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Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Sinetrons?

“Ma’am, why does my Mom like watching sinetrons on television?”
An ex student of mine asked me this question several weeks ago via chatbox on FB. Instead of giving him direct answer, I asked him to think first,
“Why do you think?”
He was somewhat annoyed perhaps coz I even returned the question to him.
“I need your answer, based on your perspective. I don’t know the answer, that’s why I asked you about that.” he said. LOL.
Well, he was in my SPEAKING 5 class many years ago. As far as I remember, in such classes, I could give any topic to be discussed in the classroom. You can guess of course I exposed my feminist perspective when discussing things in the class.
“I want to hear your idea first, then, I will tell you what I am thinking.” I said.
But he was adamant. LOL. He wanted to hear my opinion.
And I insisted to know his opinion first.
Like teacher like student? LOL.
Unfortunately, some minutes later, he disappeared.

The following day he popped up in the chatbox again, and said, “Ma’am, I have found the answer.”
“Ok. Shoot!” I responded.
“It is because the stories are very interesting and make the viewers curious what will be going on in the continuation. That is what my Mom said when I asked her about it.”
I laughed to hear that. I didn’t laugh at him nor his Mom. Not at all.
Well, if the answer is like that, well, everybody knows, I guess.
“Anything behind that?” I inquired.
He didn’t give me a satisfying answer, but just, “Well, if my Mom thinks as complicatedly as you do, she will not just be a housewife. She will be a lecturer, like you.” he whined. LOL.
However, before I told him my opinion, he disappeared. Until now we haven’t had time to continue this discussion. Therefore, I am writing this. :-)
I remember my time when I was only a housewife. Long long time ago!!! I spent many hours a day to watch TV too. I watched telenovela, such as Maria Mercedez, Marimar, etc. So I think the first reason why many housewives watch sinetrons is because they have plenty of spare time. The second – perhaps this is even the main reason – many mere housewives don’t have lots of things to think, to contemplate, to maximize the use of their brain. They need to find something to think, to contemplate, and even then to discuss together with their neighbors.
People who often use their brain while working will not have much spare space in their brain to think of any other things, such as those themes or stories of sinetrons.
The third reason is perhaps people need to see something to be pitied, so that they will not feel so miserable in their life.
The fourth, people need to escape from their real life.
Anybody else wanna add? You are certainly welcome.

N.B.: Perhaps he is right, I think too complicatedly. LOL.
PT56 21.59 151109

Nosy Workmates

How do you behave towards your workmates?

Well, I believe some (or maybe many) people have workmates as their good (or even best) friends. The easily seen reason is because we meet them everyday (or five till six days a week) so that they easily find ‘click’ among them.

Recently I rarely have such an experience. (If you refer to my post entitled ‘happiness’ where I wrote some special people who have colored my life, I mentioned some good friends, such as Ekani, Juli, Merry and Detta. I used to work with the first three girls in the same place, in one uni. Detta used to work in the English course where I have been working since 1996.) However, recently I don’t have workmates who are my best friends. Those from the English course are friendly, nice, and sweet although I choose to behave ‘my business is mine, yours is yours.” However, I will lend my ears if anyone of them wants to confide in me.

But when talking about workmates I have in my other workplace, I have different stories. I am new in this office. (I started working there last academic year.) My ‘multiple personalities disorder’ made my aloof character exposed since the very beginning I worked there. The mere reason was just I was new, and I had to find out first what kinds of characteristics my workmates had. Absolutely it was okay for me since this was also me, the aloof Nana. (FYI, my other personality is the happy-go-lucky cyclist.)

A year has passed. I am still the same aloof Nana. You can guess why. I mind my own business; I NEVER mind anybody else’s business. I do my best for my job (so I thought), transferring knowledge I store in my brain with students, build a conducive atmosphere in the classrooms so that students easily get the lesson I give.

So what do you think I should do when out of the blue two workmates shockingly comments on the red lipstick I put on my lips everyday? What’s wrong with that? (I easily guess some nosy and fussy workmates speak behind me.)

What do you think I should do when out of the blue a workmate thinks I am too isolated from the others because I am busy doing bla bla bla => a very heartless and nosy accusation. (I even don’t have a heart to write it here. Just relate it with my being single-parent.)
I do wish I could punch her nose and kick her ass!!!

PT56 19.58 151109

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Pursuit of Happyness

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, …”
(The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson)

Obviously Chris Gardner, the main character in the movie entitled “The Pursuit of Happyness”, a film by Gabriele Muccino was really obsessed by what Jefferson wrote—that all men are endowed the right to pursue happiness. The movie inspired by a true story has Will Smith as Chris Gardner, Thandie Newton as Linda, and Jaden Christopher Syre Smith as Christopher, their son.

When watching the movie, I was touched by the big belief of Gardner that he was really endowed that right. Everybody deserves to be happy and everybody has their own way to pursue their happiness, no matter their color, the gender, the ethnic group, the religion, etc. Therefore, everybody must strive to reach it.

Linda also believes in it. When she thinks that her husband cannot make her happy in their marriage, she has her own way to pursue her own happiness—by leaving her husband whom she thinks impotent to look for money. She is tired of being poor, having to work hard—double shift—to pay the bills while in the beginning of their marriage, she is promised happiness by her husband; happiness that she thinks without financial constraint, without her having to work double shift.

When leaving her husband, she takes Christopher with her. In America, children under 18 years old are to follow the mother when the parents are separated or divorced. However, when the following morning Chris takes Christopher from the day care, Linda doesn’t complain a lot. She does understand that Chris is a good father, only he is not really good in looking for money. That’s why when she leaves for New York to start a new life—her sister’s boyfriend opens a restaurant, Linda expects a better future there—she doesn’t mind leaving Christopher with his dad although she feels very unhappy.

Big determination of Chris to pursue his happiness—always remember what Jefferson writes in the Declaration of Independence—makes Chris do his best to reach his dream, not only for himself of course, but the more important thing is his only son. This is somewhat the reflection of his own life where he met his father for the first time when he was 28 years old. He feels very unhappy for that, and this makes him determined that if he has children, his children would know who their father is.

The story happened during the last two decades of the twentieth century. I am wondering whether Chris would get that position in the brokerage firm of Dean Witter—that miraculously changed his life—if the story had happened when Jim Crow Law still haunted America?

PT56 21.28 220807

From being a student to being a teacher

What is school? Well, when the first time I hear the word ‘school’, I illustrate a building where children as well as teenagers wear uniform when going there, to study about something with older people they call ‘teacher’. It is a place that perhaps can inspire younger people to have good future with the knowledge they gather. It is also a place where younger people learn to socialize with one another. Some people called teachers maybe succeed in enchanting their students in their way of teaching so that they inspire those younger people to be in the same shoes.
Perhaps many people become teachers because they are inspired by their previous teachers. However, I am not in that path: I became a teacher accidentally. Luckily I did not graduate from a Teachers College either. When the first time I worked as a teacher in 1994, I did not try remembering how my previous teachers did when teaching; I just did trial and error. LOL. Therefore when someone asked me which experience as a student of mine that contributed to my teaching, I could not give a satisfying answer, I believe.
In 1996 I got a training to be a teacher in one English course where I have been working since then. I learned five important stages teachers needed to do in their classroom:
1. Motivating Strategies  before teaching the material in that session, Teacher (T) needs to motivate Students (Ss) to be ready with the topic to be discussed. In this first stage, both Teacher and Students participate actively.
2. Presentation  this is the most important part for Teacher because he or she presents the material. T is active while Students listen passively. However, of course Ss can ask when they think they need more explanation.
3. Skills Practice  Students must be very active in this third stage while T watches Ss to perform their understanding from T during Presentation stage. T gives help whenever necessary.
4. Review  this stage is not always important to be included in every session; only when T thinks that Ss need to understand more before they do the last activity.
5. Assessment  in this stage, T lets Ss do the assignment by themselves. This stage can be called as the climax since Ss have to perform their best to show that they really grasp the main idea of the lesson.
When attending this course, I got an idea that T has a very important role to make the class enjoyable or boring (especially in language class) with some requirements: first, it is not really a big class, only consists of not more than fifteen students, second, it is not a children class (under twelve years old); their level is either Basic or Intermediate, not Advanced.
In Indonesia, most people study English because they want to be able to speak English fluently. Therefore it is very understandable if ‘speaking’ class is always more enjoyable than ‘writing’ class. In ‘writing’ the class can be boringly quiet. LOL.
Since I did not graduate from Teachers College, this training helped me a lot. I paid attention to any single thing the trainers did. However, again, I don’t think that what they did contribute to my way of teaching, except the material I got and one thing: the mood of T in front of the class influences the class atmosphere a lot. In other words I can say that to be a teacher, someone must be a good actor too. LOL.
Talking about a favorite teacher, mm … well, I am not sure if I have one. However, I can mention some teachers that perhaps will always be on my mind:
1. An English teacher I had when I was in senior high school. I majored in ‘language’ back then. I liked her perhaps because she was teaching English, my favorite subject at school. One important trait to be possessed by a teacher that I learned from her is to be patient. It does not necessarily mean that my other teachers were not patient. Again, it is because ‘luckily’ she was teaching English, my favorite subject. LOL. She also encouraged the female students she had to be economically independent; not to be (financially) dependent on the husband all the time. FYI, at that time her husband was one rector in one university in my hometown.
2. Two guest lecturers I got when I pursued my study at American Studies Graduate Program at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia. They performed vast and deep knowledge about the materials they conveyed. Reading a lot to enrich their knowledge about any materials they teach is very important.
From the two aforementioned paragraphs, it can be concluded that for me, three most important features from a teacher are: first, to be patient; second, to be able to encourage Ss to do something positive; third, to be an avid reader.
Nevertheless, I believe that successful learning needs the strongest will from the learner himself/herself. Many people go to school with various reasons. In my own opinion, I have done my best to teach, but still I find some unwilling students in my class. They are all teenagers, mostly boys, around fourteen to seventeen years old. I observe the main reason for them to go to school is because they just do what their parents ask them to do, perhaps to get pocket money and to spend time in one ‘best place out of undesired other places’.
One greatest thing of mine to be a teacher, of course, is when I succeed in making my students understand how important knowledge is for their future. Therefore, I am always happy when knowing my ex students become teachers, like me.
PT56 19.00 011109

