5 Quirky Things About America

Hello and welcome back to “Stories from the West” series. I’m doing this project with Dixie and every month we are sharing 1 post about lives in our respective new countries; me in the US, Dixie in Sweden. This month’s topic is about the quirks we found about the adopted country. Enjoy and don’t forget to read Dixie’s post too! 🙂

Festive Season all Year Long

Back in Indonesia, festive season happened twice a year; on Christmas and Idul Fitri. That’s when I would see decorations everywhere, in houses and public spaces; Green/Gold for Idul Fitri and Red/Green for Christmas. Here in The US, it seems like there are reasons to decorate/celebrate all year long, with different ones each month… like how we are decorating for Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November, and of course Christmas in December. Well, they say the more the merrier!

The Measurement System

This is one of the hardest things that I need to adapt, seriously. I don’t understand why the US use miles instead of kilometers when it comes to measuring speed / distance, pounds instead of kilograms when measuring weight… and so on. Why can’t this country be “normal” like the rest of the world?! :)))))

We Talk Loud… Oops!

I don’t know why, but Americans tend to talk loud especially in public, for example when they are on the phone. I could easily hear whatever they are talking just because they talk so loud! I’m sure you know what I mean if you have met American tourists or if you have seen American movies… trust me it is what it is in real life, and sometimes I found myself starting to do the same thing especially when I’m talking with my classmates! O-ow!

A Different Approach on Advertising

In Indonesia and the UK, Advertising are primarily used for commercial goods, sometimes business goods. Here in The US, it’s common to see ads for lawyers, doctors, and the thing that I still find funny… prescription drugs. I’m not sure how it is in the East Coast but try to drive the freeway in California and you would see a ton of billboard ads for lawyers and doctors. Try to watch American TV network and you would see at least one ad for a prescription drug, followed by long disclaimer, of course.

Humongous Food Portion

I remember the first time I was here on vacation; I was shocked to see how big the food portion in the US is! This makes eating out relatively cheap because you can buy a portion and get enough to last you 2-3x meals. After almost 2 years in the US, I can say that I’m getting used to the food portion and just take home whatever I have left. As soon as I reach home, I would reportion the leftovers into smaller containers and store it in the fridge. At first I was not comfortable in saving food in the fridge because in Indonesia food can get bad easily due to its humidity… but it’s not the case here, your leftovers can still be good for the next 3-4 days or so, as long as it’s kept in the fridge. I still found it weird, but I guess I’m starting to get used to it now.

So those are the 5 things that I found quirky here in the US. It was hard for me to adapt to those quirks but as time goes by, it has became the new normal for me hahaha… anyway, let me know if there’s some quirks in your country, I’d love to hear it too! 🙂

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A Small Victory

I have been dealing with insecurities. There. I said it.

It took me a while to understand it, before I was finally able to fully acknowledge and accept it, and now I’m starting to let it go.

To give you a little bit of background, let me recap what has happened in the past 2 years. I got engaged, quit my job, traveled, started freelancing, got married, moved to the US, dealt with numerous paperworks for immigration purposes, became a housewife, and just recently started school. To think of it again, it has been crazy.

Along the way, I felt insecure many times. All those changes opened up a door and I somehow let insecurities came my way. I tried so hard to fight it. I tried to count my blessings, I tried to enjoy the little moments, the small victories, but at the end of the day it was still creeping.

Maybe it was not that bad because I felt like I still had a good life. There were challenges indeed, but it was manageable. There were days when I felt so insecure but I somehow always managed to bounce back the next day. There were good days and bad days, and I was okay with that. Little by little things were starting to fall into place and I thought all those insecurities were part of my adaptation process and I managed to deal with it. Done.

But then I started school, and I realized that my insecurities was holding me back many times. I refrained from doing the things I used to do, like participating in class, engaging in discussions, and I started to notice how it could lead to bigger issues as I am preparing myself to restart my career here in the US.

After I did some research, I found iBunda.id, a counseling service that offers online sessions. I specifically wanted to find Indonesian psychologists/counselors because I thought they would be able to understand my situation better. I’m so glad that I found them and after my session I was able to understand what was going on with me.

Like I said, with understanding comes acknowledgement and acceptance, and now I’m starting to let it go. To say that I’m free of insecurities is not 100% true. I still feel it sometimes, but I can manage it better. I don’t let it haunt me nor I let it bring me down like it used to. Instead, I accept and move on.

