Posts by theodorasabigail

I Write When I Am Sad, and Hell is Other People

A heart never breaks all at once. It does so in parts, much like a good book. Each turn of a page reveals new horrors–new ways of experiencing similar pains–and as you read on you hold secret hopes that certain characters will soon exit the premises. At the same time you hope for others to return. You furtively eyeball the words of each page until they become blurry, looking for the slightest mention of a place where you might find solace. A sneak peek of what’s to come.

I talk often about solace because I am often looking for it everywhere–in temporary obsessions, in half-finished ghost stories, in other people. I have a tendency to lean towards others in my most desperate moments, and when that fails, to run headlong into text. Words have definitely indefinite meanings, and clumps of words can be manipulated to a heart’s content. They stave off sorrow, allowing a person to disguise all of their uncomfortable emotions with elusive statements and intimated double meanings.

I never want to write when I am happy. In fact, I have never met a writer writes when they are happy. The secret of a good writer is that, no matter how lovely or successful they seem or become, they are each struggling with their secret animal. Each one acts as a subtext hidden within the overarching narrative. We write because we are selfish, and it is our ambition to define the boundaries of where we lie and where others begin. Writing is the hunt for that secret animal–the fulfilment of our wish to tame it.

I read a single act of Sartre’s Huis Clos in high school without knowing it was the source of the oft-quoted “Hell–is–other people!”. But the more I think about it the more this seems wrong to me. Humans, whether in hell or heaven or purgatory or somewhere in between, suffer as a result of their own hopes and desires. They project their own wants into the story they are reading; when the ending turns out a different way they feel disappointed and upset. This is attachment, the Buddhists would say, to the material world. This desire is what ruins us, and what ultimately prevents us from reading the story as a good one.



Listening to Music While Working: Yes, No, or Maybe?

I, for one, can not handle music while working. The best I can do is with a splash of Ghibli instrumentals in the background; anything with actual words often leads to increasingly passionate karaoke.

Even on days when I’m too grumpy to sing, I still find it hard to focus. Realizing this has helped me fine-tune my work process: in the past, I would simply try to grin and bear it. The result was always awful, and I’d often end up deleting a majority of whatever I’d written during that session.

It’s not just music, really. It’s almost any sound. I’m the type of person who prefers to work on things in one sitting, and I guess music–or conversation–anything at all–is capable of bringing my train of thought to a soulsucking halt.

Learning new things about the way I work is my new method of self-study. I’m not sure if I’m glorifying work too much here; I’m sure that in a perfect and utopian world people would never have to work. But to be honest, I enjoy the process of writing. I see new article topics as challenges to solve, and with each new day I learn about new concepts. Today, for example, I learned about the Sustainable Development Goals. Yesterday, I learned about new water purification techniques that are being developed by private companies.

I’ve found that I love my job. I’ve found that I am still, after all this time, a highly competitive person–and that I do my best when I feel compelled to prove that I am capable. I’ve also found that I think most clearly in a locked and silent room.

A few years ago the thought of loving silence would have spooked me. Many years ago I feared the quiet, and solitude–to the point where I would force my eyes open during a shower, no matter how much soap crept in.

Silence had a body with a presence and a voice all its own. I couldn’t stand the idea of being alone with this strange and foreign thing, of hearing my voice bounce off its limbs — and so I avoided it whenever possible. But no matter how I tried to establish distance, it continued to pursue me. Despite every radio and hallway and corner and locked door I placed in her path, she showed up and made herself comfortable in the corner. Just sitting there. Waiting and watching for something to happen. Living in this type of home felt like being wrapped in a silken cocoon, with gauzy layers of sound separating me from the rest of the world. It felt like being eternally drunk and scrambling for something to hang on to.

Why, then, did I come to long for it? You spend so long together with someone else eventually you start looking for the other when they’ve gone — this even though at first you swore you’d always hate them, and that you would stay cold and distant. One day you wake up and you realize you’ve given in. You can no longer live without that presence.

It reminds me of something my husband said during a discussion–that you can’t spend that much time with a person and not love them at least a little.

Perhaps, over all these years of living together, my body has learned to love the quiet.

(Note: there is one artist I can listen to while working. That’s Aerocity, an old friend of mine from Twitter).

Ebi, a Jakarta Copywriter and Content Strategist

That (the title) just seems so weird to me. Me? A copywriter? Content strategist? Getting paid to write?

For the past few years I’ve had the good fortune to work on a number of very interesting marketing and content projects in Jakarta and Singapore. If you told me five years ago that I’d dip my toes into Southeast Asian startup scenes and help companies here craft interesting blogs and compelling websites, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes. For quite a few years I used to think very lowly of Asia; working there would’ve seemed like a downgrade from whatever menial job I might find over in the States. Thanks, American education system (and the fact that my brothers and I were never truly exposed to scenes of daily life in countries that weren’t the good ‘ol US of A).

