How Smoking Writers Quit Smoking Successfully

Creative people and caffeine and tobacco are like a trio.

When I was working at an advertising agency, I came to learn this fact the hard way. With me as an exception, everyone in the office is a smoker and coffee drinker. Even the female coworkers. Even the female coworker who just had a baby and then was breastfeeding it. I judgmentally questioned her motherhood moral and conscience. What a workplace!

Traumatized by this, I then quit working there and changed my workplace. I was appalled by how much smoke and fumes I had to inhale on working days, giving me a shiver everytime I saw them.

As a writer myself, I have never drawn inspiration from smoke or cigars or cigarettes or any tobacco products. Even the overly-hyped vape!

I am not fueled by those things while writing. I am fueled by fresh water, whole foods and ample night sleep and serenity.

So is it really necessary that writers must smoke?

Two of my favorite writers don’t seem to agree. Even in their professional journey as authors, they can stop smoking totally. And by making the decision, they are even more productive.

David Sedaris has a rather unique story of quitting because he did not quit smoking because of himself. It’s more because the Ritz Carlton staffers who prohibit smoking in all of their establishments. He told NPR that his mother’s tobacco-related death and being shown a lung of a heavy smoker did not change his mind about smoking but once he found out that he can never smoke while spending nights at any Ritz Carlton hotel is a shocking reason to pick from a lot of more logical ones.

Haruki Murakami in his running memoir “What I Talk about When I Talk about Running” said after he sold his club and established a more steady income from writing, he then radically changed his lifestyle.

From nocturnal to diurnal.

From unhealthy to healthy.

From sedentary to active lifestyle.

From an owl to an early riser.

Murakami saw the needs to stay fit because he is the type of person who easily gains weight if going physically inactive. And he is very grateful about this as it encourages him to stay in shape as long as he can so he can write more in life.

And he chose running because running is cheap and doable without any special equipment or infrastructure or supporting facilities. He doesn’t need a world-class jogging track. A decent lane will just do. While he started running, Murakami also gave up smoking.

“Giving up smoking is a kind of natural result from running every day. It wasn’t easy to quit. […] But the desire to run even more makes me not to go back to smoking and a great help in overcoming withdrawal symptoms. Quitting smoking is quite a symbolic gesture of farewell to the life I used to lead.”

So what’s the takeaway from these two authors’ journey to tobaccoless life?

Probably this: A combination of external interventions and some internal motivation could be of greater help for those who want to quit. (*/)

Stressed Out? Go Blogging!

Contrary to popular belief, expressive writing that gets read by others apparently provides real benefits. The effects are real when compared with private diary writing.

At least that’s what American Psychological Association (APA) publicized in early 2012. These psychologists claimed following a study that blogging about their anxiety issues openly may offer psychological benefits for those who are anxiety-ridden especially due to social pressures.

Aside from that, teenagers who blog are more confident as they find themselves and their issues are not unique to themselves. They realize that no human is an island. We are all connected with each other and share many things together without our knowledge. This helps them grow unity and solidarity.

All this totally makes sense to me. If you just write a diary and no one reads what you are venting about, what’s the point? You only keep it for yourself and thus things won’t change. Once your thoughts get shared and read, that’s how a healing effect arises and your issues get solved.

This is why I cannot stress more about the importance of blogging instead of just being online on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. Again, I am not against social media but I am sure social media has somewhat destroyed blogging. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers turning into instant-gratification lovers on Instagram or Facebook. It’s just sad.

While we start to leave Facebook and witness the horrible effect of Instagram (from bullying to body image disorder), I am always reminded of the joy of blogging. While I am not saying that blogging is completely safe and free from digital bullying or disgusting online behaviors, I should be more certain that it requires more energy and time for people to write longer than an Instagram caption these days and this fact actually serves as the natural filter to keep those online trolls at bay.

My hunch is justified. Despite rampant cyberbullying and online abuse, researchers as stated by Azy Barak, PhD, found that virtually every all response to participants’ blog messages were supportive and positive in nature.

