The Islamic Sufi philosopher Rumi once advised his students to write down three things they most wanted in life. If any item on the list clashes with any other item, Rumi warned, you are destined for unhappiness. Better to live a life of single-pointed focus, he taught.
Hence I took notes of what are the three biggest dreams in life. None of them seem to clash with the other, which is a good thing.
"Are you sure you want to do these three, Toshi?" a voice asked me.
"Uh-huh", I nodded casually.
"Are you really sure that they're the right thing to do?" it asked me for the second time.
And I spoke to him, "No, it's not about being right or wrong"
"So what are you doing then, making all those plans in your head?"
"Well, as it is said in the Hindu holy scriptures of the Bhagavad Gita, it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. Some people out there choose to take the so-called proper course of 'make good money, have a family, put your children up to university, etc etc' but it's not always what they wanted"
"Don't tell me you want to go off-track from that 'proper' course..You'll become an eccentric"
"I'm not saying that. I'd still want to have family like any other human beings on earth, but of course they have to coexist with these three dreams of mine"
"So are you happy with your choice now, Toshi?"
Without the slightest hesitation, I looked at him, who had taken form in front of me. Apparently, he was none other than a reflection of my inner self.
I stared at him in the eyes, smiled at him and said, "Yes, I am"
The Islamic Sufi philosopher Rumi once advised his students to write down three things they most wanted in life. If any item on the list clashes with any other item, Rumi warned, you are destined for unhappiness. Better to live a life of single-pointed focus, he taught.
it does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble,
or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things
and still be calm in your heart.
The morning has arrived. I looked out of the window seat to see the clouds are hanging clear, reflecting the beautiful sunrays.
"What would you like for drink, sir?" a stewardess asked me in fluent English.
"Mizu," I glanced at her nonchalantly.
Probably the first non-Japanese who spoke Japanese to her, she smiled, surprised.
Pretty, not bad, in my opinion. No wonder JAL staff are widely renowned.
Then I opened the inflight TV for a number of channels I could flick over. Uncle R was half-awoken beside me.
"Good sleep?" I asked him.
"Yeah. Ah, I can't believe I'm finally coming back after 35 years away!"
"For a transit", I reminded him tersely.
"Yes, but still..."
Our conversation was interrupted with her bringing back my water. It was iced.
"Ah...oyu kudasai..gomen ne, wasureta!" I changed my order.
Assuming that I spoke the language fluently, she answered in rapid Japanese.
Greaat. Hence I answered in a simple "Hai", totally clueless of what she was talking about.
30 minutes later, after a breakfast of sashimi and small bowl of udon (you could still choose to have the standardAmerican breakfast if you abhor those raw food), I could finally see one of the most beautiful man-made landscape I've ever seen. Streets after streets are neatly arranged in neat blocks, as if made for a Lego.
We arrived around 8.30 in the morning, when we straightaway proceeded to the baggage check. All passenger baggages were quickly checked out, but it was only my suitcase was stopped.
"Doshita no?" I asked the security holding my suitcase, ready to latch it open.
She explained about me having a sharp object inside my suitcase.
"Stupid Singaporeans", I grinned at Uncle R, "How could they miss that cutter on the luggage check there? What if I was a terrorist?"
"Heh. Singaporeans are good Toshi, but these folks we're having here are much better"
After getting my cutter confiscated without much hassle, we proceeded downstairs, where we could take a Skyrail to Terminal 2.
"What time is our next flight?"
"Let me see... 4 o'clock local time", he answered.
My (Indonesian) clock was saying 7.35, so it was around five hours to spare.
On the skyrail, I turned back my cellphone back from flight mode. No signal. Apparently, people back home were true...they're using CDMA only here. Or perhaps another band of GSM, whether it was Tri-band or Quad-band, I wasn't sure.
I tried to open a wifi connection to no avail. There was an unlocked wifi, an NTT-Docomo paid connection for 1000 yen a day. No, thanks.
Terminal 2 looked like some kind of a shopping mall, smaller than Changi's but acceptable enough. Since it was not 10.00 yet, most of the shops are still closed.
