St Petersburg

“I dreamed we were dancing in St Petersburg, then you fell and I caught you”

Sapsan train was my lonely ride. Moscow was sunny and inviting, for sure it was the summer high hanging in the air, but going further apart it was getting even gloomier. My friends were trying to get some much needed sobriety by sleeping uncomfortably. Everyone was silent for a while, with headphones on and minds flying away somewhere else. Most likely to the people they cared about, anywhere in the world.

Russian villages passed by my eyes like an echoes of Soviet past. It wasn’t exactly beautiful but it had a certain characteristic that you wouldn’t find anywhere else, and I succumbed to that moment with my eyes closed. Minds of mine drifted into territories that I didn’t want to revisit, and I found my eyes watery, glistening with tears.

Glavny station was up and running. Dark clouds were scrutinizing, cold air made me grasped. Maybe I wasn’t prepared for it to be this chilly, but something inside me got warmer. I couldn’t help but smirked my way into one of those historic buildings that would be the place to spend some nights in. I jumped at the thoughts of “I did it. I made it this far. I made it myself”.

St Petersburg was special to you, and it was becoming special to me too.

River Neva

I left wondering, across a Gazprom building, how that photo on an icy bridge was taken. How you laughed like you didn’t have any care in the world. Was it one of these beautiful bridges I stepped my feet on? I wasn’t there, I wasn’t inside your mind –it was taken years ago– and neither was I now.

Neither was I now.

I wonder what you’d say. What if, in a parallel universe, I could have the right to tell you that I could to it without you? What if I instead begged that universe to change course and let everything stayed the same? Would you come running to me like a chicken you were, or would you stay still like you’ve never said a word?

The rain poured without warnings. I wasn’t getting myself drenched in this already cold temperature, no way…

“I think I need to give you a hug”

I was on a romantic movie scene, that’s what I told myself anyway. Even if it had to end abruptly like how it always did. Even though it wouldn’t last as per usual. Even though it was a simple, short walk that would linger longer than it should.

Maybe he was the only person I needed at that very moment, maybe I didn’t have to wish it was someone else, anyone who was less unreal to me. Weren’t we all mixed up? Weren’t I messed up? I cried inside with joy and sadness mashed into one, and these people were circling around like a dream I’ve never dreamed but secretly dreaming about.

“Come closer, I don’t want your shoulder to get wet”

I was looking for a silver lining. I thought about all the missed opportunities I consciously knew I missed. I was making deliberate choices that would dodge myself from these kind of bullets. Who would’ve known what this tough shell felt, who would’ve known this mushy soft thing inside a steel-like fortress?

I was an alien to my own scheme.

On that walk to remember, I could feel the ice melted. Slowly. Gently. Like that coffee in Cambridge when I fell into the arms of a beautiful stranger. When I let my guards wander around the river without any damn second thought. Who needed any band-aid when I could let myself loose? Who needed any extra boost when I didn’t care if I could protect my own immunity?

But St Petersburg was beautiful in its own way.

It was a reminder that I never loved anyone less than they deserve.

It was these old buildings with a certain Caucasian, Russian charm. This lovely Georgian Khachapuri that was as big as boats. The Kharcho that warmed my heart. We were in a long, long lines that seemed never ending, 3 hours of taking turns queuing, then I said to myself later on,

“I once thought Louvre was better”.

The Hermitage was worth all the long wait, and I hope you are no more than my Louvre…

…with one request — don’t taint my Hermitage with a Mona Lisa smile.

 

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2017 (Part 1): A Chapter That I’d Rather Not Finish

Hello, February.

It’s been hard to write about 2017. I have delayed this writing for about 2 months since I promised myself that I’d finish it by New Year’s Eve – yet here I am, in a coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon, slowly aching to assemble my memories.

Maybe I’d rather not finish 2017.

Maybe that’s the reason why it was so hard to put into words.

I ended 2016 with a high note.

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The first few months into my new job and everyone was already satisfied with my work. I had a great team, a great boss, and I was heading into a great new adventure – in short, I couldn’t wait to start 2017.

And, boy was it a good start.

 

Moved to Boston

 

Who would’ve thought that I’d be an expat by the time I’m 25 years old?

I couldn’t have had better people to accompany me in all the busy-ness of moving in. I had 36 hours of Wednesday, and by Friday I was already in Gigi’s car when she drove me around Boston and Cambridge. My heart swelled with pride as I pictured the 2011 me walking at Stuart St, my first snow shower, my heart broken by a guy somewhere across the world, and I promised myself that I’d come back to this city although I didn’t know how.

I caught myself smiling while eating Chinese takeout in a cold mid-February winter.

Everything that followed was too good to be true. But it was true. Somehow God decided to align every stars for a fresh a new start. Somehow God pressed a pause button on my life, and I was put in a ‘perpetual happiness’ mode. It was as if God said, “You’ve been having rough journeys. Here’s your reward, enjoy it while it lasts”.

