5 Favorite Things About The US

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. Can’t believe that this is the 12th post on this series already! Anyway, this month’s topic is about favorite things in our respective countries. Enjoy and don’t forget to read Dixie’s post too! 🙂

Now that I have been living in the US for almost two years, I can say that I made the right choice moving here – although the journey has not been easy, but I did discover a couple of favorite things along the way.

The Nature

The US is beautiful and I love how I can easily be out in nature only with a short drive from my house. The system takes good care of the nature here and they make it easy for us to visit. We have national parks in the US and they are managed carefully, some required an admission fee and some don’t. So far I have only been to three national parks here (Sequoia, Zion, and Joshua Tree) but all of them are breathtakingly beautiful and well managed. My favorite so far is Sequoia National Park, it’s an easy drive from Los Angeles and perfect for a weekend getaway.

Me with the Sequoias

The Entertainment

Well, what can I say about the entertainment here in the US? I guess everybody knows that the US is the capital of entertainment and I live right in the middle of it, in Los Angeles. Living in LA has been great to satisfy my crave of entertainment – there’s always something for everyone, everyday! During the first few months here, I was shocked to see the entertainment calendar – how it was filled by concerts of artists I’m familiar with almost every night! You know how I love concerts and if possible, I would go out every night and watch each one of them haha. So far I have ticked some items off my bucket list in terms of “must-see concerts”… including Justin Timberlake my childhood crush 😀

Justiiiinnn 😀

The Fact that It’s So Easy to Get Food From All Around The World ….

…especially Asian food. Having lived in the UK previously, I remember how hard it was for me to get proper Asian food. Indonesian food? just forget it, I think there’s only 1 Indonesian restaurant in London and nothing at all in Bournemouth, where I lived. Here in greater Los Angeles there are a couple of Indonesian restaurants including a food court with only Indonesian Food stalls! and there’s also 3 Indonesian restaurants nearby UCLA where I go to school… can you imagine, three?! I even had this moment where I got off school and went to one of the restaurants to eat soto mie, as if I was in college in Indonesia hahaha. But anyway, it’s super easy to get international food here, including the ones that I was not familiar with before.

The Theme Parks

I live 20 minutes away from Disneyland California, about an hour from Universal Studios Hollywood, and 1,5 hours from Legoland. Need I say more? hehehehe. I love theme parks so I have and I love the abundance of theme parks in the US. I guess theme parks is a big industry here and they go all out, giving customers a different level of experience with every visit. For example, I just went to Universal Studios horror nights last month and it was so entertaining!

At Universal Studios Hollywood

The Holidays

Americans love their holidays. There’s a holiday for every season, but we are now approaching my favorite one – year end holiday! November is the month of Thanksgiving, a holiday very much similar to Lebaran in Indonesia, where everybody would gather with their families to have a meal – lots of them! Anyway when it comes to celebrating the holiday season, people here like to go all out. Decorations, food, gatherings, all so festive and celebratory. Oh, can I ask what’s your favorite holiday? mine is Christmas! Well, you know why, right? 😛

One big Christmas Tree at my Neighborhood Mall

So that’s 5 of my favorite things in the US. There are more, but let’s stick to five for now. Now I’d love to hear your favorite things from the country you are living in. Please share it in the comment section below 🙂

School Update!

I’m at my second term in school and I’m loving my classes so far. I know I promised some of you to write about my school life so this post is a bit overdue, but anyway here it is! 🙂

So this term I’m taking 4 classes. Three of them are within my Digital Marketing certificate program, and one is actually from a Sustainability certificate program. This is by far the most stressful quarter because everything I’m learning about is new to me. It’s exciting, but at times I found myself putting too much pressure over a 5 points assignment, so yeah.

I love my Sustainability class although I wish I took it in class instead of online, I’m pretty sure I would have learned a lot more if I could get a chance to interact with my classmates and lecturer in real time. Well this is my second online class but I think it just made me realize that I prefer in-class teaching instead of online, although I can say that I’m digitally savvy but still.. nothing beats the classroom experience hehe. Anyway the Sustainability class that I’m taking is called “Global Business Practices in Sustainability” and the title is pretty self-explanatory, I love how I am able to learn about doing business sustainably and learn best practices from well-known companies. My interest in Sustainability kept me going although I found myself overwhelmed at times, learning about those new terminologies outside of my Marketing world. But hey, one’s gotta keep learning!

I’m also taking a Digital Marketing class, Social Media Marketing class, and a Personal Branding + Influencer class. I actually just finished the latter; it was only a 5 week class but was very insightful and inspiring to say the least.

So the Personal Branding class was about how we need to develop our personal brand, how to become an influencer, and if you are on the marketing side – how to manage one. It’s interesting to see how Influencer Marketing in practice here in the US because the lecturers are practitioners and they also brought in several guest speakers, including an actual fashion influencer who spoke to us about the hard work behind all those flashy insta pictures. However, what’s most inspiring to me is that the class also taught me to reassess my own personal brand – not that I’m planning to become an influencer, but for future career and basically in order to get to know myself better. The activities and assignments helped me to reflect and as a result I now have a better understanding of my own personal brand – something that is considered a necessity today, especially since I’m planning to rebuild a career in Marketing after finishing the certificate program.

Me and the lecturers of my Personal Branding class, taken on the last day of class

Phew! That sounds like a lot, isn’t it? Hehehehe.. don’t worry I’m having fun and I have to say that going back to school even after 10 years of graduating is still exciting and if anything it’s more exciting than my previous degrees because at this point of life, I have a better understanding of what I want and what my interests are 🙂

Anyway, I hope all is well with you and I’ll see you in the next post.. thanks for reading! ❤

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! 🙂

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

Back to School

I always knew that I would go back to school but I didn’t know when and where (and how, for that matter!). I had planned to go back to school since I first moved here but unfortunately that plan did not happen until … last week!

