Dear friends,

2020 has challenged us in many ways, collectively. Some of us may have been ‘forced’ to spend more time with ourselves, more than ever. For some of us, this can also mean having to stay with things that don’t feel right, things that annoy us, scare us, tear our spirits down.

It isn’t easy to stay where we are when we can’t really go somewhere else or do not have many options to do so.

So, instead, we go deeper.

We embark on an inner journey to face the things we used to be able to distract ourselves from, things we used to be able to run away from, things we used to be able to push aside. This year, we sit with them, we stay with them, we look them in the eye, and here we are.

Despite everything, we’re here, still here, still trying to understand what this year has shown us, on a personal, collective, and global scale. This year, more than ever has shown us our true nature. Our fears, our dreams, our weaknesses, our strengths, have been brought into the spotlight.

Do we still respect, like, and love ourselves (our circles, our job, our environment, our friends, our families, our communities, our world), when we truly see them, when we have to sit, stay, and look at them without running away or turning our head the other way?

I hope, whatever the answer is, it would give us a reason to step into 2021 with a purpose, a mission.

Maybe the Path is still dark and we can only see a glimmer of light to take one step ahead without really knowing where we are heading; but it’s okay, too. It’s okay to just take that one step for today, and another step tomorrow. Also, do remember to look up from time to time because, in the dark, the sky lit up the stars, unrolling the map of our Souls.

May we find our brightest North Star guiding us to where our soul yearns to be.

I wish you a gentle 2021 with much love,

hanny
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The days are getting shorter, and I can smell autumn in the distance, coming closer.

The farms along the Amstel displayed their best pumpkins. The supermarket ran out of cinnamon powder. The animals give off a rounder appearance as if they are enveloped in an oversized knitted scarf: fluffy sheep, fluffy pigeons, fluffy ducks. The dogs were wrapped in thermal clothes.

There has been plenty of rain (which I love) and I’ve been baking batches of chewy chocolate cookies because they just smell… festive. The other day, a friend delivered Indonesian food in the morning: chicken porridge, street-style fried rice, and ketoprak (some sort of warm salad with peanut sauce). One of my favorite past time is coming home–through food.

The number of infections from COVID-19 in the Netherlands was quite alarming this month; so we spent more time at home. I changed my capsule wardrobe last week, replacing my sleeveless linen tops and summer dresses with sweaters and hoodies. All the blankets are out from the cupboards.

I was so used to expressing myself as the ‘creative tropical girl’ through the clothes I’m wearing. The sleeveless linen dress. Jeans and a short-sleeved shirt with a light cardigan. Oversized blouse and denim shorts. Flat shoes, leather sandals, or sneakers.

I feel like I’m so… ‘me’ in them; and I just miss that feeling.
Sometimes, dressing in layers and layers of thermal clothes, with boots, bulky sweaters, and coats… I feel like I am losing myself. Who are you? This isn’t you. (well, probably, we’re not really talking about clothes here, eh?)

So, last week, I tried to be creative (which I may be lacking a little these days) with my capsule wardrobe. I chopped and cropped some pants and sweaters. I tried layering my summer wardrobe with my winter ones–to find a combination where I could still feel like myself; but also feel warm. I started dressing up again in the morning every now and then, even though I won’t leave the house. Eyeliner. Eyebrow pencil. Lip balm.

When I first moved here to the Netherlands and had to get some winter clothes, I was only thinking of getting something basic, low-maintenance, functional, and practical, preferably in blue, grey, or black (after so many cycles of washing, my grey sweater shrunk; so cute, though!). But I realized I do miss having colors in my life.

Mustard yellow.
Moss green.
Terracotta.
Pumpkin spice.

I am trying to be more mindful and minimalist with my wardrobe (one in one out, necessary buying only, leaning towards thrift stores or responsible brands), so at this point, one way to add colors into my life without buying more clothes is through accessories.

I want to make my own jewelry again; from clay, or woods, or yarns, something that can make me feel like I am wearing myself, my colors, my creativity. (Maybe everyone will get handmade jewelry this Christmas!)

