All posts filed under “Story of My Life

Obviously Oblivious

This morning, as usual, I picked up a friend and whisked us to the office on my dear motorcycle. I wasn’t racing, but I wasn’t a snail either. We got through traffic just fine and arrived at the final U-turn, about 300 meters away from our final destination. I pressed on the brakes and we slowed down to an almost complete stop. I saw that the oncoming traffic was still about half a kilometer away and I decided I could make the turn. So I did.

But I was wrong.

Some guy on an old rusty motorcycle yelled at me for making a near-miss. My heart must’ve skipped a beat, because I was still trembling when we got off the bike at the office’s parking lot a few minutes later.

Then I stopped for a moment and thought about how I got into that situation. I was making a U-turn, and… where the heck did that old man come from? He was on the other side of the bypass divider, facing the oncoming traffic. And he yelled at me? What the &u©k? How dare he yell at me when I was the victim?

But see, that’s traffic in Indonesia. You’ve got to get used to it. You must adjust yourself and be vigilant at all times, because who the heck knows what the guy in front of you will do in a split-second. He might swerve left, or right, stop smack dab in the middle of the road; heck, he might as well make a U-turn in the middle of a busy highway without so much as activating his turn signal or look at the rear-view mirror. Yes, everything’s possible.

As for my passenger? Not a word she said, even until we got to our cubicles. In fact, not a word she said since she got on the bike behind me. So I guess I’m the weird guy here, because she’s obviously oblivious.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

So I was just thinking about the past few weeks. Dissatisfaction had become the central theme of a lot of major conversations surrounding me. A lot of people are complaining about this and that and whatnot, and mostly it’s because they don’t get paid enough. It’s the “What’s In It For Me?” factor.

Well, let’s just list all the reasons I should be thankful. I’ll start with the things that money can’t buy:

  1. I have a wonderful, caring, loving family. Both my parents are alive and well, and they still work. My sister is starting a small business with her friends. We can still go to church together whenever I go home to Yogyakarta.
  2. My extended family is also fun to be with and most of them are in good shape (physically, financially, whatever).
  3. I have a lot of friends ranging from people I met in elementary school to work colleagues who have become some of my best friends. Good friends are hard to come by, and not any one person is capable of being the perfect friend, but my friends are good enough for me.
  4. My English is good, I believe in my logic, and I can play several musical instruments. All this I owe to God.
  5. I get to work on something that I love: programming. Work and office life is not always fun, but for the most part, it’s quite enjoyable.

Next, for the “mathematicians” among the readers, here are the things money and statistics can measure:

  1. I had retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma occurs on 1 of every 18,000 – 30,000 live births worldwide, and currently more than 90% of infants having retinoblastoma survive. Ten minutes of googling and five minutes of math would tell you that in 1984 there are between 300 to 500 infant deaths worldwide due to retinoblastoma. I survived, and I believe I wasn’t just part of a set of statistics. My survival is a miracle.
  2. I can read and write. This might seem like a very trivial thing, but about 16.8 million Indonesians are still illiterate.
  3. I have a Bachelor’s Degree, majoring in Electrical Engineering. Primary school net attendance ratio in Indonesia is above 85%, which means more than 85% of children aged 6-12 years (primary school age) actually attend primary school. Secondary school net attendance ratio drops to about 57%, and as you can imagine higher education NAR drops to well below that (no actual figure available yet).
  4. I have a job, and the longest period I have been unemployed is less than a month. No matter how stressed I am at work, I will be more stressed if I am unemployed. As of 2010, the estimated unemployment rate in Indonesia is 7.2% of the workforce, which amounts to around 8.4 million people.
  5. I have an income level that allows me to live comfortably, support my parents if only a bit, and aid others who are in need. I’m certain that my income level enables me to live well above the $1.25 PPP (purchasing power parity), and even well above $2.00 PPP. In Indonesia, as of 2010, 50.6% of the population (118.4 million) live with $2.00 PPP, and 18.7% of the population (43.7 million) have to make do with a $1.25 PPP.
  6. I can afford a nice boarding house and have three meals a day. Some say that there are more than 3 million homeless people in Indonesia alone. They probably sleep under bridges or on the streets, live on one or two meals per day, have no appropriate clothing to protect them from the heat of the sun or the pouring rain, and have to worry every day about getting scooped up by the local police.
  7. I have a company-sponsored health insurance policy. Last time I used it, I had a bad case of bacteria infection in my stomach and it would’ve cost me $40 if I didn’t have that covered.
  8. I get to fly home at least twice a year. The company covers the tickets, and even gives me a little bit more than necessary so that I can treat my family and friends to a really nice dinner every time I get home.
  9. I have a motorcycle. As of 2009, there are “only” 70.7 million motorized vehicles in Indonesia, more than 52 million of those being motorcycles. Keeping in mind that Indonesia’s public transportation system is not desirable, I consider owning my own motorcycle a privilege. And yes, I paid for it myself (settled the entire loan in under a year, at that), another privilege if I may say so.
  10. I have a cellphone. About 35% of Indonesia’s population (81.9 million people) can’t afford to have a mobile cellular telephone subscription.
  11. I have an internet connection. Two, in fact. As of July 2011, internet penetration in Indonesia is only 21%, which means more than 63 million people aged 15 – 65 in Indonesia have no internet access.
  12. I can spend less then I earn, and thus have quite a bit of money left at the end of the month to transfer to my savings account. A lot people have trouble with their shopping habits and a lot more have trouble just making their ends meet.

