Should we walk?

If the city is a language spoken by walkers, then a post pedestrian city not only has fallen silent but risks becoming a dead language. Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust

Should we walk? Ask no one in Jakarta, ever. The answer will be replied with a gasp, a jolt, a furious face, a standing applause of some sort as if walking is a rare activity we do. But isn’t it?

For most of my life (that is, from a baby till high school), walking is an act reserved only to those who can’t obtain a car or a motorbike. It’s savage, dirty, tiring, sweaty. To walk from my home to a nearby mini market under the sun is to waste your time while laughing at yourself really. So I practically never walked from point A to point B all the way until high school.

That is, until I went to San Francisco and spent hundreds of hours on the streets that it becomes an extension of my home.  Continue reading “Should we walk?”


Writing is walking

In Wanderlust, a book solely explores the experience and the ideas of walking, Rebecca Solnit wrote a single line of narration at the bottom of the page that goes horizontally across all pages towards the end. Unable to skim, one needs to walk with the line, one page at a time, one step at a time, towards the end; a reading done with two pairs of eyes walking along the designated path on a designated journey set up by the writer.

The writer, too, walks the path, first exploring and studying the weeds of thoughts, then trimming them down into a beautiful concrete pathway to welcome the readers. Along the process are a stumble, a balancing, and an act of mediating and meditating with the body, the mind, and the Earth.

“Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord.”

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Setting Up Sonic Environment for Productive Writing

All you need is a headphone.

Stephen King once said that you should close your door and your mind and don’t let anyone in. This door can be imaginary. And many writers have suggested similar feats, advising that having a specialize corner, table set up, a consistent time of the day, or an opening routine can help set up the right mood and mindset. The whole point is to eliminate distractions and stay focus. But with internet n our hand, our world is pretty much open 24/7.

The space can be humble … and it really needs only one thing: A door you are willing to shut. The closed door is your way of telling the world that you mean business. Stephen King

Setting up your phone and/or laptop on Airplane Mode is, to me, the simplest and most impactful way to regain the control back from our devices.

But when your mind is running around like a 2 year old, put your headset on and turn on this calming water sound. At least for me, I’ve found this works. There are good varieties of natural aural sounds you can find on YouTube, from this calming forest sounds to truly hypnotic wind sounds. Some may prefer minimal bird songs, others prefer the crackles of fireplace over bubbly water sounds or haunting snow storm music. It may take a while to find the right one, but of course don’t let it paralyze your primary mission.

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How to Practice English from Podcasts

A thank you note to Krista Tippett’s On Being

I was one of the few lucky Indonesians who had the chance to study in the USA, to be immersed in English in and out of school and to have their life transformed by this powerful and unifying language.

All of us international students gleefully absorbed this language into our tongue and practiced it proudly in our daily life like a badge of honor. Slowly but surely English made its way deep into the minutes of our life that we even began to speak English to our fellow Indonesian friends, so spontaneously, fluently, and confidently. It’s a common case. Whether it’s a chat on Messenger, a meet up at the bar, or a social gathering at a coffee shop, more often than not, English would become the primary language. (And there should be a legit ethnographic research on what encourages this happening!)

So we walked our daily lives with English words sliding out from the tongue and then we went home only to find our own language is slightly…dull.

It’s a startling realization that you either deny to understand or you embrace it entirely by immersing yourself deeper in English language. But it’s not a rare scenario that many of us eventually get much better and more comfortable writing in English than in our own language.

There are many reasons for this happening; from the fact that its proper use is never enforced in public life, or that our national language isn’t deeply rooted in our history thus forgoing the cultural attachment to it, to the fact that as a nation we are not big literature readers. Or it could just be a pride thing.

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Making the most out of your smartphone as writer

The magic of writing with two thumbs

Despite having multiple notebooks for different purposes, I am pretty convinced that I still write probably more on my phone. By phone I mean my Gmail, Monospace app, Evernote and Google Keep. And by write I mean from blurts of thoughts to stories of hundreds of words.

I use my phone quite religiously to record any thoughts that transit in my mind. Single lines of morning thoughts, jotting down ideas, ideas that are boiling in my head ready to be polished, plenty and plenty of awful first drafts. My phone, being almost literally one of the closest things to me, has turned into a candid recorder of my mind at its most tender, fresh, and raw state. And this is why my phone plays quite an important role in my writing life.

