Villagers and the poor who don't keep track of their own birthdays

I just read a profile on Dahlan Iskan, the founder and current CEO of Jawa Pos (a major Indonesian newspaper) on a book titled "Rahasia Sukses The Best CEO Indonesia" by Harmanto Edy Djatmiko.

There it was said that Iskan was unaware of his own birth date since he came from a poor village in Java. His birthday was written down in a cupboard which was sold off to help pay for his late mother's surgery a couple of decades back in his home.

Iskan, who is now famous and successful, then decided to "brand" his own birthday by designating the date 17 August 1951 as the day he was born, using its auspicious links in relation to the Independence Day of Indonesia.

The story of Iskan also reminds me of my childhood friend back in my old house in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta.

She was around a year older than me, and her parents (who both originated from a rural family in Gombong, Central Java) made it no importance to  keep track of their children's birthday.

Not knowing their own birthdays?

I wonder whether this is a truly rural Indonesian phenomenon or whether this also exist in other parts of the globe. One thing for sure, not knowing your own birthday means that you don't own a birth certificate, and this further means that your name is not recorded in your country's database.

Some governments in developing countries seem to view it unimportant to record the names and birth dates of its citizens in the poorest and remotest areas of the country.

Such a sad fact, really.

As a result, some large number of its population remains uncounted and their voices are unheard of.

No wonder cycle of poverty never stops in some parts of the globe (including Indonesia). If their voices are unheard of by the government, how is the government able to help them?

This also makes me wonder if the number of people living below the poverty line (less than EUR 1.50/day) in Indonesia is actually higher than the 47% according to the government's statistics.

There may be another 10% or 20% who are uncounted for... Who knows?

The government doesn't even keep any record on them.


Liking for blue ink

On ballpoint pens, I have a liking towards using the blue-inked ones (as opposed to the black-inked).


It's a matter of contrast.

Especially when I have to annotate things up on a printed paper (where the printed ink is black by default), I always make it a point to use blue inked pens as to make my writings more reader-friendly.

And yeah, on printed papers which are intended for my personal read only, I always prefer printing by using blue ink instead of black.


A phone call to Bangkok is cheaper than to Bangka?

3 (Three), a cellular telecommunication provider in Indonesia, had recently run catchy advertisements across the Indonesian mass media spectrum, either thru the newspapers, magazines, or billboards on street intersections.

The ads puts a slogan that goes on like this:

Kini, nelpon Los Angeles lebih murah daripada ke Lenteng Agung

(Now, a phone call to Los Angeles is cheaper than to Lenteng Agung)

Kini, nelpon Melbourne lebih murah daripada ke Menteng

(Now, a phone call to Melbourne is cheaper than to Menteng)

Kini, nelpon Singapura lebih murah daripada ke Singaparna

(Now, a phone call to Singapore is cheaper than to Singaparna)

The advertisers had made it a point to put at least the two first letters of a foreign location and compare it to a local place which also had the very same first two letters.

Put into simpler words, it is a play on phonetics.

Funny idea, methinks.

Despite the ongoing criticism by brand marketers and truth-openers in an e-mail mailing list which is widely circulating among Indonesian netizens now, I find it unique to create my own catchy slogans like follows:

Kini, nelpon Nagasaki lebih murah daripada ke Nagrek

Kini, nelpon Puerto Rico lebih murah daripada ke Purwokerto

Kini, nelpon Amsterdam lebih murah daripada ke Ambon

Kini, nelpon Monako lebih murah daripada ke Mojokerto

Kini, nelpon Paris lebih murah daripada ke Pasar Minggu

Kini, nelpon Boston lebih murah daripada ke Bogor

Kini, nelpon Sydney lebih murah daripada ke Sidoarjo

Kini, nelpon Kazakhstan lebih murah daripada ke Kampung Utan

Kini, nelpon Den Haag lebih murah daripada nelpon Denpasar

Kini, nelpon Madrid lebih murah daripada ke Magelang

Kini, nelpon Bahamas lebih murah daripada ke Bandung

Kini, nelpon Jamaika lebih murah daripada ke Jambi

Kini, nelpon Polandia lebih murah daripada ke Pondok Labu

Kini, nelpon Kuwait lebih murah daripada ke Kuningan

Kini, nelpon Meksiko lebih murah daripada ke Medan

Kini, nelpon Chili lebih murah daripada ke Ciamis


Indo-lyric: Mengapa Ini yang Terjadi (Tere feat. Valent)

English translation:

Why is this happening

there is nothing wrong with differences
and everything we have
it's only our views that disagree
as it builds distance between us

* bcoz we're not supposed to have
these differences as a barrier


aren't we created
to complement each other
why is this happening

differences are not a reason
not to understand each other
which is why we should pave the path
to join our wishes together

repeat *
repeat reff

Original lyric in Indonesian:

tiada yang salah dengan perbedaan
dan segala yang kita punya
yang salah hanyalah sudut pandang kita
yang membuat kita terpisah

* karena tak seharusnya
perbedaan menjadi jurang


bukankah kita diciptakan
untuk dapat saling melengkapi
mengapa ini yang terjadi

mestinya perbedaan bukan alasan
untuk tak saling memahami
harusnya kita bisa memberi jalan
tuk satukan semua harapan

repeat *
repeat reff


Our Zodiac changed?

I hate to find this out, but most of our zodiac seem to have changed.

Mine has changed from Scorpio to Libra... Ah, what a pity.

However, let us pretend that we know nothing about this, eh?

I'd very much prefer continue living as the toxic Scorpio rather than that dull-looking inanimate lawful Libra.. Hahaha.

clipped from
Your "Real Sign"

The table below lists the dates when the Sun is actually within the astronomical constellations of the Zodiac, according to modern constellation boundaries and corrected for precession (these dates can vary a day from year to year).

You will most likely find that once precession is taken into account, your zodiac sign is different. And if you were born between November 29 and December 17, your sign is actually one you never saw in the newspaper: you are an Ophiuchus! The eliptic passes through the constellation of Ophiuchus after Scorpius.

