Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life According To Charlie Brown

Found here

PS. My grandma passed away this morning. Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi rojiun. Posts will resume on Monday. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kiev City Tour

Since my friend Amr could not accompany me around Kiev, her mother asked several people to give me a quick tour around the city. After the sport tour with Mbak Ida, I had the city tour with Dima, a young handsome Ukrainian :).

We began the tour at the Mykhaylivska square, in front of St. Michael monastery. On one side of the square, statues of Grand Princess Olga, Apostle Andriy, St. Cyril and St. Methodius stand tall to welcome the visitors. Princess Olga ruled Kyivan Rus between 945 and 964.

 Princess Olga is in the middle

Then we entered St. Michael monastery complex. The first thing I noticed was the shape of the cross, which is different from the Christian and Catholic cross. It has three horizontal crossbeams, with the bottom crossbeam is slightly tilted. 

The Orthodox Cross (I snapped this at Pechersk Lavra, which I will tell later)

When I asked Dima about it, my dearly guide (aha!) patiently explained that it was the symbol of Orthodoxy, which came from Byzantine. So the Christianity in Ukraine is a bit different because they followed the older, more ancient form of Christianity.

St. Michael's exterior

"Is it okay if I go inside? But if there is a mass, I don't want to disturb it," I said. 
"I don't think there is a mass. Women should cover their hair if they want to enter the church, but I think you're already eligible for that," he said, smiling.

We went inside and I was completely stunned! I was not allowed to take pictures, but if you key in "St Michael Kiev interior" in Google, below is just a sample picture you'll find...

Found here

Then we climbed up the bell tower just five minutes before 12 p.m. Dima said that the bell would ring every 30 minutes, so when we reached the top of the tower, we got to see and hear the bells tolling in such a harmonious melody. Ahh, it was such a beautiful music:).

For us the bells toll :)

The church has a museum that tells about what it has gone through during the wars, occupations and crises. It is just amazing that they could restore the church back to its original form.

A replica of archangel Michael that is placed on top of the church

Then we walked to St. Sophia cathedral, which is located just a few hundred meters away. The cathedral's name came from the 6th century Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople (what a coincidence!). Hagia Sophia means Divine Wisdom, and this St. Sophia cathedral is actually dedicated to Divine Wisdom, rather than a specific saint named Sophia. We also went inside, but taking photo is not allowed. Oh man, I wish I can take pictures...

St. Sophia

Dima took me to the Metropolitan House, which was located inside the St. Sophia complex. I was a bit confused with the term of Metropolitan, but it is actually a title for the Orthodox priest. I saw the big stove and the furniture a Metropolitan would use. There is an information box in every room, so we can press the button and learn more about the stuffs being displayed in the room.

Inside the Metropolitan's House

We left the St Sophia's complex afterwards. Near the St. Sophia's square, there is a statue of a horseman holding bulava (a spiky ball on a stick). Dima said that it was Bogdan Khmeltnytsky, a Cossack who led some kind of freedom movement (I don't exactly remember what he said, sorry).

I took a good look at the statue and asked, "I read one of Nikolai Gogol's books, Taras Bulba, when I was a kid. The book has a picture that looks like that man." He was a bit surprised to hear that I read Gogol. "Although Gogol gained fame in Russia, he was from Ukraine. Actually Taras Bulba was inspired by Bogdan Khmeltnytsky," he said.

Oh. Wow. Where have I been?

From St. Sophia, we got back to the car and Sasha, our driver for the day, drove us to Rodina Mat (Mother Motherland), a part of World War II Memorial in Pechersk. I'd call her The Steel Wench :). If you want to learn more about Rodina Mat in numbers, click here.

 Rodina Mat

It suddenly rained when we were there. We quickly ran under the nearest roof. I was worried about my camera, but Dima looked very happy. "I like it when it rains," he said. 

He got a phone call from office, so we headed to Otto Schmidta street because Sasha should drive someone home. But before that, we made a very quick stop at the House of Chimaeras, an Art Nouveau house built by architect Vladislav Gorodetsky. It used to be a museum, but now it's President Ukraine's residence, so we couldn't see the interior.

 House of Chimaeras

The one interesting fact is that although cars are barred to come near, people can walk up to its front door. Dude, there is no way we can do that here. The presidential bodyguards will take you down even when you're still 300 meters away.

Then we're going to the office, which was undergoing some cleaning activity. I waited in the lobby and chatted with an Indonesian woman who just arrived in Kiev two weeks ago.

"I still use Jakarta time on my watch. My colleagues have asked me to inform them if I have changed it into Kiev time," she said, laughing.
"Hey, I still use Jakarta time on my watch too. It's only a four-hour time difference, anyway," I said.

