Home Away From Home

Another month, another “Stories from The West” post 🙂 This month, Dixie and I are writing about finding “home” away from home.  In this post, I am sharing a reflection of what does home mean to me, now that I am settling down in my adopted country. I hope you have been enjoying our stories so far… and don’t forget to read Dixie’s post too! 🙂

My first year in the US was all about firsts. First experiences, adjustments, and adapting to my newly adopted country. There were a lot of things I found outside of the ordinary, there were a lot of things I did not understand. Did I miss my home? I did, many times, although I didn’t know what exactly did I miss besides my family and friends. For a while, I kept comparing life here and there. When I bought my grocery, I screamed inside when I saw the price of tahu – my favorite. I am fortunate enough to live in Southern California (where Indonesian people is abundant), but I complained at the taste of bakso that I had in a local Indonesian restaurant here (nothing like the bakso that I had in Jakarta!)

To be honest it took me a while to realize that I need to stop converting US$ to Indonesian Rupiah (our income is in US$ and we spend it mostly in that currency too, so why bother converting to other currency?). I need to stop complaining about the taste of Indonesian food, and start counting my blessings that I can still find Indonesian groceries and food rather easily here. Most importantly, I need to stop looking back.

I told myself that I need to start calling this place home. For a while, I did not want to decorate our living space because we are still renting and we have a plan to move. I told myself that this is just temporary, so why bother decorating? But I finally realized that although temporary, I need to make this place home. I may not know what the future holds for us, but for now,  this is home. 

Home 🙂

It’s the same as my situation here. I don’t know what the future holds, but Indonesia will always be a part of me. I can’t keep looking back to my life in Indonesia, instead, what I can do is adding bits and pieces of my life there to enrich my life here. I’m sure it will make my life here more meaningful! After all, this is one of the perks of being an immigrant – you get to have two homes wherever you go, both figurative and literal.

If you are an immigrant like myself, tell me, what does home mean to you, now that you are away from home? how do you find home in your new country? I’d love to hear your stories! 🙂

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Kunjungan Mama

Halo blogku yang sudah hampir berdebu! Hehe, mau cerita kalau saya lagi kedatangan mama dari Indonesia selama sebulan. Yay! Kedatangan mama ini emang agak mendadak. Sungguh tadinya saya dan R rencana mau jalan2 ke Boston karena nemu tiket murah buat bulan Februari ini… tapi mau beli tiket mikir 1000x soalnya takut kedinginan hahaha.

Terus sekitar awal bulan kemarin saya iseng liat2 tiket dari Indonesia, awalnya coba2 pas bulan September jadi biar mama bisa ulang tahun disini. Eh taunya tiket bulan Feb-Mar malah murah! Akhirnya kami sepakat buat beliin mama tiket Jakarta-LA untuk bulan Februari ini. Belinya dadakan, kami juga nggak ada rencana apa2, yang penting biar mama bisa kesini dan kami bisa menghabiskan waktu bersama. Alhamdulillah, sejauh ini semua lancar dan gak kerasa sudah setengah jalan mama disini.

Minggu pertama mama disini kami sempet bulak balik RS karena kebetulan ibu mertua ada jadwal operasi katarak. Semua berjalan lancar, dan mama juga akhirnya ketemu sama bapak-ibu mertua yang memang tinggal disini. Habis itu kami sempat jalan2 ke LA berduaan ketika R kerja, seru juga quality time bersama mama berduaan, jadi inget masa2 terakhir sebelum pindah kesini, kami hampir tiap hari berduaan terus pas ngurusin nikahan dan pindahan saya hehe.

Terus minggu kedua kami sempat muter2 Orange County, gak gimana2 sih tapi saya ajak mama ke tempat2 yg biasa saya datengin, kayak perpustakaan kota, restoran favorit, supermarket, ya intinya saya kasih liat tempat2 yang saya sering datangi sehari – hari.