I glanced at the check-out exit, to outside air of Tokyo.
"You wanna experience Tokyo for a while? You can walk out of that door if you want to..."
"Aren't you coming with me? I mean, this country is totally foreign to me"
"Nah, my passport doesn't allow me to. But yours would"
I considered that option for a sec. There was something else I was thinking of that time.
"Okay. Just make sure you make it before 2 o'clock though. Our flight is at 4"
We unanimously agreed to go back to the terminal where we first came from.
There, Uncle R and I took pictures around the hallway and the underground floor where we could see the bottom of those mighty planes.
The Japanese time showed 10.00 when Uncle R took a doze while I went to look for a free hotspot, or anywhere else where I could find some free internet connection.
I really couldn't live without the internet.
I found a Yahoo! internet cafe where Japanese and foreigners alike can browse for free. You are supposed to show your identification though.
Pondering which passport number should I list, I jotted down my American.
There were around 30 computers inside, with a lounge next door where one can watch the planes taking off. The computers had a USB-lock each, which meant that the computer could never be accessed without one.
I opened my e-mail and Facebook while taking a look at some of the high school girls in uniform there. They really shattered those myths...the myths which say that the cutest high-schoolers in the world are in Japan.
Well, they might be pretty and fashionable, but not that enticing to me. I prefered the JAL stewardess.
After spending two hours there, I went back to Terminal 1 where Uncle R was.
I took a couple of narcisssistic snapshots myself before deciding that I don't want my memory cards to be overloaded.
So I woke Uncle R up.
"Hey, let's take lunch", as I woke him up, "I'm staarving"
"No prob. Any good place?"
I pondered for a while. On my way back, I've seen a lot of restaurants with signboards in front of them, but none are offering prices for below 1500 Yen (or US$15).
"Hmm...lots of good places, but none of them have good price", I told him.
"But we have no choice, eh?"
So it was a search for a good money changer first, because we didn't have a single Yen on our pockets. I asked Uncle R to exchange most of our Rupiahs off, since we're not going to need it for quite a while anyway.
At the money changer booth, there are several pieces of origami-animals in an open jar, located just in front of the booth hole.
"Are these free?" Uncle R asked the woman at booth.
"Yes please, you can take one. They're from the kindergarten students around here", she smiled.
So Uncle R and I took one each. There is a dog-shaped origami which was the cutest one methinks, so I took that one.
Terminal 2 had skyrocketing prices, and the least expensive menu, we could find was a 1000 Yen Japanese fried rice (the kind of fried rice with omelette and Ketchup).
There were several food stalls in Terminal 1 too, so we decided to go back there anyway.
Before we proceeded to the skyrail again, Uncle R called me.
"Here here...where's your camera? Take a picture of me with that policewoman on that security booth...You know, just as a memento"
I glanced at him with a big "Hmm?"
So Uncle R asked her for a picture together.
She seemed confused, so I offered to translate "Sasshin..sasshin o totte kudasai"
But she refused with a broken English, "No, cannot. Sorry, no. But I...I can picture you!"
She wasn't allowed to have her pictures, then.
"Ah no, thanks!" I refused her back. Uncle R shrugged.
So high was the standard for Japanese police force that they're not even allowed to have their pictures taken.
When we approached the skyrail, it announced that there would be a five-minute delay for the next skyrail to come. It didn't became apparent to us until later: The janitors here are supposed to clean the skyrails once every two hours.
Once every two hours.
Can you imagine that? Back in Indonesia, they don't even clean their Transjakarta busway once every two months.
After stepping back to Terminal 1, we had a lunch in an Oriental restaurant which offered a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean meals. Uncle R and I chatted while having until our stomachs are filled, then we went to the departure gate at 13.00 local time.
There, I dozed off for around 45 minutes in an empty sofa while Uncle R read a newspaper.
By the time both of us are awoken, Uncle R reminded me, "Toshi..you have an hour chance to get out of that gate if you want to. You can do it now, otherwise you'll have to wait...perhaps years from now."
I pondered again that offer.
Because for the record, I didn't even know what Japanese summer breeze felt like yet.
