Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Began, the (Groupon) Clone Wars have, in Vietnam

Groupon clones seem to be everywhere these days. This is most notably seen in Vietnam, where I am living right now, where according to this article there are about 10 sites live or about to go live. Among them, there’s the Groupon-esque section of Zing, which is arguably the largest youth-oriented portal in Vietnam. There’s (formerly, Cungmua,Kenhgia, (an IDG investment),  and Nhommua.

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Make Sure It's Worth It

Dreams in our sleep are often filled with unconnected images and occurrences, yet perhaps the half-conscious mind tries to make sense of all of it by tying these instances into a somewhat credible output it can remember, no matter how absurd. So anyway...

Two nights ago, I dreamt of a district attorney feeling frustrated about a tough case, almost ready to give up.

Last night, I dreamt of the same lawyer, finding case files she apparently threw out her car on the highway earlier that day, on her doorstep, with a note: don't give it up. it's worth the fight.

Every day we are faced with challenges, easy and difficult, that demotivate us in doing our daily work. So sometimes you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is all this effort going to have the benefits or outcome that you need?

Sometimes it is good to keep sight of your priorities, objectives, or simply just what will make your life happier.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Dari Surabaya?"

A few weeks ago, Saskia and I were waiting for a taxi at our apartement's taxi stand. There were many motorcycles going in, out and around the apartement's entrance, but there was one guy who just stopped near us and looked at us. We were feeling uncomfortable since he was looking at us, wondering if we were doing something wrong or strange (or if we looked strange), but finally, he spoke:

"Dari Surabaya?"

Out of all the questions in the world, he asked if we were from Surabaya or not. Maybe we were obviously Indonesian (so was he) and he decided to skip that question, so he perhaps decided to test the next question (being the obvious Javanese that we are). But imagine, standing on a street corner of a foreign city, and suddenly being asked something about your origins in Indonesian.

ha ha ha.... that was slightly weird.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

After 2 Weeks in HCMC

Let me share you a few fun facts and trivia after two weeks living in HCMC:

  1. like Jakarta, it's motorcycle town. They rule the roads. Almost everybody goes by motorcycle. And it takes me 20-30 minutes with motorcycle taxi to go from home to the office.

  2. It takes slightly longer to ride a taxi to the office. Why? Because the traffic lights are frequent and short-timed, and everybody obeys the speed limit. Yeah, everybody. Of course, it's cheaper by motorcycle taxi.

  3. Just like Jakarta, it's tough to find available cabs when it's raining, and sometimes it floods. But [so far], there have never been any mind-boggling traffic jam-inducing floods. I still can get home, even at rush hour, within 30 minutes.

  4. The air is clearer here and there's still a fog at 8 AM (when I leave for work).

  5. My office's office hours are 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM, but of course the hours are relatively flexible.

  6. Almost every cafe and restaurant has free, fast WiFi. Even so, most Vietnamese settle for their version of "warung kopi" on the street side, with very short chairs and tables. Even when there's a flood.

  7. Oh, the definition of flood here is perhaps ankle deep, and usually subsides quickly.

  8. The food is great.

  9. The Vietnamese language has a phonetic system, where one word can have different meanings if pronounced differently. Try giving directions with the wrong pronunciation, and the taxi driver will just look at you with a confused look or laugh. But they will appreciate foreigners who put effort in learning the language, even if only a bit.

  10. The internet industry is somewhat on par, if not more advanced compared to Indonesia (at least in some sectors). Groupon-type businesses generate real money and traffic, and there is a local site called which is a directory and maps service, complete with 3D view - so complete, that Google buys data from them. Mobile internet is still in its infancy.

  11. It's definitely not Blackberry country. Signing up for BB service costs you around USD 150 just to register, and USD 25 for monthly service (and you have to deposit 6 months upfront). On the other hand, standard GPRS data packages are cheap and people generally use Nokias and iPhones.

  12. Did I say the food is great?

So far, I love it here. The work I am doing is tiring but worthwhile, and at least I don't tire myself out going to and from the office. My current company believes that Indonesians are good workers and bring a lot of value (there are at least 4 Indonesians in the various branches of my company), and I hope to maintain that belief. I am also hoping that many more Indonesians can work overseas also, at least for part of their lives. Perhaps we're not on the ground at home helping to build the nation, but we are working in the midst of various nations showing the quality of work and life that Indonesians have to offer. That, I think, is also a patriotic duty and I hope I can fulfill mine well.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Yeah, I Came And Watched Vietnam Idol, Live.

Saskia and I came and watched Vietnam Idol tonight, to see what Sacha has been busy working on these past few months. Anticipating watching from the sidelines, a guy from the office got us seats, and got seats for our guests, Budi Putra and Elvi Susanti

Needless to say, we didn't understand a word of it. But it was certainly a fun night, with interesting burgers and fries to boot.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The New Apartement!

