Emily Was Never Being Boring

 

I’ve been in a Pet Shop Boys’s mood lately and with that came a flurry of thoughts I thought long forgotten. A kind of musical pensive so to speak. Now, because PSB are British and I started listening to them during my years in a British based school, I started to remember all things associated with my ‘Brit years’ so to speak which is really the Jeddah and the Uni years.

There I was happily remembering things from way past when cue in Being Boring. For some reason this really resonate with those wonderful 3 undergraduate years spent in that bastion of higher education in the North aka the University of Leeds. Then came that ubiquitous verse:

” all the people I was kissing, some are here and some are missing…
but I thought in spite of dreams you’d be sitting somewhere here with me…”

And immediately, without warning nor fanfare, Emily flashed into my mind…

In my third and final year, no longer wanting to share house with squabbling roommates – I’ve enough of the drama, but not really looking forward to live alone, I opt to move back to the comforts of the hall where the rent includes; food (not great but at least I don’t have to cook everyday), utilities (North of England is COLD for my tropical sensibilities) and laundry (it gets expensive and annoyingly boring to have to wait for one’s clothing lest it be stolen by those ruthless fellow students!). However, not wishing to live in the main building with rowdy, rambunctious freshers, I requested to live in the annex, a smaller 3 story building in the next street or road as it was small.

I caught a rather nasty cold just as the term about to start. Not wishing to fly when my sinuses are congested, I decided to wait and recuperate in the comfort of my parents’. Thus I was a couple of days late getting into the annex. After settling my stuff in my single room (blessedly I got the smallest one in the whole house. Great) I venture into the common lounge. I met Becky first, with her distinctive twang she said, “So you’re Sita! Your friends been looking for you! Hey Em, come here!”
Seconds later, a chocolate-brown eyes got into my view, smiled broadly and said, “Oh good, you’re here, now you can answer your door miss Popular!”

Apparently my friends been calling ever since the first day of term. Since we had to fix our final year lodging by the end of our second year, we pretty much know where everyone is going to live so no surprise that they knew where I live. Becky and Emily, while having the good fortune of getting the largest room in the house, it is also situated up front where, like it or not, they would hear every single coming and goings of the annex inhabitant, thus became the unofficial door person of the annex.

They thought I was popular, I quickly corrected, I’m merely a final year student hence the (not so rowdy) people at knocking at the door. Becky and Emily are quickly known as the Americans duo that lived in our hall. Like any good university, Leeds has exchange programs with universities around the world including Vanderbilt University. There’ll be a group of them and they’d be scattered among the various halls and student residences including the one I was in, Ellerslie Hall. Usually they would be paired with a Brit kid like Maura (the American) and Caroline (the English) and placed in the main hall. Becky and Emily are different in that they’re already BFF, shared a room, and lived in the annex.

The annex is basically a small house, so all the inhabitants pretty much see one another nearly everyday and got to know each other pretty quickly too. Since my room is the smallest and their’s the biggest, it wasn’t long before I start popping down there to chill out on their floor. We talked about nothing and everything. I’m curious about America and they would answer all my questions while I tried my best to answer theirs. I love to hear their accents, so different from the Brits. Their commentaries are amusing too; “I opened this magazine, lords and ladies start tumbling out of the pages!” was one that stuck to my head 😀

We talked, we laughed, we go out, I even helped Emily packed once. She had to go on this trip somewhere and was confused as to how to bring all the stuff she wanted to bring. With all my years of packing and unpacking I got curious and opened her suitcase. Well, no wonder. It was packed rather haphazardly. So I simply repacked it to fit everything in. Then, when summer rolled in, they decided to throw a traditional American BBQ. Or was it a picnic? I can’t remember. What they did was somehow they convinced the ruler or the annex to open the back door so we can have it in the yard. I have no idea how they managed to get a grill out. Or was it fried chicken only? It’s a while ago so details are kinda blurry. In any case, the American duo got a bucket of KFC, I made potato salad, and there were burgers, sodas, and rather stronger drinks later on. It was one of those blissful moment where everything is cool, everything is dandy, we’re all full and happy.

