To you, whom it does concern

Dear my future husband,

There are only a few moments in life that can top the significance of the day you marry the person you love. I can say it’s one of the days anyone would highly anticipate and pray for; so tremendously life-changing one cannot help but write about it.

People say marriage is the beginning of a lifelong journey, and so my palpitating heart and nervous stomach are well justified. But honey, we both know for sure that reaching this point in life is a long journey in itself. The person you’re marrying is the polished version of herself, who’s spent years perfecting the self that’s now put-together and stronger. You’re marrying a person who’s experienced heartbreaks before–who has bounced back and reinvented herself to finally learn to love fully and wholeheartedly. The person who’s the reflection of everyone she’s ever loved. And so are you.

You’re marrying a person that doesn’t give up on love. Who’s forever grateful because she almost did, but didn’t until she met you. You, who taught her that love needs not be difficult. Who’s been showering her with love that’s centered around harmony not conflicts; love that holds you steadfast yet always encourages growth. A love unlike any other. And with that she promises to always love and caress you with a thousand of the most amorous caresses a woman could ever possibly give.

Dear my future husband,

It still blows my mind how much things can change just within two-years time frame. You’ve transformed from a mere lone stranger into the embodiment of everyday miracle I never want to lose sight of. Somewhere between those compelling conversations of ours, your heartfelt laughter and utmost kindness, I’ve fallen without seeing it coming. Your flaws and weaknesses are like mere details of a fine art that makes one appreciate it even more, because you’re more than sum of your parts.

This time, time works in our favour. Had it been a year sooner or later, an hour early or behind, fate might not bring us to where we are now. We needed to be who we were, needed to go where we went, and needed to weather what we did, so we can be together at the exact time it was meant to happen. For the first time in my life, everything feels right as it should be. You’re like the note that justifies the whole symphony.

Dear my future husband,

I choose you because you inspire me. You’re the kind of person that always makes me want to change myself for the better. I can feel in my inmost heart your admirable qualities, truly and actually, that have put myself to shame. Looking forward to being amazed everyday by your world perspective, morality, and ever-expanding knowledge. Thank you for teaching me to love, forgive, accept, persevere, connect, and be vulnerable with the right people.

Dear my future husband,

The future has never been as near as tomorrow. Here’s to finally ending a journey and beginning another: our own.

 

Hugs and kisses,

Your 14-hours-away wife.

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What Being Engaged Means

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It means taking a step forward to embark on a whole new journey.

It means leaving all the pain of the past behind us, never looking back.

It means understanding that love isn’t perfect, but betting on it anyway.

It means agreeing to spend the rest of my life with you.

It means getting closer to having you, forever.

-11 Aug 2018-

RACE in Seoul

One day when I’m old, I wish to reminisce my youth that is filled with a lot of beautiful traveling experience. However as important as traveling destination is, who you travel with is just as equally important. I’m one of those lucky people who get the privilege to travel with those who are compatible with me–be it in energy, aspiration, and also liking.

Meet RACE, which is the acronym of Risang-Arga-Cia-Elvia (literally the first letter of each of our names). On September 2017, RACE had a trip to Seoul, South Korea. We’d bought the ticket from 6 months before, so it felt really exciting for us when the time finally came.

From left to right: Risang, Arga, Elvia, and Cia

At first, South Korea was never on my target destination for traveling. But one day we stumbled upon cheap Vietnam Airlines ticket fare. Since none of us had been to South Korea at that time, we impulsively made the decision to buy within a day.

And guess what? We didn’t regret it at all! Here’s why:

1. Perfect blend of traditional and modern culture

We all know that despite being one of the most advanced countries in the world, South Korea is still home to a notable culture in Asia. It includes their food, their traditional clothing, structures & sculptures. There is still some preserved cultural area in the heart of Seoul among their high rise buildings and busy central business districts. On day 1, we went to explore Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village. We rent some Hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) to wear during the day, to get the feeling of being Korean even more. Not only that the buildings were enchanting, but the pieces of clothing were also very vibrant and beautiful. Oh and plus point: renting Hanbok allows you to go inside the palace for free!

