Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Day to Remember

The Delta was ready to land at the Seatac Airport. It was 10.25 in the morning. I looked around, and tried to think of what was gonna happen when this plane was landed. My heart beat quite fast. I never imagined that I could finally be in the US. A country that I really wanted to see the most. The stewardess came toward me asking me to fasten the seat belt. Bismillahirrahmanirrahim...that's the only thing I said when I realized the plane was successfully landed. The journey was begun.

I stepped my feet on the land of the US for the first time. Again, I looked around. Everything was just so different to me. I had no idea what to do next. The only thing I remembered was nobody would come to pick me up. The college only gave me the booking code of a shuttle bus. I saw the people were standing in a long queue, waiting for their turns to be interviewed by the officer. I decided to follow them.

Then, a horrible thing happened to me. One of the officers came to me and took me out of the line. He looked at me deeply. “Is there anything wrong with me?” - that's the only question popped into my head at the time. He asked me to sit with the other five men in a different room. A man from Philippine asked me “Is it your first time coming to the US?” Yes, it is. I realized there's something unusual happened to me at the time. I was the only woman got the special interview.

After waiting for an hour, the officer finally called my name. I was so worried thinking of what he was gonna do next. I came toward him speechlessly. He asked me to put off the jacket that I was wearing. I put it on his desk. He looked over all the pockets of the jacket. I told him that I didn't have anything in there, I put all my stuff in my bag. He looked at my backpack suspiciously, but he finally didn't look over it. He spent couple minutes reviewing all the documents I had, such as passport, DS 2019, and Indonesian ID. After reviewing all the documents, the officer then asked me a lot of questions. He asked my parents' name, my parents' job and my purpose for coming to the US. I answered all the questions patiently while hoping that he would let me go soon. But, then, I felt pretty shocked when he asked me to open my "hijab". I never thought that he would ask me to do that. That wasn't right at all. I tried to fill up some courage left inside me and told him that I wouldn't be able to do that. Then he, again, looked at me deeply and said “I just wanna see if you have ears or not”. What...? I couldn't believe that he wasn't sure if I had ears or not. I looked around and found that there were only two people left in the room, me and the Philippines man. The officer was still waiting for my response. “Oh God, I wanna make it faster. I really wanna go out of this room” - my pray at the time. I took a deep breath and then told the officer that I wouldn't open my head cover, but I'd let him touch me instead and make sure that I have ears. He seemed satisfied with that and finally let me go. But, the last thing he said really shocked me. He said “it is a procedure to prevent terrorists from coming to our country”.

While walking to the claim area to find my luggages, I asked myself “Do I really look like a terrorist?”. A tiny little girl, with a small backpack and a letter from US Department of State, suspected as a terrorist. How could they think like that? But then I realized one thing “Is it because of my appearance wearing hijab?” I hoped not, cause we can't judge anybody by their appearance. If that was the reason, I would be very sad. And by those experiences, I promised to myself that I will never ever judge people by what they look like, what they wear or where they are from. 

(Seattle, August 9th, 2010)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I am from

I am from a country of races and tribes
I am from a city of crowd and traffic
I am from a home of love and respect
I am from a religious and multi-ethnic family
I am from a place where mosque and church located side by side

I am from the clock ringing every one hour
I am from the books of languages and computers
I am from the smell of cigarette and coffee
I am from the diary of stories and memories I am from the pictures of dream and real life

I am from the raindrops that fall from the grey sky
I am from the sunshine that lightens the days
I am from the flowers blooming after cold season
I am from the long river surrounded by mountains and trees
I am from the empty road where dogs bark and cats mew

I am from friends who show me how to smile and cry
I am from teachers who teach me invaluable knowledge and wish me succeed
I am from children who fly the kites every evening trying to reach the sky
I am from strangers who listen to iPods, play guitars, read books, smoke cigarettes, talk on the phone, or stand right beside me silently
I am from homeless people who rely their lives on begging money and taking junk food from the trash cans of any restaurant so they can survive

I am from the songs of the broken heart
I am from the tears of loss and pain
I am from the disappointment of unreachable dreams
I am from the strengh of belief that life is a matter of choice, where I can choose either to fall down and remain silent or start crawling and get up

I am from places where I am supposed to be
I am from what I see, I listen, I smell, I taste, I feel, and I think

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Friend of Mine

Aku mengenalnya kurang lebih sebulan yang lalu di koridor Heiner itu...

