Boekenmarkt

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During the Easter holiday, blogger Nadya Karimasari spent her day at the second-hand book bazaar in Wageningen Centrum.

Looking back, it seems weird that I’ve been anticipating the boekenmarkt since the very first time I had heard about it. What did I expect? I knew most books would be in Dutch, a language in which I have no vocabulary other than ‘ik begrijpt u niet’. I also knew that I wouldn’t be buying any, because the books would be most likely collectible antiques or English fiction paperback, which I would not read for the time being – I am staring at you, my beloved piles of research related books and articles.

It’s just the incomprehensible impulse to meet and be surrounded by books, no matter how foreign the written words are.

I marked the date on my calendar, set my alarm very early in the morning, quickly ate a bowl of blueberry yoghurt and granola – which I wouldn’t consider a proper breakfast on any normal occasion. I even skipped my regular ‘Skype Saturday’ morning with my husband in Indonesia so I wouldn’t miss this rare event in Wageningen. I usually have to travel to far-off Amsterdam just to find English second-hand books!

On that cloudy day, I felt a moment of bliss from looking at rows of second-hand book stalls. Where have they all been before? To my surprise, the first stall that I visited was remarkably suitable for my studies – and my wallet. It was a very small collection of an ecology student at Wageningen University, but it comprised the must-have anthropology textbooks. Every single book had to go through a long and thorough examination by me, as I had a difficult time to decide which one not to buy.

With such a high degree of book compatibility between me and the seller, I wondered for a split second what it would be like to see each other more often and having endless conversation about … books? Would it be like what people often said about the comfortable feeling of ‘meeting an old friend’ in a new person?

Like a snap, I was immediately brought back to reality by the sight of a beautiful sound story book that I eventually bought for my son.

more pics: here

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Public Imagination

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Today is general election day in the Netherlands. Blogger Nadya Karimasari writes a commentary from her hometown in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

As a Dutch resident, I am more interested in the upcoming Dutch general election than the previous U.S. election, which ignited wide global attention. Both have quite an intense process leading up to the election, with figures such as Donald Trump and Geert Wilders occupying public discourse with controversial stances and questionable reasoning.

Today reminds me of how living in the Netherlands has taught me what ‘public’ means. Writing from my provincial hometown in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, with very limited manifestation of the ‘public’, I must say that the ‘public’ is not something to be taken for granted. Public parks, very safe public roads with bicycle lanes, public transport, public education for four-year-olds and above, public healthcare, and other public mechanisms are considered ’basics’ in the Netherlands. Hence, it is quite easy to forget that these are actually quite an awesome public achievement. Different individuals with public imagination have been demanding and working together to realise a better quality of life, not only for the benefit of each individual, but also for the greater good of the general public.

But what constitutes the ‘public’ in the dynamic situation of contemporary Dutch? This is where the matter gets a bit more complicated. The public system in the Netherlands taught me that no matter where I come from, no matter what my religion is, no matter how long I have been living in the Netherlands, as long as I pay taxes, I am part of the Dutch public. It is clear, sensible, and reasonable. But it implies that in order to pay taxes, one must have an income, a job. It means that better job provision for people in the working age should be the next agenda point of the public fight.

We will see whether the Dutch opt to have someone like me join and be part of that fight or not. Would they be strategic and adaptive, as the Dutch are famously known to be, will they embrace and take advantage of the current situation in which the Dutch public is becoming merrier, more diverse and colourful? Or will it be the opposite?

picture source: wikimedia

Holiday Season

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Blogger Nadya Karimasari is in the holiday mood. What about you?

Earlier this month, on the first of December to be exact, I had a date with my son at a restaurant. We sat by the window on the second floor. He really enjoyed looking out on the street down below and pointing to every ‘auto’, ‘fiets’, or ‘bus’ that caught his eye. The food was delicious and we continued to the public library afterwards.

It was a bit slow to walk in the Centrum with my toddler, because he loves to suddenly stop and explore things, or change direction, but we eventually reached the public library nonetheless. During the cold winter, this is the place where my son goes to play, read books, watch videos, meet friends, and roam indoors. Both of us had a great time and enjoyed the day and I, especially, really cherish this kind of moments. My husband had a deadline and was unable to join us. He is an excellent cook, however, so when we arrived home, we had a nice meal too.

