2015 – The Year in Review

I can scarcely believe the speed of time when you get older. I began this year returning to the city where people habitually throw the proverbial dice, Jakarta.

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And this time i came more than prepared, job in hand – check, community forged – check, place to live – check, projects to do and mission to accomplish.

In addition, my parents has generously given me their car for me to use to travel around Jakarta’s notoriously bad (and dangerous) traffic.

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The CSM gang

So with that i set off my sights on fortune.

Things went quite well for the first three months or so, my social calendar was filled, my job was where I fit in, analytic and business development.

Then like most things, stuff did not turn out as smoothly as i expected. The place i worked for started moving me around to the next stage in the sales pipeline, from analytic to marketing, and then to sales, then eventually to customer service and battling fires whenever there were one. Throughout all these my compensation did not change one bit, but my roles has been significantly widened to terms that were not in the initial contract. Nevertheless, i soldiered on and climbed a mountain on the side.

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Meanwhile, in my personal life, finally things took a turn for the better and I met the girl whom i feel i have a very good connection with. I have lots of hope for the future, and we started our relationship around mid-year.

I wished i have the dual fortune to succeed straight away in work and relationship in the same year, as that would have been great, but the customer service work was too much for me to take, i did not take this job so i could babysit nagging customers for fault that isn’t mine, and as well as collecting late payments from troublesome customers.

Meanwhile, a deal that i was offered last year verbally (but not written) didn’t materialize and for me this was the last straw. I mulled over one and half months before finally deciding it is time for me to resign. I had initially loved the job, but clearly looking at the company stuff turnover was not encouraging, and neither is being somewhat cheated on.

And now in November, i am back again in square one of career, figuring things out from the beginning again. It would probably require a compelling offer from reputable companies to get me to work for someone else again.

Pushed into a corner, with not a lot of money to burn, and a relationship that i will fight to the end to keep, i chose to consolidate my capital and restart anew. The positive thing i got from all this ordeal is that i’m lucky that i made these kind of mistakes and learnt these kind of things (including being featured in a major newspaper) when i’m still at the age of 27. Had i been older, the cost would have been significantly higher. Well, this is Jakarta anyway. Survival of the fittest here.

In between my resignation and the resumption of my search for a business to do, i had the fortune to travel with some of my old friends to Taiwan, and it was good. Dined, traveled till our legs could carry us no more, and chat till the wee hours.

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Super awesome roasted pepper bun (I ate four in two days!!)

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Yeh, it was a good break from a tough life.

But now its time to begin again. I hoped the preparations for 2016 will be well underway when the year turned. It could turn out well, it could turn out not so well, but either way, 2016 is here, and i have to be ready.

I hope God will give me wisdom for me decide which path i should take, it has been a long way from home.

Goodbye 2015, it has been good knowing you

With much faith, hope and love

-Aries

 

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Seeking Myself

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After watching the really great film Winter Sleep, i somehow imagine myself in the shoes of Mr. Aydin, former theater actor of 25 years, who now own a small hotel in Anatolia, Turkey.

Though having the appearance of an old man, inside, he was still struggling to deal with settling back into his apparently much lesser life. His constant struggle to find new things to do, a sister who herself lived through a divorce and a young wife, idealistic but naive.

I reflected at myself, long after the credits roll were finished, that I at some points are seeking the remnants of my former glory. Although I am only 27, I knew and remembered I once had it all. I was doing very well at uni, i was well-respected by both teachers and fellow students alike, I had a girlfriend once, and I was living in Melbourne, the city that until now i still misses.

It is truly one of life great mysteries, how wheel of life keep turning, once you are on top, now you are at the bottom, struggling to make your way up to the top again.

Beyond that, I longed for a partner, who would understand me, and connect with me on a level i have not had since, and due to a mix of semi-permanent stubborness, and a foolish desire for the occasional rare comets, i am still a single. Drifting in and out of social events soon grew tiring.

May God and I, have mercy on myself. Give yourself a chance man. You can do better than sitting on a balcony watching the moon came in and out behind the cover of cloudy skies and darkness. Find yourself a girl who will sit with you, who will offer her lap for you to rest your weary head and heavy shoulders.

From Me to Myself

-Aries

My 27th Birthday Surprise!

Its been a really long time since i last had a birthday surprise with this many friends, and its been a while too since i felt good about where my life is.

For the past three or so years i struggled to settle down into a life in Indonesia. Though I knew a lot of people, i have not really found friends where i could feel i could connect. I was missing it so badly from my former friends in Melbourne and Singapore.

27th Birthday Surprise!