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Hari itu adalah jadwalku untuk ikut serta membantu Steven (an Intern student) di Help Desk. Hanya ada enam orang saat itu: aku, Ben, Tommy, Jay, Steven, dan Jeff. Dan hari itu adalah pengalaman pertamaku di Help Desk. Hanya ada dua costumers yang datang untuk memperbaiki komputernya saat itu. Steven dan Tommy-lah yang turun tangan menyelesaikannya. Yah, sebagai junior aku hanya bisa melihat-lihat saja, aku tahu diri akan kemampuanku yang masih nihil soal komputer. Tak lama, Gary pun datang bersama seorang lelaki bertubuh tinggi dan besar dengan rambut gondrongnya yang ikal. Gary memanggilku sambil berkata “Hi Thya, this is AWB, he is your tutor for the networking class”. Ku tatap lelaki yang berdiri tepat di depanku itu sambil tersenyum. Dia mengulurkan tangannya untuk berjabat tangan “Hi, I am AWB (spelled Oubi), nice to meet you”. Aku pun menjawab, “I am Thya, nice to meet you too”. Gary pun meninggalkan kami berdua dalam kebingungan ingin mengatakan apa lagi setelah itu. AWB pun mengajakku untuk duduk di sudut ruangan itu untuk membicarakan jadwal tutor kami untuk sebulan ke depan. Dan kami pun sepakat untuk melakukan tutoring pertama di hari Kamis. AWB kemudian mulai menanyakan aku berasal darimana, aku pun dengan santai menjawab aku dari Indonesia. Dan seperti jawaban orang-orang Amerika lainnya yang pernah menanyakan hal yang sama, AWB pun tak tahu Indonesia di mana. Mmm...aku tak heran dengan hal itu. Kemudian ia pun mulai bercerita bahwa ia sebenarnya berasal dari Baltimore, the largest city in Maryland, dan baru pindah 2 tahun yang lalu ke Washington. Ku perhatikan gerak-geriknya saat itu, jujur aku agak khawatir melihatnya. Tangannya yang terus bergetar sambil memutar balikkan handphonenya, cara bicaranya yang kadang cepat kadang lambat, dan matanya yang terus bergerak ke kanan dan ke kiri. Saat itu kupikir, dia orang yang aneh. Well, whatever!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Looking Beyond the Picture of Mary

The first time I entered to a church, I couldn’t take my eyes off the picture of Mary. The picture was so interesting to me. I saw a beautiful woman with a long flowing robe putting her hand on her chest. I felt like she was looking at me without any expression. I have seen several pictures of Mary in the past, but I never looked at it deeply and noticed the details of the pictures. One thing that captured all my attention was a head cover that she uses on her head. I looked at myself and realized that we both are woman who wear head cover. According to Christian belief, Mary is a holy virgin woman who bore Jesus Christ. Muslims also believe this. We believe that Mary has a miraculous gift from God which makes her special from any other woman. I spent more than fifteen minutes just to look up the painting closer. One thing really stuck on my mind when I saw it in a deeper level, and then it brought my imagination to relate it to my reality. It made me consider the way some people treated me with my head cover which has been very contrast with the way they consider Mary as a woman who wore head cover as well. 

I looked at the picture of Mary silently, while trying to assume what the people might think when they see the picture. A boy came toward me and looked at the picture as well. He showed much admiration to the picture. I didn’t have idea what he was thinking, but I assume that he didn’t even pay attention to Mary’s head cover. The figure of Mary as a special woman with miraculous gift is the first thing comes into people’s mind every time they see the picture. As Percy suggests “Certain things have been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the people’s mind” (184). What I think he means is that, the “symbolic complex” comprises and veils those ways that things are symbolically represented and/or conveyed either by others or ourselves in communication with others. The thing becomes the thing as it is spoken about and interpreted, not to be the thing-in-itself. Percy is trying to explain that the way people think about something is usually not from what they really see, but from what has been formulated in their minds. Percy gives example about sightseers who visit Grand Canyon. Before coming to Grand Canyon, most sightseers have their own description about Grand Canyon in their mind which they usually found it printed beautifully on postcards or geography books. Therefore, when they see Grand Canyon, they will measure their satisfaction based on what has been formed in their mind. The same is true with the pictures of Mary, no matter what color is used to paint Mary’s picture. No matter what kind of paper they use to draw her picture, the picture of Mary has always been an incredible piece of art. Every time the people see it, they will be mesmerized by the beautiful person in the picture, who conveys a beautiful spiritual message. 