P.S. : I wrote this article to answer a best friend's 'homework' :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Romance Stories

Starting last week in grade 8 my students and I have been talking about “romance”. To start the unit, some questions to be answered are:

  1. Have you ever fallen in love?
  2. Do you consider yourself as a romantic person?
  3. What romantic thing have you ever done so far?

The background: there are five students in grade 8, two boys—around thirteen years old; three girls—around twelve till thirteen years old. Except one girl who has got her period, apparently the others are really too young kids to talk about romance. It is understandable then if they could not give satisfactory answers for those abovementioned questions. Even, they have not undergone to have a crush on any girl/boy yet.

The following reading passage to discuss was an excerpt of a romance story. Romance stories have some ‘guidelines’ that must be followed by writers; these guidelines are exactly like stories depicted by melodramas: the men are very good-looking, macho, masculine, rugged, protective, strong; the girls are beautiful, delicate, vulnerable, feminine, dependent. The reading ends up with the guy proposing the girl who shyly accepted the proposal happily.

One female critical student of mine criticized it, “How could the girl accept the proposal? In the beginning of the story it was illustrated that these two people didn’t know each other. How could she accept a stranger to be her husband?”

(Read it => this girl hasn’t been introduced into patriarchal culture that adores marriage—the so-called imprisonment for articulate women according to radical feminists :-P)

Therefore then I explained the fact that we live in a marriage-oriented society. Women who have reached a certain age bracket will feel uncomfortable if they are still single. It is because society will cruelly besiege her with question, “When will you get married?” Society will speak behind her, or even in front of her as someone unwanted. This is really hurtful to some people so that to stop this, they then grab anybody to marry.

Then the critical student said, “I remember what happened to my housemaid. At that time she was 31 years old, still single. One time she was invited to be back to the village by her uncle. In fact then her uncle asked her to marry a guy, a total stranger. And to my surprise, she just accepted it. I didn’t get it at that time. How could she marry a stranger? Wasn’t she happy to be single? Was it because her uncle forced her to get married?”

Perhaps …

Perhaps also in fact she didn’t feel comfortable due to social pressure to single women.

“Why is society so mean, Miss?” she asked me.

I could not give my students a satisfactory answer for this question.

One question written under the reading passage is “Why do romance stories stop at the proposal or wedding parties?”

Surprisingly, my students answered, “Because they do not want to tell stories about sad things. You know there are many problems happen in a marriage: a husband beats his wife, a husband marries another woman, blah blah blah …” This is supposed to be uttered by feminists, not by a thirteen year old girl, who doesn’t know marriage-oriented patriarchy yet.

“This story is so yucky, Miss. Can we just skip this unit talking about romance? We don’t like it.” a student said.
Oh well, of course I cannot. :)
PT56 12.25 111009

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Room of One's Own

In her book entitled A Room of One’s Own (1929), Virginia Woolf wrote to protest why there was no women playwright or women poet as monumental as William Shakespeare. This rhetorical question led her to read History of England by Professor Trevelyan where she found very bitter facts about women.

“Wife beating was a recognized right of man, and was practiced without shame by high as well as low . ... Similarly, the daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents’ choice was liable to be locked up, beaten, and flung about the room, without any shock being inflicted on public opinion. Marriage was not an affair of personal affection, but of family avarice, particularly in the ‘chivalrous’ upper classes. ... Betrothal often took place while one or both of the parties was in the cradle, and marriage when they were scarely out of the nurses’ charge.”

Similar to Woolf, her contemporary woman intellectual, Anna Wickham, wrote a poem entitled “Dedication of the Cook”

If any ask why there’s no great She-Poet,
Let him come live with me, and he will know it:
If I’d indite an ode or mend a sonnet,
I must go choose a dish or tie a bonnet;
For she who serves in forced virginity
Since I am wedded will not have me free;
And those new flowers my garden is so rich in
Must die for clammy odors of my kitchen.

The two works portray the condition of women very clearly in that era. Women are burdened by family matters and they don’t have any rights to choose what they want to do. Before they get married, they are the properties of their fathers or brothers. After they get married, they are the properties of their husbands (who oftentimes are not their own choice). In “Dedication of the Cook”, Wickham illustrate how women are busy doing household chores so that they do not have time to produce great literary works.


Now, almost a century has passed. The so-called woman movement for equality has come to its third phase. Have all women got what their predecessor struggled?

Sadly I must say not yet. Three years ago I posted a writing I entitled “Mental Depression” (click this site

Just a week ago I met this old friend of mine again. Apparently her life is like in a prison, created by her husband, a husband of her own choice.

I visited her house to tell her about a reunion invitation of our high school. When knowing that the reunion would be held at 7pm, she directly gave me excuses for not being able to come. Moreover when I said, “The invitation is only for one person; we are not allowed to bring along our spouse or kids.” She openly said, “Ah … absolutely I cannot attend it. I cannot go out of the house without my husband or kids. A married woman is not supposed to do that.”

I remember our time in high school. She belonged to the independent type. She enjoyed doing any activities without her parents’ strict control because they believed she could take care of herself. On the contrary, I could not do that.

“Nothing stays the same,” wise people say. “Changes are natural law that will always exist,” I say.

I found the answer why my old high school friend said so when her husband came to join us in the living room.

“What kind of reunion is that? Why are we not allowed to bring along our spouse or kids? When meeting old friends, we are supposed to tell them our status now, right? That we are married? That we have got kids? What is this reunion supposed to mean? What if we meet our past crush? What if that long-lost feeling comes back? This is crazy era where many people have secret affairs. Bla bla bla …”

I got stunned. I had better not respond but laugh exaggeratingly. LOL. but unhappily. :(

I remember one short discussion with a friend about ‘jealousy’.

F: Do you agree with me that jealousy has nothing to do with love?
N: I am of opinion that jealousy shows someone’s inferiority. He or she is not confident that his or her spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend loves him/her.
F: I could not agree more. Jealousy deals with someone’s own feeling, he or she is worried if the one he or she loves will leave him or her. Jealousy is insecure feeling.