Hey, here's some of the pictures of our apartement in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sent from my BlackBerry®

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Indonesia's Darkest Hour

Jakarta is hit by one of the worst floods in recent memory, paralyzing it - fortunately, only for half a day with a minimum of lives lost.

Mentawai is hit by consecutive large earthquakes, then devastated by tsunamis. 113 lives lost.

Mount Merapi erupts, bringing hot clouds down its hillsides. 25 lives lost so far.


At this dark hour for Indonesia, isn't it a good time to let go of the power plays, politics and differences, and become one as a nation?


Thursday, October 21, 2010

On A Serious Note: Negotiable Martabak Prices

Yesterday night, I was slightly hungry (as I did not have dinner) and on the way home, we stopped to buy some martabak manis. For Rp 28.000, we got a big box of it, around 16 pieces, and I only ate 3 before feeling too sleepy to eat.

But I'll leave my culinary adventures for another blog. Maybe post some pictures on Tumblr.

Anyway, it brought up a memory of a few years back, while I was still living in Dharmawangsa - I was buying some martabak manis, and waiting for the martabak man to finish making it, sitting on a stool nearby. When done, I would be paying Rp 17.000 for a small box of martabak.
A mother and her son came by to order some martabak as well, and she asked for the price of the no-frills, sugar-topping-only martabak. The martabak man answered, Rp 12.000, ma'am.

Then the next thing she said stunned me somewhat: "can you make it Rp 10.000?"

She was bargaining for a martabak. I mean, any Indonesian with any self-respect would haggle or bargain almost anything I need to buy, but I guess it never crossed my mind to bargain food prices. Especially martabak. Not to mention that many street food vendors run on a minimum profit, so the martabak man's compassion played a part in agreeing to the negotiated price.

I guess I'm very lucky that I've never had to haggle the price of my meal, and I should be grateful. It's just that this single fact did not occur to me until that day.

So whenever I feel lustful towards some new gadget or something, I remember that mother who had to bargain the price of martabak. Maybe it's lame and a bit snobbish of me, I know, but nevertheless, that small fact stayed with me after all the years.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded to be grateful of the simple, basic things in life.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Việt Nam, Here We Come!

To mark 6 years of blogging (which technically fell on October 1st), I have decided to actually write something on my blog. And frankly, to save time retelling the story to everyone I meet, I am writing it here, so I can just say "just read my blog".
6 years ago I started this blog as part of a new life - and shortly, this blog will be a witness to another new stage in my life. Something rather unfathomable for some, but somehow rather fitting for others - depending on how well they know me.
Saskia and I will be moving to Việt Nam within the next month. After 6 years in the music and digital industry, I have decided to accept a position with a local company based in Hồ Chí Minh City which works in the movie and TV industry there. I will be joining the marketing team, as they have tons of TV programming to sell, in-house produced movies, and they also distribute many of the American (read: Hollywood) movies on behalf of the movie studios. They even have their own movie theater!

I will be leaving after only 6 months - the only part of this decision I regret, as I have learned a lot during my short time here, and have been honored to work with such a good team, which have become good friends also. But we think it is the best time for us to do this - so it's not just for the job, it's for the adventure.

You learn a lot from immersing yourself into various cultures - and what better way to do that than just moving to a completely different country? Heheh.

And let me state for the record - we are doing this not because our disillusion regarding Indonesia's current state. We love Jakarta and almost all of our beloved family and friends are here; but recently Jakarta has become quite unlivable and unhealthy, so we are taking this opportunity to somewhat take a break. By November, you can count Jakarta less one car and two people, at least for the next few years ahead; a miniscule effort to decrease our carbon footprint.

For me, there are 2 basic ways to be a patriot for your country:

  1. work in Indonesia and build industries, jobs, creative work, and so on - to build the nation; or

  2. work overseas to help other countries build, with Indonesian expertise, skill and tenacity.

So, if you ever come to Hồ Chí Minh City, I'll be the one wearing a batik shirt at the office, because I don't want anyone to forget that there is an Indonesian helping you build your business. Well, hopefully I will be able to successfully, so wish us luck!

Most likely this blog will also have a slight change of tune once we move there, to chronicle life of an Indonesian in Hồ Chí Minh City, so until then, stay tuned!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Testing the N900

Yeah, the screen looks that good and sharp.