Tapi selain itu kami juga sempet nginep di rumah mertua yang letaknya agak tinggi elevasinya. Semacam bukit gitu lah, masih di Southern California siih. Biasanya daerah rumah mertua ini emang lebih dingin daripada rumah saya yang letaknya lebih di pesisir. Musim dingin ini juga sempat beberapa kali turun salju, tapi namanya juga di California, saljunya tipis2.

Eh taunya pas kami disana kemarin, turun salju lumayan tebal lho! Wooohooow! Seru deh. Salju turun semalaman hingga sekitar jam 10 pagi. Pagi2 kami juga sempet ngerasain salju turun, jadi walaupun sebenernya bajunya nggak pas (soalnya ramalan cuaca bilang cuma 30% chance of snow), tapi bela2in deh keluar dan nikmatin salju turun. Kapan lagi kan 🙂

Bener2 nggak nyangka bisa kedapetan salju, lumayan berkesan juga jadinya 🙂 yang pasti sih saya senang sekali kedatangan mama untuk sementara. Semoga mama sehat terus jadi besok2 bisa datang lagi dan periode nya agak lamaan sedikit 🙂

Selamat berakhir pekan ya teman2! 🙂

More Than ‘Just’ a Burger

This is 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 “food” and I am sharing some stories about American food. Read Dixie’s here and hope you’ll enjoy our stories! 🙂

To be honest, American food did not appeal to me at first. Although I have visited the country a couple of times as a tourist, I barely ate American food except burgers. I mean I love burger and fries, but they seemed so…. ordinary compared to Asian food! 😛 It took me a while after I moved here to be familiar with more types of American food, and here are some of which I’ve grown to love.

Biscuit and Gravy

A biscuit to me used to be what Americans call a cookie. You know, the crunchy sweet flour-based snack that sometimes comes with a variety of fillings, strawberry jam or vanilla icing. In America, a biscuit is a flour-based dish with a softer texture, similar to bread, mostly unsweetened and normally eaten for breakfast, or as a side dish for your meal. Confused? I was too!

I had my first bite of a biscuit when I was eating breakfast with the family in a classic American diner. I ordered American breakfast – described as eggs (your style), pancakes, hashbrown and sausage/bacon. What I didn’t realize is that the meal came with a side dish – biscuits or English muffin. Here’s what it looks like.

The gravy here is actually different than the brown gravy that I knew. The gravy is made of milk and has a more creamy texture than the brown gravy. Besides being served at breakfast, biscuit and gravy is also a perfect companion for a Southern-style fried chicken meal. Anyway, I’ve grown to love them so much that I can eat them anytime. 😛

Fried Chicken Meal

Speaking of fried chicken…. the first thing that I can think of is KFC. Yes, it is an American fast-food chain, but in Indonesia, I was so used to eating KFC with rice – it’s just the best. Here, fried chicken is commonly eaten with fries, biscuits (yes!), macaroni and cheese, corn, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. I mean, you can choose one, two or all side dishes mentioned… it’s your call :))

Image source: https://www.kfc.com

Barbeque

Barbeque is used to describe a kind of meat cooking technique, which is over a fire. This is surely my favorite American food, well I’m a meat eater so it’s only predictable 😛 There are several barbeque styles, which vary by state. I am yet to try all kinds of barbeque style, but so far I love Texas bbq, especially the beef brisket. (In LA you need to try SLAB and if you were to visit San Diego, Phil’s BBQ is your go-to place).

Pies

Since I spent a year in England, when I think of Pies I think of savoury pie – chicken pie, beef pie, or shepherd’s pie. But here in America, when you hear people talk about pies, it’s usually the sweet one.

Think of apple pie, blueberry pie, key lime pie… and the list is endless because you can actually put any fruits/jam that you can think of! Pies are commonly eaten as a dessert, especially during a celebration, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. If you asked me, I still prefer savoury pie over sweet pie, but of course, I can’t say no to a warm apple pie! 😀

By now I have listed a couple of American foods that I like. Now if you ask me, so what do Americans eat on a daily basis? Actually, since I am living in California which is a melting pot of cultures, people here eat a lot of food from different countries – primarily Mexican and Asian food. However, if I were to answer that question only with American food, I think this should give you a good picture.

