I start to create some scenarios that–I think–might happened to them.

At other times they let out certain expressions, or do something I don’t normally do, or talk about things I just knew, or wear–for instance–a kind of hat I rarely see. Usually, these are the things that pique my imagination. But in essence, all I need to do is asking questions.

Me: What’s your definition of a strong character in a story? Who is your favourite protagonist and antagonist from a book?

Windry: A strong character can make the readers feel their presence; their presence affect the readers; something that is long stored in your memories. Such characters must be created wholly. They need to be just like us, with multiple sides and complexities.

Each time we’re talking about protagonist and antagonist, I want to distance myself away from the trap of good-and-evil or right-or-wrong. I like ‘grey’ characters more. I like imperfect protagonists, with weaknesses of their own, that gives me a chance to get annoyed at them from time to time. And I always want to find antagonists who would make me fall in love, who would grab my sympathy.

One of my favorite protagonists is Sophie Kinsella’s Rebecca Bloomwood. She is not trying to be perfect, at all. She is what she is. Just like Agatha Christie’s Arthur Hastings. And both are funny–in their own ways. They offer themselves to be laughed at. Sometimes, when I read, I just want to laugh and have a good time.

My favorite antagonist most probably is Johan Liebert from the manga Monster by Naoki Urasawa. A handsome (if not pretty), smart, and cold murderer. But what makes me fall for him is that he’s hurting. He’s hurting so deep; to an extent that the readers won’t be able to hate him.

Me: If you can pick one real character from your personal life, someone who definitely has changed the way you look at things, who will this be?

Windry: My mother. She pass along the things she love to me. Books, language, traveling. I got my first book from her. I fall for words and languages because of her. I went on many traveling journeys with her. And she taught me things that defines who I really am, until today. We’re not always on the same page about everything, but I think most of who I am comes from my mother.

Since I was a kid, most of the times, my mother is not at home. She is not ambitious, but she is always so lucky when it comes to work. And basically she’s not the type who’d like to stay at home. She is sharp and independent, and a bit nonchalant. If we’re traveling in a group, she’ll separate herself and discreetly slip away.

Sometimes I ask myself, if my writings actually talk about me–or about my mother.

—Photo courtesy of WIndry Ramadhina. For more interviews with Indonesian writers, click here

On Learning How to Love My Body.

“Have you lost some weight?” 

Recently, this was the first thing people said to me–especially if they haven’t seen me for quite a while. Then the follow-up questions soon ensue: Are you on a diet? What have you been doing, are you exercising a lot? Are you a vegetarian now? The fact is, I did lose some weight these past 2 years, about 10 kilograms all in all. Which, when you look at it that way, is not that impressive, really, as this means losing only around 0.5 kilograms per month. That’s quite slow–at least compared to the promises of various dieting programs out there. But, this is not the point. The point is this: I started losing weight when I had given up on losing weight.

Grocery shopping in Firenze, Italy. Summer 2015.


For those of you who have been following this blog for quite some time, you know that I used to have issues with my body image. There were times in my life when I hated the way I look; and up to this day I could still recall that memory of feeling ugly, worthless, unloved, and unwanted.

When I looked into the mirror, I only saw a girl who was overweight, with oily face and bad acne, straight oily hair, with excess fat here and there and I hated what I saw. I thought I wouldn’t be able to wear a certain dress or carry on a certain hairstyle or following a certain fashion trend because it would only make me look even more ridiculous, as if I was trying too hard. There were times when my diary was full of harsh comments I uttered to myself–again and again, repeating the self-pity rants about how ugly I looked, about how ugly I felt.

I tried various diet pills and herbs to no avail. I used various acne creams and capsules and went on painful facials but the pimples kept coming. Until a few days before New Year’s Eve 2013; when I took an impulsive decision to travel with a guy I liked to Penang. I thought it would be fun, to actually celebrate New Year’s Eve with someone, some place new.


We arrived in Penang quite close to midnight. On the ferry, we met a couple who was about to head in the same direction as we were, and so we decided to share a cab. The cab driver brought his wife along with him, so the front seats were occupied. Thus, the four of us squeezed ourselves at the back seat, but the space was quite small, so the guy I liked decided to have me sat on his lap, to give more space for the couple–as they brought some huge bags with them. After a while, he laughed and said, “Wow, you are heavy like a fat whale!”

