In English

From Zero to Frankfurt: The Translating Process of Ground Zero

The journey began when a mother is lying on a hospital bed, dying. The son who has been years living overseas finally returns. Realizing not much time left, the son sits beside her, reads his diary about faraway lands he saw. About their ancestral land of China, about the Himalayas, about the Pakistani desert and the warzone of Afghanistan. Along with his stories, the mother starts to recount her stories that have been buried for long. About her childhood, her love, her awaiting, her struggle, her God, her life and death. Two journeys set in two dimensions of time and place intertwine, and eventually converge. In the final days, the mother and son share a journey of life together. This is the story of my travel-narrative memoir, Titik Nol: Makna Sebuah Perjalanan (lit. Point Zero: The Essence of a Journey), published in Indonesian language by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in 2013. It received quite warm welcome from Indonesian readers. Some months after the launching, Gramedia asked whether I was interested to translate this book into English. At that time Indonesia has been confirmed to be the Guest of Honor in the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015. This is the biggest book exhibition [...]

October 12, 2015 // 0 Comments

Grand Overland Voyage

Exactly ten years ago, I started my four-year overland journey. I started from Beijing with $2000, dreaming to reach South Africa. From an illegal visitor to Tibet until a journalist in the war ridden Afghanistan, this journey has changed my whole life. Today, I’m back to Beijing, my point zero. But journey is a point of no return; I’m not the same person anymore and my point zero is not the same either. That’s indeed a journey of life. [...]

July 31, 2015 // 1 Comment

Indonesia: A Blaming Nation

This happened again. The police arrested one of the leaders of the anti-graft body. The President seemed helplessly requested the police not to make any controversial moves, as they have already done in the near past. The request seemed went to deaf ears. The public outcry was directed to the President, blaming him too weak to sit on the position. It is a huge contrast to the enormous support the Indonesian public has shown to Joko Widodo, a.k.a Jokowi, during the presidential election, less than a year back. He was duped as “Indonesian Obama”, “a new hope”, “someone from us”. Unlike other predecessors or other president candidates, he does not come from political elites or military family, nor does he lead any political party. His uniqueness as an “outsider”, a “working class and really working” governor, has produced an unprecedented euphoria among Indonesian public. Suddenly, people from the elites to the roadside vendors, from Chinese-ethnic merchants to Papuan mothers, from his fanatical supporters to his dire opponents, talk about only one name—his name: Jokowi. But during Jokowi’s first months as Indonesian president, the high hopes started to crush. The public survey shows the public support has decreased. Back in the [...]

May 3, 2015 // 9 Comments

The Color is Red (Chinese New Year in Jakarta, 2014)

The Chinese Indonesians welcomes the arrival of Chinese New Year 2014. During the Suharto regime, the celebration of Chinese New Year in public was forbidden. But today, about a dozen years since the government allowed the Chinese community to celebrate their festivals and traditions openly, red is in full swing, red has become the dominating color in temples and shopping malls, on clothes and decorations, on the altar of Buddhist gods and on the lanterns and on the dragon masks. In Indonesia, the Chinese New Year is associated with religion. Indonesia is the only country in the world recognizing Confucianism as one of its state religions, and the Chinese New Year is regarded as religious holiday of Confucianism (as religious holidays are national holidays, thus it becomes nationwide holiday). While in China they say, “Happy Lunar New Year 2014”, in Indonesia they say, “Happy Lunar New Year 2565”, with 2565 is counted from the birthday of Confucius, the prophet of Confucianism. The Chinese believe that rain during the Chinese New Year will brings good fortune. In their ancestral land, Chinese New Year signifies the arrival of spring, and as they say, “Rain in spring is as worthy as oil”, the [...]

February 1, 2014 // 7 Comments

Jakarta, Water City

The heavy rain from midnight until early morning today has caused numerous Jakarta streets flooded. Rains, floods, traffic jams, total deadlock, have been haunting Jakarta and other cities in Indonesia since last three weeks. In Jakarta, somehow it’s important to emphasize the difference between “a pile of water” and “flood”. The local Chinese believe that rains symbolize good fortune, especially if it rains during the Chinese new year’s Eve (which happens to be tomorrow midnight), the heavy rain is believed to bring a super-prosperous new year. But for sure, the flooding at least brings some fortune to the kids (who are always enjoying “beach-waves-and-swimming-pool-right-in-the-heart-of-the-capital-city”) and chart owners, who earned money by transporting motorcycles on their charts. In this year rainy season, some 40 thousands of Jakarta dwellers had to stay in temporary shelters. There were also some kids who participated in swimming contest in a flooded river, drowned, and unfortunately, get killed. What striked me most after living abroad for more than a dozen years and come back to my home country, is seeing laughter and smiles on the faces of my countrymen, despite the fact that they are facing disasters and troubles. The laughter, the never-faded smiles, the genuine [...]

January 29, 2014 // 3 Comments

The Palace of Illusions

When drawing a picture about memory of the past, we tend to have only two alternatives. Either we amplify good memories and minimize the bad ones, or the other way round. When the nostalgia is about history, this can be dangerous, as the history may turn to an illusion, no matter how real the events are. The incidence of nostalgia may bring you to homesickness. American physicians in nineteenth century even pointed out that acute nostalgia led to “mental dejection”, “cerebral derangement” and sometimes even death. In Indonesia, the so-called history is never so long ago. Some people say, Indonesians have such short memories as they suffer from “history amnesia”. With most of its population are less than 30 years old, majority people did not really experience the whole history of the Republic, from the Independence struggle era (1940s), Sukarno’s Old Order (1950s), the chaos before the arrival of Suharto’s New Order (1960s), and the never ending period of our-president-is-him-again-and-him-again (1970s-1990s). When grumbling about the hardship in current democratic period, people tend to turn their head to the past: how strong and respected our country during Sukarno! How things were cheap and life were happy under Suharto! How we need [...]

December 15, 2013 // 7 Comments

Eyes of Non-travelers: The Socialism Paradise of Beijing

What if the air of the 21st century Beijing still covered by the bravado of Cultural Revolution and the 2008 Olympic host city become a Maoist paradise? You may see the extraterrestrial architecture of China Central Television building worshipped by thousands of comrades chanting rouge slogans marching down the road. Or office workers work happily with their desktop computers, along with smiling cleaning staffer, and surrounded a parade of curious working class visitors with their happy faces and red flags. All of this imagination is portrayed in several paintings made by North Korean propaganda artists. The idea and effort of this project came from Beijing-based British expat duo, one of which runs the travel company specializing in trips to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, known better as North Korea). The duo showed some daily life photos of Beijing to the artists from the hermit kingdom, and invited them to visualize the life of the modern city they have never visited. Sea of happy people next to CCTV Headquarters A journey to the promised land Chinese tourist with camera in front of Bird’s Nest Red Guards in KTV No bikini Happy office Let’s go disco Future of China One [...]

December 14, 2013 // 0 Comments