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CNY 2014

Flew back home again for Chinese New Year 2014. I was never really super excited about CNY, it only started after I moved to Singapore. When I was still studying in SMU, Chinese New Year usually falls on a school term, and while Singapore gives 2 days of holiday, it usually just doesn’t warrant buying tickets to go home. And then I usually got stuck in Singapore on Chinese New Year, where everything was closed. Singapore somehow became quieter and less hectic, it’s a little eerie.

I usually prefer going home during Christmas/New Year, or maybe Easter. But when I started my job back in 2011, I found it so difficult to go home during those times. I was part of a global support group and they had devised a guideline that no more than 2 people could go on leave at the same time. It became a race of first-come-first-serve of leave applications. I thought I’m quite the planner, planning my flights and leaves several months ahead, but there were people who planned even earlier than I do. So long story short, most of the times I couldn’t secure a leave application for Christmas/New Year/Easter so I kinda made a deal with them that no one touches Chinese New Year holiday and let me use it to go home (and it also helps that none of my team mates that time celebrated Chinese New Year). Ever since then, I kinda got used to it and I’ve started to always go home during Chinese New Year.

My family’s not really big on CNY decoration spectacle so we don’t have any in the house. What we have is abundance of food, whether cooked by our own (or rather our auntie) or given by friends/business partners/family. As Indonesian Chinese, it’s pretty interesting to see more traditional “Chinese” gifts like oranges, alongside more Indonesian ones like lapis legit cake. I tried to bring a little of my second home Singapore’s tradition – I brought home some barbecued pork.

All in all it’s been nice to be able to meet family and relatives during this Chinese New Year. Well the extra money afforded by the red packets didn’t hurt, either.

Changes

Obviously I haven’t been posting for some time. And yet whenever I come back to this space I’m amazed on all changes that I have been through for approx. 6 years.

The last time I posted I happily posted about my trip to Europe and my job. Ever since that, a lot of changes have happened and again I’m amazed on how 1 year just passed me by.

I hear that cliche about “the only constant in the world is change” very often and I mostly scoffed at it. I don’t like changes, I tell myself. Why should I bother about changes? I know that a lot of people crave change and go out of their way to change themselves, the situation, anything. But to me, change is a hassle, a burden. Something that I can live without.

But then I realized – maybe I’m not that averse to change anyway. I remember when I was in high school and I just knew I had to have a change. I had to go out of Jakarta and went out to live elsewhere. I was 16, naive, stupid, and yet I was adamant on going.

So I thought – maybe this one is not really that different. Except that when I was 16, I was forcing myself to change. Now it’s the situation that’s forcing me to change and move on.

I had a hard time processing the news (even until now), but my friends keep telling me that it’s not that bad a thing, and that I have the potential to move on, and to be better. And that’s all I want to be. Better. Surpassing my own expectations.

I have been very lucky to have the opportunities to grow and to find out more things about myself. Although this year is starting rough, I choose to believe that it’s only going to get better from now on.

No way to go but up.

Very very long indeed!

Too many things have happened on 2011. It was a year full of interesting experiences and milestones. Of course, I managed to meet an amazing musician Imogen Heap (for free!) and watched other interesting musicians.

Imogen Heap

I also finally got a job! It’s a job that I never thought of doing, but I’m enjoying it so far. I found that the job is a good fit for my skills and personality, and I’m glad I can get a job like that.

After working for about 4 months, I was sent to a business trip to go on a training in Manila. I loved it there – it looked so much like Indonesia (Jakarta) it eased my homesick-ness a bit. I also really liked the friendly and warm people, colleagues and strangers alike. And the food! I love them! Also – my colleague who also got sent there brought me to this beautiful place called Tagaytay.

Tagaytay

And then of course the big event of the year.. I went to Prague!

Prague

It’s again a trip with my beloved SMU Chamber Choir to participate in an international competition. The even better news is we got GOLD! After going on 2 choir trips with them, we ended up with Silver. Which is saying “Good, but not good enough!”. When I learned that we got Gold I cried like a baby… We so deserved it.