The first three months of 2015 seems to have passed by in a whirlwind of adventures, emotions and memories with you guys from CSM (you know who you are!).

I am really thankful to have found you guys, for the companion, the support, the conversation, and the adventures we took together.

Though i dont know how long will we have each other backs, I will enjoy this moment.

Thanks for the birthday surprise and the cakes guys! Much appreciated.

With much faith, hope and love

-Aries

2014 – Year in Review

Cant believe its been 9 years since i first wrote my end of year review, and this year i am going to write a pictorial one.

In 2014 I attended a close friend wedding

Josherm Wedding

Involved in building a bunch of stuff

Kubota New Factory

Have a feel of how tough it is to be a property lessor

Pearl Garden

Learnt how to be a property surveyor and going to far away places in search of a good one

Manado

Finally visited my old home Melbourne and met some long lost friends. Attended a beautiful engagement party

James and Angela

Witnessing my own’s sister engagement

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And capping the year with a break in Macau and Hong Kong

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Heritage

Although at times i felt that this year my career has not progressed much, looking back at these pictures i am glad to have an eventful year.

Hopefully, in 2015, i will be able to report some long overdue work achievements.

Until then cheers!

-Aries

The Lone Wanderer

Door to Everwyhere

 

The Twenties. The years you spend wandering through the desert of your mind, searching for a place to anchor your next stage of life.

The early twenties was like the YOLO years. I studied, i gamed, i aced exams, i go on dates and i had my buddies who were always behind me. My friends was plentiful and they were not difficult to meet-up with. They know me well, and i could just rock up and not have anything expected of me. I had it all.

But the late twenties saw my life gradually transformed beyond my control. People grew up, they start working, they start getting engaged, and then married. Some have already started raising their kids. Things seems to move so fast once you are out of uni. And the less evolved people like me stay behind in this mythical desert, seemingly alone, alone in the crowd.

And this really made me wish i had Doraemon’s door to everywhere. For all the advances technology has made in aviation and long distance teleconferencing, nothing beats meeting out your friends in person. And it is difficult to meet all of the friends i miss because financially i couldn’t go where ever all my friends are.

Singapore, Malaysia, Melbourne, Hong Kong, China, New York, Sweden, Germany, South Africa. So many countries, so little cash.

Words cant express how much i miss my uni years and how much i wish i can meet my old friends as often as I used to.

Life’s journey is difficult, and I have never felt more like a lone wanderer than I do now.

I miss all of you.

-Aries

 

We Got Married…and Relationship

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Recently my sister came back for her university vacation bringing me tons ( or GBs) full of fresh goodies to watch and amongst them was this show called we got married. Some of you might know just by looking at the picture above, of the Adam couple and instantly have a reminisce the feeling when watching them together on the show.

I am fully aware that it is a reality show and a virtual couple, but i would assume that something else was happening, where the lines between virtual and reality somehow become blurred and they were sort of feeling like the actor in the Avatar movie.

For somebody like myself who have loved and lost, it is truly endearing and refreshing to see a couple who just only begins their first relationship. It was so fresh, so new, everything was like achieving a significant milestones and I am reminded that I was once like that too. I was once a young man learning the ropes of a relationship, learning more about the other person and being accomodating. Relationship is definitely not an easy thing to do, it gives you a myriad of unexplainable feeling. Sometimes you feel so happy that everything you do turns out absolutely perfect. But at other times, it leaves you wondering why do you even bother with one at all.

There was a point in time where i felt dismayed and discouraged after a failed relationship that i wonder when would i be able to open my heart again, to try again. Its a feeling i dread just thinking about, the prospect of having another broken heart. It has been close to two year now since my last relationship and i am still sitting on the sidelines watching friends after friends getting married and starting a new family of their own. It doesn’t particularly bother me that they did, its just some people have already found their other half and I have not.

It was only when I start watching this show again recently that I felt a sense of joy i haven’t felt in a long time, the feeling of making somebody else so happy it brought tears down their cheek. The feeling of being dependable for somebody else to rely on, and doing the things you would never do on your own. Its a crazy world, relationship. And although i still have fear about approaching a new relationship, i think i am encouraged and reminded of just how much joy it can bring and that is what i shall kept in my mind for this new year.

I hope out there that God above would help me find my final missing puzzle.

 

with much faith, hope and love

-Aries

 

Jakarta and the Great Gatsby

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Jakarta

May 2013 is one fine year for movie lovers. But out of all the movies i seen this year, perhaps the Great Gatsby leaves me most impressed.

New York of the 1930s, the stocks has never been higher, the party were bigger, and the morals were looser. Then at the end of the movie, when all was revealed, it was so poignant. Vast wealth, but empty homes and empty heart. It was all for naught.