Capricorn - Jan 20 to Feb 16
Aquarius - Feb 16 to Mar 11
Pisces - Mar 11 to Apr 18
Aries - Apr 18 to May 13
Taurus - May 13 to Jun 21
Gemini - Jun 21 to Jul 20
Cancer - Jul 20 to Aug 10
Leo - Aug 10 to Sep 16
Virgo - Sep 16 to Oct 30
Libra - Oct 30 to Nov 23
Scorpius - Nov 23 to Nov 29
Ophiuchus - Nov 29 to Dec 17
Sagittarius - Dec 17 to Jan 20

blog it


There's plenty of food for thought

The following text is originally lifted from the trivia section of The Jakarta Post dated Saturday, 22 March 2008.

~Compiled from various sources~

  • The French eat over 200 million frogs a year.
  • Italy leads the world in pasta consumption with 28 kilos eaten per person per year. Venezuela comes second with 12.5 kilos consumption per person anually.
  • The literal meaning of the Italian word linguine is "little tongues".
  • A common custom in Spain is to eat one grape for each of the last 12 seconds of every year for good luck.
  • The ancient Greeks thought that if they ate parsley, they would not get drunk.
  • Bakers in ancient Rome were required to bake their names into loaves of bread.
  • The Bagel gets its name from the German word for "stirrup".
  • A piece of French toast that was partially eaten by Justin Timberlake sold on eBay.
  • What was margarine was initially called Butterine when it was first marketed in England.
  • Cottage cheese was developed after a long camel ride by an Arab trader, who found that milk he was carrying in a goatskin bag had turned.
  • Oysters were a major part of life in New York in the late 1800s. They were eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner; they were pickled, stewed, baked, roasted, fried, scalloped and used in soups, patties and puddings. Oystering in New York supported large number of families, and oyster theft was a prevalent problem.
  • A bowl of lime Jell-O, when hooked up to an EEG machine, exhibits movement which is virtually identical to the brain waves of a healthy adult man or woman.
  • Potatoes were banned in Burgundy in 1910 because it was said, "frequent use causes leprosy".
  • Of all the potatoes grown in the United States, only 8% are used to make potato chips. Special varieties referred to as "chipping potatoes" are grown for this purpose.
  • In ancient Egypt a man placed his right hand on an onion when taking an oath. Its round shape symbolised eternity.
  • The old myth that eating carrots will improve eyesight is true. Carrots contain carotene which body converts to vitamin A.Vitamin A is necessary for the production of visual purple, which helps you see in the dark. Without vitamin A, you could develop night blindness.
  • All bananas start out as female flowers on a banana tree. The female flowers turn into bananas. The male flowers don't amount to anything.
  • The liquid inside of young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma.
  • Tabasco Sauce is made by fermenting vinegar and hot peppers in a French oak barrel which has 7.5 cm of salt on top and is aged for three years until all the salt is diffused through the barrel.
  • Heinz catsup leaces the bottle at a rate of 25 miles per year.
  • It takes 40 minutes to hard boil an ostrich egg.
  • Marshmallows were once used to celebrate Easter in China.
  • One kilogram packet of sugar has about five million grains of sugar.
  • The first bubble gum flavours ever produced were wintergreen, vanilla and cassia.
  • It takes the same amount of time to age a cigar as it does wine.
  • According to the KJV Bible, the fruit Eve gave to Adam in the garden of Eden was the fruit of "the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 2:17)


Getting butterflies

The following text is originally lifted from the trivia section of The Jakarta Post dated Tuesday, 10 October 2008.

~Compiled from various sources~

  • The biggest butterfly in the world is the Queen Alexandria's Birdwing. It lives in Papua New Guinea and has a wingspan greater than 28 centimetres.
  • The world's smallest butterfly is the Pygmy Blue. Its wingspan ranges between 10 mm to 12 mm in length.
  • The caterpillar of the monarch butterfly will eventually multiply its original weight by 2,700 times. If a 3.2 kilo newborn human gained weight at the same rate, as an adult, it would weigh well over 9 tonnes.
  • The hairstreak butterfly of South America has a fake head, complete with antennae, on its back wings. The theory is that birds will attack the fake head and leave the real head alone.
  • Adult goatweed butteflies play dead when handled.
  • The monarch butterfly can discern tastes 12,000 times more subtle than those perceivable by human taste buds.
  • Monarch butterflies go through a complete metamorphosis in three to six weeks.
  • Monarch butterflies can live for eight months, but the average butterfly life span in North America is two to three weeks.
  • During her lifespan, a female monarch butterfly may lay hundreds of eggs.
  • Monarch butterflies do not fly well in temperatures under 12 ºC. It is common for them to spread their wings to soak up the sun's rays, and when the right temperature is reached, to take flight.
  • North American monarch butterflies winter in Mexico where they live in communal roosts. Monarchs can fly 1,900 kilometres in three weeks.
  • When monarch butterflies migrate, they can reach altitudes of 10,000 feet.
  • The Brimstone butterfly has the longest lifetime of the adult butterflies at nine to 10 months.
  • The chrysalises (pupae) of some gossamer-winged butterflies are capable of producing weak sounds as to scare off potential enemies. They do this by flexing and rubbing together body segment membranes.
  • The vampire moth of Asia has a stiff proboscis that enables it to suck juices from thick-skinned fruits. It is also occasionally seen sucking the blood from a water buffalo or deer.
  • The yucca plant and the yucca moth are totally dependent upon one another for their existence. The moth pollinates the plant and at the same time lays an egg in the flower. The moth larva then eats some of the developing seeds.
  • Australia is home to 350 different kinds of butterflies.
  • At one time in Scotland, witches were suspected of assuming the form of red butterflies.


f'X atmostfear

Just tried the atmostfear yesterday, a seven-storeyed high slider in f'X (the new mall in Sudirman, Jakarta, which is said to be the offspring of e'X which is located next to the Japanese embassy in Menteng).