I have been browsing for some inspirations for statement jewelry and although I know how to make pendants and earrings from clay, woods, or yarns, I have never made a ring with these materials. (I ‘made’ silver rings on a silver workshop, though).

Funny, because actually rings are my favorite piece of jewelry and whenever I shop for jewelry, I am always attracted to rings the most. So, I guess, it’s something I’d like to do for the end of the year: making my own statement rings and bring back some colors into my wardrobe (and my life, for that matter.)

There’s a saying that you’ll be more creative when you’re facing constraints and limitations. There’s a psychology behind it, and I have to say that it’s true.

I realized how I’ve been trying out new things and avenues since I got here. Designing a journal with a stationery brand, making my own stickers, opening my online shop, binding my own journal inserts, accepting commissions for my illustration works, learning how to make animated GIFs, editing videos…

Even in Indonesian, we often say, “Kreatif karena kepepet” which refers to a situation where you just need to be creative because you must, because that’s the only way you can survive”.

At the moment, I think working with my art, journaling a lot, and trying to be creative despite what is happening in the world is how I am going to survive this upcoming winter.

I hope you are well, my friends.

Photo by Liam McGarry on Unsplash
Photo by Sarah Boudreau on Unsplash
Photo by Cayla Bamberger on Unsplash
hanny
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On his 41st birthday, the sun retreated for a while. The windows were open and the cool breeze whisked our bread dough into the oven.

A bowl of summer pasta salad, a bite of tiramisu for breakfast, leftover rice and egg whites, fried.

I spent my time in the studio: reading, journaling, and enjoying the wind caressing my skin. Thunders rumbled in the distance and the sky dripped tiny drops of water on the terrace.

The evening whispered past the empty boats, the bridges, the road closures. The canal hosted bowls and bowls of food: baked potatoes, bruschetta, tortilla chips with tomato dips, Greek salad. We toasted for another year, the smooth crema di limoncello and cans of 0% Radler.

Things were so loud on the surface but underneath them all, the deeper you went, the more silent they became. Wasted words were muffled by things left unsaid. Aggression and criticism were set aside for an honest confession: I am scared, I am afraid, I am worried.

Sometimes I wonder why people say things at all.
I am okay with silence.
Silence is not awkward.
It’s honest.
You don’t have to fill the air.
The air is amazing the way it is.

I felt like the summer is over, and it was okay. Today I woke up to a cloudy sky and it reminded me of a celebration of an ending. I welcomed the weather and smiled. What a beautiful day.

Photo by Tanya Prodan on Unsplash
hanny
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I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since my self-isolation started.

1st MONTH

The first month was the month when I was trying to figure things out. There were still loads of worries and fears about what could happen and how it would affect my families and loved ones. I wrote in my journals almost every day, trying to understand what was happening inside of me and give things a bit of perspective. I stopped checking the news or updates surrounding the pandemic because I realized it didn’t do me any good.

I fell back into my meditation and journaling practice and did some light yoga or qi gong every now and then, to help me feel a bit more grounded. I did what I could, but then I also needed to accept the fact that I couldn’t do everything, help everyone, or control what was happening, and this was okay.

2nd MONTH

The second month was the month when I started to reconnect with friends, jumped into online meetings and calls. I knew I wasn’t fully ‘out there‘, yet. Some people were very productive during these times, and I sometimes felt like I didn’t do enough.

However, I tried to listen to my body and spent most of my time reading or learning without guilt-tripping myself. I felt like it was time for me to go inward instead of outward. Maybe I needed this month to refill myself, recover, and recharge?

3rd MONTH

The third month, the month of May, was the one where I felt most grounded. I felt the urge inside of me to move (both physically and mentally). I picked up on both client and personal projects, planned some stuff for the rest of the year, facilitated online courses and IG lives, and revisited some old projects with friends that got postponed or delayed.

