Thursday, 20 July 2017

#alivegurlmudik: Limestones in Madura

Before we all went to visit the grandparents and extended families—my parents and brother to Semarang, my sister and I to Surabaya—my Stepmom expressed her wish to visit some tourist landmarks in Madura—which is actually another island, connected to Surabaya by a bridge. We both recently saw one on TV and we were instantly intrigued. So, when she and my Dad arrived in Surabaya—my brother having come earlier that week—I asked her about it and we started asking our cousins and planning the trip ourselves. We settled with two places, both of which are used to mine limestones for construction. The first one we visited was Bukit Aermata in Arosbaya, a small village in the Bangkalan Regency. It is quite secluded, with only one narrow road leading straight to the landmark area—but as it started to reveal itself, it was breathtaking. The limestones around this part are red, with damn patches everywhere—so be careful not to slip! Consisting of hills and caves, the place certainly offers nooks and crannies that are different from my usual scenery. The guides are rather nice too, giving us as much information on the mining and area as he knows. However, make sure that if you come here, your vehicle is in perfect condition—the roads are pretty rocky—and your wallet is filled with cash. Parking for a car costs IDR 20K and admission ticket costs IDR 5K per person. You will also be able to find a plethora of Rengginang Lorjuk here.

See how green the water is?

Thrifted top + loafers // gifted pants (from Bali) // old boater hat + sunglasses (giveaway!) // hand-me-down purse //

outfit photos by Akita

The second place we visited was the one my Stepmom and I saw on TV: Bukkit Jaddih in the same Regency. From the moment we saw the white rocks marking the area, it was clear that this place was far more popular. When I saw it on TV, I thought it looked like Kawah Putih—which I visited in high school—but it turns out to be much, much less satisfying. First of all, as my Stepmom remarked, it was clearly manmade—because it used to be a mining site—so it isn't as beautiful as if it was naturally carved. Second of all, the advertising is so far from the truth. For example, the Blue Lake doesn't even have blue water—it's more green, like a pool that hasn't been cleaned in some time—and the boat and raft attractions make the water so much less appealing. Last of all, basically anything costs money—just entering the area costs IDR 10K, entering the Blue Lake and a hot spring-like swimming pool costs IDR 5K per person (for each!) and parking costs IDR 10K. The place was far too crowded for my taste, it holds little secret—you can pretty much see it all in one glance—so it gets boring real quickly, and, seriously, the false advertising. If you're curious, you could always visit, but I don't think I'm coming back here again. In this region, you can also find salak in abundance—although my Grandma says Maduranese salak are too sour.

P.S: Props to my Dad, who was fasting the whole day, drove us there and back—with minor albeit frightening difficulties, hiked most of the way and put up with my photo obsessions, but didn't complain one bit. He's a real trooper!

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Monday, 17 July 2017

The Long and Short of Firu and Visya

Taken by our friend Kynann in Heidelberg (Feb, 2011)

It feels so surreal that it's been seven years since the time I practically asked Firu to embark on a relationship together with me. We've spent seven years loving and fighting each other with equal intensity, six of which we spent being away from each other, geographically separate from one another. Imagine that, only one year of our relationship did we basically spend almost every waking hour together. God, he must've been so sick of me back then—even more than now. But we knew from the start that one day we would have to go our separate ways, to pursue our own dreams and aspirations. So we practiced sometimes, not contacting each other for whole days—although it lasted only for 2-3 days—and thought it wasn't that big a deal. Boy, were we wrong.