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This kind of simple, everyday celebration is important to keep us happy and healthy and sustain our endurance in our long-term, exciting research project that has been coming along well so far. Overall, I encourage taking intermittent breaks, holidays or small celebration every now and then. It does not have to be fancy and you do not need any specific reason to celebrate. You do not need to wait until the end of your study to have a celebration. This kind of happy ritual is a good thing to counter the academic culture that encourages us to work overtime, or using one of my professors’ words: to be ‘systematically overworked’.

By now, most students and staff in Wageningen will probably be in the mood for celebration too. Take the master’s students for example: this may be their last day of exams and they are going to have a break until the first week of January 2017. Al of us might be ready to head off to go home, whether in the Netherlands or abroad, to meet family and enjoy the holidays together. Most of my PhD friends have already gone back to their respective countries. My family is also looking forward to go home, thanks to the secretariat of Sociology and Anthropology of Development: Diana Dupain, Marielle Takes, and Sanne Hannink who took care of our tickets. What a tremendous help!

See you again next year!

PS: Pics of winter holiday dinner with our lovely landlords:

 

A charming old house

Dutch people understand the special charm of an old house. The family house that I am renting is more than a century old. I am sitting in the living room, in front of a round wooden table. The fireplace brings a light sizzling sound in the background. The floor is also made from wood and three wide windows are facing the street. Through these windows, my son often watch the thick morning mist slowly fades into thin air.

My landlord is a former sailor and a handyman. He can make a lot of furniture or housing parts by his own hand, no wonder his house is brimming with characteristics and functionality. As a sailor, he has to conquer the volatility of tidal waves, but for sure he has no problem to tame the heart of a woman who is said to be deeper than the sea. While he went for adventures on his boat, his wife enriches her life through adventures on the written world. She is a librarian at WUR. During our housewarming dinner, she speaks the word “free” a lot. She also gave us a dictionary to learn Dutch language.

They defied the stereotypes of Dutch being highly penny-pinching people. When we arrived, they picked us up at Ede-Wageningen station. In the house they’ve already provided every little things, all furniture, all cleaning and cooking utilities, also food, including bread, margarine, milk, yogurt, homemade berry jam, homemade salad dressing, coffee and tea.

They have been living approximately 30 steps away from this house for 25 years, complete with two dogs, a lot of sheep grazing on their large lawn, chickens, and a small “hideaway” self-contained room in front of a nice pond when they want to take a break from their house. With the spring looming, we are going to join them cultivating onions and potatoes. We really enjoy to be into the true rural feel of this place.

After a day at the office, it’s nice to bike home for 30 minutes to the hilly parts of NL, to a place that really feels like home.

City of Alternative Lifestyle?

Wageningen prides itself as the city of life science. Blogger Nadya Karimasari found that some people think of it as a city of alternative lifestyle.

It feels like summer in Wageningen. What a relief, especially after a hail rain in late April. Now the weather is more bearable and warm. Cows are finally out and horses too. People are wearing light clothes and soak up the sun. Such a perfect time for liberation day festivities!

During the liberation day, we went to Emmapark. There were a lot of fun and games for kids. My son met some new friends, and I became friends with their mothers.

Having conversation with other moms brings me away from the academic bubble that I’ve been in. One of the mom whom I talked with said Wageningen is not only a city of life science. It is a city of alternative lifestyle. Interesting. How come?

In a time where a lot of farmers went bankrupt, she said, there are still a lot of people who wants to do agriculture in Wageningen. Maybe, in an era where urbanisation is the norm, doing agriculture has become an alternative lifestyle.

Wageningen is the place where people still have a lot of pride to work on the land.

Wageningen is the place where people still have a lot of pride to work on the land. My landlord is one example. He’s seems to appreciate agriculture work more than ‘office’ work. He enjoys cultivating the land, tending his plants and cattle carefully, diligently. He said he doesn’t want to be lazy.

There’s another aspect that makes Wageningen a city of alternative lifestyle. Farming-related organisations and activisms are very common in Wageningen. The mom that I talked with was an activist at ‘Future Farmers’. It’s an organisation that creatively finds ways to tackle the barriers of doing agriculture, especially for new farmers who do not come from an agricultural family, have never done it before and don’t have land inheritance.

Perhaps, being an activist, not necessarily related to agriculture, is the norm here. Even my neighbour who obtained her PhD on ethnobotany works at an organisation that support farmer’s movement. There’s also organisation for young farmers, organic farmers, do-it-yourself activism, and a lot more.

I am just starting to get to know this city. Is it true that Wageningen a city of alternative lifestyle? Are you also part of an organisation or activism? I am all ears.