No, not yet.
I was only inside the air-conditioned spaces of Narita airport.
"Nah, I'll pass this time"
"Why not?" he asked me for the last time, "That has been your childhood dream, right? To visit Japan?"
The airport speaker announces in Japanese and English that the chek-in line for American Airlines flight to Los Angeles had been opened.
"I've visited Japan. But I'll only get out of that gate after I'm done with another dream too"
I glanced at that gate again sadly. I saw an African family had just went out of that door.
With a mixture of bliss and a tiny speck of regret, I rescinded my one and only chance to experience Tokyo that time.
I decided to postpone my childhood dream of stepping into Japanese soil. But it was because I had made a promise to myself to return there with a purpose.
A purpose and promise that I have altered slightly after the months to come.
Hence I will return.
My laptop crashed last week, and it was one of the biggest shocks of my life.
Every single thing I've taken during the last three years: pictures, personal journals, and songs ripped...They were all gone in an instant.
As usual, I firstly panicked.
Due to my anger, I felt like smashing my netbook into pieces.
But then it dawned upon me: panicking won't change anything that might have been lost. It's always better to face problems with cool-headedness.
So I waited for ten minutes until I calmed down.
After I did, I turned on my laptop again. Then it showed a message that I didn't actually notice earlier: "Windows cannot access the locally stored profile"
Hence I asked myself, was it because my user profile corrupted? Or is it hidden somewhere?
A bit of googling from my cellphone revealed the trick: I only need to log in from Safe Mode and create a User Account.
I tried to create another user account to no avail.
But voila! At least I found my data, all safe.
In the end, I found out which data actually mattered most to me.
They weren't the songs, which I could always download anytime.
They weren't my personal journals, which I could always rewrite.
They were those pictures. Every single picture I have with you folks in Indonesia and Singapore, they are all precious memories.
Whether they are good or bad, they are still memories. And deleting any single one of them feels like betraying those memories.
So thank God they were all intact.
The very first data I copied to my USB was, indeed, all my pictures.
~3 October 2000~
Mr Roso, our physical sciences teacher, just went out of the class.
Sitting at the back right corner of the classroom, I was biting the pencil while watching some of the class's noisiest soccer players throwing paper balls at each others. Some of the girls are busy gossiping and others were drawing.
I was really bored, and so was she.
Out of the blue, I called her name softly.
"What?" she replied with an even softer murmur.
"You know what...there is someone in this class whom I like"
Her face suddenly brightened up. Ah, how lovely.
"What! Whoisit whoisit? Tell me tell me!" she exclaimed.
"Okay T... Sorry... So..who is it? Who's that girl?"
Why on earth did I have to start this conversation in the first place. My heart was throbbing loudly, I hoped she couldn't hear it.
I tried to look for an excuse to end the conversation.
"Ermm... But I don't want her to know..." I said nervously, biting my lips.
"Ah don't worry... I can keep a secret, you can trust me Toshi!" she smiled.
That smile again.
I glanced away from her. By now my whole body must have had reddened from the blush on my face streaming down from the veins on my cheeks to my limbs and entire torso. I just hoped she didn't notice it.
"Hmm? You don't trust me?"
"No, it's not that I don't trust you, it's just that...erm.."
"So tell me then" she showed a pout. She seemed to be getting a bit upset.
The entire class was getting louder and rowdier as the clock ticked on. Seemed that it was only me and her who was having this small, quiet conversation in the back.
"Please, not now?" I asked her in earnest.
"When? Tell me now, otherwise I won't talk to you anymore today"
Then the classroom door opened. Mr Phillip, the Indonesian language teacher entered the classroom, bringing a sudden quiet to the whole class.
The class stood up, dictating the obligatory "Selamat siang Pak Guru".
After we sat, she said crossly, "Okay, fine. You know the consequences"
"Hmm okay I tell you.."
I tried to look at her in the face, but I couldn't.
"The p-personn is you," I half-stammered.
Whether she was in awe or in shock, I couldn't tell. I couldn't even look her in the eye. All I could stare was her red skirt.
