Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Quick Update: Leuser & Togian!

How surprising it was to see that my last post was from this February - some 6 months ago. Yet I was still unsure whether or not I'll be able to complete this post amidst the busy schedule of my crazier and crazier workpack.

But hey, here's a starter about what had happened, and what I MUST write before I forget these big things that had happened within the last 6 months:

I hiked Leuser. Alone. No, not so alone, I was accompanied by Mr. Jaly and Mr. Ucin, both are my guide and my mentor during the 12 days trek. Apparently I injured my knees. I hit so many branches, fell down couple of times and bruised my knees badly one or two times -- and kept walking for 6-10 hours per day. I spent much money -- I did not budget, and the fact that the amount of money (and energy) I spent to buy and carry the food of my guides were significant did not bother me anymore. And my satisfaction for this 50km, 3,404 masl tropical mountain was way higher than my 1 day 5,500 masl hike in the Atacama desert. Maybe because this was the first long hike I ever did. Or maybe just because... those two people, of Indonesian typical simplicity, who shared their thoughts with me, their life values, dedication, their simple yet delicious meals and the dangdut music during the days and nights. The kind of simplicity that made me going back again and again to mountains. The kind of pleasure you cannot get in fancy arranged tour, not in dive resort, not in group holiday with your friends.

So that's your another checklist, Quina. Write Leuser. You promised your friends. Here's the sneak peek:

I dived Togian. You are a tropical heaven, eastern Indonesia. I said above: I can't fully enjoy diving. The degree of satisfaction is different. I was surrounded by crazy, lovely, funny people with enough silly things happened to them to keep us laughing. And the underwater scenery made me ecstatic, especially I dived a proper water for the first time (after the previous dives were only in Jakarta's Thousand Islands). It was just the right pack: I got a perfect instructor who similarly excited to show us funny creatures, holiday peers with similar excitement about the underwater world (and getting the right buoyancy), perfect room and perfect spot to chill, great healthy food, flawless stargazing every night, and on and on and on.  And we incidentally made a perfect arrangement: we snorkeled the jellyfish lake, hiked the volcano, discovered all the awesome dive spots, met countless fishes and wrote down their names, read enough good books, played enough games, drank enough beers. But still it's a different kind of pleasure.

Maybe it's like you get a perfect handsome fiancee with awesome attitude and excelling career but you still prefer the hipster dude next door who jump one job to another for his living. Life's weird.

PS: Remind me to write 'em both!!!

Monday, February 1, 2016

#NeverStopLearning: DIVE

So this will be my review for my dive class with RAID & certification process, merged with my own thoughts about diving.

"Why do you dive?" some people asked me, whether in my class or during the trip. The honest answer is "I just want to learn how to dive," - maybe that's all. And as to why I'm curious to learn how to dive is another matter. I love watching living beings, and get to know underwater living beings requires technological support. For me, learn to dive is basically learning to take advantage of those technological support. It's a method to facilitate my meetings with those underwater beings.

So I took a dive class: Open Water 20. That means I can do recreational diving for up to 20 meters. That does not mean I can dive into wreck, underwater installations, cave or do any night diving as those activities require additional training. I was with RAID, Rebreather Association of International Divers, a Stockholm-based diving organization which have authority to issue diving certification. I registered in December and got a discount - the training cost me IDR 3,900K in total, including 3x confined water sessions, a 2D1N trip (with 4 dives) and a pair of fins. And the best: I got a competent instructor who also happen to be PADI instructor, totally knowledgeable and willing to openly share his knowledge if you ask. I also got a small class during the confined water sessions (around 4 people max) and flexibility to learn by myself.

For the theory, basically what I did is studying multiple modules by myself, which I can access in RAID website. There are 9 modules that covers diving in general, environment, equipment, physics, physiology, rescue, management, confined water training, and open water training. Each modules consisted of around 20-30 pages, written in a nice way that made it easy to read, and contain important information for us to know before getting into the water. Ideally, you read all the modules first and do all the quizzes before you go into your confined water trainings. There are some important information for you to pay attention to, especially related to your body and the effects of the pressure, nitrogen, etc to your lungs, sinuses and other body organs during your dives. Anyway, I love the layout of the modules! They are simple and super handy -- you can read it literally anywhere (as in your tabs, cellphone, printed!) as long as you're not doing dangerous activity (i.e. reading while driving).