A bit similar to what Woolf and Wickham illustrate in their works, I interpret ‘a room of one’s own’ as time for anyone—especially women—to be on their own, to be themselves. It is not necessarily related to be able to produce a great piece of work, but to do what they need to do. Women need their own private time for a change from their routine. To a certain extent, it even can lead them to healthier mental condition.
PT56 07.37 270909

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My teaching experience

There are three elements strongly interrelated to one another to achieve successful teaching learning process. These three elements are teacher, students, and the material used.
In my teaching experience so far, I have three kinds of students, depending on their needs. The first kind are those who want to focus on studying mostly English grammar (somewhat similar to TOEFL material) to help them prepare to be accepted at state universities. The second kind are those who want to study English to help them able to speak English fluently as well as write in English. The third kind are those who study in formal school so that they do not have any special purpose except to follow the curricula they get from school.
Different kinds of students with different purposes make different material. The sense of having successful teaching learning process of course will be different too.
I will elaborate the three kinds of students in this writing.
The first kind of students are all twelfth grade students. The students are divided into two types: the first half is those whose knowledge of English is good enough so that what they need is just to enrich their practice to be fluent in doing the entrance test. Unfortunately the other half is those who really need to learn from scratch. As the teacher, honestly I prefer the first type, I do not need to work hard to explain any piece of grammar (such as ‘causative verbs’, ‘subjunctive’ etc). However, I cannot avoid the second type. Since mostly the students do the preparation in a short time, (approximately four months before the test, with only one hour a week for the session), I have to find the most effective way to explain. Using Bahasa Indonesia is okay in this occasion.
I will have sense of successful in such classes when I can see from the students’ facial expression that they understand the material I explain. It is proven by making very few mistakes when doing the exercise and they can explain why the answer is a, b, c, or d.
The second kind of students come from various background; primary and high school as well as college students. Similar to the first kind of students with the two types of learners, this second kind of students can be divided into two types too. The first is those who go to the institution because their parents force them to do that so that they themselves do not have self awareness that they need to study English. The second is of course the contradictory. They realize the importance of learning English for their life so that it will not be difficult to encourage them. The more mature a student is, usually the easier for him/herself to motivate him/herself. The most difficult is high school students—teenagers—who are in their rebellious period.
Nevertheless, the sense of successful in such classes with two contradictory types of students is the same. After I succeed motivating the first type of students to learn the material on one day, they will show eagerness to listen to my explanation—let’s say expressions to ask for and give direction. They will look excited to practice the new expressions they learn on one occasion. By the end of the session, I can see the satisfied expression on their faces that they learn something new.
In my experience so far, the number of students in class also influences their attention as well as eagerness to follow the class. For elementary and intermediate levels, the ideal number is around ten until fifteen. If less than ten, the students sometimes feel unexcited because seem uncomfortable that they will easily be noticed by the teacher. If more than fifteen, sometimes some students are busy with themselves, thinking that the teacher is busy with the other students. However, for advanced level, with assumption that the students’ capabilities are bigger than those who are still in elementary and intermediate levels, the ideal number in one class is around eight until twelve. They need more time to practice—speaking, listening, as well as writing.
The last kind of students are those who study in formal junior high school. My experience so far is teaching grade seven, eight, and nine. Since I have small classes (three students in grade seven, five students in grade eight, and thirteen in grade nine), it is not difficult at all to get their attention. Besides, they always show eagerness and excitement when learning the material. The daily language used at school is English (since it is an international school), so that the students have high self awareness to study English.
Different from the first and second kind of students where their capability in speaking English is not really good, the third kind of students have good speaking English capability. The challenge is to teach them grammar points. Therefore, I will get sense of successful when I can make them write sentences or paragraphs with only a few grammatical mistakes, or no mistake at all.
Talking about the material used in classes, the first and second kinds of students, books written by a group of Indonesian English teachers are used. It is understandable if the ‘culture’ of the books is Indonesian. While for the third kind of students, imported books (from Australia and America) are used. Western cultures decorating the material are sometimes obstacles to understand (for example when the topic is about ‘humor’), as the teacher I really feel challenged to explain to the students why a piece of writing is considered humorous.
In conclusion, in Indonesia, the role of a teacher in making perfect classes is very important; either to be role models (for example in pronunciation, chunking when reading, acting in role-playing) or to explain the materials thoroughly.
PT56 10.21 240909

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anne Frank

I just finished watching ANNE FRANK the movie. (Better late than never, do you agree?)
Some sentences and scenes of the movie were adapted from Anne Frank’s Diary. Some others, I think, were based on what happened in the reality of the second world war as well as the crazy troops of Nazi’s way to treat the Jewish. Some others, perhaps, were based on the imagination of the scriptwriter. You know, even though there is writing ‘based on the true story’ at the beginning of a movie, it cannot be avoided to include some imaginary parts.
People all know that Anne Frank died in one concentration camp due to typhus. This diseases attacked many ‘prisoners’ in the camp due to very limited food and drink as well as unhygienic condition and clothing.
Still my heart was broken when watching the parts when Margot, Anne’s sister, looked so terribly ill; when Anne’s food was stolen by another prisoner; when Anne was unhappy thinking that she would live all alone if Margot died. Before that, she heard that her dad died in the ‘gas room’, and her mom died too because of something else.
I even still expected that in the movie, Anne would survive.
Or at least, the movie would not have scenes where Anne died. I did not want to come to that part.
And the movie really did not show the part when Anne died. I felt a bit relieved. I did not need to be mourning uselessly.

However, I still felt blue after that. When reading Anne Frank’s diary I knew that her dad survived. He himself had his daughter’s diary published, to tell the world the cruelty as well as the inhumanity of Nazi. When I watched the scene of Otto Frank collapsed due to very deep sadness knowing his daughters died in the camp, I almost could feel the similar sadness.
If only Anne had known that her beloved Pim still survived, perhaps she would have tried hard to struggle to survive too.

PT56 22.52 290809

In one class

Last Thursday, my Intermediate 1 class discussed “Reaching for the Stars”. To lead the students to the main topic, the book provided a picture: a quite fat female teenager who has short straight hair is imagining to have a tall slim body and long wavy hair (typical ‘beautiful girl’ according to many advertisements on printed as well as electronic media.)

Here is the way I lead the discussion:
Teacher (T): “What do you see in this picture?”
Students (Ss): “A girl…”
T: “Can you describe what this girl looks like?”
Ss: “She is fat, plain, and she has short straight hair.”
T: “What is she doing in this picture?”
Ss: “She is dreaming of having a perfect body, just like the girl in the bubble…”
T: “Describe the girl in the bubble, please…”
Ss: “She is tall, slim, pretty, and she has long wavy hair.”
T: “Why is she dreaming like that?”
Ss: “Because she thinks that she is ugly.”
T: “Why do you think that way?”
Ss: “Because she doesn’t have a boyfriend, perhaps?”
T: “Why do you think perhaps she doesn’t have a boyfriend?”
Ss: “Because no boy is attracted to her.”
T: ”So, what kind of girl is attractive?”
Ss: “Just like the girl in the bubble…”
T: “Why do you think this girl is pretty?”
Ss: “Because she is pretty…”
T: “You don’t answer my question well. What made you think she is pretty?”
Ss: “?!@#$%^&*???~!@#$%^??…….”

And this made me ‘preach’ about the ugly impacts of watching television.
 Advertisements on television with their so-called beautiful women (‘beautiful’ according to the producers) have magically shaped people—mostly teenagers about what ‘beautiful’ is.
 Advertisements have created mass culture about many aspects in our life (including to be “true women” so that they will be wanted and needed by men or parents-in-laws to be)

Due to this, many people—mostly women and teenagers lose their being critical.
My suggestion to my students, “Don’t watch television!”
PT56 23.33 290809

Monday, July 20, 2009

Change Your Perspective: Join Student Exchange (2)

Yesterday I attended a farewell as well as welcoming party of AFS Semarang Chapter. As last year, my ‘duty’ was to give comments to students’ presentations. However, in this short article, I will not write about the students’ performance, but I will write a little about one returnee’s experience when he was in America.
This particular student—a male—is from one Islamic boarding school which is quite well-known from Central Java. The interesting thing was during one year in Uncle Sam’s country, he was sent to a Christian (or Catholic, I am not really sure about it). Before he left, people around him were a bit doubtful to let him go; with a similar reason of Eric’s parents (whose experience I wrote in this blog of mine too a year ago): they were worried if the so-called ungodly country would change the poor boy’s faith and he would be a devil’s followers. (Eric was sent to Norway which is said to have the highest percentage of non-believer citizens in the whole world.)
As Eric, this new returnee narrated his amazing experience how people in the whole Christian school did not marginalize him only because he was the only Muslim. Even they showed big interest on what Islam is, its teachings, bla bla bla, and especially it’s ‘jihad’. Why this experience is amazing for him, I believe, is caused by how Indonesian people (in religion’s area) show ‘the majority rules’ and ‘the minority follows’. (One very clear example in this case is during Ramadhan month how selfishly the majority asks the whole country to respect this month without reserve. All restaurants must be close in the morning without respecting other people who are not fasting, who perhaps need to go to a restaurant.)
Going back from America, this returnee is of course expected to tell his folks that the so-called ungodly country has taught him a very valuable lesson: the majority must respect the minority.
This story reminded me of one workmate who told me about one niece of hers. This niece was selected to go abroad after winning the selection of students exchange. At first, her family was not sure that she would get the chance since she was wearing ‘jilbab’. Therefore, then I explained that—in my opinion—the committee of this students exchange intentionally seemed to choose students whose religious familial background was strong: such as those who study in Islamic boarding school. They are expected to open their eyes that the teaching of their teachers as well as parents that religion is the only principle to make life better is not always right; that people whose religious ‘knowledge’ is strong will make good people (‘good’ here means will not do any harm to other people) can be biased.
What do the committee expect from this? The returnees will be moderate and will not be easily brainwashed by those fundamental Islamic teachings, let’s say to kill other people in the name of God. The returnees will respect people who do not always turn to religions when facing their lives because there are always other ways out.
Ever seen this T-shirt?

