ABOUT BEING BRAVE

 

translated from Indonesian

A couple days ago, I read my dear friend Inna Hudaya posting with #metoo hashtag, I automatically put myself to wrote my story out. But the effect of what I share to public, goes back to me in waves.

The magnitude of this problem is so huge, I felt like feeling a tsunami or big earthquakes all over again in my life. And the most craziest part of it is that this earthquake come from inside of me.

I decided today to talk clearly and in my mother tongue: Indonesian. I know very well that what I will tell would make the reader feeling very uncomfortable. This writing is made not to make the reader to feel comfortable. But I feel this world have no more time to feel comfortable for the things that has ruins our life completely.

I feel, in talking this, I am talking what has been a taboo in our society. I am talking for my mother, for my grandmother and all the women before me. Also for the future women, my daughter and my granddaughters. For them I am speaking. And for them I wanted to say that: being brave is contagious.

When I was a six years old girl, my male cousin did sexual harassment for two years long. I was always quiet about it and keep it in secret, never talked about it to anyone in my family. He is my first older brother figure in my life that I ever knew in that early stage of life. And instead of protecting me, he crushed everything that I believe about a man in such a young age.

At twenty-six years old, my ex-husband raped me. Because he thinks by raping me, which can make me pregnant again with a second child, our marriage will last. The reason that our marriage was over because I found out that he has been sexually harassing my close female friends, when I was pregnant and breastfeeding my son. I do not need a father for my son that could not respect women. My decision to have a divorce completely done base on this fact.

I can say now that, throughout my pregnancy and my marriage with him for nearly two years, I let myself being raped over and over and over. Because I never wanted it and I even grow sick with sex. And the man that was supposed to protect me, respect me, never respect my words when I said NO. I have to kick him, screaming no continously, but he never listened. I do not know at that time how to say or to tell to other people when I experience violence inside my own house and in my own room. When my son was born, slowly I build up my courage, because my son is the future.

And my ex-husband did this because he thinks by being his wife, am his object. A toy that can be treated as he want and it is my responsibility to serve him. If marriage is something based on this belief, I choose not to marry again. For me, once is enough to be treated as a sexual object only, a thing or a property belong to somebody else.

These two incidents has ingrained and ruined me from the inside. And what is worse, all of this supported by the system that we are living in. When the health system such as the doctor that was supposed to take care of me when I had post-raped trauma, he said and blame me, even laugh at me, harassing me mentally. I go back to him and asked, who in this whole world wanted to be raped, even by their own husband? Sorry, but this perception in Indonesia is madness. They do not believe that there is marital rape, there is rape when you are having a relationship, and there are so many harassment all over the place. And last night I had to ready Dhyta Caturani post, that even the Head of the National Police of this country blame the rape victim.

This is CRAZY. I have to speak out. When even I lost my trust to the head of the national police of this country, to protect and hold the rights of its citizen to feel safe. What kind of leader that lead us, all women, being ruined like this? This country has just done violence against us, did not respect and insult us as women. There is no protection or so ever that we can ever hope from them.

This afternoon I asked myself, what else that I can believe in?

This pain in my chest comes like the waves. Friends who also shared their brave stories the last few days on my post and the ones who sent me personal messages. We are like hugging each other and cried ourselves out while holding hands together. We can only take care of each other with our own power. If we can wash away our wound with our tears, we are doing it. We will wash away ourselves while standing upright. Letting our tiredness to be sucked by earth, our true mother and we have the power to continue our lives. To take care and mend our womb, to heal them, so then we would not born again another generation that are full of pain and wound of violence.

Just last week I gave a testimony recording the domestic violence in Indonesia and all kind of violence that happen to my body. Either personal, by the state and also by the system. Also this year, I experience battering from my ex-boyfriend while I was overseas. I am very grateful for my friends all over the world, my guru and also my good friends in Nepal, that has been guarding me to go through this process. I know, all these events will make me grow to be way stronger as a woman and also as a being.

