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11 into 12

It’s 2012 already. And I will write down my resolution for the year so I can have some accountability check at the end of the year..

1. I will pray and have daily devotion DAILY. No excuses, even in the form of baby or travel or overtime at work.

2. I will try to be less negative in responding to people and in my general attitude. I will listen more, and will say yes more.

3. I will be strict with my skincare :p

4. I will do regular yoga or pilates with hubby. Most important thing: find a workable schedule and drag hubby to it.

5. I need to save more than I did in 2011.

6. I will knit 12 gifts, learn 12 new knitting techniques, use up 12 stashed yarns, and knit 1 big lace project (Crown Prince Shawl?)

7. I will spare time everyday to call family.

There. No tick boxes but I hope I can cross them all by December 31, 2012.

What’s your New Year Resolution?

It is alive and well

Have you ever been shocked by something foreign, only to realize later that the shocking thing actually exists much, much closer than you previously thought? Like being shocked by the news of a snake appearing in a toilet bowl somewhere in Papua, and thinking to yourself: “what a different place Papua is! We’re really coddled by modern luxury. I can’t imagine a snake suddenly appearing when I’m taking a crap. It must be the wilderness out there…” And then suddenly a few weeks later a friend sent you a picture of her toilet bowl, with a huge honking snake head peeking out from the water. A friend who lives in a posh urban house with good sanitation and electricity and technology and no wild jungles visible from the window.
Have you?

I just had a similar experience today. Only, instead of a snake (freakish, I admit, but it doesn’t shake your core belief or fundamental sense of self), it came in the form of FGM (female genital mutilation). It is something I learned from the pages of Cultural Anthropology textbook about African cultures. It is something I read in feminist books condemning the widespread African practice of it. It is something that shocked me when African victims made video testimonies. It is something I’m passionately, personally against. It is something shocking, outrageous, alien, foreign. It’s African.
Only it might not be so African as I thought.
Apparently the practice is not only alive in Indonesia (my own country, for crying out loud), it is very much alive and well and widely practiced and and and… accepted as a norm!
The snake has suddenly appeared in my living room!

There’s this article in (6-12 August 2011 edition, if you’re interested in reading the article and can get your hands on one) highlighting the practice of ‘female circumcision’ in Indonesia. And I just happen to be sitting in a hair salon, and I, in self-righteous shock, blurted out to my hairdresser, “Hah?? Sunat perempuan (female circumcision)?” And what did she say? (And her three other friends who happened to be around) “Oh yeah. Sure. Usually done together while piercing the baby girl’s ears (tindik).” Like talking about their daily menu!

So am I the only one being rendered speechless, slack-jawed, and reeling from this mind-boggling revelation? Or am I just not well-read/connected/updated enough?

I guess it’s the fact that FGM’s not such an ‘aboriginal’ concept after all that boggles me. (Or that Indonesia is not as ‘civilized’ (insert my culturally-tied definition of civilized here) as I thought. One or the other.)

I had further discussion with my hairdresser about it, including its ties with regional customs, religious beliefs, and local medical practices, but I’m not going to elaborate about it here because it’s too loaded. If anyone comments and asks about it maybe I’ll write some more (some time). For now, suffice it to say that I’m still tipsy and reeling from the culture shock.

Motherhood 101

In Motherhood 101, there’s no grade. You either pass, or you fail. You might barely pass, pass alright, or pass with flying colors. But if you fail…there’s only one way to fail: miserably, irreparably, disastrously.

Every little thing I did wrong makes me question myself: would it permanently harm Puffy? Would he hate me? Would it make him antisocial/self-righteous/rebellious/any other malignant trait I can think of?
Just yesterday, while bathing him, I accidentally dunked his face under water for a split second. He must have snorted some water into his nose or mouth or eyes, for he started bawling. And I felt like I just scored ‘Klutziest/Worst Mother Of The Year’.

I’ve always liked the motto ‘it’s the thought and effort that matters most, not the end result.’ Oho, but would that work for motherhood too? Only if you want your child to be a failed social experiment. He won’t thrive on good intentions alone–you need a mixture of affection, tough love, informed knowledge, common sense, and a willingness to learn new things for the sake of teaching it to your baby. And then you need to find the right amount of each ingredient–put in too much tough love and he’ll grow up rebellious, extra dollops of information makes you one confused parent, etc.