And I remember when I was in high school and my mother told me to consider a career in technical or copy writing. Bahumbug!, I thought. Who wants to write for a living?

I do, it turns out.

It’s interesting–after several years of nonstop work I’ve found myself in the tech-business-healthcare niche. Or more precisely, the startup niche. I’ve written for startups all over the planet, from the bigger ones to the super-local, homegrown companies. Some are solving clunky and outdated healthcare status quos; others are simply trying to grow their gelato truck business.

In today’s world startup founders seem very glamorous. No one wants to be a boring entrepreneur anymore, they want to be a founder. They want to make waves. They want to [insert a bunch of cool-sounding buzzwords here about impact and magic and rockstar changes]. They want to scale their company and launch in [arbitrary number] new countries by the end of Q4. 

Something like that.

The reason I work as a freelance content writer (loosely based in Jakarta and Tangerang) is simple. I can’t do anything else. I’ve been offered several full-time jobs in places like Kuningan, but my current living situation makes it impossible for me to commute on a daily basis. This “shackle” that limits me to remote jobs has also given me the freedom to work with so many interesting clients with admirable visions and missions, and though on some days I desperately wish for the stability of a fixed income, most weeks I’m awestruck by the variety of founders I get to meet. They have so many unique ways of thinking; ask each of them to solve the same problem and you’d probably get five or six different, totally creative, mostly crazy, and absolutely interesting solutions.

So much growth is happening in Southeast Asia, and I’m lucky that I moved here when I did. Seeing the “scene” (I loathe that word, but regrettably, it’s apt) develop before my eyes is awe-inspiring. Just a few years ago, Gojek was a simple idea in Nadiem Makarim’s head. Now, it’s changed the face of a nation. Which companies will follow suit? Which will fall apart? Who will be the next villain?

Ultimately the startup story is a human story; a new way to save the world or to conquer it. In one ring you have Elizabeth Holmes, a Helen of Troy gone wrong. In the other you have Martin Shkreli, who found out the hard way that messing with the Wu-Tang Clan dooms you to a life of suffering (I jest). People give in to greed and lust and desire all the time; they put in hours after countless hours to try and become the best versions of themselves, too.

I empathize with startup founders, though I personally would never want to become one. It’s a hard, lonely world–my experience with a community of Series A-B founders has emphasized that immensely. We idolize founders without properly taking the time to consider the burdens placed on their shoulders, the constraints they have to face, the struggle of juggling a tech team and operations team and finance team. The pain of having to scale faster and faster while doing it sustainably, of having to walk in to an investor meeting without knowing what the outcome will be.

In the long run, I’m just a tiny cog in the brutish, beautiful world of startups. And I guess you could ask: why tech? Why business and healthcare and startups in general?

My dad has always loved technology; in my childhood he was the kind of guy to buy a new phone and test it for a few days before returning it (or keeping it, if he liked it). He’s the one who lets me access his CBT Nuggets accounts when I have free time, the one who bought me a massive Snap Circuits kit when I was in middle school so that I could make little LED bulbs light up. I still have fond memories of seeing him playing Warcraft when I was five or six, and it’s a shame that I was just so artistically inclined. If I’d liked math more I might’ve followed his footsteps and gotten a tech or electrical engineering degree.

I’m glad, then, that his influence has guided me here. Here is where I get to blend my inherited love for beta testing and new technology with my obsession for art and stories and words. Here is where I get to see the world develop. Here is where I get to view the splendor of human hearts as they do their best and change, quite literally, entire worlds. Though I think sometimes about retreating entirely and sticking to literary writing, I know that I probably will never be able to follow through. Something always pulls me back here.

I actually was intending on writing this as some smarmy direct-sales SEO-targeted post to advertise my content writing services for potential clients based in Southeast Asia, but I guess I don’t have the heart to do so. Here’s my call-to-action anyways: if you need someone to consult with about a website or just need a friend’s shoulder to cry on as endless deadlines loom, I’m here.

And thanks, you guys (my clients, I mean, if you’re reading this), for taking a chance on me. Thanks for the super-straightforward instructions (I need 2000-word evergreen articles each about these plants, here’s the spreadsheet) and for the personal connections. (I guess I’m supposed to name drop here to build credibility but that’s just so smarmy, LOL).

If you feel like my experience could be of use to you, then drop me a message below. Don’t forget to tell me your favorite breakfast food; mine is definitely fluffy pancakes drizzled with artificially-sweetened maple syrup and fresh-cut berries. And I hope you have a lovely day, a good meeting, a gentle weekend ahead.

