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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

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Summer Break

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What’s the thing about summer break? Blogger Nadya writes her observation.

“How was your holiday?” That’s the opening line coming from most of my colleagues these days. The new academic year is around the corner. My next holiday season will be around Christmas and New Year. No wonder people are taking long breaks before summer is over, before being caught up in the demanding, hectic rhythm of academic life.

Dutch people are notorious for being the example of good work-life balance. I don’t know if it’s true or if it is just another stereotype. Dutch people are also known for not having as much stress from work as compared to people from other countries in the world. According to recent estimates, Dutch people in average work 29 hours a week, get around 8.2 hours of sleep every night, and guaranteed a paid vacation.

Holidays are something to be proud of.

Based on my limited observation, for Dutch people, holidays are something to be proud of. Because I am used to how Dutch people perceive summer breaks, I felt surprised when I noticed my office mates from other countries tried to avoid sharing their summer vacation stories. When one of my professors asked about our holidays, the room was suddenly quiet. Everyone started looking at their shoes. I was wondering why. If they were Dutch, they would’ve showed off their amazing holidays right away. They went to Basel, Munich, England, Czech Republic, and Croatia to name a few. Their holiday were really quite something, but instead of being proud, they felt guilty.

When one of my professors asked about our holidays, the room was suddenly quiet.

“I haven’t been working on my research proposal for a long time, that’s why I feel guilty about my holiday,” one of my colleague confessed. “I really don’t get what’s all the fuss about summer break. Apparently, here, summer is such a thing. My friend who went on vacation to the beach abroad was being laughed off by his friends because he didn’t come back with a tan,” added another. “In my country, people just went to see their family and help with errands during holidays, so it’s not a big deal like it is here,” one of them concluded.

I believe such guilt is unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong about enjoying holidays. We should feel normal about enjoying our precious summer breaks. I just wish the vacation continued a little longer.

PS: Summer break for us:

Food glorious food at Ben White’s summer home:

 

Cherry picking:

 

 

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Count down

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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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WordPress Weekly Photo: Treat

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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

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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.

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Emergency desk

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Oh, how I wish I had my own desk!

It will be a wooden desk with rounded or curvy edges, just the right size, and minimalist. No drawers. Minimalist, not only the shape of the desk but also in terms of not having a lot of stuffs going on on top of it. This will keep it tidy and uncluttered, my mind empty but focused.

The desk will be in a room with plenty of natural light. I love natural light. I could never had enough of it. Bonus point if the room overlooks a beautiful view of crystal-clear lake and green shades to bring natural cool temperature. Perhaps there would be large windows or door that I would keep open during the day. I like to feel the wind breeze while my mind dancing with ideas.

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I want her desk and room! my favorite author, Jhumpa Lahiri. picture source: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/08/25/t-magazine/25writers-rooms.html

Definitely, an entirely separate room for books. I will only collect books that are worth reading over and over and over again. Other books have to be discarded. My collection would only be consisting of carefully selected few, my version of classic. Nothing screams “hideous” more than having chunks and piles of unread books as room decor just so you could appear and feel more intelligent.

My heart aches but there will always be a “someday”, as in “Someday, I will have my own creative space.” Until then, I am writing from an emergency desk. I have to make do with what’s available. As I’ve written in my previous post, “Why I Write“,

I am a new mum who write when my baby sleeps. I write on my bed with a portable bean-bag laptop support, under dimly lit, maximum 40 watt bedside lamp. The lights are off. My baby is sleeping beside me under the same blanket and I have around 2,5 to 4,5 hours max before his next feed.

You can see at the picture above, my emergency desk is pretty basic. You can count the items with one hand. Each item has its story but I don’t want to make you bored with elaborate details of it. Here’s a quick list instead:

  • One bedside lamp
  • One black-grey moon-shaped portable bean-bag laptop support
  • One laptop
  • One A5 binder note with pen
  • One cup of tea

It might not be a lot, but surprisingly, it’s enough. It’s not ideal, but it shouldn’t be an excuse not to write. The gap between my dream-desk and the reality is due to me having to move places often. For the last three years I usually stay in one place for only 6 months maximum (who live like that?). Considering the temporariness of my stay and the uncertainty that the future may bring, having my own creative space (or at least a sturdy desk) that I have been obsessing about is not high on the priority list right now.

So instead of having a designated place to write regularly, I am trying to plot (or squeeze) some regular daily time to write. I think dedicating specific time each day to establish a writing routine is as important as having a designated space/place/room/desk for writing.

And … that would be an entirely new post. The strategy to diversify daily writing time (gasp!). A quick hint, I went to the public library to experiment with making a new habit of writing in the morning, on top of the night shift. The place is pretty decent. It looks like this:

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What do you think? Tell me, what’s your best-kept secret of having a productive writing habit? Where do you write and at what time?

Until next time, fellas!