Monday, October 28, 2013

Why I'm Frightened of Wearing Bows In My Hair?

The word "bow" reigns in my top 5 favorite homonyms. A portrayal of both strength and vulnerability, bow accentuates the irony of the world as it would my posture and my ponytail. Though the word is simultaneously a homophone, I would like to focus on two homonyms: 1) "bow" and arrow and 2) "bow" as in ribbon.

Surrendering My Ribbon Collection

For more than ten years I have been obsessed with archery. Watching Keira Knightley's portrayal of Guinevere in King Arthur (2004) and Orlando Bloom's performance as Legolas in all the Lord of The Rings trilogy cemented my love for the bow and arrow, particularly as the word personified elegance and independence. Though I never got around to studying archery, I took on the less elegant art of target shooting and compensated my endeavors with tae kwon do lessons. Though grueling hours of practicing and watching action films prepared me to defend myself at a basic level, I doubt that I could successfully protect myself or others from the dangers of the outside world.

Fall 2013 carried with it a new sense of style and grave incidences. Personally, I began to constantly wear a bow. Secured on top of my high ponytail or at the ends of a pair of pig tails, the bow persisted throughout the weeks. What began as a boring session at Anthropologie, evolved into my very own style signature. All of a sudden I felt sufficiently secure to possess an air of vulnerability. Finally, I found my center, where I could be both vulnerable and strong at the same time.

Unfortunately, for the past few weeks I have began shedding the colorful ribbons and instead opt for a medium height ponytail to avoid looking like a target. Since the month of September, several rape cases and assaults occurred on and around the Sarah Lawrence campus. Getting yelled at by passing cars became a norm, one that I was not comfortable or happy with. The chilly Fall air only made it worse. The days became shorter and I became more and more bothered.

I lost my independence of walking alone at night
I lost the confidence in wearing my ribbons
And I sense that I would loose trust in all that is around me

No longer am I able to wear my bows, as I am afraid that someone would jump me whilst walking home. Insecurity engulfs you and prevents you from doing things that you love. Perhaps, the condition is incomparable to worst scenarios, but it still leaves those within it paralyzed, if not angered.

Multiple meetings and discussions have been had about the situation. Although security vehicles are parked all over campus, it is not the same in surrounding areas. Those living off campus are at danger, as well. Just because we did not choose to remain in the dorms or were unable to do so, does not mean that we lost our rights to protection. "Commuters" as we are called are entitled to equal if not a fraction of the protection as others do. Having said that, I am aware of the complexity of the issue and the more challenging matter of finding a solution. For instance, determining the scope of the campus to include off-campus students is already a complicated question.

Yes, students, faculty and staff should and could take matters into our own hands, however I am always fogged by the same question, "Would that be enough?" Which leads me to ask whether the Sarah Lawrence security is sufficient to protect us all. If not, then what about the Yonkers police? In the end, unsurprisingly, nothing could satisfy the need for protection.

Hard to believe, the world is a real, tangible place, that is not up in the air, pumped up with theoretical inference. As defeatist as it sounds, maybe all we can do is to prepare ourselves and urge for better protection from the authorities, whoever they may be.

I hate surrendering
I hate having to take off my bow at the edge of campus just to walk home
I hate not having answers
I hate not knowing

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Narrative of a girl with rage

I wish there was a lock on my side of the door. 
I wish there was a way for me to leave everything I know behind, even if it means changing my identity.
I wish there was another way to overcome this brick wall in front of me other than running away.

Believe me, I would do anything to be a part of this family again.
But I can’t.
Because I can’t possibly sacrifice my own happiness for it.

Every time we come together, somebody cries.
Each time somebody cries, everybody else avoids getting to the root of the problem and instead just bribes that person to shut up.
Every time I would look at myself and wonder if I’m any better that those people. 

These people that I call family.
The people that I’ve known since birth.
They depress me, derail me and, worst of all, degrade me.