So everytime you think you’re stressed out and cannot stand this life, turn to blogging and find online friends that share your worry.

And I also need to emphasize that a blogger is almost always welcome and kindly treated by his or her peers when s/he is honest, frank, decent, positive and sensible. Once you make these mistakes for any reasons, you’ll taste the revenge online, too. Don’t believe it? Go googling to find a vegan social media influencer who got caught by the public eating fish. The public reaction is beyond kindness. Pray that you’ll never be in her shoes. (*/)

A Review: “Monyet Bercerita” (A Monkey Has Stories)

PERSONALLY, I know Aris Kurniawan. He is a friend of mine with whom I occasionally meet at a local park on Saturday morning. We go there for the different reasons: he does aerobics training with a bunch of sedentary people who would rather spend their Saturday morning snoring in bed; whereas, I do my calisthenics routine and yoga practice, all mixed up to suit my own needs and flavor instead of observing a certain, fixed set of rules.

He is by no means related to the renowned novelist Eka Kurniawan because “Kurniawan” is a very very commonplace last name in Indonesia (a country where last name doesn’t mean anything except the extension of our first name). But he has a certain literary flair, too.

In spite of his humble beginning, Aris is a prolific writer himself. He may not garner as much praise and global acknowledgment as the other Kurniawan I just talked about. Yet, I should say he has got his own place in the local literary scene.

To my surprise, Aris had begun his writing career long before he is as settled as now. He got published when he was an eleventh grader. His first work is titled “Krematorium“, a poem published by then Weekly newspaper “Pikiran Rakyat Edisi Cirebon” (currently known as “Mitra Dialog“). Currently, he is working as a copywriter, just like me, by day. By night, we change into creatures with literary pursuits.

If you happen to love batik, Cirebon (or some say “Ceribon”, which is not a correct spelling) is no stranger. This coastal town in the border of Central and West Java saves a lot of history and mysteries.

And this is where Aris was born and grew up.

This fact alone promises us readers a lot of stories from local scenes that have not been widely discussed or brought to spotlight to the global audience.

In his excerpt, Aris explained that his short story collection “Monyet Bercerita” (roughly translated as “A Monkey Has Stories“) is built with two different premises, i.e. his childhood in Cirebon and his experiences as a grownup in Tangerang, now part of Banten province.

When Aris gave me this book a week ago as a friendly gift, I had no idea the depth of the stories inside it.

Feminism is one of the current issues that readers can find out in MB. “Nokturno” is his short story that tells a badass heroine that acts like a vigilante, trying to trap a dirty, corrupt politician with her own tactics. Too bad, she is outsmarted. Probably the failed eastern version of Amy ‘Gone Girl’ Dunne.

Local rural legends and myths also spice up the collection. You’ll find the legend of Prince Panjunan and Kejaksan. Also, there are some stories of the troops of betraying soldiers who got cursed into monkeys for violating their loyalty oath intertwined in narratives.

The book is not a heavy read, either physically and intellectually. It’s only 190 pages long and you’ll find it even more digestible when reading.

The only thing that may obstruct your reading experience is some local slang words (probably Javanese slang). I wish there were some foot notes to explain what they mean. Luckily, I am Javanese myself. Hence, it’s not an issue for me. (*/)

Madesan Eatery: Healthy, Plant-based Catering for Health-Minded Jakartans

FINDING a reliable eating establishment where you can eat healthy foods and drinks in Jakarta is a huge challenge. At least for me.

As we all know, Jakarta is home to a vast number of both traditional (old) and emerging fast food chains. Some traditional food chains could be as small as soto or bakso (meatball) sellers with several branches in and outside Jakarta. And there are still many more fast food and snack chains operating in the capital, eyeing the curious consumers that are hungry for culinary adventures.

These foods that both the Indonesian traditional and imported food chains offer us could be great for occasional festivities.

But consuming such foods on daily basis would eventually put our health at risk. You can enjoy the taste now but must pay the higher cost later, says a quote that likens eating unhealthy foods to making purchase with a credit card.

