21.3.17

thoughts // reverie of a solitary ant*



(An ant was walking on a little twig, minding its own business in one of its three seconds break from the endlessly busy life of the ant community. Within those short three seconds (short enough for us human, yet, long enough for the ants to gain back its strength); a blue bird flew and snatched the twig away, carrying it to the top of a tree far far away from where the ant used to live.

You see, the blue bird was expecting a bunch of new eggs that will soon turn into a bunch of baby blue birds. The blue bird was so excited that it failed to notice there was an ant on the twig it carried to build a nest, thus, the ant did not get eaten by the bird. The ant was frightened for one split second, short enough for us human to notice yet long enough to create a terrifying moment for an ant. Its nature is to live on the ground, and suddenly, up and up it goes, further and further away from the ground. Lucky that the ant was smart enough not to let that shock affect it, so, it holds the twigs tighter and tighter as the bird flies with it. On the top of a tree, the twig was places carefully by the bird, structured in a way that a bunch of dried twigs can create a comfortable nest for a family. Structure, is not something the ant was unfamiliar of. More so than the height, the distance from the ground, and how home suddenly seem so far way. And once the blue bird fly away, the ant starts to crawl away from the twig to the tree while making a list of possible way back home safely. The ant remembers someone said that escape is an act of returning. "But this is not an escape. I just need to know how to find my way home", it thinks to itself. "What I need is to start moving", it says loudly to itself, or so it thoughts. 


In this story, we need to remember how our sense of time, space, and distance is different to an ant. What seem to us like a tree two feet away from where the twig was originated could feel like it were miles and miles away. Even a puddle is wide enough for a small ant to voyage its own sea. And in a lifespan of an ant, what seem to us like it was just an hour journey can feel like it was endless. To have a space and time for itself is a foreign concept for a hardworking communal ant and the first thing it notices was the stillness …




[… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …]



Without other ants endlessly murmuring around it, the solitary ant can finally listen to its own thought. For another split second, the ant was confused. But, to not having to do anything more purposeful than finding a way back and without its daily movement that often too obliviating, too fast, too narcotic to contemplate; the ant starts to learn to pay more attention to its surrounding, noticing some details it often missed, having a space for thinking, and off it goes on its journey back with an endless chain of thoughts going on in its mind.


First thing that the solitary ant notices was how the smell of the tree was strangely familiar. It feels so far away and at the same time it feels so close to its heart. "Did I just contradict myself or was the distance gave me perspective that what seems impossible is never actually too impossible?”, it think to itself once again. And with that point of view, the solitary ant starts to see the big jungle it lives in (that for human is actually just as big as a backyard garden). With that perspective, it asks itself whether it has always been objective in judging things it sees. In the past five full minutes, the solitary ant has been asking itself so many questions in its mind. Its thoughts never sound so loud and busy as it is at that moment. It starts to contemplate on how it sometime wish to have a space for itself-- and now that it has all the space and all the time in the world, what will the ant make good of it? How much space does an ant need when it says it needed a space? And when an ant does not have anything it supposed to be doing but merely strolling from one spot to another, what was it supposed to do? Will it be too busy doing what it was supposed to do and forget what actually matters? And what actually matters in a life of an ant? With a bit of guilt, the ant start asking itself if it was working hard enough, moving fast enough, and whether it was contented with what how it live its life. If the ant does move fast enough, does it ever reward itself before asking 'what's next?'. However, it always the hardest to satisfy itself than to satisfy any other ants. That limit is more personal and more repressing than the ant ever thought before. The solitary ant realizes how for it's been awhile since it last aims to surprise itself. So it gives itself a moment to stop for a while. At that moment, the solitary ant notices how wide and deep blue was the sky, how the breeze was cool like a peppermint it once upon a time found on the ground, and how the ant is no longer confused by the fact that the smell of its home is no longer traceable. Home is physically closer and yet it feels so far away. And the solitary ant thought, "How long has it been since I last spend an entire three seconds just to look at the sky? How long has it been since it last takes a serendipitous walk?” And what does an ant knows about serendipity, anyway? More so of its devotion and persistence to keep on moving: moment passed and moment forgotten. Funny how such thoughts came out of an ant with a freedom to choose when to stop and when to keep on moving. But the solitary ant was in an adventure, a quest, a moment to learn from its own thoughts, surrounding, and careful observations. Whenever the ant found an answer to its questions, it only leads to more questions, like a big endless puzzle.

