Sunday, 28 August 2011

Old Kebaya

My mother had always bought new clothes for Chinese New Year when I was young.  She said it's a MUST to wear something new for Chinese New Year.  During that time nobody wore cheong sam (Chinese traditional dress) for Chinese New Year in Indonesia.  The previous government banned everything chinese in the country so our CNY celebration was only at home, having family lunches wearing new dress or pants or even new jeans while waiting for ang pao (red pocket money). After CNY, we would wear our "new CNY clothes" like any other normal clothings.

My mother-in-law also has the tradition of buying new clothes for Hari Raya Idul Fitri.  She usually takes her grandchildren for shopping spree weeks before Hari Raya.  I started going to my tailor months before Hari Raya.  It's a custom in Malaysia to wear traditional clothes during Hari Raya. While men wear Baju Melayu, women can wear either Kebaya or Baju Kurung. 

This is the typical Baju Melayu worn by Malaysian men

 Baju Kurung

The Kebaya

I like to wear Kebaya instead of Baju Kurung because I always had my baju kurung loose-long sleeves accidently dipped into curry gravy or rendang.  I still haven't mastered the art of wearing baju kurung without dirtying its sleeves or skirt. 

Malaysians celebrate Hari Raya Idul Fitri for one whole month.  We will have a full month of "open houses" where friends and relatives visit each other's houses for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Companies will book hotel ballrooms to host open houses for their employees and clients.  Because of this, I have to have at least 3 or 4 Kebaya on standby. 

So, every year I would ask my tailor to make 3-4 Kebayas. 

Unlike normal clothes that I wear during Chinese New Year, after Hari Raya celebration is over, I hardly wear my Kebaya anymore.  I am a jeans-and-t-shirt kinda girl so the only time I wear my Kebaya is when I have to go for weddings, which at this age, I seldom get any wedding invitation anymore.  Most of our friends are married (or decided not to get married) and it's too early to get invitation for friend's children's wedding.

After 8 years of Hari Raya in Kuala Lumpur, I was stuck with a lot of kebayas that I rarely use.  I don't want to throw them away because I still need them once in a while.  The Kebayas occupy too much space in my small closet. 

Since I couldn't make my closet bigger and I couldn't throw the kebayas, I told myself not to buy or make new kebayas for Hari Raya.  If I have to buy, maybe buy only 1 piece, just to participate in the festive mood and to contribute to the economy cycle. I decided to just reuse the old kebayas (which I wore max 3 times each).

Initially I was a bit uncomfortable wearing previous years' kebaya.  But I think my decision was well justified.  Let me tell you the reasons:

1. NOBODY noticed that I wore the kebaya that I had worn 4-8 years ago.  Kebaya has the classic and everlasting style so there is no "out-of season" kebaya.

2. I save the space in my closet.

3. I don't need to waste time going back and forth to the tailor to make the kebayas.  I have to go to the mall, stuck in traffic jam, find parking, and buy the fabrics.  Then go to the tailor, stuck again in the jam, find parking again, have the tailor measure my ever-changing body size.  After 2 weeks, I have to go back again to the tailor for fitting, another round of driving and parking.  Then after another week, I have to pick up the kebayas... again... another round of traffic jam and parking hassle.   Imagine how many hours I used to spend for that. I got tired just reading this no 3 reason..!

4. I save some money.  Tailor-made kebaya is much more expensive than the ready-made but since I don't have an ideal model body, I could never find any ready-made kebaya that fit me.

5. I can contribute a little bit to the environment by polluting less (eliminate the CO2 emission from my driving back and forth in the attempt of getting the new kebayas) and reducing the waste from clothes  (Reuse, Reduce and Recycle)

6. It makes me feel super good... coz I can still fit into my old kebaya...! Either I had a great tailor who could make my kebaya fit my enlarged body or my enlarged body is actually not that large..:)

7. It motivates me to keep my body size in check. 

So... the secret is out.... I am wearing my old recycle kebayas for Hari Raya. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

We are not normal

I was always confused on who I was when I was a little girl.  In fact, I believe most of Indonesian Chinese were, growing up in a place where they felt like they were second class citizens all the time.  Our homes were never homes to us.  Our ancestors were immigrants who came to Indonesia to seek better living.

I never thought that I really belong to "one particular group".

In Indonesia, the country I love dearly, the place I was born and grew up... I am not really considered the true blue Indonesian.  I am a "tionghoa", a term Indonesians use to call Indonesian Chinese. Indonesian Chinese is never considered as one of the ethnic groups.  I am not a "pribumi" (a term for the real Indonesian).

If I were to go to China and live there... The Chinese will also never consider me as one of them.  For them, I am "Ing Nie Hua Chiao" which is a term for Chinese who are not originally from China, but from Indonesia.  The fact that I don't speak Mandarin (or any other dialects) and I don't eat monkey brain even confirm that I can't be the real Chinese.

So, I really don't belong in either country.  I never feel that I have equal rights with the "real citizens" of any country.

Fortunately someone invented the word "globalization" which made me feel that I am a real true blue citizen.. Not of a particular country, but as the citizen of the earth.

But how can I explain this globalization to my daughters?  When Amber, my eldest daughter was 4 years old, she had already felt that she was different, she didn't belong to any particulart group. 

One day, coming back from school, she looked so sad and asked me,"Mommy, what am I?"

I was taken back.. At that time I really didn't know what to answer. It came as a total surprise to have a 4-year old ask me that question.

