Catholicer Seminar Trip

Bandung Station. Anything weird here? :)
Bandung Station

Time has changed. It has been a long time since I last wrote a longer story (How are you? Have you been reading longer blog posts, lately?). Anyway, I share here my journey to Jakarta, to attend a seminar held by Catholicer, an organization that promotes fusion of technology and Catholic. My department, Teknik Informatika, had made some kind of cooperation hence I and some students visit their seminar for this occasion. Read along!

The girls, Ellena & Evelyn, was the first to arrive at the train station. About 10 minutes later, I arrived and helped them print their boarding passes, then we all moved inside the train platform. Chris came shortly after, but Joshua was nowhere to be seen. He texted that he was stuck in traffic, and I asked him to take a gojek for a quicker journey. 15 minutes before train departure, he hasn’t arrived yet so I asked the other kids to get into the train. Joshua finally arrived 5 minutes before departure, and we (mostly I) relieved, because he was responsible to keep our money and pay the meals while we were in Jakarta. We were all using economy class, similar convenience with executive but with less legs space. I was actually allowed to buy executive, but the students were only allowed to buy economy, and different class means different car. That is ironic, because the students who pay for my salary gets lower class than me, but well, life is not fair.

Dinner at A&W
Dinner at A&W

The train arrived at Gambir only a few minutes before 15.00. We took a TransJakarta bus to Hotel 88, where we stayed for one night. The seminar started at 19.30, so it would be too late to go back to Bandung at the same day. An hour of bus ride, and we arrived at Hotel 88. We had a short 1 hour break in the hotel, then walked another 1 km in the residential complex to A&W restaurant, where we had our dinner.

We finished our dinner early, and arrived at the seminar venue at 19.00, half an hour early. Nobody was there in the lobby, only a few chairs and a desk with statue of Mother Mary on top of it. For a few minutes I thought we were about to do some rituals rather than a seminar. I climbed the stairs to 2nd floor, and found familiar faces: Darren (the organizer) and Kevin (the speaker). Thank God there were many chairs upstairs arranged neatly for a seminar. We went down to take the students upstairs, and had some nice conversations before other guests were coming in.

Darren opening the session
Darren opening the session

The seminar itself was divided into three sessions. First session was led by Kevin, who works for Facebook. He works on React Native project, a framework that allows a developer build both Android and iOS app at the same time. In this seminar, he talked about building stellar user experience in mobile. Five major points were introduced, including usability and attention to details, among others (I forgot the others). However, those five boils down into one keyword: care. One needs to care about its users, to give them the best experience in using the mobile app developed. With that, the five points will eventually follow along.

The second session was doing the rosary prayer together, led by Nesya. However, it was done in a unique way: using a mobile app called “Beads“. It is a mobile app that simulates beads, with some additional features. It can show you the text for the prayers, in case you forgot. For each bead, you can also choose to pray for someone else intention (which can be requested with the same app). I particularly like the animation when you pray for someone intention, where a shining dove will fly away from the bead. One thing I worried about using this app, is that having WhatsApp notifications coming in while praying, breaking away my concentration.

Prayer for Chris
Prayer for Chris

The final session was led by Darren. He talked about spiritual centered design, an extension of human centered design. He argues that when somebody designed something, his/her subconscious mind may affect the design. For example, if a graphic designer designing smiley icons for an app while he/she is angry, it may affect the result (the smileys may look rather frowned, for instance). He followed along with an exercise, where were grouped into 3 persons each and have someone “interrogated”. This one fellow would be asked by another fellow about what is his/her dream before die. The asker will have to dig as much information by asking more questions. Meanwhile, the third person in the group should stay silent and observe, I think with the intention to find out the real answer not easily seen if you are actively asking.

When we finished, it was already 10 PM. We had a short networking session but I was too tired to continue longer, so I asked the students to go back to the hotel. If you are interested, see the interactions in this Facebook video.

The next morning, I woke up really early because I had to attend the baptism ceremony for my nephew, Dylan. It was held at Gereja Katolik Santo Laurentius, 20 km away from the hotel. According to Trafi, a public transport app, I should walk about 1 km, took a TransJakarta bus from a bus stop called “Kebon Jeruk Toll Gate”. For information, toll roads in Jakarta are forbidden for pedestrians, and last time I saw (few years back) that so-called bus stop was merely a toll roadside where people commonly gathered, rather illegally, to take the bus. The bus that serves the route to Gereja Katolik had a one hour interval between trips. Those two reasons were enough to stop me midway my walk to the bus stop, and changed my mind to take a GrabCar instead, although the fare will be 10x more expensive, even with discount.

