Bangkok, Thailand – 9 April 2017

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Hopping into a bus with friend’s direction

Looking for a stay around an accessible location

Affordable enough to form some actions

In a city that offers beautiful creation

I was empty, I was free

But I was not looking for some company

As I chose to keep being free

Without the drama from everybody

Who wasn’t excited to see the land?

Visited temples and ate local food with friends

I finally watched my favourite band

But I kept thinking about the end

I love the smell of a new city

Especially when people are really friendly

There are obviously few things to see

And this is how I distract the thought of our story

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Small Boy, Big Dream – You Won’t Understand

My blog posts haven’t been that useful in 2015. Excuses are better be left unsaid because to be honest, what am I defending for? I don’t have that much of blog followers on the first place.

Several weeks before it happened, I allocated some spaces in my brain to think of how I would spend the Christmas long weekend. This may sound exaggerating –you know, my life as usual– but I put a lot of thought in it. I was thinking of several options as, thank God, I live in a country where literally anywhere is beautiful. And for the sake of the memory, at the end I put the dot on my map to this place where several parts of my character was shaped. And then it became the travelling of a reminder. A reminder of what kind of person I was, a reminder what kind of person I wished I would become.

I hopped in to the bus around 12 PM that 24 December. I read from social media that the traffic was literally crazy, but yeah bitch, what would my life be without craziness? I was lucky that I could sit as the bus was literally full of people who were probably tired of the city, excited to see other places, or just simply missed home. Another man sat next to me, an ear phone was plugged in to his ears as he was sleeping unbotheredly, great skill.

I committed myself to do a digital detox; I would turn off any internet connection and be in the ‘real life’ during the trip. It was such a perfect timing as I did not really have to reply emails or did some other work related things, I just wanted to be a hippie –And I am not using this in a sarcastic term–, I would not care about anything else other than what I would actually be experiencing in those 4 days, and I expected that to be lovely.

But then life was always a bitch. Traffic was, to be exact. It took 11 hours to arrive in the town where it usually took only 5 hours to visit. It was an hour after midnight and the early morning was really cold at the bus station. Everything was basically the same at that station: several buses were lining up to drop the passangers, the corner stores were open with limited lighting, and many motorcycle and pedicab drivers offered everyone their transportation service, it did feel really nostalgic. But it was really different as I was just literally alone.

I asked one random driver to bring me to the nearest hotel for me to stay overnight. It took 2 places before there was an inn that actually had an available room for a lonely visitor to stay. The lady was extremely friendly to me and to another couple that I thought only wanted to stay there to have sex. You know I’m really judgmental.

The couple was disgusted by the shitty room as they went with a motorcycle in that cold morning but I guess I did not have any choice. Dirty might be a strong word but the room was so far to be said as proper, it was really ‘different’.

“I will change the sheet” Said the lady as like it would help the room to be more proper.

“This should be fun and nothing wrong with having a different experience” I convinced myself, and it was really sincere. That was supposed to be the travelling of a reminder and I reminded not to complain. Besides, I was tired anyways and I would not do anything but sleep and I would just leave in the morning.

I woke up around 10 PM the next day and as planned, immediately leave the inn to explore the city a little bit before continuing to the final destination. I took another pedicab and went to the downtown, looking around to re-feel the “city warmth”, tasted good local foods, and did a Friday prayer in the City’s Great Mosque – all by my own.

The digital detox was working perfectly fine as well. I talked to real people when I wanted to know the direction, or when I was waiting for the angkot , sort of a van that became a public transportation in most Indonesian cities. I knew more about the people and their background I was actually facing rather than spending my time looking at the phone screen and putting love on people-whom-I-don’t-actually-know on instagram pictures,  it just felt damn nice! I wish the people of Jakarta would be more friendly so everytime I talked to random people on the street, they would be more welcoming and would not think that I am capable of doing bad things to them.

After a full-hour of eye indulgence when I saw anywhere was nothing but prettiness, I arrived in my destination around 4 PM in the afternoon. I ran to my house, where I spent several time of my life with people I really cared about, and surprised everyone as I did not tell everyone that I would go ‘home’.