Some of my friends asked me how it felt to start living in a new country, so far away from home without any acquaintance around, and I tell you, that was actually one of the best feelings in the world. I was free to be myself, in a world who knows nothing about me. The world whose judgment I couldn’t care less, and in that world, I didn’t have to pretend to be anything I was not.

Needless to say it didn’t take much time for me to get accustomed to my new home. I moved to a beautiful apartment in an 18th-century brownstone building in the coveted area of Back Bay, and ever since then, my life was in a constant travel mode.

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My welcoming dinner. I had the best landlord and neighbors.
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Titan, this kick-ass graduate student of MIT, was one of the first few people I made friends with in Boston. We bonded over Indomie. YES, INDOMIE INTRODUCED US LMAO

I spent my 25th birthday in two cities: Boston and Atlanta. My boss didn’t know that it was my birthday weekend, and when he knew, he gathered his former team to celebrate in a very Southern restaurant. My first Southern food experience… and I had that slice of carrot cake too 😉

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Thanks, John 🙂

 

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Can we talk about visiting New York City for the second time with these Latin girls and my favorite Chinese couple????
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Also this guy I haven’t seen in years!

Work-wise, honestly it wasn’t too much of a hassle, despite the fact that there were so many changes in the Digital business I was assigned in. Everyone was trying to catch up with the everlasting quest to understand the latest guidelines. But compared to the work I did in Asia, be it in this company or my former companies, I can testify that for the same level in the corporate ladder, workload in the US is easier compared to what I had back home. And I felt like everyone actively tried to enforce the work-life balance. Senior-junior interactions were more loose, I could be more open to push new ideas, and I never felt like my presence was not being validated despite having less experience in the industry.

Being assigned as a GME (Global Mobility Employee) also allowed me to take courses that are normally conducted in the US. It was hard to get approvals for it since I was based in Asia, thus travel costs would be much more expensive. Utilizing my then-current location, of course I enrolled. And of course it was awesome.

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Greenville for PPF!

If anyone asks what is my best CLP moments, I’ll definitely put Power Plant Fundamentals course as one of those. Not the course itself, but that rare moment when I felt like I was truly a part of such global community. Look at that picture above, we have like 10 nationalities represented there! The camaraderie was there, the togetherness, and even though we’re all going to graduate in a couple of months, I’m glad to know that these people are always going to be my friends in another part of the world.

I was also very fortunate to be able to attend a course at Crotonville. Now, for anyone who doesn’t know what Crotonville is, it is basically the beacon of leadership and management practices of GE that any GE employee would be honored to get a chance to have a taste of it. LOL so excessiveeeeee but, come on, it’s a really beautiful place (did I mention full of food) that enabled active learning and accelerated the formation of fresh ideas.

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And of course I had to make a little detour to Washington, D.C. and visited it for the second time after 2011!

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y POTUS nunca salio (copied my Peruvian friend’s Spanish caption) (LOL)

 

Now let me tell you, my friend. When you had too much fun, the universe would most likely conspire to make you have it less. Because the world is not made to nourish human happiness. The world is.just.freaking.cruel. Nothing you can do or say will ever change the fact that you are NOT ALLOWED to be in a constant state of happiness. Therefore, May 2017 witnessed the formation of some ugly foreseeable future which everyone in my class despised to the bone.

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Thus began the start of a whirlwind journey into the abyss of dismay and regrets.

But before that, let’s just go to Mexico.

Why?

Because I could.

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Palacio des Bellas Artes! Te amo, CDMX ❤

Monica was undoubtedly my best travel partner of the year! We had the same interests: food, museums/palaces/gardens, and always on the hunt for beautiful pictures…. For instagram. For our mothers who were always worried that their daughters would somehow turn into a drug dealer and they needed proof that we were okay. For our mothers’ social media. Basically for everyone who was concerned. We even came back during golden hour to this Palacio just to snap the best light. And suddenly the dark grey sky cleared into a beautiful ray of golden sunlight….. that disappeared right after we finished taking photos. Such a magical moment.

I didn’t skip fasting in Mexico, but still somehow managed to taste all the good food. Tacos, mule, nachos, BEST CHURROS in the world, and let me tell you that Burritos didn’t actually come from Mexico. I’ll stop right here before I get more and more hungry.

June ended with a slice of home in the faraway land. Somehow I managed to find a bunch of other Indonesians in town and bonded over a lowkey Lebaran celebration. Libertyyyy after 18-hours of fasting everyday!

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Shalat Ied di lapangan juga 🙂

After Lebaran, it was the month when I did everything solo. Inhaled in the deepest breath. Took everything to heart because I wanted to treasure all those feelings in a safe vault that I’d preserve in a cute little corner of my heart, as a reminder that I was, and I hope I can still be, happy. Took pictures because I needed some proof that good mornings did exist. Crossed everything off my bucket list while I still could. And enjoyed every hike of the temperature before things got colder… figuratively.

And one last icing on the cake before things start going downhill…..

