The Trip to West Java

Hello guys, I'm back. How was your Chinese New Year? I survived it, thank God :) A few days before I went home, I actually fell rather sick and had to see the doctor. There was some weird conversation I had with the doc, all because I asked him a question that took him aback. I made him laugh though and he gave me antibiotics so all's good. The day after Chinese New Year, me and mom and the aunt who usually travels with us made our way to Lembang, a town near Bandung. Honestly I was really not keen on doing this because I know the trip will be tiring and we always have to start before sunrise :( but my auntie wanted to go and mom was in and she told me I'd be bored at home, so I went too. The driver was Ferry, a guy that my aunt has been using pretty frequently now to make out of town trip.

It was actually a pretty fast drive to Bandung and we made our first stop to Farmhouse Lembang. This is a rather weird place for me, because I was thinking what its purpose is. Then I realized it's something that perhaps wouldn't work 1-2 decades ago. This is to cater to the narcissistic social media loving people who like to post pictures online. The place has nicely decorated spots where you can take pictures. You can even rent out a Dutch costume and take pictures all around the place which my mom and aunt did. I did not because I look awful in pictures and that's why I rarely take pictures of myself. This annoys my mom. Every time I send her pictures from my trips, she complains that it's always of buildings and sceneries. There was quite a queue for the Dutch costume. My mom and aunt were after this group of ladies who were all in red. They seemed to have a guy to take their pictures and since they all looked so cheerful and I was bored waiting for mom and aunt, I just stood next to their guy and took their pictures :D
Mom and aunt got a blue skirts and I ended up as their photographer as they wandered around taking pictures. I was most amused with the big hoop skirt. They actually had 1 hour to use the costume, but I think they lasted only around half an hour. They got bored themselves. I'm not posting their pictures here because I don't even put my own pictures since I don't think it's a good idea so I'm not going to subject them to online visibility too :P Anyways, with the entrance ticket you get free milk. They have a small zoo, the favorite one seemed to be the sheep. Other than that, they sell some snacks which we didn't buy any. It is really nicely decorated and I do love some of the art pieces adoring walls and such.

Next stop was De'Ranch Lembang. It's a place with horses. Somehow ticket price also includes milk here, but the milk didn't taste as nice as Farmhouse so I only took a sip. De'Ranch Lembang has a western cowboy Indian theme to it. There are horses. People can pay to ride the horse or pony with cowboy and Indian accessories. What's with the costume? Well you need to look good for your social media pictures right? We didn't ride the horse, I guess to the disappointment of Ferry. Honestly I was quite interested, but since mom and aunt didn't want to, I felt weird doing it alone, so I didn't. We then just walked to see the non-working horses closer.
The place also has some games for the kids, like trampolines and zorb balls in a very small pool. We spent some time watching these kids. Next stop was Taman Begonia Lembang which is this garden full of flowers and also people. It's not very big and since it's quite crowded, I didn't really take a lot of picture here, except for the ones that my mom asked. Again I can see its appeal for people who like to post pictures on social media. We didn't spend much time here and then we made our way to a place which I couldn't remember the name. It's like an adventure kinda place. There are small cabins among the trees and also tents if you prefer camping. At this age, this doesn't interest me because I need more comfort, but I can imagine it being fun to do when you're younger on a school trip. Other activities include flying fox zipline and also strawberry picking. However when we were there, there's no strawberry to be picked. There were some deers though. They're quite pretty. I forget what sounds they made, but at that time I remember thinking that deer made funny sound.
We kinda went through these places pretty fast that we managed to make it to Tangkuban Perahu too. However it was raining when we were there and it became really cold so we just did a quick look of the crater. I remember that on our last visit without this aunt years ago, we actually had quite a nice hike into the other smaller crater, but we didn't do it this time because it was raining and my aunt has quite a bad knee.
That was day one. Day two was only spent in one place and that's Kawah Putih. It's a long drive, but it really made this trip worthwhile for me. Kawah Putih literally means white crater, it's this crater filled with bluish water. It feels more like a lake actually. When we were there it was very misty that I couldn't see how big the crater was. It made for a very ethereal scene. A little later on the fog kinda went away for a while that I could see that the crater is not actually very big. The water itself was not hot, only slightly warm. It's really beautiful and I love it because I've never seen anything like this before. Mom and aunt have been here a few times, but this was my first time. Facility wise, there's still a lot of work needed to be done in the area, toilet being the most important.

After that we made our way home. For pictures from this trip, you can go here. I only took my ixus and I'm not that satisfied with some of the pictures especially the ones in Kawah Putih. Love the place, but it's a really long drive to get there. On other news from home. Not much. Somehow this time around, almost everyday I would be going out with mom, like to relative house and such. We took busway a lot. Mom didn't have to pay because she's a senior citizen and I was actually quite amazed at this. It feels like the first time the Government is giving us something. It feels like progress. Seriously in this coming Jakarta governor election, I hope people will be open minded enough to vote for our current governor. He's doing good work. Seeing all the demonstration saying that people should vote for a Muslim leader is so disheartening and it's bad for all Indonesians who are not a Muslim. It's like we don't matter, it's like we're not counted, and it's like we're not worthy of the country where we were born and raised and also contribute for. All these demonstrations no matter how they package it and say it as a peaceful protest and such is at its core is intolerance and racism. I always think that when you think that you are better than everyone else because every one else is of a different religion or race, well that's the very definition of being racist.

So anyways back to home. Ate quite a good variety but the more I got to eat things I haven't eaten for a long time, the more I think of other food that I didn't manage to eat. I also managed to go to the cinema with mom and my cousin's daughter. We watched Cek Toko Sebelah. It was funny but at the same time I also felt it's quite a long. There were parts that I would rather cut and then I would add story line for the many supporting casts who are really funny. Mom enjoyed it a lot. It was actually quite an effort to watch this. We went to Central Park because cousin's daughter said there's an evening showing there, but there wasn't. I actually was pretty calm upon finding this out that I surprised myself. My normal setting on this kind of situation would be madly fuming of the mistake. Mom was insistent on watching the movie that when we found out there's a showing in Citraland, we went there. I haven't been in Citraland for more than a decade I think, it's been a very long long long time. I didn't get to see it much because we went straight to the cinema which was really nice. We made it on time. I like how retro the cinema still keeps it. In Indonesia, some cinemas will have an announcement saying that the theatre is opened and you can get in. Very retro and I love how they're still doing this. After the movie we walked back to Central Park because my cousin's daughter left some stuff there. It was actually not a very long walk, around 15 minutes or so, but I can imagine people thinking that it's a very long walk. Indonesians don't walk a lot. We had dinner at Hoka Hoka Bento which I hadn't had in years. Unfortunately I had to be disappointed because they ran out of ekkado, good grief :( Then I went to Carrefour to get some things. I love how they do away with the carry on basket and instead they provide bigger basket with a handle that you can pull. For me it's like pulling a dog around :) Maybe Singapore's supermarkets can do the same? In addition to Indonesians not walking much, we also don't seem to like to carry heavy things. I have to say seeing Indonesians, many of us are quite snoobish and into materialistic things. It's about having the bags, jewelries, cars, and all other expensive things. Sometime when I see my relatives acting rich, I wonder if they look down at me for looking so plain. I'm really just not interested in playing that game. Another thing that I get from going home this time around is that how I don't struggle. Life is not that hard for me. I may not have a lot, but I have more than enough. So right now I feel like I have to say grace more and complain less. I don't know how long this will last, maybe a week, but I guess perhaps I can just keep reminding myself that there are people who struggle more than me, but don't get as much.

A few more things before I end this post. Watched Hacksaw Ridge before I went back home to Jakarta. I actually like it very much and it's so remarkable that it's based on a true story. The person the story is about, Desmond Doss, is such an admirable person. Then today I watched another Andrew Garfield's movie, Silence in which he played another person of faith. I decided to watch this because I also read the novel it's based on, Silence by Shūsaku Endō. The movie is pretty long and it may feel quite boring at times. If I recall correctly it stays quite true to the book except perhaps for the ending. I like the ending in the movie because for me it finally makes the story complete. The book was a heavy one to read. It is a difficult story to tell and I think the movie did a good job in showing that every decision seems like the wrong one. Well, that's about it peeps. I edited myself a lot in writing this post. There are more that were swirling in my head, but I think I got lazy so I didn't write them. As usual, I hope your days are glorious :) Ciao!

:) eKa @ 10:34:00 PM • 0 comments

Back Story

So this week in NBC's This Is Us, it told the story of the day the twin was born. An expansion of the pilot. I wasn't that excited upon knowing it will all be back story, nothing in the present day. I guess it's because I relate more to the twin and their stories interest me more. I also think I relate more to them because as mentioned in the previous post, they're closer to my age and their feeling of being lost or stuck in life resonates with me. That also makes me think of how much I just don't relate to my peers who are married and perhaps in their 2nd child now. I know I want to have kids and all, but sometime when I see parents with their toddlers and all the work, I do feel thankful that I don't have to deal with all that. I wonder if subconsciously I don't like having kids. I'm praying but maybe God knows better, but hopefully He'll entrust some to me one day. So anyways that back story thing got to my head today as I heard 2 people discussing something. Suddenly I was so curious about their back story. How they got to this place. I wonder if any of you have ever been curious about the back story of the people in your day to day life. Unfortunately, unless I ask, by ask I mean thorough interview which can be seen as very intrusive, I don't think I will be able to get much detail. I have had people make unflattering remarks about my curiosity. Most of the remarks are in the line of I am being so odd, but I pride myself of it. I think it's so important to be curious in life.