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“You look more handsome!” Ibu –The Indonesian nick for mother and as how I called my host mom– said. “Of course!” I replied. Typical me.

I had a great conversation with the members of the house, updating each other’s life and laughing the fool things we did that we could remember. I left the house for an afternoon walk before the sun set. That was the second Christmas day I spent in that place I called home.

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The sun almost set behind the green mountains. Everything still existed, the mural, the library (they even have a new one!), the village hall, the ram statue, the football court, and of course the ram fighting arena with its famous huts. I broke my heart that Christmas afternoon, right in the heart of Cikandang Village.

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Back in 2011, I had an international youth exchange where they put together 9 Canadian Youth and 9 Indonesian Youth in one group to live together in both Canadian and Indonesian community for several months and aimed for International relations, mutual understanding, cultural exchange, sustainable changemaking, youth leadership and other endless positivity.  We were placed in the city of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island for the Canadian Phase and the village of Cikandang, a mountainous village in Southern Garut, West Java. We left the village at the end of the program around end of March 2012 with many beautiful memories.

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I have actually been back visiting the village after the program for three times with some other people, but the last time was in 2013, just right before I departed to Bahrain. So this visit was actually my first visit in 2 years, and the very first time when I came back literally alone in Cikandang.

My heart broke not because I haven’t moved on with my life. In fact, I did not even know what broke me inside to be exact. Maybe the fact that I was visiting with no friends or the reminder of how I envisioned the future-Feby in the past.

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I am really grateful of how my life turned after the program. I moved out from my hometown and I befriended great helpful people that gave me descent jobs in the capital city, Jakarta. I was blessed to have another opportunity to live in another foreign country, learning new stuffs and living in a total different culture, and especially at this time of my life when I was having my best job yet with lovely people around me, no reason to complain about life.

But something was missing….

And it was not my body fat, obviously. I did not know, It was maybe my attention to humanity, my sensitivity or my motivation to spread positivity.

Saying that I am not as a positive person as I was is too strong of an argument, especially it also indicates of how exaggerated I judged myself in the past. I mean, who claimed themselves of creating positive vibes by themselves? Maybe some people but I don’t think that’s my call.

Instead, I have the right to say something has definitely has changed. And honestly, until this particular word, I have no idea where this article will lead to and how it will end. Thoughts in my head are just like strings that can be straighten from earth to moon and back, but now it’s tangled. It became really messy that made it just as big as a tennis ball.

I was lucky to be born in a supportive family where my opinions and willingness are always heard and appreciated. The situation probably shaped my character to be a decisive individual and I always see the goal in any actions that I did. Every single one of them.

But I just felt that being adult is not that easy….

Life has always been a total player for every human in any ways possible. We undeniably have bigger burdens, big enough to think that the great master plans we always had suddenly became unconvincing. And as it probably got you, it might get me even harder.

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I spent 2 days in Cikandang and re-saw what myself particularly have contributed to that beautiful small area. It was probably intangible, I mean, the sidewalk marks that we hand-painted were not even there anymore. But seeing the exact same mural on the wall about not littering your garbage on the street or realizing that the blue colour or library wall haven’t changed since we dramatically decorated them made me smile a lot.

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My friends and I might not save the world or became a bunch of fairy godmothers and turned a poor girl to be a princess. But we clearly shared the same spirit. We were bunch of young people from major cities in both country and were placed in a village that was totally different with how we used to live, was a total slap in the face. Moreover, this opportunity did not just arrive in my lap in a silver platter. I fought for my spot to be there, to be the part of the team and I did not just start that because I was following the trend. I made some names for myself until those judges could decide that I deserved the spot.

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We sincerely loved the place and had the motivation that we could contribute positively to the village. At that time, the motivation was even bigger because we are entitled as “Youth of The World” which in overreacting version of me years ago, it meant really important as it led to do really important things to the world as well.

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And how I applied that in the life I had? I realized that volunteering and social movement was not a new thing. As I said, I was probably chosen to join the program because I was actively involved in those kinds of activity. And I used those learning process to be really pay attention of any actions I would contribute. I took every single opportunity to help things get better in the village seriously like I would live there forever. All with a very supporting environment from magnificent team member and locals. I sincerely had super strong willing to keep doing what I did until forever, somehow, somewhere.

