I like you in winter

C360_2018-03-01-12-04-28-668beanie and jacket,
sweater and comforter,
wool tights and gloves,
days curled up in bed under the blanket,
days dragging our feet to take on new adventure,
strange love, strange love,
snow and soft sun,
sleepy eyes in the morning and five more minutes to snuggle,
foggy windows and a call to cuddle,
it’s winter,
time to fall in love even deeper

Where God Resides

One of the most remarkable thing about Indonesia is the enormous amount of surprises it has. I have always thought of Indonesia as a summer palace, California’s Catalina Island kind of summer, only that over here, summer lasts the whole year. I tend to associate Indonesia with everything that entails a good summer vibe: warm, beach, fun, short sleeves and flip-flops.

The image of Indonesia as a hot tropical country was ingrained so deep in me that sometimes I forgot that this island country stretches 5,271 kilometres from east to west, and 2,210 kilometres from north to south. It is bound to have certain places within its borders that don’t necessarily conform with the all-year-long summer pattern.

As much as it is blessed with the most beautiful beaches you can ever see, it is also blessed with plateaus; areas of highland, raised significantly from the surrounding area. The closest plateau from Jakarta is Dieng Plateau in Central Java, raised about 2,000 metres above sea level. The name Dieng came from “Di Hyang”, Sanskrit words for ‘a place where the gods reside’. Dieng Plateau was once covered by at least 400 Hindu temples and thus, was long time ago a temple city of the priests.

One fine day, a friend of mine, Ratna asked me if I had any plans for the long Eid-al-Fitr holiday. I laid out my perfect plan of some serious sleeping series and swallowing some books, but of course Ratna came up with something more adventurous.

“Let’s go to Dieng. There is this open trip, here are the pictures and here’s the link.”

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I was pretty much sold.

I somehow managed to drag Indra into this and registered for Langgeng Wisata’s open trip. Open trip was something new to me, and I must say it was quite an experience. We set out from Plaza Semanggi, Jakarta. Firman, our tour guide stuffed all 19 of us — most were strangers to one another — in an Elf bus along with our bags and snacks. Being the master of curling up anytime-anywhere, I didn’t have a lot of trouble adjusting my position. Poor Indra and his prized long legs though, he was practically trapped.

The journey was estimated to be 12 hours long and Firman suggested us to get some sleep so we’ll be up for some hiking and trekking by the time we arrived. At some point when we were in Cipali highway, I woke up to a jolt. The bus driver probably determined to get us there 4 hours earlier, since he seemed to completely forgotten about speed limit or that the bus was actually equipped with a brake.

I could not sleep and it was strange because I am very famous for my ability to sleep on the bus/train/airplane/pedicab/taxi/you-name-it, but for once the speed scared me so I texted that one person who walks in a starlight in another world and sent him my location. I was not sure where I was (partly because I have major problem with reading maps), but that one person translated the map and informed me that I was an hour away from Dieng.

We finally arrived at 04.30 AM and I happily stepped out of the bus in the hope to stretch my arms and legs.

Bad idea.

It was freezing cold. Okay, the temperature was just 7°C, but being the cold blooded Komodo Dragon that I was, I ran back to the Elf bus, put on some layers and decided to get some sleep. Two hours later it was breakfast time and thanking my much needed 2-hours power nap, I was ready to enjoy Dieng.

Dieng plateau is a big complex of caldera; a cauldron-like craters formed by the eruption of Mount Prau (2.565 metres). Kawah Sikidang, Kawah Sileri and Kawah Sinila are one of the many craters that made up this big volcanic complex in Central Java. Firman told us that Kawah Sikidang will be our first stop of the day.

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There’s something so eerie about this place. Maybe it was the strong sulfur smell, or perhaps because it was a barren of land surrounded by random hills and smoky pond. Kawah Sikidang was barricaded by bamboo fence and behind it, you can see the mixture of hot water and grey mud bubbling endlessly.

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I didn’t fully understand the nature of these craters until we arrived in our next stop. Firman half forced us to go inside the Dieng Theatre where a short documentary about the plateau was played for us. I was amused by how fast Indra fell asleep. The theatre could probably use newer version of the documentary and add more interactive element to it, but the information contained in the 20 minutes documentary was invaluable. I was reminded that Indonesia is surrounded by active volcanoes and learnt that volcanic craters are not to be taken lightly.