Late August 2011 was the first time we ever lived in different towns and state, although still the same country. While Firu stayed in Karlsruhe, I moved away to Halle (Saale)—both in Germany. It was also the first time I had to live completely by myself, hence the most difficult first few months of my life. At first, we vowed to see each other every month and video call all the time, but soon found out how difficult it was to fulfil. We did Skype almost everyday, though, around 7 hours a day—while doing other stuff, keeping each other in the background. But it was clear we couldn't meet up every month—we didn't see each other at all that November. But we did our best to do so, somehow, like meeting halfway (in Nuremberg) so we wouldn't spend too much time on the road. We also made up for it during Christmas in December and semester break in February, where I spent two weeks at Firu's place—our old place. It was a lot of fun! However, our video calls diminished in frequency—quite dramatically—when Firu went back to Indonesia for two months in April, followed by his transition from his old apartment to his new one, which allowed him limited internet access. For the first time, we both experienced what LDR would actually feel like.

Taken by our friend Uki in Karlsruhe (March, 2011)

Suddenly, it was already August again, which means it was time to transition into Uni life. It would seem a given, to think about one place where we could both pursue our majors and choose it, but that's not what happened. While I chose Kassel early on, Firu decided on Duisburg—shortening the distance between us from 506 km (5-8 hours by train) to less than 300 km (around 3 hours by train), but still putting us in different states. At the time, I was naïve enough to think that the short distance would mean we could see each other more often—but that's not true. This was the time I learnt a crucial LDR lesson: Distance is only one of the factors. Time and money also play an integral role—our schedules and budget made it impossible for us to see each other every week or so. We ended up waiting for holidays to come, specifically those long weekends, or summer breaks. Money is easier to manage—we could always look up cheaper modes of transport—but time is non-negotiable, especially with exams and presentations flying around. By this time, I don't think we video called all that frequently either—maybe around once a week and definitely only for less than 3 hours—because uni was crazy and we had to adapt to the new lifestyle.

It doesn't matter how often we saw each other anyhow, we realised that our real life was always separate from our time together—like our relationship existed in this limbo. When we got to see each other, I remember being excited to pack and leave, but coming back with this hollow feeling in my chest. Time always seemed to stop when we were together, but moved awfully quickly at the same time. It also moved on when we were apart, introducing us to new experiences and friends, ones we desperately longed to share with each other—okay, maybe it's just me. All those hellos and goodbyes wore me out. "Surely we can't keep living like this," I thought once, looking at the distant future when we wouldn't have to go back and forth to have a relationship.

Taken by our good mate Edwin on the way to Mannheim (May, 2011)

Then in 2014 life took an entirely unexpected turn: I decided to move back home.

And thus our actual long distance relationship began—around 11,000 km, to be precise. The rules of the game completely changed. We familiarised ourselves with timezones and different holidays and clashing schedules. Our video calls happen at least once a week, although there are months when we could barely spare time for that at all. The worst part is we haven't seen each other since Firu went back to Germany in October 2014—almost three years ago! To be honest, we still don't know how much longer it will be until we get to see each other again. It got to a point where I wasn't sure if Firu was real, if my life in Germany wasn't simply a figment of my imagination, if I wasn't in a relationship with a ghost. In all the LDR tips I've seen online, everyone says it's best to know when your next meeting will be—well, you tell me.

Taken by our friend Gorby (I think?) in Karlsruhe (October, 2011)

Although we've gotten used to not being in the same place as each other for most of our relationship, there is a huge difference between living hundreds and thousands of kilometres apart. There is a difference between being in the same country, the same timezone, the same lifestyle and being in completely different parts of those things. I used to have an itch at the train station when I lived in Kassel and Halle (Saale); whenever I saw a train that led to where Firu was, I could almost feel myself jumping on—last minute ticket being entirely possible. But now, oceans and continents apart, bureaucratic matters form a giant wall between me and a plane to where he is—and they don't come cheap too. I used to mark the dates when we got to meet again on my mental calendar, counting down the days to cheer myself up. But now, without a date to mark, my calendar becomes irrelevant. Is it even Monday or Saturday now? I can't tell, they both suck. Conversations go dry sometimes, because the only question none of us wants to ask—and none can answer—is the one echoing through our heads everyday: "When will this distance end?"