Breakfast

Like I mentioned above, a typical American breakfast that you can order in restaurants consists of eggs, sausage/bacon, hashbrown, pancakes, and a side dish of biscuit/toast/English muffin. Sounds a lot? Well, they said breakfast is the most important meal of the day! But actually, breakfast at home is not that fancy – We usually eat cereal, toast, or pancakes/waffles.

Lunch

Based on my observation so far, Americans don’t usually eat a lot during lunch. Sandwich is a common meal – I guess it’s quick and simple because most of us are busy during lunchtime. A typical sandwich that you make at home would have deli meat, cheese, and lettuce, eaten (mostly) cold or hot. I also see that most restaurants here offer lunch specials during lunchtime. It is basically a smaller portion of their main course menu, which comes at a lower price.

Image source: https://www.usda.gov

Dinner

Dinner is the time where families gather and eat together. This is where each household would serve a full meal. It is common to eat meat like steak or meatloaf, with salad and potatoes. Come to think of it again, a lot of American food that I see are influenced by other cultures. For example, mac and cheese is a dish that is influenced by Italian pasta, while Fajitas (also a common dinner menu) is influenced by Mexican food.

So… turns out that American food is more than just burgers and fries! 😀 Food here comes with a lot of influence from other cultures especially in a diverse state like California. But still, there are noticeable features that make American food unique. There is a lot of other American food that I am yet to try, especially local delicacies that vary by state. Now tell me, which of the food I mentioned above that you would like to try the most? 🙂

What to Expect In Your First Year Abroad

This is 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 “first experiences” and I am sharing a summary of my first year in the US. Read Dixie’s here and hope you’ll enjoy our stories! 🙂

Just like that, my first year in the US has passed. Even so, I still remember my first day clearly. R and I were very tired from our long journey, but I was excited to start our lives together. I remember the crisp yet fresh winter air that I felt the moment I stepped foot outside the airport. At that moment, it felt so refreshing and it got me so excited. Adventure awaits! So I thought.

Anyway, you are welcome to see a glimpse of my first year abroad on Instagram with hashtag #ChristasFirstYear. For this post, I am going to share a few things that you may expect in your first year abroad – based solely on my own experience 🙂 

Home 🙂

Discovering New Things About Yourself

When you move abroad, you are going out of your comfort zone, and you will discover new things about yourself. As for me, I discovered a new fondness of cooking! It took me a while to get some recipes right and just this holiday season I had the courage to cook for other people besides R 🙂 To my surprise, it was a hit! At the moment I only have two things in my “repertoire” – kastengel (Dutch – Indonesian cheese cookies) and macaroni schotel, but now I’m more confident to try different recipes. I never thought I’d love cooking this much because my cooking used to be pure survival – I cook just so I don’t starve myself 😛

Homesickness

I’m sorry to say this to you, but homesickness is inevitable. I have experienced it and it was ugly. Funny enough, it didn’t happen right away. In fact, it happened to me after a good couple of months living here. I thought I managed to adapt well, I thought I was doing ok until it happened all of a sudden. It took me a while to realize that all this time I have been feeling bits of homesickness but I tried to push it away. Then boom! it hit me, and it hit me hard. If I could turn back time and speak to myself in the past, I would definitely say that I need to embrace whatever feelings I had – the good and the bad. Perhaps this way I would be able to deal with homesickness better. 

Friendship

In Indonesia, making new friends was easy for me. I have friends that I have known forever, I have friends at work, and I also have friends that I know from other friends ;). Here, making new friends is not as easy – I felt like I’m always gonna be the “new girl” because of my immigrant status. Even though R has close-knit friends that I love as well, I felt that I still need to make new friends, so I used to come to a lot of different Indonesian group meetings just to meet new friends, but I couldn’t seem to blend in. It took me a while to realize that I don’t need a lot of friends. I’m happy and content with our close-knit friends. They are family, and I know for sure that we got each other’s back 🙂

Self – Love

Moving and navigating yourself through changes are not easy. Give yourself credit for taking that leap of faith and leave the comfort of your home country! The first year can be tough, but it can be exciting too. There will be a lot of firsts – like your first holiday season, first road trip, first this and first that. Things may be different for everyone – you might be thriving already, you might be still adjusting, you might find it easy to adapt, or you might still be struggling with all the change. Whatever your condition is, one thing that I know for sure is that you got to give yourself some loving. This will help you to make sense of your surroundings better and ease the adaptation process in your first year!

