Sunday, April 25, 2010


I've visited Medan with my parents ten years ago. Went for a rickshaw ride to Kampung Keling which roughly translates to Little India. Medan is probably one of the few places in Indonesia with a Tamil temple frequented by the Indian devotees whose ancestors have migrated to Sumatera years ago. The Indian influence is very much felt with stores selling saris and streets selling Indian food with a hint of Chinese or Javanese taste.

This recent visit brings me to a Medan no different from other major cities in Indonesia. Like most cities in Indonesia, Medan is chasing the trend of modernization. Malls sprawl throughout the city, not to mention Hypermart and Carrefour replacing traditional wet markets.  Hotels ranging from five-star name like Marriott to local chains are fully booked by business travelers.

Despite all, Medan still retains its local charm. Jalan Semarang is the local food street. The street is full of kopi tiam (which translates to coffee shop) each selling different kind of local food; dumpling noodle, prawn noodle, fried kwe tiau, roti canai with mutton curry, lap ciong. Not to mention all sorts of local cakes and snacks.  Families enjoying their dinners in the no-frill and basic kopi tiam with ceiling fans chasing off the heat. The absence of air con does not deter the locals from congregating, filling the air with chatters.

Jalan Kesawan has a different vibe.  This was the most affluent and trendiest street decades ago. Now the only prominent buildings are the Tjong A Fei mansion and Tip Top cafe.  The mansion occupies an area of 6,000 m2 and used to house the richest man in Sumatera.  It's a shame this beautiful architecture is overlooked and not preserved as the highlight of the city.  Although the mansion is not exactly well-kept, it is definitely better mantained than most museums in Indonesia. For the price of Rp35,000 (less than $3.50) per person, you get a guided tour.  The 3 living rooms each decorated in Chinese, European and Malay style epitomize the wealth of the family.  The collection of photos ranging back to the Dutch era is worth a look.

Tip Top used to be frequented by only the wealthiest in the city.  Now, it comes across as a bit run-down with its rattan chairs.  The ice cream is not what I would consider the best but the place is full of history. The waiters wear white uniforms that reflect the colonial period. It is still a place worth visit in Medan.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Death and Alive

When I am busy and exhausted (which tend to be related), I become a zombie. I have no recollection of any events that occur outside work.  No idea of how I get to work (too busy typing over my blackberry) and how I get home (usually end up sleeping in the car after a long day).  I eat at my desk and can't be bothered making lunch appointments; socializing becomes a chore. I lost track of what I eat, chomping down four cookies in one go. I become forgetful; overlooking my kid's doctor appointment.  I don't make an effort to be nice to people. I snap easily. 

As I pack for my business trip for tomorrow, the irrational fear of flying strikes me again. I guess I fear death for the reason death is unknown and also because of many unfulfilled dreams; I want see my kids grow up, write a novel (which I've not even started), see places, retire by the beach, reunite with old friends  I've neglected, continue painting, learn to take good photographs, may be teach.

Why does it take death to make me reflect on my life? I guess often I'm numbed by the daily routine and it takes the fear of death to bring me alive.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Louboutin shoes

Will you spend thousand of dollars to buy a pair of shoes? I always thought they are for socialites with unlimited cash to splurge. Apparently not.  I know colleagues who own Christian Louboutin shoes. For those who do not know what these are, they are shoes worn in Sex and the City with the signature red soles.

I used to find thrills from owning the latest bag or shoes.  Now, the thrill has worn off.  For the amount of money spend on shoes, I would rather take the kids on vacation.  Yes, the price of a pair of shoes is enough to take the family for a weekend get-away.  

My happiest moments are those spent on vacation; either nearby city or exotic locations, I love them all.  And I am going to be true to myself without trying to impress anyone.

Goodbye Louboutin and hello to my flip-flop and the next destination.  

"Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone." - Dalai Lama

Friday, April 16, 2010


My last blog was a week ago. I had wanted to made it a habit of writing everyday, read some where it takes 30 days to build a habit, but lapsed in my follow-through anyway.

Last week was hectic. So much happening at work with visitors, official dinners and conferences. Other priorities got shoved aside. Realized when I don't get a balance, I tend to snap. Felt frustrated and on many occasions were not so nice. I reacted when I didn't have to. Said certain things that were better off unsaid. Was not proud of myself in hind-sight.

Decided to take it easy today.  Refused to let the guilt hold me back from leaving the office early today.  Need to catch up on rest I've been so sleep deprived.  Want to spend some quality with the kids and look forward to my yoga lesson tomorrow.

There is more to life than work and how we spend our time is a clear reflection of our priorities. Life is all about balance.

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony" 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Be present

I find it difficult to meditate. Even during 90 minutes of bikram yoga, my mind drifts away. It takes effort to tame the wandering mind and for me it's an impossible mission for now. There was nothing in particular I had in mind, just random of thoughts.

When I am overwhelmed at work, I neglect my surrounding. Nothing else matters other than accomplishing what I have to do and I've a bad habit of multi-tasking with phone calls, email and thinking about the next task. I ignore friends and family.

I am learning to take it slow, to do one thing at a time and not to worry about what is to happen.
It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I am not going to spoil my mood complaining about last week which was hectic and the coming week of packed schedule. Instead, I am thankful for this day to spend with the kids. I will just enjoy the moment and feel the warm breeze on my face.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010


I just want to be happy.  Thought I wanted to be rich but now I realize I won't be happy selling my soul for material wealth.  Back then, I thought I will be happy if and when I am rich.

