The Man I Often Heard Lately, Mr. Weston

Living in a far-far away land is complicated.

Applying for exchange program brought me to a very secluded town named Zlin.

Though I really love the new ambiance that I never enjoyed before, things do not go easy on me. Back in my country, I can go to salon, spa, and wax shop instantly. Here, I cannot find salon I can trust; meanwhile, wax shop and spa place are untraceable. Weeks ago, I found my hair was just way too long, too heavy, and too boring. This is a problem. I refused to randomly check some salon and have a try. I like to play safe. Once you damage your hair, it takes months to get it back. So, week ago when I heard that I got chance to stay for two nights in Prague, I googled some salons. Prague is the capital city, there must be some more trust-able salon, I believed. That was when I found Trichomania, a salon by Mark Weston.

Actually I also found some other salons, mostly are part of hair salon chains. Since I could not be sure that they speak English and knew what I mean, I convinced myself to have a try at Mr. Weston’s knowing that I read many positive reviews online about his salon and how he speaks English fluently. Besides, I was very curios with very unique salon he described on his website. I emailed Trichomania week ago to reserve an appointment. After several quick and welcoming replies, I got a place. ;)

Saturday, 20 October 2012. 6 pm.

It was the day. The salon is located at Anglicka 8, close to Narodni museum. It is easy to find, even for a person who rarely reads map… like me. I arrived at the place 10-15 minutes earlier and found Mr. Weston was still cleaning his salon chair after he finished his appointment with previous customer. He saw me when I entered his salon. “Ms. Valencia?” he asked. Once he noticed I was his next customer, he welcomed me in a very friendly way.

Mr. Weston offered a favor to hang my coat and served me a cup of tea. I did not hear English breakfast or chamomile mentioned among the tea flavors list he had so I let him chose one, any organic one. While he made his cup of tea, I starred around. His salon is not that big. Some flower vases are put close to the only window next to the entrance door. There is only one cozy sofa inside for the customer. A big mirror is placed facing the sofa. Behind, there are four mirrors in different size and shape hung on the pale pink wall. Above those mirrors, there were some random-shaped lights, something like those I usually see at the photo studio. Go bit further, I found usual black washing chair. A shelf is put close to it, with a vinyl turntable on top of it and CD player inside of the shelf. Two black curtains border each side of the sofa, one to border between it and the look outside and one between it and washing chair. The only door inside the salon leads to the toilet.

My observation stopped when he came with a cup of tea for me. Apparently, he and I were the only persons at the salon. Everything was on his own –whoa. There was a ginger cookie on the tea plate. A lovable one that I could not wait to bite. He put it on a black round-shaped tool, the one with wheels usually used as a seat for the hairdresser. He dragged it next to me, to place my tea and phones. He also had a kind of bar right after the mirror that faced me to put some magazines and his customers’ handbags. In the end, I had my sofa only for me, while my stuffs, they also had theirs. ;)

Mr. Weston dragged another black round-shaped tool. He sat next to me, then asked, “What are you into?”. A very big question with an answer I did not know because I just felt bored with my usual long hair with some unshaped curl left after permanent curl I got almost a year back and some branches as its after effect. Since I did not have a particular demand, so we started talking. He questioned some stuffs just so he could know me and what fits me. After some minutes, he came out with his thought and told me the price I approximately had to pay later. I was glad to know he did, so that I could refuse at very first time if I did not think the style and price fit me. He suggested me to leave my hair color alone since it is already good for me to get it in lighter color than my natural hair color. The solution he had was giving the shape to my hair and highlight to frame my face. This is what I perceived, I do not know whether my explanation is exactly what he said before, I ain’t good in terms of understanding the science of haircut. After I agreed, Mr. Weston asked me how long the hair I am willing to let go, some hairdressers left my hair shorter than my expectation in the past, so I loved the fact that he asked.

In sudden, it was already started. Begun with cutting process, it was continued with the bleaching process, the washing and highlighting process, the cutting for detail process, and the drying one at very last with.. hand. HAANNND?? And my wayward hair obeyed his HAND, not MINE.

