Entrepreneurship: Finding Overlap between Theory and Practice

Why would you even take a Master degree to be an entrepreneur? Why didn’t you just do it? Do you really have to study all those business theories before becoming a business(wo)man? Will it be really helpful in real business world?

Those questions keep sparking out during my study here in Lancaster University. While my classmates and I have studied this Master degree of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for a year, none of us decided to directly jump down into real business world as full entrepreneur (yet).

 

I’ve never really wanted to be an academia. I can’t stand reading long journal papers with complicated sentences that, sometimes, actually only tell simple common-sense idea. And apparently I didn’t get proper understanding of academic paper back in undergraduate thesis. So when I started my master dissertation project here, instead of full academic paper, I opted for writing business plan with complementary academic piece (which is considered more ‘practical’).

I’ve also deliberately chosen Ian Gordon as my supervisor, who’s been known for his SMEs development program and a business practitioner himself. I was hoping to get more ‘practical insight’ during my dissertation project. That’s why I didn’t really pay attention to my academic piece, since I thought “I’ll just conduct interviews with SMEs and relate it to whatever theories say.”

In fact, it turned out to be tough.

So tough that I scolded myself for being too arrogant and underestimate it…

The Practice

My dissertation topic was about SME e-commerce adoption and Absorptive Capacity (don’t worry it’s also the first time for me to hear this term). I interviewed 10 (ten) SME owners in Indonesia and to be honest, I got amazing experience and valuable insights from them.

I’m glad that many of SME owners I interviewed were kind of progressive entrepreneur, who pay attention to latest business trend and pursue higher goal to, for instance, exporting abroad. We talked a lot, sometimes out of the interview topic, or till an hour more, that I can feel the entrepreneur’s passion, dream, and even worry.

Nevertheless, I have decided since the beginning that I must interview SME owners for this project; either British or Indonesian (actually wanted to do both). For one simple reason: I like listening stories–real stories, from real people doing the real thing. I’ve conducted similar method for my undergraduate thesis, thus I’m pretty sure that this won’t be really hard.

It wasn’t full academic paper, so my initial My emphasise was solely on interview result. I interviewed 10 (ten) SME owners in Indonesia in the hope that, if I get various-interesting result, then I can create good stories. At that time I didn’t realise (yet) that I was writing a news report instead of academic paper.

Yes, I read theories before conducting interviews, but it was only some ‘popular papers’ that explain my topic definitions–rather than critical opinion about it. I have always belittled literature review. I thought that these theories will be superseded by the real field data I was about to gather. Nothing beats real knowledge gathered from practitioners, right?

But then, I realise that my data didn’t speak as strong as it supposed to. I got the pieces of different stories but it just couldn’t make up into one whole coherent novel.

()

The Practice

 

Honestly, during my study period, I felt that my intention to be an entrepreneur was even somehow diminished. I was too overwhelmed with the papers and theories about entrepreneurship that I forgot how to think like a businessman. However, near the end of the program, I’m glad that I learnt something valuable during my final dissertation project.

To be honest I have never really read a scientific academic paper before this MSc program. It’s true that we conducted academic research as requirement for our bachelor degree, but when I looked back to what I wrote that time, most of the sources were taken from public article instead of academic paper in the acknowledged journal. I relied much on the interview results with some SME owners.

This time, for my Master dissertation, again I conduct interviews with SME owners. But yes, it’s a lot different experience compared to 3 years ago.

I met incredible entrepreneurs and small business owners. It is kinda different to listen hands-on experience from them. I’ve interviewed some SME owners previously but this recent experience was more thoughtful one. I was probably lucky to meet some full-spirited entrepreneurs. With some of them I talked a lot, even an hour.

Why, then?

The common excuse is, no adequate capital. While most of us are young people around 25 without stabilised professional career (yet), starting a business from scratch might be too risky–no, we’re not prepared yet to lose any money …

 

When those two pieces of dissertation have finally been submitted, I feel so so sooo relieved as if a huge burden has been lifted up from my shoulder. Feels that all the hardwork is paid off, and this 50 weeks learning journey has finally reached the peak (or so to say).

I learned quite a lot during the dissertation project. I have always wanted to

I know there will never be a peak of learning journey. Period of study might be over, but there will never be an end in learning period. Coz learning is a lifetime experience.

Those Soil Marks on Your Food…

Those Soil Marks on Your Food…

Have you ever seen the real crop of Brussel sprouts? Do you know that many variants of apple actually come from one single ‘mother-plant’? Do you know that you should cover strawberry beds with—literally—straws?

I would probably never know about those facts if I didn’t join Green Lancaster activities. First time I heard about it, I thought it was kind of “environmentalist army” aimed at planting as many trees as possible in Lancaster campus area. Well, that isn’t completely wrong, but actually this project is focused more on food crops. Yeah, it tries to show you how you can produce your own food in the name of “food sustainability”.

During the action days in Eco-Hub every Wednesday and Friday, I got valuable hands-on experience on how to grow many varieties of fruits and vegetables. I joined some delightful volunteering activities like pumpkin carving in Halloween and selling vegetables in market stall. I also participated in Student Eats Conference by National Union of Students (NUS) with fellow students around UK. This year with Green Lancaster has been such an amazing experience for me 🙂

Green Lancaster farmer's market stall at Alexandra Square, Lancaster UniversityGreen Lancaster farmer’s market stall at Alexandra Square, Lancaster University

The Green Lancaster staff members have been doing incredible work in promoting food sustainability over campus. They arranged many promotional activities throughout the year in the hope of getting more students attention to Eco-Hub and Edible Campus project. But yes, campaign about food sustainability isn’t something easy to do.

