along came the baby..

So a new human being has come to join our little family
After much mulling...
I've decided to no longer update this blog and move here instead,
This blog has been a wonderful companion during my heydays.. my youth (*sobs),
And it's just time for me to accept that with the baby in tow, my life has significantly changed.. There is not so much "me" as an individual left.  At least until my baby's survival no longer depends on me 100%... Which may take a while.. *sigh*
So well..adieu for now. See you on the other side..

A book review!

So it was the first couple of weeks after labor and I thought I needed a small writing exercise so I wrote this book review (in Bahasa Indonesia) for a friend's site called, a site about books, which was wonderful. But in the end we didn't quite resolve a petty issue: having a longer description of myself and what books mean to me xD I wanted to stay mysterious furthermore I always dislike having to explain myself, on anything.

It's a review on Crichton's posthumous novel "Micro", at the time it was the only book on my reading list that I finished.. well along with the Game of Thrones series..
Here goes..

Micro - Michael Crichton

Diskon seringkali menjadi alasan yang kuat untuk membeli sebuah buku. Begitu kuatnya sampai sering mengalahkan tekad diri untuk tidak membeli buku lagi sampai semua yang di rumah selesai dibaca.

Apalagi kalau yang sedang didiskon hasil karya pengarang favorit, atau buku tersebut pernah masuk 10 buku terbaik versi The New York Times kapan tahun.

Buku yang terakhir saya beli karena terkena rayuan diskon adalah 'Micro', karangan salah satu penulis favorit saya, Michael Crichton. Sebenarnya ada satu nama lagi yang dinisbahkan sebagai pengarang di novel tersebut: Richard Preston. Seperti Crichton, Preston juga seorang penulis fiksi ilmiah namun sayang belum ada dari karya beliau yang pernah saya baca.

Kekaguman saya pada Crichton sendiri berawal dari Jurassic Park yang saya baca ketika masih SD. Kalau tidak salah Ibu ketika itu membeli beberapa novel berbahasa Inggris dari garage sale tetangga.   

Sejak itu saya jadi tertarik berburu karya Crichton yang lain di perpustakaan. Setelah Jurassic Park saya juga melalap the Lost World, Andromeda Strain, Sphere dan Congo.

Perburuan terhenti ketika keluarga kami harus berpindah-pindah beberapa kali, selain itu hidup ngirit ala anak kos di jaman SMA dan kuliah juga merupakan kendala.

Karena itulah ketika beberapa waktu lalu saya melihat Crichton di tumpukan buku-buku yang sedang sale, saya seperti bernostalgia. Diskon-nya tidak seberapa, 10% saja. Membuat harga buku yang tadinya Rp 87,000 jadi Rp 79,000.

'Micro' bercerita tentang petualangan sekelompok mahasiswa PhD yang diundang untuk sebuah 'tur' fasilitas riset mikrobiologi di Hawaii.

Tentu saja something went wrong. Kalau tidak tentu tidak akan ada ceritanya.. Namun yang membuat saya agak kecewa adalah bagaimana simple-nya novel tersebut.

Alur cerita sangat bisa ditebak. Kalau boleh dibilang Micro adalah versi dewasa dari 'Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Sambil Belajar Biologi'.

Jujur, saya mengharapkan hidangan fiksi ilmiah yang bisa membuat saya deg-degan dan berdecak kagum akan logika sang pengarang.

Setengah jalan saya memutuskan untuk membaca Kata Pengantar novel tersebut dan barulah saya mengerti kenapa karya Crichton yang ini terasa hambar dan narasi ilmiah yang diberikan malah terasa seperti sang penulis sedang pamer pengetahuan, bukan untuk memperkaya cerita, serta mengapa ada nama Richard Preston.

Micro diterbitkan November tahun lalu sementara Crichton meninggal akibat penyakit kanker yang dideritanya tahun 2008. Ya, novel ini adalah karya "anumerta" Crichton yang belum selesai dan Preston ditunjuk oleh penerbit untuk menyelesaikannya.