This weird Soya Bean
This weird Soya Bean

With GrabCar, I arrived earlier than scheduled, and I decided to spend my time waiting at Pasar Delapan, a local market near the church. I was looking for something to bring back to Bandung, and decided to buy a gigantic fried meatball. It was priced IDR 39.000,- while the regular one was a mere IDR 7.000,-. I bought one for my wife and kid, and bought another one to share with my parents (also for me to try). Although expensive, the special meatball was worth the price, with more portion of shrimp and chicken meat. I also tried a black-soya-bean-cappuccino, another unique menu in the market. For me it’s a recipe for disaster in taste, but may be it tastes nice for everybody else.

15 minutes before the ceremony started, my parents picked me up, and went to the church together. The reason I asked my parents to pick me up is that I was bringing a backpack and a laptop sleeve bag. Going to a church with those bags, may attract weird looks from people, as we had history of some churches getting suicide bombed in the past years. Putting my bags in the car instead would make things less complicated. The ceremony itself was held without a mass, hence the church was filled only with relatives of those who were being baptized. I was both surprised and delighted to see some of my relatives whom I have not seen for some time, including Aunt Gwan (read previous story here).

Congratulations Dylan and Proud Parents!
Congratulations Dylan and Proud Parents!

After baptism, Dylan’s dad (Daniel, my sibling) took us to a nearby restaurant, Sinar Medan. It was a quite OK Chinese food restaurant, but the best part is that they have air conditioner! Even with Bandung temperature getting hotter in the past years, the heat in Jakarta was still worse. I did not pay too much attention to the taste of the food, as I was busy chatting with relatives I rarely have a chance to meet. Aunt Gwan holds regular arisan (meet ups) and after knowing my wife is 8-month pregnant, she promised to hold the next arisan in Bandung, shortly after my wife give birth. I was also surprised to see Richard’s twin boys were happy to play Play-Doh by themselves instead of looking at gadgets while we were having our meal.

At 11 AM, it was time to say goodbye. Aunt Gwan had some other appointment at the church, triggering everyone else to realize that we also have another stuffs to attend. I took another ride with my parents to Senayan City, where my mum works, then moved along to Gambir train station for my train back to Bandung. The train back to Bandung was slighty nicer than our depart trip, since it was almost dawn hence it was not as hot as our departure trip. However, the legs space was as cramped as before, reminding me that life is not fair to some people.

Bali Back to Back

I had a chance to visit Bali twice within a few months.

Lebaran Family Trip

First was during the Lebaran holiday, in which I can absolutely say no to all my work. With my wife, son, and mom-in-law, we spent 4 days of colorful vacation in Bali. Considering our 23 months old boy Desmond, we wasn’t really kiasu about taking early flight to Bali. Instead, we took a 3 PM flight, that led us to 6 PM arrival time in Bali. Upon landing, mom and Desmond had their dinner at the airport, being afraid of starving in the middle of traffic jam. Yunnie wanted Nasi Pedas Ibu Andika for dinner, so she and I decided to delay our dinner. However, learning from the traffic jam that actually happened, we cancelled the plan and had dinner at a restaurant near our hotel instead. To console ourselves, we bought some peanuts and beers (a bit of luxury back in our hometown) to end the day in our room (after Desmond fell asleep, of course).

Beach Life
Beach Life

Next day was beach day. After breakfast, we walked to Kuta to enjoy the beach. Desmond was very happy playing with the sand, Yunnie was enthusiastic in finding pretty shells to bring back home, while I played with the water. We spent more than two hours at the beach, then back to the hotel. Turned out our hotel was close to a popular food spot called “Sate Babi Bawah Pohon”. The bad news was to order some portion of it, I had to queue for about 45 minutes. We won’t risk Desmond to fall asleep before lunch, so he had their lunch inside the hotel restaurant, while the Sates are reserved for the rest of us.

We continued by buying some oleh-olehs at Krisna. It may confuse foreigners as it’s just a huge building selling snacks and clothes. However, for Indonesians it’s more than enough for them to buy all kinds of oleh-olehs all in one place. Then, we beat another traffic jam to go to Nasi Pedas Ibu Andika, the food Yunnie had been craving at from the previous day. Yunnie was the happiest, but mom was not really happy as the menu was all to spicy for Desmond (well, Desmond was happy too, he didn’t care). Therefore, after Nasi Pedas, we walked again about 1 km to find a “decent” food. KFC was the choice, and now Desmond and mom were both happy.