Sent from my BlackBerry®

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ticket Sales, Social Networks Indicating Positive Trends

The recent sold-out Pitbull concert, the Java Jazz festivals and the upcoming All Time Low concert, among others, are trends indicating these things:

a smarter consumer. I remember not too long ago, pre-sale tickets didn't sell so well, online or offline; which might indicate consumers who can't decide on watching the concert or not until the last minute, or, lack of finances. Now presale drives a large number of ticket sales acts as a domino effect for more ticket sales and PR for the concert itself - the consumer knows what they want and can manage their finances better (whether or not it is actually money from parents.

wider acceptance of the internet as a medium for commerce. Also not too long ago, people were still reluctant to pay for stuff online. In the case of the Java Jazz Festivals, they were forced to buy online anyway if they wanted the early bird tickets; eventually, online purchase has become a way for many consumers to ensure they get their tickets, as opposed to standing in line all day at the ticket box.

the internet, via social networks, becoming the dominant communication tool, either for asking feedback on proposed artists, notification of promotions, and announcements of upcoming concerts. Java Musikindo and Java Festival Productions have skillfully used Twitter, Facebook and other means to promote their shows and obtain feedback from the crowd.

I think it's a good sign of things to come.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Din Syamsuddin, soal "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" page di Facebook

Din Syamsuddin, soal "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" page di Facebook:
Karena itu di Facebook, ya, berhenti saja punya Facebook. Saya kebetulan punya 3 akun langsung saja saya tutup,

3 akun Facebook? Pasti buat main Farmville dan Pet Society.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Seperated At Birth? Tawon & Think City

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="285" caption="Tawon"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Think City"][/caption]

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Slapstick vs. Stand-Up: An Unlikely Insight To The Indonesian State Of Mind

OK, this might be a wholly unimportant post regarding the state of the nation, but it's been something I've been wanting to put in writing for a while but never had time.

Reflecting upon @aulia's [perhaps rhetorical] question and @pandji's one time ambition to be one, the question posed asked merely: why doesn't stand up comedy "work" in Indonesia? Why are most publicly-consumed comedies derived from slapstick?

As once presented by @ismanhs in his presentation at Barcamp Indonesia 2010, a good joke has a premise, a victim and the punchline (CMIIW). And basically, slapstick comedy, or the derivative of it where somebody or a celebrity is the victim of a practical joke, the premise, the victim and the punchline are all provided for the audience. The deliverer and the recipient of the joke are in the same place, work from the same script, and thus stay within a single, controlled environment.

Whereas in stand-up comedy, there is only one person up there! Since there always has to be a victim of the joke, there are only so many self-depreciating jokes a comedian can deliver before he/she needs another victim. The victim might be in the audience, or might be a hypothetical stereotype, or might be a public figure (read: celebrity or politician).

Now Indonesians will laugh heartedly at any joke, as long as the joke's not on them. Even if the joke is not really on them, if they were part of one of the hypothetical stereotypes involved above, they'd get offended. If it were remotely touching on ethnic or religious differences, someone will get offended. And if it were, even somewhat indirectly, making fun of a celebrity or politician, and even if the joke was something always talked about privately virtually everywhere; once the joke is delivered publicly, they'd get offended.

Indonesians take offense easily - high-school brawls start and continue for an easy part of the school year just because some kid looked at another a bit funny. Cops, who are supposed to hold the peace, retaliate when provoked. Sometimes it's like everybody's looking for a problem.

I learned the hard way that I shouldn't take offense easily - all my friends did to ease my short temper was actually piss me off all the time, ha ha ha... and of course, the older I grew, the higher my self-confidence level became, and it became easier to not be provoked by simple offense. Don't get mad, get even, as they say.

So Indonesia needs to learn how to take a joke! Why so seerriioouusss???

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Small Things Of Hope And Self-Confidence: For A Better Nation

For months on end, one problem has been revolving around my head - the state of our nation. The simple things that we see every day and take for granted (which we shouldn't) are end results of something even deeper, somehow permeating the nation's subconscious.

Here's what I see:

  • shameless and over-the-top corruption. Hey, even stealing a pen from the office for personal use is corruption, but I dare say we've all done it once or twice. But people skimming money here and there, setting up dummy corporations, to grab mountains of money? That's greed, but what provoked the greed?

  • aggressive drivers and motorcyclists. Anybody who drives daily in Jakarta is familiar with the ongoing fight you have to endure with other drivers and motorcyclists, just to move forward. Many attach this aggressiveness with frustration, but... frustration towards what?

  • low craftsmanship, or even plagiarism. Going through a house renovation gave me a first-hand look at how paid labormen work (who are usually hired only to do a specific task). They just do the job they're told to do, without any thoughts towards function or aesthetics. Some may associate this with their level of education, but this also happens a lot in educated circles also. Employees do just enough to make sure they're still within the key performance indexes, and the less they do (otherwise copy other people's work), the better. Local mass electronic companies design knock-off products based on other, more prominent brands because "that's what sells" - just look at the wave of QWERTY phones since the BlackBerry craze in Indonesia. All three examples point to a very low pride level about their own work. But why?

