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

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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

My Dad

My Dad was an extraordinary man. I also like to believe that he lived an extraordinary life. He fought an extraordinary battle with lung cancer before God decided it was his time to rest eternally.

He was the fourth out of five children, the second-born son in his family. He was the cheeky one, with an outgoing personality. As a father, he was the wheels that kept our family moving. He was loving, he was present, and he was fun.

He wanted the best for this family, so he worked hard. He wanted us to see the world, so he took us. We didn’t have a lot but somehow he always managed to spoil us with presents, family vacations, family outings, and his time.

His time was precious – he was a busy man. Often times he would leave for work before I woke up and only came home after I went to bed, but then my mom made a deal with him – that he had to take me and my brother to school everyday whenever possible. (I guess this made my mom the rock that holds our family together but that’s a story for another day…)

So he did. No matter how late he came home the other night, he always took me to school until I graduated high school. I remember the drive, where we would talk about anything. I cherish that moments, and I kept replaying that moment over and over, wishing that it never goes away.

I guess I was too small when he left, or maybe the tragedy of losing him left a mark on me, that I now startung to struggle to remember details about my encounter with him. It breaks my heart that memories of our togetherness are starting to fade away, that I now only see snippets of images instead of the whole picture when I try to remember.

But I remember the kind of man he was. He was a hardworker, one that still had the time for family and friends. He was much loved by his friends, I know that his staffs and colleagues loved him too. He put family first, always with open arms to help. He was stylish, presentable, neat. I remember his polo shirt and the way he always brings a handkerchief in his pocket.

I remember his upbeat personality, how he lit up the room whenever he walked in, how he liked to sing on events (his favorite karaoke song is Separuh Nafas by Dewa 19 haha). I remember his love for sports, how he played it all – basketball, hockey, golf… and how his love for sports guided me to finish my first 5K race.

Although it has been 12 years since he passed, every day I try to live my life following what he showed me. One can only hope that he’s happy to see that person I have become 😊

I wanted to post my favorite picture of him but I couldn’t find a digital version of it, so this picture will do (and yes, that’s baby- me! :D)

Happy Father’s Day to my #1, and to every outstanding Dads out there!

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!

Sunday

I woke up early, and we decided to get breakfast. We tried a brunch cafe not far from our house, only 10 minutes drive away. We were the first guests when we arrived at 7AM, right when they just opened. Not long after, another couple came in. Then another. And another. It was a full house by 7:30AM. Wow, it looks like the cafe is quite popular in the neighborhood. Why haven’t we been here before, I asked R. Let’s try the food first, he said.

I ordered a typical American breakfast menu – eggs, sausage, potatoes and toast. Only I asked for the toast to be changed to english muffins. It’s the closest I can get to crumpets here :)))) R ordered pesto bagel – it was really good, he said. I also had a cup of latte which was not bad at all, similar to what I usually make at home. But it’s Sunday, I want someone to make my coffee because I don’t wan’t to deal with the dishes :)))))

After breakfast we spent a bit of time at the beach, then went back home. I did some freelance work, R went on relaxing. He needed the rest&relaxation day after his long week.

I was too caught up with work when I realised it’s already past 4PM and we haven’t had lunch. I woke R up, we were both starving. Well, it’s the perfect time to use our Gyu-kaku points, I said. Let’s go! He said. There’s nothing better than eating good food with points, which brought down our bill to 50% less! 😀

Btw, tonight is the start of Ramadan. We will be fasting for a whole month starting tomorrow. So we went to Target to stock up on some pantry items. I haven’t finished my meal plan so I just stock up on some fruits, oatmeal and protein bars for our suhoor. We will be fasting for 15 hours this year, and this is going to be my second Ramadan in the US. I’m excited! I’m hoping for some miracles this month and I’m also looking forward to reflect and give back.

