no title

other than being asked what my religion is, another question that always leaves me thinking “what does it matter to you?” is: what did you study? referring, of course, to what i studied in college or university. some questions are even more specific, what academic title(s) do i have?

yes, i get that a lot, in here and in my home country. when asked here, in Finland, it’s even harder for me to answer because i don’t even think the subject exists in universities here (i haven’t done any research though, since i have no interest in working in that field here). but just for the record, as i’ve said before, currently i work in a field that needs customer service skills, sales skills, and also deep knowledge in textiles.

most of the time i get this kind of question while i’m at work. as this country has the best education in the world (say the surveys from around the world), i’m not that surprised that people want to know where other people went to school or what they studied. most people i know here love going to schools. some of them enroll to university after university every time they finish their previous studies. it’s like there’s no end to their thirst of studying.

i’ve been using the word “them” and not “we”, because i guess i don’t belong in the same category. i love learning new things as well, and there is also no end to my thirst of studying. but i don’t necessarily think universities, colleges, or schools are the only places i can study the things i want to study. academic titles have never been that important to me, and i’m happy with what knowledge i have so far that can get me my current job.

with no academic title but excellent skills, you can get pretty far in my home country. but the bad news is, for people like me, it would be hard to find a job in a place like Finland. i don’t mean just any job, of course, but the ones that you probably have eyes on. for example, even though i have no degrees in fashion, i was once a fashion stylist/editor for a local magazine back in my home country. after i moved here, when i was still learning Finnish language, i tried my luck to be a part of the design team in Marimekko. thinking back now, i must’ve been out of my mind to even think i would stand a chance. i’m pretty sure they threw my CV and portfolio straight to the garbage bin. :p

through a twist of luck (i’m pretty sure that was the only reason), i managed to land a job at my current workplace. well okay, maybe my history of running my own fashion boutique back in Indonesia also played a tiny role, in the sense that i knew about textiles, customer service, and sales well enough, regardless of whether or not i actually have any degree in any of those fields.

though i’m still quite far from my dream (which is to have my own fashion store), but i’m forever grateful for this rare chance my previous boss gave me. by doing this daily job, i learn more and more about the things i am most passionate about, the things that would prepare me in the best way for when i can finally run my dream store in the future.

anyway, to be fair, in Finland those people who asked me where or what i studied were mainly curious because they wanted to know what they should study in order to land a job at my workplace. and i could never answer them properly, because i always felt that i’m an exception, since A: i didn’t go to school in Finland, and B: …okay, here’s the truth, i actually studied Advertising back in my home country. Advertising, as in the Communication field, NOT Graphic Design (though i did also learn a bit of Graphic Design there). whereas my co-workers have always been those who studied textile design, fashion design, business, and handicraft, among others. plus, as i said before, i don’t actually have any academic title, because i took a 3 year diploma program (though it did take place at a university). to get an academic title, i would’ve had to take another year of studying, but i decided not to and jumped right into the working life.

comparing my home country and Finland, i can’t deny that i wish things were a bit different, both there and here. i wish it was less strict here, that people don’t necessarily have to have certain degrees or academic title to get a job, as long as the job in question doesn’t involve people’s life or death, of course (as in doctors or other paramedic fields), or academic teaching. jobs that require creative ideas or designs might work for those with no academical background as long as they can prove that they have it in them. but on the other hand, i wish that it was a bit more strict in Indonesia, that not just anybody can end up being an English teacher (who can’t even pronounce the word “umbrella” correctly –> my English teacher in middle school), a translator (who translated “toilet paper” as “kertas amplas” which means “sandpaper”. ouch), and let’s not even mention the political jobs.

i guess both countries can learn a bit from the other one. if you’re like me, and have no title, don’t worry. you’ll do fine in life!

and i hope one day i have the right answer when someone asks me that question again. opiskelin mainonta, työskennelin muotitoimittajana vähäksi aikaan, olin myös freelance romaanin kääntäjä ja mitäsköhän muuta. :p

smile (and mean it)!

only a while ago i was talking about how we’re sometimes reminded to be grateful for what we have. now i’m going to talk about almost the opposite thing: sometimes bad things that happen to you make you look inside yourself and think, i shall never do that to others. from the title of this post, i’m sure you can pretty much guess the theme.

