Thursday, January 31, 2008

Being Petty

If your little brother’s getting married before you, should there be a problem? I’d say no problem at all. But somehow some people think there is. Including my mother. She cautiously raised this issue last year, thinking that I would feel the same as she did. Little does she know I have a completely different idea, not only to this issue, but to marriage at large.

For one, I never understand why younger siblings have to wait for their older siblings to get married first. It’s ridiculous and unreasonable. How long do they have to wait? What if the older ones never get married? Does it mean they have to wait indefinitely?

The second issue was aroused when my mother’s future in-law asked her what should they give me, remembering Javanese’s culture that the older sister should receive something from her little brother/sister who got married before she did.

I’ve no idea why they were asking her that. We’re not Javanese. Even if we were, I wouldn’t want anything from them. Of course I’d love getting presents or some tokens from friends or family, who doesn’t? But not for this particular reason.

When my mother mentioned it to me lightly, I guessed I got a little bit upset. So I didn’t tell her that they shouldn’t be worrying about something like that. Instead I asked her what would they give me.

To my dismay my mother switched ‘they’ to ‘your brother’ saying that he might be able to buy me a dress, as he didn’t know what to give me who could even buy a brand new car in cash, bought $ 300 bag without blinking an eye, and buy almost anything I want whenever I want it. And then she added that his income was barely enough for himself.

That did it I guess. I got completely incensed by that time. So I went up to my room without clearing the issue and telling her that she could tell her in-laws not to worry about it. That the sister is quite happy with the marriage and wishing nothing from them but the best wishes for the new couples.

Having your younger sibling getting married before you do isn’t hard. What makes it unpleasant is the assumptions made by the people around you, people who don’t even know you, but expecting you to feel and behave in ways in which they think is proper for unmarried siblings.

I remember the first sentence uttered by my brother’s future mother in-law when she saw me, “My, Kakak (older sister) is very pretty!” I was quite speechless, as I didn’t know how to respond and how to take that comment.

Just like other older siblings whose younger siblings got married before them, I got my share of uncomfortable moments. Not for the usual reasons. But I got it nonetheless.

I guess I would never tell them that I’m sincerely happy that my brother is getting married, that I’m quite pleased that I got a sister in-law into our small family. I’ll let them sweat for a moment, as they seem to be quite happy feeling uncomfortable, as if they’ve done something wrong.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reality Checked

I’m back again in the office after leaving it for a fortnight for a workshop with two leading experts on evaluation from the world bank. Due to the warning on the news that the procession to deliver the body of our former late president will pass in front of my Ministry, I came a little bit early.

The traffic was just fine. It wasn’t as heavy as it supposed to be on Mondays. But you have to bear in mind it is said by a Jakartan who is so used to and nearly come to the point of becoming desperate and frustrated by one of the most terrible traffic jams one could ever imagine in this planet. Anyway, I made it to the office in less than 90 minutes.

Once I was on the 7th floor I headed straight to my office. No colleague is seen. People will start to show up around 9 a.m. But before I enter my office, one of the cleaning people cried, “Ma’am, that’s not your office anymore!”

My office has been moved. I’ve got a new one, which is not exactly new, since it was my old office before for a rather obscure reason some creative soul in the internal affairs bureau decided to redecorate our rooms and moved mine a distance away from my division. Now, to the delights of my superior, I’m back to my old room which is directly across his own. He could just stroll in and talk. No more talking on the phones.

Which is one of the reason why I didn’t realize it sooner that my telephone line has been left behind. They moved everything from my old office – which included three tables, three chairs, two computers, two very heavy filing cabinets plus all my files, two fake plants and other insignificant useless items I had managed to accumulate during my time there – to a new one with one small exception, my line. To make matter worse the line in my new room – which I don’t even know its number, and no body else seems to know it either – is only for internal usage.

When one of my staff delivered my dissatisfaction, he came back with a reply which not only increased my dissatisfaction but also ruffle my feathers. The reason why I can’t get my old line is because it’s already used by the new occupant of that room!