If you have lived abroad for more than one year, what was your first year like? Did you experience the things I mentioned above? I would love to read your stories in the comment box! 🙂

My 2018

Today’s December 31st and here I am sitting down comfortably at the house. I don’t have any plans for tonight’s New Years Eve but I will be spending it with family 🙂 I always miss my family in Indonesia more during the holiday season but I’m hopeful that we can be reunited soon!

I just decided that hope is my word for 2019. I am hopeful and holding on to hope. Things have not been as good as I wanted in 2018, but only today I got to be reminded of hope. There is really no reason for me not to be hopeful and keep my faith because all this time God has been so good to me and my family. Anyway, here are my 2018 in retrospect.

January – We had a car accident the second day I arrived in the US and we had to let go of our car 😦 so, we made our first big purchase as a family this month! There were also other firsts this month for me… I re-learned how to cook (I was able to cook during my UK days but it was pretty much a grad student survival cooking :P), learned to make my own latte and smoothies, and started to pay attention to skincare! I also went to Passion Pit concert which was great. Unfortunately, this was also the month where I lost my aunt due to her illness 😦 may she RIP.

February – This month was quite busy for us – we had our cousin visiting from Indonesia for their honeymoon, and at the same time we also had a mini staycation as a belated wedding gift from our family. This month was the month I started to get to know my neighbourhood better – I learned to navigate myself around and get used the public transportation system. February was the coldest month, but the family made it warmer.

March – I realised that I have started to gain weight since I moved here, so I started to exercise more regularly. I joined a local gym to take PoundFit classes and I loved it! However, I stopped going after a month because they change their class schedule and it does not fit mine :\ I should stop making excuses and go back to this routine next year. On the other hand, we went exploring Los Angeles whenever we got a chance, playing tourist in the big city. I went to museums, gardens, and the beach! I started to fall in love with the city ❤

April – This month started with a HAIM concert with R. I also became a member of the public library in my city and started to read regularly again. I started a Goodreads challenge – 12 books for 2018, knowing I might fail it like past years. But turns out I was wrong! Not only did I manage to finish it, but I also managed to read 22 books in total this year! YAY me! Perhaps I should write a “books of 2018” post sometime this week… hmmm.

May – One of my bridesmaids / best friend came to visit this month and we had so much fun together. I went to stay with her for a couple of nights and it was so refreshing to be able to get a girls getaway like the old days. Another thing that made this month special was Justin Timberlake’s concert! It was a dream come true since I have been a fan since his NSYNC days 😛 We also started the month of Ramadan this month and it was my first time fasting in the US.

June – My brother and sister in law along with aunts and cousins from R’s side came to visit for Eid, making my first Eid here in the US so merry and warm. I missed my family in Indonesia but I am thankful for new experiences this month. With the days that got warmer and longer, we also spent a lot of time at the beach which I had no complaints about. I guess this is one of the perks of living in Southern California!

July – It’s R’s birthday month and went on a couple mini trips. First, we went to Las Vegas for a weekend with our family, then we went to San Francisco to meet my grad school friend who was visiting from New Zealand! It was so good to reunite with her after 8+ years 🙂

August – Summer is officially here and I think I spent most of it at the beach… it’s really a privilege to live close to the beach! I also scored a last minute ticket to Sam Smith’s concert at Staples Centre for only $20. Woohoow! And…. followed by a Smashing Pumpkins’ concert the next day with R. I can say that summer was a blast and I have no complaints.