The Slick and Gorgeous World

I often think back to three or four years ago, when I managed to post something nearly every week on my blog. I know that plenty of other people lament the loss of Geocities websites, confessional (and admittedly ugly) online journals, and more. Nowadays most people are very careful about what they post, share, and say online. On top of that, there’s such a push to be polished and to create content vs. to simply blog. Everything has to be optimized, the pictures have to be slick and gorgeous… the posts have to read like stories. God forbid you have any typos.

I’m trying to let go of that push to create content and to simply be honest. That’s what drove the creation of my book–blunt honesty about imperfections. It can be difficult some days, especially since my work as a copy+content writer is tied directly to my real identity . Whenever I’m about to reveal something incredibly personal, a part of me thinks, “Don’t you want to be as professional as possible?”

But then I remind myself that we’re all telling human stories here. Regardless of whether my client is a MNC or homegrown business, there are humans running things. And I think (I hope) that my imperfections, slight awkwardness, and smile can be charming.

Hmm, what else? Indo Twitter has been a fiasco for the past few days, with controversies popping up left and right. I’ve been listening to a lot of pop music over the past few days–TWICE and Bol4 and, of course, IU. I’m also working on my next book, which will be a collection of poetry–and I think I have a working title! There’s a lot of stuff left to rearrange and fix in that manuscript, so you guys probably won’t see it until 2020. Apologies for that!

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about motherhood and parenthood. It’s funny and a bit concerning that mothers are always expected or demanded to sacrifice their hopes and wishes. Honestly, I’m more than sick of being told that I’m selfish for working; that I need to support my husband more; that I’m not subservient enough; that I’m not doing enough to help my husband achieve his maximum potential. What about me? What about my aspirations? What about my maximum potential? I really hate this provincial depiction of marriage as the whole “woman helps man” deal; my husband and I support each other, and we’re doing our best to grow and parent together.

It’s different now. Women will only become more empowered in the future. I envision a day when women will no longer be bought and sold by their families for dowries, when women can choose to go to school or to get married or both, when women can walk down the street without fearing retribution or harassment. I simply hope my daughter inherits a better world.

Travel Diary: September 2018, Bandung (Part 1)

We drove to Bandung over the weekend of September 8-9th so I could serve as one of the speakers of PADghrs’ “Coming In” workshop. I was honored to be able to listen to so many different styles of writing. I hope my guidance and input helped them in some way.

The event was held at 107 Garage Room, which was actually less of a room and more like a cozy and large and warm multipurpose space. There’s a coffee shop, a small store, lots of small tables, and a rentable event room (which is what we used). We ate lunch at Johnny’s Burgers (or something like that)—they had a food truck on the property and the burgers were amazing.

That was on Saturday. We went exploring a bit on Sunday and visited Bakmie Naripan, which has some absolutely delicious bakmie (babi + ayam ada). Don’t go during regular lunch hours! It’s very crowded. We visited at around 3 pm and didn’t have to wait at all.

 The entrance to Garasi Opa.
The entrance to Garasi Opa.

After Naripan we visited Kineruku, an indie library in [I forget where, but I’ll update this later]. There was a small vintage shop named Garasi Opa right next door. Though we looked around, nothing caught our eye and we left to see the books.

 Kineruku is a small bookstore, library, and cafe. It was a shame that we didn’t get to taste the food!
Kineruku is a small bookstore, library, and cafe. It was a shame that we didn’t get to taste the food!

Kineruku is small—not really a library but a house that’s been dedicated to books. Bandung residents can make a library card for less than Rp. 100.000 a year, and if I lived in Bandung, you can bet I’d be there everyday. Later that night we had dinner with some lovely friends at Le Jardin, a new hip cafe that’d just opened. The ambience was okay-ish, and the cafe itself was definitely Instagrammable. The music playing was typical Pop 40 fare and somehow, it didn’t really mesh with the natural, green style.

I felt a little bit sad about it. But it was beautiful and the food was tasty enough (about 40-70rb per person). So I was glad to be able to go there.

 The #aesthetic bathroom at Le Jardin. Excuse the toilet!
The #aesthetic bathroom at Le Jardin. Excuse the toilet!

Later that night, we decided to drive all the way to Lembang and extend our trip by a day. But I’ll wrap up this diary here—I have more pictures and stories than I expected.

All my love, 


Travel Diary: September 2018, Bandung (Part 2)

It’s funny that I’m only updating this blog now, a full month after we went to Bandung. Sorry, everyone!

First stop: Kawah Putih! We left for this tourist destination at around 10 or 11 am from Lembang (later than intended).

This place looks EXACTLY like it does in the photos on Google. So if you plan to go here to adventure, and you hope to discover something magical and wonderful and something more, then… you shouldn’t go.

