Category Archives: Posts in English

Tuesday: A Celebration of Acceptance.

[dedicated to n.n.]

Tuesday is the day when mixed emotions are starting to get into you–sometimes they irritate you to the point where you feel like you’re about to boil up in rage or break down in tears any time soon. It seems like challenges, obstacles, and responsibilities are being thrown your way every now and then, and they start to weigh you down. It’s hard, difficult, and overwhelming, but you know that you just have to appear… fine.

Tuesday by Nico WijayaPHOTO BY NICO WIJAYA.

But you know that you are not. You are not fine. You are not okay.

Sometimes you feel so tired pretending to be so strong and in control all the time while you are actually stressed and frustrated and afraid and worried and confused. You feel as if you have to be the strong one on behalf of everybody else’s sake, and after a while, it feels suffocating. Sometimes you ask yourself why it seems like you’re the only one who is making an effort. Why it seems like you’re the only one who tries. Why it seems like you’re the only one who cares.

But Tuesday is a celebration of acceptance. This is the day when you can tell yourself, that it is okay to not be okay. You can’t be fine all the time and it’s fine–because we’re all human after all. You make mistakes and let things slip through the cracks. Things don’t go as planned and relationships don’t end up with a happily-ever-after. But such is life.

We do things we regret sometimes, and say the things we do not mean other times. There are moments when we hurt people we love or break a promise we have once made. It’s only human to be imperfect, and it’s okay to admit this. To accept the fact that we do screw things up sometimes and that we make mistakes every once and a while, because this is how we learn our lessons. And Tuesday is a celebration of acceptance. It’s a day to celebrate the way you accept yourself in your entirety: accepting the fact that it’s okay not to be okay, accepting your past mistakes and regrets, accepting a side of you you’re not to keen about, accepting the bumps and imperfections you’re about to encounter in life.

And exactly because this is the way you are and this is the way life is, there are times when you just need to reach out to those around you. To seek help. To deliver an apology. To ask for guidance. To mend broken relationships. To say the things you’ve kept hidden for so long. And to let someone to take care of you.

Because those people you love and those who love you, they need to know that there will be times when you need them, too–just as much as they need you.

Monday: A Celebration of Labor

[inspired by a.b.]

Monday is waking up early in the morning to the sound of the alarm clock, knowing that it’s time to venture out and embrace the challenges and opportunities that will soon come your way, and both are equally promising. It’s a day when you remember that the word passion is derived from the Latin word patior–which means to suffer or to endure. You know that there’s beauty behind your sweat and tears and fatigue, as there is labor behind every dream that comes to life. And you–you have your eyes on your destination already, knowing that you’ll get there eventually, and that you’re not going to give up so easily.

Monday by Nico Wijaya

PHOTO BY NICO WIJAYA.

Monday is a celebration of labor. It’s the day when you’re most grateful for having the ability to give a part of yourself to serve others; for having the skills that is needed by the people around you; for having the capability to solve a particular problem; for having the patience to persevere when everyone else has given up; for having the desire to bring your best self in every single thing that you do.

This is the day to remind yourself that everyone has their own role in the world, and no role is too small if you put all your heart into it. You know that feeling of being dead tired as you finished your day, and as you finally climb into your bed at night, already half-asleep, you feel all your muscles relaxing and then you realize that you are smiling: because you know that today you have given all of you: all you can, and even more.

There is a good kind of fatigue, like the kind you have after running a marathon or washing your car or preparing dinner for the whole family–and this is one of those fulfilling fatigue. You can feel the difference when the fatigue is satisfying; when you know that you can’t do today better because you’ve done your best. Because you have used all the skills and talents you’ve acquired along the years. Because you have given your 100% percent to the task and it always feels amazing.

Monday is the day to rekindle your relationship with why you’re doing the things you do. It’s the day to curl up with the reason behind your waking up early in the morning or your coming home late at night, the flame behind attending those long meetings and typing for 8 hours non-stop until your fingers hurt, the dreams behind braving the storm on your motorcycle in the afternoon and the hellish traffic jam in the evening.