i’ve been working in customer service business for 6 years now (and in foreign language at that!), and way before that i’ve also worked in client service department for 2 years. though they’re not completely the same, but the main idea is: keep them happy! whether it be customers or clients, they’re the ones who are going to end up paying your bills, so yes, it’s important.

through all my 8 years of combined experience, i can’t tell you how many times i’ve been treated like a servant, or probably even a doormat. yet through it all, i always preserve my smile and attitude towards them. in the end, it’s always them who realized that they treated me with disrespect, and ended up thanking me for putting up with their rude behaviour & also apologized for it. i’m a firm believer of fighting fire with water, so when someone is on fire (angry, panicking, etc.) while i serve them, i would just stay calm and try to transmit my positive energy to them instead of fighting back. it’s been working like a charm so far. 🙂 there are a few times when it was so bad that even my smile did not help, of course, but i still did not let it out on them (the customer/client). i can still proudly say that i get positive feedback from my customers almost daily, which is a lot more than any negative ones (come to think of it, i’ve only ever gotten 1 negative feedback which wasn’t even my fault. ha!).

so when the position is flipped around and i am in the customer’s shoes, naturally i pay attention to the service i am getting. i’m not that hard to please though (because, hello, i know what it’s like to serve customers myself!), and i can tell you that i very rarely complain about a bad service. however, this time i just have to.

some time ago, i had dinner with my husband at a restaurant we very often go to. we’ve been going to this restaurant for the past few years, but right now to our delight, they are having a special offer for a certain cardholder where we could buy 2 set menus for the price of one. this special offer is the kind that you can keep using for the rest of the year as many times as you’d like. since we already know the quality of the food and how nice the atmosphere there is, we made use of the special offer. everything went on as usual, the waiter showed us to our place with a big welcoming smile, until the time when i showed him my card and intention to use the special offer. all of a sudden, the same waiter–who had served us many times before–changed his attitude and started by snapping close the menu book right in front of our noses. his smile was gone and he walked right away from our table without saying anything else.

okay, maybe that was just an accident, i thought, not really wanting to believe that someone in the customer service business could just do that to their customers. but when he continued by throwing our plates of appetizers to the table without saying anything, it was clear to us both that he was doing it on purpose. to make matters worse, beside us sat other guests, who bought normal-priced food, and the same waiter also served them but with wide smiles and politeness that immediately disappeared when he came to our table to bring/take away our dishes. the difference was like night and day, and i was so mortified with the humiliation i’ve never experienced before.

this continued all the way to the end of the dessert time when he didn’t even bother to ask if there was still anything else he could do for us. hell, he didn’t even come anywhere near our table, so we had to get up ourselves to their cashier and ask for the bill. needless to say, that was the last time we are ever going to that place.

our decision wasn’t based only on the fact that we got such a poor service that night. it’s more because of the fact that all those smiles we have gotten from him, the very same waiter, in our previous visits for the past few years suddenly felt stale, so fake & disgusting i wanted to cringe. because now we saw his true nature, and all those “good service” we got previously were nothing but lies.

you may say that people who work in this field are good actors. no matter how bad our days have been, we still need to smile to our customers. but i actually believe that customers can and will see through our fake smiles. if not right at that moment, then one day, you will get caught. having lived in Finland for some years now, i can honestly tell you how rare it is to get a smile from a salesperson here. but you know what? they treat you in a matter-of-fact way, politely, and fairly. these, to me, go a looooooong way better than with a fake smile. while i have nothing against people from different cultural backgrounds, just to be clear, i must state here that the restaurant (and the waiter) in my experience above is NOT Finnish (the waiter spoke only a small amount of Finnish language).

after this experience, i was relieved to find that i have always smiled from my heart. even if somebody only purchase some 50 cents worth of something from my workplace, my smile does not falter, i do not treat them rudely, and what do i get in the end? a smile from them, and a “thank you for the friendly service” note the next day. THAT is the reason why i’ve stayed in this business.

the point i’m trying to make is: if you’re going to smile to someone, do it from your heart. be it to your customer, your friend, your enemy, your family, or whatever the situation is, mean what you show. it may seem like a small thing, but really, you’ll just end up causing more hurt if you fake it.