Some of the craters in Dieng emitted poisonous gas. The others are prone to eruption. In 1979, one of the craters, Kawah Sinila suddenly erupted. Sinila’s eruption triggered other craters to crack, erupt, and emitted poisonous gas. The villagers woke up in horror and tried to save themselves. They headed to the city of Batur and unknowingly entered an area heavily covered by the poisonous, odourless, colourless CO2 and H2S (hydrogen sulfide) from the nearby Kawah Timbang. Within minutes 149 people fell on the street and died that dawn.

I remember the documentary showed the old yellowish pictures of the bodies on the street and thought to myself how awful that was. I was already blabbering to Indra about how people need an early warning system and a clear evacuation path even before he woke up. Little that I know that two days later, when I was safe and sound at home, another crater (Sileri) erupted and injured ten people. It hit me hard that I was visiting active craters, craters that can erupt anytime without warning. It hit me hard, that life is a fragile thing.

Dieng Theatre also served as the doorway to Batu Pandang Ratapan Angin and Telaga Warna. Batu Pandang overlooks Telaga Warna and Telaga Pengilon. I have always had  a thing with height, so my eyes were spoiled, quite literally, with the view from Batu Pandang.

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From there we walked through a short trekking path that opened up to Telaga Warna, the very lake we just witnessed from Batu Pandang. Telaga Warna changes its color every now and then, due to the high sulphur it contains. I think the very first thing I noticed was how serene the lake is. That day the surrounding area was bustling with visitors, but the lake was so quiet as if it was not disturbed at all by other voices.

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Being so used to the hustle bustle of a big city like Jakarta, I felt at peace quite instantly in Dieng. People are generally more friendly, easy going and no one was rushing anything. Life goes on a slightly slower pace here. Dieng is also the first place I’ve ever visited in Indonesia that has, unbelievably, a constant temperature of 15°C or lower throughout the day. Remember when I used to attach the word “summer” to Indonesia? It’s all history now. The local people said that it was, in fact, summer at that time and thus Dieng was warmer than the usual. Jakarta is almost always 30°C at least, so I had no complain and took the change of the weather happily.

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After series of up-and-down short hikes, Firman told us that he was going to take us to Tuk Bimo Lukar; Dieng’s very own fountain of youth. Tuk Bimo Lukar is sacred to the Hindu and drinking the water was said to guarantee you eternal youth. I was not in particular seeking for a fountain of youth — according to Sir Indra I look like a 10 years old anyway–, but the prospect of fresh cold water is tempting after half day of hiking so I jumped in and hence this picture:

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After convincing one another that we looked younger and fairer, we concluded our day by visiting Candi Arjuna complex. The complex was old and you can sense it. It might have been the oldest Hindu temple in Java, built some 1,200 years ago.

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Candi Arjuna complex was set in a square layout on top of the grass that acted like a green carpet. I was a tad disappointed though, for they were all empty temples, since all of the statues have been either stolen or removed to Kailasa Museum in Dieng and we did not have that museum in our itinerary.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon there, relaxing, giggling, walking around the complex, watching the sun set slowly and after taking a thousand more silly pictures, we headed back.

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The next morning, we woke up at dawn and made our way to Puncak Sikunir. It was 2 in the morning and judging from my attire, I was obviously an eskimo walking inside the house. Learned from my mistake the previous morning, I was pretty sure it was going to be freezing. To my surprise, it was not even that cold. I soon was feeling way too warm and took off my jacket and scarf. Indra yawned and walked passed me saying, “It is not (yawn) going to get cold until a couple more hours.” I cannot comprehend this. How can 2 in the morning be warmer than 5 in the morning?

Firman was firm and serious when he told us to be punctual, since we were not only hunting the sunrise view, but also, apparently, hunting for the spot to watch the sunrise. We were early so we had sometime to nibble on some finger food before the hike. Firman took the lead of the group and asked some of the guys to act as a “sweeper”, making sure no one was left behind. It was a beautiful 30 minutes hike, nothing too heavy or crazy, except the starry night sky show above us.

I have always been, and always will be, captivated by the stars. It was quite literally a sky full of stars. Between the yawn and the cold (it did get colder at around 4AM to 5AM), I remembered exactly why I willingly left the bed and dressed as an eskimo in the middle of the night. The view was simply amazing, I will do it all over again.

