Vanilla Me

I realize that just a few months ago I posted about how I should be thankful, how no one was able to be a perfect friend, and that my friends are good enough for me. Well, I just had this thought…

This is not a gripe. Just a thought.

What if… I didn’t have all the things I have right now? What if I didn’t have a 32-inch LED TV? What if I didn’t have a motorbike? What if I didn’t have a MacBook? Or a sound system set? A gym membership?

What if I didn’t know a thing about programming? What if I was stupid? What if I had no arms or no legs or no limbs at all? What if I had that nasty tumor attack me once more and I bleed to an almost certain death?

Nah, it’s getting too extreme… Let’s take a few steps back…

What if I was just… me? Plain-old-me. Vanilla me. No possessions. No wealth. No skills.

Just. Me.

Would you still be my friend? Would you still want to be a friend to me?

Would you ask if I wanted to go to the beach? Would you text me or buzz me just to see if I’m OK? Would you care if I hadn’t eaten lunch? Would you tell me how your mom scolded your sister because she went out with the wrong boy? Would you share a bowl of fruits with me because both of us couldn’t afford a full meal? Would you ask me to meet up just so we could talk about anything and everything until both of us couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore?

Would you?


Obviously Oblivious

This morning, as usual, I picked up a friend and whisked us to the office on my dear motorcycle. I wasn’t racing, but I wasn’t a snail either. We got through traffic just fine and arrived at the final U-turn, about 300 meters away from our final destination. I pressed on the brakes and we slowed down to an almost complete stop. I saw that the oncoming traffic was still about half a kilometer away and I decided I could make the turn. So I did.

But I was wrong.

Some guy on an old rusty motorcycle yelled at me for making a near-miss. My heart must’ve skipped a beat, because I was still trembling when we got off the bike at the office’s parking lot a few minutes later.

Then I stopped for a moment and thought about how I got into that situation. I was making a U-turn, and… where the heck did that old man come from? He was on the other side of the bypass divider, facing the oncoming traffic. And he yelled at me? What the &u©k? How dare he yell at me when I was the victim?

But see, that’s traffic in Indonesia. You’ve got to get used to it. You must adjust yourself and be vigilant at all times, because who the heck knows what the guy in front of you will do in a split-second. He might swerve left, or right, stop smack dab in the middle of the road; heck, he might as well make a U-turn in the middle of a busy highway without so much as activating his turn signal or look at the rear-view mirror. Yes, everything’s possible.

As for my passenger? Not a word she said, even until we got to our cubicles. In fact, not a word she said since she got on the bike behind me. So I guess I’m the weird guy here, because she’s obviously oblivious.

The Pursuit of Perfection

Perfection is an elusive goal. In some cases, it is practically impossible to achieve perfection. Take a simple example: finding a perfect boarding house. Now, this is a true story, my story.

When I first came to Bali, a new friend of mine took me to see a potential boarding house. I immediately took it, not because it’s perfect, but because it’s logical. I’m a new guy, I have to find a place to live, pronto. As it turns out, it was a great boarding house. The owners (and their kids) were all smiles and happy to welcome me, neighbors minded their own business and for the most part didn’t cause any trouble, the cost is affordable, and the room’s got quite some space. I got used to the dogs barking their heads off in the middle of the night. But later on, after the owner’s mom got sick — mind you, she’s a 98-year-old grandma with a case of a never-healing-broken-arm — things got a bit complicated.

How would you like to wake up hearing a very old lady moaning and calling out someone’s name, while trying to scrape pieces of plastic off of her broken arm, plus the family’s helper dragging an empty bucket just outside your front door? Add to that the setting: 2 a.m., in the middle of a thunderstorm and a soundtrack of dogs whimpering, while the smell of burnt incense from the day’s evening prayers hasn’t gone away.

I do not want to be there when she passes away. (not that I want her to, but you know… it’s frickin’ eerie!)

