Turbulent times: Anxiety about Indonesia


Its been more than 2 weeks since my last post. I’ve been overwhelmed by my job hunt in Indonesia so there hasn’t been any stimulation to write despite collecting compelling articles and pictures to post. My title suggests that I am anxious to move to Indonesia as someone like me who has lived in America may have developed such emotions. But, that is not what I am trying to convey. Instead the anxiety that is occupying within me is the result of the uncertainty if my career will continue in Indonesia as planned.

Since January, my guess is that I emailed more than 20 applications or cold emails to various organizations operating in Indonesia that address community development, poverty alleviation, governance reform and environmental justice. I cannot fathom how many messages I sent through Linkedin directed to people in various positions at organizations I am interested in like the UNDP, UN Habitat, Mercy Corps, etc. I even created a short video about myself for a non-profit in Bali. Unfortunately, my application was not considered. My only hope so far is an environmental consulting firm called Leafplus, an NGO called The Partnership and a research institution called Center for Innovation, Policy and Governance. My plan is to move to Indonesia by next month but it is still in the air as if one of these organizations accept me, I’m holding my breathe on the outcome of a working permit and a temporary residence visa as an expatriate. My expectations were never prepared for the visa situation because it never occurred to me that it would be a difficult process as many of my non-Indonesian researcher friends told me it was not.

The situation gets more complicated as I just started a job at the historic Caffe Mediterrenum in Berkeley busing tables, washing dishes and occasionally cook or work behind the register. So it will be difficult for me to give my notice to my boss who has been gracious enough to give me the opportunity despite a very short stint. It gets even more sticky as my membership at a new cooperative household, that I helped shape, will have to end after only living there for 6 months. Although my date for departure is not set, a member that will be leaving the house must give 30 days notice and find a replacement. Therefore, being in this limbo is a difficult one as I want to stay as much as I can but I need to be respectful of the bylaws we agreed upon. In the end, I have to choose what is best for me and leave my friends that I have learned to love as well as had the chance to exchange ideas on politics and social justice. For the moment, it looks like my plan is to move to LA to be with my family that I have missed until a call for Indonesia happens.

You may ask why am I so set upon Indonesia? As an (International) Development Studies major at UC Berkeley, I studied how power structures have been constructed to create the world we live in separating societies we have come to know as “developing” and “developed”. Gaining an education in this study, has given me a toolkit to critically deconstruct and find solutions to issues relating to “development” in the sense of spaces and places (ie: cities, states, countries, etc.). For example, I have learned that we should not use the terms “Developing” or “Developed” because it implies that spaces we call nations progress in a linear fashion and having an endpoint. I can go on about this in another post but for time sake it is suggested and better to use terms like “less-developed” and “more-developed” as these co-notate relativity. Again I will explain another time. So with that said, having this foundation, I find it less useful to implement it in the US as there is already a burgeoning civil society with plenty of knowledgeable folks who are passionate on the welfare of America. However, in Indonesia, despite an already existing community of folks working on the grassroots level in solving the country’s issues, it is a very very small one as this line of work is not as respected yet to the level it is in America. With that said, I believe my skills and experience would better serve working in solidarity with the people I share my heritage.

My goal in working in Indonesia, at least for the moment, is to gain one to two years of experience in the country to understand the social, political and economic climate. It is a dream for my parents and myself to be accepted to a competitive graduate program. My mom, a typical Asian parent, has always envisioned me since I was in preschool to obtain a Master’s degree. She has been so fixated upon the idea as I believe it stems from the idea that graduate degrees equals success. It equals “having made it” as in many working class families, education is the key for social mobility. It never dawned on me that I would be able to reach such an accomplishment until I was accepted to Berkeley. Ever since then, my goal was to make my mom proud as most children would like to do. Moreover, I believe that in order to shape a competitive application, having the opportunity to set foot in my field of study in my country of focus is key to getting a nod by the admissions officer.

I honestly don’t know any other Indonesian-American who is so invested upon going back to Indonesia to help the country. This is why it has became my focus night and day finding individuals who may have answers or advice to share. Those who go back are Indonesian citizens who may not be able to help because they do not share the experience as I do trying to find an opportunity in Indonesia as a foreigner. Also they are going back to work in the business, tech or engineering sectors which already has a path set up and I am not interested. For that reason, my current experience has made me understand why people don’t like going through the path with most resistance. Trailblazing is hard, after all there is none or at least very minimal infrastructure to help you. Therefore, I am relying on contacting and meeting folks in any shape or form who would be gracious enough in lending their knowledge and time in guiding me or share some advice. Honestly, I believe it is worth the struggle because I know I have a lot to offer to communities and folks in Indonesia, whether it be my time or my experience I can share as an equal to help improve their lives together.