I am not sure if the concept of the attraction itself is borrowed from abroad (I haven't done any research on this.. Perhaps anyone has any info?)

If you are curious as to imagine what kind of attraction this atmostfear really is, just try to picture out a Waterbom (known as Waterpark in Kuta, Bali) slider without any drop of water running through it. And yeah, it takes a hell lot faster than Waterbom sliders to get from the top to bottom (ranging from 9 to 11 seconds, depending on various factors of the person concerned, such as height or weight).

Now how do you obtain admission for a 10-second atmostfear sliding?


After spending Rp100,000 in any outlets in f'X that day (be it bookstore, cellphone retailers, or food court), you could exchange the bills with one coupon which is applicable for seven days from the date of exchange.

Now I must tell you, I personally find spending money of Rp100,000 to be a very fluid thing to do, especially since the cost of almost everything there is relatively more expensive than in other malls.

For example, to buy a full meal in food court in Pondok Indah Mall food court, one needs to spend a mere average of Rp20,000 to Rp30,000.

In f'X, the average price of a meal in food court would fare around Rp40,000 to Rp50,000.

Almost twice as expensive, could you imagine that?

Thank goodness there was a Gramedia book fair (which would cease around Halloween, methinks) where I could spend money more wisely for those slanted-priced books. I bought a book titled Bilangan Fu by Ayu Utami, as it had been a long long time since I purchased a book in my own native Indonesian language.

Should you wanna try sliding in f'X atmostfear, I warn you: there is always the potential of getting injured by bumping your arm, wrist or knee. I myself injured my right arm, which scared me off from taking it the second time.

Mom, my cousin Pat, my sis Melody, and I had altogether spent Rp286,000 that day until we decided to hike our spending for another Rp14,000 as to make it a round number of Rp300,000.

And yeah, we exchanged those bills with three coupons to be spent latest by 28 October!

(too bad, none of us really vie for the chance of sliding in atmostfear again due to the little injuries that each of us obtained. Lolz, Mom decided to give those three away to her pal's family members)


The key to understand women

Women are inherently complicated creatures. There is no denying that.

Sometimes we men think that we could understand them 100%, but deep down inside we know it is not true.

However, some men are apparently quite gifted to be able to understand women from A to Z. I call them Venus-Brained Men (VBM).

A VBM is not necessarily sissy/effeminate, but they are mostly mistaken as gays simply because the way they think and relate to other individuals is closely related to women's.

VBM is also, most of the time, hang out more with girls and could get very close with a whole bunch of them (though never in the romantic sense). He may or may not write using girls' language, but it is certain that he could see women as if he is one of them.

If you ordinary guys out there want to understand women more, the key is simple:

consult your VBM friends!

Some guys think that when they have a problem in relationship with their girlfriend/fiancée, they should look consultation from their female friends.

But that is one big mistake.

Female friends are mostly good advisors in understanding their fellow beings, but when it comes down to building a solid bridge between the Mars-brain and the Venus-brain, VBM could fare better.


It is due to the fact that VBMs could understand men as much as they understand women.

I have a close friend who is a VBM (I hope he is not reading this blog post right now, otherwise he would be crimsoned to death).

Whenever I want to seek advice on understanding girls, I ask him first instead of asking my female friends.

Do I ever regret my decision in putting my first and foremost consultation preference on my VBM pal?

Nah, never.

As a matter of fact, whenever I decide to go against his advices (on girl problems); I always end up regretting my decision.

I think you fellow men out there should follow my lead too... Unless you are already a VBM, that is.


Indo-lyric: Dosa Ini (Gigi)

English translation:

Is it sinful

Is it sinful for this inner heart
to always feel unsatisfied
Is it sinful for these beautiful eyes
to see what's not supposed to be seen

Is it sinful for this mind
to be filled with suspicions
Is it sinful for me to walk this path
and never regret anything

If it
really is
a large sin
in Your eyes

Pardon me
Forgive me
and purify
this slave of Yours

Oh the Loving
oh the Affectionate
to You
I beg

Is it sinful for this heart
is it sinful for these eyes

Original lyric in Indonesian:

Dosakah hati kecil ini
Yang slalu tak merasa puas
Dosakah mata indah ini
Melihat yang tak semestinya

Dosakah pikiranku ini
Yang penuh rasa curiga
Dosakah jalan hidup ini
Dan tak pernah merasa menyesal

Bila memang
Semua itu
Dosa besar
Di matamu

Hamba ini

Yang pengasih
Yang penyayang
Ku memohon

Dosakah hati kecil ini
Dosakah mata indah ini


A substitute for holiness

Ford and I were taking a stroll back from the church which was just 20-minutes-distance of walk from our hostel.

Out of the blue, he asked me, "Toshi, do you know what is the noun form for the word holy?"

Thinking it was a regular question, I answered, "Erm... 'Holiness'?"

"Nah... The noun for 'holy' is 'hole'"


Putting a brick in your tea and breast in your glass

The following text is originally lifted from the trivia section of The Jakarta Post dated Saturday, 29 March 2008.

