checking out Czech

well, okay, Prague to be exact.

neither my husband nor i have ever been there, so this was our first time ever. and my verdict is: love the city, hate the tourists! 😀 (i guess that includes us, LOL!)

i’m too tired to put descriptions in the pics, so here’s the short(er) story of the whole trip.

upon arriving, i immediately noticed something in the air that was quite familiar. it was very hot and damp that night, so that already brought me back to Indonesia, but the air was filled with incense scent. and i mean like everywhere! this of course brought my mind back to Bali, where they have incense-scented offerings everywhere on the street. i had no idea why there was an abundant smell of incense in the whole city, but when i heard church bells near our hotel, then i thought maybe the reason was that there is plenty of these churches in Prague, and perhaps they use incense in there? i didn’t hang around in churches to find out, so i guess i’ll never know.

if you are an honest and naive tourist like me, you might want to be extra careful where you buy your groceries. :p i learned it the hard way there when on our first night, since it was hot and we were tired, we only managed to go to a nearby mini-mart to get some water bottles. we had a small idea of how tourist stores ( = any store in a tourist-y area) mark up their prices, but it wasn’t until we got back to our hotel that we found out how badly ripped off we were. 11€ for 2 big bottles and 1 small bottle of water is NOT normal, i can tell u that. 😀 the next day we found a bigger mini-mart and paid 1,50€ for 2 small bottles of water. go figure.

if you’re an anti-tourist like me, avoid Charles bridge at all cost! LOL. i put a picture i took from there just to show you how many people there were at that time… and remember, this was not even a peak season yet, and the temperature was somewhere between 30-32C degrees. it was blazing hot, and tourists with their selfie sticks were just taking pictures upon pictures with every effin’ step they made, people walking behind them would just have to wait patiently because, well, the crowds were everywhere…. unbelievable.

there are soooo many castles in Prague, and soooooooo many beautiful gardens to come with those castles. so they said. we tried to see just the gardens (because, well, the castles would be filled with tourists… again), and since we’re so used to free gardens in Finland, we were taken aback with the fact that we had to pay tickets to view the gardens of the castles in Prague. 😀 and since apparently they really don’t want to let people view it for free, they had to make walls around the gardens as well. no castles and no gardens, then! 😀

we did go to the Alphonse Mucha museum, for my sake. it was small and non air-conditioned, but whatever. i’m glad it wasn’t as famous and hence full of tourists, so that was nice! no pictures are allowed in there, that’s why i don’t have any.

i got this tip from a colleague of mine, and apparently it’s true: you can only buy stamps in Prague in the post office. 😀 in Finland (and i think even in Indonesia) you can buy stamps from kiosks and mini-marts, but when i asked a souvenir store in Prague if they sell stamps… their answer is: no, but the post office is right there on the main street. so off i went there, took a queue number from the machine (in case you’re wondering, it’s “other services>selling stamps and other products”!) and went to the cashier just to get 1 stamp for a postcard! wow. and then there’s the matter of figuring out how to work out the mailbox. there are plenty of them around the city, but the instructions (or whatever they are) are all in Czech. hmm. i hope my postcard arrives to where i’m sending it to! 😀

you will find many places offering Trdelnik aka chimney cake, for various prices. however, after the water bottle incident, i was quite careful about spending money there. i remember seeing a place selling traditional Trdelnik for as cheap as 20 Kr, but since it was far away and i was too tired to go back there, i decided to go to the one nearest to our hotel that offered it for 50 Kr. i tried the cinnamon one, and boy, was it good! i wish i had tried the one filled with ice cream, but maybe i’ll do it some other time!

another thing worth mentioning is the dogs of Prague. i can’t tell for sure if they are local or tourist dogs, but i found many dogs were let loose in Prague (as in, not bound on a leash) and yet they didn’t run away! ❤ the first one i saw was a cute dachshund on the loose and i had to fight back the urge not to pick it up and bring it home! 😀 another one i saw was inside a small souvenir shop, with no leash of course, just looking out of the store as if it’s the owner of the store, looking for new customers. i managed to take a candid picture of 1 dog i saw that was just sooooo sooooo sweet, i couldn’t resist it…. if you’re the owner of that dog, i’m sorry i had to steal a picture of your doggy! good thing you put a leash on it! 😀

lastly, just a few pics of the hotel we stayed at, called Blue Oak.