I even said that if I become the path where all my experiences can be useful for everybody to reflect, feeling what every women who experience violence feel. I offer myself. Whatever has happened now could be transform to be the strength to speak out.

My studies on history teaches me how this country, this civilization treat women.

We have lost all our respect towards woman. Towards our mother. All kind of violence can happen to any women, no matter who they are. I wanted to ask to every man who did violence against woman, did you not see in their eyes: your mother, your grandmother, your wife, your partner, your sister or your daughters? Are you too numb to feel if something you do happen to them also?

Had we lost our humanity and kindness inside ourself, hey human? This is the big question. And by not wanting to acknowledge this problem, not caring about this issue, by ignoring all this by saying that this problem does not exist, you are contributing in letting the world trap in the cycle of violence, again and again.

I see and I feel, why is it so easy for us to ruin our natural world, ruining our own mother, our own home. Mining the mountain and polluting our sea. Ruining the whole ecosystem. Throwing plastic everywhere. Burning out forest and so easy to cut all the trees that is shading our lives. For greed, we ruin the deepest essence of our being.

For me, mother earth, is the deepest love existed. Unconditional love. She let everything happen even when us, human, her children, raped her over and over, ruining her without thinking about the future or even ourselves.

But I know, in her love, she is not silence. We as human has to carefully see all these things. Nature gave her signs. And this is all because of love and not because of fear.

Human lived with fear. Fear of being hungry, fear of never having enough, fear of not being enough, fear of offending others, fear to speak out, fear to live, fear to die, and etc. This cycle of fear is never ending because you, yourself keep on feeding them.

I feel it is time for us to speak out without fear. It is time for us to shed the light from what has been holding us to talk about painful things and find its solution. To heal the wound inside ourselves, woman and man. To find out our own world balance. Together and not alone anymore.

I am grateful that I am always surrounded with kindness. I still have the ability to trust human after all that I been through. I believe in raising my son to become a good man, I believe that there is still many good people in this world when we still wanted to believe and do what we believe in. I believe with kindness like I also believe in the ways that we can talk about our darkness.

Kandy, Sri Lanka, 20 October 2017

 

A LETTER TO MY MOTHER ON HER 70TH BELATED BIRTHDAY

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Dear Mami,

This is my son other mother, Ibu Heri, my son called her Ibuk and called me Mamah daily. She is as much as a mother for my son as me.

She is my neighbour, Simbah Ngadinem second daughter, my landlord. She is my older sister, my most reliable and trustworthy person, my partner in the process of raising my son the last seven years. She never let me down. We both owe her as much credit as a real family is.

This is her, doing my son laundry in her beautiful morning rituals. Both Simbah and Ibu are batik tulis traditional woman artisans, they would make a beautiful one piece of batik cloth with malam for two months full. Sometimes with gamelan music in the background from an old radio that Simbah had while she blow her canting and draw softly the pattern in the cloth. Every single day they do this when they are not busy taking care everything in their life, including my son.

When woman do their domestic chores, I found them in their graceful light. This is how I know her: simple, patient, affectionate, reliable, dedicated and loving. I know my son is safe in her hand.

Lately I have been practicing morning rituals and this is one of my first morning sight. My neighbours doing the laundry, the whole family together. The traditional well is the source of the morning energy. And yes, I am not a laundry person (I prefer ironing), I am not the perfect mother at all. I am perfect when other co-exist. I am existing as a mother to my son because of my neighbour.

I remember the day when we come to this house. With Ibu Hatch-Barnwell and Steven Bino Basira when we went house hunting. I had a messy separation with Bhumy’s father, had nothing and only carry the 15 months old baby in a baby sling. A completely lost, disoriented young mother and in the verge of tears anytime people look me in the eye. They didn’t ask or say anything. They take me in gently.

Oh how they take me in.

Four months later, I had to go for my last presentation for my final paper in the university and my son had a fever. I felt I can’t go that crucial morning, since he just had his first febrile seizure attack first time in Jakarta two months before. Both of them said to me:

“Trust your son with us, do your sidang skripsi and everything will be fine. Trust us.”