And it only made me feel much more embarrassed.
While Mr Phillip was making notes at the whiteboard, both of us fell silent. And we didn't talk for the next three minutes.
"So?" I asked.
My heart wasn't throbbing as loudly anymore, but I was anxious. Now that all is said out loud, I had to get the answer.
"Mmmm", she only mumbled.
"So..what's your answer?"
"Ah cmon Toshi, I'm paying attention to the lesson now. Can't we discuss this later?"
She was never a big fan of Indonesian language, hence I knew that she was lying. After a couple of minutes of scribbling the notes, I could finally gain the courage to steal a glance at her and see that she was deep in thought.
We didn't talk at all during the rest of the lesson. Even when recess time came, she simply left her seat quickly without saying a word.
When the day finally ended, I asked her, "Have you finally gotten the answer yet?"
"I'll think about it" was all she could say.
During the ride back home, I was preparing myself for two possible answers: Whether I'm gonna get a rejection.... or whether I'm gonna get a new girlfriend!
I was smiling and laughing by myself (thinking of the optimistic answer) the entire day that my schoolbuddies gave me strange glances, "What's wrong with you, Toshi?"
At around 15.00, my phone rang.
My housemaid picked it up.
"Toshi, it's Linda!" she exclaimed while knocking my bedroom door.
My entire house (including my Mom and my sis Melody) had already known it all along about my new crush, hence my maid's enthusiasm.
I gave her a murderous 'shut-up-and-don't-say-anything' look before I took the phone from her.
"T.." I heard her soothing voice from the other line.
I could vaguely hear her mom shouting out to her, "LINDAA!! Why are you on the phone? Have you cleaned up your room yet?"
"You have an answer yet?"
"What?" I gaped in disbelief.
"Yes, I accept", she said quickly, "Now if you excuse me now, my mom just called me"
Then she hung up before I could say another word.
I was still in a state of surprise when I walked back to my room. I couldn't believe it, I finally got myself a girlfriend!
But what about my pals at school? What if they talk about us? Ohmygod Ohmygod getting a girlfriend is such a shameful thing!!
She and I were only at the 6th grade that time, hence my deep embarrassment.
But finally, I've confessed and she accepted!
Smiling proudly to myself, I went to sleep well that night.
~4 October 2000~
The next morning, I woke up feeling kinda embarrassed. And my heart was beating loudly because I was about to meet her again.
But the truth finally dawned upon me.
Eliane, one of her closest confidantes, was the first classmate who told me, "You confessed to Linda? Ah too bad she rejected you...I feel sorry for you!"
"What do you mean?"
She must have been joking.
"She refused you, don't you know?"
"But...but..." I was in an utter state of confusion.
"Oh well..that means she hasn't told you yet, hmm?"
When I finally met Linda again, I asked her what did Eliane meant.
"Sorry T.. My mom was rushing me to hang up phone last afternoon... But I'm sorry, I didn't mean to give you the wrong impression though", she sighed, feeling sorry for me, "But I don't take it"
"What do you mean by 'not taking it'?"
"I don't accept you"
Then the world fell silent. It seemed as if there was nothing mattered anymore.
Now I only needed to know the reason.
"Because I don't want to", she finally told me later on during the day.
"Why? Why not?"
"Because I have a reason", she said sternly.
"Nope. Maybe next time"
I had no courage even to say that "was I too ugly for you?"
However, I seemed to know what the reason was. It was too obvious, right in front of my own eyes... I could see it.
~One day in year 2008~
We were having some snacks in a cafe while waiting for the movie in Bintaro Plaza cinema.
This was the first time I ever met her after seven years of not meeting each other.
There were a lot for us to catch up on, and we were gossiping about some of our former classmates who had become a movie star, or those who had moved to other countries, or which ones had had sex with whom.
In between, she was having her second cigarette while I was toying with her cellphone.
"T", she said, "Remember 6th grade?"
"There was this boy who liked mee...." she grinned.
"Hahaha dammit. You still remember, hmm?"
"Hehe yep. Well sorry about that time, because you were too quiet of a boy! If only you could talk a lot more!"