I won’t go into detail but what happened was miraculous in my dictionary and before I knew it I was able to start school last week! Hoorah! I am now enrolled in a digital marketing certificate program at UCLA Extension. I should be able to finish this program in the next 9 months or more, it really depends on the courses I will take and the route I will choose.

For now, I am taking 3 classes this term and 1 of them is an online class. This is my first ever online class – and I found it very interesting. Well I’ve taken some Coursera classes before but this is nothing like that because there are live seminar sessions in which we can hear the lecture and also participate in class discussion through an online chat room.

As for the other two classes, so far they are as interesting. One caught me off guard because I did not think that I would need to write a final paper as part of the requirements to pass the class. I mean, the last time I wrote an academic paper was…. 10 years ago? 😀

Anyway, I can’t say much for now because, well, it’s just the first week, but surely I will share more about this journey! I’m excited to learn, meet new people, and share experiences! All of this still feels surreal because up until last week I really have no slightest clue that I would be starting school… oh well, here I am now and I better get back to my online learning platform to read materials for my second week. Ah, student life…

Taken in front of Royce Hall – where UCLA graduation ceremonies are held

Catatan Ramadan 2019

Nggak berasa ya, sekarang sudah hari – hari terakhir bulan Ramadan. Ini adalah Ramadan kali kedua saya di Amerika, kali kedua sebagai istri, jadi tentunya banyak hal menarik yang bisa saya rangkum buat bahan kenang – kenangan di blog 🙂 Oh iya kalau mau baca cerita Ramadan tahun 2018 disini, tahun 2017 disini ya.

Oke, lanjut. Awal bulan Ramadan kali ini saya berasa lemes banget, rasanya puasa tuh berat banget, hampir seminggu saya jam 3 siang udah berasa lemes, lesu, kedinginan, dan cuma bisa tidur sampai menjelang buka puasa jam 7:30 malam. Saya sempet nanya2 di Twitter, gimana sih tips nya puasa panjang, dan juga nanya2 sama teman disini. Jawabannya bervariasi sih, tapi banyak yang bilang, makan kurma! Alhasil saya coba deh sahur pakai kurma, begitu juga pas buka puasa. Eh bener lho, nggak tau karena kurma nya, atau karena badan sudah beradaptasi, Alhamdulilah habis itu saya kuat puasa, nggak pakai lemes – lemes dan kedinginan lagi.

Sama seperti tema keagamaan pribadi saya akhir – akhir ini, tujuan saya di Ramadan ini pengen cari kedamaian dan ketenangan hati. Lumayan luas ya artinya, tapi Alhamdulilah saya mulai dituntun ke arah yang bikin saya senyum – senyum di bulan Ramadan ini, melalui bentuk yang bermacam – macam. Hehe, bingung nggak? Intinya memang kedamaian dan ketenangan hati itu memang personal sekali ya sifatnya.

Ramadan kali ini saya banyak menghabiskan waktu sendiri. Jadi karena sempat merasa lemas di awal Ramadan, saya memutuskan untuk libur sejenak dari berbagai kerjaan freelance saya. Eh, di minggu kedua saya sudah sehat, malah R yang kerjanya sibuk banget dan lembur terus. Jadilah saya sering buka puasa sendirian dan banyak waktu untuk mempelajari hal – hal yang memang ingin dipelajari 🙂

Tapi, mungkin karena saya banyak sendiri, mungkin karena sudah satu tahun lebih belum pulang ke Indonesia, Ramadan kali ini saya merasa kangen banget dengan Indonesia. Kangen keluarga besar, kangen komunitas, kangen puasa bareng – bareng, bahkan saya sempet bilang sama R “duh sedih juga ya disini sepi puasanya, nih lihat deh temen2 di Jakarta pada saling kirim2an hampers lebaran, disini mana ada yang kasih hampers” Cetek banget ya keinginan saya hahaha, tapi bener sempet ngomong gitu ke R pas saya lihat instastory teman – teman di Jakarta yang saling berbagi kiriman makanan berbuka atau sahur.

Eh, nggak taunya, nggak disangka hari Jumat ini ada teman saya telpon pagi – pagi, bilang mau mampir ke rumah karena dia lagi ada urusan di daerah saya. Pas buka pager, dia dan suaminya nenteng hampers dong buat kami! Isinya puding coklat rumahan pakai fla, yang nggak sabar saya makan buat berbuka puasa nanti. Yaampun, terharu banget deh. Beneran saya bilang, gak ada kepikiran sama sekali bakal dapat sesuatu buat lebaran disini, karena kan beda aja ya budayanya. Taunya malah dapet kiriman, Alhamdulillah 🙂 Kadang – kadang, keajaiban itu bukan sesuatu yang masif, tapi tetap aja efeknya bisa membuat hati tenang, senang, dan senyum – senyum seharian. Alhamdulillah 🙂

Semoga Ramadan kali ini juga memberikan ketenangan dan kedamaian bagi kamu, kamu, dan kamu, dimanapun kamu berada. Semoga kita masih dipertemukan dengan Ramadan berikutnya dan bisa menjadi pribadi yang lebih baik lagi di hari – hari selanjutnya, dan semoga kita tetap diberkahi dengan keajaiban – keajaiban besar atau kecil yang membuat hati senang. Mohon maaf lahir dan batin, selamat menjelang lebaran ya!