Thanks to Firman, we secured the second best spot to watch the sunrise. I sat with Indra and Adi on a rock overlooking Mount Sindoro and Mount Prabu. It was dark but not quiet at all. People from all over the place were being excited, on the border of annoying, and screaming or shouting chant to each other. I closed my eyes and tried to shut all the other noises. Once I succeeded, I felt like my soul was having a deep conversation with the morning itself.

“..the Earth is flat.”

I opened my eyes and stared at Adi who was sitting on my left. “Ha?” –was the appropriate response, so I “ha” him.

Adi laughed and explained about a series of YouTube videos discussing the possibility of Earth shaped as a flat plane or disk. All the time I could not get image of Earth as a pancake out of my mind, no matter how many times “mental image be gone” I murmured.

Earth Day Pancakes 3
THIS, brother and sister, is the Earth Pancake

Adi, Indra and I entered into some philosophical talk about the Earth, mountain, the world, and life in general after that. That was always the magic of a mountain– or a hill, or maybe the magic of dawn: It gets people to talk about all sort of things they would not talk about otherwise. The “heavy” topic; philosophical thoughts, values, wonder and dreams. Those conversations at the same time made me miss mountain climbing again.

People began to cheer even louder and we saw a stripe of orange in the dark night sky, and the sun slowly rise. I could not tell if it was more of orange, crimson, or like a rose on fire, if there is such color in the world.

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The stars dimmed one by one, as if making way for the sun’s soft glow to reach us. It started as one small stripe and then it spread all over the sky. As it did, the sky was tinted with shades and gradation of orange, red, black, gray colors, it was majestic. The mountain backdrop added to the beauty of that morning and I quickly registered in my mind to make more time for this: for more sunrises.

Our group stayed for awhile until it was bright and we can clearly see the outlook of at least five mountains surrounding Puncak Sikunir. We picked up our trashes and walked back to the village. It took us longer to go back because everyone was heading back at the same time, so we had a sort of “traffic jam” there. Firman hastily showed us some other lakes visible from Puncak Sikunir but my mind was still fixed on that sunrise.

I wonder, don’t the sunrise and the sunset wear the same color?

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and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us.“-Kahlil Gibran

not forgotten

I am surprised at how long I’ve left araramse without any updates. 13 months! That’s a new record, not that I’m proud of it.

About ten thousand things have happened in the last 13 months and to give a highlight, here’s what has been happening:

I’ve graduated from Disney International Program: Asian Cultural Representative as per April 2016 and hence, not a Cast Member anymore. That alone, would take a very long, emotional, filled-with-pictures-kind-of-posts to describe the bittersweet feelings and emotional roller coaster following the last days of my program.

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Even now, six months after.

I’ve discovered the joy of calling Disney World my home. Yours truly has been given a rare opportunity, a privilege to not only access the four parks, two water parks and miniature golf courses, not to mention a bunch of state-of-the-art resorts, but also been blessed with the time to actually explore everything.

I’ve traveled some more, pretty convinced California is my favourite state and that San Francisco has a special place in my heart.

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I’ve made friends from all over the world, and I miss them with all my heart.

I applied to a scholarship for a master degree, but have not succeeded yet.

I don’t know if I’m actually ready to be a graduate student just yet.

I am employed (yay), doing what I really like: teaching. Once more, I am given the privilege to teach young students and learn from them every single day.

I turned 26. My best friends decided to melt my poor old heart by being there, unexpectedly, showering me with love and ice creams. I am the happiest 26 years old in the world.

I visited Disneyland in Hong Kong with that one person who walks in a starlight in a different world, who happened to understand the importance of meeting my ex-boss (Mickey Mouse), which in this case is more important than riding Big Grizzly Mountain (but we got to ride it twice anyway, so all is good).

That one person who walks in a starlight in a different world is home for the weekend. Few things can beat the euphoria caused by that.

I’ve grown. In the past 13 months, I’ve grown. A lot.

Araramse supposed to witness it all. I admit it’s getting harder to update the blog regularly, but I also come to realisation that more than before, I need to write things out. Bear with me, for araramse is not forgotten.