Maybe he was joking. Maybe he didn’t. But at that very moment, I hated him for what he said; and on the following days, I hated myself because I realised that I had said those kind of things to myself too, quite frequently. Why did I hate him for saying the same thing I had been saying to myself, when I had called myself names worse than “a fat whale” and had become my own worst bullies?

That was when I started looking at myself (the bullied self) with a wave of compassion like never before. For the first time, I had this strong urge to stop being mean and harsh to my body, and committed to stop trying to change it. If this was the body I needed to live in for the rest of my life, so be it. I better started to accept it as it was. Because it was too tiring, depressing, and sad, to call yourself names worse than ‘a fat whale’ and play victim all the time. This was the time when I couldn’t care less about my body. I decided to shift my attention somewhere else: my work, my personal projects, my writings, my arts, my love of books, cultures, and languages. I left my body alone. I accepted it, but did not befriend it.


At the end of 2013, my father got a lab report presenting his high blood-sugar and cholesterol level. Good food has always been the heart of our family. And I have always believed (still am) that the kitchen should occupy he largest space in a house. But having that lab report changed something: we needed to alter our lifestyle. Yes, our. It didn’t seem so supportive to have me eating all those food we used to love while his options were limited. I looked at the long list of food my father was not allowed to consume (basically everything we usually savoured), and the short list of what he should consume. This should be a team effort.

“Let’s do it,” I said to him. “From tomorrow, let’s start by replacing white rice with brown rice.” We did not reduce the amount of food we consume, we just made a healthier choice. More fruits and vegetables in the form of smoothies, soup, green juice, salad, or stir-fry (with olive, canola, or coconut oil). Less red meat and more fish. Less coffee and more lemon water. Less sugar (now almost to the point of no sugar), less salt, and more healthy spices and herbs. Eat dinner before 6:30 pm.

I browsed through dozens of healthy recipes, along with some vegetarian options.

Green Mango Salad with Sour and Spicy Asian Dressing.Spinach and mushroom oatmeal.

Mango yogurt with coconut water and nuts & dried fruits.Brown fried rice with organic egg and chilli.

Since I went to Bali quite frequently those days, I started getting myself familiar with the world of raw desserts, and when I got back, I started making those healthy treats for my father’s love of sweet things. The only difference is that we’re using dates instead of sugar, butter, and egg, as well as unsalted nuts and shredded coconut instead of flour.

We have our weekends when we sometimes eat meat (but cooked it in a healthier way) or pig out on that delicious chicken noodle we love, but 5 out of 7 days, we were pretty comfortable with our new habit. My father started swimming again, and I did, too. Plus I did a bit of yoga (home practice by using YouTube videos–thank you Adrienne and Tara Stiles–apart from one or two Kundalini yoga retreat per year) and introduced my father to Lee Holden’s qigong.

Getting in touch with yoga made me feel more comfortable with my own body, especially because my yoga mentors were always highlighting the fact that yoga is not a competitive sport. Just because a friend can do a headstand it doesn’t mean that you need to do it, too. You just need to follow your own pace and listen to your own body, and it will evolve with you. You don’t have to compare yourself with others or parade what you have achieved. I love how yoga has become such a serene and personal practice for me, a time and space I can dedicate to myself every now and then.

Morning yoga.

I started learning to befriend my body and thanking each parts of it everyday. When I am in the shower, I talk to various body parts of mine as I cleanse, rinse, and wash them. I say my gratitude and telling them the reason why I am grateful for having them, then sending my wishes and blessing them accordingly.

This can be something like brushing my teeth and saying: “Thank you, my mouth, my teeth, my tongue. Because of you I can speak and eat and taste good food. Because of you I can smile and laugh and sing. May you only speak good words, kind words, may you only speak things that people need to hear, kindly. May you bring out good things and bring in good things–in the form of words, food, drinks, or voices. Be strong and healthy, my teeth, and bless you all.” And then I move on to the next body part: face, hair, arms, legs, stomach, shoulders, back… everything. I walk out of the shower feeling grateful, relaxed, and refreshed. How can I NOT be thankful? How can I not look at my body in a different way, with loads of respect and admiration?