It’s nice to do a bit of hiking at Kawah Putih, but like many places in Indonesia, there are lots and lots of hawkers waiting to sell you things. It also smells like sulfur. There are plenty of souvenir shops lining some of the roads, and you can ride a horse around for a few minutes (similar to Bromo). I’d definitely recommend Bromo if you’re looking for the mountain-and-horse-riding experience.

That being said, we did have some fun here, and it was interesting to see the crater up close.

You don’t have to stay overnight at the Maribaya Hot Springs Resort to enjoy it. I can’t seem to recall what happened between Kawah Putih and Maribaya, but we arrived here at around 4 pm—which means we only had an hour to explore the place!

We were a bit disappointed to discover that the resort was less of a hiking destination and more of a series of paid photo opportunities—from 15-16 of the Instagrammable places that you could take pictures at, a majority of them were ticketed. It was absolutely beautiful, but considering we were hoping to find some sort of magical forest wonderland here….



Fairy Land (?) is a whole new attraction built by the same people who built Maribaya. Since it was still under construction, the tickets were given as a bonus to drum up attention for the place. And it worked! Fortunately for us, it closed at 6—we spent an hour wandering around this place. There are so many fun child-friendly activities and attractions here, like a wooden playground, a massive seesaw, and cute-and-slightly-terrifying fairy statues. If you have children, it’s absolutely worth a visit!

We didn’t stop by Kampung Daun this time! Instead, we ate dinner, then drove to Bukit Moko. This is the view from the top of the hill—gorgeous, right? From this point, it looked like the city lights really were stars. I swear that I could see them twinkling in the distance (or maybe my eyes were just broken).

The drive up to Bukit Moko is frightening, mainly because there are very few lights. Make sure to download Waze before you head there! The map point is in the right place; you just have to follow it allllll the way up the hill. We arrived to the hill at 10 or 11 pm, and had to walk 1-2 kilometers since the road up was also under construction.

There were some men hanging around the gate. After charing us Rp. 10.000 to enter, we made our way up and finally found a few ojek who agreed to bring us to the top for Rp. 10.000 each.

We stayed for about 3 hours, then made our way back down and drove to Jakarta that night.

Mengapa Foto “Kolonial” Papua Menjadi Masalah?

Sebenernya, pada dasarnya, cerita hari ini adalah cerita tentang keindahan budaya ditengah-tengah situasi politik buruk.

Sebelum aku mulai, aku mau mengingatkan bahwa di Papua sedang ada konflik militer. Di Nduga, Papua di awal Desember, 4 warga sipil ditemukan tewas akibat konflik senjata antara TNI-Polri dan TPNPB-OPM (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat/Organisasi Papua Merdeka). Selain itu, juga ada sekitar 20 karyawan PT Istaka Karya, pekerja Trans Papua yang ditemukan tewas.

“Ketua DPRD Kabupaten Nduga Anthi Gwijangge menuturkan, ketika dia dan tim evakuasi sampai di Distrik Mbua, ada satu jenazah yang ditemukan di wilayah perkebunan.”

Aktivis HAM internasional Theo Hesenggem menuding TNI yang membunuh empat warga sipil di Nduga. Hal itu berdasarkan hasil temuan tim evakuasi di lapangan.

“Warga mengatakan, pembunuh orang yang ditemukan waktu pencarian itu anggota [TNI-Polri], menggunakan dua helikopter dan menembak warga dari atas. Itu helikopter tentara. Dari helikopter itu melakukan tembakan bertubi-tubi di mana masyarakat berada,” ujarnya.

-Dieqy Hasbi Widhana,

Guberbur Papua, Lukas Enemba, dan Ketua Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Papua, Yunus Wonda, meminta agar TNI mundur pasukan di Nduga, Papua. Namun sampai sekarang anggota TNI masih berada di sana.

Papua mengatakan kemerdekaan mereka di tahun 1961. Namun, setelah dua tahun, pemerintah Indonesia mengambil alih dengan janji akan mengadakan referendum kemerdekaan.

Walau Belanda sudah menegaskan kepentingan kebebasan memilih untuk warga Papua, aksi politik di Amerika Serikat dan di Jakarta membuat situasi semakin buram. Presiden Sukarno membuat kesepakatan dengan dinas Amerika Serikat untuk berusaha mengambil alih Papua.

Di tahun 1969, Papua akhirnya mendapatkan kesempatan untuk memilih kemerdekaan atau pengintegrasian dengan Indonesia. Duta besar dari Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa (UN), Oritiz Sanz meminta agar satu orang dikasih satu “vote”. Namun, permintaannya ditolak dan akhirnya hanya 1,026 ketua yang dipilih secara khusus oleh tentara Indonesia dan diantar untuk mengikuti pemilihannya. Mereka memutuskan untuk bergabung dengan Indonesia. Jumlah pemilih ini (1,026) hanya 0.2% dari populasi Papua, dan pemilihannya sendiri diragukan curang, dari negara lain maupun dari orang Papua sendiri.