Cant say the New York of the 30s didnt remind me of the Jakarta of today. Stocks hit all time high, the party were bigger, and cheap thrills were to be found in almost every corner you look. The city of stark contrast, the buildings have never been taller, grander, and the slums just like they had always been, brown, dirty and polluted.

Then Gatsby spoke, “it was always about money doesn’t it. You have it, I have it, we are equal now.”

Those words never rang closer to home. In a country with distinct lack of social safety nets, money is everything. Money bought you connections, it bought you privileges, it bought you education, and it bought you life. Everything else is just noise.

Seems like people are lost in this world. Where are the characters? Where are the integrity? I couldn’t find it, I couldn’t see it, I never heard about it.

“Integrity you say, what does integrity buy me anyway?” That seem to be the byword of every self-respecting businessmen in town.

For all the advances we have achieved in this world, we seem to have progressed no further than the medieval ages. Kings of empire married their daughter to princes from another empire. All convenient marriages, all for the glory of the empire. Landlords ruled the land, and serfs work tirelessly, endlessly, again for the glory of these empires.

It all became very confusing when religious leaders in the city preach in their great cathedral with the finest chair, the finest equipment, an almost ostentatious statement of wealth, in a city with such wide chasm. The tycoons, proclaiming their religion on the media, but living in a mansion on a secluded island with 16 bedrooms, yet some of the richest men in the world, who are agnostic, lived in such modesty and pledged to give 99% of their wealth away.

What is this madness? I couldn’t make sense of it. It never made sense, and perhaps never will.

At the end of it, this is the golden mirage, and I will perhaps woke up one day and found it disgusting.

But until then, I am ashamed that I have joined in this madness.

-Aries

2012 – The Year That Was…

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Its really hard to quantify the flood of raw emotions and feelings over 2012. It was a tough year, and tough is probably an understatement. The kind of tough that Pi had experienced with Richard Parker in their tiny little boat. It managed to break me down completely with my hand tied behind my back for the first half of the year, unable to do anything. Watching your previous life, hopes, dreams, financial stability and relationship go down in flames so fast will break most of anyone.

During the first three months of the year, i was literally fighting for my existence. My relationship with a girl i had a lot of hopes in had turned sour. A close relative of my family had passed away. My family main line of business had suffered its biggest yearly loss since it begins 12 years ago, and was still holding a rather substantial stock of raw material that was already underwater. My father, himself usually a spirited man, was battling a back pain that requires an urgent operation and is now unable to take care of the business as well as he could in the past. I myself was battling to apply for the rights of permanent residence in Australia, the right of which i was entitled of at least a year before, but of which after 22 lawyers and migration agents later, I found out was no longer available to me.

By the 12th of March this year, I had to pack my bags and belongings and bid farewell to my home of 7 years in Melbourne, a city that i loved very, very much till this day. I still harbor a dream to return and settle in Melbourne one day. Of the many dear friends that i have, I only had the opportunity to say goodbye to very few among them. For someone who had owed so many friends in so many years of growing up, not being able to see them and say goodbye is heartbreaking.I can only hope bit by bit, i will be able to meet my old friends again.

Yet my time to dwell on a personal sorrow is short, as I have to be strong for my father operations the next morning when i touched down in Singapore. I did all the paperwork, talked to the doctors, find lodgings and accompany my mother. Fortunately the operations was a huge success and my father was discharged three days later after the spinal fusion operation. Full recovery is expected to take at least 8 months to a year. Unfortunately, the operation costed a lot of money. The hospital also refused credit cards, and accept only cash payment, and it was the first time in my life i seen so many Singapore’s $10,000 dollar bills taken away from me so swiftly into the dark recesses of the hospital pocket. Apparently my mom and dad had no health insurance, was still skeptical about insurance in general. The only insurance we have is apparently a car insurance. Suffice to say this is an extremely expensive lesson, especially when we had just taken a huge hit from the business problem.

By the end of March, the loss from our main line of business, and expected downfall in future earnings means our family makes only a third of the income from this compared to the previous year. That’s a 60% of downfall in revenue. Along with the raw materials loss and my dad one-time operation charge, it had wiped nearly a quarter of our wealth. I had reasons to be extremely worried

In April, the damage from my family situation is starting to affect my relationship rather badly. I was almost always a confident man in my 2 years of masters. I always have a plan, and it almost always worked well. I knew i had the brain and the resources to make my dream comes true. But at that moment, even though i technically speaking, i still have resources, just not as much, everything become sort of muddy. For the next two months or so, i became a lost man, friendless, in a country that feels foreign to me thou it was and still is my home country. When i visited my then girlfriend family, they understandably doesn’t feel very confident about how i bring myself, and also i did notice the particularly large gap in current income and lifestyle. I sort of knew from then on, it was only a matter of time before we would fall apart. The difference in lifestyle was just too big, and both dads are a proud man. This would never turn out well. A month or so later we broke up, although in a relatively peaceful manner.

