On Saying Goodbye


I have seen it several times the past few months I have been here in Indonesia and though I can say that I have learned how to hold back tears and control emotions, it doesn’t make it any easier. Today, I said goodbye to one of my best staff. She was crying and I was just hugging her telling her everything is going to be alright.

I almost joined in her tears but it doesn’t look good losing my composure especially when I already look terrible to begin with. It is my day off and I was lazily enjoying my bed in my pajamas and messy hair reading blogs when my phone rang. An unknown number popped out. I answered and it is her. She said she wants to say goodbye. I don’t have time to take a shower or dress up as she is outside my door. I pulled my hair in a ponytail or a semblance of it and did a quick physical check if I am wearing undergarments. No time even to wash my face. When I opened my door there she is, tears welling up in her eyes. I hugged her tightly thanking her for the wonderful service she has done and that I wish her success in all her plans in life.

As I look at her and hug her again and again, there was a slight pinch in the heart. In as much as I want to compartmentalize my life treating work as work and personal as personal, there comes a time when the merging happens without us knowing. I cannot claim that all those people who have said goodbye to try something new or to welcome new experiences are very close to my heart, but those few who were able to transcend the imaginary professional block that I have created occupy a very special space within me because they found a way to touch me dearly.

I am trying to hold back tears now as I type this but I am also joyously aware and thankful that I am allowed to feel this kind of emotion.

I know the coming and going will always be a part of life. That’s what makes it interesting. That’s what makes it worth living.

To all those ex colleagues who became special to me in one way or another, thank you for touching my heart. Thank you for allowing me to play a part in the story of your life the same way you played yours in mine.

*image credit

Traditional Batak Dishes

Yesterday, over talks on the eruption, we got hungry. A colleague asked me if I would like to try traditional Batak dishes. Batak is one of the many tribes in Indonesia and is one of the most popular in Sumatra. I actually have no preference at that particular time but at the mention of Batak, I immediately thought of Babi Panggang Karo (BPK) or grilled pork. Though Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world, many Bataknese are Christian due to the missionary work of Catholics and Protestants from a long time. Proof is you can find a church here every 10 km or so. No kidding.

After getting stuck in traffic for almost an hour just to get to that place which the colleague argues is serving very good Batak dishes, we arrived. The place has zero ambience. It’s like a hole-in-the-wall kind of place. No air condition. No table cloth. No fancy whatever. Just authentic food.


And these are what we got.


Saksang, according to the colleague, is a typical Batak dish cooked every time there are festivities like weddings and birthdays. This is mainly composed of chopped meat cooked in (animal’s) blood, coconut milk and spices. Saksang comes in two variations, pork meat or dog meat. Pork meat for now for me. I still cannot imagine eating dogs.


The colleague called this Kecap. Kecap actually means sauce here in Indonesia. I reckon Kecap manis with asin (sweet and salty soy sauce) with tomato sauce was used here. It tastes like adobo to me without the sour taste.


And this is my lovely Babi Panggang Karo or grilled pork. The pork doesn’t really taste anything special but this comes with a bloody sauce which gives this dish an interesting flavor. The bloody sauce tastes like Saksang actually, just spicier.


And these are the happy eaters.

As they say when in Rome, do what the Romans do. I have stopped asking for spoon and fork every time we eat out in places like this. Instead, you get a bowl of water to wash your hands with. I am no longer complaining, just embracing each and every moment of this wonderful culture that I was blessed to experience.


Looking like an authentic Indonesian here.


And that bulging stomach tells the whole story of how the lunch ended.

All In A Day

I woke up early yesterday as I need to go down to Medan and attend a meeting. Given the distance of the hills to the city, I will need about 3 to 4-hour drive with no traffic jam.

And since Sinabung erupted last Sunday, September 15, 2013, I was looking forward to taking photos of the said volcano from a different vantage point.

Sinabung was looking calm when I took this at around 8 AM.


It did not reveal any plans it has in store for the day.


And then this. (Photo from http://www.stasiareport.com.)