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It still blows my mind how a small country that was among the poorest post-Korean War can catch up this far with the rest of the world only within a 64-year time frame. Now, its major influence is not only in terms of economic but also cultural. Aside from the traditional culture, we also got to explore the modern & pop culture of South Korea.

We went to SM Town Coex Artium, a heaven for SM Entertainment’s fans, one of the biggest entertainment companies in South Korea. It is well-known for the top talents under the management, such as EXO, Super Junior, Girls Generation, and many more.

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The building is basically a mall with a lot of exhibition area dedicated to the artists’ artworks and photo shoots. Since I’m not a fan of K-Pop myself, I didn’t find the exhibition particularly interesting. However, there’s a huge library inside the mall that caught my attention. Really shows that reading, not just consumerism, is an appreciated culture in this developed country.

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2. Heaven for skincare addicts and snacks hunter

You haven’t officially visited Seoul if you didn’t go to Myeongdong. It’s the most famous shopping district in Seoul that is filled with numerous amounts of shops. Though I’m not a fan of K-Pop, I am a fan of their skincare products. I personally think their products are of high quality, but made affordable. Think of Innisfree’s green tea serum, Nature Republic’s aloe vera soothing gel, Laneige’s water sleeping mask, and many others. For women, I bet you won’t dare leaving this almost-always-crowded district without buying at least one beauty product:

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-23 at 15.50.49Oh and did I mention the district also has a lot of mouthwatering snacks?

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If anyone asked me where to shop in Seoul, I’d definitely recommend this place. It’s a one-stop shopping experience so you won’t have to bother yourself going back and forth!

3. Breathtaking scenery

Apart from its city-life charms, Seoul also has another side that’s worth exploring: its natural side. Immense yourself in the beauty of Nami Island, home to the famous series Winter Sonata. To get there, you must take either a bus/train ride for approximately one hour from the city center. Then continue with a ferry trip, and voila! There we were, in Namiseom, to experience Summer Sonata.

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-23 at 15.50.38 (1)WhatsApp Image 2018-08-23 at 15.50.37 (1)Since we came in late September, the autumn breeze was starting to blow. So even though technically it was still summer, the weather didn’t feel like one. It transitioned beautifully with some leaves started to turn yellow. Too bad we didn’t go there when they’re fully orange.

And of course, we had to add Petite France to our itinerary as the cherry on top. As the name suggests, it is a miniature of a French village that is full of colourful buildings and cute little museums. Worth the additional KRW 8000.

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4. Fun and Exciting Touristy Places

Just like other cities, Seoul also has a lot of places for leisure. We went to a place or two, but my favourite was Everland, Seoul’s large themepark. And when I say large, it reaaaaally is large. It has five main areas, one of which is a zoo where you can see pandas (popped my panda cherry here too!). As for the rides, the most notable one was T-Express. According to Wikipedia, it is the world’s fourth steepest wooden roller coaster. It is also the world’s ninth fastest, fourth tallest, and sixth longest wooden coaster. If you’re a daredevil, this one is a must.

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We had so much fun on our first three days in Seoul, so we decided to add a beautiful ending on the last day: visiting Namsan Tower (more commonly known as N-Seoul Tower). It’s the place where you can tag your love locks while overlooking Seoul from atop. To get to the top, all of us dared ourselves to climb the 1.7 km stairs. It seemed easy… But we ended up exhausted anyway once we arrived at the top. Nevertheless, the view was worth it.

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As soon as the sun sets, we got ready to go back down using cable car. That night’s view was one of the most memorable views I’ve ever had in my life. It truly felt like I was in a city of stars. Couldn’t be more thankful for the experience, and the companion.

Thank you Seoul for exceeding one’s expectations, and for igniting one’s desire to return. Adieu, for now.

Japan.