With summer came the end of the academic year. We had our teary goodbyes in front of the annex. The American duo returned home. I graduated, went back to my parents and potter about wondering what to do next. That wasn’t the last I saw of them actually. At some point the following year I got a chance to visit the States for the first time! And I got to see them again! This time in their home turf. So different from Leeds.

dinner_beck_em

Only Southern style cooking would do!

It is now Becky and Emily’s final year at school. They were freaking out about grades. I was freaking out about live in general. They rent an apartment off campus and I marvelled at how they simply drive everywhere. Back in Leeds I only know one or two people who brought a car. Most just use public transportation. I got to eat Southern food, visit Grand Ole Opry, and had a fabulous time with the gals. The next year I was enrolled in grad school in Boston and lost touch with all my American connection. Great. My fault really. I’m pretty bad at correspondence.

Fast forward to 2008, Facebook is now available to everyone so of course I started searching these long-lost friends. Becky! Hi! Where’s Emily?

Sadly Emily is no longer with us…

For someone I haven’t seen in years this news knocked me in the solar plexus. I can’t believe Emily is gone. So soon. I’m sad for Becky too. It’s terrible to lost a friend, a best one at that. Especially since they’ve sometimes talked about the future, how fun would it be to take walk in the park as mothers pushing their babies strollers, how they’d plan to live close to one another so their kids can be best friends too. It’s not like I plan to pack my bags and move to Nashville either, but somehow I fully expect to also see their kids via social media, to wish them happy birthdays from afar.

“And we were never holding back or worried that time would come to an end”

But time does come to an end…

I cried then. I cried again now.

I won’t ever see Emily again. Those chocolate-brown hair and beautiful smile… Guess I’ll never found out what happened to that guy who followed her around back in Leeds eh? Not that it mattered anymore.

Becky, I am glad to note, is happily busy with her beautiful family and friends. I love seeing her photos, following the renovation adventure and all the daily family stuff. Forward and onward!

Someday I hope I’ll have the chance to see them again. Until then, good night Emily and good day to you Becky.

beck_Em

The Beautiful American Duo

 

Langit Biru Chika

IMG_2570

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Di bawah langit biru Australia
tetiba teringat aku padamu, Chika
bercerita tentang berjuta cita-citamu

Tentang keinginanmu
untuk bepergian ke berbagai negara
termasuk Amerika, tuk bekerja disana

Dan aku, sangat bisa membayangkanmu
bekerja dan tinggal disana
mungkin di Williamsburg, Queens, atau TriBeCa

Aku bisa melihatmu,
dengan boots dan scarf berwarna
berjalan dari blok ke blok bersama para warga

Commuters, New Yorkers, Manhattanites,
you’ll blend right in!
Of that I’m sure  😉

Ah, aku rasa
tempatmu saat ini lebih ok ya?
lebih keren dari penthouse di Upper East Side

Hanya saja,
sangat jauh dari kita semua

Tuhan menentukan, sementara manusia
hanya bisa berencana…

Sangat jelas langit di Australia
gumpalan awan putih dan langit biru
sejelas daftar cita-citamu

Dalam naungan cakrawala biru
secerah lebarnya senyummu
apa kabarmu disana?

Doa pelipur duka
bahagia di nirwana ya

 

IMG_2202

 

 

 

*between Canberra-Lakes Entrance, Dec 2013*

Those Public Updates…


Back in the day, you have to actually meet up with your friends to find out and catch up on news about them and the people you both know – besides getting post mail but that took ages. These days, all you need to do is plonk your butt somewhere, get connected and bing-hey-go, all sorts of news come to you. News of death, suicide, birth, pregnancy, marriage, divorce, illness, all that is fit to tell, you can pretty much find it online. And that can be pretty jarring experience.

To date, I haven’t had the ‘luxury’ of receiving all of the above at one sitting, but I have had to find out about friends that way. It’s not necessarily people you don’t see/talk to regularly, sometimes it is people who you see nearly everyday.  And it never fails to stun me. The terrible thing about receiving bad news online is that there are a thousand of questions and none of the answers. Yes, you could try, but it takes time and you still can’t see them anyway, can’t see their facial expression and body language. This makes it harder to digest. How am I best to respond? Does my friend needs a hug or just a pat on the back? Should I hold back the tears or cry it out with them?