But now it has been 4 years since that flame positivity burned me inside and outside. When you see myself right now and compare with what kind of person I told you before, your reaction might be really subjective because in reality, those plans haven’t worked, yet. Why? I wish I can say I don’t know but I clearly know the reason. Because it’s what life is about. Remember at that time you ordered a customized menu at the restaurant? You wanted double scoop of vanilla and chocolate ice cream and specifically wanted the vanilla scoop to be on top but the waiter came with the chocolate on top instead? You can plan, decide, or even manipulate how you wish your life be, but it’s not always up to you, it has never been, it will never be. The world and any single thing inside it work together like a pair of gear that makes certain action affects the others and that is not new information for anyone, I know.

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But we just sometimes forget about it, I often forget about it. And the reflection of it shows in our action. We can complain to the waiter who brought the wrong order of ice cream scoop or just accept and eat as it would taste the same, anyway. And that’s how I probably choose to respond the life world is offering me to.  I am not capable of fulfilling my dream 100% but I should be able to be patient and use any learning in my journey to be the ‘weapon’ of my future. I was probably part of the bigger gear who affected smaller gear in the program and I never wanted such habit to stop happening in any circumstances.

Nevertheless, the beauty of that mountainous village was just everything I needed last end of the year. This reminder, reflection, whatever you call it to make me realize of how grateful I am to be the person that I am now, and the person that  I will be. I was visiting the former head of village’s house and the family greeted me warmly. I had a nice conversation with them and heard them talking sincerely of how happy they were when we were there, joking around about funny things that happened in 2012. Rury, the eldest daughter was still in middle school back then and now she is a year away from University. She told me of how she planned to take International Relation in either University of Padjadjaran or University of Gadjah Mada, two major universities in Indonesia because of how she was inspired by the program that she was being involved with as the local. For the 5 years activities with around 90 youth in the period, irregardless the debatable sustainability and controversy it created. And that seriously made me smile a lot.

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I visited many places in the village where I liked to spend time with my friends and had great conversation with not just my host family but some other host families. You never realize of what impressions you could leave to certain community until you come back in quite some time and feel, really feel inside yourself of how joyful and peaceful your little heart to stand on the place where you usually stood. And I don’t want Cikandang to be the only place where I can feel that way.

Small boy, big dream. That I know.

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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!

I Love Bahrain (That Day)!

Busy is such a super lame excuse but not showing you what I did during Eid-Al Adha in Bahrain is definitely a sin.

About 2 months ago, Moslems around the World celebrated one of the biggest religious holiday called Eid-Al Adha. It’s that time of the year when people around the world who can afford go to a pilgrimage in Mecca. For those who can’t afford it yet are not obligated to go.

The question is, where can you celebrate the holiday any better than the Mecca itself? As literally the country which is just right beside to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain can be on the top of the list. At least that’s what I thought.

The government of Bahrain had this pretty huge celebration all over the places during the holiday. We had 3 days of official public holiday while in Indonesia, it’s usually just one day. And as it happens every year, restaurants are full booked as the part of the culture that people like to dine outside rather than at home as Indonesian culture.

Bahrain has this beautiful big mosque called Al Fateh Grand Mosque located in the capital Manama. Instead of making it as the celebration for Muslim only, the committee had this brilliant idea of having an open house in the mosque special for expats and tourists in any beliefs for 2 days. Too awesome!

View from the street

The fountain just across the main street. The lighting is beautiful at night.

Standing magnificiently as the 6,500 square meters, The mosque was built by the late Sheikh Isa ibn Salman Al Khalifa in 1987 and was named after Ahmed Al Fateh, the conqueror of Bahrain. It is located next to the King Faisal Highway which is pretty much one of the main highways that can be easily accesed. It was actually pretty closed to my home so I just needed around 30 minutes of walking to get there.

The whole Mosque with a little bit Isa Cultural Centre in the background.