Sitting across the table from “the responsible ones” I had a feeling that somehow they owned me but didn’t grant me the rights that a human being should have.
Salient rights such as deciding my own fate, choosing my own beliefs and making up my own mind.
Somehow everything had to follow tradition, protocol and their way.

Guess what, I’m sick of it, sick of you and sick of your ways.
God grant me your presence for guidance and protection, instead you cage me and prevent me from being who I am.
Good thing you haven’t taken my mind with you.

As a little girl, my father used to tell me that I’m a Ko.
And as every little rebel would, I told him that my name was Lim Ko even if it meant picking up a fight.
Apparently only boys are allowed to carry the name.

What century am I living in?
Wonder if its still the same timezone when girls only play the role of sex slave and baby oven.
Well, I am not taking any of that bullshit you’re sending my way.

Now, after years of reinforcement I take full ownership of both names especially Kho.
Nevertheless you find other ways to torture me and bring me down.
Now you tell me that I am not to posses any family heirlooms and assets because I won’t carry the family name.

Funnily the first thing I feel is rage.
For all those times I refused to recognize the name as a part of me, isn’t it odd that I would scream and shout and cry over me losing it?
Forcing me to be apart of this family maybe isn’t a good idea now.

Countless times I have stood up for our family and what’s the thanks I get, “Oh hey! You can’t touch anything we own especially all the precious memories because you’re a girl!”.
Come on! Since when does having a vagina instead of a prick equals having no standing in this family.
Cowardly, narrow minded, tradition driven fucks like you is what makes the air, soil and water poisonous.

Plus if you’re so keen on taking all of my ownership of this family away from me, you should just leave me alone.
Possibilities are endless for me, you once said that I would marry a man and I would have another family, maybe they’ll be better that this.
Possibilities are I will have more once I leave.

However, before I leave I just want to say that if you didn’t mean to give me anything if not everything that makes this family then you shouldn’t have brainwashed me in the first place. 
Holding on to what’s left of me, I wonder if being a girl and being at risk of losing a name makes me less of a member of this family.
Hell with this family!

July 26, 2011

Sunday, October 20, 2013

SLCspeaks: Writing about NYC

To be totally honest, it took me two years to get my behind to the New York Public Library. However, with a little persuasion I finally entered this magical gem of The Big Apple. Of course, it helps that the exhibition was centered on one of my favorite subjects: children's books. To make everything better, I decided to spread the news via SLCspeaks. Here's the link to the article:


Thursday, October 17, 2013

IndonesiaMengglobal: Eating my heart out

Another week, another post for

As some of you know, I have been writing for Indonesia Mengglobal for the past two or three months. Well, was I surprised to note that I have contributed five pieces to the great site. Here is my fifth piece, perhaps, one of the closest to heart.

Being in college is not difficult academically, per say, but it is definitely hard on the heart. When you're somebody who loves the smell of damp pipes and the sight of squatting toilets, you will definitely know what I mean? However, being homesick is not merely a stint, instead for some of us, it doesn't really go away, much like a chronic illness that can be treated but not cured. Here is my take on being far, far away from home. Let me know what your experiences are like!

*Author owns the right to the photo above

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

You're Bleached, Too Bleached

What flag?

Who am I?

I touch my chubby cheeks  
Rub it real hard!
Hopefully it'll darken
I don't need a lot
Just a slight tint and I'm golden

Yesteday, I went to work with my aunt
She's an assistant at a Japanese bank
There's a girl in a kimono on the screen of the money machine
What could be better than Kimono and cash?

Original Drawing - Fall 2012
Inspire by little me!
We go up in a box
Don't look down or you'll get nauseous
Finally, I see another human being
She is tan, just like others around me
She looks normal

"Good morning!" I yell
Sometimes people can't see me because of my size
"I didn't know that Koyashi-san's grandchild is visiting,"
My aunt laughs real hard
"Mr. Koyashi doesn't have grandchildren."

They say I'm bleached
They say I'm not Indonesian
Better yet, they say I'm Japanese
Too pale to be anak Nusantara

"No Indonesian is white like you
No Indonesian has red lips like yours
Actually, you look exactly like the Japanese flag
The red dot is your lips 
And the white space is your cubby face"

ME                                                     DAD                                                MOM
"Mommy, mommy! What am I?"

