thoughts// in praise of mundane daily conversations

(Do you know the kind of couple who could talk for hours and never run out of things to say to each other it almost feels like they are living in their own bubble? D and I are like that. Even before we were an item, D would pick me up from school and spend the two hours gap between school and my French/piano class or his Japanese/drum class together; sharing a pack of vanilla ice cream at a radio station’s rooftop, eating cheap steak with fries at a diner called BigBoy’s, walking around Sagan/ Kotabaru/ Baciro area, or just riding around the city while talking. Sometimes the conversation would get so enjoyable that I would decide to skip the class just to be able to spend a little more time with him. Sometime, we would resume the conversation at night. One of those midnight-to-3am call was to accompany me during my first breakup (in which he said, ‘I can treat you better than your ex will ever be’—and he did). When he first watch the movie ‘Before Sunset’, he told me to go get the film at our favorite dvd rental shop. Later when we were an item, he said that the movie made him think of us. The intimacy of a conversation, hours of ‘remaking the world’, and the walk. Later in life--or more like 20 years later, we still walk around a city—in New York, in Brussel, in the Netherland, in Germany, in Senegal, in Darwin, in Jakarta, and just talk and talk and talk. That is probably why Woody Allen’s movie is so relatable. And just like Celine nicely put it “If there’s any kind of magic in this world…it must be in the attempt of understanding someone.”  

These past two weeks, we have been once again working on different pace, different time, and even different place after five months of practically spending 24/7 together in the comfort and safety of our little house. So, conversations were scattered between works, before bed, or in the morning. These are some vignettes of those little moments)

“Listening to this song, I feel happily sad”, D said as we are getting ready to bed. He played the song on repeat as I applied layers and layers of essence, serum, night cream, face oil—in that order. There is a good reason to call it a ‘beauty regimes’: coordinated, systematic, almost authoritarian, but hopefully not pointless. “You know, it feels like a time when one reach a maximum sad point of a song and you start feeling weirdly happy”, D continued his thesis. The song he was referring to is not particularly a sad one. But I understand what he meant by ‘happily sad’. A feeling that is well familiar yet sometimes difficult to put into words. ‘Happily sad’ is an oversimplified version of the word. I recognize the feeling all too well too, a melancholia or longing that somehow weirdly feels like a warm fuzzy blanket. In D’s premise, the song made him nostalgic of a simpler time—when there is nothing else to worry about but to pass the exam with agreeable grade. For me, it reminds me of that moment at the end of Max’s adventure in Where the Wild Things Are when he finally sail back home and find the food is still warm, waiting on the table. D has a more complex example of the feeling. When he was younger, it made him sad to watch a TV show when it is daytime inside the movie and it is night out there in real life. Knowing that someone somewhere might only start his/her day at the same time when we are finishing ours. Or that feeling of temporality on a Sunday afternoon—exactly at 12 midday he would hear the imaginary bell ringing: the holiday is almost over and it is time to go back to reality. The song reminded him of the moment before the bell rings. Before leaving a house and start anew. Before leaving a part of life that is no longer relevant. Before realizing that now, nothing but the phantom of it waiting for us there. We went to bed holding hand that night. 

I was reading and walking on the treadmill (a dangerous habit, I know) when I read a curious term ‘lavishly economic’. I couldn’t really understand the term—but at that time, the clashing of the two words, the contrasting meaning of the two words interest me more. D was washing the dishes at the kitchen sink just the opposite to where the treadmill is so I yelled at him, “I found the word for our lifestyle!” Once he finished washing the dishes, he came closer so I won’t have to yell/ exercise/ read at the same time. “You know,” I said.. “lavish in a way that the daily things in our life might seem a little more elaborate than mundane.. but it is all actually very economical when you calculate the cost”. “You mean, like the urban poor of the broke-but-on-trend millennials?”, D asked. “No,” I said “the slightly older version who care less about the trend but enjoy the finer things in life—economically”. At the end of the conversation, we still didn’t fully grasped the correct meaning of that term.

I was already inside the blanket when he started discussing whether we want to use the term ‘local belief’, or ‘local wisdom’, or ‘local genius’, or ‘indigenous knowledge’ (we both agree how we like this term the least). After almost an hour of word-by-word breakdown of the term, we decided to stick to ‘local embodied knowledge’, one we can all agreed upon. I remember once upon a time, someone asked us how does it feel to work with one’s spouse. I kid you not.. the work is never done, not even in bed. 