I used to think that my school is not significant because it is “just a certificate program”, not a prestigious MBA or PhD. I don’t know what got into my head for me to think that way because that mindset led me to feeling insecure!

Thankfully that mindset did not stay with me for long. I have then learned to celebrate more small victories, appreciating all the little things, simply because they matter. Today I am celebrating another small victory – a satisfactory grade this term! Wait let me rephrase because that sentence was still influenced by some insecurities.

Today I am celebrating because for the first time in my academic career I got straight As!!!! YAY me!!!

I don’t know what the future holds but I know for sure that for as long as I work hard and do my best, I will be okay. I will try my best to not let insecurities hold me back, so I will be okay.

If you happen to be dealing with your own issues, I hope you remember to celebrate your own small victories, because they matter 🙂 sending positive vibes to all! x

In America, I…

It’s the first day of September which means I am back with another post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie! Each month we are writing 1 post about the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants (Me in the US, Dixie in Sweden). This month’s topic is about the things we learned from our adopted countries. Read mine below and Dixie’s here 🙂 Enjoy!

I learned to live more sustainably

Actually, life here in general is far from sustainable, but somehow it drove me to live my life more sustainably. Let me explain. When I got here, I was quite surprised to see how common the takeout culture is, and the amount of waste that came with it! They made me realize that I needed to do something. You see, whenever you eat out here, you would get enormous portion (especially coming from Indonesia). Obviously not every time you could finish that portion, so the option is to bring it home. And when you ask your server to bring home your leftovers, you would get it boxed in plastic containers, with plastic cutleries, and plastic bag. And it happens so much that I started to feel uneasy about it. At the same time, I was made aware of recycling (something that I never do in Indonesia), so I did some baby steps by starting to separate my recyclables and trash at home. Then I went on with minimising the use of single-use plastic. A couple months after, I’m still far from being completely sustainable (To be honest I don’t know what the world actually means), but I am doing baby steps!

A totally unrelated picture but it’s so beautiful righttt? This was taken in Catalina Island 🙂

I learned to work hard(er)

Hard work is nothing new in my dictionary but here I got to see how hard work can get you places. If I could one choose one thing that I learned about this country, I would definitely choose hard work! Despite only living here for a short time, I was able to meet a lot of people from different backgrounds already and they all showed me how hard work can be valued in this country. I guess it is true that this is the land of opportunity so it’s up to us to work as hard as we can to grab as many opportunities as possible!

I learned to celebrate individuality

Coming from a country which culture put a high emphasis on conformity, at first I found it surprising to see how much individuality are valued in this country. I learned that individuality does not mean a bad thing nor that it means you are selfish, but in the age of #selfcare, it is important to put yourself first and learn to accept yourself, in whatever condition. It’s okay to be different and it’s also okay to celebrate it.

To sum up, I know that my life here is just starting, I have this long road ahead of me. But I’m glad that I get this second chance of learning new things and expanding my horizons by moving to America. These are just the three things that I learned from this country, I might share more in the future, as I am adjusting myself more to the life here. Thanks for reading, and if you are also an immigrant, what are the things that you learned from your adopted country? I would love to hear your story! 🙂

Suka Duka Tugas Kelompok

Sebagai anak kuliahan tentunya saya ketemu lagi sama yang namanya tugas kelompok. Apalagi program kuliah saya lebih fokus pada praktek dibanding teori jadilah semakin banyak tugas, termasuk kelompok.

Nah, tugas kelompok ini ternyata banyak suka duka nya dan rasanya kok saya baru berasa banget sekarang ini ya. Sungguh, mungkin udah kelamaan nggak sekolah tapi rasanya dulu – dulu kok nggak pernah mengalami dinamika tugas kelompok seperti sekarang ini?! Hehe..

Tugas kelompok ini rasanya benar – benar kayak ikut undian. Nggak ada yang tahu gimana hasilnya. Kalau beruntung, dapat kelompok yang enak banget dan lancar banget kerjanya. Kayak kelompok A saya (kita sebut aja begitu). Anggotanya 3 orang, dan hampir 3 bulan kami kerja bareng, nggak pernah ada masalah. Pernah saya agak beda pendapat sama mereka berdua, tapi saya anggap nggak penting lah jadi saya ngikut aja, eh hasilnya dapat A, berarti emang saya yang kurang paham kan konsepnya 😛 Kami juga pernah kerjain tugas bareng di cafe pinggir pantai yang dilanjut dengan happy hour hari Jumat malam.. seru ya :D. Pokoknya, kelompok yang ini oke banget deh!

