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. (*/)

On the Meaning of Life as a Corporate Employee

man wearing white dress shirt and black necktie
Photo by bruce mars on

Too often than not I am bombarded with the message that being entrepreneurs is what every young and old man and woman should pursue. It is a pinnacle of one’s career or even life. There is an implicit message hovering out there that dropping out of college and building your own startup or business is cool and worth your sweat, hardship and blood and tears. Suddenly everyone wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk, or Kevin Systrom, or other household names of entrepreneurship. These self-made men and women are unbeatable geniuses because of their grit and luck.

In the meantime, I have been also inundated with the disillusional impression that the gig economy is what the world is now requiring badly to overcome high rate of unemployability. I have seen some of those desperate young men with bachelor’s degrees are turning to the informal sector. They are just unlucky with their job search. Or they may be too picky. Or they simply do not fit in any corporate environment. Or their skills are not needed by those companies or government agencies. You can find these unfortunate educated workforce among the online ojek or taxi fleets in Jakarta. Instead of getting too unrealistic with ideal job expectation, they get real with the world, trying to make money out of their spare time and unused energy of youth.

As the gig economy gives much room to the rise of freelancers, I have also seen and experienced myself how fragile life can be if you are freelancers. The freedom you adore and religiously defend against everything else can become a boomerang that hits and hurts you back.

Working as a freelancer usually is dubbed as a professional path that offers a high level of freedom and flexibility and mobility and prospect of increasing income. Bid farewell to office hours and work desks and office politics! But guess what? Digital gig economy is in fact bad for our well being, as one study of Oxford University suggested . The reasons are many but the most prominent are the poor quality working conditions; long, irregular and anti-social hours which can lead to sleep deprivation and exhaustion; and insane workloads and super tight deadlines that even Superman cannot meet. A Thai movie titled “Heart Attack” (2015) accurately depicts the misery of working as a freelancer. Yun, the protagonist, is told as a 30-year-young man who works on a freelance basis. He works so hard he almost completely sacrificed even his own well being. He almost died of a sudden heart attack, kudos to a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and sleepless working pattern.

Can Life as a ‘Corporate Slave’ be Fulfilling?

That question arises as I watched k-drama “Misaeng”, which in Korean translates to “Incomplete Life”. But as I think over and over again, is a life as a corporate worker always incomplete, mundane and boring?

My hunch is it is considered to be so because there are many people see this type of life as ordinary experience. It is part of their everyday life and they cannot see something special, fresh or inspiring in it. Why should you watch an entertainment product that reminds you of those bad bosses, hateful coworkers, or unforgiving office politics that you have always despised throughout work days? Isn’t it better to watch something else other than ordinary materials as an alternative of entertainment theme?

But as much as many people hate the life of typical corporate slaves, there are still many life lessons — and meaningfulness — that you may find from it.

It Is All about Human Relationship

The “e-mail attitude” sends out an impression that you can work on your own anywhere anytime in your own work field and position. Write and things will get done.

Yet, the thing is that wouldn’t always be what happens.You can send emails and get feedback and problems still persist.

Even if you work in a team in a startup that works at home and you cannot see them in person every single day, the relationship factor still matters a lot.

To perform well, you need to build relationships. E-mails cannot replace them.

Working as entrepreneurs or freelancers is often glorified as prestige.

Entrepreneurs are usually highly paid and get the reputation of being the most daring, shrewd, and competitive of all. They shape the world and contribute to the advancement of human race.

Meanwhile, freelancers are ‘free birds’ who are [seemingly] dependent of big companies. They are free from the pressure of tycoons and shareholders who own these corporations. Freelancers are their own employers. They decide with whom to work, how much they get paid, how much workload they can handle.

But I apologize for bursting the bubble, as these may not be true at all.

I’ve seen some entrepreneurs are highly paid and extremely depressed and suicidal as well. Their work life balance is plumetting, taking sanity as its toll. And though it seems they have achieved things others cannot, they also have to sacrifice more than others.

Freelancing is always considered the best lifestyle and career path too but don’t we know that it is a crushing choice of profession as well? A freelancer has no certain time frame for work, meaning they can even work on weekends, robbing their well being as well. And if clients demand work to get done in a very short time, s/he cannot say no. Because money is what s/he needs badly!

Life of Corporate Workers can Be Meaningful

Life as corporate workers can be meaningful, too. I believe humans are entitled to giving meaning to everything they experience or have or not lack.