Our friendship started when I was still in college, stuck writing in Word doc when I then laid down lazily on college dorm bed and begin writing on my Blackberry. Surprisingly, I wrote probably 800 words uninterrupted within just 15 minutes and they actually flowed pretty well. I was surprised by this comical reaction from the mind as if it was just hiding this whole time and now excited to be found. Perhaps it’s the informal feeling of writing on the phone that makes the process itself less rigid. It could also because writing on phone has a slower pace than typing on a laptop, which permits our mind to explore ideas a little bit more. Whatever it is, I was pretty hooked by its impact. So whenever I began to feel stuck, I immediately switch to my phone to unlock more creativity.

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Why we turn West?

This small blue dot earth sparks arousing beauties and exuberant cultures and people, uncontainable to a single human experience. It’s always a funny thought to me of how microscopic our perception of life is in comparison to the extremely minute, ever-evolving lives on earth. It’s really when you can live as every single human being ever and will step on earth that we can claim a little better who we are and what earth is, that we understand what life on earth looks like.

I often pondered by why I am never ambitious about living in the US. As someone who comes from a megapolitan capital city that hosts 20 million people, it only makes sense for me to choose a more spacious life, physically and mentally. Yet I chose the major Sociology and Cultural Studies, interned most of my time, and always opted for non-profit organization. That, probably the most difficult route to legally obtain a work visa in the US.

However after 5 years in the State, I decided to come home – almost intuitively I have to say. Intuitively in the sense that there’s a pulling back sensation that what I’m longing and what I’m looking for reside somewhere else. I came home as a different person, but there remains the same me that dwells happily deep inside, whether that’s a knowledge and wisdom, or a more refined sense of togetherness and selfless purpose that are getting less and less attention.

It struck me that, at the end of my life, I didn’t want to have a singular understanding of how the world is like. I grew up in a culture in awe with the West. Through the imperialism of media and culture, there proliferates an endless fascination towards the West. Easily the West becomes the symbol of wealth, prosperity, and humanity. It’s the perennial of civilization and the ultimate goal for all other cultures.

As an Indonesian, I think we completely lack the sense of identity, thus obediently accept any other ideologies that come to us aggressively as the truth. Our characters and values lie crushed underneath the immense adoration and acceptance towards the West.

There is nothing especially wrong with adoration, but I do strongly feel that it brings a skewed understanding of what the world and life really mean.

Just like someone in love.

I don’t think I want to die, thinking naively that the world is complete when described with its widest known and accepted ideology. Things like creativity, passion, life are of course experienced and expressed differently in remote villages compared to in a fast-paced, future-centered city.

There are so many values and truths clutch unto niche traditions that are still as relevant today as much as in the past. And they are actively seeking cracks through arts, literature, trends, or events to resurface.

As someone who has gone to the US and decided to come back, I guess I’m just long to study the world – the people, values, truth – naively as it is. I long to learn the stories and truths of the world that are “politely” being set aside, and finally, exterminated. I’m happy to be born as Indonesian because it gives me reasons to pursue these values and truths in my own native land.

When I can finally put these thoughts into words, after perhaps years of battling to understand this thirst in me, I had had the opportunity to reset and readapt to new surroundings. Coincidentally I landed a job in Ubud, an idyllic dreamy village with local Hindu-Balinese people rich in their own thoughts and traditions. I bumped head-to-head with my more Western preferences and thoughts, sometimes left me questioning my own lines of thoughts. But I love questions and occasional clashes. At least it ignites me and sparks me alive once again.

Afternoon Melodies of Ubud, Bali

There are nights, there are days, there are afternoons. That brief period of time when the city bustle with people rushing home, when day stress melts to evening melancholies, and when reunions with the loved ones take place.

Far out from the bustling city life, afternoon in Ubud is a wide range of tropical sounds that make triumphant thank you noise to the setting sun. After a day of full sun bath; chlorophyll busy breaking water and combining sunlight, animals enjoying the worms and insects, and the insects enjoying their naps, finally comes a chance for them to rest and reenergize. And for all these, there’s a long orchestral finale before the main star hides behind the

I’d sit on the terrace, listening to nature’s songs, wondering if this is orchestrated by sun’s light, they orchestrate it themselves, or it’s just pure randomness — though randomness is an absurdity to the organized nature.

Anyways, a more pressing question to me is, what does it feel like to grow up and live among an abyss of sounds whose vibrations roll over the earth, affecting every single beings it encounters. What does it feel like when you’re not tyrannized by the clock, but ordered by mere light and sound? What does it feel like to listen to the call and response initiated by frogs, to the waves of sounds by kocet, every single day?

Most people, even Balinese themselves, might take these sounds for granted, unassuming to its peaceful and cleansing impact. But one of the most prominent gamelan composers in Bali, the legendary I Wayan Lotring (1898–1968) of Kuta, was so inspired by the grinding noise of frogs that he made various compositions out of it.

Continue reading “Afternoon Melodies of Ubud, Bali”