it was such a lovely place! we were looking for a place with air conditioning (not all hotels in Prague have them, we knew there would be this heatwave coming when we were looking for the place) and possibly a microwave. and wow, we didn’t even expect the room to be so big, but it was! on the last day of our trip, there was a big thunderstorm with lots of hail and we got to view it from our bedroom window. just like in a tropical place, it only lasted for a short time, and made the weather much more bearable afterwards.

and there you have it, Prague from my very small & short point of view! 😀 i highly recommend it if you appreciate architecture… and beer, obviously, LOL. but if the larger-than-life tourist thing bothers you, you might want to go there when it’s really a very low peak season instead. 😉

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SSS

… stands for a Surprise Short-trip to Singapore!

just like the name, it was a surprise trip–not something we planned for from a long time–and it was short. the main idea was just to meet my parents and spend quality time together.

and that we did!

and because that was the main idea, i don’t really have much to tell about the trip itself, nor that much pictures. we mainly stayed in, going out only to get lunch and dinner, talked & played cards. might be boring for you to see, but it was so much fun for us. 🙂 most of the pics we got was from our last full day together, when we visited the Botanic Gardens, the only place we went to other than restaurants/grocery stores. 😀 (okay, we also went to Mustafa Centre, of course, but that doesn’t count.)

though the jetlag left us tired but it was at the same time so refreshing and came at just the right moment when i was so fed up with work. i miss my parents again already now, but hopefully our next gathering isn’t too far away from now. 🙂

happy summer & mid-year (and soon midsummer), everyone! ❤

PS. the pictures were taken by 4 different people and 5 different cameras, hence the quality differences.

the real price of ‘cheap’

when i think about it, i’ve been selling things almost all my life. starting from when i was in elementary school, i used to sell name labels/stickers to my classmates, the kind that i ordered by mail with pre-set images & sizes. and then i as i grew older i moved on to selling Avon, Triumph lingerie and eventually Oriflame. these are of course the kinds that i did as a side job thing, but the real kind of ‘hard’ selling happened when i had a small boutique in Jakarta along with my 2 friends.

it was during this time that i learned the real price of ‘cheap’. or to be completely honest, i learned how annoying it is to hear customers bargaining for a cheaper price. i mean, i’m not gonna lie: i also bargain sometimes. but when i knew it firsthand how much work went into our own work (our boutique sold one of a kind clothings, specifically designed by yours truly, the fabrics all chosen by us three co-owners straight from the fabric shops, and all clothes sewn by one single tailor) and someone dared to bargain the prices that we carefully counted so that we got back our work’s expenses & effort, i found it quite insulting. i felt like saying, if you want to bargain, go shop at a market place.

but then i realized something disturbing. why did i feel like saying that, as if a market place is a good place to bargain when usually those markets (at least in Indonesia) are run by people who don’t even have much money. what makes it okay for people, including me, to bargain from an already ‘poor’ person? don’t we appreciate their effort? and instead, most people don’t even blink an eye when they buy overpriced designers clothings. ever heard of anyone bargaining at a Louis Vuitton store? of course not, don’t be ridiculous.

but why? what makes it okay to accept some high price for something that was created with the exact same effort & work, and for other things you just feel the need to bargain until the salesperson finally gave up their original prices and lets you have it for a lot cheaper price?

now let’s imagine how the process goes for almost every thing in this world, excluding fresh produce. somebody, somewhere, had the idea to create something. whether it be a piece of hairclip, a mobile phone, a computer game, or even a logo, after the idea came the work process. this could involve only 1 person or many people, time, effort (sometimes many efforts as there are no guarantees that someone succeeds after only the first try), the final production, and shipping/how to get the thing(s) to the sellers/straight to customers. in some cases, this whole process last hours, but in most cases they could last for months or even years. and all that process are in the end reduced as one specific product, what you actually see & purchase, of which you try to estimate the real value before bargaining and paying. how many of us can honestly say that we think about all the processes as opposed to just the end product before determining how much we are willing to pay for it?