TV to book. I finished reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Someone saw me with the book and told me he actually knows the author personally. Gosh, my degree of separation to a Pulitzer Prize winner is not that big. Now that I think about it, since it's a small world or perhaps because Singapore is small, my degree of separation to the Prime Minister of Singapore is also just as big as my degree of separation with this Pulitzer Prize winner. So anyway, I was telling this person I know that I was reading the book because for the past years I've been trying to read every Pulitzer Prize winner. This actually just goes back to as far as 2013 with a recommendation from Oshie I believe. Now from way back to 2013, the winners are:
  • 2013: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
  • 2014: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • 2015: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • 2016: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
I also read a 2015-finalist, The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami. I gotta tell you all the winners dating from that 2013 have quite a sad tragic story. Though perhaps some not as tragic as the others, but truly there were just moments where it was like one sigh after another for me. My favorite among those is perhaps All the Light We Cannot See. It's sad, but it's also so beautifully written and just drags you in into their world. The one I most want to see as a TV series is The Goldfinch. After I completed it, I wrote in this blog that I can see someone like Nicholas Hoult for the role of Theo, but Boris would be a hard one to cast. Now I think maybe Adam Driver can play him. Anyway I'm digressing (what else is new?). I don't quite enjoy The Sympathizer. It tells the story of this mole for the Viet Cong. The story pretty much began with the fall of Saigon during Vietnam war and there's also a lot of backstory about this character. The author used the word bastard a lot in describing the main character being the son of an erring French priest and a Vietnamese woman. The character talked about how he had to always deal with this duality and how it's like destiny that his job required him to be in this dual kind of existence. At the end of the story he even addressed himself as 'we' instead of 'I', a move that made me rather confused in reading it. I don't know if it's strange because it's in writing or because it's introduced at the back. When I watched Mr. Robot and Elliot Alderson addressed himself as 'we', it never felt strange. Maybe perhaps because it's introduced from the very beginning or it could be because it's spoken or maybe because when he's speaking to us, the audience, we still feel like a separate entity while in the The Sympathizer when you read 'we' it's like we're forced to fuse. So I think there's a lot of awkwardness there. I think in Mr. Robot making us that silent presence in Elliot's head helps us be more invested in the character. I'm curious how Elliot actually sees us. Anyway reading The Sympathizer, I do wonder if many people of mix race often feel a kind of uncertainty about what they really are, if they feel like they never quite belong anywhere. I asked the person I know about the author and if he's one of the boat people. He's not one of the boat people, but he did escape as a child and immigrated to America so he did have some first hand account about how things were for the refugees back then. Overall I don't fancy this book much. Now I am reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee which I will count as the first book of the year. I'm just gonna count The Sympathizer as book 0 since I started last year.

On movies, the last movies I watched was Collateral Beauty and Arrival. I kinda had high expectation on both, but both didn't really quite deliver for me. I found Collateral Beauty to be not so subtle in the messages it tries to deliver. It tells the story of these friends trying to help Will Smith's character to deal with grieve with the help of Death, Love, and Time. In the process of trying to help Will Smith's character, these friends helped themselves too. It's still very touching and all, but it's so direct in its delivery, it's like being shoved these messages of death, love, and time. The actors were great though. As for Arrival, I was so intrigued but in the end I was just not that satisfied. It was explained why the Aliens came, but I guess I needed more information on what they are and what they gave (if any) to the humans.

I watched Arrival last week which caused me to be late in watching the first gubernatorial debate in Jakarta. You know I think the US election has caused me to be quite traumatic. Watching the debate and reading so many amusing tweets in Twitter, I suddenly became quite fearful that it would be Hillary (do you realize that she only needs her first name to be identified) and Trump situation. It is clear that our current governor came to the debate backed up with data and substance. He was better and and yet I feel he can still lose this whole thing. Seriously the situation is quite similar to Hillary's. The current governor has a proven track record, many celebrity endorsements, and supports of the Twitter sphere, but it's possible he would lose votes from Muslims who are swayed by his (unfounded) blasphemy allegation and the poor people who allegedly are suffering so much as cited by the other 2 candidates. If we're to learn anything with what happened to Hillary then it's even more crucial right now for Pak. Ahok to talk to these Muslims to assure them that he's respectful and also to the poor people to explain his actions more and show that he's not an elitist. The annoying thing is that many radical Muslims are blocking his ways when he wanted to visit people so it seems he mostly spends campaign days in his campaign headquarter. This is not good because people coming to see him are already supporting him. What he needs to do is to capture undecided voters and voters currently lost due to attacks aimed at him. It's really important not to be complacent now.

The rules for Jakarta gubernatorial election is that the candidate must win more than 50% of the votes to win the seat. If not then a second round will be held for the top 2 candidates. The ideal situation is for Pak. Ahok to win in 1 round because that will show a strong mandate and seriously another election is a waste of money and time. This election matters for me because I feel just like in America right now, Indonesia is in the process of being divided by intolerant people pushing agenda representing just one group of people. It so happens this group is the majority and for the minority like me, this direction is getting more and more disturbing. I feel that they're encroaching our freedom and rights. The second debate will be held next week on Chinese New Year's Eve, a date which I find to be somewhat inconsiderate to Pak. Ahok who is an ethnic Chinese though perhaps he doesn't mind, but seriously how would Muslims feel if it's held on the eve of Idul Fitri or for the Christians if it's held on Christmas eve. It's like another sign showing they don't care about us the minority Chinese. I will be watching the second debate at home which is perhaps nice watching it with my parents, but I really will miss seeing the funny tweets. I'm totally offline when I get back home. It's really truly enjoyable watching the debate and the live reaction in Twitter.

As for America, truly I am sharing the despair that many Americans feel. You know with the Russian involvement allegation, Donald Trump can just say well it didn't work because there's still more people voting for Hillary, but of course he can't say that, that will just delegitimize himself. Looking at how he's been preparing so far, it's looking bleak for America and that's another reason why I'm worried about Jakarta gubernatorial election. We cannot move backwards with incompetent people. The current governor has to take leave during this campaign period and already the interim governor is making questionable actions. He's like the best campaign tool for the current governor if only people would just see it. Going back to how things used to run is awful and we'll be regressing. We need to move forward and this is not just about competency but it's also about the signal the people is sending regarding tolerance, respect, and appreciation of people who are different from you. Please God help us. Please help all Jakartans make the right decision.

So I'm going back next week. Feeling rather nervous about it. I have so many things to get done before I go. I hope I don't miss out anything. I think I will not have enough time to write again before I go and also because I'm lazy, so I just want to wish you a Happy Chinese New year and happy holidays :D

:) eKa @ 8:36:00 PM • 0 comments

Christmas 2016

Hello guys, how have your Christmas been? I spent it with movie and lunch with la Gioia. I was thinking that last Christmas we most probably did the same thing and I became quiet thankful that I do have a friend to spend the day with. It got me thinking about my friendship with la Gioia. We don't see each other often and though we do tell each other stuff, I don't tell her everything, but still I think we're good enough of a friend. I'm thinking about what happens when the day comes that I leave Singapore. Well she has her friends and family, so I don't think she'll really be so alone. Me on the other hand? Hmmm ... I can't remember how long we've known each other, but throughout all the times that I know her there were friends who come then go. Friends are perhaps a weird term to put it. It's just there were people who I used to spend a lot of time with, but somehow when I kinda stopped asking them out, they never asked me back. It's like I'm forgotten. This kinda thing made me really sad, but such is my luck. La Gioia on the other hand would be the kind of friend who after some time bothers to text me asking if I'm alive. So I do have a bigger appreciation for her. Anyways movie was Passengers and lunch was at Jamie's Italian which was quite expensive, but at least the portion wasn't too tiny. Let's talk about the movie for a bit, I'm also going to talk about La La Land too which I watched yesterday. Please skip the next paragraph if you want to watch it but haven't because there's spoilers. Well I guess perhaps ignore the rest of this post, because many spoilers ahead.