I couldn’t remember when it was exactly, but there was this one day when I looked at myself in the mirror and I started liking what I saw. I could really see that I am beautiful–not based on society’s or industry’s standard, but simply beautiful as a human being who survives her ups and downs and keeps marching along, happily. I hadn’t been weighing myself for quite some time–and when I weighed myself that day, I was surprised knowing that I had lost 10 kilograms. I didn’t expect that at all.

On the other hand, my father’s recent lab report has also shown a great progress. All the alarming numbers has gone down, returned back to normal, and even turned out really good for the blood-sugar level.


These days, I do not weigh myself. I don’t really care. I have enough comfort, confidence, and positive body image now to say that I just want to live healthier and to love my body more–for whatever it is. I do not want to be measured by numbers on a scale. Do I lose weight? Yes, I do. How much do I weigh now? I don’t know for sure.

Today, I am measuring my body’s performance through the way I feel: do I feel happy and energised or tired and sleepy? Do I wake up in the morning feeling calm and inspired, or greasy and in doubt? Do I move a lot and create many things, thinking and reading, or lazying around a lot and wasting my time scrolling my Facebook’s newsfeed?

I am also getting better and better not to let other people’s compliments or critics determines the way I feel; because what’s really important is not what other people think or feel about us–but what we think and feel about ourselves. It’s about looking at the mirror when we’re all alone and pose that defining question: “How can I love You more?”

Because at the end of the day, that’s the only question there is.

A Gift of Being.


Even if our only prayer is gratitude, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only ablution is acceptance, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only service is being compassionate, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only invocation is words of blessings, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only offering is non-judgement, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only ritual is forgiveness, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only pilgrimage is being fully present, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only scripture is love, maybe it’s enough.
Even if our only way is peace, maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s enough.

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.

: : dedicated to t. a. n.

You don’t need to offer anyone an apology for not being okay. You don’t need anyone’s permission for showing, owning, and honouring your feelings, no matter how far-from-okay those feelings actually are.


Don’t ever feel guilty for not being able to fake a smile when everyone’s dancing and laughing some evenings; and don’t ever feel ashamed for not being able to lift the veil of sadness from some of your heavy mornings. It’s okay to not be okay.

You don’t have to repress your feelings to please others, nor push away your sadness to comfort others. You have the right to feel whatever it is that you feel; to talk about it and to try to understand it in all honesty, unapologetically. You have the right to not be okay.

Release the tension from not being able to bounce back so easily and drop the pressure from not being able to snap yourself ‘out-of-it‘ so quickly–you know you would if you could. You are allowed to be sad; to cry your eyes out when you feel like it. You are allowed to be vulnerable; to reach out when you feel like it. You are not a failure just because you allow yourself to feel what you feel.

You are just being human.
And it is okay to not be okay all the time.

Ian Curley: A Message on Mindfulness from the Kitchen.

Maybe it’s true: that an end is merely a start for a new beginning. Or maybe, whether something is ‘an end’ or ‘a beginning’ largely depends on our perspective and the choices we make along the way.

When Ian Curley ran into trouble with the police in London back in the 80s; he could have think of it as The End. But Ian decided to see it as a chance to start a new beginning: he flew to Australia and started over. Today, Ian is considered one of Australia’s first class chefs–appearing in the ever-popular Masterchef’s program, having his own reality TV show Conviction Kitchen, and preparing meals for Hollywood celebrities; from Beyoncé to the Kardashians.



It was a sunny afternoon. I had just finished savouring Ian’s delicious steak tartare–after watching him preparing this classic dish in the kitchen. But the leek salad, that came before the tartare, enabled me to see Ian in a different light.

“Leek is a very humble vegetable,” Ian said, as he put the leeks on the grill. “It’s easy for people to overlook this vegetable. It’s just a leek! What can you do with a leek? So they say. They know they can do much with meat, for instance. But leek? But leek is special, too. You just need to see it closer. If you really ‘see’ the vegetable–even if it’s ‘just’ a leek, you can always cook delicious meals with it.”