By saying this I am by no means saying that working as a corporate worker is the best career path one must choose. But trust me, it is not worse than entrepreneurs’ and freelancers’ life.

Corporate workers contribute to the economy, too. They work hard to help entrepreneurs realize their visions. Thus, they also contribute to the civilization.

Corporate workers can also gain freedom, too. They can resign whenever they want if they find their employers incongruous with their beliefs.

Corporate workers are also the bridge between their employers and freelancers. They articulate their superiors’ aspiration into explanation digestible to freelancers.

So, do you still think the life of corporate workers meaningless? Think again. (*/)

Getting to Know Telemetry and Data Privacy at Mozilla (Non-Geeks Only)

WHILE on his travel around some parts of South East Asia, Georg Fritsche doesn’t forget to share the virtue of his organization, Mozilla. Having worked for the entity for the recent six years, the German-born geek sat down with us at Mozilla Community Space Jakarta at Tifa Building , Annex Suite, Kuningan Barat, Jakarta.

For audience familiar with data and web, what Georg exposed here is perhaps very brief and superficial. Yet, to most of people like me and some of you who mostly use computers as a tool to browse the web and process and save multiple types of content such as words, images and videos, the discussion is so technical I can’t even recall the gist of the talks. At all.

But do NOT blame it all on George, because I know how hard it is to simplify the highly complicated issue within one single meetup. I can tell you the same feeling when your grandparents demand you a simple and easily-understood explanation on questions such as “what is internet?”. Analogies may work but it also betrays you on some occasions like a pet snake. It bites you when you least expect it.

Despite all the gaps of knowledge and expertise lying so wide between us, here are several takeaways I can offer you as a complete and utter layman in the realm of internet.

  • Telemetry which is what Goerg does at Mozilla is actually a series of efforts to collect data of users conducted on daily basis. But what separates Mozilla and the others is the commitment to its mission, i.e. to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. That also means they also collect data from users but at the same time they give us as users more openness, transparency and freedom as to what they do with data and how they collect these data. Though it is set as default, any users can simply turn  it off or opt out of the telemetry by unchecking a box in the tab on Privacy. For Mozilla Firefox which I gues is the most popular product of Mozilla, to opt out of Telemetry, you type “about:preferences#privacy” in the address bar and locate “Firefox Data Collection and Use”. Uncheck the box that preceedes “Allow Firefox to send technical and interaction data to Mozilla” as well as “Allow Firefox to install and run studies”. In brief, users have more control over their data.
  • No data of users will be sold whatsoever. This is guaranteed by Mozilla. Because privacy really matters, unlike other internet giants, user data collected by Mozilla are never about your identity, such as your name and your whereabouts.
  • There is no surprises. And by surprises, I assume it is “unsolicited” surprises that no one will be happy with.
  • Even Mozilla collects data, they limit data. They only collect  data they require to improve the performance of products. Mozilla, said Georg, doesn’t collect data that are deemed unnecessary and too private by nature. It makes sense because the company doesn’t sell data and make profits of them.

As the discussion went deeper, I came to the conclusion that Mozilla products collect our data, too, just like other products on the web. The difference is you know your data is in the right hand. Not in the greasy hands of ‘big brothers’ who abuse and exploit you for their own interests once they get tired of spoiling you with great ease and comfort of exchanging information and data.

For further study, kindly visit (if you can read and interpret the data displayed there). In case you are curious, click about:telemetry. But if you already give up, tweet Georg at @georgfritsche or @moztelemetry. Good luck! (*/)


Begini Cara Kota Saya Kudus Dukung Bersama Suksesnya Asian Games 2018

GOR Djarum Kudus, sebuah tempat sakral yang menjadi kawah candradimuka bagi para atlet bulutangkis muda potensial di seluruh Indonesia. Diresmikan tahun 2006, venue megah ini menjadi pusat latihan dan aktivitas PB Djarum Kudus. (Foto: dok pribadi)

Hitung mundur perhelatan akbar olahraga Asian Games 2018 sudah dimulai sejak setahun lalu. Medio Agustus 2018 menandai 365 hari menuju pembukaan event akbar yang membanggakan bangsa Indonesia yang menjadi tuan rumah penyelenggaranya.