La La Land was pretty good. It was creatively executed. It tells the story of a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who fell in love when they're a nobody. When they broke up, it launched them to a career trajectory that helped them realize their dreams. In the end they're not together, but they seemed to be in a good place, at least for Emma Stone's character who seemed happy and fulfilled with her family. However there's a scene in the end when they met again years in the future where it seemed there's a lingering sadness of what could have been. This is the part where I'm not so on board with. Sometime you're just not meant to be with certain people, but those people helped you on your ways and you should just be happy for what had happened. Now let's talk about Passengers. It's not as optimal as it could have been, I think. I was expecting more mystery, more intrigue, but there's no such thing. It doesn't have as much sadness and terror of Gravity or perhaps Cast Away though at one point Chris Pratt had a Tom Hanks' look in Cast Away. Then it had a scene towards the end that was reminiscent of one in the end of The Martian, so there's kinda a lot of unoriginal things there. Then I was quite ready for Chris Pratt's character to die, but he didn't and I was just like goodness, come on. I guess the makers just want a happy ending, a love will prevail story, but the struggle wasn't that hard to warrant that for me. Writing that and my thoughts on La La Land, I guess I am perhaps quite heartless :P I asked la Gioia if she would make the same decision as Chris Pratt to wake someone else up so that you wouldn't be alone, she said it's really hard to say you will or will not do it. I guess I'm so used to being alone and lonely that I always think I will fare quite well in such situation. In the Passengers, you actually can still have conversation with the android bartender, so it's not so bad. I thought the situation in The Martian was actually more dire, but it wasn't that depicted in the movie and that's perhaps the reason why The Martian was nominated for Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, something was supposed to be sad and scary was made not so. Gravity on the other hand excelled in what it's trying to convey, because I would truly be freaked out stranded in space alone. It's unlike the situation in The Martian and Passengers, where one had quite a comfortable living condition. In fact the scary thing in The Martian for me was when the main character had to make the travel alone far from safety. Anyways, perhaps if you think about what happened after the end of Passengers, Chris Pratt's character might actually make the right decision. It wasn't shown in the movie, but perhaps they managed to make a family and life became meaningful and fuller and made even more amazing. Hmmm ... as I write that, perhaps the key to make your life better is to spend it with someone. God know I have prayed *sigh*

That also ties it to things I have been watching these days. Been watching Mr. Robot. In season 2 now. This series is critically acclaimed, but I'm not feeling it much. I do love the main character, Elliot, from the first meeting. It's because I understand his loneliness. I totally get it. In the first episode he talked about how he couldn't control the crying because of the loneliness. I don't cry as much as his character (again perhaps because I'm becoming more heartless), but I always get that restlessness that gets me pretty depressed and I do always think that if it's other people, one might go into drinking or drugs like Elliot. I don't do all that, I just get sad all the time. Anyways, the 8th episode of season 1 is where things got pretty interesting, but as things are revealed more, it kinda went rather downhill for me. It has a bit of The Fight Club theme into it so again I kinda have issue with originality though perhaps this similarity is not intended. The series also makes me wish for the days when they show programmers as people who don't actually prefer working in such a dark environment. Why do they always show hackers like that? I think programmers with their systematic way of thinking would rather have a better working environment with lights and good ventilation, not some dungeon like place. At least for me, but well maybe it's because I'm not that good of a coder myself :D Anyway I'm invested to Elliot now, so he's pretty much the only reason why I keep on watching. I just want him to be alright and happy.

Other things that I watched before this was This is Us which is really really good. I heard good things about it and it's really true, I recommend you to watch this. Some parts of the story tell about these twin and their adopted brother (same birthday) who celebrated their 36th birthday in episode 1. The adopted one, Randall, is actually doing pretty well in life. It's like he's figured it out, a good settled life, the type of life that perhaps the twin and me wish for ourselves. The twin though is not doing so well. Episode 1 showed one of the twin, Kevin, getting quite depressed on his birthday. It made me feel rather comforted to see these 36-year old siblings still feel pretty lost in their lives at that age because they're older than me so I don't feel quite like a failure to be feeling lost in life where I am now, but at the same time I also feel sad for them because I wonder if I would also reach their age and be as equally lost and sad. This series is so heartwarming and nice, quite different from what American TV been offering so far, so please go and watch it peeps. Speaking about being old and lost, I also watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I was quite looking forward for this, but I got pretty disappointed especially at the end towards Rory. Rory is younger than me and I perhaps should give her some slack, but she was so promising and smart, so her life decisions are just so confusing. The ending got me very upset. By the way, I'm so Team Jess in Gilmore Girls. That's where I first saw Milo Ventimiglia and love him ever since :P He's also in This is Us by the way.

Other unimportant things today, the Ya Kun Kaya Toast uncle purposely brought my nutella cheese order himself to me. He remembered me ordering it last time and told me it's the last day it would be served. I don't really talk much to the uncle and aunt there, but since I come in quite a regularity they do remember me and I think they do look out for me and I love them for it. Today the usual auntie who mans the cashier wasn't there when I placed my order, she came after I have ordered and since I didn't order the eggs today I think she kinda asked the other staff if they got my order correct. You know simple things like this do make me happy. Talking about uncles, there are 2 uncles I often see around my block. I think I talked about them before. One is the really slow uncle walking with a walker and another is the uncle in a wheel chair who's kinda weird and have a testy relationship with his maid. I haven't seen them for some time and I wonder if they have died :( I get quite sad when I think about it and also when I saw the shoes repair uncle sitting alone in his spot. Yeah these are my weird observations. Also observed today was workers cleaning windows in buildings. It's Christmas day but they're working, I guess they don't get day off.

What else to say guys. Today being Christmas means 6 days left to this year. It's kinda a deadline for me to really complete plans and stuff. I like this Christmas period because everything feels calmer, more relaxed, jolly even, but then I can see myself being sad and depressed when the new year comes because that means real life and it's shittiness will come and pound us again. They may come even harder as payback for being all nice during Christmas. Yeah, I may sound so pessimistic, it's just the way I am. It's kinda a good thing that Chinese New Year is coming soon. Of course me being me, I hate it how fast all the Christmas commercialization makes way for Chinese New Year commercialization. In Singapore, it's pretty much gonna start tomorrow especially considering Chinese New Year comes pretty early next year. Okay guys, hope you guys have a nicer heart than me and a more hopeful look on everything. Happy holidays! :)

:) eKa @ 9:34:00 PM • 0 comments

Maybe I'm Too Idealistic

Hello guys, how is it going? I shouldn't be blogging right now, but here I am doing it. There were many thoughts swirling in my head these past few weeks that I really wanted to put it down, but as usual laziness took over. Of course it's always a good thing to have a delay before saying everything that pops into your head. We'll see if those thoughts make it to this post. Let's begin.

Finished my 5-book a year goal last week. I am currently reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which will be the first Vietnamese descent writer whose work I read. Chose this to keep the tradition going of reading the year Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Though if I don't finish it by this year end, I guess I'm not keeping with tradition. We'll see if I make it. Anyways, here are the list of books read this year:
  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Started this late last year and completed it this year. I never intend it to, but many times I ended up reading books with very strong female characters. A Thousand Splendid Suns are centered on these 2 females who bonded under male oppression and Taliban rule. It ends on a hopeful tone, but there's just so many tragedies that I left still feeling really sad.
  2. The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham. I watched the movie too, starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth. As usual, the book is much better than the movie. Overall this is not a thought-provoking book. I don't find myself highly entertained as well because there's one tragedy that just closes out all hope of a happy ending. It also ends in a hopeful tone, but by that time I didn't care much anymore.
  3. Rain by Barney Campbell. Gosh, another sad book. I love it but it was also sad. I definitely shed tears in this. It tells the story of a UK soldier fighting wars in Afghanistan. It's another book set in Afghanistan that I read this year.
  4. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a weird one for me. I don't really get all the symbolism and such. I've never been in a book club and I don't know if I'll be able to keep up with the pace, but this book might be a good one to discuss with people. It also has a sad ending. I don't know why I end up reading many sad things this year.
  5. Jejak Langkah by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. This and the next book completes my wish of reading The Buru Quartet by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. It has been lauded as an exceptional collection of work internationally, but I'm sure not many Indonesians have read this. It is not an easy one to read because it has a lot of nation building thoughts being put into it. It's not done in a lecture kinda way. In fact I think it's trying to make the readers think about these issues too. The story took place long before Indonesian's Independence. In this book the people of Indonesians were learning to organize, but they were also fractioned by things that differentiate them instead of uniting themselves to fight the greater injustice. The quartet is really interesting and I would like to see a TV series on this, but Indonesians film makers tend to ruin things by making them unnecessarily sentimental. I think it's also quite hard to adapt this because though you could just condense the story about the characters, I really think the most important things about these books are the thought-provoking issues and these would be very hard to convey in films without being boring.
  6. Rumah Kaca by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. This book is the last in The Buru Quartet. It took a different approach by telling the story from another person's point of view. One interesting part about the story is that we could see the destruction of a man as he struggled to do things he knew was not the right thing to do. Many times you would want to say to the character, just stop and leave as what your family did, but he stayed on and be miserable throughout the book. There's also a tragic sad ending for the main character. It's one of those thing you know, sad things need to be told as well. Pramoedya Ananta Toer also wrote a strong female character in this book and when other perished, this lady stayed on until the end of the book and regardless of what life threw at her, she just kept on flourishing.
I am fascinated by men who wrote strong female characters. My favorite is of course Ursula from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Why did these men choose to write about these strong women, did they do it subconsciously? Maybe they're just acknowledging that women can just take on some much more. Unfortunately that's not what's happening in America. Last week when the election result was out, it was so depressing that I seriously felt like crying and I'm not even an American. It's not that I'm a big fan of Hillary Clinton, though you gotta admit that she is so admirable. She's taken so many shits in life and she doesn't give up and keeps going. As one of my french teachers would say, elle est formidable (she is formidable). What's sad about the whole thing is that I see those people voting for Donald Trump to have no qualm whatsoever to all the things he said or didn't say and that makes me think they're not good people. I was very sad finding out the Duck Dynasty family endorse him. As the title said, it made me wonder if I was being too idealistic. In the last Indonesian presidential election, my decision was made easy when the presidential candidate, Prabowo, was supported by FPI (The Islamic Defender Front), an organization I viewed as intolerant and should not have existed in Indonesia, but they exist because like in America, we do have freedom of speech in Indonesia. At that time, Prabowo happily took the support and that made it easier for me. Whichever side the FPI supports, I will sure be on the opposite side. So when Ku Klux Klan supports Donald Trump, shouldn't the choice be clear to Americans? Whichever side racist groups stand on, go to the opposite side.