Di tahun 2017, juga diberitakan bahwa 1.8 juta warga Papua menandatangani petisi yang dikirim ke Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa. Petisi itu berisi permintaan oleh warga Papua untuk mengadakan pemililhan ulangyang bisa menentukan kemerdekaan Papua, dan juga permintaan untuk menginvestigasikan kekerasan dan pelangagaran hak asasi manusia di area tersebut.

Yang jelas—masalah ini sudah ada sejak lama.

Nah, mengenai masalah hari ini: foto-foto Nicole yang disebut “kolonialis” oleh para warganet.

Sebenarnya, intinya begini: budak yang bahagia tetaplah budak.

Orang yang sudah lama dijajah, entah oleh penjajah beneran (misal, sebelum Indonesia merdeka) atau penjajahan “pikiran” (dimana orang memaksakan naratif, kehendak, atau pikiran kepada orang lain)—biasanya tidak akan sadar bahwa mereka dijajah. Mereka diajarkan bahwa mereka tidak pantes untuk diperhatikan, sehingga ketika ada yang baik sedikitpun sama mereka, mereka merasa bahwa itu suatu kehormatan luar biasa.

Contoh: selama bertahun-tahun, orang native Indonesia dijajah sama Belanda dan diajarkan bahwa “bule is best”—intinya, barang, warna kulit, produk, bahasa, dan segalanya yang berasal dari luar Indonesia lebih bagus, berkualitas, dan terhormat daripada yang berasal dari Indonesia.

Seringkali bule yang sebenarnya mukanya biasa saja disebut “cantik seperti aktris Hollywood”—seringkali ketika orang Indonesia menikah sama bule dari Amerika Serikat atau Eropa, kejadiannya masuk berita nasional. Kenapa? Karena orang Indonesia diajarkan untuk menyembah barang dan orang “luar”. Karena kulit putih dianggep lebih bagus. Kemarin aja saat naik taxi, supirku mengatakan begini: “Saya lebih suka kulit putih, kinclong seperti kamu. Teman wanita saya kulitnya semua gelap, dan kesannya kotor”.

Mentalitas ini—bahwa budaya dan diri kita sendiri lebih jelek dibandingkan orang luar—disebut “internalized racism”.

“Internalized hatred” terjadi kepada orang yang sudah lama menjalani hubungan yang abusive. Karena mereka sudah dicuci otak bahwa mereka tidak layak dipatuti, disayangi, dihormati, didengari—mereka mulai anggep penghargaan terkecil dan terbiasapun sebagai keajaiban dan kebaikkan yang luar biasa.

Respons orang Papua pro atau kontrapun terhadap foto Nicole, satu hal yang jelas: sebagai orang yang punya hak istimewa/privilege, kami harus sadarkan diri dan menghormati orang yang kehilangan haknya (disenfranchised people). Memang kadang-kadang orang rela dimanfaatin atau didiemin, tapi bukan berarti kita boleh meneruskan situasi seperti itu.

Ketika kamu lihat anjing disiksa, apakah kamu akan diem saja?

Ketika kamu lihat temanmu dengan mulut yang tertutup lakban, apakah kamu akan membiarkan dia seperti itu?

Tentu tidak. Tapi dengan pergi ke Papua (atau lokasi manapun, sebenarnya), memotret orang pribuminya, mengunggah fotonya ke Instagram,

  • tanpa menceritakan situasi mereka

  • tanpa berbagi konteks

  • tanpa menanyakan keadaan mereka, dan

  • tanpa tulus membantu mereka,

itulah yang kamu lakukan. Apalagi kalo kamu memanfaatkan keadaan dan penampilan mereka sebagai prop di foto-fotonya, dengan tambah-menambah hashtag biar akunmu semakin rame.

Siapa dalam hubungan ini yang benar-benar beruntung? Tentu bukan mereka—dengan keadaanmu atau tidak, situasi mereka tetap sama. Tetap ditindas oleh pemerintahan kita, tetap diasingkan, tetap dicuekin. Orang-orang di beda pulau tetap menganggap “Papua” sebagai tempat primitif, dimana orang-orang masih pakai tombak, dimana mereka sehari-harian masih berburu hewan lihar. Persepsi orang terhadap Papua tetap kuno dan tidak akurat, dan iya—dengan fotomu, kamu bantu melestarikan persepsi itu.

