Day 2 - Salzburg

you used to be so full of life, not just an empty shell
you're out there all alone I wonder why
the pieces keep on falling out and I pick them up myself
but I'd let you steal the buttons from my eyes

Scarecrow - Alex & Sierra

Day 2 was spent taking a day tour to Salzburg. It was a small group and small group makes me uneasy because I feel like I have to socialize which very often feel laborious to me. There was an American man travelling alone, an American lady with her sister, a Canadian, and a Colombian couple who lives in America. The American lady used to be an opera singer. She was very nice and friendly to me. They're all pretty nice, it's just me who's just too withdrawn I guess. My excuse was I was tired, which I kinda was. It was an early start, 7 AM. Anyways, we took some stops along the way before reaching Salzburg, the city.

If I'm not mistaken the first stop was Attersee or Lake Atter. I learned that the German word for lake is see. From the guide I learned that the painter Gustav Klimt often spent time here. In fact there's a statue of his in the village we stopped in, Unterach. The lake was a lake like any other lake I guess. Last year on the trip to Scotland, I'd had a good amount of times seeing lakes, so as I often say, it's hard for me to get amused anymore. It's rather quiet by the lake though perhaps because it was a cloudy day, as evident in this picture. Quiet lake is a good lake for me by the way.

The next stop was St. Gilgen (Sankt Gilgen). This is where Mozart's mother was born and some of his family members also had lived there. The guide told us that there's a good and expensive international school there and apparently one of Roman Abramovich's son went there. We're given time to wander around. I went to the church with a little cemetery next to it and as usual just took pictures of things I found interesting. In this trip, I didn't take a lot of good pictures. I think I said the same thing last year, didn't I? So it's just me and my skill. Anyways, I like crawling plants which covered up the walls of a building or houses and I'm always curious seeing drawing in the walls of the houses or buildings. So I often took pictures of these.

We made another stop again to see the lake Wolfgangsee and the surrounding villages. Now that I googled map it, I saw that the lakes Attersee, Wolfgangsee, and Mondsee are quite nearby. We passed Mondsee, but didn't make a stop. So I have no photo of it, but I'm pretty sure it's a lake like any other lake. Below is a picture of Wolfgangsee.

Then we arrived in Salzburg, the city. If you're a fan of the movie, The Sound of Music, visiting this city might be a big deal. For me, it was so so. The guide took us through Mirabell garden to get to the old town and pointed several things to us before letting us off to wander on our own.

You know in retrospect, perhaps I should have planned better on what to do in this town. I didn't really know what to do. So I ended up taking the funicular to get to the castle, Hohensalzburg. The funicular ride was short, but it got me reminiscing that the last time I took one of this was when I went to Montserrat back in 2011. Now the castle itself was again so so for me, because last year I had visited Edinburgh Castle, so again I wasn't that amused. Perhaps the most interesting part was that they had this small exhibition of puppets. They were interesting. Other than that, they had things like I think many castles would have too, they had canons and also exhibition on arms and such. I kinda forget much about it now.

By the way, this trip is the first trip where I didn't write in a journal about the events of the day after each day. Based on previous experience, sometime they took so much time and I should just rest, so that's what I'd been focusing after each day. After each day, I just relaxed enjoying the TV and the big bed (except for the small bed in Switzerland). Anyways, there is a good sweeping view of Salzburg from the castle and as you can see, the weather got much better for us that day as compared to the morning.

After the castle, I went to Salzburg Cathedral. Took some pictures around the area. There is a Mozart's Birthplace museum in Salzburg, but I decided not to go there. Last year when I went to Shakespeare's Birthplace museum, I didn't find it too fascinating so similarly I thought since I don't have much knowledge or any particular affection towards Mozart, I would find the museum to be quite dull too. So I walked around and ended up spending more time in Mirabell garden admiring its charm. For pictures from that day, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 9:35:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 1 - Keukenhof

pack yourself a toothbrush dear
pack yourself a favorite blouse
take a withdrawal slip
take all of your savings out
'cause if we don't leave this town
we might never make it out
I was not born to drown
baby come on