The moment when the cold spell cast through the Southern part of Java is my favorite time of the year. The sun is warm but the wind is chilled. The sky is clear blue and the air dry. It feels like an endless spring. In times like these, we would take the chairs out, eat al fresco, and just spend the day lounging under the sun. At the end of the day, D would sigh in delight—remembering similar days happened somewhere away, “Wasn’t that nice?”

D was watering his vegetable patch when I stepped down the treadmill with Peter Mayle’s book that I read whenever I want to feel like walking down the street in Provence. I still haven’t took the walk in Provence but I imagine it to be slightly similar to walking down the Italian countryside. I sat on the grass and told him about Marathon du Medoc—a marathon filled with wine and amazing food, hopping from one castle to another, one winery to another, with amazing panorama, and everyone wearing fancy outfits. The night before, they would dance and eat carbo-loaded comfort food with as much wine and cheese they could possibly swallow—all done in yet another castle’s garden, on a white table and under a white huge tent. In my mind, it is an ideal dreamlike scene—a literary description that made my heart tingles with excitement. A midsummer night's dream kind of scene. So I look it up, and it surprise me to see how banal it actually looks. How very crowded and ordinary looking.. how the white tent for the dinner is just another big normal white tent, with generic looking table and cheap white plastic chairs where people eat in their t-shirt and short. This is not the first time I regret looking scenes I read up on the internet. It ruined the magic a little.

“Does it worth the risk? That is the question for doing even the simplest thing these days”, I said when we decided to get out and meet more people during this pandemic. “Of course nothing worth the risk.. but there are things that worth a little more than the other”, D said, "for example, going to a KFC or a mall surely won't worth any risk, but going to KKF as a mean of support worth a little more". So we start calculating risk, managing anxiety, trying to live without worrying too much, dodging the virus but carry on living with precaution and even smaller circle. Like people living under the volcano, only without the proper warning system. “What I’m worried about is how fast people forget.. how the ‘new normal’ is almost feels like surrendering to the virus", D continued as there are two possibilities of the future that he sees: one, new normal as an excuse for people to hurry back to the old normal because people are stubborn like that and going out of comfort zone is scary (and also: capitalistic system is way too powerful to shake); or two, like Arundhati Roy poetically wrote about the pandemic as a portal. It is time to reassess new possibilities and how unsustainable the old way of life is before completely change and consciously calculate the way we consume, move, work, live. Zero km products. Zero km mobility. Local practice and knowledge production. Once again, being rooted instead of radicant.  

“Sometimes I find Jogja boring—it feels one-layered. Like there is a uniformed perception imposed on it: slow city, hospitable, comfortable. Is it really like that or people who lives there are just trying to live up the expectation? Jakarta, on the contrary, is built upon a thousand different perceptions that makes it interesting and multi-layered”, D said. No wonder we can’t find any song about Jogja that is good enough. Most are clouded with blinding fanatics and nostalgia of the city’s past life that is probably no longer relevant today. “Your statement will upset a lot of people’, I replied.   

As we lay down the bed after a whole day of work, I noticed how D is unplucking his eyebrows, leaving a small silly patchy area. I never ask but this time, I demand for explanation. Just out of curiosity. So he leads my finger through his eyebrow and he said, “You see, sometime I can find a hard piercing piece of an eyebrow and another one that is coarse to touch. To get the hard and the coarse ones, I sometime need to sacrifice the ordinary eyebrows.. thus the patchy areas”. Honestly, I find nothing sort of coarse nor hard. “You need a trained finger to find them”, he said—very seriously. It is so ridiculous I started to laugh.. and soon grasping for air, coughing while still laughing while he run to get me warm water and medicine. Laughing to D’s weird habit is still my favorite way to get an asthma attack.  
“Have you ever imagined an alternate universe where you live a different life for making different choices in the past?”, D asked. “Sure,” I said “with a different house, probably fancier.. a simpler life that might sometime bores me, and maybe kids.. surely not the kind of life I would choose over mine now.” D told me he might be working an office job at the city in that narrative. “Actually, it was you who showed me things I didn’t know I wanted before. But now, I am exactly where I want to be”, I said. “I, too”, he replied, gently stroking my hair.    