Di Jakarta sebagai ibukota negara sekaligus salah satu lokasi diadakannya banyak pertandingan Asian Games tahun ini, saya sudah menyaksikan banyak sekali pengingat bahwa event itu akan segera tiba. Dari badan bus TransJakarta yang hilir mudik, pelataran dan gedung-gedung pemerintahan yang dibalut ucapan penyemangat atlet RI, hingga di taman-taman kota yang dipasangi ikon-ikon lucu Asian Games yakni Bhin-Bhin (burung cendrawasih), Atung (rusa bawean), dan Kaka (badak bercula satu), rasanya Jakarta sudah sangat siap menyampaikan dukungan totalnya pada keberhasilan penyelenggaraan peristiwa olahraga skala kontinental ini.

Meskipun tenggat waktunya relatif sempit, penyediaan infrastruktur untuk Asian Games 2018 digarap serius oleh pemerintah. Ini buktinya. (Sumber:

Presiden Joko Widodo bak seorang panglima yang mengerahkan seluruh pasukannya untuk menyebarkan berita ke seluruh rakyat bahwa peran serta dan dukungan masyarakat terhadap kelancaran penyelenggaraan Asian Games 2018 sangat diperlukan. Tidak perlu menjadi olahragawan untuk bisa mensukseskan event ini. Dan tidak juga perlu menjadi warga resmi DKI Jakarta atau Palembang untuk bisa turut serta secara aktif menyuarakan dukungan.

Untuk itu, meskipun di Kudus kota asal saya spanduk dan baliho Asian Games 2018 tidak sebanyak yang ditemukan di Jakarta dan Palembang, Kudus juga memiliki kontribusi dukungan pada kesuksesan Asian Games kali ini. Selain spanduk dan baliho sebagaimana yang sudah dilakukan oleh aparat setempat (baca: “Polres Kudus Ikut Mensukseskan Asian Games 2018″), ternyata Kudus, tempat kelahiran saya yang notabene ‘hanya’ kabupaten terkecil di pulau Jawa dan kelima termungil di seluruh nusantara ini, memiliki caranya sendiri untuk berkontribusi. Berikut adalah bagaimana saya dan segenap warga Kudus lainnya bisa memberikan dukungan untuk Asian Games 2018.

Baliho Asian Games 2018 hiasi sudut-sudut kota Kudus. (Sumber:

Mendukung dengan Badminton

Badminton berasal dari India, tetapi ia tidak dikenal secara global hingga diperkenalkan di Inggris oleh para perwira perangnya. Untuk pertama kalinya olahraga ini dimainkan secara resmi di kota kecil bernama Badminton, yang menjadi kota kelahiran seorang bangsawan bernama Duke of Beaufort. Tahun 1934 menjadi saksi berdirinya organisasi resmi badminton pertama di dunia yang hingga kini dikenal sebagai IBF (International Badminton Federation) dan diketuai oleh Sir George Thomas dari Inggris. Kemudian diadakan perhelatan bergengsi Thomas Cup (sejak 1949) untuk pemain putra dan Uber Cup (1957) untuk pemain putri.

Badminton sendiri baru masuk di Indonesia tahun 1951 saat PBSI didirikan tanggal 5 Mei 1951. Tujuh belas tahun berselang, atlet badminton Indonesia Rudi Hartono menjadi juara All-England Championship dan menyabet gelar tersebut selama total 8 kali.

Selain dikenal sebagai kota kretek karena di sanalah berdiri perusahaan rokok terbesar Djarum, Kudus kemudian juga dikenal sebagai kota badminton. Reputasinya sudah tidak diragukan lagi. Dari deretan pemain badminton legendaris di Indonesia, beberapa berasal dari Kudus yakni Liem Swie King, Hastomo Arbi, Eddy Hartono dan Hariyanto Arbi. Sementara itu, nama-nama terkenal seperti Alan Budikusuma, Ardy B. Wiranata, Ivana Lie, Minarti Timur hingga Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo yang baru-baru ini naik daun meskipun bukan kelahiran Kudus tetapi menjalani pengasahan bakat di kota ini di bawah Klub Djarum. Tidak berlebihan jika dikatakan Kudus juga kota badminton Indonesia.