On and on the thought goes until the ant arrived to the bottom of the tree, its fear of height has been conquered, even forgotten. The distance has been passed. The mythical height of the tree is measured, known, experienced. It all loses its myth. Arriving on the ground, it can once again smell that guides its way back home. But this time, the solitary ant took its time and wander to an unknown terrain where all those smells of home once again fades away. On and on it wanders, giving another chance for an absolute encounter, attentions, questions, and a moment to just look at the sky.)


(*) title generated from rousseau's reveries of the solitary walker
--written for a spontaneous-writing assignment by jan verwoert 

20.7.16

collecting taste as memorabilia


(I never actually succeed in collecting anything other than book, photographs, and only recently-- a taste of memory. I tried collecting stamps, fancy papers, fridge magnet, and trinkets. At the end of the day, I say goodbye to most of them. Unlike what it might seem, I don't do hoarding and not easily seduced into buying small stuff that I don't need. But, travelling makes me weak. Like other first-time traveler, when I finally went on a trip as an adult ten years ago, I tried to start a collection of travel souvenirs for my house. Several countries and few years later, most of them do not spark joy or memory as I wish it would be. I learned about it the hard way, including that one time when I blew basically my whole budget at the first day of the trip to buy a mini toycam, disabling me to cafe-hop as much as I wanted to. Thank God it (at least) makes a funny self-depreciating travel story every now and then, especially after the fact that I only use the camera twice before it got buried in the deep end of my closet and eventually got broken. 

Two years ago, after knowing better than blowing my budget for things I don't need for a collection I could never build, I start saving up my travel budget for things I enjoy doing and bring home only books, photographs, and only one or two things that actually makes me happy. After few trips that allow me to indulge not only my sight but also my tastebud, I accidentally find a new favorite souvenir: taste as memorabilia. Despite my belief that involuntary memory is triggered and not constructed; with the taste of a recent trip to a certain place-- there is an exception. The memory is combined with the memory of our body to respond to the trigger, which in this case is the food recreated from the journey. 

First, it acts as a memorabilia from a particular moment. For example, there is a delicious ginger crème brulee I had from Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney. That particular treat reminds me of my first winter day spent outside; challenging myself to one of the thing I fear the most. I failed to recreate the ginger crème brulee at home but it always becomes my token of bravery against that stupid fear of eating out alone. Then the list is getting longer: there was that asparagus and haloumi cheese served during a picnic by the seaside that get me completely obsessed, the best-polvoron-ever from a recipe passed in the family of a friend in Manila, that African style sweet potato fries Dito and I had when we are very hungry but wanted to save some money to see Jean Paul Gaultier's show, that first time I finally learn to cook rendang with my uncle (in Madrid!!) and learn how to make dumpling perfectly (in Darwin) from a girl who learned the trick in China, that time when my uncle took me on a dinner date to have an extra delicious Spain-style cold-served prawn that I am still fully obsessing until this day, that super strange mix of Belgian potato with satay sauce and mayo I had in Amsterdam that is strangely delicious.. the list can go on and on. 

But, not until I found a delicate rose-petal jam served with sesame toast in Darwin have I start recreating foods from my trip and collecting the recipe. My host said that the rose petal jam was from a Greek shop in Melbourne. After that short trip in Darwin in 2014, we went to Melbourne and obsessively tried to find the jam (and failed just as miserably). It leaves a strange disturbing mixture of curiosity and disappointment; so, I tried making the rose-petal jam as soon as I got back to Jogja. It was a successful experiment and just a bite of it always brings me back to an endless summer morning in Darwin with all the strange birds’ sounds outside. At this point, it becomes a time capsule. 

There are also the comfort foods that I still keep on recreating until this day: an Asian-style rice bowl with the perfect sunnyside up I had in Madrid after few days of eating only pastry, nuts, and potato. The burritos I had in two different cities served by two different ladies, each one after a long exhausting flight. And on the way back, after a morning flight from Spain to Amsterdam and a brisk walk in cold weather with extra heavy suitcase and a new extra travel bag; there was that comforting ginger risotto with veggie stir fry and tempe that does as much to my soul as it does to my body. The ginger risotto with veggie stir-fry also made me promise myself to one day make it for my vegetarian best friend-- which I did when we were both in town. I still make them regularly because it's just so good. All of which also reveals my bad habit of flying on empty stomach and got very very hungry each time I landed-- which makes a bonus point for every warm food that is served after.