Singkat kata, novel ini saya selesaikan dalam beberapa hari saja, tidak ada kesan yang tertinggal kecuali rasa kecewa karena karya terakhir yang seharusnya bisa jadi legacy sang pengarang favorit tidak mendapat perlakuan yang patut oleh rumah penerbit (yup saya menyalahkan mereka. Preston mungkin sudah berusaha sebisanya, tapi sekali lagi, dia bukan Crichton). Mungkin lebih baik bila penerbit membiarkan karya tersebut apa adanya, bahkan mungkin akan lebih menarik lagi apabila mereka mengadakan lomba terbuka, mengundang fans Crichton, penulis fiksi ilmiah, untuk menyelesaikan novel tersebut. Just my two cents.

Disclaimer: Resensi ini ditulis Mei 2012 namun karena satu dan lain hal baru bisa diselesaikan 7 bulan kemudian :p

'So, how is it like being a mother?'

Despite the occasional post-natal blues, the feeling that I'm physically stuck and professionally doomed, the realization that none of my old clothes fits except for some over-sized pajamas and nighties...and, you DON'T want to see what's underneath it,'s great thanks :)
(Words in italics means I only said them inside my head :p)

Now i understand why some new mothers obsessively taking pictures of their babies, because it's the only thing in their world that seems right *sigh*

Days Go By Unless You Put A Meaning To It

Last week was actually my birthday. We celebrated in a somewhat muted way. There was this weird self-discernment that once one is with a child, everything about one self does not matter anymore. Anyways, of course there was the midnight cake+candle blowing family ritual with my mom, sis, iko and navis (who for some weird reason was up crying 5 minutes to midnight). Also me and iko went to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert in the evening. It was not really birthday-related, the concert coincided with my birthday and we both love YYYs. The concert itself was nothing short of awesome. Karen O rocks!

Image courtesy of

Five days before my birthday we received a visit from a relative, a man whom we called mang Engkus. Actually I am not sure that I have seen him before. I remembered receiving a call from mom, who was away with dad and my other siblings, that mang Engkus was coming to see navis and mom and dad would be home soon.

I asked her who was he exactly and she said he was dad’s relative from West Java, I said okay (and, ‘meh..unknown relative’, I thought.)

He arrived with dad’s older sister, was very very quiet. Refused my invitation to come inside, but answered that he’d like to have black tea when I asked him what to drink (typical Sundanese).

I brought him his tea and a slice of pandan sponge cake, iko was with him trying to make conversation. Mang Engkus had mistaken me for some other relatives (maybe), he thought I went to Australia to study (no i didn’t go there, maybe you mistaken me with somebody else) said he last saw me in Batam when I was little (oh dear god i didn’t even remember I’d been to Batam).. yes, it was a painful conversation so I tried to keep it short.

Mom and dad arrived a few moments later but dad had to leave again. And then I didn’t see him again because I was busy with navis until they were about to leave.

Fast forward to last week Friday we received a surprising news: mang Engkus had committed suicide. We were shocked.

He was found hanged in a hotel room near Bandung, West Java. Police suspected suicide because they found his will, everything seemed to be prepared so deliberately and there were no signs of theft. He left his marriage certificate so they could quickly locate his widow, he also left his hotel room unlocked. That was how the room service people found him.

That was also when I “finally” found out that he was dad’s cousin. Not just some faraway relative. Mom admitted that I never heard, or rarely heard, about him and his family because they were rarely mentioned.

What makes it more sad was that there was a possibility that his suicidal motive was partially financial. Dad said in his will mang Engkus claimed that he had felt that his life burdens were too much to bear. I know that me and my cousins are not like BFF-close but I know that they can count on me and vice versa during difficult times.

Suicides, like other deaths, is devastating especially to those who are left behind. There were questions that would forever go unanswered like what could have been done? Did we miss the cue for help the last time he visited us? Had dad stayed a bit longer would he open up?

I know the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’ is debatable. Aside from a self-promise to be nicer to strangers and ‘relatives’ his death also reminds me of the low days of my life and how the thought of suicide had crossed my mind. It stuck on me for days, I felt I was on a dead-end, helpless, there is no point to continue living, I prepared the how and when before at some point I gathered all my strength and decided to be braver.

