Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blessed Eid!

My family and I celebrated Eid on the 19th August this year. It was another year away from our beloved big family in Lombok. We miss the large gatherings, the home-made traditional food, and the joyful “noise” of our extended family. However, the Eid celebration that took place here in Malacca wasn’t so bad. In fact, I very much enjoyed the small but heart-warming gatherings with our fellow neighbors. We got invited to a couple of meals, each of them treating our taste buds to a variety of unique Malaysian-Indonesian food. Since most of our Indonesian friends here have been in Malaysia for a long time, their taste for food has undergone an interesting transformation. We had the “lemang” plus “gulai”. We tasted various versions of “sambal goreng”.  Then there were “dodol” and pudding and spring rolls and sugar buns… yum…

I love food. It may be my favorite part of gatherings (laughs).

aya makan!

Anyway, the true essence of Eid, for me, is gathering with those who are living close to us: our neighbors. They are the ones who have to cope with our presence everyday and mind our habits with inspiring patience. They are the ones who deserve our attention. So, remember to give them a warm and loving thank you.

depan masjid UTEM *after Eid Prayer at UTEM (Universiti Teknikal Malaysia) Melaka

Maybe this is a bit subjective. I know not everyone will completely agree. Since I frequently have to move homes, I have to get used to rapidly interacting with so many different people. I have to deal with the absence of my big family and sometimes lose touch with them. I cannot meet my best friends often. So when Eid comes, the neighbors and nearby acquaintances come first. We haven’t had a chance to visit Lombok in years (to send the whole family back home will cost a fortune), so only a call or text message replaces our presence in our hometown. It’s a bit sad, but we try to make the most of the moment and pray that we can visit our big family the following year.

makan2 di tante fitri *after a hearty dinner at a friend’s house

I have a lot of hopes for the new year. A new job. A good career. A smart student. A healthier lifestyle. A dutiful daughter. A responsible sister. A better me. I believe they are all achievable. Anything is possible. Miracles happen (some of the goals above do need the help of a miracle or two, hehe…). ^-^



Have a great year ahead, everyone!

Monday, August 13, 2012



I never wanted to cause trouble. I never wanted to be the product of another argument that always ends in silence. It is not the peaceful silence you would cherish if you wanted to think or simply breathe. It’s the painful silence that follows after a devastating hurricane. All that is left is the dust and debris among the ruins of memories and hope.

“You should’ve paid attention to her. You are the mother. Where were you all this time?”

“I do listen. More than you do. You’re away at work for hours and when you come home you do absolutely nothing. Where were you all this time?”

“I make a living for this family. You remember that.”

“Yes, but you can’t leave the burden of being a father on me!”

“I do my part!”

“I spend hours cooking, and cleaning sh*t, and actually being a parent!”

“But you don’t actually listen...”

This is one of the many fights this month. Three days in a row now. My brothers and sisters are away from the scene, taking refuge in their rooms, as usual. Another silence for them. A chunk of guilt from me.

I feel the feelings and emotions raging inside my chest, mixing together into a hot liquid, reeking of anger, sadness, and guilt. It quickly boils and the hot air starts to condense in the corner of my eye. But I refuse to be taken over by even the mildest traces of hysteria. I march into the scene and glare at them coldly.

“I’m going out. I’ll be back when you’re finished.”

I walk out and shut the door behind me. Then I run.

The air is cold. It soothes the burns created by the negative feelings I had kept churning inside of me. I let the wind slap my face as I continue to sprint forwards into nowhere. I pass the square houses with their neat lawns. A dog barks at me ferociously through a locked gate. But everything is a blur. I am making no effort to see. Every sound becomes a distant drone as the words from the fights echo in my ears. I try to shove them away.

Sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you...

The quote from the early years of my childhood suddenly appears among the clutter inside my head. I used to believe in that. It was a shield from the bullies who teased me because of my skin color, because of my attitude... because I was different. I used to think I was special.

But today words are powerful. Some words are evil and can break you quite severely.

A porcelain plate smashes into many sharp pieces. Someone strikes. Curses fill the air. A little boy cries quietly in the corner.

Just run, I told myself. Just keep running. I run faster, hoping that the echoes and images would get left behind, like they always do.

I quicken my pace, letting the scenery become a dark streak of color. The air becomes colder, enunciating the sharp sting of the wind, resisting my attempt to gain velocity. But I conquer my senses and prevail. Distance kindly replaces the footprints behind me.

After what seems like more than an hour of running, I finally slow down to a walk. I am at a familiar street a couple of kilometers away from home. I find a bus stop nearby and sit down to catch my breath.