"A person"
"What country do I belong to?"
"No dear, she's Chinese Indonesian,"
"I'm Chinese?
How do you know that?"
"If you're saying she's Chinese Indonesian
I'm saying she's Arabic Indonesian"
"Just because she has your nose and eyes
Doesn't mean she doesn't have my genes"

Common denominator
Common denominator


I am Indonesian
Rub harder
I am Indonesian
It's turning red

White red tan
White red tan

It hurts 
But it's worth it
As long as I am Indonesian
As long as I belong

La Mama Happy Ending
Photo courtesy of Josh Rice

This poem/prose was created for a writing workshop lead by Catherine Filloux as part of a Sarah Lawrence - La Mama class. My new friends, including Catherine, laughed while I read it, particularly in the "Japanese flag" part. I was afraid that this one girl, who is half Japanese and Caucasian American, would not respond well to the piece. Though it was nerve wrecking to read it aloud, I left the session with a clearer idea of my voice and a best friend, the girl I was most frightened of.

*Author owns rights to the first and second photos only

Friday, October 11, 2013

SLCspeaks: How I finally stopped avoiding writing for this lovely site

SLCspeaks has become a meaningful, if not, one of the few constants in my life at Sarah Lawrence. An online publication created by Ella Riley-Adams and honed by a great team, which includes some of my favorite people on campus (read: in the world), SLCspeaks is where I've grow as both a photography editor and a organizer of sorts. A site that promotes Sarah Lawrence students to speak up and express themselves, SLCspeaks is a melting pot of both controversial and mild opinions. Furthermore, it is home to useful guidance as to surviving Sarah Lawrence.

First written contribution for SLCspeaks

In the past two years, I have been in charge of the tumblr, which encourages students to send in photographs and other pieces of visual images. Though the tumblr is merely an accompaniment of the site, it has definitely become a place to share our experiences at SLC. The opportunity that people hand you may come as a surprise, but believe that they did it with some sort of reasoning in mind. Generally, they evaluated your materials, portfolio or CV before taking the plunge. Well, to me, becoming part of SLCspeaks even before arriving on campus ever, really cemented my excitement for Sarah Lawrence. At the very least, it gave me a place to belong in, although I would have to prove myself that I am not too strange to be part of the group.

Our "Who We Are" Section

Since the beginning of my time at SLCspeaks, I have been avoiding writing for the site. As an international student, whose mother tongue is not English, I was quite meek about the possibility of writing for such a great publication. More importantly, writers for SLCspeaks are often very passionate about what they have to say and, perhaps, having been raised in an Asian culture or sheer insecurity, stopped me from finding that story and writing it. Well, after such a long wait, I've finally mustered the courage to contribute my writing to SLCspeaks. Funnily, the topic could not be odder, especially since I'm graduating in a few months time.

Many of you have asked me what the first night in college feels like? Well, for my first writing piece for SLCspeaks, I wrote about that exact topic. Here it is:

Thank you to the lovely Gabrielle for being such a warm and wonderful editor/friend.

*Author owns rights to all the photos above

Monday, October 7, 2013

Art: The Indonesian Calling (translation of Dunia Seni Terbuka Untuk Anak Indonesia)

*This piece is the translated version of an article I wrote for entitled Dunia Seni Terbuka Untuk Anak Indonesia

“There is little difference between an artist and an unemployed man,” said one of new friends, a veteran artist and writer. Even though a decade has flown by since I first stepped foot into performance arts and writing world, this is the first time I heard those bitter words flutter through an artist’s lips.
“Then, why Sir, did you become an artist?” I asked, barely satisfied with his statement.
He turned to me and said, “May I ask you something first?” He deliberately paused before continuing, “Why are you studying theatre?”