Exciting times

It’s been exciting times for our little family but I don’t know why I haven’t been blogging at this space at all. I have some books scattered around me and different things on my task list. I sneak to the computer and let my son sleep alone. He’s fast asleep, perhaps he’s tired. I didn’t see him much today, I’ve spent the whole day in campus working on my long-delayed Teaching and Supervision Plan – so happy that it’s done, one thing off my task list. When I got home, his daddy said he was clinging to daddy all day, wanted to be hugged and wouldn’t let go, but when I got home he was cheerful again and we played together (that’s what his daddy said). My son’s so funny and silly and likes to show off his new “talents”. He’s so interested to come inside different drawers and cupboards (it’s empty), and put different things on his head and shake his head to test whether the thing will fall or stay. Everything is so interesting to him, especially we are now living in the middle of grazing areas for sheep. Sometimes his father brings him to touch and see the sheep up close.

We’ve also just come back from Oxford, stories and pictures on next posts!

A different side of Holland

After a week in Wageningen, blogger Nadya Karimasari concludes that not all stereotypes about this small, rural town are true. But some definitely are.

Wageningen, despite being the location of the best university in the Netherlands, is not always known by strangers. Before I came here, my non-Dutch fellows had said things along the line of: “It’s so quiet, there are more cows and sheep than humans in Wageningen. But it’s a great environment for your baby, it’s very child and family-friendly.” And one of the characters in the Indonesian box-office movie Negeri van Oranje, about student life in Holland, partly filmed in Wageningen, says to his friends: “Wageningen wouldn’t suit you guys, it’s going to be very boring for you as there’s no party life here as there is in Amsterdam.” Interestingly, a colleague who teaches at the Sociology of Development and Change group told me he chooses to commute from Amsterdam to Wageningen three days a week because he says he meets more interesting people there.

I have only been here for one week, but I can safely say that some of these stereotypes are not accurate. Firstly, I haven’t seen any cows. Secondly, I’ve seen some sheep grazing, but I had expected to see a lot more farmland. And thirdly, Wageningen is full of student apartments, more than what I had imagined. This means you see students everywhere and there are parties where students go to de-stress, although, of course, not as many as in Amsterdam.

It amazed me when I had to go to Arnhem to exchange money.

But Wageningen is undeniably different from the parts of the Netherlands I am more familiar with, such as Den Haag and Amsterdam. It is a rural side of Holland that was out of my radar. It amazed me when I had to go to Arnhem to exchange money. On my way there I saw lines of luxurious (for Dutch standards) farm houses with their large lawns. It was like a beautiful sight from the past and very different than my earlier experiences in the Netherlands. I still remember very vividly the very first time I set foot on Dutch soil, at Schipol in August 2010, when I saw two women in punk attire unabashedly kissing for what felt like a very long time. At that time, same-sex marriage was still mostly a taboo, except perhaps in the Netherlands. I couldn’t believe how my first experience was confirming the stereotypes and I said to myself: “Here I am. This is the Netherlands.”

At work I have also encountered some quirky situations that I think are typical of a town like Wageningen. For instance, a staff member in de Leeuwenborch told my friend, in all seriousness, “I can only fix this computer tomorrow. If you want me to do it today, you have to pay.” Of course it was his Dutch sense of humour. My friend didn’t understand it, but he and I laughed. Dutch peculiarities. No matter which part of Holland I am in, it’s always the Dutch people who make me feel at home.

Late Arrival

Before leaving for the Netherlands to start her PhD, blogger Nadya Karimasari had mixed feelings. She’s excited but also having a lot of anxieties over unsettled matters.

On March 1st 2016, our visas were finally approved. After receiving the news, I took some time to be alone, lie down, and stare at the ceiling, ‘this is finally getting real’. I am going back to the country where I discovered the art of learning, now with my husband and one-year old son.

For the last couple of years, the closest encounters that I have had with a lot of great minds in my field of study was reading and studying their works. Now, I am going to meet them in person, perhaps sit in their classes, ask questions, and have discussions. I am going to have a desk and space of my own, where I could fully concentrate on my project. I am going to have the leisure of not having to think about making ends meet, I only need to immerse myself in creating good research. I will finally be free from noises of the crowded city where I have been living. I imagine Wageningen to be so quiet and peaceful, hence providing a conducive environment for studying as well as for my child’s formative years.

I feel casual but underneath I have some anxieties.

