In America, I…

It’s the first day of September which means I am back with another post from the โ€œStories from the Westโ€ project which I am doing withย Dixie! Each month we are writing 1 post about the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants (Me in the US, Dixie in Sweden). This month’s topic is about the things we learned from our adopted countries. Read mine below and Dixie’s here ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy!

I learned to live more sustainably

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

A totally unrelated picture but it’s so beautiful righttt? This was taken in Catalina Island ๐Ÿ™‚

I learned to work hard(er)

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

I learned to celebrate individuality

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

To sum up, I know that my life here is just starting, I have this long road ahead of me. But I’m glad that I get this second chance of learning new things and expanding my horizons by moving to America. These are just the three things that I learned from this country, I might share more in the future, as I am adjusting myself more to the life here. Thanks for reading, and if you are also an immigrant, what are the things that you learned from your adopted country? I would love to hear your story! ๐Ÿ™‚

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3 Books About Being an Immigrant in America

Hello and welcome to a new post from the โ€œStories from the Westโ€ project which I am doing withย 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 monthโ€™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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Notes From an Immigrant

Welcome to another post from the โ€œStories from the Westโ€ project which I am doing withย 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 monthโ€™s topic is about โ€œbeing an immigrantโ€. 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 Dixieโ€™s storyย here ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Summer Activities

This is another post from the โ€œStories from the Westโ€ project which I am doing withย 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 monthโ€™s topic is about โ€œsummer storiesโ€. Check out some things that you can do during summertime in Southern California, and don’t forget to read Dixie’s story here ๐Ÿ™‚

In the US, summer usually starts with Memorial Day long weekend. It falls on the last Monday of May, and it’s a holiday to honor those who have passed away during their military service.

However, since I am lucky enough to live in Southern California, our “summer days” actually started way before that. As soon as the weather gets a little bit warmer and sunshine’s out, R and I like to go to the beach. So it happens that the beach is only 15 minutes away from where we live, making it convenient for us to go frequently.

I remember last year, my first summer in the US. We went to the beach almost everyday! I was so tired of the cold weather (Mind you I arrived here during winter time), so I was embracing the warm summer days wholeheartedly.

Last year – chillin at the beach

Unfortunately it’s not the case this year. I haven’t spent a proper day at the beach at all this year! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Somehow the weather is yet to warm up, I still find it too cold whenever I tried to spend a day at the beach. But I’m patient. I know summer is just right around the corner, so I’m counting days to where I will spend most of my days at the beach again.

Anyway, going to the beach is actually just one of the many activities that you can do during summer here in Southern California. Here are other exciting things that you can do during summertime…

Festivals and Concerts

Coachella 2015

I think festival season in Southern California starts with Coachella in April. Then a ton of other festivals follow. From music festivals like Just Like Heaven that I went to, to culinary festivals, book festivals, comic festivals, art festivals… there’s always a festival for everyone! I personally love going to festival, especially music festival because I just like to be part of the energetic crowd! Then there’s also music concerts. Summer is usually the time where musicians go on tour, and living in LA, I am never short of concert wishlist. If I had the time, energy, and money, I’d probably be out going to a concert every weekend hehehe.

Fairs

When I was living in England, I was made familiar with markets. From a small-scale weekend market that usually takes place in your neighborhood to a big-scale Christmas market with tons of stalls, games, and some attractions. Here in the US we got fairs. It is similar to markets in concept, only in a bigger scale. Well, at least that’s what happen here in Orange County, where I live. Last year I went to OC fair and I plan to do the same this year. OC fair has hundreds of booths from food to trinkets, and there’s also a lot of other activities like petting zoo, mini amusement park, and mini concert. It’s fun and it lasts for one whole month!

Outdoor Activities

Summer also means it’s the perfect time to go outdoor. The US is blessed with such beautiful nature and people here like to go out and about when the weather gets warmer. We go out camping, hiking, visiting national parks, or just spending time at the beach or at parks doing barbeque with friends and family. R and I are going to a national park too this month, I really can’t wait! Last but not least, summer is also the time for baseball! Although this one is really not my cup of tea but I would love to see a Dodgers game one day this summer. Let’s hope I can get a good deal for a ticket!

So those are the things that you can do during summer in Southern California. Is it any different than where you live? I’d love to hear your stories in the comment box. See you in the next Stories from The West post, and have a great summer ahead ๐Ÿ™‚

5 Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Californian

You are reading another post from the โ€œStories from the Westโ€ project which I am doing withย 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 monthโ€™s topic is โ€œlocal lingoโ€. Don’t forget to read Dixie’s story here and hope youโ€™ll enjoy our stories! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 theย 10 toย theย 110 toย 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

“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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.ย 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Home Away From Home

Another month, another “Stories from The West” post ๐Ÿ™‚ 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