You know that you’re enduring all this for a beautiful reason (or a beautiful person), and so let Monday be your celebration of labor. To know that no matter who you are, no matter what you do, you do make a difference in someone else’s lives (and yours), every single day–even if you (and them) do not realize it, yet.

And so thank you.

Thank you for doing what you do, and for pouring your heart into it today.

Sunday: A Celebration of Rebirth

[dedicated to n.n]

Sunday is about staying in bed for a while as you slowly gather your consciousness while thinking about how blessed you are for being able to wake up to another day, warm and dry. You stretch yourself and feel the crispness of your bed sheet against your exposed skin–realizing that this is another thing to be grateful of. You stay in your bed for a while, and spend the next 3 minutes counting your blessings, no matter how trivial they may sound: the roof over your head, the alarm clock, the pillow, the faint sounds of the birds, the wonderful memories you are able to cherish… the ability to cry.

Sunday by Nico Wijaya

PHOTO BY NICO WIJAYA.

You know that tears cleanse our soul. It’s a beautiful way of knowing that you can still feel something to this extent. It shows that you have worn your heart on your sleeve, you have loved hard, you have tried your best, you have risked it all, you have let your guards down, and that you have braved the one thing a lot of people are not yet dare to cross: to be vulnerable.

So, cry.

You know better than to not let those tears flow on your cheek. It’s okay. Your body knows how best to heal your soul, and so let it help you. We always think that it’s good to let things go, but it’s just as important to let things in. So let it in. Feel what you need to feel. Do not chase it away too soon. Be patient with yourself, be gentle with your heart. It’s Sunday, anyway. 

Let Sunday be your gift. A day to be spent on you. A day that ends the working days and a night out dancing and partying with your closest friends; a day that is about to welcome another week where you’ll be making another set of memories and walking various dimensions of life–so let Sunday be yours. Craft your desired future and dream about the you you’ve always dreamed of. Have a conversation with yourself on how you’d like to see things unfold in your life, why you’d like to experience these things, and how they will make you feel.

Spoil yourself on a Sunday. Make it a day to celebrate your rebirth–and invite yourself to be your most loving and wonderful company. Do the things you love to do by yourself; things that will make you appear childish; things only you may understand: dancing slowly in your pajamas to the tunes of Hindi classical music, daydreaming while brewing your perfect cup of coffee, lighting scented candles and making a list about the things you love about yourself, playing with your dog and snuggling with your cat, cooking an elaborate lunch and serving it beautifully for a solo feast, going out to buy yourself a beautiful bouquet of your favorite flowers…

Fall in love with yourself once again on a Sunday. Slow down and just enjoy the feeling of being you. Today is your day. Remind yourself of how meaningful it is to be you–those experiences in life that have made you wiser and stronger, those encounters that have given you memories worth remembering, those instances where you thought you’ve ruin it all but things turned out to take care of itself and ended up okay, those moments when you were afraid to fall flat on your face only to find out that there was someone there ready to catch you…

Fall in love with your life all over again on a Sunday. Celebrate the life you’ve lived: for you have been there and now you’re here, for you have been crushed but you survived, for you have been heartbroken but still–you will never give up on love.

And smile.

Smile, because though life may not be perfect all the time, you know that with everything you have celebrated today, you have no reason not to.

The One Who Never Leaves.

All of us have that one person in our lives: the one who never leaves.

The one who never leaves is both always and never around. He is here, but at the same time, he isn’t.

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PHOTO BY NICO WIJAYA.

You cannot hold his hands or kiss his cheek or hug him from behind anytime you like. He is not going to text-flirt you or call you every single day or pick you up for a night-out (that will end up with an episode of snuggling in a couch, talking about dead authors and unheard poems). He may not give you presents on your birthdays or send you postcards from faraway places when he travels. You cannot run to him when you’re having a breakdown and cry on his shoulders–seeking a familiar comfort on the slope of his neck that you have known by heart.

At first, you think you love and hate him with a more or less similar intensity. However, the more you try to hate him, the more you realize that you can’t. Of course, he is not perfect. He has his own flaws. He has his own issues. But he has also loved you and hurt you so deep, to the extent that both the love and the wounds have transformed you completely–you will never see the world the same way ever again.