Three Secrets to Heartfelt Engagement

This is very enlightening especially because I’m currently looking for a job aside from my research internship. I felt I could never engage with the interviewer and I guess I just talked too much about myself. Also I think it’s beneficial to folks who are in management because it will help you garner respect without needing to assert your authority explicitly.

Seven Ways to Exploit Persistent Dissatisfaction

I’ve always had trouble addressing dissatisfaction of people’s performance in my student groups, results or just current events that are affecting locally in my community. I really think these tips are great in helping navigate through such feelings when they arise. Though they aren’t tangible solutions, but it’s a good start to have your mind focus onto something as an exit strategy or mitigation plan on dissatisfaction. Great stuff.

New Year, Let’s Try it Again


Balcony Sunset in Berkeley

Balcony Sunset in Berkeley

I meant to compose this first blog of the year yesterday. Unfortunately, I had internet issues when I got home from the gym, so I had to push back my post today. Before I say what I have to say, I want to mention that the post that was published today prior to this one was actually composed in November, however, I never got around to editing the draft until today. What a shame. Well let’s try this blogging thing again.

Different Year, A New Start?

I’ve realized after reading a question in a job app the other day – Write in 150 characters or less what makes you unique – that I don’t know what makes me unique. Maybe capturing the events in my life on a regular basis, I can recollect on tangible moments if I’m ever asked that question again.

Then, I keep telling myself and my partner also has vouched for me in that I have some interesting ideas to share but I never make the time to put it in writing. So now I’ve committed myself after much discussion with her during her recent trip to the Bay Area. Aside from sorting out our relationship, we hashed out some important activities to cultivate our personal growth. One thing she is pushing me to do is getting back to writing in a journal as well as blogging. I’m proud to say that I did begin a green book prior to her knowledge to channel my daily if not weekly feelings. We also collectively got a Slingshot Organizer which is pretty rad. Although it’s not really a space for composing thoughts but it’s nice to organize my days since I’m always forgetful of my activities. Finally, I sketched out my idea of how I can make this blog more interesting a tad bit. I know as an individual my two cents are valuable but i don’t know if others may take interest. Maybe what I plan or bring up will add one more cent of value to my two pennies.

New Adventures & Ideas

So with this new feature WordPress has conjured up in reminding you to publish a post, I hope it will inspire me to get on my laptop and write something worthwhile. Moving to my idea, I realized that I like reading the news and headlines. There are so many things going on in the world that people just can’t focus on just one thing. But I believe I’m always compelled to comment on news about Indonesia and the world at-large. I may have said this prior, but if not, I plan to write on my commentaries on these articles. My mind struggles to find something interesting or creative to transpire onto paper or the web so I figure something compelling as the news may ignite some flames in the ol’ furnace up there. I will dedicate these commentaries in the Indonesia or International Development section. To address my love for food and agriculture, I plan to start sharing my adventures in food and agricultural endeavors. I know that the organic movement and food justice scene is already everywhere in the country but hopefully my input could offer some insight to folks who may not have been informed like my involvement with Occupy the Farm, East Bay Food Not Bombs and my house garden project. This drive to find equality in food access stems from my passion for supporting local eateries and the love of cooking for myself and others. To round off my initiative with this blog is to have a space for me to just rant on life and experiences that may not otherwise be related to the other topics I have mentioned. Thus, my goal is to give passerbys a look into another human being’s life. I pray my sweat in the metaphorical sense will not be gone to waste.

Happy New Year’s folks! Wishing you all a wonderful 2014!

New Chapter in this Adventure called Life

I just can’t believe how pathetic I am in not posting anything since January. It’s been a year since I’ve been on this damn site let alone write anything significant. I constantly find myself failing in trying to keep a record of my thoughts which I think someday I would find valuable. You would assume I would be on top of writing things down because having a substandard short term memory would somehow force you to practice such note taking activity. However, that is not the case. So with that said let’s try again.

The Fork, Once Again

In the span of 11 months, I have been drifting in and out of a mental trip analyzing every move I made and the ones I will make in order to create a path to a future that I hope shines bright on the other end. I managed to survive my final semester at Cal and graduated with a decent enough GPA. As I write this I find book keeper in my brain access memories of mental pictures and events that led up to the commencement. I quit my position as the head of the Berkeley Indonesian Student Association and relegated my duties to my External Vice President. At the time I thought it would be a mistake but now looking back, it was a choice that I undoubtedly made the right call. A right call is an understatement as I believe now more than ever it was a life changing decision for the better. The cleared space in my schedule allowed me to intern at my only internship of my college career at a small humble nonprofit called Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture or MESA for short. Aside from the getting exposed to the food justice movement by way of learning their work in coordinating a farmer-to-farmer exchange program between the Global South and North, I met my great friend Aileen Suzara of Kitchen Kwento. Through the time I spent assisting her in the kitchen at Hidden Villa Farm, I found my true passion in life while having the opportunity in engaging with food activists and farmers from around the globe. At the time, I didn’t see the impact of my departure from the mainstream society but as the weeks past towards graduation, my path became even clearer.