thoughts // personal life in time of covid-19

Stage 1/ The Worried Shoes
It came in stages. First the panic-buying— figuring out the balance between having enough but not getting into the hoarding line: hand sanitizer, dry food, supplies of supplements, and immune boosters.  Then comes the strategic planning. Distributing the eggs in different baskets, making escape plans and standard operating procedures for every scenarios of the mundane daily life and of the worst. Then comes the anxiety. The what ifs. The overthinking. The moment I realize I ran out of wine, and dark chocolate, and anything else that can keep me off edges. Except for hugs. I’m lucky I have ample of that and the morning sun on a leisurely morning. Still, there are days of waking up in despair. And oh, the voids. Giving up to its lure is easy. To spiral down deep and stay in the dark for few days. The void is composed of miles and miles of thoughts where I can dive deep; and of dark corners where fear is the quicksand; or choose to stop and listen one by one, thoughts after thoughts—while crawling all the way back up. Dito was always there. Gently stroking my hair, scratching my back, keeping me sane. That was the moment when, for the first time in my life, I wanted to watch whatever horror movies I can find. Anything can’t be more terrifying than real life. I remember someone said at the beginning of it all, few days before they call it a pandemic: “It’s a curious time. We live in a science fiction movie”. At this stage, I dream of the most ordinary day when I can take a break from being concerned, to live the daily life without fear, and take off my worried shoes. 

Stage 2/ The Collective Grief
One day I learn its name and call it correctly. It was grief. It has always been grief all along in many different forms. A wave of collective grief. The magnitude and intensity of the crisis pulled me down like a gravity, yet, what gave it a face was more personal than that. I remember few months before, feeling helpless and hapless being sick in New York with a new-found knowledge that all those platinum membership of all insurances that we have won’t do any good in a country of such a bizarre system. I remember how my heart sank when I found Dito was having the same fever that I had the day before and how relieved I was when we both recovered a week before heading back home. I remember feeling that pang of grief again knowing my uncle was ill half the world away in one of the epicenter of the crisis, unable to see the doctor because the health system there is already overwhelmed. Although in Madrid, the city where he lives, the healthcare system is so much more humane and a doctor is checking up on him every day during his quarantine. I don’t dare to think of the country where I am now with a healthcare system slowly collapsing even before it reaches the peak. The potentiality of any type of grief left me petrified—a deer in the headlights. I don’t know yet whether or not to be scared of dying—but I know I am scared of the possibilities of losing people I care about. When my uncle recovered from the virus, he told us how his worst nightmare was the probability of disappearing—having an ambulance picking him up and off he go to the unknown with 50:50 chance of coming back home or disappear, never to be seen again. That feeling-- having my heart sinking to my stomach when I think of it, is grief. 

Stage 3/ The Nostalgia
And then comes the next stage: the nostalgia. Triggered by a bleak realization that the last trip I did in February, could be the last one before a long pause ahead. Also: an even bleaker thought, I feel like my days are numbered. If the crisis remain unsolved, any attempt to lock ourselves down from everybody is an active attempt to buy some time. So I start making promises. Promises are the thread of hopes to hold on to: visit friends’ newborns, eat crustaceans with uncle in Spain, take him to that super spicy fish place in Borobudur in return, finally go to King’s day with Go Eun, and one day—I will finally start a perfume collection. It has always been my obsession to create a library of memories of all the places I went to through smell. How orange blossom and bubble bath reminds me of Torino, how Amsterdam is the first Magnolia bloom, how Napoli is the smell of fresh linen and laundries, how Budapest is the smell of roasted chestnut and peppermint wind, and how New York is made of candied almond and dried leaves. Dito and I finally made that photobook of the places we went together that his father has been asking for. It made me happy but at times when I am not at my best shape, I feel like the places where I went on my own was not part of my life. As if it was swept under the rugs and never happen. Will I be able to remember things beyond the picture? Will I remember it better when I finally put it all into words? Finally write about that time when I sabotaged one of my dream because the circumstances was not ideal, that other time when two police woman who do not speak English at all caught us accidentally riding a tram without validating the ticket, and a panic moment in the airport caused by a bomb threat soothed by a big portion of KFC. 