Al Fateh Grand Mosque

Once I arrived, all the visitors had to entered a giant tent where we had to do a registration. Many people from all over the World were there. There were a couple of Russians beside me as we had a little conversation while we were waiting for the tour guide. At first, as always, they thought that I was Filipino and asked me to wait for the Tagalog speaking tour guide, but since the only Tagalog that I know was all swearing words, I chose to tell them, again, as always, that I am an Indonesian. Despite of that, It was pretty organized that they have tour guides who spoke English, Arabic and also Hindi and Tagalog as the majority of expats who live in Bahrain are from those countries that speak both language. My first impression was really neat. They even provide an abbaya for women who came there wearing short pieces.

As our tour guide asked us to follow, we entered the Mosque through the main door. They gave us map and explained that there were around 16 booths that we could visit as we wish with some really interesting information all around the corners. The booths were various from General islamic knowledge like Hajj and Quran, scientific information like Science in Islam and of course some fun like photo booth and food corner.

Firstly, we were brought to the main praying area which was a really big square room with such a beautiful interior. Our tour gruide introduced himself that he was from Uzbekhistan and told us general information about the mosque. We were informed that the huge dome built on top of the Al-Fatih Mosque is constructed entirely of fiberglass. Weighing over 60,000 kg, the dome is currently the world’s largest fiberglass dome. The marble used in the floors is Italian and the chandelier is from Austria. The doors are made of teak wood from India. Throughout the mosque are calligraphy writings in a very old type of style called Kufic. It was surely such a fancy Mosque!

Look at that giant chandelier!

The main prayer area.

The Holy Quran.

Visitors were divided into groups and women should cover their body parts except face.

One of the tour guides were telling us some information about the Mosque history

My throne. Kinda.

People were praying Asr, the third prayer in the day. It goes from Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, Isha.

After several questions and answers, we were pleased to explore the Mosque as we like, visited the booths that we wanted. I found out that the committee were not just from Bahrain. People from all over the World all could volunteer. There was an american man became a speaker in Hajj booth, A Filipino boy my age were helping at the photo booth, I even met an Indonesian-Malaysian friend who was also volunteering the event.

Free finger foods for everyone!

A native is pouring an Arabic coffee to a visitor.

Fresh Arabic coffee, anyone?

The outdoor area was surrounded by some posters. Look at those beautiful marbles.

I don’t look fat, do I?

One of the posters with interesting paragraphs.

It doesn’t look good on me.

And this is even worse for me.

Relaxing booth. The fabric is Bahrain’s authentic.

As I get there pretty late and it ended at 4 PM, I just get to visit several booths. But to be honest it was a real fun. Everything was well organized. Everyone was really warm and welcome as they really respect diversity and people from other religions. This can totally be a great example of some big iconic Mosque in Indonesia.

The Isa Cultural Centre just 100 metres away

It was a pretty hot day, a t-shirt should save the day.

The main door

*******

As it was too late for the Mosque and too early to just went home, I decided to continue the adventure to Bab Al Bahrain. Once upon a time, the place which is also called as Manama Souq was the centre of Bahrain civilization, even maybe until now, as it is located right in the heart of Manama. I have had written about a really nice breakfast experience here, but this time I visited it evening time which gave kinda different vibe, especially since it was Eid time and more people visited the place.

Kingdom of Bahrain’s centre of civilization.

The buildings around

It was a quite busy night

The alley

One of the stores. Manama Souq was also famous for souvenir’s shopping

Some old pictures of The Souq

The gate from inside

I went there by Bus and took a cup of coffee right after I arrived. It turned out there was a folk band playing in the Souq so I was just there watching it with the rest of the people which was surprisingly a lot. The band was playing inside the big hall in the Souq. It was the first time ever I saw a traditional Arabic band playing in real life and it was pretty fun. Everyone was dancing happily as the music played. I finally felt like I was in a foreign country!

I believe it must be such a heavy door

The hall inside the Souq

People are watching the Folk Band

Overall, that was actually one of my best days in Bahrain. I really explored the local iconic place and experienced the native culture. I give my thumbs up as the whole thing was organized by the Ministry of Tourism. There were actually more things going on like Leona Lewis concert and another concert in Tree of Life which was quite far. But hey, I was trully satisfied with the day so yeah, I loved Bahrain (that day)!

I *heart* BH