 

I think this is a good time to start talking about Kelly and Mary Beth. They are two beautiful souls who accompanied me through the ups and downs that you would not see… cause it’s behind these pictures that only captured my happy moments. Mary Beth was my landlord, and she’s the kindest landlord of all the kindest landlord. She introduced me to Kelly, and I had been going upstairs to Kelly’s apartment ever since then. We got together for Meditation Mondays. I hugged my “pink pillow” when I felt like life wasn’t fair. And throughout these encounters, they echoed some of the things that I’ve long forgotten about myself. Some of the things that I could only feel when I was finally detached from my baggage of sadness, loneliness, or everlasting strive to be excellent when I was home in Indonesia. Never had I felt that I was free to be whatever I wanted to be. And it’s, sadly, very rare to have someone telling me that I am good. That I am enough, and I don’t have to be so hard on myself.

You are doing a huge service to our world. When you feel stress it is not from inside of you. It is from the imbalances in our world. What is inside you, Marsha, is a pure joy.

-Kelly

I was very sad to leave these two people I love. If there was anyone who made Boston felt like home, it’s them. I hope they are happy. I hope they know that they have taught me how to love myself better. And I hope they know, that when I feel sad, I look at that painting of Beacon Street I put on my desk and I think of them.

We had a lovely early dinner at BPL courtyard, took take-outs from Dig Inn.

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I miss both of you, a lot.

There’s this scene I remember afterwards. I was on board a Delta flight before taking off. I was on a window seat, and two passengers beside me were a mother and her daughter. I was about to have one of the saddest break down of my life when the daughter called someone on the phone (presumably her aunt whom she spent summer with) and sobbed uncontrollably,

“I don’t want to leave. Can you hear me? I just don’t. Let me go back to you and (a baby’s name). I’m not ready for school yet. I’m happy with you (the aunt’s name). Please please just take me back. I can’t do this, I don’t wanna leave, I’ll leave this plane, I still have time, okay??”

I was like, heck, I wanted to be sad but this girl was even sadder. Her mom had to comfort her when the flight attendant asked her to turn off her phone and she refused. She cried and cried afterwards.

I felt like she was there as an affirmation that I was allowed to be sad. I put on my headphone, slowly pretended to look out of the window when that damn “Leaving on A Jet Plane” song played out of nowhere. I swear it was that song on my headphone. And I cried.

A good 10-minutes passed after I continuously sobbed, then something happened.

There was a baby in front of my seat. She somehow turned to me on her mother’s lap and touched me. She freaking touched me. When I looked up, she had the most angelic, reassuring smile ever. And in that instance, I knew it was over. I knew I had to move on, so I smiled back.

And I landed in Atlanta with a lighter heart.

 

(to be continued)

 

 

 

Boston

This is such a long overdue post, but this Sunday is a beautiful summer afternoon and I’ve just come back from (possibly) the last place listed on my where-to-go list and I just can’t find any other excuse not to pour my overwhelming feelings into writings.

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Took this on a cruise along Charles River. Two of the city’s most recognizable buildings: John Hancock tower and Prudential Center.

Boston.

  

Never in my wildest dreams I’ve ever thought of being an expat at this very young age of 25. And when everyone in my program is supposed to go to Atlanta, Boston was the least expected city to go to. I admit it didn’t go very well in terms of the assignment itself, bumps here and there, but I couldn’t be more thankful that out of so many cities and countries I could possibly go to, God just purposefully placed me in Boston, Massachusetts.

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I took a picture at this very same spot of this very same scenery at the very same time of the year, 6 years ago.

For me, Boston has been a city of firsts. This is the first foreign city I stepped my feet into, back in 2011 (interestingly, it was also mid-February). The city where I first saw snow, my first exposure to international atmosphere, my first flight abroad, and the first time my heart broke so bad until I turned it into a sweet, personally-enriching revenge. And now my feelings can only grow deeper towards this city that has hosted me gracefully for the past 6 months.

 

I feel like God has pressed a “pause” button in my life from February to August 2017.

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Second home

 

This is the period where I could really be me and focus all the attention to myself.

 

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Boston Common on my first day of 18-hours fasting

I’ve had a lot of soul-searching and soul-crushing moments before, but these past 6 months have definitely awaken my long-lost spirit. Exploration. Child-like glee of venturing into the unknown. Thirst for knowledge. Appreciation. Self-awareness. Saying yes. Unafraid of uncertainty. Free to be me. Forgive myself for everything that I cannot be. Discovery. Redefining who I am and what I want. Ignore other people’s expectations. Surrender into the darkness and lightness of time. Understanding my weaknesses. Allow myself to feel raw emotions. See the best in people. Excited, instead of being anxious, of what the future holds. Be grateful for all the blessings bestowed upon me. And lastly, telling myself that I am enough. That although I can be better,

 

I am good.

 

Here, at this very moment of time, I am as good as I can be.

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From the top of Prudential Center, July 2017

Thank you, Boston.

 

I promised myself back in 2011 that I would see you again someday. It never crossed my mind that I would’ve returned so soon. Thank you for letting me learn from you a lot more. I wish I could share my happiness with the people I love the most next time. I’ve touched John Harvard’s statue for the second time around now, and I hope you are as hopeful as I am that it will not be my last.