I mainly thought that these sociological symptoms were due to these factors:

  1. release from the oppression of the Suharto era. Newfound freedom without a sense of responsibility has brought our nation almost to the brink of collapse, many times.

  2. low level of empathy - no such thing as 'love thy neighbor' anymore. People simply don't care about others.

  3. an effect of the release from oppression: a yearning of 'revenge', the release of frustration, and wanting to 'be on top because it's my turn now'. Big or small, the effects of these emotions can be seen in every day life anywhere in Indonesia.

  4. more on the 'be on top' factor - wanting to feel 'superior' to others. Small example: the way a funeral convoy acts, especially the motorcyclists, clearing the road for a faster trip to the funeral. Or, how officials use motorcycle escorts to break through traffic. Even more ridiculous, how some people use their police sirens - actual police or not - to coax the traffic to roll along in a jam (even when it's totally pointless).

Why is all this happening to us? The younger generation, who did not feel Suharto's oppressive rule, still act vengeful and frustrated - see how easy it is to recruit people into violence-prone groups like FPI, and the constant, unprovoked hooliganism of Jakmania.

And it's not about the general education level, either - we see these negative symptoms everywhere (as I have shown above). All probably small things, but as they say, the devil is in the details; giants slip from small stones than big rocks.

The general feeling of apathy must be caused because of something, but apathy alone would not make people frustrated - apathy would actually come after frustration. Then it dawned on me.

Two words:



Voters flocked, twice, to vote for SBY's administration because, for a while, he represented hope. He looked at us and basically said 'don't worry, we can do it!' thus building our self-confidence. Regardless of what is currently happening and what political leaning you have, I dare say this is the single most important contribution that SBY's administration has given to Indonesia. Unfortunately, the blatantly selfish power plays done by any and all the political parties have blasted out this self-confidence and hope once again, just like a new house built in months of hard work can be burnt down in a day, and the seeming inaction from SBY's administration also struck a blow to the hard-won hope.

I have mentioned numerous times that the fate of the nation depends on us - the average citizen - and even more so than what our self-proclaimed leaders can do. These politicians are too busy attempting power grabs and testing their authority (like issuing pointless fatwas or laws) that they forget to take care of their constituents. It has got to the point where, ridiculously, a party will appoint a celebrity to run for a certain post, even though he or she has no previous experience, or  is not even from the constituent's area, just to get votes.

So there's nothing we can do except keep an eye on them - political parties here are created more to grab power rather than trying to push their member's ideals; this can be proven by how similar all the parties are, trying to be something for everybody.

But we, the people, can be the change that they disappointingly cannot. Through our work and our play, we can and should emanate hope and self-confidence. We should attack apathy by being critical - I have an entire blog dedicated to making people laugh enough, or angry enough, to break through their apathy and figure out solutions (or at least suggest them) for Jakarta. We should take pride in our work and inspire the best work from our peers and colleagues. And we really should be more tolerant - everybody has a unique way to contribute; differing point of views ensure a richer solution.

And it all starts from the small things we do every day.

The fight still continues, my friend!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reflecting And Hoping

It's been a while since I really sat down and wrote something for this blog. Well, something about me, rather than my opinions about #indonesiaunite and all...

I know it's rather commonplace today, where [almost] everybody has a blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page... but I would like to mention that I have been blogging for 5 years.

Let that sink in. Five. Years.

Five years of continuing to write - I'll use the term 'continuing' loosely, as lately most of my writing has been more exclusively via Twitter. I guess not all thoughts require a rambling, 10-paragraph blog post. But still, it is needed sometimes, and therefore the blog will not die. The blog will evolve somewhat, just as my blog has evolved for the past 5 years. It used to be on Blogspot, then I got active on Multiply, and now it's on Wordpress where it will hopefully will stay. I have maintained all three with the same content as they cater to different, if somewhat minuscule, audiences.

The blog itself has changed names twice (if you don't count the modifications to the name when moving to new blog services), from 'A New Leaf' to 'Positivity'. The blog's name and title, still reminds me on what I should be, and what I was before.

Then again, it's a bit startling to read blog posts from 3 or 4 years ago - I surprise myself with my own writing. It seems to have been written by another person, although I know for a fact that I wrote it myself. Has my writing improved? I don't know, the reader is the judge.

And this blog, with its various incarnations, has accompanied me through many, many things - although I never have directly written what was going on as a personal journal would entail, I think the ramblings, thoughts and statements suffice enough to give the reader a picture of what's going on. And also, still, not everything can be talked about on a blog, haha. That said, there is a lot of stuff that I wish I could write about here - but some stories are better told directly and verbally :)

What will the next 5 years bring for me, and in turn show up on my blog? We'll see. As wise men say, man may plan, but God is the one who decides...

Happy new year, everybody.