Sleep on the Floor - The Lumineers

I think that song above is more suitable to mark the day I really leave Singapore. I found this song by chance when I was preparing the playlist for my yearly pilgrimage to see the world. I particularly like the line baby, come on. Anyways, I just came back a few days ago from a trip to Austria, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. They are actually not my first choice. I had bigger plan in mind, something that's really on the life list, but then I chickened out and couldn't get myself there. I am disappointed at myself. If I had done it, it would have been awesome and amazing. It would have been the longest journey I make to get somewhere, but in the end the fear get the better of me. I tried to bribe myself with business class seats on the flights, but then I rationalized that with the business class cost, it's just too costly. This trip to Europe is cheaper by a few thousands Singapore dollars. So I thought this trip would be better and more logical. That doesn't mean I wasn't freaking out and afraid though. I truly was, really. I wish I can stop being afraid, but I'm always afraid before each trip. Perhaps that's also what makes me feel so thankful to God in the end. Though I have to admit, at the end of this trip that thankful feeling to God didn't come up as naturally strong as it should, but if I think about the many times God pulled me through (which you will learn in the coming posts) then my gratitude to God is really immense. I had no one but Him and He really took care of me as He has done in all my trips. I pray that He will continue to do so in my daily life despite of my many transgressions.

So anyways, been back for a few days now and things had been going awful. I was feeling sick the last 2 days of my trip and it continued on 'til now. I had to see Dr. Edmond the day after I got back. Got antibiotics which I finished today, but I don't feel 100% yet. My last leg of the trip was in The Netherlands and in the last few days, I was thinking that I was kinda ready to get back (maybe my unremarkable hotel room helped spur this feeling). However I'm totally not ready to come back to real life and it's been hitting me rather hard. Currently I have to deal with a situation which makes me question if I'm being stubborn or logical. The only good news that kinda made me happy since I came back was finding out that I get to pay less tax this year. Giving donation really helps. I think I will do more this year. Yeah, my reason to give donation is not noble at all, that's how bad I am. Okay, let's just talk about the trip.

I left Singapore on the 11th, just after midnight. Flight was full and I didn't have a good time. Many french in the flight and I wondered why they just didn't take Air France. I tried to get some sleep because I was planning a long transit time. I planned around 9 hours of transit time in Amsterdam before my flight to Vienna. The reason for the long transit time is because I wanted to visit Keukenhof. I didn't have difficulty in the immigration which was good news. I'll never forget the first time I stepped foot in Schiphol. I was so young then and knew nothing about the world, so so green. By the way, back in Singapore I seemed to be getting a lot of checks before getting on the flight. The officer in the gate even took a picture of my passport *sigh* Anyways, got out of the airport. Some things were kinda familiar and so I just went out into the area where I took the bus the last time I went to Keukenhof in 2011. That was 6 years ago ladies and gentlemen and like moronic contestants who didn't read their clue thoroughly in The Amazing Race, I didn't read the instruction in my booking thoroughly that I spent more than 30 minutes to finally find where the buses were. I had to ask 2 different people. Luckily people in The Netherlands generally speak English, in fact I have never met anyone who couldn't. The buses were full, but the frequency was good. Arriving in the park, I was surprised to see the new (at least for me) big entrance. It looked so professional now, not so quaint like the last time I was there. There are big spaces for parking too and seeing all that is not very charming. After entering the garden, there's a big flower bed with many tulips. I spotted free maps in the baskets and I got myself one.

Since the last time I was there, I didn't go to the windmill, I made my way there first. Apparently from here you can see the tulip fields outside the garden. The reason I planned a long transit time is to give me enough time to explore the garden as well as maybe cycle around the tulip fields. Well when I saw the tulip fields, they're pretty much empty. So that plan didn't work. The correct term is that the tulips in the field had been headed. The farmer needed to collect the bulbs for future growing hence the flowers had been removed. In this trip, I learned that the bulbs are put in a net and machine were used to plant them so it's pretty automatic. Heading the fields for the bulbs is also done using machines. Another thing I learned is that there's no black tulips, only tulips with very deep purple colour.

Seriously the best time to visit Keukenhof is like the last 2 weeks of April. A timing that I could actually make, but then I thought I should be responsible with life and so I didn't. I was also factoring my period, but they screwed me up. Going on the trip earlier would have been actually better for me, but well we have to make do with what we have. Weather wise it wasn't so cold. I was worried that I didn't bring enough, but my sweater coat was enough. In fact it got warmer as the day went. As usual, there are flowers exhibitions in the pavilions. In the Beatrix Pavilion, there's an orchid exhibition. Saw this orchid with very unique coloring. Never saw anything like it before.

