the highlight of 2015

after a dark period in my life in spring/summer 2015, something came up that cheered me up and made me look forward to it. you know how you get excited when there’s something good to look forward to? it gets you going no matter how tough your present day feels like.

this thing is a gift from my mum: a year-end trip to Bali, Indonesia.

before i start, i would just like to say that many people (Indonesian and others) take it for granted that they can be around their families throughout the year. many of the people i know who live outside of their own home countries can visit their home countries & families at least once a year, some even many times a year. those people are quite lucky, and i hope they know it.

the last time i went to Indonesia and met my family was 4,5 years ago. the last time i spent Christmas and new year’s eve with them was 10 years ago. i couldn’t even remember anymore what it feels like to celebrate both events in +30C degrees!

the last time i went to Bali was about 5,5 years ago, and all my life i had only always visited Bali for a maximum 7 day trip. this time, i was there for 2 weeks.

so what all did i do there in 2 weeks, you might wonder. which temples did i go to, did i surf, did i snorkel, did i dive… well, sorry to disappoint you, but both my husband & i had been there as tourists a few times that now we didn’t even do any tourist-y thing. the main point was to just spend as much time with my family as possible, doing everyday stuff that might be boring for some but very precious to me as i can never do it while i’m here and my family is half a world away.

in a true Indonesian style, to be honest we had some mishaps in our trip, one of them was my sister getting food poisoning right on Christmas day and ended up in the emergency room. other mishaps included unexpected traffic jams that lasted 2 hours (it was in front of the Monkey Forest in Ubud), the AC in our hotel room being broken (not funny when it was otherwise +35C degrees outside), and… actually, let’s just forget about the other mishaps. :p because the most important thing is, i was with my family! yay!

the highlight of this trip, and probably of my whole 2015, was the new year’s eve. my whole family & i went to stay at a villa in Umalas, and not only the place itself was gorgeous, but what we did was something i hadn’t done in a long time with my family: sitting down together watching TV, playing cards and dominoes, listening to my dad’s choices of music, having lots of laugh… and when midnight came, we watched the fireworks (& flying lanterns) from all around Bali and hugged each other at 12 o’ clock. 🙂 that was simply priceless.

now i am back here in cold Finland (it just turned -20C degrees right on the day we came back here. thanks a lot, mother nature!), and seeing these pics got me teary-eyed again. i don’t think parting with my family will ever get any easier, no matter how many times i have visited my home country and family over the course of my stay abroad.

but anyway, without further ado, here are some pics of my trip.

first, our hotel, which is more like a lodge than a hotel, since it only has 10 rooms. very peaceful & lovely.

next, the sights we saw and things we did when we visited Ubud. unfortunately it rained every day when we were there, and then there were the traffic jams. but like i said, at least we were all together during those days!

after our stay in Ubud, these were all the other things we did, which was fun for us but maybe boring to you… 😀 some were taken in Sanur beach, some were in Batu Bolong beach, and most of them just around our hotel.

and lastly, our new year celebration. 🙂

that’s it for now, and my, what a lengthy post this turned out to be! again, i wish you all a great 2016! may love and happiness always be with us! 🙂

PS. the pictures shown in this blog post were taken by 3 different cameras & people, but most of them were by my husband and my sister. thanks for letting me use them here!

i should be so lucky

when i was still single, many years ago, i met up with one of my best friends from elementary school. she was married with a cute little daughter at that time, and she herself is part Indonesian and part Australian, while her husband is part Indonesian and part Filipino. they had been living in the Philippines for a while, and she told me how, whenever she and her husband were out in the marketplace to buy everyday groceries, the lady-sellers would always tell the husband how lucky he was. she said the exact word they used to describe her was a “jackpot” (pronounced like “yuck-pot” :D). so i had to ask, what did they mean?

apparently, those old ladies believe that for a Filipino to land a foreigner spouse was like winning a jackpot.