Some questions arise, like, why do you need to grow your own food? Aren’t Tesco and Sainsbury’s more than enough to feed you? Why should you buy that so-called “sustainable food” with even more expensive price?

The reason seems crystal clear for people who have been ‘enlightened’ by environmental awareness. Sustainable food means that your food, in the process of production and delivery chain, do not harm overall environmental and societal well-being. The crops farming method should not spoil natural ecosystem. The famers should be paid with fair wages. The delivery should leave as little ‘carbon footprint’ as possible. Therefore, if you’re growing your own food, or buy food which is locally sourced, it means that you’re reducing the distance that the food has travelled to reach your plate, thus lessen the ‘carbon cost’ paid to environment.

However, for common people who have yet to hear about ‘food sustainability’, what is the incentive of painstakingly growing crops with your own hand? Or allocating significantly higher budget to buy local-organic food?

Growing your own food may take considerably more resources and energy (not with Green Lancaster though. They provide everything, you can just plant and harvest for free. That’s why you should join it! 😉 ) Buying local British food, strangely, can cost you more than imported ones in supermarket. These facts even lessen the incentive of starting sustainable diet.

Last week, I tried to buy sustainable food from Lancaster “The Food Assembly”. This scheme allows you to order food online from nearby food producers and then collect it every Wednesday evening in White Cross pub, where you can also directly meet the local farmers. The price was significantly more expensive, but it’s worth it. I ordered 500 g new potatoes (£1.60), 200 g spinach (£1.40), and 300 g kohlrabi (£1.00). The potatoes came in a plastic bag, covered with soil marks as if it was just harvested. The spinach was so fresh and tasted so good, as well as the kohlrabi. Overall I’m satisfied with the food quality; however, still I will not become a regular buyer there. I mean, for a student, the price difference compared to normal supermarket is considerably high. Looking from pragmatic glasses, people would rather buy 2 kg white potatoes in Spar with only £1 than 0,5 kg potatoes sourced from local farmers in Pilling which costs £1.60.

Sustainable vegetables from The Food AssemblySustainable vegetables from The Food Assembly

The funny thing is, I guess it is easier to apply ‘sustainable food’ concept back home in Indonesia rather than in UK. First, the local food is considerably cheaper than imported food in supermarket. It has no fancy packaging, sometimes with marks of soil, locally grown, fresh and cheap. While food in supermarket, it might be imported from some faraway places, comes with fancy packaging, perfectly clean without soil marks, and expensive. Seems like the less soil marks it has (like the one in potatoes or carrots), the more expensive the vegetables would be. On the contrary, here in UK, the more soil marks it has, the more expensive it would be (as in my case of potatoes from Pilling farmers). Seems that soil marks represent two different things; in Indonesia it shows dirtiness and lack of quality improvement, while in UK it represents freshness and sustainability 🙂

However, I think nothing beats the joy of eating food that comes from familiar land (like your own backyard) and familiar hands (like your own). It assures your peace of mind and the sense of ‘work with your own hand’. Every time I harvested some veggies from Eco-Hub, then directly cook it at home, I feel like I’ve eaten something really pure, healthy, given by mother nature, with my personal touch in it (well, that’s a bit exaggerating but I can’t help this feeling :’))

In the end, of course not everyone was born to be a (good) farmer. However, Green Lancaster’s Eco-Hub and its Edible Campus project, I think, provides great opportunity for students to have their own backyard and grow some valuable things out of it. Get your hands dirty to purify your food!

p.s. kohlrabi is a German turnip-cabbage and it’s one of the best veggies I’ve ever tasted 😉

UK-Europe and the Job Market

UK-Europe and the Job Market

It’s a common mistaken perception that graduates in developed countries are easier to get job. No, not at all. Finding a (proper) job has always been a struggle for majority of people, wherever we are. In developed countries, the case is probably even worse. Most of the industrial manufacturing plants have off-shored to far away countries as a result of globalised trade–which means less on-site jobs available. Plus, (quite) recent financial crisis still leave its impact on the economy.In France, an ex co-worker told me, it is considered amazing if you’re (still) 25 and have secured a permanent job. So, refer to my previous story, it’s understandable why an ex-client questioned my decision to leave a permanent job for studying again. In fact, during my study in UK, I observed that most of postgraduate students are international students (non UK/EU)–which means that it’s seemingly quite rare for UK/EU students to pursue Master Degree, unless they plan to build an academic career.

Anyway, I just read an interesting story in LUSU (Lancaster University Student Union) newspaper.

LUSU article

As we can see from the title, the writer complained about how it’s getting more difficult to secure full time entry-level job, as most of the companies turn it into apprenticeship program. Even worse, a significant number of these apprenticeships were taken by over-25s people, reducing the chance of fresh graduates to get a job. The excuse for apprenticeship (instead of full-time employment) was, that company need to shape their employee’s skill before fully employing them.

But of course that wasn’t the real case. Once an Indonesian senior, who has stayed in UK for 15 years, told me that difficult economy has forced many companies to avoid paying standard wage for graduates. A standard annual salary for bachelor degree holder is £24,000. However, in apprenticeship, this decent salary can be pressed down up to minimum wage rate, which is £6.50 per hour. If a graduate works for 40 hours a week, then you can imagine how much saving the company makes? However, seems that the graduates have no other options though, since finding a permanent job is getting harder.