There you go. This list could go on with all the luxuries that I can afford for myself. I’m not the richest guy in the world, but there are a lot more people who don’t have what I have now. To put things in perspective, here’s a list of some people that I met during my last visit to Yogyakarta that are thankful for what they have:

  1. A geek friend who is struggling to keep his computer store open while paying the operating costs of it and dealing with the gambler landlord and pesky police officers. Thank God, all I have to do is what my boss tells me to do, and I get paid. I don’t have to worry about me going out of business (at least, for now), getting an eviction notice, or being in jail.
  2. A friend in adventures who works graveyard shifts while working on her thesis because she’s been paying her own tuition fees since her first year in college. Thank God, all I had to do was text my mom and she’d give me money to pay my tuition, all the way until graduation.
  3. A friend in gaming who dropped out of college and is now struggling to stay on top of things by learning to be a property reseller. If the business slows down, he would have to go for months on end on practically nothing. Thank God, I never have to worry about next month’s salary.

Alright, so this post is starting to get too long to read. With all the reasons to be thankful I mentioned above (and many more I couldn’t write down), if I’m still complaining, I should be ashamed of myself.

So, dear God, teach me not to focus on what I have not, but on what I can share with others. Teach me to focus on my privileges rather than my limitations. Teach me to appreciate the littlest of things that other people may not be able to experience.

Satisfaction guaranteed.

It’s Not On Me, It’s Not On You, It’s On Both of Us

One of a few things I hate about visits from friends and family is the nonsense that everyone blurts out about not wanting to trouble the other party. Simple example: paying for dinner.

Honestly, I’m not gonna pay for your dinner if I don’t feel like it. You should do the same.

I am not one who likes to take advantage of friends or family. But here’s the thing: if you said you wanted to pay for dinner, I take it that you really do want to pay for dinner and not just being nice for the sake of maintaining a good relationship. A good friendship is not measured in how fancy a dinner you could buy me. Heck, we could share a bowl of instant noodles for all I care.

So don’t offer to pay for dinner unless you mean it, because I won’t hesitate to accept the offer. And when I say I want to pay for dinner, please just let me do it because I feel like doing it. If we both feel like paying for it, we should simply split the bill. Frankly, if you don’t want to trouble me, don’t come visit me.

I don’t know about you guys, but to me it’s that simple.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a rant about a friend’s visit that went sour. My good friend Andy treated me to a lot of fancy dishes these last two days, and I gotta tell you I enjoyed every one of them! He does, too, because he values the quality of our conversations more than any dish. And I know for a fact that he’s not a pretentious person.

The Pursuit of Perfection

Perfection is an elusive goal. In some cases, it is practically impossible to achieve perfection. Take a simple example: finding a perfect boarding house. Now, this is a true story, my story.

When I first came to Bali, a new friend of mine took me to see a potential boarding house. I immediately took it, not because it’s perfect, but because it’s logical. I’m a new guy, I have to find a place to live, pronto. As it turns out, it was a great boarding house. The owners (and their kids) were all smiles and happy to welcome me, neighbors minded their own business and for the most part didn’t cause any trouble, the cost is affordable, and the room’s got quite some space. I got used to the dogs barking their heads off in the middle of the night. But later on, after the owner’s mom got sick — mind you, she’s a 98-year-old grandma with a case of a never-healing-broken-arm — things got a bit complicated.

How would you like to wake up hearing a very old lady moaning and calling out someone’s name, while trying to scrape pieces of plastic off of her broken arm, plus the family’s helper dragging an empty bucket just outside your front door? Add to that the setting: 2 a.m., in the middle of a thunderstorm and a soundtrack of dogs whimpering, while the smell of burnt incense from the day’s evening prayers hasn’t gone away.

I do not want to be there when she passes away. (not that I want her to, but you know… it’s frickin’ eerie!)

I was lucky enough that a friend offered me a vacant room at her boarding house, one that I’ve had my eyes on since a few months back. So I immediately took the opportunity. I was delighted. The room was bigger and had better flooring and walls, air circulation was much better, and best of all I had no worries about midnight wake-up calls from any dogs. Oh, and of course I was excited to finally have neighbors that I actually know. Little did I know…

I got me lots of new neighbors. But this one right next door… oh man… I still wake up at 2 a.m. sometimes, not because of dogs barking or old ladies moaning, but because of the fights they have. She’d yell and scream and cry at the same time and he’d just rub it in her face. And then she’d hurl a cellphone to my wall and it breaks to pieces. And the words… oh, the words just couldn’t get any harsher.