Every year on our anniversary, I try to be thankful for Firu and be cheerful about the anniversary. But, really, I'm not sure how long I can keep my sanity with this distance. People ask me all the time, how I stay in a long distance relationship. Honestly, I have no idea. All I know is I still love Firu and I cannot wait for this distance to disappear altogether.

P.S: These photos were candid shots taken by our friends. I love seeing our relationship through their eyes. Thank you, everyone, for the photos!

Taken by our good mate Edwin at Le Château Versailles (December, 2012)

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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Vegan Banana Crêpes: 3 WAYS

FIRST WAY: Add peanut butter

Last week, when I visited Firu's parents bearing gifts and souvenirs, they ended up gifting me with so much food—including the latest harvest from their banana trees. If you know bananas at all, you know they go bad very quickly—and that they bear fruit practically every other day—so using it for this month's recipe is almost a given. At first, I wanted to come up with something refreshing and typical Indonesian, but as I was not well-prepared—as always, actually—I decided to do something simple and quick. Also, we haven't gone shopping at all this week so we were out of quite a number of things—including eggs—which is why I decided to go vegan with this recipe. Necessity is the mother of inventions, am I right? This recipe was inspired by yet another recipe from the Delicious! manga series I've mentioned before. They have an apple crêpe recipe—I followed their instructions on how to create the filling. The vegan crêpe base was taken from Kaffee und Cupcakes—the original is in German. But I added my own little twist by using three condiments to create different flavours. Enjoy!

SECOND WAY: Add date or other fruit syrup

(original recipe via Delicious! and Kaffee und Cupcakes)
For the crêpes
  • 250g flour
  • 30g (brown) sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 30g food starch
  • 30g cooking oil
  • 150 ml water
  • 300ml soy milk
  • butter, to fry
  1. Dilute the food starch in the water
  2. Put flour, sugar, salt, oil, diluted starch and around 100ml of soy milk into a mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, mix well
  3. Little by little add in the milk into the mixture while mixing
  4. Mix all until there are no clumps left
  5. Grease up the frying pan and put on medium heat
  6. Pour in around 1/2 laddle onto the pan and spread evenly
  7. Once the edges are a little bit brown, flip it over and let the bottom fry for 2 minutes
  8. Transfer the crêpe to a plate and continue steps 1-7 until all the batter is finished
  9. Let it cool while you make the filling
 For the topping
  • 2 bananas (overripe)
  • 4 tbsp. maple syrup
  • a few cloves
  1. Put all the ingredients in heatproof bowl and put a lid on it
  2. Stick the bowl in the microwave for 8-10 minutes (600 watt) or 10-12 minutes (500 watt)
  3. Take it out when it's done, take off the lid and let it cool for a bit
  4. Chop the bananas into four sections each and arrange them on the crêpe
  5. Add the extra condiments (or none, if you like) and serve while it's warm
  6. Bon appétit!

THIRD WAY: Serve with pralines or chocolate syrup

Tips:  Indonesians tend to be very precise with their bananas, and this time around I'm actually recommending a specific kind, which is Pisang Kepok. It is sweeter and smaller than most—and it softens very easily—so I think it would really bring out the flavour. However, as an alternative, I feel Pisang Raja would do the job just fine too. The original recipe for the crêpe uses brown sugar, but I use castor sugar. At home—and in Indonesia—the brown sugar we use tend to be the block ones, which need to be melted before using, and I fear it would ruin the consistency of the mixture. I don't even know if the block ones are brown sugar. I also didn't use food starch, as we didn't have any at the ready, but the crêpes turned out fine. If you don't like maple syrup, you can also substitute with honey or any other syrup to your liking. You can also use ground cloves, one teaspoon should be enough. I used plastic foil to cover up the bowl in the microwave, but it ended up clinging to the banana in a vacuum—although easily detachable. If you don't have a microwave, you can make the filling by mixing all the ingredients on a pan and letting the syrup soak in a bit. Lass es euch schmecken!

