Halal bihalal

Halal bihalal is an Indonesian holiday of asking for forgiveness and the pardoning of sins after Eid ul-Fitr. As sad as I have been that I couldn’t be in Indonesia for Eid this year, I managed at least to spend halal bihalal at Wisma Nusantara (the ambassador’s residence) in London. Gotta love epic meet-ups of Indonesians.

Bianca from Coco Frenzy had a stall this year and my friends and I indulged (rather too much) in some of her desserts – macarons, chocolate cake and carrot cake. I was running around having too much fun to remember to take photos (boohoo, I know) but below is my lovely friend Mo brandishing cake. Bianca is so lovely that she invited me to her house to teach me how to make the lovely chocolate things she sells! Obviously I said yes without a moment’s hesitation. So not only does she make delicious treats, but she’s also super nice. Some people have it all.

(easily my favourite photo of the day)

It was good timing, really. Just as I felt so sad and missed Indonesia so much, I got to spend an afternoon in the company of London’s Indonesians. Indonesian language classes start up again at the end of the month too, so it’s not all bad.

Coco Frenzy

I was at Chiswick Farmers Market last Sunday. It’s a cute little market, tucked away in Dukes Meadows near the river. I took a group there for work and between us we bought champagne, olives, beef burgers, Moroccan flatbreads, various vegetables, macarons and cupcakes. The macarons and cupcakes were bought from the lovely Bianca at Coco Frenzy, pictured above. Her stall was filled with beautiful treats – so beautiful that it pained me slightly to open the macarons the next day to share with my friends. The consensus was, however, that they were delicious. I asked Bianca where she had studied to be a chocolatier and she told me she had studied back home. I asked her where home was and she said Indonesia! What a coincidence. She will also be setting up a stall at the Halal Bihalal celebration at the ambassador’s house in September, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing her again. For now, check her out at the Coco Frenzy website or drop by Chiswick Farmers Market on a Sunday and say hello.

Indonesia Raya

Yesterday was the 65th anniversary of Indonesian independence. As it’s ramadhan, there was no big event at the ambassador’s house in London this year, just the flag-raising ceremony and the reading of the proclamation of independence. I couldn’t help but remember where I was this time last year. I was in Jakarta watching my baby cousin (I say baby, she’s 17) take part in her school’s Paskibra (the ceremony of raising the flag) and bursting with pride. Every independence day, local neighbourhoods throw a day-long party including sports competitions and live music and everyone has a fun and chilled out day off from everything.

Rasa sayange, rasa sayang sayange

My good friend Maashallah and I decided we wanted to go for dinner somewhere neither of us had tried before. We went to Rasa Sayang, a Malay restaurant in Chinatown. Being a Minang girl, I obviously ordered the beef rendang. Maash and I shared a portion of roti canai to start and I couldn’t decide between ice lemon tea and teh tarik to drink so I just ordered both. It’s a nice little place and all the food is very reasonably priced. We were left absolutely stuffed after our meal too – the beef rendang portion was very generous indeed. A+. Would dine again.

One of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold.
March 10, 2010, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Asia, City, Europe, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A few more photos from Istanbul before I forget to put them up here. At the moment I feel like I want to photograph everything, but everything around me seems so dull and uninspiring (I know I’m totally missing the point – please indulge me). I’m so sick of the freezing cold weather in London. Even when the sun comes out, it’s still so cold that I can’t bear to subject my hands to the numbness and I lack the dexterity to work my camera with my mittens on. Also, most days after I finish work I get straight on the tube so I can hide away at home. There’s something about this time of year – the transition between winter and spring – that really irks me, and it feels like many Londoners are just as grumpy as me. Someone told me that this is meant to be the worst time of year for Seasonal Affective Disorder because it’s at the very tail-end of winter. Perhaps London’s mood will pick up once spring stops dragging its feet and actually arrives.

Cold Turkey

I had a very good time in Istanbul last weekend. The people were really friendly – the young men were sometimes too friendly but never stepped across the line. People spoke to me in Turkish a lot of the time and, as in Mexico, I felt really bad when I couldn’t reply and they looked disappointed. There were many occasions when I felt we would have been ripped off in other cities, but we weren’t. People just chatted to us in the street because they wanted to know what we thought about their home city. It’s an amazing city – its history is visually layered and interwoven and I got a real sense of what had been. I would definitely go back.

Summer is definitely over.
November 6, 2009, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Asia, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I spent the summer in Indonesia. Half of my family are from there and I spent a lot of time there as a child, but this year was the first real opportunity I’ve had to explore it. I went to central Java and Bali and really saw it. I wasn’t staring out at it from behind a car window. I guess having a new level of fluency in the language (I studied it for two years at SOAS) really helped to overcome the barrier of having fair skin and European facial features. I felt overwhelmingly global – not British, Indonesian, Irish, European or Asian – for the first time and got to really listen to people speaking about life in Indonesia, instead of inferring it for myself.

I know I can’t learn every language of the world so I can’t (half) blend in anywhere else on my to-visit list in the same way, but I guess there’s something I can take away from it – to look at the similarities rather than the differences between people and communities of people