October 20, 2013

Setelah Kau Pergi



Hampir dua bulan sudah saya menjalani hidup tanpa suami. Gara-garanya si akang teh memutuskan untuk ngambil tawaran kerja di Cilegon, di Kawasan Industri Cigading. Hadeuh... antara senang dan sedih. Senang, karena suami enjoy menjalani pekerjaannya, sedih karena sekarang semua beban rumah tangga menumpuk di pundak diriku seorang. Selain kerja dari jam 7 sampai sekitar jam 5 sore tiap hari, saya juga harus berjibaku dengan urusan cucian, antar jemput anak, bersih-bersih rumah + halaman, nyemprotin semut yang tidak berhenti bersarang di atap rumah, bersihin selokan depan rumah yang mampet, nyuci mobil, sampai nongkrong bersama tukang tambal ban buat nambal ban mobil yang bocor. Watir pisan, lah, pokona mah :) 

Begini ternyata rasanya jadi single parent. Walaupun di KTP status saya tetep bukan single, tapi paling tidak saya bisa merasakan betapa repot dan beratnya kalau jadi single parent beneran. Ah, mudah-mudahan saja saya dan suami hanya maut yang memisahkan. Asik. 

Beberapa kejadian yang mengharukan sama anak-anak juga sempat terjadi selama ditinggalkan suami. Seperti kemarin waktu habis nganter anak studi tour ke Cirebon. Busnya nyampe di sekolah anak-anak jam 1 malam. Dari sekolah harus nyetir sendiri ke rumah melewati jalanan mendaki dan berliku menembus hutan cemara dan hutan bambu (rada lebay, biar ceritanya rame). Mana ban mobil kempes, malam jumat kliwon, lagi. Sepanjang jalan baca doa-doa, sambil ngelirikin si Ade yang tidur di jok belakang dan si Teteh yang duduk di samping. Kuatir tiba2 ada satu penumpang bertambah... hiyy! 

Malam hari ketika waktunya istirahat, selain harus meluangkan waktu untuk nemenin anak-anak belajar (si Teteh sudah kelas 6, mau UN), juga sering harus meluangkan waktu mendengarkan curhatan suami lewat telpon tentang pekerjaannya. Jam kerja yang panjang (tiap hari dia lembur sampai jam 10 malam buat ngejar deadline proyek), teman kerja dan bawahan yang sering menimbulkan masalah, dll. Tapi overall, kelihatannya sih dia betah kerja disana. Dia tinggal di villa yang disediakan perusahaan. Penghuninya sekitar 10 orang ditambah pembantu satu orang. Pembantunya berjenis kelamin setengah-setengah, tapi untung tidak naksir suami saya (katanya).

Ketika saya cerita sama teman-teman kantor tentang keadaan saya yang husbandless, tanggapan mereka sungguh simpatik. Dengan tatapan penuh keprihatinan, mereka menyarankan, "Ya sudahlah, bu. Cari suami outsourcing saja..." Halah, teman macam apa, coba?

Tapi ya sudah, syukuri saja. Kalau saya mengeluh berarti saya adalah hamba yang tidak bersyukur. Nikmat Tuhan yang mana lagi, coba, yang bisa saya dustakan? Punya dua anak yang lucu, sehat dan pinter, punya suami yang walaupun sering nyebelin tapi sayang keluarga (ganteng juga lah, pastinya). Jadi walaupun badan ringsek, tapi saya tetap tersenyum dalam melakukan pekerjaan (tersenyum, soalnya sambil nyapu nonton OVJ di Trans 7, hehe..).

Sudah ah, nerusin kerja lagi. 

June 12, 2013

A Mall-icious Afternoon



My eldest daughter is almost 12 years old. Which means she is a pre-teen. Which means fitting in is the most important issue in her agenda. Which means going out with her friends is kind of mandatory, an inevitable duty, among other holy duties such as debating at every single thing her parents say, warning her parents not to buy clothes with the same colour and model for her and her sister (gosh, that’s a fashion disaster!), and threatening her parents that she’d rather jump into the river than being kissed by them in front of her friends. Oh, well...

That’s why when last Friday she asked my permission to go to one big mall in North Bandung with her BFFs after school, I couldn’t say but “Yes, I’ll collect you this afternoon at the mall. You girls have fun.” Am I an awesome mother or what?

