where do I go from here

The earth is cold
The fields are bare
The branches fold against the wind that’s everywhere

The birds move on
So they survive
When snow so deep
The bears all sleep to keep themselves alive

They do what they must for now
And trust in their plan
If I trust in mine, somehow I might find who I am

But where do I go from here?
So many voices ringing in my ear
Which is the voice that I was meant to hear?
How will I know?
Where do I go from here?

My world has changed and so have I
I’ve learned to choose
And even learned to say goodbye

The path ahead’s so hard to see
It winds and bends but where it ends
Depends on only me

In my heart I don’t feel part of so much I’ve known
Now it seems it’s time to start,
A new life on my own

But where do I go from here?
So many voices ringing in my ear
Which is the voice that I was meant to hear?
How will I know?
Where do I go from here?

things to remember

(c) Knežević

(c) Knežević


Pernahkah kita menemukan orang-orang kecil dengan kesombongan besar?
Orang-orang yang sering merendahkan orang lain, mengecilkan perasaan orang lain.
Padahal, orang-orang yang berupaya mengecilkan kita itu sebetulnya adalah orang-orang kecil.
Karena orang-orang kecil membuat orang lain merasa kecil agar mereka bisa merasa besar.

being what I’d love to be…

(c) unknown

(c) unknown

I’m losing count of how many times my friends asked me the same question: “wouldn’t you want to go back to being a journalist?” And whenever they asked me this, I’d simply say: “no, I don’t think so”, then chuckled.

Recently, however, I had a small talk with a good friend, talking about our future, about what we want to do after our Master’s. To him, I said, “well, I just want to go back home, and maybe work in a French company so I can still use my French. Or maybe, work in my old office, because my former boss still expects me to return.” Listening to my answer, he responded, “so, you don’t want to go back to journalism again?” The same question I used to get, so I gave the same old “no”. But then, when he said, “are you sure?”, it drove me crazy. It made me think and ask myself: “do I really not want to go back to journalism again?” I started to doubt myself. “Well… I don’t know…” I finally said to him.

It was an honest answer. I really don’t know if I want to go back to that path again. That thrilling, fun path that was also disappointing at the same time. I love to dig stories, meet new people, build relationships… and most of all, write something important for many people. However, whenever I remember my bitter journey of how journalism didn’t allow me to live my life as a “normal” person, I would step back and tell myself: no, I won’t let that thing happen to me again. During my three years of being a journalist, I’d been losing my time for my friends, family and myself. I was stranded from “life”. My life had always been about work;work;work and deadlines; deadlines; deadlines. I always got home so late, mostly at midnight, and worked all the way through weekends. Everything was for the sake of “good news”. Believe me or not, once, for the whole two months, I didn’t stop working at all. No days off, not even on Saturday or Sunday. On Saturday, I usually went to some events – usually until night — then worked on the articles on Sunday (btw, I was in the Features division, so there were so many events going on weekends). On Monday, I would continue working as usual. I was exhausted, very exhausted, even fell ill and got admitted into the hospital. I stayed there for two weeks.

That was the moment when I thought about everything, about the meaning of life. I had my journalist friends from other media who always said things like, “but you’re so lucky, you get the highest salary among us all, three times higher, even more…” Well, but what’s the meaning of having so much money when you lose all the time in the world to enjoy life? All this was then followed with one disappointing answer to my complaint: “you can’t complain. It’s how the press works all over the world. You have to be ready whenever we need you. You should have known the risks: take it or leave it.”

That was it. That was when I thought I finally got the signal from above, to which I finally told myself: “ok, I have to end this journey.” Yes, I might be a journalist. But I’m also an employee with my rights intact. And most of all, I’m a human being. I’m not a machine, and I don’t want to become one. I pitied myself when I thought of how many news about labor rights that I wrote (I even won a journalism award on employment rights), of how many times I attended to manifestations of labors, then criticized how they were treated. But look at me: I myself didn’t know how to fight for my own rights. I didn’t walk the talk. Ironic, right? So I finally made the biggest decision I’d ever made in life. I pulled out the plug and stepped down from the stage.

Many people said I was stupid to make such a decision. They said I was out of my mind. But who cares? It was only my family and good friends who knew the truth and cheered for my decision. They knew that I wasn’t I walk away, but actually took another step forward. And I never regret that decision, even when I felt a bit sad whenever I passed some places I used to visit as a reporter. Like whenever I passed the National Police headquarters, it reminded me of how fun were those days when I went there every day to get some news then saw cute men in uniforms (:D). Or when I passed the Attorney General’s Office, I would think about my journalist friends and wondered, “what are they doing now inside?“. Or simple thing like when I passed along the Gadjah Mada street, it brought me to the memory of riding on a motorcycle with my loyal ojek driver under the rain, for the sake of deadlines😀

Yes, those days were fun. I had many good journalist friends; I got to know many new people; I met many important figures and got invited to many great events and places. I had the best time of my life. I was living my dream. But it’s also nice to think that those days were over. After all, one has to wake up from a dream. And so I did. I didn’t regret it, because when I finally woke up, I had the time to reflect my journey. It’s like going for a trip — you will have to go back home anyway, to get some rests then think where else to go after that. In my case, I had the time to think what else I want to do in life; to give my other dreams a chance. Well, I was right, eventually. Now I’ve got to live my another dream. And that could happen just because I let go of my journalism dream. You know, in order to get, you have to give.