September – Fall was around the corner and this month I was disappointed for the first time. Despite the delayed good news, I managed to go to my first football game to watch Rams vs Cardinals. Football is a big thing here and although I still don’t understand the game, I enjoyed the atmosphere of watching a live game.

October – I became the coordinator of our friends’ wedding here. It was an Indonesian – American wedding because although both bride and groom are Indonesian, the wedding culture was a mix between both countries. Through this experience, I met new friends and also relive my love of coordinating and organizing things – something that I haven’t done since I am currently taking a break from the corporate world. Ooooh how I can’t wait to go back! 😉 On the downside, I caught a pretty bad cold and it made me very homesick at the same time. It took me a week to recover, can you imagine?!

November – It’s our anniversary month and it’s our first! Yay! how time flies when you are having fun 🙂 we went to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park for our anniversary and we had a good time. I’ll surely post the story here sometime later in the new year. I also celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time with R and our cousins. It’s also the end of #ChristasFirstYear – a project I started on Instagram when I first arrived in the US. Unfortunately this month I also experienced several anxiety issues which I am currently dealing with.

December – My birthday month! Since I finished #ChristasFirstYear project, I took a little break from social media and also started to practice mindfulness more regularly. I found it helpful to tackle my anxiety issues and I started to have a better understanding and awareness of my feelings. I am yet to receive the good news that I have been waiting for, but I am patient and hopeful.

Thank you 2018, Hello 2019 🙂

So there goes my 2018. It has been an eventful year – full of firsts but it is also a challenging one. Adjusting to life in a new country, becoming a wife, dealing with uncertainty… but I am certain that with hardship comes ease and that I am so blessed. ❤

Happy New Year 2019 to you! May you have a blessed year ahead. Thanks for reading and see you in the new year 🙂

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


Christmas is undoubtedly my favourite holiday of the year for obvious reasons (pssst… it’s my birthday! :P). It will be my second Christmas in the US, but only this year I am starting to notice more things about Christmas here because last year’s Christmas was like a whirlwind – I was too busy with moving, adjusting, and everything.

Although I don’t celebrate Christmas religiously, I have been celebrating Christmas all my life. To me, Christmas used to mean family gatherings, which means food, presents, and more food. Here in the US, I began to view Christmas a little bit differently.

As I am celebrating my second Christmas in the US, I can see how everyone is excited about Christmas. People would start to decorate their houses with lights as soon as Thanksgiving passed. Speaking of decorations, they are no joke!

Image from: http://imged.me

Yes, people would decorate their houses like that. Another common thing that people here like to do as Christmas is approaching is buying gifts. I am familiar with gift exchange as I used to do that with my family back in Indonesia, but it seems like Americans give gifts to everyone. Colleagues, friends, family, even the mail lady or your newspaper boy! It’s similar to how THR is during Lebaran in Indonesia, but instead of giving money, it is more common to give a present here.

There is a unique gifting tradition in the US that I just discovered called White Elephant. It is a game where a group of people exchange gifts with one another. However, there is a special rule which lets people steal your gift. So what happens is you gather with your group and each person bring a present that they will swap with each other. Everybody has to open their present in public and the next person has the option to steal the previous person’s present or open a new present. It’s interesting and can be a great party activity especially if played with people that you are close with!

All in all, I can see now that Christmas here means more than just food and extra holiday. It means celebrating the presence of the loved ones in your life – and because Americans like small talks a lot, Christmas can also mean extending your good wishes and positive vibes to everyone that you meet on the street. It can be as simple as saying “Happy Holidays” to the cashier lady in the grocery store or listening to your barista’s holiday plans while she was making your latte 🙂

I hope you are surrounded by warmth and love this holiday season, wherever you are. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Sunny California ❤

This post is the first out of a blogging series titled “Stories from the West” which I am doing with Dixie of Her Little Journal blog. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, which revolves around living abroad and settling down in a new country. We are both from Indonesia and we moved to a new country around the same time. She now lives in West of Sweden while I am here in the West Coast of USA, hence the project title 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy our stories, and don’t forget to read Dixie’s here.