I thought the city tour would end after Sasha was back, but nope, Dima beckoned me to follow him to the next destination: Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Cave Monastery), a historic Orthodox Christian monastery. Pechera means cave and lavra is used to describe high-ranking monasteries for monk of Eastern Orthodox Church.

 Kiev Pechersk Lavra

The Bell Tower

Dima explained that the priests lived in the underground caves and usually stayed there for years to study on a particular subject. "The priests can get married," he said. Upon hearing the last sentence, I checked around if there were any cute young priests in the vicinity. Well, why, of course there were! :)

The older, senior monks wear some kind of a veiled hat

 The young monks are going to the mass

I saw women wearing headscarves but still wore tank tops, and I found it odd. In Rome, besides wearing a headscarves, women should also wear knee-length skirt and cover their shoulders. Oh well, this is not Rome, anyway.

As we walked around the monastery complex, the time was approaching 5 p.m. and suddenly, the church bells started to ring. Oh, how beautiful the sound was! The bells rang reciprocally, just like Indonesian gamelan.


The last stop was the Golden Gate, which was a historic gateway into the ancient city fortress. Then we went home. Phew! What a day.

 Golden Gate

 Spasiba, Dima!

Monday, June 25, 2012

An Indonesian Football Fan In The 2012 Euro Cup's Fanzone:)

I do like watching sports, but going to Ukraine just to see the festivities is by far the craziest thing I've ever done. I didn't even have a ticket to the game for I planned to watch it with other people on the road, locally known here as nonton bareng.

When I arrived in Kiev, the first thing I asked was whether there was a place to watch the game with other people. Mas Haris, a relative of my friend Amr, said, "Why, of course. There is the Fanzone on Khreschatyk Street."

So I did a sport tour with Mbak Ida, from the Wisma gang:). First stop is the Olimpiyskiy National Sport Complex. It was closed, so I only took pictures from the outside.

The west side of the stadium

Reading the code of conduct for fans 

The gates

The north side of the stadium

Then we walked to Dynamo Stadium. If you don't know Dynamo Kiev, well just Google it. Ukrainian striker Andriy Schevchenko started his football career in this club. But it was also closed. Argh.

Valeriy Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium

Mr. Lobanovskyi himself :P

So we walked into the Fanzone. I went to the Fanzone twice, on June 8 to watch the opening match between Poland and Greece and on June 11 to see how it's like during the Ukraine vs Sweden match (It was wild!). Here are the photos :).

Crowds focused their gaze to the big screen

Ukrainian fan team. Oh boy, I really like the costume :)

Soccer heads:)

When it comes to costume, Ukrainians not only stick to the jersey but have many options to show their love for the national team. People wear traditional garbs or simply wear any blue or yellow outfit. I saw a woman wearing a lovely national flag color combination of blue halter top and long yellow maxi skirt.

If they don't have the blue and yellow outfit, they just painted their face with the flag color. The most flexible solution comes from businessmen who walk into the Fanzone in their working suit and leather briefcase but tying the national flag around their neck as if it is some kind of a cape.

As the opening ceremony rolled and the match between Poland and Greece started, people focused their gaze to the big screens. Many people sat down on the road. Seeing a woman was still standing in the front row, a man tapped her shoulder and politely asked her to sit down. When she pointed to her white trouser (a sign that she did not want to soil it), the man took off his jacket and offered it for her sitting mat. Aww, so sweet.

The fans watched the match side by side and cheered their teams peacefully. When the first goal took place, the crowd jumped into a roaring joy, regardless the team they sided in. It was a celebration of fair play, indeed.

The love for football is something Ukrainians have had for decades. During the German occupation of Kiev in 1942, the Ukrainian team FC Start humiliated the German team Flakelf with a 5-3 victory despite the Nazi advice to let the Aryans win or serious consequences would take place. The Ukrainian footballers were later executed at the Babi Yar ravine. The deadly match inspired Hollywood to make a movie titled Victory, starred by, among others, actor Sylvester Stallone.

The Ukrainians may not be able to go to the Euro Cup's quarter final this time, but at least all teams are free to score as many goals as they want and celebrate the total football spirit with all football fans.

Especially this football fan XD

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Jakarta's 485th Anniversary

Hi sweeties, how are you?

Today is the 485th anniversary of Jakarta. Seeing the traffic, pollution and other social problems, there is not much to celebrate about. Anyway, if you have no plan this weekend, below are just several ideas to kick off the weekend :).

Theater performance: Matah Ati. June 22-25, at 7:30 p.m. Theater Jakarta, Taman Ismail Marzuki.