Graduation Festivities

Commencement went by like winter in Los Angeles. I have bits and pieces of files that point to the events that surrounded the weekend. I went through my finals with reckless abandon, sadly. I wanted to get out of there as quick as I wanted to get into campus when I first got my acceptance letter. I criticize some people for not being involved more on campus functions and less on the education but I have come to realized now how I have wasted some of my opportunities by not showing up to class. I accept it and have moved on. I remember my summer was laid out with hopes to getting accepted by Volunteer In Asia’s Summer Program to Jogja. My hopes was to go to Indonesia and get experience there as quick as I can so I can come back to my girlfriend, Fitri as she was suppose to leave to Indonesia herself for her work with RAN. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t happen due to a mysterious lack of applicants which many of my Professors have responded with similar reactions. Thankfully, my classmate in Bahasa who is now my research partner/adviser, Lisa, approached me to assist her in her project that involved resource conservation and management in Indonesia. I’m up and down with this because its hard to gauge the tangible benefits of doing research. But, I guess with my mom’s unwavering yearning and my subconscious drive, I am focused in on getting into a grad school.

Mama Dede and Adrian came up to Berkeley along with my parents, Tante Shiela and company, and Dominic and Ryan. Fitri flew in from Indonesia and stayed with me through the weekend. I can’t express how much she meant to me that weekend and the days we’ve been together. Without her, I don’t think I would be able to manage the in flux of guests, events and activities. Commencement was crazy stupid. I regret walking with the BISA kids because I ended up by myself to my knowledge when we walked across the stage after fighting a swarm of students bum-rushing the stage to meet the Woz. Hugging my parents, family and friends didn’t sink in at the time. Only after the days beyond did I realize how special it was. But really all that matter that day was realizing a dream I had with Fitri. I left Honda to take a chance at a new career path that Fitri and I forged – dedicating a life of public service to the betterment of Indonesia’s welfare. It was a big gamble because I hadn’t been able to get into a good college since high school and being removed from focusing solely on education for a few years would be difficult. But by the power of the Big Man upstairs, he made it happen and that was what Fitri and I celebrated. This path I had chosen was the right one just like stepping down from BISA. The celebration at night was great having had my friends take me out to a few bars but sadly Fitri couldn’t hold herself up and knocked out early. In the days after, I just realize and still I struggle with this in that its not how large your circle of friends are but rather having tight knit group of friends is better for me. It did suck when walking across the department commencement and no-one cheered me because my parents was only accompanied with Fattie and George – both whom aren’t the yelling type. It didn’t matter, Professor Hart hugged me and whispered in my ear “Selamat Jalan” which means Good Luck  or a literal translation means Good Path. It served a nervous heart as a reassurance that I am doing the right thing and that someone with the stature of Professor Hart to acknowledge that meant something correct.

Uncertainties of the Future

The days of celebration ended and life began immediately after for me. I started my research gig with Lisa and it seemed all fun and games in the beginning. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and kind of approached it with a sense of arrogance. I may be mistaken for it for just a recent college grad’s swagger possibly. But nonetheless I was riding on the high of just having finished college from the Number 1 Public University in the World. It seemed like I was on Cloud 9 spending my mornings just spending time with Fitri and soaking up as much fun and joy we can before she left for Indonesia. There was this dichotomous split in my life of a happiness and uncertain layered back to back of each other. Uncertainty also came in the shape of the grants I would be applying to. I had 6 months to gather up my act and find a job. I took it with ease thinking the recession was over and it shouldn’t be hard to find a job.

My suspicions would be supported as I had met with a couple of non-profit representatives prior from graduating at a career fair where one of them actually believed I would make a strong addition to their company for the summer. That was for Rising Sun Energy Center. Then a month later my dad called me to tell me about a job with Asia Pulp and Paper. Though they are a hated company in which my girlfriend was currently trying to fight to protect Indonesia’s rainforests, it was a job nonetheless. Much later, a Whatsapp rep messaged me to apply for their position as a rep for Indonesia. Life was good so what was there to be scared about?

I thought to myself when I get back from LA after being with Fitri in her last month in the US and spend time with family for Ramadan I would be able to come back and find a place as well as a job to support my research endeavors. Having had found a place for the summer really quick helped create a false sense of ease in life that later would have repercussions. Let me tell you though it was a hard time leaving my apartment that I shared with Audrey, Daniel, Sue and Richard. Aside from being a part of the Dragon family it was because the last months were shared with Audrey and Fitri after having gone to Coachella together. When she left to UW for law school months later, I felt a part of me left. I really felt us three bonded particularly well and wished our close friendship could have extended despite her always feeling like a third wheel. Moving into a new space brought excitement yet again as well as a void waiting to be filled in my emotional space. Luckily, the people I lived in my transition period were awesome – Matt and Kevin.