fast forward a few years, i was going on a tour around Central Java with my parents and my boyfriend (who is now my husband). we were relaxing in the Borobudur temple area, after climbing the temple in the heat, and my dad suddenly beckoned me… he was surrounded by some lady-sellers who were trying to sell him all kinds of souvenirs. my boyfriend was intrigued too, of course. it was his first time visiting Indonesia, so everything colourful that moved intrigued him, i guess. 😀 anyway, we both came closer to my dad, and as soon as the ladies saw that i was with my boyfriend, they said pretty much the same thing as what my friend told me happened to them in the Philippines. things like, “your boyfriend is a foreigner? how convenient, how lucky!”

there it was again. what has luck got to do with your lover’s/spouse’s origin? and how does your lover’s/spouse’s origin define your life’s luck? either way, i didn’t get it, so i had to ask them myself, “what do you mean?” though i could pretty much guess what they meant, i dared them to explain the connection between foreigner lover/spouse = lucky.

all they could come up with was, “well, at least you can go abroad. that is lucky compared to our lives here.”

this saddened me even more, so in the end i did not bother questioning them any further. we bought some souvenirs from them (just to make them happy! yes, we’re sharing our luck with you!) and as we walked away, i told my boyfriend what the conversation was all about (since it was all in Indonesian). he was baffled as well, but we decided to drop it.

the truth is, there are so many people in my country, and perhaps the whole Asia, who actually believes that. if you can get yourself a foreigner spouse, get the hell out of your own country and you will live happily ever after. this believe creates a trend called bule-hunter in Indonesian language (bule = foreigner), where women (i guess men too, but mostly women) devote their life to get a foreigner husband, no matter how old he is, what he looks like, where he’s actually from, what his hobbies are, whether or not they can communicate with each other (some of the women bule-hunters don’t even speak English), whether or not he’s actually sane, etc. and then, as soon as they got married, off they went to their husbands’ country, with the illusion that they will be happy, rich, and lucky in all aspects, at least luckier than when they were still in their home country.

for some of them, that probably comes out as true. good for them. and i’m not one to judge those who don’t turn out to be so lucky.

instead, i want to tell you my story.

in case you couldn’t tell, i’m not one of those bule-hunters. in fact, it was a surprise even to myself that i ended up marrying a blonde (!) guy. i’ve always been more interested to the typical “tall, dark, and handsome”, and in my case, that would usually mean Asian. (more specifically, Indonesian. or Japanese. oh yes.) but after dating some of them, and kept failing in those relationships, i began to care less about the looks and just searched for a companion who i could feel comfortable with. a companion for my soul, so to speak.

that was NOT when my husband came to the picture. 😀

because truthfully, he was already there back in my teenage years. we’ve been online-friends from 1998, and somehow, miraculously we stayed friends through so many years. never for once did i even imagine that we were going to actually meet one day, let alone get married. i’m not gonna go into the details, but in short, as we were talking online one day, after i just got through yet another failed relationship, i felt that he was actually, maybe, the companion i was looking for. as it turned out, he was feeling the same way, so we decided to give it a try.

the trial went more successful than we both could have imagined, as you all know now. 😀 when we were talking about our future, before we got married, we had to decide the most obvious “problem”. where should we live?

it wasn’t as straight-forward as what those old ladies thought. sure i wouldn’t mind living abroad, but i would be all alone, no family member to turn to should something go wrong, living in a country whose language i couldn’t speak, and what was i going to do? my husband-to-be was not a millionaire, i couldn’t just live off of his income. in my hometown, i was not rich either, and i lived with my parents, but at least i had a job and business to run. i was somebody there. in Finland, i would be a nobody. but thinking about what would be best for our family (including if/when one day we have a child), it was finally decided that i was to move to Finland.