If you’re living or staying in Jakarta and have been searching for a place to eat home-made, plant-based, healthy foods, but have no ample time to cook on your own, then I recommend MADESAN EATERY.

Santi Wibisono, its founder, has been always an avid advocate of conscious eating. She thinks our foods are our medicine. She strongly believes that plant-based diets are ideal for both humans and our ailing planet.

Having learned from Chef Made Runatha who owns and runs his own healthy restaurant in Ubud, Bali, Santi brings the authenticity and health benefits of plant-based dishes to Jakarta, where people are even more in dire need of prime nutritions from mother Earth and freedom of hazardous chemical substances in foods.

Aside from meat and its processed forms, you’ll find no peanuts, gluten, cow milk, and even white sugar in Madesan Eatery foods and juices, making it even more reliable as a catering for health-minded folks like myself.

Even though initially I thought veganism was just a fad, now I know why this diet style has been adopted by Buddhist Shaolin monks and yogis in India for many centuries.

Vegan diet clears up our body and mind, and because I am practicing yoga myself I can observe how my diet can make or break my yoga practice on a particular day. A friend even says to me how her last night’s sugary cake impedes her while binding her arms during her Ashtanga self-practice. That’s one big warning, she continues.

The menu consists of various styles, from Indonesian, Japanese, to European. That means you won’t be bored with the taste, plus there are more nutritions for the body to absorb, in comparison with a single style menu.

I loved “nasi hitam bakar” (shown above) which is a local recipe that is upgraded with organic black rice and fresh vegetables. I especially adore the ‘sambal’ and too bad I cannot have more. And today I got this stir fried noodles and Japanese style salad.

I totally guarantee that the taste is good although they are plant-based. How can I say so? Because many times I ordered so-called healthy foods but the taste is horrible, discouraging those who are new triers to stick to the diet. While there are also some ‘healthy’ foods that turn out to be delicious but not so healthy because there are some ingredients that they use or the way they serve it. For example, you order broccoli. But when you see HOT broccoli soup in a plastic container, you suddenly question how much this so-called healthy food seller is committed to the health aspect. Madesan Eatery won’t serve you hot foods in a plastic container because that is just carcinogenic! (*/)

Writers’ Commitment Renewal

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Last night I discovered someone’s Instagram handle. Out of curiosity, I clicked it and I was led to a feed full of heavily edited travel photos, urban landscapes and social gatherings.

Very typical, indeed.

But what caught my attention is the bio of the feed owner. It says: “travel writer”.

Wow!

As a linguist and bibliophile, I just cannot help myself admiring those who have a knack for and talent of writing.

Writers are always intelligently sexy to me. And that is irrespective of their physical shapes.

Travel writers in the glory days of leisure economy are known as a highly respected profession.

They travel for – well maybe – free.

They make money in the process.

They showcase such a leisure lifestyle that everyone envies.

They are on holiday all the time, it seems.

They enjoy being in the wilderness and still looking lively, sprightly, fashionable, photogenic and cool ice cream.

This is a to-die-for job for millenials of my age and generations that follow (Gen X, Y and Z).

But as I clicked, I found a webpage that is dry and deserted.

The most recent post was dated back on some day in 2016.

I compared to his Instagram feed which has quite a huge following for some unknown self-proclaimed travel writer (or it is I who do not know his level of popularity).

Well, I formed a conclusion that now one does not need to get certified by anyone else but himself to be called “travel writer”.

Though you may think I am as sinister buffoon as one can be, I take some lessons to learn for myself from this disappointing discovery.

And one of those is UPDATE YOUR BLOG MORE OFTEN THAN YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FEED!

That is especially recommendable for someone who claims himself or herself a writer by profession. No matter what the field s/he is writing in.

Because if you don’t, you deceive the public.

Social media services has sucked up so much of our time and turning us from writers (read: content creators and producers) to readers (mere consumers of ideas, emotion and information).