PT56 14.14 200709
P.S.: my post about Eric is here

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Gender Bias in Statutory Rape

I just read a very intriguing article on this link:

When it is a very (annoying and accepted) 'accident' to read an (adult) male raped a (child or teenage) female, I must say that it is very relieving for me (LOL) to know that in fact there is on the way around case, although of course it would be (perhaps) only one case among a thousand (or million) cases?

It does not mean that it is okay for me to rape (male) children or teenagers. A rape is a rape, a crime. However, to tell the whole world that women can also do what men do, in this case, is what I meant to say.

Anyway, I am wondering if the male children raped will undergo similar trauma just like many female children have undergone?

SPB 14.51 170709

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nana Podungge on the Jakarta Globe

by Michelle Udem

Blogging In English
Michael Jubel Hutagalung, a Web designer based in Bandung, West Java, started Jubel and the Unessential, an English-language blog, primarily to improve his written English. The blog offers Hutagalung’s random musings on Indonesia’s politics and culture.

Within a year of Hutagalung starting the blog in October 2007, the traffic to the site was so high that it was exceeding the bandwidth limit on the platform he was using, and he had to move his blog to another host. The traffic explosion, mostly from Indonesians living abroad, gave him an incentive to do more than just improve his English skills.

“I want to tell the world what Indonesia’s really like — how the people really live,” Hutagalung said. But readers may not always get much on how Indonesians are living on an up-to-the-minute basis, or even about the day-to-day concerns of his countrymen.

Hutagalung last posted on Monday, after a two-month hiatus, filling readers in on his university plans and his personal debate in choosing between studying in London or the Netherlands.

The total number of Indonesian bloggers is difficult to quantify due to the constant deletion and activation of blog accounts. A top Indonesian-language blogger and internet publisher, Enda Nasution, says that Indonesia has about one million bloggers, based on information, Wordpress information and blogs hosted personally — there are about 20 blogging communities in Indonesia, one in ever major city.

For Indonesians blogging in English, many are simply interested in trying to reach an audience beyond their own country and to give a perspective not available in the foreign media. Out of the 10 bloggers listed here, seven do not have a degree in English, nor have they studied abroad.

Budi Putra, a freelance writer and full-time, self-employed blogger living in Bintaro, South Jakarta, writes in English about new gadgets from an Indonesian perspective. Though many of his topics involve global technology news, he feels he provides a unique perspective as an Indonesian.

“My main demographic is both Indonesians and foreigners, especially those who love technology and digital life issues … Blogging is about conversation, so I want to talk to them through my blog. That’s why my blog’s tagline is ‘Talk With Me.’ ”

Hutagalung and Putra’s blogs focus on specific topics, but the majority of the Indonesians bloggers writing in English are diarists, who post as the mood strikes.

Devi Girsang, a 22-year-old medical student born, raised and living in Jakarta, operates the site “It’s My Life,” last updated May 5. With a tagline, “Love & Tears. Laugh & Cry. Achievements & Regrets. Welcome To My Life!” Girsang’s blog ranges from discussions on everyday topics such as poor customer service to inquiries on why people do bad things.

Such topics written from an Indonesian perspective and in English help readers realize that people worldwide run into the same problems and share the same emotional inquiries.

In another blog, “Republikbabi,” 23-year-old Calvin Sidjaja from Bandung posts updates about growing up with a mixed heritage in Indonesia. On his blog, Sidjaja discusses the role of mixed heritage Indonesians, such as Dutch-Indonesians and Chinese-Indonesians. He delves into the history of mixed heritages in Indonesia and how society views these people today.

“Many international students were helped because of the personal essays [on my blog],” he said.

But the Internet is not always the safest place to express personal and sometimes controversial opinions.

Girsang has “been accused of being an ‘American-wannabe’ from an anonymous commenter,” and Sidjaja notices how any type of neutral post he writes on religion always causes controversy.

Regardless of the hate mail and negative feedback, the bloggers find that voicing their thoughts and opinions in English is beneficial. “Though difficult to write in English, I like challenges. I love the rhythm of English words. It’s more personal and subjective,” Budi Putra explains.

To these bloggers, writing in English is their key to communicating to the outside world as they find freedom in abandoning their own tongue for just a few moments a week or month.

“Bahasa can be so difficult because of the formality of the language. I can express myself more casually in English” Girsang said.
These ten English-language blogs appear in the top 50 Indonesian blogs tracked by Web site

Three Popular Blogs Written by Expats Living in Indonesia:

These three blogs written by expatriates living in Indonesia are ranked in the top six on

1. Brandon Hoover
Consisting of high-resolution photographs, Brandon Hoover’s blog takes a look at Indonesia’s natural beauty and his life here as an American. Aesthetically pleasing, Hoover’s blog illustrates how Indonesia has influenced his thoughts and photography. A fan of Indonesia, Hoover’s blog provides an American’s perspective on the joys of living in the country.

2. Jakartass
Jakartass, written by a Westerner living in Jakarta, consists of witty posts chronicling the life of an expatriate in Jakarta. Posts on the blog discuss local news as well as personal experiences illustrating quirks in Indonesian culture. Most recent posts discuss power cuts in Jakarta and a list of books by bloggers. Information on Indonesian acronyms and slang words are found on the sidebar of the blog.

3. Treespotter
Treespotter is a personal blog containing posts mostly on daily life in Indonesia and current, local events. Posts include idiosyncrasies in Jakarta culture, such as how there is always a place to smoke. The personal posts are both entertaining and in depth, while the posts pertaining to politics are written from an outsider’s point of view.

Ten Blogs by Indonesians Who Are Writing in English:

These ten English-language blogs appear in the top 50 Indonesian blogs tracked by Web site

1. Michael Hutagalung
Web designer Michael Hutagalung maintains a blog that consists of his personal perspectives, his design portfolio and discussions on Wordpress themes and Indonesian social issues. His blog offers readers the opportunity to learn about the Wordpress program as well as read an Indonesian perspective on the upcoming election.

2. Budi Putra
Blogger Budi Putra of this self-titled blog provides commentary on local news and technology gadgets. Mixing local technological news, such as Indonesia’s launch of digital TV, Putra also updates readers on more esoteric news such as the discovery of Indonesian sea horses. Technologically-savvy Putra comments on how information from the upcoming election will be broadcast via SMS.

3. Devi Girsang
Attracting both Jakartans and foreigners, Devi Girsang’s personal blog gives insight into the life of a young, Indonesian medical student. Girsang blogs on topics ranging from laptop malfunctions to bus-riding etiquette. Girsang’s blog gives expatriates the opportunity to observe a young Indonesian’s experiences, while peers can relate or rebut Girsang’s critiques of Jakarta culture and society.

4. Merlyna Lim
Blogging from her home in Arizona, Merlyna Lim’s blog focuses on her craft as an artist and her thoughts on both Indonesian and American issues. In between posts of her personal drawings and collages, Lim touches on local topics such as the construction of urban space in Bandung and internationally relatable topics such as inequalities within society.

5. Martin Manurung
Martin Manurung’s self-titled blog covers topical news issues in Jakarta. Providing his own commentary and critique of social, economic and political topics, Manurung tries to counterbalance foreign media reports that he feels are often “misleading.” Straying away from gossip, Manurung’s blog gives foreigners an inside look from a local’s perspective.

6. Calvin Michel Sidjaja
Touching on sensitive topics such as his search for his family tree and being of mixed heritage, Calvin Sidjaja’s blog consists of posts on his personal life and experiences. Sidjaja’s Indonesian heritage is a main theme of his blog, a topic that many young adults can relate to.

7. Ecky
Known on her blog as Ecky, the blogger writes from Australia. Though she mostly posts on personal subjects such as shower rituals and the perks of being a woman, Ecky also writes about the difficulties that come with change and leaving the comfort of her home country, Indonesia. Ecky also posts topical news from Jakarta, such as the upcoming election and President Obama’s effect on Indonesians.

8. Carla Ardrian
Blogging on various topics from gardening to photography, Carla Ardrian provides an Indonesian perspective on everyday things. Accommodating her Indonesian readers, Carla posts innovative recipes and political commentary, while foreigners may be more attracted to her travel and cultural tips. One of Carla’s posts comments on her experience of receiving incorrect directions as a tourist in Bali.

