How I learned English (I’m still learning until now though!)

Many people asked me about how I learned my English; both locals and foreigners. So I’ll write this post so that later I can just copy-paste the link to them. And I’m writing this not because I feel so confident about my English, in fact, on the contrary, I realize how imperfect my English is even though I’ve worked a lot for years since I was in middle school to master it, still I will never be close to native, not even advanced level. At first I hated it, I hated myself for not being good at something that I like. I hated the fact that my English is far from perfect, that I have a strong accent sometimes in speaking and you can feel it too in my writing that English is not my first language (even though my writing is better than my speaking).

Maybe for many Indonesians, they consider my English more than enough. Many people hope that they can speak English like I do. Many foreigners were also surprised with my English, but I think they’re not amazed with my English, they just didn’t think any Indonesians would be capable of communicating in English because we are from a poor country and our education is not our best quality.

Also, I’ve been made fun of and mocked because of my English, sometimes not in a friendly way, and even by a guy I was dating at that time (a foreigner). He said, “How pathetic that you are an English graduate but your English is sh*t.” , when we were having an argument (that’s not even related to my English, he just suddenly said that to hurt me).

I realize that when a westerner (especially those who like to call themselves “expats” instead of immigrants) speak broken non-English language like Bahasa Indonesia, it’s considered cute. But when non-native English speakers like me speak broken English, we’re considered less educated, less important, or have lower thinking ability. I realize how easy it is for someone to feel more exclusive than others just by a language, even if English–their mother tounge–is the only language they speak/ understand.

My story is just one of Indonesians’ stories about how hard we work for something that we dont easily have access to. Especially for people like me who don’t come from the upper class where they speak in English more than they speak in Bahasa Indonesia. Indonesians in big cities and the upper class minority speak English very very well, they study and travel overseas. One example of this class is the breakthrough young rapper, Rich Chigga/ Rich Bryan. People won’t think that he’s an Indonesian if you listen to his English and music.

My parents sent me and my brother to the best private school in the our city at that time, it’s quite expensive and far from where we lived, so my friends were from families who are richer than us, that every time I was invited to my friends’ birthday parties or just to play at their houses, I was amazed by how big their houses mostly were, felt like mine was the smallest and modest. Many of my friends already went to English courses since very early, kindergarten maybe. My parents, even though they understood the importance of English, they couldn’t afford that for me and my brother. So it’s like we started the marathon late, because we did not get any English courses until we’re in middle school. At that time, there’s no Youtube, there’s no internet and kids didn’t play 80% of their days with tablets/ phones. Even I had to go to my neighbor’s house every afternoon and Sunday morning to watch cartoons because he was the only one who had TV cable in our neighborhood.

I never realized I was good at learning languages until I was given the opportunity to learn other language, that’s when I was 13 y.o. My parents could not afford the expensive English course for us, so we went to the mid price, none of the teachers were native. That’s when I realized I fell in love with this subject, I didn’t know at that time if English is important, I didn’t know how it’s gonna help my life in the future, I just fell in love, I enjoyed it and I want to be able to speak it. I have no target nor expectation from my self-study. I think that’s the purest kind of love, when you love something/ someone with the least reasons.

I only got 4 hours of English lesson in a week from that course, two hours per meeting. I realized how little it is, that it’s not gonna be enough. I asked my parents whether I could get another English classes, like 4 times in a week or everyday, but my mom was angry. She said I have to learn math, YUCK!!

Mostly, I learned English from my self-study. In this case, movies and music helped a lot (remember, at that time internet was so rare). My interest in English turned me into a nerd. I skipped playing with friends just to have some hours to watch english movies or read books over and over again. I used to watch every movie three or four times. The first play was to enjoy the story, the second to take notes of the english, third is to repeat how they are used in conversation, forth to practice speaking it during the movie ( I dont think I can do that anymore, because we have abundance of options now that I even can’t play Youtube videos or podcasts in normal speed anymore because I’m afraid I dont have time to watch/ listen to others).

At that time, english books were not easy to find. So I went to my english course’s library almost every day just to read English books. No matter what book it was, I just needed something that’s written in English. I compiled my own grammar notebooks (those notebooks were even photocopied by my friends in college!).