After Prague, together with my choir I went to another beautiful town called Cesky Krumlov (with stopovers in between).

Cesky Krumlov

It was a gorgeous, gorgeous place.

Then after Cesky Krumlov several of us went to Vienna!

Me at the garden of Schoenbrunn Palace

It was such a charming and classy place. Loved every detail of it.

2011 ended with such a bang, for me. I hope 2012 can only be better!

I got very lucky several days ago when I won a pair of tickets to Rock and Roots, and then a pair of tickets for meet and greet with Imogen Heap. Words can’t explain how happy I am. Anyway, I’m not only going to see Imogen Heap, John Legend is also headlining in this annual rock festival. There will also be Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. In addition, local bands The Set Band and 53A will play too.

I have been gearing up for the festival (it’ll be the first time I’m attending one) by listening to their songs. You know, get my groove going and stuff. Here below are the songs. If you’re coming, see you at Rock and Roots! If you’re not, please do enjoy the songs from these fantastic musicians!

Imogen Heap

I came to know Imogen Heap via Mac OS X Leopard demo/trailer (I can’t find the video on Youtube, sadly). It was just a simple guitar hook. Her name was on that commercial, so I Youtube-d it, found it, and loved it, and still loves it. The song was “Goodnight and Go”. Afterwards, I started to listen to more of her songs and has been mesmerized by the richness since. Listening to Imogen Heap is an experience.

Here are the songs from her latest album, Ellipse.

Ellipse by imogenheap

And this is her latest song called Lifeline. Ms Heap created this song using “crowdsourcing”. Sound bits and solos were contributed by fans, and so were the images used for the video. She plans to create her whole new album using this method, which I think is a very creative and intimate way to connect with her fans.

Lifeline by imogenheap

and this is the video clip of the song that started it all for me..

John Legend

I first heard John Legend’s Ordinary People during my high school days and found it really touching. I liked it a lot I made that song my ringtone during high school! If you have read my blog for some time and read my music entries, I suppose you’ll know that I generally like music that has a “richness” on it, a complete package of musical efforts (auto-tune is NOT effort) and emotions. I think John Legend embodies that perfectly.

Here’s the song that started it all for me..

Here are some of his songs via Grooveshark.

flashvars="hostname=cowbell.grooveshark.com&playlistID=51924885&style=metal&p=0" allowScriptAccess="always" wmode="window" />
This widget might not work. Link to playlist on Grooveshark – John Legend.

Here is his awesome rendition of an already awesome song by Adele, Rollin’ in the Deep. Awesome square, baby.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

I only came to know Trombone Shorty from Rock and Roots and boy I’m glad that I did! Troy Andrews aka Trombone Shorty calls his music Supafunkrock. Yeah, fits into my “richness” theme again. I haven’t known much about him, but from the artist write-up, it says that he’s a multi-instrumentalist (the write-up even mentioned him as a “prodigy”) that puts a lot of soul into his music. Just my kind!

Here are some stuff from grooveshark:

flashvars="hostname=cowbell.grooveshark.com&playlistID=51924830&style=metal&p=0" allowScriptAccess="always" wmode="window" />
This widget might not work. Link to playlist on Grooveshark – Trombone Shorty.

and here’s a video of him live!

The Sets Band and 53A

To be honest I’ve never heard of these Singapore local bands, but if they’re selected to play at Rock and Roots they should be awesome! I’ve found some of their videos, and they sound really well!

Can’t wait for the festival!

PS Sorry for the inconvenience sizes of the players… My theme is not really flexible. You can always click on the video to watch it on Youtube :)

First Published Article

I’ve been confused about what to put in this blog, then I realized that I usually put up stories about milestones in my life mainly to serve as a reminder later in my older life. And so this time I’m going to put up a memory about my very first published article. I’m gonna talk more about the process and the aftermath rather than the article itself. Read the article here: When One Name is Just Not Enough. Basically the article consists of my anecdotes surrounding my one-word name – the ones that made me decide to change my name.

