April 17, 2013

A flower, a smile and an endearing touch

Some friends asked me why I loved to travel so much.
I answered,"Travel reinforces my faith in humanity."

During my recent Japan trip, I went to a little suburb town to watch a local taiko performance (Japanese traditional drummers). I am kinda sure that I was the only foreigner present there, thanks to my Japanese friend who found this performance for me.

Long story short, after the performance I got a huge beautiful flower bouquet from the drummers. Since I was carrying my backpack, still having to find my way around the subway jungle and having a zero sense of aesthetic appreciation anyway, I gave the flowers to a beautiful passing by grandma wearing a kimono and her grandson with down syndrome.

The grandma smiled so sweetly and started talking to me in Japanese, and there I was frantically waving my hand saying "Nihhonjin janai." (I am not a Japanese). Then she smiled and said "Thank you."
The grandson, seeing his grandma's smile, looked at me very intensely and started talking incoherently to me. I smiled at him, understanding nothing. Suddenly he took my hand in his and held it for some time.

Pure cuteness :)

Little kindness, beautiful strangers. Those things that matter :)

April 16, 2013

March 21, 2013

Falling in love

I forgot how beautiful my country is..

Krakatau, Pelabuhan Ratu, Situ Patengan Lake, Kawah Putih, Bali
Photos stolen from John and Tony

March 19, 2013

Just another unimportant thought

I just came back from visiting my best cousin and her one year old daughter, Clara.

This little angel lives in a very nice house in a nice neighborhood with several cars and a golden retriever. She is showered with love by her warmhearted parents, having imported german baby food and nutrition, attending the best multilingual school, simply said having the best education her parents can provide. She will probably inherit her dad's property and assets as well. In short, you can say she's a lucky girl whose future looks bright. As some cynical friends would say,"An upper class princess" :)

On the same day, I was having a late dinner with friends at a street side stall around 11 pm and there came a beggar lady carrying her child who was fast asleep. I couldn't help but think,"Why is this kid still out at this hour, on the street? He should be asleep at home." I thought of little Clara I just hugged 12 hours ago, who must be asleep in her cozy fluffy bed, hugging her favorite pink furry blanket.

The other kid will probably grow up on the street, lacking of education, maybe even the bare necessities, unable to have the privilege Clara will have in her life. The chance of the street kid being able to escape the poverty is not that big. What choice does he have? He has a mother who begs for a living, will grow up in a poor environment, where education is not a necessity. Who can we blame if staying alive is difficult enough? It's a vicious circle, poverty, lack of education, no good job. It's really sad, how Clara probably won't know what poverty is, being equipped with the proper education her parents can provide, whereas the beggar kid probably won't know either what it's like to be chauffeured around to school or to play with a golden retriever in his own backyard.

Their fate is sealed at birth. And you still wonder why I don't believe in a fair and just god?

Apropos religious faith, a christian friend once snapped at me,"Why aren't you grateful to God? You're so lucky and yet here you are, an atheist!"
"Well, I'm not claiming that there's no god. That's the definition of an atheist. I'm more of an agnostic: I do not know. And if you call me an atheist, you are one as well. There are so many gods in the history of human civilization, you are atheistic towards Ra and Zeus, aren't you? Why can't I be atheistic towards your Yahwe? And yes I'm lucky, but about others who aren't as lucky as me?"

She: "God has his own justice we will never understand."

Me: "You say so because you're high and mighty, we are international students in Germany. What about those children in war who can't go to school? Or maybe died in a bombing? Or those child soldiers who are forced to leave school, to kill and to rape?"

She: "They have a choice. Those child soldiers have the choice to say no and just let the warlords kill them. If they choose to be alive and kill others then it's their own risk and ignorance. And how do you know that those children who die in the bombings aren't happy? Maybe it's better for them to be in heaven."

I stared at her unbelievingly. WE can say some sh*t about choices, standing on a high pedestal, having choices ourselves. We are the privileged, who do indeed have choices. And other people are ignorant because they choose the only way they know?

I used to call this christian girl 'an ignorant git' which I'm not proud of.. She didn't know any better, she's a privileged girl who has it easy in life. Not her fault. And I'm not right either. In a way, maybe she's somewhat right. Let me explain.

There are always people who have it better and worse than us in life.
I had beautiful rich people stroking me, saying,"Aww, poor you.. You have to go through so many surgeries? You have constant back pain? You can't wear high heels?"
The "aww" goes on and I don't mind :)

Whereas there are also many people telling me how lucky I am, having the chance to have a better education, travel all around, having many people who love me, etc.