I kept my attention on the picture of Mary and got stunned with her beautiful head cover. My mind suddenly brought me to my experience related to my head cover since the first time I came to the US. Many of American people thought that I am a conservative person who supports terrorism. I remember when the security officer at the SeaTac airport took me out of the line and interviewed me for 2 hours, just because I wore head cover. What if I didn’t wear it as a religious tradition? What if I were just a person who wanted to protect my hair? What if I were just a person who had cancer and had to wear it to cover my head? It’s such a prejudice of somebody’s appearance. I think that the picture of Mary shows us that wearing head cover has been a usual thing since a very long time ago, and nothing is wrong with that. People can only judge somebody based on his/her personality, not his/her appearance. The same as Mary’s picture, Muslim women’s head cover has become a symbolic complex of prejudice. People’s mind has been formed that head cover is a part of conservative Muslim women dressing style. Even if the woman who wears head cover is a really good person, people just ignore it and keep thinking negatively about her. This symbolic complex of prejudice has been formed since the 9/11 when some terrorists, who announced themselves as Muslims, spread terrors to American people by bombing the WTC in Manhattan. People’s mind has been set up that all Muslims are considered to be terrorists. Muslim women, who are identified by their hijab, get the effect of this prejudice. Therefore, anytime Muslim women who wear hijab come to America, they have chance to discover this symbolic complex of prejudice. This symbolic complex about Muslim women's head cover happened to me in reality. I remember when I first time arrived in USA, people looked at me so differently. I didn't know exactly what they thought about me, but I felt like they looked at me suspiciously and cynically. I sometimes asked myself “Is that the way they judge another different person?” I thought that was too inappropriate. The head cover or hijab is an identity of Muslim women, but it never reflects their personalities. 

 The picture of Mary is not just simply a picture of the mother of Jesus. The artist is probably trying to communicate something more glorious than anything in this world. The painting is like a door. We may feel comfortable seeing a beautiful door, but who wants to stand there just to look at the door? We want to open the door and go through it to see what behind it. As Winterson suggests “Art is visionary; it sees beyond the view from the window, even though the window is its frame” (310). Winterson is probably trying to say that if we just simply looking at a work of art without involving our curiosity to understand what actually the art conveys. This is how we should approach the picture of Mary. The picture is not a realistic portrait. We may realize that nobody in the world would ever know how Mary really looked like, and her holiness could never be described in human terms. The artist may just presume the figure of Mary before they painted her picture. Most of the pictures of Mary show a figure of a beautiful woman who wears a long robe and head cover. However, every time the people looking at the picture, they rarely ask themselves why Mary dressed up like that? Why Mary wore head cover? I assume that if I ask them what they see in the picture, they will just give a simple answer “this is the picture of the mother of God”. In contrast, I am as Muslim woman might look at the picture more deeply because I found something interesting about the picture, something that reflected to my reality. Something that made me ask myself why the people judge me by my head cover, why they think negatively about me, they don’t even know me. 

However, I also realize that the way everyone approaches the picture of Mary is normally different. As Allison suggests “Those of us who have read the same books, eaten the same kinds of food as children, watched the same television shows, and listened the same music, we believe ourselves part of the same nation – and we are continually startled to discover that our versions of reality do not match” (11). In other words, Allison is trying to explain that even if we see the same work of art, we will approach it differently. The way we reveal what we see in the paintings is pretty much different. The same is true when we see the picture of Mary. I found it interesting when I saw the picture of Mary wearing head cover, while other people might reveal something different from that. 

Looking at a work of art is probably an easy thing to do, but looking beyond it and finding a message it conveys is a pretty hard thing to do. Just like when we look beyond the picture of Mary. Everyone might catch different messages from the picture, but no limitation for us to define what the picture actually conveys. I am, as a Muslim woman, found it interesting to relate the picture of Mary wearing head cover to my real experience about my head cover. Other people might not reveal the same thing as I did. The picture of Mary and my experience show a different kind of symbolic complex of head cover that is happening nowadays. Art and reality is somehow related to each other, it depends on how we see it and how we define it.  

Allison, Dorothy. “This Is Our World”. Think Vertically! Essays for Inquiry, Analysis, and Reflection. WCC English Faculty. Southlake, TX: Fountainhead,2010. 1-13. Print 
Percy, Walker. “The Loss of the Creature.” 183-203
Winterson, Jeanette. “Imagination and Reality”. 307-22. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cerita Hari Ini