I did. And because of them I got my university degree and graduated that day.

Or when I was anxious of going the first time to India for a festival, because its going to be my first trip again after 5 years of not even travelling anywhere before because I am too scared to leave my son. Simbah only said:

“When the mother is calm, the children will be. Leave with a peace of mind, it would be easier for us to take care of your child, focus and finish on what you are doing. Then come home.”

I keep this words in mind after so many years. And because of these words, I found myself again. I had so many interesting job/work/travel offers that I learn not to refuse just because I had a son. I learn not to limit myself. Our life gets better. I got better as a person and a being.

I crossed so many miles and walk my nomad path even as a mother. They both are my pillars throughout my travel. As strong as any influential woman in my family. As inspiring as any of my favourite author or public woman figures. Woman are resilience and strong. This is what I learn from them.

Both of them are widows. They understand well the meaning of loss. They understand that nobody can be a single parent. Its impossible to do. Even nuclear family concept is absurd already. Woman need support. We need to support each other. To raise children you need a village, I prefer to make that village, than being a heroic single mom of the century. Am not in the superwoman band. I am imperfect as I am a human.

I lost you when I was 23. Two days ago you meant to be 70 years old. A beautiful graceful grandmother of my son. He is also a Cancerian. A home and family loving boy growing up to be a little man. He has your skin. Your fragile gentleness that I learn to understand slowly.

Then I found a grandmother, mother and sister again when I am 27. Simbah Ngadinem and Ibu Heri, they are the woman of my life and my son’s family. And I want to share these stories with you. I want to share these women who raise your grandson and help me grow as a mother. Through them I learn the value of trust, that strangers can also means family, and I accept this facts. That we are all one.

I forgive you for not being here physically. But I believe you are here, through them. And I am grateful for them, for you who has deliver me into the world so I can experience all this human experience, thankful for all the motherly blessing that the universe is giving me.

I understand you much better when I am also a mother myself.

Thank you for all the woman in my life with their grace, beauty, gentleness, vulnerability, warm, home, strength, resilience, anger, madness, grief, sorrow, pain, sadness, inspirations, lessons, wisdom, love and compassion. For your all beautiful souls, my soul and heart is honoured to meet you in my life.

You are loved. You are love. All ways. Always. #adaptingalexelle

Big hug, big love,

Astrid

Written last year, on her birthday, 22nd June 2016

The Melancholia of Transition

 

img_1179Jomson, Mustang, Nepal 2014

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” ~ Pema Chodron

The hardest thing in having the habit of living like a nomad is that you are constantly feeling in transition. Often feeling not exactly there.

2015 feels transitory for me, it is a year where it takes me to go beyond my comfort zone and trying new things. Completely new things. Testing my own limit. Going through the different sense of things beyond my reach. It has been giving me all the biggest lessons. It has shown me my capability and also my weakness. My constant travel also teach me something that we all should be careful not to burn out along our journey. That stopping is necessary. That a rest is always good. Even crying your eyes out sometimes. Asking for help. All is necessary.

I wish I could start to write something more uplifting in this beginning of the year, but this writing become more like a reflection.

It become something that I ask myself the fundamental questions about home, when you are constantly moving around. When your comfort feeling often when you just see yourself carrying only one bag in a journey. Then you suddenly feel home. Alone with just one bag. Walking to some unknown destination.

***

Death has been a constant blow in my life. Death, I realised can come in many forms. Death has often mark of a cycle for me in life. Last month, my most respected teacher, Benedict Anderson passed away in Batu Malang. I am supposed to submit an obituary writing for him and I haven’t started yet. The thing is, Ben teach me how to live.

My last email correspondence with Ben was about going to India. And I managed to be back in India again last year.

Pause.

The draft of this piece was done in January 2016. Fast forward, I’m continuing this writing in November 2016.

And its start to turn out what November feels. What 2016 for me feels.

I was back to Northern India again in March 2016, to pause a bit, to breath a little bit to things that brought back my sanity. I couldn’t continue my writing before hand. Now, I am on my last night in Saigon and found myself back to this blog.

