a day at the cemetery

If this was your average Indonesian cemetery, I wouldn’t last an hour here. But a Dutch cemetery, at more than two centuries old, replete with angel statues watching over the graves, well is there anything more romantic than that? (wait, don’t answer that, I can think of a few places more romantic already … but you get my point … right?).

Anyway, this time it was with the girls of the No. 1 Ladies’ Photography Club, all photography enthusiasts just learning the ropes. We were going to start at 7 a.m. to catch the warm morning sun, but then changed to a more realistic 9 a.m. start. Even then, when we finally started off it was already 11-ish, one of the girls had a domestic crisis to take care of before she could leave the house!

The first time I was here at Museum Taman Prasasti, if you remember was in July when I went with my tutor, and at the time I was a little wistful that I couldn’t spend more time there taking pictures. Surprise, surprise, when I came back on Thursday, that urge to take photographs of the place had greatly diminished! … Perhaps also due to the fact that the place was mosquito infested and I was wearing the wrong clothes (shorts and short-sleeved shirt) – fodder for the blood-thirsty insects!

So please take a look at the results here. And once again, please don’t hesitate to criticize.

it’s all birds

It is a determined man who visits Taman Mini Indonesia Indah’s (TMII) bird park early in the morning alone to hunt photos. There was one such man when I went to visit the park with my friend this morning. He was walking with his Canon DSLR around his neck all by his lonesome, taking occasional pictures when we were.

Yes, the bird park was my destination for the day, a very typical place to hunt photographs, nevertheless it’s a great place to practice shooting fast moving birds. I think the last time I went there was in my college days, also on a photo hunt, though I can’t now remember what camera I took that day (definitely film), or whether the results were any good (probably not).

So we arrived at TMII just before 8 a.m. and the park were full of early morning walkers doing a little shopping. Shopping? You ask? Well apparently there is a morning bazaar inside the park on Sundays, with vendors selling anything from plastic sandals, T-shirts, colorful toys, batik pyjamas, and food – of course food. I could have gotten loads of pictures just from people browsing the bazaar, but our destination was the bird park, so I saved my 8GB SD Card for that.

There were two bird parks at TMII actually, both can be accessed with one Rp 10,000 (about US$1) entrance ticket. The old one was opened in 1978 by then President Soeharto. There were no information on when the new park was opened. We went to the new park first, simply because it was opened much earlier than the old park. We also found, later on, that the new park have more variety and number of birds than the old park – which was being prepared to house Maleo birds from Sulawesi.

I had a sneaking suspicion that the birds at the park were already so over exposed, that most were actually preening and posing for shots. Take the peacock for example. When we came in, he never gave us a glance, even when we had our lenses trained at him. But lo and behold! When a group of local tourists came with their cameras and camera phone, out comes the fan-like tail … forcing us to come rushing back to get a shot too.

Take a look at the day’s results at my photoblog, and please do criticize. It is through your constructive criticism that I can improve, and I do so want to do better.

Photo hunting in Malang, East Java

Whenever I go back home to Malang, East Java, I am always back to being a child. It is inevitable – my parents sleep early, and I have to come home early so I don’t wake them up in the middle of the night to unlock the door for me, that also goes for callers who feels uncomfortable staying past 7.30 p.m., and I can’t drive myself around (first because I can’t drive, and second) because my dad has control of the car keys.

So it was really awkward last weekend when I came home to go hunting with my (brand new) Nikon D90. My dad drove my mom and I to the Klojen traditional market to pick up some fresh ground coffee, but when I went off to take photographs inside the market (admittedly very picturesque), my mom waited for me instead of doing her business. That and the fact that people were watching us made me give up the marketplace all together.

I would never get any photographs done if that kept on, so when we got to Jalan Semeru to pick up some pia, I took leave and said I would walk home alone.

So I went walking through Jalan Semeru, passed Jalan Bromo where I saw some elementary school children playing soccer, onto Jalan Kawi where I saw some people promoting for a new mobile phone number (0821). From there I went onto Jalan Ijen towards the Brawijaya Military Museum, pausing along the way to say hello to a woman cutting grass with a hair scissors (yes, I know! She said her boss was a bit stingy).