They say life is short, so now, I just want to be what I’d love to be; and do what I’d love to do. That simple.


“One day, your precious job is gonna be done with you, and all you’re gonna left with is a bunch of missed holidays, skipped vacations….” – Wilhemilna Slater (played by Vanessa Williams) in Ugly Betty.


(c) twotogoplease

(c) twotogoplease

It’s the last day of 2012, and I’m gathering all my late-nite spirit to write about it, just so that I have something to read for next year😀

So, another year is gonna pass in few hours. How fast, isn’t it? It feels like just yesterday when I wrote my “2011 reflection”. And now, voila… 2013 is approaching. I’m grateful for this year — I get older (like everyone else :D), but I’ve learned many valuable lessons along the way. Some came through wonderful experiences, others unraveled from unpleasant stories.

This year has been a wonderful journey for me. The best thing of all? The world isn’t over! Hahaha. Been anxious about 12/12, then nothing happened. Felt the same for 21/12, and still… nothing happened😀 Oh la la…

So anyway, like I said, this year has been an awesome journey for me. I started 2012 with a French intensive program after resigning from my second job. I met some new friends who shared the same dream to pass the DELF (Diploma in French Studies) exams in order to continue our studies in France. Mid 2012, I finally passed the DELF A2, B1 and B2 exams, the last one of which was totally a nightmare that I told myself I won’t retake it if I fail it. But I passed it anyway, and I didn’t believe it at all😀

This year also marks my new life in Paris, the City of Dreams, some say. Life was lonely at the beginning in Paris, but then, as new friends and people came into my life, I started to love it living here. I also enjoy my studies in business and management, and develop my interests in some new areas.  My class is wonderful, with students coming from many parts of the world. I’ve learned a lot from them.

Another thing in 2012? I saw snow for the first time in my life — haha, I know, I know, lame. But what can I say? I’m a tropical girl, who had been living in her tropical world for dozens of years😀 So, it wasn’t my fault when I was so excited, like a little kid, to see the snow falling as I woke up on 7th December😀 And my snowy experience doesn’t stop there. I’m closing this year with the best holiday I’ve ever had in my life — a real winter holiday in my best friend’s place in Austria. Being surrounded by the Alps covered with snow, having my first sledding, and spending the joyous season with my best friend’s wonderful family… I really couldn’t ask for more this year. I am thankful for everything. I regret nothing, not even the bad and sad experiences (yes, I have some🙂 ). And for 2013, I will just believe in the Divine Alignment. I expect nothing, but will do my best.

bonjour de paris

sacré coeur by dian kuswandini

sacré coeur by dian kuswandini

It has been two weeks since the first time I breathe the air of Paris, setting my tired foot on its ground. Paris, the City of Light… the City of Dreams — as said by many. The second one actually fits me better. Even until today, I just can’t believe I’m here — living one of my biggest dreams. To be honest, I’d never thought this dream that I’d had ever since I was 14 would come true. I used to think this dream was way too far to fetch. I’d always wanted to visit France (no matter which cities), but even to think about it discouraged me as I’d always told myself I could never have enough money to come to this country. But God has proved me that He can make anything impossible possible, and He wanted me to witness this one. And it’s only by thinking this way I could forget that homesickness that has been attacking me since the day one.

Sure, I can’t run away from homesickness… I can’t evade such a lonely feeling. During my first three days, I stayed in the Ibis Hotel at the 19th district, because Campus France, the government agency that takes care of me, hadn’t found me a place to live. How sad. All my friends who departed at the same day already got their places, nothing to worry about. Me, on the other hand, I hadn’t even gotten my first-month scholarship money and a place to live. The guy at the counter at the airport (who kept our scholarship money) said they didn’t have my name in the list, so he couldn’t give me a cent. I had to make a call phone to CF, and they said they would book me a room in Ibis and asked me to come to their office on the next day.

I arrived at Ibis. Spent my first night in Paris crying. I was missing my family… I instantly felt that I wanted to be at home, being surrounded by the warmth of my beloved ones, not in such a cold city where I know no one. I felt so helpless and I didn’t know how to go to CF tomorrow as I knew nothing about Parisian subway train (metro) — the routes and all. Taxi?? Sorry, it was not in my list. Taxi is so expensive here. A short route can cost you 20 euro, so going to CF (which is far from my hotel) can surely make my wallet scream. But the next morning, I walked to the “nearest” Metro station anyway. I took the Paris map at the hotel’s reception desk and read it thoroughly. Honestly, I’m bad at reading maps. I terrified when I looked at the Paris map and the metro map. Oh my God, where am I going???, I asked myself. Something for sure, I’m not an adventurous person. I’d never discovered a city or a country on my own. I’m such a coward…

So, on my way to the metro station, I didn’t stop praying. And when I arrived at the Corentin Cariou station, I went to the locket to buy the ticket. Problem came when I didn’t know how to validate my ticket. Confused, I waited for someone to come. A lady came and I quickly asked her. Yes, I heard that Parisians could be friendly only to strangers who speak French. So, there I was, trying to use my French. I was right. She smiled and showed me how to validate my ticket. When I said “merci bien”, she said, “de rien, bonne journée!!”