Based on the response, these are the times when you get to know just what kind of friendship you have with that person. Just a passing acquaintance or BFF? Casual friends or inner circle? But in the end, it doesn’t really matter. When you care, you care. Maybe they’re still processing their own news, maybe they are in denial, maybe they are already over it. No matter. If you care, send some love. Most would appreciate it. If they don’t? That’s not your problem.

Which reminds me, I need to do something for a friend that I find out via Facebook. Hope she likes it.

My Beautiful Strangers

So there I was puttering in the house when the playlist, that I always set at random, choose Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger. Suddenly my mind is transported back to Summer of 99… 🙂

Back then I was graduate student living a stress free (yeah right!) life in Boston. My best mates were Rob and Matt. All of us were in the same COM class of ’00 though Matt was in Production like me and Rob was in TV Management. In the first semester we share a fair amount of classes together and we just clicked. Soon the three of us would hang out everywhere together.

Between internship and the already paid rent I decided to stay during the summer instead of going home. Matt and Rob were also staying in town. So of course we spend even more time hanging out together. Of the three of us, Rob is the only one with a proper paying job, that’s how he supports himself through school. Thus he’s the one with a car and during that summer he decided to bought a new car. I don’t for the live of me remember what the car was, all I remember was that it was an SUV, black, with only 2 doors cuz he said 4 doors are for families. Whatever. It means Matt and I were always fighting to ride shotgun. He likes that. Evil!

Rob’s job involved him going out-of-town for a couple of weeks or so, then stay in town for a few. He’s in union too so it was a very well paid job compared to the rest of us (yeah so say the trust fund baby with the monkey servant and elephant showers – ok that’s an inside jokes 😉 Now that he has a car, whenever he’s in town he likes to pack us up and go somewhere. So off we go. Sometimes we just go to chill out around Boston, sometimes we go further like to New York or to the Cape. He’d lug us there, took us to his favourite place to have clam chowder then we’d hit the beach.

It was during one of these sunset session at the Cape that we really opened up to one another. This sounds really cliché but we talked about our hopes, our dreams, our fears. We have another year of school then off to the real world we go. Matt and Rob (no, they’re not a couple) were planning to move to NYC and I was not sure where to go. I don’t want to go home just yet, I want to go to LA but neither of them wants to go there. Rob because his job’s HQ is in NY so if he wants to move to management it makes more sense to be there rather than somewhere else. Matt, well he’s from the NY State so it’s like going home for him. They were trying to persuade me to come with them, pointing out the benefit of being in the Big Apple, “We could live together like Friends!” Err… as much as I love you guys, I really don’t want to live with you. No thank you.

As the moon rose, the sea gets really dark. I suddenly quipped, “To think, my family is on the other side of the ocean…” and it hits me, sooner or later this is just going to be a memory. I am going home eventually. I am going to miss my two best friends very much. We joked that I should get married to Rob (cuz Matt already have a girlfriend somewhere) to get a green card then split immediately. Haha! Now that would be really funny. My parents would kill me for a start…

What has this got to do with Beautiful Strangers? Well, it was in Austin Powers, a movie that came out that summer, that we watched together and have a good laugh. It was on the radio during our trips, alternating with Ricky Martin and J-Lo. So yeah, here we are more than a decade later. I’m firmly at home and those two are firmly at NY. I kinda lost touch with Matt, last I heard he’s doing just fine. I hope so. Rob updates his fb every now and then so I know he’s definitely doing good.

Here’s to my beautiful strangers, may you stay well and beautiful. Cheers!

The Beautiful Strangers in Boston

Breaking up with Siti

Breaking up with a boyfriend is bad enough. Unless you’re truly unlucky, you’ll have your girlfriends to catch you, commiserate with you, tolerate your wailing over him, and more or less nurse you back to normal. But, what happened when you break up with your best pal? Who will be there to catch you?

I became an expatriate in 8th grade. We moved to Jeddah and somehow my English was deemed good enough to go to an international school there. So there I was, the only Indonesian kid there, not knowing a single soul nor understanding anything. New and confused, I was so happy when I met Siti during recess. Here’s someone who looked like me, came from a neighbouring country, shared some Malay language and voila, I found a friend. It’s not that my classmates were horrible, just the opposite, is just that in Siti I felt I found someone with the same wavelength. Soon we start spending most recess time together, yakking on the phone, she even invited me for sleep overs at her house.