Nadya Karimasari

I feel casual but underneath I have some anxieties. Our arrival is actually two weeks late but it’s the earliest we could get. Our visas were slightly delayed. The NWO scholarship is designed for a single person, so bringing a family is a bit more complicated because I had to send an ‘additional income’ statement. Other than that, I had to negotiate over additional day care support. Also to be noted, had I known better I would do the legalisation process earlier on. It was time-consuming, cumbersome, and extremely expensive. The legalisation of our documents (birth and marriage certificate) will only be settled two weeks from now, but considering all things, I choose to have it sent via airmail instead of waiting.

By the time you will be reading this blog, we will be flying our way to the Netherlands. Hopefully we will arrive safely and see you there.

Sleep and Read

I used to put my baby to sleep in the dark. Today I realized that he can sleep with lights on, as long as the air is cool and he got a bit of warmth from attaching his body to mine. I got a lot of reading done while he’s sleeping, one of my hand fluttering a thick paper (a.k.a. fan) to him. It’s definitely going to make into our new routine, a sweet addition to our other established bedtime routine:

a massage every single day at 6 pm (occassionally several other times during the day too) until he’s around 4 months (by that time we moved to Australia and it was winter, so I wasn’t sure about leaving him bare for a couple of minutes to massage him, and I don’t want to use oils that has a warming effect because it gave him heat rash),

then we changed the massage routine with bedtime storytelling (his dad would read two books every night at 6 pm before sleep, I would borrow the books from the library),

and then, after he got to the age where he eat solids three (and then four, and five) times a day, he would eat dinner at 6 pm, drink, wash his hands, play in bed and when he feels sleepy he will lay his head on my body and sleep by himself. Starting today I can read at this time. If I want to take a break from reading or go out of the room, I can do it when I’m sure that he’s already in a deep sleep and won’t wake up if I go for a while.

Okay, that’s all for today. Hopefully enough for a restart of blogging after being away for quite some time. I’ve been travelling and legalising documents, etc. Tomorrow we will go to the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta. Finally … we will go to the Netherlands soon.

House-hunting in NL

House-hunting over and done with! Finally I found a place to stay, for family, per direct, no waiting list, no broker fee, and most importantly, everything is perfect. The house, location, everything. Long gone was my horror of staying at the attic (which is considerably common in the Netherlands), at a faraway noisy location, in a house with a refrigerator too small or interior too hoarder-y.

There’s a lot of room offer for single, but finding a house for family is a bit challenging. Some options are available, but I am glad I took my time to make a decision. After all, my family is going to stay there for more than a year, so why settle for anything less than perfect?

Of course it takes some luck to meet the perfect thing. My advise is not to panic, no matter what. Perseverance, persistence and patience eventually paid off. After spending almost my entire online time (which is very limited) on house-hunting, I couldn’t be happier. Now I couldn’t wait to showcase the house to my husband and son 😀

Featured image source: here

Hello, 2016!

First project ticked off my list in 2016! Woohoo, finally!

I’ve been working on this project, on and off, for almost a year. I started a couple of days before I gave birth, and now my son is almost one year old. If you’re curious, I’ll let you know about this project later, when I could show you the final product.

Soon, I’ll let you know what else I’ve been up to, for instance, lately, I spent almost all of my limited online time to search for a house to rent in the Netherlands. But that’s for another post. Right now, I am ready for the next short-term independent project that I am planning to do this month.

What about you, how’s new year been treating you so far? What’s your plan in 2016?

Let’s roll!

Featured photo source: here

Count down

A lot of things are going on my mind right now. I’m counting down the days before we’re finally back for good! Well, at least, me and baby, we’re heading back to Indonesia next week. Meanwhile, Darmanto (my husband) has to extend his stay in Perth until the end of January 2016 to finalize his thesis revision. We’ve just got the final decision today, so pardon my silence for the last couple of days. To extend is actually never in our plan, but alas, things happen. Usually I prefer to be silent when facing uncertainty. Now that everything is certain, I have no better way but to say it plain and straightforwardly. Good luck, D, do your best for the final revision! We’ll look forward to meet you again in Indo.