Memenuhi Target 2 Emas

Sebagaimana yang sudah kita ketahui bersama, badminton masih terus menjadi tumpuan harapan untuk mengharumkan nama bangsa kita ini di kancah internasional termasuk ajang Asian Games 2018. Sebagai tuan rumah, kita tentu tidak ingin hanya menjadi pentonton di tribun, melihat bangsa-bangsa lain melaju dengan berbagai prestasi olahraga mereka. Dalam hal ekonomi, kita dalam skala dunia sudah masuk ke peringkat 16 berdasarkan Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Dalam hal jumlah penduduk, besarnya bangsa ini juga sudah menembus 5 besar. RI sudah melesat ke peringkat negara keempat dengan penduduk terbanyak di dunia setelah RRT, India dan AS. Karena itu, tidak berlebihan jika kali ini Indonesia ingin merangsek masuk ke peringkat sepuluh besar.

Kalau ditilik lagi lebih cermat ke sejarah, Indonesia pernah mencapai puncak prestasinya di Asian Games yang pertama kali diadakan tahun 1951 itu pada tahun 1962. Saat itu, RI bertengger di posisi kedua sehingga tidak berlebihan jika Indonesia seperti raksasa yang baru bangkit dari tidurnya. Dengan usia yang masih begitu muda, prestasi olahraga RI di lingkup Asia gilang gemintang dengan 21 emas, 26 perak dan 30 perunggu. Ia hanya kalah dari Jepang yang sukses meraup 73 emas, 65 perak dan 23 perunggu. Faktor status sebagai tuan rumah mungkin juga bisa memberikan dorongan psikologis dan mental pada para atlet kala itu.

Namun, bukan berarti atlet RI jago kandang! Di Bangkok tahun 1970, prestasi RI di Asian Games masih di peringkat 4 meski sebelumnya tahun 1966 turun di ranking 6. Hingga 1990, RI masih ada di kisaran 10 besar. Prestasi kita terpuruk di tahun 2006 saat Asian Games digelar di Doha, Qatar. Di Asian Games 2010 yang bertempat di Guangzhou, peringkat naik ke posisi 15. Dan sekarang, wajar kita bisa berharap banyak dengan para atlet kita karena pemerintah juga sudah menyatakan dukungan penuh pada penyediaan kontribusi para atlet yang berhasil meraih medali.

Pasok Bus untuk Asian Games

Kalau Anda warga Kudus, tentu tahu bus Nusantara. Nah, perusahaan karoseri Nusantara Gemilang yang berada di kota Kudus kini digandeng pemerintah untuk turut menyediakan bus bagi sarana transportasi para atlet Asian Games 2018. Bus-bus tersebut kemudian diserahkan untuk dikelola PT Transportasi Jakarta (TransJakarta). Tak tanggung-tanggung jumlahnya sampai 101 unit!

Bus-bus tersebut nantinya akan digunakan untuk melancarkan mobilitas para atlet dari penginapan mereka ke tempat bertanding. Yang patut diketahui, meskipun dikatakan berpusat di Jakarta dan Palembang, ternyata   area tepatnya di Bumi Serpong Damai, Tangerang dan Sentul, Bogor, serta Bandung, Jabar.

Mau tahu cabang olahraga apa saja dan venue/ tempat pertandingannya? Ini dia infografisnya. (Sumber:

Suarakan Dukunganmu!

Bagi kita yang bukan atlet, bagaimana cara kita menyatakan dukungan? Mudah saja. Kunjungi Tinggal pilih ingin ikuti lomba blog, foto atau video. Karyamu ditunggu sampai 15 Juli nanti!

Jayalah Indonesia dan Dukung Bersama Asian Games dari Daerahmu! 

Sumber referensi:

  1. Wikipedia

4 Benefits of Volunteering at Mozilla Community Space

Just a brief caveat, I’m not going to say anything here about the free-flow snacks and drinks and free internet connection available at anytime (though they’re two of the benefits to lure more people into coming more often and spend nights there).

Here I give you four of so many benefits of volunteering as a keyholder at Mozilla Community Space.


Certainly Mozilla Community Space is no place to go to cure your mental disorder or illness but I’m serious about this. According to Harvard Health Publishing (a publishing section of Harvard Medical School), people who volunteer have a better mental health condition. Stephanie Watson of Harvard Women’s Health Watch elaborates on this point, saying:

Studies have shown that volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression. (source:

It’s an inconceivable benefit that I’m sure everyone wants to reap from volunteering for any social causes, including Mozilla which is a non-profit organization.

In Mozilla Community Space, you’ll meet not only friends you’re already familiar with but also an endless supply of new acquaintances who can bring you a lot of new perspectives in life.