Penyu Island
Penyu Island

Third day, we traveled to another hotel. It’s a hotel that’s much closer to the airport, so we wouldn’t have difficulty catching our morning flight the next day. After leaving our bags at the reception, we took a cab to Tanjung Benoa, where an (overpriced) boat took us to Pulau Penyu (Tortoise Island). Aside from tortoises, the island also hosts snake, cockatoo bird, iguana, and other various animals. For lunch, we headed to the Pirate Bay restaurant at Nusa Dua. The waiter were hectic, not ready for sudden peak in visitors during lebaran. Many customers were complaining of their food not being delivered on time, and when I asked for a menu, the manager answered with pessimistic tone. Finally, he gave the menu after he was sure that I am okay to wait for an hour before our food was delivered. The food was (as usual) overpriced but not disappointing. Last night in Bali, we had a simple Chinese meal and a gelato to wrap up the day.

Last day, we woke up really early to catch our 8 AM flight. Desmond was still sleeping when we left the hotel, but very happy to play when he woke up at the airport. The flight was smooth, and we were back in Bandung in no time.

WSDC Business Trip

WSDC 2017 App

About a month after our first trip to Bali, I had a chance to visit this Island of God again. Our team had been trusted to build the mobile app for the World School Debating Championship 2017 event (if you’re curious, you can download the Android or iOS app). Me and my colleague Tommy arrived in Bali on 31 July evening, one day before delegations arrived in Bali. We then had a meeting until midnight, for final preparation.

Second day was absolutely boring for us. Most of the other committees were busy and the app was in the process of being distributed to the delegations, so no actual work was needed. Most of our time was spent inside our room in the Inna Grand hotel, while we occasionally walked to Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel, where most committees and delegations are located (+/- 500 meters apart).

WSDC Photo Session
WSDC Photo Session

Third day, activities were starting in the event. There were requests from the committee of pushing announcements to participants’ mobile devices, one killer feature of our app. We also published daily newsletter prepared by the team to the app. Having get used in Bali, we walked further to look for good food for our lunch. We wanted to have a babi guling (roasted pork) as recommended by Google Maps and walked 1 km from our hotel. Too bad the place was closed for religious ceremony, and we had regular satay for lunch instead. In the evening, we joined the other committees and delegations to go to Institut Seni Indonesia Denpasar for opening ceremony. The ceremony was grand and Tommy was astonished with the performances.

Fourth day, I stayed in the hotel until lunchtime, as I had video call meetings with my students. Tommy went out with the committees to watch the first day of debates. At lunch time, I went to visit them at SMAN 1, one of debate venues. Tommy was not really impressed with the debate, with most of the time trying to not get asleep. At night, we had dinner at a simple seafood restaurant near the hotel. The restaurant, named “Mak Beng” was interesting, as it only serves one type of set menu: steamed rice, fried fish, and fish soup for IDR 45.000,-.

With the Jokomobile
With the Jokomobile

Fifth day, I woke up early to have morning run as usual. What was unusual, was many soldiers with their rifle were standing around the beach. Furthermore, entrance to the hotel building was guarded by another soldiers and metal detector. It turned out that our president Joko Widodo was staying at the hotel, to attend an event in Bali. After 15 minutes of waiting at the lobby, there were no sign of Mr. Widodo, so I decided to just take a picture with his car. Afterwards, I let Tommy having his personal time in Kuta, while I travelled to SMAN 7 to watch one debate match. It was an interesting debate between Czech Republic and Uganda on the motion of “This House would deny tax-exempt status to religious institutions that refuses to appoint female leaders”. It was interesting to note that Czech Republic, being located in Europe, took the Catholic Church as the main example during the debate. Uganda on the other hand, tried to insert Islam into the discussion, at least at the end of the debate. Major religion of Uganda is also Catholic, but I believe they understand more the situation in the third world countries. Unfortunately, they still lost to Czech Republic on this debate.

The day was closed with so-called “Cultural Night”. Located at Inna Grand Hotel’s pool side, each country opened a table showing their culture specials including local foods. Sweden offered me an innocent black jelly that turned out to be super salty liquorice candy (and watched me cringed with a big smile). Germany, having lost both matches that day, had a small note “At least we’re good at football” written on their table. Two handsome Qatar guys offered a super nice dates with their thawb (special Arab clothes). What surprised everyone was after about an hour of cultural sharing, a DJ came out and start playing loud music (bet you won’t find it in WSDC official newsletter). Though it’s debatable whether this is in line with Indonesian culture or not, it did manage to let everyone released their tension, dancing to the beat but cleanly without alcohol.

Last day for me, I took a last picture of myself in Bali, in front of WSDC background. I had to come home early before the event finished at 11 August. Though my flight was at 13.20, I left hotel as early as 9.00 to buy some oleh-olehs. My Garuda Indonesia flight managed to entertain me with an episode of Big Bang Theory, a sitcom that I have not watched for a long time.

I really hope to visit Bali again sometime. It never ceases to amaze me.

2 Hours of Graduation, 8 Days of Fun / Part 2 – Road Trippin’

This is part two of the story. You can read the first part here.