On the brighter side, we finally have a family portrait in Perth. Thanks to Abdil Mughis, our short-term housemate, who took our picture several weeks ago. We took it a couple of hours before he flied back to Indonesia. The first location was Sir James Mitchell Park, or better known as Mill Point. In here, you can see Perth’s famous landscape of skyscrapers before the Swan River. The second location is King’s Park. I bet it is the most famous park in Perth. I am happy and glad to take these pics before we leave. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have any and baby would not see the memories of us together in Perth. Here’s for the globe-trotting baby:

Smile:

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Row row row your boat:

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“I’m free!” said baby:

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King’s Park:

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We’ll surely miss crawling on the well-trimmed green grass:

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Bye for now, Perth:

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Postcard from Greece

Postcard” is a monthly column featuring guest bloggers from around the world. Today we received a postcard from M. L. Kappa (Greece) who blogs at athensletters.com. Do check out her exceptional blog about life and times in Greece, it’s highly recommended! If you’ve been wondering how things change and how the Greeks cope with ongoing crisis, M. L. Kappa shares with us the individual and social choices that people make in terms of food. Let’s read her thorough postcard:

Most people love to eat – they like to go out to restaurants and cook at home. Food is a large and enjoyable part of life. But what happens when money becomes short?

In the last five years, two things have affected eating habits in Greece: the trend for fitness and the crisis. We want our food to be healthy, and we need it to be cheap.

Greeks have started looking to the Internet for information – they wish to better themselves, but also to belong to a “tribe” with similar habits. Depending on budgetary considerations, they prefer anything seen as “traditional”, “organic,” or “unprocessed”. Food grown locally is seen as fresher, tastier and healthier; and buying local is a way to help our stricken economy.

The crisis has shrunk the shopping basket, but Greeks still put a premium on feeding their families healthily and well, even if it means cutting costs somewhere else. The higher the financial and educational level, the more money is spent on good quality ingredients.

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So, in spite of our troubles:

We continue to be interested in food, as witnessed by the popularity of TV shows about cooking and nutrition, and of chefs who have become celebrities.

We gather in friends’ houses to enjoy home cooking.

We care whether our neighbors have enough to eat and volunteer or donate to various charities.

We order in less and cook more. Young people go home to eat, so food shopping has increased.

We look for better prices in the supermarket, visit local open-air markets and are not shy about buying half a watermelon or two apples instead of a whole kilo.

We throw out less food.

We think about avoiding waste and recycling leftovers, helped by clever ideas we find on the Internet – last night’s vegetables added to a cheese soufflé, for instance.

We have rediscovered old recipes using pulses and pasta, and often cook ladera (the word means ‘oily’ – they are various vegetables, braised with olive oil). Eaten with feta cheese, they provide a delicious, nutritious and cheap meal.

We have cut down on expensive foods like meat and fresh fish. When we do want meat, we buy chicken, which is cheap and easy to cook, followed by beef then pork. As for fish, we go for small, cheaper fish like sardines.

Because we have less spending money, we buy fewer snacks and goodies for the kids. We try to cut down on junk food and promote healthy eating.

We make sure to buy things that the whole family will like, and not pander too much to individual tastes.

We play it safe, not risking food people won’t like and which might get binned. Flour purchases have increased, since we do a lot more baking at home.

We don’t really like frozen semi-prepared foods, except for spanakopita (spinach pie) and tyropita (cheese pie) and, to a lesser extent, pizza. We buy frozen vegetables when we have no time to shop, although since many women have lost their jobs, they have the leisure to seek out more time-consuming but pleasant shopping venues, such as open-air markets.

If a member of the family is unemployed he or she takes over the cooking and, even if the food they make is not the most healthy, is it perceived as good because it’s home-made. More men have taken to cooking, especially single men. Encouraged by the male chefs they see on TV, they try their hand at ever more complicated recipes, along with the ubiquitous BBQ.

For breakfast, most Greeks like bread with honey or sometimes jam, cereal or ‘toast’ (which is essentially a grilled cheese sandwich). However, a lot of young people skip breakfast – they just drink coffee and smoke!

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In the countryside, people grow their own vegetables and keep chickens and goats. They send food to their relations in town. People who have land, even a garden, will grow food – but we don’t have a system of allotments such as exist in other European cities.

As elsewhere in Europe, farmers get low returns on their produce, so many have reconverted their land into electricity production – when driving through the countryside you can see solar panels covering entire fields. However, there is an increasing awareness that Greece is importing a lot of products it could grow locally, such as lemons and pomegranates. There is a trend in young people returning to the land and taking up organic farming, such as fruit, roses, lavender, herbs, top quality olive oil, even truffles. Also, there is a thriving production of wine.

Overall, the food and drinks industry is a vital component of the economy, since it has become a dynamic, competitive and export-oriented sector.

