Sunday, November 30, 2014

Let's Put Our Feet in Other People's Shoes

In the cold morning when the sun seemed so lazy to shine, I put lasagna on three plates.  Vigorously   I gave them to my three kids.

The  conversation at the breakfast table was marred  by Anin's sullen face.

“ Uh...I’m so lazy going to school.” Anin said as she chomp a small piece of lasagna. The 10th grader senior high girl looked so resentful.

Anin's statement directly affected her younger sister, Dea.

"Yes, yes .. I want today like yesterday, to be holiday ." Said the 7th grade junior high girl  with  murky face.

The youngest Rafif  also agreed with his  older sister’s idea.

“I also don’t want to go to school !” He exclaimed.

"Now let's play the game. The trick is easy. Let us imagine!" With a look of calm I responded to my children's babble. I took a small gulp  of my  warm green tea before continuing to speak.

"Just Imagine. Anin, Dea,and Rafif are standing on the roadside. You wear dirty, shabby, and worn clothes. Your body are so smelly,  long time not being cleansed by water and soap. Your hands clasp rotten gunny sack full of junk that are taken from the trash bin. You are starving, so hungry until you feel your stomach are smarting. You are shaking, and your body  release cold sweat. Walking barefoot, your feet are covered by  dirt.  Your calves are sore, and your bodies are so tired."

My three kids were gawk. Surely they got confused to guess what I meant.

I glanced into their blank faces, and continued the conversation.

"Over there,  you see  kids in  school uniform. They are wearing  primary, junior , and senior high school uniform.  Their clothes are clean and tidy. Their faces are bright and  energetic. Their bellies are  full, they have already had  lasagna for breakfast. It was delicious lasagna made by their lovely mother. Each of them is carrying a backpack full of textbooks. They  are stepping with pride  towards the school building. "

 I paused for a second to let  the imagination played in their minds.

"Well, how do you feel, kids? How do you  feel staring at those children who are  so cheerful? Do you feel  a strong desire to go to school, don't you?

  "Disperse! Disperse!" Exclaimed Anin as she stepped away from the table.

"Come on!" Dea said. She followed  her oldest sister. 

"Hey  .. where are you going ??" My eyes followed the two girls who rushed upstairs.

"Taking a bath, of course!" Anin said.

"Yes, why should you ask, Mom? I'm afraid of being late for school!" Dea-pitched voice sounded annoyed.

"Ooo ..." A smile spread across my face . My fingers pinched  Rafif's cubby cheeks with affection. He  munched his  last lasagna piece, then  ran to the bathroom.

Sometimes we need to see the world from other person's perspective. Sometimes we should put our feet in other people's shoes, so that we realize how lucky  we are.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Amazing Scenery of Seoraksan National Park

It was  beautiful morning in the autumn . The  temperature was minus 1 degree Celsius. Three layers of clothing plus thick socks, boots and gloves  should be used if you didn't want to get cold . Actually,  the temperature was not too cold, but the strong  wind blew,  made the cold as infiltrated to the bone. Nevertheless, my husband and I felt very excited.

The hotel was located  in the area of Mount Seorak, South Korea. My husband, ( I call him Akang) and I lulled by the beautiful scenery outside the hotel. There was a  form of a replica "Stone Henge"  with  the mountains background.

We took pictures as much as we can  with  variety of poses. I just wanted to capture every beauty in this place. I never being bored constantly staring at this beautiful natural view.

A friendly-looking Caucasian woman was passing near us.

"Are you newly married couple? "She asked me.

"Yes, we are, Mam ... hahaha ... We've just got married for 16 years." I said with a laugh.

She chuckled.

"Congratulation! Have a wonderful honeymoon for both of you. "She said as she left.

"Thank you." I  waved to her.

The trip from the hotel to the Seoraksan National Park took only a few minutes. This area is a nature reserve in 1982 designated as Biosphere Preservation District by UNESCO.  Mount Seorak is the 3rd highest mountain in South Korea after Halla Mountain and Mount Jiri. The peak height of mount Seorak  is 1708 m, composed of granite and gneiss which is formed the rocky mountains.