So that afternoon after the office hour I drove to the mall to collect her. Things run smoothly according to the plan, which means I only had to ask less then ten times to the securities to find her, until it was time to leave the parking space.

It was when I got closer to the exit gate when I realized that my parking ticket was lost. Did I let that thing bother me? Hell, no! It was only a piece of paper. How much trouble could that tiny little piece of paper get me into? So with the dignity intact, I talked to the man in charge “Sorry, I lost my parking ticket.”

The guy, with exaggerating worrines in his voice said “Really?! Ma'am, you really need to find the ticket or you will have to pay the fine”. “How much?” I asked with something around twenty or thirty thousand rupiahs in my mind, and hoping that I still have that much of cash in my purse so I don’t have to rush to an ATM. “A hundred thousand rupiahs” he said.

“A.... what?” I shrieked. “One hundred thousand rupiahs for losing a parking ticket?”. “Yes ma’am that’s the policy here. That’s why we really suggest you to look for the ticket. Maybe you just dropped it on the car floor or somewhere” Okay, calm down, I talked to myself, and started rummaging through my bag and the space below my chair. “Now while you’re looking for the ticket, let me see your driver’s license and vehicle registration certificate”. Without a word I just gave them what they asked. I undertood that they probably needed to clarify that I was really the owner of the car, not a thief. Although if I was a thief I would surely choose a better car to steal than this one.

Some minutes passed by and still I didn’t find my ticket. To be honest, I didn’t really look for it either. The guy was approaching, “How is it, Ma’am, have you found the ticket?”

“No!” was my answer with the voice some octaves higher than my usual calm tone. What did they expect me to do? Searching through the entire mall? “I can’t find it but I don’t want to pay one hundred rupiahs either. Look, it’s not that I don’t want to pay the fine, but one hundred thousand is just too expensive. Even if, presumably, I had been parking my car here since early in the morning, the daily rate of the parking here couldn’t be that high, could it?”

“Well, if that's the case, there is another way, Ma’am. You can pay whatever amount suits you, but you still have to sign the objection to pay note.” See? See? That’s always the final solution for this kind of problem in Indonesia. Pay whatever amount suits you. Which means the money won’t go into the Management but to the guy’s pocket. Nice.

I started to open my mouth again to shoot a missile. But hey, I was just too tired to argue. After spending all day long working, beating the traffic from the office to the mall, and walking round and round in the mall with the distance as far as Bandung to Puncak to find my kid, all I needed is some peace. And a nice warm cup of tea besides my comfortable couch.

So, there I handed him thirty thousand rupiahs (and gave “you’re such a shameless creature” look), took back my driver’s license and vehicle registration certificate, slammed my door, and off I left the mall with the speed as fast as the corruptors fled this country. Several light years per second.

“I am sorry to get you into trouble, Mom,” said my girl, half cringing. “No, it’s not your fault, honey, and I wasn’t mad, I was just negotiating” I tried to console her. Now I understand why I’ve never been a big fan of malls.

April 10, 2013

No Pain No Gain




There has been a fairly significant change at home since the beginning of this month. Husband decided to join Welding Inspection training for 3 months, so we had to change the daily schedules that we have done routinely over the last few years at home.

Consequently some adjustments have to be arranged. The kids who used to be picked up from school by H now have to let the school car pick them up and drop them at my parents-in-law’s house. They stay there till around six o'clock in the afternoon when we can take them home. Before H entering the courses I did not have to get up too early because H does not need to leave very early in the morning, now we both have to get up during wee hours to prepare the breakfast, lunch box for the kids, and do the housework, since we both now have to leave home early. We used to share the responsibility of teaching the children the school lesson or helping them with homework, but now that H himself is pretty busy with his tasks and exams from the courses, I have to handle it myself.

Exhausted? Oh, yes I am…..but…. there is also a sense of pride deep inside my heart by doing all this. I promised that I would support anything H decided to do as long as it is best for us and the children. Now it feels like I’ve been fulfilling my promise and we’re even.