and so began my “lucky” life. my husband was working at a cleaning service company at that time, while waiting for the right job to come. our house was empty except for our bed, sofa, dining table & their chairs, a small desk & my husband’s laptop. we had no TV, so if we wanted to watch anything, we had to rely on the laptop. i could not cook AT ALL, so we lived by eating frozen foods and sometimes during the weekends my husband would cook spaghetti. since he was the one who had to go to work, i was left with the house chores. cleaning the house, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, ironing the clothes… things i never had to worry before when i was still living with my parents in Jakarta. my entertainment was going online to chat with my mum and sister, and occasionally going to the library to borrow some books. we were broke, all the time, but we were together, so that was okay.

then i finally got my residence permit, and almost subsequently, i got in to a Finnish language course. not long after that, my husband also got a job that was actually in his own field. in here, when your household income doesn’t exceed a certain amount, you can get support from the government. since i went to the language course and our household income was lower than the standard, we got that support. so, life was good. 🙂 i learned how to cook, we divided our duties in the house, i had my mum visiting me for a while, and we even managed to save a bit of money for a trip to Barcelona.

the next year was rough. just when i was about to finish my language course (still jobless), the company my husband worked at went bankrupt. up to that point, i had been in some job interviews, but none of them brought any luck. all i could do was pray that somehow, help would come through. and it did. 🙂 i got offered a small job at the place where i did my internship as part of my language course, and even if it was small, but i thought it was a good start. i only did 2-3 days of work per week, and got the lowest possible salary since i had no job experience at all in Finland.

for some time, that was our family’s condition. gradually, i got more and more working hours. my husband had difficulties finding another job in his own field, so he did his best to do freelance jobs instead. meanwhile, my friends in my hometown proudly told me how they got this and that job, got promoted, and told stories of how they could go out to this or that new restaurant or cafe every week, and watch the latest movies every other day… i could not even eat out if i wanted to, every last penny went to our bills, we never had any extra savings for any kind of entertainment. if you compare these two conditions, would you really think mine was “luckier” than theirs?

after a few years, i finally got a significant raise at work, and my husband also got a temp job that paid quite well. when we both worked and made steady income, we finally managed to save some money. the first thing we did was go to Indonesia for a holiday. i met up with my friends, whom i’ve missed very much… only to be disappointed by my own expectations. 3,5 years of not seeing one another made such a difference, i found that i could no longer connect to the things they did and felt like i used to. the things they thought were important were on the most bottom part of my own list. their idea of fun was to go to the malls and shop, whilst all i could do was watch them doing it, because even though i did have the money, i would rather save it and use it for something more meaningful than that.

when we went back to Finland, things were back to square one (well, almost). i kept on working, my husband’s temp job ended and he was back in doing freelance works. this continued again until the end of 2012, when my husband finally launched his own product. now he was back on his feet, making his own business, and though the income is not as steady as mine, it is still a big help compared to solely living off of my own income. and since i’ve been working at the same company now for years, nowadays i get quite a good salary. now, after years of working hard, we finally manage to save some of our money and travel somewhere for holidays.

but a few things are hard to change. for example, i still don’t go out to cafes or restaurants with my friends. in all my 7,5 years of living here, i’ve only gone out to see a movie at the cinemas 5 or 6 times. i don’t go out shopping (i would go out just to see the latest trends and then go home and try to make the clothes myself). the only things i can’t refuse to buy are fabrics. but other than that, i only buy what i need, with very occasional splurge like when there was that crazy book sale. 😀

now back to the main topic. if i could meet those old lady-sellers again, i would love to tell them my story. tell them that i am no different than them. regardless of where you live, who your spouse is, where your spouse is from, we all have our own challenges and privileges. sure, i do feel lucky, lucky that i found my soul’s companion, and am able to spend my days with him. but no matter where we live, i would still feel just as lucky. and if he wasn’t a foreigner, i would still feel just as lucky.

