George Town Photo Diary

Malaysia is not a stranger to me anymore. I traveled here when I was a kid, even did a summer exchange in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur back in 2016. It's safe to say that I'm already pretty familiar with the surroundings and how to get around. Although, I was still stoked to spend the week here, giving there are still plenty of places that I haven't yet visited.

Coming here for the third time now I feel like going to a new destination. Living alone for quite some time, it makes me more interested in exploring new places. Traveling around has been pretty easy nowadays, thanks to the invention of google maps and online transportation services. Still, walking around in a city without no one guiding you where to go is both challenging and fun. This time that city happens to be Georgetown, Penang.

Named as one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, Georgetown is the capital city of Penang and located in the Penang island. So expect to find inexplicable art scenes along the streets, from murals to other types of installation. Since every corner is a photo-worthy spot, I didn't really bother walking around, although the weather was a little too warm by the time I was visiting.

A couple of days before I visited, I was in Malacca city, which was also inscribed as one of UNESCO world heritage sites as well. Similarities between both cities of course can be found through their architectural style. Old, worn-out shophouses and colonial buildings with a touch of cultural diversity. An exquisite view of ancient architecture.

I came here with no expectations at all. I even put another town on the list, just in case I changed my mind. But arriving here and knowing that I'm only a walking distance away to the sound of waves and the most fresh seafood in town, my heart is so in awe. Spending an evening in the city sipping coffee or talking a walk along the jetty, is never too much.

I found plenty of art and antique shops along the streets. Some stuffs I just don't find back home. It's actually an eclectic heaven for me, even to just window shop around. And of course the art just doesn't stop there. Themed cafes and coffee shops in Georgetown are worth-visiting—not that I already am a sucker for these kind of places—and I wish I had visited more. I didn't know any city could actually draw my interest again after Tokyo, but this one surely is a catch.

Junk Cafe

Have yourself an authentic kaya toast breakfast

Pinang Peranakan Museum

Awesome Canteen @ Sekeping Victoria



About Autumn

Society today has given us a perspective on how to define anything in everything. Someone's success is measured by what type of car they are using, or how much money they earn in a year. There really isn't one fixed measurement to define success. Truth is, everyone has their own ideas of success. Some of them find success in achievements and people's applauses, while for some it's as simple as having peace of mind. But we have this mindset shaped by the society and informations we are surrounded by. It limits our ability to think, sometimes even blocks our way of seeing things from a different point of view.

This reminds me of my Mother. She is in different in a way. Her obsession towards orderliness is such a pain, to the point I think it might be a disease? When we go to some store then, say, she wants to buy a patterned blouse, she needs to check whether the sleeves are in the same length. Then the neckline, whether it is symmetrical. The motives, whether it is symmetrical. She would hang two to three identical blouses (or if the store has a dozen, then she would hang them all) on the rack, look at them carefully, then pick the best one. Almost like a pageant contest. Like oh my god, who would've noticed if one of your sleeve have more flower patterns than the other sleeve? Why are we spending an extra 30 minute on this matter? 

My mother might have chosen to see the perfect blouse in symmetrical motives, while I chose to see perfection in time efficiency. But does perfection really exist or is it just one of the many concepts created by the society we're living in? If it really does exist then it should've applied to all members of the society, instead of just to some people. This then reminds me of a phrase I know: wabi sabi. Not to confuse you with that spicy green paste, wabi sabi is one of the Japanese philosophy of life-that has no equivalent word in English-that could translate to this: the beauty in imperfection.

"Both life and art are beautiful not because they are perfect and eternal, but because they are imperfect and fleeting"


Autumn is the one season I can relate the concept to. The time of the year when the leaves start to dry out then fall from the branch. Slowly the ground will start to be covered up in yellow and fiery red, a beautiful scenery for a sandwich date at the park. Little that we realize that this whole picture perfect comes from the imperfection the nature itself creates: decaying matters.