Festival: Entrepreneur Festival, June 22-23, South Gate, Epiwalk (Epicentrum) Jakarta.

Film: My Grandpa the Bank Robber, June 23 at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Erasmus Huis Jakarta. Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav S3 Kuningan

Film: Baci e abbracci, June 23, at 4 p.m. Istituto Italiano di Cultura. Jl. Hos Cokroaminoto 117 Menteng.

My plan this weekend? Sleep, sleep and sleep to cure this jetlag problem. Hope you have a fun weekend :).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

12-Hour Transit In Istanbul

The trip to Ukraine was planned a year ago when a dear friend offered help for the visa process and a place to stay in Ukraine. She lives there, and to keep things confidential, let's just call her Amr. At first, there were four people planning to go to that country in April 2012. A few months leading to that month, one resigned and could not get leave for the next six months and two worked in the same division so only one of them could go, but then both decided not to go. 

That left me as the only person who could go.

At first I was a bit reluctant to go alone. But after having such a hard time at the office, I thought,"Oh well, it's a good opportunity to have a breather and let things be." I asked Amr if it was okay if I came in June (instead of April), during the Euro Cup, because man, I really need vacation. She said it was okay. So did the craziest thing ever and booked the round trip tickets.

It turned out that Kiev is a rare destination because not all airlines fly to that city, although it is located in Europe. If you think that put me down, it even fueled my desire to go there. After some searching, I found that KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, Emirates and Turkish Airlines do have regular flights to the capital of Ukraine.

So I listed several requirements to cut down the options.

(1) Price >> It immediately eliminated Air France and Lufthansa from the list.
(2) Number of transits >> KLM flies to Amsterdam before going to Kiev (which I find ridiculous because why do I have to fly to the Western Europe first when I actually want to go to Eastern Europe?) and Emirates makes transits in Dubai and Moscow before landing in Kiev (even more ridiculous because then I would have to apply for a transit visa to Russia).
(3) Gimmicks >> I found that I could pick the seats during the booking of Turkish Airlines. And did you know that if you fly with Turkish Airlines and have more than 6-hour layover in Istanbul, you can get free breakfast, lunch and a tour around the city? Btw, this is not a sponsored post, I just found out myself.  

Since I've been wanting to see what Istanbul looks like, that made Turkish Airlines won the place *blows out trumpets*. So I opted for a 12-hour transit in Istanbul:). Now I'm wondering if we could have a week of transit there. Hmm. Hahaha.

If you can pick your seat for free, you'd better pick the first line in every seating group for it has more space for your legs.

Dinner in the air

My plane departed from Jakarta on June 6 and made a quick stop in Singapore before heading to Istanbul. I arrived in the capital of Turkey at around 6 a.m. I paid US$ 25 for the visa-on-arrival and then walked past the passport control to the Hotel Desk. I registered for the tour and was told to wait until 9 a.m. I walked to the nearby Starbucks and met an Indonesian man, who offered to buy me a cup of tea.

He seemed nice so I said okay. He wanted to join the tour, which should take place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. but since he had to depart at 2 p.m. he decided to tour the city on his own. He said that he now held German nationality and that he had worked for a German company for more than two decades.

Then he started to tell personal stories, about his divorce, his children who lived in another town and started to ask personal questions, like "How many children do you have?" I'm still single but these kinds of questions are usually the icebergs of more annoying questions. The lucky thing was a man started to call names for the tour and my name was on the list. So I politely excused myself and ran to join the tour.

We were ushered to a shuttle bus. During the bus ride, the man sitting next to me talked to the driver in Turkish and they all laughed. I raised my eyebrows and wondered what they were laughing about, were they talking about me? (I can be overly sensitive after 10-hour flight). But I was not the only person in the bus feeling that way. When the bus reached the restaurant, a man of African descent, a Japanese girl and I sat on one table and the first question we said was,"What were they talking in the bus?" Then the three of us laughed and we just bonded together as English-speaking people.

The African guy, Gregory, was actually a Swiss national. He worked in NYC as a nurse and was going back to Geneva for a holiday. The Japanese girl, Yuka, was flying from Georgia and would continue to Japan. The man sitting next to me in the shuttle bus was actually an Iraqi, but he spoke Turkish language well. Besides us, there some 20 more people coming from other corners in the world joining the tour.

A Turkish breakfast

We had a Turkish breakfast, consisting of cheese, bread, meat, and eggs. I asked Gregory if we still had time to go to the toilet. "Don't worry, I won't leave without you," he said while taking another slice of bread. Aww, that's a very sweet thing to say to a person you just met.