Most of them are recreated at home only by its taste and memory instead of written recipe, yet, all of those reminds me of a good time, good friend, and makes the perfect souvenir back home as a reason for an intimate gathering with friends and family.  I guess this time; this collection will last for a little bit longer.)



8.7.16

thoughts // eid


(My love-hate relationship with Eid has been flourishing since I was younger. Overtime, it's more on the love part and less on the hate part. My dad was a very traditional person and Eid used to mean endless visit to older relatives-- and there are lots of them. I remember enjoying the visits and eating all the cookies when I was younger, hating it and being a sulky teenager who put up an attitude when I got lost at small talks, and start playing a team work of cancelling Eid visits with my two little sisters. I don't know when exactly the number of those visits start decreasing and Eid start becoming a beautiful ritual of big family dinner the night before, sitting by the window waiting for the glorious light from hundreds of torches carried by children while praising God and walking together around the village, the morning prayer at one of the most beautiful prairie soaked in warm morning sun amidst the cold mountain air, and the family gathering right after that.

Eid holiday makes me falls in love with the idea of staycation and food as the most effective tool to foster a relationship. Oh, the food! I remember that one time when my aunt went out of town on the first day of Eid and suddenly there was a big empty space in the holiday spirit that year without the chicken curry and spicy beef-liver curry she makes every year. Eid would also mean homemade calories-loaded dish served mercilessly, uber-delicious bread-and-butter pudding from a neighbor that my other aunt would bring, lots and lots of chocolate to brawl about with my little sisters (the friendly-brawling always become the best part of it), those perfect cakes my uncle brings, and the Javanese-style rendang my mom's cook will make before he went back home for his holiday. If there is one thing that never changes, it is the feast and endless shopping sessions for food, fresh flowers, and gifts. It is the time of the year when heavy consumption is collectively tolerated. 

But Eid, so I realized when I grow up, is never exactly the same every year. That is why the presence of those rituals are very comforting and reassuring. Other than that, Eid is keep on changing along with the family's movements. When I was still in the university and my sisters are still around, we would binge-watch Disney's movies or gather around in silence reading fantasy while nibbling on bottomless cookies. When I moved to the city, going back home was an act of vain success symbol and irrational splurging. Thank God it was only that one time before I move back to my senses. When my sisters and I start learning to bake; we would spend a day making strange mixture of milk and cheese cookies, brownies, and weird-shaped food that mom would brag about. There always a time when my uncle would impulsively ask me to help him throw big barbecue parties at the garden in the afternoon and the children can taste a drop of Bailey's during one of the family dinner a night before. That was when I taste my very first alcohol in a Kahlua mix that was way too sweet even for my young taste bud. 

When I got married, Dito took me to my very first Eid mobility across region which I loved at first and despise two years later. Apparently, I am more of a stay-in Eid lover than the roadtrip-goer person. We then would start our annual house cleaning session, buying a bunch of fresh flower to put around the house, and stocking up food like we are about to face a zombie apocalypse. There are lots of baking-session happening in the house, afternoon spent reading together, an annual day-out with my friend Anna, gathering invitations for different groups of friends, and some exhausting yet satisfying days of endless friend and family visits. This year, we decided to do Eid night a bit differently. Instead of staying in, we stayed at Dito's parents’ house and went for a night ride around the city, had gelato for two instead of having big family dinner that night, and came across some youth on the back of some truck chanting praise to God on highroad instead of seeing them walking around their neighborhood holding torches gracefully. At that moment (and in the case of NYE too) I bragged, "Apparently, we do things better in Kaliurang, don’t we?” Maybe it was the weather. 


The ritual keeps on changing but the togetherness always warms the heart—when served in the right portion. I still loathe the big big-family gathering with hundreds of people I don’t recognize shaking hand and forgive each other for wrongdoing they didn’t even have the chance to do as some of them are only meeting each other once a year. I still have mixed feeling when meeting my old friends from school and see them change so much; like yesterday when I met the cute senior I had a crush on when I was 9 and see that the bad boy who used to steal my hat and put it up on the tree turned into the sweetest gentleman who teaches toddlers for a living-- and suspected gay, naturally.. And on top of it, I still hate the fact that my uncle is not coming and my sister went back to the city before Eid ends, leaving a part of the holiday incomplete and gave a twinge of melancholy when she left.. Like today.)