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

#alivegurlmudik: Ethical Eid Mubarak

This photo was taken by my cousin Diar

Ramadan this year seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye. Honestly, wasn't it just yesterday that it began? How is it that now it's two weeks after Eid already? This year, thankfully, our family gets to visit the grandparents and cousins once more—although my sister and I, as always, had to be the only representatives from our family, while the rest are in Semarang. Unlike the previous years—for some reason—my expectations for Eid this year is significantly diminished. So long as we get to eat together as a family, thank God for the past month of blessings and the end of our fasting, I'm not complaining much. I was willing to brush off the fact that my nose was killing me with excessive phlegm, I went to Eid prayer by myself—well, with Grandpa, but he's obviously praying at a different section—and the rest of my family couldn't join us. If you've read this post and this post, you might know the gist by now—prayer, 'sungkem,' holiday money for the grandchildren and feast. A bit of good news: I think my Grandma's legs are getting better or, well, her spirits are, at least—she seems to smile a lot more. It breaks my heart to think of her in pain. I hope I can make her proud soon!

Ultimate OTP!

Headscarf by Bernadet Putri // hand-me-down shirt // Imaji Studio scarf // thrifted skirt + loafers // old socks //

outfit photos by Akita

I feel like now Eid is the perfect time to create hijab styles—to train for the future. While last year I kept it casual with a slip-on hijab, I thought this year I'd try wrapping my own hijab. But, me being me, of course I'd be too lazy to pin the whole ensemble together so that they won't go awry. My sister was stressed out looking at my dishevelled hijab—stewing in silence while she eyed my head. Little did she know, this outfit was a couple months in the making—around the time I purchased the headscarf—and I kind of like the way the hijab changes shape from time to time, although, yes, it gets kind of stressful as the day wore on. The big scarf is actually quite an impulse purchase only a few days before I departed to Surabaya. Imaji Studio was having a storewide sale from their previous collections throughout the month of June, so of course I had to take advantage. It was my first ever ethical purchase—and for it to be local too! It might have been a dip into my savings, but it was worth every penny—I've been using it as a blanket prior to Eid. Also, the prints are so adorable, don't you think?

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Monday, 10 July 2017

I Am Not a Feminist

For as long as I could remember, to me, something has always seemed rather off about the feminist movement. For a movement that claims to fight for gender equality, it mainly speaks of women's rights and female empowerment. Don't get me wrong! As a woman, obviously these causes are quite close to my heart. R.A. Kartini, Indonesia's most famous historical feminist, made it possible for me to work and go to school today, so I'll always be grateful to the movement. However, aside from the fact that the movement seems to be making headway in all the less urgent aspects, it somehow manages to eclipse and trample on other causes.

A little confession: Never have I ever in my life felt oppressed/held back because I'm a woman. In fact, I feel like that factor has actually helped me a lot. Not that I've never been disadvantaged just by being a woman—cat calls, physical judgment, etc.—but what I gain from it is so much more. It has allowed me to pursue whatever I want to with less pressure to succeed and become a breadwinner. It has offered me more room to explore my personal style in various directions. It makes it socially acceptable for me to lay bare all my feelings—i.e. crying in public. Sometimes my gender isn't even relevant, because I was treated as one of the boys for most of my school life. So, it's almost a given, that I've never felt like feminism was a cause that fights for my rights.

In my relationship with Firu, feminism is often a topic of debate. Usually, I bring up a topic and mentions injustices towards women in a situation. Firu often brings up similar injustices towards men that no one seems to ever talk about. And it always strikes me: men have their own woes too. They are expected to be more well educated, more successful, more capable of handiwork and physically stronger. They are prevented from showing their vulnerability and fending for themselves when attacked by women. Sometimes the expectations are disadvantageous to women too, such as the stereotype that men are more sexually active or have higher sexual drive than women—which often justifies rape. But, if injustices against women are often fought and rallied on by feminists—made up of both men and women—who fights for the injustices against men?