Di hubungan seperti ini, orang yang mendapatkan untung terbesar adalah kamu. Kenapa? Karena kamu dapat model gratis, dan mendapatkan konten yang bisa kamu menambahkan ke portfoliomu. Kamu dapat peluang, dan juga mendapatkan nama dan reputasi sebagai fotografer ahli.

Tapi kalo misalnya seperti ini: kamu datang ke sana, dan melakukan wawancara pendek sama orang native yang hadir di sana—tidak susah, kok:

  • Namamu siapa?

  • Apa arti festival ini bagi kamu?

  • Apa arti dari tarian ini?

  • Apa arti cat di muka?

  • Seperti apa kehidupan sehari-hari kamu?

Pertanyaan yang sederhana ini bisa ditanyakan dalam percakapan singkat kok. Tidak butuh waktu wawancara khusus, kan? Namun walaupun pertanyaannya sederhana, kamu dapat mempejalari begitu banyak hal dan mendengarkan begitu banyak cerita dari orang yang kamu tanyain.

Lalu kamu minta memotret mereka, dan kamu pulang ke rumah nyamanmu di tengah kota. Satu per satu, kamu mulai mengunggah foto-foto yang sudah kamu edit, dan cerita sejarah dan konteks dibelakang fotonya.

Karena platformmu sangat besar, banyak orang belajar tentang orang Papua dan budaya Papua. Ternyata, persepsi mereka salah! Dan mereka, berkat kamu, mulai terbuka kepada budaya-budaya lain, tarian-tarian lain. Mereka mulai menghormati muka-muka yang selama ini asing. “Oh,” berkata mereka. “Ternyata saudara di Papua tak beda jauh sama aku.” Mereka mulai ber-empati untuk situasi mereka.

Hanya karena kamu menanyakan pertanyaan singkat, pengikut Instagrammu bisa merasakan keindahan NKRI. Tak hanya dari penampilan saja, tapi dari cerita yang kamu berbagi mengenai orang—ya, orang, dan sesungguhnya manusia seperti kita.

Dan beberapa pengikut IG-mu mulai berubah pikiran—mereka berhenti memandang mereka sebagai “orang lain” tapi sebagai “saudara”. Sebagai teman, walau belum pernah ketemu. Sebagai sesama manusia.

Oh, tapi aku lupa. Tindakanmu tidak seperti itu, kan? Kamu ngakunya mau mengingkat kesadaran akan Papua dan keindahannya, namun cerita yang di feedmu tetap tentang dirimu. Kalo memang hanya untuk feed, bilanglah. Kalo memang mau menginkat kesadaran, buktikanlah.

Nggak. Kamu hanya ambil foto mereka dan curi wajahnya supaya bisa lebih populer di sosial media. Tanpa memikirkan cerita mereka, kamu ceritakan tentang perasaanmu. Di fotomu, mereka berdiri disampingmu, dan iya, memang keliatan indah kok, tapi hanya itu: indah. Di fotomu, mereka bukan manusia tapi barang tanpa cerita. Karakter pendamping di naratifmu. Kita sudah tahu bahwa mereka indah, kok. Tapi kemana makna dibelakangnya?

Tidak masalah kok, bahwa banyak pengikutmu pengen ke Papua, belajar, dan lihat Festival Baliem, namun tidak sanggup.

Tidak masalah kok, bahwa persepsi pengikutmu tetap kuno, atau bahkan semakin kuno.

Tidak masalah kok, bahwa suara orang Papua sering diabaikan demi berita yang terjadi di pulau yang lebih kaya dan berpendidikan.

Tidak masalah kok, bahwa mereka kehilangan sekali lagi kesempatan untuk bercerita dan bersuara—padahal platform-mu sudah tepat dan rame. Padahal influence-mu besar dan kuat.

Dan tidak masalah kok, bahwa saudara-saudaramu di Papua sedang terlibat dalam konflik kemerdekaan.

Mengapa itu semua perlu menjadi perhatianmu? Kan kamu sudah mengunggah foto mereka. Bukannya itu sudah cukup baik? Bukannya kamu sudah murah hati sekali, memberi mereka berada di feed Instagrammu?

Tidak perlu, kan, memikirkan itu semua. Yang penting bagimu?

Hashtagmu sudah lengkap, promosimu berhasil, dan ketenaranmu terus mengingkat.

The truth of all of this is that today’s story is one about how a culture can be rich and beautiful, even in the midst of a difficult political situation.

Before we begin, I want to remind you that there is an ongoing military conflict in Papua. In Nduga, Papua, in mid-December, 4 civilians were reported dead as a result of an armed conflict between Papuan liberation forces and the Indonesian army. Aside from that, about 20 employees of PT Istaka Karya, the company handling the development of Trans Papua, were also reported dead.

The head of District Nduga’s DPRD, Anthi Gwijangge, stated that when he and the evacuation team arrived at District Mbua, a body was found in the plantation area.