6.5.16

thought // in every kind of relationship, you make time


-----

"Why can't we get all people together in the world that we really like and just stay together? I guess it wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes! I know what I need: I need more hellos!" | Charles M.Schulz |

----- 

("What are essentials in one's life?” that is what I keep asking myself lately. In time like this, my mind often get so occupied. As a result, I become cold and distant, sparing no time for melancholy and other feelings. But then, now that I realize I might be leaving soon.. time flows in a strange way. The morning when I receive the email for the interview of my life, I was on a bedrest. Life was put on hold before, suddenly, life spins uncontrollably. 

"It's about time", I thought. But time, is a funny thing. J.D.Salinger once said: "Time, or the lack of it, like everything else, depends entirely upon who's using it." I forgot that in friendship and in every kind of relationship, we (have to) make time. It's never about having not enough time but weather the time is made available or not. 

To my defense, my world was going on a full speed, I got so self-absorbed, I was losing track, I failed to noticed the other planet's rotation around me; and worse, I even forget to mention the reason of my absence. Sometime, it is those who are very dear to you who got taken for granted. In my case this moment, there were two of them. Just a week before I leave for the interview, two of my best friends are moving out of the city. One of them is even moving out of the country. Two goodbyes in one day feel just too much. I hate goodbyes, especially to those whom I love so dearly. Even more painful was the fact that I did not give them enough time or attention, and I did not give myself enough preparation. During the whole time when I was away, it didn't ache. But when I'm back and realizing that they are not around anymore, suddenly, I got obsessed and it stings badly. 

Now, each time the loved ones ask for a piece of my time; I will rush to their side, giving them a piece of me, even if I barely had enough for myself. For me, those who I love so dearly-- the gardener of my heart, they are the essentials..)


30.4.16

it started with a sad story


*****


(When I lost Ubi, my rabbit, I knew I will go somewhere far for quite a long time. So when de Appel Art Centre made an open call for this year curatorial program, I braved myself to apply against everyone's belief that this is all too early on my career to even consider applying. The program that only accept 6 curators every year is way too prestigious, too up high on the ivory tower of the international art scene, and as always-- shamelessly, I didn't think twice: I just jump. 

A month later, few days after I was just hospitalized, an invitation for an interview popped in my email. Half-asleep, I start panicking: the interview date is less than a month from the day I receive the email, I have got no funding yet to actually fly to the Netherlands for the interview, I am still recovering, there are still visa to apply and almost-expired passport to change, I have all kind of existentialist questions and self-doubt that is getting on my nerve, and I have not yet prepared any kind of presentation. All of which, miraculously, solved itself: I got my passport and my visa on time, I bought the ticket a day before I actually go with funding money that was granted a day before that, and I recovered fast and well. It all happened in a blink of an eye. Suddenly, I find myself on a 14-hours flight to the other side of the world, alone, strangely calm while slowly digesting whatever is happening at that moment: I was shortlisted for an interview at de Appel. 

I was unusually calm and preserved. The trip and the whole thing were strangely tranquil. The panic attack lasted for only few days and without realizing it, my mind is slowly making a list and I slowly but surely, checking them. Even when I was running under a heavy rain from the train station, 10 minutes before the interview, there was no trace of panic left. I even took a moment of self-reassuring selfie and send it to Dito on my way to de Appel under the rain that was ruining my new coat. The interview went longer than planned, but the hour-long interview was so relax it somehow felt like it only went on for fifteen minutes. A day later, they gave me a call, congratulating me, telling me that I will be one of six curators who will join the program this year. If it was the regular me who is responding to that news, I'll be euphoric. But it was the strangely-calm-version-of-me who is in the house: I gave a simple 'wow, really' and several 'thank you', and I didn't know whether I should be sad or glad. 

I spent the rest 10 days of my 12 days trip in Europe with an idle part in the void behind my head still trying to digest this information slowly and once again, making a list in my head while very very slowly checking it. If things go right, in August, I will be moving to Amsterdam for ten months. Moving, for sure, is never a simple thing. Plus, I now have a new funding issue to solve without which I can never actually go to join the program. But all those issues aside, I now have to really stop for few hours and actually process these whole things: the wave of change that is about to happen, the life I'm leaving behind, and the new adventure to come. The fact that it was one of a dream coming true and being overwhelmed by so many supports feel somehow numbing too. It was almost like peeling off a band-aid quickly that for a shocking moment, there was no body response before it started to tickle or ache. This post is one way to digest these thoughts and the dream-come-true that was all started with a sad story: my rabbit died.)