Of course I have God to thank for the people I’ve met, the family I have if I had ever decided to take my life back then there would be no navis, I would not be married to iko, which i think was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far,..

So yeah, I was saddened by mang Engkus’ death. I wish he had not have seen his life that way, I wish he had believed that with enough courage and support things would eventually work out in the end.

My JG days in review

I was thinking to look back and review some of the most-read articles I've ever written in 2012 like a friend of mine did for her blog but then considering my time at JG as a full-time news reporter is almost up, might just as well do a review of ALL articles I've written. Most read ones and a number of the most memorable ones but unnecessary popular.

First story
My first piece (and headline) for Jakarta Globe, was co-written with our health reporter Dessy Sagita:
Indonesian Government to Cut State Health Insurance

It was my first day and our desk editor put me in tandem with Gita and it was Abu Rizal Bakrie’s last day as the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare. I remembered waiting for Mr. chin-man to make his farewell speech at this small park inside the Ministry’s office with other journos and was taught my first lesson on being a journo: patience.

The news was that the government believed some 16 million people had managed to increase their income and therefore are no more eligible for Jamkesmas, the state’s health insurance.

I was a bit fazed on what Bakrie actually said during the press conference, I only remembered back at the office I was asked to call mbak Ratna from Indonesia Corruption Watch to hear what she has to say about it.

I remembered waiting on Lin until he finished editing the story before going home, which I still do for weeks and months to come. Always having trouble going to bed before I know that all my stories passed the last copy editor.

First story to pass 10,000 views
*drum roll*
Porn Star Miyabi's Movie Premieres In Jakarta

I forgot who gave me the honor of going to the screening of this ..this .. thing. I don’t even remember writing about it. But lo! my name was on the byline.. so.. hmm..

Last para: “A Jakarta Globe journalist who viewed the film said it appeared to be aimed at teenagers and had little positive to say about the movie.”

*double hmm*

Me vs FPI
Nowadays a mention of FPI in a news story is a warrant for high web hits. But two years ago almost everyone forgot what this organization was capable of. For me this story started it all:
Muslims Protest in Bekasi Over Statue Of Women and Desecration of Koran

Since then I’ve been paying a watchful eye on Bekasi, FPI, hardline groups, landed stories after stories on these so-called vigilantes and defenders of Islam, the growing religious tension/anxiety in the country and of course: terrorism.

I also remembered interviewing ‘ulamas’ and ‘kyais’, people who are supposed to be the beacon of morality, but shocked on how close-minded most of them are while I was still fresh from my return from Holland, which fares better in terms of respecting minority (and Islam was a minority there).

At that time not so many media are willing to report on the tension, or openly stated that there was a growing tension, except perhaps the Jakarta Post. I also noticed journos on field tend to take in what the ulamas/government officials words ‘as is’, very little dared to question their rhetorics of ‘religious tolerance’ and ‘human rights’.

There aren’t many reporters who are interested to see for themselves what was the condition like in the neighborhoods of the houses of worship that are in dispute. News reports were more likely a ‘hearsay’ piece giving more than necessary attention to those who were immediately accessible (spokesman of such and such religious group) rather than relevant (local residents, neighbors).

Sadly, nothing much has changed these past three years, if not, nothing has changed at all.

Most-read stuffs
Iko asked me once which of my writings that I felt most proud/satisfied of. I told him that I get satisfaction from writing stories that made me spill blood, sweat and tears just to get them, and stories that are overlooked.

This particular one was special --> How Corrupt Is Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
Because I did everything on my own, the interviews, the research, going back and forth to the Supreme Audit Agency for the Ministry’s financial reports, poring over them, I almost felt like those investigative reporters. Almost.

It was quite rewarding as it garnered quite a lot of reads (15,086 views as of tonight). But the most-read cookies went to these two:

Indonesia's New Immigration Law Confuses One and All (25,645)
Muslim Groups Talk War Over ‘Christianization’ (15,698)

So there you go.