It’s useless to live a long life but bedridden, too il to wake up and enjoy the world and all things in it. That’s why I pick the ‘health span’ term instead of ‘life span’.

Great news for you who are too worried about your physical health, and most specifically your blood pressure. Now, you can get less dependent on your anti-hypertension medication by spending more time to volunteer in Mozilla Community Space.

More on this, read on below:

Those who had volunteered at least 200 hr in the 12 months prior to baseline were less likely to develop hypertension (OR = 0.60; 95% CI [0.40, 0.90]) than nonvolunteers. There was no association between volunteerism and hypertension risk at lower levels of volunteer participation. Volunteering at least 200 hr was also associated with greater increases in psychological well-being (source: here).


If you’re under 40 years old like me, volunteering does nothing to boost your wellbeing but hey, let me tell you that the benefit is not always about health. Volunteering can be impactful even if you’re a lot younger, especially when it comes to networking. Volunteering at young age  especially allows you to get exposed to people and worlds outside of your comfort zone. For young people, that comfort zone may be your school, your family and immediate relatives maybe. But if you volunteer, you’ll discover so many unknown worlds other than people you’ve known since your childhood.

In Mozilla Community Space, I can meet with younger people, lots of them actually (I’m the eldest newly-appointed keyholder). And seeing these youths who are as old as my younger siblings pretty much gives me a great deal of youthful spirit. Besides, more acquaintances means more opportunities in fact.


Life is a lot more boring if you only focus on your personal life goals. You want this and that and when you have it all, only you can enjoy it. Life can be more meaningful than that by volunteering your time and energy to a specific cause you prefer.

So what’s my cause?


For the sake of freedom in the virtual world, I want to be more actively involved in Mozilla Indonesia.

Why Mozilla?

Because nowadays our freedom as internet users have been ‘robbed’ by all tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. We are made to trade our privacy and private details with convenience, a bait too tempting to refuse. They shape our lives and our future as human civilization, too. So we need an alternative which is free from business, commercial interests.

The keyword is FREEDOM.

Freedom to make choices, whether we willingly swap our privacy for convenience or hold tightly that last shred of privacy and explore the web without being herded like a bunch of dumb sheeps and being fed by grass decided by algorithms.  (*/)

On Acquiring – Instead of Learning – Dutch

IT’S been a long time since I began studying something new and unusual. And because I don’t want to study things for random reasons, I picked Dutch as my second foreign language to acquire.

Why ‘acquire’, instead of ‘study’?

Because as a language learner, I believe strongly that language acquisition is much better than a mere language study. Someone doesn’t acquire a language for grades or points or diplomas. But one who studies usually does wish to achieve a certain score or a passing grade. In other words, one studies for academic or economic or career reasons. Language acquirers don’t study for grades. They study and immerse themselves further in a language they’re trying to acquire.

Also, language acquisition emphasizes more on the experience aspect than theories. It’s more natural because one needs to experience it everytime. So one may acquire a foreign language in places other than classrooms or language labs. Any places that enable him or her to experience as a language user are the classroom.

Despite that, attending a formal class or taking a face-to-face course is still required. This is particularly essential when it comes to validation of your language acquisition results. Such verification is ideally granted by a certain institution with undoubted reputation and unwavering credibility.

Why I learn Dutch?

On this query, I almost never knew how to answer it correctly. Yet, some days ago I stumbled upon Peter Carey’s foreword in his book “Inggris di Jawa” (Britain in Java). There he mentioned on how grateful he was when he found a translator with a full grasp of Javanese history, English, Dutch, Javanese and obviously Indonesian. Carey mentioned how rapidly the number of proficient translators with this unique set of competencies. So that was my ‘aha moment’, indeed.