Since I started writing short stories when I was 6 or 7 (this is according to my mom – citation needed), I have always wanted to publish my writing. I wrote countless poems and short stories during my school days, mostly when I’m bored at classes. Unfortunately the problem was the follow up – many of the stories were unfinished, or even lost. Goodbye published stories.

So when my friend Putu kept telling me to write a human-interest story about my name-change, I was skeptical about myself. Because 1. As I said before, I have had problems with my attention span and follow up when writing longer pieces and 2. I have never written a human-interest piece tailored for newspapers/magazines. Sure I have written some pieces on this blog, but of course the style is much more relaxed and carefree – not really of publishing standard. I actually planned to blog about the name change already, but he convinced me to just write an article about it.

The process of writing that article took about 6 months, including slacking and forgetting about it. I started with conversation bits because that’s how I like it. Call that my style or something. That was the shape of the article for months, until the time when I just moved in to a new room. Since it was a new room, I had not configured the internet connection. Staring at my computer without internet connection, I then decided to open the almost blank document and started writing… Before I knew it it was nearing 1000 words. (I sent the early draft to Putu after I configured the internet connection, the subject line: “What I did when I didn’t have internet”)

I initially wanted to talk about the process of the name change, but the funny/annoying stories about my one-name took up too much space. If I’m not wrong I ended up with almost 1500 words for only the anecdotes. So I decided to scrape the name change process story.

“Remember that papers usually ask for 1000 words”, he said. Ugh. “Help me edit it then,” I said. Score!

The final draft was +/- 1025 words. He helped me to cut it until about 990. I then sent it to The Jakarta Post and The Jakarta Globe. That was December 22 – I remember because it was “ondeh-ondeh” day, my auntie made some delicious rice balls in ginger soup. Unfortunately The Jakarta Globe’s mailbox was full and I had to resend several times until December 25 (Christmas!).

On December 30, Globe emailed me back saying that they would like to publish my story. The only catch – I would have to shorten the piece into 750-800 words as per the column requirement. Damn! From 1500, 1025, 990, now 750-800? I could hear my pretty words crying. And yet I said ok.

Then I tried, miserably, to shorten it. I couldn’t bear it. My words were all crafted carefully. My kids, my darlings!

“You gotta help me. I give up.”

And so through Google Docs on flaky internet connection (we were both in Jakarta at that time) he managed to cut it into 805 words. “I leave the last 5 to you”, he said. I finally cut it down to 790 words and sent it by January 1. Signed, sealed, delivered.

Days came and went, I took my own sweet time waiting for a response. Well, they would tell me when it was about to be published, wouldn’t they? Then I could prepare to buy a copy of the paper, and cut the part and frame it. (I was serious)

Wrong.

On January 4th, another friend of mine Joe posted a link to an article on my wall. It first seemed foreign. But they kept my conversation bits at the beginning, and then I knew. This is my stuff! After editing and changing some stuff, of course. But they published it!

Excited and confused, I emailed the news editor again, asking about payment and whatnots. I wondered whether they can transfer the payment to my sister’s account (I don’t have an Indonesian bank account anymore), or if they’re not comfortable with it, they can wire it to my Singapore account. Translation – please save me trouble and send it to my Singapore account. Then I also asked whether they can tell me how I can get a copy of past issues. Translation – give me a copy please.

I learned not to use the hinting language too much. The money finally got transferred to my sister’s account (actually I haven’t confirmed this) and I didn’t get a copy of that particular issue. Speaking of which – anyone got one? You can scan and send it to me! It was January 4 2011 edition.

My takeaway? I can only say – I feel lucky. This was my very first attempt and somehow the universe or the guy up there decided to give me a lovely chance. Did my ego some good, seriously.

All in all, an interesting experience. I think I like it. May I experience it more. Let’s write!

No ROI

To be really honest, writing in this blog has become such a chore. A chore that I hate – because there’s no ROI. I spend too much effort and time in writing those posts and as you can see, the response is pretty much abysmal nowadays. I’m currently still finding out ways to strike that balance – not that much effort (I’d rather write serious articles to be published with that kind of effort), and yet still good response. Hopefully I can find some interesting stuff to write about again. Meanwhile, check out my posterous for my on-the-go musings.