 

Goodbye for now.

Terima kasih, atas segalanya.

 

 

From my desk at Beacon Street in Back Bay,

 

Marsha Faradina

 

 

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Sampai jumpa lagi!

 

 

 

 

2016: A Reflection on Risk, and Taking The Road Less Traveled

2016 was a risky year. It was always in the verge of missteps and miscalculations, resulting in one of the most dynamic and unpredictable years that modern human beings have ever seen. True to the global trend, my 2016 was also very risky: it once again threw me out of the safe haven.

Today, at the edge of December, I want to reflect back on the huge risk I dared myself to plunge into, and how taking the road less traveled (literally and figuratively), has made all the difference.

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Oh yes. It takes a bloody sharp knife to shape a diamond.

By the way, I always create an annual blog post, but I forgot to make one for 2015. I think more or less it’s because 2015 was so flat. I lived my 2015 in an autopilot mode. Turns out that in crafting a career, you need something else that makes you feel fulfilled, even if you have a fantastic paycheck. I kinda had it at the back of my head, but I didn’t dare to do anything about it…. until it was done to me.

Ironically, the suicide spot of a Chinese emperor in Jingshan Hill became a witness for a change of direction.

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There, there… the dark shadow of Imperial Palace before my eyes. Here in this place I surrendered myself to the Hands of Fate, just like Emperor Chongzhen did when Beijing was invaded by the rebels.

In a sense, I actually took a calculated risk. A well-calculated one. It wasn’t like the decision to give up everything for Netherlands 2 years ago. This time, it involved opinions from a wide range of people, which produced a sound judgement.

2016 witnessed the decision to leave my coveralls with a heavy heart.

I cherished everyone I met and life lessons learned. Field life changes someone, in one way or another. It taught me to be a better decision makers, to remain calm in high-pressure situation, to foster teamwork with blue collar workers, to prioritize safety, to be a leader in a man’s world, to manage financial issues, and not to mess with integrity. It was a very enriching experience, one that can make you become much, much wiser.

And the friendships made are indispensable.

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Last karaoke in Duri, with some of the people who made living in a jungle worth it

In the aftermath of this event, I started a new habit – meditation. I joined some yoga classes, and they always had this 5-10 minutes of sitting still. I didn’t know whether I did it right, but there was this one particular session of 30 minutes meditation (I followed videos online) where I was totally absorbed. Then I heard my own inner voice saying,

You are never a failure. You are never a failure.

It touched me so deep until I burst into tears.

From that day on, I revamped my CV, and had this one strong prayer: to be guided into one, only one, right path. I began to question what I would do if I weren’t afraid; what I would choose if I only had myself to satisfy. I had secured some offers that I was still reluctant to accept, but learning from past confusions, I wasn’t good at being given choices. I’d rather being given a choice by God, rather than deciding for myself. Alhamdulillah, Allah heard my prayers.

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The start of my GE careers!

 

There are so many things that you will feel once you’re in the track of being a corporate worker. Sometimes things are tough at the office. Sometimes you wonder what it feels like to work in another company. Sometimes you think the work load is too intense. Sometimes you think it’s better if you work somewhere which gives you much more compensation and benefit.

But now, in my 3rd job out of college, having been in worse situation makes it difficult for me to just give up whenever the work load gets tough. At least I’m not alone here in this position, unlike my 1st job. I don’t measure work satisfaction based on money as the sole criteria anymore, because I’ve been in a situation where I can get money easily with half the effort, and still feel like there’s something missing. I also realize that I LOVE international atmosphere, even with late night (or early morning) conference calls. Plus, I enjoy business trips. :p I think all these lessons extracted from my previous job experiences contribute a lot in making me a happier person, professionally.

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Power CLP Class of 2017 and 2018. There are 26 people from all over the world in Class of 2018, and I’m the only Indonesian. In a sense… I have to be a great performer because I don’t want to embarrass my country 🙂

2016 was also a year packed with travel times, be it for business or for pleasure. I’m so thankful to be able to step my feet in so many cities this year: Kuala Lumpur, Xi’an, Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Seminyak + Ubud (Bali), Dubai, Budapest, Seoul, Surabaya, Sabang, and Banda Aceh. I love the stories through the air, friendships made, bucket lists checked, local food tasted, and that feeling of being a tiny-tiny-tiny dot in this huge universe whenever I travel somewhere I’ve never been before. I will let these pictures do the talk 😀

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Kuala Lumpur. Not the real Petronas Twin Towers… but you get the idea 😉
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Checking one item off my bucket list. GREAT WALL OF CHINA!
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Science-themed bridal shower for our bride to be -Rea- in Seminyak, Bali
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Dubai with my lovely family in UAE
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Budapest, Hungary… felt like a dream. My first time ever of going to Europe.
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Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. I intended to visit Korea next year (another Twins trip), but who knows I had a chance to visit it this year. Alhamdulillah.
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Finally, Sabang and Banda Aceh concluded my 2016 travel journal. Had so much fun with Chevron mates, and got a wake up call to strengthen my faith after learning from so many miracles occurred during 2004 Tsunami disaster.