Although it took around 2,5 hours, I did not get bored. The salon provides Wi-Fi, so everything was okay. I could chat with my boyfriend while opening some social media, sipping tea and munching cookie. Oh anyway, he was very kind. He served another cup of tea after I emptied the previous one.. and of course, with the cookie!! <3

The music was played from the vinyl player and CD player. I think he changed from one to another. Was bit surprised at first because The XX and Ms Mr were also in the song list he had. There was this moment, when I furtively shazam-ed some songs because they were nice. Turned out, he knew it and suggested me even more songs. Mr.-so-kind-Weston also told me that those good tracks he had could be downloaded for free on Soundcloud, he told me where. Impressive! That was not enough. He gave me direction to two vinyl stores he usually goes to in Prague and one store in Germany.

It was 8.30 pm.

I finally got my haircut. Transaction was done. Mr. Weston helped me out with my coat he just took before I left.

In short,  all these treat-customer-like-a-princess thingies left me with satisfaction. What I highlight is not the review of the haircut or his expertise. It is the service. I am a typical girl who pays very good attention at service. I always evaluate restaurants, salons, hotels, shops, and every other things based on the service. If I have to rank what I evaluate, it should be service on top of everything, then quality, and price at last.

In terms of service, as you can read, he treated customers very well. What he did shows how he very welcomed his customers. He listened to the customers, he paid attention to them. I once randomly asked him whether he had met an Asian customer or not. An okay person would perhaps answer with a yes or no, but Mr. Weston told me from which countries they were. He forgot some at first, but after some moments when the topic was not there anymore, he randomly listed some others he finally remembered. He even showed the photos of Vietnamese girl he used to trim before. This is simple thing however the simple thing like how you respond others also determines your personality, no? :)

The haircut. Hairstyle is all about taste. I cannot say that what is good for me is also good for me. In my perception, his haircut is satisfying and good. It fits my taste. I found that Mr. Weston and I shared common thought about hair. Though, I like to try something new with my hair, I like to have something ‘safe’. And that is indeed what he had in mind for me. He once told me that experiment is good but never do too much because a mistake in haircut leaves permanent effects; it is going to take quite sometimes to get it back. He emphasizes the healthiness of the hair. The right haircut is what we need to make hair looks attractive. This is why he did not do that much too my hair but some highlight to frame my face. They are in blonde color. It is fun although it is new. Perhaps he knew that I get bored easily with my hair, so he left some in blonde that I can play around. He told me that these blonde highlights can be colored with eyeshadow, blush on, glittery-colored mascara, and others, not like my dark hair. It is cool because, ah, so now I know how to spend my spare time when I am bored. :D

However you know, everyone has different taste. It takes sometime to find the hairdresser that matches you. I may say that Mr. Weston is a good one, but again, it is my opinion.

Last but not least, the price. I do not think that publishing how much the cost for the treatment I got is a right thing to do. You can check the price range from his website. For me, it is not pricey. Some salons in Jakarta are even more expensive than that though they are less worthy. Since the focus is on you and you are the “princess” for some hours, you know there is the price to pay, right? ;)

Nothing much longer than this I can type about Trichomania. It was a pleasant experience I had. I hope there will be another day when I can have a seat on the cozy sofa to get a haircut with catchy music and a cup of tea as my companions.. and oh, almost forget to mention the additional team, the ginger cookie!

Perlunya Berprinsip

Saya mempunyai seorang sahabat dekat. Seorang perempuan di usia 20 tahunan.

Sahabat saya ini sekarang sedang meneruskan studi nya di Melbourne, Australia. Kurang lebih setahun sudah ia tinggal di negara tersebut.