Right now in Indonesia, Jakarta to be exact, we're waiting on the investigation result of whether our current governor (an Indonesian Chinese non-muslim) is guilty of insulting the Quran. Now I have watched the video in question, both the long complete one and the short one. From my point of view, he's saying don't be fooled by people using the Quran verse that says they cannot vote for a non-muslim leader. He didn't say that the Quran verse is foolish. However this was taken by many of his detractors as insults. They rallied the people and so many of these easily flamed out people staged a big protest in Jakarta around 2 weeks ago. Seeing the tweets about this protest is very depressing for me. People are saying things like, we may not pray regularly but when our religion is being attacked, we need to stand up. Seriously? What the fuck are you talking about? If you think Islam is being insulted, you should protest every time a terror group carries out a terrorist attack in the name of Islam, but where are you guys then? Yes, perhaps this is not about the religion, as we know it's all politics. That makes it even more depressing, these power hungry people galvanizing the mass on a weak argument which is bound to destabilize the country. Perhaps people may fault me for using syntax to defend the governor especially since I am also Indonesian Chinese non-muslim, but seriously you should see if there's any ill intent from the governor's side and I would argue there isn't and his actions so far have shown he's unbiased to muslims.

I find what happens in Indonesia currently is similar to what happens in America right now. Many people say it's the white Americans who brought the victory to Donald Trump. White Americans and Indonesians muslims are the majority in America and Indonesia. They already have the most representation everywhere. They don't get hassled as much as the minority. They never experience being targeted simply for being the minority. So why on earth these people still feel like they're being victimized, that they haven't been treated fairly? What's with the anger and all the aggression? Are they just plain selfish, mean, and bad at the core? Yes not all white Americans or Indonesian muslims are bad and intolerant, but right now seeing all these people be open and proud in their intolerant thoughts and actions just give me despair. I think it would make the world a better place if these 2 hate groups could just meet in a field and battle it out. That'll be perfect, they truly hate each other and what each other represents. They can fight it out and leave the rest of us in peace.

Let's change topic. I haven't been going to the cinema much. The last few movies I watched was The Accountant and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. I truly enjoyed The Accountant though the movie has one big flaw, don't tell me the brother took an assignment to kill a person without having a photograph of said person. It's silly, but I guess they needed this lack of information to build the climax. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk was so so for me. What's weird for me and this is a big question I have, do the US military really allow their soldiers to participate in a Halftime show in a way that seems really silly? Love Garrett Hedlund in this movie though, he looks really handsome. The next movie I'm really looking forward to is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I'm glad Eddie Redmayne is in it and he looks great in all the trailers or posters I've seen. He's a really good actor.

I've been feeling rather down these past few ... well years if I want to be honest. Maybe decade if we want to get to it. Seriously though something is wrong with my body internally and this makes me more despondent. I tried to change my diet a bit. It was showing some improvement for a few days, but right now it's going back to being bad. So I'm quite down these days :( I should start plotting on what I want to do next year, but I just don't have the mood to do so. I haven't even planned my Chinese New Year trip back home. I think it would be good for me to spend some time with the family even though they would drive me crazy, but I am thinking of just running away and go somewhere else and be alone. Being alone again after being alone for most of my days do not sound healthy to me, but right now I would like that very much. Yes, mentally I think right now I am spiraling even deeper into that depression hole. I hope you guys are having better days. Take care.

:) eKa @ 7:17:00 PM • 0 comments

Bottom of the Zombie Chain

I once wrote before about being at bottom of the zombie chain, a string of words that makes no sense, but since I have nothing interesting to write this October, I'm just gonna use that weird combination of words to start writing about something. Why do I think it makes no sense? Well a chain doesn't have a bottom, unless you set it vertically I guess. I could easily just say bottom of the totem pole, but I think I just started saying bottom of the zombie chain to really emphasize how shitty the situation is. Anyways if you think of a totem pole as being constituted of several pieces or blocks, being at the bottom is actually crucial for the whole totem pole. When you try to remove the bottom, you may cause the whole totem pole to crumble (think Jenga). Now if you're bottom of a zombie chain (though as I established there's no bottom on a chain, actually last would be a more suitable word) and you get eaten by a zombie, you actually give time for the rest of the chain to escape and escape they will and should. Your tragic, painful, and alone demise is actually benefiting others. What I want to say is being bottom of a zombie chain is worse than being bottom of a totem pole.
Side note: The Walking Dead is returning this coming weekend. I usually get to watch it on Monday evening and that's something that helps me get through Monday, something to look forward to, but in this new episode, we'll find out who die and that would sucks!

Anyway why am I writing about all this zombie chain. Is life okay? Well life is comme ci comme ça, comme toujours (so so, as always). Really when I think about it, this time last year was much worse. It was shitty shitty bang bang then. So I should just be thankful that this time around it's much better. However I guess with all the restlessness that always surrounds me like dark shadows, I will forever and always feel uneasy :( This bottom of the zombie chain is right to describe many different situations I'm in, but I want to use it to describe my current Japanese class. I have been talking about how at the bottom of the class I've been feeling, like the song Fond de L'Étang (bottom of the pond) sung by the boys in the movie, Les Choristes (a really nice kinda sad french movie, do watch it if you haven't), well last time there were others who I felt were at the bottom with me too, but now it's no longer like that. We just started a new class last week and that other person left because he's just too busy too work. Seriously, though my classmates are nice, I get more nervous about class :( This current class will end in January next year and I don't know if we'll have the number to continue. One person is planning to leave because she has a good job offer back in her country. I wonder if this class will be my last :( which will be a shame, despite of me struggling in class. It's hard really and it's kinda enlightening to think of classmates in other languages classes that I've taken before who felt this way too, only back then I thought maybe they didn't try hard enough. It can be said of me too, I think I don't try hard enough. I should be more disciplined in learning Kanji and memorizing everything :(

Next week class has a break due to Deepavali and I am looking forward to waking up late. I may still end up doing nothing of interest. Most likely I would just go to the movies. I haven't been doing much of that lately, to my surprise too. The last movie I watched was Inferno and seriously it made me miss Italy, especially the Italy I visited on my first visit there, my first trip ever alone. Watching Inferno, I felt very blessed to have visited each and every place featured in the movie both in Italy and Turkey. I may complain a lot about things I have to do, but there's no denying that all that fund all the wonderful trips I've been able to make. I am really blessed in this case though I don't say my grace enough. Speaking of which, around 2 months left in this year, it's a good time to start thinking what we should do next year. I have some ideas. Next year I will be 35 (damn it) and I do feel like doing something major but there's always fear. We'll see where I'll end up. I have a feeling I may chicken out and choose the easy thing, but who knows maybe somehow I'll end up getting what I want. I really have nothing else to write peeps. Hope your days are glorious. Ciao!

:) eKa @ 6:58:00 PM • 0 comments

Hong Kong With The Parents

Before this trip, I prayed a lot so that I would be in my best behaviour and be kind to my parents. This is because I know that they can be very annoying and I have very little patience and my temper just flares up easily with them. I blame it on the fact that with other people, I have to bottle up what I really feel and be all cool. So when I'm with my core family, my emotion just goes all over the place. Also when I'm tired, I get cranky easily. When one prays for something like good behaviour, one would think that one would watch her own behaviour. Unfortunately I didn't really do that. There were moments where I was just exasperated with my parents and it was from the get go. We were all taking ferries to Hong Kong. I was from Macau and they were from Shenzhen. They should just be arriving like 10 minutes top before me but my dad had the bright idea to wait somewhere else instead of just outside the arrival area. So I had trouble locating them. Luckily I eventually did. I was already weighing my option to just leave them and hopefully they could figure their own way to the hotel when my mother texted me where they were. By the way by them, it's my parents and a cousin.

After we dropped our things in the rooms, we quickly went to uncle and aunt's place which was the whole purpose of us being there. My uncle wasn't as healthy as I saw him last year so that was rather sad. My aunt was kinda the same. We also met my other cousins and their little daughter who unfortunately since I don't speak Chinese, I couldn't communicate with them. We had dinner at my aunt's house and stayed awhile there.

The next day, I had made booking to go to Tsz Shan Monastery. It is free, but you need to book a time slot before visiting. I booked like 3 weeks in advance. You really need to book in advance, like if you want to go tomorrow it's pretty impossible because for all the time I checked the site, it's always fully booked. That being said, I don't think it's very difficult to get a slot, just remember to book at the site as early as you can, 1 month is recommended. There are more places which are harder to get into, Harry Potter Studio, Alcatraz. Booking a slot yourself to see The Last Supper in Milan is pretty impossible (take a tour peeps). Anyways, this is not a touristy place, its purpose is really for religious practice. There's a dress code you must follow and they sent me another reminder email closer to the date about the whole rules. It is really far from where our hotel was but luckily we arrived just before our time slot, 10 AM and we're allowed to go in. I like the place a lot. It's really nice. The view of the surroundings from the monastery is beautiful. It felt really peaceful in this monastery.