Disney CRP Application 101: That Bloody Email…

December 11th, 2014

I will never forget this date for the rest of my life.

It was Thursday, sunny, and I woke up early at around 05.00 am. Rolling in my bed, I pictured that morning as a perfect morning because:

1) Waking up early means I can hear the birds singing and breathe fresh cold air, both vanished within an hour from 05.00 am. Thanks, huh, Bekasi?
2) A very important person to me was around to celebrate Christmas here in Jakarta. I still cant believe that person was there. But he was.
3) I will climb Mt. Papandayan with 5 of my friends that night, so far everything seems perfect.

and then there was this.

Dear Candidate, thank you for your interest in representing your country at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in 2015. I am very excited to inform you that you have been selected, from a large number of applicants, to join a Program Overview and an interview for this program. The event will be held on January 6th, 2015 at 7am EST in the USA. Since there are many different time zones in Indonesia, please ensure you know exactly what time this will be in your city. You will need access to a computer with internet capability and a web cam and microphone for this event. Please make sure you have tested your connectivity prior to the event. Very soon you will receive an invitation to select your interview time (will show EST in USA) in a separate email as well as in your dashboard. Please be sure to check your email dan dashboard often for updates. You will only have 6 days to schedule yourself for this event. You may wish to prepare a 2-minute speech talking about  some unique cultural or traditional aspect of Indonesia. Telling a short story is always good! Please ensure it is not longer than 2 minutes. In addition, you may wish to visit our website at disneyworld.com to learn all about your program and about various areas and events at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida. I am looking forward to speaking with you on January 6th, 2015.

That email took the definition of a “perfect day” to a whole different level. My first reaction was to laugh, are you freaking kidding me?, followed by a prolonged silence, and then BOOM! I exploded, stormed out of my room, running down through the stairs, found my mom downstairs and started talking gibberish.

When finally able to compose myself and regain my ability to speak in a comprehensible language, I told her that I was invited for an interview with Walt Disney World. I’m pretty sure she was teary but she denied that. But I felt her. For the past month I’ve been struggling choosing between two amazing jobs that were offered to me. I ended up choosing the one I know I love more, but can’t help feeling I’m missing something by rejecting the other one, the bigger one. The deal breaker was because they asked me to hand over my Diploma as a guarantee that I will stay with them for at least three years (which is an illegal practice by Indonesia law, by the way. Why on earth would they do that?).

That morning I sat there in our living room with my mom and she reminded me that had I accepted the bigger company’s offer then I wouldn’t be able to take Disney’s offer. I went straight back to my room and prayed.  It is amazing how God set the universe in motion and present us with things bigger than we can imagine if only we have a little faith.

That day before I climbed Mount Papandayan, I met up with that very important person and told him the news. I think he was excited too, but he did ask me if it was a legit email since there are a lot of scams using big companies name like Disney. Honestly, I kind of think it was a scam. But there were other emails following the first email, asking me to schedule my interview in the available time slot. So what they did was to send me a link, and I opened it and choose my interview schedule. The date was already set, January 6th 2015, all I had to do was to choose the time for my interview.

I chose 09:45AM-10:05AM EST, which was 08:45PM-09:05PM in Jakarta. I thought it will be the perfect timing, I wont be the first to go into the interview (which hopefully gives me time to do something in case my internet connection, or Abby — my laptop, in that matter decided to ruin the day) and will not be the last either. I assumed I will be home by that time, perfectly calm and ready for the interview.

So I submitted my chosen time slot and I wait, for what feels like a ten thousand times over and over again, I wait.

Disney CRP 101: While You Wait

I AM FREAKING OUT!!

Can I be excused for freaking out?? My check-in date is May 5th, which is still around 20 days or so from now, but since I’ll leave Indonesia early, then it is just two weeks away before I left. Crazy how time flies! I feel like I haven’t done anything significant to prepare for my departure.