My favorite trip? Tough question, but I think I’ll pick China. It’s my first backpacker-style trip, and being able to go to a country without any guide, where you literally have to figure everything out by yourself, is amazing. My twin brother is my best travel mate for sure, and I’m really looking forward to travel together with him somewhere in the near future!

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The best travel partner of the year goes to… my twin brother!

The Love Department is the only underperforming part of 2016, which is understandable because you can never have it all at the same time 🙂 But it doesn’t mean that this year hasn’t brought much improvement: it is, after all, a year when I learned the important fact that I don’t have to be sorry for who I am. There are always people who just don’t want to be with you, and it’s not because you are too much of a good thing. Likewise, I learned that empowerment is also about accepting the fact that you have to let go of someone, or something, who doesn’t give you added value anymore. I am so depressed by being a single 24 years old girl, I am so longing to find someone to make me believe that not every man has the intention of hurting people they love, but I finally realize that my happiness is not dictated by someone else who fills a void in me. Allah knows that I will never love someone halfheartedly… that I need to be my whole self before I’m ready to live a life with someone who is destined for me. I’m too fragile – as I’ve always been – and perhaps having the time and space reserved for myself is the only way to restore the faith that is lost towards the opposite gender.

At the end of the day, 2016 is that one year where you’re finally be able to see the big picture, look back through the rearview mirror and understand that everything happens for a reason… and everything that happened actually makes sense. Subhanallah.

2017 is already peeking through my Inbox *wink 😉 and I have high hopes that it will turn into an even more fantastic year for all of us.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!

Beyond Repair

It is one week before three years.

The last time I ever felt that deep, soothing, embarrassing, red feeling of non-quantifiable warmth seeping, like from afar, yet it inhumed every doubt I ever had in the past 548 days before. It was extremely delicate and light that seemed too perfect to be readily available by my very eyes. I thought that perhaps, the odds were finally in my favor… but what was ethereal, I learned, should be treated cautiously. If it was surreal, it was probably never real.

Of course it wouldn’t end in an Eden filled with blooming flowers and colorful leaves. Of course it was doomed. Of course someone ate the forbidden fruit.

Of course I was wrong.

Grief that was carefully concealed, moved to the land of possibilities. The entire performance was imbued with sparkle and elan, until finally someone needed a fresh air to breath. To think. To realize that the malefic seed was gnawing every last drop of confidence that was seriously crafted.

You can put faces outside, soaked in a beautiful blue lagoon, sip the finest cocktails, enjoy the most luxurious box of chocolates. But the hollow, the cavity, that concave little hole of shit, is not to be treated with a drugstore receipt. A profound understanding of why and how it happened, the consequences, the possible treatment, the alternatives, are to be considered in a well, thoughtful manner.

You could be ruined beyond repair.

Until the point that what was once nifty piece of work seems to be dull and outdated. The idea is obsolete. The people are assholes. And everything associated with this beautiful grace is in no way more than cock-and-bull story. It was magical, it is still supposed to be magical, but your senses are telling you that it is all unreal.

Roots of bitterness clasp you hard enough to break your conviction. That at the end of the day, the world is nourishing human loneliness. Just what is the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all in the pilgrimage of soul-searching, tumbled across roses filled with thorns.

Someone will be at the end of this tunnel, waiting to restore the belief that is lost, to show another person that love and compassion are still alive, and very much relevant. Everyone else is enjoying this sweet delicacy — it is not a privilege.

It truly should not be a privilege. It’s supposed to be a basic human right that is not too difficult to access.

Only wish for one thing: no more pyrrhic tales. Please. Make real-life halcyon days a reality.

Rest well, lovely souls. If I can, I will put you in my prayers. Good night.

The Best Revenge

These days, I got so fed up with these noises in my daily life:

Why don’t you have a boyfriend?

Guys are intimidated by you. (or some variations of you’re too smart/too accomplished/too irritating/too outspoken/too blah blah blah)

You need to get married really, really soon.

You’re going to have a tough time raising kids if you’re not pregnant by the time you’re 24/25/26.

You’re too picky. Way too picky. You have an unattainable standard.

Don’t be a workaholic/Don’t be career woman. Women are meant to settle down.

[Somebody’s mom] has a son and he’s ready to get married, let me introduce you…

[A random, out of nowhere someone] is single, [matchmaking begins]

 

You know what? I’m sick of this. It makes me feel like I’m a total failure just because I have no boyfriend, no solid plan of getting married in the near future, have no idea or time or money to invest in meeting someone, and basically not adhering to society’s standard.

I’m sick of failed relationships because I’ve had my fair share of broken hearts and I’m traumatized by that. I’m sorry, but that happens. Love is basically an unwanted byproduct. I know I have to settle down someday and I have to accept anyone who comes into my life when it has reached its own “cut-off”, but not right now, no?