On second thought, will do a part 2 post on being a city reporter and writing series. 'Till then!
(All images courtesy of Google! Image :p #toolazytocreditonebyone)

story dump #1

From: Ulma Haryanto
Sent: Friday, September 07, 2012 7:16 PM
Subject: muchdi


Today I'm off but here is a bit of additional Munir-related piece. I asked journalist Alam Burhanan on what was it like to interview Muchdi Purwopranjono back then since I couldnt reach Muchdi myself. I thought it was good for a refresher about the alleged mastermind who had been almost convicted. Alam was the one behind ANTV's investigative reporting program Telisik, the guy won a couple of awards for it. He's now working for VOA in DC, I had thought to include the interview yesterday but couldn't coz his response came late (time difference).

Additionally, I am attending this 12-day ASEAN journo training in Gran Mahakam starting Sunday.. participants r required to write something at the end of the training and I hope we can also run it on paper (kalo bagus sih :p).. but if u hv asean-related topics that u think r interesting pls let me know since we are also scheduled to interview Marty on Monday sept 17.

Ulma Haryanto

It might be years after the last time TV Producer Alam Burhanan met former National Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy Muchdi Purwopranjono in his prison cell, but he would never forget that day, nor that he wished Indonesia to forget about how the case of human rights activist Munir is far from resolved.

"It started when I had to meet with several [politicians] who are detained for corruption, and since these people gather together it gave me the chance to meet others, not only Muchdi but also Aulia Pohan, Urip Tri Gunawan, etc.," Alam told the Jakarta Globe in an email interview. Alam now lives in Maryland, United States and works for state-owned broadcast service Voice of America (VOA) in Washington DC.

Aulia is President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's in-law and former central bank governor who was jailed for graft while Urip is a senior prosecutor sentenced for receiving bribe money in 2008. Both, together with Muchdi, were once detained together at Kelapa Dua in Depok.

"I paid special attention to Muchdi at the time because of the seriousness of his indictment, it was also the first time for a general from BIN to be made a murder suspect," Alam continued.

In 2008, when Muchdi was declared suspect in the case, Alam was the executive producer of an investigative reporting show for private television network ANTV.

"It was hard to get to Muchdi," he said.

"It was a sensitive period [for him], to be a general who had to be jailed for a murder case that gained a lot of attention."

"From the beginning we already think that the prosecutors were not serious enough in building up his case, in addition to that the panel of judges was also reluctant to take the case seriously," said Al Araaf, director of human rights group Imparsial.

Munir was poisoned in September 2004 as he flew from Jakarta to Amsterdam. Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a former Garuda Indonesia pilot, has been convicted of putting a fatal dose of arsenic into his drink.

Prosecutors have accused Muchdi of ordering the killing out of anger over Munir's criticisms of his leadership of the Army's Special Forces unit (Kopassus).

Alam said that he had talked to Muchdi several times before he finally agreed to be interviewed for his show.

But interviewing a former general with high position in Intelligence had its own challenges. Alam recalled one instance when Muchdi tried to "threaten" him when he disagree with where the show was going.

Muchdi was "chaotic", Alam said of one of the meetings. At that time Muchdi "summoned" him to his cell because he wanted to read the script before the show would be aired but Alam instead brought and old one.

"Independence of the press is protected by law so I have no obligation to show it to him, I told him the new one wasn't ready but he can review the previous script," Alam continued.

But moments after reading the first page Muchdi started shouting angrily... over the number of houses he owned.

"What is this?? How did you know I have two houses? I only have one, you are so tendentious!" Alam recalled.

Muchdi also further protested how the script mentioned him as the driving force behind Munir's assasination.

"He grew angrier when I took out a copy of the prosecutor's indictment demanding to know where I got it, in panic I replied that I got it from Kontras," he continued, referring to the rights group Commission on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence.

"Muchdi shouted angrily, 'So you are from Kontras?? I thought you are mine!'," Alam said.

"His face was shaking, then he said, 'I still have a million people outside! I still have money! Don't you think I cannot do anything from inside the prison!'," he continued.

"He said if we ever air Kontras, he will 'mark' me."

Alam admitted that he had feared for his life back then, but managed to keep going by reminding himself that what he did was a journalism work and that it was important not only for Indonesia but also garnered international attention.

