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.

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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

5 Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Californian

You are reading 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 “local lingo”. Don’t forget to read Dixie’s story here and hope you’ll enjoy our stories! 🙂

Some of the best way to immerse yourself into a new culture is by speaking is language. This is actually a part of immigrating that at first I didn’t find too hard to be done, because I already speak English. Even so, I still found myself confused at times when I was talking to a local, because they were speaking in some lingo that I was yet to understand. It took me a while to understand these phrases, which I am going to share with you.

“To get to Hollywood from Santa Monica, take the 10 to the 110 to the 101″

If you look at Los Angeles’ map, you will see that this city has a lot of freeways! The freeways are numbered, and if you spend just enough time in Los Angeles, you will hear people casually use freeway numbers in sentences to describe directions. I found it very confusing at first and I had to sort of memorize LA map to finally be able to understand what do they mean when people are using these numbers. Oh, and btw, try to avoid the 405 at all times 😉

“What’s up, Homie?”

Are you following American Idol this season? If you do, then you probably saw how Katy Perry called Alejandro Aranda – one of the contestants, her homie. Homie is an American slang from homeboy, mostly used to call your guy friends, someone that you are close with and hang out regularly. This phrase is mostly used between people of Mexican-American background, and since there are a lot of people with Mexican-American background in Los Angeles and Southern California in general, you would probably hear this phrase often.

“I’ll Have it Animal Style, Please!”

There is a fast food chain that Californians really love, and it’s called In-N-Out burger. This chain is different than most burger chains because it keeps its menu simple, in fact they only have fries, cheeseburger, beefburger, soft drink and milkshake. That’s it. No fancy burger menu, no sides, and definitely no seasonal menu like McDonalds. The best thing about In-N-Out is that they never freeze their produce, so it’s always fresh. Anyway, although their menu is simple, they allow you to customize your burger as you like, and there are a couple of “Secret menu” that everyone likes to order. One of it is the “animal style”, which means extra sauce, grilled onions, and mustard. The best thing? you can order both burger and fries animal style!

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

“I’m from SoCal but I went to NorCal for College”

Contrary to popular belief, Californians never refer California as Cali. Instead, they separate the region by NorCal or North California which is basically San Francisco and other cities up north, and SoCal or Los Angeles, Orange County (where I live) and San Diego.

“I Had Like, a Super Long Day”

Do you remember Cher from Clueless? Then you would probably remember how she likes to use the word like in a sentence. Adding the word like in a sentence is so common in Los Angeles (well, probably California in general). I heard it’s originated by people from the Valley (the upper north area of Los Angeles) since the 80s but it’s like, becoming super common to be used casually these days!

So that’s it! 5 phrases that will make you sound like Californian. Is there such thing in your city / country? Do share in the comment box, and I’ll see you in the next “Stories from The West” posts 🙂

Just Like Heaven

Kemarin saya dan R pergi ke festival Just Like Heaven yang diadakan di Queen Mary Park Long Beach. Saya kepengen banget – bangetan pergi ke festival ini sejak pertama kali lihat daftar artisnya yang nggak lain adalah hampir semua band favorit saya jaman (lebih) muda dulu! Mulai dari Breakbot, Passion Pit, Phoenix, dan nama – nama yang saya nggak pernah kebayang bakal ada kesempatan nonton seperti Tennis dan She Wants Revenge. Ya ampun, rasanya nggak percaya, mana tempatnya cuma 20 menit dari rumah! Kalau kata R, inilah salah satu untungnya tinggal di Los Angeles sebagai penggemar konser macam kami (Iya, untungnya kami berdua sama – sama penggemar konser walau selera musik nggak 100% sama).

Ini dia poster festivalnya

Perjalanan saya nonton festival ini juga nggak mulus – mulus amat karena saya awalnya gagal mendapatkan tiket (Nggak sangka, banyak juga orang yang mau nonton band – band lawas tahun 2000an ini). Eh, nggak taunya si promotor nambahin tanggal dan saya berhasil mendapatkan tiket di tanggal tambahan (Jumat 3 Mei) dengan harga resmi padahal baru beli tiketnya H-2 sebelum acara alias hari Rabu kemarin. Hampir juga saya pergi sendiri karena si R hampir nggak dapat cuti, tapi akhirnya semua aman dan kami berdua berhasil pergi.