As Siti is a diplomat’s child, this was not the first time she lived abroad. Unlike me, she’s lived in Bonn and some other countries, can’t remember where now. She helped me practice my English, introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, and checking out the cute guys in school. Along with my classmates, she was quite influential in making my schooldays a happy, pleasant experience. Or so I thought.

Summer came and went. This was not the era of emails so we basically lost touch during the holidays. I wasn’t a great letter writer nor was she. Wasn’t really looking forward to returning to Jeddah, but the thoughts of seeing my friends again cheered me up considerably. So of course on the first day we shrieked and hugs the way only teenage girls do. Better and more confident in my English, 9th grade is going to be a blast!

And it was at first. We decided to auditioned for the school plays. We both ended up in the chorus but it doesn’t matter. Siti and I had much fun learning the songs and dance routine. Even though we’re just the chorus, performing was great fun. I was really enjoying my days and felt really lucky to have Siti to share it with me.

Then school breaks for New Year. When we came back, I noticed Siti wasn’t as excited to see me. But she still hangs out with me so I thought she must be just tired or something. Slowly I noticed she kinda withdrew from me. She still sit at our table but she just seem distracted. Then she start spending time with other people, not really returning my calls, until she finally said well, it’s been nice knowing you but I think I’m going to hang out with other people now. Or something to that effect.

I was stunned. What did I do?

I wrote her a note. Years before I read Cosmo, she gave me this overrated line,”It’s no you, it’s me. I think you’re great!” If I’m so great then why? I was in denial about her breaking up with me. We’ve been sitting together in Business class until one day she was summoned by her new friends and move to sit with her making it crystal clear where her loyalty lies now.

Yes folks. She moved with the in-crowd and I’m not so out I go. I think I actually cried at school after that business class. It stung like hell to be dropped just like that. It really is worse than breaking up with a boyfriend. How do you manage to bounce back from that?

Luckily I do have other friends. It was a rather big school after all. The girls from my home room were my lifesaver. They were the ones that catch me and picked me up. They knew me, watched me grow from this quiet kid to somewhat chatty person as I get more fluent, accept me as I am, embraced me and lend me their shoulders. They were on my side, was just as outraged at what they see as ‘betrayal’. See, it wasn’t just me she shunned, it was practically the whole group. She had to. She can’t be seen with us ‘losers’ if she wants to be invited to parties.

Eventually I get over it. So I’m not with the in-crowd. So what? At least I’m nobody’s lapdog. But, after Siti, I don’t trust people as easily. Scarred for life, I build my wall of protection. I became a sort of pessimist, taking things with a pinch of salt. Which is funny because years later, in uni a friend of mine says I’m an open book who wears her heart on her sleeves. (Well, maybe to you Conde cuz you’re one of my bestmate 😉

I still find it hard to make friends especially now I’m out of school and in the real world. It doesn’t help that the few bestfriends that I do have are spread all over, none are close to me. But I have faith and hope that one day I will have a best friend again, someone I can call and talk to in good times and bad times.
As for Siti, well I lost touch after we graduated. Wasn’t exactly keen to send her postcards. No idea what she’s up to now.

So there you have it. Breaking up with a girl friend is just awful. It’s not like you can burn her love letters to feel cathartic; friends don’t write each other love notes. But if you just ride it out, with the help of other friends, you’ll get over it. Life really does go on.

*to Z, A, Z, M, you guys are the best. I’m eternally grateful. Kisses. Miss you lots!*

Hash, High School, Het Museum

Flag of Amsterdam. The official city motto is ...

Flag of Amsterdam Image via Wikipedia

When people find out that I finished my high school in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, they usually thought it’s cool. Some though get all glazzy eyed and thought OMG, did you smoke like, pot, like everyday? Err… Well, while one of my classmate did give an impromptu lesson on how to roll a joint tobacco filled ciggarette paper in the school lounge, I never actually try them. The glazzy eyed crew were not impressed. So, what did I do in high school?