This is funny as I usually start to pick something to learn first before I find the reason why I learned it. It just occured naturally. I mean the attraction. That’s what I normally apply to myself as a student of life. I don’t study things because I want to get an A or others’ praise (well, that may hold true a little) but just for a sheer fondness with inexplicable grounds. This also what happened to me when I first began studying English and yoga. I feel like it’s never happy and satisfactory to study for the sake of academic success indicated by a diploma or certificate. I must reach something more or beyond that: my personal satisfaction and love. As selfish as it may seem, I think that’s exactly what makes me relentless and persevere all the way when other students choose to quit or give up when the learning curve is going steeper and steeper. After acquiring, the process is not over yet. One still has to diligently maintain his or her language proficiency every time, every occasion s/he has chances. Or else, just like a knife, the proficiency turns rusty from time to time from being unused. (*)


Beetje Bij Beetje

Di dunia bahasa, dikenal citra-citra subjektif juga. Pernah saya membaca bahwa bahasa Rusia lekat dengan kesan jantan. Apakah karena Putin sang presiden dikenal sebagai duda yang sangar dan kerap berkuda bertelanjang dada sebagaimana pernah ditangkap kamera pekerja media? Entahlah. Lalu bahasa Prancis lebih diasosiasikan dengan femininitas. Mungkin karena pelafalannya yang sulit dan rumit, mengharuskan lidah dan bibir bermanuver sedemikian rupa sampai terpilin-pilin tanpa ampun. Bahasa yang seksi, kata orang. Tapi sumber frustrasi bagi saya.
Beetje bij beetje,” tulis guru bahasa Belanda saya yang berasal dari kota yang berlokasi tepat di garis khatulistiwa itu di papan tulis. Maknanya mirip “little by little”, sedikit demi sedikit. Lalu kami diinstruksikan menirunya,”Beice bei beiceee..”
“Ya ampun, lenjeh banget rasanya mengucapkan frasa satu ini,”komentar saya secara spontan. Tentu dalam volume suara terkendali agar tak menarik perhatian Tonny, guru kami.
Seorang teman di sebelah saya mendengar dan menukas dengan nada sepakat:”Lhah, kan emang bahasa bencong-bencong nyerap banyak bahasa Belanda! Ik, jij!”
Saya mengiyakan dalam hati juga jawabannya lalu tergoda membayangkan citra apa yang bisa dilekatkan dengan bahasa Indonesia. Bahasa tanpa perubahan kata kerja berdasarkan waktu dan subjek, tanpa variasi kata ganti orang, hewan dan benda baik yang maskulin, feminin (saya stres kalau melihat orang mengeja “feminim”).
Dan sebelum saya menemukan jawabannya, Tonny menyebut nama saya saat mata saya asyik menerawangi langit-langit ruangan yang pendek sambil membayangkan betapa tersiksanya orang-orang Belanda yang jangkung-jangkung itu jika di dalam sini. Ia sekonyong-konyong menunjuk gambar Barack Obama di layar samping papan tulis.
“Wat is zijn naam?” tanyanya tajam pada saya, seolah-olah dirinya seekor macan tutul yang sukses menangkap seekor kijang yang sedang lengah-lengahnya.
Gelagapan saya menjawab,”Beetjeee… Uhh ohh, Obama, meneer!”

Nobar yang Membuat Hambar

“SUARA apa itu, mbak?” tanya saya was-was. Saya baru saja duduk dan memesan makanan. Lalap, nasi merah dan segala perlengkapan. Rumah makan ini baru. Begitu baru sampai-sampai yang beli cuma saya seorang.

“Nggak tahu…,” tukas perempuan muda itu acuh. Lalu ia melanjutkan bergosip dengan kawannya.

Begitu makanan saya tiba di meja, saya makin tak berselera gara-gara musik pengiring itu. Ya, saya kenal musik itu. Musik dari film yang membuat saya tak bisa tidur saban 30 September. Film yang membuat saya selalu mematikan televisi dan tidur cepat karena toh isinya tidak menarik dan traumatis. Lebih baik saya disuruh belajar sampai penat dan mata merah daripada menonton film itu.

Saya menyadari kebodohan saya yang bertanya pada gadis muda tadi. Usianya pasti baru belasan. Mana tahu soal film ini?

Dialog pun terdengar. Bukan lamat-lamat lagi tetapi hingar bingar. Seakan memang diatur sedemikian rupa agar membangkitkan keingintahuan orang yang lewat.

Nafsu makan saya makin hilang begitu saya mengicipi sambal. Blah! Tidak enak. Saya gigit selada keritingnya. Pahitnya seperti pil kina. Ingin saya lepeh seketika itu juga tapi saya takut menyakiti hati si pelayan itu. Akhirnya saya telan juga. Lalu mentimun yang diiris tipis itu juga tak segar lagi. Kisut, kering di satu sisi. Benar-benar memadamkan nafsu makan. Ditambah dengan makin menggemanya dialog film Orba itu ke liang telinga dan membangkitkan kenangan buruk di sudut batok kepala, klop sudah! Tetapi meski saya sudah tak ada nafsu makan, saya berupaya menelan sebisanya juga karena terbiasa mendengar dogma “mubazir temannya setan”.