Now I’m relaxing at home. It’s been a long day. R is right beside me, watching Game of Thrones. I don’t follow the series, I just don’t get the hype. Don’t get me wrong, I tried to watch a couple of episodes… Anyway I let him have the TV every Sunday night, so here I am typing in my WordPress app while listening to Spotify with earphones on. All good, it’s been a good day, and I hope it will be a good Ramadan for us all 🙂

Tentang 3 Hal

Tau nggak, akhir2 ini saya banyak banget ide buat blog terus semuanya mandek di draft nggak selesai2 karena pas lagi nulis adaaa aja gangguan. Jadi mari kita coba nulis post ini, dari HP, nggak pake mikir, supaya blog ini nggak sepi2 banget gitu 😉

Anyway, mau cerita beberapa hal yang kejadian atau saya lagi pikirin akhir – akhir ini.

Tentang Pengemudi Taksi Online

Akhir- akhir ini saya lagi sering naik taksi online. Disini ada 2, namanya Uber dan Lyft. Saya lebih sering pakai Lyft soalnya ada app yang bisa kasih cash back. Hampir setiap perjalanan saya ngobrol sama supirnya. Kebanyakan mereka yang ngajak ngomong duluan. Maklum, orang Amerika emang terkenal suka (banget) small talks dan ngajak ngomong orang. Awalnya saya canggung, lama – lama kebiasa. Lucu deh, dalam sekitar 10-15 menit perjalanan, saya bisa tau jumlah anak si supir, dulu kerja dimana, dan cerita – cerita unik lainnya. Ada orang yang habis rugi gila – gilaan karena trading bitcoin, ada yang pensiunan tapi bosen di rumah aja, ada imigran yang baru datang dari Timur Tengah dan sedang berusaha settle disini. Kayaknya saya udah pernah cerita beberapa kali tentang pengalaman saya dengan supir taksi online ini, jadi saya mau update aja kalau sekarang saya makin jago small talks! Yay! Hahahaha. Dengan senang hati saya bisa nanggepin mereka ngobrol, itung – itung bikin perjalanan saya makin gak berasa.

Tentang Buku Bacaan

Kalau kamu temenan sama saya di Goodreads, mungkin kamu lihat kalau saya punya reading challenge yang sedang saya jalanin. Tahun ini saya menantang diri saya untuk baca 24 buku – kurang lebih 2 buku sebulan, gitu kan. Eh nggak disangka, di bulan April ini sekarang saya udah baca 18 buku! Kayaknya bakal jauh melewati target nih 🙂 saya jadi sering baca gini soalnya rumah tetanggan sama perpustakaan kota, terus sekalian saya ingin belajar banyak soal budaya Amerika tempat saya tinggal sekarang. Makanya kalau lihat daftar buku yang saya baca, isinya kebanyakan buku Amerika yang setting nya di Amerika, plus buku – buku tentang Imigrasi / cerita Imigran disini.. beberapa buku favorit yang saya baca tahun ini adalah bukunya Michelle Obama – Becoming (aduh ini orang superrrrr inspiratif!!!), Jose Antonio Vargas – Dear America, dan kalo fiksi bukunya Rachel Joyce – The Music Shop. Buku pertama tentang hidupnya Michelle Obama dan sebenernya saya nggak suka baca biografi, tapi buku ini bagus banget! Saya suka gaya ceritanya dia dan belajar banyak dari hidupnya. Buku kedua tentang hidupnya Jose Antonio Vargas yang “terpaksa” jadi imigran gelap di Amerika. Masalah imigrasi memang cukup pelik disini, cerita Jose cuma 1 dari sekian banyak imigran gelap lainnya. Saya sempet baca beberapa buku soal imigran lainnya tapi dia juga sempet menyelipkan beberapa fakta soal kebijakan2 dan bikin saya makin aware sama isu imigrasi ini. Buku ketiga sih drama komedi ya.. tapi saya suka banget sama pemaparan tokoh2 nya dan juga karena ceritanya diselingi oleh musik2, sesuai judulnya. Kalau kamu, buku apa yang berkesan di tahun ini?