So last night I was having a conversation with my children, asking them to understand that this circumstance might bring some inconveniences to us. I said if there is one family member who wants to advance, we all should support and make sacrifices if necessary. All this time daddy has been sacrificing by not working outside but running his own business at home (if it can indeed be called a sacrifice :) ) because he doesn’t want the children to be raised by a domestic helper. Now that they are growing up, daddy decided to try his luck in another field. It’s not only daddy who gives up his time, energy and thought to take the courses but mom also makes sacrifices by getting up early, sleeping late at night, coordinating with the school car driver, etc. And I hope they are willing to make the same sacrifices by spending the afternoon at grandparents' house until we take them home. Spending times at grandparents’ means no messing up the house, no screaming or yelling out loud, as I can imagine their scream will straightly send their grandparents a headache, no matter how reassuringly my parents-in-law said that it won't at all cause them any trouble. I apologized to my kids and hoped they can understand.

And to my surprise the kids with sweet encouraging voice said they did not object to the new arrangement and told me not to worry about it. Awwww .. aren’t they sweet? I am a very proud mother (If you didn't notice already :) )

December 18, 2012

Books I've Read in 2012

Thanks for being a good companion during 2012, another special year in which I encountered some turns and changes, good times and bad times, ups and downs. On my shelf you may not stay physically forever, but in my mind the substance will still remain. :)

I don't Know How She Does It
by Allison Pearson

 Why Girls Are Weird
by Pamela Ribbon

The Best a Man Can Get
by John o'Farrel

Daddy 
by Danielle Steel

May Contain Nuts 
by John o'Farrel

99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa
by Hanum Salsabiela Rais

Secret Daughter 
by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

This is Your Life
by John o'Farrel

Shopaholic Abroad 
by Sophie Kinsella

Faking It
by Jennifer Crusie
Three Weddings and Jane Austen 
by Prima Santika

Company 
by Max Barry


And, oh, some eBooks that I downloaded for my kindle:

Yellow on the Outside Shame On the Inside
by Anson Chi

My 100 Million Dollar Secret
by Daid Weinberger

A Foreign Education
by Craig Alan Williamson



July 17, 2012

A Trip to Yogyakarta


Titik Nol Yogyakarta


It’s been one month since I was transferred to this new department. Just when I thought I needed some changes in my working life, they gave me this new environment, new colleagues, new tasks, what’s more can I ask? 

My first official trip since I moved here was having a two day training in Yogyakarta, the city of tradition and culture in Central Java. 

I took train from Bandung in the morning. It’d been long time since I took this mode of transportation. It surely sent me down the memory lane when my grandma and grandpa used to take me by train for holiday. It was long time ago when I went to Yogyakarta. I can only remember vaguely about my trip to Candi Borobudur and Parangtritis beach, the famous sights in Yogyakarta. After having 8 hour trip, I arrived in Stasiun Tugu Yogyakarta in the afternoon and directly went by taxi to the hotel in Demangan area where I was going to spend the night. 

The training itself was going well. We had a lot of discussion and knowledge sharing, enough to make my otherwise lazy brain come to use a little bit :) . 

On the second day, the training ended at about 3 pm, while I’d already checked out from the hotel and had a train to catch in the evening. Surely I didn’t want to waste that precious time. So I decided to take a becak (rickshaw) ride, to enjoy the pleasures of life in the slow lane :) The becak driver was a friendly middle aged man who offered to take me around the central of Yogyakarta. Wow, how can I resist? The ride started from Jalan Urip Sumohardjo to Jalan Malioboro, passing through Pasar Beringhardjo, Keraton Yogyakarta, then to Ngasem, the center of Batik. After buying some batiks for myself, my kids, and the special man in my life (it doesn’t hurt to be nice to your husband once in a while, I'm tellin ya :) ), we continued the trip to Pathok, the center of Bakpia, the special food from Yogya. 

The interesting thing about the becak driver is that he seemed to have good customer service skills and attitude. He knew what people expect when they come to Yogyakarta and tried to provide his best service. In between catching breath from pedaling his becak, he explained some tourism spots in Yogyakarta, culinary specialties, and the transportation mode to get to places. He was willing to wait while I was buying things and asked me to take my time. He even helped me packing food and souvenirs into boxes. I don’t know if the becak driver has ever taken a training program about Service Excellence. But if he had ever taken one, I am sure he was the best student in that class :) . 

Jalan Malioboro

Keraton

The becak finally got to the train station at 5 pm. Way too early because the train departured at 9 pm. But since I always have my weapons with me, i.e. laptop with internet connection and some e-books in my kindle, I was ready to face even the longest time to wait. 

