Boys Brunch: Anggoro Seto – From Indonesia’s Golden Boy To European Graduate

As this world that used to be bigger is now getting narrower, the hunger of exploring and experiencing new cultures is becoming more exciting than ever. Many international organizations offer ways for us to walk in their shoes, especially for us in Indonesia, a country where the world is somehow paying attention to.

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Up north in Europe, there’s a scholarship program called Erasmus Mundus – an opportunity for people around the World who aims to enhance quality in higher education through scholarships and academic co-operation between the European Union and the rest of the world. The program has been popularly prestigious among Indonesians aspiring international students due to its amazing study programs and university destinations that is spread all across Europe.

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Credit: Anggoro Seto

Anggoro Seto who calls himself a life learner felt like the program suited his objectives of life – fruitful international experience by learning real way of living from our Blue-continent counterparts. This long-time friend of mine just graduated last year and shared his excitement of studying in multiple European cities and living European ways during our brunch in his hometown Bekasi, for our Boys Brunch April/May/June 2017.

Feby (F): Long time no see, Anggoro! It’s been a while, eh. Congrats on your graduation. How’s everything?

Anggoro (A): Yeahh, too long! Thanks, Feby. Everything’s great. Of course, they need to be great. Lol. Europe was fun, being back home is also amazing. You told me you wanted to visit when you were in the Middle East but you didn’t. I could have brought you to places you would love.

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(F): Shit obviously happened. Lol. But that’s alright, there are still plenty of timed ahead. But it’s all about you now, and first thing’s first – Tell me about your study and Erasmus Mundus Scholarship

(A): So yeah, as you know the past couple years, I’ve been busy with my study that I took with Erasmus Mundus Master Course. As most of us also know Erasmus Mundus is a pretty well-known program from that aims to promote Eurpoean universities’ education for International students outside Europe. Continuing my bachelor study and my professional experience, I was accepted in this program called AFEPA – Agricultural, Food and Environmental Policy Analysis – Well, the program’s name speaks for itself, and it is something I’ve been doing for quite some times.

As all Erasmus Mundus programs, AFEPA also aimed to promote European universities, as well as strengthening relationships among involving countries. AFEPA also allowed me to study in 2 universities, each in Bonn (Germany) and Barcelona (Spain) respectively, along with 2 summer schools in Barcelona and Belgium. This whole experience would definetely be one the highlights of my life – ever. Many good things came along with it, from the study to the idea of living in a total different cultures up in Western Europe.

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(F): That sounds too much fun and the best part was that you got to do it without paying any cash. Why did you think the committee grant you the scholarship?

(A): Yeah! To be honest, this program was always something that I anticipated the most eversince I knew it existed. I could say that I tried really hard to receive what I received. I actually applied this program back in 2013 for the first time but I only made it to reserve list. I was obviously not a quitter so I came back in 2014 and finally made it. I felt like they could see how consistent and persistent myself was as an applicant, reflected in the whole process of application. I did lots of research and practice which I think are the key of succeeding any scholarship programs. We gotta show that we’re being serious and are able to handle the responsibility of being an awardee.

(F): Couldn’t agree more. But why were you so obsessed with Erasmus Mundus? How did you think studying in Europe was better than in any other continent?

(A): In this era, I believe that being a student doesn’t only mean that we can only get the learning process inside the class. The world offers too many things we can learn about if we’re aware enough. I don’t know though, but I somehow felt connected to Europe to fulfill my curiousity and to experience myself of what life is about in the continent. This was probably affected by the fact that I’ve experienced living in North America so I kinda wanted somewhere new for me to explore.

Just like Asia, Europe offers endless diversity but somehow they’re also united. One country is different to another and that excited me a lot. As a person who value cultures and diversity, I felt lucky enough to finally experience a whole new point of view in multiple European cities and I don’t regret it.

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(F): It’s all about the travelling too, isn’t it! So when studying, do you choose the school first or the city first?

(A): Honestly, city first. LOL. As I mentioned that my objective was to learn from every aspect instead just what I would get from school. And of course selecting countries and cities will be one of the really important keys. I’ve got Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Germany, and Spain on my list and I finally got two of them. Now that I have to share these things with you, the more I actually miss everything that happened back there. HAHAHA.

(F): HAHAHA. Congrats to you, bro. But from those two, how different are lives and study environments between Germany and Spain?

(A): Oh man, they’re completely different. People in Bonn were much more discpline as the germans are known as. And starting my program in Bonn first was the right decision. Not that I didn’t enjoy Germany, but as Indonesian, I was more sociable and Spain was the place for it. People in Barcelona are more loose, open, and outgoing. I enjoyed both places so much as I needed those “social rules” Bonn shaped for me to start the year, and ended the experience with more relaxing environment that Barcelona gave.

