How We Say Goodbye When Summer Ends

Our retrouvailles marked the end of summer in your city. The city I came to love despite its constant windy chills and random rain showers: in summer.

We remembered the couch—with plush pillows and soft blankets thrown carelessly over its surface; something that reminded us of the chaotic beauty of a studio of an artist. We spent so many times snuggling there; our excuses were the cold, the wind, the rain, and the little time we had. We were surrounded by bookshelf, spice rack, Amy Winehouse, and the faint hum of the world outside: the trams, the bikes, the planes, the still sound of the canals, the rustles of the leaves at the park nearby.
how we say goodbye when summer ends

I came to love the park much more than I ever did when I was there—and I never thought that this was possible, since I had always loved parks with all my heart. When we were outdoors, we spent most of our times riding or walking through it on our way home or on our way to the museums; as it provided us with a lovely shortcut from the busy streets where bicycles whizzed by in incredible speed. We had a picnic when the sun was up: reading books, sharing a generous portion of French sausages and seaweed burgers, sitting leisurely overlooking the lake while talking about our future plans and the end of summer that would also mark the end of our time together.

Probably it was this: the realisation that the clock was ticking (or maybe it was the cold), that made us clutched to each other ever-so-tightly as we zigzagged on your bicycle under the city’s rainy evenings, humming some random songs that came to mind while the street lamps shone their damp lights on us like dim stars hanging low. Or kissed abruptly at the park; behind the supermarket alleys; at the coffee shop; in a bookstore; in front of a closed shop—its roof invested by spiders—as we sheltered ourselves from the hard rain;  or by the street-side of the museum complex—where a couple interrupted us to ask whether they were close to Louis Vuitton store.

***

We had cold mornings, cold afternoons, and cold evenings altogether—and I had no intention to go out on those days. I found solace on the couch, reading your 25th Hour, my feet stretched out on the coffee table, my upper body got buried underneath the soft blanket, while you were working all day and stopping every now and then only to make cappuccino, buy groceries for breakfast, prepare lunch, open a bottle of wine, cook dinner, or hug me in random intervals.

On the rare occasions when you managed to convince me to go out, we would savour food from exotic places with exotic smells of exotic spices before retreating to a beer place for some warmth and random conversations about everything we could think about. We would leave when it was late, and most of the times it had grown colder outside; and I would flinched as the chill hit my face when you opened the door.

When a girl told a guy that it-was-cold, she was simply asking to be hugged.

And you would give me a hug and rubbing my upper arms for a bit of extra heat as we ran to the bicycle, laughing and looking forward to the promises of warmth: that we needed only to brace ourselves against this cold for a little longer and home would welcome us in just a little while.

***

My initial memory of your place was the bookshelf.

I sinned from judging people based on the books they read, and as you prepared some drinks for me that afternoon, I stood in front of your bookshelf and browsed the titles lining up there only to find out that I had also read most of the books you had.

When you showed me the terrace—overlooking the artsy neighbourhood—I noticed a string of Tibetan prayer flags on the porch of one of your neighbours.

That evening we found ourselves enjoying a live Nepali classical music concert in a small cafe on a hipstery street. People had beers in their hands, nodding their heads to the beat of the tabla, and some were clapping their hands. Soon after, in the dark, we danced to the last song being played with a bunch of friendly Nepalis who had lived in your city for quite some time. We were all just a bunch of shadows moving in unison: people from faraway places with stories of romance and heartbreaks altogether. As the music wafted in the air, around us, the boundaries between friends and strangers disappear.

We jumped and clapped and swayed. And laughed—not because there was something particularly funny, but because we were simply happy. Probably that was the best kind of laughter after all.

***

There were things I didn’t tell you after we parted in front of the supermarket at the end of that cold summer, when we said goodbye as abruptly as we kissed the previous days:

About how I had prepared myself to forget—not because I wanted to, but because sometimes forgetting is better than remembering; the way sometimes the anticipation of disappointment is a much safer option than the anticipation of hope.

About how I dragged my suitcase across the park to be at the other side of the city, and it was raining, and cold, and I was clutching to my phone for directions—but the screen got wet every five seconds or so, after a while I gave it up and pocketed it, couldn’t care less about finding the shortest route to get to where I should be.

About how the park was full of life despite the weather and about how when I got too tired of circling around with my blue suitcase, I sat on a park bench—the raindrops were falling over the hood of my parka jacket—and cupped my hands on my cheeks; both felt oddly cold.

About how I just sat there and for quite a while I thought I could smell the wet soil, the lake, the leaves, the grass, and the grey clouds above. And about how the thought of a warm bed, a cup of Chocomel, and Chinese takeout finally got me going.

***

Distance was a funny thing. We might have thought about it silently as we had our banana smoothie in the morning or our rooibos tea in the evening—though we didn’t really want to go further into it.

I have always believed that distance is not measured in length. It is measured in faith.

And the farthest distance is one that is not crossed. But it was you; not me; that had decided to cross the distance that day, and I was thankful that you did, that you braved it out, that you tried. Because if I was not afraid, I, too, would.

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

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

summer tips

In 2012, I published my 100-lista 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 off, 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 excited me didn’t excite me any longer–or vice versa. So, each year, apart from leaving the crossed-off 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 off 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 Off of My List in 2015:

Until today, I have crossed 42 things off of my list (58 more to go!), and these are some of the things I managed to cross off 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 off 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?

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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.

Go.

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.

photo-3

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.

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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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