Hello 2017! It’s been a long time since I last wrote something on WordPress (though I did update my two other blogs occasionally, like here and here). While I gotta admit it’s partly because nothing particularly interesting happened in my life during the past year, I also realised that the trend to blog slowly disappeared with the rise of more instant media sharing. Why bother reading long blog posts when you can watch vlogs on Youtube or get 15 seconds insight from someone’s Instagram story?

But hey, that’s exactly why I’m back on WordPress: to challenge the notion.

So anyway, I’d like to share a bit of my Japan trip last month. It was my first long leave from the office and I just thought it’s worth sharing–the info might be useful for some, who knows.

If you know me in person, you’ll know how I (kinda) grew up on mangas and animes. That’s why I’d always wanted to visit the country, yet for some unfathomable reasons, I never really got the chance to until this year.

The decision to take the trip itself was somehow random. In the end of 2016, a coworker of mine told me that she’s going on a Japan trip and she’d like to have a company. I immediately bought a ticket as well because, it’s Japan! Unfortunately not so long afterwards, she told me that she’d canceled the trip (although she’s bought the ticket). So there I was, somewhat worried. I repeatedly told myself though, “Solo trip? I can do this!”. But being the Elvia that I am, I persuaded my other friends to go on a trip with me and got lucky because one of them said yes. :p

As for the itinerary, I spent 7 days for the whole trip with 3 days in Tokyo – 2 in Osaka – and 2 in Kyoto. Since I’m dedicated to spend a whole day in Disneysea (Tokyo) and Universal Studios (Osaka), that left me with 2 days to explore Tokyo and 1 day for Osaka. Was it enough? For initial visit it was, at least to me.

My days in Tokyo were filled mostly with visiting shrines and popular landmarks, such as the Hachiko in Shibuya, Meiji Shrine, and some shops in Harajuku. Here are some of the highlights of my Tokyo trip:

1. Where I stayed: a capsule hotel. Since it was pretty cheap and unique, I decided to opt for one. Picture was taken from Google though because I forgot to take one. :p

Was it convenient? Surprisingly, yes. Since the room was literally just a place for you to rest, everything else is shared, including luggage room. But it was very secure and bathroom’s also extremely clean. They provided 4-star amenities as well. I felt like I was in a gym’s common room. Recommended for a unique and affordable experience.

2. I got to see sakura! At first I was pessimistic because as I read in the internet, all the sakura had started to fall before my arrival in Tokyo. But when I visited the Tokyo Imperial Palace, I saw some of the trees that still had them–due to which I immediately felt ecstatic–then took LOTS of photos.

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Mandatory sakura picture
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Kabuki-cho at night: in front of the famous Robot Restaurant!
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Bathed in light and crowd

3. Last but not least, the theme park. Just like most people planning on visiting Tokyo, prior to my trip I faced the Disneyland vs Disneysea dilemma. I’d never been to Disneyland before, and I know I couldn’t visit both Disneyland and Disneysea due to time (and monetary) constraint. There is only one Disneysea in the world, so I extremely wanted to go there, but Disneyland has the Cinderella castle! It took me a moment to think until I finally decided to pick Disneysea, for the above reason. And of course I didn’t regret it! The rides were so enjoyable (some even say it’s better than Disneyland), plus the decorations were just as cute.

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The Mermaid Lagoon, home of the the Ariel attraction

Next up would be Osaka. Gotta admit I didn’t visit much places, only the Osaka Castle and some of the night shops in Dotonbori. I actually planned to go inside the Umeda Sky Building because it has a cool escalator, but due to time constraint I had to cancel it.

The castle was located around 1km from the station, and despite its traditional exterior, the inside was a modern 7-levels museum with a nice observatory deck.

I also took a day trip to Kobe (30 mins by train from Osaka) to taste the famous Kobe beef in its original place. The restaurant that I picked was Steakland as it was popular among tourists. And daaaayyyum it tasted divine. The meat was perfectly marbled and having it at medium made the meat tender & juicy.