Snapshot of the IM Article
The question hovered in my head and quickly became one of most intriguing and monumental question to appear on this art student’s table. After a few minutes worth of pondering, two more questions emerged. First, could art improve the social situation in Indonesia? Second, would the knowledge of art enrich the lives of those who do not revel in the art world, such as businessmen, bankers, athletes, teachers, etc.?

If art is not valued as a profession, why did I put myself at the other side of the world to study it? Somehow, this question rarely appears in my head. Perhaps it is due to my parents’ constant support, as well as Sarah Lawrence curriculum’s tendency to encourage students to delve into a variety of subjects. Most likely, the answer lies in my past and identity. As a theatre, literature, and art lover, I have never ventured far from arts.
My parents, who are, neither artists nor comfortable art dwellers, presented me with opportunities to learn art through after school lessons. Even though I am a sensitive person, rarely do I feel angered or bothered by questions and/or comments that degrade the value of arts. I have grown to believe that art is a pertinent aspect of my identity. Working in the theatre, while being a freelance writer, is second nature to me. With time what were hobbies initially have become part of my identity and passion.
The Steps To Nirvana
Indonesia, in my opinion, can use arts as positive mechanisms. Each time, I visit the art market or meet senior artists, I experience friendliness and warmth; they are very open about their inspiration and not threaten to keep their ideas secret. Often, I was awed by their ability to welcome new people without examining the newcomer’s background. Unlike business dwellers, which tend to find power in knowledge, artists tend to take a step back and observe the individual at the present. For instance, the first question that are uttered to a new person revolve around the latter’s current projects or interests, perspectives on certain art project, instead of the person’s origin, profession or age.
The interactions with artists made me realize that the society tends to value others based on their possessions such as cars, bags, income, where do they live, or age. While artists value others based on their appeal, passion or mission? By focusing on the individual’s attributes, rather than their tangible items, I think Indonesians are more likely to work together and accept one another openly. Moreover, the existence of two, often contrasting, passions is not a taken as a threat, instead it reminds us that two opposite talents and/or interests could only complete each other.
Art should be an imperative part of our professional lives. Art can be divided into a variety of concentrations and functions, which would change one’s lives in different ways.  I often meet students or professionals who are having mental blocks when they need to present their ideas both verbally and on paper. These problems can be solved easily by implementing proper breathing, posture, vocal and doing basic acting, which is regularly done in performing art classes.
Finally, art appreciation is beneficial for those who have other interests. Creative writing class are a godsend when it comes to teaching us how to write freely and explore our imagination. Visual arts often aid us in problem solving. In turn, the performing art world is known for the strict discipline, strict ethics and accountably, which are attributes that are highly desirable in professional settings.
Batik Brainstorm of Myself circa 2009
Choosing to be an artist is often stigmatized, as it is associated with unemployment and financial difficulty. Society regularly labels artists as 'lazy' or 'messy', however the openness and warm culture that artists cultivate might be a viable positive reinforcement to strengthen bonding in the society.
I love the world of theater and writing. In addition to enriching my life, it has changed my identity and passions for the better. Indonesia is a nation of culture and art. Home to a large group of artists, Indonesia is a nation of culture and art. You may see yourself in the mirror and see someone who is not artistically in tuned, just remember that art is an interaction of both nature and nurture. Learning art is an invaluable process that may take you towards different directions. And if all fails, you will find yourself much more appreciative of art, which is highly required to build our country.

*Author owns all photos used above

Friday, October 4, 2013

Don't You Dare Inspect My Hymen: Response to Muhammad Rasyid's 'Virginity Test'

News of Muhammad Rasyid's 'Virginity Test' hits the internet in late August. Yes, I realize how much of a late bloomer I've been with regards to this story, but on the bright side, the proposal has not been approved. According to Jakarta Post, Tempo, USA Today, and The Guardian, Muhammad Rasyid, the education chief of Prabumulih district in South Sumatra, placed forward a policy that would require female senior school students of 16 to 19 years of age to have their hymen examined annually until graduation. Rasyid argues that "This [policy] is for their own good- Every woman has the right to virginity... we expect students not to commit negative acts." Further information as to his motivations are available in the links below. 