And here are some of my favorites in May:

Books

  • Save The Cat!® Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody and Novelsmithing by David Sheppard. I think they are in my all-time top-3 books about the technical aspects of writing novels (especially when we talk about structures) alongside Story Genius by Lisa Cron. If you’ve been writing fiction for quite some time and have learned about the basics of story structure, character, plot, dialogue, etc., these books will give you more than the basics. Instead of telling you where you need to go, they give you a map and guide you on how to get there. They give you the blueprints for your story that you can really follow, step by step.
  • Ask The Passengers and Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King. I have a soft spot for young adult novels, but I have never read about A.S. King until I watched Ariel Bisett‘s recommendation on YouTube. I have been binging on her novels these days, and I love every single one I’ve read, but these two are definitely my favorites so far.

Movies/Series

  • Parasite. A movie that has been recommended by so many people, including my brother-in-law, and finally I could watch it on Viu. It started out light and funny but ended up so dark so fast. I don’t want to spill more details, but I think it’s really a movie that will make us rethink the way we interact with others. I love movies where you can see a reflection of yourself in each of its characters.
  • Unforgettable. A movie I watched on Viu, about a radio DJ that received a letter and song request from a listener, that brought him back to one summer when he was still a teenager, at a small beach town where he spent his time with his group of friends. This is such a simple, heart-warming story, but also a tear-jerker. I cried. A lot.
  • Another Child. Another one from Viu. About a teenager who found out that her father was having an affair with the mother of one of her school mates. It was such a touching story about a teenager that got caught in the middle of her parents’ drama and how she ‘found’ herself (and a friend) in the process.
  • Money Heist. A Netflix sensation my husband and I watched for days on end. The last time we did this kind of marathon was when we watched Stranger Things. Our friends already warned us that we should start watching Money Heist during the weeks when we didn’t have much to do because it was addictive. And it was! I wouldn’t think of myself as someone who would enjoy watching a heist movie, but Money Heist was addictive not only for the heist itself, but also for the drama and the character arches! I also watched the documentary at the end of Season 2, about how it went from a local series to a worldwide sensation; and listening to the team and the cast talking about it only convinced me about how much they love this production. It was truly a passion project.

Courses

Apps

  • Duolingo. I’ve been using this app for quite some time, but picking it up again during isolation to self-taught myself Italian, and a little bit of Dutch.
  • Blinkist. It’s an app that will give you a summary/key takeaways from popular books in around 15 minutes. I like to speed up the audio to 1.25x, so it’s around 10 minutes per book for me. Blinkist is an app to find out what the hype about a certain book is all about, get some nuggets from books you’ve heard about but haven’t had a chance to read, or to decide if a particular book piques your interest enough to be bought and read in its entirety. I like to listen to some books on personal development, creativity, and motivation & inspiration in the morning.
  • Gramedia Digital. I was late to notice that the biggest Indonesian publisher & bookstore chain has a premium package of IDR89,000,- per month; and you can read unlimited e-books under their collections. It’s a bargain for me, especially when I realized how many books they have under their Literature & Fiction collection!
  • FunRun 3. I’ve been playing this multiplayer racing game with my husband every day during our downtime. It’s a great way to bond and do some activities together, now that we can’t really go out much. Sure, we’ve been watching series/movies together, but playing games together (sometimes against one another) feels more active and fun!

What are some of your favorite books, movies, courses, or apps this month?

Do you find yourself having more time to read or chill, or on the contrary, you are even more swamped with work and other daily chores? (I know some of my friends find themselves much busier than the pre-pandemic time!)

Wherever you are and however you spend your time during these times, I hope you are well.

I hope you stay healthy, loving, and kind.

hugs,

hanny
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As an air sign, during times of disquietudes, I really need to keep myself grounded. It’s important for me to develop some personal grounding practices on a daily basis. ⁠

I realized that if I allow myself to fall into the rabbit hole of scrolling through various news outlets and reading commentaries about the current situation, I could get easily carried away in the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. ⁠

However, at times like these, I find it necessary to have a ‘faith-and-flow’ attitude towards life. To keep believing in humans and their capacity for loving and showing kindness towards one another (and towards other living beings!)—and to keep flowing with the changes instead of resisting.⁠

Surely, it’s easier said than done. And it’s exactly why I spend more time these days on grounding myself: from meditating, cleaning my space, folding my clothes, brewing rosella tea, doing qi gong and yoga exercise, listening to calming music (love Tibetan singing bowls), gazing at the swaying trees—following their movements, and of course, journaling.

