17 Agustus 2012

August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dear Indonesia,

I know I haven’t been the most loyal citizen, spending the last eleven years away from you with no definite plans of returning. I don’t event think I can adjust well if I do.

Rarely do I give words of praise about how you are growing and how you are a willing victim of the greed of the idiots managing you. When I see Indonesian tourists down Orchard Road my first reaction is usually “not more of you here!”

I’m becoming less and less Indonesian by definition, but I’m still Indonesian by heart. You’re where I took my first breath, my first heartbeat, and my first tears. You’re my first home and my first love. Happy birthday Indonesia. I’m not always proud of you, but I’m proud to be an Indonesian.


Mars landing? Meh.

August 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

A million other people are probably blogging about how amazing that we (our robot)’ve landed on mars (again). But I don’t feel excited at all. I think there’s nothing too special about a mars landing with the technology we have now. If anything I’d be disappointed if we’ve stopped sending stuff to space. But if we’re sending PEOPLE to mars — then I’d be interested.

My Attention Span.

August 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have a case of habitual abandonment. I have a two-year attention span.

If I do something for two years continuously, that only means I will commit to it for even longer. Hobbies, things, people, places. If I abandon it before the two-year mark, it will be some time before I visit it again. If ever. 

Authentic Singapore souvenirs for those who’ve never been to Singapore.

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

I visit Jakarta a few times a year, mainly to see my parents #OnlychildProblems with no intention to be a tourist whatsoever. This time around, my relatives from the US are visiting. They’ve been in the US since forever and the last time they were in Jakarta was in the 1990’s.

So living in Singapore, my parents tasked me to look for souvenirs for them — 5 adults and 4 teenage kids. Not an easy task especially for someone who tends to overthink presents and has high standards (me). Browsing around, I realise that most so-called “Singapore souvenirs” are actually stuff from neighboring countries, especially chinese-y ones.

So what are genuinely Singapore-made souvenirs that’s great to give people who’ve never actually been to Singapore before? Here’s my list (with help from Facebook friends) of souvenirs made in Singapore.

1. Merlion keychains and fridge magnets
Where to buy: Chinatown
Price: Cheap. $10 for 4 or something like that
Good for: The whole office, people you don’t know very well or care much about

2. “Singapore is a FINE city” T-shirts
Where to buy: again, Chinatown (tourist central)
Price: From $10 for 3 to $15
Good for: everyone, it’s a great conversation starter

3. T-shirts and luggage tags from http://www.lovesg.sg/
Where to buy: their website, or museum shops
Price: around $10-30
Good for: slightly quirky people and those who like nice designs

4. Singapore-designed stationeries, pins and stuff. I personally like the mooncake paperweight.
Where to buy:http://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/visitus/muse_label.php
Price: from cheap to not-so-cheap
Good for: same as above

5. Coasters, accessories, nostalgic toys and books from museum shop. I like the ang ku kueh fridge magnets and coasters with photos of old Singapore
Where to buy: The National Museum of Singapore http://www.nationalmuseum.sg/Page.aspx?id=96
Price: cheap to expensive
Good for: everyone! they have lotsa stuff in the shop

6. OSIM electronic massage products – made in Singapore!
Where to buy: major shopping centres
Price: $300 and above
Good for: people who like massages

7. RISIS jewelries – nice asian-inspired designs
Where to buy: Tangs, Changi airport, Takashimaya
check out their website for catalog and store locations http://www.risis.com/
Price: $100 and above
Good for: everyone, but probably those who like jewelries

8. Kaya jam – make sure you can bring this through customs!
Where to buy: Ya Kun Kaya toast at most shopping centres
Price: less than $10
Good for: foodies, people with sweet tooth

9. Tiger Balm
Where to buy: pharmacies around Singapore
Price: cheap
Good for: people who like to use balms

10. Chinese-y accessories – not my favourites but some people like them. A number of the stuff they have you can find in Chinatown for a third of the price, but here they package them nicely in gift envelopes and bags, making them worth the markup.
Where to buy: Madame Butterfly at Takashimaya http://www.madamebutterfly.com.sg
Price: cheap to expensive
Good for: older women


May 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Still sick, another 2 days of MC (Medical Certificate),” his text message read.