In the metro, I felt a bit worried. I was afraid I would miss a station or anything. But thankfully, the line’s route (I was taking the RER E) is displayed in the metro, with an indicator that shows our next stations. And finally, I arrived at Stalingrad station (line 2), where I continued my journey to Colonel Fabien station in line 7. I felt happy when I arrived at Colonel Fabien, because hey — it was my first metro trip and I did it without any companion!😀

But when I got out from the station, I felt confused because I didn’t know which direction to go to the CF office at the Rue de Aux-Belles-Granges. Yes, I’m that bad at reading maps… I asked a newspaper/magazine shopkeeper. But maybe, I was just too stupid that I still got lost here and there… Huff. Then I saw an old man, who were cleaning the street, and posed him the same question. He said, while smiling, “Just go straight, turn left, then right. You’ll see a park, it’s not far from there.” (of course, it was in French… hehe). And you know what? Even after I already found the park, I couldn’t find the street! How stressful!! LOL. So I approached a middle-aged lady who walked with her kid, then asked the same question. And she was my fourth Parisian of the day. She even took me to the nearest location of the CF office, and again, like the rest of Parisians I’d met before, she said, “bonne journée!”. From here, I know that it’s a culture here to say the words to the others, even if you don’t know each other. Perhaps, it’s a Parisian way of basa-basi, but I think saying “have a nice day” to others is a very nice, polite thing to do! Now, I almost say it to everyone I encounter with, at the supermarkets, shops, receptions, etc.

So, that’s my first story of living one of my biggest dreams. Paris. I’ll write more, if I have time, and some good mood🙂 A plus, tout le monde!

beautiful scars

When a friend heard that I’m going to live in Paris, she jokingly asked: “Seriously? What if you meet that woman? What if you guys bump onto each other in a random Parisian street?”

Ok, she was referring to my former colleague, a Parisian lady, who happened to be the deputy of my desk. Our relationship used to be fine, many times I liked her a lot. But after few “incidents”, there was high tension between us. I even admit that she was one of the strongest factors behind my decision to resign from my workplace. During my last weeks at office, I didn’t even want to see her face (she sat next to my cubicle, so that was hard). In my best efforts to maintain my positive mood, I worked instead inside the office’s library almost every day. Sounds bitter, huh? Hehehe.

So, back to my friend. She asked me that because, well, that woman already resigned too, and left Indonesia. Only God knows if she returns to France or somewhere in Australia. So yeah, my friend had a good (funny) reason to ask me that question😀 What if I meet her somewhere in Paris? What if we happen to share the same bench of the Luxembourg Park? What if we happen to be in the same line when queuing for an opera ticket in Montmartre? What if we happen to be trapped inside the same elevator of the Eiffel Tower? Ok. Forget about this last one. But yeah: what if one of those scenarios takes place? That would be awkward though. I’ll tell you something. After I resigned, we happened to bump onto each other in one Ramayana supermarket. Yup, you heard me right: R-a-m-a-y-a-n-a. Out of thousands of shopping places in Jakarta, I met her in a small, low-class supermarket chain inside a traditional market, which I believe no single expatriate in my office would want to visit😀 So, what happened that time? Well, we both pretended not to see each other – or precisely, pretended we didn’t realize each other’s existence in that place (yeah, I am sure about this because from the tail of my eye, I knew she was actually checking on me. We were in the same aisle, though). So, that was around 1.5 years ago. What about now? What if I accidentally bump onto her?

“Well, I would say ‘hi’ to her, and invite her for a cup of coffee in the nearest café to have some little chats.”

That was my answer to my friend. Yes, no kidding😀

“So, time heals I suppose?” she asked me.
“Mmm… nope,” I replied.

Time indeed doesn’t heal. The wounds are still there, but they’ve become insignificant in my life. No, I’m not pretending it doesn’t hurt. It does hurt, but only when I think about that memory again. And I told myself: why would I want to remember that story again? My life is full of sweet memories, and it’s best for me to only remember these good ones. And for me, each chapter of life – both sweet and bitter – shapes the person who I am today. Hadn’t I resigned from my workplace before (because of her), I wouldn’t be here at this moment, counting all the blessings I’m having today. Yes, my life today is a million times better than before – I’ve tried many new things, I’ve met new wonderful people and I’ve learned a lot. It’s more meaningful than before. Best of all, I’ve come to understand the mystery of Life, one thing I wouldn’t want to trade even for a sea of diamonds.

So yes, those wounds from the past are no longer significant. Even if they haven’t been healed. In fact, I am glad that they’re still inside my heart, because they can be some kind of reminder for me to not give in to hatred, which can drag me to the dark side. Well, it’s not that I would try to fix every bad thing that happened in my past, or try to be nice again to those people I had issues with. No. I will just let the stories they way they are. But if Life gives me a chance to amend a bad experience and a bad relationship, then I’ll go for it. When that chance really comes to me, then it’s meant to be, so I have to embrace it. Besides, I’m sure that along my journey, I’ve hurt people too – even those who hurt me first. So, it’s like we hurt each other along the way. I might be innocent at first, but as I got hurt, I might say and do things that hurt that person too. It’s like a circle, you know. And in realizing this, I believe that others deserve my apologies. Regardless everything.