I mean, come on, people. I’m 24. It’s not like I have my life stops here — my life has just begun. And I just want to live it in my own pace, peacefully.

Alas, society’s expectations always affect me profoundly.

But now, it’s time to take charge. It’s time to take into account the things that I can control. After all, I can do so much and let go of the rest. Love is uncontrollable, because it’s never logical. Somebody just pops out from somewhere, and I seriously cannot plan when and how and with whom I do fall in love with. So after a series of depressing deliberations, I finally set my mind, body, and soul into this one thing:

My objective is to make 2016 – 2018 my new 2011 – 2013.

The timing and circumstance is just strikingly similar: international atmosphere, a painful recovery from a broken heart, single as fuck, pumped up with ambitions, and generally happy and content with myself. The last time I did this, I had one of my best revenges. Heartbreaks have always been my start of something amazing.

Because I want to show the people who hurt me that they were wrong… that I wasn’t just a waste of space.

I know I will always have this soft side where I know I can never be enough by being with myself, but at least I’ll have it right:

Aren’t you supposed to be with the best person when you have transformed into the best version of yourself?

 

 

Self-Arranged Trip to China: Some tips before you go

Preambule

Dua bulan lalu gue pergi ke China tanpa ikut tur, cuma berdua sama kakak. Awalnya sempet takut juga sih karena kata orang-orang, susah banget pergi sendiri ke China. Tulisannya cang cing cong ga jelas, makanannya haram, informasi ga lengkap, dll. Well, personally, dari semua negara yang udah gue kunjungin, China memang salah satu negara yang paling susah buat ‘ditaklukkan’ 😀 but seriously, bisa banget kok survive di sana. Yaa walaupun mungkin gak segampang Jepang tapi sebanding lah, kalo udah berhasil travelling sendiri ke China pasti jadi pede untuk jalan-jalan ke negara lain, hehehe.

Berikut beberapa tips yang gue pelajarin dari trip kemaren, siapa tau berguna buat yang mau travelling ke China 😉

1. Mau ngunjungin China bagian mana?

China bagian mana
Bell Tower di Xi’an

Ini penting banget karena China itu LUAS yah bok! Gak mungkin lo dapet semuanya dalam sekali trip. For first timer sih gue sarankan untuk mengikuti rute gue: Xi’an –> Beijing –> Shanghai –> Hangzhou. Ini kota-kota yang “China banget”, dapet wisata sejarah+budaya, wisata alam, dan wisata metropolitan, so I highly recommend it. Gue cukup puas 10 hari muterin 4 kota itu, walaupun jadwalnya agak padat karena pengen dapet semua places of interest 😛

Kota lain yang suka jadi tujuan biasanya Chengdu, Zhangjiajie, Guilin, Huangshan, Yunnan, Harbin, dan Tibet. Tapi ribet ngurus visa nya kalo Tibet.

2. Bikin visa China

Bikin visa China cukup gampang, bisa datang sendiri dan pesen Single Entry – Regular Application dengan biaya Rp 540.000 dan selesai sekitar 4-5 hari kerja. Persyaratannya monggo di-Google 😛 yang paling penting adalah:

  • Itinerary (tanggal berapa kemana) harus dilampirkan
  • Tiket pesawat udah dibeli dan PDFnya diprint
  • Hotel udah dipesen, bukti reservasinya lampirin

Karena gue males ngurus bolak-balik Jakarta, akhirnya pake biro jasa. Worth it sih, gue bayar Rp 575.000 aja per visa di Dwidaya Tour Bandung. Selesainya sekitar 1 minggu.

Oiya visa China itu cuma buat Mainland China. Jadi lo gak bisa pake visa ini untuk ke Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, dan Tibet.

3. Hotel atau Hostel?

Gue pribadi lebih nyaranin tinggal di Hostel daripada Hotel. Kenapa? Simply karena orang China jarang banget bisa bahasa Inggris! Bahkan gue pernah baca suatu blog yang orangnya nginep di well-known chain hotel dan susah berkomunikasi sama resepsionisnya. Hostel di China biasanya memang lebih banyak dihuni sama foreigners, jadi resepsionisnya rata-rata anak muda yang bisa ngomong Inggris.

Dari review-review, kebanyakan hostel disini agak jorok, jadi gue kemaren takut nginep di Dorm Room. But the private rooms juga gak mahal kok, walaupun out of a backpacker’s budget. Bagi 2 sama kakak, total pengeluaran gue untuk akomodasi nyaman selama 10 hari cuma 1.5 juta 😛

Hostel
Private Room di Han Tang Inn, Xi’an

Hostel di China harganya berubah-ubah tergantung musim. Di peak season (April – Oktober), harganya bisa 2x lipat dari low season!

Semua hostel yang gue tempatin kemaren recommended (horeee!). Bersih, lokasinya sentral, <500 meter dari subway/halte bus, deket sama convenience store.