Baru-baru ini saya menyambanginya. Ia tinggal di apartemen seorang diri. Sebagai orang yang saya tahu tidak pernah meninggalkan keluarga untuk kurun waktu yang lama, saya kagum dengan kemandirian sahabat saya ini. Apartemen yang ia tempati pada awalnya merupakan apartemen yang disewakan tanpa perabot. Ketika saya berkunjung, saya melihat betapa cantik dan rapi unit apartemennya yang ia tata sendiri. Sebagai orang yang saya tahu memiliki beberapa asisten rumah tangga di tempat asalnya pun, ia terlihat luwes membersihkan dan merawat tempat tinggalnya. Begitu juga dalam hal memasak.

Sosok sahabat saya ini pun dengan rajin pamit untuk menjalankan shalat lima waktu setiap kali aplikasi pengingat shalatdi telepon selulernya berbunyi. Walaupun tinggal di negara dimana agamanya merupakan minoritas, ia tidak melupakan kewajibannya untuk beribadah. Saya sangat menghormati apa yang ia lakukan.

Ketika sahabat-sahabat dekatnya dari negara asal menikmati kebebasan dunia barat dengan rajn menyambangi club, menenggak alkohol, dan mencicipi obat-obatan terlarang, sahabat saya memilih untuk berada di rumah. Ia lebih senang berkomunikasi melalui online media dengan kekasihnya yang berada di Indonesia.

Pada waktu saya mengunjunginya, teman-teman sebayanya sedang merayakan 4/20. Saya pun baru mengerti dari sahabat saya ini bahwa 4/20 adalah hari Marijuana, dimana orang-orang turut serta melebur dalam perayaan di hari itu dengan menikmati ganja. Saya sungguh bersyukur, saya dan sahabat saya justru sibuk berjalan-jalan dan mencicipi masakan di restoran yang ia rekomendasi di kota pada saat itu.

Saya juga mempunyai seorang sahabat dekat di Cologne, Jerman. Seorang lelaki Muslim. Seperti sahabat saya yang berada di Australia, ia pun tidak pernah lalai menunaikan ibadah shalat, baik di Indonesia, maupun di Jerman. Sahabat saya ini tidak pernah tergoda mencicipi makanan yang mengandung babi, sebagai bentuk keteguhan dalam menaati apa yang tidak dianjurkan di agamanya. Ia pun tidak pernah berkeinginan untuk mencicipi ganja, ketika beberapa sahabatnya mencobanya.

Sahabat-sahabat saya ini memberikan saya pemahaman tentang perlunya berprinsip. Mungkin terkesan sepele, namun saya percaya, beberapa orang tua melupakan perlunya mendidik anak dengan prinsip.

Pada akhirnya, usaha mengekang dan mengancam seorang anak tidak akan berarti banyak. Semakin anak dikekang untuk bergaul, semakin ia penasaran untuk bergaul. Semakin anak dilarang untuk mencoba hal-hal yang tidak seharusnya ia coba, ia akan semakin tertantang dan penasaran. Ketika anak tidak diberikan pedoman hidup, ia tidak akan memahami mengapa sesuatu layak atau tidak layak dilakukan.

Agama, sebagaimana dibuktikan oleh sahabat-sahabat saya, adalah salah satu pedoman hidup yang kuat. Ketika seorang individual memiliki prinsip, dimana pun ia berada, ia tidak akan mudah tergoda. Selain itu, mungkin ada beberapa pegangan hidup lainnya yang belum saya temukan.

Love Lesson 101: Love Is Not A Game

Lily and Marshall taught me one simple love lesson that I, sometimes, well… most of times, forget.

(No, I don’t have friends name Lily and Marshall. And yes, they are the characters from How I Met Your Mother)

 

An episode shows how Marshall frequently used ‘win’ and ‘lose’ to determine how his argument against Lily goes. But later, the ‘ghost Lily’ character reminded him that no matter how happy he is to win, he would lose in the end. It was not losing argument that she meant, it WAS the fact that Marshall would lose Lily sooner or later if he keeps on picturing arguments in relationship as a ‘winning and losing situation’, (PS: ghost lily= Marshall’s dream).