I had no one to practice my English speaking. So after I watched english movies, I spoke by myself to repeat the conversation in the movies. Then a DVD rental just opened near my school and it had a promo of 6-month free DVD rental if we bought a DVD player from there. So my brother and I begged to our parents for that, and we finally bought a DVD from there. Literally EVERY DAY, we rented movies, we could only rented 2 movies max every day.

I knew about internet earlier than many Indonesians did at that time. I didnt really have much time to play with other kids, because I would rather  either watch movies or be in internet cafes. Internet cafes were very very rare, only 2 in my city at that time. If I could fly, I would fly to the cyber cafe as soon as my school finished, everyday. And the internet was very very slow, to load a page could take like 5 minutes (wow I just realize how patient I was before, now I can’t even stand a pop-up dialog box!). I signed in to mIRC (chat rooms) in order to chat with westerners. I thought that was the cheapest conversation class! Well I had to lie about my age, otherwise no one would talk to me. I had to keep a dictionary next to me every time I was in front of the computer, then I would write them down, whatever I learned from every day.

Then I started to write something in English everyday, at least for one page. Anything, it’s just for practice. I would not review my writings right away, because I would think it’s perfect. But if i give it time and just review it after 3-5 days, I will able to see my mistakes easily. Then I train myself to start to think in English rather than in Bahasa Indonesia. In 2009, started to write a blog. Unlike this one, my old blog was 85% in English, but I didn’t write as often as I do now.

Even though my English is still not perfect, I’ve been able to make money from it. Started from teaching, translation projects, and now it helps me A LOT in my job that I can make money in dollars. I can get my other skills valued more because I can bring it to international marketplaces. I’ve worked with foreigners since I graduated uni, and I’ve made friendships with non-Indonesians. Not only in my job, but also in love life, I havent dated Indonesians anymore for years (trust me, the cheapest, and most enjoyable way to learn conversational English is by dating. Haha!! But dont get me wrong, I didnt date them because they’re foreigners, I never planned to fall in love with them, it just happened.)

One day, I stumbled upon this video, and it made me feel like that’s probably what my future kids will feel about me. But I wont be the sad broken-english speaker parent, I dont care that much anymore if people wanna laugh at my English. At least from their laugh, I learn something. And my broken English means I’ve worked for something. I’m proud of myself even with those limitations I’ve had, I’ve made it this far. And my brother, he got scholarships from his university in Australia until Ph.D. Not perfect indeed, but like my lecturer ever told me, “It’s okay if your best is not good enough, but it’s not good when your good is not your best.”

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From Bridal to Technical

IMG_20181111_212953My achievement this year is that I managed to launched my first bridal collection and sold some of them as well as got custom-made order in my first year as a fashion designer. End of last year, I took patternmaking course, I had totally zero experience and knowledge in garment construction before.

I can’t afford fashion school, both the fee and the years. So, I made my own curriculum and research, where I can learn about fashion. I am so lucky that I live in this internet era that saves a lot of education money and bridges people from all over the world. I’m so grateful for people who share amazing free contents on platforms like youtube and online libraries or even cheap online courses like Udemy and Skillshare. Because of them, I can learn the theories and process that they learn in fashion schools as long as I’m willing to put in the dedication and commitment. But still, for some fields, I need professional training, especially when it comes to construction. Even the patternmaking course alone is already expensive for a regular person like me ( I was so lucky that at time I got my bitcoin money went five times higher).

In the beginning, I just wanted to be a designer, any kind of designer, it does not matter. I just wanted to get my designs out and I made it. I think, me not taking a 4-year fashion study is also a benefit for me in terms of getting the realization of how the fashion business works faster than those who do. Many people who had the opportunity to really go to fashion schools are more relaxed and not as ambitious because they enjoyed the status of being students and once they graduated, they didn’t really think it’s gonna be like that and what’s really needed and which one are more sustainable careers in fashion. That’s why fashion design major is much more favorited than product development major.

Unfortunately (and fortunately at the same time), I got to travel a lot this year, like every month, which I am thankful for it but at the same time, it slowed my progress down a lot. Eventhough I was only 2-3 weeks on holiday, it takes at leat 1-2 weeks to really get back in the mood to study and practice again, and then 1 week after that, I traveled again. Anyway, even with that travelling schedule, I still make progress.