9. Nana Podungge
Nana Podungge’s most recent post on her blog, “A Feminist Blog,” discusses the topic of religion. Podungge considers herself a secular Muslim. Her religious views are mixed with the other main focus of her blog, a woman’s role in society. A unique combination, Podungge’s blog provides insight into controversial topics.

10. Martha
“Frank and Martha’s Blog,” written by Martha, captures the life of a young family in Jakarta. Martha’s updates illustrate the charms shared by all families worldwide, such as receiving her first written letter from her elementary school-aged son. Chronicling the life of a mother, Martha shares her thoughts on baking experiences, the workplace and raising a young child.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


In one encounter with a cousin of mine

A: Why did you get divorced?
N: We were no longer suitable to each other.
A: Tidak ada dua orang hidup bersama, kemudian langsung cocok begitu saja. Keduanya harus saling mencocokkan diri satu sama lain. (There is no case of a couple living together where the two of them directly suit each other. Both of them have to struggle to do that.)
N: Aku tidak mau mencocokkan diri dengannya lagi. (In that case, I no longer was willing to do that.)

This part of the conversation reminded me of one cynical or rhetorical question of one post in a friend’s blog, some years ago: “Enak saja bilang ‘kita berdua ga cocok lagi.’ (How could people easily say, ‘we were no longer suitable to each other?’ What did you consider before getting married in the past?”
The answer is simple actually: “People change.” When only one of the couple changes, the other doesn’t change, the two of them will not be compatible anymore.
In one scene of “Definitely Maybe” movie, Sarah was worried to let Will go to New York. “You will change …” Sarah pleaded. “Let us change together,” Will responded.
When the love disappears between the couple, or perhaps only in one of them, living together will be like in hell for both of them, or especially for the one whose love has disappeared.

A: Kalau kasusnya begitu, ya repot. Aku ga bisa berkomentar apa-apa lagi. (So, if that is the case, I cannot comment anything else.)
N: You had better not.


A: You have a boyfriend?
N: No. Not yet.
A: Is he already married again?
N: Not yet.
A: Ah … why don’t you two get back to each other?
N: Naaaay … No way.

(What a stubborn cousin. LOL. Haven't I told him before that my ex and I are no longer compatible? Just blame me, if you want, because I have changed alone, I have left my ex far behind me so that he could not catch up. Just blame me, if you want, because my love for him has disappeared with the wind. But, blame him for making this happen. A long long time ago.)

A: Have you ever heard a hadith saying that blessing of a woman is on the husband's hands (or feet? I forgot what he said. LOL.)?
N: Bless me because I am not married! My blessing is directly on God's then.

This cousin of mine must be dreaming thinking that I would be easily cheated by such a misogynist hadith. Wake up, cousin! My role models are Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud for Muslim feminists. Another role model of mine is Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a Deist. My favorite reading is JURNAL PEREMPUAN.
Anyway, that conversation happened on our first encounter. He obviously doesn't read my blog thoroughly, though he found my blog first, then me.
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sure you can ask me personal questions (2)

I am a Muslim, if you think religion for you to know. But I am a secular Muslim. Sometimes I even label myself as an agnostic, especially during my journey to be an acclaimed feminist and a secular.
Don’t get me wrong. I shaped myself as a secular from books I have read. My background was strict, religious family and somewhat conventional Islamic elementary school.
The turning point in my religious or spiritual life was when I was pursuing my study at American Studies, Gadjah Mada University; the reading materials from some classes, plus books I bought using the allowance I got from BPPS, mixed with my rebellious nature and ‘wild’ interpretation changed me to be the present Nana.
Surely, I felt very alone and weird afterwards, thinking that no one could understand my way of thinking. Blogging has helped me a lot to overcome this problem. Joining some mailing lists—whose members are broad-minded—obviously made me feel “I am not the only one to be a secular (and sometimes agnostic) and a feminist. Nevertheless, when facing ‘real’ people’ in my ‘real’ world, I still feel weird. Anyway, I have to move on with my life, right?
Recently I have been busy working especially since August 2008 so I don’t have much time left for blogging. That’s why I seldom post in my blogs, only some trivial poems (sometimes )
My daily schedule is
• Monday till Friday 07.00-15.00 in an international school. My teaching schedule is around 26 slots per week. During 2008/2009 academic year, I taught Senior English level 1, Bahasa Indonesia for grades 7, 8, 9, and supervised library sessions for the same grades.
For 2009/2010 academic year perhaps I will handle Senior English level 1 and 2, English literature for grades 7, 8, 9, and IGCSE Sastra Indonesia for grade 10.
• Monday till Thursday 17.00-19.00, Friday 16.00-18.00 and Saturday 08.00-12.00 and 16.00-18.00 I teach English as a foreign language in one English course.
• Monday AND Thursday 19.00-21.00 I teach Poetry and Drama Analysis classes in one private college in my hometown.
Very hectic, isn’t it? :)
Practically I don’t have much time left to do exercise. Therefore I usually bike around the town around 30-60 minutes after teaching. I bike to work from Monday until Thursday.
Well, b2w has become my lifestyle since July 2008, after I joined b2w Semarang community. At first, someone named ‘Aluizeus’ read my post at ‘multiply’ blog complaining about the soaring price of gasoline. He suggested that I b2w to overcome the problem. :) To read more complete writings of mine about b2w, you can visit my blog at under tag ‘b2w’.
Being born in a Muslim family that belongs to the so-called ‘indigenous’ ethnic in Indonesia absolutely made my life easier, not much discriminative treatment I have ever got. Though I don’t have Javanese blood, living in Java island is very ok for me since I look like the majority of Javanese people, brown complexion, dark hair, and dark almond-shaped eyes. If bloody events happen (such as a tragedy in May 1998), I will certainly NOT be targeted. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy for my fellow Chinese Indonesian citizens. Just read my posts thoroughly at
The “only” discriminative treatment I have ever got, as far as I remember, is because I was born with vagina, breasts, and womb. However, this “only” thing means BIG when coming to the life of women in this patriarchal society.
Some reasons why I blog in English:
• English is my second language, since I graduated from English Department.
• To sharpen my ability in writing in English—one thing I oftentimes had to do during my study at American Studies Graduate Program. I work in a place where I am not obliged to write a lot. Writing in English for blogs helps maintain my ‘spirit’ as a Graduate Program student. :)
• To reach wider audience. I sometimes address people living out of Indonesia to talk about what has happened in my home country.

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Sure you can ask me personal questions (1)

Nana Podungge is my name.
Well, I was born in Semarang, but both of my parents are from Gorontalo, North Sulawesi.
Yup, I got my family name from my parents. Both of them happen to be Podungge; in fact they are cousins.
I am a teacher, especially an English teacher.
The most interesting thing from my profession? Well, I love sharing knowledge I have, and love to know my students’ experience too, so there is a kinda exchanging knowledge between us.
I love reading, writing, blogging, listening to music, biking, and swimming. In fact swimming is my most favorite sport although since I bike to work, I don’t go swimming regularly anymore.
Blogging? Ya you can say this is my most favorite pastime. I have loved writing since I was a kid. Blogging has enabled me to expose my writings so that other people can read my writings too. (I am absolutely a narcissist for this. LOL.) Moreover after I was awakened by feminist ideology, blogging has obviously helped me a lot to express my anxiety.
Wanna know my blogsites? Easy. Just type NANA PODUNGGE in any search engine, google, yahoo, or any other. You’ll be led to my blogsites.
Single or married? Hmm … do you think I look like a single or married woman? LOL.
My favorite reading is JURNAL PEREMPUAN. One favorite book of mine is SI PARASIT LAJANG written by Ayu Utami.
I was born and raised in Java island so my favorite dish is Javanese food, such as ‘pecel’, ‘gudangan’. I also like fried rice and ‘kwetiau’.
My favorite drink is coffee. The second is tea. The third is orange juice. No, I don’t like soda drink. :) Well, I don’t think I am a coffee addict, though. :-d
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This is 'kwetiau'. :)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Choices in Life