The street is deserted. It isn’t strange, considering the late hour. I lie down on the seat and gaze at the night sky. It is slightly clouded but I can still see hundreds of brilliant stars scattered across the dark blue background. I wish I knew more about the constellations. If I did, I could occupy the next few hours drawing in the sky.

Minutes pass by and I just stay there, lying on my back, looking into the heavens. I think about the things that make me happy. The homemade orange cake for my 9th birthday. The green rollerblades my father bought for me. The red sailor dress my mother made for me. All of the happy memories came from my childhood. Unfortunately, none came after my early years of adolescence. That’s when I made that mistake. That’s when the fights started.

A small beep interrupts my chain of thoughts. I sit down and take my phone out of my pocket. There is a message from Dad.

We are sorry. Where are you? Let us find you and bring you home.

I press the reply button and type in a few words.

I am at the bus stop at 55 North Avenue.

Then, I press the send button and wait.


Half an hour later, I am in the backseat of our car. Everyone is silent, deep in their own thoughts. I gaze out of the window. It is foggy and I can’t see the outside clearly, so I lower the glass almost all the way. The cold air rushes into the car.

“Close the window, you’ll catch a cold.”

I scroll it up about halfway in response.

“Close it properly.”

“Just let her, she’s been outside for the past couple of hours anyway.”

“I am doing it for her good.”

“You always say that without really thinking about it.”

“What do you mean…?”

“For heaven’s sake, I’ll close the darn window!” I shouted. I scroll it up fully. The brief silence that follows afterwards is colder than the wind outside.

“You should watch your tongue, young lady.”

I don’t reply.

“Just leave her alone. You say worse things.”

“I wouldn’t say such things if I weren’t provoked.”

“Provoked? You have brought it upon yourself!”

“You weren’t a good enough parent! That was the problem!”

“Speak for yourself! You never listen. That’s why she did it…”

“Why do you always blame that on me? She made that mistake because you didn’t pay enough attention!”

“How can I when you’re always screaming at me!”

“Oh, grow up, you as****!”

“F*** you! You…”

I refuse to hear the rest of the words. I can’t believe they are doing this again. They said they were sorry. The thick plasma of feelings erupted inside of me, clouding my logic and senses. I could feel the burning sensation in my eyes. No, I must not be vulnerable. They can never see me weak. I have to escape.

“Shut up! Just shut up!” I yelled.

I pull the lock and open the door. Then, I jump out.

I fall hard onto the asphalt, and roll for a couple of times before coming to a halt, facing sideways in the direction of our car. I hear its tyres screech and doors open. I force myself to get up, to continue my escape from the arguments, never-ending disagreements, and violent fights. I hear them call out to me but I look away. I take my first step shakily. My vision is blurred from the coat of moisture covering my eyes. I shake my head angrily, hating myself for being weak, for succumbing to my feelings, for letting my body betray me.

“Get back in the car!”


“Grow up!”

“You two grow up! In case you have forgotten, I’m around when you are talking about me. I still remember my mistake!”

The words finally spill out. The stench of my guilt overwhelms me as I let the memories of the past fill me to the core.

“I realize it, okay? I have tried to live with it, to go on. But you are constantly fighting and arguing. It’s insane!”

I take a few steps back to steady myself.

“It’s time you two lived with it. It’s time for you to go on.”

I turn around and run. Their voices become blurred, blending with the sound of the wind, and a siren in the distance. In front of me, the road is a dark abyss ready to swallow me up, providing me a means to disappear.

I hear a car honking in the distance. Seconds later, the screech of tyres. Somebody screams. I hear a loud thud before I realize that I am flying through the air, through a beam of white light. Suddenly, time slows down.

A pretty rainbow arches through the beam of light as tiny drops of rain fall down from the sky. It feels nice on my skin; strangely warm compared to the cold air. Warm. It brings back a memory…

“Tell me a story.”

A smaller version of me snuggles under the covers in a cozy-looking bed. A happy couple sits beside me, smiling.

“What story would you like?” Asks one of them.

“A fairy tale with princesses, and fairies, and beautiful castles.”

“And rainbows?”

“And lots of rainbows. And twinkling stars”

They laugh.

“That’s quite a request.”


“All right. Let’s begin. Once upon a time…”

I instantly become very sleepy, my vision beginning to blur and darken. The soothing voice fills my body with warmth.

This is how I like them. This is how they should always be.


With that, I close my eyes.