When my mind is foggy and heavy, I pour everything down on paper to have some necessary release. It feels so natural and familiar to me, like seeing an old friend, like coming home to a place inside of me that has always been there all along.⁠

***

A few days ago, a friend of my husband dropped by with his motorbike to deliver his homemade ragù bolognese; before returning to his semi-isolation. Having to spend more time at home, he decided to stock up his fridge and cook more meals. He’s good with pasta sauce (and his carbonara is amazing) and I still remembered the day (before the pandemic) when he threw a successful gnocco fritto party.

In the evening, my husband and I boiled some pasta and heated the ragù. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of our bedroom, we ate our spaghetti bolognese with gratefulness. It was so delicious!

Suddenly, it dawned on me that maybe this was what it means to be present as who you are; even during times of crisis.

***

I could still recall the day when the pandemic started to escalate here in Indonesia, and I sensed a wave of worries and anxieties flushed over me from all the circulating news and rumors on the Internet. Then I stumbled upon a friend’s Instagram account, where she posted herself doing the dancing challenge to a cheerful song in TikTok.

I watched her dancing cheerfully; smiling and making funny expressions. She was having fun, I could tell. I could even feel her energy filling me with joy, and as she swung her arms and jumped and jerked, I noticed a smile on my face, and slowly, as I was feeling more pumped and excited, I finally felt like I came back to my senses. The feeling of hope started to fill me in, and I went to the shower, ready to start the day.

My meditation teacher started to provide more online guided meditation classes; from once a day to 4 times a day now. Another friend sent me stupid jokes and funny pictures from all over the Internet; another one kept updating me and her Instagram followers on various acts of kindness we can do during these tough times and which social initiatives we could support and send donations to. The sister-in-law of the Ibu who owns the house where we live, sent fresh towels for us the other day, and she folded the towels into a cute little elephant, with eyes made of leaves cut into small circles and a frangipani flower stuck on its trunk.

***

So, this is what I see: I see people trying to do what they can and lift each other’s up by being even more present as themselves, as who they are, in whatever they do.

Those who love to dance, dance. Those who can sing from the balcony, sing. Those who love to cook, cook. Those who fall in love, fall in love. Those who love to decorate, decorate. Those who love to get directly involved in the field, get involved. Those who love to donate to charities and social initiatives, donate. Those who love life, give life.

The underlying idea, I believe, is knowing that we can be present in these challenging times as who we are, honestly. To give as who we are and to give from Love. To know that there’s no act of Love that is too small, too unsubstantial, or too unimportant, even when it can seem small, unsubstantial, or unimportant.

So, today, take good care of yourself, the people you love.
When you can, be kind and be present as who you are.
Share the Love with the people around you.

I always think of Love as a wave of energy that touches others and creates a ripple that spread out further and further. We’ll never know where it began: how many lives it has touched, how many souls it has lifted up, how much hope it has infused in someone’s desperate times.

Let’s create those ripples.

hanny
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sky full of stars

The morning sunlight that spilled through the curtain bathed my bed in its early glow. I opened my eyes to the chirping of the birds and the rustling of the leaves faraway. Nobody worked in the rice fields today. Nobody started their motorbikes’ engines. Nobody shouted from the neighboring village. The world and its familiar noise disappeared.

At first, I thought: “How silent it was!”

But soon, the silence was filled with the hum of the refrigerator, the song of the cicadas, the buzzing of the bees flying around the bougainvilleas… and I could hear a bird (that perched itself on the branch of the frangipani tree) flapping its wings.

It was the Day of Silence for the Hindu Balinese. Nyepi; retreating from the hustle and bustle of the busy world. And the whole island was resting. Everybody stayed home. Everything was closed (even the airport!). Internet and phone signals were shut down. Lights were turned off.