THERE! It is what I most of the time forget. In a relationship, I should not count how many times Ilost arguments to prove that it is an unfair relationship.. I guess a mature couple do not fight against one another in order to win. It is not about whose argument wins, it is about finding what is BEST for both sides. Sometimes it is his argument, sometimes it is hers, or sometimes, it is a neutral solution both found.

 

Note:
I don’t use the word ‘fight’ and ‘conflict’ that sound more negative. It is normal to have a couple having arguments in a relationship. Two heads are not identical, right? It becomes NOT normal when it is an act to win, not to find what is best for both sides.

Javanese Women and Feminism

Feminism in general is defined as theory concerning gender equality (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Feminists, who support feminism, believe that women are still harmed by unfairness in variety of context, from national law to gender roles.

There are three waves of feminism according to Martha Rampton (2008). The first wave was established in late 19th and early 20th. The first feminism concerned on equal right to vote and to be voted in political election. The second wave, which existed from 1960s to 90’s century, emphasized the importance of social movements, such as sexuality and reproductive rights.

The last wave, which is the third wave emerged in mid-90’s. Compared to two previous waves, the third wave feminists seemed to focus less on social movement. Their concern is on emphasizing how a woman’s beauty should not be an object, but subject. Feminist from its previous wave thought that this movement does not give as huge impact to movement in the past (Rampton, 2008)

These past few years, although the number of young feminists has kept on rising, the result of their battle is still insignificant compared to their ‘mothers’. It is unfamiliar to hear what particular issues they throw in actual. Perhaps the young feminists are still struggling to focus on issue they want to carry; or perhaps they just start the battle.

Seeing the trend of ‘pro feminists’ and ‘anti feminists’ lately triggered me to question about how this affects people in my nation and why it seems so strange for me to hear a female complains about this issue in the place I live. I wonder how beneficial it is the feminist movement, which has been spread throughout the globe, to Indonesian females, specifically Javanese women, whose having similar historical experience on inequality in the past.

Methodology

To be able to answer these questions I had in mind, I approached female members from my Javanese family and interviewed them to get an insight. In executing the research, as the writer, I aware that I might not be able to differentiate whether the subjects’ answers are based on family culture or Javanese culture. Furthermore, at the very beginning, I had my perspective on how I see the issue as Javanese, hence it might affected my judgment and paper result.

<<some interviews section is erased due to privacy reason of some subjects>>

At that particular time when I returned back to my hometown, I took a chance to ask my grandmother since she also was a housewife at her young age. She said that she did not have any demand other than raising her four children (three daughters and one son). She doubted herself to work as she did not have certain skills and education background.

My grandmother believed that independent woman is characterized by her ability to manage a household from cooking, washing, cleaning, taking care of husband, to raising kids. She agreed that career women are good but too independent women in this context might cause men to feel ‘threatened’ and not needed. She advised that although someday I want to be a career woman, I should not abandon the ‘real’ role of woman, which is to manage the house and raise kid.

When I raised question whether gender inequality exists or not during her era, she felt that inequality only happened when not every kid was allowed to go to school at her time, which was not an issue over gender but status. She never felt forced to be a housewife.

I once asked whether she got an arranged marriage or not, as I presumed that all Javanese women had an arranged marriage at her time. My grandmother laughed and shortly told me that she is a Javanese Muslim woman who married to a Chinese Catholic man. She indirectly meant that it was not an arrange marriage, as the woman and man came from different background, which was not a usual character of arranged marriage.

In addition to the information, she said that it was her mother who got an arrange marriage. According to her, my great grandfather and great grandmother saw the photograph of each other, which was shown by their relatives, then they simply decided to agree on the marriage.

I could not see how two people who jumped into a marriage without knowing one another’s characters well could be happy. However, my grandmother convinced me that they were happy as they stuck together through thick and thin until my great grandfather passed away. My grandmother never saw them fight in their house.