It really depends from which perspectives you're looking from.
As for me, I see myself as a very lucky girl. I can't really relate to those people who are saying "poor Wi". Of course I can understand where they're coming from. But I never see myself as a 'poor' girl.
I used to complain about the surgeries I had to go through until one day when I was around 13 years old, my dad just drove me home from the hospital and I was pouting in the car, and he suddenly pointed out at a beggar on the street, unable to walk, and said,"That was you." It turned out he has the same medical condition as I do, and there he was out on the street and there I was, sitting comfortably in a car, having my medical conditions surgically corrected and expensive medical bills paid by my hardworking dad. From that day on, I stopped complaining, and somewhat stopped believing in the god I was raised to believe in. From my point of view, he's not just nor good. Why can I afford expensive surgery costs and why can't the beggar on the street? Don't get me wrong. This is not bitterness. I've stopped asking a long time ago and embraced the fact that it's not mine to know.

Anyway, maybe, just maybe, my friend was right in some way.. Maybe those children don't really see themselves as pitiable. Maybe it's just me wearing my pink lenses who pity and deem them as less fortunate than I am. Just as some people see me as less fortunate than they are.

I think it all boils down to one thing. Maybe if we all can think of ourselves as lucky enough, then we all can still smile in spite of poverty, illness, etc.

Ah, but what do I know? Just as the great Socrates once said,"Scio me nihil scire". I don't know. I really do not know.

March 13, 2013

We're fools whether we dance or not

so we might as well dance !

About death

A friend and I were talking about how we love Disney's the Lion King. "Hakuna Matata! Ain't no passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of your day, it's our problem free philosophy, hakuna matata!"

Then he mentioned that he disliked the fact that Simba was singing this song a day after his father died. "I would be so sad."

To this I answered,"But death is a natural part of life. People come and go, life goes on."
He stared at me unbelievingly, "Oh wow, I can't believe you just said that."

Ok, sue me. I'm heartless.
I will be very sad as well when my dad passes away. He's the love of my life. (Notice the 'when' not 'if'. I intentionally chose the word as death is a certainty anyway.) But if I can let go in a day, I will. Not meaning any disrespect to him, but this is certainly what he himself wants. 

Many years ago my weird dad had told me what to do when he passes away. Where he wants to breathe his last breath out, the procession, etc. Initially I protested and complained, but he said,"This will happen sooner or later. Nothing to be afraid of nor avoided. You need to know this, this information is necessary." So I shut up and listened.

I told my dad about my conversation with this friend and he laughed. He made me proud by stating the words I knew he would say anyway. "Life goes on. Let go."
So yea, if I can dance a day after he passes away,  I will certainly make him proud :) *though I seriously doubt if I can.

Another friend asked me if I wanted to watch Habibie & Ainun, a supposedly very beautiful love story about our former president and his wife. I said no. I admit, I am judging a book by it's cover here, but when I saw the trailer of the movie, the president was crying beside the deathbed of his wife,"Ainun, don't leave me."
I know this sounds normal and touching, but I thought to myself, why are we so selfish? Why can't we let our loved ones go in peace, trying to hold on to them eventhough it doesn't necessarily make them happy, only so that we won't experience pain of losing. I've read that many cancer patients at their final stage have actually embraced death peacefully, what makes it difficult for them is the crying family, not wanting them to go. It becomes a heavy burden for the patients, making them feel like a culprit for leaving their families behind.

As for me personally, if I have to lose my loved ones, be it because of death or move, I will send them off gracefully. "Thank you for the beautiful moments we have shared, you have enriched my life. Good bye."
And if I'm the one who have to leave my loved ones, I hope they will dance to the beat of reggae, enjoy a dry good wine and make a great bonfire out of me :)

March 4, 2013

About giving and receiving

I have an aunt who always rejects every gift people want to send her. Her excuse is that she doesn't want to burden people and 'owe' people anything. At the first glance, it looks like independence, but as I see it, she's blocking people's happiness.

I, on the other hand, as a backpacker with a decent level of shamelessness, received a lot of kindness (and gifts) from people. When I went backpacking /couchsurfing, I received free bed, free food, sometimes gifts, I got a free huge jar of honey from a bee farm owner in east Europe, a box of strawberries in a hot summer day in Paris, a beautiful shawl in a cold winter night in Seoul, expensive concert tickets, amusement park entrance tickets from people I didn't even know. I call them beautiful strangers :) Once I even got a free express train ride from Berlin to Stuttgart (which would cost me around 100 Euro). Well, I'm cheap, hehe, so I smiled and accepted everything. It's not that I wanted to extort any benefits from others, it's because I know the fact that it's nice to give. I really think we have a natural necessity to give.. Giving brings us happiness and I want the givers to be happy by accepting their kindness.

I believe that we are all somehow connected in a circle. Yes, I owe the beautiful strangers their kindness, thats why I'll pay it forward to other beautiful strangers. Ironic as it is, the more I received, the more I can give.A Parisian strawberry seller who gave me a box of fresh strawberries in a hot summer day prompted me to give my snickers bar to a stranger I saw crying in a berliner subway. The smile on her teary face warmed the dim subway compartment. The free dinners I received made me buy a cheese burger for a hungry old homeless man. The free tickets I got made me give away my unused subway tickets to strangers wanting to buy their tickets at the machines.And it goes on in the circle.