~Compiled from various sources~

  • Wine has about the same number of calories as an equal amount of grape juice.
  • A raisin dropped into a glass of champagne will repeatedly bounce up and down between the top and the bottom of the glass.
  • The shallow champagne glass first originated with Marie Antoinette, from wax moulds made of her breasts.
  • The citrus soda 7-UP was created in 1929; "7" was selected because the original containers were 7 ounces. "UP" indicated the direction of the bubbles.
  • A 200 ml can of soda pop contians the equivalent of an average nine teaspoons of sugar.
  • The original name of Pepsi-Cola was Brad's Drink.
  • Green Tea has 50% more vitamin C than black tea.
  • Tea was discovered in China more than 5,000 years ago.
  • England's national drink, tea, was first sold as a medicinal beverage.
  • A common drink for Tibetans is "butter tea" which is made out of butter, salt and brick tea.
  • A drink used to be made by the Aztec for the gods which had the ingredients of ground cocoa mixed in with spices and corn.
  • For many years, the fig has been used as a coffee substitute. The fruit contains proteolytic enzyme that is considered an aid to digestion and is used by the pharmaceutical company.
  • Most non-dairy creamers are flammable.
  • The main difference between chocolate and cocoa is the amount of fat.
  • There is no legitimate definition for white chocolate; brown chocolate contains cocoa liquor (non-alcoholic) and cocoa butter, while white chocolate contains only cocoa butter.
  • The same chemical responsible for the ecstatic highs of love and sexual attraction, phenylethylamine, is also found in chocolate.
  • One ounce milk chocolate bar has 6 mg of caffeine.
  • The early eating bars of chocolate were made of bittersweet chocolate. Milk chocolate was introduced in 1875 when Henry Nestle, a maker of evaporated milk, and Daniel Peter, a chocolate maker, got together and invented milk chocolate, which today is preferred by 80% of the world's population.
  • Honey is 80% sugars and 20% water.
  • Honey has been used for millenia as a topical dressing for wounds since microbes cannot live in it. It also produces hydrogen peroxide. Honey has even been used to embalm bodies such as that of Alexander the Great.


What would the world do without Indonesia?

Today's title is the theme for this year's Jakarta International Expo which would be hosted later this month (October).

I don't know what that title is supposed to mean.

If you take a look at the question in itself;

What would the world do without Indonesia?

it actually puts more emphasis on the phrase "what would do the world do" instead of the remaining end.

Why on earth do they question Indonesia's supposed "existence" in order to advocate nationalism among today's generation?

This is plain disturbing. Not stupid, but disturbing... Just like this year's tourism slogan of those "Celebrating 100 years of National Awakening" skullduggery which has no relevance whatsoever to neither the needs of the Indonesian service industry nor the international tourists.


Bird cage dilemma

I remember my senior back then in my primary school days who lived in Pondok Ranji, Ciputat... He had a house which was literally surrounded by birds... There were more than 20 cages of birds of all sizes and colours and habitats, from the cute parakeets to the ferocious-looking eagles.

Now it may look beautiful to some, but if I thought about his house and his neighbourhood a bit further, I would realise that it would take a while for newcomers in the area to get used to all those cacophonous chirpings all the time...

And another thing, those birds are restricted in their privilege to fly.

I pity them for sure, but there is also the consideration for dilemma:

If those birds are freed, they could become victims of hunters and poachers. There are plenty of those kinds of people in the country.

Which makes it a dilemma, ain't it? Should those birds be freed, or should they be caged?


PS: This blog post is NOT metaphorical and does NOT in anyway reflect my own emotional thoughts.


What being liberal really means

What does it mean to be a "liberal"?

I wonder.

A lot of people claim to be liberal, but when they are asked to define it in their thoughts and beliefs, they stutter.

Most define it in the ideological sense, such as by the progressive party you are affiliated with.

I, however, choose to define it in what I believe in.

For me, being liberal means as follows:

Feels completely OK to have my own religion attacked by other people.

For example, I have read Da Vinci Code without having to compromise my progressive Catholic beliefs.

Now the only reason I am OK to have my own religion attacked is because after all, religions come from Human. The messages might have come from a Higher Power, yes, but they are still written by prophets/saints anyway (who are -surprise- ordinary mortals like you and I). You may have hundreds of prophets in your religion, but it does not mean that the doctrines come down from God.

(Which is why I like to study religions... I study them for their spirituality, not for their doctrines!)

If you are truly liberal, don't get offended if your religion is attacked by others. Because after all, what really matters in embracing your religion is to apply its values of harmony and peace in your daily lives, instead of keeping 24-hour sentry on possible outside offenders.

Willing to attack/hurl offending statements to my own country/nation.

For example, I once wrote an entry about my birthplace as a nation of wimps.

This is of course, for my love and the betterment of the corresponding country itself. Now of course I don't advocate for you Malaysian or Saudi Arabian liberals to write a similar offensive statement towards your own country, because you could get arrested for that! That's the problem for those of you in highly-restrictive societies; you could always claim to be liberal at heart but still unable to show your "liberal side" to the outside world for fear of getting arrested, no matter how democratic your country's regime claims to be.

Feels completely OK to have friends who are of different faiths (or no faiths at all).

Now in Indonesia, wherein almost everybody claims to be a pluralist, everybody also claim that they could befriend people regardless of religion.

Ah, really?

I have put this to test the other day, by asking an Indonesian buddy of mine, "Dude, what do you think of people of different religions? Have you ever felt if there is some kind of a 'wall' between you and them?"

"Eh? Haha.. of course not."

I put forward another question that I know will produce a satisfactory answer, "So, what do you think of atheists?"

"What? Atheists?"

"Yes, atheists. What do you think of them?"

"Well honestly", he paused a while before answering after a deep thought, "they're despicable. I mean, how could anyone afford to have no religion?"

I sighed and grinned, knowing what a distorted mindset that he (and most other devout religious people here in the country) has.

I went on to explain to him that in Singapore and Japan and Europe, there are a lot of people who don't think that God is important. They only visit the churches and/or temples during festive days such as Christmas or Wedding celebrations.

That's the problem with most Indonesians (perhaps, this includes you).

They show how "pluralist" they are by showing that they are OK with people of differing religions.

However, when they are asked about their view on atheism or agnosticism (which is theoretically and practically banned by the Constitution), most choose to shun it.

Seriously, why do they have to shun irreligious people??

I wonder...

Feels completely OK to have a Communist Party in your country

The other day I have also proposed for the revival of PKI (Indonesian Communist Party).

Being a liberal means that you are willing to have all kinds of ideologies in your countries accommodated, whether it is a Conservative, Progressive, Totalitarian, Communist, or even a Sharia-based one. However, most Indonesians would take this as an offence to their widely-held traditionalist views.

Which makes me wonder, if even a mega-capitalist country like US of A has its own Communist Party, why couldn't Indonesians accept one of its own? After all, many imbecile extremists have started to take it to the streets these days with their chants of "Replace the Democracy heritage from USA with this or that political ideology!"