"Maybe Muchdi wanted me to defend him and disregard data from other parties on the case. But to me, those who think Muchdi is Munir's killer is still needed, in the end of course we still air interviews with Kontras," he added.

Alam did not hear anymore from Muchdi even after the show was aired.

"As a part of the fight 'against forgetfulness' we should keep asking the question on the rest of the actors, who might already died or transferred to another country, the keys to unlock Munir's case are diminishing and harder to find," Alam said.

Only former Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, was convicted for lacing Munir's drink with poison. "Intellectual" actors behind his actions were still largely untouched, including former BIN chief Hendropriyono and deputy As'ad Ali.

Leaked US diplomatic cables released last year by WikiLeaks mentioned on how top-level officials of BIN were involved in Munir's murder.

They mentioned how then-Chief of National Police Sutanto allegedly knew about the BIN involvement but was lacking evidence to implicate its officials and that Hendropriyono "chaired two meetings at which Munir's assassination was planned". The cables and a witness at those meetings told police that "only the time and method of the murder changed from the plans he heard discussed; original plans were to kill Munir in his office."

As'ad was also mentioned in court testimoney of signing a letter requesting Garuda to put Pollycarpus on the same flight as Munir.

"From the beginning prosecutors did a weak job with Muchdi's indictment, so it was no surprise that the court acquitted him," said Al Araf, program director of human rights group Imparsial.

"But [the President] still has two years left in his term to review the case, and we hope that he could stop wavering and start ordering for the case to be reviewed," he added.


Living in Limbo: Stories From Puncak

I had always wondered why there were a lot of Middle-Eastern people and shops in Puncak area. I thought maybe it's the cool weather and yet relative closeness to Jakarta,..or maybe the girls..who knows..

It was just like any other day, I went to a press conference at LBH Jakarta who have just "inaugurated" 110 paralegals.

One of the people at LBH Jakarta asked me if I would like to meet with the asylum-seekers living in Puncak. I was like "Bingo!". I accepted immediately and we left for Puncak about a week later.

Little did I know, that the plight facing these asylum-seekers is a complicated one. Before rounding off my writing I became overwhelmed by the facts and stories that unfold in front of me.

It was difficult indeed to try to summarize everything in 1,500 words. The original version was 1,800-ish and I already had to discard about 30-40 percent of the materials. This is the link to the story, 1,500 words edited by the wonderful Hayat Indriyatno.

In the story only mentioned very little about the three families whom I saw that day, so I decided to write the rest here.

1. The Mazraehs

The Arabic Mazraeh (alternative spellings: Mazrae or Mazra/a) clan is pretty well-known in Iran to be politically active in the struggles for the Arab minority. For those who don't know, the majority race in Iran is Persian with Shia being the prominent denomination. Which is interesting, because apparently it was the Shia/Persians who are oppressing the Sunnis there. While here it's the other way around.

I met Amir and his family, who managed to fled to Indonesia via Dubai in 2010, in their rented 3-bedroom home in Cisarua area. We had to pay Rp 2,000 before entering the residential complex, I guess it's because we had come with a car. Others who went by motorbikes were not charged, which is weird anyway, because it's not a tourist area.

Amir's brother, Mahmoud Mazraeh made his way to UK as a political asylum in the 1990s and found the Ahwazi Arab People's Democratic Popular Front (AAPDF). Before that, two of his brothers were also executed.

The 54-year old however managed to maintain his calm, politely refusing to tell me the complete story of his escape, and referred me to his lawyers (people from LBH Jakarta) about it.

Amir has little understanding of English, without a translator my interview would had been in jeopardy if not for his 11-year old grandson, Fauzi, who is surprisingly fluent in both English and Indonesian.

"Ada masalah [There was a problem]," his grandson said, when I asked Amir of the reason why he fled.

Amir and his oldest son, Tohir, were subject to arrest and torture until in 2009 when they joined a demonstration protesting the election of Ahmadinejad, the threats increased. A week after he flew out of Iran, the government tried him in-absentia and sentenced him to 16 years.

Few weeks later Amir was joined by his wife, Tohir, his youngest daughter, Aminah and her two children.