Saya bayar makanan yang mengecewakan lidah ini dan bergegas meraih sepeda lalu mengayuh pulang.

Tetapi sedetik sebelum saya mengayuh, terbetik rasa ingin tahu,”Siapa gerangan yang menghelat acara nobar itu?!!”

Saya pun ke gang tempat rumah makan soto Kudus Saraswati yang selalu saya gadang-gadang itu. Letaknya kebetulan dekat dengan warung baru tempat saya baru saja bersantap malam. Gang itu ditutup. Bangku-bangku menandakan pemblokiran jalan. Sebuah sepeda motor juga malang melintang.

Dan di sana, di jalan depan rumah makan soto kudus kesayangan saya, terbentang sebuah layar dari kain putih. Film itu tersorot entah dari peralatan apa. Saya tidak peduli. Yang saya lihat hanya muka seorang pria di tengah kepekatan malam. Apakah di situ banyak orang, saya sudah tak peduli lagi, saya terobos saja ke depan sampai sepeda menerjang layar dan semuanya bubar. “Bubar!!! Pergi semua. Ini jalan umum!”

Tapi sayangnya itu cuma angan-angan saja. Kenyataannya, saya tercekat di mulut gang, dan enggan menatap layar itu lagi, mendengar musik latar yang menegakkan bulu kuduk ini, dan mengangkat sepeda ke arah seharusnya. Saya pulang dulu, jendral!

Di tengah jalan, lewatlah saya di warung langganan. Untuk melampiaskan kekecewaan, saya mampir. Dengan kata lain, saya makan malam lagi untuk menghibur hati dari kekecewaan dan kengerian malam ini. (*)

Nederlands Is Makellijk

NEDERLANDS is makellijk, tulis meneer Tonny dengan huruf besar di papan tulis yang lebar, putih, dan mulus itu. Kalimat itu saja yang ia tegaskan untuk mencuci otak kami agar semangat tidak keropos di tahap awal belajar bahasa kompeni ini. “Nederlands is makeuleuk,” ucap kami serempak menirukan.
Ia katakan kelebihan bahasa Belanda dari bahasa Inggris ialah pengucapannya yang apa adanya. Apa yang tertera, dibaca saja, tuturnya. Tetapi saya sangkal pernyataannya dalam hati,”Kalau mudah, kenapa orang Indonesia merasa lidah mereka kaku saat membaca tulisan Belanda?” .
Namun, itulah enaknya belajar bahasa, yang tak masuk dalam ranah eksakta. Semuanya relatif, suka suka. Anda bisa mengajukan klaim mudah dan menambahkan pengecualian. Dan pengecualian itulah yang tak bisa dipahami secara logis dan susah dipahami dan dihapalkan.
Semangat belajar memang penting untuk dipelihara selama perjalanan mencari ilmu. Sebab tidak semua fase belajar itu menyenangkan untuk dijalani.
Tetapi seorang teman mengatakan, bahasa bekas penjajah ini susah. Begitu susah, sampai novelis termasyhur Eka Kurniawan bertekuk lutut saat mengikuti kursus ini.
Berkali-kali meneer Tonny mengajukan bukti pendukung pernyataannya bahwa Nederlands is makellijk (bahasa Belanda itu mudah). Disuruhnya kami mengajukan contoh kata-kata dalam bahasa Indonesia yang diserap dari bahasa ini, dari verboden (terlarang), kraag (krah), tas, handoek (handuk), korsluit (korslet), koelkast (kulkas), pootlood (pensil/ potlot), kantoor (kantor), fiets (pit, bahasa Jawa), om, tante, dan daftarnya tak habis-habis.
Sayangnya panjangnya daftar itu cuma menunjukkan besarnya cengkeraman mereka pada bangsa ini, bahkan di luar urusan politik dan kenegaraan. Sementara itu, pengaruh bangsa (yang kuantitasnya) besar yang (berdaya saing) ‘kecil’ ini relatif sangat rendah pada mereka. Buktinya, susah sekali menemukan kata-kata bahasa Indonesia yang diserap oleh penutur Belanda.
Di antara yang langka itu, meneer Tonny menyebut beberapa. Pertama, kata “pienter” yang diserap dari bahasa kita. Artinya juga sama dengan kata “pintar” yang kita sering pakai.
Lalu ada juga “piekeren”, yang kata meneer Tonny, memiliki makna “memikirkan sesuatu”. Setelah itu, meneer Tonny beralih topik. Sudah kehabisan contoh atau karena ingin fokus ke topik selanjutnya.
Saya manggut-manggut, dengan mata tidak berani menerawang liar ke mana-mana agar tidak ditunjuk saat lengah lagi.
Sambil menancapkan mata ke depan agar tetap terlihat memperhatikan, saya terus berpikir. Mau sebanyak apapun jumlah penutur bahasa Indonesia tetap tidak bisa dimasukkan menjadi kelompok bahasa berpengaruh di dunia. Salah satu sebab utamanya pengaruh Indonesia yang masih lemah di konstelasi pergaulan bangsa-bangsa. Dan salah satu aspek yang bisa diukur untuk menentukan tingkat pengaruh suatu bangsa di lingkaran global ialah banyaknya kata-kata dalam bahasa mereka yang dipinjam dari bahasa lain. (*)