Don't ever  miss Seoraksan National Park when  you visit South Korea. This place is  really beautiful!

Since get down from the bus, I never  stopped exclaiming cheerfully   seeing  leafy trees with variety color : red, yellow, yellowish-green, brown,  and green with   the beautiful mountain in the background  and also  the clear blue sky. The scenery was plentiful of color.

From the entrance, we kept walking  on the  wide pedestrian while enjoying the atmosphere. Not far from the gate, on the right side of the road, we saw a giant Buddha statue or the Grand Bronze Buddha called” Tongil Daebul”. Unlike the sleeping Buddha statue which was  located in Thailand, this Buddha statue was in a sitting position.

On the crossroads, there was a bridge stretching over white rocky river. It was dramatic landscape with the magnificent mountains as the background. It looked like a painting, a natural  amazing divine  painting. Allahu akbar!

We continued our journey to get to the temple Sinheungsa. There were some  beautiful corners of the old temple that were very interesting as the object image.

After having a short rest and drinking delicious hot tea, we walked to the cable car terminal. We sat on the bench waiting to go up to Gwongeumseong Fortress. When entering into the cable car, we deliberately sought position on the edge section so that we could freely enjoy the view of the park from above.

The cable car moved slowly . Then our eyes was spoiled by the amazing natural scenery. Down there, on the left side, I saw the winding road between the trees. The winding road crosses the river bank that  the water was receding. White stones scattered on the riverbed. The higher cable car took us, the more  the river with  white stones  looked  like  a snow-covered. Far away on the right side,  the  upstream of  the river  seemed like the point that linking bluish-green mountain ranges.

The more we moved upward, on the right side of the river , I saw clustered trees with colorful leaves. The trees that grew on the slopes and cliffs covered the mountain looked like a thick draped rug . On the higher level , the trees were increasingly rare, and the view was changed into the gray rocky mountain wall with jagged shape. There was a crack between the rock serrations where the sun peek, shining with   golden light . Bright blue sky completed the stunning natural painting. I felt that  my heart jumped up,  wanting to shout admiration. Masha Allah ...

When we arrived at the bridge which was the cable car station, we rushed down. Here we also enjoy  beautiful scenery. There was yard  bounded by blue fence   where tourists could enjoy the scenery from the  height . They could  sit there, relaxing, and  enjoyed the  drinks and cakes  that  sold in caffe.

Then there was a path to climb to the top of the stairs.   The stairs  led  to the top, to an uphill road on the side of  the mountain slopes.

We chose not to climb to the top. We just sat down and took many  pictures around the platform.
But when I looked up , a small road on the slopes of the mountain caught my attention.

" Let's go there, Akang ! I think it will be nice. " I exclaimed.

Akang nodded.

We walked hand in hand up the stairs of rubber coated material. Soon we arrived at the small road,  I was amazed at its beauty.

The road was winding and uphill. On the left side, there was a wooden fence that restricted the path of a steep cliff. In the right , there was rock wall and clustered trees. Too bad we didn't  have time to climb up to the top.

"Pose there , honey. I'll take your pictures!" Exclaimed Akang pointing to a stone in my right side.

Camera caught my pictures many times.

Then we sat on the stone. The natural silence hug us , bringing  a peaceful ambience.

I turn to look Akang, then gave  him the sweetest smile I had ever had.

"Why do you smile?" He asked.

"I just wanna say thank you for bringing me here. "

"Well. Actually I want to be here with Angelina Jolie. But since she was busy shooting, I was forced to bring you. "Akang chuckled.

I pinched his arm with exasperation. He always had a way of teasing me . But I could not deny, how grateful I was being here.

I lookedat the beautiful valley down there, sharpening  my senses. I breathe in the fresh air,  listening  to the sounds of nature. The  friction foliage, rustle of wind and the cold that I let  caress my  skin.  I instilled  this feeling  on  memory in my brain cells,  so I could bring this feeling back,  if someday I missed this place.

If Only Mom was at Home

One day,  Anin finished joining  an English class after school. It was in the evening when she got home. She felt so tired and cold. The rain that fell had made her uniform getting wet.