Karena satu dan lain hal kami gagal datang tepat waktu dan jadinya baru sampai lokasi jam 2 siang, jadi saya terpaksa lewatin penampilan Peter Bjorn and John, She Wants Revenge, Miami Horror sama RAC (huhu). Tapi untungnya (tetep aja untung haha) masih bisa nangkep Tennis, terus lanjut deh Breakbot DJ Set.

Walaupun nonton Breakbot siang – siang tapi ternyata seru juga, set nya singkat tapi ciamik bahkan dia sempet puterin Stardust – Music Sounds Better with You dan Daft Punk – One More Time yang sukses bikin orang – orang makin semangat disko. Penampilannya ditutup dengan lagu Baby I’m Yours yang dinyanyiin live sama Irfane. Seru!

Breakbot

Habis Breakbot, kami lanjut nonton band berikutnya – Passion Pit. Kami udah pernah nonton Passion Pit tahun lalu tapi tetap semangat ingin lihat, dan ternyata nonton Passion Pit di festival lebih seru karena panggung nya lebih besar dan penonton nya lebih rame. Setelah Passion Pit, lanjut nonton Miike Snow – ini juga saya semangat banget karena bertahun – tahun dengerin albumnya tapi nggak pernah kebayang bakal nonton live! penampilan Miike Snow bagus banget, apalagi mereka bawain lagu – lagu hits nya termasuk favorit saya, Animal.

Kami sempat istirahat dari panggung utama dan kembali ke panggung kecil untuk nonton Grizzly Bear sambil ngemil – ngemil, terus balik lagi ke panggung utama buat nonton MGMT yang ternyata penampilannya … biasa aja hehe. Mungkin kami sudah mulai capek, tapi emang sih rasanya penampilan MGMT kemarin kurang greget gitu. Akhirnya kami kabur ke panggung kecil lagi dan istirahat sebentar sebelum nunggu The Rapture. Ya ampun The Rapture ini diluar ekspektasi karena penampilannya keren banget! Walaupun nggak tau semua lagunya tapi kami (saya sih, R kebanyakan angguk2 kepala dan goyang pundak doang) dibuat nggak berenti dansa… serasa lagi aerobik. Yang saya suka dari nonton konser atau festival disini, kalau mau joged silakaann bebas aja nggak perlu malu – malu. Mau gaya apa juga, pokoknya nikmatin aja musik dan bebasin aja gerakan. Asik kaann :)))))

Nggak kerasa tau – tau matahari sudah terbenam, sudah jam 8 malam dan badan kami serasa mulai rontok. Yeah Yeah Yeahs lagi manggung di panggung utama tapi kami nggak kuat nonton lama – lama. Balik ke panggung kecil dengan niatan mau rileks sambil nonton Beach House tapi baru 2 lagu malah kebawa ngantuk (kok jompo banget ya hahaha). Akhirnya kami duduk manis sambil nungguin Phoenix yang jadi band penutup jam 10 malam. Jam 10 teng Phoenix mulai manggung, dan nggak pakai basa – basi langsung bawain lagu – lagu hits nya. Saya sudah pernah nonton Phoenix di Jakarta jaman dulu (tahun 2008 ya kalo nggak salah). Waktu itu mainnya di venue yang kecil banget. Di Aksara bukan sih kalau nggak salah? Dan nonton Phoenix di panggung besar rasanya jauh lebih seru, beda banget deh nuansanya.

Phoenix jadi penutup manis buat festival Just Like Heaven kemarin. Agak nyesel nggak bisa datang lebih awal tapi nggak nyesel sama sekali udah bujuk – bujuk si R supaya cuti. Dia juga seneng, dan kami langsung bikin rencana konser berikutnya mumpung masih terbawa euphoria.

Come Visit My City :)

Hello April! Spring has sprung and for some of us it’s the perfect time for a break. This month, the topic for Stories from The West is about travel. I’m sharing a quick travel guide to Orange County, where I am currently residing. You can also read Dixie’s guide to Gothenburg here

If you plan to visit Los Angeles, I’d gladly suggest you to not skip visiting Orange County. Located 45 minutes away from downtown LA, Orange County has its own charm and can really make your LA vacation more special! While I know people mostly come here to go to Disneyland, but there are far more things to do here in OC than just visiting Disneyland. Here’s a list of some things that  that you can do in Orange County (Disneyland excluded!).