We still communicate with each other sometimes, and I know owe her a great deal, not least because she stuck with me who had lost confidence and hopes for so many months. Although she can sometimes be mental,  she is a brilliant, resilient and relentless woman, like a diamond in the rough, waiting for the right artisan to shape. Nevertheless, i knew i am not the right person.

In July my father got admitted into a Singapore hospital again for sciatica, or nerve pain, somewhat related to the surgery problem. That was another 6 days @ 1500 SGD a night. Singapore hospital are painfully expensive.

In August, after a relatively short family meeting, we decided my sister isn’t going to study in Australia as planned the year before. The money for her education is still there, but maybe she will use it for master or to start a business later on.

Settling back home is a very tough experience for me. Being friendless was difficult, and it was only because of work that i find some serenity and sanity. Working kept me occupied, as I worked Monday to Saturday. I do whatever job that I feel are suitable for the company, and it didn’t take me long to find stuff that needs fixing. Between April and August i hadn’t made any friend, the longest i have ever been physically friendless. I miss Melbourne dearly. It wasn’t until September that i began joining the local church and signed up as a volunteer.

My new friends i met at the local church was mostly of people who had never lived (lived not visited) in other countries, and generally work at a local company, so understandably their income is lower than my friends back in Melbourne. This makes it a little difficult, because i have to actively go out of my comfort zone. I begin eating at cheaper eateries, and ordered at smaller quantity. That is not so hard. The hard part is finding someone who can argue with me over global issue or economic topics. Although i am now no longer friendless, the part of my brain that needs sharpening and enjoyment still feel deprived. I cant even began to fathom when the time comes again that i feel ready to try a new relationship (could be another 2 years), how would i even start. Where would i look for somebody who comes with the same level of education? It sounds a bit snob, but i feel education level and intelligence is an important criteria, the rest can be compromised.

The rest of the year fortunately turns somewhat better. Business at the rental firm was good, so it kept me busy. We added one employee after another. We expanded our buildings and made record investment this year to focus on domestic market. When i recently done the consolidated financial statement, my family’s rental firm business increased revenue by 84% and profit by 68%. It sound like a big number, but when you were small and not well looked after for so long, i guess that kind of growth was relatively easy.

I seek to try to use as much of my education I used in Uni at my business. It was almost always met with some resistance, most often from my father. Although he was the person who had built the business from the ground up, i think at 50+ years old, his vision had already peaked, whereas I have just begun. Most frequent of his complaint that were levelled against me was that while my ideas were good, a lot of them would be hard to implement. Of course being the stubborn man i am, I tried anyway. He was right on some of them, it is difficult for some, but others were not that hard. If we were to grow big, we have to change and change fast. As they often said, in business, time is indeed money. I took on the role of marketing, procurement, public relations, IT, financial officer and salesman. For the first time i feel glad that i took on so many business subject and is also a computer hobbyist. My only experience as a door-to-door salesman of an energy company in Melbourne lasted only three days and it was horrible. In this one, i had done sales only a few times and all of them was relatively pleasant. It didnt take me long to realize that the business is something that a lot of people need. Sometime i get to meet contractors and engineers from out of town, and when i gave them the sales pitch, they were like ‘this is just what we were looking for’. So it kind of encourage me that my family had unknowingly sat on an abandoned opportunities for so long. It is a viable business with a solid demand.

When the end of the year came round, i treated myself to two massive lego sets that i couldnt afford before. I also went to a local tourist destination with my friends. Turns out Indonesia still has a lot of great tourist attractions to offer, its just not managed very well. Two of the photos are here:

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Thus, after surviving the end of the world (for me) in 2012, I was just glad it was over, and I came away hopefully stronger than before. Although if it is possible, i hope the Almighty will never heap upon me again the kind of trial i went through in 2012.

I will end this post with a few quotes from Life of Pi, my favourite movie of the year:

“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when he seemed indifferent to my suffering, he was watching. And when I was beyond all hope of saving, he gave me rest. Then he gave me a sign to continue my journey.”
― Yann MartelLife of Pi

And that folks, is how 2012 ends.

 

Reverse Culture Shock and other thoughts

Looking back at 2012 so far, it has been a crazy year. But the memories of this year are crystal clear.