There was  Anin’s mom standing in front of the door.  She greeted her with a smile.

After changing her clothes, Anin went into the dining room.  She saw her mom  was preparing dinner.

 Anin said ,"Mom, I got headache."

"Come here, dear. Eat this  soup. Chicken Soup can make you refreshed." Mom  gave her a bowl of steaming chicken soup.

  Mom’s chicken soup was so delicious. And it really made her felt better.

  After dinner, Mom gave Anin medicine.

"Go to sleep. I hope your headache will be healed tomorrow. Tonight, your dad and I have to go  out of town, dear. We will be home the day after tomorrow." Mom said as she looked at Anin.

"Okay Mom. I'll be fine. See you the day after tomorrow." She said before entering her bedroom.

Then Anin fell asleep. She slept  very  soundly so that she didn't  dream at all.

When the morning came, she was startled. It turned out that  she overslept!

Mom was not at home, so nobody woke her up. Anin also forgot to set an alarm clock. She immediately got up, prayed subuh event it was too late,  and  then got ready for school in a rush.  She didn’t have enough time for breakfast.

Anin went to school ushered  by  the driver. But unfortunately they were stuck in traffic jam. When  she arrived at  school, the gate had been closed.

She was sad and felt upset.

“If only  Mom was at home, I would not be late for school. I promised to Mom that I would be fine without her, but in the fact I did not.” She said to herself.   

She missed her mom very much...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The French Quarter Festivals Reflect Community Pride

The French Quarter Festival, New Orleans.

Picture taken  from :

How to enjoy the uniqueness of New Orleans? People should come to New Orleans in the right time.The best time to visit New Orleans  is  when the French Quarter Festival is  held. It is one of the most famous festival  which  designed to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of New orleans. The fact that this event is very popular is  indicated by the presence of more than 500.000 people every year.  People such as Amir Landsman, come from around the world to experience music, food, art, culture, special events, and all the inherent component of the festival.

More than 2000 community volunteers work together for the succes of this event. Every years, the visitors of this events are getting bigger. In 2014, there are 732,000 festival-goers walked through it gates.  The number is a significant increase over that was in 2013, when approximately 560,000 folks attended the event. They come not only from USA but also from other countries such as Canada, , Norway, United Kingdom, France and Germany.  

The  French Quarter Festivals are more than ordinary festivals. They are the largest free music festival in the South. They are cultural celebrations that unites the people in a strong  community pride. The festivals have the uniuque identity of New Orleans. This is the reason that makes so many people come back year after year.

The Festivals are held in three times throughout the year, which are in the spring, summer and winter.The largest event is The French Quarter Festival which is held in spring. In the summer, Satchmo Summer Fest is  held. The last festival is Christmas New Orleans Style. Each festival has their own uniqueness.

Many performers, more than 1400 local musicians,  and artisans from all over the country  get involved in this festival.  The musicians  perform all kinds of music genre  such as latin, cajun, rock, R&B, classical, cabaret, folk, traditional to contemporary jazz, brass bands, New Orleans funk, gospel, Zydeco, blues and more in  21 stages throughout French Quarter.

Not only artists, there are  many businesses sponsor the events. There are  also many local businesses represented  as food and beverage vendors. There are 60 local  of New Orleans restaurant  such as  Antoines’s Restaurant,  Court of Two Sisters, Crepes ala Cart, Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House and many more, provide their best dishes and drink across the French Quarter.  

With the huge amount of festival-goers, the event has significant  economic impact to the French Quarter and New Orleans.  French Quarter Festivals, Inc. which is a private nonprofit organization  runs all the festivals obtains funds from sponsorship and  vendor fees. Besides that the funds is also obtained from  beverage and merchandise sales, and annual Gala. More than $ 259,5 million was produced in 2012.  This amount icluding $ 126.6 million in direct spending and $ 132.9 million in secondary spending. The event generated over $ 18.3 million in state and local tax revenue. This amount is increasing year after year. The French Quarter Festival nowadays  has become the large  economic engine for  French Quarter and New Orleans.