(F): From every knowledge and experience that you’ve gathered through Erasmus Mundus Master Course program, how do you think they will be useful for your life?

(A): I feel like I am more developed – as I should. And it is probably obvious when I say  that the past two years experience I had was really eye opening. I kept collecting puzzles to be an open minded, mature, and independent person. And the program truly exceeded my expectation. I have the knowledge from school, get to know lots of people, and I traveled to many places during my break too. It was like I was prepared to received 100% and they gave me 1000%. I think you obviously know how them-experiences will be useful for my life.

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(F): You sound really on fire. But as we had lived in Canada 5 years ago for an exchange program, what do you think is the most significant difference between living abroad for an exchange and for a master program?

(A): Obviously really different. Back then, our program was set and designed with really specific instructions of how, where, and with whom we should live. We were given schedule, activities, and we understood that the program would somehow end at the exact designated time that made us have to go back to real life. But master study was something I needed to figure out by myself. It was a big chunk of my life that I would continously carry – not that exchane program wouldn’t – but school is more like a “real thing” if that’s even the right word. I designed myself and took full responsibility of that. This thing will affect my life in a really big portion, such as my future job – simply. I am proud that I have experience both. You should get your master soon, Feb!

(F): HAHAHA, thanks for encouraging! It does sound interesting. On the other notes, how do you think your experience will affect other people in your community, though?

(A): Just what I did to you, I always try to deliver the message. Everyone can and should experience the other part of the world the best way possible. As human being that was born and raised in the same country, I want every Indonesians who read your blog to understand that we have the same basic – we received same education system and similar social conditions. I know ‘everything’ is better most of the time in bigger cities but we do create our own opportunities. I encourage people to bring the best in them; we all should be thirsty of experiencing diversity and apply the good things in our community!

 

(F): Excellent enough. So now that you graduated, what is your next move?

(A): I just got married with the love of my life last month, and that was such a major move yet another milestone of my life. But also now that I have better knowledge especially in agriculture and environmental policy, I am really excited to apply that in real life. I would love to contribute and work in an environment where I can support, but at the same time still give me learning process. Learning is really that fun that I know I will never stop doing.

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Credit: Anggoro Seto

Anggi – as how I always called him was still pretty much the same person, but with a whole completely new spirit. He still had the same gesture, same goof, and same hilarious laughter but when I dug into his European experience, I could see how excited he was and the importance of that experience was clearly reflected by the way he told me the story.

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We had a nice mixture sundanese-western selection of brunch. Cireng, grilled meat ball, rice, lasagna, marshmallow brownies, coffee, and milkshake was served in the new restaurant called 3 Cooks in Bekasi. As we enjoyed our brunch, I remembered how I spend many meals with him back in 2011-2012, from a Subway outlet in downtown Charlottetown to a meat-ball and fruit soup stall in Cikajang traditional market. We maintained our friendship the last 5 years and I am proud of having a friend who could literally go miles to achieve what he’s always been dreaming of. Definitely looking forward to see more!

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Trivia

  • Who’s your favourite cartoon character?

Nobita

  • If you can, in what colour do you want to dye your hair?

Light brown

  • Where do you wish you can go for a honeymoon?

Maldives. Why the heck does it need to be so expensive!

  • If you’re asked to watch one movie for 3 times in a day, what would that be?

What’s that Bollywood movie called!? Ohh, 3 Idiots

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This or That

  • Bungee Jumping or Sky Diving?

Sky Diving!

  • Ballerina or Cheerleader?

Cheerleader

  • Ramen or Pad Thai?

Pad Thai

  • Edgy or Geeky

Edgy

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Credit: Anggoro Seto

About Anggoro

  • Anggoro Seto was born on 25 July 1989. He went to University of Padjadjaran (UNPAD) in 2007, one of the top University in West Java to earn himself a bachelor of Agriculture
  • Back in 2011 right after graduation, he was chosen to represent West Java in Indonesia-Canada Youth Exchange Program that spent 6 months of living in both Canadian city called Charlottetown and an Indonesian Village called Cikandang, in southern part of Garut, West Java
  • He was also active campaigning about positivity through pageantry. After winning Abang (Mister) Bekasi in 2012, he was dubbed as Jajaka (Mister) West Java in the same year.
  • Representing Indonesia wasn’t a new thing for Anggoro. Before Canada exchange program, he already represented UNPAD for Harvard Model United Nations back in 2011.
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Boys Brunch: Rico Polim – Asian Sensation of Penn-State

Coming from a developing country like Indonesia to compete at the International level is always challenging yet interesting as not really many people know in which side of Asia this big archipelago is. Or when they know, they will still ask you interesting questions that indicates how primitive we are. Moreover, if you come from a developing city like Pontianak where not only people worldwide don’t really know its existence, but also ignored by many Indonesians.