However I was given flexibility to be lazy in working with the theory. I did all my quizzes last minute, and I did my final exam right before my open water session! Yes, as in midnight! Even worse, a friend of mine did not do the theory as well as the exam, and still permitted to continue the open water session and the skill test. It's really up to you as long as you have enough information in your head from other sources, but if you don't -- I won't suggest you to do this. You might want to get as much information as possible from your manual and clarify unclear things your instructor just because you paid! If you did not consult the manual and ask directly, there's always possibility that the answers you got are merely practical, but you'll never learn how it should be ideally. One example is when I asked about diving with cold / flu / cough, and everyone (both instructor and more experienced student) answered it's alright. What I got in the modul is quite different:

Okay dude, this is Indonesia. That's enough to remember: our level of danger is totally out of the common sense. So, maybe assuming them to bother is a logical fallacy in itself?

The confined water sessions are fun themselves. It took place in Senayan Pool, which is nor bad neither good, errr... not really fine, too. There are some skills you should study during the confined water training. My instructor particularly put emphasis in buoyancy - as it is the basic of all, and it requires much practice to master your buoyancy. Some blogs warned me to demand the session covers all important skills: cleaning and putting on your mask, no air & alternate air source operations, putting in and putting off your equipment underwater, and it should include CESA. In some of the courses, not all skills are taught. So, in picking your course, you should ask in advance and demand the lesson yourself. Always remember: those might be important, and you have a right to know.

The open water session were a 2D1N trip to Sepa Island of DKI Jakarta's Thousand Islands. It consisted of four dives: first dive was to test the skills (Day 1) and the rest were for fun. Nothing much to tell in here, maybe will write a separate article about that. We were taken to this resort island, get to know other divers in our group (which totalling to 9 people), had a nice chat, nice meals, and nice dives.

And that's what particularly unfulfilling for me: the (social) environment that surrounding dive trips. The dive itself were fulfilling: you see underwater creatures, looking at their behavior, wandering around alien environment, getting excited when you see some stuffs of interest, going here and there with your buoyancy (like in outer space!), and ocassionally get your heart pinched when you're passing by bleached corals.

I'm a bit disappointed that I wasn't tired and fully spoiled. I hate it. It's not the type of travel I like. I like getting tired after a full day walk, I love getting my skin burned and all my muscles sore, even swelling! I love being out of breath and testing my physical limit. But in diving, I don't even have to swim. I buoyed. I was supported by equipment. I was in a nicely organized trip. I slept in a really nice room, I did not have to bother cooking, I can take coffee break right after every dive, I can shower anytime I like. It's just... I don't like it.

The other thing that annoy me is how diving is a very exclusive recreation. It excludes less financially viable people (which sometimes are the most exciting to talk to!) from the trip, automatically by the price itself. I did not say I don't meet interesting people: I did, but as a wholly different experience - they're all middle class and beyond, and I already encounter middle class almost everyday. I heard my frieds talking about buying stuffs almost in every catch up (while no one really have a plan on what to do with their old stuff, which often still in good conditions!), and that's also the convo I almost always heard during the dive trip. Of course I learned many perspectives, and many interesting reasons why they dive, as well as many interesting dive plans that they prepared. I like many of them, I made new friends and I heard their stories. But, do you know what I'm talking about?

It might sound completely abnormal to y'all, but my most precious conversation were actually with bus drivers, kenek, captains of boats, fishermen, farmers, local children, porters, all those chaotic webs of local people and their fights, people who worked any job while travel, or less financially viable people who worked multiple jobs so hard to spare their money for the backpacker trips. And in dive trips, where you're placed in an island solely built for recreational purposes, no hipster cafe to meet hipster travelers, no library, you don't hear those sounds. Instead, you hear the sounds, stories from your class. It's beautiful, but just... less exciting. I don't know, maybe now I sound like objectifying people to add sugar and spices in my trip.