Until this day i am still struggling with what some people may associate as reverse culture shock. People who does not understand how it feels sometimes say that i am out of touch, lacking the local culture, or worse prideful and minding of one social status. To those who has doubts about me including some recent interviewer, let me be clear that it is none of those things.

Eleven years living pretty much by myself, setting my own rules, in command of my time and flexibility, when i choose to wake up, when i choose to sleep, when i do my work, and when to hang out with whom, pretty much set my path to a particularly devastating effect of reverse culture shock. Until this day, i still think in english, and i speak with myself in english, when i lack the indonesian words to utter, i turn to english as if its reflex.

Back in my hometown of Semarang, and living with the family again has been a difficult time.
Back to having curfew, back to being under my parents watch. I shudder at the thought of how will i find the flexibility to date somebody if it ever comes to that.

I miss the restaurant in Melbourne terribly, the standard of food here is just subpar. Also i miss my hang out friends. I sometimes go to the only Starbucks in the city alone, buying the same old Frappucino Mocha Java Chip with the name Alex on it, and then sit down alone, wishing my friends were there with me to talk shit, except of course there were none.

I may never again have Starbucks drinking buddies for the foreseeable future, as Starbucks is considered upscale here, even though it is cheaper than Melbourne.

I miss going to the bookshop and browse English books, because even the biggest local chain doesnt have any.

I am also reduced to eating Mcdonalds and Pizza hut, as Grilld and +39 is of course not available here.

My internet is literally back to stone age. And even though you can buy HDTV in indo, there are no free to air HDTV channel, which means ur hdtv purchase is now useless.

But chiefly, i miss melbourne cold weather, and the free public spaces that it has for people to sit down and do nothing, because here every piece of land is for sale.

I doubt many people would understand how i feel. It is not because i am out of touch with the real world here in Indo. It is simply because their real world, is not how my real world used to be.

And i am still struggling with that.

-Aries

Information Whore

The reason why i am writing this is because one of my family member casually mentioned that since i am going to install an internet connection at the office the internet connection subscription at home might as well be stopped.

Following that casual comment, i literally went into aggressive mode and i spewed almost an endless reason why i would want the internet connection to stay on, and plainly saying that i absolutely can not live without the internet.

Even a few hours after the incidents had passed i am still unable to fathom why somebody in this day and age would consider not having the internet at home. To me it is like somebody saying i no longer want to drink water or eat food. It is unthinkable, unfathomable, and absolutely unacceptable to me.

If i were to list my basic human needs, information and utility from the internet would come just after food, clothing and shelter.

Now i have a confession to make. I am an information addict. I may not have thought as much, but that comment literally forced my brain into an overdrive. It is as if my brain is inciting me to move into a survival mode.

Over the course of my lifetime i have gained a number of nickname, one of them is the title of ‘Information Whore’. While it sounds like something other people would not like to have, on the contrary i sometimes pride myself that i have such a ravenous appetite for information.

I was not born with a big physique, i am not as smart as some of my friends, and neither am i born with good looks. So i have come to rely on my voracious appetite for information as my source of survival. Ever since i was a child i have developed a habit of reading everything from books, magazine, encyclopedia, newspaper and TV. Back in the days when newspaper was used as a wrapping paper for some goods sent over by courier, i will even start reading whats on it.

When i moved to Singapore at 13 years old, i continue to read newspaper even at 6.30 in the morning before school, everyday. So obviously when three years later the school decided that morning reading was to become a routine during morning assembly i was delighted. Now i could extend my reading time in school.

So it comes almost naturally that i specialized in argumentative writing ever since a selection of writing themes was made available as part of O-level. Since secondary three, i have never wrote anything else other than argumentative essay. In the university, especially in my master degree, i pride myself in including the latest piece of information from first rate, reliable and verifiable source up until the deadline of the assignment.

To cut a long story short, information to me is like air. Without a constant source of information, i might as well be a vegetable. Information allows me to develop my own competitive advantage. Information overcomes my lack of confidence in talking. Information allows me to be relevant. Information to be knowledgeable, to help other people, to hold my grounds against other in intellectual warfare. Information has made me a lot of money and saves me a lot more money. My main purpose to buy all the latest gadget is so i can be constantly connected to new source of information wherever i go, and the reason why i can justify myself to buy those its because it is an excellent form of investment. All the gadgets that i have, have paid for itself several times over in utilities.

And of course, the internet is the single greatest source of information provider. Let me make it clear to all of you, that in the course of my lifetime, i have not known a better form of investment than an internet subscription. Even the most expensive price plans a provider offer will pay for itself thousand of times over easily.

And somebody wants to take away my internet. Over my dead body.

-Aries

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