But Rico Polim turned the table 180 degrees. This long-time friend of mine is from Pontianak and proved the old proverb of “It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going” to be true. He studied both Bachelor and Master study in the United States of America and earned himself the highest recognition an engineering student of Pennsylvania State University could get, as he was named as College of Engineering student marshals which is selected for their outstanding academic achievement and contributions to engineering student life, every year.

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As he and I had this little reunion after several years when we both were home for the holiday, I got the opportunity to interview him for the January 2017 edition of Boy’s Brunch so that he could spill every amazing thing he experienced the past few years.

(Feby): Hey Rico, long time no see! How’s everything going? Last time we met, you were still in High School, weren’t you?

(Rico): Hello Feb! Everything’s great. It’s really nice to being back home and catch up with you again. Thank you so much for reaching me. I also remember the last time I saw you that you were busy preparing your departure to Canada.

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(F):  Yeah, it was 2011. It’s been to long! So how did you start this entire amazing journey?

(R): Well yeah, as a Pontianak native I always lived here and spent my education in this cozy city. When I graduated high school, I was looking for a bit of a ‘fresh air’ and followed my passion. I moved out of the city to study at The Pennsylvania State University, and took dual Bachelor Study and Master Study in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research.

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(F):  Why did you choose to study abroad, especially in the USA?

(R): I can say that I am privileged enough to be able to have parents who can support my dream to study in the place that I desire. I feel that furthering my education abroad doesn’t necessarily mean that I do not trust our education here. We have equal level of education, and I would think that there are aspects of education in Indonesia that would excel compare to the US. But in my opinion, there are also some aspects in the American system of education that happens to be more interesting for me. And my parents thankfully support the idea of studying abroad. USA is a personal dream of mine, and I worked really hard to be accepted in where I studied.

(F):  Tell us a little bit about your study. How interesting that was to study Industrial Engineering in the US?

(R): I took dual degree in Industrial Engineering which is basically the study of optimizing and reading the system, where efficient processes are developed for the particular process. It was a study that I am really passionate about as in the nowadays society, we become more connected to each other. Nowadays, a technology can be brainstormed in the US, produced in China, and be exhibited in Mexico, and my study allowed me to be the part of the process. I enjoyed the study of optimizing and reading data for tons of interesting purposes. I was in this amazing program which they combine Bachelor and Master Study and I was focusing the Industrial Engineering to Operation Research. I basically learned the mathematical property of life, for my additional ability to understand life. HAHAHA.

I worked really hard and took that study seriously. I received more than 5 awards and scholarship including the most prestigious award to be named as the student marshal for the Penn State College of Engineering last fall commencement ceremony on Dec, 2016.

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Credit: Penn State

(F):  That sounds great. But how did you survive being an Asian at school, Especially from Indonesia and Pontianak as developing places?

(R): I knew the consequences and I was prepared to face the social life there in the US. I realized that I was Indonesian with Chinese descendant which made me do not only limit my involvement in the society to just with people in own ethnicity. I always tried to get out of my comfort zone and saw people from a lot of culture and background. I was comfortable with the diversity that I experienced as much as I was comfortable with adapting to them. I would say hard work and timing was really important to survive in a really diverse lifestyle. I needed to prove my capability of being a responsible person that I was independent and lived miles apart of my family. But being responsible didn’t necessarily mean to be strict. I liked to experience new things; it’s just part of the process of being nurtured by life.

And as a minority, I was doing pretty well. I was involved in this Schreyer Society – an honourable society in PennState where only crème de la crème students get to be part of. It was awesome, members of this society gets multiple privileges that we enjoy so much. HAHAHA. I also acted as a co-captain of this club named Penn State Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (Formula SAE) where I got to make an actual Formula 1 car. It is really challenging yet obviously so much fun.  Last time we showcased our F1 car in the 2015 Formula SAE Michigan series competition where we ranked 33rd out of 120 International teams, which was the team’s highest since 2008.

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Credit: Facebook

(F): I am loving all of these stories. Were there any unpleasant incidents that happened during your study, though?

(R): There were obviously quite a few of them, but nothing big. During classes and assignments, group works could be really challenging. But everyone has their own battle, don’t we? For locals, it probably sucked that they needed to re-take some courses, but it was pretty demanding for me that I needed to re-take a visa in certain period. But the opportunity meant more to me than to them, so I guess sticks and stones didn’t break my bones. I focused on enjoying every moment and I earned my due.

(F):  I agree with the spirit. How do you think those experience will make you become a better Indonesian?

(R): Being lesser part of Indonesian community in the US, gave me the chance to being exposed more in the community. Man, our country offers lots of magnificent thing to the world. They can be amazed by even basic information of Indonesia and I enjoyed being ‘ambassador’ of this country at my school. Again, in the diverse situation, it’s always opportunity that we need to explore. I learned too many things this life could offer, such an eye opener. I got to know lots of people from not only US but also other International students and professors, and dealt with them. I became more mature of a person and I think every Indonesian youth should experience that in the best way possible.

