Live the Life

Beberapa waktu yang lalu, saya mengikuti sebuah acara jalan-jalan bersama warga Indonesia di Birmingham. Kami mengunjungi beberapa tempat di Wales sebagai pembuka liburan paskah kami. Di Britania Raya ini, liburan paskah memang menjadi salah satu liburan panjang selain libur musim panas dan libur natal. Biasanya, sekolah dan universitas menghentikan kegiatan mereka selama dua minggu untuk merayakan paskah. Waktu yang dibutuhkan untuk sampai di tempat tujuan dari Birmingham cukup lama, yaitu sekitar 3.5 sampai 4 jam. Dengan dua bus, kami berkendara menuju Wales.

Jumlah warga yang mengikuti acara jalan-jalan ini cukup banyak. Terlebih lagi, kebanyakan peserta membawa seluruh anggota keluarga, termasuk anak-anak dan bayi. Terbayang kan, perjalanan cukup jauh, satu hari saja, dan membawa anak-anak. Sebelum pergi, saya mengira bahwa perjalanan akan heboh, ramai dengan tangisan atau keluhan anak-anak yang merasa bahwa mereka terlalu lama di dalam bus. Siap-siap bersabar. Ternyata? Semua itu tidak terbukti. Berdasarkan hasil pengamatan, anak-anak cukup tenang dan bisa ‘menikmati’ perjalanan, walaupun ada juga yang mabuk dan sesekali menangis. Kalau kata orang Indonesia, anak-anak ini nggak ribet lah saat dibawa ke perjalanan jauh. Disogok apa ya, mereka sampai nggak rewel? Well, sepanjang perjalanan, mereka mengobrol, bernyanyi, main, melihat pemandangan, membaca buku, dan tidur. Bosan kegiatan yang satu, pindah ke yang lain, lalu pindah lagi ke yang lain. Yang jelas, mereka tidak mengganggu.

Setelah dipikir-pikir lagi, iya juga ya… sebagian besar anak-anak Indonesia disini memang tidak rewel dan tidak ribet. Mereka seperti mengerti bahwa keadaan menuntut mereka untuk mandiri dan tidak banyak mau. Jadi malu karena saya sendiri sering BM (banyak mau). Kemudian, saya membandingkan hal tersebut dengan pengalaman saya di Indonesia. Bekerja beberapa tahun sebagai guru di berbagai tingkat pendidikan, saya merasa kok ya beberapa anak-anak ini cukup ribet untuk diurus. Seperintilan kecil-kecil macam nangis-nangis saat di makanannya ada sayur yang ‘nyelip’ seringkali saya lihat. Ada lagi urusan jemput menjemput yang repot karena harus naik mobil ini, harus dijemput sama dia, mau pulang mampir kemana dulu. Lalu, saya jadi penasaran. Apa sih yang membuat perilaku merek bisa berbeda? Well, menjelaskan perbedaan perilaku itu ribet, seribet-ribetnya. Sebagai mantan mahasiswa psikologi, saya mengerti betul bahwa satu hal tidak dapat menjelaskan perilaku seseorang. Banyak sekali faktor yang mempengaruhinya. Tapi, saya mencoba melakukan refleksi dan berpikir logis dengan mengambil sebuah contoh. Anyway, seperti biasa ya, tulisan saya ini berdasarkan hasil observasi pribadi dan persepsi saya, sehingga tidak bisa di-generalisasi.

Selama beberapa bulan ke depan, saya memiliki tugas untuk mengantar dan menjemput anak sekolah. Mengamati berbagai hal yang terjadi pada saat saya mengantar-jemput anak sekolah disini, saya mengambil contoh tentang naik kendaraan umum di Inggris dan di Indonesia. Saya tanya, berapa banyak dari Anda yang berkendaraan umum pada saat sekolah? Dari SD? Apakah menyuruh anak untuk naik kendaraan umum untuk pergi dan pulang sekolah atau mengantar-jemput anak dengan kendaraan umum menjadi pilihan Anda? Mungkin tidak. Kalau punya kendaraan pribadi, kenapa harus susah-susah naik kendaraan umum? Kasusnya tentu berbeda disini. Anak-anak cukup terbiasa kemana-mana jalan kaki atau naik bus. Setiap pagi, bus penuh dengan anak sekolah, orang tua yang mengantar, lengkap dengan kereta bayi bagi para orang tua yang masih memiliki anak kecil.