if you were one of those who has that kind of illusion about foreigners and life with them, or living abroad, i hope my story would make you realize that we are all equal. luck has nothing to do with it, and it’s no use to envy what other people have or to mock what other people don’t have. if you truly understand it, then you would agree with me, that we should all feel lucky. 🙂

rewind & replay

it was a hot and humid night, just like any other night in Jakarta, Indonesia. we had a chat-date, as usual, but he had good news for the night (evening for him, night for me): he had seen the house that was going to be ours.

it was September, 2006, and  i was excited about everything. my sister was expecting, i was getting married, and i was about to move to a new country… so many things to be excited for!

since i was going to move to Finland, he had to look for a place for us  to live in, fast! after about a  month of searching and applying, we were finally offered this one. he went to the place right away, and took some pictures for me. he showed them when we met online. there was the bedroom, there was the bathroom, there was the living room, the kitchen, and a small balcony. they were renovating it a bit at the moment, so we could see people working on the floor, etc. so what did i say?

i said, i love it. i did love it, and the price was perfect, too. it was a good place, quite close to the train station and a shopping mall, so yes, yes, take it!

October 2006, he moved in to the new but empty house. we would see furniture websites together from our own computers at opposite parts of the world and try to decide what furniture to buy. we had found the perfect bed earlier, and his dad graciously said he would get it for us for our wedding gift. so as he moved in to the house, he went to get this bed too, and assembled it so he could sleep on it already that same night. when we met online that day, we quickly searched the internet again for a nice, non-expensive dining table + chairs, so he could eat his dinners there.

when October ended, the waiting for me also ended. i managed to greet my little newborn niece and spend time with her for 2 weeks before it was finally time for me to go abroad.

it was early in the morning, November 1st 2006, when i had to leave my parent’s house, the house i’ve lived in for all my life at that time. my niece was crying, my sister tried to calm her down, but with a quick hug and farewells, i was gone. my parents took me to the airport, where some of my uncles, aunts, and my cousin also were, and after the smooth check-in, i hugged all my family members… and off i went.

the whole trip that day (and night) was bittersweet. i would cry for some moment, and then i would feel elated the next moment. i was sad for leaving behind my old life, but i was happy to start a new journey. i was sad for leaving my parents and sister, but i was happy about being reunited with my husband.

about 20 hours after i left my hometown (including the wait in Singapore), i started to see it. the white land down below. we had just passed Russia, and as the plane came closer to the ground, the windows started to be frosty with ice. it had been snowing the day before in Finland, perfect timing for welcoming little old me!

after getting my luggage, i headed out, and he was there already, waiting for me. 🙂 then i knew, everything would be alright.

we arrived early in the morning at our new home, where he had been living for the past month. it was just as i pictured it would be in my mind, except that it was still empty. there was only our bed, the dining table and chairs, and one tiny desk with his work chair and his laptop. nevertheless, it was perfect, because it was ours.

it took us a while to completely decorate the house, and when summer came, each year, we would try to jazz it up a little: new curtains, new foot stool, new table here, new lamp there.

and then, out of nowhere, this happened. as we went to look for solutions, one idea came up: moving to a new place. the timing was perfect, again, as we got an offer for a new place almost right away.

due to some problem, i again couldn’t make it to see this new house, and only my husband went to see it before we agreed to take the offer. just like before, he sent me the pictures. it was so strange, two times of us choosing our house, it was always the same thing: he had to see it alone and i could only see it from pictures. but perhaps it was all it took. i loved what i saw, and yes, i could imagine us living there. so yes, please, take the offer!

and so it happened. October 2013, almost exactly seven years after my husband first came to live at our first new house, we moved to our second house.

now, November 2nd 2013, exactly 7 years after i stepped out of that plane that brought me here, i am typing this from our new home. it is just as wonderful as i thought it was (from what i saw from my husband’s pictures), and right away, we feel right at home. we were sad, of course, to leave our previous house, but the last few months of living there were just pure hell, that in the end the move seemed to be the best solution. now we could finally feel like we actually do have a place called home again.