Those last weeks in Berkeley and the Bay Area with Fitri were certainly emotional. We had never been far apart for more than a month since we became close and this new opportunity for her would find once again a way to tease that uncertainty feeling. Sadly and regretfully we couldn’t do everything on our list which bothers me today and I hope when she comes back we could try to do. On our way down to LA, we took PCH so that she could embrace the beauty and magic of the state she called home for the last few years or so. I think of all the things we did on that trip from stepping out on virgin beach to Big Sur and from surviving fog covered winding roads to sharing stories that I don’t want to do anything without her being there with me. The whole trip accumulated into one big review of our relationship together from happiness to uncertainty to a sigh of relief. We got to her home only to be greeted with a familiar face and great joy. Somehow and thankfully us three have become a force to be reckon with. I guess understanding life’s trials and tribulations will eventually lead you to your destination if you trust in yourself and a higher power.

Possibilities Started with a Dream

MLK had a dream that allowed me and my peers of color to dream to any end. That end may be uncertain, but the possibility to dream is certain. It gives colored and non-white individuals the ability to touch the sky if they so pleased. Barack Obama sure did and he was possible because of MLK. Yesterday when Obama took his oath for a 2nd term, MLK’s dream was fulfilled and renewed. Be thankful where you are in life, God knows, how different your life would have been. So don’t stop dreaming because one man’s once impossible dream was realized 4 years ago and yesterday

A New Year Cliché

So this is my first ever post on my first blog. I’m sure many people before me, who have started their own blog, have written a similar first post or entry. They may have mentioned that it is their first time writing in a medium like this or they have always wanted to do so and only, finally, have they gotten the courage to do so. Some may have started with a simple urge while others waited until the new year as a resolution to push them. I fall in the latter category and guilty of a new year cliché. Despite being categorized in that group, my purpose to write is not boxed into one class but it may be spread out into a wide spectrum.

I have never written seriously in a blog but I have owned one, prior to this WordPress account. I tried several years ago to create a Tumblr account to join my friends. I was also fueled to start one because in high school many of my friends including the guys who had a xanga or blogspot. I didn’t know what the fuss was all about and didn’t give much care at all. It was only when I got out of high school did I became interested in it. After all, social networking and media was picking up. I guess I didn’t want to be “left behind” so I jumped on after several years of contemplation. However, I felt this was not a blog rather a collection of pictures and random thoughts with no common theme. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with a blog. I watched movies and reading about people becoming well-known because of their blogs. Yet even with research I couldn’t find a theme to implement for my blog. Complimented with waning interest and commitment, I abandoned my blog. I did briefly join some website called the Writer’s Cafe where people compose and share their literary work of art but I found out quickly that no one wanted to read my work and I felt awkward in commenting on other people’s work hoping they read mine. I don’t see myself as a credible literary enthusiast to give such comments. So I dropped that one too.

Now after attending UC Berkeley studying International Development with an interest in City Planning, Global Poverty, and the betterment of Developing Countries, I found a common thread and driving force for my blog. I finally understood that blogging can be a medium to share intellectual thoughts and critical opinions. This may be humorous but I was never into staying indoors and learning the wonders of social networking and information technology. My parents raised me to appreciate the outdoors so understanding the benefits of the computer and the internet came very late. So I am holding myself accountable to committing time to sit in front of my laptop and write.

I find myself always having lots of opinions, smart and idiotic, but never having a place to put them. Instead I drop them on Facebook as my status update hoping to see what people think. I noticed that the longer they are, the less likely people read. I learned to cut them down and people seem to be interested in what I had to say. But I realized that status updates are not archived in a folder so in order to find old thoughts it would be a burdensome chore to hunt them down. Also Facebook’s Note feature seemed like a great spot but you need to tag people for them to take notice and even then people don’t bother to read. So it seemed like a matter of time until I got myself thinking to start a real blog. Real in which I commit in writing and rambling rather than posting pictures and what not. So here it is.

I want to make a last comment to say that this will be a place for me to practice my writing skills. I have gotten mixed criticism for my writings. I have gotten positives for being very visual with my words and negatives for being “too flowery”. I guess its all depends on what the criteria I am writing. So narrowing my purpose, I hope to write concise yet thoughtful pieces in order to prepare myself for thesis writing. It is my goal someday to teach at the university level or maybe just be a lecturer. I hope to follow my grandfather’s footstep in becoming a professor or at least have the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge in a classroom. I do want to warn those crossing paths with my blog that this will also be a space for me to share my episodes in life from pictures of food to daily personal events. I wish myself good luck and hopefully whoever is reading my blog I am not a wasting their time. So here’s to my New Year Cliché and may it last for more than a few weeks!