Tapi saya pernah juga dapat kelompok, kita sebut aja kelompok B, yang semuanya diaaam seribu bahasa. Untungnya waktu kami kerja bareng cuma 1x kelas, proyeknya pun nggak punya bobot nilai yang besar. Aduh tapi kelompok ini, nggak ada yang mau inisiatif, masing – masing anggota kayaknya sibuk sendiri, alhasil saya yang musti mengarahkan diskusi kelompok untuk cari ide. Parahnya lagi 1 anggota nggak datang di waktu hari presentasi, tebak dong siapa yang ambil alih…?

Ada lagi kelompok yang semuanya mau ngomong. Nah kelompok C ini juga bikin pusing. Pernah kami menghabiskan waktu 20 menit cuma untuk muter – muter bahas sesuatu yang ujung – ujung nya nggak ada kesimpulan dan nggak jadi dipakai di dalam presentasi. Walaupun orang – orangnya baik dan nggak nyebelin, tapi entah kenapa kalau diskusi tuh kok rasanya pola pikir kami nggak nyambung semua ya… jadi seringkali capek muter – muter bahas sesuatu dan susah banget untuk menyamakan persepsi dan frekuensi. Haduh!

Ngomong- ngomong, nggak berasa deh, saya sudah berada di penghujung semester pertama program sertifikat saya ini. Baru mulai sih, belum ada setengah jalan. Sejauh ini saya suka banget kuliahnya, walaupun masih sering capek karena ternyata kuliah sebagai istri di umur 30an tuh beda banget yaa sama kuliah waktu masih lajang … hahahaha, badan rasanya capek mulu berbagi tugas antara kuliah dan mengurus rumah tangga. Walaupun sebenernya saya punya tanggung jawab yang sama dengan R dalam hal rumah tangga, tapi tetep aja sejak kuliah ini saya sering berasa capek banget… padahal dulu kuat kuat aja tuh kuliah, kerja part time dan siaran radio pas di Inggris! 😛 emang namanya umur nggak bisa boong deh 😉 Nanti kapan – kapan saya ceritain lebih lanjut deh tentang hal ini.

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend! 🙂

3 Books About Being an Immigrant in America

Hello and welcome to a new post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie! We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants in our respective countries. This month’s we are sharing some book recommendations about our adoptive countries and I’m sharing 3 books about immigration in The US. Happy reading and check out Dixie’s post here 🙂

I love that I have been able to read more since I moved to the US. I guess it’s one of the goods things that came out from my down time when I was still adjusting to life here – all the free time I had made me manage to get back to my reading habit, something that I was not able to do when I was still living in Jakarta.

If you have been friends with me on Goodreads, you would know that most of the books on my shelf are fiction, mostly young adults or romantic comedy. Yes, those are my favorite genre. But, I have developed an interest towards immigration stories here in the US, because, well, I am an immigrant myself, and immigration is an issue that is widely discussed here. So, for this post, I am going to share 3 books about immigration that I found deeply moving and I really enjoyed to read. Happy reading! 🙂

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

This book is a memoir written by the author himself, a renowned journalist who happens to be undocumented. The book tells you about his journey – how he was sent to the US from the Philippines to live with his grandparents, with fake papers. Through great storytelling he told us how he first found out that he is undocumented, how he is fighting for his status, and the life that he has built in the US. I felt so moved by this book and I can only imagine the things that he went through. As you probably know, immigration is a big issue here and sometimes we are only exposed to one side of the story. This book gives you another one, and it’s a good read if you are interested in the issue.

We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults by Susan Kuklin

This book is a collection of short stories from undocumented young adults living in America, written by an author and photographer. The stories are so heart-warming and it gives more perspective than the news about immigration in popular media. Well, I guess I have to warn you as well that this book is also heartbreaking. Through this book we are taken to peek the lives of these young adults that were brought / came to the US when they were still kids. Most of them don’t know life besides the one they have lived in the US so it is really heartbreaking to read about their stories… but at the same time these stories taught me a lot about hope and perseverance because despite everything, these young adults are striving and they are hopeful.