In this situation of diminishing job market, the chance for overseas students like me to secure a job in UK is even impossible. It makes sense that government and corporations will of course prioritise their own citizen to get employment. Most of Indonesian LU graduates that I know, ended up go back to Indonesia after some UK job application trials. Freelance jobs are still available, of course, but again, with minimum wage rate to feed highly expensive UK living cost, it’s a lot better to work at home with higher salary value and much lower living cost.

Life is hard, comrades.

Plunge into Job Market Again

Plunge into Job Market Again

As I’m getting closer to the end of Summer Term, and definitely to the deadline of my dissertation’s submission, I feel like another worry start to catch me. Now I wonder where would I be in the next couple of months? Would I go back home and find a dream job? Would I stay here with casual job spending my visa time while thinking about the next step to do? Would I start building my own business and serve the community?

It’s funny that after all this time, somehow I have no clear clue about what’s going on next. These days I feel like I’m going back to the time of 3 years ago, when I was waiting for bachelor graduation, wandering around the library and writing a blog post like this. It’s pathetically funny that I haven’t moved forward from those younger days.

During my time of working in Surabaya, I found that the routines killed my brain. After 2 years drowning in a company business, I knew I had to do something with my life, re-fill it so it won’t be wasted away as a corporate robot. I decided to apply for scholarship, fulfilled my old dream of studying abroad, in the hope of re-fuel my mind and my soul. At that time, one of our clients from France questioned my decision to quit the job. He said that I was very brave to leave the good job position for the sake of going back to study.

In fact, now I feel the fear. Source of image: https://www.off2class.com/future-perfect-simple/

Recently I’ve applied some casual job positions to fulfil several gap months until graduation. When I started re-writing my CV, I just realised that I’m getting old. I’m no more a fresh graduate with unlimited opportunity. Probably I won’t be considered as a priority for the role of Management Trainee in reputable companies. And I’ll be 25 by the end of this year. Somehow this reality strikes me. Almost 25 and soon to be unemployed (well unless I find a job before graduation).

I probably took a Master degree in the hope of escaping corporate life for a while, but now I know that inevitably I will have to go back. Income is the main concern. Now that I’ve used to get regular income for the past 3 years and the lifestyle followed, I feel a bit fear of going back to undergraduate life when I had to struggle between freelance jobs and maintain lower lifestyle. Besides, my family does have a high expectation of me. As the eldest of four daughters, I knew the burden is on my shoulder.

The jungle is there, yet to be explored. While many of my friends have settled down; getting married and having kids, I’m still in the middle of adventure. I’m partly worried–yet partly challenged.

Oh, and I’m going to write more about job market in UK. Check it out here.

Tentang Cita-cita

Cita-cita

Cita-cita

Apa cita-citamu?

Sampai di sini saya sadar, kuliah di luar negeri bukanlah cita-cita. Ia hanya sekedar alat untuk mencapai cita-cita yang lebih tinggi. Mau apa kamu setelah kuliah? Mau dipakai apa ilmu yang sudah jauh2 dikejar ke seberang benua? Itulah pertanyaan yang jauh lebih penting.

Tiba2 saya teringat sebuah cerita, entah di mana saya pernah membacanya. Ada seorang wartawan yang sangat mengidolakan tokoh tertentu. Tujuan dia menjadi wartawan salah satunya untuk mewawancarai tokoh tersebut. Suatu ketika akhirnya dia diminta untuk mewawancarai tokoh idolanya itu. Saking takjubnya, dia sampai tidak bisa bicara, dan akhirnya laporan wawancara penting itu gagal lah…

Di kelas saya saat ini, kebetulan semua siswanya adalah international students, tapi tampaknya hanya saya yang (tidak bisa) kuliah (jika tidak) dibiayai beasiswa. Sisanya biaya sendiri. Ya, betul. Mayoritas teman sekelas saya bisa dibilang “anak orang kaya” yang di kampung halaman mereka orangtuanya rata2 pengusaha terpandang. Bagi mereka, pergi keluar negeri bukanlah mimpi. Anggota keluarga mereka banyak yang juga kuliah di Eropa/Amerika. Bagi mereka jalan2 ke luar negeri sudah jadi ritual liburan. Mudah saja untuk beli tiket pesawat pulang, atau mengajak orangtua menghadiri wisuda di sini.

Sampai di sini saya sadar, saya mau seperti itu. Saya nggak mau menjadikan “jalan2 keluar negeri” sebagai mimpi. Saya mau itu jadi suatu hal yang tidak mustahil dilakukan. Di masa depan, saya mau menganggap, pergi keluar negeri bukan hal luar biasa. Nggak perlu nunggu beasiswa, nggak perlu cari sponsor. Jalan2 keluar negeri bisa dilakukan dengan uang sendiri jika memang ada perlu. Saya nggak mau pergi keluar negeri adalah suatu “hal sakral” yang harus dihebohkan. Saya nggak mau hal itu membutakan tujuan hidup yang lebih besar.

Iya, saat berkeluarga nanti, saya mau anak saya nggak perlu susah2 cari sponsor untuk bisa keluar negeri. Orangtuanya bisa membiayai dia, bisa mengantarkan dia, dan dia nggak perlu kelihatan “katrok”. Dia akan terbiasa berinteraksi dengan orang2 dari berbagai negara. Saya mau dia punya mimpi yang jauh lebih besar, bukan sekadar “pergi keluar negeri”. Saya mau dia terlahir dengan strata sosial lebih tinggi dari saya, sehingga dia bisa melakukan hal-hal yang jauh lebih mengagumkan.