Tentang Jane The Virgin

Tanpa disadari saya udah berasa ngetik banyak juga nih (hore!) dan sebelum udahan saya mau cerita soal serial Jane The Virgin yang saya lagi tonton. Penting nggak penting, tapi baca terus yaa hehehe. Jadi saya kan udah ngikutin serial ini dari season 1. Ceritanya macem2, namanya juga telenovela. Penuh drama. Tapi inti nya Jane ini selalu terlibat cinta segitiga. Awalnya hidupnya baik2 aja, dia punya tunangan namanya Michael. Tiba2 dia nggak sengaja diinseminasi (panjang ceritanya) dan jadi hamil anaknya Rafael. Long story short, dia lahirin anaknya Rafael, nikah sama Michael, dan hidup bahagia sampai… Michael meninggal! Terus fast forward 4 tahun kemudian dia akhirnya berhasil menata hidupnya kembali, dan akhirnya menjalin hubungan sama Rafael, dan udah mau nikah. Tiba-tiba Michael hidup lagi!! Ternyata selama ini mereka semua “dikerjain” sama tokoh antagonis namanya Rose dan Michael nggak meninggal tapi cuma dibuat lupa ingatan dan selama ini juga menjalani hidup baru sebagai Jason di Montana yang hidupnya bedaaaa banget sama hidupnya Michael. Bayangin dong perasaan Jane pas tau?! Drama banget kan! Hahahaha. Saya punya pertanyaan iseng nih. Kalau jadi Jane, kamu bakal tetap sama Rafael atau Michael? Atau nggak 2-2 nya? 😛

Okelah sekian cerita random saya hari ini. Semoga post berikutnya nggak terlalu lama dan saya bisa kelarin drafts yang ampir bulukan hehe. Oh iya, selamat Paskah bagi yang merayakan dan selamat akhir pekan teman-teman! 🙂

10 Year Challenge

Akhir2 ini 10 year challenge lagi ramai yaa di media sosial. Nggak tau siapa yang mulai, awalnya sih saya liat beberapa foto di Instagram, lama2 nyampe juga ke Facebook, terus di Twitter juga rame pada ngomongin. Seru juga, saya pikir. Tapi saya nggak ikutan nge-post apa2, soalnya saya masih dalam semi-break dari Instagram (dan media sosial secara keseluruhan) sejak saya menyelesaikan proyek pribadi #ChristasFirstYear. Jadi saya pikir, ceritain di blog aja deh 10 year challenge nya!

2009

Tahun yang lumayan berkesan buat saya. Bisa dibilang 2009 ke 2010 adalah salah satu tahun terbaik karena….. saya lagi sekolah S2 di Inggris! Bener deh, sampai sekarang nggak bisa lupa sama tahun itu, masih keingat jelas hari – harinya.

Tahun 2009 itu usia saya 22 tahun. Di awal tahun, saya bekerja sebagai Account Executive di sebuah perusahaan advertising lokal. Pekerjaan pertama abis lulus S1. Disitu saya belajar banyak, bos nya pintar banget, teman2 nya asik, kerjanya capek banget, saya pernah pulang jam 8 pagi (!!!) dan masuk kantor lagi jam 3 sore sesudahnya. Saya sibuk banget, ampir nggak pernah ada dirumah. Kemudian saya juga sibuk mempersiapkan diri untuk rencana S2 di Inggris. Waktu itu saya udah di terima di kampus yang saya mau, tapi nilai IELTS nya masih kurang cuma di bagian writing. Akhirnya sekitar bulan April saya berhenti kerja, les khusus writing dan banyak2 latihan, tes IELTS lagi, dan berhasil! akhirnya memenuhi syarat.

Terus saya inget juga soal jalan – jalan ke luar negeri pertama pakai uang sendiri. Waktu itu saya pergi ke Singapore nonton konser Coldplay. Seneng banget, dan trip yang itu kayaknya sih jadi bibit kecintaan saya buat traveling sampai sekarang, hehehe.