Stage 4/ Sculptural Immobility 
The virus triggered this idea about sculptural immobility. It was as if you are cursed: wherever you last standing and with whom you chose to spend your time with—those are the life that you will live until an unforeseeable future. Your decision is set in stone. Those who are apart can no longer touch again. The far is far again. The world is round again. And time is long again. It feels as if we are collectively took an early retirement. The feeling is very much present at home (despite all the projects we are working on right now). If this home is going to be our universe for the next few months or few years to come—we need to fully commit to it and make the most of it. Usually, there is a feeling of temporality in the house—as if it is just a transit in-between trips. It is now finally time to clean the messy backyard, deep clean our windows, fix the broken kitchen shelf and change the lightbulb. It is now finally time to reevaluate our relationship with the home. We realized how our home changed the way we do. In 2015, we took down most of the artworks on the wall because we want to rest from visual stimulation at home. We don’t decorate it so much and focusing on keeping things practical and functional. The house now accommodate new social functions, unnecessary clutters are regularly thrown away, and it evolves the way we do. It can be messy at times but that's ok. We keep most books from Lir, from my childhood, from trips we went; but we let it scattered around different rooms (except bedroom). Since we don’t have the Space at the city anymore, our home that used to be the escape plan from work now turn into a workspace, making us constantly draw the psychological line between life and work. It is not as hard as it sounds and the workspace is not as empty as we want it to be but as long as we have blank spaces on the table, on the floor, or in my case: on the bed—we’re good. When it is time for 900mdpl, the life at home would suddenly being put on a higher speed. The house would be lively, people would take over my workspace and the fire in the kitchen would never stop burning. I would cook so much for everybody and I would reach my limit of social interaction every now and then; the people I work with would then helping me to protect my personal space that would feel so precious. Now that the house is empty, it became a universe of two. I sometime miss having people around no matter how drained I would feel afterward. We have 9 pet rabbits, but they live in the backyard and they are relatively quiet. Now the silence is so thick we could almost hear them! Every texture of the rain drops, every birds, every footsteps approaching, the wind, the tree, the neighbors fixing their roof, the roosters, the other ‘pet’ living at our ceiling (a Javanese ferret-badger). 

Stage 5/ The Search for Meaning
It’s ironic when I finally come to realize that the things I used to wish for are actually coming true. I used to wish I could have more quality time to be with my mom and Dito, and now I have plenty. I wanted to go to a place where time is irrelevant and I yearned for slowness—a moment to just search for meaning, to have unlimited time to just read, and write, and fully love, and to just be. To be fully present without an endless to-do list, grounded and not having to go to the next destination, without having to prepare for the next audition. Suddenly, time is all we have. Now it feels like time dissolves and days bleed into one another. Suddenly, I am in a place where time is irrelevant. Once I crawled back up from the deep dark cold void, I learn to embrace the abundance of time. I demand for the love that I deserve—plenty of it. In exchange, I love with all my heart. There are days when I feel warm inside and motivated enough to put on a pretty dress. It is easy to feel lightness and warmth on a sun-drenched house with mild microclimate that always feel like spring. As I continuously examine the quality of my life, everything went down to the essential. I realize I enjoy the home cooking so much and that the only thing I miss about eating at a restaurant is the anonymity and the idea of eating out. I realize I don’t need too much of anything to lead a wholesome life. (Although I  really miss the spa and having face acupressure done professionally). I learn to travel in place, cooking food that reminds me of places far away, and finally reconnect with my surrounding. At times, I ask myself: have I lived enough? Have I tasted enough? If this is the end, will I crave for more? Under what conditions and in which way would life be worth living? Everyday I would crave for a beautiful mind telling me things I don’t know. I want to feel alive. I want solidarity and riot and strike on how the world works. I want to be sure that nobody in my neighborhood is hungry. I want sovereignty for the people. Free from the control of capitalism, starting from the small circle of a family, neighbors, community. The crisis has got us questioning the system in general and it is reassuring to be part of a closely-knitted community and re-learn how to be together as neighbors and citizen of the world: a collective movement even without proximity. Hopefully, when we get to the other side of it, the world after the great mutation would require us to live more sustainably. While the virus is still learning about itself and continuously morphing—so is the world. 

Stage 6/ Embracing Slowness
We are now taking it slow. We are following the rhythm of the day, observing the lyrical environment, and embrace the weird moment when the world is being put into collective pause. Instead of a to-do list, I try to remember things that I enjoy doing when I am away: the walk, the newness of everyday life, the consciousness of things around me. I read. I write. I eat better, sleep better, exercise better. I evaluate the quality of life I am living, of all the friendships I have, and of the system of the world. Dito and I learn how to be self-sufficient, mindful, and dig down those forgotten skills we learned in school: how to start a medicinal herb garden, building things from scratch, and foraging among others. When I was younger, I used to dream of having a potager—an aromatic French kitchen garden and medicinal herb at the backyard with rabbits running around. The later are there, the potager is still just a dream. But I used to dream of a small white house with lots of windows to let the sun shine in. I dreamt of comfortable reading nooks and books everywhere I move through the house. Only now have I realized it is the childhood dreams that I am living in right now. When we get out of this, it is time to reevaluate the dreams and create new ones as an adult (and to finally live somewhere far away, maybe?) We still follow the movement of the sun through the house and soak the morning sun at our kitchen table over breakfast—but instead of work, we are catching up with whatever weird vivid dream we had the night before. Last night, I dreamt about a zombie attack, targeting on people with low ph. level. I was the only one in the neighborhood with a low ph level so they put me in a glass house. It was raining when the zombie attacked—it rained acid and people are safe outside under the rain. The rain won’t help me no matter how acid it was because my blood is anyhow non-acidic and the zombie can smell it. So I look outside at the people guarding the glass house and I catch my friend’s eyes, inaudibly saying ‘I got your back’ and my friend start talking to the zombie to distract it from me and then my friend turned into a box of square cheese ransacked by the zombie before it went away. I was spared. 