There's a hall with golden Buddhas and they're really majestic. You're not supposed to take pictures inside this hall, so I took pictures from outside the door, am I still guilty?

There's also a hall where you can do calligraphy and it really looks interesting, but we didn't do it because it will take like 1 hour. I actually really wanted to do it but we did have other places to go that day. So we just walked around the compound and I really like the whole spacious and clean feel to it.

The Guan Yin statue at the back is really tall and I wonder how they made that. There's actually a water offering that you can do, but we didn't know how to do that, so we didn't do it :( By the way, I'm not sure why there's a black spot at this picture of mine. My camera must be quite dirty :(

I know that there's a smaller van bus coming into the monastery at 11:30 AM. We were early so stupid me decided to wait somewhere else instead of the waiting area because it was hot. We went down at 11:15 and found out that there's not enough space for all 4 of us. It struck me that there's one difficulty of travelling with many people. If I had been alone, I would have made it into the bus. So we made the walk down the main road, but we always could not get into the small van buses that passed by because there's not enough seats for all of us. We ended up taking a taxi again just as we did that morning to the nearest MTR station, Tai Po Market. It seemed to me it's never difficult to get a taxi in Hong Kong, they seem to always be available. So anyways, we then made another long way to Po Lin Monastery to see the big Buddha. When we reached there, we were pretty tired but we made it up the stairs to see the Big Buddha up close. We're quite high up and it's misty in the area.

I've been there before in my first visit to Hong Kong with Dewi, but we didn't explore all the areas. This time I wanted to explore more. I know that there's a Wisdom Path and I wanted to do that. What I didn't know was that it would be quite far. My family was behind me and though I had tried to walk slower than my usual self, for some reason I was always faster. I couldn't really explain what we're walking to see, but I just walked even though I knew maybe it would be too tiring for them. After some time, I just walked on without even bothering to look back if they're still following. I thought if they're tired, they could just stop and wait where they are. Turned out they didn't stop and really walked all the way to where the woods with carvings of what I could only explain to my mom like bible verses for Buddhism are are located.

I was actually pretty proud that they made it. After that we went to the Monastery. Mom was actually not keen because she thought we're running out of time, but I'm glad we did. The monastery is pretty cool. It even had a hall of ten thousand Buddhas where it's all golden inside. In fact all of the Buddhas we've seen on this trip seemed to be golden. Again like in Tsz Shan, the monastery here follows the same layout in their compound. I guess it's because there are rules and it's universal all over the world. For example, usually there are 2 guards on the left and right of the first entrance and I remember seeing this also in Japan. Below is a picture of 2 of the heavenly kings. There are 4 of them, 2 at each side.

After this we continued on to the leg of the trip that I really didn't enjoy and really didn't want to do. We were going to The Peak. I really didn't want to do this, but my mom thought that Madame Tussauds would be interesting for my cousin, so off we went. The reason why I didn't want to go because I still remember of the long queue me and Dewi had to endure the last time. This time around was the same. We managed to cut a bit of the queue waiting for the tram because we bought 2 packages that included Madame Tussauds, but still the queue was very long. We had to wait for like the 3rd tram to come before we could get in. I think the whole operation was very bad actually. They just stuffed people into the boarding area without counting how many people could fill the tram. Then when the doors were opened, people were pushing and jostling to get into the tram :( When we were in the tram, I heard a lady speaking loudly, I think she's unhappy with the other tourists who pushed her mother or someone who's quite old that I think she got hurt. What should be a nice experience for them turned really bad :(

My mom and cousin went to Madame Tussauds and me and dad went to the Sky Terrace. I didn't notice the existence of a lift so we walked round and round, up and up using the escalators. I did find the lift later on when we're done. There's no queue going in, but up there there were so many people that I started to regret going there. It was dark up there and with the so many people, I'm just amazed no one fell or got their things accidentally dropped. The view was nice but the struggle to get through people was not worth it for me.

When we're done, it was a really really long queue to get on the tram back. I was really tired and annoyed but somehow I survived the 1 hour plus queue. Seriously I think The Peak and its tram is overrated. I wonder if there's a timing where it is not crowded and things can be more civilized, but overall I think the effort to visit it doesn't equal the satisfaction. My mom often tells me that I'm somewhat selfish, well she just likes to criticize me on everything, she'll be on everyone else's team before she be on mine. Anyways, I'll be putting this as an example of me doing something that I didn't want to do, but do it anyway for others. If it's left to me I would have just gone to see the mid-autumn lanterns outside the Hong Kong Space Museum. The grand one is actually at Victoria Park, but strangely this is only held for a few days starting the evening we left, so I wouldn't have been able to go. Very strange, things like this in Singapore will be held for 1 month at least for the tourists.

It was a long day that day and I was just glad when we made it back. The next day was our last day in Hong Kong. We had some time in the morning before heading out to the airport. I wanted to go Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. I've only heard of this vaguely when someone told me about this when I was in Hong Kong last year and the more I read about the good things people wrote about it, the more I wanted to go. Nan Lian Garden is pretty new and the design is pretty Japanese. It has this golden pagoda like structure which would remind you of Kinkaku-Ji in Kyoto.

There were not many people there as I have read people writing about this place, which is quite a shame because it's a really nice place and it's free. I guess its location which is not really in the center of the city may make people feel lazy to go to it. We found our way to Chi Lin Nunnery easy enough. Very lucky because I started to wonder if I missed a sign or something which I am prone to do. Recently I read that it's built in 1934 so it's quite old compared to Nan Lian Garden who's 10 years old this year. However Chi Lin Nunnery is so well maintained that it doesn't look old at all. Again the layout of the compound is the same as the monasteries we visited the day before. The Buddha statues here are also golden. Its courtyards are really nice, they looked bright white under the hot sun and they're dotted with the greeneries of a lot of bonsai-styled plants.

After this we went to see my aunt and uncle again to say goodbye and had yum cha. First my aunt brought us to a Chinese shop and market nearby because my cousin wanted to buy some things. It was quite interesting seeing the market where actual Hong Kongers go. It was also interesting going to the yum cha place. I don't know if the one we went to is popular but there were many people. This is like what I have seen on TV. A place where I'm not sure I can handle going on my own because the menu doesn't come in English and I think many of the staffs don't speak English either. My aunt ordered way too many things. Some are common like what I have seen in Singapore. Others were quite unique. I like the whole experience. After that we went to the airport.

It was really nice meeting my aunt and uncle again. Last year when I met them, I didn't think I'd meet them again this soon, though soon is almost 1 year. Who knows maybe the next meeting will be soon too. My aunt is disappointed that I don't speak Chinese :D Yeah, it would make it much easier to communicate with my cousins and my uncle's wife who is super nice. My aunt asked me if I like Singapore or Hong Kong better. I said Singapore. Are you surprised Singapore? Especially with the many bad things I say about you? My aunt said people there said they like Hong Kong more. Well here's the thing. As mentioned I've experienced the unfriendliness of the people in the service industry in this trip. I also would seriously not be able to handle the small size of their flats. However I didn't say all these to my aunt. I just said, I don't speak Chinese and many people don't seem to speak English (at least not as widespread as in Singapore) and this will be very problematic for me. The more I think about it, the fact that Singapore is close to Indonesia and some of its cultures are similar to Indonesians is a plus point. I know where the good Indonesian restaurants are when I really need to eat some comfort food, though I guess these are also available in Hong Kong and I just need to do some searching. Another thing about Singapore is that for instance if I miss speaking Indonesian, I can just speak Indonesian to some Malays which I often do or watch some Indonesian programmes that they sometime show in the Malay TV channel here. I guess in Hong Kong, I could just approach any Indonesian maid and start talking to them. However my point is Singapore has more aspects which are similar to Indonesia than Hong Kong and that makes it easier to adapt here.

Talking about Indonesian maids which I think are some of the most resourceful and bravest Indonesians out there, they often amazes me. They go to a country so different and that being their first trip oversea and then they make it work. They're not highly educated and all they have is guts and I know many people, perhaps me included, who are not this brave. Anyways, I have seen some Indonesians maids in Hong Kong who seem to be able to speak Cantonese and I just admire that so much. So that's the Hong Kong story. If there's any regret and things I am embarrassed about is that there were moments where I was not nice to my parents and cousin. Shame on me, really :( For pictures please go here.

:) eKa @ 4:46:00 PM • 0 comments

A Weekend in Macao

So this post will be about last weekend which I spent in Macao. What happened was, mom and dad was going on a tour to China then they found out that they'd be transiting in Hong Kong and then they wondered if they should spend some days there to meet my aunt and uncle. I said tell me when and if I could, I'd join them. At that time I didn't think that financially this will be quite demanding. When they finalized their plan, mom said I should go too since they wouldn't know their way around there. Since I have stupidly said I might go, there's no backing out now. Macao got into the plan because I found out that last Saturday my Japanese class was on break and there's also the fireworks festival in Macao last Saturday. So it's like go big or don't go at all. I didn't go big actually. The trip's expenses have gone way beyond what I was comfortable with that I had to rein myself. I so wanted to watch The House of Dancing Water, but I didn't because it's expensive and I just couldn't bear spending more money. So in the end it would be me going to Macao alone for the weekend and on Monday I would go to Hong Kong and meet up with my parents.