A few more messages received in that shorthand only familiar to modern-day communicators and I learned that it’s more than just a common cold. Something to do with suspected bronchitis.

I want to scold him for not keeping himself healthy. For smoking, for not regularly taking multivitamins, for avoiding exercise, for eating too much briyani.

His parents still don’t know that I exist, that I’m the reason he rushes out the flat every Saturday morning. This means his home is verboten to me. This means I can’t see him until he’s well enough to go out. This means I can’t visit him with a bowl of chicken soup or whatever it is that comforts sick people. I want to scold him for not saying “I wish you’re here with a bowl of chicken soup”.

And since he’s knocked out from cocktail of medicines most hours of the day, this also means I don’t get to chat about the office fish tank or silly jokes from the internet. There are now blanks in my routine. Blanks that are usually filled with unessential but important banter. I want to hold him responsible for them.

I want to scold him because it’s frustrating when you want to be there for someone but you can’t. Because if he weren’t sick I wouldn’t feel so helpless.


May 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Local literature isn’t usually my first choice. But lately I’ve been thinking — if I’m making Singapore my home, shouldn’t I be supporting its culture, and what’s produced out of it, more? The question has an obvious answer, just that it’s asked a decade too late.

So I started reading Alfian Sa’at’s Malay Sketches. Both proud and embarassed to say it’s the first piece of local writing I’ve ever read. And the sentiments I felt when reading it spurred my last writing impulse.

It’s an unusual feeling – reading a book written by someone from another country (Singapore), in another language (English), and still feel the same sense of familiarity I experience when reading those written by my countrymen (Indonesians) in my own language (Indonesian).

I like it.

A Question of Identity

May 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Is identifying oneself as belonging to a certain country, language, ethnic group or religious background still relevant? Is it still relevant in Singapore, where it’s a city of immigrants? I am one too, and just when I thought I had a strong sense of identity I found myself unsure.

I look Asian, my blue Singapore IC says I’m Indonesian, and that’s what I usually tell people when they ask which race group I belong to (which, I think, is an absolutely silly and offensive question that is unfortunately asked too  many times in Singapore).

My mother is Chinese, by genes. Like most 5th or 6th generation Indonesian Chinese, she’s almost lost all her Chinese roots. She doesn’t speak any Chinese language or dialect, she doesn’t even know her Chinese name although she was given one. The only reminder left are her looks and the document that she has to produce every time she faces government bureaucracy. She’s raised by my hardcore Catholic grandmother, and as a result she’s embraced all other religions as sources of life’s philosophy.

My father was born into a muslim Javanese family. However he’s spent most of his adult life with Chinese colleagues, even going out for drinks and (gasp) indulging in porcine delicacies. I’ve never seen him doing islamic prayers. After more than a dozen years being married to my mom, he decided he wanted to be baptised.

My mother asked me once, “So which culture do you feel like you belong to?”. And my honest answer was “Javanese”.

The first few years in Singapore I struggled with answering the question “You Chinese, Ah?”. Because I’m not, but at the same time I am. The conversations usually goes like this:

Me: Yeah, Indonesian Chinese
You: (something in Chinese)
Me: Sorry, I don’t speak Chinese
You: How come Chinese don’t speak Chinese!


Me: Nope
You: Malay, ah?
Me: I guess you can say so
You: Then you Muslim?
Me: Nope
You: (demanding explanation)

I decided to settle with “Indonesian” as an answer because that shuts people up.

But where is the place of an Indonesian in Singapore? The general consensus places me in Takashimaya, carrying branded goods into my Mercedes with a chauffeur who will drive me to my spanking new apartment five minutes away from Orchard Road. My Chinese half places me along with spoiled brats who party lots, and my Javanese half places me along with the Malays, a somewhat displaced minority.

And I’m Indonesian by heart. Among the so-called 4 racial groups (including ‘Others’), it too places me among the Malays. But I’m much more Singaporean (Chinese) by habit, placing me among the Chinese with much reluctance.

I like Singapore. I find it more of a home, compared to Jakarta – a city I left 11 years ago. But I don’t know where to fit in, in this country of categorisations.


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