Early in the morning I arrived in Bandung, exhausted and sleep deprived. But I have nothing to complain since it’s all worth the experience.

May 9, 2012

A Risky Business



Nobody said raising kids would be easy. When I decided to have a baby I knew there would be a bumpy road ahead. But I decided to have them anyway because nothing can compensate the awesomeness of feeling this abundant love for my kids. So far so good. Nothing catastrophic has ever happened to my kids, other than my eldest being two times hospitalized and one time having her forehead stitched, and my youngest being two times hospitalized and being one time almost drowned in a small fish pond. Hah! 

Raising children in this harsh environment is risky indeed. But since the options are either we mitigate the risks or avoiding the process of having kids altogether, I choose the first option. Here I try to estimate the risks in raising children using one famous method of risk assessment, namely the ERM (Enterprise Risk Management) framework from COSO (Committee of Sponsoring Organizations). Though in my analysis here the method is severely simplified from the actual framework. 

First I have to set the objective in raising my kids. This is a hard part as I have so many expectations and hopes for my kids but I will narrow them down to be one most important, long-term objective, i.e:

Raising my children to be independent individuals with integrity and have a job that they enjoy. 

The risks in achieving such objective are as follow:

1. Risk name: Financial downturn
Description: We face financial hardship in raising kids due to global economic downturn, or lost our current job
Scores (on a scale from 1 to 5): Impact : 5, Likelihood : 3
Mitigation : Finding side job, having education insurance

2. Risk name: Health problems 
Description : Children suffer from health problems that can affect their quality of life
Scores : impact: 4, Likelihood : 3
Mitigation: providing healthy food, maintaining healthy lifestyle and regularly doing exercise, covering kids with health insurance

3. Risk name: Degradation of children’s moral values 
Description : Bad influence from media and environment : fraud, corrupt, cheating
Scores: impact 4, Likelihood : 4
Mitigation: Teaching children moral values through daily examples, becoming a role model to give them good examples (ouch, it’s a hard job)

4. Risk name : Drug Addiction 
Description : Children are addicted to drugs due to influence from friends
Scores: impact 4, Likelihood : 2
Mitigation: Maintaining good communication, giving love and attention, monitoring who they are involved with, hang out with

5. Risk name : Unwanted pregnancy 
Description: Daughters experience unwanted pregnancy due to unsafe pre-marital sex and/or lack of sex education
Scores : Impact : 4, Likelihood : 3
Mitigation : Giving proper sex education, maintaining open communication with children.

6. Risk name : Psychological distress 
Description: Children experience psychological distress due to too much burden and expectation from parents, or unhappy family condition
Scores : Impact : 3, Likelihood : 4
Mitigation: Setting a rational target based on the children’s ability, maintaining a happy environment at home

7. Risk name : Hardship in education 
Description : Children face high competition in entering university
Scores : Impact : 3, Likelihood : 5
Mitigation: Developing back up plans by equipping children with informal education, gaining more information about both formal and informal education

8. Risk name : Hardship in getting job 
Description : Children face difficulty in finding a job due to high competition, unsuitable education
Scores : Impact : 3, Likelihood : 3
Mitigation: Developing back up plans by equipping children with skill to be entrepreneur. My eldest Ira loves music and computer. Developing her skill will give her an opportunity to open a music or computer course one day. My youngest Mita loves designing clothes for her Barbie dolls. Developing her skill in fashion design (who knows) will help her to open a boutique of her own someday.

And voila! This is the graph of my risk analysis, showing that raising children is a high risk job.:



But seeing the innocent faces of my kids......


I will beat any risk to have them beside me. Who cares about risks anyway to have something so risk worthy.

May 6, 2012

The Odd Jobs

Photo by: Shine On

I saw you standing across the street. In the cold November rain. You starred at me with mounting expectations, forcing my heart to race. I was trembling in cold, desperately needed something to get out of this rain. I gazed back at you, hoping that you could grasp my wanting, my needing. As if able to read my mind, you run crossing the two way street, ignoring the possibility of getting hit by the traffic. Gasping for breath, you were walking closer to where I stood. I could see water dripping from the tip of your hair while your strong hand firmly gripped a dark umbrella. Your eyes looked at me deeply, before you finally broke your voice… “Mmm… ojek payung, bu?” :) 

Yes, ojek payung is a unique job you can probably only find in this country. They’re usually men or boys who rent an umbrella during rain, which comes in handy when we’re trapped in a rain and need to walk somewhere close, for example from a building to our car in the car park. They make sure that we’re securely covered under an umbrella while they are following us obediently from behind. Sometimes they jeopardize their own health by letting themselves soaking wet. 

