Date Archives April 2017

Getting Married: Part 1 (My Engagement!)

(Bi, kenapa sih kamu nikah cepet amat?) There is…a very good reason for that which I am sure some of you have already guessed at, but I will neither confirm nor deny your suspicions until next month. So until then, you will have to make do with my writing and updates on other, somewhat less important topics.

In Indonesia, engagements work a bit differently than they do in America! Apalagiif you’re Chinese-Indonesian. Usually, in Chinese-Indonesian engagements (lamaran), the man’s family is invited to the house of a representative of the woman’s family. However, if no one in the family has accepted a proposal yet, the engagement will usually happen at a restaurant rather than at a home. 

To provide a clearer anecdote: My mother is the youngest of five children, and none of her older siblings have son- or daughter-in-laws yet. That means we couldn’t hold the engagement at any of their houses. Because my beautiful mommy happens to be ten-thousand miles away in another country, the person who accepted the proposal in her place was my grandma (because she already has, you know, five children-in-law).

I was actually really debating about whether or not I should tell the rest of my friends on the Internet. I am not sure if I am expected to explain myself. People will inevitably ask, “Aren’t you too young to get married?” Perhaps. But it is, after all, a matter of perspective and, to some degree, necessity. I am being rather cryptic, I’m afraid, but I promise I will explain everything when I am ready. Suffice to say that I really am happy to be getting married and that even though I am decidedly young I am sure everything will flow peacefully if I let it.

(Sometimes, after all, the most beautiful paths are the ones we did not expect to take).

A serious meeting…with serious faces…hehehe…hoho..

Hi, it’s us again.

Yes, my…signature smile in which my eyes disappear. I think nearly every new person I have had the pleasure to meet here has commented on how oh my gosh when you smile your eyes disappear that is so weird.

older brother is an absolutely amazing photographer. I, being an obsessive stalker, immediately made these photos my computer background and lock screen. All of the photos in this blog post were taken by him, actually!

 ~

Truthfully, I was not expecting my marriage to come about so quickly. But, lest you forget, I am still a Catholic (in heart, and hopefully soon officially as well), and I place my faith in my ever-loving God. No matter what happens, He will lead me towards a brighter and kinder future, and everything will work out beautifully as long as we believe in Him.

My love, as always,

Theodora

Getting Married: Part 2 (Praying To Those Who Have Gone Before)

kuntilanak (don’t open that link if you’re easily scared: it’s a Wikipedia article about the creature) and other non-human beings abound here. So it’s natural for us to believe that ghosts exist, as do genies, evil spirits, and the like. Now, one general belief that I and most of my relatives share is that sometimes the spirits of the dead don’t always go to heaven when they pass away. Sometimes because they’ve done many cruel things during their lifetime, they must stay on earth. If they’re lucky, their descendants (children, grandchildren) and relatives will pray for them. Think about it as if they’re a criminal who must be tried before a judge. The criminal can’t lobby for his case by himself; he needs a lawyer and people who can help find proof that he’s innocent/should be forgiven. That’s what descendants and relatives do: intervene for the spirit. Sometimes, people who were cruel during their lifetime really can’t get to heaven. And they can’t go to heaven and bargain with God or St. Peter because they can no longer pray.

Thus, the responsibility falls on the descendants + relatives to ask for God’s mercy:

Lord, please forgive ________ and accept him/her at your side again.

 The incredibly contentious topic of life-after-death and non-human existence really deserves its own post, so I’ll leave it at that)).

Anyways! We can also choose to pray to the dead during auspicious moments or to ask permission/blessings from our parents, which is why we went to Parangtritis this Wednesday.

According to Chinese tradition, when someone dies, they go to the afterlife, and how pleasant their life is depends on their children and descendants. Wealthy people who pass away are sent entire truckloads of paper silver and gold, which are burnt and become riches in their afterlife.

“Jangan foto-foto mulu sih ih, doa duluuuuuu.”

Erik also prayed to his paternal grandfather and his maternal grandmother who have passed away, asking for permission to get married and mohon berkat untuk pernikahannya.

Snacks for my family. I don’t know what these are called in English so you’ll have to be content with the pretty pictures.

Doing this makes it easier for the money to burn. (I thought it had some special meaning but I guess…not…? :’D)

We burnt the paper gold as a sort of offering to God. If you want to go to Six Flags or Dufan, you need to pay for admission, right? This is a similar concept: so that our prayers are communicated to our ancestors, we must “pay” God for admission as well as ask for permission: 

Dear Lord, my name is ___________ and I would like to pray to/for _________.

The silver, however, is for Ngkong and my great-grandparents.

WOW IT’S FIRE WE’RE BURNIN’ THE MONEY SO IT’LL GO TO HEAVEN. Also if you look at the lettuce in the bowl, that serves as a sort of “appetizer”. Without the lettuce + hot water in the bowl, it’s said that our ancestors can’t eat the food we prepared.

Once we’re done praying, we throw the food into the ocean, where the waves will carry the food to Ngkong and Mak Co and Ngkong Co.

My face is grumpy because I was crying, not because I was trying to pick a fight with Erik :’)

Ngkong died when I was in fifth grade, around October. Two years prior he had come to visit New Jersey for two months with my grandma, Mak.

Each morning he would walk me to school (about ten-fifteen minutes away) and then give me a hug and a dollar or two before I left so that I could buy a snack or some stationery from the school store. He made me a coin bank out of a Gatorade bottle and would go out of his way to buy me snacks. Love, I suppose, needs no translations.