The other thing is about the conversation that I missed so bad after the Lewis & Clark days. I thought divers might have it: the excitement for marine environment. I know Portland are weird and maybe I should not expect conversations about ecology, behavior of the animals down there, the local people around these islands, some dirty little secret of the developers, hypotheses of where the grey water and black water and all the trashes go, etc. Goddamn crazy hipster environmentalists, here is Indonesia and I should get rid of my thoughts about it. But really, in mountains of this land, at least in my peers, I have some nice conversation about how much the porters actually made, health concern they raised, how to make the waste management, bringing people back to nature, mental trainings, and so many other things. In backpacking I've got so much knowledge from the other travelers who really keen to understand the socio-political context of the places they visited, talk about encounters to local people, raising issues about people's economy and sanitation, etc.

So that's the beginning note about the dive! It was exciting in a way (the fact of learning itself is sooo exciting!) and not really exciting in another way. Anyway, I still LOVE it! :))

Saturday, January 2, 2016

About Our Great Ideas - and the Lack of Application of 'Em

One day, a friend of mine posted in his wall:

And I can relate that in an instant. I know this dude. I knew his poor story just after he's back in the safety net, and I condemned myself right away that I never asked how he was. In a time, he had to kept sleeping just to avoid his hunger. That happened after weeks of eating instant noodle - after even his smallest coins run out.

This friend of mine is a well-educated, kind and idealist person who might easily get a respectable job - he chooses to get a job of his ideals. And he's surrounded by other activists, too. Those who talk about poverty, labor rights, equality, transparency and accountability - on daily basis. Those whose speech on social media are flowery with classic jargons, workshops and meetings, international initiatives, so much of it. And where are they during his hardship? Away.

People love to talk about general ideas. But we forget to apply it in micro - in our closest cases, in our daily lives.

And let's move on from this friend and examine us.

You. You who speak like you're real proletarian, do you even have friends from the real class? Did you consistently reflect the proletarian values in your life? Did you choose to do so, or when you have more luxury alternatives it'll fade away? Did you share your food with those who are hungry? Did you educate any of them, or you found yourself curse on them more often instead? Did you bear the cross of hating them, disgusted with their habit, but decided to stick around?

If you chat with the poor or the labors 1-2 times and you feel like you're part of them, shame on you. If you befriend 1-2 activists whose job mainly getting drunk and blame the government for not giving them enough money than you're totally misunderstand the fight, my friend. This is the shit that I despise, the middle class half-educated people who takes "cool" jargons and put the labels onto themselves just because it's cool. I tell ya, gentleman, you give those people who really dedicate their energy, their life and money on the street a bad name. When you, or me, do this kind of shit, we are no more than those beggar who dress in street punk style but don't know, moreover carry, the punk spirit with their daily life.

I had my portion in 2015, I pour a significant amount of my energy, my vision and efforts, to help the kind of people I thought I wanna help in real cases. And in addition to the joy and an urge to do more, from it also grew my hatred, my disgust to the kind of poverty that makes poor people try to seek advantage in development projects. I mean, like real money advantages. That's why I become much more careful in posting things that reflect the bold general ideas that generalizes things - because I examined its assumptions, and the fallacy associated with such assumptions in real world. And I felt, sadly, how my feeling twisted, from sympathy to antipathy, from the faith in development projects to careful examination of its negative impacts and its donor politics evil. And I found more faith in little things - where the values reflected perfectly, where I can believe the people I help or work with, not distorted just because some people are more evil than the others. I became more careful in gathering the data, including how the consistency of my feelings in different cases, to support generalization, instead of supporting a theory just because I like it.

It's great, and necessary, if you consistently make a call to resolve a structural problem in a macro language. In fact, we need you to keep calling, keep watching and keep shouting to hold irresponsible parties do what they should do. But don't forget to reflect your call in your individual level, too. Changes happen from us, or it'll eventually reach us.

The 2015 look back, and what's next

2015, when I look back... was so surreal. When some of other people’s years surrounds with tragedy, or simply flat, I start to afraid mine might be too merry. I graduated LL.M. without even planning. I am determined with my expertise – which is (thankfully) really a vacant place badly needing someone who wanna work their ass to take care of so much shit. I went to Alaska. On an RV. With amazing friends. I taste wilderness at its best. I went to NOLA and saw the Jazzfest. I readjusted to Indonesia way too smoothly. Escalated my relationship with my BF, sharply. Back to work without even had to look. I gained more control on some peoples’ mouths on the media. I start an apprentice for my issue. I restrart – catching up with work, new networks, new issues, got promoted – I feel fulfilled. Got a fun, easy big sidejob. I did a nice portion of donation and care – although these things are never enough. Did couple of gigs with my band. Visited mom and dad more often than any other year.