I’ve begun to realize what kind of fashion designer that I wanna be and which parts of design jobs that I wanna do, at least for the next 15 years of my life. Being a designer and entrepreneur is indeed fancy, but it’s crazy, I have to admit that at this age, especially as a sarcastic introvert, it’s too hard for me to handle. This one-woman show thing is tougher than it seems, because I have to do the design, cutting, sewing, finishing, marketing, photography, fabrics shopping, etc etc. I ended up doing more non-design works than designing. I tried to employ someone before and it doesn’t fit me because I’m a perfectionist and at the same time I hate being a nagger and depending on others. One thing that bothers me as well is the fact that I had to be location-dependent. I love travelling, I wanna be able to work from anywhere as long as there’s internet.

One thing good about me is that I react to situation fast, if something doesnt work, I need to do something. If I only waited for my gowns to sell, I’m not gonna make it. I can’t wait until I’m famous.

There’s a case that is very common among Indonesian designers. Indonesian designers mostly dont have formal education (which is okay, just like me) but what is not good is that many of them dont have strong will to learn from the basic. Because it’s easier in Indonesia to be a boss and call yourself a designer because the labor cost is not as expensive as in other countries. So, many designers just take exactly the same models from Pinterest, modify a bit (sometimes not even bother to modify), and pay tailors to make it. Hence many designers don’t even have unity in their designs. And they survive by arse-kissing the socialites. They got fame eventually, but it’s temporary. Because if you let your clients dictate you, you wont survive when they have new favorites. I witness this right in front of my eyes especially since I was a runway model before I became a designer. The designers that I used to work for, they’ve disappeared now, outshone by new fashion designers who can get a long better with the new generation of the socialites. So these old folks, they ended up depressed and broke. They’re used to being bosses, their career jumped without learning basic skills, so once they’re out of orders, they have nothing to offer when applying for jobs in fashion companies. That’s why not a few of them turned into fugitive (taking people’s money, selling drugs, prostitution etc).

It’s so easy to be like that if I never evaluate my steps. I dont wanna be like them. I want a sustainable career, I want a skill that allows me to work from anywhere and needed in and by many countries. Just in case Indonesia someday turns into the next Syria, at least I’ve been preparing my escape, or if my future husband wants to move to other countries, one of us does not to worry about starting a new job anymore, because I’ve already started my career in remote freelancing. I may need to hustle more now maybe triple than what I’ve done, but I believe it’ll be worth it. I reached out to and consulted with some technical fashion designers that I found online (because they make content, like podcast etc), the career is really promising. But I have to struggle a lot in the beginning since I lack field (factory) experience.

It started with me learning computer drawing because I was looking for ways to make money beside waiting for my gowns to sell and I am interested in graphic design. So I started with Adobe Illustrator and made garment flats. Then I started to dig more, and it’s sooo challenging, drawing flats is like only 20% of the job of a technical designer. The whole tech packs is another new level. So I started selling my flat sketching online. My skill now is still limited in simple garment, not enough yet to draw flats for more complicated garments, but at least I’m making steps and I have to start somewhere.

Now also I just started my new job that’s not related with fashion at all. I realized that I need to keep a day job instead of just throwing myself to the unknown world of entrepreneurship. It keeps me sane because now at least I know I’m having a stable income every month. I keep the learning and freelancing on the side, so I work from 6 am to 2 pm, after that my day is full with study, practice and yoga until late at night. And repeat. I’m also happy that finally after 10 months of travelling every month, finally I have a peaceful month to work and be committed. I was supposed to travel to Bali this month (I already booked the tickets), but I cancelled because I got scared of flying with Lion Air after the tragic incident.

Next year, I plane to move to Bali. So I’m saving my money for that. I have plans to pitch to apparel manufacturers in Bali that’s managed by foreigners. I’ve stalked them already since last month, I’m gonna pitch for an internship opportunity, because I have to gain field experience if I want to increase my rate. This is gonna be a long process. It’s gonna take me another year probably (lol my boyfriend has to deal with my poverty for another more year! Be patient, hon. I’m working for us too! Hehe) But I have to learn how to crawl before I can jump. I have to start somewhere, and if it means doing small steps, being rejected many times and etc, I’ll take them.

