Tag Archives: cultural

An Update (Again)

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Just came back from my annual visit to Indonesia. As usual, to celebrate the CNY.

This time, Chinese New Year feels different for me. In so many ways.

Not only that now I am no longer receiving angpao, and instead having to give kids ones, it was also… I don’t know. Ambivalent? I don’t know, I am not even sure how to put it. What I know is that in this trip home, so many things has changed. And, I realised that I have changed a lot too, since the last CNY.

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Mentally, mostly.

One little thing like… how I feel when I was surrounded by family, for example. It has changed too.

I used to like being left alone. I can blame it to my teenage angst, but now I can appreciate it more. I can appreciate being surrounded by cousins whom I haven’t met for at least five years, or nieces and nephews I haven’t never seen before. I can appreciate the attentions, as much as I could appreciate them leaving me alone in the past.

Or, the way I reacted to the problems in the family. I feel that I am no longer trying to fix stuff. It was, of course an effort not to treat my sisters and brother like children anymore. They are adults now, and the realisation has helped me to let them go, and be their own person. And they are their own persons, and I am proud of them.

It’s just…

Being the eldest in the family, there’s always this feeling of wanting to protect my sisters and brother. They probably don’t need my protection, not anymore. But it is always ingrained in me, the sisterly tough love to them. And, to be honest, this is probably the closest I could ever be to parenthood, so… IF they read this, I hope they understand if I was mummying them. (No, there’s a difference between mummying, and mummifying. Pay attention!)

Anyway. One thing doesn’t change though…

The FOOD.

As the closing of today’s post, I will present you: THE FOOD

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Is Life A Race?

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Seems like I couldn’t shake it off my mind since I came back from Indonesia last month.

Like usual, big events in our family means hundreds of friends and relatives gathered to give you their free opinion — yes free, you don’t even need to ask for it. Aunties are the worst of the kinds, because they do have blood relations with you, and they are in a higher position than you are in the family tree. A lethal combo in our culture.

It was much better that I had my husband with me last time I went back to Indonesia. It means that whenever I started to grit my teeth listening to these unwanted opinions, I have my husband to give me a reason not to blow up. Still a Mr. Fix-It, he will fix the situation — unknowingly, since he doesn’t understand a word my aunts said.

Anyway, on their last day in Solo (it was a beautiful sunny day, and much better with seeing them leaving), they made a comment about my sister’s pregnancy.

Great Comic from The Oatmeal: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/kids

If you think that when your sister is pregnant, your extended family will leave you alone being child-free, then you are totally and utterly mistaken. In fact, they were even more savage and fierce in telling you that you need to have kids as soon as possible.

One sentence that I couldn’t get rid of my brain is:

“Kamu kapan? Tuh kebalap sama adek…”

Which I could freely translate that to:

“When will you [have a baby]? Your younger sister has overtaken you…”

Overtaken?

Is this a race?

Haven’t they ever play “The Game of Life“? Everybody knows that anyone who finish first lived the most boring life!

But seriously? Is life a race though?

Is it about who graduate the fastest? Or who gets married first? Or get a job first? Be a mum first? It is an idea that I couldn’t get around to. I mean is it okay to ask someone who said that my sister overtook me because she got pregnant first by asking:

“When will you be dead though? You don’t want your younger siblings to overtake you, do you?”

Prost!

 

Fat Fashion

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Disclaimer: There is nothing PC about this entry. It is rather harsh, and most probably will make some people feel incredibly offended. However, it is a piece of thought, and it is not directed to a particular person. It is just an observation, and maybe… all of us need to get a life. 

It was a lazy weekend, and I was lying there feeling happy drinking my coffee, while playing TsumTsum on my phone. Out of nowhere (possibly out of the kitchen), my husband decided to weigh himself. If I haven’t told you yet, we just bought a weightwatcher’s bathroom scale, because we are thinking of getting ourselves in shape. (The first step to tackle a problem is to know how big the problem is — or the number is)

He looked a bit gloomy when he read the number, like I would too. I told my husband that I feel fat.

This is what he always does. He would dismiss me saying that I am fat, probably thinking that if he is agreeing with me it will make me feel bad. But I am not that kind of person, I don’t fish compliment to feed my self confident. However, lately, I have developed a new theory about why he dismisses my concern about bodily fat. Maybe he simply can’t see it.

I am not saying that he can’t see it because he’s blind. I am saying that he is biased. It is not because he loves me and accept me the way I am — of course he does, he married me. But that’s not the reason why he is biased. He is biased because in this country we are surrounded by a lot of overweight people. He started making comparison and unconsciously normalise what is considered as fat and what is not.