Cita-cita seseorang, sangat ditentukan oleh lingkungan tempatnya dibesarkan. Memang mustahil jika pungguk merindukan bulan. Tapi bukan mustahil kan seorang astronot pergi ke bulan? Anak-anakku akan jadi astronot, dan mimpinya adalah menjelajahi seluruh antariksa, bukan sekedar pergi ke bulan.

 

Lancaster, 26 Mei 2015, menjelang tengah malam

Death Penalty and ASEAN Sovereignty

Death Penalty and ASEAN Sovereignty

Following execution of eight drugs dealers in Indonesia (29/04/15), the world again put their attention on South East Asia, and how death penalty still prevail in this region. Among ten ASEAN members, only two countries have officially removed capital punishment from their law. Cambodia and Philippines abolished death penalty for all crimes in 1989 and 2006 respectively. Brunei Darussalam, Laos and Myanmar are de facto abolitionists since they haven’t carried out any executions for decades. Still, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand remain retentionists of death penalty with executions method ranged from hanging, firing squad, to lethal injection.

International pressure on ASEAN countries to abolish its so-called barbaric death executions had been consistently occured. Seems like it becomes regular headline every few years when one of ASEAN countries is about to execute their death-accused convicts, notably when it involved foreigners. Nevertheless, death penalty opposition activism also sparked within the region, especially from retentionist ASEAN countries. Thailand activists and experts had called for end to death penalty in regional seminar Thammasat University in Bangkok (12/12/2012). Recently, during ASEAN People’s Forum 2015 in Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia (24/04/2015), civil society organisations from ASEAN countries gathered and urged governments to cease death penalty practice.

It is true that global trend shows positive favor toward capital punishment abolition. South East Asia is, arguably, one of the regions with eminent death execution rate. Singapore is in fact had the second highest per-capita execution rate in the world between 1994 and 1999. In Malaysia, there was an estimated 992 people on death row by the end of 2013. While in Indonesia, there are about ten new death sentences imposed annually.

Even though many other countries still enforce capital punishment, including US and Japan, South East Asia is continually becoming an object of condemnation regarding death sentence. The raised issue is allegedly associated with its adjudgement on drug trafficking crimes, which are seen by the condemning countries as, probably, not that dreadful to deserve life-repealing sentence.

However, ASEAN retentionists do have their own considerations of applying harsh punishment toward drug traffickers. Illicit drug trade is indeed an intensely serious issue in this region. Currently, Golden Triangle between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand remains producer of a quarter of the world’s heroin. Drug gangs, drug-related diseases and drug-influenced violence have harmed the regions’ young generation and overall society. Showing this strong intention to combat narcotic drugs’ abuse, the ASEAN leaders even signed joint declaration for a drug-free ASEAN in 1998.

ASEAN is very serious in tackling drugs problem.

ASEAN is very serious in tackling drugs problem.

This firm attitude toward drug abuse crimes has actually ignited salute expression. U.S. presidential candidate Newt Gingrich once praised Singapore for its ‘very draconian’ rules toward drug crimes. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg even stated that U.S. could learn from Singapore’s harsh drug laws.

Nevertheless, pressure to remove death penalty is generally increasing. Some ASEAN countries have responded to this by steadily reduce the scale of death penalty strictness. Vietnam, for instance, have changed the execution method from firing squad into lethal injection in 2011, with consideration of ‘more humane’ approach. In 2013, Singapore has removed the mandatory death penalty for special drug cases.

Despite all the continuing pressure and condemnation, apparently it’s not a prominent agenda for ASEAN countries to fully abolish death penalty. As Joko Widodo, president of Indonesia stated regarding his rejection to Australia clemency petition, his country is in the drugs-emergency state that the government should take assertive move to combat it.

Eventually, every country has its own considerations of applying its current law. There are philosophical and sociological circumstance differences that underlie law enforcement in different countries. ASEAN governments are, of course, possess their own right and sovereignty to enforce law that is considered most effective to their own situation. And this sovereignty, by all means, should be protected and not threatened by any external power.

Written at 30 April 2015 for The Diplomat…but not published I guess :p

Feminine, Feminist, and Things Between

Feminine, Feminist, and Things Between

Few weeks ago, a renowned multinational company visited Lancaster University for a talk show. They ran a session titled „Women in Business and Technology“, which was delivered by a female staff of IT division in the company. Out of curiosity, I attended the talkshow in the hope of getting more insight about this interesting topic.

The presenter opened her speech with a ‘TED talk’ video from Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and  former Vice President of Google. Sandberg is a well-known example of succesful female leader in male-dominated technology business, and yes, her TED talk was truly inspiring. There were some thought-provoking, self-reflecting bits in her speech that will make professional career women feel like, “me too!”

According to Sandberg, the biggest obstacle in women’s career advancement is actually their ownselves, not society. It is their own perception, their personal attitude, that pull them back from ‘climbing to the top’. Well I won’t talk much about Sandberg’s idea here (you can read her fenomenal book: “Lean In”), instead I want to highlight Sandberg’s portrayal as a woman that can “have both”: succesful family and career.

Sandberg, in my opinion, doesn’t respresent an image of ‘dominant-masculine woman’ one might associate when talking about female leaders. The way she talked and behaved (in her speech and interviews) look surprisingly feminine. I don’t know her daily routine as Facebook big boss of course, but looking into fact that she’s happily married with two children and still manage to reach the top of corporate ladder—that was incredibly outstanding achievement.

Sheryl Sandberg Time cover

Sheryl Sandberg Time cover

I have always admired those highly-achieved women who never forget their womanly nature. For me they are truly feminists: proponents of feminism that doesn’t neglect their femininity. These two terms, eventhough they are derived from the same root, seem to have been contrastly associated in the past decades.