Hmm... Let me not write any further about this, lest my Indonesian readers start wondering if they really have any liberal tinge inside of them.

Perhaps I am the most liberal person residing in the country right now? I don't know, tell me what you think.


When there are two versions of the "truth"...

which one should you believe?

I discovered this "truth" from two of my close friends recently, let's call them A and B (I won't use a pseudonym because that would be an easy catch).

A says that B is bla-bla-bla, and for a while, I accepted A's story as the truth because I know very well that A is not the type of person who spreads dishonesty.

But recently, I asked B whether A's story is correct: if B truly is bla-bla-bla like A has told me.

Wanna know what B told me?

"Nah, it's actually A who is bla-bla-bla, not me!"

Now I'm confused which version is the it A's story or B's story?

Is it a matter of how much you trust the person concerned?

Frankly, I am much closer to B than I am to A, but regarding matters of honesty; I think it's safe to say that I trust A much more than I trust B.

When there are two versions of the "truth", which one should you believe? Would you look for confirmations from outside sources too?

Or would you gamble on one of the two "truths"?

Because at least you have 50% chance of being correct anyway.


Indo-lyric: Tentang Kamu (Bunga Citra Lestari)

English translation:

About You

I couldn't guess
I couldn't read
about you
about you

You make me question
as always in my heart
about you
about you

What if I finally love you
from your flaws and finesses
what if everything does happen
perhaps this is the most beautiful

There are so many stars
just like my question
about you
about you

Original lyric in Indonesian:

Ku tak bisa menebak
Ku tak bisa membaca
Tentang kamu
Tentang kamu

Kau buat ku bertanya
Slalu dalam hatiku
Tentang kamu
Tentang kamu

Bagaimana bila akhirnya ku cinta kau
Dari kekuranganmu hingga lebihmu
Bagaimana bila semua benar terjadi
Mungkin inilah yang terindah

Begitu banyak bintang
Seperti pertanyaanku
Tentang kamu
Tentang kamu


In memory of Father Mattheus

"Toshi.." Mom called me from downstairs.

I rushed to the stairs and asked, "Yes?"

"Remember Father Mattheus?" she asked.

"Yep of course. Why?"

"He passed away last week because of heart attack"

I stood there, unable to comprehend Mom's words.

"He umm.... what?"

"He passed away last week", Mom repeated, "I just received an SMS from Bali...""

"Is this serious? I mean... why?"

"Heart attack"

"Have you confirmed the facts right? Is the news from Pak Frans?"

"I dunno, it's a Balinese number but it's not in my phonebook"

"I suggest Mom call him right now" I urged her.

I really hoped that the news turned out to be a rumour, but it was not. It finally dawned upon me that Father Mattheus Keraf is now no longer here. He passed away around early September due to an ailment he had been fighting over the last couple of years.


I firstly met Father Mattheus during one of the Saturday Catholic masses that he held in Bali Hyatt Sanur. The mass was held in English (instead of Bahasa Indonesia), and though my parents were quite reluctant to have masses on Saturday, they went along.

I remember one particular Saturday evening when Dad had a business to do in Kuta and Mom also went along with Mary. They asked me to go along too, but nah, I prefer having the mass in Bali Hyatt instead of going to the Denpasar Cathedral on Sunday. I prefer having a mass with those folks instead.

No car and no driver at my expense (since it was Saturday evening), I walked by myself all the way from my residence in Semawang to Bali Hyatt, which altogether took around 20 minutes.

My Dad, who at that time managed one of the most reputed five-stars in Bali, soon invited him to administer Christmas and Easter masses in the hotel ballroom. The masses were generally opened to all Christians of all sects (Catholic and Protestants alike) and it was just pleasant to have all those togetherness with all the Balinese Christians, Chinese, and foreign expats who came to Bali for holiday.

My whole family soon became quite close to Father Mattheus as he was a down-to-earth kind of person. Dad invited him to my house several times during those Christmas and Easter days, and we even held a mass at my own residence twice. In one of the mass homilies administered at my former Sanur residence, he once described me as a humble person, and it is a description that I am looking forward to hold onto.

My parents took Sis and me to his seminary in Tuka (not to be confused with Kuta, it is located not very far from Canggu). In that seminary, Father Mattheus took us to have a look at his office and what Balinese Catholic laymen used to do there.

His place in Tuka was strikingly awesome.

If you have seen a blend of culture between Chinese and Muslim in the Surabaya's Cheng Ho Mosque, then the one in Tuka is simply the Catholic version.

The Catholic centre in Tuka has a blend of Balinese and Catholic flavours.

Well as a matter of fact, it looks more like Balinese through and through. When we first came there, Mom and Dad and Sis and I asked each other, "Are you sure this is a Catholic centre?"

It looked more like a Hindu Pura (temple) to us. Its architecture and its paintings were all fabulously decorated with Balinese taste.

Put into words, Father Mattheus was one of the best Catholic priest I have ever known in person, and whom I have deemed like my own uncle. During those days in Singapore, I sought more of his spiritual guidance instead of looking it from my own priest in the church in Clementi. Should there be a chance to meet him again, I would like to relive the memories of having him coming over to my Sanur residence together with Pak Frans' family for an hour of warm confab.


Beliefs to crow about

The following text is originally lifted from the trivia section of The Jakarta Post dated Tuesday, 3 June 2008.