Aminah is in late 20s or early 30s, and left to take care of her two children alone since her husband died in 2005 after being arrested and tortured.

Her eyes welled up when I asked what was it that she miss the most.

"My work, my city, my friends and my siblings," she said, adding that they have left two brothers and a sister in Iran.

"I want them to join us soon," she said.

The home of the Mazraeh has a small fish pond and a big stove for baking pita breads. Amir said they help the family kill time.

"My wife cooks and I fish, or play football with friends. Or read the Koran, I am more religious now," he said with a smirk.

As an asylum-seeker, none of these people are allowed to work, or get education.

Fauzi and his younger sister Anna, who is 8, preferred to go to an internet cafe, or watch television. Which is how they learn the languages.

I asked him if he like it here, he said, "No. Ngga suka."

Fauzi said that he keep the family in touch with other relatives via Facebook. He would upload pictures and send messages through it.

I learned from Amir that the Iranian Arabs are not allowed to speak their language, dress up like one, and other means of cultural expression.

2. Yunus' story

Yunus is the opposite of Amir, he is vibrant and fiery, recounting his tales of struggle in Ahwaz, Iran. He's been put under arrest, solitary confinement, but he also managed to flee with his wife and three children.

Like the Mazraeh kids Yunus' are also fluent in Indonesian. One girl, Sofia, 10, even told me that she wanted to learn English properly. Because the only education that they're receiving is a two hours session of English in a crowded class room per week.

"Banyak anak nakal," she said.

Yunus house is smaller than Amir's, and more open. I guess this is why the family has been having health complaints.

"It's too cold here for us," Yunus said.

At Yunus' house I began to notice that it was the second time of the day that we were offered instant coffee mix. (Later when we went to the third house, we were AGAIN offered with the same drink)

Yunus and his family

Rambutan came next, so I asked them if those were their favorites, they said yes.

"We love the fruits here, Mangoes, avocado, are expensive in Iran, but here no. I even like Durian," Yunus smiled.
Well isn't that a relief :)

3. The Mother and Her Daughters

The last family I visited are the Mazbans. Well actually the mother, Afwah, is married to Amir's older brother so their daughters are Mazraeh. But I don't want to create confusion, so.. :p

According to an officer from JRS who accompanied me, women and her children are prioritized. Which is why Afwah and her daughters decided to go on their own to Indonesia.

Afwah herself is a Persian, and her marriage had caused her trouble. Her family shunned on her and on the other hand she was not completely accepted by the Arabs in her neighborhood.

One of her daughters, Khadija, who is just two years younger than I am, was at one point arrested for six days after joining a demonstration, and refused to ever told her mother nor sisters on what happened.

To UNHCR she only attested that she had heard women screaming and raped, and that every day she was in fear aside from being deprived from food.

"My mother and my sister can't barely walk," the oldest daughter, Afika, told the JRS officer.

She said her mother has a knee and back problem and need to see a physiotherapist, while Khadija needs a crutch to be able to stand. Afika also said that her sister had had diarrhea for about a month when she first arrived.

"We don't like the clinics here, they're useless," Afika said.

Khadija and her mother

She spilled her heart out, on dealing with the cold, missing her children, and concerns about the health of her mother and sister over our third instant coffee for the day. Well, actually for me it's the fifth. I had one for breakfast and another one when we stopped at a stall before going to the Mazraehs.

Afika's hands were also never far from her praying beads, after the complaints she retorted praising to God because the lawyers of LBH Jakarta had helped them in their appeal to UNHCR.

The JRS officer promised her that they will take them to a good doctor soon but she needs to check with UNHCR and IOM for the funds.

So we bid our good byes, the day was getting late and all of us were hungry (we skipped lunch btw). I prayed for the families to leave this place soon and re-join their relatives.

Spending time with them surely felt other-worldly and wonderful at the same time. As they recounted their stories, I could picture one by one the scenes from Persepolis.

There was this one sentence from Mayong, one of the public lawyers at LBH Jakarta, that struck me:
"A minority in one place will become the oppressor in another place when they are the majority. Suppressions should not be a reason to oppress others, but to be better."