Feminism initially emerged as an effort to bring women into equality with men. However, on its way it turned out to be something that try to change women into the exact-same creature as men. This so-called ‘third-wave feminism’, for instance, has been gone too far by trying to re-define gender role and promote queer theory. Perhaps this is what Soekarno, Indonesian founding father, stated as ‘excessive feminism’. Here is the quote from his book about women and feminism, Sarinah (1963).

“Lagipula, tidakkah kita melihat ekses (kelewat batasan) pergerakan feminisme di Eropa itu, yang mau menyamaratakan saja perempuan dengan laki-laki, dengan tak mengingati lagi, bahwa kodrat perempuan memang tidak sama dengan kodrat laki-laki? Maksud feminisme yang mula-mula baik, yakni persamaan hak antara perempuan dan laki-laki, maksud baik itu dilewati batasannya dengan mencari persamaan segala hal dengan kaum laki-laki: persamaan tingkah laku, persamaan cara hidup, persamaan bentuk pakaian, dan lain sebagainya. Kodrat perempuan diperkosa, dipaksa, disuruh menjadi sama dengan kodrat laki-laki.”

“Moreover, didn’t we see an excess in European feminist movement—that wanted to generalise women with men, without ever considering that women’s nature is indeed different with men’s? The initial decent purpose of feminism, which is equality of right between men and women, was being excessed by trying to emulate men: in behaviour, way of life, dressing, and so on. Women’s inherent nature is raped, forced, and demanded to be exactly the same with men.” (Soekarno, 1963)

In line with Soekarno’s argument, actually this wave of ‘excessive feminism’ is somewhat counterproductive. I mean, if to be a feminist you have to abandon all those femininity—then isn’t it the same with acknowledging that masculinity is way more superior? That femininity equals weakness? That to be regarded as ‘capable’ human being you must embrace manly behaviours?

Radical feminists act as if they feel so ashamed to be born as a woman, that they want to get rid all those feminine features and achieve full gender neutrality. Sorry, radical feminists. I’m not ashamed of being a woman. I’m proud that I have this tiny curvy figure, that I have privilege from God to give birth to a human’s soul, that I have this extra emotion and empathy, that I’m a complete female creature with all its plus and minus.

During two terms study in Lancaster University I have met many amazing professional-business women through various seminars, projects and interviews. Among them are female manager of top beverage company in UK, a mother and daughter who started their own online business, a pair of sisters that owned their woodcraft company—they are all great women entrepreneurs and I’m pretty sure they never feel the need of eliminating their femininity to reach those achievements.

Well, I know somehow it’s easier to be said than to be done. Gender bias in professional environment does still exist, especially in third-world countries like Indonesia. When I worked in electronic company and participated in trade shows, somehow the clients tend to be more convinced by my male colleague eventhough I knew and explained the product better (probably because it’s an electronic product that tend to be ’male-stuff’).

Even in developed countries, ‘glass-ceiling’ phenomenon still can be found. However, as Sandberg said, we should keep leaning in. And again, that doesn’t necessarily mean neglecting all of our feminine responsibility. We can, still, be a dedicated female leader in any area we choose without losing that ‘woman touch’.

You do not need to compromise your femininity in order to be a feminist. To be a strong and independent woman you don’t need to look or act manly, throw cursing words, smoke or drink, avoid cooking for your family, refuse to have a baby—even you don’t have to be a career-working woman if you don’t want to. Embrace your femininity. Celebrate it. For it is a precious gift from God. For it is a quality you don’t need to feel ashamed of. For being equal doesn’t necessarily mean to be exactly the same.

God created everything in pair. Day and night. Hot and cold. Land and sea. Yin and yang. Masculinity and femininity. They are different, yet they are equal, and they complement each other. Isn’t that beautiful?

I am proud that I’m a woman, that I’m different from man, and that it doesn’t make me any less than man.

Lancaster, 27 March 2015.

Originally written for PPI UK column ‘Dare to Dream, care to Share’. Article can be seen here: http://ppiuk.org/feminine-feminist-and-things-between/

Cerita dalam Kuali

Cerita dalam Kuali

Sejak tinggal di UK, saya jadi (terpaksa) belajar memasak. Bukan apa-apa, harga makanan di warung a.k.a. restoran lokal luarrrrr biasa mahalnya. Zaman masih ngantor di Surabaya, pulang kerja kalau lapar langsung ke warung Padang beli nasi rendang cuma Rp 10,000. Sekarang? Pulang kuliah kalau lapar ya masak dulu, atau minimal menghangatkan masakan yang sudah dimasak (beberapa hari) sebelumnya. Makan di warung kampus yang murah saja sudah kena Rp 60,000, apalagi di resto di kota bisa sampai Rp 200,000 sekali makan. Duit segitu kalau dibuat belanja groceries di supermarket dan dimasak sendiri bisa buat makan seminggu. Jauh lebih ngirit kan?