~Compiled from various sources~

  • A hen that crows is considered to be unlucky, as is a hen with tail-feathers like those of a rooster.
  • Hens that roost in the morning are said to be foretelling a death, usually that of the farmer or someone in his household.
  • A hen that enters the house is an omen that a visitor will arrive, and this is also the case if a rooster crows near the door or comes inside.
  • Roosters have long been connected with the sun, as they crow to herald its arrival at dawn, and are considered watchful protectors of humankind.
  • When a cock crows at midnight a spirit is passing.
  • In England, it is a death omen if a rooster crows three times between sunset and midnight. Crowing at other times is often a warning against misfortune.
  • If a cock crows while perched on a gate, or at nightfall, the next day will be rainy.
  • A white rooster is considered very lucky, and should not be killed as it protects the farm on which it lives.
  • Black roosters are a bad omen and are often associated with sacrifice.
  • Three seagulls flying together, directly overhead, are a warning of death soon to come.
  • Killing a seagull is bad luck.
  • Seagulls seen far inland indicates bad weather approaching.
  • To kill a raven is to harm the spirit of King Arthur who visits the world in the form of a raven.
  • A raven seen near a sick person means the person will not recover.
  • The Welsh believe that a raven on a chimney is good luck to those within.
  • Ravens leaving the Tower of London is believed to signify that the United Kingdom will fall.
  • Raven flying towards the sun means fine weather.
  • It is unlucky to kill a sparrow as they carry the souls of the dead.
  • Killing a sparrow will make the tree it lived in die.
  • Hearing a sparrow call means rain is approaching.
  • Aristotle made killing a stork a crime, and Romans passed a stork law, saying that children must care for their elderly parents.
  • Storks deliver babies.
  • Storks were sacred to Venus in Roman mythology.
  • If a stork builds a nest on your roof, you have received a blessing and a promise of never ending love from Venus.
  • Killing a stork is bad luck.
  • Seeing two storks is an omen of pregnancy.
  • The swallow is the herald of the summer.
  • A swallow nesting on the roof is protection against lightning and fire.
  • Storms will accompany the arrival and departure of swallows.
  • A swan's feather, sewn into a husband's pillow, will ensure fidelity.
  • Seeing a vulture is an pmen of death.
  • Harming a wren will cause a broken bone.


an American vote is sent!

"Thanks Toshi, you've just made your vote today!" a slender woman in her late 20s said to me, after knowing that this was my first American presidential vote, ever.

"Well thanks! So am I the only first-time voter here today?"

"Hmm lemme see.. If I'm not wrong, Yes, there was nobody your age who had come voted here before.. Congratulations for becoming a historical first-timer in Indonesia!" she offered a warm handshake, which I accepted.

"Glad to hear that", I smiled.

So today (11 Oct) I have came down to the Ballot Open House in Chang's private residence in Kemang, a leafy upscale district in South Jakarta, accompanied by my Indonesian national father, who also speaks fluent English.

I met around 5 to 10 Americans there (who were all Caucasians), and it sure was nice to start speaking English to those Americans with a real accent.

There I had to fill the write-in ballot with my Presidential and Vice Presidential pick, which of course we Democrats should have picked by default. Even you my blog readers agree with us Democrats.

With 84% of the votes for Obama and 16% for McCain, I guess I have no other choice, eh? I respect your aspirations, and I've delivered them. That's too wide a margin already, haha.

And anyways, McCain isn't too bad imho. I just think that Obama is the only one who could stop the war in Iraq and fix the economy by reducing taxes for middle-class Americans.

So I took a while in getting to converse with some of them, and sought help from the person in charge (who was Chang himself) with my federal write-in ballot which was to be sent for free to the States by Fed-ex.

"So where will be voting on November 4th?" I asked Chang, intentionally using the American date order.

"Well Toshi, you've just voted today! This was your vote!" he smiled.

I had previously thought that this was some kind of an election rehearsal, or a part where I only have to register my personal details.

It took me by surprise that this Ballot Open House, where I had written the choice of Obama-Biden and two other names affiliated with Democratic Party that I did not know of, was in fact the election in itself.

I was not supposed to get an Obama pin as a souvenir, since they had run out of it. However, a Virginia man in his 40s offered to give me his as a souvenir.

I thanked everyone for their welcoming and friendly attitude. It sure was nice to meet American folks again after years of staying in Asia... I'd love to come to such (American) events again in the future Happy


10 rudest words in Indonesian language

Warning for Indonesian-speaking readers: I must admit, I have had a hard time making this post today as comfortable as possible for a wider range of audience. A lot of expletive words ahead. All the impolite words have used yellowed font, and you could highlight them at anytime if you want to read them. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Here I have compiled ten rudest words in Indonesian language. They are listed from the least rude (no.10) to the rudest (no.1). This compilation is basically for academic purpose only, and for those of you learners of Indonesian language (or visitors of Indonesia) so that you will know what kind of words you should never say to an Indonesian.
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
10. bangsat (dork) this word has the ambiguous definition of "flea", which makes it the least rude of the 10 compiled items today.
9. brengsek (jerk) a little harsher than the word no.10.
8. bajingan (bastard) this word basically means a "guy who impregnates woman and shirks away from his responsibilities".
7. babi (swine) as it is rude in English.
6. anjing (dog) being a predominantly Muslim country, where dogs are regarded as unclean animals; saying this word to another is regarded as very rude.
5. tai (excretory product) very rude indeed, just like the S-word in English.
4. memek (female reproductive organ) this extremely impolite word is quite rarely found in frequency.
3. perek (callgirl) for you male creatures out there, REFRAIN from using this word to any Indonesian lady, ever! An English-speaking girl may forgive you for calling her "bi***y", but there is no way that any Indonesian girl would forgive you if you use this word to describe her.
2. ngentot (to have intercourse) its English equivalent, the F-word, is regarded as the single most impolite word in Anglophone countries. In Indonesia however, it gains the second position. Though this does not in anyway suggest that it is safe to be said to anyone, though.
1. kontol (male reproductive organ) this is the utmost impolite word in Indonesian language. Unless you are under an extreme fury or such, refrain from using this word to anyone, ever.


Song of the Year

I know it's a bit too early to look back on the year, but I think enough have been seen.. October has come and it's the fourth quarter of 2008 already.

I nominate Beyonce's Irreplaceable as the song of the year (Toshi's version). Don't bother asking me why... I have a very personal reason why I pick this song, and I won't elaborate it to anyone, ever.



So be it!

There are various kinds of people who say that they are afraid of taking air transportation; simply because they fear the possibility of dying by a plane crash.