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. 🙂

what do you celebrate?

it’s probably nothing new to anyone, the fact that in my home country, we have this tiny column on our ID cards that states our religion. and the fact that our beloved country only acknowledges 5 religions is also probably nothing new. in fact, nothing i’m about to write is anything new, but it has to do with those previous sentences i just wrote.

very often, if not always, when i get to know someone new from my own home country, dearly beloved Indonesia, i encounter this question: what do you celebrate?

as in, we would shake hands, say our names, chit chat a bit like anyone meeting new people would do, and then, out of nowhere, this new person i just got to know would ask me that question. so, what do you celebrate?

this happened when i was still living in Jakarta, and happens here too whenever i get introduced to another Indonesian. and you know what? this question always irritates me.

the point to the question is that the person who asks it would then know what my religion is. asking “what do you celebrate” is probably the most discreet way of asking “what’s your religion?”, or so they think. but since it always irritates me, i always reply by asking, “what do you mean?”

which usually leads to their next question, “do you celebrate Eid al-Fitr or Christmas?” this next question would usually be said in a sheepish tone, as if they’re embarrassed to have to spell it out for me.

and you know what? this irritates me EVEN MORE. because not only do they ask what my religion or belief is, but they already presume that my religion or belief would be either one that celebrates Eid al-Fitr or one that celebrates Christmas. it cannot be anything else, no sir. only those two options.

first of all, what my religion or belief is none of your business, it’s between me and God. second of all, there’s more to celebrate in this life than just those two days you give as options.

just to make it clear now, once and for all: i celebrate ALL and NOTHING.

i rejoice when the Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadhan, the holiest month in the Islam religion. yes, i do believe that people can be “reborn” again after going through fasting for a month, be purified from their sins, and yes, it’s a great thing. therefore, i celebrate it.

i am happy when the Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. yes, i do believe in him, one of the greatest prophets of all times, it was a blessing to the whole world that he was born among us and taught us many great things about God. therefore, i celebrate his birthday.

but that’s not all.

i find my heart at peace when the Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Siddharta Gautama, on Vesak day. yes, i believe in him, as i believe the cycle of one’s life itself, from birth we go through life after life until we reach enlightenment. his journey on earth taught us how to keep it balanced between earthly and spiritual things, and how we are all actually one and will go back to become one. therefore, i celebrate his being and unbeing.

i am excited whenever i hear about a coming Hindu festival, be it Durga Puja, Diwali, or Holi, or anything else in between. yes, i believe in gods, as they are after all “personifications” (or “godifications”?) of the one God we are all praying to. each and every one of them has its own wisdom that teaches us all to be better beings to ourselves and to one another. therefore, i celebrate all their days.

but that is still not all.

those days that are not labeled with any religion or belief? to me, those are just the same days as the ones that are always associated with these religious celebration days. doing good deeds, fasting, being thankful, remembering one’s great teachings… they don’t have to only be done on one specific day or month. they don’t even have to be associated with any religion or belief at all. when you think of that, everyday is a celebration.

after reading this, you are free to label me as whatever you want. and no, even after all this, i’m still not going to tell you in one plain simple answer what my religion or belief is. all of that *points upwards* is my answer to your question, if you still have any. my religion/belief cannot be put into a single column on my Indonesian ID card (which i thankfully don’t have anymore). don’t pity me for this, if you think this makes me an indecisive person. i do know what my religion/belief is, and guess what? God knows it, too. 😉 that’s enough for me.

and lastly: HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone! and yes, i do mean EVERYONE, no matter what your religion/belief is! celebrate it wisely and peacefully! 🙂

seeing things differently

once upon a time, when i was still living in my home town, there was one activity that i enjoyed the most, other than designing clothes. it’s called ‘going to the mall’.

for those living in Asia and the States, you probably won’t think it strange as you know what kind of malls i’m referring to. but for the rest of the world, i guess it’s fair to elaborate a bit.

when i was small, there were places called plazas (basically the same as shopping centers) and department stores in Jakarta. they weren’t that fancy, although one of them at least had a small fountain inside the building and elevators with see-through glasses all around so we could look outside as we go up and down the floors. there were small shops in that said Plaza, and sometimes, though very rarely, if my sister and i had been nice girls for the day, we might be able to get some small new stuffs from this one shop that sold stickers, arts and crafts & other hobby things. it would make our day. in Bandung, where we would spend our holidays since that was where my grandmum lived, the place to go was a book store, which also had all kinds of small delightful things for kids like us.