Ojek payung is only one among many other informal jobs that are often looked in condescending way. But like it or not, we need them occasionally. Some of the other odd jobs I frequently encounter are:

Mister Cepek 

They regulate the traffic in the places not covered by traffic police officers. Usually in crowded spots like three junctions. The term mister cepek comes from the fact that the passer by usually give them 100 rupiahs, or cepek, though the fare is higher now, around 500 to 1000 rupiahs. Talking about Mister Cepek, we have the most famous, notorious, Mister cepek in our area. His name is Pak Aro. He passed away last week, leaving the three junction spot unattended and chaotik. We missed him. My 500 rupiah coins miss him. 

Joki Three-in-One 

Three-in-one is a traffic rule applied in some main roads in Jakarta where each car is required to have at least three passengers including the driver to pass the area during busy hour. Joki three-in-one are hitchhikers who can be hired to fulfill the number of passengers. So they are actually there to help people breaking the rule. Isn’t that ironic? 

But I remember one irritating yet amusing experience considering three-in-one area. There was one time when I had to attend a seminar at Sari Pan Pacific Hotel in Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta. Because I came with the driver only, and we decided to be good citizens by following the rule and not picking up any joki on the street, we had to go round and round avoiding three-in-one area to get to the place. And since it seemed impossible to cross the three-in-one boundary, finally the driver parked the car in a building in Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan and I had to continue my trip to Sari Pan Pacific Hotel by ojek (motor bike taxi). So no matter how cynical we are toward joki three-in-one, I think some people might need them for once in a while. 

Pengamen 

Pengamen, or street singer is often seen as annoying. And they are annoying indeed, especially when I remember this situation: I was sitting in a full packed bus at 1 pm under hot weather, the aroma in the vehicle is a mixture of sweat, fuel, and slipping clutch. There, in that unfortunate situation, entered a pack of street singers into the bus, singing an absurd song with absurdly loud voice, playing the guitar out of tones and tapping the home made drum out of the rhythm. It was annoying as hell I almost decided to jump from the bus window! 

But I have also encountered some occasions when I felt really entertained by pengamen. Especially if the song and voice suit the mood. I remember one time when I weep (I was a truly sentimental freak) while listening to a pengamen singing Achmad Dhani’s song titled Cinta Kau dan Dia (Loving You and Him) with beautiful guitar play. Gosh, how could he know that the song perfectly suited my situation at that moment? :) I also remember that a friend of mine intentionally skipped her bus stop and decided to stay in the bus till a song was over because the pengamen sang her favourite song so damn well that even Simon Cowell from American Idol would clap his hands and make a compliment (in your dream). 

Pemulung 

Pemulung are people who collect the recyclable garbage, sorting them out, and selling the garbage to the recycle company. Most of them do the job for their own sake, without realizing that they have actually made a great contribution to save the environment. The condescending view toward this job usually comes from the ragged clothes these people wear and their dirty appearance. Of course, what do you expect people wear when they have to shove themselves through the heaps of garbage. An expensive suit with matching tie? :)

They are just some unique people with unique way of life. We can hardly question people’s decision to struggle to live, especially if they are left with not so many choices for jobs. If anything, they teach me to be grateful for the job I am currently having.

April 24, 2012

Life is a Drama


Photo: guidetoparenting

A few days ago I was out of town for work. In that occasion I met my former colleague, Pak D. He is my senior who once worked together with me in the same department. After exchanging small talks during break, I asked him about his wife and children whom I’ve known rather well. And proudly, with pleasant smile, he said that he has another son now, a 4 years old fine boy. 

I was slightly taken aback by the news, considering that he is now at nearly retirement age, and so is his wife. Seeing the puzzlement on my face (yeah, I always have problem keeping my face straight when something is occupying my mind), he told me that this child was actually adopted by his family. Then he began telling me the story. 