I sipped my coffee downstairs, surrounded by the Ibu’s orchids, listening to mantras from my headphones while journaling my thoughts for the day. This was the first day since the Covid-19 outbreak that I didn’t start my morning by checking my phone for the latest updates. Today, the world was limited only to the one in front of me: the rice fields, the garden, the orchids, the terrace. I didn’t (and couldn’t) know anything past this.

***

I spent the rest of the day reading Ali Wong’s Dear Girls and Katherine Marsh’s Nowhere Boy, napping, doing yoga (for creativity), preparing lunch (rice) and dinner (pasta), meditating, and finally, at night, after showering, I went out to the upstairs balcony with my husband to gaze at the stars.

As all the lights stayed off across the island, the sky was now full of these glimmering specks and twinkling dust. From the rice field, the fireflies came into view, flickering.

It was magical.

At that moment, I felt so connected to everything above and beyond our world, our Universe. After weeks of uncertainties, of going about my days while trying to navigate my fears and worries, last night I finally felt fine.

It dawned on me that the stars had always been there. The sky I could see from the upstairs balcony had always looked THAT magical. I just didn’t notice it on regular days because the lights that surrounded me dimmed the radiance of the stars.

But it was always the same sky; with the same amount of stars.

***

Sometimes, to see the stars, we need to turn off the lights and be in the dark for a while. Maybe, that is what we’re experiencing at the moment. I wish, in this situation, I can choose to see not only the darkness but also the stars.

I hope you are, too.

hanny
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Sipping coffee is our way to fall in love with the bittersweet.

It always begins with a closed door.

And from what it allows us to glimpse upon, our heart is pounding with curiosity. Should we come in? Should we give it a chance? Will we like it? Will we regret it?

Most of the time, we decided to take that chance. To swing the door open and walk in, wishing to find something.

Anything.

There are times in our lives when something, anything, is better than nothing.

Sometimes, we fall for the welcoming smell of fresh-brewed coffee, the 3D latte art, the friendly bandana-wearing barista, the pretty ceramic mugs, the excellent selection of background music… and some other times, we don’t.

Sometimes, as we peered inside from the window, we thought it’s going to be cozy, inviting, gezellig. Until we realized that while some things are better seen close-up, some others are better seen only from a distance.

But, no matter what, usually, we stay for a while with a cup of coffee, waiting to see if we’ll change our minds. Some of us stay too long to be able to notice what’s wrong. Some of us leave too soon to notice what’s right. Some of us stay long enough to see what is, and leave soon enough not to see things we’d rather not.

However, in the end, like it or not, we all must leave. Even those 24-hour coffee shops can close down, move to another location, be shut down for a renovation, or the owner simply has a change of heart.

Still, sipping coffee is our way to fall for the bittersweet.

Because there are some particular stages in our lives when bittersweet is better than just bitter. When a once-opened door is better than one that is never opened. When leaving an about-to-be-locked premise is better than being locked up.

At least, we’ve taken the chance to walk through that door, place our order, sit down, and sip our coffee. At least we’ve experienced what it has to offer.

We know that there are still so many coffee shops out there. The ones we haven’t heard of, the ones we haven’t peered into, the ones we haven’t visited before.

One day, if we take a chance and swing the door open, one of them may steal our hearts.

hanny
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When meditating feels hard, I watch a candle or an incense burn in silence. I fix my gaze onto the flame, the glowing dot; following each movement and noticing each moment of changes; no matter how minuscule: that second when the candle melt, when something flickers, when the ashes fall.

In the evening, I listen to this and this, beautiful music from Toshi Arimoto. I lit up some of my favorite scented candles and sit cross-legged on the couch in the dim-lit room. I close my eyes and start breathing following the rhythm of his music. I find this activity really soothing and I can tell that my body is enjoying it. I also realized that since I am concentrating to breathe according to the rhythm, my mind doesn’t wander as easily. I’ll do this breathwork for 20-30 minutes, and I always feel calmer and more grounded afterward.

hanny
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I published this essay on this blog a few years ago. Today, I am republishing the revised version of this essay, edited by Jen Campbell.

