The Melancholia of Transition

 

img_1179Jomson, Mustang, Nepal 2014

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” ~ Pema Chodron

The hardest thing in having the habit of living like a nomad is that you are constantly feeling in transition. Often feeling not exactly there.

2015 feels transitory for me, it is a year where it takes me to go beyond my comfort zone and trying new things. Completely new things. Testing my own limit. Going through the different sense of things beyond my reach. It has been giving me all the biggest lessons. It has shown me my capability and also my weakness. My constant travel also teach me something that we all should be careful not to burn out along our journey. That stopping is necessary. That a rest is always good. Even crying your eyes out sometimes. Asking for help. All is necessary.

I wish I could start to write something more uplifting in this beginning of the year, but this writing become more like a reflection.

It become something that I ask myself the fundamental questions about home, when you are constantly moving around. When your comfort feeling often when you just see yourself carrying only one bag in a journey. Then you suddenly feel home. Alone with just one bag. Walking to some unknown destination.

***

Death has been a constant blow in my life. Death, I realised can come in many forms. Death has often mark of a cycle for me in life. Last month, my most respected teacher, Benedict Anderson passed away in Batu Malang. I am supposed to submit an obituary writing for him and I haven’t started yet. The thing is, Ben teach me how to live.

My last email correspondence with Ben was about going to India. And I managed to be back in India again last year.

Pause.

The draft of this piece was done in January 2016. Fast forward, I’m continuing this writing in November 2016.

And its start to turn out what November feels. What 2016 for me feels.

I was back to Northern India again in March 2016, to pause a bit, to breath a little bit to things that brought back my sanity. I couldn’t continue my writing before hand. Now, I am on my last night in Saigon and found myself back to this blog.

This year, I ended back in Jogjakarta. I realised after trying to figure out what is the relationship I have with this ancient spot for the last fourteen years, is to also realised its old adapted name, Ayodhya. I missed this fact somehow along this journey to understand better the meaning of having home. To grow rooted.

While 2015 feel transitory, it is exactly in these melancholia that I felt in the shift within myself. The soft breaking of my own walls while staying in India. To stake my own heart once again. To go deeper again than ever before.

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Dharamsala Tibetan Archive, Dharamsala, North India, 2015

I had to go back to Dharamsala in October 2015, to be reminded again where all these journey of the open heart started four years ago. I openly grief and let go of the loss of my parents, letting things go for new spaces to come. I ended up feeling disoriented for a while. And the tinge of melancholia hanging in the air. But I manage not to get overwhelmed by it, since I know already all the things that I need to do to handle it.

I did not plan to take more journey this year. But seems the fact of always having a nomadic streak is just something I need to accept in my life. I end up in different places: Lombok. Gili. North India. Singapore. Toraja. Cambodia. Vietnam. Though seriously you would find me most at home nowadays, even revamping the space after going through so many years of trying to organised a proper home. I end up chucking 70 percent of my things, start a new restaurant venture with my best friend, organised a bi-weekly secondhand market which ended up being a community hang out. While our restaurant, at its best, starting become one of Jogjakarta communal living room. I am finding myself more in the kitchen, from cooking, managing and hosting things. I notice I wrote more while I am travelling solo. And I do these in and out nowadays. Seeing the fluctuation of my energies, those moments when I need to recharge myself and moments when I need to show up for others.

I lost two important person this year too. One is our first restaurant customer, Budi, he was only 28. Another one is one of my really good friend, Chindy Tanjung, she died before turning 40. If Ben Anderson teach me to live, Chindy teach me how to hope. Her best reminder is left at my son’s name, Asabhumy. She add Asa years back when I was still pregnant with Bhumy. Asa literally means hope.

I learn to go through my grief. Keep opening my heart to also celebrate death and all the values behind it. And I see death has the ability to transform so many things. I change my relations with death. It has been a decade since my mother passed away. In all my transitory state, I accept that giving time and space heals everything.

I took the heart to face and not turn away my face in seeing the darkness anymore. Lessons while travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam, flow like water. Being in Vietnam the last few days, the attack of nostalgia is strong. As strong as remembering all my love ones in a bite of food.