Practice tool for 'Virginity Test' Examiners
As suspected, numerous negative comments have ensued as activists relate the procedure with rape and sexual abuse, as well as discrimination. Commentators have blatantly been opposed to this practice, pointing out towards a corrupt system and culture, permeated with Muslim perspectives. So, if this were all true, if Indonesia were really a hopeless nation, how would a female Indonesian high school graduate response to this unsettling news? 

Although the specifics of the procedure has not been publicized, there is reason to suspect possible ramifications such as inappropriate touching, abuse, and even rape. Furthermore, no reports regarding the inclusion of ascent and consent processes by either the female students, who are above eighteen, or parents for underage students. 
Rasyid believes that the test is "an accurate way to protect children from prostitution and free sex." The proposal was created as a response to an alleged increase in pre-marital sex and prostitution in South Sulawesi. I was unable to find supportive data on this matter. Moreover, none of the reports show that this policy was supported by any research or is in reference to past policies in Indonesia or other countries. Clearly the policy lacks scientific evidence for it to withstand opposition. With little information, readers are given room for imagination and might be predisposed to label Rasyid as a nut, which he might as well be. 

Good luck on passing through those beads and seaweed!
Many have certainly antagonized Rasyid for his proposal, as well as condemn his policy. Personally, I am most bothered by the evident practice of discrimination in these plans. The policy targets women, exclusively. Male students are not subject to investigation, let alone mandatory annual examination. Women are held responsible for trends in premarital sex and prostitution. You can find extensive arguments regarding the discriminatory fashion of this policy by clicking the links below. Instead of repeating these assertions, I would like to point out one basic flaw: a policy that exclusively apprehends women will never reach its ultimate goal. 

Society consists of power struggles, which includes two parties, at the very least. Change will be reached effectively when both parties are actively involved in resolving the problem. Single fighters rarely win the battle. Historically, men were involved in the women's rights movement, whites were involved in the black power movement, and Dutchmen were involved in the independence of Indonesia. Support from the other side will contribute to change. 

To lower rates of premarital sex and prostitution, the government needs to include both male and female students, as well as parents, guardians, teachers, and other people who are involved in these children's lives. A myriad of factors play into the claimed phenomenon of increase in premarital sex and prostitution. For the number to decrease, the government should not only be focusing its policies on women. Efforts to protect should also be in place, in conjunction with endeavors in lowering these numbers. Examples of these policies may include higher adult surveillance at home, comprehensive sexual education in school, and increase in school activity. Other possible alternatives include, programs that empower women to make educated decisions about sex, as well as empower men by showing that to be masculine is to abstain. 

I realize that some of these propositions might not suit the culture, environment and religious practices in Prabumulih, South Sulawesi. However, it is the government's responsibility to create well-thought, scientific based, and culturally relevant policies, as well as evaluate its viability, feasibility and consequences. In addition, it is also the government's role to ensure minimal harm and optimum benefit for those in question, i.e. the female and male students in South Sulawesi. 

I Am So Getting Out of Here!
Not sponsored by Louis Vuitton
There is much to say about Rasyid's proposal for 'virginity tests' to be implemented in 2014, but this might be due to low availability of comprehensive information. Now that we are at the end of this article, how do I feel about this policy? Let me just admit that, at first, my eyes were wide open. As I read paragraph upon paragraph, I felt angry at this ridiculous, unjustifiable, dare I say, uneducated proposal and the lack of information density in the article. Finally, I felt tired and speechless. Getting mad would not solve much. Ranting on the internet seemed to have little to no effect on the status of this policy proposal. 

What was I supposed to do to prevent the passing of Rasyid's policy? I have poured my thoughts and arguments, but I still feel hopeless. I am left to wonder about concrete ways to prevent this policy from gaining steam and being passed. Ultimately, I am open to any suggestion and invitation to join a movement against Rasyid's 'virginity test'.

*Author owns the rights to all of the photographs above

Links to news reports of the 'virgin test' (some are in English and others are in Bahasa Indonesia):