postcard from italy

"Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased", wrote Calvino. I am erasing an image by writing this postcard for you. I was on the train from Turin to Milan when I saw a big truck carrying stacks of red mini Fiat. On the horizon: the Alps. Looking almost diluted to the blue sky. The highway was busy, but my gaze stuck at the truck full of small red Fiats moving and the soft silvery blue Alps in the background. I tried to take my camera but I wasn't fast enough for the speed of my train. The train, the speed, the uncanny sight, breathtaking view, the uncaptured moments.. I'm afraid those are the nature of this trip around Italy that I am doing right now. Speed is inevitable. Anyhow, can we add the unphotographed photo I just described in that notebook of unphotographed photos that we talked about for years and remain a plan? Just as many other things that needs to wait because life happens. And when it does, speed is inevitable.

I just watched a movie: "Goodbye, Christopher Robin". A sad one. I cried almost the whole second part of it. (I would blame the hormones, of course). It was the first movie I watched in Italy. The first thing I do to ground myself after the continuous movement. I need a book, but I left the one I was reading halfway at home. Worst decision I can make. Having a book around can be handy: it can be my hideaway, my escapist move, my personal space, and it can be the time I steal to let the dust settle. In the movie, Christopher Robin is Billy Moon. Billy Moon is his ‘real name’ and Christopher Robin is the name that was given to him. Few weeks earlier, I went to a talk about an exhibition with one of the most beautiful title: 'What Plants Were Called Before They Had a Name'. It is about how colonialism is not only an occupation of land but also of knowledge. Intriguing idea. But in its simplest form, I love the idea of calling things by its real name. Like how Turin is Torino, how Florence is Firenze, and Venice is Venezia. The last one is a trick. Venice has become a brand. There was one time when we tried to call every other Italian cities by its name but slipped and called Venezia by Venice. Like Paris, Venice is a concept for some people. But today I will not write about Venice. My old friend Calvino, whose quote I abused during my stay in his country, knows it better. He once wrote, "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”  

Friendship has an expiration date. That is what I think each time I see her. That is what I will think whenever I see her walking next to me for the next couple of month. She has been reckless with my heart, as I was with hers (and probably yours). Friends are like two stray thoughts momentarily colliding. When the moment is up, thoughts drifted away. You became an idea-- or worse, a term. Taken for granted. People forgot how to be friend, how to be present, the time spent on friendship, the joy, the expectation. Expectation is just as nasty as politics in friendship. If I could ever do it all over again, it will all start with lightness. It will float. It doesn't need to collide. At times, it will float side by side and at times, drifted away-- and that's okay. Lightness, is all we need, I'd say. You might disagree, as we do sometime. Good old times. But I am sorry to say that old times is nowhere to be seen anymore. Did I say I'm sorry for being reckless with your heart just yet?

Images are like a time capsule. Sometimes we can not see the real meaning of it. Instead, we need to wait for the moment when we can really see the real meaning instead of our projections of it. I wonder what I will think in a year from now, looking at the array of images I took in order to remember every place I visited. At the moment, I don't think I am doing it right. I am in a continuous state of flux. Always on the move, always exhausted, always in between, never really let the dust settle in. I try to write down names, keywords, ideas and moments. I keep dried leaves and flowers in my notebooks. I took pictures of places, images, and sights I would like to remember. I know at least a dozen of people who would slap me back to my sanity if I ever say that I am not happy here. I am burden by guilt with every step away from home. To some, this might sound like a dream: work trip all around Italy with all the wines, the foods, the landscapes; train ride with service; arranged meeting with supposedly the most inspiring artists and institutions; 'home' is a room with a view (with private tub) at the nicest neighborhood, or room by a hidden alley in Venice, or an old farm house overlooking a vineyard in Rovereto-- a small Italian countryside I wouldn't even have aspired to visit merely because of my unawareness of its existence. But still, I complain a lot. I fall asleep on some of the meetings. I took too many shots of espresso and vitamins (often at the same time), slowly damaging myself, to hold myself up for the five daytime meetings with fifteen different people. I gulp my wine like there is no tomorrow to stay social because my energy is already drained by before the sun goes down (and another meeting is coming up during dinner). For more than 12 hours a day, I need to always be ready to perform. The rest is oblivion, scattered naps, sleep deprivation, immune booster, and a continuous effort to stay in touch with the loved ones back home whenever the time zone allow. I guess it is part of the contract with the devil (called the 'international contemporary art') that I signed carelessly few years ago. Still, I beat myself up for not being adventurous enough, or excited enough, or happy enough to visit new cities. I beat myself up when I wake up in my own bed, wishing to just stay there for the whole two days before going to another endless train ride. Time and space are something more of a luxury for me right now. Movement turns into a drug I am helplessly addicted to, just like all the wine and espresso. When I am writing this, I am grateful to say that I am healed, at least for now. I let myself stay the whole two days at home, eating as much greens as I could, drinking enough water, listen to what my body needs and provide. For the first time since I arrived, I feel something that resembles happiness and excitement. I will write you again when happiness can be fully confirmed, just like the Spring. For now, would you please tell me it is okay not to be happy once in awhile? Or, better yet, will you be happy for me? 