* Drapetomania, in this context, is an uncontrollable desire to run away. You can see the full definitions in this link

Friday, August 10, 2012

Close Encounters of an Unknown Kind


Goosebumps. I am not referring to the best-selling novel series by R.L. Stine for young readers. I am referring to the peculiar bumps that appear on your skin as a chill runs down your spine. They can be caused by many things: extreme awesomeness, a spiritual awakening, a touching story. But they are more frequently associated with things that are frightening and sinisterly mysterious. Things that hide in the dark and things that live in the dark corners of the imagination...

A while ago, my friend Seagate challenged me to write about a mystical experience. I confess that I have not had the privilege of experiencing anything vividly spiritual, so I will go for the secondary meaning: mysterious and supernatural experiences.  I have decided to narrow it down to some of the mysterious and relatively scary experiences that gave me Goosebumps. Throughout my life, I have had a fair share of frightening or unexplainable occurrences.

A memorable experience is one that, as strange as it sounds, I don’t remember. I only know that it happened. My family was the witness of this event. It occurred on a warm afternoon in our old house in our hometown. I was still in Junior High School. That day, I was sick with the fever and, as usual, trying to free myself from it by copious amounts of sleep. I slept many times a day for a few hours at a time and it usually made me feel better – if I was lucky. At other times, I would be talking in my sleep (also a statement proven by my family) due to a bad dream which was annoyingly repetitive.

Anyway, my family stated that they were sitting casually on the family couch, not doing anything in particular. I suddenly came out of the room I was sleeping in, my clothes disheveled, and in tears, claiming that the TV in the room was on fire. I also claimed that a talk black figure had appeared in the room. They immediately checked the room (those who weren’t afraid, of course) and saw that there was nothing there and the TV was not on fire. Then they tried to console me. Moments later, I fell asleep while my family was reciting verses from the Qur’an by my side.

When I woke up the first thing I told them to do was shut up, haha... When I’m really sick and I have a high fever, I usually have this crazy problem with my senses. It’s like I’m suddenly Spiderman and everything is so loud and bright. The pressure of a soft touch becomes a hard nudge. So, without really comprehending what they were saying, I told them to be quiet. When I was fully awake, I asked them what they were all doing and why I was in a different room. They gave me a brief recount of what had happened and I, rather senselessly, laughed in disbelief. I actually hoped that they would give me a recount of “the black figure”, but no one saw it. My dad confirmed that it must’ve been a hallucination because of my fever and I believed him. Case closed.

Not too scary, right?

Let’s give you another story then.

This experience also occurred when I was in Junior high school. It was in my second year, if I am not mistaken. My friends and I were camping in one of the most beautiful beaches in Lombok. We had been there for a few days, enjoying the warm sunlight and cool sea in the daytime, and sleeping snugly in our tents during the night. One night, we were having a casual talk outside of our tents, enjoying cups of coffee and tea beside a small fire that had been burning pleasantly for a couple of hours. I think it was a few minutes before midnight. Suddenly, some of my friends started screaming and shouting in fright, scrambling to their feet, away from the direction they were just looking at. I looked in that direction and saw the huge tree on the far side of the beach. I didn’t see anything strange, but my friends’ frightened expressions and shouts of “Pocong” were enough to give me Goosebumps. They reported that it appeared under the tree (or was it on one of its huge branches?) and it was moving in our direction. A few seconds later, it suddenly disappeared.

Indonesian people should be very familiar with the term Pocong. I guess they believe it to be a type of ghost dressed in the “kain kaffan” (the white cloth used to wrap the body of the dead before being buried in the ground) so that only the face is visible. In the corresponding horror movies, it is usually a very scary face. It moves by jumping up and down, which is rather comical when you really think about it. Nevertheless, thank Allah I have never had a direct encounter with this frightening character.

Anyway, some of my friends and I checked the grounds and we didn’t see any sign of it. We looked intently at the tree and we still didn’t see anything that might even look like a Pocong. We tried to console our friends who did see it but had little success. That night, we all slept together outside beside the fire.

Haha... all this ghostly talk is giving me the chills right now.

There are some other experiences I can’t really explain. Most of them happened when I was alone and, thankfully, they aren’t too scary. Actually some of them are rather beneficial. There were a few times when I fell asleep too early before doing the Isya prayer. I would find myself waking up in the middle of the night or a few hours before dawn because of a sound. I can’t explain what it is really like. The closest description would be a sigh or a whisper, like someone saying “shhh” to me. I’d immediately wake up, not necessarily afraid, but aware that I had heard something. I would always assume that it was the pipes or the wind. Then I would look at the time. Frequently, I would wake at really odd hours like exactly 3am or one minute before midnight. My first thought would be, cool time. My second thought would be about how weird it was. Then, after dismissing my active imagination, I would conclude that it was either coincidence or I had a really cool sleeping mechanism. After that, I would realize that I hadn’t prayed and a sense of gratefulness would arrive. Maybe God sent an angel to wake me up. Maybe I got a special angel just to wake me up, like a guardian angel. That would be pretty cool. Maybe the sound I had heard was the sound of its wings... etc. My mind can wander. Sorry.