Happiness is…

14 new books priced at SGD 2 each.

I know I’ve shared about this on Twitter and Facebook, and yet here I am sharing it again. I can’t help it, I’m so happy.

While my friends play with Barbies and Polly Pockets, my parents keep buying me books books books and more books. I have so many books back home in Jakarta that one time the bookshelf broke!

So when I got the emailer from Times (my bookstore of choice in Singapore – cheaper books, same quality!) about their $2 book warehouse sale, I hyperventilated on the spot.

When I got to the warehouse sale I still saw some books being priced at $10, $6, and so on. Confused, my boyfriend asked the attendant and he said that no matter what price is slapped on the book, it’s still $2. I hyperventilated again. Rows and rows of books, from the smallest to the heaviest, all for $2. Novels, cookbooks, do-it-yourself books, biographies, etc etc etc.. For only $2 each. Needless to say, I went mad.

So here’s the listing of the books I bought.. Just to remind myself of how many books I have bought and later on remind myself of how many I haven’t read. Hehe.

Novels

My favourite kind of book, because it’s the kind of book I can read anywhere (and I mean anywhere… Ahem).

Pankaj Mishra – The Romantics

Nell Freudenberger – Lucky Girls

Yann Martel – The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios

Short Stories

I used to make a lot of short stories in Indonesian. And ever since I took the class “Creative Writing (of Short Stories)” at school, I grew more interested in reading short stories. They’re short without less punch.

Catherine Lim – Women in Bondage

Oh no! I thought this is a collection of her short stories but apparently it consists of her essays about women in bondage, interviews, and annotated bibliography. Yes I just realized this when I’m writing this blog post. I feel so bummed, I love Catherine Lim’s stories. She came once to my Creative Writing class and she was a wonderful lady.

Gopal Baratham – Of Memory and Desire

Apparently this book is the same thing as the book described above. Oh well, might be an interesting read anyway.

Travel Stories

Chronicles about travelling/living at other countries. Usually amusing.

Peter Carey – Wrong About Japan

Neil Humphreys – Notes from an Even Smaller Island

Travel Guides

I bought them because they look pretty and not wordy! Haha. Currently the possibility of really going to these places is really low. Except perhaps Thailand. I chose the one on Thailand because it was the lightest. I don’t get the point of heavy and bulky travel guides. I mean, it’s supposed to be brought while travelling!

Knopf Mapguides – Milan

Knopf Mapguides – Stockholm

Globetrotter – The Philippines

AA Essential – Thailand

My boyfriend and I collectively bought 8 travel guides. So 4 of them stay with me while the other 4 stay with him. The ones at him are guides to Miami, Munich, Malaysia, and Naples.

Others

And some other stuff…

From Harvard Business Press – Lessons Learned – Straight Talk from the World’s Top Business Leaders – Starting a Business

Ong Siow Heng and Nirmala Govindasamy-Ong – Metaphor and Public Communication: Selected speeches of Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong

Ron and Caryl Krannich – Nail the Cover Letter!

Oh man, I haven’t even finished reading books I bought at the Carrefour sale some months back. I’m currently reading The Namesake. Normally I would ask you to give me recommendations of books to read, but I guess not today :D

Shorter, Verbatim Version of Me

I know I haven’t been posting stuff in here for too long. That’s because I intend to keep a certain level of quality for my posts in this blog. My posts should be well-thought and well-written and well-organized – and sometimes it takes (too) long to craft posts like that.

Anyway, I have been writing my thoughts verbatim in my Posterous site. Do check it out if you’re interested in reading my thoughts and of course, sometimes, my mundane life. Though my mundane life is usually delegated to my Twitter or Plurk.

Writing in Posterous with shorter, verbatim style has been quite liberating. I like to write – but sometimes the level of quality I impose on myself hinders the process. I don’t know – maybe I should consider moving to Posterous full-time. What do you think?

Don’t forget to check http://sylv.posterous.com. Yes I snagged the “sylv” subdomain. Ain’t I cool.