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(F):  What do you think has shaped you as a person you are now? What made you this positive?

(R): My parents and family, shootout to them! They teach me more than I could ever think of to be the person that I am now. I am also a life learner and I feel like I learned many things from people that interacted with me as well. Like from many Indonesians at Penn-State, from the Indonesian Student Association in the early days who guided me how to survive and everything. And after all, I am obviously still learning and my graduation was just a beginning. I’m hungry for more –hopefully– great things to conquer now!

(F):  What will your next move be then? What big things are coming?

(R): I want to get a Job and continue my study to get Ph.D in the US because the excitement from graduation is obviously still there. I am coming back to US very soon, but I always want to be connected to Indonesia. I garner all these knowledge to contribute back to my community back home and help the society improve the current process. As a big Nation, our people need to embrace the digital era and seize the moment, and I believe we can. I want to tell the world that anything is possible as long as you work hard and commit yourself to what you love. Being honest and sincere to ourselves is the most important; those things are activities that I want to be associated with.

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Credit: Facebook

For a boy who will turn 22 years old this year, Rico sounded really mature yet still managed to show it in a really fun way. He ordered Bakmi Jawa (Javanese Noodle) as he seemed like he wanted to redeem his longing of Indonesian food. We had this brunch at the new hip-eatery in Pontianak called Botani, where his pure white shirt complimented the earthy ambiance of the café perfectly.

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Rico’s Brunch: Javanese Noodle

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Feby’s Brunch: Pan-seared Dory

I remember the first time I met him circa 2010 at a debating tournament where he was a debater and I was a chief adjudicator. His sharp and strong argument became the highlight that it brought him a ticket to a national level debating tournament. His evolution to be the person he is today does not surprise me and probably everyone who knows him at all. Rico is an Asian Sensation of Penn-State and as he said, this was just a beginning. Watch out, World. This boy is from Pontianak, the city that you do not really care about.

 

Trivia

  • What will you rename yourself?

Rico sounds good.

  • Who is your first Celebrity crush?

Emma Watson

  • Where do you want to get married?

Pontianak

  • What is your current jam?

Take Five by Dave Bruebeck

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This or That

  • Katy Perry or Lady GaGa?

Ahhhh I really don’t want to choose! – Katy Perry

  • Swimming or Bowling?

Swimming

  • Alpen or Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu

  • Cappuccino or Espresso?

Espresso

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Credit: Penn State

About Rico

  • Rico Polim was born and raised in Pontianak, West Kalimantan on 11 Maret 1995
  • He was a club junkie in High School. He joined both Basketball and English Debating Club and his serious commitment in debating ranked him #16 out of 99 debaters who participated in National School Debating Chhampionship 2011
  • Grew up to be a physically active person, he lost 10kg due to his basketball routine throughout the age of 12 to 16 years old
  • He’s been in a long distance relationship since 2012 as he studied in The US while his girlfriend chose to study in Australia
  • In Penn-State, Polim was a recipient of the 2016 John W. Oswald Award, the President Sparks Award and the President Freshman Award. He also earned numerous scholarships, including the Harold and Inge Marcus Scholarship in industrial engineering, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation’s E. Wayne Kay Graduate Scholarship, the International Society of Automation Scholarship, the Material Handling Education Foundation Scholarship, and the Society of Automotive Engineers Long-term Member Scholarship. – a solid long list of award not a regular student could just receive

Boys Brunch: Tubagus Yusuf – Young Ambassador With A Mission

For Tubagus Muhammad Yusuf Rifaiz, hopping from one country to another has always been a solid plan. Way further than just travelling abroad, He always brought agendas during the trips, and those are pretty cool ones. He represented Indonesia in many International occasions, from a music festival to being a youth ambassador.

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Connected through a friend in the same organization, I had the chance to sit together with him in the second installment of Boys Brunch. Iyus, how he is usually called, has been combining dream, mission, and of course, style for us to be inspired of. Starting his Journey in Surabaya, this Airlangga University alumnus spoke the truth of how blessed his life has been for being an Indonesian youth.

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Feby (F): Hi Iyuz, thank you for willing to be featured. How’s life?

Iyuz (I): Hi, my pleasure! Life is great. I am enjoying myself in Jakarta after moving out from Surabaya last 2 years. I am currently working in a startup company which I pretty much enjoy, doing business-related stuffs are always things I am passionate about.

F: That sounds really exciting. What do you usually do besides working?

I: Well, sometimes I just go to the gym. And I am kinda social person so I usually hang out with my friends; watch movies, karaoke, or just chill at cafes. Other than that, I go travel. I just went to Australia last month. It was so much fun.