I watched Ian as he gracefully moved around the kitchen, laying out some plates on the kitchen counter and peeling the outer layer of a grilled leek that had turned dark brown. “Nothing should go to waste,” he smiled as he put the brownish peels on an empty bowl. “You can even use these peels to make leek powder. Just put them in the oven for a little while, and when they’re dry enough, you can crush them into a powder. It’s crunchy and tasty, and adds colour and texture to your salad.”

This was when I realised the fact that I had just witnessing mindfulness taking place in the kitchen. Ian’s message is a message that translates not only to cooking, but also to living. How often do we overlook the small things in our lives, taking things for granted, or wasting the things we already have? How often do we wish to have ‘some meat’ instead of ‘just a leek’–believing that we’d be happier that way?

“See. The ingredients do not compete on the plate. They just complement each other,” Ian smiled, as he prepared the leek salad on the plate–and sprinkled it with leek powder. “Here. Now, try this!”

Leek salad


When I meet people I admire, I don’t ask them much about their success. I ask them about their failures, their hardships, their darkest days. I ask them about what happens when the lights go out and the curtains are closed. I guess it helps me to see people as human beings–with their ups and downs, plus and minuses. No matter who we are, we are all fighting our own struggles. It’s easy for us to be envious (or jealous) when it comes to seeing other people’s success. But will we be that easily envious (or jealous) if we only knew what they’ve had to go through to get there?

“I chose my career over my marriage,” Ian said as he tapped his glass with his fingers lightly. “I guess… it’s something that just happens. There will come a day when we have to face difficult choices in our lives, and we have to make a decision about it, and then live with it.”

I could see where this was coming from; especially after Ian mentioned that he couldn’t remember the last time he went traveling not for work. Even when we met in Jakarta, he was on a work tour together with Victorian Government Business Office.

“It’s hard, you know. It’s hard to really know people–or a country, when you arrive at the airport and someone with a fancy car is already there, waiting for you. And you are taken into a nice hotel, people treat you nicely,  you meet the press, and then you go to a really nice kitchen to cook, and then go back to the hotel. You don’t get to see the real things,” Ian shrugged his shoulders. “That’s why I like to connect with real people. When I’m back from my work tour, I go to my restaurant’s kitchen. And I feel sane again. There are my staff, they just want to work and make money and go home to their families. To them, I am not a celebrity chef. And I think this real interaction is what keeps me sane, what keeps me real, what keeps me grounded.”


“You know, when you are blessed with so many things in your life, you just have to give back,” said Ian.

steak tartare

I smiled, knowing by heart that he was right. Before, Ian told me about his TV show, Conviction Kitchen, where he teach life skills to recent inmates. I wondered if this choice of working with inmates had something to do with his past in London–when he ran into trouble with the police.

This reminded me of a friend who ran away from his port-city life by the sea in Vladivostok; only to find himself being pulled in by other port cities and sea-related works in different parts of the world. Some of us are running away from an event (or a place) in our past, only to find out that we’re being reconnected again with it in different ways, at certain times in our lives. It’s like a calling–a missing link that helps us to understand the reason why we need to go through certain things in our lives; no matter how unpleasant they may be.


Ian runs his restaurant, European, in 161 Spring Street, Melbourne, and still travels all around the world–from time to time, from one kitchen to another.

Why I Write.

I write because sometimes it’s just too complicated to tell everything to anyone. I write because in my darkest days, I do not even feel like seeing anyone–let alone talking to them. I write because I think people won’t understand. I write because I don’t think I can fully trust anyone. I write because I think people won’t be so nice or approving. I write because I think people would try too hard to be nice and approving.



I write because in my teenage years, I learned that my knuckles would hurt if I punch the wall. That instead of getting sympathy, my parents would simply scold me for breaking things or throwing my stuff away. That to swear and curse from the top of my lungs, I needed to go to a jungle or a mountain so nobody would hear me, but I couldn’t travel that far. That cutting myself sounded like an intriguing idea to play with, but I could never get myself to do it. I write because at the time, I didn’t have whatever it takes to run away–both mentally and physically.