So as this dead butterfly I found in front of my house in Nerima, Tokyo. She welcomed me even before my doorbells. Clear as I remember, I had never seen the creature even before the temperature started to fall. Now that it has gotten a lot colder, she was lying gracefully before me. Though lifeless she was beautiful. With its perfect wings in the color of autumn leaves, my best guess was it died out of cold, or starvation. Even the leave knew how much of a beauty she is, that it lied right beside her, paying tributes in honor for her life as a part of the cycle of nature.

I found precious in age. In my worn out and obsolete paperbacks. I re-read my books through folded pages to find my favorite passages. I write some, both for actually taking notes and personal amusement. However, technology never cease to amaze us with its new inventions. Writings, visuals, sounds, nothing of what we hear, or see, or sense, that couldn't fit into a form of digital file. Things that does not age. None of our .docs and .pdfs and ebooks will get moist or moldy just because we keep them inside a folder for the longest time. Thus it's a good thing because it makes life easier-isn't it what it's all about?

One day in Koenji I found this little shop inside a desolated alley. It has a deer (if not a horse, completely forgot) head sculpture greeting my excitement as I enter the shop. Broken lamps and dislodged teeth toy, it had me at hello, or earlier than that if possible. I browse through the room in awe. That's when I found stacks of papers in the corner. Some are old photographs and postcards, real ones. It ages, you can tell by the rustic colors and peeled off edges. Unfortunately the postcards are not in any language I understand, and keeping pictures of old people (that most likely is in peace right now) inside my room didn't sound to me like a very nice idea. So I took one of this playing card, that says, "Piatnik nándor és fiai". It sounded beautiful even when I was not saying it out loud. Turned out it was Hungarian and possibly was made in 1950s. It has aged so beautifully as it is now at least three times my age.

Not everything in life suppose to become something beautiful and long-lasting. But to ignore them is to waste what life has granted. As we age we don't only get more powerful by experience, but also more vulnerable by time. What we have been through makes up who we are today. Life grants us gifts in the smiles engraved on our loved ones. In misery, in grief. In mourns. It will only take a while until we realize that these too, were gifts.



24/7: 22

Months have gone by since my birthday this year. But the idea to skip it and just move on with my life without writing a story about how my twenty one went, is just nonsense. If you want to assume this whole thing as a total bullcrap then why not. So much has happened for the past year, which adds to the most memorable so far.

July 24th 2017. I remember it was a sleepless night in Bali. Good music, and oh, how people are so much fun when they're wasted. I slept, though it was more of lack of rather than enough. But I woke up to the most refreshing air. The sun felt a lot warmer and the day couldn't get any better.

A couple of months later I got a text to leave for Tokyo, less than two-week notice. Up to this day I couldn't remember what had driven me to deliver those papers to my university office and apply for an exchange semester abroad. After my trip in 2016, Japan has always been something, but to actually fill in those forms, and write an essay about how I, and not somebody else, is the most suitable candidate for the opportunity, wasn't exactly the kind of thing I would do. But I did, despite the occasional eye-rolls of people around. 

I told the news. My friends were all tears and blues, not to mention my parents and families. At that very moment I realised, how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who actually think my absence matters, and how I was very unaware of that. And that's what it was all about. It hit me: why am I not in doubts? At all?

Living in a city for so long, surrounded by the same people, doing the same thing, going to the same place to buy lunch or simply taking the exact same route to reach home. Jakarta has always been a home where I was born and raised. You have that special bond with the city you live in your whole entire life. It's your home. Until you long for somewhere else.

And it's like the universe play tricks on me that I had to get my visa and house fixed just a couple of days before my departure. Not to mention I had no basic language skill to even ask for a simple help, or directions. But over time I was thinking, I was lucky enough because turns out the Japanesethough they look like they don't give a single care about your beingare the nicest people you can be stuck in translation with. I lost my way to school my first month in Tokyo and found myself contemplating too much at the platform while waiting for the next train.