F: You seem that you internationally travel quite often. So how did you start your international journey?

I: Thanks! I guess I am pretty lucky to be one of that Indonesian youth who is able to travel abroad for quite some times. I love to see what this world can offer to me in different ways, and I somehow manage to receive several chances to do so. Back in 2012, I was in my University Choir group and we became the first champion that allowed us to represent the university in the worldwide level. We went to Poland, Netherland, and France. From there, the opportunities just got wider. Just a year after in 2013, I joined the ASEAN Youth Exchange Program that brought me to Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. Still in the same year, and I was really excited because it was always a dream of mine to go there, I represented my University once again for Harvard National Model United Nation in New York! And at the end of that year again, I was selected to represent Indonesian Youth for an International Youth Exchange called Ship of South East Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) that made me visited Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore and showed how beautiful our culture was.

F:  Why do you think it’s necessary to attend International events if you just want to travel?

I: I think it really depends on how we see it. By utilizing many occasions, it makes the meaning of my activity to be doubled up. Representing my community, my university, or my country to the world makes the journey become so much more meaningful and insightful in a lot of ways. Let’s say our interaction with the locals, for instance. When we travel, we will just probably interact with them when we are lost or at the store for assistance. But when we go in occurrences, we make real connection to them. We become friends and they share you the world from their perspective and vice versa, you get to introduce your view and value directly to their ears. You’ll feel that you are part of youth of the world just like them, you will miss each other when you separate and that makes you and them richer for the things which are intangibly exchanged. And I think you agree of how beautiful that feeling is. New York like it is for many people around the world, has always been my dream since I was a kid. And to be able to finally step my feet on its ground by bringing the country’s mission makes me really proud, both as a dreamer and as an Indonesian youth. I travel with a good mission.

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F: Consider yourself as the young ambassador, how significant is your international representation to your community?

I: I will always owe my international participation to Indonesia and its young people I represented. I feel the need to give back to the community in the most positive way possible. I am involved in East Java PCMI –an organization for International Youth Exchange Program alumni– and SII –The Indonesian’s SSEAYP alumni association– that aims for regeneration. I want the opportunity of Indonesian youth having International experience to be owned by everyone, at the youngest age possible. With those organizations, we motivate, select, and prepare the potential youth to be ready to face the International program that I was involved in.

F: On your best advice, what are other cultures that you think will fit into your community?

I: I love how dynamic the world is. Each place has its own dynamic that we just need to embrace when we are there. Their values, cultures, forms of interaction make this world so unique and we have to be able to blend in. Also, some countries are really open minded and I’d love to see more open mindedness in Indonesia. More understanding and tolerance will make this place to be more convenient, I guess.

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F: On the other hand, what is the culture that you have which you’re proud of sharing worldwide?

I: I must say, our people are really caring. We tend to be nicer and kinder toward each other. I guess it is our natural habit to have a win-win solution and put other’s happiness on the top of ours. It can fire back at us, though. HAHA. But it’s still beautiful of how we feel about people who are not just close to us but also those who aren’t.

F: You have traveled to many places, but do you have a favourite destination that you haven’t been to? Why so?

I: It has always been settled: New York City, Paris, London, and Tokyo are my four dream cities since forever. I have been to all of them but London. Cross your fingers and wish me luck, soon!

F: What’s your next international plan?

I: Like probably almost everyone in Indonesia at this moment, I want to take a master degree abroad, specifically to The U.S. I am thinking of taking MBA as I told that I am passionate about developing business. There is no such a mainstream things in order to get proper education, right?

F: Do you have any plan about your hometown, Surabaya?

I: Oh man, I will always be attached to my hometown. All the reasons of my adventure, one of them is probably Surabaya. I travel far to come back home and become the part of its development. It’s the second biggest city in Indonesia and we need to step up our game. I am willing to combine my passion in business with my commitment as the responsible native youth, let’s start from there!

Iyus was friendly and cheerful during the conversation. I was really convinced that he was a choir champion as he hummed excitingly almost most of time. We spent the rest of the morning by enjoying our brunch; he had mac and cheese and coconut pie, meanwhile I had my favourite tuna grilled cheese at The Goods Café, Lotte Shopping Avenue.

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Iyus’ Brunch: Mac and Cheese, Coconut Pie, and Lychee Iced tea

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Feby’s Brunch: Tuna Grilled Cheese and Diet Coke

As my boys brunch tradition, I would ask several questions that my guest needed to answer spontaniously. Check them out!

Trivia

  • What is your most favourite food?

French Pastry

  • Place you’ll always come back to?

New York – who wouldn’t?

  • Must have fashion item?

Long black coat – my favourite look is always with the long black coat!

  • Country you wish you were born besides Indonesia?

United States of America

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credit: @iyusrifaiz (instagram)

This or That?