I’ve heard about the Brawijaya Military Museum being pretty impressive, but I must say I was a little disappointed with how they managed the displays. As the usual norm in museums across this country, it was more about storage rather than display, or even history. There were guns, tanks, punch-card computers, and even a train carriage, but little in the way of a storyline.

  • Death carriage: said to be one of three such carriages used by the Dutch to transport Indonesian rebel prisoners from Bondowoso Jail to Bubutan Jail in Surabaya in 1947. Some 46 prisoners died on the way because there was little air in the closed carriage.
  • De Soto: automobile belonging to Col. Soengkono for his official use as Commander of the 4th Narotama and Brawijaya Divisions between 1948 and 1950.
  • Amphibious Tracker: Amtrak used by 35 young patriots of the student military (TRIP Jatim TNI Brigade 17 Detasemen I) who died for their country defending Malang City from the Dutch Army during the 1st military aggression on July 31, 1947.

Not long after, my mom called to ask if I was ready to be picked up (yes, I know). So I finished my sightseeing at the museum and walked towards the church, also on Jalan Ijen, where I saw this man selling fermented fruits (Mr. Manisan). I bought some fruits and asked permission to take his photograph. After which we went to lunch at nearby Ikan Bakar Cianjur restaurant (hunger pangs). We were surprised when we learned that our bill had been paid by the people on the next table, who turned out to be a former student of my dad’s. A pleasant surprise that gave us free lunch!

After lunch, and while waiting for my dad to finish his class, I went around Brawijaya University. That was when I met some of the university’s Kenshi (Kempo athletes) practicing (practice, in formation, practicing kenshi). They very nicely let me take photographs while they practice. Unfortunately by that time, the sun had already begun its descent and I had to crank up the ISO to avoid camera shake.

I was lucky the next day that my old friend from senior high school had come home for his junior high school reunion. He accompanied me for some night-time hunting. We started our walk at Tugu, the war memorial that is the landmark of Malang city. It was the first time for me to shoot at low lighting and I found it difficult.

I didn’t want to crank up the ISO, and so had to use a tripod (thanks for the hand-me-down dad!). When there was still light, the memorial wasn’t all too “memorable” and I really didn’t know how to make it any better. My fumbles with the camera’s mechanisms also cost me some good opportunities – of men working on digging for Telkom’s cables is one. I also found that you need to practice with using the tripod even. Auto focus in the dark was bad, but even worse when I tried manual focus. The beautiful full moon keeps looking like it’s bleeding, and getting the right exposure to catch light trails seem an elusive goal (moon gazing, legendary). Ah, I’ve still got a long way to go.

Moving on to the center of the city – the alun-alun – I was very glad of the able company. Not only did Mas Heru provide good conversation, he also provided security and was useful in helping me set up (and carry) the tripod. Thanks Mas! I would never have had the guts to go up the pedestrian crossing to shoot Ramayana, or even ventured into the alun-alun itself to catch Saturday Night without him there. And seeing the two of us set up the tripod and take pictures, some foreign tourists also got up the courage to follow suit!

Anyway, that was my first venture with my (brand new) Nikon D90. I really hope to make better pictures as I get more familiar with the camera. I am definitely learning from reading the exif of the results. To help me progress, please criticize constructively!

the best part

I guess the best part about being a journalist was the travel and the meeting different people all the time. The personal stories you collect over the years, the connections you make in far flung places, it is quite amazing. I am not a very social person, but as a journalist I was forced out of my little shell and interact with all kinds of people – the business types, the politicos, the man on the street, everyone. Working in communications, this experience has been very useful for me, although I don’t meet as many diverse people now, which is a shame really.