Still remember one student of mine I talked about in my post entitled “Pursuing education, anyone?” I got surprising information about her a week ago.
When we were discussing “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening” by Robert Frost, I led the discussion to some particular moments in our lives where people tend to follow their heart, to do what they want, and not what they must do. That particular student told me something surprising. When she was in high school, she wanted to be an English teacher, therefore after graduating from high school, she registered to Teachers’ College (alias IKIP Semarang). However, her parents didn’t agree with her choice. Although she was already accepted at IKIP, to make her parents happy, she registered at Economics Faculty of UNDIP, her parents’ choice. She got accepted there. Graduating from FE, she started working for one prominent private bank. However, she told herself that she would still keep her dream to be an English teacher. One day, if she had time, she would pursue this.
Apparently she had to wait for a long time! After working in the bank, as other ‘common’ people, she got married and got babies. She decided to wait until her kids grew up to make her dream come true.
And now, after she reached more than fifty years of age, she thought she had spare time. However, she did not study at a Teachers’ college, she chose to study at one Faculty of Literature and Culture whose campus is located not far from her workplace in the bank.
I was surprised and a bit touched to know this dream of hers. She didn’t lose hope to make her teenage dream come true. However, when I remember her pleading me to give her additional point from her diligence since she realized that her capability to grasp the knowledge I share is limited, I still cannot understand about that. If she really wants to be a teacher of English, I expect that she will be willing to study hard, to understand more.
Anyway, she is not the only one. A couple of years ago, I had two students who were teachers teaching English in Junior High School. They did not show full interest in the subject I handled—Poetry Analysis and Drama Analysis. Perhaps they considered these subjects were of no importance for their teaching material at school? Isn’t any knowledge useful for our lives?
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In one session of LIBRARY class, I assigned my Junior High School students to read TA-NA-E-KA, a short story written by Mary Whitebeard. My main reason to choose this story was I myself enjoyed reading the story. There are some reasons why I love it; first, the main character was a smart girl that could outsmart her cousin, Roger; second, TA-NA-E-KA as a ritual ceremony for Native American people who enter teenage period is very interesting; I opine that it will be a plus point for my students to know new kinds of ritual ceremonies from other cultures. That my students are also around the same age as the two main characters in the story, hopefully, will make them understand how difficult it is for Mary and Roger to undergo such an ‘extreme’ experience. Besides, I expected that they would not consider it as something too ‘far in the sky’.

The fact that most of my students are Chinese Indonesians whose parents perhaps do not really introduce them to the ‘indigenous’ cultures made me open my eyes that they do not think it important to maintain traditional ceremonies. This is my conclusion after reading their answers to the question “What is your reaction to the way Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka? Is important to maintain traditional ceremonies? Or perhaps it was because they are still very young to understand that it is important that we maintain our cultures.

Here are some answers of my students to the abovementioned question.

Cheating. She borrowed money for evading bad food.
Sometimes it is. But not if we are in danger; survival first, and culture is next.

My reaction to the way that Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka is surprising.
In my opinion it is in between important because even though the traditional culture practice is yucky but as the young generation, Mary needs to preserve traditional culture which has been passed down from one generation to another generation.

I am surprised because she is only a little girl but she is brave to live outside her house and survive in the forest.
It is a bit important to join maintain traditional culture practice because we can give this knowledge to other people and if we get situation like this, we are already prepared.

I was surprised that Mary didn’t really participate the tribe’s activity she was supposed to do honestly even though she said she was brave to do that.
In my opinion it is sometimes important but sometimes not because if we want to learn the past history of the Ta-na-e-ka culture and ritual. Somehow, it is disgusting when we are told to eat grasshoppers.

My reaction to the way that Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka is quite impressive and surprised because she was so smart.
In my opinion it is not important because sometimes it is very dangerous.

My reaction to the way that Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka is quite surprised and interested. Well, it doesn’t come to my mind that Mary would do such a thing. And it was exciting.
In my opinion, traditional cultural practices are done depending on the age and time. If it is no longer necessary, then it becomes less important to maintain

I feel that Mary is smart but she is also cheating the way of Ta-na-e-ka.
Yes, I think it is not too important to maintain traditional cultural practices because some people don’t really want it. Only people who want it should take it.

My reaction to the way that Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka is: she is smart and brave.
It is sometimes important to maintain traditional cultural practices because it is hard to do and it is not really important.

Well it is good that Mary participated in the Ta-na-e-ka but still she should follow her cousin, Roger, to live in the wild for five days, not eating hamburger and milkshake and live in a good place. Even eating grasshoppers is disgusting, it is more natural to the culture if she doesn’t want it that way, she should refuse it hard from the very beginning.
In some culture it is important to follow / participate in the culture, but it is not always, because sometimes the culture that made our ‘people’ unique.

I got no reaction how Mary participated Ta-na-e-ka.
Not really for me. Sometimes I think it is important but sometimes I also think it not really important because it is boring while some are boring but very appreciated it so I take it as an important thing.

I was kind of shocked and … well, she was smart on using the restaurant but she should have done what her cousin, Roger, did.
It is important to maintain traditional cultural practices but it is sometimes ok if you want or do not want to do.

I think it is okay to do what Mary did because they were supposed to survive and they did.

With the Ta-na-e-ka, what is the use becoming a warrior? You’re not gonna make money and it certainly isn’t going to help you look for a job, so I agree with what Mary did.
It is not important to maintain a tradition that has existed for far too long to continue. It is absolutely primitive and out-of-date.

What Mary did was wrong but it was because she did not want to participate in it at the beginning. She thought that practicing Ta-na-e-ka was not important.
I think it is important to maintain traditional cultures because it is what makes our family special and different from others.

I wouldn’t want to participate in such a practice.
It is not really important to maintain cultural practice if it involves pain because it will not really help people except in spirituality.

I will support her to do Ta-na-e-ka that way.
I think it is important to maintain traditional cultural practices because culture is the main idea to develop the personality of someone.

Mary survived Ta-na-e-ka in her own way by living in the other’s house. I think she is smart.
We should have our tradition but we shouldn’t do it in the way that makes us difficult.

If I were Mary, I would go out of that place and never join something like that.
I think it is not important to maintain traditional cultural practices because that is just an old tradition.

Additional information:
I did not do anything before and after the task to read the short story; such as to have pre-reading discussion to lead the students to the topic, or post-reading discussion to find out their reasons why they came up with such answers. I haven’t done anything either to analyze the result.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Pursuing education, everyone?

Around a decade ago, there was a quite interesting topic to discuss in the English book I used to teach in my workplace: a middle-aged woman pursuing her education in college. Her background was: she was married and a full housewife.

One memorable remark from a student came from a male student, a single one, and he was around thirty years old at that time. He was an employee. He said, “What is the point of this woman to pursue her study if after that she just would stay home and continue being a housewife? I am of opinion that she just wastes her time, energy, as well as her husband’s money. The case would be different—and more understandable—if she were an employee.”

The main topic was about education, especially about different kinds of learners: someone is either a visual learner, an audio learner, or a kinesthetic learner; or the combination of those three kinds of learners. Since I was not a feminist yet, LOL, I never led the discussion to gender problem.

Apparently that male student of mine didn’t comprehend Abraham Maslow’s idea about pursuing self-actualization need. If he already knew about that, perhaps he never thought that to fulfill this high-order need for women could be in a form of pursuing education to college—a somewhat masculine thing. Maybe he thought that women only wanted to do the so-called feminine things, such as cooking, sewing, and gardening.
You can guess that he would not let his wife pursue high education if she happened to be ‘only’ a housewife.


In the college where I teach, I oftentimes find female students who are more than thirty years old. All of them are employees. People can easily draw a conclusion that they all pursue their education with one sole goal: to enhance their position in their workplace. Higher position mostly means higher salary.

I know some of them are quite good. Some others really have to work hard to follow the material. A few really enjoy the study. Most others find it difficult. Even some of them think it unimportant to attend the classes. They appear only once or twice in one semester. This of course makes me unhappy; moreover if they are not good.

A few weeks ago, one female student of mine pleaded, “Ms. Nana, you know my English is very limited. And I am not young anymore. That’s why it is very difficult for me to grasp the knowledge you share. But you know I am never absent in your classes. If I cannot do the test well, will you give me some adding point from my diligence?”
I really did not have a heart to say, “That is none of my business.” LOL. Even, this academic year, for the first time I let the students open the book during mid-test, because of this ‘special student’. Her classmates are supposed to thank her.

Still, I am unhappy. And I am still expecting one day I will have students—both male and female—who pursue their study in their ‘not young’ age because of their craving in knowledge, just like Knute Axelbrod, one imaginary character in Sinclair Lewis’ short story.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Technology ...