and then when i was about 10 or 11, the new era of shopping malls started in Jakarta. they were big, nothing like those old plazas and department stores. suddenly those old shopping centers looked so dull compared to these clean, shiny & shimmering new shopping malls. they all had full air conditioning, marble floors, high ceilings and usually more than just 2 floors. it got even crazier when i was in middle school. one super mall had a rollercoaster inside the building. another one had (and still has, i believe) ice skating rink, also inside the building. over the years it seemed like they build bigger and bigger malls, and soon every area in Jakarta had at least 2-3 malls.

with such temptation and less & less of other recreational places to go, who could blame me and the rest of the people for going to the malls, just to stretch our legs, feel the cool air of the air con, AND look at the pretty displays on the stores at the same time? sure, you might also get tempted to buy something (alarm bell #1) and while you’re at it, why not try that new restaurant/cafe that has good ratings (alarm bell #2), but really, the keyword is ‘recreation’, right? you’re allowed to do all that.

for me, i liked going to the malls because, with the clean, shiny & shimmering interiors, the malls were the perfect place for showing off my new stuffs. got new shoes? wear them in the mall. new dress? wear it in the mall. new bag? absolutely use it in the mall. the whole mall interior itself i think pushed me to do these ridiculous things, because you can’t even step inside this kind of shopping mall with your dirty flip flops. seriously, most malls in Jakarta actually do have these “no flip-flop” signs on their entrance doors, right along the “no smoking” and “no pets” signs. so the shopping malls became sort of like exclusive places where you are not welcome if you don’t have money to buy other shoes than those dirty old flip-flops you’ve had for 3 years. i’d rather stay home than going to the mall on a bad-hair day. i had to put on make up & dress up just for going to the mall, otherwise i would feel too bland or too contrasting with the mall’s glitzy interior & other people in the mall.

another thing i liked about going to the malls was the sightseeing. yes, there were the nice displays, but i meant the people. since, i assume, everyone else also behaved like me, putting on make up & dressing up just for going to the mall, i enjoyed seeing the clothes people wore. not to judge or compare, but i did this to see what the people liked at the time, the trends, the tendencies. well, at the time, i had to know what the fashion trend was all the time, so i hope you’ll apologize me for doing that.

suddenly i moved here, to Finland. on my first trip to the mall, i did all the fussing again as always, putting on make up, dressing up… only to realize that all those clothes i wore was going to be hidden anyway under my down coat, since it was winter. okay, i silently vowed to do my ‘revenge’ on spring/summer time. all through winter that year, i tried my best to still look good whenever i had to go to the mall. i was so caught up in that thing, that i didn’t even realize that nobody was looking.

the first spring and summer came. i dressed up and went to the nearest mall just for recreation, as always. and all of a sudden, i felt so out of place. the people in the mall here don’t put on any make up or dress up. they are people who go to look for things to buy because they need them, find them, buy them, and go home. shopping malls belong to everyone. you can even step inside the building with your bare feet (as sometimes happens here in the hot summer, some teenagers going barefooted inside the shopping malls).

the displays on the shops are still nice, of course, the shops always have to lure people to buy more & more things. but the atmosphere is quite the opposite of what shopping malls in Jakarta give out. in here, everyone is welcome, with or without any money. you are welcome to look, try things on, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t even matter if you buy something or not. people won’t look at you and see if you have any shopping bags (which indicates you’re buying something new from the mall) or not, unlike in my home  town. the only people eating at the restaurants are business people from nearby neighbourhoods and family/friends that haven’t met each other for a while. they eat there because those are the perfect places to catch up or talk business, not because it’s a hip and happening new restaurant that you simply MUST try, otherwise your friends would think you’re so outdated.

it took me a while to get used to it, and only lately did i manage to force myself to go to the nearest mall without any make up and only in plain t-shirt & shorts. and even then i couldn’t stop myself from wondering what my so-called ‘friends’ would think if they could see me now, going to a shopping mall without any make up? in t-shirt and shorts?? and dirty old sandals???

now i feel ridiculous for behaving the way i did back then in my own home town. how could i let myself be so caught up in the physical appearances of things and people? and reading an article like this made me so ashamed of myself. spending too much time in those glamorous malls can really make you forget that to some others, malls or even hypermarkets like Carrefour feel so out of reach. forget that new trendy restaurant, someone out there has never even tried drinking Fanta or Coke because it’s too expensive.