In my opinion, those kind of fears are basically foolish.

Now why do I say so?

If our destiny is to die by a plane accident, so be it!

Why should we be afraid of taking a plane simply because we are afraid of plane crash? Our destiny is determined by God, ain't it?

Below are the 'comforting' words I always say to myself (and I hope you use it for yourself too if you have a fear of flying). Well... They may not give you comfort, but at least you know you won't be alone.

"If there should be a plane crash, don't worry. There are hundreds of other people taking this same flight, at least you won't die alone anyway!"

Now the statistics has shown around the world that out of 13 million flights every year, there is only ONE flight that resulted in a crash and fatalities.

That is a very small ratio if you compare it to other means of transportation, such as bus or ship.

Well, taking train perhaps is still a safer mode than plane (since the only possibility of having a train accident is by a derail); but that certainly means that travelling by plane is the 2nd safest mode of transportation.


Indo-lyric: Laskar Pelangi (Nidji)

English translation:

Rainbow Army

dream is the key
to conquer the world
it has gone
tirelessly until you
reach it

rainbow army
won't be bound by time
free your dreams in the sky
achieve the star in your soul

dance and keep on laughing
even if the world isn't like heaven
pay gratitude to the Almighty
that our love will remain


love for this life
emits an eternal smile
although it may not always be fair
but love has made us complete

rainbow army
won't be bound by time
don't stop colouring
millions of dreams on earth

Original lyric in Indonesian:

mimpi adalah kunci
untuk kita menaklukkan dunia
telah hilang
tanpa lelah sampai engkau

laskar pelangi
takkan terikat waktu
bebaskan mimpimu di angkasa
raih bintang di jiwa

menarilah dan terus tertawa
walau dunia tak seindah surga
bersyukurlah pada yang Kuasa
cinta kita di dunia


cinta kepada hidup
memberikan senyuman abadi
walau ini kadang tak adil
tapi cinta lengkapi kita

laskar pelangi
takkan terikat waktu
jangan berhenti mewarnai
jutaan mimpi di bumi


How easy is it to have a gap year?

(I know I've made a plenty number of generalisations in this blog post, but I hope most of you won't take it as offence. This article is meant to inform, not offend.)

According to Wikipedia, "gap year" is defined as:

an extended break that some people take at a life transition, such as between studies, between study and work, or between careers

which means that this kind of 'year out' is mostly taken soon after one graduates from college.

If any of you in America or Europe are to ask most of us Asians who live in Indonesia, Thailand, or Philippines, here I tell you:

Travelling to foreign countries is still a hard-earned luxury for most of us in third-world countries.

You know, I once chatted in Gtalk with a well-known expatriate blogger in Indonesia (I hope he doesn't relate to this when he reads this post, because I know he will) who suggested that in between my school year and my upcoming four years in college, I should take a gap year by travelling around the world.

As if it's that easy!!

Here I tell you:

People in western countries/developed countries always have it so easy in booking plane tickets; they're cheap and readily available for booking at any given time. Sometimes taking a plane from London to New York is not much a hassle than taking a bus from Berlin to Paris.

While for most of us in developing countries, it could take seven days of ticket-booking in advance in order to travel from Jakarta to Bangkok, for example.

This is the problem with people in developed countries: they think hopping from one country to the next is that cheap.

I once talked with my Singapore school cook who told me that he just went to Melbourne for his June holidays. No wonder it sounds so easy for them, they have a standard of living which is too high!

On the other hand, the kind of people in developing countries like Indonesia and Philippines who go to Melbourne for their June holidays are the top executives and managerial kind of people; i.e those who have achieved high status in life.

So the next time you want to suggest travelling around the world, make sure you know what kind of person you are talking to. Westerners can easily hop from Brazil to Cambodia with their easily-earned dollars, while it is still largely uncommon for an Indonesian or Vietnamese to hop between the same places.


How much is $700 billion really worth?

The following text is originally lifted from The Jakarta Post dated Friday, 3 October 2008.


Shockwaves from the global credit crisis spread on Thursday, threatening industry and jobs worldwide and putting pressure on the U.S. Congress to pass a $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial sector.

But how much is $700 billion - what can it buy? Compared to the debt of the United States, which the U.S. Treasury has asked to increase to $11.315 trillion to fund the plan, it doesn't seem much.

Here are a few things that can be done with $700 billion.

  • The United States has spent more than $800 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
  • Just 12 Bill Gateses could foot the bailout bill. The Microsoft founder tops Forbes' U.S. rich list with a personal fortune estimated at $57 billion.
  • Collectively, the 400 richest Americans have a net worth of $1.57 trillion, or more than twice the value of the bailout.
  • $700 billion is roughly equal to the GDP of the Netherlands, or five times that of Pakistan.
  • It is only $100 billion short of the combined GDP of all of Africa.
  • It is only $78 billion more than the 2007 U.S. defence budget.
  • It would buy around 130 of the latest, biggest aircraft carriers, which cost about $5.3 billion each.
  • The plan could be funded with the market capitalisations of the world's two largest oil companies, ExxonMobil Corp and PetroChina, which stood at $403 billion and $325 billion respectively at Thursday's close of trading. There would even be $28 billion in change.


How important is it to make an eye contact?

A friend pointed this out to me a couple of days back...

"Toshi, I just noticed lately.."


"Look me in the eye, will you?" she sounded a bit annoyed.

I looked at her in the eye for a second, but avoided contact the next moment.

I got confused, "Why, what's wrong?"

"You never look at me in the eye when you talk..." she lamented.

I merely grinned.

Anyone who often hangs out with me will notice that I seldom make eye contact with people.

It's not a matter of choice really, but it's more of a habit that I picked up from my old roommate in Singapore. He is always the type of person who avoids eye contact as he did not feel in the least comfy about it.

Geez, two whole years of being his rommate had made me this way... Haha.