  • Suit or Shirt?

Suit

  • Pasta or Pizza?

Pasta

  • Egypt or Turkey?

Turkey

  • Badminton or Football?

Badminton

 

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credit: @iyusrifaiz (instagram)

About Iyus

  • Tubagus Muhammad Yusuf Rifaiz was born and raised in Surabaya, East Java on 15 November 1991.
  • Iyus is a theatre show Junkie. He has watched Wicked, Phantom of The Opera, Matilda, Beauty And The Beast, and Shrek in way up north Los Angeles and New York all the way to down under in Melbourne.
  • He might be sailing around Southeast Asia in a fancy cruise in SSEAYP 2013, but 3 years earlier, he have had experience cruising to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand with his mother already.
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credit: @iyusrifaiz (instagram)

Boys Brunch: Louis Plottel – Travels Internationally, Speaks Locally

Traveling always sounds interesting but for some, it can be much more intriguing. As for Louis Plottel, a 21 year old Canadian who studies in United Arab Emirates and currently living in Indonesia –chill, He’s not that random as you might think He is– He brings traveling to a whole new level. He doesn’t just go to exotic places and instagram them with his fancy phone. Instead, Louis is more interested to live and settle for a while in countries which are quite unusual for a North American. He traveled all the way to South East and living in a very small village in Indonesia right after High School, chose to spend 4 years of his life taking a degree in Abu Dhabi, completed his college internship in Tanzania, and continued to have each semester in New York City and again, Indonesia.

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Louis Plottel, our very first Boys Brunch – June 2015

Louis is currently studying anthropology in University of Gadjah Mada –one of the Indonesian Holy Trinity– for a semester. As this is actually his third visitation to Indonesia and I had known him since the very first time he stepped his feet in this land, I have always been interested to see how he, as a foreigner, sees this diverse country by being the part of the community itself. This curly light brown haired boy has been living in Indonesian culture, eating the same food as other Indonesians, even speaking the language with a terrific skill. In my very first edition of Boys Brunch, I had the chance to kidnap him from Yogyakarta and made him spill his thought about Indonesia and its connection to the World in his favourite Magnum Café, Grand Indonesia, Jakarta.

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Who else is better to be your first guest other than your good old friend?

Feby (F): Hi Lou, nice to see you again. How you been doing in Indonesia so far?

Louis (L): Feb! Everything goes well back in Jogja. My school is great and I have made friends with lots of people, especially the locals. I really enjoy it, especially when I can practice my Bahasa Indonesia in daily conversation with my friends.

F: Glad to hear you enjoy it that much, so tell me again how many places have you actually been traveling to?

L: Well, I never really counted, though. I think I’ve been to somewhere around 22 or 23 countries. Maybe 24. Yeah, somewhere around that. HAHAHA

F: As this is not your first time coming to Indonesia, can you please tell us what you did in your previous visits?

L: The first time I came here was back in 2011, just right after I finished High School. I joined this volunteering program that was held by Canada World Youth and Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sport with other 9 Canadians and 10 Indonesians, including you. HAHAHA. We were placed in a really small village called Cikandang, an hour away from Garut, West Java. It was amazing to have the experience. I had a really great time. The second one was summer 2013. I traveled with my friend from France for five weeks in Indonesia, reuniting with old pals and visited more places that I did not get the chance to visit previously. And now here I am again, having a full semester in another iconic city of Indonesia. Until now, I have been living in Indonesia for 8 months in total and I will not leave until August 2015.

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Lou was wearing a T-shirt that said Khalas, literally means finish in Arabic

F: Why do you keep coming back to Indonesia? Is this the first country where you keep coming back regularly?

L: You know, I think in my experience of traveling in Indonesia is a lot different than other places that I went. Maybe because when I came here for the first time, it wasn’t just for travel, it was for a volunteering project. That allowed me to have a really different experience than other countries that I just travelled to as a tourist. I am actually connecting with people on a deeper level, and I didn’t see the touristy side of Indonesia. For instance when I lived in the village I felt as if I got much deeper sense of what Indonesia is all about compared to other places that you go if you just travel, so I think that deep connection just stuck with me.

There are actually other places where I feel as if I could have the same experience as I did in Indonesia. Just having a deeper travel experience. But for me the reason why I keep coming back to Indonesia is just because it all started here! Also once you start to build up a network somewhere, it’s easy to keep going back to that network. Not necessarily easy, but it’s just better. Again, it means you can have a deeper experience. I enjoy living in a country where I can learn the language. Since this is the first country that I have visited regularly, so it makes sense to learn the language here. I mean besides countries that I live in like Canada and UAE. I can say that I live here now though, for short period of time.

F: When you travel to Indonesia, do you consider yourself as a traveler?