with this move, there are other things that need to change as well, but that’s okay. the last time i had a journey to the unknown, i ended up with big happiness and satisfaction. this time, though the journey seems smaller (i’m not moving to a new country or anything), i feel that it is time for me make that change. start anew again.

yes, i am ready for this new journey. 🙂

the many uses of a spouse/partner, #1

someone to hold your hand as you walk on the slippery ice/snow in the winter.

i had to go to the lab today to get some samples taken, and since i also had to go to work, this had to be done early in the morning.

woke up super early, prepared myself to walk alone to the lab (and then straight to work), and i quickly glanced at the thermometer. -10,8C degrees. GREAT.

suddenly my husband woke up, and after a while he started to change his clothes, too. since he usually works from home, changing his clothes meant that he was going out somewhere. i asked if he was planning to accompany me, and it turned out that he was. 🙂

so off we went to the lab, and that was when i found out the first wonderful use of having a spouse. the lab isn’t that far from our house, and we could reach it just by a 10 minute walk. that is, WITHOUT THE SLIPPERY ROADS.

but since the snow on the roads has, up to this point, melted and refroze for at least 10 times, what was left on the surface of the roads were super slippery ice. the sand that are usually put to cover the icy roads have all drowned to the bottom of the ice, and no new layer of sand have been added yet since it was still early in the morning when we walked out.

having a spouse helped. we held hands and together we walked slowly and carefully down the road (which was, literally, a downhill). when i slipped, he gripped my hand, and when he slipped, i did his, so that none of us would fall.

we arrived safely to the lab, of course. and afterwards, he also took me to the train station, where i would then continue my journey to work.

i was, and am, thankful that i have a spouse (or it could be just a best friend or partner, too, in other people’s cases). when walking together, it minimizes the chance of slipping and falling down. 😀

and believe me, you wouldn’t want to slip and fall down in this kind of condition.

song of the moment

an old song i’ve been hearing in my head the whole day. thanks to Google, i found out what the title was, and soon enough i found a video of it, too.

the song sort of fits my mood right now. so here it is, the song of the moment, And When She Danced by David Foster & Marilyn Martin.

PS. i do not own the video nor the song/music. i only borrowed the video for my own personal use.

about Oma

Oma is a name i call my grandmum with.

Oma lived in Bandung, and that had always been our holiday destination from as long as i can remember, whether it be the school holidays (June-July) or the Christmas/New Year’s holidays. she lived alone, since my granddad had long gone, when my mum was still in her twenties. but she didn’t really live alone, because she actually leased some rooms in her house to college girls. i guess i meant that none of our other family members live in Bandung, so she was practically alone.

Oma was a great cook. her specialty was egg salad, but i also loved her pastel tutup (kind of like a pie), hutspot (hotchpot), and pea soup (much better than the canned pea soup, for sure!).

Oma loved monkeys (at least i believe so!). i remember when we were kids, as my sister & i, along with our 2 cousins, arrived at her house for the holidays, my grandmum happily greeted us and exclaimed, “i thought i saw 2 monkeys, but it turned out there’s 4 arriving at the same time!” later on, when she went to the states to go to one of our cousins’ wedding, she came home with a monkey stuffed toy for herself, the kind with a spot on its tummy that you can push, and you can hear the monkey sound. she loved this particular stuffed toy so much, and whenever we went there to her house, she would ask one of us to take it out from her glass shelf and push the tummy. together we would enjoy the monkey sound & laugh.