Not getting high every weekend that’s for sure.  I was so naïve or idiotic -probably the latter- I didn’t even realise what weeds smells like until Jou pointed it out to me during one of our many excursion to the Dam. There we were, Luci, me and Jou, my hs crew,  pondering whether we should get a tattoo, where and what when he suddenly sniffed the air and remarked ever so casually,

“Dang, it smells so strong today!”

then Luci concurs “Yeah it does doesn’t it?”

“Smells what? It always smells like this,” said the resident idiot

“Doh! Its the red light district. Coffee shops, space brownie?” asked Jou

“You mean hash?”

“Ding ding ding! Hello! Where have you been? You do live here don’t you?”

“Well… I just didn’t realise what it was. I just thought this area smells funny…”

“What do you think it is?”

“The dirty canal?”

I think Luci just laughed and Jou gave me the biggest eye roll ever known to mankind. And this all happened in broad daylight I might add. So no we weren’t under any kind of influence, except maybe all those tertier hand weed smoke/space brownie baking smoke inhaling. Hmm.. come to think of it, that’s probably why I’m slightly kookie.

So yeah, it is safe to say I also didn’t partake in any drunken debauchery in high school. What I did do is exploring the museum and music. Suffice to say that the Dutch has their share of great arts. Rijksmuseum is truly an amazing museum. The Doll House by far is my favourite part. So back in the 18th century, the hot item of the day is to own a Doll House which was a replica of their house and it would show you’re rich enough to spend money on ‘frivolous’ things. One such lady (or her family) donated her doll house to the Rijksmuseum.  I just love to stand there imagining the woman – it was a woman’s thing, not a little girl- who used to owned that doll house. Would she let the daughters play with it? Or did she, when no one is looking, play like a little girl that she once was? Then, as it is an accurate copy of what a house looks like at that time, I started imagining what would it feel like living in a house like that? Would I like it? How does it feel to have two doors? One for the servant and one for you? Must be interesting.

I would go to the museums with Sarah. She’s just so smart it was interesting to see her take on things we see. We’d have lunch afterwards, a slice of pizza with a glass of cool soda in Leidseplein. But Sarah wasn’t just my museum buddy, she’s also my music buddy. Well, not together because we played different instrument, she plays(ed?) flute and I do vocals. But we’d perform on the same events. One that I still remember is when our school entered a music festival/competition that was held in the International School in the Hague. There were a bunch of us, we actually go on a bus to get there, there were kids who played the piano, flute, and some other instruments. I was in the choir, I think we performed the little fawn song and one other I can’t remember. For a brief moment we felt like musician traveling from city to city to perform a show. We were supposed to watch other people’s performance and learn from them but since we were the only ones there from our school we ended up just going to each other performances for support. We both got blue ribbons! Happy!

This was also where I truly understand the meaning of a stage persona. How, when one steps onto a stage you can transform into whatever character that you’re inhabiting for that moment and if you’re good, you shines. See, they invite some the jury deems the best to perform at the end of the day. There’s this one boy who got to sing. What he sang I don’t remember, but I do remember watching him sing on that stage wearing just normal clothes but he looks totally amazing. He belted his heart out and he just has this aura – I can’t take my eyes off him. Then, a very funny thing happened. Whole thing over, speech etc presented, we filed out the hall trying to locate friends and the right bus. And I saw him. And he looks? Just normal. Just your average high school boy leaning towards geek chic. I was so surprised. Was this the same guy that was on stage just moments ago? Pretty much crushed my hopes of ever marrying an actor someday. They just look dashing on-screen (which was confirmed as I worked on television later on and met actors but I digress)

And that’s what I did in high school. Choir, vocal lessons, making up songs with Mel and her guitar, getting Haagen-Dazs with Mel, watching loads of movies with Kath, Luci and Jou, checking out the American bookstore with Kath, tramsurfing (have you ever done it? Highly recommended), and of course, dancing the night away. You can not really life in Amsterdam as a youngster and not check out the nightlife. The tourist club, the interesting places, places only locals know… out when the sun still shining and home when the sun is back again and not because the sun never drops 😉 Just where did I have the energy? Ah youth!

A thought just suddenly pops into my head. Would Mel ever take me on her bike through A’dam little straaten again? Most probably not, since the last time we did we almost went into the canal. Ah no, that wasn’t with Mel, that was with Helene. Ah well. I prefer walking instead of biking around there anyway.