And then you get it.

You can’t hate him simply because you love him too much to be able to hate him. After all the ups and downs, fireworks and turmoils, late night romance and silent tears, no matter how sad and lonely you feel, deep down inside you know that all you really want is for him to be happy. It surprises you, at times, that you are actually capable of loving someone that way.

The one who never leaves will always be around as you’re stepping into the milestones of your life: a relocation to an exotic country, an international best-selling book, an around-the-world trip for a year, a death in the family, an engagement, a marriage, a first child. He may be there to congratulate or console you (either in person or via Facebook), or he may not. But you know that he is (and will always be) the first person that comes to mind when you’re having these big moments in your life. And for a while, in the midst of euphoria or tragedy, he reminds you of the person you were, the person you always are, and the person you choose to be.

The one who never leaves is there inside of you as you’re listening to your favorite songs. When you’re visiting beautiful places and dancing with beautiful strangers. When you’re having a cup of coffee, gazing out the window, and realizing that you’re looking at such a lovely view. He is in your heart when you’re spending your time doing the things you love, as you’re falling in and out of love with somebody new, when you finally have the courage to kiss someone and be vulnerable again after a long time.

You know that this is how the two of you arethat you have gone your separate ways and lived your separate lives. No matter how close you are to the one who never leaves, there is also a distance now–one that is not merely physical–that you cannot trespass; unless he allows you to. But you will never know if that will happen, or whether you would want to cross that distance once again. So you are moving on with your life, your heart has healed from its swells and bruises and only gotten stronger.

If you’d like to be really honest, there will always be a glimmer of hope, no matter how faint, that the one who never leaves will be the one you can hold and hug and kiss every single day, the one you can cuddle and snuggle with whenever you feel like it, the one you can wake up to in the morning and fall asleep with at the end of a lovely evening. But soon, you ditch that hope and smile as you slip into another sunny day of yours, knowing that life is good the way it is. He has appeared in your life and you know that it’s enough of a blessing in itself.

Today, whether he’s here or not does not really matter anymore–and it does not bother you at all. Because despite everything, you know that he will always be the one who never leaves.

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About Someone Who Loves You.

One day, you’ll understand that the highest compliment you could ever receive is having someone who is with you; instead of having someone who wants to be with you.

PHOTO BY NICO WIJAYA.

By then, you’ve learned the hard way: that promises are not that difficult to break, that people don’t always mean what they say, and that hearts will always change its course. When the day comes, you’ll just get it: that the highest compliment you could ever receive has nothing to do with having someone who wants to spend the rest of his life with you. The highest compliment you could ever receive–on the contrary, has everything to do with having the one who is with you: right here, right now.

The most precious gift one can give you is time: the willingness to spend one’s time with you–conscious about the fact that one will never know how much time one has left in the world. What makes us think that we will always have more time? What makes us believe that there will come a perfect day when we will feel better and stronger and bolder… and only when the day comes, then we can offer more of ourselves and our love to the one that deserves it? How do we know that this perfect day will ever come? And even if this perfect day does come to us, what makes us think that the one we love will still be around?

One day, you’ll understand that I-miss-you is actually one of the saddest word one could ever say to you. You used to blush and giggle to the sight or sound of the three words, until you started to hear the unspoken words accompanying the three. I-miss-you means I-want-to-be-with-you (but I’m not). I-miss-you means I-want-things-to-go-back-the-way-they-used-to-be (but they’re not). I-miss-you means I-want-us-to-be-together (but we’re not). Now you realize that there are conscious options in every I-miss-yous; conscious options not to do something about it but simply saying it–though we know that we may not have more time.

The best I-miss-you one could ever get is the I-miss-you that is never spoken. Because the one who wants to be with you is there with you; the one who wants things to go back the way they used to be is currently making an effort to do so; and the one who wants the two of you to be together is sitting by your side: holding you as if it’s the most pressing thing in the world one is supposed to do.

Someone who loves you doesn’t need to hear a promise of forever-ever-after. Someone who loves you is not waiting to finally end up with the best version of yourself. Someone who loves you is not looking forward to the day when you can offer what you think she deserves.