Berdasarkan pengalaman pribadi, naik kendaraan umum di Jakarta selalu menarik. Selalu ada cerita yang dibawa saat mengamati perilaku orang-orang di dalam kendaraan umum. Satu hal yang cukup mencolok dan saya ingat adalah bagaimana perilaku orang tua dan anak saat berada di kendaraan umum. Tidak hanya satu dua kali saya mendengar ‘omelan’ para ibu mengenai repot dan susahnya naik kendaraan umum. Harus pindah, bawa barang, ada anak, dan lain-lain. Keluhan itu seperti tidak ada hentinya, hingga sampailah pada kesimpulan bahwa ‘enak jadi orang kaya, bisa naik mobil atau motor kemana-mana’. Sadarkah para orang tua ini bahwa omelan dan keluhan mereka didengar oleh para anak? Saya percaya bahwa pesan yang terdengar terus menerus dari significant others pasti sedikit atau banyak akan membekas dan membentuk pola pikir seorang anak. Kalau setiap hari diomeli tentang sesuatu yang bukan salahnya juga harus naik kendaran umum, bagaimana pola pikir anak-anak tersebut, ya? Mungkin mereka akhirnya memiliki keyakinan bahwa saya miskin, naik kendaraan umum tidak menyenangkan, dunia tidak adil karena saya terpaksa susah-susah di jalan, boleh mengeluh dan marah pada keadaan, dan segala hal yang berhubungan dengan hidup yang tidak menyenangkan. Mungkin, ini juga yang membuat angka penjualan motor, sebagai kendaraan pribadi yang cukup murah, selalu meningkat di Indonesia.

Lalu, bagaimana dengan naik angkutan umum di Inggris? Saya sendiri melihat bahwa anak-anak dan para orang tua yang harus setiap hari naik angkutan umum tidak banyak protes. Mereka menjalani rutinitas dengan flat. Harus naik bus? Yasudah naik saja. Harus jalan kaki? Ya memang kok tidak ada kendaraan umum yang berhenti di depan rumah. Sepertinya, perkara naik kendaraan umum tidak serta merta berhubungan dengan keadilan sosial. Toh, banyak juga bapak-bapak mapan berjas yang juga naik bus. Tentunya, komentar ‘hidup tidak adil’ dan ‘enak jadi orang kaya’ tidak terdengar. Well, terdengar sih ‘hidup tidak adil’ di kalangan remaja yang memang kerjaannya protes terhadap hal-hal sekecil apapun. The point is, saya tidak pernah mendengar orang mengeluh karena kondisi hidupnya yang terbatas saat berada di angkutan umum. Hasilnya? Anak-anak sepertinya cukup menikmati harus pergi dan pulang sekolah dengan bus. Lagi-lagi ya, argumen ini saya kemukakan dengan mengabaikan perbedaan kondisi kendaraan umum di dua negara yang saya bandingkan.

Kasus yang saya ceritakan di atas adalah pengamatan saya terhadap orang-orang lokal. Bagaimana dengan keluarga Indonesia yang ada disini? Lebih hebat lagi. Saya rasa anak-anak orang Indonesia yang tinggal disini sudah didoktrin dulu. Haha… Entah kenapa, saya merasa bahwa anak-anak orang Indonesia disini jauh lebih dewasa dan pengertian. Mereka tidak banyak protes, tidak terlalu banyak minta ini-itu, dan mengerti kondisi orang tuanya yang… mungkin kondisi hidupnya tidak sebaik saat masih tinggal di Indonesia. Bagi banyak keluarga, mereka harus mengucapkan selamat tinggal kepada mobil pribadi. Tapi toh, anak-anak ini tidak merasa miskin dan tidak menuntut orang tuanya untuk membeli mobil baru. Bahkan, beberapa waktu lalu, seorang anak Indonesia yang masih SD sempat bercerita, ‘Kata Bunda, beli mainannya nanti aja kalau sudah di Indonesia. Disini nggak beli-beli dulu.’ And again, mungkin yang terdengar di telinga para anak juga berbeda. Mereka mendengar orang tuanya berterima kasih karena mereka tidak banyak menuntut, mereka mendengar penjelasan orang tua mereka mengenai kondisi hidup mereka. All in positive light.

Mengamati dan melakukan refleksi terhadap hal-hal tersebut, saya jadi tersadar kembali. All in positive light. Hidup ini tidak mudah, kenapa harus ditambah lagi dengan pandangan-pandangan negatif? Saya melihat bahwa disini, hidup ya dijalani saja. Sebagai manusia, tentu pernah mengeluh dan merasa tidak suka dengan kondisi yang dialami. Tapi, ya itulah hidup. Live the life. Memangnya dengan mengeluh dan marah-marah lalu kondisi hidup kita bisa berubah? Menurut saya, justru dengan begitu malah meracuni pikiran orang-orang di sekitar. Hal ini tentu lebih ditekankan pada orang tua, seperti contoh saya di atas. Sadarkah bahwa perkataan yang didengar anak mengenai bagaimana orang tua memaknai hidup mereka bisa membentuk pola pikir anak mengenai dunia? Sepertinya manusia memang perlu lebih banyak bersyukur, termasuk saya… terutama saya.

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AdventureNotes #20: Cambridge

Besides Oxford, another city famous for its smart students is Cambridge. Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the UK, dating back to 1209. Wow! In my words, I think Indonesia was still in Ken Dedes and Ken Arok era when people in the UK began attending universities. Well, besides its long history, University of Cambridge is very famous for its high quality of education. People from all around the world dream of coming to Cambridge to study. Indeed, university life is the center of the city. From my observation, it almost seems that the city basically grows around the university. Personally, besides its education quality, Cambridge is a beautiful city to visit.