I started to open up and get to know more people. I was one of those people who have this intense anxiety getting to know someone new, which was why I tend to avoid people and unnecessary conversations. But the thing about being somewhere foreign is the freedom to be someone else. One day someone greeted with me over lunch, we talked and to our surprises we shared the same interests. We became good friends afterwards. Then it occurred to me as for why hadn't I started getting to know more people while in here? So I did. I met a lot of new people from all over the world. I made friends in a month more than I could ever have in a year of being in my hometown. Diversity only make our friendship even more dense, and our talks even more broad. Conversation grows like branches in a tree.

I got asked a lot about my name and my hometown, which makes me repeat the answers for just about a million times. I love it. Even when they pronounced it wrong. Even when they made me repeat every two second because God-knows-how-many new people they have encountered in this city. Even when they laughed at me because apparently they have my name in their own languageAlita is for 'little wing' in Spanish. Then they started to ask me about my hobbies and interests, the kind of music I like, the kind of whatever I like. I didn't know what to respond, initially. 'Do I like pop music? Have I always been into sweet or savory food? Photography or fashion? Is it writing? Or do I just love to chatter about my life in order to make myself feel better?'

I live alone in a house in Tokyo. The thought of living by yourself in a foreign city which language you don't speak, with very minimal preliminaries beforehand might sound like a nightmare to you. Can't say it was hard at first, but saying it was easy was an overstatement, either. Of course I needed time to adjust with the environment. Without having anybody around telling you what to do, you got to know yourself better. You start choosing for yourselves, and accept all the consequences of your own decisions. You stopped needing that one person to consult everything with. Therefore living alone is like constantly having a conversation with yourself. And it's up to you whether to agree or not with your own statement like, 'Oh, what do I want for breakfast today? Do I have enough time to make a toast? Nah, I should rush for the train. Gotta stop at the groceries before going home since eating out is expensive. Also I think I should cut off coffee for the week because it has been breaking into my bank account'. That kind of thing.

One of my favorite thing was the poetry class I took in my exchange semester. It has been showering my autumn and winter days with the most beautiful words. I sat on my train reading poems, walked through parks with my poems, drank my coffee at kissaten (Japanese for coffee shops) also with my poems. People might have thought about how much art I have in me for having TS Eliot or Walt Whitman copies in my hands, and on my notes, the whole time. Truth is their language is next-level English and my vocabularies don't compare to anything, really. So every time the class finally discussed the poem, it came like a huge revelation to menot even exaggerating. I'm in love with words, and so the their writings have inspired me to write even more.

The opportunity for me to visit places also adds to my photography obsession. Going to different cities you start noticing how differently people walk, or talk, or dress. Capturing it through my lens has been one of my favorite thing to do. Most of the time I was with my Agnija, of course. But in early Tokyo days I also bought a vintage polaroid camera, impulsively, when walking around Loft Shibuya. I have never had an instant camera before so I thought why not buy something unlike the ones people have. I sticked the results inside a book, along with photobooths pictures, and tickets etc. I started making...a scrapbook. Because why not. Also since polaroid films are hella expensive, I started to capture things that really matters. Or really cute. Hahah!

When I come to think about it, the year of 21 was also very special because I visited a lot of cities this year; some I have been, some I have never been, even some I have never even heard before my whole life. Starting from Bali. Then Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Miyagi, Yamagata, back to Tokyo for farewell, then off to hometown Jakarta, then Bandung for short, Melbourne, Sydney, Jogja for short, Kyoto and Osaka once again, Nara and Kanazawa (the two parts of Japan I've been dreaming to visit!), then end the trip in my beloved hustle bustle Tokyo (where I celebrated 24/7 this year!) before going back home and finish my last semester of study.

Oh yes, I have just one more semester to end my study before being a free bird then continue to see places and write stories.

So I guess... 頑張って?


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