So the next time some people think it is enough to become a travel writer by showing a heavily edited holiday photo with a short caption on Instagram, I would say: TRY HARDER. (*/)

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

Making It to London Book Fair 2019

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My heart can’t contain the joy upon discovering the news that a couple of books in which I was involved have finally made it at London Book Fair 2019.

Though I’m childless, I can tell this feeling is slightly similar to what parents of a child feel when s/he discovers some news from teachers that his or her child has just made an achievement that deserves heartfelt praise and appreciation.

I’m by no means the instigator of both books but I’d been involved actively in the writing, translating and publishing process.

The first book is “KINTAMANI BALI DOG” (Anjing Kintamani Bali, 2016) in which I acted as one of the editors. Its author, Dewi S. Dewanto, is a lover of Indonesian native dog breed only found in Bali.

She keeps some Kintamani Bali dogs at home. One of them is named Foxy, a wolf-sized home dog that seems to be destined to protect its owner from potential threats, even that is from fellow humans like me.

I remember the  time when I paid Dewi a visit. Foxy couldn’t help sniffing at us the guests. She walked anxiously around me to find out whether I was a threat or not in the territory. With a dog this agile and protective, I bet no thief would ever come so close to the house. Unless s/he wants some deadly bites in the flesh.

Foxy, however, is really sweet when you have gotten her ‘sweet spot’. She just doesn’t mind any perils as long as she can defend her owner/ master.

Why is the book special?

I should say this is a must-have for Indonesian dog lovers. The book discusses everything the world needs to know about the dog breed that can only be found nowhere else but Bali, Indonesia. You’ll find a broad range of knowledge, from the origin of it to how to select puppies and take care of these fluffy-furred dogs.

The second book is different from “Kintamani Bali Dog”. While KBD is a nonfiction work, “Of Stars and Prayers” (2016) is a fiction work written by Wikan Satriati, my fellow editor, for child readers. As the author puts it, the book contains some short stories on prayers.

The book was first published in Indonesian in 2008 under the title “Gadis Kecil Penjaga Bintang: Tamsil tentang Doa untuk Anak dan Orangtua“. In 2016 Wikan made some revisions and published the book in English.

Below is Wikan’s testimony of my translation:

Terima kasih pula untuk Akhlis Purnomo yang mengerjakan sebagian besar penerjemahan buku ini secara sangat bagus: “Doa untuk Ayah-Bunda”, “Seorang Murid dan sebuah Batu”, “Kristal Bintang Jingga”, “Perjalanan Doa”, serta kelengkapan penerbitan lainnya.
(I would thank Akhlis Purnomo for his translating most of the book very well:”Doa untuk Ayah-Bunda” (Prayers for Mom and Dad), “Seorang Murid dan sebuah Batu” (A Student and a Rock), “Kristal Bintang Jingga” (The Prayer‘s Journey) and others.)

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Both books are proof of my contribution to the Indonesian literary translation, which is in increasing demand as the global audience wants more diversity.

I am always looking forward to other opportunities of translating Indonesian authors’ books to be translated into English so more readers around the globe can enjoy stories from Indonesia.

If you’re an Indonesian author searching for an English-Indonesian translator, I’d love to work together to make your works known to global readership. (*/)

Losing Mentors

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They’re like Papa to me. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I am in grief. It took me around an entire month to discover the fact that one of my mentors I look up to passed away. Blame it on my digital news diet.

I was just googling and suddenly I stumbled upon a flyer showing condolence of Nukman Luthfie’s passing. Still in utter disbelief, I googled once again, trying to make sure it wasn’t hoax or a hideous joke that some irresponsible person was uploading on to Twitter.

I took to Instagram and found that his Instagram account was updated on the end of January 2019. This was a little bit unusual because he was always updating frequently. He was a social media maven and digital pundit of the country, so it was a bit suspicious when he stopped uploading fresh content for a too long time.

So I found condolence remarks on his passing here and there on Twitter and Instagram, two social media services he was actively engaged in.

Stroke killed him, which is quite a shock. He looked robust at 52 and didn’t show any signs of major health deterioration. Certainly, I was a little concerned to see him snacking on fried cassava and coffee as early breakfast but he just looked okay and highly functional.

