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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Summer Activities

This is another post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants in our respective countries. This month’s topic is about “summer stories”. Check out some things that you can do during summertime in Southern California, and don’t forget to read Dixie’s story here 🙂

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! 😦 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

Home Away From Home

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

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

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

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

Home 🙂

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

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

More Than ‘Just’ a Burger

This is another post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants in our respective countries. This month’s topic is “food” and I am sharing some stories about American food. Read Dixie’s here and hope you’ll enjoy our stories! 🙂

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

Biscuit and Gravy

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

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

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

Fried Chicken Meal

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

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

Barbeque

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

Pies

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

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

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

Breakfast

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

Lunch

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

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

Dinner

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

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

What to Expect In Your First Year Abroad

This is another post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants in our respective countries. This month’s topic is about “first experiences” and I am sharing a summary of my first year in the US. Read Dixie’s here and hope you’ll enjoy our stories! 🙂

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

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

Home 🙂

Discovering New Things About Yourself

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

Homesickness

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

Friendship

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

Self – Love

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

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