No White Flag Yet

For the last two weeks, I’ve been wrestling with digital drawing software, Adobe Illustrator. Two weeks prior, I focused on studying only the basic theory of graphic design (well, I procrastinated a lot during my PMS) because I didn’t want to just jump to tools without knowing what’s the fundamentals of something, when I learn something or am interested in something, I’ll be a nerd for it, I like to study what people are bored of studying.

This year I’ve learned fashion design skill and how to construct the garment and everything. And the second thing I am learning now is graphic design focusing on illustration. I started with learning for fashion technical drawing only which is not complex but when it comes to illustration, it’s like hundreds stairs up. Especially there are so many styles of illustration with different techniques, even for two things that look almost similar.

These two weeks, I almost lost my patience, I really hated myself because I couldnt learn things as fast as I wanted to. I almost snapped at my Macbook then I realized I’m poor and wouldn’t be able to afford a new one right now, so I hit my bed and pillow and slept.

And that one thing is like the very basic thing to acquire if I want to be able to go to the next step, which is the coloring technique in Adobe Illustrator. This sounds trivial right? No it’s not as easy, to just put a color in a shape is easy, but to find the right process formula for the whole drawing is hard.

I can say that I’ve watched and rewatched for so many times almost all Adobe Illustration classes on Skillshare and let alone YouTube, just to learn each artist’s workflow. That’s my learning style, I would dig a lot for the basics, learning from as many people (because every one has different knowledge), because if I dont find the right way about the basics, I’ll risk my time and energy in the future. And everyone’s creative process is different, one thing may work for him/ her but doesnt feel comfortable for others. I followed each of them, I followed along their step-by-steps and workflow, and found out there’s always flaws in the formula/ steps. It does the job but not the way I wanted it, there must be a time-efficient way to do it, the way that’s more efficient when you have to edit some parts of the drawing, I just need to find what and how it is.

I took 4-5 hours a day just to finish one simple drawing for almost two weeks, and they’re all sooo ugly. The ideas are cool, but I lacked the technique to make them, it always fell far from my first plan/ imagination. After collecting, trying and mixing each teacher’s and youtuber’s knowledge and skill, I finally found it, just today, after drawing and re-drawing the same thing 6 times–because I always got stuck in some steps and had to start from the beginning. And that’s my days had been these two weeks.

I was feeling so down, because some people just got so good at things so easily and instantly and it takes me 10 times harder work and longer time. I’m not smart like my brother who can easily master everything so fast. I felt so worthless and useless for being not good at something I like doing, something that I should do better than other people. I whined, why can’t I be smart like other people, talented like other artists, why I only have strong wills and hard work. I wish I had a superpower to learn everything in one week.

But anyway, I’m glad that today I found it, but already too tired to draw tonight. I’ll start again tomorrow, and I’ll be posting more digital illustration soon on my IG as I’m collecting my portofolio. Wish me luck!

The Hardest Puzzle Ever

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Isn’t it funny that sometimes life is just like a mystery puzzle set?

Sometimes you think you need to have every piece, sometimes people can just feel complete without needing to have all of them. Sometimes you think you have everything but still you feel there’s a missing piece that you don’t know what it is.

Sometimes you just wanna barter the pieces you have with other pieces which there’s no guarantee they will fit better.

Sometimes you have 9 out of 9, sometimes you can only find 2 out of 9. Sometimes the number of pieces you have change in every phase of your life, today you have 8, two days later you lose 3.

Sometimes someone becomes the one that completes the missing piece, sometimes that person leaves and costs you more missing pieces. Sometimes you become that piece to another person’s puzzle set.

Sometimes you think how to put every piece in order, which one has to be placed first, or you can just do them randomly. And you think, “Did I take the wrong step if I put this piece first?”

Sometimes you keep looking for the missing piece while in fact it’s been sitting next to your hand for so long and you were just not looking.

Sometimes you steal the piece from others, sometimes you achieve it by yourself, sometimes you’re just tired to think about the puzzle and create another imaginary puzzle set, sometimes you just wanna restart the game and don’t wanna mess up again. Sometimes you just have no choice. What does happiness really mean?

I realized I haven’t talked about my feelings in this blog lately, I mostly talk about my travels and other things that I find interesting and informative as they bring more traffic to my blog. Of course who wants to read about sentimental crap. And yeah I’ve been lucky enough that so far throughout this year I’ve had great journeys and relatively in happy and positive mood. But of course I am not always happy. In every year, there must be gloomy moments. I think it’s the first time this year I have it.