There are hundreds of articles or news (you could just google it), where people are protesting that one clothes manufacturer didn’t have more plus size dresses. Or that a certain brand doesn’t have “normal” size women to model their frocks. But what is not normal about being size UK 10? That’s S/M or size 8 in the US, or 38 EU size. That’s 36 inches bust circumference.

The reason why size 10 is not normal is because size 16 is the new normal. Based on a research, size 16 is the average size of women in the UK. No wonder when I have ballooned from size 10 to size 12, my husband is still saying that I am not fat.

Because, that’s the culture.

That’s the culture when people making all these “chubby is cute”, “curve is sexy” kind of thing as an excuse for giving up losing weight. Sometimes I wonder when these women said “I love myself, I love my body”, was it self appreciation, or just an excuse to make themselves feel better? Not that I see nothing wrong with it… I understand that for some people, denial is a form of self defence mechanism.

Before you said anything, I will tell you… in all honesty. I have gained more than 10 kilograms since the first time I arrived in the UK in 2011, and 8 kg of them was after I started the contraception pills. In the beginning of this year I has stopped consuming these pills because I managed to find a doctor to fit in the coil in my womb. Since then, I have lost 4kg.

4 kg in two bloody months.

And, before you said anything more, I will tell you that my sister has PCOS. It is Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Her metabolism system is slow. Her insulin level is low. Not only that she is prone to diabetes, she also has problem losing weight because of that. But she lost 7 kg in four months, just with going tennis once or twice a week, and not snacking after dinner.

7 kg in four months.

So, I know how hormonal changing, or any illnesses, or disease could affect how your body reacts to… food. But I also know that it is not entirely impossible to do.

I am not saying that being thin is always the healthier way to do it. Some people are so obsessed with having thigh gap, or collarbone… well… I dont  mind having those. But I probably wouldn’t go the extra way that might harm myself. But going to the other extreme and finding it okay to be obese… Really?

Normalising being fat, and probably at the same time condemning people from taking care of themselves is not what you call “loving your body” is it? You said YOLO, and then scoff yourself silly with whatever your eyes see. If you know you only live once, would you want to live it dying on your bed not being able to move because you are too heavy to enjoy moving about?

Oh well…

Ranting does make you hungry doesn’t it? Time for cake…

Prost!

Racist Or Not Racist…

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That’s the question…

Of course I am talking about one of Indonesian Ambassador who few days ago posted a tweet that is considered as racist. Well… Okay. He said “Cina” in his tweet.

And why is this a problem?

Some people don’t consider using the word “Cina” to refer to Chinese Indonesian as a racist comment. But, the word “Cina” is the equivalent of the N word in the USA. If it is said by an African American, it is fine (sort of), but when a White American said it… it is improper. Same with the C word in Indonesia.

It is historical. It is cultural. Lots of people haven’t gotten over it as it has a negative connotative for being used as a derogative term for minority group.

So… when someone with the position like this Mr. Ambassador said the C word in public space, with or without malice, it is considered as a political blunder. A huge one, if I must say.

But here’s the thing.

I, for once, am not a PC Police. I don’t go around the social media attacking people who made the slightest social or cultural faux pas. I don’t even care about political correctness if it is about telling facts. So, I am not going to follow the crowd and condemn this tweet. I consider this as a PR crisis. Told you many years ago that these politicians need to hire people like me to manage their bloody social media. But nobody listens *rolleyes*.

And what if it is not a PR crisis? What if it is not a political blunder? What if this tweet is not just a mistake, but a reflection of how racist this guy is? So what?

I can’t make someone to be not-racist. Nobody can make someone to be not-racist, and it is the same the other way around. Can you… if you are not a racist, be made racist? No.

There is a place inside your brain that nobody can touch. It is where you are truly free, to be yourself. There is no right and wrong about the thing in your head. And if you have a certain idea about something or someone, that is your perception based on your own experience, based on what you’ve heard or seen. There is no such thing as thought crime.

See…

Generalisation. Stereotyping. The kind of thing that you consider so bad is actually the way our brain work to simplify our lives. It is one of our basic instinct and survival tool. It is in the nature. It is been there to help us making sense of the world.

In the past mankind generalise animal as either prey or predator. That’s how they choose which animals they can eat and which one they should avoid. That’s survival. They classified plants to help them understanding the nature. Race, ethnicity… it is how we try to make sense of human’s uniqueness. It helps some people, to reduce the feeling of unknown.

This is humane. And this is what many PC polices don’t understand.

Some people just can’t help being racist. Especially in Indonesia where it is rooted, and where it is being taught from generation to generation. It has been drilled to people’s mind and being reinforced by radical groups. It is something that you can only hope will change slowly. It is not something that you can change overnight.