Pekalongan Station

After spending quality time in Singapore, It was time to go back to Indonesia. I went to Bandung with my girlfriend using an AirAsia flight. Still having euphoria from the celebration, I spent a bit more of money by booking the hot seat at the front row. I felt lucky as the one seat beside me was empty, so I had some extra room. Until a guy from the back seat came in and took the seat. Fortunately, he agreed to move back after I convinced him that the seat is for hot seat passengers only. When the plane landed at Bandung, I realized one more benefit from the hot seat purchase, which is a faster waiting time at the immigration checks. There were only 2 officers on duty, hence arriving later at the gate contributed significant amount of waiting time.

I spent two nights in Bandung, and at the third day was the time for another trip to Pekalongan. It is a small town in Central Java, where my parents once lived their childhood. It is well known as Batik producer, but as I found out it’s also a heaven for seafood lover, thanks to its proximity to the ocean and low living cost. When I was younger, my dad used to take me there by car. We usually spent 1 to 3 days on the road. Not the whole day of course, but we tended to stop and stay overnight in the towns we passed by to enjoy them. This time, the ritual didn’t seem to be feasible anymore and the best option was to take a train!

About 7.30 in the morning, both of us boarded the train to Pekalongan. Unlike the years before, the Bandung-Pekalongan train this time took a much longer route by catching up the rail from Jakarta on the northern side. This means huge maintenance cost saving for the company, and longer journey time for the passengers (but on the brighter side, more scenery to see!). We arrived in Pekalongan about 2 PM, having only about five minutes to alight as the train was scheduled to go again to Semarang

After meeting the rest of the Singapore team (my parents, brother and his girlfriend), I freshened up by taking the legendary Es Teler at Jalan Dr. Cipto, followed by another desert es duren (durian syrup with ice). At late afternoon, we spent some time at the beach. It was not as clean as Sentosa beach, but at least there were not so much tankers there. In the evening, we went to a restaurant near the beach to have a big seafood dinner. For less than S$ 10 per person, we had grilled fishes, whole squids (more than just the rings), salad, and kangkungs (water spinach).

The beach at Pekalongan

In the morning next day, we went for another culinary trip: a soto tauco (traditional spicy soup) at a small alley near the Es Teler restaurant. In the afternoon, we had another famous food from Kombor’s restaurant: chilli crab. Not really similar to the chilli crabs in Singapore, their crabs have less meat but better sauce. We tried to burn our fat afterwards at a local franchise of the Time Zone arcade center. After one hour of games, we started to get bored and went back home. Turned out that my aunt just bought a carrom discs for the table that she had had for a long time. Hence we started to spent another hour playing the game (even without precisely understanding the rules). Evening was another chance to taste various local foods in Pekalongan. We started by having swikees (frogs) cooked in various ways for dinner, followed grilled toast (yes, it was really grilled using charcoals!). As for the “dessert”, we had martabak. It was sold by a guy named Ibrahim, who we thought first came from middle east for his figure. Turned out that his father came from India.

I’ve been talking too much about food, haven’t I? Anyway, unfortunately on the third day we had to go back to our hometowns. My girlfriend went back to Bandung while I went to Jakarta along with my family. It was another train trip, but this time much faster. It only took about 4 hours of journey. In Jakarta, me and my brother spent some time to watch a live soccer game by our old friends. Finally, I took a flight back to Singapore in the evening. It felt so fast, though in the end the story worth two posts of blog.

2 Hours of Graduation, 8 Days of Fun / Part 1 – The Fine City

The Commencement Ceremony

After 2.5 years of part time study in NUS, I have finally got the right to retrieve my master degree and participated in the graduation ceremony. The ceremony, or “commencement”, is one thing, but it was the time where people who are close to me came to Singapore to celebrate with me. And this serious business turned into an exciting plan when I found out that the room rate for a hotel in Sentosa Island is not much different than the ones in city. And so I booked the hotel at Sentosa for 4 days of fun, and only 2 hours of commencement (wait, you said 8 days? well, keep reading…).

My parents, brother, and our girlfriends arrived at Singapore on Sunday afternoon after a 1.5 hours of flight from Jakarta. Carrying big bags with us including myself, we took a maxi cab straight to the hotel to check in. We stayed at Siloso Beach Resort, just next to the Wave House Sentosa. It’s would be a perfect place (it’s a stone throw away to the beach), if only there are no tankers resting at the sea, practically covering most part of the horizon. The rest of the day was spent walking around the beach, followed by shopping at the Chinatown area. In the evening, we went to my landlord’s house, who was very kind to invite us for a home-cooked dinner at her house. Few hours later, we left her house with the hope to catch the 9 PM Crane Dance attraction. Unfortunately, the machine was down for maintenance on that day, leaving us only to watch the Lake of Dreams at 9.20 PM. It was okay.