#1 Spend a Day at The Beach

Orange County has several beaches, each with its own charm. I might write a separate post about the beaches in OC, but if you only have a day to be spent at the beach, I’d say Laguna Beach is your go – to. Laguna Beach is situated in the south of OC, it’s a bit far from LA, but only a short drive from Disneyland Anaheim. Start your day by having breakfast or brunch at downtown Laguna Beach. Even there you can already feel the laid-back beach atmosphere. There are a lot of small cafes and breakfast places that you can choose, but I personally love Moulin – a small French cafe with delicious pastries. While you’re walking around downtown Laguna, you can stop by Laguna Coffee Company for a cuppa!

There are a handful of smaller beaches in Laguna Beach, you can choose the Main Beach if you want to immerse yourself in the crowd. Main Beach can get really crowded especially during warmer days but I think it’s always fun to people watch.

However, my personal favourite spot in Laguna Beach has got to be Treasure Island Beach. To get here, you can find Montage Laguna Beach hotel, park there, and then take a short walk to the beach. This spot is less crowded, with white sands, and amazing view!

Once you get tired of the beach (but really, how could one gets tired of the beach? :P), next on the itinerary is to check out local cliffside cafes to watch the sunset and have an early dinner. I like Driftwood Kitchen, but there are other great places that you can go to.

#2 Try Hiking

Another thing that you must do while you are in Orange County is to go on a hike. There are several great hiking spots in the area, each with different categories. Well, I’m new to hiking as I just started to hike frequently since I moved here. So I know I haven’t been to a lot of hiking spots, but I’ve been to a few that are easy to do for starters like me, with great views as well.

The first spot is Top of The World in Laguna Beach. It has a few treks, ranging from easy to hard. For starters like me, there’s even a short route that can be done in 30 minutes. The view is beautiful and it’s no hassle to get here, surely this place is hard to miss. 

Another great spot is Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. It is located just 5 minutes drive from downtown Huntington Beach, just by the Pacific Coast Highway (remember the song?) It’s flat trek with pretty ocean views where you can also do some bird spotting if you are a fan. 

#3 Embark on a Culinary Adventure

I have to say that food is one of Orange County’s greatest treasures. As LA’s neighbour, this area is pretty much just as multicultural, and I might be biased, but I actually found some of the best international tastes here instead of in LA. 

Westminster and Garden Grove is the place to start if you are craving for Asian food. It’s the hub for Southeast and South Asian communities in Orange County, so you’ll find lots of great Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino, and Indian food here. Sadly, no Indonesian restaurant in this area, but I can’t complain as I can still get food with familiar Asian taste just a short drive away. 

If you are more of a fan of Chinese and Japanese food, then your go-to place is Irvine and Costa Mesa. Irvine is a college town, famous for international students because of UC Irvine’s reputation. Costa Mesa is hard to miss because there’s South Coast Plaza, possibly SoCal’s best mall – definitely worth the drive if you want to spend some $$$ while traveling. 

Of course as an Asian I have to start with pointing out Asian food, but actually Orange County has so much more than just Asian food. Santa Ana and Orange (yes, there is a city called Orange) should not be missed if you are interested to try Mexican / South American food. 

It’s really hard for me to choose one favorite restaurant in Orange County – it really depends on what kind of food you are looking for. Bottomline is, you will never feel hungry in Orange County because there is just so much great food! Take a trip around the world by trying out different kinds of food, all just a short drive away within each other.

Anyway, to sum up this quick travel guide to Orange County – there’s really so much to see / do besides Disneyland. Hit me up if you are ever in the area and need some recommendations, I’d gladly share more of my favorites! See you in the next Stories from The West posts 🙂

Kunjungan Mama (part 3)

Oke jangan bosen yaa baca cerita kunjungan Mama hehehe. Rasanya pengen cerita yang lengkap gitu, baru deh lanjut cerita2 yang lain. Anyway, di post ketiga ini saya mau ceritain soal road trip kami ke San Francisco.