In th end, I am the one being taught by Puffy. When I was worried about him being addicted to swaddled sleeping, he squirmed his own way out of his swaddle and resolved my problem. When I was worried about his frequent spit-ups and acne flares, he suddenly grew out of it and one day just stopped spitting milk and sprouting acne. When I was worried about his crying spells, the next day he returned to his usual angelic self and forgave whatever it was I did that frustrated him yesterday.

I am so in love, in love with you, my baby, my Puffy.
Had never thought myself capable of such love, like a spring that wells up and flows into a gurgling brook, and grows and grows to be a mighty river that drowns my selfishness completely.

white silence

my tongue is tied
when you hit a barrier where would you go?
if you’re assaulted from above, beyond, left, and right
east, west, north, and south
where would you run?
how would you dodge?
i couldn’t

you laid landmines
in veiled hopes
vague pleas
masked confessions
how could i dodge?
in the end, i lose
i always lose
shattered to pieces,
vanquished and alone

no one wins in
this war, no one wins

it’s me and white silence
i’ve lost
my
voice

Entah kenapa hari itu, common sense lagi ambil cuti: aku langsung naik saja taksi pertama yang berhenti, tanpa mengecek warnanya biru berlogo burung atau bukan.

Kalimat pertama yang si pak supir ucapkan, setelah tujuan ditentukan:
“Non, saya tanya ya, situ cines kan?”
“E? Maap pak, apa?”
“Cines? Cines, cines, itu loh, orang cina?”
“Ooo..hh, iya pak, kenapa?” Pertanyaannya sudah cukup aneh dan sangat terus terang, sistem pertahananku langsung naik…

Terus dia nyerocos tentang temannya (lebih tepat disebut mantan teman) di Bandung, seorang Chinese, yang banyak si bapak ini bantu saat masih di akademi militer.
“Kalo ada apa-apa dia itu minta bantunya ke saya lho” “Tapi terakhir ke Bandung, kok lagaknya acuh kayak ga kenal gitu lho” “Masa kayak begitu, padahal dulu sudah saya anggap keluarga sendiri”
Aku manggut-manggut dan mengerutkan kening sepantasnya di kursi belakang, tak tahu dia bisa lihat atau tidak. Defense mechanism full sekarang.

Pertanyaan selanjutnya: “Nah sekarang pertanyaan saya, apa semua orang cines itu begitu?”
Setelah menunjukkan sikap tidak setuju dan mengatakan bahwa temannya (ex-temannya) bukan karena Chinese jadi tidak tahu diri, tapi karena memang pada dasarnya tidak tahu diri, orang seperti itu jangan dianggap teman pak; aku agak lega karena kelihatannya si bapak puas dengan jawabanku.

Di tengah macetnya bunderan menuju perhentian bus, dia bertanya lagi, tentang politik kali ini.
“Kalau situ, nanti pemilu presiden, bakal milih siapa?”
(Alarm di kepala bilang, ‘hati-hati’)
“Wah, kalo saya sih, masih nunggu ya pak, kampanye mereka nanti ngomongnya apa.”
“Ah, kalo saya sih ya, jujur aja, udah nentuin pilihan langsung, pasti SBY.”
(Alarm berhenti, lumayan lega denger jawabannya.)
“Ya habis yang laen tuh ya, Prabowo dan Wiranto kan militer, bakal kacau jadinya.”

Tepat hari itu baru dikeluarkan pengumuman daftar harta cawapres, dengan Prabowo memiliki aset paling banyak sebesar 1.7 triliun rupiah. Si bapak bilang, “Ah nggak mungkin segitu.”
“Lebih banyak ya pak?”
“Ya kurang lahhh” (nadanya menguliahi anak SD) “Coba situ bayangin, kalau diperiksa lagi setahun ke depan dan kekayaannya cuma nambah sedikit, kan ga akan dicurigai, padahal sebenarnya lebih banyak tapi nggak kelihatan.”
Dan dia memberikan analogi karung yang seolah-olah gembung tapi isinya udara–saat karung itu benar-benar diisi emas, orang tak akan curiga.
“Menurut saya, asetnya yang saham itu juga tidak benar… pasti dia mbantu pengusaha terus dikasih saham kosong, begitu…”

Saat ini kecurigaan sudah berubah menjadi keheranan dan kekaguman pada si bapak supir taksi.