The next day, four of us went to the Universal Studios Singapore, while my parents preferred to go shopping as they have been there before and a second visit is not that interesting anymore. I didn’t expect to be that crowded inside the theme park on Monday. But it was. Except for the Spielberg’s effect showcase, Shrek 4D and Water World, it took about and hour to wait in the queue (and less than 10 minutes in the ride itself). The most exciting attraction was, as before, the Mummy’s roller coaster. At the end of the day, we didn’t ride the infamous Battlestar Galactica, cowardly backing off when we saw that the estimated waiting time is at least 1.5 hour. In the evening, we headed to nearby Vivo City mall to buy some souvenirs, as well as to have dinner at the Food Republic on the top floor. I always like to dine here for its oldies-themed interior design. We then met my parents who were there since afternoon and went back to the hotel to finish the day.

Trip to Universal Studios Singapore

The third day was the commencement day. Since it was held in the afternoon, I spent the lazy morning swimming at the hotel’s swimming pool. There was a man made waterfall beside the swimming pool, giving a natural feeling, although a bit awkward. After a late breakfast, we walked at the beach, again lazily enjoying the scenery and the breeze before we had to go for the commencement. About 12 noon, we went to NUS to have dinner at a cafe in Mochtar Riady building. This is a new building owned by the Business School (while they gave their older COM2 building to School of Computing). Then, shortly before 2 PM we took internal shuttle buses to go to the venue at University Cultural Center.

The commencement itself was good and well managed. But perhaps it was too formal to me. It’s more difficult to wear the gown, compared to what I wore in my undergraduate commencement. The seats were arranged in a somewhat random manner, hence I didn’t know the guys who sat next to me. While this is quite normal given the large number of students, it just gave me an idea of a facebook app that retrieves the friend connections from facebook (with student’s consent, of course) and tries to group students with their friends as close as possible. Anyway.., the current seating arrangement turned out to be not so random for some people. The guy who sat on my left turned out to be a good friend of the guy on my right, hence they spent most of the time chatting with each other with me in the middle. After sometime I politely asked one of them to switch place with me, to allow them chat easier and give a relieve for me for not being a man-in-the-middle. The best part of the commencement was, of course when it ended and I had the chance to meet and greet each other and took pictures with fellow graduates I knew. It was such an exciting experience, realizing what we have been through together and finally got the fruit of our labor.

The night was again spent by lazily enjoying the beach, as this was the last night in Singapore. At the next day, most of us went back to Jakarta, but me and my girlfriend took a separate flight to Bandung. Yes, I indeed took the flight to Indonesia! I actually decided to take more leave and spent the whole week for vacation instead of just watching them gone and spend the rest of the week at the office cube. And then the next 4 days of adventure begins! (to be continued…)

Singapore Biennale 2011

Biennale is Italian for “every other year”. In Singapore, the word is taken to name a bi-yearly art event that is held in various places. When I said various places, it did really vary. In this year biennale, it took place at a museum, abandoned airport, as well as the merlion statue near Esplanade Theater (which many people have mistaken it as reparation work).

I’ve been to the 2009 Biennale with my friends, and I didn’t want to miss the 2011 one. This time, I also went with my friends, but we only went to the exhibits which are free of charge. We started around 10.30 in the morning by visiting the Old Kallang Airport. Some of us came early, while the rest were slightly late. While waiting the others, we walked around the grassfield in front of the building. It was interesting, because what I thought earlier as thrashes were acually artworks. There were opened briefcases with pots and plants inside it, or a glass box containing textbooks from the olden days.

Inside the building, there were even weirder exhibitions. In one big room, there was a giant mock up of a fabric factory, with the resulting giant fabrics all around, made of papers and wires. In another half-painted room, there were furnitures from Ikea. The room that interested me the most was a simple dark room, with only neon lamps bent and placed to represent the phrase “Don’t Worry”. It was very simple, yet very subtle. Another interesting exhibition is, well, not the exhibition itself, but a sign that said something like this: “On 13 March 2011, a cleaner accidentally removed some stuffs, which he didn’t know they are part of the artwork”. Well, you never know how an artwork can transform to something else more interesting.

Nearing lunchtime, we were starting to get hungry, and there was only a small coffee shop there in Old Kallang Airport, so we decided to move to another exhibition, Hotel Merlion, because it’s closer  to various restaurants in the city. This is the exhibit most visible to tourists, as it is located at the center of the city, and without the makeover itself, Merlion has already been a tourist destination. From outside, it looked like just a red box covering the Merlion statue.