L: Well, sort of. I mean I’m obviously not a local person and I obviously live a different life than a lot of other people who live here. There are still other places in Indonesia that I want to go travel like a tourist sometimes, but at the same time I wouldn’t say I’m a tourist. I can say that I’m a resident. Maybe a temporary resident.

F: What do you think the most and least exciting city in Indonesia so far?

L: The least exciting is definetely Jakarta. I even think that it’s my least favourite city in the whole world. It’s just so much inequality here. And there’s just too much of everything. It’s too big for its own size, too much traffic, too many people, and too many rich people living in beside poor people.

Most exciting city for me, I mean exciting is kind of a weird adjective anyways, but I guess Jogja. Jogja is a perfect size for me. It’s not too big, nor too small. And I have lived there the longest so I have established a lot of friends there, but I also feel like there are so many cities that I haven’t been to here in Indonesia. They can be more exciting than Jogja. I don’t know. I just haven’t seen most places in this big country. And to be honest, I think that I kind of like the Indonesian countryside more than the cities.

F: What is your biggest achievement in while you have been living in Indonesia?

L: For my personal achievement I guess it is that I feel pretty proud that I can speak Bahasa Indonesia because it’s not a really common language for people to learn. And the time that I felt the most proud was when I can have an actual proper conversation with people and I actually have friendships in that language, I think that’s really fascinating when you can actually make really good friends in another language.

But I think the best thing that I’ve done in Indonesia would probably when I was volunteering with Canada World Youth. I felt really useful as we took the action to contribute to the community we lived in. But I actually hope that my research becomes the best thing in Indonesia!

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Signature style, bringing CWY spirit wherever we meet.

F: How will you think your Indonesian experience will affect your life in the future?

L: I actually thought about this a lot, recently. Like, what’s the contribution of being here in my life and honestly, the answer is I still don’t know. I actually have no idea. I’m sort of just living here in the moment because I like it at the moment. I haven’t really thought about the future. One think that might happen is if I become a researcher, or if I become a professor or something, I’m sure I’ll come back to Indonesia to do more research. Partly because I already speak Bahasa, though. That’s not set but that’s the path that my life might take. I don’t know, I try not to think about the future too much. I feel like I think about the future in terms of who I want to be instead of what I want to do. So of course Indonesia is going to affect my future. I’m always going to come back here. Because I have friends and places that still fascinate me. But I don’t really know what it’s going to mean in a broader sense.

F: You sound really connected to Indonesia. What is the Indonesian culture that you’re excited the most to share to people back home or places you’re going to travel to?

L: That’s a good question. I think part of the thing is that I don’t know if there are many people who know what’s going on in Indonesia. Compared to other countries that are just as big, for example people know a lot more about Brazil, China, India, and other big sized countries but people know very little about Indonesia. I mean part of it is just about telling people that Indonesia exists. But in terms of culture, I think Indonesian society is just set up in a really interesting way. It’s not one specific thing about culture. But I think Indonesia to me, or at least Java because that’s the place I know most in Indonesia, seems to have a really good system for allowing people to be quite different. You know in most countries there’s a lot of homogeneity. The culture sort of forces them to be a certain type of person. But here, I feel like people are so different from one another and allowed to be. Like, you can have those people that are activist and anarchist and they seem to be accepted in some way. That’s really cool.

F: So do you think people worldwide will appreciate that?

I think that they totally should. I don’t think inequality in Indonesia is good. I don’t think that it’s good that some people are so rich while some people are so poor. But I think the diversity of the society is a really good thing. And how Indonesia deals with its diversity, I think is a really good thing. Because in so many countries, I mean in America right now for example, there’s a big problem with black people being stopped, harassed or killed by the police at a much higher rate than others. That’s because the society isn’t really set up in a way that allows for diversity in the same way as here, in terms of race, identity or other things. And of course that type of stuff happens in Indonesia too but I just feel like as a society, Indonesia tolerates a lot of difference. Even like with Waria (Indonesian word for queer and crossdresser). It’s the same thing, you find that very few other countries around the world tolerate them in the same way because Indonesia has a level of acceptance for people to be different.

F: When you travel to places, do you usually have any special project to be completed?

L: I always take a picture of myself doing handstand in front of famous places. HAHAHAHA. I’m really good at it. Also, I always make sure that I meet local people and talk to local people. I think that’s really important for me. Especially to speak to them in the language that they understand.

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Lou’s signature style. This one was in Curug Orog Waterfall, Garut in 2012. Back to his first Indonesian experience. Pic credit: Frederique Landry

F: What is the best thing that happened when you travel so far?