I believe that Life isn’t designed to be easy (it’s designed to be so complicated so we can learn a lot and grow). But even if it’s so difficult and weird, you can choose to feel differently. Yes, the uncomfortable facts may remain, yet your feelings toward them can still change. So, my wounds might still stay here inside my heart, but I choose not to let them transform me into someone I’m going to regret someday. I will just allow them to become some beautiful scars. And it’s with these beautiful scars that I would greet that former colleague of mine one day, if we ever bump onto each other in a Parisian street – or just any street in this world. Yes, if that ever happens, I would say ‘hi’, and say, “Wow. It’s been a long time! Mind to have a cup of coffee?” Then, perhaps, we would spend the whole evening talking about our past, laughing at the stupid mistakes we made — those that have brought us to that very day. 

les mots d’amour

Les Mots D’amour:
(Simon Mimoun/DSLZ)

J’aimerais écrire des mots d’amour
Parce que parler c’est pas mon fort.
J’aimerais écrire des mots d’amour,
Les faire jaillir de mes trois accords, mais
J’ai un peu froid, comme a dit l’autre,
Et ce long frisson qui n’en finit pas.
J’ai un peu froid, mauvais apôtre,
Mon cafard me lâche moins souvent qu’autrefois.

J’aimerais écrire des mots d’amour
Parce que le reste, c’est pas grand-chose.
Je l’ai appris et à mon tour
Je te le livre un peu ; je te propose
De laisser le long du discours
Nos contentieux et les comptes à rebours,
D’oublier le temps d’un refrain
Ce bon vieux réflexe ; moi j’en garde pour demain.

Des mots pour toi mais que je n’dis pas.

Quel était le refrain du jour ?
Si je l’oublie, je cède encore.
J’aimerais écrire des mots d’amour,
Jeter l’éponge, un peu, tenter le sort.
Une pause ici pour poser là,
Entre deux conflits, entre deux coups d’éclat.
Une pause pour dire autour de moi,
Mon ami, mon frère, mon amour, écoute-moi.


my BGF story part II



The second part of my story.

After that morning of March 30, I felt wonderfully relieved. I did the biggest task of the month: sending my scholarship application to the French Embassy. So relieved that I even decided to treat my taxi driver lunch at Seven Eleven Menteng😀

So anyway, even though I’d been at ease after that day, I didn’t deny that I was nervous about the first result: will I get selected for the interview session? I didn’t know how big my chance was, really. But I knew around 10-12 people receive the scholarship each year (only later that the director of Campus France Indonésie told me that some 700 people applied for it. Had I known this earlier, perhaps I would have felt so hopeless, thinking how smaaaalll my chance was. Lucky that I hadn’t known about this, or my self-esteem would have dropped to the lowest level, which could further affect my interview session—yes, believe me, I have a self-esteem issue when it comes to something like this).

So, after waiting for more than one month, the result came out. Maybe I was right when I thought that my Letter of Acceptance from Université Paris-Est Créteil would play a big role in this application, because I was eventually invited for the interview session, along with some 50 other candidates. At this point, honestly, I was very afraid😀 Why? Because it was only then when I realized that I came from a different track from most of the candidates, who were university lecturers and government officials (actually, the BGF committee already stated that the scholarship was intended for lecturers and govt officials, although they still accepted applications from the public in general). And who was I again then? Not even one of them. While I wanted to explore a new field – business and management – my rivals were business and management lecturers (how can you win over experts?). But I remember a friend telling me: “Dian, those lecturers were once students too, like you used to be. Only that you chose different path from them – you decided to work in a private institution, they decided to become a lecturer. But still, you all started as students.”

I know, some people might not believe that I have a low self-esteem, since they always see me as a highly-confident journalist😀 … Well, that’s true though. I can be a lioness in the field, but still, when you’re in a different kind of battle, with a different kind of “enemies”, it’s just normal when you have doubts and fears in your head😀

Nonetheless, I decided to face the interview day with a big hope…

It was in May when the same taxi driver drove me to the office of French Embassy’s Cultural Affairs in Menteng (this time, I treated him breakfast😀 ). I arrived so early and maybe needed to wait for almost three hours. But then I got to know some other candidates with the same-day schedule like me. Some of them looked so serious (read books, documents etc – very well prepared, I can say), while the others (like me) decided to empty their brains (meaning, we decided not to read anything and talked to each other instead hehehee). Honestly, I didn’t know what to read. I consulted some friends who had been invited to scholarship interviews before, and they told me to just stay true to myself, and to remain calm (being nervous will only make you forget everything you wanna say).

So anyway, there’s one interesting story. Early that morning, I went to the office’s toilet to freshen up (I woke up at 3 AM that morning so I could leave the house at 4.30 AM, so you could imagine my sleepy and sloppy face). In the toilet, I met a young French guy who started a conversation with me – maybe he’s at the same age with me, very dandy and friendly. I surely thought that he was a staff member there, so I replied to his questions politely. In the middle of washing our hands, he said: “So, you’re coming for the interview?”, which was followed by my reply: “Yes.”