No matter how many times life gives you lemons, you’ll never be as prepared as you thought you will be. I understand it very much that in the end, everything depends on how we react to it. But it’s not always easy. Sometimes I wish I could be an ignorant person, sometimes I don’t wanna understand things that I understand, so that I’ll stop feeling worried, so that I’ll stop feeling sad.

Sometimes I just want to forgive myself to feel like this and make it an excuse to not do anything beside being sad. Then I regret the time I spent being sad, because only the time you enjoy wasting is not a wasted time, they say. And eventually, stumbled upon the quotes that I always come back to, “If you do nothing, nothing happens.” And here I am pouring my feelings through drawing and words. Not a big thing, not even matter to other people’s lives. But life is still a mystery. We’ll never know, we’ll never know.

Now it’s funny

Living in Indonesia means you have to be accustomed to natural disasters and mysterious parking men whom we have to pay money to for their unavailing assistance. Western part of Sumatra island is prone to earthquake, that is where I had most of my earthquake experience when I stayed there for five years since my senior year in high school until I finished college.

I hate earthquake not only because it scares the hell out of me but also because it forces me to make ultra super quick decisions about my life. I am very bad at being spontaneous, even when I navigate a journey with a GPS, if the driver asks me suddenly which way to go, I often say the wrong direction. My brain could not synchronize under pressure.

My first earthquake experience in West Sumatra happened to me in the worst situation anyone would want to be during an earthquake, which is when I was totally naked. I was enjoying my bath like a princess, shampooing my hair like Pantene commercials, life was perfect. Until then all of a sudden I felt my boarding house was moving like waves, I thought my shampoo had caused me drunk, but it’s not possible because I used the shampoo on my hair, not in my mouth. It was the bloody earthquake! OMG, can’t you just wait until I get dressed, earthquake??!!

That’s the first time in my life I had to choose between my self-esteem and my safety. What if I ran out naked and the earthquake stopped after I threw away my dignity–that I actually questioned if I had one. But if I chose to at least get dressed first, what if the earthquake got worse and torn the house apart? Then I could have died while locking my bra, which is not the dead position I want to die in. I waited for some seconds, still naked, but the shaking kept getting harder so I just got out of the bathroom and found something to cover my body with. No bra, underwear nor pants needed, a very simple and cover-it-all clothing, which was a mukena (RED–a praying cloth for muslim women) that was not even mine!

I managed to escape out of the house with my emergency-dignity-saving cloth, my flatmates and landlords were already outside, frightened. Not because of seeing me coming out of the house, but because of the earthquake of course. I saw some of the neighbors were also wearing mukenas, I wondered if they were also naked underneath.

Then my landlord decided to take us all to safer place heading to higher area in the city because we were afraid it had tsunami potentials, so we should move from the downtown area to a more hilly place. So my landlord commanded us to hurrily pack our belongings and valuables. We entered the house with anxiety and fear of following earthquakes. The first thing I did was of course getting dressed, then another earthquake hit when I just finished clothing my self, but again and again I had to make a quick decisions about the things I had to bring for my survival, what are the things I couldnt live without that I had to pack in my pink backpack. I didn’t think much, I just grabbed anything I saw and ran downstairs.

In the car, my flatmates and I were still shocked by our experience. Since now I had more laxness to think and breathe normally, I wanted to check what I had packed inside my backpack, because it felt heavy. And what I found inside made my eyes out!! I just put my school textbooks into my survival kit! WTH was I thinking?? Ironically the textbooks I brought were Math and History. Seriously, of all subjects that Indonesian kids are forced to learn, why did I choose to save my Math book, a subject that I am most allergic to!! History book was still okay, just in case I couldn’t sleep if we had to stay in evacuation place, the book would be useful for my bedtime story. But Math??? It’s the first thing that I said “I hate you” to in my life, I felt haunted by it, like it forced to stay in my life. To make it worse, that goddamn math textbook was fricking thick like 300 pages, meanwhile my history book was only 200 something. For real?? As I can remember math books were just filled with numbers, spaces, brackets, and Xs and Ys, how could it be thicker than my history book?? Whose idea was this?? I needed to kill him/ her.

