Little Asia in Lund*

*originally published for The Newbie Guide to Sweden on May 27, 2020

What do you miss the most when you’re living far from home? For me, it’s 3Fs: Families, Friends and Food!

Coming from a country known for its distinctive and rich-in-flavour foods, there are times when I crave for a little taste of home in Sweden. Lucky for me, there are some Asian speciality shops and restaurants in Lund where I can find remedy whenever homesickness strikes.

Of course it’s not apple to apple if we compare them with the shops and restaurants back home, in terms of stock and variety. But it’s still good to have them here. Especially now, when travelling overseas is not recommended and visiting your family back home is not a reasonable option.

These places can help you bring a bit of taste of Asia to your kitchen:

Eid al-Fitr celebration #inthetimeofcoronavirus

Every Eid celebration has its own story.

And I will remember this year’s Eid al-Fitr (1441H/2020) as a very quiet and lonesome one, even for me who hasn’t been home for Eid for years.

There was no communal Eid prayer in the morning. No family gathering. No friend visit. Nothing really special for a big day like Eid.

We got used to the idea of celebrating Eid far from home actually. This is not our first time celebrating Eid not in Indonesia. But at least in the time before coronavirus, we got to pray in nearest mosque or park, met friends and later gathered with them, so the festive spirit was still there. We also had an Eid festival where we could really enjoy the joyful moment and meet fellow Muslims in Sweden.

But this year, we just prayed at home with Zaki as the imam and the preacher. Then video calling all day long to greet our extended families, both from my side and Zaki’s. It’s still good to see them, talk to them, laugh with them.

But there’s this void that needs to be filled somehow.

I know I should be grateful. At least I’m still able to celebrate it in good health, not in exile or war zone. Nobody said #lifeinthetimeofcoronavirus was gonna be easy. So I think I just need to make peace with the fact that things are different now, including Eid celebration.

Although we plan, God also plans, and He is the best planner after all.

So, for the sake of keeping the Eid spirit, Zaki and I decided to still cook Eid specialty dishes, like opor and sambal balado, even though it’s just gonna be us who eat them 😄. I even made apem, a rice flour cake specially served during Eid in my hometown.

The essence of Eid al-Fitr is joy, supposedly for being reborn as a better person as we celebrate it after the fasting month. That’s why on Eid we gather with families and friends, we cook good food, we dress nicely, and we are obliged to pay Zakat, so that those who are less fortunate can also celebrate the day and be in joy.

This year’s Eid celebration is definitely one of a kind. But let’s hope that it’s just temporary and that we will be able to have a proper and better Eid al-Fitr celebration next year onwards.

Finally, from my family to yours, we wish you a blessed and a joyful Eid. I hope we can still find a ray of happiness and gratitude, despite the pandemic situation we are currently facing.

Eid mubarak! Glad Eid! Selamat Idulfitri 1441H!

What Covid-19 has taught me about Sweden*

Picture by Arsalan Khan. Retrieved from here

When you’re living in a foreign country, it feels like you’re living in two different worlds. As if you set your feet on two different places: your hometown and your current place. Consequently, you can’t stop wondering, comparing, and analysing, which one gives you the better fit. This makes you feel wobbly and restless sometimes, especially in the situation of a pandemic of Covid-19 like what we have lately.


The last couple of months have been a really hard time for everyone. We are forced to embrace the new normal and to redefine the concept of life as we know it. New vocabularies now become part of our daily life: COVID-19, social distancing, flatten the curve, flock immunity, lockdown, and so on. However, the situation had also brought a new revelation for me.

And this revelation revolves around one word: TRUST.

Can you trust the level of trust in Sweden?

I don’t have any trust issue, but when it comes to politics and government, I was raised and taught to be sceptical or at least questioning the system. But in Sweden, this has been constantly challenged.

In the context of COVID-19, Sweden has a different approach from my home country or any other country for that matter. Sweden employs quite loose regulations, even compared to neighbouring countries like Denmark and Norway.

Tentang Kehilangan dan Patah Hati Itu

Saya berusaha untuk tidak buru-buru mencap 2020 sebagai tahun yang buruk. Saya masih ingin percaya bahwa kejadian-kejadian beberapa bulan terakhir ini hanya kerikil yang terjal di awal, dan akan membaik pada akhirnya. Ini toh baru bulan kelima, masih ada tujuh bulan untuk menebus bulan-bulan tidak menyenangkan sebelumnya.

Tapi jujur, berat merawat optimisme itu. Terutama sejak kabar-kabar kehilangan berjejalan di lini masa. Dari yang sekedar grafik dan angka hingga nama-nama yang akrab di telinga: Glenn Fredly, Irrfan Khan dan yang baru saja, Didi Kempot.

Setiap nama tersebut memiliki memori tersendiri bagi saya.

Glenn Fredly adalah penanda masa remaja yang dipenuhi tayangan MTV. Gayanya di video ”Cukup Sudah” membantu mendefinisikan kata ”cool” di masa itu. Lirik lagunya yang romantis selalu membuat saya terpikat, baik saat sedang atau tidak punya pasangan. Bahkan, ”Terpesona” masih menjadi lagu wajib saya setiap kali karaoke.