another form of bargaining actually happens without us knowing it. it’s the kind that happens within the work process instead. big companies bargaining sweatshop’s workers’ wages, sometimes even bargaining their lives. and that’s not all. a dear friend told me once that she used to do dozens of creative designs (let’s say clothing designs) per week to then be shown to a big clothing store company who will then decide which one(s) they could ‘buy’. usually out of 12 or 20, there would be only 1 or 2 that was accepted, and the payment for those creative designs were only bearing 2 or 3 digits at the very max. and then those big clothing store companies would mass-produce the designs and sell them for 5-10€ each. she told me this: “so remember, behind every cheap thing you see in stores, there is always someone suffering for it.” either the designer, the tailor, the shoemaker, the seller, or even the ones who prepare the raw materials, ‘cheap’ means ‘suffering’.

i mean, would YOU want to work your a** off and be paid for 2€ a month? no? then why would you bargain at someone else’s cost?

after all this pondering, i can tell you that i very rarely bargain for anything. if i go to a market place, i look for those who sell stuffs for a fixed price, just to avoid bargaining. i feel sorry for paying 3€ for a pair of nice looking earrings, but then again i don’t do it every month or even every year. and i suppose it’s still better for someone out there that gets paid for each sold goods, so as long as i don’t add to the bargaining part, i have to believe that i’m not making things worse.

sometimes, very rarely, i do still bargain. for example when going to Bali, and i knew that when my husband wasn’t with me, the sellers offer me cheaper prices (local prices) and when my husband was there the prices doubled up. well… excuse me for knowing the real price, then. but still, mostly i don’t have the heart to do it. not after realizing all of this.

our work and effort should mean something more than cheap prices. i hope in the future we can all start seeing more of the work & effort that goes to one product instead of just the end product. then maybe bargaining in all shapes will cease to exist. 😉

my 2016 in sewing

last year for the good half of it i sewed as i normally did, guided by my passion. but then for the other half of the year, i started to veer into a whole different direction: only sewing what i needed. truth be told, i don’t think i actually need anything, which is why i haven’t touched my sewing machine for a while now. it pains me for not having any sewing project, but it pains me even more to sew something that i know i am not going to wear. so in order to ease up the pain, here’s my regular ‘end-of-year’ list of what i had sewn in 2016.

that was a total of 17 sewing projects, out of which only 10 are repeatedly worn throughout the year. i could have saved my energy and time just to make these 10 useful ones instead of 17, though of course to be fair i think i learned something out of the 7 non practical ones as well.

6 items were done without any pattern, and 3 were done completely out of some ready made patterns. the rest were done by modifying ready made patterns.

in 2015 i figured out what sewing actually meant for myself, and 2016 was a journey much like that. while i will always love fashion and sewing, and figuring out how to sew something or some shape i want, i took a deeper journey within myself and found that i don’t always have to turn my ideas into being.

i grew up and lived for a long time in a big city. a big city that, as i grew up, tells its people more and more to buy this, buy that, you need to have this, you need to have that. it’s not just the advertisements (which are literally everywhere), but also the people in it. as if not having this or that means you’re poor, or worse, you don’t even belong in this city.

and then i moved here. i don’t live in a big city anymore, though for many years i think my mindset was still the same. i needed this, i needed that, and i had always wanted to dress up differently than others, so the cheapest & best way to do that (other than thrifting) was to learn how to sew. i was excited about this newfound hobby for 8 years, and sewed whatever idea i had in my mind. i had an unsatisfied hunger for new and trendy clothes, and was feeding my hunger by always sewing what i envisioned.

i’m not in any way saying that this is a bad thing. but when i really think about it, count the things i actually wear versus the things i made over the years…. i was suddenly overcame with the feeling of having given births to stillborns (and i apologize beforehand if i offend anyone with this example). i went through all the trouble for things that i couldn’t even fit into my closet, things i ended up not wearing for more than once. that was when i realized i was still the same ‘big city person’, believing that if i don’t sew the latest trends or come up with at least 1 sewing project every month i would be left behind. i had no idea by whom i felt i would be left behind, but that was how i felt anyway.

for a while after that realization, i went through a sort of abstinence period. October and December went without me sewing a single thing. my hands are itching for a new project, but i really need it (my next project) to mean something. i want to feel again what i felt when i first learned how to sew: doing everything nicely, with my full effort rather than ‘just get it done and over with so i can wear it once’. i was calm enough when i wasn’t sewing, and did everything else normally, like reading, etc. but i still have (fashion) ideas, and i still have my own dreams that i want to nurture.