I looked at my friend’s next to me, I realised that the t-shirt she chose to wear on that scary day had this writing : “Oh, what a wonderful experience!” along with drawings of sunflower, rainbow and butterfly. Really?? Of all her clothes she chose that reality-contradictory tee?? I wondered if what she had in her bag was worse than my choice or not.

From that first experience, I learned that I had to always prepare my survival backpack so that I could easily directly grabbed if earthquake happened again. I promised my self to directly prepare my survival and pack my valuables as soon as we got back.

It’s almost midnight that we reached back home and chose to sleep in our boarding house as the condition was getting calmer. With a strong determination, I walked to my room, ready to pack my valuables. Then I just realised, I was a high school student and hadn’t started earning money, the question was not even “What valuable things in my life that I have to CHOOSE to save?” but “Do I even have anything worth-saving??” What I treated like gold and diamond at that time was my Naruto DVDs collection, that wouldn’t help me if Armageddon came to me. I didn’t have laptop or netbook, just a very old computer inherited from my brother that I would have been so thankful if anything destroyed it. It’s a kind of mixed feelings knowing that everything I had in my life was worthless, but at the same time relieved that I didn’t need to worry about anything but my own life.

I knocked on my flatmate’s door, she was also packing. I saw a teddy bear doll in her survival bag, I asked why she needed a doll for an emergency situation, she said it was from her boyfriend, she’s taking all the gifts from her BF inside her bag, maybe she thought that would be a romantic way to die. That’s a proof that love makes us stupid sometimes. I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t need to save any stupid dolls because I didn’t have any BF to give me any silly furry things, I hadn’t even dated at that age as I was a late blossom. My nothingness was complete. I felt free.

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Believing in Talent is a Trap

I used to believe in talent, now I’ve stopped. Believing that we’re born better (in some specific fields) than others is as dangerous as believing that we’re less gifted than others.

It is very human that we like to hear only what we want to hear and what we want to hear is that we’re special and other people are ordinary. One might deny it in words, but believes it in hearts.

In my childhood, I was always compared to my brother’s academic achievements, especially in math. I was actually doing fine, I always got good scores and got into top schools and, but my brother always got the best. He represented the province in national championship in elementary school. Hence I believed that I was less gifted in academics. I wanted to move to different school so that I didn’t have to keep up with teachers’ expectation.

As my revenge, I believed I was more gifted than him in other fields. Besides, actually among my classmates, I did well. I felt that I got lucky many times because I rarely studied but always passed the exams safely and sometimes better than others. It started a coincidence then I kept it as a habit. I didn’t like to work hard, I would be as lazy and laid-back as possible just to see how I could still nail it smoothly without even trying, I was proud of it. I teased my friends who were trying to study. I laughed at my friends who were working hard for their goals. I was not alone. I noticed some of the top students in schools had this similar syndrome; taking everything for granted.

But now at this age, in any fields, it’s not my friends whom I thought were talented that are successful today, it’s they who didn’t stop doing and working hard are. They didn’t start with a mile, they started with small steps. Who’d known that their small steps have almost reached the top? But people who I envy most are people who are living my dream; working in creative fields, growing their names in it. I felt betrayed. Not by other people, but by myself.

I felt like, “It’s supposed to happen to me, not to them! How could this happen? What did I miss?”

And you know what I missed?? I missed thousands of days and nights of practice, learning and working on making it to reality. Days and nights which were supposed to use to focus on things I called passion, I wasted for distractions, I wasted on following what other people told me my life should be. I thought that my dreams would still be handed to me without me chasing it. But the world doesn’t work that way.

I looked at my friend who has published some books. Others represented the country in theater. A colleague that used to be ‘invisible’ now can produce wedding gowns.

I won’t be able to be a fashion designer like I’ve always wanted to be unless I start learning how to sew and fashion design. It can’t happen overnight.

Far too often, we believe that our abilities are innate. In other case, we give up many opportunities just because we believe we don’t have the talent for it. “I wasn’t born with the gift of drawing.” Or “I’m not a born leader. Or “I can’t be a writer, I can’t write.”

Without we realize, it’s the ‘myth’ that holds us back, not our ability. People think that the skills in art are based on talent, if you’re not born an artist, you cant be an artist. If that is true, then why drawing techniques and methods exist? Why Mariah Carey still keeps her singing practice until now?