I am familiar with Javanese saying, which is “Witing tresna jalaran seko kulina”. It means that love grows because a person is accustomed to be with the partner. Therefore when for once, the partner is gone, the person feels there is something missing, which Javanese believes to be ‘love’. My great grandmother’s story made it easier for me to relate to this.

From my grandmother, I also found that my great grandmother’s occupation was also a housewife. She said that my great grandmother was still 19 years old that time. Once she got married, she became a housewife. I asked my grandmother why she became a housewife. My grandmother said, “Well… What else? That time, we did not go to school. There was not so many occupations, unless you wanted to be an army, which was impossible. Hehe”.

My grandmother told me that my great grandmother was the only child in the family. She had eight children, which made her so happy. My grandmother stated that her mother felt happy to be a housewife as she had more companion in house than when she was as a daughter. My great grandmother loved the noise caused by her children at home.

* * *

In a very different nation like Indonesia, things are different compared to the world of Western feminists. Culture and habits affect the way people behave and think. During the Royal Palace era, inequality between women and men was more obvious to be seen. Javanese women were in race to be, at very least, concubine of the King. These women usually came from wong cilik (small people – not wealthy) family. This kind of family usually supported the young woman to get a position on the King’s lap for at least a night. They would try to introduce this woman to Royal staff or family, with hope that King would see and feel attracted. These families expected that having a son from royal family would increase their status and also wealth. Many Lembu Peteng (love child from king’s affair with ordinary women) were born during this date (Endraswara, 2003).  From general view, women seemed to be an object at that period of time; they were encouraged to utilize their physical for collective goal.

Compared to Lembu Peteng culture, which has vanished, some Javanese ancient advises still exist up until today. One of them is bibit, bebet, bobot. When a Javanese men searches for a wife, he is suggested to consider three things; they are (1) bibit, which is the family status background of the woman; (2) bebet, which is the wealth of woman’s family; (3) bobot, which is the behaviors and characters of the woman. The elders believed that this is necessary to get a long last marriage and good descents in the future (Endraswara, 2003).

There was also popular Javanese saying. It stated, “Wanita kuwi konco wingking”. According to this, a woman’s presence in the past was to please their man in form of sexual desire (intercourse) or household needs (e.g. foods). Thus, their role mainly takes place in three house area; they are kitchen, bed, and dressing table, which were all under “political desire” of the men. Javanese men had higher position than women; they were more respected. These men in the past believed that they had to protect family and struggle for living, therefore their position was more important than women. Although “Wanita kuwi konco wingking” was well-known words, Javanese in modern life consider this to be rude (Endraswara, 2003).

Back then, Javanese women were positioned as pasive gender. They worked on their inner and outer beauty until Javanese males who had evaluated them according to “bibit bebet bobot” married them. These females only moved their workplace, from helping mother at home to assisting their husband.

Wayang (shadow pupet) stories reflected on Javanese living in reality; this also includes story on how women were sometimes seen to have status below male group and how weak their position is. There was story of Dewi Amba who chose to serve Resi Bisma although she could not marry him, female characters who had lovechild with the Gods (Dewi Kunti – Batara Surya, Dewi Uma- Batara Guru). There was also story of how Drupadi got undressed by Dursasana and Kurawa because her husband lost the gamble.

There might be question whether these Javanese women complained or not. The difference between these women with Western women back then was the fact that these Javanese women were less vocal. According to Javanese values, both for females and males, it is considered improper to be too vocal in stating a perspective. Javanese tend to avoid confrontation by keeping problem on their own; this might also be the reason why such issue never be protested.

Apart from that, Endaswara (2003) stated that Javanese are known for their nrima (acceptance) character. Javanese believe that their love and death are destined. They tend to accept and be grateful for what path God has chosen for them. This also can be the reason why they did not seek for so much of freedom in choosing what they want, as they believed everything was already managed for them.

There are five Javanese women with status as a housewife in my Javanese family. Among these women, none was forced to be a housewife at very beginning; they were willing to be one. Since they were young, they were educated with traditional woman’s roles, such as cleaning, cooking, and washing, therefore I can see why it seems easy for them knowing that they get used to it. In contrary to the way Western world influenced women to stick to their traditional roles through media, such as television and magazine, Javanese values  on woman’s traditional role is indirectly delivered from one generation to another.