Once I organized a donation for an orphanage, I literally asked my friends to give, pestering them and extorting money from them. And they smiled, hugged me and said "Thank you for giving me a chance to give." It made me realize, we DO have a necessity to be kind and give.As I see it, the most depressed people are those who are self centered and always wanting to receive/take.

A while ago, I read a story about Dalai Lama when he was still in Tibet. He used to travel to poor villages, accompanied sometimes by international journalists. During his travels, he always received gifts from people. Once he was in a very poor village, and an old lady, wearing torn off clothes gave him a skirt. The american journalist burst out in anger and told him,"You live in a golden palace, why did you receive this gift from this poor old lady who's in a much worse condition than yours? You preached about compassion and kindness, and what is this??"
Dalai Lama answered,"Yes, But that woman needed to give me the skirt more than she needed to wear it."

I used to refuse my mom's gifts as she likes to shower me with expensive things: diamonds, pearls, branded bags, etc, which I don't need. But then I thought to myself, maybe this is how she shows her love to me. So a few weeks ago, when she bought me a Tiffany bracelet, I smiled, hugged her and said thank you. 

In our society, we were always taught that we should give and not receive. But have we ever thought of enabling people to give? Making them feel happy by receiving their gifts, accommodating their needs, instead of our own ego/ 'independence'? 

March 3, 2013

Loving yourself

I went for coffee with a girlfriend a few days ago. She told me she recently joined a meditation group. She used to think she always had a problem in her love life.. She jumped from one guy to another guy, crushing on them and having her heart broken many times. She told her meditation guru about her problem and he said something that shook her to the core. "You know what your problem is? You don't love yourself."

Now she has learned to love herself, accepting herself.. She smiled beautifully and said,"I used to try to impress people by dressing up, coming up with witty lines. But now I realize, I don't need to be as pretty as a model, or as smart as you, Wi. I am special in my own way and I don't care what people think about me. "

The moment she said that, I replied,"I'm so glad you're finally there, girl. Welcome to insanity."

I can relate so much to her.
I didn't know how to love myself back then, jumping from one relationship to another. I couldn't stay single for more than a few months. My self worth depended on people who loved me.
Because I didn't know how to be happy with myself, I relied on others to make me happy.. thus setting up expectations and forced people to comply to a set guideline "How to make Wi happy". And guess what, I was not happy either, I was disappointed all the time.

Now that I've learned to love myself, I am happier than ever. I don't rely on other people to make me smile anymore. I sing and dance to the music coming from within, not caring about what people think about me. And the funny thing is that I start to love everyone unconditionally.. You can be as idiosyncratic as you can be, say mean things, and I won't hold grudges against you and will still accept you as you are.
"You are who you are, it is what it is". Everything/ everyone is actually ok as it is, the one who puts label on everything is me. The moment I stop judging and trying to change things, everything falls perfectly in it's place.

Now I understand the meaning of the phrase "Love sets free". I won't hold on to people, forcing them to stay to make me feel happy or complete. As a matter of fact, I am complete, with or without them. Everyone (just like me) deserves to be happy as well, with or without me. Love is not blind, it sees (with utmost transparency) but does not judge, nor does it mind.

A dear friend asked me,"Can I be like you? Just be myself, happy with myself and not caring about other people's opinions?"
I asked back,"Are you still afraid of losing someone you love? Have you learned to let go?"
He: "Yes, of course Im afraid of losing. Who doesn't? Isn't that normal?"
Me: "Love wishes others the best, whatever it is. Fear of losing is ego, possessiveness."
He: "I've lost someone I loved. Define letting go."
Me: "Letting go is accepting everything that had happened, without blaming anyone (esp not yourself), and sincerely wishing that someone who had hurt you his/her happiness.. With or without you. No grudges whatsoever"
He: "Can you?"
Me: "Yes I can."

When I stated "Yes I can", I realized, I am there :)

Now that I'm enjoying the company of myself, funny thing happens. My friends request my company, and strangers want to get to know me.
Loving yourself doesn't mean you're being arrogant and narcissistic, it only means you have the capability of loving others just as you love yourself..I am beautiful in my own way, and so are you all :)

February 21, 2013

Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?

Who doesn't know her? Frida Kahlo.

Most of her paintings are self portraits.
"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best"

The pop trend depicts her as a brave, feisty victim/heroine, broken down by tragedy after tragedy.  Contracting polio at the age of 6, a fatal accident which led to a numerous surgeries, lifetime pain and complication, troubled marriage of 25 years to Diego Rivera, an renowned mural artist and a notorious womanizer. Diego was well known for being incapable of fidelity, having said,"It's just a fuck. I've given more affection in a handshake.", had numerous extramarital affairs, even with Frida's younger sister.
She is the epitome of tragedy, victim of fate and male oppression, yet remains strong and tries to live life to the fullest extent.