Talent is overrated. Artists are made, not born.

Moving to West Sumatra for Beginners – Part 2

Tulisan ini adalah sambungan dari tulisan sebelumnya. To understand more about my background, read here. I re-state, this is purely based on personal experience and perspective (yaiyalah namanya aja tulisan di blog), hence, this doesn’t solely describe all Minangnese.

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  1. Indirectness

Seringnya di media dan ketika lw gede di rantau, image tentang orang Minang yang disebarluaskan adalah bahwa mereka terlalu straightforward dan cenderung gak peduli perasaan orang lain. Setelah pindah dan tinggal di Sumbar, menurut gw image tersebut exaggerated. Menurut gw, mereka—walopun suka kepo—tapi menjunjung tinggi indirectness alias basa-basi, yang mana artinya kalo lw terlalu to-the-point, bisa terkesan kurang sopan. Sebenernya ini hampir mirip dengan suku Jawa yang juga indirect, cuma beda bahasa aja. Jadi kalo kalian udah terbiasa dengan basa-basi adat Jawa, kurang lebih mirip dan selain masalah bahasa, you’ll do well.

Nah yang susah adalah buat orang-orang yang besar tanpa kenal adat seperti gw. Bukannya berarti gw gak sopan ya, tapi perbedaan makna ‘sopan’ buat gw dan buat mereka. Susah buat gw membaca kode-kode yang mereka coba sampaikan. Karena, kalo ditawari sesuatu, mereka jawabnya langsung enggak, padahal mau. Tapi kalo gak jadi dikasih, besoknya disindir-sindir secara indirect. Nyindirnya pun, karena gak to the point, palingan gw baru sadar 1 bulan kemudian, itu pun karena ada yang ngasih tau. Jadi, sekarang gw pake rumus sendiri bahwa jawaban mereka yang sebenarnya adalah jawaban setelah ditanya tiga kali. Buat antisipasi dari merugikan diri gw dan mereka, jadi gw berterus terang aja menanyakan maksud yang sebenernya karena gw gak pandai kode-kodean, so if you don’t tell me directly what you really want, you will not get it from me. Dan gw juga meminta maaf sebelumnya karena gw kemungkinan besar gak ngerti maksud mereka apa, jadi kalo nanti gw salah melakukan, langsung dikoreksi aja.

  1. The Art of Mencemeeh

Yang kita tau, yang paling disukai orang Minang adalah sambal. Tapi bagi gw yang paling disukai orang Minang adalah sambal dan mencemeeh, alias mencemooh, kadang niatnya sih nge-jokes, kadang entah lah. Bahkan kata mencemooh itu sendiri dicemooh menjadi mencemeeh. Untuk menunjukkan kekaguman dan kasih sayang pun mereka seringnya dengan mencemeeh. Maksudnya mungkin pingin mendekatkan diri. Contoh yang paling gampangnya adalah how they do catcalling here. Gw anti banget sama catcalling walopun menggunakan adjective yang baik-baik sekali pun. Di Jawa, catcalling yang sering adalah “neng geulis” atau “cah ayu” yang artinya “gadis cantik” dan sebagainya. Di Sumbar they catcall you by the shape of your body or the color of your skin. Tadinya gw gak tau kenapa orang-orang pada bilang ‘lesuik’ ketika gw jalan, teryata ‘lesuik’ artinya kurus. What the F, are you bodyshaming me?? Rasanya pingin gw tampar pake barbell. Ketika manggil orang lain pun juga begitu, cewek-cewek lain yang badannya lebih berisi dipanggil “Puak” dari kata “Gapuak” yang artinya gendut. Coba aja bayangin ada orang yang gak lw kenal tiba-tiba manggil lw gendut seolah-olah lw adalah karung beras. Gw shocked pas baru pindah ke Sumbar menyaksikan ini, sehingga sering gw konfrontasi. “Kenapa panggil saya kurus?”, jawabnya “Adiak kan kurus mah.” I replied, “Kalo gitu saya panggil kamu ‘randah’, ya.”

“Ba a tu? Awak ndak pendek do”

“Iya, itu IQ kamu.”