This year, I ended back in Jogjakarta. I realised after trying to figure out what is the relationship I have with this ancient spot for the last fourteen years, is to also realised its old adapted name, Ayodhya. I missed this fact somehow along this journey to understand better the meaning of having home. To grow rooted.

While 2015 feel transitory, it is exactly in these melancholia that I felt in the shift within myself. The soft breaking of my own walls while staying in India. To stake my own heart once again. To go deeper again than ever before.

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Dharamsala Tibetan Archive, Dharamsala, North India, 2015

I had to go back to Dharamsala in October 2015, to be reminded again where all these journey of the open heart started four years ago. I openly grief and let go of the loss of my parents, letting things go for new spaces to come. I ended up feeling disoriented for a while. And the tinge of melancholia hanging in the air. But I manage not to get overwhelmed by it, since I know already all the things that I need to do to handle it.

I did not plan to take more journey this year. But seems the fact of always having a nomadic streak is just something I need to accept in my life. I end up in different places: Lombok. Gili. North India. Singapore. Toraja. Cambodia. Vietnam. Though seriously you would find me most at home nowadays, even revamping the space after going through so many years of trying to organised a proper home. I end up chucking 70 percent of my things, start a new restaurant venture with my best friend, organised a bi-weekly secondhand market which ended up being a community hang out. While our restaurant, at its best, starting become one of Jogjakarta communal living room. I am finding myself more in the kitchen, from cooking, managing and hosting things. I notice I wrote more while I am travelling solo. And I do these in and out nowadays. Seeing the fluctuation of my energies, those moments when I need to recharge myself and moments when I need to show up for others.

I lost two important person this year too. One is our first restaurant customer, Budi, he was only 28. Another one is one of my really good friend, Chindy Tanjung, she died before turning 40. If Ben Anderson teach me to live, Chindy teach me how to hope. Her best reminder is left at my son’s name, Asabhumy. She add Asa years back when I was still pregnant with Bhumy. Asa literally means hope.

I learn to go through my grief. Keep opening my heart to also celebrate death and all the values behind it. And I see death has the ability to transform so many things. I change my relations with death. It has been a decade since my mother passed away. In all my transitory state, I accept that giving time and space heals everything.

I took the heart to face and not turn away my face in seeing the darkness anymore. Lessons while travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam, flow like water. Being in Vietnam the last few days, the attack of nostalgia is strong. As strong as remembering all my love ones in a bite of food.

In the cold air of the mountain.

And in every breath I take in feeling alive. Here and now.

Bubur Ayam Kampung ala Peranakan

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In the process of cooking daily in Warungkita, I realised for me food are part of my expression of nostalgia and I am my own storyteller through my own family recipes.

I talked the history of this long signature dish of: Bubur Ayam Kampung ala Peranakan (rice porridge aka congee Chinese Indonesian style) that reach my friend Nino’s table yesterday rainy afternoon and we had this talk.

When I grew up, my family favourite spot for Bubur is this particular famous restaurant in Cipayung (all the way after Puncak) called Sudi Mampir (Why Don’t You Drop By – basically the name of the restaurant). They sell the best comforting bubur in the world. My mom and me has always taken by this, and since Cipayung is two hours away (minus traffic) from our home, we tried to make this at home, guessing the recipe by the sense of our tongue, trying to replicate the taste of this particular type of bubur. We managed to have them close to its taste until the day she died.

When my mother was diagnose with cancer in 2005. Her sense of enjoyment of food was lost. And I had to see her pass her days, slipping and slipping further away towards death.

There is a saying in our family or a general belief, that the closest you are to death, in the end you will keep on eating your favourite food. At her death bed, my mother requested a particular shark fin soup from TRIO restaurant in Cikini, which my best friend Alia brought all the way from Jakarta, before she went to a coma. And its one of the last dish that she eat with delight before she died. TRIO restaurant has also been my grandfather favourite when our family still stayed in Jakarta.