Lagipula, makanan di sini tentunya kurang cocok dengan lidah Indonesia. Kadang saya kasihan sama orang Inggris. Masakan mereka “sepo”, cuma bumbu garam dan cuka. Kalau mereka nggak menjajah Asia, mungkin mereka gak akan kenal sama yang namanya pepper (lada), nutmeg (pala), cloves (cengkih), coriander (ketumbar), cinnamon (kayu manis), cumin (jinten), star anise (bunga lawang), ginger (jahe), galingale (lengkuas), turmeric (kunyit), kaffir lime leaves (daun jeruk), bay leaves (daun salam), lemongrass (serai), dan sederet rempah-rempah eksotis lainnya. Nggak kebayang gimana rasanya cuma makan fish and chips dan fried chicken tawar tiap hari. Mestinya mereka berterima kasih sama orang Asia…

Tapi…saya nggak pernah menyesal harus belajar memasak. Malahan, saya menemukan kesenangan tersendiri di kala meracik bumbu dan mencampur adukkan berbagai bahan masakan di atas kompor. Ya, entah bagaimana memasak menjadi sebuah tantangan yang mengasyikkan 😀 Teori awal tentunya didapat dari resep kilat di internet, tapi eksperimen pribadi lah yang membuat memasak jadi seru dan menantang. Bagaimana rasanya jika kamu mencampur rempah A dengan rempah B? Bagaimana hasilnya jika bahan X dimasukkan setelah bahan Y dan bukannya sebaliknya? Bagaimana caranya supaya daging lebih empuk dan bumbu lebih meresap? Pertanyaan2 itu kadang nggak cukup dijawab dalam sekali ujicoba. Butuh berkali-kali mencoba resep yang sama sampai kita paham komposisi dan cara memasak terbaik.

Cerita dalam Kuali

Cerita dalam Kuali

Dan akhirnya…saya pun mencoba mengingat-ingat rasa masakan ibu di rumah. Capcay buatan ibu. Semur buatan ibu. Rendang buatan ibu. Memori rasa di lidah itu menjadi patokan saat sedang meracik bumbu2 di atas kuali. Tidak jarang saya termenung lama di depan kompor, mengamati kuali di atas api yang menyala kecil, memandangi botol2 rempah di rak dapur sambil menimbang2 bumbu apalagi yang harus saya tambahkan supaya masakan ini jadi pas sesuai memori lidah saya. Dan ketika campur aduk bumbu setengah random ternyata menghasilkan sesuatu yang menggembirakan lidah, puasssss sekali rasanya 🙂

Ketika belanja groceries di supermarket (atau di pasar) pun, ada kesenangan baru yang saya dapat. Supermarket Inggris mungkin adalah salah satu cara instan untuk mempelajari aneka kuliner dunia. Berbagai macam bahan masakan, ala Inggris ala Italia ala India ala China, buah dan sayur yang belum pernah saya lihat, segala jenis spices and herbs, makanan segar, kalengan, dan beku, semua seperti menunggu giliran untuk dicoba. Saya (sangat) suka pergi belanja ke supermarket. Saya bisa menghabiskan berjam-jam hanya untuk mengamati satu per satu kemasan makanan, membaca komposisinya, kegunaannya, sambil mereka-reka masakan apa yang bisa dibuat dengan bahan ini (atau langsung buka hape dan googling resep). Seperti orang ndeso yang belum pernah masuk hypermart…

Baru saya sadar, seni kuliner itu luar biasa. Kelihatannya sepele, tapi ada filosofi di baliknya. Di dalam kuali, British beef bisa bertemu dengan serai yang diimpor dari Thailand, jinten dari India, cabai dari Brazil…dan jadi sebuah masakan yang mempesona. Setiap bahan makanan itu telah menempuh perjalanan panjang untuk bisa sampai di rak supermarket, sampai takdir membawa mereka bersatu dalam periuk yang membara (aduh). Boleh jadi, dalam masakan tradisional pun terkandung sejarah dan budaya masyarakat setempat. Dalam British fish and chips, makanan kelas pekerja rakyat Inggris, ada sejarah tentang maraknya pukat ikan di laut utara dan pembangunan rel kereta Britania di abad ke-19. Dalam rendang Padang, ada upaya masyarakat tradisional untuk mengawetkan daging di daerah tropis. Dalam berpuluh-puluh jenis pasta ada jiwa makanan pokok orang Italia.

Setiap masakan punya cerita. Dan cerita itu menyeruak dari dalam kuali, merasuk ke dalam hidung hingga meresap ke dalam hati…

7 Nostalgic Websites that Bring Back your Teenage Memories

7 Nostalgic Websites that Bring Back your Teenage Memories

Time flies, so does technology. From the era of Netscape until Chrome, from mIRC until WhatsApp, internet does drastically evolve. Ten years ago we can still find many choices for the same service provided on Internet. However, it’s undeniable that most of Internet service we find now are provided and owned by these two companies: Google and Facebook.

It’s actually unbelievable how Google and Facebook domination has changed the way we use internet. They become such huge empires that control everything you do on Internet. When I was thirteen I searched on Yahoo!, Lycos, MSN, Altavista; had my e-mail on Yahoo! Mail and Plasa; had my blog on Geocities; had Internet Explorer as web browser, had mIRC or Yahoo! Messenger to chat; I had different choices for different purpose. But now? You have Android in a grab of your hand and all you do is basically through Google. Search on Google, e-mail on Gmail, blog on Blogspot (well I use WordPress anyway), browse on Chrome, chat on Hangout, all the possible way you can do on Internet has already served by Google. You may have several social media accounts, but the main one is mostly Facebook. You mentioned WhatsApp and Instagram? Well those two are also owned by Facebook.

The two Internet superpowers

The two Internet superpowers

Now let’s just go back and recall that time in early 2000’s, where Internet was still pretty much free market without dominant players. Well, this post title might only applies for you who were born around 1990s (since I don’t know whether you’re teenageers at the time these following websites became huge trend), but anyway let’s have a break and get on the time machine for a while!

1. FRIENDSTER

This website is legend. When you hear about Friendster, somehow you recall that tragic story of first-mover market leader that ended up drowning in the bottom of internet swamp. Pathetic. Try to open your old Friendster profile page now and here is what you’ll get:

Voila!