collecting taste as memorabilia

(I never actually succeed in collecting anything other than book, photographs, and only recently-- a taste of memory. I tried collecting stamps, fancy papers, fridge magnet, and trinkets. At the end of the day, I say goodbye to most of them. Unlike what it might seem, I don't do hoarding and not easily seduced into buying small stuff that I don't need. But, travelling makes me weak. Like other first-time traveler, when I finally went on a trip as an adult ten years ago, I tried to start a collection of travel souvenirs for my house. Several countries and few years later, most of them do not spark joy or memory as I wish it would be. I learned about it the hard way, including that one time when I blew basically my whole budget at the first day of the trip to buy a mini toycam, disabling me to cafe-hop as much as I wanted to. Thank God it (at least) makes a funny self-depreciating travel story every now and then, especially after the fact that I only use the camera twice before it got buried in the deep end of my closet and eventually got broken. 

Two years ago, after knowing better than blowing my budget for things I don't need for a collection I could never build, I start saving up my travel budget for things I enjoy doing and bring home only books, photographs, and only one or two things that actually makes me happy. After few trips that allow me to indulge not only my sight but also my tastebud, I accidentally find a new favorite souvenir: taste as memorabilia. Despite my belief that involuntary memory is triggered and not constructed; with the taste of a recent trip to a certain place-- there is an exception. The memory is combined with the memory of our body to respond to the trigger, which in this case is the food recreated from the journey. 

First, it acts as a memorabilia from a particular moment. For example, there is a delicious ginger crème brulee I had from Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney. That particular treat reminds me of my first winter day spent outside; challenging myself to one of the thing I fear the most. I failed to recreate the ginger crème brulee at home but it always becomes my token of bravery against that stupid fear of eating out alone. Then the list is getting longer: there was that asparagus and haloumi cheese served during a picnic by the seaside that get me completely obsessed, the best-polvoron-ever from a recipe passed in the family of a friend in Manila, that African style sweet potato fries Dito and I had when we are very hungry but wanted to save some money to see Jean Paul Gaultier's show, that first time I finally learn to cook rendang with my uncle (in Madrid!!) and learn how to make dumpling perfectly (in Darwin) from a girl who learned the trick in China, that time when my uncle took me on a dinner date to have an extra delicious Spain-style cold-served prawn that I am still fully obsessing until this day, that super strange mix of Belgian potato with satay sauce and mayo I had in Amsterdam that is strangely delicious.. the list can go on and on. 

But, not until I found a delicate rose-petal jam served with sesame toast in Darwin have I start recreating foods from my trip and collecting the recipe. My host said that the rose petal jam was from a Greek shop in Melbourne. After that short trip in Darwin in 2014, we went to Melbourne and obsessively tried to find the jam (and failed just as miserably). It leaves a strange disturbing mixture of curiosity and disappointment; so, I tried making the rose-petal jam as soon as I got back to Jogja. It was a successful experiment and just a bite of it always brings me back to an endless summer morning in Darwin with all the strange birds’ sounds outside. At this point, it becomes a time capsule. 

There are also the comfort foods that I still keep on recreating until this day: an Asian-style rice bowl with the perfect sunnyside up I had in Madrid after few days of eating only pastry, nuts, and potato. The burritos I had in two different cities served by two different ladies, each one after a long exhausting flight. And on the way back, after a morning flight from Spain to Amsterdam and a brisk walk in cold weather with extra heavy suitcase and a new extra travel bag; there was that comforting ginger risotto with veggie stir fry and tempe that does as much to my soul as it does to my body. The ginger risotto with veggie stir-fry also made me promise myself to one day make it for my vegetarian best friend-- which I did when we were both in town. I still make them regularly because it's just so good. All of which also reveals my bad habit of flying on empty stomach and got very very hungry each time I landed-- which makes a bonus point for every warm food that is served after.