He was impressively helpful. I recall the time when I asked for his willingness to get included in my referer list. I was about to submit a form as a social media speaker and because he was someone in the social media realm and he knew me well, I thought he was the best person to ask for reference. And he said yes immediately. What touched my heart even more is that he still remembered where I used to work and asked what I was up to at the time. Very cordial and sweet.

The other mentor I just also lost earlier this month is Subur Wardoyo. A lecturer teaching English at Universitas Negeri Semarang (the undergraduate program of English Literature) and Universitas Diponegoro Semarang (the graduate program of Literature). Always proud of being a graduate of New York University, Pak Subur – as far as I am concerned – was a nonpolitical personality. He didn’t seem disturbed by office politics around him. He got very unapologetically practical, focused, blunt and frank. I still remember how shrewd his tip was as we were assigned to write an essay on a particular American literary work years ago when I was still in my graduate years, which lasted 3 painful years. “You can just tactfully change and rephrase sentences you’ve made for the previous assignment if you want to. But don’t be too obvious. Be smart,” said he back then as long as my memory serves right.

He’d always been that helpful literary fairy for us. So resourceful and generous with the final scores, something that I remorsefully failed to do when I was a lecturer myself in the past. He understood that most of those American novels are unusually thick (that tomb-stone-sized Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” for example), so he provided some hacks to get the learning objectives done. Knowing that we would never manage to chew that all in a short time (well, being a literary program students here doesn’t mean you have to be a bookworm with a lightning speed of reading), he screened us the movie, he read us the key scenes and provided key pointers that led to what really matters in the literary works in question. That way, we could be prepared well to get our assignments done on time.

I cannot tell how much I miss them both. They’re such influential figures in my academic and professional pursuit altogether. (*/)

[Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.]

Slow Writing for Better Results

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(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

NOW I’m confident enough to say that my slow typing habit is justified and defended by science.

I saw J.K. Rowling showcased an admirable typing speed in the documentary years ago. She punched that keyboard with the enthusiasm I’ve never seen.

I’ve never been and never will be a fast typist. And I once wanted to be a faster one when a friend saw me typing and commented,”Apparently, you do not type with all of your ten fingers. Strange though, because I can.” He continued, he was taught typing with ten fingers long ago while in high school. What kind of school was teaching typing skills, I wonder? It couldn’t be a secretary school because this friend is a guy.

But anyway, that friend tore my ego as a writer apart.

Should a writer be able to write and type faster than non-writers do?

The question haunted me so long until I saw this scientific finding from the researchers from the University of Waterloo.

They said whoever types slower writes better. That means, the quality of our writing enhances when we slow down, not speed up.

The scientists said it was because typing with one hand only seemed to affect one’s important skills in writing, such as how to select apt words for certain contexts. There is no further explanation as to how this is the case but I suppose this was made possible because someone had more time to make decisions regarding words to pick or remove from their compositions.

This is especially true when you aim to write to make impacts.

And maybe the case is so much different if we write only for fun, relief and self expression, or write to take notes for academic purposes in classes or for professional purposes during interviews with some sources or amid meetings with other colleagues or superiors.

I conclude that it’s NOT the speed of writing that can ruin one’s writing quality but it’s more because of the impulsiveness. When I write fast, I notice that I tend to rush (deadline is looming!) and make less accurate choice of words. What I want to achieve is to get the job done. Period.

I’ve heard that writing is basically rewriting for a numerous number of times. To improve writing quality, multiple revisions are not avoided but strongly required even.

Which is why I can totally get it when David Sedaris, one of my favorite living authors, said before he sent a piece to The New Yorker, he had rewritten his article for more than twenty times.

All in all, when writing for quality, just slow down. But writing for emotional and psychological relief, choose to be quick and less picky with vocabularies. (*/)

Traveling with Meaning

800px-RO_BV_Brasov_train_station_interiorIt has been quite a while since the last time I wandered around somewhere all alone. Trying to get lost in a foreign place, without giving a single attention to anyone and anything.