I took quite an early flight on Saturday. It's 8 AM and that's early for me. It was still dark when I went out that it felt like in one of those movies when someone is running away from home. I was quite worried because it took some time to get a taxi, but I finally got one. That was just the first of my many prayers in this trip, I had so many please please God help me. Got into the plane on time. The plane arrived later than scheduled though so I was quite worried if I could make it for the ferry that's departing Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to Macao. Walked as fast as I could and prayed to God to let me make it. The ferry from HKIA is not as frequent as the ferry from the city and I really didn't want to make my way into the city or wait 3 hours plus at the airport for the next one. I think I arrived in the ticket counter around 30 minutes before the ferry was scheduled to leave and thankfully I could get on. It helped that I didn't have checked-in luggage. So all was good there. Arriving in Macao, I had difficulty finding my hotel shuttle. I think I missed one actually. Eventually I found out it parked itself not really in the area where people were waiting. I only managed to see it because some buses moved. I was quite annoyed with that and the waiting, but at least I made it.

The plan for the day was actually to just relax and take it easy because I needed to walk some distance to watch the fireworks at night, but then the weather forecast showed that there'd be rain the next day so I thought I should try to do some outdoor activity on that Saturday. The weather forecast was so wrong, but anyway, so I first had something to eat at Wong Chi Kei in Senado Square which was mentioned a lot in people's blog. I didn't have to wait long for a seat, but I was seated with a Korean couple. The shrimp roe noodle I had wasn't amazing for me. I also had the fried dumplings which I think I only finished 4 out of 5 because they were just too big. Overall I think Wong Chi Kei is expensive. They don't even provide tissue, you gotta pay for them. After the meal, I made my way to the ruins of St. Paul in which I had to brave many many people. It was so crowded that I was just hating the whole walk up there.

I think the most interesting thing about the whole thing is that all around are just buildings where actual people live. I don't know if I can handle that. Living near a tourist attraction where there are so many tourists all the time, where it's always crowded and noisy. Below is a picture of the buildings by the side of St. Paul's Ruins. I spotted some people sitting around a table. You could see it too in this picture, second balcony from the top. Immediately I knew they must be playing something and funnily in the midst of all the tourists' noise, I faintly heard the sound of tiles being moved around and I guessed it right, they must be playing Mahjong.

So anyway, I was eager to leave all these crowds and made my way north where the crowd were lesser and there were more buildings where the locals live and truly this fascinated me most about my time there. I am truly curious how the local Macanese live. What the inside of their houses look like and how they really think about the so many tourists around. Eventually I reached Camões Garden where I think I was the only tourist there. There were many locals just enjoying their Saturday evening. I was trying to take picture of the nice tile and this boy and his ball came into shot. Then he looked at me and I took another picture of him and showed it to him and he smiled :)

Deeper into the garden there's more greenery, less people. The only ones were just locals hanging out or exercising. I walked round the garden a bit. Reached a point quite high to see the view of the buildings below. It's really nice in that garden away from all the tourists' noise. When I made my way back from the garden, again I found it horrible having to go through so many people around St. Paul's Ruins and Senado Square. All the while I was thinking how I hate people. I spent some time in my hotel room before heading out at around 08:30 PM to see the fireworks. The best place to see it is in Macau Tower. I followed the direction from google map to go there. Passed Nam Van Lake where there were many people milling around and I took some pictures of the buildings and casinos across it.

So following the map I had, I reached this small grassy field near the tower where there were already many people waiting. I still had time to make it to the tower, but I wasn't sure if I should because I couldn't see a direct path to it so I decided to just stand there and watch. Macao Fireworks Festival runs over several Saturdays. In each Saturday there are 2 teams performing, at 09:00 PM and 09:40 PM. Each Saturday there's a different theme for the teams. The theme for the Saturday I was there was Tribute to Bond. It was a weird experience watching it there because it's like watching fireworks without context. Maybe because I wasn't near enough the tower, I couldn't hear any accompanying music. I also don't know if there's any music. Anyways who need context right, just ask the Indonesians in my neighborhood in Jakarta who like to set off fireworks without any apparent reason. Another curious thing is I wonder how this is judged. Is it by choreography and how do you exactly choreograph some fireworks to fit a theme like Tribute to Bond or is it by the actual design of the fireworks, how the colours and explosions are formed and the duration they last after explosion? Side note: I would be so interested to learn how to make fireworks. So yeah the whole thing was rather weird, but the fireworks were awesome and it's amusing hearing the kids and adults say wow whenever there's big colourful explosion in the sky.

The whole thing lasted 15 minutes or so. Again without music and all, we didn't know if it's actually done. So after some time not seeing anything, everyone assumed it's done. For the second performance, I decided to go to another recommended place which is by Sai Van Lake. This is because there's some time until the next one and the area would bring me nearer to my hotel. Along the lake, you have this nice view of the tower and bridge.

The area around the lake was very dark and there were already so many people there with their cameras and tripods. I thought the vantage point was not as good with the fireworks being blocked by some building and this perhaps contributed to why I thought the first performance was much better. It was again weird watching the whole thing there without context. People wasn't sure if it was really done too so we just waited a bit until there's really no more fireworks.

I took another shower when I got back to my hotel. I really struggled with the humidity in Macao. I sweated a lot. The next day, the day which should have some rain according to the weather forecast turned to be a really hot and humid day without even a drizzle. This is good news, but I almost passed out from walking in the hot humid weather. It was just brutal. I don't know if something was wrong with me, but I was just sweating a lot. So anyways, breakfast was egg tarts and milk tea from the famous Cafe e Nata Margaret's. This was one of the famous egg tarts sellers in Macao. There was a queue and already there were people not queuing properly and this annoyed me so :( Inside the auntie wasn't very friendly. Gosh, seriously I found many of the service people in Macao and Hong Kong are not that nice :( So anyway the egg tarts were warm, freshly baked, and the egg filling was definitely soft and custard like but the auntie really annoyed me. There wasn't enough place to sit so I walked and ate and that got me quite lost for my first destination, A-Ma Temple. It's all because I ended up not really paying attention to the map I had. As I didn't want to walk aimlessly, I stopped for a while by Nam Van Lake where apparently there's a dragon boat race. No wonder I saw some people carrying paddles the day before and the boats at the lake the night before.

I sat by the lake awhile taking pictures while figuring out the direction I should go. I managed to get into the correct direction with the correct milestone like Lilau Square and finally I arrived at A-Ma temple. It's quite an interesting temple on rocks. Wanted to pray but I didn't understand how to buy the joss sticks and all and I wasn't keen on trying to ask and getting things lost in translation. So I just went up and explored the temple.

After I was done, I found the very recommended A Lorcha restaurant. It was near opening time and there's not many people waiting outside so I thought I could get a seat easily. How wrong I was. By opening time, so many people with reservations came and then the seats were filling fast. Many of the waitress are Philippines and one of them took down my name and told some of us to wait. By the way, there are many Philippines in Macao which I think shouldn't be surprising because there are many of them everywhere. In a way I think it's very resourceful of them to always be able to find work all over the world. Anyway here waiting outside A Lorcha, I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out. I don't know if it's the heat, low sugar, or dehydration. I started to get worried I would collapsed. I haven't started seeing black spots, but I really didn't know if I could last. Again it was time to pray please please God help me. After some time, the waitress came and asked if I was okay about sharing a table with another person. I just needed to eat and sit down so I was okay with that. In a romantic movie, the guy would be handsome and sparks would fly, but this was not a movie and we didn't speak. I quickly had some coke in hoping the sugar would help me and I also ate some of the bread slowly. I ate very slowly because I was also feeling rather nauseated. I ordered the African chicken which had tones of deliciousness, but I thought it might be better if it's spicier. It was half a chicken which I finished and I was in the middle of finishing my fries and thinking if I should eat dessert. However in the end I didn't and I also didn't finish my fries because the nausea was real that I thought I might vomit if I overate. I was feeling better after lunch, but not 100% that I sat on the bench under the tree in front of A-Ma Temple finishing my coke and waiting until I was sure I would be okay. After some time, I thought I could go on. So I continued on. The next stop was Mandarin's House in which I got lost a bit. Stupid me, I walked further than I should have gone because I didn't see the sign. Mandarin's House is very interesting. It's quite a big compound and it's pretty nice. There were not many tourists there but darn the day was really hot.


I also stopped at other points like churches and stuff and eventually I ended up at Senado Square again. Went up to St. Paul's ruins again because I was feeling better. This time I could go down to the Crypt which I couldn't do the day before. After I was done, I went inside a bit to Mount Fortress garden but I thought under my condition, I shouldn't waste energy going all the way up. I think I also stopped at some other places as I made my way back to the hotel. I also stopped at a few Pastelaria Koi Kei and tried many of their samples. They are like everywhere sometime just across from each other or separated by 1-2 shops. Their sample sizes are big. I wonder how good their business is to afford all these. I bought some snack and walked back to my hotel to drop them. Lied down a bit, then I made my way for the next in the plan. Outside my hotel, there's a shuttle to Studio City and City of Dreams, so I took that. My plan was actually to go to City of Dreams, but I ended up at Studio City first. It was weird because the doors were covered up that it blocked the outside view. I entered my first ever casino here. It's not very crowded. Many of the staff looked rather jaded sitting at empty tables. It's quite nice though. I think it smelled nice and no one was smoking. Even the food courts were rather empty. So I wondered how they're sustaining their business. I didn't stay long and next I took another shuttle to City of Dreams.