Voila! My Friendster profile now.

Nevertheless, this website was once a huge phenomenon. Around 2002 – 2007, when the term ‘social media’ hasn’t even been coined, Friendster managed to be one of the biggest influential social networking site (aside of MySpace) before Facebook domination. I remember when friends are giving “testimonial” to each other on their Friendster’s profile (the more you get the more popular you are), changing profile layout with colorful-dazzling background, and of course, see who’s stalking you.

One of Friendster’s distinct feature (compared to Facebook) is “Who’s Viewed My Profile”, that allowed you to see those ‘stalkers’–then maybe send back message to them. When Facebook emerged, many people regretted that it doesn’t have this feature, but I think that’s why Facebook doesn’t use it: to allow people stalking even more frequently without any hesitation >> the profile owner won’t caught you anyway 😛

Now Friendster has completely shut down its social networking sevice, and change to be social gaming platform instead. However it’s still quite succesful. And here’s a picture just to bring back the old time to you.

friendster

Old Friendster profile page

 

2. YAHOO! MAIL

When being asked about your first e-mail address, almost likely you will answer Yahoo! as the domain. Well some people had Hotmail as their first mail, but Yahoo! was just the most popular one back then. My very first ID was made at the first year of junior high school, ngesot_ayu_300601@yahoo.com, such a silly username with silly meaning^^”. Then I had new one with more “reasonable” combination–but still childish anyway, hogpiece_roxbeat@yahoo.com that still even exist until now (never check it though).

At that time, when Internet was still expensive privilege, only few people can afford to access internet at home (even they rarely use it since the rate was so damn high). These kind of friends were usually more “technological-savvy” and even had their first e-mail since elementary school. Other average people like me can only access Internet from “warnet” (warung internet a.k.a. internet shop), where you pay hourly rate to rent a computer with Internet access–sometimes a very slowwwwwwwww one.

Okay back to Yahoo! Mail. At that time, due to Internet scarcity (and sluggishness), for me when this ‘scenery’ finally appeared on my screen I felt soooooo happy and relieved:

Yahoo! Mail classic inbox

Yahoo! Mail classic inbox (you can’t believe sometimes it may took forever to get on this screen)

Well what did this e-mail do for junior high school kids? Think now I just wanna laugh recalling those stupid, silly, random things we did with e-mail 😛 Most of us used it for flirting of course (at that time Friendster was not yet happening), approaching your crush(es) while you have no courage to do so in real life. Sometimes it can also lead to more absurd things–like threatening your rival. I remember the one called herself Stephanie Wilcox that kept terroring me by e-mail, telling me to stay away from X (a guy in my class). I had no idea what she talked about since I hate this guy so much that I don’t understand why she should be jealous to me. Few years later I revealed that this guy was actually the one who spammed my inbox with romantic (weird) poems. Until now I still can’t reveal who is the real Stephanie Wilcox (though I had one strong suspect), but anyway now that I think about it again, it’s just such a silly teenagers drama 😛

3. YAHOO!, LYCOS, MSN, ALTAVISTA

…and other search engines before Google domination. I remember everytime I searched for school assignment on Internet, one search engine never enough. Yahoo! would be the first I opened, but then if I couldn’t find what I want, then I’ll open Lycos, MSN, and Altavista simultaneously. Now? You simply just “googling” and it’s enough. Other search engines are dead. I couldn’t really recall how we could suddenly switch to Google–it was like a fast dream–when I wake up I already have that colorful Google logo on my screen. I never use Yahoo! and blah blah again since then. I wonder how Sergey Brin had hypnotised us…

altavista msn

Old-school search engines

Old-school search engines

However I think some of Google services like Google Adsense, Google Adwords, etc contributed to its raising popularity. Not so long after that, the term “Search Engine Optimization” started to gain attention. Initially most of SEO service providers had different package for Google SEO and Yahoo! SEO, but now I think SEO will automatically means “how to make your website easily googled”.

4. PLASA

This is just another e-mail provider, but local one (Indonesia only). I think now they completely delete their e-mail service, since I can’t access my inbox anymore. At that time many of us had two e-mail accounts (on Yahoo! and Plasa). My ID was mbambongmon_36@plasa.com (another ‘absurd’ name). Again, e-mail was only something for fun. It was way of sharing information like funny pictures, e-cards, humorous post, etc with school friends. Sometimes it was also the way of telling someone about something that you can’t tell in real life.

Many of my friends who’d later be a couple (or almost couple) were also doing their initial flirting through e-mail (aside of home telephone). In later school reunion, some friends confessed that they actually had intense e-mail conversations with certain guy/girl, that either we never expected before, or we did have a clue that there’s something between them. Oh well it’s just so funny to recall those teenagers flirting moments 🙂

Nah here’s a screenshot from Plasa inbox just to bring back your memories.

Plasa inbox--that nostalgic green layout :)

Plasa inbox–that nostalgic green layout 🙂

5. mIRC

It wasn’t really a website, but chat room desktop application that was once widely popular. Most of ‘internet shop’ provided the shortcut on Desktop so you can easily connect with those random people in chat room. The appearance was not even actually user-friendly, but I don’t know why at that time it was very popular. If you’re tired of crowded conversations in the main chat room then you can just pick one random ID on the right side to chat privately. The conversation usually began with:

“Hi, asl pls” (asl = age sex location)

And my typical answer would be “15 f mlg” (I marked up my age…)

mirc

As far as I remember, mIRC let you log in with different ID (unlike Yahoo! Messenger) so you will not be able to chat with the same person again the next time you login, unless he/she maintain the same ID. Many people exhanged e-mail address so they can keep contact. It was really random people you met, a bit freaky and nasty sometimes, so we mostly used it only out of curiosity and stopped using it after a while.