In spite of people watching their budgets and eating at home more, Greeks like to go out, to cafés, bars and restaurants, even if they have to nurse a single coffee or drink for a couple of hours. A lot of new restaurants have sprung up, mostly started by young people who cannot get a job elsewhere, offering affordable, tasty, quirky food. There are also a lot of ethnic eateries run by immigrants: sushi, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican – you name it, you can have it. Particularly in Athens, small treasures can be discovered on a lot of backstreet corners. Smiling waiters, nice food, people enjoying themselves – what better way to forget the crisis, even for a short while? Street food is also doing well – especially souvlaki, seen by people as nutritious as well as cheap.

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Unfortunately there are also a lot of families – middle class families where both parents have lost their job – who cannot afford to buy food and are obliged to queue at church soup kitchens to get a hot meal. They can also subscribe to the KINONIKO PANDOPOLIO (Κοινωνικό Παντοπωλείο -Social Market). These are small shops situated in various neighborhoods which provide free groceries, clothes, household items etc. to families in need. They are supplied by donations from the large supermarkets, the food industry and private individuals.

Another disturbing statistic is that a large percentage of kids in the Athens region go to school without breakfast. Teachers who can ill afford it themselves bring bags of cookies and fruit to feed their pupils.

Charities are doing great work, providing meals, cooking in the street, finding sponsors. And now that refugees are swarming in the streets many people, despite their own shortages and troubles, are still doing their best to feed them while waiting for the authorities to provide solutions.

To end on a more cheerful note, I have copied out a recipe for briám, a dish of mixed baked vegetables. This is very popular in Greece, especially in the summer when the vegetables are in season and particularly tasty.

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Μπριάμ ( pronounced bree-ám)

4 large tomatoes, cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 large eggplants, cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 medium size green zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 green pepper, cut in 1/2 inch slices 2 cloves garlic, diced
5 TBS chopped parsley, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup olive oil.
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Start by layering the potatoes in a greased deep baking pan. Lay one half of the tomato slices over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer the next 6 ingredients and top off with a layer of the remaining tomatoes. Salt and pepper. Pour olive oil evenly over tomatoes and bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350° oven for 1½ hours.

This tasty dish is best served at room temperature (it’s even better the next day, when the flavors have melded well) accompanied by lices of feta cheese, with maybe a few black olives on the side. The vegetables can be varied at will. Enjoy!

Checking in from Civic Square Library

Hi all, it’s Friday! For us, it means going to baby pram jam at Civic Square Library. This library is our favorite. It is the library we visited the most. It’s freshly renovated. The color scheme is a combination of yellow and purple (and black).

Baby pram jam is an event for under 2 years old and their parents or caretakers. We will sing some nursery rhymes and read books together. At the end of it, the librarian who also leads our nursery rhymes will put out a bunch of toys.

In this library I can relax and freely let my baby wander. Only here I can feel like he’s saying to me, “trust me, let me be on my own.” Haha. Sometimes we play peek-a-boo, perhaps annoying other library visitors. Sometimes he wander far off but I never worried, although I still have to keep an eye.

When I look at him I see he’s so adorable, especially because he enjoys to explore the library by himself. After 9 months old, especially, he became assertive and enjoying his sense of independence. He enjoys crawling everywhere by himself (only to yell when he got stuck somewhere 😉 ), he loves to learn to stand up, he also wants to be independent in terms of feeding (more on this perhaps on another post).

Besides being comfy, this library is also very conveniently located. It is next to Garden City Mall and Booragoon bus station. We only need to ride a 940 bus once from our houses to get there. Please enjoy our photos that has been collected over time in this library, it seems like the “Daddy and baby in public library” series is continued 🙂

Pram jam in blur:

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Beautiful book:
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Giant abacus:
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Look! I can stand up, one hand mommy!
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When I was younger:
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When I was teething, this is all I wanted to do:
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Oh, how I miss blogging (and other news).

You have no idea how many times I typed and deleted the first sentence of this post. I haven’t been blogging for a while. But I can’t let it go. I can’t let go of blogging and I am not sure why. Mine is not the most important and popular blog anyway, so perhaps it’s just me. No one else would feel like they’re missing out on something if I didn’t continue to write this blog.

One thing for sure, I miss my friends in the blogosphere. It’s weird, I haven’t even met them. I’ve only known them through Writing 101 free online class, but I feel like I can easily communicate without any hesitation. Yet I have so many friends in real life whom become distant. It feels awkward to start communicating with them again. I suspect they might assume that I am selling some multilevel marketing products or having other hidden agenda. We’ve grown so much apart anyways. I am not sure I would understand the best gesture that I must perform in front of them and vice versa.