In the cold air of the mountain.

And in every breath I take in feeling alive. Here and now.

Bubur Ayam Kampung ala Peranakan

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In the process of cooking daily in Warungkita, I realised for me food are part of my expression of nostalgia and I am my own storyteller through my own family recipes.

I talked the history of this long signature dish of: Bubur Ayam Kampung ala Peranakan (rice porridge aka congee Chinese Indonesian style) that reach my friend Nino’s table yesterday rainy afternoon and we had this talk.

When I grew up, my family favourite spot for Bubur is this particular famous restaurant in Cipayung (all the way after Puncak) called Sudi Mampir (Why Don’t You Drop By – basically the name of the restaurant). They sell the best comforting bubur in the world. My mom and me has always taken by this, and since Cipayung is two hours away (minus traffic) from our home, we tried to make this at home, guessing the recipe by the sense of our tongue, trying to replicate the taste of this particular type of bubur. We managed to have them close to its taste until the day she died.

When my mother was diagnose with cancer in 2005. Her sense of enjoyment of food was lost. And I had to see her pass her days, slipping and slipping further away towards death.

There is a saying in our family or a general belief, that the closest you are to death, in the end you will keep on eating your favourite food. At her death bed, my mother requested a particular shark fin soup from TRIO restaurant in Cikini, which my best friend Alia brought all the way from Jakarta, before she went to a coma. And its one of the last dish that she eat with delight before she died. TRIO restaurant has also been my grandfather favourite when our family still stayed in Jakarta.

A week before my father died, he requested to my grandmother house assistant to cook all his favourite food. I am reflecting now, that food is the closest thing that still attached to us when our sense of life is still lingering. Its the symbol of our survival urge to cling with material world.

My only way as my mother’s daughter at that time, hopelessly 22 and lost with the sight of death, was to go back to my mother’s pots and pan. And cook this particular bubur recipe. It become the only thing that my mother can eat and digest. And yes, I believe every time I stir the pot, I put all my love and tears, and maybe a tinge of fear even with the fact that I know I am going to lose her.

But in the process years later I ended up improving this recipe and reclaim them as my own. I add ginger, lemongrass and a whole of ayam kampung (free range chicken) to the pot. Making them to have the reputation of bringing people back to life (I wish) when one of my best friend name them “Bubur Pembangkit Mayat” (The Porridge that Can Rise Death People).

Such reputation came in the changing season or at the rainy afternoon like yesterday that hit Jogja. When a friend or my son or even myself is going to catch the flu or cough or slightly shivering, I always make this one whole pot of chicken porridge. It really help people who are sick and a very comforting dish. I remember when my best friend, Dina, can’t eat anything in her early trimester of pregnancy, I always come to her house and cook this for her. This porridge had grown to something we all love together. I am so glad how this memories has turn out to be one of my most meaningful story.

Thank you for sharing this pot, Nino, by coming to our warung in the middle of the heavy rain. And also every other friends, worker, customer that had enjoy this pot of memorable porridge. Thank you for sharing my memories. I will not forget this.

Have a nice Sunday

This post is a late post from a few months back. Slowly going back to the blogging world.

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Our Bubur Ayam Kampung is serve every Saturday in @warungkitajogja,

Nitiprayan – Jogjakarta

Karanganyar: Cetho Temple, Kethek Temple and Sukuh Temple

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Sunrise view from Candi Cetho, Merapi, Merbabu and Sindoro Mountains range, Central Java, Indonesia

I’ve been missing Java a little bit since moving to Bali for a while, and I remembered this trip that I impulsively did before I went to Kathmandu again last year. I went with the boys, my ‘brothers’ and my son, Bhumy, to Candi Cetho and Candi Sukuh in Karanganyar, Central Java.

These two magnificent old temple have a special meaning to me since the very beginning of my first visit way back in 2005. Its located near Solo where my father lineage come from, its been an inspiration for my favourite theatre, Teater Garasi, in Jogjakarta for their masterpiece work of Watubatu. It has also been always a personal pilgrimage for my Javanese ancestors.