It began 4 years ago, when the daughter of Pak D received a phone call from her friend, a student that went to the same college with her daughter. She told her to come to the boarding house where she lived because there was something important she wanted to share. His daughter went to meet this friend, but only to find a shocking news. The friend apparently had just returned from hospital after giving birth to a baby - outside wedlock - because her relationship with the boyfriend was forbidden by her parents. The reason was cliche, the differences in racial backgrounds. 

Being a college student with no source of income other than from her parents, and being afraid that her parents would be furious knowing that she had given birth outside wedlock, this friend decided to throw the baby away (literally!). In a depressed mental state, she had already put the poor baby inside a plastic bag (gasp!). 

Frantically, the daughter of Pak D called her parents telling them what happened and begging her friend at the same time not to throw the baby away just yet. Being a passionate fellow as he is, Pak D and his wife went to meet their daughter and her friend straight away. After some discussions and consolations, in that very afternoon, Pak D and his wife took the baby home and taking care of him after since. 

I was speechless listening to his true story. A little bit of musical illustration and some more expressive dialogues will make it a perfect piece of television’s drama. But that's what life is. Each of us takes part on the stage by playing a role. It's up to us whether we choose to be protagonist or antagonist, a winner or a loser.

Pak D has chosen his role. He could’ve brought the baby to the police office, hospital, or orphanage. Or even worse, he could've just hung up the phone and let the baby meet his fate. But he didn’t. In the name of humanity, he is willing to spend his supposedly retirement days taking care of a baby that he hoped someday become a healthy and fine child. 

The poor baby might play an unlucky role as a victim in such early years of his life, but I am sure that he is now in the right hands, being raised by warm helping hands that can prevent him from keeping anger and resentment toward those who had treated him unfair when he was still a baby. 

How about the parents of the girl? Although they were eventually well informed that their daughter had given birth to a baby that clearly has blood ties with them, the parents didn't seem to care too much about it. Yeah, some unsurprisingly arrogant attitudes from people who see races as an impediment in a relationship. They succumbed to their own doubt and fear. Apparently they choose to play their role as antagonists. 

Life is a drama. There are good fellows, bad fellows, innocent victims. The stories are sometimes irritating, most of the times amusing. We expect some happy endings, only to encounter some sad endings. Life is a drama indeed. Only that we don’t have some commercial breaks in between.

April 16, 2012

Gender Equality, My Daughter and I




I was sitting in that silent room, beside a hospital bed where my daughter laid down suffering from typhoid fever. Holding her hand, once in a while I looked at the infusion device to make sure that it worked properly in delivering medicine into the little body of this angel of mine. My mind was drifting away. I was imagining the sound of her laughter, her baby-like voice when babbling about her days at school, her little performance when she showed me her favourite dance. 

The silence was abruptly interrupted by the ring tone from my mobile phone. It was my boss, asking me about some work matters. That’s the evil of technology. Even when I took some days off from the office to take care of my daughter, I just couldn’t run away from online connection. So I had to take my mind off my daughter for a while and immerse myself into the conversation about work. 

Ah, the predicament of being a working mom. There were too many occasions I felt like torn in between the two, when I had to weigh the importance of family and work matters. But in occasions like that, when my daughter was lying on hospital bed, her priority won by far. There was no place I wanted to be than beside her, even if that cost me my job performance. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer of gender equality, I believe that men and women have equal capability and should have equal right in important fields like education and employment. But what I firmly believe is also that men and women are psychologically different. When a woman has a child, for example, chances are she will have a stronger emotional attachment to her child than her husband will. A woman has mothering and nurturing intuition. It’s just psychological thing. It’s natural. 

However, I find that it is so unfair when these differences become the reason for companies to give less reward to female employees, even considering them as sub-employees and being discriminated against. In giving employee benefits, for example, companies commonly have regulation to give less benefits to woman by deducting the family benefits, simply because they are not considered to be the breadwinner in the family. That’s ridiculous. While women are required to contribute equal works for the company, they are not granted equal payment. It doesn’t matter if the woman is the head of the household or not. It’s about giving each and any employee equal right when they have equal obligation. 