Someone who loves you simply wants to be with you–for who you are, with all your flaws and imperfections, right here, right now. Someone who loves you simply wants to hold your hand and look into your eyes in silence and kiss you and smile at you with all of her being and tell you how much she feels for you, right here, right now. Someone who loves you knows that we have no idea about how much time we have left in the world, and precisely because of that, someone who loves you makes a brave and conscious option to spend that time with none other but you: right here, right now.

So be here. So be there.

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What’s So Good About Goodbyes?

I guess I always knew that the word good and bye don’t just sit together side by side like that for no reason. There must be something good in goodbyes, although I know how difficult it is to accept that–especially if you’re the one who stays instead of the one who leaves.

PHOTO BY NICO WIJAYA.

So, what’s so good about goodbye, anyway?

You may ask yourself this question as you’re witnessing someone else’s back walking away from you. Your heart is aching as the figure is getting smaller and smaller before completely turning into a chaotic blur; and you wonder what goes wrong only to realize that your eyes are already welled up in tears. You have promised not to cry this time, that you’re going to be strong, that you know this day will come, that everything is going to be okay; but there are things in life that you can’t control–like tears and goodbyes, and it’s okay. It’s okay to feel sad over goodbyes. We are only human after all.

But I know that I have experienced a lot of good things in life after goodbyes–even when I wasn’t the one who initiated it;  even when it hurts; and even when during the grip of grief I could not see how things could possibly be better. Goodbyes have made me respect myself better, pulled me out from toxic relationships, threw me into the arms of a person who are more loving, reminded me of living a life without regret, showed me the things I can and cannot tolerate in life. Goodbyes have made me appreciate the present and taught me that each moments are sacred, taught me how to be empathetic, and opened up my heart to become even more loving and compassionate–knowing that everyone has been dealing with painful goodbyes. Goodbyes have also made me so broken-hearted I spent my days chasing my childhood dreams simply to stay functioning; and unexpectedly reaped such a wonderful results which feels… amazingly sweet.

And then I kind of get it.

What’s so good about goodbyes is not something that you can answer in an instant. It’s not something for the now. It’s something that will unveil itself to you through time.

I am not going to write anything poetic or sentimental about goodbye this time; because today, it’s about you.

I just want you to remember those instances in your life when you have to say goodbye to someone–or when someone has to say goodbye to you; since you’re a little child until about 5 years ago. How many goodbyes have you experienced in life? Is there one particular goodbye you remember vividly? What are the goods coming out of that goodbye?

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Take This Dance.

At first it was as if someone was brushing their gaze on you; like a soft touch on your bare shoulders–something light and airy and wonderful, like a luminescent feather oscillating in the dark; and then slowly, you felt the heat built up around you and the intensity got heightened; the feather was burning with blinding lights of fireworks; and then you caught his eyes from the other end of the room–something that lit up in the midst of swaying dark shadows and beers and music and half-drunk conversations; and he smiled, and you smiled back, until one of you lowered your gaze shyly, and the other did, too; but you knew that once the ancient ritual had started, it was bound to happen anyhow.

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It was the first quarter of the day, morning was just around the corner–but under the strobe lights, the music was still blaring and the crowd was still cheering and the night was still too young–and so you caught him gazing your way again and you gazed his way again, and again, and again, and you smiled, and he smiled, and then you realized that this evening was your last–one of those now-or-never kind of moment that you would cherish or regret; and so you said what-the-f**k and invited him for your last dance in a city that had robbed your heart when you were still finding ways to not fall in love with it. And so he took your hand, circled his arms around your waist, fixed his gaze upon you; and the rest was history.

***

There were times when you couldn’t capture the detailed outlines of the flower petals or the trees or the clouds or the skyscrapers because it seemed like time flew away so fast, too fast–and you could only recall the blurry feeling of cotton candies and marshmallows and merry-go-rounds; and you remembered feeling fuzzy and warm and comfortable and both of you were whirling in concentric motions, throwing your heads in the air as you were laughing while clinging into each other’s arms and you felt the world around you moved faster and faster and faster as if it was seen from a kaleidoscope: where the tube of mirrors and pieces of colored glass produces changing patterns as it was being rotated by some random tiny little hands; waiting for some sort of magic to start appearing before your eyes.