i am thankful that i was given the chance to step out of my old hobby and see things differently. i don’t spend that much money on things i don’t need anymore, in fact, i very rarely spend any money at a shopping mall (the only things i buy these days are groceries and occasionally fabrics, of course). i’ve found dozens of other recreations that have more benefits for myself (and my wallet) than going to the mall, like biking or walking (in the spring/summer). instead of going to the movies to catch the latest blockbuster i would just wait till the blu-ray comes out, or even better, wait till it comes on Netflix.

my life is not boring, on the contrary, i feel like it has become more colourful ever since i moved here. so what if i don’t feel the need to put on a dress and make up to bike around town? inside, i feel rich. when i feel that way from the inside, even a lick of ice cream or a gulp of iced Coke on a hot summer day seem like such a blessing.

sometimes, that is all you need: to step back and see things from a different angle.

make war movies, not war

if you’ve walked past me while walking down the street or even if you’ve known me a bit more than just my name, you’ll never guess that i actually enjoy war movies. honestly, i never even thought i would say it myself. :p

just to be fair, i must state that i enjoy all kinds of movies. classic movies (dating back from 1920s) & musicals are my number one faves, and then there’s animation, sci-fi, drama, thriller, and the list goes on…. in fact, war movies, cowboy/wild west movies, action movies, and horror movies were the only ones that usually don’t make it to my list at all. i can’t stand the shootings and killings ‘just for the fun of it’, and horror movies are usually either totally crappy or totally scary, LOL. thanks, but no thanks.

i remember when i was a kid, maybe around 5 or 6 yo, whenever there’s a national holiday in my home country that has to do with our country’s history, the TV stations would show local war movies. unfortunately back then there was no such thing as ratings and censors for blood/violence there (do they even exist now in my home country, i wonder?), so all it took was one look at all the shootings and blood in those movies for me to despise war movies.

i did still see some popular Hollywood war movies when i was in high school, but i still couldn’t feel the thrill of it. it’s possible that it was due to my lack of knowledge of any historical thing. (yeah, i suck in history, any kind of history. can’t we just live in the present time?)

and so i had to marry someone who likes war movies. i didn’t know this before i married him, of course, who actually knew anything about the person you’re about to marry until you finally are married to him/her, right? anyway, we started collecting movies on blu-ray like 1,5 years ago, since we’re both such movie buffs (and the fact that movie tickets are so expensive here might also be one of the reasons). we always get a bunch of movies at a time, half would me my choices, and half would be his. and when he started getting war movies, i got back at him by getting classic/musical movies, LOL. but still i watched those war movies with him (and he sometimes watch those musicals with me, too).

i guess when i now see those war movies as a grown up, i began to understand them better. now i can finally get the thrill of, NOT the wars themselves, but the stories behind the wars. the people involved, directly and indirectly, their stories. that’s what we usually fail to hear when we read the news on the media, or when we read the texts in history books. i still don’t like the shootings and the killings, but that’s what war is like. and it’s always there in the movies to remind us that war is never good, for anyone.

okay, it did help that the first war movie i watched as a grown up has Barry Pepper in it. 😀 it was Saving Private Ryan, and this was also one of those i watched in high school. it didn’t make me change my mind about war movies back then, but now, as an adult myself, it made a bigger impact. after watching that movie, i didn’t mind it that much whenever my husband got us some more war movies. from Apocalypse Now, to Full Metal Jacket, to We Were Soldiers, to Letters From Iwo Jima. there are many more in between, but i’m sure you get the point already.

some are better than the others, but all of them usually voice the same thing: how war affects & changes people’s lives. the strong bonds between each of those who were in the war, becoming closer than family members because of the horrific experiences they had to go through together. how they can still find a small form of happiness out of simple things like receiving a letter from their loved ones. things you don’t usually appreciate when you’re living in a free world become so precious when you’re at war. i think these movies give better chance for people who have never been in an actual war to hear the voices of those who have. see what they saw, feel what they felt. the things you can not otherwise see and feel just by reading or watching the news.