Tapi lama kelamaan gw capek juga mengedukasi yang harus dimulai darimana, catcalling ato bodyshaming. Karena toh orang Minang sendiri sepertinya meng-embrace their hal itu, banyak yang menggunakan nama panggilan ‘lesuik’ atau ‘gapuak’ untuk dirinya sendiri. Ya sudah lah, toh merekanya juga gak sakit hati. Asal jangan ke gw aja. Tapi tetep aja gw gak tega gitu kalo liat anak-anak kecil yang dipanggil “Gapuak”, “Kaliang”, dll.

Hal yang paling berasa beda di Sumbar bagi gw adalah how they make jokes. Bagi gw jokes mereka offensive sedangkan bagi mereka jokes gw belagu. Seiring waktu, gw mengerti mana yang bagi mereka lucu dan gw bisa ngikutin (tapi gw gak akan ikut menertawakan beberapa hal seperti fisik, gender, etnis, dan agama). Saran gw, kalo lw baru pindah, in order to fit in, jangan nge-jokes dulu, watch how they joke first.

  1. ‘Kesatuan’

Kesatuan disini bukan bermakna ‘unity’, melainkan opposite dari ‘diversity’. Di Sumbar, suku yang dominan adalah Minang dan agama mayoritas adalah Islam. Dominan disini mencapai angka 90%. Hal yang terasa lucu bagi gw adalah ketika mereka mengatakan bahwa diri mereka berbeda dan gak mau disamakan, orang Bukittinggi anti disamakan sama orang Pariaman, dll yang seperti itu lah. Sedangkan di mata gw mereka semua sama, sama-sama Minang. Saking jarangnya suku lain, waktu gw sekolah dulu ada teman yang dipanggil dengan nama daerah, si Jawa. Satu sekolah memanggil dia ‘Jawa’. Sedangkan di Lampung, walopun ada suku yang dominan, tapi hampir semua suku ada, kalo semua dipanggil pake nama daerah, si Padang, Bengkulu, Kalimantan Tengah, duh, rasanya kayak ajang putri-putrian dong, ya!

‘Kesatuan’ disini suka bikin gw kangen dengan suasana multi etnis, kangen dengan makanan-makanan khas daerah lain. Kangen dengan logat berbicara yang berbeda-beda. Kangen berteman dengan teman-teman yang berbeda agama.

  1. ‘Kekeluargaan’

Bagi orang Minang, kekeluargaan adalah penting banget. Dan keluarga disini maksudnya bukan nuclear family tapi extended family seluas-luasnya. Waktu pertama kali pindah, gw kerjanya dikenalkan ke orang-orang yang katanya sodara. Lalu gw tanya, “How are we related?” ternyata gak jarang yang jawabannya adalah ‘saudara sekampung’. Ya gw ngakak dong, eehh… ternyata mereka serius, that term really exists! Orang Minang suka berkerabat dan menjalin tali silaturahmi, banyak sodara tanpa aliran darah dan tiba-tiba jadi sodara. Pikiran gw saat itu adalah, kalo ada yang namanya ‘sodara sekampung’ apa ada yang namanya ‘sodara se-kelurahan’, ‘sodara se-negara’, ‘sodara se-benua’, se-galaksi sekalian. Trus berapa banyak dong yang harus diundang kalo pesta? Sekampung? Buju buset, bisa abis tabungan orang tua gw buat ngasih makan orang sekampung tiap ada hajatan!

Begitu juga dalam menjalin hubungan dating ato marriage. Lw gak hanya cukup ngambil muka di depan orang tua ato adek/kakaknya, tapi lw juga harus ngambil hati om nya, tantenya, tantenya dari tantenya, dll lah. Tahap “dikenalin ke keluarga” bisa jadi artinya adalah lw dikenalin ke om-tantenya segala. I was like, “Really? Did they help to raise you like, say, financially?”. Jawabannya, “No, they didn’t. They’re my family.”

Gak cuma sampe tahap perkenalan, pengambilan keputusan pun ibarat pemilu. Kebanyakan orang Minang menimbang penilaian keluarga terhadap pasangannya, sekali lagi, keluarga disini bukan nuclear family. Kadang gw suka merasa lucu ketika ada teman yang harus putus dengan pacarnya karena tidak disukai keluarga. Waktu ditanya keluarga yang mana, jawabannya pamannya. Zonk! Lalu mulai lah mereka bercerita tentang adat. Lalu aku terlelap.