There's also an exhibition with a lot of lilies where I also saw lilies with different colors in the petals. I don't know if they're painted or just grew that way. You can see the picture in here. This below is kinda a nice display.

I tried to find if I can remember the places from my last visit. Sometime I did remember a few things, like the fountain, pond, chess pieces, but overall the feeling I had was different. I think there's just so much more love that I felt the last time I visited it, which was also my first time. Perhaps it's because it's that feeling of achieving something that you really wanted or perhaps because the first time will always be the special one. This time around I just didn't feel particularly connected. There were new discoveries like the maze or little pocket of what felt like a small forest and the view were still beautiful, but I think I'm done with Keukenhof. Yes, I didn't get to cycle the tulip fields again this time around, but I think I wouldn't make much of an effort to visit it again. If somehow I get to transit in Amsterdam at the right time, maybe I'll make my way there again, but it's not something that I'm chasing anymore.

Before I left, I found the old entrance. Recognized it by the dandelion fountain and the music machine. Well it was the music from that machine that drew me there. Keukenhof is a really special garden, do visit it people if you have the chance. All and all I spent quite a long time there. Had lunch, even ice cream too. For pictures, please go here.

Then I made my way back to the airport for my flight. Was really tired when I arrived in Vienna, but I still needed to be alert to figure out how to get to the hotel. There are 2 trains that you can take from Vienna airport to city center, the cheaper one which takes like 26 minutes and the more expensive one which takes like 16 minutes. Found the machine for the cheaper one but when I saw my watch I thought I only had 5 minutes to make it to the platform and I was worried that I couldn't make it, so I didn't take that one and opted for the more expensive one. I should have gotten the cheaper one because it still hadn't left yet when I reached the platform and I would have arrived sooner. Oh well. I arrived at Wien Mitte station and had to change to the underground train. Thankfully in the more expensive machine, there's also option to get ticket for the underground train and also luckily it wasn't crowded so me lugging my luggage was not a problem for me or other people. Managed to find my hotel without any problem and I like my hotel room, it's the best one in this trip. I promptly got myself to bed because I had an early start the next day. That's a story for the next post.

:) eKa @ 9:28:00 PM • 0 comments

Indonesia Has Fallen?

Today is sad day for Indonesia. I don't know maybe not really, depending on which sides you are in. Obviously there are people who are so happy, then there are those who are devastatingly heartbroken and depressed like me, and then there's the kind like my mom who just shrugged it off and didn't really show any emotion. Well I don't know if she feels anything or not, text messages don't really convey emotion accurately.

So what happened today. It has something to do with Pak. Ahok who today is sentenced to 2 years in prison by the judges for being allegedly blasphemous to Islam. A sentence harsher than what the prosecutors asked by the way. On charges in which only truly stone-hearted, power hungry people can rationalize. Some weeks ago when he lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election (he got like 42% of the votes), it was already like we're being stabbed all over the place, especially for the minority like him and me. Today it feels like after we were stabbed and down, we're kicked all over the place, and let to roll off the cliff. I gasped loudly when I saw the news and then for every news article and tweets I read, I have to dab my eyes because of the tears that come out.

I texted mom and told her I'm heartbroken. She said what to do, either this or more protests by people who are using violence to make people submit to their demands. Our country is taken hostage by these people and apparently we're accepting it. You know, people who bully you are bad people, mean and evil, like I think many of the leaders of these protesters are. However if you keep on accepting being victimized, then you're also at a wrong. You must stand up for yourself. That being said, I wonder if it's even worth the effort. Today have shown that a person who stands up for what's right is easily taken off.

You know what I wish, I wish our president will make a comment on how stupid this is and make this go away. We elected him as a leader and he should lead the country. This country is going in the wrong direction and he should steer it off that cliff. However if anything I've read recently have some truth in them, he's in a precarious position and hence perhaps it's difficult for him to do anything.

Why do I care so much? I don't even live in Indonesia. What's with this very strong emotional response I'm having when my mom seems so calm about it. I don't know, maybe I guess I always think that's home and that's where I may eventually end up. God knows how many times I've said, no I'm not gonna stay in Singapore forever, I'm going to leave. So there's always Indonesia as home in my mind. Indonesia as a home, I want it to be a country I can be proud of, a country that can live up to its full potential and have truly wonderful people. After the election, the results make me think I guess there's truly are people who don't care about you the minority, who feel okay to put you at the bottom and don't give you a chance. Then today happens and I seriously don't feel like I can say I'm Indonesian proudly. I feel so ashamed and I feel like I need to hide somewhere.