Lalu, meski tak sebanyak Glenn, memori atas Irrfan Khan adalah memori yang menawarkan warna lain untuk kegemaran saya menonton film India. Dia tidak mencuri perhatian lewat gaya dan penampilan fisik, tapi aktingnya di The Lunchbox, The Namesake dan Piku meninggalkan kesan yang tidak sedikit.

Sementara Didi Kempot, lagu-lagunya selalu mengingatkan saya pada siang-siang yang terik di Gunungkidul.

Pada angin kering musim kemarau yang bebas keluar masuk dari jendela dan pintu yang dibuka lebar-lebar. Pada satu momen ketika dua orang pekerja bangunan sedang mengganti ubin, salah satunya sambil menghisap rokok dan menggumam pelan, samar-samar melantunkan Ketaman Asmara yang diputar dengan lantang dari VCD player di ruang tengah.

Begitulah memang cara mendengarkan musik di desa saya: diputar keras-keras seolah sedang berlomba. Tumpang tindih dengan suara mesin kompresor dari bengkel milik tetangga. Dan deru mobil serta sepeda motor yang berlalu lalang di jalan raya, persis di depan rumah.

Pikiran saya merekam episode-episode kehidupan itu sebagai memori yang menyenangkan. Karenanya, kepergian si penyumbang memori mengusik ketenangan dari kenangan-kenangan itu, menimbulkan rasa kehilangan dan patah hati. Karena bagaimanapun, mengutip Didi Kempot sendiri, “aku nelangsa, mergo kebacut tresna” (aku merasa nelangsa, karena terlanjur cinta) (Cidro, 1989).

Maka atas nama kehilangan serta patah hati itu, saya membuat satu video dengan latar lagu Sewu Kutha yang saya nyanyikan awal Februari lalu. Meski tidak istimewa, semoga bisa menjadi penanda kenangan yang tersimpan lama.

Membawa atau Tidak Membawa Keluarga saat Bersekolah di Luar Negeri

Ketika sudah berkeluarga, keputusan untuk studi lanjut di luar negeri bukanlah perkara mudah, mengingat lebih banyak yang harus dipertimbangkan daripada saat masih berstatus lajang. Setidaknya itulah yang dirasakan beberapa orang yang belakangan menghubungi saya, terkait pengalaman saya membawa dan dibawa keluarga bersekolah di luar Indonesia.

Saya sendiri cenderung memilih opsi membawa serta keluarga saat studi lanjut. Mengapa? Karena menurut pengalaman kami yang belum seberapa, saya dan suami tidak terlalu ahli dalam hal LDR. Haha. Setelah pernah dipaksa berjauhan selama delapan bulan, kami sepakat untuk memilih dekat meskipun sering ribut daripada jarang marahan tapi jauh 😀

Tapi, tentu saja itu preferensi saya pribadi. Tidak bisa serta merta diterapkan ke individu atau keluarga yang lain. Yang jelas, seperti juga keputusan-keputusan yang lain, tetap ada yang perlu dipertimbangkan untuk membawa atau tidak membawa serta keluarga saat bersekolah di luar negeri. Berikut hal-hal yang menurut saya perlu ditengok ulang:

Working from Home #inthetimeofcoronavirus

Work from home situation before coronavirus time

There’s nothing new with the idea of working from home (WFH) for me. Especially after I moved to Sweden and doesn’t work full time anymore. My home is my working space. Along with library and cafe sometimes 😊

Even so, there’s something different with the concept of WHF lately. It’s about the reason behind it and the mood that surrounds it. The you know what: Coronavirus COVID-19.

As an attempt to halt its rapid and massive spread, people are now “forced” to work from home and to limit their social exposure. In this case, WFH is no longer an option. It is an obligation. And that’s why it feels different now. At least for me.

I find it’s harder now to work from home, to find a working corner or to multitask things. I haven’t written anything for quite sometimes (except one post for The Newbie Guide to Sweden here). I have many ideas in my mind but most of the times I just stare at my laptop, read news and write nothing. With the course I teach is now pending until mid April, I supposedly have more time to continue my old project or to create a new one. But I only end up with eating, stress-baking, and bing watching. So contra-productive 😀 .

Maybe it’s psychological.

Some researchers believe that when someone’s being confronted with something involuntarily, the natural response is to deny first.

Maybe I’m now reluctant to work from home because it’s not my choice anymore. I have to do it because I can’t go to other places. Besides, even if my routine remains the same, it still feels different because my thought is occupied by something else.

Or maybe I’m just making excuses.

I just hope that it’s not gonna be a new normal. I mean, I want to write again. I want to be able to craft a story no matter where I do it. And writing this post is actually my attempt to begin.

Wish me luck!

Get to Know Swedish Children’s Book Icons*

If you had just moved to Sweden, with small kids, it’s just a matter of time until your kids gushing about the character in Swedish children’s books relentlessly. Like me, three years back, you may never have heard some of them before. So here I compile the list of Swedish children’s books icons you may need to know to keep up with your kids ☺

Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Långstrump)

Created by Astrid Lindgren in 1945, Pippi Longstocking is probably the most famous and the most celebrated fictional character in Sweden. She is a red-haired, freckled, unconventional and superhumanly strong girl who lives in VillaVillekulla, with her monkey whose name is Mr. Nilsson and her horse.

This character draws a long debate among adults due to its strong and unusual personalities, challenging the conventional ideas about how kids should behave. Nevertheless, many people consider Pippi as the symbol of girl power and gender equality.