In addition to that, the way my grandmother saw what independent woman is also delivered to her next generation. Independent woman in her context is different to independent woman that what is perceived by Western feminists. Independent woman according to modern society might be a woman who can make her own earning or establish her own career. The quality issue raised by feminists relate to the freedom of having career as equal as opposite sex. In Javanese society, to be someone who is capable to manage household is counted as independent; it is something respectable.

It is true how feminism in first and second waves benefited Javanese females in modern life. Indonesian women are allowed to vote, join political party, and have an equal job as man. However that does not change the nature of Javanese woman who prefers to be a housewife instead of being ‘more’ than that just like what the Western feminists protested in 1950. The change in the way women are treated has been felt since my mother’s young age. Thus among five subjects I have, only my mother and aunties who fully feel the difference.

According to what they felt, the problem felt by generations earlier than my mother, which include my grandmother and great grandmother, was more into problem of status. The fact that they came from ordinary family caused them unable to get education, like prijaji or aristocrats. However, based on the situation happened in the past, I presume that their mindset existed because of their situation, which made it difficult for them to get education. Furthermore, the job field for women at that time was still less, especially during my great grandmother era when World War I happened. It might be different perspective they would have if the situation were similar to Western countries.

In contrary to its previous waves, modern feminism is not popular in Javanese society. Javanese women in my family do not demand more than what they have now in terms of equality. They already feel happy to perform their role as a mother and wife. Just like what my aunt, Poppy, said, it would be unfair if we demand more than what we have. Instead of focusing on less relevant thing to their age, such as making their beauty as subject instead of object to men, these Javanese mothers focus on important issue, such as raising their children. Just like how the role in the past, dominantly, Javanese men still carry the role of gaining income for the family.

While some extreme feminists fight for equality in every single context, modern Javanese women believe that they have their own power, which does not necessarily mean that they have equal physical power to men. In modern life, Fifie stated that it will be difficult for her husband if she stops cooking. In general it means that since household necessities usually are handled by the wives while occupation is husbands’ thing, thus if the wife stops doing her role, it will create chaos for the husband as that is not a thing he is familiarized with.

In rural area in Java, the power of women is more obvious.  A man once said that if the wife passes away, then the husband will be in troubles. But if the husband passes away, the wife ill not be in as much trouble as man. It shows how husbands are usually served and less ‘independent’ compared to the women. Javanese women in these villages are the “manager” in the house. They take care of the children and husband’s needs. They also manage the finance. It is easier for urban men to live without the wife as they can afford restaurant food, but for families with less income like these husbands in villages, being left by their wife is a dead-end (Handayani & Novianto, 2004)

* * *

In brief conclusion it can be said that modern feminism in general is not a thing that Javanese women would buy in this era. Indonesian women these days have opportunity to work, right to vote, and many other benefits compared to women in the past. They feel that they are happy with this kind of equality. Although the road to be career woman has been opened by feminists, many of Javanese women still prefer to be a housewife once they have husband or child. The traditional values of their woman roles, which is delivered from generation from generation, might the the reason that influences their decision. They do not see how recent issue raised by modern feminists relevant to their life; they prefer to focus on more important issue, such as taking care of their children and husband, which makes them feel very graceful.

Modern feminism tends to emphasize individual perception on gender right; it talks about how beauty should be perceived based on what they believe. Compared to the fighters of previous generations, they do not have strong reasoning that invite women to jump in and support them as such perception on beauty, for example, is defined differently. Whereas idea of being able to vote in an election is a desire of collective female group. Therefore the movement is irrelevant, especially for mature Javanese women.

Alison J. Muray once stated that instead of isolating themselves, Javanese people are able to put some distance between its own values from external influences (Murray, 1994). This is seen from how Javanese deal with many global cultures, especially Western, that they do not fully accept. Javanese still have their strong cultures, which they look up, in facing dynamic and modern era.