"Like Richard," I stated, "Richard was the boy you liked that time, right?"
"Hey how on earth do you know?" she seemed confused.
"Well", I shrugged, "I simply knew"
"Good instincts", I laughed, while taking a sip at her glass of lemon tea.
"You know T, white Christmas looks cool and beautiful on TV... But you know, what's on TV is just on TV!" Sally told me as she gave me a ride back home.
"I know", my mood soured, "In truth, it's horrible, eh?"
She just laughed.
Winter is coming, and ready or not, I have to face it.
Winter is one of the worst seasons around. Whether you drive a car or walk or ride a bike, getting outside is a potential health hazard... And sometimes people risk death, because the road gets very slippery.
It's just like walking or driving on an ice rink.
Theoretically, the winter in the northern hemisphere starts on 22 December every year.
But for most of us, "winter" is defined by when it starts snowing.
And unfortunately... I may see the first snowfall by 28 November, according to the weather forecasts.
Ah, I am so not going to sing the "Jingle Bells" this time round. With its chill that drops below minus five degree Celcius, White Christmas is no longer a dream: It's a dread now.
And because of the busy week of Thanksgiving, Rachel hasn't even confirmed my transfer to the closer store yet.
I hope she does, though. I hope she does it as soon as possible; I don't wanna walk 75 minutes under the snow everyday.
Deep down in heart, I still wish that I was better in Science. But nah, science has always been my weakest point ~,~
There have been a lot of Japanese coming by Spartan these days. Perhaps they're part of those working for Kubota, the Japanese construction company located next door from Spartan I'm working at.
Then there was this Sanzei American who came by the Spartan deli last week. A Californian-born Sanzei, to be exact. Tried to speak Japanese with him, to no avail, as the only person still speaking Japanese in his family are his parents and his brother.
What a shame.
Hence I promised myself from that day that even if I marry a Zimbabwean lady, my children have to be fluent in Indonesian.
It is my responsibility and a promise I will hold firm.
Oh wait, I won't marry a Zimbabwean.
My soulmate is, and will always be, an Asian woman. This is one belief I've held strongly since my childhood.
To be noted though: the term "Asian" here is a wide-encompassing term of a continent and not particularly specified on Oriental countries, meaning that she could either be an Indonesian, Vietnamese, Pakistani, Korean, Taiwanese, or a Thai.
Just not to give the wrong impression.
Here is a price list of haphazard electronic goods I sighted upon on my last visit to BestBuy:
iPod Earphone $40
Gumy Earphone $11
iPod wall charger $26
Sony earbud headphone $18
Dynex audio line-in jack $10
Sony noise-cancelling headphone $50
Sony studio headphone $30
19-inch Insignia HDTV $190
19-inch LG HDTV $200
Nintendo DS $130
Nintendo DS games $10-30
Wii bundle (including remote and nunchuk and charger) $300
Wii games $30-50
PS3 250GB $350
PS3 games $20
XBox 360 $300
XBox 360 games $20-60
PS2 games $10-20
PSP games $20-40
Macbook 13 inch, 2GBram, 250GB HD $1000
Rice cooker & Food steamer $45
"Dude, let me ask you a trivial question of the day", I said to Mark.
"What would you do if one day you discover one day that your girlfriend was a boy?"
"Yea well... I'd kill myself."
"But why? Don't you wanna kill her?"
"Hahaha that won't make any difference dude... Even if anything happens to her, I would still have to suffer the shame of being ridiculed by people who say 'Hey take a look at him, he used to date a she-man!'"
So joking aside readers, what would you do if one day you discover your significant other as belonging to the same sex? Question is open to answers, criticisms, or jests.
On my very first days of living in this 380 square-foot apartment room, I had the window blinds snapped into two. The leasing office had previously written on my room's notes that it was a new blind, hence my bewiderment.
With my room being on the first floor and facing the parking lot, it was quite a nuisance during my first couple of days because I had no privacy at all: I cannot even undress in my own room!