After the toilet break, we still had to wait for the bus, which finally appeared around 11 a.m. Geez, I guess having a free tour means we had to up with the tardiness. Our guide was a middle age woman, who always called us with "My dearly guests", a reference that would send Gregory into a giggling.

"My dearly guests, we are now starting the TourIstanbul. As you can see, Turkey is located in both Europe and Asia. We are now in Istanbul, on the European side of Turkey," the guide began.

The first object we visited was the Hippodrome, where Constantine's Obelisk, Theodosius's Obelisk, Serpentine column and German fountain stood in one line. The guide told us to carry our belongings with us, but since I only carried one backpack (no luggage! I was so impressed with myself), I decided to store it at the bus's luggage area (the backpack was way to heavy to lug around). The bus driver could not speak English, but he understood my request and put my backpack in the luggage area.

The guide was not happy to see what I was doing. She said that we might be using a different bus to go to airport. Gregory looked at my worried face and asked,"But you keep the passport and money with you, right?" Yeah, definitely. (You know what? In the end, we did use the same bus to depart to the airport. The guide was just trying to scare me off.)  

When the guide was explaining, the Iraqi guy pointed at something else and walked to the side. Then the guide snapped at him,"Where are you going? You should not walk away from me. We should stay together as a group." I didn't who were more surprised, the Iraqi guy or us. Gregory and I were laughing about it as we walked behind the group.

"She sounded so pissed off, didn't she? It was as if she said,'Where do you think you're going?'" Gregory said.
"I know! She reminded me of my kindergarten teacher," I said.
"Yeah! I felt the same way," he said.

Approaching Hagia Sophia

We got in for free. Thank you, Turkish Airlines:)

We entered Hagia Sophia Museum, a former church turned into mosque turned into a museum. The guide gave us 20 minutes to explore the place so we all went our own way. Yuka met another Japanese and went around with him, but Gregory and I stayed together. I guess we stuck together because we just had similar sense of humor.

Interior view of the dome

Wow.

View from the Upper Gallery. Double wow.

We decided to explore the Upper Gallery. The view from above was lovely and we kinda forgot time. When we reached the meeting point, no one was there. Panic! But then the guide came around to find us.

The next stop was Basilica Cistern, some kind of water storage. Again, the guide told us to reach the meeting point in 20 minutes. Gregory and I met with Yuka and the Japanese guy (Ryohei) and we walked as the foursome. When we reached the meeting point (I believed we were the first one to come there), the guide already put on a sour facial expression and told Gregory and I,"You guys are always late." I pointed to other tour members behind our backs and said,"No, we're not. There are other people behind us."

Inside Basilica Cistern. Please forgive my inability for taking low-light photograph

Medusa

Just a few minutes after I said those words, a tour member from South Africa tapped my shoulder and said,"Hey, we're going to take pictures in Turkish traditional costume over there. Could you tell the guide to wait for us?" Trying to muster my laughter, I said,"Err, I think you should tell the guide yourself." Gregory just could not help laughing to hear our conversation,"Now, look who is always late!" I exploded into laughter too. Surprisingly, the guide permitted them to take pictures. 

The costume for the picture

From Basilica Cistern, we walked back to our bus (which was not changed into another bus and I found my backpack was still safe inside the bus's luggage area). But Gregory stopped for a few minute to buy a Turkish hat. When we reached the bus, the guide counted the tour members and tried to remember who was missing. I saw Gregory walking to the bus with his new hat, so I tapped the guide and pointed to Gregory,"Don't worry, he's already here." The guide exclaimed,"Always late! Always late!" Then he told Gregory to enter from the back door.

Then we had lunch. The tour guide said,"There are two menus in this restaurant. But I would suggest you to have the Turkish doner. Yes? You agree?" Then she decided for herself,"So this table over here order Turkish doner." Gregory and I just laughed about it for we found the guide a bit amusing.

Turkish people are very modest when they're advertising their products. Probably? Why don't they use 'definitely'? :)

Salad

I thought these were the main course, but they're only appetizer.

Turkish doner that deserves a special mention! Delicious!

The tour participants. We look like one big happy family:)

The South African tourists (of Caucasian descent) sat in front of us and seeing how relaxed Gregory and I joked around, they asked if we were together. Euh, no, I said, we just met on this tour. The two lovely South African ladies flew from Johannesburg to Venice. Wow, isn't this kind of tour interesting? You get to meet people flying from other parts of the world.

Anyway, the Turkish doner was very delicious! But the South African ladies, Yuka, Ryohei, Gregory and I had to cut the tour and go back to airport at 2 p.m. to catch our flights. We hopped on the bus, the guide called our names, counted the people in the bus and found there were two people not in the list.