Their unique architecture style are one of my favourite in Java. It is somewhere reminding people with the style in Latin America. I am so glad that I could take Bhumy in this trip and also visiting a newly found temple behind Candi Cetho, Candi Kethek (The Monkey Temple).

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Krisna praying in Kethek Temple, Central Java, Indonesia

IMG_0329The boys on top of Kethek Temple

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Bhumy in the path to Kethek Temple, Karanganyar, Central Java

Its nice to see my son back on his barefoot and exploring the wilderness with his uncles. We rent a car for two days and head off to the temple. The small hotels are still nice like I remember. The feeling of the place stayed sacred after seven years even.

I took the bath in the Saraswati statue, where they have one of the best water spring in the area. It brings the memories of a personal silent time I had with the place years ago and somehow I awash all those memories that I need to let go. I felt home and quiet at peace.

IMG_0649  IMG_0638Cetho Temple, Karanganyar, Centra Java

While entering Sukuh temple, one of the local old guide explained to us a lot and even showing Bhumy a lot of things while we were there. The architecture of both temples are still a mystery for modern archeology. The way they made the statues and the way it constructed like a certain pyramid has somehow become a missing link in the typical Hindu-Buddhist period of Java. I had a long talk before with one of my professor and we agree that the theory of its age is more likely that its dated on the site latest renovation that happened in 17th century. This place feels ancient to me. Much much more ancient.

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IMG_0678Candi Sukuh, Karanganyar, Central Java, Indonesia

The Hindu in Indonesia do regular ceremony and pilgrimage to both places. Also the Javanese that also still practicing Kejawen rituals. Both of these sites are still active, so please show your respect while you are exploring these areas especially when people are praying and practice certain rituals. Its as sacred as any places of worship.

A Reflection of Taking A Rest

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Writing about a journey has never been an easy one. Especially when most of the experiences are inward. How do you suppose to describe the sense of travelling inside yourself. To be honest, sometimes you feel lost in words after many journeys. And when you found yourself in your so called homeland, you only wanted to wrap yourself in a cocoon.

By January 2015, it’s already the rain season outside, in this tropical rainforest state and you wanted to wrap yourself more. You are already back home and scattered yourself all over the main island and the gods too. You never really stop walking. You wanted to rest and you know you mindfully need one. And you did.

***

You asked your local massage guy, Pak Warto, to help you in shutting your body down. This strong headed body of yours, who often forgot it limits, who always chase herself to go beyond her limits and sometimes it feels not so good. The body would take it toll in the end, and in that third week of December, you start your hibernating period.

Closing yourself.

But not totally, because you have your growing six year old boy beside you who would want to snuggle every single time because he has been missing you so much. And he is in a bear cub mode on. But you need that too for your eternal motherly bonding with your children. And he helps you. Reminding the essence of nurturing, that to grow is also by giving nurture. Or like my wise friend, Hanny said, to let go is to let in things too. It has always been a two way process, a circle, not only a one way thing.

And the flu started. A bad one with extra cough. The young cub got one, but not as bad as you. You feel the pain, the choking in every time you tried to speak out and something stuck by your throat. And slowly you sooth yourself down. Hot lemon water, those childhood classic: Ibu dan Anak cough syrup made in Hongkong, the forever saviour of Indonesian: Tolak Angin, and extra extra long nap.

You sooth yourself by slowly talking inside. Very slowly. And listen. Listen to yourself. You feel Bali is calling you, once again, like in every grandmotherly calling.

You had to take a flight exactly at Christmas night, that nearly poked your brain to death, which you commit not to ever take another flight when the flu happen. But like all things you arrived safely in Sanur. You had come to rest. Breathing the sea breeze of the Balinese southern sea and sleep in for some more. Enjoying your private space with your son. Your soul mates popping up in the house. Giving you all the love, hugs and food for all the nourishment of your heart. And in the end you find yourself in the magic mountain of Pupuan. Finding yourself in the circle of women healers and the heart of your soul mates. And be blissful, be thankful. Finding all the love in the eyes of loved ones in the first light of 2015. And you snuggle in for some more.