We had to wait in line to get into the room, and there were about 50 persons in the line. However, the organizer has managed it nicely so that people won’t have to wait so long, as well as having ample time inside to enjoy the room. As usual, there was an annoying behavior from  some people, trying to have 2-3 people in the queue, then “smuggling” another 4 to join them by cutting the line, after their turn to enter the exhibit was about to come. I was standing in front of them, so it didn’t make our turn slower. But it did affect our experience inside the hotel, since the organizer has limited the number of persons inside the room to avoid overcrowding.

After few minutes of sightseeing and photo taking, the organizer asked us to leave the room to give chance to another eager tourists. And that marked the end of our tour to the Biennale. Quite a short trip, but it was interesting.

Trivia: The Merlion Hotel did serve as a real hotel room at night, for few months. People can check in the late evening, and have to check out in the morning. Booking was made through phone call to a certain phone number served by a single operatory only. It was fully booked just an hour after the line was opened [1].

Gemalto Dinner and Dance

Gemalto D&D 2010
Photo Courtesy of Steven Ma

If you saw a crazy guy in full sport attire running around Sentosa beach last Saturday, well that’s me. While waiting for the Dinner and Dance to start later that evening, I spent few hours in Sentosa for sightseeing and jogging for exercise. It is one way to allow myself indulge with the food provided at the party. The Sentosa management may claim that it’s the Asia’s favorite playground, but personally I don’t really like Sentosa; with the artificial beaches and many constructions going on to replace old, non-money-making attractions. However, it is still an okay spot for relaxing.

Where were we? Oh, right. In fact I went to Sentosa to attend the company’s annual Dinner and Dance which was held at the Resort World’s convention center. It was a costume party with a “movie character” theme. I didn’t wear any costume since I assumed many people in my department would not wear one too. I’m in R&D, by the way. It’s a decision I slightly regretted, since though not many, some people really wore costumes. It’s a once in a year experience to act crazy.

The event was started by the company’s Asia president entering the venue, dressed as a Hongkong mafia, complete with 2 bodyguards that in fact are our own employees. As well said by the host Daniel Ong, it’s one chance that you see upper management people act funny. He talked about the company achievements in 2010, but I believe nobody really listened as we were already in party mode. The host on the other hand had successfully liven up the atmosphere with his witty jokes. One of my favorite was when a girl made mistake on her English grammar, he replied with “You speak bad England, huh?”

There were some attractions, but for me the most interesting was the flashmob, where suddenly out of nowhere some people come to the  front to dance together with the same pattern. We only realized that one person on our table was missing when we saw him in front joining the dance.

In this event, I also spent some time taking pictures with some characters, such as Nobita, Tinkerbell, Queen Amigdala and Robin Hood. Seemed that the weirder the costume a person wore, more people coming to them for taking pictures.

The Dinner and Dance closed around 23.30 with the final draw for the 1st door prize, a travel package worth S$2,000 which I didn’t win. Afterwards, the dance floor was opened, but unfortunately my friends chose to go home since transport will be difficult after midnight. Therefore I decided to go with them since I didn’t want to go back alone.

All in all, it was an exciting experience to have an annual party with colleagues, after what we have done together for the whole year. Looking forward for another great year! and party!

As a bonus, here is a picture of Sentosa beach in panoramic mode (click the picture for more):

Lunch with Indonesia’s Greatest Minds and Goodbye

This may be my last (very short) post before the dormant period. The break is over, and the new semester is coming next week. During my semester term I will not have the luxury of having the time to write posts.

At the weekend just before the semester starts, I had the honor to be invited to the Maureen and Ardian’s wedding ceremony. Maureen was my friend in Sunday school, long time back in Jakarta. She is also a world class freelance graphic designer. Meanwhile Ardian is a world class computer scientist, and has became my friend since we met at the 2005 Google Code Jam competition.

It was very interesting to realize that Singapore is indeed such a small place. At the wedding reception, I met various friends: colleague from office, my parents’ friends from church, high school friends, and the most interestingly: TOKI alumni. TOKI stands for Tim Olimpiade Komputer Indonesia, i.e. the Indonesian Informatics Olympiad Team who were the selected students to represent Indonesia in the International Olympiads in Informatics. Ardian has kindly reserved one table for us to sit altogether, about 10 of us. And as you may guess, having geeks all sitting in the same table makes it interesting in a certain way.

Some of us ordered soft drinks. Interestingly, they poured the soft drink into a plain glass, and after we drank part of it, sometimes the waiter came to take the glass and replace it with a new one, fully filled with the same soft drink. Started from the idea that the soft drink in the used glass will be wasted, we wanted to know what is the minimum amount of the soft drink consumed, before the waiter would come and replace the glass. The first idea came into our mind was, of course, binary search. The strategy is as follow: first we would try to leave the glass half full, and see whether the waiter would take it or not. Had he taken it, it means the limit may be equal or greater than the half of the glass, and we would try leaving three quarter full at the next attempt. Had the waiter not take it, the limit must be lower than half, hence we should try a quarter at next attempt. Repeat the process until we could precisely determine the exact minimum percentage of soft drink left for a waiter to take it.