What is this? If you look at what's happening in Indonesia and really look, we're going more and more to a path where it's hard to go back to. 20-25 years ago when I was a teen, TV series like Baywatch was shown in Indonesian TV without any censor. Today, that TV series wouldn't be able to get shown on TV. If they do, it will be blurred all over the place because of woman's cleavage and such and you think as a nation we would have been more mature now. We're actually going backwards. You may laugh at this example, but what if 10 years down the road, all women regardless if they're Muslims or not have to cover up like in some Middle Eastern Countries. Women actually should be more worried. Islamic laws practiced by overzealous Muslims tend to take away a lot of freedom from women. Do you want to always have a male permission or guardian to accompany you when you want to go places? Do you know that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive? That the first time women were allowed to vote is in 2015! Have you seen Iran's photos before their revolution? Google that and compare it to Iran now. I see that as the path Indonesia is going to. Some may think I am overly dramatic, but seriously, the minority are first to be thrown off that cliff today. Next, who knows? It could be the rest of you majority who's slightly different.

What can we do? I don't know. Going down to the street to protest is not productive. With what's happening today, I think anything we try also cannot make a difference - I am that depressed and heartbroken. Wait until the next election to put more tolerant people in power? Will it be too late? Will it even matter? I don't know. Does election matters in Indonesia when it's always about the same group of people holding actual power, people who have the money, who can always fund stupid protesters to fight their battle and bully us again and again? Are we only left with prayers and faith?

Everything looks so bleak and I feel like I have nowhere to go :'(

:) eKa @ 5:47:00 PM • 0 comments

The Freedom in Being Single

Hello peeps, how have your long weekend be? It started quite strangely for me. I was somewhat in a downcast mood. I don't know why, maybe pms or maybe it's just the way depression is, it hits you anytime it wants without any rhymes or reasons. Saturday night I had quite a big restlessness attack, the like that often takes me down on Sunday night. It's very strange considering that with the long weekend, I should be having less stress. Yesterday I called mom. She talked about how my primary school friend came to the market and chatted a bit with her, telling her about my school reunion that happened recently. I never attend any of these because it never happens when I'm in Jakarta. It is kinda funny that my mom has more of a friend relationship with my old school friends than me myself. I basically have no relationship with any of these people. I do feel thankful that they make the time to chat with my mother whenever they swing by the market. Then today, I met up with Dewi and her family (husband, son, sister, nephew, and niece). Honestly I was quite nervous about this, I think it's because of the despondent feeling that I've been having this weekend that I don't feel like socializing. Also there's kids and kids are a handful and I always find myself not having enough patience to deal with them. On any other people, I may like try to conjure up an excuse to not meet them, but Dewi is like a really good friend of mine. She told me days before she's coming and really made an effort to arrange a meet-up. You know I have had family members who came to Singapore and didn't tell me and even bothered to arrange a meet up. I know I'm not a special person or anything to be considered, but when I found out after the fact, it still kinda hurts. So I really appreciate Dewi for making the effort and I too made an effort to get out from my self-pity hole and come out to meet them.

Their hotel is in Bugis, so I swung by the temple first to pray before meeting them. It's been awhile since I went to the Bugis temple. It's a really hot day today. It's kinda nice meeting Dewi and her family. Her nephew and niece are kinda grown now and I found them to be quite well-behaved, though they did tell me that the niece cried this morning before getting on the plane. I didn't really spend a lot of time with them. We had lunch and then we took the bus to Esplanade via Marina Bay Sands. I didn't follow them to Merlion because I think they can handle it on their own and I'm just too tired to walk in the hot sun. Being with them and seeing the 2 moms, it's really something when you have kids. There's a lot of patience involved. I don't know if having kids change you. If so I wonder if it would change me. I always say I want to have kids, but today I wonder if it's something that I just say often that I think it's the truth without really seeing that it may not be the truth. When I see people like Dewi or my cousins who have toddlers, there are many times I feel thankful that I don't have to deal with all that. Today when I saw Dewi had to feed his son while his son was glued on a mobile phone and also when his son wanted to get down some steps a particular way they way his dad did it with him, I'm just like ... I'm thinking in my head how much time we can save without having to deal with these kids. That's the things with kids, isn't it? They take time and effort. If you're travelling with them, you may not be able to make a lot of plan because you have to follow their timing.