L: Just travel in general totally changes me. I traveled a little bit before I went to NYU Abu Dhabi but I travelled a lot more after that because of the school, and I feel like a completely different person now. I just feel like when I go home to Canada, or not even when I go home to Canada, sometimes people just say things and it’s so obvious that they know very little about the rest of the world. For example people in Canada talking about Islam as a backward religion and stuff, and it’s so obvious that they’ve never talked to a Muslem, they’ve never met anyone who’s a Muslem, or heard someone who actually identifies as that. Or even in Indonesia sometimes people are talking about the rest of the world and they have a really weird perception of it, or even deeper, having skewed perceptions of one another, I feel I can just understand the way the world works a lot better now that I have travelled. I see patterns across countries, like this is what creates equality, this is what creates poverty, because I see similarities in different places, and differences too. It just allows you to understand the clocks behind the machine of how the world works. Like what allows things to turn, and I think that’s very valuable. I think I have a much better understanding now that I’ve got to see how the world works

F: OK, now explain yourself in only three words!

L: Up side down, and… um….. no, that’s three words already!

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He might be the only person in the history to ever do a handstand on the edge of Borobudur as it is strictly forbidden

I insisted that Upside down should be considered as 1 single phrase but Louis seemed either too obsessed by being upside down or could not think what he actually is beside that very interesting interpretation of himself. The whole interview went incredibly well. He was wearing a black T-shirt that says big “Khalas” on his chest that literally means “Finish” in Arabic. He sometimes had to think for several seconds when answering the questions, which I assumed that he might just realized about what he actually should do and what he had experienced around that time. But he always seemed so sure and sincere about it. I could totally see the love of travelling, especially in Indonesia through the big eyes of Louis Plottel which I really appreciated.

As our brunch came, we took a break of our chit chat by enjoying the heavenly meal. Louis had triple pancake, the thing that could remind him of home, and lychee iced tea while I had waffle, the thing that could remind me of Canadian brunch as well with regular iced tea. All menus here in this café are served with Magnum Popsicle which made us order another red velvet cake for us together. In the middle of brunch, we had more small talk that I asked him some questions that he just needed to answer with the very first thing that came into his mind without any delay.

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What Louis had: Pancake de Ostend – Trio mini pancakes with mini Magnum vanilla sticks, strawberry, blueberry, and peanut butter filling & lychee iced tea

  • What is your most favourite Indonesian food?

Gado-gado (Indonesian veggie salad with sticky rice and peanut sauce dressing)

  • Which Country that you always wish to live in?

Turkey

  • What is your must-have-fashion-item when you travel?

*laughing so hard* Shoes

  • Where is the place you wish you can die at?

On the top of Tibet. HAHAHA

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What I had: Waffle de Antwerp – Belgian waffle with chocolate Magnum stick, dark chocolate shavings and dark cherry compote & iced tea

The next round, Louis needed to choose one between two options I asked him to choose

  • Army pants or Hawaiian shirt?

Hawaiian shirt

  • Croissant or Bagel?

Croissant

  • Tokyo or Hong Kong?

Tokyo

  • Yoga or Jogging?

I like them both! Maybe I’ll choose Yoga

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Lou’s second visitation in Summer 2013 for the whole 5 weeks. This was in Solo, Central Java. Photo credit: Emma Burke

We completed the brunch with satisfaction. The interview went really well until we forgot that Louis should catch his flight back to Jogja right after that. Before we left, He just had one more task to complete. He needed to take picture in that place, anything he wanted. He decided to take this picture below so that you all can enjoy Jakarta through the eyes of Louis Plottel. Good luck for your Indonesian research, Lou!

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What Louis took. As he fancy the sentence “Intertwining beauty and suffering”. This is the view right in front of Magnum Cafe. Pic credit: Louis Plottel

About Louis:

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Lou and his Grass Routes pals back in summer 2012. Photo credit: Grass Routes

  • Louis Gerald Plottel was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, the western most province in Canada in November 9th
  • Don’t feed him anything with face. He’s officially a Vegetarian since 2012
  • In summer 2012, Louis and his friends from British Columbia had an environmental project called grass routes, which he biked across Canada all the way from the west to the east and campaigning about environmental stuff in the cities they stopped by. They completed more than 4,000 km Distance in less than 3 months. More information visit: https://www.facebook.com/grassroutesbiking
  • Louis was accepted in two universities: New York University Abu Dhabi and College of The Atlantic with full scholarship for both. He chose NYUAD over College of The Atlantic in Maine, USA because He wanted to learn more cultures rather than just come back living in North America
  • Visit Ecoherence, an Environmental Club in NYUAD and ask who Louis is. Everyone will know him. Of course, he’s the president of the club.
  • How many places an Indonesian have traveled in Indonesia itself their entire life? Louis might travel more than them. He has been to Aceh, Bangka, Belitung, Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Garut, Tasikmalaya, Solo, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Kudus, Surabaya, Malang, Flores, and Bali. Beat that!
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The whole brunch and interview were done in Magnum Cafe, Grand Indonesia. See you for next month’s installment of Boys Brunch!