Langit pagi ini begitu kelabu...tak seperti biasanya. Kuputuskan untuk tak keluar rumah. Sambil duduk di depan jendela, kulihat beberapa orang sibuk dengan kegiatannya masing2. Anehnya, biasanya kompleks apartmen ini sangat sepi. Tapi hari ini begitu berbeda.
Tepat 20 meter dari jendela apartmenku, ada seorang kakek yang sibuk dengan anjing kesayangannya. Tak ada yang istimewa sebenarnya. Kakek itu menggunakan kursi roda otomatis dan mengikat anjingnya disela-sela penyangga roda itu. Kulihat ia sesekali mengajak anjingnya berbicara, sambil mengusap-usap kepala anjing itu, kemudian menengok ke sekelilingnya tapi tak ada yang peduli. Ia tak tahu aku begitu memperhatikannya dari balik jendela ini.
Sudah hampir 3 hari aku sering melihat kakek itu mondar-mandir didepan apartmentku bersama anjing kesayangannya. Aku tanpa sengaja selalu memperhatikannya. Apa sebenarnya yang dicari oleh kakek itu? dia seperti menunggu sesuatu disana. Dan ketika 2 jam berlalu sejak kedatangannya, ia akan pergi dan berlalu dengan wajah sedihnya. Tak ada satu katapun yang keluar dari bibirnya, hanya tatapan matanya yg menyiratkan sesuatu, dan anjing itu seolah mengerti arti tatapan itu. hmm...setidaknya ia tak sendiri.
Setelah kepergian kakek itu, pandanganku beralih ka arah seorang nenek yang sibuk menyapu halamannya. Perempuan tua berbaju pink itu tampak anggun. Sesekali bibirnya bergerak seperti sedang menyanyikan sebuah lagu. Aku sempat berfikir orang-orang tua yang tinggal disini begitu kuat dan mandiri. Walaupun umur mereka sudah 80-an mereka masih tetap bisa melakukan pekerjaan apa saja. Bapak tua yang tadi juga, walaupun ia tak bisa lagi berjalan dengan kakinya, ia masih tetap bisa pergi kemanapun ia mau dengan kursi rodanya tanpa ada yang menemaninya selain anjing itu.
Kulihat perlahan-lahan awan hitam itu mulai menjauh berganti dengan langit yang berwarna biru. Seperti yang sudah kuduga Weather Forecast itu salah lagi dalam meramalkan cuaca. Wallahu Alam, hanya Allah yang punya kuasa mengubah segalanya. Dan ketika semangatku kembali muncul, aku bergegas untuk bersiap keluar menikmati cuaca yang bagus, aku tiba-tiba tersadar bahwa tak ada yang bisa kulakukan, aku lupa bahwa aku tak bisa berjalan dengan normal sejak 1 minggu yang lalu. Dan sejak itu yang aku lakukan hanya berdiam diri di kamar mengamati orang-orang yang lalu lalang di depan apartment ini. Kucoba untuk tak bersedih...karena itupun tak ada gunanya. Aku teringat dengan kakek itu, dengan tubuhnya yang lemah dan kakinya yang tak mampu lagi berjalan,  ia masih punya semangat menjalani hari2nya bersama anjing kesayangannya. Huh....setidaknya ia tidak sendiri. Tidak seperti aku yang harus melewati ini seorang diri.
Kuputuskan untuk duduk kembali di depan jendela itu, mengamati mereka yang diluar sana sibuk dengan urusan mereka masing-masing. Kutatap langit yang cerah itu, semakin lama alam bawah sadarku membawaku mengingat kembali masa-masa yang lalu. Tak terasa waktu berlalu begitu cepat. Rasanya baru kemarin aku merasakan senangnya menikmati masa-masa sekolah di SMU, dan sekarang waktu membawaku begitu jauuuhhh...kenegeri paman sam. Sekarang begitu banyak yang kurasakan berubah...tidak terkecuali diriku sendiri. Pengalaman, ujian, dan cobaan itu sedikit banyak telah mengubahku
Suara burung gagak itu menyadarkanku dari lamunanku. Aku tak habis pikir mengapa begitu banyak burung gagak di sini. Aku tak begitu menyukai burung itu. Mungkin karena aku sering melihat di beberapa film bahwa burung gagak adalah burung yang membuat suasana jadi tidak menyenangkan. Entahlah...yang pasti aku tidak menyukainya. Setiap hari mereka terbang diantara pohon-pohon sambil mengeluarkan suara yang kadang memekakkan telinga. Aku merasa burung-burung itu sedang menatapku...seperti menertawakan kesendirianku dan ketidakberdayaanku. Huh...burung itu sepertinya lebih beruntung, mereka tak sendiri
Kupalingkan pandanganku dari burung itu. Sejauh mataku memandang, bisa kulihat sosok seorang anak perempuan kira-kira berumur 5 tahun sedang bermain scooter. Ia begitu menikmatinya. Sambil tertawa lepas, ia mengendarai scooternya semain dekat ke arah apartmentku. Hmmm...aku jadi teringat ketika aku masih seumuran dengannya. Boro-boro pernah main scooter, kenal yang namanya scooter aja nggak. Biasanya aku malah sering main karet, petak umpet dan congklak, sm sekali tak ada yang canggih. Tapi aku bersyukur akan hal itu. Permainan-permainan itu membuatku mendapatkan banyak teman saat itu karena harus dimainkan lebih dari satu atau dua orang. Dan ketika kutengok anak perempuan itu...senyum itu tak lagi kulihat dari wajahnya. Ia sepertiya bosan bermain sendiri. You see! betapa kesendirian sangat tidak menyenangkan meskipun kita punya segala yang orang lain tak punya.
Senja itu akhirnya mulai terlihat, sedangkan orang-orang itu pun tak lagi terlihat . Hari ini kuhabiskan waktuku duduk di depan jendela ini, mencoba merenungi apa yang terjadi disekelilingku. Aku, kakek itu, nenek itu, burung gagak itu, dan anak perempuan itu punya ceritanya masing-masing. Dan cerita itu membuatku mengerti bahwa siapapun kita, kesendirian itu terkadang sangat tidak menyenangkan. Kita akan selalu butuh seseorang untuk berbagi, entah disaat sedih ataupun bahagia.