And suddenly you came to notice that your feet were not even touching the ground anymore; as he had lifted you up high in the air and his moves took you orbiting in circles–faster and faster and faster, and you were giggling and closing your eyes and holding on to him tighter and tighter and tighter–until gently, he put you back on the floor–both of you were sweating and laughing and the world was silent for a moment while the two of you were looking into each other’s eyes; the lights above you were becoming brighter and brighter and brighter; the chatter dissipated–and it was as if emptiness enveloped you from all corners of the room. The music had long stopped and you heard nothing but your irregular breathings and heartbeats, and it was then when you realized that he had literally swept you off your feet.

_________

*photo credit: piotrpazola via photopin cc

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Stepping Up To My Plate.

It was late afternoon, and we were sitting at a nook in our Parisian hotel room, looking at a wall fully decorated with beautiful painted plates.

“I’m going to eat on that one,” I pointed at a plate with a painting of a cat on it. “Which one would you prefer?”

He looked at me as if I were crazy. “Well, I think I am going to choose that one,” he pointed at the one with the frog painting. “But, come on, you don’t eat on those plates!”

“Why not?”

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“Because,” he shrugged, definitely thinking that any sane person would clearly know the reason why. “Because, those are not eating plates. Those are, like, really beautiful plates. And not to mention that they are bloody expensive!”

“All the more reason to eat on them, don’t you think? In the end, they are what they are, right? They are plates. Why can’t I eat on beautiful and expensive plates?”

Yes. I can be stubborn at times.

***

About a year ago, I started using my beautiful plates.

Well, those were actually inherited plates–some China and vintage Delft Holland–passed on from generations to generations; usually only to be left gathering dust in the cabinet or to be hung proudly on the living room wall; not really sure about what kind of impression they should make. And we’re not only talking about plates. We’re also talking about flower vases, tea pots and tea cups, as well as something like butter dishes.

One day, I simply washed them all (a serious washing involved due to more-than-a-decade excessive dust-gathering) and started using them.

I make garlic and cheese butter and place it on the beautiful butter dish to be used every morning as a spread on my bread. I boil my green tea inside the elegant tea pot and sip it slowly from the gorgeously decorated floral tea cup. I use the blue and white ceramic vintage plate for my scrambled egg.

It does feel nice, to eat from beautiful plates or drink tea from beautiful tea cups. And right now, I do feel alright (and happy) to use them up on a daily basis instead of storing them away or keeping them as decorative items. Yes, I have to admit that at first, I felt a bit guilty. And undeserving. And scared.

Am I supposed to do this? This is too good. Do I deserve this? This is too beautiful for me. What if I broke it? 

***

But where do we actually start getting the idea that something can be too good for us? Are we actually being taught to lower our expectations and not have too high of a hope or to have big dreams–simply because someone is trying to protect us from hurt, failure, or disappointment that may lurk behind us?

He’s-just-too-kind-for-me is something I heard from a lot of women (and I might be guilty of using this nonsense once or twice in my previous relationships years ago–when I didn’t know better). In that sense, what are we implying with those words? Are we thinking that we’re so undeserving to be treated kindly? How often do we lessen ourselves to the point where we decided that we’re okay settling for less; and lowering our standards only to please others?

Other times, I guess we’re doing it to protect ourselves–our hearts, our dreams, our hopes, our memories. We’re thinking about storing them away in some place safe or hanging them on the wall for everyone to see–but not to touch. We’re too afraid of making failures or breaking our hearts or humiliating ourselves or looking vulnerable because then we’re going to get hurt; and then we’re not going to be perfect anymore (not to say that we are/were, ever).

Maybe we’re afraid that we’re not going to be those beautiful decorative plates that are being admired by everyone anymore–because the fact is, when we’re no longer becoming a decorative item in life–just like those plates; we’re going to break or decay or our colors may get washed out after some times.

***

I made some Italian spices butter this morning and stored them in the beautiful butter dish. Every time I see it as I’m about to spread it on my bread, it becomes a great reminder for me to be brave and to not settle for less. To know that I am deserving of wonderful things, great experiences, amazing life, and comforting love; to believe that nothing is too good or too beautiful for me, and nothing is too good or too beautiful for you, too.