I remember back then, I’ve written in my diary about how weird it is to have some text messages, quotes from e-mail, friendster and facebook written as part of my day-to-day stories. I owned my first cellphone in 2004 and it’s quite late. Perhaps it is a sign that I am basically not an early adopter of new technologies and prefer to wait a bit until I feel like I really need it. Also, in general, I am never keen on being submissive into peer pressure that demands me to always be among the first customer of latest trend. Nope, I’m out.

It’s different with earlier technologies. I used to communicate through line phone, and sometimes I wrote part of the communication on phone in my day-to-day stories that I chronicled in diary. It never makes me feel weird. What makes it different was perhaps the fact that it still has a human dimension, a voice, unmistakably belong to a person. It makes me sure who am I speaking with. And it’s instant: you speak, I listen, I respond, I speak, you listen, you respond. There’s no gap, no delay, not even second-thoughts of erasing previous message, etc. But strangely, the same thing goes with longform written letters, though it could also be written by someone else, I’ve never met my penpals, it is not instant and there’s a gap time between sending the letter and receiving a reply. Where’s the human dimension? What makes me so sure to whom I am communicating with? There’s so many questions better left unanswered.

In a way, I see my blogging friends like my penpals in the past. I need to blurt something out and my preferred way of communicating is blogging. Maybe I am a blogger at heart, who knows?

What I am about to tell you is, I’ve got an awesome news. I got a 5-years PhD scholarship from NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) to study at Wageningen University. I am thinking of documenting my process in becoming an independent researcher. My philosophy is not to find the answer but to learn how to find the answer. And the blog would not only be about my research project. You see, the way I perceive other people is I stretched their particles into a wide spectrum and then I reconnect their image as whole. I also feel the same way about myself, I mean, there’s so many dimensions that makes a researcher. In my case, I am not a linear thinker and my life is not linear either. The same thing goes in my research. I might read a fiction about a hen that dreamed she could fly and use it in my research that is not about fiction nor hen. I can sit down at the public library floor, observing my baby who crawls and trying to stand up, and from this observation learn a thing or two about my research. I don’t know about other researchers, but that’s how my brain works.

Now, the cause of my silence is, I am considering to start over and make a new blog for above-mentioned purpose. Should I move or should I stay? (please let me know what you think). If I stayed, the blog would definitely have a new focus and identity. Is it okay to have an overall non-cohesive blog that has been evolving over time? Will it scare away my long-time friends? If I make a new blog, what am I supposed to do with this one? It’s been with me since the very first time wordpress was introduced, perhaps in 2006 (almost 10 years!).

Another thing that bugs me is: should I make a new blog in my native language, considering my friends who ask me on how to get the scholarship? But I am not sure my Indonesian friends would be interested to read the process, the becoming, the day-to-day life of a PhD student (who is also a new mom). Or, they might read it but not giving any interaction. I suspect they only want a quick how-to answer: how to get the scholarship? how to make a winning motivation letter? how to get published in international peer-reviewed journals? what to say during interviews? If I provided them with answers, they might be surprised because what I did was not congruent with the general guide to get a PhD scholarship. And I think those stuffs are such a bore to read, let alone write. Don’t you think so many other people have written on the subject? Let’s move on.

Deep down, I know it is important to write in my native language, not only due to my Indonesian friends’ requests but also because there’s so many myths about PhDs in Indonesian society. For example, PhDs are supposed to be a know-it-all who are ready with answers, answers, answers on this, and that, and everything. Not me, I got the scholarship perhaps due to my well-thought questions. I am the person who always ask thoughtful questions of something that is already absolutely obvious according to all the rest of other people. For them, I might not be the epitome of a PhD student. I am more of an annoying idiot slow-thinker bug. Another thing is PhD is supposed to be for old people who are already advanced in their field. When I did my masters in the Netherlands, I found a lot of my PhD friends are still in their twenties, so forget about the imagination that a PhD should be the next Karl Marx or someone who crushes and shatters Marx theories into pieces. (Le sigh, Unbelievable). Also, the myth that a new mom should not do PhD. Well, it’s such a different climate, at least according to my experience, in the Netherlands. The social structure (and my husband, got to mention it 😉 ) are supportive. One of my professor mentioned a colleague of his who is always becoming more productive during her pregnancy and baby-caring times, as in she always managed to published a book exactly during those supposedly overwhelmingly hectic period. The last myth is not exactly a myth but it still bugs me to write a blog in my native language: the notion that Indonesia’s lacking researchers. To be honest, I am not sure it is lacking. What I am not in favor with is the absence of process-stories, the becoming-stories, stories of researcher-in-the-making. What I sense is the government want to get a quick product and that product is “a researcher”. They send people to school, get a degree and that’s it. They signaled that they need more researchers but, seriously, what for? It seemed like the climate where I used to do research in Indonesia are allergic with questions, so how are you supposed to get more researchers? Perhaps you would get more people with degree but you won’t get any researchers if the only thing you would like to enforce is obedience.