A week before my father died, he requested to my grandmother house assistant to cook all his favourite food. I am reflecting now, that food is the closest thing that still attached to us when our sense of life is still lingering. Its the symbol of our survival urge to cling with material world.

My only way as my mother’s daughter at that time, hopelessly 22 and lost with the sight of death, was to go back to my mother’s pots and pan. And cook this particular bubur recipe. It become the only thing that my mother can eat and digest. And yes, I believe every time I stir the pot, I put all my love and tears, and maybe a tinge of fear even with the fact that I know I am going to lose her.

But in the process years later I ended up improving this recipe and reclaim them as my own. I add ginger, lemongrass and a whole of ayam kampung (free range chicken) to the pot. Making them to have the reputation of bringing people back to life (I wish) when one of my best friend name them “Bubur Pembangkit Mayat” (The Porridge that Can Rise Death People).

Such reputation came in the changing season or at the rainy afternoon like yesterday that hit Jogja. When a friend or my son or even myself is going to catch the flu or cough or slightly shivering, I always make this one whole pot of chicken porridge. It really help people who are sick and a very comforting dish. I remember when my best friend, Dina, can’t eat anything in her early trimester of pregnancy, I always come to her house and cook this for her. This porridge had grown to something we all love together. I am so glad how this memories has turn out to be one of my most meaningful story.

Thank you for sharing this pot, Nino, by coming to our warung in the middle of the heavy rain. And also every other friends, worker, customer that had enjoy this pot of memorable porridge. Thank you for sharing my memories. I will not forget this.

Have a nice Sunday

This post is a late post from a few months back. Slowly going back to the blogging world.

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Our Bubur Ayam Kampung is serve every Saturday in @warungkitajogja,

Nitiprayan – Jogjakarta

Karanganyar: Cetho Temple, Kethek Temple and Sukuh Temple

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Sunrise view from Candi Cetho, Merapi, Merbabu and Sindoro Mountains range, Central Java, Indonesia

I’ve been missing Java a little bit since moving to Bali for a while, and I remembered this trip that I impulsively did before I went to Kathmandu again last year. I went with the boys, my ‘brothers’ and my son, Bhumy, to Candi Cetho and Candi Sukuh in Karanganyar, Central Java.

These two magnificent old temple have a special meaning to me since the very beginning of my first visit way back in 2005. Its located near Solo where my father lineage come from, its been an inspiration for my favourite theatre, Teater Garasi, in Jogjakarta for their masterpiece work of Watubatu. It has also been always a personal pilgrimage for my Javanese ancestors.

Their unique architecture style are one of my favourite in Java. It is somewhere reminding people with the style in Latin America. I am so glad that I could take Bhumy in this trip and also visiting a newly found temple behind Candi Cetho, Candi Kethek (The Monkey Temple).

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Krisna praying in Kethek Temple, Central Java, Indonesia

IMG_0329The boys on top of Kethek Temple

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Bhumy in the path to Kethek Temple, Karanganyar, Central Java

Its nice to see my son back on his barefoot and exploring the wilderness with his uncles. We rent a car for two days and head off to the temple. The small hotels are still nice like I remember. The feeling of the place stayed sacred after seven years even.

I took the bath in the Saraswati statue, where they have one of the best water spring in the area. It brings the memories of a personal silent time I had with the place years ago and somehow I awash all those memories that I need to let go. I felt home and quiet at peace.

IMG_0649  IMG_0638Cetho Temple, Karanganyar, Centra Java

While entering Sukuh temple, one of the local old guide explained to us a lot and even showing Bhumy a lot of things while we were there. The architecture of both temples are still a mystery for modern archeology. The way they made the statues and the way it constructed like a certain pyramid has somehow become a missing link in the typical Hindu-Buddhist period of Java. I had a long talk before with one of my professor and we agree that the theory of its age is more likely that its dated on the site latest renovation that happened in 17th century. This place feels ancient to me. Much much more ancient.