You deserve it.

And starting tomorrow, I hope you’re having your meal on a beautiful plate.

———————–

*photo credit: Wicker Paradise via photopin cc

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Maesy Ang & Teddy Kusuma: On Journeys, Distance, and Friendship.

Maesy Ang and Teddy W. Kusuma wrote about their traveling journeys in the book Kisah Kawan di Ujung Sana (A Story of A Friend On The Other End), published by Noura Books in 2014. Both can also be found typing away on their travel blog, The Dusty Sneakers or hosting pop-up stores and creative events at POST Pasar Santa, Jakarta.

Maesy Teddy

Me: What’s the biggest challenge in writing a book together?

Maesy & Teddy: The biggest challenge was to begin.

Although we have blogged together in The Dusty Sneakers for five years, writing a book together required us to work much closer together. We’ve always known that our creative processes are different, but we never clashed until we started working on the book.

Teddy is a true blue artist; he writes when he wants to write. He doesn’t even need to know what the story is, he just needs some jazz and coffee to accompany him as he types away until the story reveals itself. Maesy is the exact opposite. She could only write when she knows exactly what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. She needs to know the big picture and the small details, so she spends a lot of time plotting and brainstorming in her notebook before she could open her laptop and write.

So when we started, Teddy felt constrained by Maesy’s questions and planning, while Maesy got frustrated over Teddy’s push to write impulsively. In the end, we resolved it by playing to each other’s strengths. For a week, Teddy was left to write the prologue to set the tone of the book, while Maesy thought, researched, and planned. Then Maesy brewed a huge pot of kokos ananas tea, brought out a stack of colorful post-its, and facilitated a two-hour workshop for Teddy and herself, which resulted in an outline for the whole book.

At the end of the week, we had everything we needed to start writing. Maesy loved how Teddy’s prologue set up the tone for the book, while Teddy was amazed by the fact that he could just glance at a wall with color-coded post-its to see all the plans for every chapter in the book as well as how they are linked with one another. It was smooth sailing afterwards, as each of us were free to work as we liked and find that our different approaches complement each other.

Me: What’s your idea of a “perfect journey”?

Teddy: To me, a “perfect journey” is one that touches you on a personal level. You know, the kind that has elements that you’d remember for a very long time. A trip filled with warm conversations with a close friend, one that reminded you of a significant moment from your past, or sometimes, a small random gesture of kindness, like when we were on a train in Japan, an old lady gave Maesy and I a panda origami she just made.

Mostly though, a journey is perfect when shared with a loved one. One of my most vivid memories is a bumpy bus ride that Maesy and I shared in South India. We’ve been going our separate ways for more than a year before spending 14 days together in India, so I was missing her quite a lot. Maesy was sitting next to me, her face green from carsickness and she was about to fall asleep. It was just a bus ride, but I remember it vividly.

Maesy: I agree with Teddy, but to add a very practical dimension, a perfect journey is one where I could be completely unplugged. When I am able to roam without any Internet connection, it means that I am not travelling for work and that I travel with Teddy. There is no one I need to keep in touch with, nothing is urgent and no screen is competing with my surroundings for my attention. It feels very liberating, being unplugged.

Me: What’s the life-story of this book? 

Maesy & Teddy: Like the story within, the backstory of the book also took place in several different places.

The idea first came to life under the coconut trees in Sekotong, Lombok. Maesy was recovering from a serious case of respiratory problems and Teddy has his first break after a long, intense period at his office. We spent four days swimming, sleeping, sunbathing, and reflecting upon what we felt missing in our lives. As much as we love our jobs, we felt that a creative spark was missing, a spark that only writing and traveling could fulfill. We started reminiscing about all the life lessons we found through traveling and found that mostly came from the period when we first started the blog, when Maesy got a scholarship to study in the Netherlands and we each traveled on our own. We thought that these stories are best told in a longer narrative format than what we usually do in the blog, so that was the first spark of idea for a book. It seemed that the universe was listening, for Noura Books contacted us right after we returned from Sekotong. Noura Books found our blog and asked whether we’d like to write a book, so of course we said yes. What a serendipity!