In the end, the conclusion was too simple: the waiter would take it at half full.

I told you it is interesting in a certain way. However if you are an Indonesian high school student and think the strategy is interesting in any way, you could try to join the TOKI.

SCC Rugby 7s, Part 2 (2009)

After a year has passed, the SCC Rugby 7s is held again (see last year). Similar to last year event, it was held in Padang, few minutes walk from City Hall MRT. But unlike the previous one, sadly this year even has not been as entertaining as before. Why? Please bear with me.

The price of this year event has increased to $25 from previously $20. A reason for this could be of that they have extended the event by one day into a 3-day event, with the first day being a tournament for schools and colleges. However, since it was held on Friday, it’s practically useless for me. The bad news? I couldn’t just pay $20 for the 2-day event. The other part of the monies might also have gone to rent a big screen projector to show the score and replays (oh, and there’s also a big tower to record the game from the top of it). One thumb up (only) for the technologies.

However, it still did not satisfy my hunger for a good atmosphere of the games, though. On this year event, the supporters could have only less interaction with the players. In last year arrangement, it was easy for us from the benches to get into the field. Therefore during the victory (or goodbye-losing) lap, we could go down and greet the players. In this year tournament, fences separating the benches and the grass field. If one wants to go past the fence, he has to turn around from the back stairs and walk quite a distance.

Okay, enough about the rantings and let’s go to the real business. Remember that last year, Indonesia Barbarians managed to win the Bowl cup. It was a very good and unexpected achievement for a newcomer. Unfortunately, the teams that they’ve beaten last year didn’t come again this year, so it’s far more difficult to compete this year.

On the first day games, bad luck has gone into them, since they didn’t manage to score even a single try (in football term: goal). In the second day games, they managed to score few trues, but the enemies were still too tough, and they have to suffer bitter defeats, failing to come home with a trophy this year. However, it is to be noted that they have fought their best, and no one is to blame.

All in all, with all the drawbacks, the event was still good to watch. Congratulations too, for the organizer to hold such a big event in this tiny country!

Photos and videos are available in http://picasaweb.google.com/pascalalfadian/SCCRugby7s2009 (do check out the war dances!)

Free Dinner cum Dialogue with Mr. Boediono

According to his source, more than 80% Indonesian voters in Singapore voted SBY-Boediono in the presidential election. That what makes Vice President-elect Boediono chose Indonesia Embassy in Singapore as the first embassy to visit and make a dialogue session, in addition to his visit to Rajaratnam School as a guest lecture.

I arrived at the embassy with Handy around 7.15 PM. There were no sign of Mr. Boediono, but we saw a long queue to another room instead. In my mind, there were only two possibilities: either these people queued to greet and have their picture taken with Mr. Boediono, or, dinner. Hoping that the latter would be the case, we joined the queue.

And it turned to be correct, the dinner session preceded the dialogue session. Unlike other events held in KBRI, the menu for the day was quite lavish: chicken soup, roasted chicken, beef rendang, fried gurame fish, gado-gado, plus some cakes and fruit juices. Yummy. Too bad I need to stick to my diet, so I had to forgo some food.

Around 8.00 PM, Mr. Boediono came with the Indonesia ambassador for Singapore Mr. Wardana, and all visitor voluntarily stood up to pay respect. After that, Mr. Wardana gave a short opening speech for about 15 minutes. Followed by the speech by Mr. Boediono itself. In the 30-minute speech, he explained about the focus in the economic side of their (SBY-Boediono) plan. It consists of three main points: [1] developing “hard” infrastructure (transportation, electricity, etc…), [2] “soft” infrastructure (cut red tapes, single identity, etc…) and helping the people who are behind to catch up (i.e. helping on the poor). It was ended with Q&A session, which is the longest session among others (+/- 1 hour).

Notable question was from a PLRT, who was asking about possibility to consider PLRT as PNS (thanks to bear with me with all these acronyms 🙂). It was not about the question, but her introduction. She started with “Hello, my name is ***. Recently I received a message in facebook…” and she was interrupted with big laughs from the audience. Even Mr. Boediono jumped from his chair. This PLRT surely know how to use technology!

There was also another question from a woman who works as informal education coordinator for PLRTs working in Singapore. She described how she works, how she travel from Batam island and back, how her hard work is, etc, etc. I almost dead of boredom after 10 minutes she spoke nothing but bragging herself, when Mr. Wardana interrupted her to speak to the point. Thank God.

But that when he started his own bragging of KBRI involvement in building up school for Indonesians in Singapore for another 10 minutes, without anyone could interrupt.