Based on the findings of the evacuation team in the field, international human rights activist Theo Hesenggem accused the National Army of Indonesia of the killings.

“Residents stated, the killers of the people found dead during that search were members of [TNI-Polri”], using two helicopters that shot the civilans from above. These helicopters were military-owned, and from them the members of the army shot continuously towards the people.

-Dieqy Hasbi Widhana,

The Governor of Papua, Lukas Enemba, and the Chairman of the Papuan House of Representatives, Yunus Wonda, requested that the army remove their troops from the area. However, to this date, members of the TNI are still there.

Papua (also known as West Papua, or Papua New Guinea) declared independence in 1961. However, after two years, the Indonesian government took over administration of the former Dutch colony with a promise to hold a referendum later on should they desire independence.

Even though the Netherlands already reinforced the importance of Papuan freedom to determine their own country’s fate, political issues and actions in the USA and Jakarta made the situation unclear. Sukarno, who was president of Indonesia at the time, asked for the help of USA officials to lobby President JFK for permission to annex Papua.

In 1969, Papua finally received their “chance” to vote for freedom or integration. The ambassador of the UN, Oritiz Sanz, requested a one man, one vote system. However, this request was rejected; instead, 1,026 elders were hand-chosen by the army and escorted to voting booths. The result of this decision was integration; however, the number of voters totalled only 0.2% of the total Papuan population. The “referendum” itself is widely considered to be fraudulent, both by native Papuans and outsiders.

In 2017, it was also reported that 1.8 million Papuan natives signed a banned petition sent to the UN that requested another vote be held to determine independence. They also requested that the UN send a special representative to investigate possible human rights violations in the area.

One thing is clear: this has been an issue for decades.

And now, for today’s issue: the “colonial” photo(s) taken by Indonesian photographer Nicole which have been the topic of heated debate by Indonesian netizens.

To be entirely honest, there’s only one point that needs to be made: happy slaves are still slaves.

People who have been colonized or oppressed for long periods of time, whether through literal colonizers (such as the Dutch in Indonesia before 1945) or oppressive thinking (where people push narratives, personal wills, or perspectives onto others)—often do not realize that they have been oppressed. They have, after all, been taught that they do not deserve to be paid attention to, to the point where any single, minuscule show of kindness is interpreted as a great honor.

Example: for years, native Indonesians were colonized by the Dutch, who taught them that “foreign is best”—basically, that imported or foreign products, skin color, languages, and everything else are more valuable and of higher quality than anything from Indonesia.

The Indonesian media often refers to ordinary-looking white women as great beauties with faces like Hollywood actresses; marriages between native Indonesians and white Europeans or Americans are reported on in national news. Why? Because Indonesians have been taught to worship white products and people. Because white skin is considered “better”. Yesterday, I rode a taxi and the (admittedly disgusting) driver stated, “I prefer women with light skin, clear and pretty like yours. The skin of my female friends are very dark, and it gives the impression of dirtiness.”

This mentality—that a person’s own culture and appearance are somehow “lesser” than those of foreigners or those of other races—is what we call “internalized racism”.

Internalized hatred can also be seen in victims of relationship abuse. Because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that they are not worthy of being listened to, loved, respected, or heard—they begin to view even the smallest, most mediocre show of respect as a miracle and out-of-this-world kindness.

The response of Papuan natives, for or against the photo, does not change the fact that as people with privilege, we have to know our place and history, and respect those who have been disenfranchised. Yes, it’s true that many people have been taught to want to be manipulated or ignored—but that does not mean we should perpetuate these kinds of situations.

When you see a dog being tortured, would you be quiet?

When you see a friend with duct tape over their mouth, will you leave them that way?

Of course not. But by going to Papua (or any ‘exotic’ place, really), photographing the natives, uploading the photos to Instagram,

  • without telling people about their situation

  • without sharing the context

  • without asking how they’re doing

  • without a sincere wish to help them,

that is what you’re effectively doing. Especially if you use the situation and their appearance as props in your photos, then add twenty or thirty hashtags so that your account gets discovered.

In this relationship, who’s really benefitting? Clearly not them—with your presence or without it, their situation stays the same. They are still oppressed by our government, still treated as outsiders, and still ignored by the majority of the population. People from other islands, like Java, will still perceive “Papua” to be a primitive place, one where people still use spears and hunt for wild animals. This idea and image of Papua is outdated and inaccurate, and yes—with your photos, you continue to perpetuate it.

No, in a relationship like this one, the one receiving the most benefits is you. Why? Because you’re getting free models, and nice content for your photography portfolio. You get more opportunities, and more praise for your name as a professional photographer.