6. 123GREETINGS

I loved this website! They provide huge variety of electronic cards that you can customize and send to your friends in many special occasions. Even until now this website still exists. At that time sending e-cards became a trend among my friends (even without any special occasion, sometimes just for prank). We used to use Yahoo! Greetings but then found that 123Greetings were a lot more attractive with animated figures and everything.

123greetings

123greetings

7. GEOCITIES

This website was one of the first blog provider. One of my genius friend introduced me to this website, and it was the very first time I started blogging (eventhough I just revealed few years later that those activities called “blogging”). The template was very simple, it wasn’t variety of choices we easily find in today’s Blogspot and WordPress. You can’t even create your own blog URL link because it has to be the same with your Yahoo! Mail user ID. That was one of reason to change my Yahoo! Mail address to be hogpiece_roxbeat@yahoo.com, so I can create new Geocities blog with this URL: www.geocities.com/hogpiece_roxbeat.

One of geocities blog

One of geocities blog

Another way of customising your Geocities blog was by using Microsoft Frontpage, windows application to create website. I enjoyed using Frontpage out of curiosity, and can still even picture my very first blog design that has image drawn manually by Paint application 😛 However somehow I didn’t find a way to completely import blog template from Frontpage to Geocities–or maybe another thing, I forgot. I soon got bored and leave it.  Now this is what I get when trying to access my Geocities blog:

Geocities shut down

Geocities shut down

Well I think that’s all I can recall from our teenagers era 🙂 Feel free to add and comment if you have anything in mind! 😉

 

 

The Hobbit: When The Story Ends…

The Hobbit: When The Story Ends…

And though where the road then takes me,
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell

I bid you all a very fond farewell

It was a very emotional song from Billy Boyd that ended the movie–“The Last Goodbye”. As his voice flew, a series of all the actors’ artist image appeared on the screen. The song didn’t only close “The Hobbit” movie, but also ended a long journey of Middle-Earth adventure that started 14 years ago.

I still remember that days of junior high school, moved between classes with thick Lord of the Rings novel in my bag, and a queue of classmates waiting to get their turn of reading the book. I have never really remembered whose book was that–somebody must has bought or borrow it somewhere–but the names, the places, the whole great story and imagination sparkled from the book has never lost from my mind.

Tonight, when I finished watching “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, I suddenly felt something is missing. No more Elves, Dwarfs, Wizards, Men, Hobbits, and even Orcs. No more Ring. No more Baggins, Shire, Rivendell, Lorien, Gondor, Rohan, Mordor, and those dreadful yet exciting journeys. When I saw “The Last Goodbye” video clip, I can’t even help to see those nostalgic scenes. The manly Viggo Mortensen I’ve been always fallen for, the cute-young Orlando Bloom, the elegant lady Liv Tyler, even the ‘unsayable’ Andy Serkis in his Gollum skin. This story is simply an everlasting legend.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a great man. But Peter Jackson is probably a greater man. If it wasn’t for him to re-live Tolkien’s book, then today’s generation may not have a chance to enjoy one of this great story in mankind.

This lost feeling is similar with the one I felt when watching the last Harry Potter movie. A bit too sentimental, but I’m sure all people in my generation who have grown up with these stories will feel the same thing. Yes, I should thank J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling. Also Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, C.S. Lewis, R.L. Stine, and K.A. Applegate. And probably Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle too–though I’ve never read their books (not really a fan of detective novel). They are all great storytellers who have made up our childhood and teenagers life. I’m glad that we still had a chance to grow up with these imaginative stories–rather than robotic gadget today’s children play.

And not to neglect this, but it’s true that most of those great storytellers originated from Britain. I don’t know why but it seems that British people have distinctive talent in “words-manipulating-art”–literature, journalism, and that kind of thing. You see that Rowling was partly inspired by Tolkien. And Tolkien was a good friend of Lewis. And Blyton and Potter was kinda living in the same period. And finally, all of them may have inherited Shakespeare’s ingenuity (!) Oh God is unfair but seems that He streamed down this precious writing talent to British authors along with neverending rain He drained here :p

When you come to UK, you will see that many place of tourism destinations are part of a great story’s legacy. I was amazed to see flock of tourists in London’s King’s Cross, willing to pay 10 pounds just to get a picture in front of so-called “Platform 3/4”. And that a small house in Baker Street London can be transformed into so-called “Sherlock Holmes Museum” which created tourists queue along the road. And that a small coffee shop in Edinburgh can attracts many customers by simply claiming as the “birthplace of Harry Potter”–where J.K. Rowling first sit in to write her novel. Nevertheless, still I went to The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere to see a trail of Peter Rabbit’s garden.

A single shot for 10 pounds

A single shot for 10 pounds

Tourist queue along Baker Street

Tourist queue along Baker Street

 

Peter Rabbit's garden at Bowness-on-Windermere

Peter Rabbit’s garden at Bowness-on-Windermere

Now you can see how Britain can boost their tourism income by only using their fictional story’s legacy. Brilliant, isn’t it? Those imaginative stories can actually help to make up the real world to be as it is now. So again I put my highest respect to those incredible story-tellers. To be honest, they are one of the most influential men on earth. They moved people’s heart through words. They challenged people’s mind through imagination. They are, undoubtedly, the force of civilization…