"There are only 20 people in this list. How come I have 22 people in the bus? Who are not on this list?" she asked.
"Why don't you ask those two guys sitting in the front? You didn't call their names," Gregory said.

The guide turned her head to the two tour members and asked the time of their flights. It turned out that their flights were 9 p.m. So they could still join the tour. "So what are you guys doing here? Get off the bus," the guide said.

Oh man, that was so far the funniest thing ever!

The guide stood in front of us and hoped that we enjoyed the tour. She also apologized if she said and did something wrong.We all clapped our hands and said,"Thank you!" Aww, that's sweet, eh? All is forgiven and forgotten. But I believe the words of "My dearly guests" will always bring smiles to my face for years to come:).

So we went back to airport. As I passed the metal detector, I turned around to say goodbye to Yuka, Ryohei and Gregory but there was only Gregory.

"When is your flight?" he asked.
"Three hours from now. I'm going to send postcards for my friends before going in," I said.
"Ok, I'll accompany you to the post office. Hey, why don't you come to the Business Lounge as my dearly guest?" he said.
"Hahaha. Yeah, sure, my dearly host!" I said.

So after I sent the postcards, I went to the Business Lounge with him. I've been to the Business Lounge in Singapore's Changi airport, but dude, the lounge in Istanbul was beyond my expectation. It has foods, drinks, wide screen TVs, a pool table, a reading room (seriously!), Internet-connected iMacs, beds and showers. Wow. I sure be happy to be the dearly guest :).

And that wrapped my visit to Istanbul.  So far it had been a wonderful time with wonderful people.

Have a great day!


Istanbul, I'll be back for sure:)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where I've Been

Hi there! Sorry for the lack of post, but I've been traveling to...


...and now I have a jetlag. I need to get some sleep. I will post more once I recover. Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tea Time With Twinings


Last week, I got a chance to come to the launching of Twinings' Royal Diamond Jubilee Blend. Although I'm a tea person, I came to the event a bit skeptical, but it turned out to be a fun gathering. I learned a lot about British tea tradition :).


I sampled three kinds of tea: Lady Grey (the blue sachet), Passionfruit Mango Orange (the brown sachet) and Royal Diamond Jubilee blend (the canister).

First brew: Lady Grey

Mr Stephen Twining, the tenth generation of the Twining family, came to the event and imparted his knowledge on the essence of tea. To brew teabags, he said that we needed to put 6 teabags into the teapot. The water temperature should be 100 degree Celsius. 

"After you put in the teabags, you can have polite conversation for three minutes to wait for the tea. Don't juggle the teabags, for it will make the tea too dark," he said.

The first brew is Lady Grey, which is the milder version of Earl Grey. Lady Grey contains orange and lemon peel and it feels refreshing to sip the tea in the afternoon.

Mr Twining said that there were three rules on tea. First: tea should be enjoyed as its original flavor. Second: putting sugar into the tea is barbaric! Third: if you think the second rule is wrong, go back to the first rule. (Oh dear, I'm barbaric as charged)

However...Mr Twining previously said that tea was a personal choice. You can have it anytime, anywhere, in any way you like it. The MC (Iwet Ramadan) reminded Mr Twining of his previous statement, while adding,"So it's okay to add sugar, right? Because it's our personal choice to add sugar."

"Um, yes," he said, reluctantly,"But the tea is still best enjoyed without sugar." 

He later told us that he lived with his cousin who always added two blocks of sugar into his tea. He hatched a plan to abort his cousin's habit. So he tried to come home earlier than his cousin, brewed the tea and put the sugar spoon next to his cousin's teacup. His cousin thought the tea already contained sugar and drunk it without suspicion. 

After a few weeks, his cousin's sugar consumption for the tea dropped to zero. The cousin even told Mr Twining that,"Hey, you brew better tea lately." Mr Twining replied,"That's because there's no sugar in it." Hahaha, doesn't he sound like a tea police?

The second brew: Royal Diamond Jubilee

They were my table fellows. Following Mr Twinings' rules, we stirred the tea after five minutes.

Then we poured it. Royal Diamond Jubilee blend is made from two variants of black tea: Assam and Yunnan.

I love the floral pattern of the teacup!

 Last but not least, yours truly with the third cup of tea. I wish I can bring it home :) I hope I can have a tea time in the UK one day.

As I told you before, I don't drink coffee, but I do drink tea and usually brew the local blend of jasmine tea, such as Teh Cap Botol (or the cheap ones), hahaha. Do you drink tea? What's your favorite flavor/blend?