 

Sensing this will happen, a best friend made this ground breaking innovation and bring order to my rather chaotic universe. He set up a platform for me to list everything down to the smallest detail. Thanks to this, I’ve been able to track what I’ve done and what I still have to do.
Which is good, really. Except that it also sets me on an auto pilot mode in preparing everything. I’ll look at the list and then do my best to complete it one by one, without really feeling it. I guess it is not that I’m not feeling things — I’m a jar of emotion, I feel all sort of unexplainable emotion — I think what I’m doing is suppressing those feelings and put all my mind and effort in completing the epic list because I know once I open that jar and let myself “feeling”, there will be a massive emotion explosion.
Or I probably should do that anyway since suppressing feeling is exhausting.
Ahem, thank you for allowing me to letting that out, feel better now. Okay, so as promised, I will list some of the blogs I’ve been reading while preparing my application. When applying to Walt Disney World, I think almost everyone had to go through certain period of waiting time. So instead of worrying and obsessively refreshing e-mail or checking your Dashboard three times a day (which I totally did), you’ll find reading others’ blog or websites as a much more rewarding activities. Of course as always, I know it is easier said than done. I’m pretty sure everyone who applied to WDW developed an obsessive-compulsive behavior at some point.
I sent my application back on early May 2015, and although I knew there was no chance they would get back to me within a month, I did very frequently checking Dashboard and opening emails in a rather obsessive manner for two months or so. Then I got really tired and tried to read these wonderful blogs and website instead. Proven very useful and can significantly distract me from obsessing over nothing.
This was once the biggest hub for everyone to get in touch with practically everyone. There are accepted applicants, candidates, current participants, alumni, you name it. The forum is a bit outdated now, and people are less active, but you can still find all kind of information there. You can also meet new friends, kind souls who will help you or just listen to your worries and complaints, you can befriended people across the world who probably much like you, are struggling with their application. You can always ask around to get advices for housing, transportation, immigration, or if you are interested to learn about previous Cast Member’s experiences.
Dan is one of the best Disney bloggers out there. He has done the program before, and totally understand the excitement, the confusion, the wait, everything. He wrote down his experience in detail, add some very useful tips and invited his friends to share their experiences on his blog. By reading his blog, I got a big picture on what it would be like to stay and work as WDW’s international program participant.
Meet Adam, my new crush. He put a lot of effort into his blogs and videos and I am so grateful that he did! He compiled most of the important information, told stories of his previous program, kindly shared helpful videos of housing, Wishes, day off and pretty much everything. He explained the application process, interviews, packing, moving-in day, compared the housing and wrote about transportation and so much more. I am somewhere between I’m-so-excited-to-have-a-chance-to-enjoy-a-job-at-WDW-like-that and oh-you-lucky-boy-I’m-so-jealous state every time I read his blog. I’ve heard that he has been offered a permanent job with Walt Disney Company (congrats, Adam!!) but that also means he could not help us future CRP answering questions regarding application or what should we do to get in. But his previous posts and videos are always accessible and I found all of them very helpful and enjoyable to read/watch.
So Courtney wasn’t a CRP. She did another program called Disney College Program (DCP), I think it is quite similar since they also do the same process of applying, attend Tradition, trapped in the hustle bustle of  check in and moving in day and all that. Following her journey, I learn more about different roles for Cast Member in Walt Disney World, housing events and all sort of fun things you can do on your day off. She also talked about some of the classes offered at the Disney University.
Kira was also a DCP participant and although she had stopped updating her blog since June 2014, I found her posts as quite helpful to provide details on how it would be like to spend part of your life in Walt Disney World. I’m such a visual person, I need to read a lot of blogs to build a vivid picture of what’s generally going on in a Cast Member’s life.
This is especially for applicants from Indonesia. Here’s kak Bonita’s blog and she records her journey from applying to flying to Orlando here. She writes mostly in Indonesian. As I mentioned before, it is quite hard to find South East Asia’s CRP blogs, and kak Bonita’s Oatbin Stories has helped me to understand the application procedure, the interview, visa and basically the post-offer stage better.
There are a lot of other lovely, helpful and useful blogs the program participants have made out there, not to mention tons of vlogs on Youtube. You can always do some research through the Internet and this is my only advise: read, read, and read. Gather as many information as you could before you apply. Convince yourself that this is what you really want to do, and that you can also benefit from the program. Because you ain’t going there for free (yes there are of course expenses associated with the program. The biggest one would probably be the airplane ticket) and just to have fun. It is not that you can’t be spontaneous, because being spontaneous is almost always good. But I think you’ll miss a lot of good things Disney can offer if you just go without preparation and without knowing at least what you want to do, what you want to give and what you want to get.
So, start reading. I’ll see you around!