And of course, you haven’t been to Japan if you didn’t go to the Universal Studio. It has the famous Wizarding World of Harry Potter (the only one you can find outside the US). I felt like a little child the moment I entered it. You will be greeted with Harry Potter-ey forest during the entrance and will find Hogsmeade before the castle. They have soooo many shops that sell original merchandises, ranging from wands, fashion items, to the Bertie Bott’s jellybeans. Not to mention they play Harry Potter theme song everywhere, so it was truly like living your childhood dreams. The 4D ride was also amazing. Beautiful experience.

And at last, Kyoto. As it was my final destination, I spent lots of time shopping other than visiting the traditional part of it. Most interesting spots were Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, and Kinkaku-ji Temple. To fully experience the Japanese tradition, I rented kimono from Yumeyakata for around ¥3500 and used it for the whole day. The process of taking it on was really complicated haha, luckily all the staffs were very experienced.

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In the famous Fushimi Inari shrine
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Sakura ice cream: felt like you’re eating a flower

In conclusion, Japan was a very fulfilling experience for me. If I have to rate (and actually I hate to, because each of them is meaningful in their own way), my favourite would be Tokyo – Kyoto – then Osaka. I got to see lots of things and places that I’d only seen in mangas and animes long ago. I also got to eat lots of authentic delicious food and understand their history & culture even deeper. For all of those, I am forever humbled and grateful.

13/195 down, can’t wait to travel the rest of the world!

Of misery and gratitude

Woody Allen once said in his famous artwork Annie Hall that there are only two types of people: the horrible and and miserable. The horrible are like the crippled, terminal cases, blind people, and so on. The rest are the miserable. Normal human beings are the miserable. He set quite an extreme example, but as I get older I start to understand what he means. Adulthood is not easy, here’s why:

1. You are expected to get it all together. After you finish high school you are expected to get into college, finish on time, get a degree, and finally get a decent job to pay your own bills. Several years later you are expected to buy your own car and home. Then find yourself a partner. Then have kids. Then juggle perfectly between motherhood and your career. I feel like the amount of societal expectations burdened on your shoulders triple in your twenties.

2. Friendships are rare. While life gets tougher, the number of friends you can share with about your life does not get higher. Being an adult means you are busy and have less time to socialize, let alone having a heart-to-heart conversation. Unlike in high school, friendships are more superficial in adult life. There’s no more drama or secret-sharings. Everything is kept at a more composed, professional level. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for some, it could lead to a deep-rooted loneliness and that’s not a good thing either.

3. Comparisons exist anywhere you walk. Go to the mall and you’ll find young lads dress better than you, wear better shoes than you, with a partner that’s much more good looking than yours. Open social media and you’ll find people go to super nice holiday destinations, or achieve things you know you never could. Online or offline, we are constantly exposed to the best of both worlds, and the illusion that we must perceive them as “goals”.

That’s not, however, the case if we want to take a step back to contemplate and be grateful. For all the little things. You might not wear expensive shoes but they can still protect your feet anyway. You might not be a master in anything but you are a jack of all trades. You might not have a lot of friends but you have few with quality that some go on years never having. You might not be the richest yet you still have the ability to share with the less fortunate. Isn’t that lucky enough already?

I’d like to believe that everything in life serves a purpose. Misery and misfortunes are not meant to drag you down or make you sad and depressed. Instead, they are a soft reminder of how lucky you are that you are miserable. That the problems you encounter daily are not life-threatening wars, are not hunger and poverty, are not hopelessness or physical challenges. Sometimes I’d rethink my definition of privilege over and over again to find out that I am not in the position to be resentful of everything I have. Gratitude is key.

Story of my covering, uncovered

In January 1, 2015, I decided to wear headscarf permanently. I started wearing it when I was still on an exchange program in Netherlands, and had been through some “trial” process beforehand. I’d occasionally walk to the supermarket or to another city with headscarf on, wondering what it would be like wearing it in a muslim-minority country. Lucky me, Netherlands is amongst the most religious-tolerant countries in Western Europe. I had no difficulty connecting with people as a normal human being with it, so it made my willingness surer day by day.