India Ala-ala

Syahdan hiduplah seekor anjing pudel. Oleh si pemeliharanya, ia sesekali dikatai,”Bulumu indah, matamu mungil seperti kucing persia. Kau seharusnya terlahir sebagai seekor kucing.” Saat ditawari makanan kucing, anjing pudel itu tanpa sadar juga menyukainya. Tak tahu itu bukan makanannya, ia cuma tahu baunya enak, rasanya nikmat, telan dan selesai. Lalu datanglah teman-teman pemiliknya, mereka juga beropini sama, bahwa si anjing pudel mirip kucing persia. “Jangan jangan ia memang kucing persia. Benar, ia memang kucing persia. Kamu kucing persia kan?” kata teman si pemilik terus menimang-nimang sang anjing yang semakin lama semakin goyah jatidirinya sebagai anjing dan mulai meyakini dirinya memang kucing.
Saya memahami kebingungan anjing yang dikondisikan sebagai kucing oleh lingkungan sekitarnya itu. Saat mata dan hidung ini tidak mencerminkan kekhasan rupa khas Jawadwipa – yang saya yakini sebagai akar genetik saya – susah juga untuk senantiasa gigih menampik dugaan adanya pertalian dengan gen tanah Hindustan.
Dari kecil memang selentingan semacam itu sudah terdengar. Mulanya tak percaya. Mana ada riwayat keturunan India di keluarga? Tidak ada. Jawa totok semuanya.
Lalu beberapa teman yang berkomentar seperti itu. Hidung terutama jadi bahan pembicaraan.
Kegemaran beryoga seakan menegaskan tuduhan tadi. Saya seperti anjing pudel yang suka makanan kucing tadi. Alami saja menyukainya tanpa tahu sebabnya. Semestinya saya tertarik ilmu kanuragan atau kejawen saja bukan?
Akhir-akhir ini, seolah-olah makin menjadi-jadi, di Twitter saya menemukan diri di-mention beberapa akun yang setelah saya klik ternyata akun-akun orang India yang sedang getol berkampanye #UPElection2017. Apa ini? Tanya saya dalam hati. Lalu akun itu menyebut Rahul Gandhi dan BJP for India. Sumpah saya tak memahami. Penyebutan terus berlanjut dengan menyeret akun Twitter saya dengan kalimat “the beauty of indian democracy that bla bla bla..” Makin saya membaca, makin mengerutkan dahi. Jelas ini tweet-tweet politik negeri itu. Saya itu tidak pernah mempublikasikan tweet yang membahas politik India, paling yang ada cuma soal yoga. Jadi ini sangat mengherankan.
Anda kira itu sudah cukup? Belum. Karena saya baru saja menerima surat elektronik berisi penawaran untuk menjadi buzzer dalam kampanye digital di Indonesia. Saya merasa tak pernah berlangganan surel dari pengirimnya. Dan anehnya lagi, perusahaan yang menawarkan itu setelah saya baca cermat berasal dari India. Lho, saya ini siapa? Saya hidup di Indonesia, pengaruh apa yang saya miliki untuk publik India? Benar-benar saya sudah habis tenaga pikiran untuk menemukan jawabannya.