With the booming leisure economy around the country, I too want to have new adventures as well.

But I don’t long for a trip that is meant to fill my Instagram feed. Some people may do. I don’t. I appreciate those who do so but that is never my thing.

The last time I had a meaningful adventure was the trip to Baduy territory in West Java. I led some yoga sessions by the river around Baduy Luar territory and inside the kampong of Baduy Dalam. I loved it so much because the sensation is so incomparable I cannot really describe the joy in my heart. We – a bunch of new friends and I – not only had experiences of living as Baduy people but also had a chance to spend a night and had a cordial talk with the kampong leader. And this was unbelievably awesome. Not so touristy but who cares? I want the experience.

In my view, travelling with meaning means the combination of all the following components.

Respect of local cultures

When I had a trip in Baduy territory, someone advised that we leave our modern self care products at home. We thus were not allowed to bring with us things like soaps, toothpaste, detergent, etc. Despite that, we were still allowed to bring along our gadgets so long as they were properly kept and unused inside our bags.

As we were having our meetup with the local chief, someone in my travel group also asked if it was possible to rent a full attire of Baduy. And that I think was a great idea. To have that rare, perhaps once in a lifetime, experience of living a life of a Baduy person in a single day is incredibly fascinating. At least for me. I do not mind washing my body with only water, without soap or any foamy substances, in the river near the housing complex of Baduy folks because the water is as pristine as I have ever seen. Ground or mud is still tolerable as the river flows well. No unorganic, hazardous chemical trash whatsoever. And the prohibition of self care products use is just fine with me. I definitely cannot live without modern self care products like lotion, soap, etc but it won’t kill me if I stay away from them for a while.

Blend in

To get the raw experience of traveling in a certain place, try spending more time at natives’ houses instead of inns, hotels, or another type of available accomodation available around you.

I had this rewarding experience when I spent the night and had a cordial dinner with local Baduy men. And it felt awkward to eat dishes they usually eat but we never ever had before. The taste was not exactly like my favorite dishes but hey, isn’t traveling the best moment to experiment with our too spoiled taste buds that have gone numb to a vast variety of flavors and ingredients available on earth?

Take risks and enjoy

Do you hate or fear risks? Well, who don’t? But again, traveling may be the best time to become more adventurous than you usually are. Do something out of our characters. Do things we generally avoid or loathe. It is the time to redefine your perceptions of the world around you. So make the most out of it!

Don’t lose your identity

Though it is okay to plunge into the lifestyle, culture, and mindset of the people around us while traveling, do not ever forget who we are, the values we believe in, the boundaries we promise to never pass, etc. It is tempting to go astray, with that “you only live once” dogma as an excuse. Avoid going home with a certain feeling of guilt that sets in and ruins the holiday mood.

As for me, as a practicing muslim no matter how adventurous I am, I will never ever want to eat pork and drink liquor and have sex with strangers under all circumstances.

Love your homeland more

Now that we like this new place a lot, it does not mean we can stay forever. This reminds me of living a life with zen. Seize the moment and then when the time comes, do let it all go wholeheartedly. And letting all go means after trips, go back to the routine as if you are living your dream life.

Interestingly, at times after any trips I find myself a little bit more appreciative and grateful with where I am now. Remember that peace and relief know no physical boundaries. They are in us. So do not treat traveling as an escapism method (though many of us do). Traveling is the method to live a life to its fullest. It is not an escape from life itself.

Learn about yourself

I like to travel to experience things. And I make notes on how I act and behave in certain situations. Especially under unexpected situations.

I was once lost in Shenzhen and felt frustrated enough as I had no hotel address and I lost some money as well, which was quite a shock to me. To add to the horrible moment, I do not speak Chinese Mandarin at all. The fear engulfed me for half an hour maybe until miracle happened. The tour guide came to my rescue.

Forge friendships

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light,” said historical woman figure Helen Keller. I cannot agree more.

Unlike many others, I do not like shopping very much. I am minimalistic and trying to be less materialistic, too. So instead of loading more baggage, I am loading more friendships.