Whenever it’s raining outside, my mind always goes to a bowl of instant noodles. A steaming plate of comfort topped with egg and fried shallots, drenched in my favorite savory soup, such as Chicken Curry or Special Chicken flavor, which I loved as a little girl.

Of course, these days various instant noodle brands have come up with all kinds of flavors I never could have imagined. But, like with most things, nothing beats the classics.

I guess it’s all about how the signature taste transports you back to the old days from the very first sip: to feast on memories; to slurp a piece of nostalgia; to savor a feeling of going back in time.

***

There was a period in my life when Mother and I moved in with my mother’s parents. Every evening, after the call for Maghrib prayer, Grandmother would disappear into the kitchen and prepare a bowl of instant noodles for Grandfather.

Grandfather always opted for the Chicken Curry flavor—and he wanted the noodles to be extra soft instead of al dente. His should be topped with egg, fried shallots, boiled choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage), and a tablespoon of sweet soy sauce, all served—steaming—inside a white Chinese bowl with a red rooster painted on it.

Grandfather always had his bowls of instant noodles exactly like that, every single evening, at the same time. He would be having it in front of the TV in the living room, while watching the evening news or a soccer match. Before bringing the spoon to his mouth, whenever I was around, he always asked the exact same question: “You want this? This is delicious. You want this?”

I would shake my head and watch him in amusement as he savored his instant noodles with gusto, slurping the soup noisily. Seeing him made me believe that here, right in front of me, sat an old man who was having the best meal of his life. Sometimes, long after Grandfather finished his meal, a splinter of boiled egg yolk sat stuck in his white beard.

When (on very rare occasions) Grandmother made me a bowl of instant noodles, she would prepare it the way she prepared it for Grandfather. I didn’t like the bitter choy sum back then, but I liked the way the too-soft noodles made the soup seem way thicker, the way they absorbed the full flavor from the seasonings.

Grandmother continued to prepare a bowl of instant noodles for Grandfather every single evening, until one day she fell sick. She passed away a month later.

After Grandmother’s death, Grandfather still had his bowl of instant noodles every evening—only now, they were prepared by my mother. She took great care to emulate Grandmother’s noodles.

Grandfather would have his meal as usual, but he no longer asked me whether I’d like to have the noodles, too, and I suddenly lost interest in watching him finish his dinner. Maybe I was bored. Maybe I was simply growing up. Maybe the sight of Grandfather eating his instant noodles had stopped to excite me.

But then I realised it was because something was missing: his gusto.

I guess no one could prepare the perfect instant noodles for Grandfather but Grandmother.

My mother was a good cook, but even she couldn’t precisely copy Grandmother’s signature dish. Grandmother also knew the way Grandfather liked his sweet hot tea: the precise thickness of tea and sugar, as well as the exact level of warmth when it should be served.

A year after that, Grandfather passed away. And then no one in that house ate instant noodles anymore.

***

I am always fascinated by the fact that a bowl of instant noodles can develop its own taste. These noodles come in identical packaging, with identical seasonings, and identical instructions on how to prepare and serve them. Nevertheless, I have heard of people lining up in front of certain instant noodle street stalls, who are all selling the same brand, because ‘the noodle here is so delicious’.

I thought this would be something Grandfather would understand. Perhaps, in another life, Grandmother would have her own stall, and Grandfather would visit every day.

In Indonesia, especially in the big cities on Java island, instant noodle stalls can be found on almost every street corner. Many stay open until the small hours. One need only look for street stall signs proclaiming the word ‘Internet’.

A friend who visited from abroad pointed at those stalls one day, and asked me whether those were street-style internet cafes. I told him that it was a different kind of Internet. This ‘Internet’ stands for Indomie-Telur-Kornet (a brand of instant noodle, egg, and corned beef). It’s a bowl of comfort food for most Indonesians—especially for clubbers who roam the streets hungrily at 3 am after partying and drinking hard, trying to prevent hangovers before heading home and sleeping through the morning.