looking back at these pictures of projects i’ve made, i’d like to think that all is not lost even with what i decided to do. i just need to remember what makes me wear an item over and over again, what makes me feel the satisfaction of having completed, and that, yes, they can go hand in hand.

if i have to name my favourite sewing project of 2016 (yes i do, because it’s my own blog!), it would have to be my universe bomber jacket. that was done after more than a month of abstinence, and it felt really good to do something that was completely me and completely useful. i’ve been wearing the jacket a lot lately!

the boyfriend jeans come close at number 2, because i also put a lot of effort to make them my own by the details and they’re the most comfortable jeans i’ve ever had in my life. i wear them like all the time!

the green slit dress is my number 3 because of its simplicity: simple shape, and everytime i put it in the laundry machine & tumble drier, it came out perfect without any wrinkle. no ironing needed! i could wear it straight away again the next day if i wanted to!

the African wax cotton dress is not the most practical dress (it’s stiff and cannot be easily ironed due to its glitters), but i love it so much and have always found occasions to wear it. i once wore it to the COS store and a salesperson suddenly came up to me only to say, “what a lovely dress you have on! and with your necklace and shoes, they all go so well together!” (i was wearing it exactly as in the picture.) since Finns don’t usually comment on one’s appearance (much less a stranger), this was a rare occasion i will always remember!

so i would say that i had a pretty good sewing year last year. time will tell how this new ideology of mine will go, but for now i am satisfied with what i have made so far. i hope 2017 will be that year for me, when i can finally build a bridge between the ‘big city’ me and ‘show me the meaning’ me.

a memory and a hope

“i would like to sing for the suppressed people

living in the wild with bereft souls…”

our minds work in a funny way, don’t you agree? one second i was looking at the snow, feeling the cold, the next second i was thinking of my old hometown and how i used to take the sun’s heat for granted. and next i thought about what my friend said one day, how most Indonesian people do take it for granted–including herself, as well–and usually say to foreigners how great life must be in the foreigner’s country, not thinking of how hard life might be there in some other aspects (going to the supermarket on foot in winter is i’m sure something that rarely crosses their minds). and then the next second, i thought about the people in Jakarta, living under the bridges & flyovers, thanking their stars for not having to suffer through winter, especially being homeless and shirtless.

and then the next second, my mind arrived to an old acquaintance i had when i was going to the university, back in my old hometown.

it arrived there, because he was one of those homeless people. how i became acquainted to him was something i don’t think i ever mentioned to anyone before.

i used to live in the south part of Jakarta, and my university was just outside of Jakarta, in Depok. my everyday commuting life back then was taking 2 bus rides, which took about 1,5 hour in total, for one direction (that made 3 hours of commuting daily). it wasn’t that it was so far away (well, it was far, but that’s not the reason it took so long), but it’s because my transfer from one bus to the other took place in one of the busiest traditional marketplace in South Jakarta, called Pasar Minggu. the buses went through the small gaps, woven between the abundance of marketplace sellers & their tarmacs full of fresh produces, and since we’re talking about Jakarta that had no clear traffic system, there were always at least dozens of different buses queuing in this area at the same time before they could finally be ‘free’ to go to their own routes. so, you can probably imagine the length of time i spent waiting and frying inside these buses everyday (my buses weren’t air conditioned, of course).

every day, as i waited in the bus, there would be street singers hopping on and off my bus. when i had extra coin or small bank note, i would give them what i could, but most of the time my budget was just enough for the day, so i couldn’t help them even if i wanted to. some of them sang just so that their bosses could see that they were ‘working’, some of them actually sang with their hearts. usually, i would wait until i found those that sang with their hearts to give what small amount of money i could to them instead of the other group.

among these street singers, one of them was a man, probably around the same age as i was back then, maybe slightly older. he was probably the only one easy for me to remember, because of his appearance. he had very dark skin, big eyes, long curly hair which was always ‘half’ bleached no matter what time of the year it was, so that it was deep black from the roots to halfway the total length and very blonde from then on to the ends. he always carried a guitar and was one of those who sang with his heart.