Hey wait... Was this even a year? Did I forgot something?

To recall, last year, on Dec 31, 2014, my reflection in summary was actually a bit shitty:

Spent the year without meaningful community service. Missed the church. Took too many guided tour and too few DIY trip. Didn't contribute much that affect my country's environmental problems. A year of achieving so much in fact - yet, it does not guarantee a great satisfaction. A lesson that summitting a 5,592 masl can be less satisfactory than failing and get lost in a 2,000 masl; that a month of community service in a remote island is much more fulfilling than a year of prestigious scholarship in a cool country. It's not about not being grateful, but about knowing the things that look cool in the public eyes might not be the things that make you happy the most. Happy new year 2015, may Lord make us more useful for those who need us next year :")

And here I am now. Still useless as I was, but getting back to my home country and took part in all of the drama (and screw my 3 months holiday plan because working right away on the 3rd day of my arrival looked more exciting – somehow) makes me feel slightly better. I got ambitions unchecked on my checklist – that I wanted to throw a neat litigation for the water quality, or simply take the bar test, or having my precious vacation, and so on. I had my heart torn apart in the end of the year by some shitty decision that was announced right in front of my eyes. But that’s okay, I know exactly what I want to do for the next year. I have targets – real targets, and I can see my way heading there, not afraid to fail and try again and fail again and so on.

But of all, there are some common goals that I wanna share with y’all. If you wanna take part, that’d be nice:
  • Let’s use less plastic. Seriously. I beg you to insist to those minimarts cashiers not to wrap goods that you can carry with your bare hands with plastic, and if you see me bringing a single bar of snack with a plastic, hit me in the face.
  • Find a brave, determined priest who can use his preach to get people do something. And lemme know who he is, I’ll come. That's the only thing that can help me get back to church as a routine. Or if you can’t, tell a lousy priest to read Pope Francis' blog / tweets. It's quite a shame that his revolutionary thoughts were not reflected at all in most of the preaches in local churches. My frustration with church lies in the fact that such a powerful institution always stay in the safe zone of the superficial preach. I mean, where is corruption? Condemnation to bribery? Warnings on radicalism? Domestic violence? Environmental choices? Dude, are you still gonna talk about the golden rule while turning a blind eye to the poor? And how come you talk about honesty while you know people do bribe or do some corruption shit and you never mention a word about it? Dear priest, if you do so, thou shall rot in heaven!
  • Condemn the government for all the shit they made. Just condemn, dafuq solution. Listen, research, watch, promote their programs & obligations, push them to screen, analyze, and choose the best alternative of offered solutions. Many times, it’s not they’re incapable of finding a solution – can a solution deliberately corrupted and frauded be a solution in the end? And can a solution designed to give advantage to a single person while stripping the benefit from the others be a solution? Ah, and condemn your friends when they proudly telling ya about the bribe they gave yesterday to that judge.
Alright, sound like so much negative energy for 2016? Trust me, it'll be a great fun, and it's entirely positive. It's not about feeling like you're more righteous compared with the others, no, not at all. It's just in this peaceful society, a well directed condemnation is badly needed. We do solutions with our own capacity, but bad guys shall be declared bad guys - and get their portion of shit. Oh, and lemme know any social/community service activity that need real resources, the more torturing it is, the more likely I'll join. A hint: trash/waste management comdev.

Happy 2016! ;)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Trial 101: TINDER!

I hate myself when I'm being judgmental. But, when you have a gang of badass trashy-mouths supporting your unjust judgment and made fun of the type of activity you judge, I might say my best efforts have failed in honor -- it was socially deconstructed.

So out of my curiosity, I installed Tinder. Yes, yes, Tinder, the hookup apps! Yes, yes, yes, that one that motivate people to only take into account physical impression for their yay or nay and degrade the importance of meaningful conversation to the much lower place than sexy-open mouthed-horny faces pictures. Oh please don't look at me like I'm a hopeless bitch or some virtual freak, or like how my friend expressed it:


Seriously, I have a noble mission for using it. First, I have some friends who are cool in real life and are using Tinder. So, I know that eventually there are cool people in Tinder. Second, I wanna disprove my belief that Tinder is an app so low you that can't use it for a neutral, engaging and meaningful conversation with strangers regardless of their faces and their dating motive. It should be really up to the user, and if my first point is proven to be true (even to some small percentage of Tinder population assuming I can correctly choose them), there's a good chance I can have some fun convo.