Though I had once adjusted myself to the need of making eye contact during my final Oral English examination (as a part of the courtesies); that was the one and only time that I literally forced myself in making eye contact when talking to people.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not saying that frequent avoidance of eye contact is that bad...

As a matter of fact, it makes the whole thing easier for my friends, family members and anyone else to know whom I feel most comfortable with.

You may be good-looking but it doesn't mean that I will make frequent eye contacts with you if I don't like you in the first place, and vice versa.

I just realised this fact myself, but here is the clue:

I only make frequent eye contacts with people whom I feel emotionally close to.

Now this explanation above pretty much tells the whole story.

The people with whom I often make frequent eye contacts are as follows:

  • my parents
  • my sis Melody
  • my aunts and uncles
  • some of my close cousins
  • and a very select few of my close friends

Other than those people mentioned above, I always prefer to look at somewhere else when talking to people (even when I talk to them face-to-face).

However, I'm not suggesting anyone to follow my lead though. As a matter of fact, it's a bad habit to follow.

Because it shows that deep down inside, one has his/her own insecurities when having a conversation with certain people.

And I fully realise that this is a feature of mine which I'm uncertain I could ward off anytime soon.


Hurtful truth or white lie?

When faced between two choices -hurtful truth or white lie- which one would you choose?


You know, it is a characteristic commonly found among Asians (and I'm not stereotyping here) to say white lies in order to blanket the unpleasant verity within the limit of pleasantries.

For example, when you are hosted into someone else's residence and served a Tom Yam soup which is too salty... Would you say the truth to the cook; or tell him/her a white lie instead?

As for the case of myself, I think it's best to tell him/her the truth. He/she may get offended, but at least it would do him/her some good to advice him/her into putting less salt in the soup next time.

Of course I've never been a gourmet cognoscente myself, hence I never commented anything bad on anyone else's cookings.

I must admit that sometimes I also fall for such pleasantries too. In order to avoid hurting people, I tell them white lies.

However, don't you know that sooner or later the person concerned could eventually find out the truth by himself/herself? Knowing that people are going to such lengths to cover your fallacies with pleasing remarks may not often be the best choice to do... I myself would get deeply hurt by that kind of treatment.

Deriving from such a reflection, I think it's best to be a truthful-yet-hurting kind of person (which is a Western feature) instead of a white-liar-yet-nice one (which is Asian).

As for myself, I fall more on the latter category. Would love to become a more of the first category, though.


This year's visits

One thing that most urbanites like me suffer from in times like these is the very fact that our housemaids have gone back to their various hometowns... Gee, we miss them!!

Our homes get so messy during the Eid festivities without our maids, such as mine with the piling laundries (we had no time to do the laundry for two full days); or my cousins' homes who had a number of 'rotating visitors from all around of Jakarta' coming in for a snack or two.

Scene 1

Location: Miscellany

adult 1: Ah Toshi... You look so tall now!
me: *smiles*
adult 2: So umm.... Where do you go for college?
me: *glanced at my Mom with a You-Should-Answer-This-For-Me-Because-I'm-Tired-of-This-Question kind of look*
mom: *sighs and prepares for a well-rehearsed answer*

Scene 2
Location: Grandpa Mansjur's residence at Jl. Langsat, Kebayoran Baru

The parents were discussing all range of topics starting from my Dad's Eid experience in Pakistan to the health of various family members nowadays.

Among all the feasts and drinks, they served Coke.

Out of boredom, I stared at my glass of Coke and said to myself, Hey, this reminds me of something.

Then I asked sis Melody and Carl to accompany me out for a while to buy Mentos at Circle K across the street.

Coming back, I told both of them how the experiment would work, because that's what I saw on Youtube.

We plonked a Mentos to a glass of Coke and waited for a reaction to happen. There was a 'whizz' for 30 seconds, but that's all. Nothing like what I saw on Youtube.

We waited for a minute, until Melody finally asked, "are you sure this was the way the experiment worked?"

"I think... perhaps we should try with a bottle of Coke later instead of a glass like this"

Scene 3
Location: Some far uncle's house in Bumi Kelapa Dua, Serpong Gading

Nayla received a small bar of chocolate while Melody, Carl and I got none.

I teased her loudly, "Teteh ati-ati lo coklatnya mengandung melamin... Dari Cina tuh"

That tease of mine aroused some laughter in the living room, which by then I continued with some racist-infused punch line, "Makanya ati-ati jangan deket orang Cina, ntar ketuleran melamin loh"

"Kayak penyakit aja", Melody sneered at me.

Scene 4
Location: The entrance to Villa Pamulang

Uncle Ferry was on the steer while Melody, Carl, Nayla and I were in the back seat.

This reminds me of a drive I had with three newcomers to Vila Pamulang last Monday (the Depok folks), and I repeated the story to them, "You know, in this dark of night... Imagine there is a woman in white and long hair, suddenly appeared in the middle of the street and the car bumps onto her!"

None reacted, so I went on, "Then after we bumped onto her, she got thrown onto the back of the car and when we glanced back, she's gone..."

Nayla started whining, "Eeehh... scaryy.."

Carl emitted the same reaction of fear, "Noooo.... Please stop, this is gettin freaking scary.. Will you be responsible if I get nightmares tonight?"

My own sis Melody was quite used to this, similarly with Uncle Ferry and Aunt Vivie, together with the toddler Farsa on her lap.

I proceeded, "Papa (read: Uncle Ferry) halted the car and we all panicked to look for anyone who might have been hit. Then, all of a sudden a there was a knocking sound on the window"

And I made that low knocks together with my dramatisation of a ghastly voice "Excuse mee... Could I join the ride?"

Nayla and Carl screamed out loud, and Uncle Ferry only commented, "Aah, that woman would most likely appear at Toshi's room, guys... Don't worry, he'll get the knock first"

I just grinned at this.


Have a happy Eid

In this opportune time, I offer you my apologies for past mistakes in my blogging activities, whether I have intentionally hurt anyone's feelings or not...

Yesterday's planned resolution is hence cancelled, because the comments I had been looking for had finally came.



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