the first couple of times i ‘met’ him in my bus, i was running short on my money that i couldn’t give anything to him. but, he always smiled. some time after that, i finally did have extra, so i was already planning to give it to him the next time i saw him. when that time finally came, and he finished singing and started walking around the bus to collect the money in the aluminum foil bag he was holding, i was putting my money to the bag when he suddenly said to me, “hep, no, no, that’s okay, miss!” and i was baffled. he didn’t want my money.

after he completed his round, he came to sit next to me, which happened to be empty. and i, as somebody who had always disliked talking to strangers even before moving to Finland, was wary of this. oh dear, i thought, he did not want my money but wanted my company? darn it. usually if some stranger who sat next to me in the bus started to talk to me, i would pretend not to hear what they’re saying (yes, i was cruel). but i couldn’t see my way out of this one because i would still be stuck there in my transfer point for a while.

and so, he started, “are you going to school, miss?” i said, shortly, “yes”. he asked where i went to school, and i told him my university name (and cursed myself why i had to be so honest. what if he was a stalker?). he was amazed by my answer, i guess it’s because my university name does bear good quality. then he started talking about himself, mostly, i guess because he could see i was being careful and only gave him short answers. he told me that he, too, wished he could go to the university, but could only sing in buses so far. the first time he sang, he did not even have a guitar, so he had to go with others who had musical instruments, saved money until he could buy a guitar, and finally, now, he could sing alone.

the bus began to move forward and he quickly bid his goodbye, but before he left, he asked my name. i told him a fake name, because my brain was still telling me to be cautious, and that was the end of our first conversation.

that happened during my first year of college. i still had 2 more years, so you can imagine how many more times i met him in my bus. it wasn’t daily, but there were a lot of times. i gradually saw that he didn’t mean anything bad, and if he was a stalker i would already be stalked by then. i started having quite ‘okay’ conversations with him, but most of the time, just like the first time, it was him who did the talking. he told me that he was now saving up for new shoes, and showed me that the only pair of shoes he had had holes in them. and every time i offered him what little money i could, he never took it. i think at one point i told him that i had shoes i didn’t use, and if he would like them. he asked my shoe size and when he heard it, he laughed because my shoe size was a lot bigger than his! he even joked that i must be one of the ‘mountain people’, who genetically have big feet. needless to say, my offer was turned down.

sometimes he did the singing with a group of his other friends, and when his friends came near to me to collect money, he would tell them, “no, not her! she’s my friend.” pretty soon, even his friends would recognize me when he wasn’t around, and also did not want my money.

one day, i went to the university as usual and i was the one who spotted him first before i got on to my bus. i tapped his shoulder (because even then, after many of our conversations, i still didn’t know his name) and said hi. he was friendly as usual, but i told him my news: this was my last time going through this route, because i had graduated. he was so happy for me, congratulated me, and told me good luck with my life. i wished him the same, and we parted.

that really was the last time i saw him, even though i still lived in Jakarta for many years afterwards. never once did he cross my mind, until now.

i wonder if he is still around, and again, thank the heavens that he never has to feel the bitter cold of winter in his old & hole-y shoes. i wish i could have helped him more, and hope that he is doing okay. i hope he knows, that even when it may not seem so, he was actually blessed in his life, to have what he had.

remembering him makes me want to listen to this song, a song so popular among street singers in Jakarta. maybe it’s because it’s about them, the suppressed people, living in Jakarta. maybe it’s to tell each other, the street singers and beggars, to not lose hope, stay strong and be thankful for life as it is.

Serenade by Iwan Fals and KPJ (Street Singer Group), 1985, sung in Keroncong style.

roughly translated lyrics:

i would like to sing for the suppressed people

living in the wild with bereft souls

why be afraid of the sun, make a fist and block its heat

why be afraid of the night, light a fire in the heart, shoo away the darkness

i would like to sing for the rejected clans

losing their fighting spirits

complacent in a long dream in the midst of uncertain life

on the streets’ alleys of alleys

under the underside of bridges

on the street vendors’ feet

under the tower

you still cradle the suffering

i would like to sing a song without poverty and hypocrisy

without tears and misery

so we could see the heavens

 

take it slow

in case you’re wondering (which i’m sure you haven’t been doing) where i have gone to for the past month, here is the answer: nowhere. i haven’t really been offline, though i have been lagging in terms of reading other people’s blogs & updates. here’s something new: i haven’t been sewing either.