Couldn’t a person give a better excuse than that? Is switching line such an insurmountable task to undertake or against some unwritten law which nobody else is aware of except themselves? It’s not like we’re on different buildings or floors.

It’s one of the perfect examples of how some of our officials work. Things which are actually very simple could be made to sound very complicated and impossible. One needs to know which tools to use had one encountered such nuisance.

In most cases, all it takes is money or power (using your power to pressure those officials or talk directly to their supervisors). In my case, I addressed my dissatisfaction to my superior and let him handle it.

I really have no patience dealing with officials who withhold their services which should be delivered for free. If your job is to deliver letters, then you deliver them free of charge. If your job is to type, then you type free of charge. If your job is to provide facilities for other officials, then you provide them free of charge. This small incident shows that we still have a very long way ahead to create an effective and efficient public institution as there are still many people in bureaucracy who couldn’t seem to get this very basic principle.

Does the incredibly low salary of government employees contribute to the moral hazards and their low performances?

I might write extensively on the unfairness of Government’s paying system and the performance of its employees when the mood strike me or when I got incredibly jealous with what other government employees in some other Departments/Ministries made ^-^.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Barack Obama: Wind of Change

The presidential campaign in the United Sates is probably the most watched presidential campaign in this century. I don’t usually become fascinated with political campaign, but this time I am.

My interest was piqued after Barack Obama won Iowa. I started to wonder, whether it’s possible for the United States – the so called biggest sponsor of democracy, anti-racial slogan, multi-cultural jargon etc, to finally show the world that they’re not only good at preaching those values, but also excel in implementing it by electing Barack Obama their president.

If he ever won this election, he might not only write a new history for the American students to learn, but he might also change the world, for better, I hope. He would have the chance to improve the good image of the US which has been destroyed by aggressive policies and stances taken by the current administration.

He could start a new beginning by offering olive branches to countries considered hostile to the US. He could implement new approaches, less aggressive stances, and using more soft-power to get better results in creating a better future not only for the American citizens, but the citizen of the world as well.

I don’t know how’s Obama’s popularity in other countries where the US has been seen as a rogue county, a bully, an aggressor and other less than flattering names, but here in Indonesia he’s certainly received a favourable opinion mostly due to the nostalgic reasons. Yes, he once studied here in Jakarta. And every Indonesian knows that by now. Well…it might be an exaggeration by saying every Indonesian, perhaps many is a more politically correct word.

The world doesn’t have a say in this critical decision. It’s time for the average Americans to decide what they want. Whether they’re happy with the current situation and how the world is shaping and heading. Or whether they want to take matters into their own hands and start to write a new history.

Voting is a very important job and difficult decision, especially if you're choosing the president of the US. So, do it well, and you're doing a very good deed for the rest of the world.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Review: Hello God

Hating hospital and loving a happy ending as much as I do, I guess it’s only to be expected that I’m not much of a fan of hospital/doctors/patients related themes in movies since most of them ended with the death of one of the leading characters. More outdated Korean movies/series and even some of the current ones just love to do that and ruin the enjoyment of watching the whole episode, at least for me and I believe quite few others. I understand that in some cases that very sad endings are what made those few movies/series memorable. However, I still hate it.

Thank You is one of the exceptions in that genre. Now, I just found out that Hello God could be included in as one. I don’t want to give too much spoilers in any review that I write, so suffice it to say that the mentally ill male lead lives.

I don’t know whether Hello God could be put at the same par with Thank You. But I’d say it’s worth watching. Good enough to make me watch it continuously and weeping in some scenes. Well, to be honest, you could take the weeping out since I weep quite easily while watching heart breaking scenes, but it takes a lot to capture my attention and glued my eyes to the screen. And that’s say something about Hello God.