“Feeling nervous?”
“Mmmm… a little bit.” Then I chuckled.
“Don’t be, everything will be fine,” he said, smiling.
“Well… that’s very nice of you, thank you…” I said, smiling back.
“Good luck to you!” he finally said as we both left the toilet.

And you know what, when my turn came, and I entered the interview room… do you know what I saw? Yes: that guy. He was one of the jury!😀 *at this time I felt like I wanted to die* Seeing my surprised face, he only smiled… so wideee *

So anyway, there were three persons who interviewed me – all of them are French. The guy sat on the right side of the table. Next to him was an old man (the Embassy’s attaché of Cultural Affairs, if I wasn’t mistaken) who talked in English so fluently that he didn’t appear like a French at all, then next to the old man was a pretty young lady named Morgane (who’s in charge for the scholarship). All of them were unbelievably so nice – while the old man kept digging answers from me, Morgane always supported my replies (looked like she was the one who assured the old man that I already gave good answers). The young guy on the other hand, asked about my university and the program I chose, as well as my French language skill (to which I replied I only have A1 certificate, and he said, “That’s already a very good start!”).

Basically, they asked about my study objective (why do I want to study it, and what’s the study’s significance with my current professional career); what research I am interested to do in France; why did I chose to study in the university that granted me the LoA; why did I choose France; what will I do after returning from France; and what other scholarships have I applied for (of course none). They also asked about my experiences as a journalist and why I came to a decision to shift my career. At the end of the interview, the old man asked: “So, what will you do if you don’t get this scholarship?” A question I hadn’t expected at all😀 In answering this, I said, “Well, since I am already accepted by the University, I will find other ways to finance my studies. For sure, I won’t let go the opportunity because for me, it wasn’t easy to get the LoA, so I will still fight for this one.” The three of them smiled upon hearing my answer (at that time, I hoped it was a good sign, hehee).

The old man closed my file and put it on his right side, together with other files (there are also some other files on his left side and in front of him, so I guessed he already made his decision? It’s like you’re on the American Idol’s stage when Ryan Seacrest told you to stand either by his left or right side, before announcing the bottom-three contestants. And you just don’t know to which category you belong– among the ones who stay, or those in the bottom-three. So yeah, I didn’t know whether they put me on the “yes-list” or the “no-list” :D)

But at least I ended the interview session with a peaceful feeling. To be honest, although they asked quite many questions, the session –strangely—took less than 15 minutes. I didn’t know, because I felt the candidate before me took like forever in the room. Maybe they weren’t interested in me, that was why they didn’t want to dig further from me, I thought…😀 But from my little talks with other candidates later, I got to know that the judges actually played different “roles” during the interview session. The old man was the “wise one”, the young woman was the “angelic one” – who showed you supports and everything, while the young man was “the attacker one” – who kept questioning your answers and invited you to a debate. Strange… I didn’t feel like being attacked at all,😀 Maybe I was just being lucky.. or maybe because I already met that guy earlier in the toilet that he didn’t have the heart to attack me hehehe…

So yeah, it took me around 6 weeks to get the final result. That day, with my heartbeats racing like never before, I scrolled down a page of a website through my Blackberry. I kept scrolling that small screen page but I hadn’t seen my name at the half part of the list – so I closed my eyes, ready to brace myself for failure. Ok, I will just ask someone to check the rest of the list, I said. I obviously had no guts to continue. But somehow, with my eyes closed, my thumb kept scrolling my trackpad (so stupid :D). Then I stopped, and opened my eyes. And there it was, at the bottom of the list of 12 people, I saw my name. I stopped breathing, couldn’t believe what I saw. Ah well, thank God. Finally everything made sense – those uncertainties and all, which finally led me to the decision to apply for a scholarship. And for this, I also want to thank my dear friend Imada. If it wasn’t s because of her, I wouldn’t have wanted to give an old dream a chance… merci Ima!

my BGF story part I

(c) unknown

Consider me a lucky bastard (just like some of my friends said), but on my first attempt to apply for a scholarship, I managed to secure one. Honestly, when I decided to apply for it (wait, I actually planned to apply for some), my world was upside down. I just left journalism for a new field – which was a combination of heaven & hell – and I didn’t know what else to do in life. Work for me, was just work. Meaningless. Worse, I was in a situation where some people I trusted happened to only gave me empty promises (can’t tell you what, but it had to do with something important in my life). In short, I was tired of everything – it was like I reached the highest point in life where I wanted to take a break after some dreadful years of working.

Then I met my dear friend Imada, who just returned from UK after completing her Masters degree, under the Chevening Scholarship. I knew her back in university years, as we were in the same faculty (she studied International Relations and I majored in Communications). We were good friends back then, as we both participated in an international studentship program in Germany.

So anyway, during that evening hang-out at Burger King of Sarinah when I met her after her return, I told her about my miserable story.

A really good listener, Ima said: “Dian, don’t you remember our dreams?”

Confused, I replied: “What dreams?”

Then she reminded about how we told each other we would study in Europe after returning from Germany.

“I told you, I wanted to study in UK, and you told me, you’d long wanted to go to France,” she said.
And how her words came like a time machine.

“It was just a talk, Ima. I wasn’t serious at all…” I replied.

“How come? I told you last time I would apply for a Chevening scholarship to Nottingham University, and see, I got one!” Ima said.