In this so-called modern era technologies have created possibilities as well as chances for people to communicate with anybody all over the world, without going to places where our counterparts live. There are many machines we can use for communication such as phones (or mobile phones with their feature to send text messages), facsimile, until the internet with its various ways of communication, from email, chatting (YM, MSN, Googletalk, you name it.) and some others.
However, face-to-face communication is the best way to communicate in order to avoid miscommunication. Experts say that human face consists of 44 muscles and two bones: the skull and the jaw. These muscles are not attached to the bones so that they float freely giving us huge mobility to create approximately 7000 different facial expressions. When people communicate face to face, they can see their counterparts’ facial expression so that they can understand the feeling of the counterparts while saying something. They can pick up cues from the expression shown in the counterparts’ faces as well as body language.
This is the thing that we cannot find or use in long distance communication, especially via text messages, either via email, chatting or sms via cell phones. Direct call is better since we hear the voice of the caller and hopefully can recognize the mood of the caller whether he/she is happy or angry or disappointed or sad. The availability of ‘emoticon’ absolutely helps reduce the miscommunication. However, the number of emoticons is not as many as 7000 facial expressions human face can produce. Besides, the feeling of the reader of the text messages also play a very big role in producing a certain mood when reading the messages.
For example: several months ago a workmate of mine sent a message to another workmate, jokingly said, “Hey you, don’t be irresponsible like that, will ya? When you are absent, tell the substitute teacher what lesson he or she is to cover in your class.”
Unfortunately the workmate whose mother happened to be the boss at that time was in a bad mood. The moody mother was also in a bad mood when reading the message. Instead of reading it in a joking tone, these mother and daughter read it with upset mood and imagined the sender said that in an angry tone with her arms akimbo. The result was very fatal. The boss was losing her control and my workmate (the sender of the message) got yelled violently.
Technologies indeed have given us a lot of benefits such as getting more friends from all over the world without needing to go to faraway places because we can easily communicate with them from where we live, using the internet and (cell) phones. However, we are not to forget that technologies also can kill the friendship when we read messages wrongly due to our bad mood when reading them.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Small talk

On the second day in my CONVERSATION CLASS level 3, my students and I were talking about SMALL TALK, what kind of topic people talk about, especially when it is their first time meeting each other. As everybody knows, the topic is very various, and it definitely depends on the situation, place, and time.
When I elicited what kind of situation, a new student said, “Wedding parties …”
I wrote it on the whiteboard, then elicited again, “When you are in wedding parties, what do you talk about when you meet a new person?”
The same student answered, “Status Miss …”
I was stunned. I was never in such a situation, being in a wedding party, talking to a stranger, then being asked, “Are you single? Or are you married?” or asking someone else, a stranger, the same question.
I was a bit doubtful to write ‘marital status’ next to situation ‘wedding parties’ at first. But then I remembered one intriguing character in the movie ‘PS I love you’, Denise.
“Have you guys watched PS I LOVE YOU?”
Two or three girls raised their hands. However they did not remember Denise. (Perhaps because they watched it long time ago, while I just watched it a couple of weeks ago and I was intrigued by Denise.) So then I practiced.
I asked one male student in my class, “Are you single?”
He seemed confused to answer. Perhaps he has a girlfriend already. LOL.
I went to another male student, “Are you single?” he convincingly answered, “Yes Miss.”
Then I asked him again, “Are you gay?”
He frowned, then answered, a bit offended or confused, LOL, “No Miss …”
Apparently he did not watch PS I LOVE YOU. LOL.
The following question (in the movie) was, “Are you working?”

After Denise got satisfying answer, “Yes,” “No,” and “Yes”, she would confidently kissed the guy’s lips. After some time, she would stop the kiss. If she thought the kiss was just so so, not yummy at all, LOL, she would say, “oh not nice. Bye …” leaving the guy dumbfounded. LOL.
“Is it possible to practice it in Indonesia, especially in Semarang?” I asked my students. Instead of answering my question, they just laughed.
“Wish I could do that here though.” I said. LOL.
Oh well, my experience so far, I never attended wedding parties all alone, and I usually would just talk to the ones who accompanied me—Angie, sisters, or workmates.
“What other topic do people talk about in wedding parties?” I continued eliciting.
“The bride and the groom, Miss…” someone proposed.
“Good … what do you people talk about the bride and the groom?” I asked.
No one gave me an interesting answer.
“Well, I remember in one wedding party of a friend. She was in her middle thirties when she got married, and her husband luckily or coincidentally was nine years younger than she was. It is up to you whether you consider it lucky or unlucky or just so so.” I said to my students.
“In the party, I overheard people talk about the age gap between the bride and the groom, such as, ‘wah, kok nganten lanange isih kinyis-kinyis ngono?” LOL. (Wow, the groom looks so young and fresh!")
The following question possible asked to a stranger was, “Are you a friend of the bride or the groom?”
“How about if the stranger answered honestly, “None of them…” I asked.
“How come Miss?” one student asked.
“Well, a smuggler you know, just a passerby wanted to eat for free.” LOL.
There were some other situation and interesting topics. However, I have to prepare myself to go to the office now.
PT56 08.05 180409

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Occupational diseases

In order to survive in this so-called modern world, people need to work. The payroll they get by the end of the month (or for some people by the end of the week) is a big help for them to make the ends meet for the following month.

However, in this (also) so-called modern world, occupation that makes people survive can also be the source of diseases. It is widely recognized that certain environments—for example in construction sites, mining sites, industrial factories—‘provide’ harmful substances that will always be inhaled by the workers; such as asbestos, coal dust, arsenic and vinyl chloride, etc. In NORTH COUNTRY movie, Glory got a very serious illness that made her paralyzed as a result from working in Pearson Taconite and Steel Inc, a mining company.

Besides, RSI’s (repetitive strain injuries) are also a kind of occupational diseases. World Book 2005 (digital edition) states that RSI’s are painful disorders caused by performing a similar movement over and over again. A wide range of occupations—from computer programming to meat cutting—pose a risk of RSI’s.

A couple of weeks ago, when my brother was hospitalized, his doctor said that the heavy burden due to his work resulted in a part of his brain was swollen; this was suspected as a tumor. The heavy burden was caused by too much thinking because he had to carry out tasks which were supposed to be done by four people; but he had to do it by himself.

This reminded me of a student of mine who once complained about heavy burden in her office. Her post was a customer service officer. However, what she had to do at her office was not just as a CSO. She also had to help other employees’ tasks, e.g. a teller. She was a new employee in one state-owned bank; the same bank where my brother has been working since 1990.

The company is understaffed,” was one reason my student said to me. However, hiring new employees was out of question due to limited budget the company had.

The government does not give enough welfare to the citizens,” I told Angie when she asked me why.

The declining service the government gave the citizens was also explained when a neighbor told me about another state-owned bank where he worked. The bank does not automatically hire new employees although some senior employees have retired. Instead, the bank just asks a headhunter company to recruit some people. These people then are hired by the bank for several years. They are not directly hired by the bank so that their salary is not full because the bank gives the salary to the headhunter company. This company then takes around 20% of the amount as ‘the payment’. By doing this, the bank is not responsible to give the employees some allowances, such as health, housing, pension, etc. Meanwhile, the bank does not need to spend more money to hire more ‘full time’ employees.

This is similar to some private companies. Some companies do not give increase to the employees’ salary although they have been working there for ten years, let’s say. When an employee complains, the company will easily lay him/her off. The company then will hire a new employee with a low starting salary.

This so-called modern world is really not easy. For those living in big cities, they need to work to make ends meet. However, the big burden at the office, not healthy environment, and not conducive atmosphere will make them suffer from some illnesses.

PT56 16.10 270309

Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Young Goodman Brown" versus "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?"



By Nana Podungge

This paper will compare Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where are you going? Where have you been?” Hawthorne’s story belongs to the Romantic Period while Oates’ belongs to the Postmodern Period. First, I will analyze the story one by one. After that, I will elaborate the similarities and the differences I found in the two stories.

In “Young Goodman Brown”, the main character—Brown—left his wife whom he married just for three months, to do an “errand” to the forest. There, he met a so-called fifty-year-old man who took him to a certain place in the forest where there would be an ‘ordination’ and Brown would be ordained to be one of the members of the man’s congregation. Brown—the descendant of “a race of honest men and good Christians” (Baym, 1989: 1112)—in fact felt insecure to follow that old man, because he thought that the congregation in the forest were the followers of the devil. He regarded the old man whom he first met in the forest as the devil. Nevertheless, he did not go back to his village. Instead, he continued following the old man. His curiosity about what he would find in the forest is bigger than his feeling insecure to follow the devil.

Besides feeling insecure, Brown also felt sinful because following the devil in a dangerous place. it is understandable because he considered forests a place where devils and satans meet each other. Therefore, Brown was shocked when he found Goody Cloyse, a very pious woman in his village who taught him his catechism. Feeling worried that Goody Cloyse would see him following the devil in the forest (he was worried that the pious woman would consider him as a devil follower, and not a pious man any longer), Brown tried to hide. He felt more shocked when he also found other pious people from his village in the same forest where he was; such as the minister and Deacon Gookin. Those people were going into the same direction with him. Brown’s feelings—insecure, guilty, sinful, and also curious—were mixed together, and he asked himself what those pious people were doing in the place full of devils.