A local friend of mine would enthusiastically vouch for an instant noodle stall in another part of the town. It would take her 45 minutes to get there by car—an hour and a half if there was a traffic jam. But she would brave it all. She said this stall served the most delicious bowl of instant noodles she had ever tasted in her life.

Perhaps it was the way they prepared the noodle.

Or how long they boiled it.

Or whether they stirred the noodle or not.

Perhaps it’s due to when they added the seasoning.

Or the kind of eggs they used.

The amount of fresh bird eye chili they put in.

Whether they sprinkled fried shallots, or not.

It could be the brand of the corned beef and whether they served it from the can.

Whether they put in some leafy greens.

Whether they grated cheddar cheese.

Whether they added a sprinkle of salt or chicken stock.

Or maybe ‘delicious’ has nothing to do with the taste itself.

Maybe it has more to do with memories.

***

We moved out from my grandparent’s house into a rented one when I was ten. The house itself was really small. The kitchen was oddly located; it was right in front of the bathroom. But the house had a huge backyard.

Seeing it, as a little girl, I imagined us having a huge swimming pool. But my mother sensibly decided to use the space to grow peanuts.

I don’t know why she chose peanuts, but after spending a few hours under the sun in the backyard for a few months, she managed to grow 10-12 rows of of them. I might not have got my swimming pool, but Mother bought me a huge plastic bucket. On sunny days, she would fill it with cold water. I would soak myself happily; wearing my swimsuit, playing with a yellow rubber duck, while Mother worked on her peanuts.

During harvest time, we always had more nuts than we could consume, and my swimming bucket would be filled with them. You could say we were swimming in peanuts. Mother would boil several batches of peanuts for hours; I could smell them from the street. We would eat some of them, but ended up giving away most of them to our neighbors. She also made peanut cookies and peanut butter, but we kept those for ourselves.

When there were simply too many peanuts to handle, Mother would leave the peanut-filled swimming bucket outside our fence, so anyone could grab some.

Peanuts were meant for sunny days.

For rainy days, we had instant noodles.

Mother always scolded me for forgetting my umbrella—or for losing it. On some wet afternoons, when it rained heavily and I came home from school with a soaked uniform, my mother would tut at me for not having my umbrella, while—at the same time—preparing a bucket of warm water for a bath. Then she would send me to the bathroom, reminding me to wash my hair so I wouldn’t catch a cold.

By the time I finished bathing, Mother would have prepared my ‘rainy day’ meal on the dining table: a plate of warm pandan white rice with a bowl of steaming hot instant noodles; and some eggs—fried in margarine and sweet soy sauce. A glass of sweet hot tea would be ready on the side. At this stage, my mother would stop scolding me about the umbrella. She would tell me the stories of her day; or ask me to tell some stories of my day.

My mother could cook anything from rendang to gulai, from gudeg to siomay, and they were always delicious. But nothing reminded me more of the comfort of coming home than the signature smell of her simple rainy day meal: a warm plate of rice, a bowl of steaming hot instant noodle, egg fried in margarine and sweet soy sauce, that glass of sweet hot tea.

It is the smell I come home to—the taste of warmth I’ve come to long for.

***

After Mother’s passing, for the sake of living a healthier lifestyle, in the past few years, I have drastically reduced the frequency I consume instant noodles.

However, every time I come home from a long traveling journey, I still treat myself to a bowl of Chicken Curry or Special Chicken, and fry myself an egg in margarine—drizzled generously with sweet soy sauce.

For this reason, when I found an Asian supermarket in my first few weeks after moving to Amsterdam, I shrieked in ecstasy at founding the exact instant noodle brand of my country; my grandparents; my childhood; my memories.

Every few weeks now I treat myself to a packet of Chicken Curry instant noodle (finding the most bizarre excuses to validate this ‘treat’)—preparing it in a too-clean kitchen that still feels foreign to me, a kitchen that now smells of cheap margarine, fried egg, and caramelized soy sauce.

Because if coming home had a taste, to me, it would taste just like that.

hanny
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Hi. I'm HANNY
I'm a published writer, a creative content consultant, and a stationery/blog designer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am!

hanny

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