“Oh, sure, you’re a young diplomat with many excellent achievements back in university, no wonder you were selected… Who would want to pick me, a former journalist who just jumped into a new world she knows nothing about?” I said, laughing.

At that point, Ima said, “Do you see what I see? Listening to your whole story only means one thing to me, and how come you don’t realize it? Now it’s time for you to consider about your old dream. Since you don’t know what to do anymore, explore this possibility! I’ve realized my dream and it’s now your turn. It really is the time for you.”

“I don’t know… It sounds difficult to realize: Thousands of people competing for just several scholarship seats? I don’t even know where to begin.” My hesitation filled the air.

“Seriously Dian, don’t lower yourself. I know you!” she laughed. “Start from France, where you really want to go the most. Then try other opportunities too – UK, US, Germany… there are many. Believe me, just make the first step and don’t think too much. This is the only advice I can give you, and I know you’ll make it.”

Today, I can say that if it wasn’t because of her, I wouldn’t have made the first move at all. After that meeting, she sent me some information on Chevening. At this point, I still had no courage in applying for scholarships, but because she always brought the topic during our chatting sessions, I finally gave up to the temptation to apply for them, hahaaa. Like she said: “Nothing to lose, Dian. If you failed then you would get some experiences.” So, it was late 2010 and I made a list of scholarships I wanted to apply in 2011: Bourse du Gouvernement Français (BGF) and Eiffel Scholarship (both are from the French govt), Chevening (UK), Westminster University (UK), Fulbright (US), DAAD (Germany), Stuned (Holland), Erasmus Mundus (European Countries), etc. Actually, when I looked at the list, I still felt discouraged, because my biggest problem was to get recommendations letters. It was impossible to ask for it from my previous employers (hello Dian, didn’t you just leave us?) and also from my new boss (what Dian? You just started working here and you already want to leave the organization for studying?). And I hadn’t talked to my uni professors for soooo long (maybe ever since I graduated). Luckily for me, the first scholarship I wanted to apply (with the earliest deadline) was BGF and it doesn’t require a recommendation letter. So, I felt like it was my only hope.

And you know, because I knew that my chance was small for BGF, I tried to find a way to at least “outperform” other candidates. How? By trying my best to get admitted first in a university in France. At least, if I’m accepted in a university, my chance would be bigger, right? Considering that it shows my strong motivation to study in France, hehee…

But turned out it was not easy at all! From around 15 informal applications I sent to some universities in France, only 4 of them replied me!😀 Maybe because I wrote in English (yes, rite, after all, I didn’t really have French language skill back then). From the four, one required me to hold a French Language DELF B2 certificate first (impossible for me at that time); another one asked if I had a GMAT certificate (of course not! :(); while the third university welcomed me, but asked me to send my formal application in June (another heart-break, because the deadline of the scholarship was in March). Two weeks before the deadline and I still had nothing. I even remembered telling Andre that I already gave up. I even laughed at myself😀 But it was right at that moment when the fourth university in Paris replied me. The program’s director was very interested in my professional career in an international organization, and in my journalism background too (who thought? I mean, I applied for international business and management studies). She told me to quickly send my formal application and other documents even though the application itself would actually open in June. So I prepared everything in just one night then sent it to her. I was excited because this program I applied for is intended for international students, thus it will completely use English. It wasn’t that I chose it because of the language though, in fact I also applied to other French and French-English programs (but to no avail…).

So, anyway, after an interview session via Skype, I was back in the moment of uncertainty. A week passed, and still no news. The deadline was approaching. And again, just when I almost gave up, the university sent me the result… just two days before the deadline *dang!* Fortunately, it was a good news: I was accepted😀 Felt relieved, for sure, but damn, I hadn’t fully prepared my scholarship application😀 So yes, I had two nights to prepare everything. I had to change the whole motivation letter, study objective letter, research plan and career statement. It was nuts. I had to find ways to correlate my former education and working experiences to my new field of study I was going to learn at the respective university. But well… when I dropped the application at the French Embassy’s cultural affairs office on March 30 in the morning, I felt so relieved like hell.

Win or lose, at least, I’ve made it this far,I told myself.

To be continued…

your choices, your risks

How many times did you decide to do something, then failed to accept the risks that come along with your decision? Worse, how many times did you blame others for it?

Here’s my example.
You decided to sign up for a beauty pageant competition. You know the risks that might come along with it. Some of the risks are: You’ll be under the spotlight, everyone will focus on you – they’ll judge your appearance, they’ll judge whatever you say, they’ll judge your self-confidence et cetera. Say something wrong, and you’ll know you’ll be dead out of harsh criticism.

But hey, you should have known that from the beginning right? You should have been ready for that, or else don’t sign up for such a competition…

Look at Nadine Chandrawinata, the winner of Putri Indonesia in 2005. Look how she accepted her fault when she mistakenly said “Indonesia is a beautiful CITY” during the Miss Universe interview. Look how she gracefully reacted when people mocked her, saying she was just a pretty face and that it was nothing but her Indonesian-German pretty look that made her get the Putri Indonesia crown.