As I returned to Indonesia, I found people’s reactions vary. Some praised my brave decision, some looked down on it, some remained indifferent. But they all had the same underlying question: why did I decide to put headscarf on? It took time for me to find the answer myself as I didn’t really have one definite reason. After several months going on, this is what I can come up with:

1. I had always wanted to cover ever since I was little. I was born in a family that upholds Islamic values, and covering is an important part of the teaching. It was not forced upon me–even my mother doesn’t wear it–however, I carried the value with me as I grew up. Contrary to popular belief, in Islam male are also taught to dress modestly, not only women. Both sexes ought to have hijab–to cover and to lower their gaze.

2. During my 5 months period staying in the Netherlands, I was at the lowest point of my life. I was thousands miles away from family and friends, I went through a difficult situation with my past lover, and I had no close friends there. I had the very option to forget my loneliness by going to parties every week, get drunk and probably eat some spacecake-it was Netherlands after all. But I just knew it wasn’t the kind of change I need.

3. So I tried to find out what had been missing in my life. The more I contemplate, read and listen, the more I understand that the absence of spirituality is what washes away tranquility in one’s life. Of course it does not have to be in form of religion, although in my case it is. I seeked God, and found God. It was a continuous process that led to one point where I was certain I want to apply Islamic teaching as a whole, not a sum. It includes changing my appearance. I want to dress to impress the Creator, not the creations. That brings me to where I am now.

Like any other tests, holding on to your decision is not easy. I, too, sometimes want to show off how smooth my hair is or how fierce I look in backless dress. I worry if my future employer will not be happy with my covering. But then I imagined a scenario otherwise, and I know I’d feel less content than now for it backlashes my religious view. In the end, everyone has their own principles; this is mine. And I’m happy with it.

This is me on a trip to Belgium, 2 weeks before leaving Europe!

To Whom It May Concern

Please bear with me annoyingly calling you with different names everyday, ranging from “Pumpkin”—which I got from one of my all-time favourite movies Pulp Fiction—to “Ali”—one of the Prophet’s companions—because I like calling you with names. Names that I find cute. My definition of romantic expands over time as I read more books, watch more movies, listen to more songs or experience more things. And with that nonstop renewal I will make sure I become more romantic everyday for the man I love, hence the names.

Please don’t get irritated when I stare at your face in a weird and suspicious manner so often even after 30 years of marriage. Please don’t get bored if the response to your “what are you doing” question will always be “I’m memorising your face’s constellation”, because that’s the truth. I will trust you, but at the same time will always be afraid of losing you. I know that sometimes things happen beyond control, and when that happens, I want to have the best picture of you in my head so I don’t have to miss you so much.

Know that I will drive around the town or browse the hell out of the internet just to find and order the book you’ve always wanted for your birthday. Have I told you how much I love birthdays? I wouldn’t mind you being un-romantic in the 364 other days but not on my birthday. And darling, what I wouldn’t give to you on your day.

Maybe you’re a busy person. As a partner, you can always count on me to proofread all your documents before you present/submit them, regardless of your field. I like learning new things. I can learn a thing or two about yours. Or if your field is too difficult for me, I can at least proofread it for the grammar. Haha.

Please prepare yourself to be bragged about to everyone I meet. That you’re mine and I’m the only one for you, I want to scream it to the world. And please understand that I will despise it when you don’t do the same. I want a guy who is proud of having me. I want you to hold my hand in crowded places, in front of our friends and families.

You will know as time rolls by that I am full of energy and ideas. I would have planned our annual anniversary trip for 5 years ahead by the time we get married. We will always have new things to learn, ranging from basic programming to gardening and British accent (lol). Let’s spend weekends lazily watching economic lectures online (or something from your field) with the companion of pizza. Let’s try extreme sports. Let’s do anything that can make you happy. I promise to give my all.

We might have met or we might have not, but I’m already a tad in love with you.