When I went to Korea, I had this lady guide whose name is Rose Park. We knew each other as I was the one and only person in the group that she led at the time who spoke a little Korean. I love Korean and the culture so I had learned a few basic expressions that would be helpful to survive in case I get lost. As I got home after the trip, Ms. Park and I exchanged some emails. I expressed my gratitude in my heartfelt email I wrote her and she returned as well.

Getting to know new acquaintances is an important aspect in any journey that I take. There is more a sense of fulfillment in a trip that ends up with us having more new people in our friend list than, perhaps, more clothes in our wardrobe. (*/)

Learning Foreign Languages Is Very Romantic

“WHY English?”
I asked Prof. Shinichiro Torikai of Rikkyo University, Japan. We met last Friday and sat down together. An impromptu interview ensued and this question popped out. Just like that.

He replied:”Even today I love English because learning a language is like a romance. It is very romantic.” Though I am not clear as to why he said so, he continued. “I can meet more people and I can talk to them. They can talk to me. I can make many friends. For example, though I cannot speak Indonesian, I can speak English here and still make friends here, right?” He stated one of the best examples of being able to speak English. He just cannot stop learning and teaching English.

He only spent five days in Indonesia, which was barely enough to explore Jakarta, not to mention Indonesia! At his advanced age, I supposed he has visited Indonesia once or several times before. But he said this was the very first experience.

I’ve been always seeing Japanese folks as a very adventurous tribe. They travel a lot regardless of their age. They are keen and shrewd and meticulous and industrious as humans can possibly be.

On this trip to Indonesia, he was with his college-age son. Then I had a hunch he was married later in his life, which was quite normal and accepted in Japan. His son is enjoying the country and wants to go to college here (while some of Indonesians are eager to go to Japanese colleges and universities).

When I touched on several places to visit in the Indonesian archipelago, he mentioned about Bali. “It’s quite famous in Japan. A beautiful island with an indegenous people living on it. They have their original culture and language.

As an English learner and sometimes teacher, I too got curious about what he was trying to share with people in Indonesia. The scholar teaching at the 97-year-old private university in the downtown Tokyo said he shared his experience as an academician in regards with Teaching English as Second and Foreign Language in Japan, a country very well known for its strong and deeply rooted cultural identity. So strong the people find it hard to even absorb the most prevalent global phenomenon: English as the world’s lingua franca. As we all may know, Japanese people are not that into English learning. They simply think they won’t bother learning the so-called global language because Japanese alone would suffice in communication.

On one hand, this strong cultural identity is desired because it is so much easier for a nation to stay together. No wonder, Japanese people are relatively homogenous in comparison with Indonesia which consists of hundreds of distinct tribes scattered throughout the archipelago.

When I came to his lecture, Prof. Shinichiro was highlighting the difficulty of learning how to write Latin alphabets. Making shapes of letter as simple as B and D in small and upper case can be troublesome for Japanese learners as their first language does not reqire writing this type of alphabet. Indonesians like me do have an advantage that we speak and write Indonesian that adopts Latin alphabets. This fact allows us to transition more smoothly and efficiently to English communication mode. Several other challenges still remain but they are not as large as what Japanese learners have to deal with. Even Prof. Shinichiro praised Indonesian students’ English proficiency. “It (read: English teaching) is very successful. The students are very active and outgoing,” he commented.

So this is what encourages the professor to devise any possible ways to solve this issue. They have to be creative to teach the lessons without even frustrating students. In the 21st century, problems of English learning in Japan is becoming more complex than ever before. It’s not enough for students to master main skills such as writing, reading, speaking, and listening but they also now have to have a grasp of communicative skills, he argued.

“There has been now more emphasis on communication, not only reading, writing, etc. We used to teach reading a lot but now we teach more skills like speaking, presentation skills, listening. We try to foster these multiple skills so they can communicate better.” All this is aimed at opening more doors of opportunity for students to the world so they can have more options of career even outside their home country. This is what he refers to as English Education Reforms. (*/)