Everything feels out in the open of the grass fields and the wind slowly whisper in your ears. The moon is still. And you burst slowly like a never-ending fireworks. Seeing your own beauty. The beauty of each moment of your lives. Even the beauty of all the pain that had transforms you until now. And you let yourself be healed. With every tears that runs, you wash away all your sorrow. With every smile you give, you give all the love you got inside you. And just BE.

With all the imperfections of life, the impermanence of a moment and FEEL them completely.

Your purpose in life is often to find this BALANCE. In where to start and where it ends. When to keep walking and when to stop. Life has teaches you that in your journey, you start picking up your pace. Smoothing things out. Slowing things down. Stretching yourself to see the flexibility of your heart. The beauty of a certain fall, the courage to stand up and the ways to fly away.

And you know there would be time for you to walk again, start that run and raising that head once again facing all what lies ahead.

For now, rest, my dear heart.

Listen to your own heartbeat.

photo: Asabhumy snuggling in Sanur’s house

Quote

QUOTE #2

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“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
― Pema Chödrön

***

My favourite Pema Chödrön quote with the photo I took last month in Upper Pisang, while doing the Annapurna Circuit. It was my first clear glimpse of Annapurna Mountain Range. I realised to take a mountain photo you need all the luck and friendship with the weather. Things can change so very quickly, sometimes in second. May all the lives who are lost in this region last week find their peace.

Nepal: Early Note of Going Into the Wild

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Thorong La Pass, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

You found yourself walking briskly, back on your steps with your thinning rubber sandals, that you start to realized being slightly too thin in the growing cold of Kathmandu weather. You know: winter is coming and you get to used seeing snow peaks lately. You know that you need to buy yourself a pair of a walking boots in this city, the weather can turn to be very unpredictable, the pavement either splotchy or dusty.

You know how it feels to walk under the raining snow or even small ice balls attacks from above the Himalayan sky. Those different types of rain. You past the Tibetan quarter market to find yourself writing in a corner of the city. Back in putting your thoughts down. And all those self talk along the way, the hours, the days, the whole one month out of touch. Finding their words slowly. Very slowly.

But today you feel completely human. Completely alive. Parts of nature you know had somehow left you with that knowledge. On appreciating every single thing. In being grateful to even breathing. On the shortness of life and how beauty can turn to be dangerous in a single moment. In being aware, that a misstep of a foot can led to a fatal slide. On facing that border of life and death. How the news bring things to you today and how you react. How it makes you pray and let things go. And thankful, with those strange powers that life brings you.

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Magar Women singers in Maikot

You remembered the nights under the moon in top of an ancient fort of Maikot. Where old women shaman sang their songs about the past glory and the stories of their ancestor in a completely different tongue of the Magar clan, while they drink their nth cup of raksi. How they put flowers in your hair while they sang and dance. How some nights there is nothing but stars along the way and the ice white peaks glistening by the distance. The moon was the only light in your beaten path. And sometimes barbecued potatoes were the only thing you ate that night. But you walk all the same. The hills you cannot imagine before, since these hills were in the size of your mountains in your home country.

You amazed yourself by passing three mountain passes. Although you know you nearly died catching your breath going up, or your feet hurt so bad you can’t even feel them. But you learn how to know your strength and also your weakness. You learn how to train your leg by walking properly (most of us don’t). And in the end how to step on your ground properly, then understand the basic principle of really being grounded.

Nature teach you to face yourself, all the time. It shows every side of you. The beautiful and the ugly. The between. And in total silence when you find your connection with nature, you found yourself in that point of tranquility where you don’t need anything else. That moment which effortlessly leave marks in your life. IMG_2416 Om Mane Padme Hum.

May all beings found their happiness and peace. May all be remove from sufferings.

Quote

Quote #1

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In my grief I saw myself being held,

us  all holding one another in this

incredible web of loving kindness.

Grief and love in the same place.

I felt as if my heart would burst with holding it all.

~ A Zimbabwean woman

***

I decided to post an inspiring quote  beginning today and also my favorite photo. The above picture was taken on Teej Festival at Pashupatinath Temple on 28th August 2014. It is the Bhagmati River of the Kathmandu Valley, which runs through the Gangga River and at the end would reach the Indian Ocean. It is also on this side of river that they cremated the death and pour their ashes to the river.