Learning Without Knowing

I found myself talking more and more Bahasa Indonesia without me realizing it. Today, I was having a conversation about drinks with one colleague and a listener was shocked to hear that I am speaking their language.

I was shocked as well. If he didn’t point it out, I wouldn’t have noticed. Really.

I remember one instance, as I was climbing the stairs on my way to my office space, I was halted by some questions that I needed to ask the receptionist. After getting the needed information I continued my ascent. And then I stopped again, looked back and asked if I have just spoken in Bahasa Indonesia. She said yes.

Seriously? I am amazed. How did my brain sneak up on me and pick things up unconsciously without asking permission?

The other day, I moved back to my room after a week of camping in another hotel room. Something needs to be fixed in the floor I am staying in and all the occupants (actually, it is just me and the other expat colleague) has to find a temporary home. When I got the go signal from the housekeeper that my room is ready, I transferred back my stuff immediately. I missed my room. My room suits me perfectly fine. Anyway, I digress. After hauling back my luggage I got a call from the expat colleague saying our room is not yet ready. He just talked to the guy who was fixing it. That it will probably take a few more days. What the heck?!

I was confused and not very happy. No one wants to be ping ponged around especially if I am lugging tons of stuff. I rang the housekeeper and asked once and for all if I can move in. He said yes. In a few minutes, the guy who the expat colleague quoted as telling him that things aren’t ready yet was confirming to me that indeed it is ready. So how come I was informed otherwise? He replied that probably he does not understand Bahasa Indonesia and misunderstood him. That can I please explain to him the real situation. And that conversation was again done in pure Bahasa Indonesia.

Hooray! I can just give myself a pat at the back.

I have been noticing recently as well that the staff around me who were using Bahasa Indonesia on a regular basis has been switching to their native dialect when I am around. Something that I cannot understand but can recognize from the accent. And it can only mean one thing, that they don’t want me to understand what they are talking about.

That they now respect my Bahasa Indonesia


Please don’t ask me to write anything using the said language. That’s a totally different story.



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Yesterday, on my way back to the hills, I saw rows of stalls selling rambutan. Sometimes, or maybe most of the time, I forget that I am living in Indonesia. There are just so many similarities from landscape to food to people that I feel like I never left home. But of course I have to admit that stark dissimilarities are also very obvious.

So I told the driver to stop by one of the stalls. The experience of buying fruits on the wayside is very familiar to me. We do that all the time in the Philippines. The stack of fruits, the make of the display cabinet, even the seller looks very Filipino except of course the language that I used.

“Harga berapa ibu?”, I asked.

“15,000 satu ikat.”, she said.

They don’t sell the fruit by kilo but by bunch. One bunch looks like less than half a kilo to me. After doing a quick mental computation I remarked, “Mahal!”

That is about Php75 for less than half a kilo. Come on.

She didn’t seem to wince. I asked the driver and he said that is a fair price already. I still think it is expensive.

“Bisa aku coba?”, I asked the lady.

“Tidak bisa”, she said.

“Kenapa? Bagaimana saya tau yang rambutan manis?”, I continued.

“Pasti manis semua.” she replied back.

That was a short conversation of me asking if I can taste test to see if it is really sweet in which she readily declined saying all are sweet. I don’t need to try. What?!

In the Philippines, you get to try about 2 to 3 pieces before you confirm a sale. Here, it is a different story.

Nevermind, the red fruit is really calling me so I asked for 3 ikat costing me IDR45,000 which I think is too costly for the amount.

I told the driver to stay put while I quickly tried one fruit after paying telling the lady that if the rambutan doesn’t meet the standards she has to give me my money back.

I never got my money back. The rambutan was just divine. It was heavenly sweet. One of the best rambutan I have eaten recently and I am not overacting. I finished one ikat in a heartbeat.

I asked the lady if she can “tamba” aka add extra rambutan for free since I bought a lot. She said she cannot. My gad. What is wrong with these people? Ahahahahahahaha.

Indonesia is so similar yet so different from the Philippines. But I love them all the same.

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