Jadi, waktu tempuh perjalanan dari Los Angeles ke San Francisco kalau naik mobil itu sekitar 6,5 jam. Tadinya saya dan R sempet bingung, mau naik pesawat (mahal), naik bus (mikir repot di SF nya gak ada mobil karena kali ini kita bawa mama), atau bawa mobil aja dari LA. Akhirnya kami memutuskan untuk bawa mobil supaya seru, dan dihitung2 juga biayanya sama aja kalau kita naik bus plus transportasi di SFnya.

Kami berangkat hari Minggu sore sekitar jam 6, itu juga mampir dulu makan malam dan sempet berhenti beberapa kali untuk beli kopi, isi bensin, jajan, dan sebagainya hehe. Perjalanan ke SF lumayan ngebosenin, karena malam hari kali ya, nggak ada pemandangan yang bisa dilihat dan sepanjang jalan kosongggg melompong. Soalnya kami pakai rute paling cepat, padahal sih sebenarnya ada rute yang lebih indah pemandangannya tapi lebih lama waktu tempuhnya, yaitu lewat Pacific Coast Highway (inget lagunya nggak?). Kami sampai di SF sekitar jam 3 pagi. Langsung istirahat karena jam 10 pagi nya langsung diajak saudara kami yang kebetulan tinggal di SF untuk jalan2 ke Monterey.

Monterey itu kota kecil di pinggir pantai yang jaraknya sekitar 2 jam dari SF. Monterey seru banget, kotanya cantik, banyak yang bisa dilihat, sayang karena kami perginya rame2 jadi agak susah berhenti2 sesuai keinginan, jadi saya mau banget balik lagi suatu hari apalagi kalau lagi panas 🙂

Setelah seharian di Monterey bareng keluarga, kami menghabiskan waktu di kota SF nya selama 2 hari 1 malam. Hari pertama saya ajak mama ke Pier 39 dan Ghirardelli Square. Dari Ghirardelli Square kami naik SF tram lanjut ke Union Square. Tram ini cukup terkenal di SF, dan biasanya selalu antri. Tapi kalau kamu naik dari Ghirardelli Square, antriannya nggak separah itu kok! Harga sekali jalan $7, cukup mahal sih untuk ukuran transportasi umum, tapi boleh juga dicoba untuk atraksi wisata mumpung lagi di SF 🙂

Hari terakhir sebelum pulang kami sempat ajak Mama lihat Golden Gate Bridge karena ya memang nggak lengkap ke SF tanpa lihat jembatan ini, ya nggak sihh… dan kali ini karena kami naik mobil sendiri, jadi bisa lihat jembatannya dari Marin Headlands yang letaknya diatas bukit, jadi pemandangannya lebih keren! Kalau memang kamu ke SF dan ada mobil sendiri, coba deh lihat Golden Gate Bridge nya dari Vista Point/Marin Headlands daripada dari visitors centernya. Musti bayar tol sih, tapi pemandangannya worth it kok!

Setelah itu, kami mampir juga ke Lands End. Ini sesuai namanya bener2 kayak di ujung dunia deh. Tapi pemandangannya juga bagus banget! Sayangnya lagi mendung ya (tapi di SF emang hampir selalu mendung kan… kalo mau cerah ya ke LA hehehehe :P), tapi pemandangannya, suasananya, bener2 menarik. Kalau nggak pakai mobil sendiri, transportasi umum kesana agak susah karena ya letaknya emang jauh dari mana2, jadi kalau kamu ke SF dan ada mobil sendiri, wajib banget ke Lands End!

Karena terlalu terpesona sama Lands End, kami akhirnya pulang jam 8 malam dari SF… padahal tadinya mau lihat pemandangan sambil pulang, batal lagi deh. Perjalanan pulang lebih parah dari berangkat karena kami udah capek banget dan memang jalanannya luruuuuus aja tanpa ada pemandangan apa2. Kami harus stop berkali – kali untuk istirahat dan akhirnya sampai dirumah jam 4 pagi 😀

Pengalaman yang cukup seru road trip bareng Mama ke San Francisco, walaupun kalau boleh pilih mungkin besok2 road tripnya siang2 aja jangan malam hari supaya nggak terlalu capek hehe. Kalau kamu, kapan terakhir kali road trip?