I could handle the noises just fine, I just thought of them as wild dogs barking their heads off and biting each other. But the harsh words, they get me tense every time. There were times when I really wanted to come out with my broom and just knock her out (and then deal with her boyfriend).

But she’s the owner’s niece. I strike her and I’m out.

So there you have it. The pursuit of a perfect place to live. I’m not talking about a huge palace with a swimming pool and jacuzzi (although it wouldn’t hurt if I could afford such a place), but a place where I can just live peacefully in a community where everybody has good manners and are thoughtful enough to minimize disturbance to everybody else.

Quite impossible, it seems.

UPDATE: It turns out that as I was writing this post, the now 99-year-old lady really passed away. My sincere condolences for the kind family that looked after me for that wonderful year.


Just a quick trivia question.

If you realized that being turned down actually makes you feel glad, because then you feel safer, what does that tell you?

Wishlist Revisited

I’ve already posted about this topic twice (here and here). Now I want to look back on the years gone by and see how much closer I am getting to making this wishlist real.

1. Get a house of my own.

This one I’m going to have to set aside for now. Property prices in my hometown are crazier than ever, and rather than stressing myself I might be better of pursuing something more reachable. But I am looking into possibilities, and when the opportunity comes I will surely take it.

2. Go on a backpacking trip to Europe.

I’ve started saving for this one, and although the current balance is a far cry from the actual budget, I can confidently say that I will be able to achieve this in a few years’ time.

3. Learn photography and get myself a not-so-bad DSLR camera.

This one’s also going to have to wait a little longer. It’s a hobby (and a quite expensive one), so a lower priority should be appropriate.

4. Get a 13″ MacBook.

I bought my MacBook Unibody A1342 about six months ago, and I’m about five months away from settling my payments. So I can safely say I’m well on my way to achieving this.

5. Have foster kids or be able to fund schooling for underprivileged kids.

As I’ve heard so many times from flight attendants every time I get on a plane, putting on your own oxygen mask is a lot more important than assisting a child or senior citizen. So, this has to go down for the moment.

6. Get a health and life insurance policy and build a detailed pension plan.

This should be my first priority for now. The longer I wait to buy a policy, the higher the premium. But I’ll have to settle all my payments first (MacBook and motorcycle), so I guess early next year would be a good estimation.

The Personality of The Interwebs

A good portion of the computer-literate world is now accustomed to publishing personal articles on the interwebs. Heck, even my mom now has a facebook account. But not everybody is prepared to consume all the information the web can provide us today.

Exhibit #1: Many people publicly post their most personal thoughts or feelings or emotions. I realize that not all blog-writers or facebook dwellers or tweeps are fully aware of the privacy preferences provided by the sites they use, but that’s not the point. It’s the content of what they are publishing that matters.

Exhibit #2: Many people are disturbed or annoyed one way or another by other people publishing their most personal thoughts or feelings, political stances, or even just putting up a simple personal opinion online. How Apple fanboys who think Steve Jobs is the next Jesus debates with PC fanboys who think Jobs is a nutcase is a prime example of this. Also, the not-so-recent launch of “Draw Mohammad” day on facebook obviously got the world debating furiously over the appropriateness of it as a way to encourage people to exercise their right to free speech.

So there you have it. Some people post away without thinking of the consequences. Some other people are disturbed by what somebody publishes because it just tickles their nerves.

Some people do both.

Why criticize people who post their affection for their God when you post away how your affection for a human makes you feel the world is a really ugly place to live in?

My idea: If you can’t say something nice, or if you can’t rephrase your not-so-nice opinion into something civil, or if you can’t evaluate the repercussions of what you are about to say… just keep your mouth shut. And if you choose to speak anyway, don’t cover your ears while somebody else says roughly the same thing to you about something slightly different.

Wishlist Upgraded

Here’s my new wishlist, an upgrade of my previous wishlist:

  1. Get a house of my own in my hometown Yogyakarta, Indonesia, preferably in the northeast part of the city, in the suburbs.
  2. Go on a backpacking trip to Europe, preferably with my better half.
  3. Learn photography; and while I’m at it, get a DSLR camera, maybe a Canon EOS D40. [review]
  4. Get a 13″ Apple MacBook Unibody.
  5. Have a foster kid(s) or be able to fund schooling for underprivileged kids.
  6. Get a health and life insurance policy and build a detailed pension plan.


Tadi aku ngobrol sama temen waktu keluar makan es buah…

Aku: “Number one on my wishlist: MacBook. Eh… tapi cari yang lain aja deh, yang lebih bermakna getu…”

Temenku: “Ehm… MacBook Pro?”


Okay, I wanted to write down my wishlist. So here goes…

  1. Punya rumah sendiri di Jogja
  2. Backpacking ke Eropa, preferably with my special someone, yang ampe sekarang belum dapet-dapet juga…
  3. Punya MacBook 13″ aluminum unibody
  4. Punya anak asuh atau bisa menyekolahkan anak-anak yang nggak bisa sekolah

That’s it for now… I’ll add some more later on.