Then we have Kerenina Sunny Halim, another half-Caucasian beauty, who won the title of Miss Indonesia in 2009, while in fact, she could not really speak Indonesian. This sparked people’s anger: How come a representative of Indonesia to the world can’t speak her own mother language? When I wrote a small news about this, people’s comments were out of mind (I didn’t count, really, but there must have been over 80 comments on the article). They all slayed her with some harsh words. People talked about her just everywhere. And you know how she reacted? So calmly. She accepted her “flaws” of not knowing Indonesian language and culture. She said she was committed to learn them. I once met her in an interview. It was Hari Sumpah Pemuda (Youth Pledge Day, a nationwide celebration of Indonesia’s unity, solidarity and nationalism), and journalists asked her opinion about it. You know what she said? “I’m sorry? What? I don’t know what that is.” Her reply sent dozens of journalists to confusion. “Is she joking?” one of them said, looking at me. But as naive as she could be, Kerenina was just playing cool. Well, maybe she had learned about “why lying when it can make you look more stupid?” And for this, I appreciate her like… A LOT!

Then I hope you haven’t forgotten the 2009 Putri Indonesia winner that represented Aceh, a region with an Islamic law and where Muslim women are obliged to wear jilbab (headscarf). Qory Sandioriva, a student of French Literature at Universitas Indonesia, surprised the audience with her answer during the final stage, when she was asked why she was not wearing a headscarf like previous contestants from Aceh. Responding to the question, she argued that hair represented beauty, and thus should not be covered. Her answer sparked criticism, especially from Acehnese communities. But again, how did she react to such painful reactions? She continued being graceful, and simply said: “Perhaps it was a mistake to make such a statement, but honestly I have never worn a jilbab all my life.”

So, the thing is, in life, you have to be ready for the risks you might get for everything you chose to do. These three girls I mentioned before showed that they knew the risks of being the center of attention. I am sure that during their preparation weeks of the event, they were already trained for stuff like this: how to behave on stage; how to speak in front of the public; and how to handle criticism. The funny thing is, few years ago, I wrote an opinion on a local beauty pageant for the newspaper I was working for. The idea to write about it came after I read a comment from Governor Fauzi Bowo, who said that the pageant’s contestants were merely symbols, like ondel-ondel (Jakartan giant effigies). He said:

“The goal of this pageant is actually to preserve Betawi culture, but I agree, it’s all for show.”

After a brainstorming session with my mentoring editor, we agreed to highlight on how an event simply called as a “show” by the governor himself could cost as much as Rp 4 billion per year. Worse, this came amid a situation where some education programs for the poor were eliminated from the city’s budget (a Rp 7.5 billion drop-out prevention program; a Rp 7.5 billion compulsory education program; and a scholarship program for 5,000 students amounting to Rp 6 billion). We simply thought this was an irony. A beauty pageant (or a tourism ambassador event) over some educational programs for the poor? I don’t know with you, but it did sound sad to me and my editor. So yes, I wrote about it, while also inserting some of my experiences watching the so-called-show, where some of the finalists answered the questions with unbelievable replies (“How will you preserve the Betawi culture?” |”By wearing traditional costume every day.” <–seriously?)

I remembered my mentor praised the article a lot, although I was a bit disappointed because they changed the title of the opinion into something that I thought “judgemental” and they rephrased some of my sentences, making them appear more “cynical”. But hey, you’re a reporter, you know the risk. Editor can do anything. You’re just a soldier in a battle that receives orders from your general.

By the way, do you know how did it go with the article? Well, it received harsh reactions. While some supported my views, others – surely the pageant’s finalists – criticized it. They didn’t put into account that I wrote it based on insiders’ information (my cousin once won the pageant and some of friends participated in the event). They didn’t even want to comment about the “irony” part of the extravagant budget vs education for the poor. They overlooked the fact that it was Mister Governor himself who said that they were just like ondel-ondel (that it wasn’t me who made the comparison). Nope. They highlighted things like: “Oh, Dian, you’re just another broken-hearted girl who failed to make the cut!” or “Go and place yourself on the stage, and see if you can answer the questions and face the audience.” or “You should give some constructive views, not just being cynical…” (I hope this last person read my later paragraphs, though, where I offered some suggestions).

Well, what can I say? I’ve always wondered why Indonesians prefer to attack personally than giving related arguments to the highlighted issues. I failed to make the cut? I didn’t even register for the pageant in the first place, for God’s sake! (and I already mentioned this in my article)😀 And yes, I won’t register for such an event for whatever reason is. Why? Because I don’t know what would such an event do for my future. I know some people who signed up for an event like this because they were after an entertainment career. But me? I don’t aspire to become a model. Not even an actress. Hehehe. Someone I know took part in this competition because she thought it would look great on her Curriculum Vitae (more experiences, etc). Well, if you think so, than you have all the privileges to do so. In my case, I’m already satisfied with my academic achievements (not to brag, really, hehe. Just a comparison). I don’t need a contest like that to confirm my “Beauty; Brain & Behavior”. In addition, I just don’t want to participate in a project that wastes some city’s budget while the impact only lasts on certain people. And I know I don’t have that impeccable self-confidence to stand on stage, roaring about this and that in front of the judges or the audience. So, yes, why would I want to participate in an event that REQUIRES me to do so? The finalists, on the other hand, because they made that decision to take part in the event, they should be ready to stand on the stage. To be under the spotlight. To answer the questions. Brilliantly, maybe, so as to win the competition. That’s not my job to do that, simply because I chose not to sign up for that pageant😀 Someone said to me something like “a concrete action is much better than just those words you said.” OK, I agree… but my concrete action is writing and exposing something that might hurt the society at large. That’s what journalists do. That’s our concrete action. In life, we play our own part, and what I do doesn’t have to be the same like others. I stick to my profession and carry out my actions based on it. If they feel that our job to report and write something isn’t “concrete” enough then… well, it’s their own problem heheee… They’re not the ones who pay our salary.