When I was a baby, my mother went to the United States to find a job so she could help support her growing family. During this time I stayed with Mak and Ngkong. From all the stories I hear, I was a really spoiled grandkid. He would piggyback me and buy me jajanan and we would walk around the neighborhood and spend a lot of time together.

Thinking back to all those times my grandfather visited and the simple ways he showed love to me (and others around him) made me realize that no matter how down I feel, I was and am still so loved. Wa Ie and Mak say that Erik is very similar to my grandfather, in that he is kind and generous, sometimes so much so that he forgets to take care of his own needs. “You need to take care of Erik,” they said to me, “because he is a very, very good person.” (It is much easier to learn to be smart than to learn to be kind, after all). So sometimes I wonder if perhaps Ngkong is still looking out for me and sent me a very wonderful person to help me, teach me such beautiful things, and fill my life with light.

I really, really miss Ngkong. I feel regretful sometimes that my mother and I were in America and weren’t able to attend his funeral. Wa Ie likes to tell the story of how they had to open Mak‘s house for six days so that people could pay their respects, because he had helped and touched so many peoples’ lives.

Perhaps that, more than being financially stable or well-known, is the true mark of success. Have you impacted others’ lives in a positive way? When you stand before the Lord and He asks you, “What have you done with the opportunities and gifts I gave you?”, will you be able to tell him how you have worked to help others, or will you pluck at excuses?

One of the things I love most about the culture I’ve come home to is that we still remember our family. We love, cherish, and honor their memories even after they have died.

Thank you, lovely honeybugs, for your well wishes and congratulations on my engagement. You mean the world to me and I am glad to call you my friends. I pray that your days bloom with light and wonder. May you find whatever it is that you are seeking in this lifetime.

My regards,

Theodora

Travel Diary: October 2017, Tebing Keraton

Hello everyone!

So, on the second day of our trip to Bandung, we woke up pretty late. Around 8 in the morning, right? We were planning to stay up to go to Bukit Bintang in Dago, but the tattooing actually took about 3 hours and was only finished at 1 in the morning. By then we were absolutely pooped so we kind of just…fell asleep. Oops.

The Way There

Anyways, after some quick Googling, we decided to go to Tebing Keraton, which is apparently really beautiful. It’s a cliff from which you can see miles and miles of trees. We left by car from our hotel to the car park at Tebing Keraton, and let me warn you: the road is super, duper bumpy. Also it’s kind of scary, because if you look to the left or right of you you’ll notice that there’s an insanely steep incline. So basically, if you aren’t a pro driver, you might just… fall off.

Fortunately, Erik is a really amazing driver (he’s been driving since he was 14 or so?) and we got to the car park safely. It did start raining on the way, and that was cause for alarm since we didn’t want Baby getting wet or catching a cold.

The Hike Up

So you can’t actually get all the way up to Tebing  Keraton unless you ride a motorcycle or hike up the rest of the way. This is because it’s way too steep and the traffic that would result due to a bunch of cars trying to make it up the hill would probably cause accidents. So you have two options:

1. Ride an ojek

There are plenty of ojek who can ferry you up the hill on their motorbikes. It usually costs about Rp. 30.000 per person for a round trip (so up and then back down). Just make sure to haggle because if you look white or don’t speak Indonesian they’ll probably try to finagle you out of extra money.

2. Hike up.

Honestly, 1.7 kilometers is a bit tiring, but it’s definitely doable. And if I, a tiny little Asian girl with a baby, can do it, then I bet a hell of a lot of other people can too.

Keep in mind that if you do choose to hike and you’re a woman, they’ll probably hassle you for at least half of the way there..

Anyways! I promise, the view is definitely worth the hike! Sometimes the journey really is half of the battle. When your destination to Point A is too easy, it’s easy to feel underwhelmed once you’ve arrived. But because of that grueling hike up, I was really able to appreciate the cliff.

Isn’t it beautiful? Look at all those trees. I was so happy to come visit here! It looks like the mountains from those old Chinese paintings.

It’s beautiful! You can see farms and rice terraces down below, and the fog between the treetops is just so breathtaking. It was a really peaceful place, so different from the steel indifference of Jakarta. It made me so happy.

Tebing Keraton is located within a larger park. If you want to go back down the hill you have to exit the park (it’s about 30 seconds away from the ticket booth) and either hike back down or ride an ojek.

We decided to ride ojek on our way down. It started raining! We had to cover Baby in her breastfeeding cover and hope for the best. Fortunately, by the time we got to the car, the rain had mostly stopped. If you get hungry, you can grab snacks, eat instant noodles, or order meatball soup here. 

Overall:

This cliff is a beautiful sight that you definitely shouldn’t miss! If you’ve been hating the Indonesian heat, going to the higher elevations in Bandung is definitely a good decision. I wish we had spent more time here, but Baby was getting fussy and I had to go breastfeed her in a really dirty bathroom and then it started raining. So we decided to head back. I’d love to come back here. I’d love to live here, too.

Adventurers should try sneaking out of the fence and climbing down the rocks, but do be careful, please. It wasn’t that crowded there, which I really liked. I always feel sad when pleasant tourist destinations get really crowded because then no one has a good experience. If I had to rate it, I’d probably give it a 6/10. For native Indonesians or those who don’t get to see forests often, it’s amazing. I think it would’ve been even better if we had come for the sunrise–apparently that’s the best time to visit. Seeing the sun rise above the tree tops is apparently very moving and humbling.