But if, say, just say—you did this: you went there, you held quick interviews with the natives you met there (it’s not hard, I promise):

  • What’s your name?

  • What does this festival mean to you?

  • What do these dances mean?

  • What does the face paint mean?

  • What is your daily life like?

These are simple questions that can be asked at any time. You don’t need to have a formal interview, right? But despite the simplicity of these conversation starters, you can learn so much and hear so many stories from those you ask.

And then you ask to photo them, and you go home to your beautiful home in the middle of the city. One by one, you begin to upload the photos that you’ve already edited, and you leave captions that explain the context and history behind them.

Because your platform is so large, people begin to learn about the Papuan people and Papuan culture. They begin to realize that their perceptions are wrong! And they, because of you, begin to open their minds to the idea of other cultures, other dances. They begin to respect faces that, for so long, have been unfamiliar.

“Oh,” they say. “It turns out that our brothers in Papua are not so different from us.” And they begin to feel for their plight.

Just by asking a few questions to the people you meet, your Instagram followers begin to truly understand the beauty of their country. Not just from superficial appearances, but from the stories you share about those people—yes, people, and humans just like us.

And some of your followers, they begin changing their minds. They stop considering the Papuan people as “other” but as “brothers”. As friends, even though they’ve never met. As humans.

Oh, but I’ve forgotten. That’s not what you did, is it? You claim to want to raise awareness for Papua’s beauty, but the story you’re telling is still about you. If it’s purely for your pretty feed, say so. If you really want to raise awareness, prove it.

No, you just took their photos and stole their faces so that you could become even more popular on social media. Without thinking about their stories, you told your own, about your feelings and reactions to their culture and beauty. In your photos, they stand beside you, and yes, they are beautiful. But that’s it: beautiful. In your photos, they don’t stand as people but as things without stories; side characters in your own grand story. We already know they’re beautiful. But where is the meaning behind all of that beauty?

It doesn’t matter that your followers will continue to have the same outdated perception of Papua—perhaps even more backwards, now.

And it doesn’t matter that the actual voice of Papuan natives has been ignored for decades for news that is more relevant to the richer, more educated islands.

It doesn’t matter that they, once again, have lost a possible change to tell their story—not necessarily political, no, just human—this despite the fact that your platform is a wonderful, popular place. This despite the fact that your influence is strong and large.

And of course, it doesn’t matter that your friends and brothers in Papua are struggling, or that they are dealing with a fight for independence.

Why in the world would any of that possibly cross your mind? After all, you’ve already uploaded their photos. Isn’t that kind enough? Haven’t you already been so generous, letting them share your Instagram feed?

And there’s no need, right, to think about any of that at all. What matters to you?

Your hashtags are perfect, your promotions are successful, and your popularity continues to increase.

Liz Lisa Makeup Review (with swatches) ♡

 Hello everyone! I received an edition of Popteen magazine a few weeks ago. Popteen (and a lot of other Japanese mooks/magazines) gives readers free gifts with every issue. Sometimes they’ll be makeup, sometimes they’ll be small bags… sometimes the gift is a cute accessory that you can wear.

Popteen likes to partner a lot with Liz Lisa, so the monthly gift can sometimes be Liz Lisa makeup. That’s what I’ll be reviewing today!

This is what’s inside the box–an eyeshadow quad and a Liz Lisa sheer lip gloss.

Here’s a closer look at the eyeshadows! Now, I’m still just a beginner on my makeup journey, but I did like these colors. I don’t know how to compare different makeup formulas yet but I would say that these fade easily when applied, even over my Canmake eyeshadow base. 

Shade 1 all over the brow, Shade 2 on the corners, and shade 3 as a slight dusting near the eyeliner line (I’m a total newbie, so please forgive my…terrible explanation skills). I don’t use the lip gloss from Liz Lisa much, I’m actually wearing a Canmake lip balm in this photo.

Alright! That wraps up my Liz Lisa makeup review for today. Have any of you gotten your hands on this makeup set from Popteen x Liz Lisa? If so, what are your thoughts on it? I’d love to hear them! ♡ 

Poesie Perfume Reviews Master List

Hi everyone! To make this a little bit easier for y’all, I’ve placed all of my reviews in an Airtable. You can filter and sort by collection, by type of perfume.. so I hope you’ll enjoy this masterlist of Poesie Perfume reviews.

Overall, as a perfume house, I find that Poesie excels in creating light, whistle-like fragrances. They don’t always have the best throw or longevity, but while they’re around, they’re so bright, lovely, and simple. To solve the longevity problem, I usually dab the perfume into my hair, and then it lasts for the whole day.

My favorites from Poesie include Innocence, Madar, and Tiny Phantom—all delicate fragrances that boast strong sweetness. Others to try include County Line and Madchenland.