Being physically impaired and having numerous surgeries myself, I can relate to her very much. I love her fire, strength, optimism, and passion for life. But I would say she's a masochist, when it comes to heartache. She couldn't say no the the surgeries and pain, but she could've actually done something about Diego. But yet, as a supposedly strong woman, she begged for Diego's love, was promiscuous herself, went through some unnecessary surgeries to have his attention, and in the end was addicted to alcohol and drugs to suppress her physical and emotional pain.

"There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst."

Dear Frida, I do admire you a lot, but Diego isn't an accident. It's your choice. You could've removed yourself from the situation, why did you choose to torture yourself? Love?

Ah well, it doesn't affect the fact that she's a great artist, anyway.
Out of all her paintings, I love this one the most, it resonates a lot to me.
"Arbol de la Esperanza, Mantente Firme" : "Tree of hope, remain strong."

She painted this self portrait after a blotched surgery.
At day she was fragile, slumped on the surgery table with open wounds, but at the end of the day, there she was, sitting upright, proud and confident with her hands holding a spine corset she hoped to throw away and a flag saying "Tree of hope, remain strong."


Pain, represented by nails piercing her entire body. The biggest nails represent the most severe pain, which is her heart.
Broken spine.
Head held high.
This is my favorite part: showing her sense of humor, she painted doves of peace in the pupils of the eyes.

When the art critics called her a surrealist, she answered,"I never painted dreams or nightmares. I painted my own reality." 

And when her leg had to be amputated, she wrote in her diary:
"Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?"

Dali's Elephants

Those who have ever been to my tiny apartment in Leipzig must have seen this Dali's repro hung on my wall.
Some commented that this painting depressed them, it is bleak, deserted and empty. Why would I hang this painting in the middle of my room?  

They are right in a way, this does look depressing at a first glance, but I have a different feeling when I look at this absurdly surrealistic painting. I don't see emptiness there, I see imagination, difference, sky of possibilities. I see a beautiful sunset sky, opening up the the horizon. And look at the elephants, they are touching the sky.. They aren't supposed to be that high, are they? They're supposed to roam the ground, having huge heavy legs.. But look at them here, they aren't 'normal' elephants, they are different, that's why they can soar despite the heavy obelisks they're carrying on their backs. 
Look closely at the people on the ground, they look like robots.. They are 'normal', complying to the set standards, yet so far from reaching the beautiful sunset sky.  
Fyi, this painting was inspired by Bernini's sculpture of elephant and obelisk at the Roman church Santa Maria sopra Minerva (St Mary above (conquering) Minerva). I was there, hehe.

I've always loved Dali. He is so absurd, so original, he challenged the norms of normality. In his 'persistence of memory' I see how he changes the strict concept of time into melting clocks, representing the idea that time can be flexible, maybe incorporating Einstein's theory of relativity. 

February 18, 2013

If you were to die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?

"He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Most of us don't really know what we really want in life, what really matters and what makes us happy. Some think that owning a Hummer and a shiny Rolex is an achievement, others think being a high flying CEO matters much. Nothing wrong with that surely, passion and ambition are what makes us feel alive.

One day a friend asked me out of sudden,"If you were to die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?" Maybe people will give out different answers, but I answered,"I would surround myself with people I love, my family and friends." I can't thank him enough for waking me up. Now I know what matters most for me.

My mom is currently refusing to sit at a same table to dine with us (my dad and me), because she feels ignored. Once we were dining out with her, my dad and I talked about business and religion, something she's not interested in. Since then she refuses to eat together with us and prefers to watch her korean drama during dinner time. It is actually sad how holding the grudges makes her miss some important moments. I can only think to myself,"This moment will not last forever. Someday we won't be able to sit around a table to have dinner anymore, why won't we make the best of it while we still can?" But if it makes her tick, then ok. I am not she, will never understand either. As of now, I will cherish every moment I have with the people I love, refusing to regret it only when it's too late.

The question also helps me a lot in letting go of some minor annoyances. If I die tomorrow, does getting angry over ___ (fill in the blank) really matter?

Just a thought.

February 17, 2013

The king's three questions

1. When is the most important time? Now
2. Who is the most important person? The person you are with
3. What is the most important thing to do? To do good to the person you are with

A short story by Tolstoy
Complete literature here:
The king's three questions - Tolstoy

I wish most people who are so absorbed in their smart phones while having quality time with their friends or families would read this ;) It's a pity how many times I saw a family or a group of friends, sitting at the same table but don't really talk to each other and are busy with their own phones.