I don’t miss the running around after “narasumber”, or phoning up sources in the middle of their massages (yes that happened, such a nice man to pick up the phone in the middle of it, on a weekend too!), but I do miss the human stories. I loved listening to people’s stories and getting it on paper. It doesn’t take much, everybody has a story they want to share and it only takes receptiveness to get it out. It was always a challenge to get something out of a famous person that had never been written before. Sometimes though, you find a person already so well publicized, but who are so ready to tell you his/her story, that it felt a little like giving them a blowjob. I hated it when that happens.

I also miss having someone call me up to ask whether “that street children group has a refrigerator at its basecamp?” and you just know that nice man is going to donate a fridge. Or that occasional phone call “will you write my biography?”

I’ve always said that if I don’t have a 9-to-5 job I’ll most likely procrastinate the days away … that may be true, but there is nothing I’d like better than to write the human stories … someday, when I no longer have a 9-to-5.

for whom the bell tolls

“Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne (1572-1631), Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII: Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris

School reunions

I hate going to school reunions. I would even make up wild stories just so I can get out of one (can’t make it, sorry, am moving to Hong Kong next week!). Unless of course the invitation clearly states “alum only, no children allowed”. Unfortunately, I have yet to receive such an invitation.
It’s not because I resent the (smug .. naa just kidding) marrieds, or envy them their kids. But because of the inevitable conversation – or variations of the conversation – below:

Married: Hi! It’s great seeing you! What are you doing these days?
Singleton: Well, I’m …
M: ANNIE!! Get off your brother!! What did I tell you about behaving in front of strangers?!?
S: ….
M: I’m sorry. Kids you know (rolling eyes). What was that you said?
S: I’m actually …
M: NO Jack! NO! That’s dirty! Diiirrrrrttttyyyyy!!!! (runs over to Jack)
S: Well, lovely to see you again (stroll off)
M: (distractedly) Yes, we must catch up sometimes … Stop that! STOP! Mummy’s angry at you …. (sound fades)

Or, if the spouse was actually also your school mate, somewhere in the above dialogue (probably after Diiirrrrrttttyyyyy!!!!):

Married: Mas, WILL you please help with Annie?
Spouse: Yes, dear (picks up Annie). Hey there S! You look great, married yet?
Singleton: No, no, not yet (force smile)
Married: Look she’s got food all over her dress, that will never wash off!
Spouse: It’s not that bad … Look I’ll just get a tissue paper there (walk off)
Married: No, no, you’ll only make it worse (walk off)
Singleton: ….

Eventually, the singleton will be standing there alone, the only one who’s realized that the school reunion has become a family outing with focus – instead of reminiscing over old times and catching up – on competitions for the kids and pony rides.

On a flip-side, I just remembered what another singleton told me once: that reunions are also a horor for stay-at-home mums. They fear of being asked about their jobs, and had to contend with “I’m a housewife” while their former playmates say:

“I’m a partner at lawfirm A”,
“I’m a director at company B”,
“I save whatever with NGO C”.

So, what is it with us women? Or do men have the same fears of school reunions?

Dreams come true

It only took a matter of days for my latest wish to come true.
It was the end of the Idul Fitri holidays and I was reluctant to go back to Jakarta and to work. Well, what do you know, only half a day back at work when my holiday was extended to another three days … extended by my doctor that is, who ordered me to rest until the acute respiratory tract infection (ISPA for my Indonesian friends) that was causing all the coughing, wheezing, ear ringing, throat flaming, bone aching and flashing head pains, improve.

This brought to mind my other wish that came true.

I remember dreaming of a little house all of my own, where I can home each night from work. It doesn’t matter that the house was dark when I get home, because it would be all mine, and I could do whatever I want in it. It would have to be small so I could maintain it on my own. I wouldn’t be lonely there at all since it would be my home, my palace, my refuge, and I didn’t want to share this luxury with anyone … at least not for a couple of years.

Three years ago I got myself a nice property on the outskirts of Jakarta. It’s all mine. And when I come home from work each evening the lights are always on — I made sure to install a light-sensored bulb on the front porch!

God has an odd sense of humor, and we mere mortals are never satisfied with what we have.
Be careful of what you wish for.