“Coba saya tanya, situ kerjanya di bidang apa?”
“Properti pak.”
“Nah coba pikir, kalau situ ada proyek bagus, terus JK yang pengusaha mau juga, dia bisa pakai kekuatan militer buat ambil dari tangan situ. Kan jadi situ yang rugi.”
“Ya iklan boleh bilang dia bantu rakyat kecil, tapi buktinya mana, malah kekayaannya yang nambah.”

Aku manggut-manggut. Mengiyakan. Sepanjang jalan, sepanjang 45 menit kemacetan jam bubar kantor di Jakarta, aku mendengarkan, manggut-manggut, dan belajar banyak tentang politik militer Indonesia.
Dari seorang supir taksi sederhana.
Yang ketajaman pikiran dan kehausan akan pengetahuannya lebih dalam daripada kebanyakan orang bergelar sarjana yang kukenal. Yang kecintaannya pada bangsa tidak membuatnya berpahit-pahit dalam kesulitan hidup. Yang dalam pekerjaannya mencari nafkah, membuat perubahan dalam hidup orang-orang yang ditemuinya. Salah satunya, aku.

Aku menanyakan namanya, kalaupun tidak akan pernah bertemu lagi, setidaknya untuk disimpan dalam hati.

Di manapun bapak sekarang, pak, semoga Tuhan pelihara selalu. Mari sama-sama berdoa semoga presiden baru nanti bisa membawa Indonesia lebih baik lagi.

Sleeping with books

No books, no soft toys.

(You guessed right… this post has nothing whatsoever to do with caterpillars)

Is what the my surgeon told me. After my sinus surgery, it is imperative that I live in a very controlled environment–no stray dust or mold or mites can be allowed. In the olden days before Kindle, I would have squirmed and protested. No books on my desk? No books on my bedside table? No BOOKS? I can’t imagine a bedroom without books. Those who know me well know that books have a tendency to appear and accummulate in my bedroom. Over the course of any one week a half dozen books seem to have teleported themselves to my room.

So you can imagine my chagrin when I was told I was to live in a bedroom without books. That is, if I hadn’t had my Kindle :)

With Kindle now on my bedside table, it’s like sleeping with piles and piles of books in the room, with barely enough space for the bed. Imagine a heavily-curtained reading room, Victorian style, with big heavy books in tall wooden armoires, and me cuddled with a blanket in the middle of the books. Only, there are no books. Just one Kindle.

Someone has to tell Jeff Bezos that this is another accomplishment to be written on Kindle’s FAQ: Sinusitis-safe, rhinitis-safe, recommended for post-septoplasty-turbinoplasty-surgery care.

I’m not saying anything about the girls being underage or not, but here are the hard facts I know:

  • My grandfather (who was born in China and later immigrated to Indonesia) didn’t know his own birthday, not even the year he was born–I don’t believe the Chinese bureaucratic system has changed that much to allow for perfect accuracy in signing birth certificates and stuff.
  • My aunt is 5′ and 77 lbs. She had given birth to two sons.
  • Asian girls tend to have menstruation later in life than American girls (I think it’s something in the American diet of fried chicken, burger, and frozen meals that affect Americans’ growth hormones) thus they still grow taller even after they’re 16 years old.
  • Asian people look younger than their actual age if judged base on Western standards. I’m 26 and people still ask me whether I’m a junior or a senior in college.

Discovery channel has a coverage about Chinese school for gymnasts: the school doesn’t accept kids over 4 years old, and they trained them for a year before determining whether or not they have ‘promising’ talent. The untalented ones get thrown out, and their parents said goodbye to the tuition fee. So 5-year-old kids are trained ruthlessly, 24/7, their bones and muscles twisted and bent and turned and trained in such a way that they almost always cry in pain; they go on in this fashion for 10 or so excruciating years…to win gold medals in the Olympic Games. And along with their gold medals, $100K and lifelong support for their family from the government. Should we criticize and demean this way of life by accusing them for being underage?

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