I was lucky enough that a friend offered me a vacant room at her boarding house, one that I’ve had my eyes on since a few months back. So I immediately took the opportunity. I was delighted. The room was bigger and had better flooring and walls, air circulation was much better, and best of all I had no worries about midnight wake-up calls from any dogs. Oh, and of course I was excited to finally have neighbors that I actually know. Little did I know…

I got me lots of new neighbors. But this one right next door… oh man… I still wake up at 2 a.m. sometimes, not because of dogs barking or old ladies moaning, but because of the fights they have. She’d yell and scream and cry at the same time and he’d just rub it in her face. And then she’d hurl a cellphone to my wall and it breaks to pieces. And the words… oh, the words just couldn’t get any harsher.

I could handle the noises just fine, I just thought of them as wild dogs barking their heads off and biting each other. But the harsh words, they get me tense every time. There were times when I really wanted to come out with my broom and just knock her out (and then deal with her boyfriend).

But she’s the owner’s niece. I strike her and I’m out.

So there you have it. The pursuit of a perfect place to live. I’m not talking about a huge palace with a swimming pool and jacuzzi (although it wouldn’t hurt if I could afford such a place), but a place where I can just live peacefully in a community where everybody has good manners and are thoughtful enough to minimize disturbance to everybody else.

Quite impossible, it seems.

UPDATE: It turns out that as I was writing this post, the now 99-year-old lady really passed away. My sincere condolences for the kind family that looked after me for that wonderful year.

Tentang Profesionalisme Guru

Tulisan ini adalah tanggapan untuk blog post sahabat saya yang mengkritisi sikap profesional guru. Ini bukanlah sanggahan, bantahan, apalagi cacian. Saya hanya berusaha memperjelas apa makna “bersikap profesional”.

Menurut saya, seseorang bisa dikatakan bersikap profesional ketika ia mampu memenuhi tuntutan profesinya, dengan mendapatkan imbalan yang layak, dan dengan memerhatikan kode etik dan standar perilaku yang berlaku di lingkungan kerjanya. Dalam konteks profesi seorang pendidik, sikap profesional ini misalnya: datang ke kelas dan membubarkan kelas tepat waktu (tidak korupsi waktu), datang ke kelas siap dengan materi, dan bisa mempertanggungjawabkan pekerjaannya, termasuk menjaga integritas anak didik dan diri sendiri dengan sikap yang tegas terhadap ketidakjujuran dan kegiatan contek-mencontek.

Lebih lanjut, seseorang bisa dikatakan mempunyai dedikasi terhadap pekerjaannya apabila ia mau memberikan lebih daripada apa yang dituntut darinya secara profesional. Seorang guru bisa dikatakan berdedikasi terhadap pekerjaannya apabila ia rela menggunakan waktu pribadinya di luar jam kerja untuk mengajar (atau lebih baik lagi, mendidik) anak-anak didiknya, baik itu formal ataupun non-formal. Yang satu ini memang tidak ada sangkut pautnya dengan imbalan apapun, dan lebih dekat pada kecintaan seseorang atau panggilan hatinya terhadap pekerjaannya.

Bentuk lain dari dedikasi adalah ketika seorang guru tetap mau menjalankan tugasnya secara profesional walaupun ia tidak menerima imbalan yang layak.

Nah, dalam tulisan yang saya baca, dan dari diskusi hangat di twitter kemarin, tampaknya belum dijelaskan apakah yang didiskusikan itu sikap profesional dan/atau berdedikasi. Tetapi esensi diskusi dan tulisan tetap sama, yaitu keprihatinan bersama bahwa banyak guru masa kini yang tidak lagi profesional, apalagi punya dedikasi terhadap pekerjaannya.

Guru yang tidak mau lembur demi acara bedah buku adalah guru yang tidak punya dedikasi terhadap pekerjaannya (meskipun apabila kita mau adil, harus dipahami juga bahwa untuk mau memberikan lebih daripada yang dituntunt secara profesional, ia harus lebih dulu mampu). Dalam hal ini, ia tetaplah guru yang profesional.

Di sisi lain dikatakan ada banyak guru yang membayar orang untuk mengerjakan karya ilmiahnya demi kenaikan pangkat (dan pada akhirnya kenaikan gaji), dan ini adalah sikap tidak profesional. Banyak contoh lain untuk perilaku tidak profesional, antara lain memberikan bocoran soal ujian kepada anak didiknya, yang berlawanan dengan tujuan pendidikan itu sendiri. Contoh yang lebih sederhana: sering tidak hadir di kelas karena “kepentingan pribadi”.