So the Tinder hunt started. The first time was quite difficult -- out of some 100 photos I swap in some 20 minutes, I only picked three people. Well, 2 of 3 matched. Then I complained to my boyfriend that there's no interesting dude in Tinder -- in reply, he told me, "You're way too picky!" At that moment I realize that I have followed the Tinder way: let the photo tell you who they are. Alas, I feel disgusted at myself. In real life I talk to random strangers regardless of their faces. I walk with travelers regardless of how they look in pictures. As a person who traveled enough and understand real human interaction enough, that's a shame that Tinder dictated me with the pic-looking policy.

Then I broadened my criteria: Regardless of whatever human exist in the picture, anyone with awesome background, pics of outdoorsy activities or sport, whose pose doesn't look like harming the environment -- and one additional touch: who looks like having a strong character, I pick them. Not a good progress too, in my second 30 minutes, I picked some 6 dudes - all matched. Anyway, I also have a woman preference in my phone, but I eyed no one because of the "character" consideration.

Match done, now what? Messaging! So in Tinder, after you matched, and only if you matched, you can message each other. The first dude who message me had an awesome picture in mountains and playing drums and so on. The convo in my head would be like:

Tinder guy (TG): So when will you do your next via Feratta?
Me (Q): No idea! It's in Malaysia anyway, and way too pricey.
TG: Yeah it's too bad that our government does not manage the national park like Sabah-Sarawak does. But it's quite good, make it cheap! Wonder if the money go to the local community, though.
Q: Nope nope, it's a pretty high stake investment. Surely they take all the money. But the porters get a pretty good deal and certain limitation to maximum carriage they can bring up there.
TG: [continue with interesting social/ecological/whatever shit stories or ideas]

That's the kind of convo I have in real life, with real traveler. IN CONTRAST, the shit I talked about with my awesome-looking matches: some asked for phone number straight away (how rude!), some asked my occupation, some asked if your age is real or fake, one even made explaining about Motorcycle Diary and what or where Machu Picchu is. Oh my great-pic dude, GET SOME EDUCATION! As an avid Capricorn who believe no conversation or small talk should happen unless it's super genuine, really exciting, have a value to test or to add some perspective, I see these Tinder convo nonsense. Well, I mean, for me it's nonsense. I'm not a kind of patient angel who can manage talking with some 5 guys virtually and bragging the same shallow shit over and over again without talking about any interesting ideas.

Maybe it's because I traveled. Maybe the pressure to get in touch to new people and keep some targets in conferences. Maybe the community organizing I did in rural villages. Maybe the life overseas. Maybe because I couchsurfed and met awesome personalities who backpack the long way. Maybe it's the weird, all environmentalists Portland. Maybe I have meet too many strangers and befriend them and I had learned the hard way about real life engagement -- because I had to. Oh well, maybe it was not real, in fact, Jakarta made me anti social and multiply my people screening a hundred times. But still, virtual conversation, Tinder like? Not for me, not for me. I'd rather take care of my shit in my laptops or read some geeky science fiction animal books. In my forever alone, anti social apartment unit. I'D RATHER, SERIOUSLY.

I gave up without even proving any of my noble mission above. Quitter, yay!

So I put an end to my Tinder life and decided to focus replying my cellphone messages from my family, friends, relatives that I constantly abandoned. Tinder was just three days in my phone, two times sliding around, and I found nothing but disgust. If there's a way of meeting new people that I can appreciate -- I'm pretty sure it's not by algorithm that counts at your interest and let you choose by looking at pictures. I might not be able to interact more than a conventional traveler's way -- or, activist way maybe?

But to be honest, I pity myself for not being able to give some just judgment for such a personal choice of which I should not have judged. For my cool friend who happen to use Tinder, seriously, it's just a reflection for me. I still love you the way you are but please love me although my virtual capacity and tolerance is definitely need some additional schooling.

Trashy Mouth Agent 009
From the Dark Side