After we came up with an outline, we went for a four-day retreat to Portibi Farms, an organic farm in Cicurug, West Java. We took enough breaks between writing to hike and swim in a waterfall, bake bread, help out in the farm, and play Twister with the children of Portibi’s owners. That proved to be a winning combo, for we drafted half of the book during the retreat! Perhaps also because we happened to stay in a room called “The Librarian”, another serendipity.

But mostly, the book was brought to life in Jakarta. In the weekday evenings, where Teddy stayed at work after everyone had left to write. In the weekend mornings, where a sleepy Maesy would brew pots and pots of tea – rooibos, Darjeeling, and hoji cha – to accompany her to write. As much as we love traveling, the ultimate magic is finding the wonder in everyday life in our hometown. Jakarta is home for us, and it is at home we saw the book came together – a truly magical experience for us.

Me: What do you like the most about each other’s style in writing? 

Teddy: The way Maesy writes reflects a happy, sweet, quirky, and intelligent personality – just like she is in real life. She has a way to reflect on and synthesize her encounters into a meaningful story. When she wrote about the dark side of fairy tales, she could draw the similarities between fairy tales and the tales told about Indonesia as a nation. Behind the beautiful story of Indonesia as a prosperous, united, and friendly nation, there is underlying darkness of inequalities and intolerance. For me, home is where I was born, Denpasar. I was intrigued when Maesy explores the idea of home so far away from her own – in Taipei, in Amsterdam, and in Den Haag. I found myself thinking about the way she sees things far after I was done reading her chapters.

Maesy: Teddy writes with his heart on his sleeve. You can tell exactly how he feels about something through his writing. In the chapter he wrote about the unpleasant consequences of tourism in Bali, you could see how upset he was although it was written in a mild tone. You could tell how much he loves his odd friend, Arip Syaman, although the chapters with Arip in them are full of silly incidents and humor. You could sense his agitation when he questioned the call to preserve tradition during his trip to Baduy. Reading Teddy’s writing feels very intimate because he lets you know how he feels, in the most charming use of Bahasa Indonesia.

Me: What kind of travel stories are your favorites? And why?

Maesy & Teddy: We grew up reading fiction and folktales. We find that characters matter the most in any story, so we love travel stories with strong characters. We care much less about a place, we keep on reading because we want to know the characters better and get to know a place through their eyes.

Maesy grew up reading fantasy books, and in those books, traveling is how a character becomes aware of their personalities and grows as person. Lyra Belacqua in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is bold and mischievous when the story started, but it was only when she traveled to the North Pole she understands that being brave also entails sacrifice and thinking of the consequences of her actions. We love travel stories that are also stories of personal journeys, one in which the narrator finds something meaningful about him/herself.

We also enjoy Agustinus Wibowo’s Titik Nol. It is ultimately a story of humanity, seen in people he met throughout his travels, those whom he hold dear, and also within himself. These are the kind of stories that will last in our mind.

Me: You talk about friendship and distance in your book, and how you’re bridging that gap through letters. In your personal life, what are the significance of friendship, distance, and letters to you?

Teddy: I started writing letters to friends before the dawn of e-mails. My best friend in high school went to university in Yogyakarta while I studied in Jakarta and we decided to keep in touch by writing letters. Those letters to me were not just a way to connect with my friends, they were also a way for me to connect with myself. I only wrote my most significant thoughts and events that left the deepest prints in those letters. How I write my letters became my habit in writing anything personal – be it blog posts or the book.

Maesy: The book (Kisah Kawan di Ujung Sana) was about the period when Teddy was my friend at the other end of the world, while I studied in the Netherlands and formed new friendships. These friends are now my soul sisters at the other end of the world – in Brussels, Managua, and Vienna. While we stay in touch through Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram, it is only when we took the time to write long letters that I really could connect with them beneath the surface and see our friendship grow. It is only when I write long letters that I feel the distance shrink. It is when I read their letters I believe that life is long and the world is small, that our paths will cross some other time.(*)

—For more interviews with Indonesian writers, click here

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