Most of them are recreated at home only by its taste and memory instead of written recipe, yet, all of those reminds me of a good time, good friend, and makes the perfect souvenir back home as a reason for an intimate gathering with friends and family.  I guess this time; this collection will last for a little bit longer.)


thoughts // eid

(My love-hate relationship with Eid has been flourishing since I was younger. Overtime, it's more on the love part and less on the hate part. My dad was a very traditional person and Eid used to mean endless visit to older relatives-- and there are lots of them. I remember enjoying the visits and eating all the cookies when I was younger, hating it and being a sulky teenager who put up an attitude when I got lost at small talks, and start playing a team work of cancelling Eid visits with my two little sisters. I don't know when exactly the number of those visits start decreasing and Eid start becoming a beautiful ritual of big family dinner the night before, sitting by the window waiting for the glorious light from hundreds of torches carried by children while praising God and walking together around the village, the morning prayer at one of the most beautiful prairie soaked in warm morning sun amidst the cold mountain air, and the family gathering right after that.

Eid holiday makes me falls in love with the idea of staycation and food as the most effective tool to foster a relationship. Oh, the food! I remember that one time when my aunt went out of town on the first day of Eid and suddenly there was a big empty space in the holiday spirit that year without the chicken curry and spicy beef-liver curry she makes every year. Eid would also mean homemade calories-loaded dish served mercilessly, uber-delicious bread-and-butter pudding from a neighbor that my other aunt would bring, lots and lots of chocolate to brawl about with my little sisters (the friendly-brawling always become the best part of it), those perfect cakes my uncle brings, and the Javanese-style rendang my mom's cook will make before he went back home for his holiday. If there is one thing that never changes, it is the feast and endless shopping sessions for food, fresh flowers, and gifts. It is the time of the year when heavy consumption is collectively tolerated. 

But Eid, so I realized when I grow up, is never exactly the same every year. That is why the presence of those rituals are very comforting and reassuring. Other than that, Eid is keep on changing along with the family's movements. When I was still in the university and my sisters are still around, we would binge-watch Disney's movies or gather around in silence reading fantasy while nibbling on bottomless cookies. When I moved to the city, going back home was an act of vain success symbol and irrational splurging. Thank God it was only that one time before I move back to my senses. When my sisters and I start learning to bake; we would spend a day making strange mixture of milk and cheese cookies, brownies, and weird-shaped food that mom would brag about. There always a time when my uncle would impulsively ask me to help him throw big barbecue parties at the garden in the afternoon and the children can taste a drop of Bailey's during one of the family dinner a night before. That was when I taste my very first alcohol in a Kahlua mix that was way too sweet even for my young taste bud. 

When I got married, Dito took me to my very first Eid mobility across region which I loved at first and despise two years later. Apparently, I am more of a stay-in Eid lover than the roadtrip-goer person. We then would start our annual house cleaning session, buying a bunch of fresh flower to put around the house, and stocking up food like we are about to face a zombie apocalypse. There are lots of baking-session happening in the house, afternoon spent reading together, an annual day-out with my friend Anna, gathering invitations for different groups of friends, and some exhausting yet satisfying days of endless friend and family visits. This year, we decided to do Eid night a bit differently. Instead of staying in, we stayed at Dito's parents’ house and went for a night ride around the city, had gelato for two instead of having big family dinner that night, and came across some youth on the back of some truck chanting praise to God on highroad instead of seeing them walking around their neighborhood holding torches gracefully. At that moment (and in the case of NYE too) I bragged, "Apparently, we do things better in Kaliurang, don’t we?” Maybe it was the weather. 