  • Xi’an: Han Tang Inn Hostel –> favorit banget! Baca aja review TripAdvisornya
  • Beijing: 161 Hotel –> ini bukan hostel sih sebenernya tapi entah kenapa masuk listing di situs pencarian hostel. Di sebelah hotel ada restoran halal lho.
  • Shanghai: Mingtown Nanjing Road Youth Hostel
  • Hangzhou: awalnya di West Lake Youth Hostel, tapi ternyata dia sudah tutup padahal lokasinya bagus banget deket Leifeng Pagoda 😦 akhirnya ke Mingtown Hangzhou International Youth Hostel
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West Lake di Hangzhou

4. Transportasi

Kalo di Xi’an, cari hostel deket Bell Tower. Sumpah lo tinggal jalan kaki aja ke hampir semua major attraction. Cape sih, tapi biar kurus dan sehat 😛 dan ada naik bus dikit paling ke beberapa tempat. Di Beijing, sebisa mungkin cari yang deket Subway dan cari yang gampang transfer ke Line 1. Banyak naik bus juga. Di Shanghai, carilah yang dekat Nanjing Road/The Bund, itu tinggal jalan banget kemana-mana. Naah kalo di Hangzhou ini agak tricky. Berhubung major attractionnya adalah West Lake dan danau itu jauh dari pusat kota plus GEDE BANGET TOLOOONG, option yang paling memungkinkan adalah sepeda dan jalan kaki sampe gempor (hiks). Tunggu cerita gue tentang masing-masing kota ini di postingan2 selanjutnya! 😀

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My twin brother and I at Terracotta Warrior

Transportasi di dalam kota

Ketika naik Subway, pastikan keluar dari Exit yang tepat supaya gak muter-muter. Bisa pake petunjuk Google Maps atau liat jalan yang deket tujuan kita di neon board.

Subway di China sangat ketat pengamanannya, selalu ada security scanner kayak di airport. Tapi bawa koper besar masih bisa kok, apalagi kalo tampang kita innocent, ga bakal ribet ditanya-tanya. Hehe. 😀

Transportation 1
Kakak gue di dalam Subway Beijing

Untuk naik bus, tunggu di bus station terdekat dan cari nomor bus yang dituju di papan. Kalo ada bus datang, liat neon sign di depan, ada nomor busnya (misalnya 602). Biasanya gue cari dulu di Google Maps, hitung perhentian kita ada di perhentian ke berapa, lalu hitung sendiri waktu di dalem bus. Soalnya semua tulisannya ga bisa gue baca, dan loudspeaker nya juga bahasa Mandarin. Di tempat-tempat populer, kadang ada beberapa bus stop. Selalu cek nomor bus terlebih dahulu di papan petunjuk.

Transportasi antar kota

Dari satu kota ke kota lain, bisa naik pesawat (maskapai lokal) atau kereta. Surprisingly, harganya kadang gak jauh beda lho. Sama-sama mahal. Hiks :(.

Jenis-jenis kereta dan kelasnya bisa diliat di sini.

Stasiun kereta di China ini gedeee banget kayak airport. Security systemnya juga kayak airport, jadi gue sangat menyarankan untuk datang ke stasiun 2 jam sebelum keberangkatan. Karena banyak banget pemeriksaannya.

Transportation 3
Stasiun kereta di Beijing yang gedenya kayak airport

Untuk menghemat biaya akomodasi, gue pake Soft Sleeper dari Xi’an –> Beijing dan Beijing –> Shanghai. Dari Xi’an itu gue dapet kereta T (kelas bisnis kali ya kalo di kita), jadi kasurnya agak keras. Kalo dari Beijing gue dapet kereta D, kasurnya empuk, lebih lebar dikit dan selimutnya fluffy~

5. Outfit + Cuaca

Jadi ternyata saudara-saudara, AccuWeather di hp itu tidak akurat! 😦 Gue pergi ke China akhir Maret. Waktu di Indonesia, si AccuWeather bilang Xi’an siang-siang 21 derajat Celcius. Ih gile kayak Bandung jaman baheula kan. Ternyata oh ternyata pas nyampe China, suhunya sekitar 12 derajat plus angin-angin setan yang bikin kakak gue langsung pilek 😦 untungnya pengalaman gue dengan winter mengatakan bahwa lebih baik overdressed daripada kedinginan, jadi gue udah bawa winter coat dan banyak sweater, which helped a lot! Selama masih winter/spring juga sering hujan, jadi bawalah payung.

Outfit 1
Kalo di selatan (Shanghai / Hangzhou) lebih anget, pake jaket juga cukup

Gue sarankan liat AccuWeather dari PC biar lebih detail, bisa juga liat ini. Buat cewek, bisa liat ini dan ini untuk referensi outfit.

Outfit 2
Kalo di utara (Xi’an, Beijing) lebih dingin, ini gue pake winter coat pun masih dingin :’)

Pakailah sepatu dan baju yang nyaman. Trust me, it works. Karena……… (jreeeng)

6. Nyusun itinerary

Taman, istana, temple, museum, dan hampir semua tourist spot lainnya di China adalah SANGAT LUAAAASSSS. Capek, capek banget sumpah ngejalanin semuanya tuh bagaikan menjalani kehidupan ini *tsah. No kidding. Orang China ini setiap Dinasti nya pengen bikin bangunan yang remarkable, jadilah semua dibangun dengan megah.