Moreover, the bright sunlight of the day enters my room as soon as the sun rises, forcing me to wake up without alarm clock at around 8.00 everyday, despite my work shifts that start at 15.00.
But thank God the apartment's repairman has substituted it for a new one now.
Now I can finally change and wake up late.
This is one question that still makes me wonder till this day: "When a gay guy kisses a woman, does he feel disgusted just like the way we heterosexuals feel when we kiss a member of the same sex?"
Out of the blue, I asked that question to Mark, a friend at the Deli.
"Hey that's a good question. Good question, dude. I'd probably ask my gay uncle"
"Yoh have a gay uncle?"
"Is he openly declaring gay or does he have a partner"
"He has a partner. Well, it was an embarrassment to the family at first, but we finally came to accept it", he shrugged nonchalantly while cleaning the chicken steamtable.
He continued, "But not all gay guys live with another guy though. Sometimes they get married with a woman too"
"Hey yeah, that happened a lot in Indonesia!"
"Yeah..you know, they want to appear normal in front of their society, hence marrying a woman.."
"What?" I raised my eyebrows.
"Man, there was an assistant manager, he used to work here, and he's openly gay"
"And he was married to his wife and had a 13-year old daughter!"
"Oh my God. Does his wife and daughter know about it?"
Then he cracked up.
While suppresing his laugh, Mark explained, "There's a funny story behind it. His wife cheated on him soon after she found out that he was a gay...and do you know how he got back at his wife?"
"You mean how he paid back his wife for her cheating?"
"Nah.. You tell me"
"You see, the other guy with whom she was having an affair...this assistant manager met that other guy and had sex with him"
The story was such of a freakish nature that my mouth gaped wide.
"You mean, his wife was married to him, a gay guy...and she was cheating with a gay guy too? Do you mean it for real?"
"Yep. I heard it from his own words, man.. Apparently.."
"His wife was a magnet for a gay guys", I concluded.
It had been quite a while since I last blogged, and it is to my pleasure to see a fellow Indonesian blogger leaving some comments on my blog... A young man from Central Java he is, with an interest in the Hallyu (Korean wave).
Welcome akhlis, and thank you for leaving your trails, I appreciate it (unlike some of you regular readers who still remain anonymous...I encourage you people to leave your footprints here too).
Now I have some updates to do.
First of all, I have moved out of my home stay location in the southern part of Florence, KY, due to some personal reasons that I cannot possibly disclose here. Suffice it to say that the family had been helpful in facilitating my move, and I am especially grateful for having Kerry as my adoptive mom, I'm forever indebted to her.
I moved out to an apartment building the northern part of the city. It is a 380 square-foot efficiency apartment, with a monthly rent of $510 (already includes water and gas) and electricity bills that is paid separately for an average of $20 a month.
It already included a medium-sized refrigerator, a stove and oven in the kitchen and a bathroom with a bath tub and a shower when I moved in, hence the only furniture I had to purchase on my own was a metal arm futon, which cost me $120.
And oh, a microwave too for $50. A microwave may not seem essential for you my fellow Asians, but believe me that when most of your food are available in instant packagings, you would want to consider getting a microwave.
Altogether my purchases for detergent, soap bars, shampoo, blankets, chair pads etc cost me a total of $260 (excluding the microwave and fridge I just mentioned). What a cost of living.
My apartment security deposit for the first month and its application fee, together with the rental fee for the month of November cost me another hefty sum of around $430, just to give an idea of what it takes to start renting an apartment in a mid-sized city of 25,000 people in America.
Costs of living aside now, I am very delighted to have my new apartment located nearby strategic establishments such as McD, PapaJohn's Pizza, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell...all of them located merely 150 metres away from my apartment building. Which means just next to your door step.
But the down side of living there is the distance it has from my workplace of Spartan...which is 6.5 kilometres away, meaning 90 minutes of walking or 35 minutes of biking everyday. It has been wearing me down for the last two days that transferring to the store of Spartan in Erlanger branch, which is located just 2 kilometres away from my apartment, have become something of an urgency. Otherwise I would have to bike for 35 minutes under the snow during winter, something I could not possibly stand doing everyday.