I think about all the freedom I have being single. Yes, I complained about the loneliness a lot, but today I also see that single hood has afforded me a lot too - all the freedom, all the times me walking around all the different places in the world that I have been fortunate enough to visit, doing things that I want to do. I couldn't have done all that with kids. I say maybe God sees that I'm not ready hence me making my own family is not happening (yet?) for me. Dewi said, there's no such thing as ready or not ready, just do. Well perhaps, but perhaps God really sees that I do need that alone time (maybe longer than other people) for me to do all the things that I want to do. If not, if I have been burdened with kids (though kids are blessings) before I'm ready, before I have done the things that I want to do, I may live a life of frustration and I may take it out on the husband and kids and that wouldn't be good. I'm still praying, we'll see. Maybe also I just need to be around kids more so that I can grow my patience but unfortunately here in Singapore, there's no little kids for me to hang out with :P

On other news. I gotta asked Dewi if she voted for Ahok. Of course she did, thank God she went to vote. I sometime wonder if people in her demographics are too lazy to vote. Thank God she did make an effort though the result is a sad one for us. She said that she and her colleagues are also very sad. I actually had tears that day finding out that he lost. It's very heartbreaking and I don't understand the result, how it happened. In Indonesia it's not like in America where the media or other research body will start researching how the different demographics voted and this is something I am very curious about. I talked to mom yesterday who said the lost is supposed to happen and it's better that way. In the last post, I wrote about how if Ahok had won, there would have been rage. I think this threat is real, especially to Indonesian Chinese who are the punching bag of Indonesia. 1998 was real and when you lived in that time and you're Indonesian Chinese, it never leaves your mind. I wonder if many Indonesian Chinese didn't vote for Ahok for fear of riots and such. Seriously I wonder how the breakdown of the votes go. People may say we're dramatizing things but people who refused to see it for what it is are bad for Indonesia. Unfortunately there are many of them. There are many disappointing comments coming from Indonesian politicians regarding this gubernatorial election, one of the most disappointing one for me is from vice president Jusuf Kalla who said that foreign media is not giving a balance report regarding the election. He felt that the media should focus on the fact that the election went peacefully. Well that's because Ahok didn't win. What if he had won, could you be sure that there would't have been riots. I wonder what his angle is. Is he hoping to run for president in the next presidential election and is starting to shore up support. Then Mike Pence came to Jakarta the day after the election and he said, "In your nation as in mine, religion unifies, it doesn't divide." I know he couldn't rock the boat, but seriously did you not see that radical Islam has scored a win through this election, why do you have to make such stupid comment.

When I read the news about Pak Ahok especially these days with the outpouring of supports through people coming to city hall to see him (he's like a rock star) and all the many flowers being sent his way, I still get very touched and misty eyed. It's very very sad and heartbreaking. By the way, if you don't know the news, there are many Indonesians sending flowers to Pak Ahok and his vice governor. Indonesian style of sending flowers is it's a board with some wording on it and flowers. From pictures online, some of these wording are very very funny. If only someone takes the effort to document each and every single one of these flower boards and put them online. A few days ago I read it has reached 4000 boards. Pretty sure this has never happened anywhere else in the world. This is for someone who's still alive and just because he lost a gubernatorial election. The harmless flowers were enough to make some stupid useless Indonesian politicians get agitated though. They said it's a waste of money. Wasn't it a waste of money too when you funded people to attend massive demonstration? Hello, these flowers are not foot soldiers that you can mobilize to antagonize people. What happened when you had demonstration, many of it ended up in violence. They also cynically said that Pak Ahok and his people are sending these for themselves. Seriously, come on now. For the election campaign, most of the donation for Pak Ahok came from individual people. Pak Ahok and his vice governor only donated like around 75 USD. They don't waste money stupidly. Compare this to Sandiaga Uno who donated more than 4 million USD, some source even said it's more than 8 million USD. He should be thanking God he won though he's only the vice governor. The things people do for power. You know if he had used all that money to build free clinics or schools, his name will be more honorable than the way he and his team win this election. It's like he's a joke. Indonesia really lost with this election. I cannot feel hopeful for the future of Indonesia at this current state. It's worrying and one can only pray.

:) eKa @ 9:10:00 PM • 0 comments