Bagaimana mungkin seseorang bisa punya dedikasi terhadap pekerjaan yang dilakukannya dengan tidak profesional?

Sekali lagi saya tegaskan bahwa ini adalah opini, bukan fakta, dan saya tidak menganggap semua guru itu tidak profesional apalagi punya dedikasi. Masih banyak pendidik yang bermutu dan patut kita sebut “Pahlawan Tanpa Tanda Jasa” (walaupun sebenarnya tidak masuk akal, karena sebutan itupun sudah merupakan suatu tanda jasa/bentuk penghargaan).

Guru itu memang sudah seharusnya profesional, tetapi kalo ia mempunyai dedikasi, itulah “Pahlawan Tanpa Tanda Jasa”.

Nah kalau sudah begini lalu menjadi jelas, apa sebenarnya yang bisa kita haruskan, dan apa yang kita harapkan dari para guru.

Punya integritas, tidak korupsi waktu, dan bertanggung jawab terhadap anak-anak didiknya; itu semua harus. Jika tidak, berarti ada masalah dengan si guru itu.

Tetap mau mengajar di pelosok desa walaupun tidak digaji atau mungkin digaji sangat kecil, atau mau bekerja di luar jam kerja; kalau kita mengharuskan itu, masalahnya adalah kita sendiri.

The Personality of The Interwebs

A good portion of the computer-literate world is now accustomed to publishing personal articles on the interwebs. Heck, even my mom now has a facebook account. But not everybody is prepared to consume all the information the web can provide us today.

Exhibit #1: Many people publicly post their most personal thoughts or feelings or emotions. I realize that not all blog-writers or facebook dwellers or tweeps are fully aware of the privacy preferences provided by the sites they use, but that’s not the point. It’s the content of what they are publishing that matters.

Exhibit #2: Many people are disturbed or annoyed one way or another by other people publishing their most personal thoughts or feelings, political stances, or even just putting up a simple personal opinion online. How Apple fanboys who think Steve Jobs is the next Jesus debates with PC fanboys who think Jobs is a nutcase is a prime example of this. Also, the not-so-recent launch of “Draw Mohammad” day on facebook obviously got the world debating furiously over the appropriateness of it as a way to encourage people to exercise their right to free speech.

So there you have it. Some people post away without thinking of the consequences. Some other people are disturbed by what somebody publishes because it just tickles their nerves.

Some people do both.

Why criticize people who post their affection for their God when you post away how your affection for a human makes you feel the world is a really ugly place to live in?

My idea: If you can’t say something nice, or if you can’t rephrase your not-so-nice opinion into something civil, or if you can’t evaluate the repercussions of what you are about to say… just keep your mouth shut. And if you choose to speak anyway, don’t cover your ears while somebody else says roughly the same thing to you about something slightly different.

Stupid or Idiot


It’s been a while. Well, I thought you were busy and everything. You had your dream job and your dream boy, so I thought I’d just step aside…

But then it all happened. Honestly, I really didn’t know how to react. A part of me hurt because I knew you’re hurting. But another part of me actually thought I might have another chance. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t really know, but if it does I wish it would stop…

Just now you sent a message to me saying how you missed him. I know I should have had empathy for you, but the moment I read your message I felt like someone just stabbed me. I’m sorry. I’m just…broken.

Every time you call me “bro”, it just stings. It’s like a fence you put around yourself so that I don’t go any closer. But maybe it’s the right thing for you to do, because when all of my heart wants to show itself, I won’t be able to hold back.

All this time you were saying how stupid you are when you decided to wait for him. Well then, I guess I’m an idiot.

If only you knew how I really felt about you…

In The Shadow of an Eclipse

he chose to stay in the shadow of an eclipse…
when he needed a reason to not see the sun
for he was blinded by its light,
that he couldn’t see any other light coming through

he chose to stay in the shadow of an eclipse…
when he knew he had a reason to walk away
for he needed the sun’s light and warmth
and the more he felt it the more he needed it

he chose to stay in the shadow of an eclipse…
when he needed to preserve himself
for there is something he saw in the sun
it might kill him, but he wanted it to be true

and the sun will always shine brilliantly…
brighter than ever…

but he needed to not see the sun…