Itinerary 1
Temple of Heaven – Beijing. Untuk mencapai tempat ini tuh harus ngelewatin taman gede dan jalan jauuuh….

Untuk muterin 1 tempat aja perlu waktu tidak kurang dari 2 jam, jadi buatlah itinerary dengan mempertimbangkan semua ini. Belom lagi kalo ribet cari pintu keluar, salah keluar subway, nyasar, dan udah keburu gelap jadi takut mau ngeeksplor. Huft.

7. Makanan

This is it! *nyam nyam*

Menurut gue, regardless of Muslim atau nggak, cari makan di China itu gak susah kok. Di Xi’an, salah satu top attractionnya adalah Muslim Quarter yang deket sama Drum Tower. Sepanjang jalan ini, semua makanannya halal. Beijing juga banyak makanan halal (ditandai dengan papan restoran yang warna ijo tua atau ada tulisan Arab nya).

Food 2
Mie super asin di Muslim Quarter -__-

Tapiii kalo di Selatan (Shanghai dan Hangzhou), memang agak susah cari restoran halal. The best I could do adalah makan KFC/McDonalds/Yoshinoya, dan beli makanan pak yang dipanasin di microwave di convenience store (setelah dengan susah payah nanya pake isyarat tangan sama kasirnya apakah ini daging babi atau bukan….).

Food 3
KFC di Nanjing Road, Shanghai. Jangan ngarepin ada menu nasi ya, hahaha

Dimsum udah hampir bisa dipastikan isinya daging babi, kecuali mungkin mantau yang manis dan ga ada isinya. Kalo typical Chinese food, kayak semacam sapi/ayam lada hitam, gue sih gak saklek ya, asal bukan babi gue makan-makan aja. Entah bumbunya atau minyaknya pake yang haram atau nggak 😦 Alternatif lain adalah pesen menu vegetarian, biasanya sih aman, tapi jarang ada option ini.

Food 1
Sharing Chinese food sama strangers di Xi’an

8. Komunikasi

Poin terakhir dan yang paling penting adalah komunikasi. It didn’t help that my brother and I looked A LOT like Chinese, jadi diajak ngomong Mandarin mulu, malah ditanya alamat di Shanghai dan diminta KTP China sama security di Xi’an 😦

Orang China itu jarang banget yang bisa bahasa Inggris. And I have to add, mereka tidak terlalu ramah. Bukan tipe yang bisa diminta fotoin di spot lucu, dan jalannya terlalu cepet untuk dihentikan dan ditanya arah.

Kalau lo cuma bisa ngomong Xie xie doang kayak gue, life will be tough. It will. Tapi bisa disiasati dengan cara:

  • Selalu bawa tulisan alamat hostel dalam bahasa Mandarin. You’ll never know kalo tetiba nyasar dan harus nanya arah pulang.
  • Siapkan tulisan “Ayam”, “Sapi”, “Babi”, “Udang”, “Cumi”, kalo nyari makan dan ragu itu babi atau bukan, tanya pake bahasa isyarat sambil nunjuk tulisan.
  • Likewise, tulisan “Bus stop” dan “Subway” juga penting.
  • Last but not least, inilah kertas ajaib penyelamat semesta alam:
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Kertas ajaib! 😀

Internet Censorship

Ini poin super duper penting yang sering terlupakan. China mensensor hampir semua kebutuhan internet kita… yang without it we cannot live *lebay*. Wi-Fi hotel gak guna dah. Semua produk Google (Chrome, Maps, Gmail, Youtube, dll), WhatsApp, Line, Instagram, dan social media lainnya di-block. Katanya sih Path dan Yahoo bisa, tapi entah kalo sekarang di-block.

Berhubung gue gak se-petualang itu sampe bisa jalan-jalan tanpa Google Maps, gue mensiasatinya dengan cara langganan paket internet dari Indonesia. Gatau ya kalo operator lain, kemaren sih gue pake Telkomsel alhamdulillah lancar, gak ada sensor-sensoran. Mahal memang, selama 10 hari abis pulsa 700 ribu… tapi yah, gimana lagi? Daftar paketnya di *266# lalu ikutin aja petunjuknya. Pas di China, pilih operator China Unicom, koneksinya lebih stabil dan kenceng. KECUALI di Hangzhou. Itu gue udah putus asa karena semua operator sinyalnya E, dan hilang-hilang timbul. Sedih 😦 Kalo di 3 kota lain sih lancar jaya aman sentosa.

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Okee sekian tips jalan-jalan ke China dari gue. Intinya kalo ada kemauan pasti ada jalan, apalagi sekarang udah zaman canggih semua informasi ada di fingertips, asal rajin nyari aja.

Di postingan-postingan selanjutnya gue akan bahas itinerary masing-masing kota. Mudah-mudahan ga males bikinnya, haha 😀 See you!