The ritual keeps on changing but the togetherness always warms the heart—when served in the right portion. I still loathe the big big-family gathering with hundreds of people I don’t recognize shaking hand and forgive each other for wrongdoing they didn’t even have the chance to do as some of them are only meeting each other once a year. I still have mixed feeling when meeting my old friends from school and see them change so much; like yesterday when I met the cute senior I had a crush on when I was 9 and see that the bad boy who used to steal my hat and put it up on the tree turned into the sweetest gentleman who teaches toddlers for a living-- and suspected gay, naturally.. And on top of it, I still hate the fact that my uncle is not coming and my sister went back to the city before Eid ends, leaving a part of the holiday incomplete and gave a twinge of melancholy when she left.. Like today.)


thought // in every kind of relationship, you make time


"Why can't we get all people together in the world that we really like and just stay together? I guess it wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes! I know what I need: I need more hellos!" | Charles M.Schulz |


("What are essentials in one's life?” that is what I keep asking myself lately. In time like this, my mind often get so occupied. As a result, I become cold and distant, sparing no time for melancholy and other feelings. But then, now that I realize I might be leaving soon.. time flows in a strange way. The morning when I receive the email for the interview of my life, I was on a bedrest. Life was put on hold before, suddenly, life spins uncontrollably. 

"It's about time", I thought. But time, is a funny thing. J.D.Salinger once said: "Time, or the lack of it, like everything else, depends entirely upon who's using it." I forgot that in friendship and in every kind of relationship, we (have to) make time. It's never about having not enough time but weather the time is made available or not. 

To my defense, my world was going on a full speed, I got so self-absorbed, I was losing track, I failed to noticed the other planet's rotation around me; and worse, I even forget to mention the reason of my absence. Sometime, it is those who are very dear to you who got taken for granted. In my case this moment, there were two of them. Just a week before I leave for the interview, two of my best friends are moving out of the city. One of them is even moving out of the country. Two goodbyes in one day feel just too much. I hate goodbyes, especially to those whom I love so dearly. Even more painful was the fact that I did not give them enough time or attention, and I did not give myself enough preparation. During the whole time when I was away, it didn't ache. But when I'm back and realizing that they are not around anymore, suddenly, I got obsessed and it stings badly. 

Now, each time the loved ones ask for a piece of my time; I will rush to their side, giving them a piece of me, even if I barely had enough for myself. For me, those who I love so dearly-- the gardener of my heart, they are the essentials..)


it started with a sad story


(When I lost Ubi, my rabbit, I knew I will go somewhere far for quite a long time. So when de Appel Art Centre made an open call for this year curatorial program, I braved myself to apply against everyone's belief that this is all too early on my career to even consider applying. The program that only accept 6 curators every year is way too prestigious, too up high on the ivory tower of the international art scene, and as always-- shamelessly, I didn't think twice: I just jump. 

A month later, few days after I was just hospitalized, an invitation for an interview popped in my email. Half-asleep, I start panicking: the interview date is less than a month from the day I receive the email, I have got no funding yet to actually fly to the Netherlands for the interview, I am still recovering, there are still visa to apply and almost-expired passport to change, I have all kind of existentialist questions and self-doubt that is getting on my nerve, and I have not yet prepared any kind of presentation. All of which, miraculously, solved itself: I got my passport and my visa on time, I bought the ticket a day before I actually go with funding money that was granted a day before that, and I recovered fast and well. It all happened in a blink of an eye. Suddenly, I find myself on a 14-hours flight to the other side of the world, alone, strangely calm while slowly digesting whatever is happening at that moment: I was shortlisted for an interview at de Appel. 

I was unusually calm and preserved. The trip and the whole thing were strangely tranquil. The panic attack lasted for only few days and without realizing it, my mind is slowly making a list and I slowly but surely, checking them. Even when I was running under a heavy rain from the train station, 10 minutes before the interview, there was no trace of panic left. I even took a moment of self-reassuring selfie and send it to Dito on my way to de Appel under the rain that was ruining my new coat. The interview went longer than planned, but the hour-long interview was so relax it somehow felt like it only went on for fifteen minutes. A day later, they gave me a call, congratulating me, telling me that I will be one of six curators who will join the program this year. If it was the regular me who is responding to that news, I'll be euphoric. But it was the strangely-calm-version-of-me who is in the house: I gave a simple 'wow, really' and several 'thank you', and I didn't know whether I should be sad or glad. 

I spent the rest 10 days of my 12 days trip in Europe with an idle part in the void behind my head still trying to digest this information slowly and once again, making a list in my head while very very slowly checking it. If things go right, in August, I will be moving to Amsterdam for ten months. Moving, for sure, is never a simple thing. Plus, I now have a new funding issue to solve without which I can never actually go to join the program. But all those issues aside, I now have to really stop for few hours and actually process these whole things: the wave of change that is about to happen, the life I'm leaving behind, and the new adventure to come. The fact that it was one of a dream coming true and being overwhelmed by so many supports feel somehow numbing too. It was almost like peeling off a band-aid quickly that for a shocking moment, there was no body response before it started to tickle or ache. This post is one way to digest these thoughts and the dream-come-true that was all started with a sad story: my rabbit died.)