Again this place was also not very full with people. I went to the Casino too. Many of the tables were empty too. By the way in these 2 casinos, there wasn't a queue to get in and no one checked ID and stuff. Like the casino in Studio City, some of the tables have like 500 and 1000 written on them which I think is the minimal bet (500 MOP or 1000 MOP), which I think is really high. I really do want to learn how these games work. A good thing that I don't understand I guess because I get addicted to things easily. Anyways, had dinner here and had my second can of coke which is way too much sugar for one day but it was not a normal day and I thought I really needed the sugar. After this I went to The Venetian.

The Venetian had more people. I didn't enter the casino because it looked like it had more people (and I hate people remember) and also because the security here seemed to check people and I didn't want to go through the hassle. I just walked the canal area which is perhaps amusing for some people. It's just I've been to Venice and seeing all these fake things just made me rather gloomy. The whole area is very big though and one could get lost easily. Somehow I found Lord Stow's Bakery which is the other famous place for egg tarts in Macao and I had that. Comparing this with Margaret's, I may like Margaret's more. It seemed to me Lord Stow's ones have thicker skins. These two are like ruling the egg tarts business in their own territories in the different islands. Again I just walked and ate. I tried to walk to the Parisian, but the walk was much longer than I would have liked, so I just turned back. I was curious because outside I saw a model of the Eiffel Tower. Here's a picture of a model of the Eiffel Tower inside the Venetian.

It was already dark when I left. I took the shuttle from the Venetian to the Ferry Terminal and the plan was to take a shuttle from there to Wynn Macau, the last thing on my list that day. The plan was to watch the fountain show. When I arrived it just ended :( So I went inside to see the Dragon or Tree show thingy. I waited some time and it was the Dragon. It was very short and not very meaningful. A dragon with lotus flower emerged from the ground below, made a turn, and went back down. The only nice thing was perhaps the zodiac animals on the ceiling, those were cool.

After that, I went outside again and waited for the fountain show. It was really good. Not very long though and it's using Johann Strauss II's The Blue Danube as the accompanying music. Seriously this song is like default fountain song, don't you think?

Then I made my way back. I was thinking it's 2 days in a row now I was out in the night. Whenever I'm travelling alone, I tried my best to be back in my hotel by sun down. Of course there were times when I was out after it's dark and I've been fine but one can't help wondering if my luck would run out like I was that day. Luckily I made it alright and didn't get lost. Thank God again. I really cannot do any of this without Him.

The next day was the day I was to leave Macao and go to Hong Kong to meet my parents. I still had some time in the morning. Had a porridge breakfast at Wong Chi Kei again. This time I had to wait for some time. Ended up seated at the same seat as before along with another couple, not Korean though this time. After the meal, I also spent some time in Saint Dominic's Church. If there's any last thought on being in Macao is that and this is maybe very bad of me to say, it's just there were many people who didn't shower so I often smelled things which I didn't like. Maybe it's not the locals, maybe it's tourists from some places whose cultures just don't put much emphasis on showering. It's just I stand by my argument that in the tropics, it's important to shower regularly because we sweat more. You should do it at least when you're going out into the public. I also realized more than I hate the bad smell, I hate it when I suddenly bumped into these people in crowded places. I feel sorry when people accidentally rub skin with my sweaty self because you don't know what kind of disease I'm carrying. By that argument, I hate it when I rub skin with people who don't shower because I see them as less clean and that equals more diseases to me :( You may think that it's a very mean rant I just did, but yeah that's how I feel and I'll never stop be annoyed with people who don't shower enough. Another thought I have about Macao is I wonder if many of the locals speak Portuguese. All the signs and information are also written in Portuguese. I'm also wondering if it's standard Portuguese like the one used in Portugal or it's more of a variation of it, like the one used in Brazil. Well that's it peeps, my 2 days in Macao. For pictures, please go here.

:) eKa @ 4:40:00 PM • 0 comments

August Summer

Hello guys? How have your summer been? Does it sound weird to you? I have had 2 people said, hope you have a great summer so far. It was weird for me hearing that because in this part of Asia, we don't have summer. It's either it's a hot day or a rainy day. So anyway, I'm writing not because I have any interesting thing to say (as usual), but it's because I realized I haven't written anything in August and we only have 1 week left, so I might as well do it now. When I logged in to Blogger just now, for some reason I clicked on the blog which is shared by me and other people. We don't stay in touch anymore, well I don't know if the rest do, I don't. I even had to think when I saw a name posting a post, trying to remember who that guy was. Now I'm remembering the group of people he used to hang out with and how they're pretty tight back then, but now I'm pretty sure they don't talk anymore. It's how life is, isn't it? That when life takes us to different directions, we end up just like strangers who never spent days or evenings together. The last post in that blog was in 2009 and I saw a post from Ash back in August 2007 and it was about Astley who started the blog. He died a few days before Ash posted her post and I got to thinking, next year it will be 10 years since he passed away. I also got to thinking if things would be different if he were alive now. He's being alive now wouldn't change the fact that people go to different directions, or would it? I don't know. Some things are bound to happen I guess, but he's being alive may cause certain things to happen later or perhaps sooner. Anyways that's not the part I'm thinking about. What I wonder is if he were alive, would this group be still in touch? There's a good chance, because he's usually the one who cajoled people to do stuff, #vodkaShotEveryone.

Now that got me thinking, that time of my life I had more friends that I do now. I talked to more people than I do now. I remember the pointless walks around the floor just to walk and talk. Now I don't have many friends and I am silent most of the time, except in my head. It may sound sad, but it got me thinking about how before that time I also had my sad lonely period and before that was the period where I was surrounded with people and we always did things in group. So maybe it's a cycle, the periods of many friends and no friend come and go. It may not be like that with everyone, but it seems like it's always like that for me and I even can trace this back to 4th grade primary school. Some people may never know the loneliness I know. That sounds super sad but I realize that I may never know worse loneliness and despair that some people may feel every day. By the way, reading the blog posts about Astley's death still get me teary eyes even after all these years.

So yesterday, I went to watch The BFG. I was actually unsure if I was going to love it, but in the end I thought I should just go and watch it and it turned out to be so so for me, as expected. The most entertaining part was when the big friendly giant was having breakfast with the queen. That part was great. The rest wasn't inspiring. I have so many questions that I wished were addressed like why was the friendly giant smaller than the other giants? Because he didn't eat human? Why were the big giants scared of water? Why can't the giant live with Sophie in the end or at least hang out more. The end seemed to indicate they just went their separate ways. Anyways, I guess it's really hard to amuse me these days. Some time ago I watched Jason Bourne and though I like Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, I was also not amused much with the movie. There was a long car chase in Vegas and my mind seriously drifted off at that part that when suddenly I realized I was watching a car being flipped or something like that, I was like wait what, how did that happen? Who caused it to happen? I guess the why, who, how don't matter much in action movies anymore. Who cares who cause the explosion and such, it just is and will have to happen. Movies these days are just different iterations of each other and this is just so uninspiring. Yesterday before The BFG, I saw the trailer for Pete's Dragon and there was a boy in a jungle and it's reminiscent of The Jungle Book (which I didn't watch), the boy even had similar haircut. Yes perhaps the story is different, but there will still be jungle, animal, special effect, fighting, etc. When I was a child, I couldn't get enough of movies but these days I'm thinking hmmm, I don't know if I can sit through all that. I wish I can get that warm and fuzzy feeling I felt when I watched some movies back as a child. These days none of those feeling ever come. The closest was perhaps watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 which wasn't even shown in Singapore I think (I didn't watch it in a cinema). I love it and I feel sorry that it didn't get good reviews.

Okay, that's about it peeps. Next month I may have more interesting things to write, but they involve some unexpected expenses. So I'm having mix feeling about it, hope it will be okay. Talking about expenses, I got a shock some time ago finding out the amount of tax I have to pay monthly. I totally didn't expect this new monthly amount and it kinda throw me off balance in my monthly expenses :( Now I also have this thing in September and thing broken down that I have yet to replace because I don't have enough fund. My mom asked if she should give me some money and I told her I'm not poor poor, it's just I hate touching the so called emergency fund. That being said, unlike la Gioia who's very disciplined and strict with her emergency fund, I do touch my emergency fund, but that's only for the yearly travel and while I don't cap it or anything, I do hate to use it for any other thing, but this September I must :( This makes me wonder if next year I will have to scale down on the travel :( One step at a time, I guess. Hope you have a great summer people, see how weird that is!