it’s not another case of depression this time. it’s simply the realization of just how much clothes i have vs how often i actually wear them. sounds familiar?

usually one would have this problem when one buys clothes, cheap ones, clothes on sale, etc. but when one sews one’s own clothes, is that really possible? well, yeah.

you know how it goes. you can’t seem to stop yourself from getting a nice looking fabric–same thing that goes for nice looking clothes applies as well to fabrics–and you end up getting a few too many. and when you finally have an idea to make something, you open up your fabric stash only to find that nothing there is the right one for your idea! you quickly have to go out and get a new one. repeat by a hundred times.

and then you finally get to make what you wanted. you wear it with pride once, twice, and then you already have another idea for another sewing project, and you repeat the same process all over again.

i’m not saying it happens overnight, of course. i’ve only been sewing now for about 8 years, and already i can see that i have a problem. so i started ‘throwing away’ my old(er) clothes that i bought from stores, and by this i meant either giving them up for charity or bringing them to H&M for recycling. but still it seems that my closet is just getting more and more clothes.

i don’t know yet how it’s going to end, but at least i can tell you that i’m trying to reduce it now before it’s too late. i mean… i’m sure we all know by now just how ‘dangerous’ fast fashion is, right? dangerous for the environment and dangerous for the human resources. now if you thought by making your own clothes you can at least reduce that danger, think again. where do you think the fabrics come from? not all of them grow on trees either. there are still human resources, other than you, the seamstress/tailor, involved in the making of that. it makes me sad sometimes, seeing somebody make dozens of clothes a month, either for him-/herself or for others, and this is just because he/she can. of course i can’t tell just how hollow or full his/her closet is, but still… i think it’s wiser to not be excessive in anything, don’t you?

with that in mind, i am trying to be more careful in what fabrics i buy & what i’ll make from them. i no longer set myself to sew at least 2 sewing projects a month or at least 20 projects per year, or whatever, but instead sew something i actually need & will definitely wear for a long time. i hear you, i’m saying “good luck!” to myself as well! 😀

so anyway, to really answer that question as to what i’ve been doing for the past month, here are some things:

  • read the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child script book. i wish i could one day see the production of this, it looked great in my own imagination! 😉
  • got a short social visit from my uncle and aunt, yay! auntunclenmeit was their first time here in Finland and of course it had to be super windy when they were here. ergh! but at least the sun was shining, the foods were great (i again of course had to introduce muikkuja aka vendace to them), the talks were fun, and i was just so grateful that somebody from the family could visit me!auntnmewe got to visit Suomenlinna – the Fortress island despite the harsh wind, enjoyed our walk in the city and the market square, and also went to the Helsinki City Museum, which is also very nice and surprisingly nostalgic for all of us (even though we come from a different part of the world!). they were really nice 2 days that i spent with them! and hey, that’s the second time this year already that i got to play tourist in my own (new) country!
  • my husband & i and my mum-in-law taught our nephew to say our names, and he succeeded! he remembered who we were, and whenever we ‘tested’ if he knew which one of us was which, he always got it right! and he liked our names so much that my sister-in-law sent us a video a week after that, where it showed that he just kept saying our names over and over again. ❤ that feeling when somebody small who couldn’t really say much of anything yet suddenly kept calling your name is just unbearably lovely!!
  • i learned how to make my first lasagne! also how NOT to make it, LOL. i only followed a recipe though, so it really wasn’t any rocket science. the first time i made it i only managed to put in 2 layers of the lasagna sheet, because the sauce were all already used up, ahahaha…. needless to say, i had to make another one, pronto, and with advices (and okay, a little bit of help) from my husband, i finally got it right this time. lasagne1no picture of the first lasagne because it was quite embarrassing, haha! not that this second one is a good looking one either, but whatever! lasagne2it’s a vegetarian lasagne with spinach and cottage cheese as the main content. it was really good for a beginner’s attempt!

that was pretty much it. of course there are other boring things like going to work and doing house chores some time there in the middle, and oh, watching some series in Netflix, but really… nothing else worth mentioning. :p

it’s time for me to take it slow and enjoy life as it is.