Another case is the healthcare for employees. Commonly male employees are automatically granted a healthcare coverage for his family members. Female employees, on the other hand, usually have to provide a formal letter from local authority stating that the husband is unemployed or has no income, or letter from the husband’s workplace stating that the husband doesn’t have healthcare coverage for the children from the company. Some companies even have regulation to treat all female employees as single, even if they are married with children, so there is no chance at all for these female employees to have their children covered by healthcare scheme in the company. Silly. It doesn’t matter if the husband is unemployed or has a job, dirt poor or filthy rich. It’s about giving equal reward to all employees for equal work, regardless the gender. 

Seriously, if some people still consider all families in Indonesia are in “ideal” condition that consist of: one working husband, one stay at home (or less seriously a.k.a just for fun working) wife, and children, I beg them to come back to the stone age where there was a clear division between the job of men (hunting) and women (taking care of children, gathering seeds and berries). Oh, wait... even this theory about clear job division based on gender in stone age has been rebutted. 

As I am writing this piece, my daughter has recovered and returned home. The sparkles in her eyes and adorable smiles have been put back on their places. Be strong, sweetheart. I’ll never be tired telling you that men and women are indeed different, but having their own competency and priority. The tasks might be different but of equivalent value. Both genders contribute equally, therefore deserve fair rewards accordingly. There are still a lot of injustice and discrimination in this world we have to fight against. I am hoping that when you’re grown up, my dear, there will be less discrimination of any kind, be it based on gender, race, religion, economic status, or whatever. 


February 5, 2012

Look Ma, It’s Chocolate….


Photo: Oryandriana


It was just another bright sunny day when we drove along the Bandung’s roads. Ah, the sweetness of living in tropical country. Despite endlessly putting up with sweat and swear – sweat from hot weather and swears toward inept drivers passing by - we always enjoyed our little adventurous trip in this crowded town. 

Our humble car entered a car park as He needed to buy something at the shops nearby. The car park was full and the only space available was near the garbage heap. So we pulled over there. If that was the only choice that we had, so be it. He got out of the car while I decided to wait inside. 

My eyes looked around the place and suddenly caught a glimpse of two fellows, a woman and a little girl about six years old who was presumably her child. The mother carried a big sack hanging over her shoulder down to her back. Looking from some bottle shapes protruding from the surface, the sack must’ve contained some unused plastic bottles or containers to be recycled. Her child was roaming near her, picking up here and there some plastic bottles from the garbage heap. They are pemulung. When people dismiss doing complicated stuff like sorting garbage to recyclable and non-recyclable bins (seriously, how complicated is that?), they are there to lessen the problem. 

My eyes glued on the little girl that at that moment was wandering right in front of the car. She picked up a plastic cup that still contained some liquid, looking like ice cream that was half melted, probably was newly thrown to the garbage heap. And my heart suddenly jumped when she scooped the left over in that cup with plastic spoon in it, and shoved it into her little mouth. 

I opened the car door and made a step toward her, but another thought stopped me. I came back inside the car and instantly searched for available food. Fortunately when taking the kids outside we always equipped ourselves with food inside the car. So I grabbed a big chunk of chocolate stuffed bread and walked outside. 

I moved toward the little girl. “Hi” I smiled at her. She looked back at me. The eyes were innocent and bright. She was beautiful, despite the messy hair and shabby clothes she was wearing. I lowered myself so my eyes were level with hers “Are you hungry?” What a stupid question. She just looked at me shyly while still holding the plastic cup of melted ice cream in her hand. I handed her the bread “Here, this is for you”. She looked hesitantly at the bread, then her eyes searched for her mother who stood at a close proximity from us. After getting an approval nod from her mother, she smiled and happily took the bread from my hand and said thank you. I could see that despite her hunger, her mother had taught her some manner fairly well. 

She walked up to her mother and from the gesture I saw that she was offering her mother the bread. The mother shook her head. She opened the plastic wrap, ripped the bread apart with her hands and I vaguely heard her little voice saying “Look Ma, it’s chocolate…”, and with some mouthful bites she ate the bread. I suddenly felt a lump forming in my throat. 

That little girl and her mother are not beggars. They are pemulung who collect inorganic garbage to be recycled. As despised as they might be, they share contribution to save the environment, as a balance to people who live a "modern" lifestyle that leaves sizeable ecological footprint on earth. They are unsung heroes to the environment. Yet they are filthy, and they are hungry.