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.

lost ideals

I’ve forgotten how long it’s been since I’ve stopped looking at my work as the path to making a mark on the world – a way to make sure that a part of me is left behind when I leave this existence.

Nowadays it’s difficult to be enthusiastic about my work. Not that it’s not exciting or challenging or gratifying … it is all that and more … but more and more I see it as nothing but just a job.

This may come across as ungrateful, since those early days of teaching English, no doubt my career has taken an upward trend. And yet, I seem to find it difficult to be excited about working overtime, to come to work when I’m supposed to be on holiday.

Not that I have anything else to do. None of the excuses of quality time with the family for me. I simply can’t find joy in working when I’m supposed to be resting. Mind you, you won’t find me grumbling when I have to put in more hours at the office or when I have to bring my work home (this last one I prefer) … but I delight in having time off, doing nothing but lie in bed with a good book, or spending time with my playstation 2. I sound like a major geek!

Maybe it’s the age factor? Maybe it’s a yearning of something more from life but not knowing where to find it?

I don’t know where they’ve gone, those lost ideals.

Children’s library abuzz with activity

For many young people, a library, as perfectly put by one author, is nothing more than a tomb for books.

“I even know some university students who are library-phobic — believe it or not — so much so that they go with whatever their lecturers tell them and never look for further references,” said Gola Gong, the pen name of Heri Hendrayana Haris, who is noted for his work of fiction Balada Si Roy (The Ballad of Roy).

“Enliven the library with activities,” he told a recent seminar.

A librarian at a state senior high school in Cilegon, West Java, commented that her efforts — putting comfortable sofas and beanbags in the school library — did not have the desired effect.

“Students just used them to take a nap between lessons,” she told the seminar.

It is not enough for a library to have comfortable chairs, Kompas Information Center manager Sintha Ratnawati responded, it was more important to have literary-based activities to encourage interest in the library.

“Depending on the target audience, various activities can be created based on the available material, such as storytelling, watching documentaries and other films, book discussions, ‘meet the author’, and writing courses,” she said.

Activities based on articles taken from daily newspapers and tabloids, for example, range from sentence-making exercises to spotting new vocabulary. The news can be used as a starting place in storytelling, a geography lesson or a crossword puzzle.

“Newspapers and tabloids are good sources of activity because they present a wide range of subjects — crime, education, health, food — that are up to date, and presented in a variety of formats such as articles, photos and tables,” Sintha explained.

At Gola Gong’s Rumah Dunia (House of the World) activity center in Serang, Banten, children are not only invited to come and enjoy its more than 4,000 books, but to engage in a number of activities.

“Rumah Dunia started out as my own private library, but now I like to call it a community activity center, where reading is but one of many activities,” Gola Gong said.

On Mondays, Rumah Dunia invites visitors to explore the world of books and storytelling, while on Tuesdays, it holds an outdoor drawing class, which is called a tour to increase its appeal to children.

“Drawing tours are one of our most popular activities for children, we get about 50 to 60 children a week,” Gola Gong said.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are set aside for composing stories or poems about daily activities, parents, the home, school, or anything else that interests the child.

The seven-by-five-square-meter stage at Rumah Dunia — located on a one-square-kilometer orchard — is the place to be on Fridays, with children and visitors exploring the theater, while on Saturdays they are invited to express themselves through words or dance.

“Every Sunday, we organize a writing workshop for students, teaching them about journalistic writing, fiction writing, and writing for television,” Gola Gong said, adding that some of the workshop’s graduates were now published authors.

“Librarians often forget their library is just a small part of society, and there are many other activities out there for children.

“They should be more creative by embracing these other activities and organizations, to help children take an interest in books and the library,” he said.