Nonton Coldplay

Di tengah tahun saya inget banget sempet stress banget – bangetan soalnya nungguin visa student yang nggak keluar2. Drama banget deh, sampai saya harus ubah tiket pesawat buat berangkat. Tau nggak, visa student saya keluar seminggu sebelum kelas mulai dan 1 hari sebelum tanggal berangkat saya! Saya inget banget begitu pegang paspor saya langsung nangis, emang ya bener kalau waktu Allah nggak pernah salah.

Terus sampai Inggris di bulan September, mulai sekolah, nah ini lain lagi dramanya – drama homesick, kangen pacar (pada saat itu) terus pake drama LDR, drama adaptasi sama sekolah… bener2 ya, namanya aksen Inggris itu susahnya setengah mati, saya inget pas awal kuliah saya harus rekam semua omongan dosen dan diputar ulang berkali2 di rumah sambil bikin catatan supaya saya ngerti.

Hari pertama sampai Inggris – Rambut potong pendek supaya nggak perlu ke Salon selama tinggal disitu 😛

Tapi lama2 kebiasa juga sih… dan saya suka banget sama sekolahnya. Saya suka semua pelajaran di kelas, bener2 sesuai minat dan saya semangat banget buat belajar. Sambil sekolah saya cari kerja paruh waktu dan dapat kerjaan di restoran Burger King, terus siaran di Radio PPI Dunia. Sibuk banget, sering begadang, tapi senengnya bukan main. Maklum, masih muda 😛 Tahun 2009 ditutup dengan road trip keliling Inggris selama 10 hari bareng teman2 – salah satu trip terbaik seumur hidup 🙂

2019

10 tahun kemudian, sekarang. Sama sekali nggak kepikiran 10 tahun yang lalu kalau saya bakal tinggal di Amerika. Lha wong dulu pacarnya beda, hahahaha (Ini nggak usah dibahas ya :P), mana kebayang bakal ketemu jodoh yang tinggalnya di Amerika. Sempet kepikiran sih mau tinggal di luar negeri, tapi kebayang nya ya di Inggris karena waktu itu kan kuliah disana. Tapi Amerika? mana kebayang hehehe.

Di usia 32 sekarang ini, hidup saya jauh lebih santai. Saya sedang meninggalkan dunia pekerjaan untuk sementara, dan menyibukkan diri dengan urusan rumah tangga dan juga kehidupan kota kecil. Sebenernya dibilang kecil banget juga nggak sih, soalnya tempat saya tinggal sekarang masih terhitung ramai kalo versi Amerika (45 menit dari kota Los Angeles), tapi kalau dibandingkan Jakarta yaaa jauh…. 😀

Saya masih pengen balik ke dunia kerja yang sibuk, walaupun nggak yakin bisa nggak ya begadang2 kayak 10 tahun yang lalu hehehe. Kayaknya nggak mau juga sih sampai begadang2 gitu. Mau balik kerja kantoran lagi, tapi gak mau terlalu ngoyo kayak dulu.

Saya masih suka jalan – jalan, masih suka nonton konser (Untungnya tinggal di tempat sekarang – banyak banget konser! YAY!), masih nggak bisa diem jadi walaupun lagi jadi ibu rumah tangga saya masih ngejalanin proyek2 pribadi kecil2an yang bikin saya sibuk dan semangat.

Ini foto diri terbaru waktu dirayain ulangtahun sama teman2 disini 🙂 karena baru bulan Januari, jadi belum banyak foto tahun ini!

Lucunya, sama seperti tahun 2009, sekarang saya juga lagi nunggu sesuatu yang menurut saya udah kelamaan dan saya mulai khawatir, nggak sabar. Dan karena saya nulis post ini saya jadi ingat lagi, kalau saya nggak perlu khawatir karena waktunya Allah nggak pernah salah.

Kalau kamu, gimana 10 year challenge nya? 🙂