:) eKa @ 4:56:00 PM • 1 comments

Singapore Garden Festival 2016

So I thought I wouldn't have anything interesting to write in July, turns out I had. As the title indicated, it's about Singapore Garden Festival which I went to yesterday. Yesterday was the social activity thing that I mentioned in the last post. It started very embarrassingly for me. I got into the wrong station because I never read the email properly. I ended up 30 minutes late. I was seriously beyond embarrassed. Perhaps now it makes sense to you when I often wrote how I'm directionally challenged and got lost a lot in all of my travels, it's simply because I don't read things properly. Anyway, so yesterday mom asked if it's fun. I told her I was just relieved when it's over. It was not bad. I guess I had some fun. I tried bowling for the first time ever and every time you get to try something for the first time in your life, it's always a good feeling, at least for me. I would say I still don't know how to bowl. I took many steps before I rolled the ball and I didn't even bother to learn how the scoring works. I managed to knock down some pins and in the group I played in, I didn't do badly, though there were times when my ball went to the gutter. The competitive me got annoyed. Overall it's pretty fun and I seriously do want to learn how to do this properly, but I don't think I'll have the chance. I don't see me doing this often. This place we went to was far for me.

So Singapore Garden Festival, I was kinda in a dilemma about going actually. I wasn't blown away by the previous festivals. In fact I think I wrote I may not give it a go again, but since social engagement finished not so late and it was a sunny day yesterday (compared to the heavy rainy and cloudy days we've been having in the previous days), I thought I should make full use of the rest of the day. Mom asked if it was good. I think it wasn't bad. Maybe because I came in with so little expectation, I didn't get disappointed much. It wasn't mind blowing, but I did see some things that I like. It helped that I paid the local residents rate, which is half of what the tourist would pay. I thought a lot about Chelsea Flower Show as I walked around the area which is very very big. It was a hot day yesterday, people were walking with umbrella. Here in the tropics, you need umbrella all the time, rain or shine. There were people, but it wasn't full or overcrowded like Chelsea Flower Show, so that's a plus. There were more crowd though in Gardens by the Bay's Flower Dome which host the winning orchid winners and this did make the visit to be not as comfortable. By the way, since I was still on the fence about going that day, I only brought my ixus instead of my dlsr. I struggled in getting good photos, but I thought I should use this as a challenge. As expected many of the pictures weren't great, but I did surprise myself when I saw decent pictures.

Back to comparing this to Chelsea Flower Show. Singapore Garden Festival actually perhaps has more things to offer. It has the outdoor garden landscape designs, the usual rooms or balcony garden designs, the window of the world (which looks more like installation arts with flowers), the fantasy garden designs (though I feel the number of entries kinda decreased), a good portion of bonsai exhibits, other flower arrangements designs and competitions, learning garden portion where you can see the plants that give us food here in Asia, orchid sections (which again I feel kinda decreased in size compared to previous festivals), and there's also talks and demonstration about gardening (which I didn't watch). The festival even has a bigger market place area for food and stuff, which by the way, this year they don't seem to have the stalls with people selling gardening or flower related stuff. Maybe because of the poor reception in previous festivals, the sellers didn't feel like coming back. Anyways, what the Singapore Garden Festival is lacking compared to Chelsea Flower Show is perhaps the many different kind of flowers that you see in Chelsea Flower Show. I think I wrote this before, it somewhat cannot be helped. We live in the tropics, some flowers, beautiful delicate ones just cannot survive here. In Chelsea Flower Show, I think the flower exhibitors sell out seeds. Here in Singapore, I didn't seem to find any. I guess if you attend any of the demo or talk, you can get some advice and buy something. I don't know if my perception of this is wrong because I didn't go and explored everything in details. It's just I think in the first Garden Festival, they dedicated a whole floor for community gardening and there's a lot of people so willing to talk to you about how to start gardening in your flat and stuff. This time around, I didn't feel so. Anyways, here are pictures, lots of them.

My first stop was the terrariums showcase. There were many interesting terrariums with very cute figurines inside them. The room is dark though, so many photos were just blurry.

This is a picture of some sculpture near this dome like structure they built. I don't know if it's permanent, but it looked pretty nice.

In the community garden sections, there were some harvest in competition. There were not many of them, I saw like 2 tables of this below. Still it's quite impressive that people took time to grew these.

The pictures below are from the Floral Windows to the World Exhibition. As written above, this feels to me more like installation arts with flowers, always unique, strange, whimsical. There were 2 displays that I really like this year. One of them is the one exactly below here with Japanese origami like structures. The other one is the second picture, because I love curves and the flowers choices were just great with the white wall.





This one below is from one of the bonsai from the Penjing and Artistic Stone Exhibition and Competition. I seriously had to google just now to learn what Penjing is. I just called these as bonsai and I like those with little figurines like this one below. I guess if they add figurines into it, it becomes Penjing, not just a bonsai? Anyways, there was one which was really amazing because it looks like a whole mountain.

This one below is from the Fantasy Gardens. The bench and gazebo is up side down. The gazebo is actually only half, there's a mirror reflecting it to make it whole. The exhibition area here is very dark that I couldn't enjoy some of the exhibits much, also photos coming from here are not amazing.

Outside, there were some strange things, like this one from the musical flower field.

Lastly, I went to the Flower Dome. The ticket includes this. I didn't realize that the flower dome has this cool dragon. Super cool and I so want to have one myself.

So by this time, the camera's battery was dying and with the so many people jostling to see the orchids, I couldn't really take many pictures. The orchids were okay I guess, I didn't see anything that was particularly stunning.

I spent around 2 hours there. It was hot and I was quite tired. I'm kinda glad I went, it wasn't bad. For more pictures, please go here.

:) eKa @ 5:02:00 PM • 0 comments

Surviving July

Hey peeps, how has your July been? I had a bad flu when the month started. So bad I had to visit the doctor twice because after one round completing the medication the doctor gave me, I wasn't getting better. I had quite a few rest days, but then since I was really sick I couldn't enjoy it. Then there's also some annoying things that happened. I still can't get over one of it. It's something that makes me feel like I had been lied to and betrayed. Seriously if I can, I really don't want to talk to the people involved anymore. In fact if it's been any other people, I would most probably not talk to them anymore. However in this case, it seems I just have to pretend all is cool when it's so not. It's a very ass move that they did. So pissed I am that I do hope bad things would befall them. To add to all these sad things was that because I was sick at that time, I couldn't just eat all the sorrow away. I couldn't eat junk food and I couldn't have ice cream when I really really wanted or perhaps needed too. I'm okay now and I have had my ice cream and comfort food, but I still feel I haven't been having enough ice cream.

Today as usual I had Japanese class. We're in Pre-Advanced now and today is lesson 3. Since lesson 1, I have been feeling like I'm drowning even more and everyone is so far ahead. There are more kanji. The classmates can guess the meaning and understand sentences faster and I always have to search what something means. Then also when my sensei starts writing Kanji without the hiragana, I'll be lost. In the toilet this morning I met one of my classmate, who's the motherly one because she is a mother. She remarked of how the class is getting difficult and I concurred. I said something like I felt so behind. I forget the exact word she used, but she said not to be discouraged and work hard. After every lesson where I felt like I have been smacked by a tornado, I did feel if I should just stop because it's not working for me. Today hearing my classmate said that, it felt good, comforting. Maybe I should hang in there, maybe I'll get through this okay. I wonder if things would be so much different for me if I were in a class where everyone don't have any Chinese knowledge and be as blind as me regarding the kanji. The kanji itself is not the only problem. Everyone seems to be speaking Japanese and I'm not like that. It takes me longer time to compose sentences so I wonder what happened, why is it I'm this behind. Truly, I am so demoralized.

I really don't have any interesting thing to say people. This coming Wednesday I have to participate in a social activity. I'm really not looking forward for it. I think it's because I don't see me having fun in it. So I'm hoping something will pop up which will stop me from participating. I don't write about the things I do day to day, but the fact that I hope something would come up so that I end up doing the same boring thing instead of doing something that could possibly be fun is rather sad. I know it is so unhealthy. I haven't been doing any social thing since perhaps my dinner with la Gioia almost 2 months ago. I should surround myself with people, but all I want is for people to get off me, let me be alone :(

Talking about sadness and isolation, there's this old uncle living in the same block as me. He uses a walker to walk and he walks really really slow. I usually see him on Sundays when I go to the other block to get food. There was one time I saw him sitting at the stair case looking really tired. It's worrying that the mean and evil me think he should just stay at home and not go out. I think it's a mean thought because just because he's old doesn't mean he shouldn't be seen in public. Then I also started to feel sad and heartbroken seeing him because one Sunday when I was getting my food in which I think it only took me 10 minutes or so, he only moved like 2-3 m. The other day I saw him trying to get into the lift and I wondered if he managed to make it. The evil me didn't make sure he could get in. It seems he has the strength to lift his walker, but he couldn't really lift his feet much that he drags them. These days when I see him, aside for the sadness, I start to think it's good for him for still be trying. I couldn't imagine how long he takes walking from this block to the other block where there are shops around. Does the 5 minutes I take mean 1 hour for him with many stops along the way? You may start to wonder if it's worth it. Worth it or not, he's doing it and so I begin to see him as being tenacious. I still get really sad when I see him, but at least now it's tempered with admiration for his persistence and I do hope God will take care of him and let him be alright.

Well that's about it peeps. I really have nothing interesting to write. Hope your days are great.

:) eKa @ 5:09:00 PM • 0 comments

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