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera

Do you remember America Ferrera? Well I remember her from the TV series Ugly Betty that I watched several years back. I haven’t heard from her in a while until I found this book. It turns out that she’s a good storyteller too! She shares her story about coming from a Honduran family and compiles great stories from other notable public figures like Jeremy Lin, Randall Park and Kal Penn. The book does a great job in capturing stories of Americans with a diverse background and it makes me rethink the meaning of being an American in today’s society. For a long time, the image of being American to me is limited to the ones portrayed in Hollywood movies I saw growing up. Yes, those are true, but through this book, and my own experience living here, I learned that being American is such a wide spectrum. It is a heartwarming book and enjoyable book, and I recommend it if you want to get a better understanding of what it means to be an American in today’s diverse society.

Wisuda

Waktu itu saya dan R sedang jalan – jalan keliling kampus UCLA. Kebetulan ada waktu 2 jam jeda di antara 2 kelas saya, dan karena R bertugas nganterin saya tiap ke kampus (maklum, SIM masih dalam proses dan lokasi kampus nggak aksesibel dengan kendaraan umum dari rumah saya), waktu jeda tersebut kami gunakan untuk jalan – jalan keliling kampus.

Kampus UCLA besar banget dan cukup asri, banyak pepohonan dan taman luas. Gedung -gedung nya campuran antara tua dan moderen. Salah satu gedung yang cukup menarik perhatian namanya Royce Hall. Royce Hall ini adalah gedung yang dipakai untuk tempat wisuda UCLA.

Sewaktu lagi lewat, R bilang, kalau dia rupanya sudah liat – liat informasi soal wisuda program saya. Saya ketawa dong dengarnya. Lah, baru juga minggu pertama, udah ngomongin wisuda aja.. masih ada sekitar 9 bulan lagi sampai saya selesai program sertifikat ini.

Lagian, saya bilang, ngapain ikut wisuda, saya kan nggak dapat gelar. Namanya juga program sertifikat. Yang ada di pikiran saya cuma belajar, refresh ilmu marketing saya, cari koneksi orang lokal, cari kerjaan di perusahaan yang bagus. Gak ada lah kepikiran wisuda.

Si R ngotot dong, dia bilang ikut wisuda itu penting. Mau dapat gelar kek, nggak kek, yang penting kamu kan nanti sudah menyelesaikan satu program, pantas ikut wisuda, katanya.

Tadinya saya juga nggak kalah ngotot, nggak mau lah, buang – buang uang. Lagian masih lama kali, baru bisa ikut wisuda tahun depan. Akhirnya kami nggak bahas lagi, kita lihat aja nanti, kata R. Dia malah sempet ngomong nanti mau ngajak mama dan adik saya buat datang wisuda sekalian mereka berkunjung. Masih tahun depan, banyak waktu untuk nabung, katanya. Walaah… heboh banget orang ini, pikir saya 😛

Eh tapi hari ini saya lihat foto teman di Instagram, dia pajang foto anaknya habis wisuda summer school. Fotonya pakai toga, pegang sertifikat. Lucu ya, menggemaskan. Tapi caption dia yang bikin saya mikir. Awalnya terus terang saya lihat foto itu ketawa, dalam hati mikir, ada – ada aja, anak kecil kok wisuda. Tapi setelah baca caption nya (yang nggak usah saya tulis disini ya karena terlalu personal buat teman saya kayaknya), saya jadi mikir.

Wisuda, apa pun programnya, bagi sebagian orang bisa menjadi momen perayaan keberhasilan. Buat si anak TK, berhasil berkembang dari yang tadinya masih ngompol sampai sudah bisa melakukan berbagai hal sendiri. Wisuda SMA, jadi momen merayakan akhirnya masa anak – anak dan menyambut masa dewasa jadi anak kuliah. Wisuda S1, S2, S3 bisa jadi momen merayakan prestasi akademis. Dan masih banyak jenis – jenis wisuda lainnya, yang sah – sah aja untuk dirayakan.