So those things have been going on in my mind. It is important for me to document this process of PhD studies, but the question is how: in English or Bahasa Indonesia? In this blog or new one? And why am I making such a fuss of something that is only significant for me and totally insignificant for the rest of human being? If the last thing is true, than everything is clear. I would write for myself, no caring of getting any reader but me. But on the other hand, not less importantly, I would like to reach out to other PhD communities and people in my fields, and I would also like to get to know more of them who are Indonesian, so I can’t go totally “whatever” in this blog. I want it to be non-linear (the way my thought-process goes), but still neat. I want it to be rich but also focused.

I want it to be this and that all at once and perhaps I am just wanting too much.

Please help! What’s your thought or experience? Your suggestion would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Yours truly.

WordPress Weekly Photo: Treat

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Treat.” Treat and indulgence can take many forms, share yours with us!

I have a lot of indulgence, one of which is food. I am a foodie. I eat a lot but I am naturally skinny, so over-indulgence is never in my dictionary (I’m thanking the universe and my genetics for this).

Here, I like to go to the farmers market once in a while to indulge myself in Greek spanakopita, but actually the real reason I went was to enjoy the ambience. I found all food sold in Perth are nothing special and fall pale in comparison to what my husband cooks. Most of the time, I am not at all interested to eat out because he makes authentic, traditional, tasty food at home which never fails to make me drool and satisfy my palate + tummy.

If I really have to eat out, I would choose to go to the Chocolateria to have a cup of warm chocolate, and you could also order any form of chocolate that you could imagine. It actually tastes so good! Another option would be ice cream. Last week on my way home I tasted Chicho gelato at the Twilight’s Hawker Market in Forrest Place. The Strawberry Lime flavor was so fresh! What’s a better indulgence than chocolate or ice cream?

For now, to give a shot or two at the WordPress Weekly Photo theme, I present you a taste of home (see picture). I would let you guess the first picture, while the second is (of course) tropical fruit punch. Cheers!
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Unlearning: Looks are not more important than leadership quality

One day at Booragoon station with my baby in the pram, I was waiting for the bus together with a lot of school kids. When the bus arrived, other school kids were rushing to enter, but one girl who were not conventionally pretty calmly and firmly said one word to them, “Guys.” Only then did other students held on and let me in first.

In Australia, when the bus opens its door, depending on the passenger, it will set up a ramp for people with wheelchair or baby in pram. They are prioritized to come in first.

I used to feel that people who are unconventionally pretty are less lucky than people who are conventionally pretty. That afternoon I changed my mind because of one school girl who were not conventionally pretty but had the most consideration and leadership quality. She’s the one whom people respect. With only one word she could make everyone else follow her lead.

Unfortunately, you can’t eat your brilliant idea!

…said my husband a couple of nights ago to our housemate, a hairdresser from Iran. I was listening from the second floor while they’re laughing at my housemate’s failed dinner. His intention was to make a pizza, but he baked yoghurt as the base and put some veggies on top. It failed miserably and the house started to smell like something was burning. My husband was shocked to find out the experimental pizza. He’d never seen anyone do such thing. And then the conversation went on like this:

“Where did you get the recipe?”, asked my husband.
“Nowhere. I just have this idea …,” said our housemate.
Unfortunately, you can’t eat your brilliant idea!” cut my husband as he couldn’t stop himself from laughter.

That sentence was gold. I mean, how apt is it with life in general? I would like to challenge you, dear friends, to make a list of brilliant ideas (or any ideas) that you have and think about, for a while or on a whim, and then asked yourself have you been able to “eat” your brilliant ideas? Does it stay as a brilliant idea or have you been able to make something out of it? Bonus points it could bring yourself some bread and butter.

It’s amazing what a single sentence could lead us to! Have fun! 🙂