One of the things that I like in Hello God is its female character. I always have a soft spot for strong and independent female leads. Seo Eunyee was a con artist. Then ex-convict. She loved money more than anything else. Park Dongjee was a brilliant neurologist/surgeon. He was cold, persevere, successful and good looking. My favourite recipes for male lead. However, there was this retarded Haru who represent everything that those two leads were not. The three of them met when Seo Eunyee was on her chase for her former partner who took away her money from their last action.

I hope that’s enough spoilers for you to decide. Happy watching and hunting.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sex Scandal

It's a disgrace that 2008 has to be opened with a sex scandal. This time the Healh Minister of Malaysia who has the "honor" to come under the limelight beside under the hidden camera of course.

I've never had high regards for the honor and sense of commitment and responsibilities of our male population to begin with, but I'm afraid this latest scandal had dragged it another notch lower.

The poor wife had given a standard statement which had become rather familiar as it was stated by many other shameful politician housewives whose husbands got caught by the public cheating on her.

With so many high profile sex scandals blown up by the media, with Clinton's still hanging on at the top one, I wonder why those powerful men - who actually are not powerful at all since they could easily be lured and swayed by the forbidden pleasure of the flesh- are still harboring an illusion that they would never be caught.

It boggles my mind. I guess I could never understand how their minds work. I guess I could never understand, how they could easily betrayed the trust which had been given to them, not only by their family members, but also by the public.

And most of all, I think I would never understand how those politician wives could forget and forgive.

Our World

2007 was closed by a tragic event of assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Shocking as it was it served as a grim reminder that we’re living in a very dangerous and uncertain world, in which the prevailing laws are might, power and arms. We’re so used to hearing people died of unnatural causes of violent death that we no longer raised an eye brow.

This millennium had helplessly watched how a sovereign country was attacked by the world super power and its allies. We looked with chagrin how a democratically elected party in one country was denounced by other countries which normally sang high praises for those who practiced it.

We hardly got shocked when while on the one hand a certain country was sitting on a negotiating table with her nemesis, on the other hand it continued her attacked and oppression on that particular country it was negotiating with and heedlessly go on her merry way to implementing other unlawful moves, namely building new settlements, which had been declared unlawful by the UN – all during a peace negotiation conference brokered by her strongest supporter/ally.

As if those are not bad enough, we are also getting used to seeing other people in other continent died of famine from our TV set in our air conditioning bedroom or living room while munching various dangerous unhealthy goodies.

We are so used to seeing injustices unfolded on our world stage without realising that those grotesque, unpalatable, frustrating, infuriating, heartbreaking scenes were poisoning our sense of humanity and rightness to a slow death.

A portion of the world population are enjoying all the best it can offer, while the other less unfortunate portion are enduring the worst it can offer. Why is that? Is it really the destiny of those unfortunate people to live so poorly and desperately? Are we going to conveniently blame God for all those sufferings and wash our hands off of any blames and responsibilities?

Some of the misfortunes and sufferings in this world or in our lives are indeed beyond our control. And for those very few things it’s fair if we want take comfort and say those were our destiny and there’s nothing we can do to alter it. But the major portion of the calamities and injustices which I mentioned above were the results of the decisions made by few men. Like it or not, it’s their decisions which shape the world the way it is today. They made decision to go to war, and the rest of the population had to bear its consequences. They made their bid to power, and the rest of their people had to shoulder the costs of their ride to power. Are the faults entire theirs then? Enticing as it is to put all the blames on their privilege shoulders, I’m sorry to point out that they wouldn’t be there if you didn’t support them in the first place. So part of the blames are yours.

Is 2008 going to be any different? I don’t know. We might not have the power to change the world. However, we do the have power to make changes regarding our on lives and those around us. What we need are courage and conviction to do what is right and make necessary changes in our own little world and have faith that people are the key to a better future. If we could create a better people we’re creating a better world. It might not happen in a day. But it will happen eventually.

Be careful with your vote. Putting the wrong people in the wrong place could bring disaster and dire consequences to our world.