She said that in school, her friends told her that she was not a Malay because she had Chinese mother.  But her Chinese friends also told her that she was not Chinese because her father is Malay and she is a Muslim.  Poor little girl.... at such a young age, she had to choose to be in a group where she would always be different from the rest of the group members.

I told her that she is not really Malay and not really Chinese, she is just special.  A 4-year old didn't really understand what special was... She said,"I don't want to be special, I just want to be normal"

My heart ached when she said that.  That's exactly the feeling that I had always wanted to feel... To be normal.

Since I can't afford to send my daughters to international schools, the least I can do for them is to expose them to kids from mixed race marriages.  I am sure some kids with parents of different races also feel the same way as my daughters. I remember one day, Amber and Nadine told me two of their friends were exactly like them, they have Chinese mothers and Malay fathers.  They were so happy at that time, finding out that they are not that "weird".

I have accepted the fact that I can't never be a normal citizen.. I learn to embrace the fact that I am special.

I hope my daughters will soon feel the same way.  In today's world, normal is boring.... Everybody wants to be special... I hope they will realize it soon.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A month of "real housewife of KL"

My maid, Inem,is going back to her hometown this Monday. She will be spending her Hari Raya holiday with her family at Central Java for 1 whole month.

She has been with our family since my eldest daughter was 1 month old. Prior to that she worked for my mother in Bandung for 8 years. So practically she's been with us for 16 years plus..! How time flies...

I am very fortunate to have her helping me coping with my houseworks and my children's well beings. Every 2 years she would go back to her hometown for 1 month. In between, she also went back with me to Bandung during holidays. From Bandung she would take 11 hour bus trip to her hometown for a week or so.

No matter how often I was left without her, the feeling is still the same... I am totally loss without her..!!

By western standard, I am super spoiled... but by Indonesian standard, I am a bit deprived of "maids" as most of Indonesian households have 2-3 maids.

A lot of my friends thought my Inem must be super smart, hard working and efficient, so good as she is close to be a Supermaid.

Well, let me tell you something... She is NOT.

Same thing with her friends, who are also working as maids for my neighbours, they think that Inem is so lucky to have a perfect employer.

Well, she will tell you the same thing... I am NOT.

We have our differences...

She forgot a lot of things, she had her bad mood days (which made her accidently shouted at me), she turned some of my white clothes pink, she burnt my trousers, she broke a lot of glasses and bowls, she spoiled my cheeses by leaving them in the cupboard instead of fridge, etc etc..

I got irritated, I was forgetful, I didn't tell her proper directions to do things, I made her upset, I made her work beyond her working hours when I invited people having dinners at my house, I woke her up 2am when my babies threw up, etc etc..

But somehow, we understand each other... Although sometimes we made each other upset.. We both know that inside, we do care for each other. 

We understand that we both are not perfect.. we have our flaws and we accept them.

So, this writing is my tribute to Inem, who will never read this blog.  Because even before she is gone, I have already missed her... The thought of doing piles of laundry, ironing (i really hate ironing), washing dishes, gardening, vacuuming, mopping, etc.., have been haunting me for the past 1 week..

So, for the next one month : my kitchen will be closed, my house will be messy, my mood will be unpredictable and my insanity will be tested.

Let's see what kind of craps I will write in my next blog...

Have a happy weekend...!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Never say never

I thought I could never do it

I tried all kinds of slimming programs, from Atkins diet, liquid diet, juice diet, food combining diet, southbeach diet, etc etc.. All worked for awhile and I would definitely come back to my eating spree.  I just couldn't do those diet for more than two weeks, some even for a few days..

So when I had to fast for the first time.. I knew I could never do it, I knew I would never last more than a week, and I knew I would give up.  I was terrified when fasting month was coming...

My muslim friends and relatives told me to recite the "niat" or "purpose" before I started fasting.  They said it helped a lot.. I didnt believe them but since it's a requirement, I did it anyway.  I recited my "niat" the night before the fasting month.

First day : morning was not so bad coz I was not a breakfast person.  I skipped breakfast most of the time.  But when the time hit 12.30 the hunger started to kick in.  I tried to ignore it and surprisingly after half an hour the hunger dissappeared.  Then thirst and headache came around 4pm.  But since I was working and needed to finish up few things on that day, I didn't have time to entertain them.  By the time I needed to leave the office at 5.30, time went so fast.  I had to rush driving home and buying food.  In no time at all I heard the adzan, the call for prayer.. the time to break the fast.

First thing I did was drinking a glass of cold water.  It was the best tasting water I had ever tasted.  I was amazed on how little I ate that day despite of not having breakfast and lunch.  I broke my fast with 2 dates, popiah, porridge and a piece of kuih.  I was stuffed. 

The third and fourth days were the hardest.  I guess the sugar reserve in my body dropped significantly.  I was super tired. The hunger and thirst started knocking on my brain since 10 am.  But again, since I was busy at the office, I didn't really have anytime to entertain them.

After the first week, everything was a breeze... In no time, I completed my first whole month of fasting.

For some people fasting teach them to be patient, to resist temptation, to feel how it is being poor without enough food and drink, to count the blessing, etc.

For me, my first fasting has taught me about perseverence.. about not giving up... about doing things that I never thought I would be able to do.

I guess what people say is true : when you keep your mind on something, you can do it.  I never really believed in it until that first month of fasting.

Selamat berpuasa to my muslim friends...

For my friends of other religions : it is true that if you don't give up easily, you can do whatever it is that you set your mind into, even losing weight of 70 kg... Just look at the Biggest Loser on TV.. really inspiring. Although I had to admit, my determination on losing weight is probably in the state of crumbling.