Then: Ok, so people criticized your onstage appearance – specifically, your ‘weird’ response to judges’ questions. So? Welcome to real life, you’re not the first, and absolutely not the only one to be criticized. And I believe I wasn’t the first one who criticized. And definitely not the only one. The fact that you refuted, complaining: “Try standing on the stage like me, in front of hundreds of people!”, only shows how you tried to play down your own mistake. Now I can revert: try being among the audience, watching a contestant said: “To preserve the Betawi culture, we have to always wear traditional costumes.” I am 99.99% (if not 100%) sure that you will raise your eyebrows, thinking of how absurd that answer is. And I am sure, you’ll behave like the rest of the criticizing audience when you see one of those Miss Indonesia or Putri Indonesia finalists talking nonsense. I am confident to say that you will never praise that kind of answer. Not if you’re a smart person. Then think, if a singing contestant sings like a wrecking pot that everybody gives negative comments, do you think s/he will say: “Try being onstage! See if you get the same nerves!”?? Or if a football player makes a stupid move that causes his team to lose a game, and everyone throws blame on him, do you think he will say: “Try being on the field!, see if you can do better than me”? Nope, right? Because they know the consequences of being what they want to be. Well, a beauty pageant or tourism ambassador or whatever you call it should be too – like any other roles or professions on Earth.

So, let’s accept the fact that you are RESPONSIBLE for the decisions you made. And just because you failed to act as expected, you don’t have to drag others to put themselves in your shoes. “Try to be on stage in front of hundreds of people!” Hmmm… Why do I have to? I wasn’t the one who signed up for a beauty pageant😀 So, yeah: Don’t use your own mistake to justify your incapabilities. Nadine didn’t say: “Go and try speaking in front of the camera during Miss Universe event!” Kerenina didn’t go: “Try being me, who was home-schooled and had no opportunity to learn Indonesian!” Nor did Qory whine: “Try being me, an Acehnese descendant who was unexpectedly asked about something sensitive like jilbab!”

Nope. They didn’t say that. So, grow up and take criticism wisely (and please, avoid personal attacking. That’s immature, and it simply shows that you try to run from the real discussion).

writer’s block

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(c) unknown

Yes, you’ve seen the title.
As someone who delves into the writing world, writer’s block is really something that I’m afraid of… and only Heaven knows how many times I’ve succumbed to such a condition, then felt totally useless…😀

Btw, if any of you have no idea of what writer’s block is, you can read something about it here or here. But for me personally, I define writer’s block as a circumstance where my creativity is blocked and I have a hard time to write. It’s a psychological thing I can never understand. Sometimes, I have so many ideas in my head, and I know for sure I have all the willingness in the world to write them down. But as I start to do it, all I do is only stare at the blank page of my laptop’s screen. Not even a single word is written😀

And whenever this happens, my mind travels to my dear mentor back at the Jakarta Post, former senior journalist and editor, Mr. Harry Baskara. During our training days, the old man asked each of us to keep a diary, and write anything — just anything — inside it.

“It doesn’t matter what you write inside it. Anything serious; stupid; funny… just write,” he told us. “Do not worry about your grammar… vocabularies. Just write. It’s called free-writing.”

He wanted us to write our story every single day, and he will collect the books once in few days to read them. At first, we felt embarrassed. “He would totally think I’m stupid for writing how I fell asleep in the bus on my way back from work…” I told a friend. We laughed.

But then, we got to know his intention of asking us to do that. He said, as a journalist who is required to write countless pieces every day, we’d sometimes feel stuck at certain points. That’s when writer’s block intrudes. We don’t know where to start and how to write. Somehow, someway, we lose our writing skill and  the ability to analyze and connect the dots. Whenever this happens to me, I’d simply say, in French: “Putaiiin…”😀

According to my mentor, doing the free-writing everyday will help us overcome the so-called writer’s block. It makes your imagination flow freely and your senses sharp. When you start to pay attention to little and simple things, and write them down, it’s when your mind can expand to see bigger things and jot them down easily.

“You have a hard time writing because you think too much before writing. Just write first. Make mistakes first. You can correct later. Free-writing is a good way to make yourself confidence to start from a scratch…” my mentor told us.

Ahh… how I miss the old, kind man. He now lives in Australia and I haven’t had any contact with him for more than two years. When he knew I was about to resign after three years, he said, “I’m glad you’ve grown a lot here… you’re very talented. Don’t forget anything we learned in the training room.” And honestly, I started this blog because of his advices. I might not have a diary, but at least, I have a blog where I can just write anything to keep my imagination flowing. One day I might want to return to the writing world, and by that time, I just don’t want to suffer from writer’s block. So I hope this blog can be a place where I can maintain my passion in writing🙂