Oma loved making handcrafts. she started making all sorts of knitted animals (bears, mostly) when i was around 12 or 13. she would make these knitted animals as house or car decorations, and she would also make things like toilet paper holders and attach the knitted bear heads (or whatever else) on them. she sold these things in her own house, to people from her church, friends of the girls who rented her extra rooms, and even family members (like me). 😀

Oma loved Coca Cola so much, the doctor had to tell her to stop drinking it, otherwise her spine would get too weak from her osteoporosis. she became addicted to teh kotak ever since (a cold tea drink with jasmine flavour). she was also addicted to Pizza Hut, McD’s spaghetti, and all kinds of chocolate. i guess that was her secret recipe for her long life.

as she grew older, it was plain to see that she couldn’t live alone anymore. so we moved her to Jakarta, where she would live with my mum’s sister & her husband. gradually it became harder for her to walk, and her hearing also weakened.

but she still loved sewing. she would make dozens of fabric bags, that she would then sell to people at the hairdresser she always went to, friends and relatives of my mum’s sister. she said she couldn’t stand not doing anything, and sewing was the only thing she could still do & enjoyed doing, too.

Oma inspired most of my works. i was the number one fan of her handmade bags, i kept buying her latest “bag collection” that in the end she would give me the bags for free. 😀 when i started my own business, Ame No Machi boutique, she supported it by ordering some clothes from us. she gave me her old sewing magazines, the ones she managed to save from her old house in Bandung, even though i couldn’t sew yet that time. when i moved here, and finally learned to sew, she gave me her old sewing machine.

it’s not only my sewing works that she inspired me with. for some reason, whenever i write a story (the longer ones that i hope to one day be published), i would always have a “grandmum” character to accompany the main female character.

Oma had lived a long life of 98 years. this April she was supposed to turn 99. but for the past few months her health dropped down. she no longer sew bags, and earlier this week she was admitted to the hospital. last night she slipped into unconsciousness, but still i called my mum and asked her to put the mobile phone to Oma’s ear, so i could still tell her how much i love her.

today she was finally lost to us. i’d like to think that she lived a happy life, full of contentment & joy. i’d like to think she’s in a much better place now, together again with her beloved husband, my granddad whom i never met.

DSC-0088

this picture is special to me, since it was taken by my sister’s late husband, Victor, in 2010. i hadn’t met Oma (or my other relatives, for that matter) for 3,5 years at that time, and this occasion where the picture was taken was the first time i met her again. she was wearing the blouse she ordered from my boutique, and i had chosen that fabric for her myself.

now i’d also like to think that Oma is together with Victor, too.

yes, i can see them all now in my head. maybe even together with Romppu. 🙂 may you rest in peace, Oma. thank you for all the beautiful memories, the laughter that we’ve shared, and for inspiring me. we will meet again one day.

it was a good week

1. managed to face and get over my second biggest worry of late. this worry had something to do with my work, and at the same time i also managed to finish what i had to do at work, so it’s quite an accomplishment. now i can finally relax and wait till Christmas time. 🙂

2. found out that there’s a German Flight Simulator magazine that made a review of my husband’s product and gave it a score ’95 out of 100′. a great achievement for a first-timer, indeed. 🙂

3. am having a proper weekend this week (which means i have both Saturday and Sunday off, which is uncommon for someone who works at a store).

4. we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary by going to a Nepalese restaurant in the town. i got off early from work, and my husband came to pick me up. afterwards, we just went to a movie store to look around (yes, we are indeed movie geeks!), and when we got hungry enough we went to the restaurant. got a place right next to the window, in a bit of a secluded place, and it even had a candle on the table, so it was sort of a “romantic candlelit dinner” without it being intended to! it was the BEST FOOD EVER, from the appetizer down to the dessert. this restaurant was actually right across the restaurant we ate at on the day that we got married, so as we walked out after eating dinner, we saw that other restaurant too and got reminded of our wedding day 6 years ago even more. afterwards we went to see the bookstore (yes, we are also just plain geeks!) until the store closed for the night. after we arrived home and took a shower, we continued by watching a blu-ray movie. it was a nice, quiet celebration. 🙂

next up for the weekend: gonna make some joulutorttu (Christmas tarts), watch more movies on blu-ray, and tomorrow is Father’s day so we’ll be visiting my husband’s dad at his home to have lunch there. yes, it was (and still is, for now) a good week. 🙂