There were times in my early 20s when I envied my friends who could run away to other cities/countries, drowned themselves in sexual adventures, went to wild parties and got wasted, tried out drugs of different kind, or showed everyone the scars they inflicted on themselves in an attempt to ‘feel’ again. There were times when I looked at them and wished I could do that, too.

But I didn’t.
Instead, I wrote.


I write because the pages are simply being there. They are not talking back, they are not giving any advice, they are not offering words of comfort, they are not judging. They are simply being there in their blankness, waiting for my pen to vomit the chaos of my thoughts and feelings. They never flinched no matter how dark, mean, or depressing those thoughts and feelings turned out to be. Sometimes, my handwriting is tiny and neat and round, other times thin and messy and sharp, other times huge and bold and wet with tears. But the pages are still there–even when they get damp, torn, crumpled, thinned, or worn out; they stay.

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I write because at the time, it was the only thing I can do. I write because it was the cheapest and safest way to express myself: my sadness, my anger, my hatred, as well as my secret wishes, my dreams… my love. I write because when things get hard, writing gives me an outlet to empty my mind (and my heart) for a while. I write because only by doing so, I can transfer the revolving and revolting thoughts in my mind into the pages of my journal, name it, recognize it, pinpoint it, then lock it in a drawer and give it a safe ‘distance’. I write because I can reread those words a few hours later, nine days later, nine weeks later, nine months later, or nine years later, and feel differently each time; noticing how much I have grown and how much I have learned. I write because that’s the one thing I know to see the many sides of me and finally understand who I really am–and who I really want to be (even when nobody is looking).


Different people in all walks of life choose different outlets to cope with different kind of things. It just happens that I choose writing. And I’m thankful for writing, too, has chosen me.

A Parisian Note: A Reminder “To Feel”

It was not Louvre. It was Musee d’Orsay I fell deeply in love with.

From one floor to another, from one alley to the next, those enchanting paintings and sculptures never ceased to amaze me.


At times, silently, I hovered around some visitors who were accompanied by a guide–most probably an art student–and eavesdropped as the guide explained the symbolism behind “the color orange” or “the appearance of a tiger” used in a certain painting.

I do not ‘understand’ art–though I wish I do. Eavesdropping the guide’s detailed explanations suddenly threw me away to another miraculous realm–where all shades, shapes, lines, tints, colors, brush strokes, hues, shadows… hide deeper meanings then what the eyes can see.

But the deeper meanings behind the paintings in Musee d’Orsay struck me on the 5th floor–where they exhibit the works of the ‘impressionists’, like Monet and Renoir. It might not be a coincidence that one of my most impressive moments in Paris happened exactly there.

I was sitting on a bench overlooking walls of paintings, resting my feet while looking at the museum’s guidebook. In front of me, a father and his son stood side by side. I guessed they were African-American. Both were dressed stylishly–very Parisian in a way.

“I don’t understand this!” the son, most probably a 9 or 10-year-old, let out a sigh of desperation. “We keep looking at these paintings and I just don’t understand what to make of them!”

The father turned his face towards the boy and smiled.  He casually lowered himself so that the two of them were on the same height, and then he said, “Hey, man. It’s okay if you don’t understand. You don’t have to understand it. You just need to feel it.”

There was a pause in the air, and I realized that I was actually holding my breath.

“Now here, look at this painting here,” finally the father pointed out at a painting and looked at his son once again. “Do you feel anything by looking at it? Just recognize how you feel about it. That’s it. Just note the feeling.”

“What if I feel nothing?” the boy asked.

“If you feel nothing–nothing at all, then just move on to the next painting,” the father smiled calmly.

That conversation was the first thing I wrote in my notebook that day. Later that evening, the conversation was still playing ever-so-vividly in my mind.

It struck me how often we feel as if we need to understand things in life, and–just like the little boy–get frustrated when we couldn’t find an answer. We said things like, I-don’t-understand-him or I-just-don’t-know-what-to-do or I-just-don’t-get-it all the time, in a sigh of desperation–as if not understanding or not knowing or not getting ‘it’ was something wrong; as if it was our fault; as if we were not trying hard enough.

But how often do we stop trying to understand ‘it’, and start feeling ‘it’ instead? To simply see things as it is and just recognize the feelings that are welling up slowly from the inside? How often do we give a chance for our hearts to just completely feel, without having our minds interfering?