Heck.. we just start recognising this in Indonesia since 1998. We still have a long way to go.

Don’t get me wrong.

It does hurt when I read or listen to this kind of aggression. Micro or macro, it doesn’t matter. It still hurt no matter how much understanding you could give to these people. Sometimes even, I would retaliate, but most of the time, I’d rather write.

Like this.

Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe, it could help people to understand too.

 

Prost!

When In Rome…

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My friends and I were talking about the woman who got arrested in Belgium for attacking a police officer when she was asked by the officer to take the full face veil off. It was not a recent news, but it was still a good topic for a deep conversation with your fellows. The premise is: Belgium bans any head gear which cover one’s face, and in this case it is called burqa (burka) in public spaces. And, that most of us in the conversation group believe that what Belgium (and France) has done by banning burqa in public space is a good preventative step to protect other citizen.

I said most, because… One of the fellow in the conversation group argues that the banning of burka is against the universal declaration of human rights. He quoted UDHR, articles 18 about the freedom of religion.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

I have to admit that I quite like the fact that he cited the UDHR. I mean, there are a lot of people who would utter their opinion while completely dismissing facts, evidence, or any supporting documents. What this guy did was basically trying to challenge my belief that banning burqa is actually a good thing.

So, is it true then? Is it true that France and Belgium has violate the universal declaration of human rights for banning burqa in public spaces? Because what he said is true, that the government has basically limit someone’s right to practice, and manifest her religion or believe in public. Well… partially true.

There’s one thing about RIGHTS that someone forgets. RIGHTS always come together with RESPONSIBILITIES. There is no such thing as the unlimited rights. It is limited, to a certain degree. And if you go a little bit further, you would be able to see the explanation of UDHR article 18 about the right to freedom of thought and religion:

Article 18
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions. respect the exclusive character of the responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the staff and not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities.

http://www.claiminghumanrights.org/thought_religion_definition.html

There you go. The guy in our discussion group only mentioned the first part of the article. He probably forgot that the third part of the article explained about how the rights could be limited, when it is needed to protect public safety, order, bla bla… and the fundamental rights and freedom of others.

In Belgium in particular, it is necessary for the police officer to ask the said woman to take her face veil off. Brussels had been in so much pressure lately. The city got locked down after the Paris attack, and almost every day you could see on the news that there are more and more radicalised group being arrested for planning terrorism. It is important for people in the country to be able to feel safe, and feel that the government is doing something.

The fact that so many terrorists were identified through CCTV makes it just sensible to ask people to show their face if they’re out in public. Isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

Right. I am not going to make you agreeing with me, because that’s not what I am trying to do in here. I understand that some people has their very idea of what freedom is. I believe that there is no such thing as the unlimited freedom, even when you live alone in the jungle — you are still limited by the space of the jungle. All I say is that if you can’t live by the rule, you still have the freedom to move somewhere else where you can do what you want to do without breaking the law.

Isn’t that what many Indonesian has been doing all these time? Going abroad to get married because in Indonesia inter-religion marriage is not accepted? Isn’t that what many Irish people has been doing all these time? Going to England to get an abortion for the unwanted pregnancies? Isn’t that what many British people has been doing all these time? Going to Switzerland to get an assisted dignified death?

Isn’t it?

Prost.

Book Review: And The Mountains Echoed

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Title: And the Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Language: English
Format: Hardback cover


Review:
I always loved Khaled Hosseini’s work. His debut book — The Kite Runner has stolen my attention, and the second book A Thousand Splendid Suns has assured me that he is a wonderful writer. When I saw this book was open for pre order in Amazon, I was so excited and promised myself that I would read it. This week, I had the chance to read the book.

And The Mountains Echoed evolves around the life of two Afghans siblings who were apart by fate when they were very young. The wars, the changes in social and political situation in Afghanistan shaped their lives, and the lives of people around them. Hosseini captured them all in his beautiful storytelling about the life in Afghanistan and the lives of the Afghans from different point of views.

It was a struggle to put this book down. If only I do not need my beauty sleep in the night, I might have finished this book in only three days. Yes. The story was THAT addictive.

Of course t wouldn’t be fair to compare this book to the previous two. However, this book is incomparable after all. It has different depth in political and war situations, and definitely different characterisations which made this book so much different that Hosseini’s former works.

I wouldn’t lie to you. This is not a chicken soup kind of heart warming story. Instead, I found it dark, gritty, and incredibly brutal. Which I like so much.

So, based on those verdicts, I would recommend this book, and rate this book 4 out of 5 stars 🙂