9.2.16

thoughts // expectation-loaded dish


(My father was a man who cooks. When I was 9 years old, my dad gave me a fancy knife set as a birthday gift. When we are not climbing the hill on Sunday, he would teach me how to cook a simple dish he learned recently or cook me comfort food when I was on obligatory bedrest-- which is pretty often. As time goes by, I grew up a tomboy and a feminist. The teenage version of me rebelled against my dad and be more like my mom who is fiercely ambitious in her job. I refuse to wear dress, give myself a pixie cut, lost the whole knife set I used to keep upon my cupboard, excel in class and losing the interest to cook whatsoever. When I'm in my 20s, my dad had a heart attack from climbing the hill with my environmentalist ngo friends-- and I didn't join him on that event. I was devastated. Then I start taking a good care of myself as a girl, start wearing dresses, keep my hair long for awhile until it start to fall and settle for short to medium bob from then on, and most importantly, I start learning how to cook once again. Two years after he was gone, I was still cooking compulsively. I bake more cake in a year than I did for a lifetime. Years after that, I was still obsessed with good food, but I have made peace with both side of me-- the cooking type and the non-cooking type. I cook only when I want to and treat it as a hobby. When I had a bad day, midnight baking therapy will make me feel great afterward-- with a bonus: a treat for everyone in the house. But every once in a bluemoon when I dine out, I sometime found a taste of my dad's cooking and that is how this story started.

There are days when I miss him so much that I start to take notes of the places where I can find these scattered memories of taste-- from that chicken Maryland in an old Chinese restaurant with amazing tiles, that fried rice in an organic restaurant, and.. well, that was it! Yet, those two places brought a piece of his presence back to my life for a short wistful moment. Ten years now since he was gone and the list stuck at those two places that is no longer even there. On the desperate time of adding more places to that list that is now down to zero, I was obsessed. Apparently, they have a name for those things: Gustatory Nostalgia-- taste that brings back memory. These past two years I am all about the phenomenology issue of how our body and senses remembers and triggers memory.  Every now and then, I desperately seek for a slight comfort of his cooking. I shamelessly start revisiting places he used to take me. 

That photograph above was a disappointment that manifested in the form of 'tahu guling' and a story of father-daughter lunch date. Once upon a time, my dad used to take me to a very humble eatery selling this simple dish of tofu, vegetable, and tempe in sweet garlic sauce. I didn't remember if I like it or not, but, I do remember the place. So, one day, Dito and I went to that eatery and ordered the dish. After two of three bites, I didn't find even a glimpse of my dad's presence there.. I was more than disappointed. I was looking at the food with expectation that is too big; wondering how, in theory, that dish is supposed to remind me of him. It feels like I was betrayed by the only dish where I can possibly find him waiting for me. The obsession makes me forgot how these involuntary memories are triggered, not constructed. Proust said, involuntary memory is a subcomponent of memory that occurs when cues encountered in everyday life evoke recollections of the past without conscious effort. For Proust, it was a taste of petite Madeline cake soaked in a cup of tea that triggers his childhood memory that was lost to him. The taste triggers more vivid memory of how the childhood home looks like and how happy he was. For me, it was that one time when I ordered fried rice in an organic restaurant right in front of my dad's cemetery area, and the taste brings me back to those Sunday’s family breakfast and simpler things in life. At this point, I might just let go of that obsession, stop putting up such big pressure to a poor little dish in front of me, and just wait for a surprise visit in a bite-- one day.. one lucky day..)



10.1.16

looking ahead // 2016 // in tranquility


//quote to remember//
"let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." |marcel proust| 

//resolution//
1/ opt for tiny everyday victories, one step at a time | 2/ explore, go deep, and learn more | 3/ work hard-- and having fun while doing it | 4/ life is good, make no apology for that! follow that impulsive picnic urge, lay down and just think about the sky, give more hug and enjoy it, don't feel guilty for a do-nothing day.. | 5/ house-hunting, for real | 6/ be gentle and forgiving, better be kind than being right | 7/ finish the things I started last year and the year before | 8/ be healthier, body and mind.. | 9/ be wiser on posting anything in the social media-- lots of misunderstanding was rooted online last year | 10/ never touch anything with half of my heart-- be present, in love and in life | 11/ listen to the intuition, if something doesn't feel right or not worth any attention-- don't do it.

(this year is potentially become another fast-paced one..but I will walk through this year in tranquility. "The Tao abides in non-action, yet nothing is left undone.", Lao Tzu said. So, for me, this is the year to let things develop naturally, be at peace, and as I am turning 30 this year-- maybe it's time to give zero f*ck to things that are unessential..)