* * *

REFERENCES

 Endraswara, S. (2003). Falsafah hidup Jawa (Cet. 1. ed.). Tangerang: Cakrawala. Feminism. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 30, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Handayani, C. S., & Novianto, A. (2004). Kuasa wanita Jawa (Cet .1. ed.). Yogyakarta: LKiS :.

Kuswandini, D. (n.d.). The rise and fall of Indonesia’s women’s movement . The Jakarta Post. Retrieved November 30, 2013, from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/04/21/the-rise-and-fall-indonesia%E2%80%99s-women%E2%80%99s-movement.html

Modern Feminism. (n.d.). U.S. History. Retrieved November 30, 2013, from http://www.ushistory.org/us/57a.asp

The Three Waves of Feminism. (n.d.). Pacific. Retrieved November 30, 2013, from http://www.pacificu.edu/magazine_archives/2008/fall/echoes/feminism.cfm


[1] Prijaji is addressed to those who performed administration staff during colonial era in Indonesia. They lived close to central government. They had opportunity to study, therefore they were more educated (Geertz, 1976)

NOTE: The essay above was a short version of anthropology paper I made :)

Ignorance

Around 5 pm. Jakarta.

Jakarta looked like a battlefield during these rush hours. White tie workers, blue tie ones, students, and commuters shared same mission, to fight for early home arrival. While other transportation got stuck on heavily loaded road, Trans Jakarta was swinging so smoothly on their private way. From one stop to another, from Kota to Blok M, the bus never once got its space empty at these hours. It even loaded more passengers than its capability quite sometimes. Passengers fully filled whole area; from driver’s corner to the last seat row. Men and women, elders and kids. Once a person got up from his or her seat, those who stood around would quickly run for it.

“Dukuh Atas! Dukuh Atas! Anybody else, Dukuh Atas?”

The doors were then closed once nobody stepped out from the bus at Dukuh Atas halt anymore. There are three doors on the bus. Only some halts provide entrance for three doors at once, the rest only facilitate entrances for one or two doors.

It was already two stops after Dukuh Atas. Sound of wooden cane tapped along the bus hall was suddenly heard. A man who was found to be blind tried hard to walk from the middle door to the first door. It was difficult for him to walk along the so crowded hall. With one hand tapping the cane and the other tried to touch familiar things, he struggled.

Nobody seemed to notice. Some actually did but preferred to act like they did not see, perhaps. None tried to give a way. Tens were too busy listening to their MP3s and checking their mobile phones. The rest just starred at the around 50 years old man while sticking at their position. Probably bus hangers were that ‘precious’ so they had to hold it tight and stand still to prevent others take theirs.

It was not long until a workingman in his white shirt realized this went so wrong. “Move aside, please! Give a way to this man!” he shouted. He held the hand of the blind man and gave help. Seconds after, people around miraculously eased him, giving way so he could step to front much easily. “Where are you going, Sir?” asked another man who was close to the first door. Passengers around the two weirdly started to pay attention in sudden. “Dukuh Atas actually,” the blind man answered with a smile shaped on his face. “Ahhh.. you just missed ittt,” another man responded. The blind man replied with nothing but silence. He still put a smile upon his face. His expression shared clearly what he felt, implicitly it stated how disappointed and confused at the same time he was. It seemed like smiling was the only thing he could do. Perhaps if it could be translated, it would be a kind of “Oh well, I missed it..” expression and accepting act wrapped in one. “Sir, you can step down at the next stop and take busway from other direction. Three stops,” another man who also stood near him gave his advice.

The bus arrived at the next halt. Doors were opened again. The blind man stepped out with help from several passengers near the door. A young man with a backpack on his back assisted him to the opposite entrance, the one for buses from other direction.

Seconds after the touching scene, gate was closed.

The red and orange colored bus continued its journey to the next stop, carrying the seemed-to-be-busy passengers.