When the feeling has surfaced, actually we will only have two rhetorical questions left: is this the kind of feeling we want in our life, or is this the kind of feeling we do not want in our life? When we have come to these two questions, an answer is no longer needed. We just intuitively know.

And on those particular moments when we “feel nothing”…
are we ready to move on to the ‘next painting’?

6 Ways To Live The Life You’ll Love.

This is an unbranded sponsored content; but the content is written solely by me,
and brought to you with love, as always :)


When we let other people write our life story, we are signing ourselves up for disappointment. When we let our parents, our friends, our boss, our colleagues, or some celebrities shape the way we view the world, decide what we are supposed to like or dislike, or define how success looks like; we are actually living their life instead of ours.

What life would be like if you can write your own life story—and be really honest about what is it that you really want? About what is it that really matters to you? If no one can give you any pressure, if you don’t have to answer to anyone, if you don’t have to find excuses, what kind of life do you want for yourself? Write your own story.


Once you have envisioned the life you really want for yourself, start taking small steps to actually live your dream life. Whenever you’re about to make a decision—no matter how small, look at your own life story–the one you have written on your own; and ask yourself: “Is this decision going to take me closer to my dream life?”

You need a strong will. You can always dream of an ideal life, but you can only get there with a commitment on your side to get closer to it every single day. Follow your dreams.


If there are things you’re really good at, if there are things you really love with all your heart, if there are things you’re truly interested in, pursue it with perseverance. It is not a coincidence that the word passion was derived from a Latin word that means: to suffer.

Passion is overrated. The real question is: what do you want to do with the thing you’re so passionate about? Do you want to keep working on it? Do you want to be better in it? Do you want to master it? Do you want to do something good with it? Do you want to share it with those who need it? How much you’d willing to suffer for your passion is what separates movers from dreamers. Pursue your passion.


Make sure that you do your very best in every single thing that you do, no matter what it is. Brewing a cup of coffee, preparing a simple lunch, getting caught in a terrible traffic jam, mopping the floor, hugging a friend, holding your lover’s hands… whatever you do, always strive to give your best at that very moment.

Always ask yourself, how can I give more? How can I make people happier or feeling better after they interact with me? How can I offer more of myself, my skills, my talents—or anything else that I have to the people around me?

Deliver the unexpected. When someone is asking you for a cup of coffee, give him a cup of coffee and a slice of banana cake on the side, with a personalized thank-you note. Give them more. Give them more of you, and give more to yourself, too. Try doing this in every aspect of your life, and you’ll see how it will change you from the inside.


As a struggling perfectionist when it comes to my passion-driven projects, I find solace in the book SHOW YOUR WORK by Austin Kleon. He told us to simply show our passion project and share it to the whole wide world—even if it’s just a tiny bit of it, every single day.

If you want to write a novel, write 1 page a day and in a year you will have a 365-page novel. If you want to have a food photography exhibition, take a picture of a person’s breakfast every single day, and in a year you’ll have a collection of 365 breakfast meals of 365 people. But just do something, now.

Don’t wait for something to be perfect, because it will never be. Don’t wait until you get better at something, because you will always want to be better than better. Don’t wait until something happens, because you won’t have any guarantee that it will happen. Stop making excuses. Just go ahead.


Step out of your comfort zone. Do the things you won’t normally do. Change the ordinary. Face your fear. Do not settle for less.

The more it feels challenging or frightening; the more reason you need to do it: because it means that you’re about to cross a junction in your life that will take you further in life. The idea here is not to be successful in it. If you’re afraid of riding a roller coaster, you are allowed to ride on it while closing your eyes and screaming your heart out and crying excessively afterwards.

It is okay.

What’s important is to know that you have tried. It’s just like those times when you dare yourself to fall in love again and find your heart broken again, but you end up smiling after a while, knowing that it only makes you stronger. Because you know that you have the capacity to love someone so much and that you will always have the courage to try again.

You just need to remind yourself again and again, about how strong you are. To know that no matter what life throws out at you, you’ll be ready to face it, because you know everything will be okay; that you will always survive.