Cascade Meadows, Apt. 475-303

Sunday, March 13, 2011

White Elephant Gift Exchange

Hari itu tanggal 9 Desember 2010, tepat setelah perkuliahan untuk Fall Quarter selesai, aku mendapatkan sebuah undangan party dari Catalina yang judulnya "Invitation for Holiday Potluck and White Elephant". Pertamakali mendengar kata "White Elephant" aku sempat bingung memahaminya. Yang aku tahu kata "White" itu artinya "Putih", dan "Elephant" artinya "Gajah" = Gajah Putih. Kupukir-pikir mungkin mereka mengundangku untuk menonton sirkus yang didalamnya ada gajah berwarna putih. Tapi ternyata aku salah besar, malah sama sekali tak ada hubungannya...hahaha :D

Setelah kutelusuri lebih jauh, ternyata "White Elephant" ini adalah nama dari sebuah game yang biasa dilakukan di Amerika, terutama ketika libur akan datang. Mereka menyebutnya "Holiday party game". Dalam permainan ini, setiap orang harus membawa sebuah kado yang isinya tidak harus mahal dan besar, karena memang tujuan dari permainan ini hanyalah untuk "having fun". Peraturan dari permainan ini simple saja. Setiap orang akan mendapatkan nomor masing-masing sesuai dengan hasil lot (seperti arisan). kemudian berdasarkan gilirannya, setiap orang diminta untuk memilih: akan mengambil kado yang ada atau mencuri kado dari teman yang telah di buka sebelumnya. Misalnya gini nih...orang pertama mengambil sebuah kado dari kumpulan kado-kado yang ada, kemudian membukanya di hadapan semuanya. Orang kedua bisa memilih, jika ia menyukai kado yang di dapatkan oleh orang pertama, orang kedua dapat mencuri kado itu dari orang pertama dan membiarkan orang pertama membuka kado yang lain. Jika tidak, orang kedua berhak mengambil satu kado lain yang masih terbungkus dan juga membukanya di depan semuanya. Begitulah seterusnya. Akan tetapi ada batasan terhadap hadiah yang ingin dicuri. Satu hadiah hanya bisa dicuri sebanyak 3 kali. Jadi yang berhak memiliki hadiah itu hanya orang ketiga yang berhasil mencurinya.

Saat itu, kami yang diundang berjumlah sekitar 16 orang. Masing-masing orang membawa kado ditangannya. Aku datang membawa kado kecil yang isinya sebuah mangkuk sup kecil lengkap dengan sendoknya (gak modal banget...hehehe). kuletakkan kadoku diantara tumpukan kado yang telah ada. Aku berharap mendapatkan kado yang bagus malam itu. Dan alhasil Alhamdulillah aku mendapatkan sebuah boneka anjing yang lucu...hehehe. Tidak penting hadiah yang didapatkan seperti apa, yang penting kebersamaan dan kegembiraan yang timbul dari permainan ini. Malam itu kami lewati dengan penuh canda dan tawa.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unbelievable Surprise

Baru saja ngecek email dan menemukan pesan mengejutkan ini :

OMG...OMG... I can't believe it!
Serasa mimpi rasanya bisa menjadi salah satu pemenang dalam kontes menulis ini. Berawal dari coba-coba tanpa berharap bisa menang, tulisan ini akhirnya terpilih juga. Benar-benar tidak bisa dipercaya. 

Terima Kasih Tuhan