A few weeks ago Firu told me about The Red Pill, a documentary about the Men's Rights Movement. My mind instantly flew to the first time I heard about Men's Rights Activists from Devinne of Mox and Socks. At the time, due to the lack of desire to research, I quickly agreed to her opinions, believing her words to be true, but now, after a bit of research—and I'm not blaming/shaming Devinne here, really—Return of Kings and Roosh Valizadeh mentioned in her letter don't even identify themselves as MRAs. So, you might've guessed that I hesitated about the film—and was, ultimately, worried about Firu's mindset—but he doesn't watch documentary often, so I thought I'd give it a try.

It was one of my rare good choices!

Disclaimer: I do actually like these books, they're just ones which fit the theme

I learnt a lot about real problems men actually face—possibly as an effect of feminism, possibly of patriarchy—that are horrible and frightening, yet virtually no one has ever really discussed it, such as disposability, paternity rights and even domestic violence against men. Honestly, there were moments in the film where I almost broke down in tears—do you know what actually happened with Boko Haram in Nigeria?—and it got me thinking, especially in terms of paternity. For instance, why is it okay for women to decide the fate of a child—be it born or unborn—without the consent of the father? In the case of rape, that is understandable, but in a relationship? Tricking their partner into having a baby or aborting an unborn love child? Parenting is biologically a two-person ordeal. How come going into it or pulling the plug on it requires only the consent of one? Why is it always assumed, anyway, that men want no children and, therefore, their opinions on child-making is irrelevant? The worst part is the one who suffers most from this will be the child. That's a life, an actual human life.

What I find unfortunate is the major backlash and negative responses the film has received from radical feminists—and other prejudiced people. The Red Pill is now banned on cinemas across Australia—though you can still watch it at screenings and obtain it online—and the Australian media are completely biased against it and Cassie Jaye, the filmmaker, without having watched the film. A feminist panelist was pretty much threatened not to attend the screening of TRP in Norwich, England. And, while I'm sure not all feminists are like that, the impression the movement made on me is worsening from this situation—and it wasn't all that good to begin with. MRAs—both in the film and in the Norwich discussion panel—don't dismiss the feminist movement. They don't blame the problems women have on women. All they ask is for feminists and women to understand that men aren't necessarily the cause—they are on the same boat—and that they be given the opportunity to advocate for their rights as well.

I don't think I've ever identified myself as a feminist, but if I did, I've denounced that title. I don't believe our problems are necessarily gender-based. Women often oppress women too, it only requires a bit more power that often comes with money. For instance, as I've mentioned before, most fast fashion garment workers are women and they are often forced to work long hours for barely any wages. It may seem that they are oppressed by men—their supervisors—but, in the big picture, their suffering is due to an ignorant mass of mostly young women in the higher economical class—the consumer. Also, I think the biggest problem with feminism is that it is a movement based on the principle that all women want the same thing; that all women want to be CEOs or get into politics or spit on the idea of homemaking and being a stay-at-home mom. And, when women make a choice of being a mother, it is not rare that they get judged by feminists. There is a line from Mona Lisa Smile that I will always remember when thinking of feminism. It's from the part where Joan tells her feminist teacher Katherine that she doesn't want to be a lawyer after all, but instead, a housewife and mother. She says, "You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want."

Look, all I want to say is that if feminists are given the chance to express their opinions on women's rights and female empowerment, they should not get in the way of MRAs expressing theirs on men's rights—because these are actually two sides of the same coin. And why is it that we are so concerned and ready to rally behind women's rights, when we almost always brush aside men's rights like they don't deserve compassion? When we hear of women who are pressured to bear children, protests would echo through the halls, but when we hear of men who are pressured to become a breadwinner, we don't even bat an eyelash. When women confess to being a victim of domestic violence, people would listen and empathise, but when men do the same, why are they still treated like the culprit?

Why don't we think about this for a moment?

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