Our family has a comfortable lifestyle and I really have nothing to complain about. I used to think buying luxury brands will make me happy. It didn't. The joy of flaunting my branded bag is short-lived.

So what will make me happy?  Starting to randomly list down things that I am most happy doing; morning walk, going to the beach, traveling to new places, reading a great book, meeting good friends over coffee, helping others in one way or another, accomplishing at work, writing on my tweeter/blog, watching funny love movie, playing with our dog, going for bikram yoga classes, learning new skill, trying out new restaurants.

Well, I'm learning to be true to myself.  I will not pretend to be someone I'm not by doing things I'm not happy with.  Will I still go to a club and dance my way through the night, may be every once in a while when I feel like it. But I will no longer go just so others can think I am cool.

This is who I am and I am happy with who I am.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


One of my new year resolutions is to spend more time with the kids and celebrate every special occasions with them. Basically to pass on some family traditions.

On Sunday, it suddenly hit me I have not arranged for any Easter celebration when my husband asked what I was planning to do with the kids. Contemplated whether I want to pay exorbitant amount for Easter brunch in most five-start hotels which include kid activities like egg hunt. Since I don't particularly enjoy crowded places and to keep up with my other resolution which is to be frugal, I decided to skip the hotels.

Instead, we went for brunch in a nice casual restaurant, Koi, at Kemang.  The kids get away with ordering what they love which for my daughter means a huge waffle loaded with ice-cream topped with berry sauce for lunch.  We agreed "no tech" which means no phone, blackberry and ipod at brunch. Instead we talked, and to my surprise my daughter knows more about Easter than I do.  We chit-chatted and browsed through magazines together. Nothing fancy yet an extremely enjoyable lunch.

We then ended Easter afternoon with chocolate hunt at home where I hid Ferrero Rocher chocolates (most Easter chocolates were sold out by then) and the kids had fun searching through the house for the chocolates with our puppy running after them equally excited by the commotion the kids created.

I've decided that we'll make brunch and chocolate hunt the Easter tradition for our family, simple activities we all enjoy and will remember.  Also, will start the tradition of having Sunday as "no tech" day.  Sunday is a day we bond as a family.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Curious eyes of a traveller

So often, we take for granted the city we live in.  I walk around, or should I say get driven around Jakarta partially blind.  I whip out my blackberry, work on my lap-top, read or sleep the moment I get into the car.

It wasn't until my last visit to Hanoi I reached a revelation.  After umpteenth visits to Hanoi, I am starting to  miss seeing the beauty of the city.  I used to be intrigued by sights of flower ladies peddling basket of flowers, street side cafes serving traditional food where people sit in short stools, the beauty of the lakes and ancient tube-houses.  I was starting to walk around Hanoi like I've seen it all and know it all.  It was a shame to take such a beautiful city for granted.

Likewise for Jakarta, it has its charm once you peel through its irony of chaotic and glitzy layers.  Once you step outside the malls and walk into the neighborhoods, it's common to see jamu ladies carrying bottles of traditional herbal medicine in baskets tied to their slender back by a sarong cloth, bakso vendors peddling pots of steaming beef balls served over rice noodles, vegetable vendors making their rounds with push-carts filled with fresh vegetables and spices and the warungs around every corner.

Perhaps it is the constant search for a topic to write that makes me more alert to my surrounding. Perhaps it is yoga that teaches me to be present. I am more aware and appreciative of my surrounding, I now see with the curious eyes of a traveller.    

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bikram yoga teacher training

Jen, our teacher was sharing her experience of the Bikram teacher training, after class today.  If 90 min in class sounds tough, two sessions a day in addition to the lectures for five days a week plus one class on Saturday for nine weeks seem impossible.  Apparently, more than 300 people took the last teacher training in Las Vegas with less than 10 drop-outs.  A woman who is diagnosed with cancer completed the training. That is what I call commitment.

Amateurs like us have a choice whether we want to go for class.  In the teacher training, it is no longer a choice as you are expected to walk into class whether you feel like it or not.  As Jen puts it "you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable ".  It is about dedication and believing you can do it.

So often, we give up when we face adversity in life.  We seek the easy way out, we quit.  One valuable lesson I learn today is when the going gets tough, we just have to grit our teeth and continue.  What doesn't break us makes us stronger.  And yes, we are stronger than we think.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When life hands you lemon, make lemonade

A friend was laid off from her job.  She was an aggressive treasury sales in an international bank and was one of the unlucky ones who was retrenched during the financial crisis 2 years ago. Now she runs her own bakery from home, whipping out delicious cakes and cookies.  We didn't know she has such talent and passion when she was hassling for sexy derivative deals then.  I am sure she would not have done her bakery whole-heartedly if she is still climbing the corporate rat race.  We corporate rats are so burnt out by the end of the day we having no spark left to fuel our passion.

Things happen for a reason. We may not understand why certain things happen. Our 1st reaction is always "why me'. As long as we can coast through life's turbulence with faith that "this too shall pass", we will arrive at the shore.  The destination may not be what we had planned for, but life never fail to surprise us.