Going farther into the forest, Brown met more people—one of them was Faith, his wife whom he left at home and who objected to his going to the forest. Not only pious and honorable people did Brown see there, he also saw “men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches, given over to all mean and filthy vice, suspected even of horrid crimes” (Baym, 1989: 1117). Those good and bad people were in the same place to attend the ordination. The congregation would ordain Brown and Faith to be the members. However, before they were ordained—Brown tried not to follow the order of the leader of the ordination ceremony, and tried to oppose it, suddenly everything was gone. “Hardly had he spoken, when he found himself amid calm night and solitude” (Baym, 1989: 1119).

Even though the story was written in the Romantic period, Hawthorne chose the setting in the Puritan era. He wanted to criticize Puritan people’s way of thinking that in this world there are only two kinds of people, good people who are perfectly pious, and bad people who are perfectly sinners. People must fall into one of the two categories. Through the main character, Brown, Hawthorne showed the confusion inside a young man about the two categories of people. How could pious people socialize with bad ones and they gathered in one place which was considered devilish—the forest. In the Puritan era, people considered the forest a dangerous place because it was full of devils and satans.

I conclude that Hawthorne wanted to convey a message that the Puritan philosophy about the two categories of people is wrong. No one is perfectly pious, nor is a perfect sinner. People have both good and bad sides in them. It is just natural for someone who is considered pious to do something bad. A wicked criminal can also have good side in him/her. Therefore, Hawthorne ended the story by describing Brown—an example of a puritan man who thought that someone must be either perfectly pious or perfect sinner—underwent unhappy life and lived restlessly until the end of his life because he could not understand what he found in one episode of his life.

In “Where are you going? Where have you been?” which was written in 1966, Oates tells a story of a fifteen-year-old girl named Connie. Though Connie did not really seem to feel happy at home—she always had problems with her mother who always compared her with her older sister, June, Connie seemed to enjoy her life outside home. Her parents let her go with her girl friends to a shopping plaza which was located three miles away from her house. There, Connie and her friends walked through the stores and went to a movie. Some other time, they went to a drive-in restaurant. Some other time again, Connie was riding in a car with a boy.

So did Connie’s life go on. At home, she had to confront her mother whom she thought had a jealous feeling toward her because of her good look—her mother used to be good-looking too but now it has gone. Besides, being always compared with her elder sister, Connie might suffer from “second child syndrome”. June did this, June did that, she saved money and helped clean the house and cooked and Connie couldn’t do a thing (p. 226). Outside home, Connie enjoyed her life with her friends.

Connie’s life changed when one Sunday, she was left alone at home—her parents and sister went to a barbeque at an aunt’s house. Two boys—strangers—went to her house and asked her to go for a ride with them. For Connie, they were strangers. For the two boys—especially one of them named Arnold Friend—Connie was not a stranger. Actually Connie has met Arnold one night in town when she was in Eddie’s car. “… and just at that moment she happened to glance at a face just a few feet from hers. It was a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold. He stared at her and then his lips widened into a grin.” (p. 228) However, Connie did not remember that. While Arnold always remembered that event, and tried to find out about anything related to Connie since then. No wonder, Arnold came at the “right time” when Connie was left alone at home.

Arnold at first persuaded Connie somewhat politely. He assured her that he was a friend who just wanted to take her for a ride. I believe that Arnold regarded Connie as a girl who liked going for a ride in a boy’s car when he saw her in Eddie’s, a kind of “cheap” girl who easily got flattered by a boy’s smooth talk. However, Arnold was wrong. In fact, Connie was “a hard girl to handle”. She even asked him and Ellie—Arnold’s friend to go away. It made Arnold angry.

Arnold kept forcing Connie to go with him. He showed Connie his “supra natural” ability to see something which happens in another place. “Right now they’re—uh—they’re drinking. Sitting around,” he said vaguely, squinting as if he were staring all the way to town and over to Aunt Tillie’s backyard. Then the vision seemed to get clear and he nodded energetically. “Yeah. Sitting around. There’s your sister in a blue dress, huh? And high heels, the poor sad bitch—nothing like you, sweetheart! And your mother’s helping some fat woman with the corn, they’re cleaning the corn—husking the corn—“ (p. 234) After that, he started to harass her sexually. “I’ll tell you how it is, I’m always nice at first, the first time. I’ll hold you so tight you won’t think you have to try to get away or pretend anything because you’ll know you can’t. And I’ll come inside you where it’s all secret and you’ll give in to me and you’ll love me—“ (p. 234)

With his “supra natural” ability and sexual harassment, Arnold even made Connie more scared of him. Moreover, feeling frustrated because his “victim” did not give in easily, then he threatened to burn Connie’s house. “If the place got lit up with fire honey, you’d come runnin’ out into my arms, right into my arms…” (p. 235). After that, he threatened to kill Connie’s family; “You don’t want your people in any trouble, do you?” (p. 237)

Feeling very scared, Connie tried to call the police. I think something wrong with the telephone made Connie sort of subconscious. “… she ran into the back room and picked up the telephone. Something roared in her ear, a tiny roaring, and she was so sick with fear that she could nothing but listen to it—“ (p. 237) To some extent, Connie was “split” into two. Her conscience told her not to follow Arnold, but her “sound” mind feeling scared forced her to follow him. Her spirit was expelled out of her body. This body without soul then followed Arnold. “She watched herself push the door slowly open as if she were safe back somewhere in the other doorway. Watching this body and this head of long hair moving out into the sunlight where Arnold Friend waited.” (p. 239)

When I come to the end of the two stories—“Young Goodman Brown” and “Where are you going? Where have you been?”—they have the same unhappy ending. In the first, when the main character died, “his tombstone was not carved with hopeful verse, for his dying was gloom.” While in the latter, Connie’s spirit saw her body following her seducer. Besides, I conclude that the two stories are mysterious. In “Young Goodman Brown”, Brown went to the forest and then saw many people there but suddenly they disappeared. Some critics said that it was just the “dream vision” of Brown. In “Where are you going? Where have you been?” Connie underwent separation of her soul and body. In addition, the two main characters underwent the initiation into evil.

Now I want to elaborate the differences between the two stories. The most striking contrast is that Hawthorne’s story is religious—portraying the Puritan era where people mostly viewed life from religious point of view; while Oates’ story is secular—“none of them bothered with church” (p. 229). Hawthorne mentioned terms related to religion; such as ordination, catechism, minister, etc. Oates describes mundane things; such as going to a shopping plaza, listening to music from the radio, watching movies, etc. This is related to the background of the writers. Hawthorne was born as one descendant of Puritan immigrants, but he himself did not like the teachings of Puritanism which he considered hypocrite. Therefore, he criticized that in “Young Goodman Brown”. Oates was born in 1938. The twentieth century, so that she portrayed the life of adolescent girls that she saw in the early 1960s in her story. Besides, the decade of 1960s marked as music worship by youngsters, a kind of worship somewhat like a spiritual one.

Related to the background of the writers, therefore, the stories used very different language. In the Romantic period, the literary work was produced only for people from middle-high social status who were educated and had money to buy it, so that the use of language in “Young Goodman Brown” was especially for the educated middle-high society. It is difficult to understand because it is full of symbols, metaphors. Starting the end of the nineteenth century with the emergence f many people who had a lot of money who would buy literary works such as novels, but they were in fact not from high society—not really educated either—writers started to write pop fiction only to earn money. Since the target market was less educated people, the use of language was simplified.

Another difference is the main character in “Young Goodman Brown” a man; while Connie, a girl, is the main character of “Where are you going? Where have you been?” It is again closely related to the writers. Hawthorne—as a man—would know conflicts faced by men better than conflicts faced by women. Oates—as a woman—would understand better how a girl feels toward her mother, girl friends, and also how o feel against a seducer and face a threat of rape.

The setting of “Young Goodman Brown” is night and in the forest—something mysterious; while in “Where are you going? Where have you been?” the setting is various, sometimes evening in a shopping plaza where Connie hung around with her friends, and Arnold seduced Connie in the afternoon at her house. To undergo his ‘journey’, Brown left his wife at home and went out of the home to go to the forest; while Connie experience scary event when she was left alone at home.

To sum up, the two stories which were written in two different eras have two similarities in the unhappy ending and they are mysterious stories. They have some differences; in the theme—religious versus secular; the use of language; the main character of the stories—man versus girl; and the setting—night versus afternoon-evening; forest versus shopping plaza and home.

A final project for America’s Cultural Eras Class in 2003