There are times when I enter a new place and get the chills. Have you ever experienced that? It’s like the area has an odd and eerie vibe to it. I suddenly feel like someone, or something, is watching me. Then my imagination goes wild and creates a few scenarios about things that pop up in the dark and things that can go through walls and other solid objects. Then I’d become as twitchy as a cat and scare myself silly. In the end, after nothing strange happens (thankfully), I would conclude that I have watched too many horror movies and my mind would certainly drive me insane if I don’t hammer some sense into it.

At times I can be so logical that feelings have a hard time coming through to keep me humane. Other times, my imagination will conquer all. Meanwhile, I hate the feeling of being scared. It is consuming and prevents me from being productive and effective. I wish the logic would excel in this field.

Several sources have made me believe that ghosts aren’t real. All those frightening creatures are just forms that Jinn and Satan created to disturb humans and destroy their faith. This fact is both food for logic and a consolation for me. I hope this belief doesn’t waver.

I hope I never have any more frightening experiences, as intriguing as they are. My imagination is enough to keep me occupied.

No more horror movies for me, then.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Abduct Me, Please!

Recently, traveling by plane has been too frequent to suit my liking. Due to some important issues that needed to be tended to, I have had to fly to Jakarta and back more than once in a month, which is rather tiring for someone with my circumstances. However, because of it I have finally settled a lot of issues, which is such a blessing that does not deserve my whining and complaining. I guess it is one of the extra blessings that come with this holy month of Ramadan. Have you realized one of the extra blessings you’ve gotten this month?

The purpose of this post is to tell you about the plane ride I just had yesterday on my way back to Malaysia. It was uneventful, very little turbulence (yes, I happen to like the turbulence). The sky was clear with little clouds. It was a perfect day for flying.

Usually I try to sleep through such rides to cancel out my boredom. I often succeed in achieving a nap for an hour or so before I wake up and get ready for the landing. Yesterday, however, I didn’t get much sleep and the plane ride wasn’t exciting at all. Automatically, my mind started to wander away to faraway places.

I was fortunate enough to get a seat right next to the window. I started to imagine what it would feel like to float through those clouds. I saw two different layers of clouds in the sky: the cumulus layer and the cirrus layer. I thought back to the moment in 4th grade when my teacher taught us about the different clouds and why they were that way. Sadly, my brain is too muddled-up to recall those bits of information. I am definitely not smarter than a fifth grader.

I started to think about what could hide in those clouds. I looked long and hard at each cloud until I finally spotted another airplane flying in the other direction. White smoke was shooting out from behind it, creating a long white line in its trail. I think it was another Lion Air airplane because it had a splash of red near its tail. Or maybe it was an Air Asia airplane. I was rather disappointed that it wasn’t a UFO. That would have been so cool.

I remembered all the stories about UFO sightings by passengers of an airplane. I wonder what they saw. How did the UFO look like when people saw it from high up in the air? How did they move? How did they disappear?

My mind shifted to the tales of alien abductions that took place on an airplane. Passengers were reported to have gone missing for 1-2 hours. Then they suddenly reappeared, back in their own seats. Some of them reported that they were abducted by aliens. Others couldn’t remember where they had been. I started wishing that an alien UFO would appear and abduct me. That would be so exciting. But of course, I’d have to beg them to let me keep my memory so I could keep the knowledge of what they looked like, what the ship was like, and the technology they used. Maybe they’d even answer my questions about all the things I’m dying to know about the universe.

How big is the universe, really?

What is on the edge of the universe?

What is it like to travel inside a wormhole?

What other dimensions are there?

Are there other earths just like ours? Are there other planets with life on it?

What would it really take to warp time and move through space with ease?

So many questions. I can imagine that many more will come after answers are told.

Maybe they would let me carry the answers to a more sustainable life on earth: self-sustaining energy sources, greener advanced technology, the cure to cancer and many other diseases…

But maybe some answers are meant to be unknown until we find it out by ourselves. Who knows how long that would take, though? I might be gone already.

I really hope they abduct me before I die.

Almost an hour later, the head stewardess announced that we would be landing shortly and we have to fasten our seat belts. The typical sassy and sugar-coated female voice knocked me back to earth, away from my daydreams. I could hear the teasing voice in my head: Earth to Naya, Earth to Naya... Time to go home.


I guess earth still needs me. ;p