Even with so many people eager to ask, the Q&A must be ended at 10PM, as “Mr. Boediono will have another event tomorrow morning”. While everyone headed to the front to take pictures with Mr. Boediono, I and Handy slipped outside, leaving out opportunity to get easy money by taking people pictures with Mr. Boediono and sell them for $10 each.

Glossary:

  • KBRI: Kedutaan Besar Republik Indonesia, Embassy of Republic of Indonesia
  • PLRT: Penata Laksana Rumah Tangga, formal name for domestic worker
  • PNS: Pegawai Negri Sipil, civil servant
  • SBY: Soesilo Bambang Yoedhoyono, president and president-elect of Republic of Indonesia

Bonus Story: Alert reader may notice that this post lack picture of Mr. Handsome on ground zero. It is because my camera-powered mobile has some problem recently. The sensor for “OK” button has stopped responding, making it practically unusable. I can still make and receive calls with the green “call” button, but it stupidly disable this button to replace “OK” for reading and sending SMS, or even merely enter the menu. I even had to call my colleague just to ask what message she just sent to me 5 minutes earlier.
Therefore now I’m stick with this low-end phone, which in turn has smarter design because I can send SMSes with both OK and green button.

Escape Theme Park

Summer is the time for fun! After the team building few weeks before, the Gemalto rec-club is now taking the turn to put back fun to function! The club organized a fun day for all Singapore employee in Escape Theme Park. Since the event was held inside the theme park, we had the option to participate in the games or merely trying out the attractions there.

However, the team games were too much for us after the last team building event. Therefore, I and my friends decided to ride on attractions instead.

The first attraction we tried was the haunted house. The LCD screen installed at the entrance –which shows the do’s and don’ts on the attraction– makes me a bit de-scared, though. And yes, when we went inside, there were no spooky smells or disgusting liquids. There were only robots, trying to surprise us with sudden movements. I was surprised yes, but not that scary. Amudi was laughing to the tricks already and trying to mock Rika, who was in front of him and behind me. The result, she grabbed my backpack very tightly for few times. Hmm, at least my backpack got haunted.

The next one was Pirate Ship, or more commonly known as “Kora-Kora” in Indonesian. We sat on a big ship-like platform, and swung back and forth in half-circle rotation. The most thrilling moment is when you’re at the maximum height, your body facing downwards; then it comes down at a very high speed, giving you tickling sensation in some parts of your body.

Next attraction was called Flipper, where you are spun horizontally only in a bowl-like platform. Well, sometimes you are rotated 45° vertically. It’s not that fun, though. The spin was only about 5 minutes. But we had to wait 15 minutes inside the bowl before it’s running because the operator wanted to check all safety belts are properly tightened one by one before he started the machine.

Just before lunch, we tried the roller coaster. The name of the attraction is family coaster, in which I should realized before. It’s a family ride. There were no 360° loops nor steep and that-quick descents. Or, should I say, it’s Singapore-style family ride, fully certified by the national heart foundation as safe for even the weakest person to suffer from heart attack by riding this coaster.

Then we went back to Gemalto booth to take our lunch.

After lunch, we tried the best attraction in this tiny theme park: the Go-Kart. We had to queue for about an hour before we could ride this attraction. But it was quite worth the wait to ride a mini-F1 with the Bajaj engine. My turn was next to Amudi and he recommended me to choose the car he just used, as it was most powerful compared to others. And yes, as I started pushing the gas, the car roared and ran pretty fast. For the three laps, I wasn’t even got passed by and secured the first place. The track was quite thrilling, where the first part of the track is a spiral-like shape to climb up to about 3 levels high. Just after the climb, there’s the steep descent. It has a lot of “slow” signs to warn drivers to stop pushing the gas. At first I ignored then sign. But after my car start descending, it was shaking very hard; only then I started to brake. And only after the descent, I started to push the gas again. Well, it’s quite a good 10-minute ride.

After the Go-Kart, we headed to Wet and Wild. It’s an attraction where you ride a small boat of two people, lifted to few stories high, then descend very fast into the water and get splashed all over the body. Most of us joined the queue, but when we realized it will be veeery wet, some people canceled, including me. So it left only Richson and Rika continuing the queue and ride on the attraction. Meanwhile, the others were just playing with Imam’s little baby.

The Go-Kart summed up our trip to Escape Theme Park. Some of us were to tired and decided to go home. I with some friends preferred to continue to Changi Beach since we are already in the east side of Singapore. The story is not included here, but you can see some pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/pascalalfadian/GemaltoFunDayAndChangiBeach

Escape Theme Park is located at N° 1 Pasir Ris Close, Singapore 519599
Nearest MRT is Pasir Ris MRT, and there is hourly shuttle bus service for free.