Iya, saya memang nggak akan dapat gelar dari program sertifikat ini. Tapi kenapa saya harus bersikap too hard on myself sampai nggak ingin datang wisuda? Bukannya keberhasilan saya (nanti) juga patut dirayakan? kan saya sendiri yang merasakan lika – liku perjalanan saya dalam proses back to school ini. Yang begadang ngerjain tugas kan saya, yang kerja lembur untuk bayarin sekolahnya suami saya, yang kasih semangat lewat Facetime waktu saya lagi kerjain tugas ya mama dan adik saya.. jadi kalau wisuda saya nanti bisa jadi momen untuk membuat suami dan keluarga saya senang, kenapa nggak? 🙂

Jadi, sekarang pola pikir saya tentang wisuda berubah. Lucu ya, hal simpel seperti foto di Instagram yang saya lihat sambil lalu ternyata bisa memberikan efek yang signifikan. Until then, doakan saya bisa menyelesaikan program nya dengan sukses dulu ya! Baru deh daftar wisuda 😉

Notes From an Immigrant

Welcome to another post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants in our respective countries. This month’s topic is about “being an immigrant”. I am sharing my notes about being an immigrant – the highs and the lows. I hope you enjoy the post, and don’t forget to read Dixie’s story here 🙂

At first, moving to a new country sounds flashy. Especially when that country is America. I am one of the many who grew up watching Hollywood movies, listening to songs from American musicians, reading American books (The Baby-Sitters Club, anyone?) and drooling over American celebrities (Fun fact: I used to add DiCaprio to my name in my school notebooks hahahaha…. now you know :P).

Fast forward to many, many years later, I am now living here, in America! Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that this country is my home now. I’ve only been living here over a year but I understand that as much as I want to make this place home, I’m always going to be an immigrant to this country.

Foreign

Yep, that’s the word that I think will stick with me forever. For the first few months, everything seemed foreign to me. I didn’t know directions, I couldn’t navigate my way around, and I didn’t know a lot of people. As days go by, that sense of foreignness started to fade, but I know I’m always going to be considered foreign to some people, and at the same time, there are some things that I would consider foreign as well.

Loneliness

Not long ago, Dixie wrote a very good piece about loneliness in her blog, which I can very much relate to. Although I am thankful that I have family here, and also have made some good friends, but relationships that you have in your adopted country is pretty much different than what it used to be when I was still living in Indonesia. Here, everybody have their own things and sometimes our bonds are limited by distance because we are not living in close proximity with each other. And while I still keep in touch with friends in Indonesia, I’m unsure if things will remain the same for years to come…

Struggle

Struggle is a part of being an immigrant that one can’t miss. I wish I could say that living here has been easy peasy. But no, behind every pictures in Hollywood or every dream concert that I went to, there’s a big chunk of struggle behind it. At first, I struggled to accept my new status as a housewife. I felt useless because I did not know a lot of things, and I also had to let go a lot of things that I had back in Indonesia (my career, for instance). I also struggled in being patient. Being an immigrant to me means that I have to be patient. Adaptation is an ongoing process and it’s not an easy one, so patience is key. There were times where I lost my patience and boy, it was a struggle to gain it back. Lucky I had my support system!

Opportunity

Now that I have laid out the lows, it’s time to turn the narrative around and make this post a cheery one! It took me a while, but now I believe that with my status as an immigrant, comes opportunity. I am thankful to live in a country where opportunities are endless. I used to struggle to accept the fact that I am over 30 and I had to start over in my career, my life. But then I was able to turn the thought around – I am only in my early 30s and while I am currently “in transition”, there is nothing that can stop me from chasing those opportunities!

Me – currently chasing an opportunity to study

Freedom

They say that America is the land of freedom. Here, you are free to express yourself, free to stand by your opinions, free to enjoy your life the way you want to. Ain’t nobody can tell you what to do, and as an immigrant it is a relief that I have been waiting for. To me, freedom as an immigrant means that I get to chase whatever opportunity that comes my way, my family can live the way we want to, without having to worry so much about what other people will say. Although there are still issues that we need to work on as a society, but living in America has shown me what it feels like to have freedom. Freedom to practice my religion, freedom to stand by my beliefs, freedom to study, freedom to work, freedom to travel and freedom to enjoy life.

Although I did not plan to become an immigrant, I chose to become one the day I chose to be with my husband. Of course there are consequences, there are struggles that comes with it. But there are also opportunities! It is up to me to choose, which way will I take. Will I keep seeing my struggles as obstacles, or will I see them as opportunities that I’m free to reach? At the end of the day, I’m thankful that I took this chance, because being an immigrant in my 30s gave me the second chance I did not know I had before.

P.S If you’re reading this and you’re a fellow immigrant too, I’m always here if you want to reach out! Let’s support each other so we can rise together! x