now i think i’m beginning to be a bit better in world war history after seeing these movies. i still wish more war movies are made, and not just from the US point of view, as the Hollywood war movies usually are (except for Letters From Iwo Jima. i really enjoyed this one, highly recommend it to those who haven’t seen it yet!). i would love to see a good & decent war movie from my own home country, for sure. if anyone in Hollywood is thinking of making one, could you please throw Barry Pepper in it too, say, as an American journalist or something? then i’d really have no problem watching it. 😉 and i have yet to see Talvisota and Tuntematon Sotilas about the Finnish wars. yeah, i still have a lot to go, but i’m sure my husband doesn’t mind getting more war movies for us.

army of me

i’m a different person at work and at home. i don’t know if that’s normal, but to me it has always been like that. it’s something that’s got to do with what kind of work you do, i guess, and since i’m working in a sort of a customer service kind of job, at work i don’t show my true colours 100%.

at home, (or anywhere else when i’m with my closest circle of friends/family) i am quite impatient. i have a short fuse, and it really doesn’t take much to make me get angry, especially when i’ve just lost some sleep (which happens quite often). thankfully my husband understands this and stands by me. 😀

at work, i have to be the exact opposite kind of person. i have to be patient, listen to what the customers want, and serve & help them from start to finish, so when they leave they’ll feel satisfied with the service. i do this around 50 times (more or less) a day, 5 days a week. don’t ask me how i can stand it, i also never thought i’d be able to do it for this long.

it helps to remember how i would also like to be treated when i walk into a store or some other similar place where i expect to be served well, and that, i think, is how i always manage to hold down my impatience at work. i wouldn’t like it if i was greeted with a sour face, so i smile all the time at my customers. i wouldn’t like it if i was treated with any kind of prejudice, so i always treat all my customers the same way, young or old, any skin colour, etc.

some customers come in with expectations that when they look like they have more money than others, that means they should be treated better than those others who don’t. some come in with expectations that when they say they’re in a hurry, even if there are 3 or 4 other people waiting in line to be served before them, they should be served first and right away. some customers look at people like me as if we are their servants. some customers blame people like me if for some reason they don’t find what they’re looking for, even if it just so happens that our working place doesn’t have that product or service to begin with.

and through all that, i always keep my smile and hold down my impatience. because that is what working in this line of work means. dealing with these kinds of people (and more pleasant ones too, thankfully) is an everyday thing.

generally, i am open to critics too at work. i can accept negative feedbacks, as long as they are constructive and right in their places.

but not when the negative feedback is a full-stretched exaggeration of what actually happened to the point that i believe this person was delusional.

i can understand that when we are angry about something, we feel the need for the whole world to know that. but must we really add untruthful details just to get the whole world to agree on our side, or sympathize with us? and do we think of what that means to the person/s who’s the object of our anger, when we start adding these lies to our stories? how would that (adding lies) help get us what we wanted by giving a negative feedback? we’re letting out our negative energy to other people, and at the same time brewing up yet another new negative energy from the object of our anger by telling lies about them.

when this happened to me recently, i was fortunate that my everyday attitude at work for the past (almost) 6 years was clearly visible to my boss that she believed my side of the story. but the harm was already done, the wound had happened to my heart, that i would always remember this for the rest of my life, how someone is capable of saying such a lie for God knows what reason.

not long after that, it happened the other way around to me, that i experienced an unpleasant service from some other place. i was so angry, and right away i called my husband to rant about it. he calmly suggested that i give them a negative feedback. so i came home, took a glass of water, calmed myself down, and built myself a happy mood before finally going to the website of this place to write a negative feedback.

i wrote as clear & accurate as i could, not adding any lies or unnecessary things, and i specifically wrote that it was not this one person that i was disappointed at, but the way things were organized in this place. after clicking the ‘send feedback’ button, i felt light and my positivity recharged.

no longer than an hour later, i got a reply from the general manager of this place. i got everything i asked for: apology, explanation, and promise for a better service in the future. mission accomplished, without having to ignite any new pain.

wouldn’t it be nice if everyone else also does it this way? imagine all the hurts and pains we could avoid causing to other people, just for the sake of your own anger being let out & heard.

i for one will keep on doing it this way. it’s effective, and it doesn’t even make me feel bad afterwards. 🙂 to this person who told lies about me and my other co-workers, you do know that you’ll only reap what you sow, right? keep sending negativity towards other, and you’ll only get more negativity in return.

and if you complain once more, just like Björk once said, you’ll most likely meet an army of me.

PS. the song, title, lyrics, and videoclip are not owned by me. i just borrowed them for personal use.