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IMG_0678Candi Sukuh, Karanganyar, Central Java, Indonesia

The Hindu in Indonesia do regular ceremony and pilgrimage to both places. Also the Javanese that also still practicing Kejawen rituals. Both of these sites are still active, so please show your respect while you are exploring these areas especially when people are praying and practice certain rituals. Its as sacred as any places of worship.

A Reflection of Taking A Rest

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Writing about a journey has never been an easy one. Especially when most of the experiences are inward. How do you suppose to describe the sense of travelling inside yourself. To be honest, sometimes you feel lost in words after many journeys. And when you found yourself in your so called homeland, you only wanted to wrap yourself in a cocoon.

By January 2015, it’s already the rain season outside, in this tropical rainforest state and you wanted to wrap yourself more. You are already back home and scattered yourself all over the main island and the gods too. You never really stop walking. You wanted to rest and you know you mindfully need one. And you did.

***

You asked your local massage guy, Pak Warto, to help you in shutting your body down. This strong headed body of yours, who often forgot it limits, who always chase herself to go beyond her limits and sometimes it feels not so good. The body would take it toll in the end, and in that third week of December, you start your hibernating period.

Closing yourself.

But not totally, because you have your growing six year old boy beside you who would want to snuggle every single time because he has been missing you so much. And he is in a bear cub mode on. But you need that too for your eternal motherly bonding with your children. And he helps you. Reminding the essence of nurturing, that to grow is also by giving nurture. Or like my wise friend, Hanny said, to let go is to let in things too. It has always been a two way process, a circle, not only a one way thing.

And the flu started. A bad one with extra cough. The young cub got one, but not as bad as you. You feel the pain, the choking in every time you tried to speak out and something stuck by your throat. And slowly you sooth yourself down. Hot lemon water, those childhood classic: Ibu dan Anak cough syrup made in Hongkong, the forever saviour of Indonesian: Tolak Angin, and extra extra long nap.

You sooth yourself by slowly talking inside. Very slowly. And listen. Listen to yourself. You feel Bali is calling you, once again, like in every grandmotherly calling.

You had to take a flight exactly at Christmas night, that nearly poked your brain to death, which you commit not to ever take another flight when the flu happen. But like all things you arrived safely in Sanur. You had come to rest. Breathing the sea breeze of the Balinese southern sea and sleep in for some more. Enjoying your private space with your son. Your soul mates popping up in the house. Giving you all the love, hugs and food for all the nourishment of your heart. And in the end you find yourself in the magic mountain of Pupuan. Finding yourself in the circle of women healers and the heart of your soul mates. And be blissful, be thankful. Finding all the love in the eyes of loved ones in the first light of 2015. And you snuggle in for some more.

Everything feels out in the open of the grass fields and the wind slowly whisper in your ears. The moon is still. And you burst slowly like a never-ending fireworks. Seeing your own beauty. The beauty of each moment of your lives. Even the beauty of all the pain that had transforms you until now. And you let yourself be healed. With every tears that runs, you wash away all your sorrow. With every smile you give, you give all the love you got inside you. And just BE.

With all the imperfections of life, the impermanence of a moment and FEEL them completely.

Your purpose in life is often to find this BALANCE. In where to start and where it ends. When to keep walking and when to stop. Life has teaches you that in your journey, you start picking up your pace. Smoothing things out. Slowing things down. Stretching yourself to see the flexibility of your heart. The beauty of a certain fall, the courage to stand up and the ways to fly away.

And you know there would be time for you to walk again, start that run and raising that head once again facing all what lies ahead.

For now, rest, my dear heart.

Listen to your own heartbeat.

photo: Asabhumy snuggling in Sanur’s house

QUOTE #2

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“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
― Pema Chödrön

***

My favourite Pema Chödrön quote with the photo I took last month in Upper Pisang, while doing the Annapurna Circuit. It was my first clear glimpse of Annapurna Mountain Range. I realised to take a mountain photo you need all the luck and friendship with the weather. Things can change so very quickly, sometimes in second. May all the lives who are lost in this region last week find their peace.