Pickpockets in Europe

I planned to travel around Europe after my study was finished on December. During the journey, I got my handbag stolen in Cologne, Germany. It was rough time since everything I planned did not go as expected. Well, another lesson to learn, I believe.

Here are some points I learn that I want to share. Hope that these can be useful for you.

  1. Before traveling, it is better to search for crimes info in the area.
    1. Business suit. A Turkish salon owner in Frankfurt told me that immigrants from Hungary and some other countries have business suits as their outfit. Some dye their hair blonde to make them look like Germans. They look very neat, so people will not have a thought that they might be criminals.
    2. Cities with high crimes rate. Some people from the salon owner, some staffs of embassy, and some friends I just knew days ago in Frankfurt told me that pickpockets are centralized in some areas in Germany, such Frankfurt, Koln, and Dusseldorf. But still, that do not make some other places are ‘safer’.
    3. Grouping. The criminals are usually in a group. When one distracts a victim, the other one takes the victim’s property and pass it to the other one and other one and other one. So they are difficult to track. Not talking to suspicious stranger might be the best thing to avoid this case happens to you.
    4. CCTV. Some public areas do not have CCTV. When I was at a platform in Cologne, there was no CCTV so it is difficult to capture the suspect unless you can describe the face of the person in detail to the police.
    5. The pickpockets are really damn quick. A friend of my relative got her handbag stolen when she was in restaurant in Prague. The handbag was actually only hung on her seat. A girl I met at Indonesian consulate got her handbag stolen when she was sleeping in the train to Frankfurt. One Erasmus friend also got her backpack stolen in Czech train. The other one found her suitcase stolen from a train from Prague. A single woman and her little daughter I also met at Indonesian consulate were in the wrong train so they had to move one suitcase quickly out of the train. When they returned for her backpack, it was also gone. Do not let your belongings out of your sight!

We never know what will happen. These are things that we better prepare and/or know so that if such unfortunate event, you know what to do.

  1. Split your money and put them in two different wallets. Put one wallet inside your handbag and hide the other one inside your suitcase. So if one of the two gets stolen, you still have some money that can support you to make a move.
  2. Minimize the amount of cash you bring. Withdraw more or use your cards if it is not enough.  I think this is better so that if your wallet is stolen, there will be not so much money you lose. But do not forget to block your cards as quick as possible.
  3. Never put your items out of your sight! It does not matter where you put your cell phone, camera, and others. Collect them in one place. Handbag is usually favorable because it is more flexible to take them out when you need them.
  4. Copy all of your documents more than a time. Put them in different bag and luggage you bring. Passport, visa, flight ticket, identity card, and insurance document are some that matter. Although I got temporary passport from consulate, I still got in trouble when I had to pass the immigration officer in the Frankfurt airport knowing that I did not copy my visa before. I had to wait until there was notification from immigration officer in Prague that I had the visa. Unless you want to wait, which also means that you probably can miss your flight, you better copy it.
  5. The existence of Facebook, email, and other social media is a blessing. When you get your belongings stolen and you do not have any money, you can contact your relatives to ask for help. There are many ways to use Internet there. Wi Fi is easy to find. Even when you lose your phone and laptop, you can simply go to McD and borrow their public computers. Or well, I believe there are some other tricky ways, like going to the Apple Store and so on. It is much better if you memorize the phone number of your mother/ father/ relatives that can give financial support. Calling is much faster. I believe police station will let you borrow their phone.
  6. If it is financial support that you need, Western Union is the best method to get your money quick. As I remember, I took my money in Western Union in Frankfurt an hour after my mother sent the money through Western Union in Indonesia.

I do not know what else I can suggest but I think the points mentioned above already clarify the most important steps. Money is the real deal. Once you get it, you can start to ‘move’, from going to the closer consulate when your passport is stolen to paying ‘extra’ of your airline ticket when you have to change the departure country. Well, just pray that this kind of unfortunate event will never happen to you. Hope this does help J