Getting to Cambridge is certainly easy. Like most cities in the UK, you can just hop on a train to reach this city. However, I think people need to beware because the train fare is quite expensive for Cambridge. To compare, a train ride from Birmingham to London costs around £10-20 return per person whereas the train ride from Birmingham to Cambridge costs around £50-60. It’s almost three times the cost, right? This is why I just visited Cambridge during the second time I live in the UK. I joined a university arranged trip, which can be quite cheap. At that time, I only paid around £15 for my return trip. If you are a student, you can search information about this kind of trip. It can be useful!

I didn’t stay overnight when I visited the city. It was a lovely daytrip because the weather was so nice that day. I won’t be able to suggest which one is better, to stay overnight or to have a daytrip because I am not so sure about how expensive the accommodation price there. However, I can tell that visiting the city just for a day surely not enough to explore the whole city one by one. I mean, there are lots of galleries and museums that you can come into. Indeed, exploring a museum for a day is never enough in the UK. They are massive!

So, what did I do when I visited Cambridge? Punting! What? It’s so mainstream and expensive! Actually… no, it isn’t. I booked my ticket online so I just had to pay £8 for around an hour punt ride. Of course, I chose the one with a punter. I’m not that confident to punt by myself. I’m not that good at swimming. Well, anyway, it was a good choice. During the trip, the punter told us about peculiar facts about Cambridge. We could see the back of Cambridge colleges and the view is simply beautiful. I love it! I think most of Cambridge biggest colleges are located near the river so we can see almost all of the famous attractions during our punt ride. Besides, it really helps us navigate our way later on when we explore the city by foot.

Just like Oxford, the main attraction of Cambridge is its university. And just like Oxford, we need to pay a small amount of admission ticket to enter the colleges. Well, not all, just the most beautiful and famous ones. The ticket price is slightly more expensive than Oxford, too. Therefore, I would suggest you to choose which college you want to visit. During my visit, I entered three colleges. One of them is free, which is Clare College. The other two, St. John’s College and King’s College are not free. However, it is worth it! The view was just beautiful. Moreover, at the time I visited the city, I think there was some kind of celebration or something. University of Cambridge students were walking around with their robes. Gosh, I really want to try wearing those robes. You know, each college has its own robes? I felt like I’m in a Harry Potter movie. You surely can visit some more colleges. A friend of mine said that Pembroke College certainly needs to be visited. I also wanted to go to Trinity College, but it was closed at the time I was in the city. Well, you can check them first before deciding to visit them.

So museums, colleges, punting… Cambridge also offers unique outdoor markets. I think it is occasional, but the open market in the center of the city is regularly opened. I went to an art pop up market and saw unique things. I also went to the outdoor market and see many distinct foods. It is interesting for me. Actually, I like to soak up the atmosphere there. Cambridge is also full of interesting small streets. You can explore them. I don’t really know about the shops, but I think it might be interesting to go into shops selling the University of Cambridge robes. I tried to enter one, but non-students cannot try on the robes.

As I said, a day in Cambridge only covers that much. I think another visit to Cambridge is necessary to find out more about the city. In my opinion, indeed, Cambridge is a very beautiful city.

Mar 26, 2016

AdventureNotes #19: Bath

When I first came to the UK, I didn’t know what Bath is. My friend, then, told me that it is a beautiful city and the home of one of the UNESCO World Heritage. I am not sure why I didn’t know about Bath because it is mentioned as one of the most beautiful cities in the UK and it is a must visit place. Therefore, I started to look into it, finding out information about the city, and finally decided to visit Bath.

I went to Bath during a summer break by train from London. As I was living in Hull at that time, the cheapest way to go to Bath is through London. However, it can still be quite expensive, around £30 for return ticket per person. Actually, Bath is easily accessible by train. However, if you want to get better deal on visiting this city, you can check day tours or Eventbrite because there are several day tours to Bath and Stonehenge, or other cities, from London. It can be a better choice if you want to visit more than just Bath.

Personally, I cannot find any city similar to Bath. I don’t know but I just don’t think it is comparable to any other cities. I think Brighton is the closest one, but Brighton is located on the seaside whereas Bath is mountainous. Moreover, there are actually so many attractions in Bath that I would suggest you to stay at least one night to really get to know the city. Therefore, I chose to make my own itinerary and spent a night in Bath.

Although it is advised to stay in Bath overnight, the accommodation price there is expensive. As it is a touristic place, like York, hiring a hotel room can be very expensive. I could not find any hotel offering a room priced less than £40. You are lucky if you are a solo traveler or you don’t mind to stay in hostels because YHA has a branch there. So far, it is the most affordable accommodation in Bath – well, except the AirBnB. However, I didn’t stay in YHA when I visited Bath. Instead, I slept in a university accommodation. How come? Every summer holiday, the University of Bath rents its student accommodation for visitors. The price is quite cheap, around £30 a night including breakfast. It is a dorm room, fully equipped. The only downside is that the bathroom is shared. I was quite happy to be able to spend a night there because then, I could also visit the university and feel how students live in dorms. The breakfast is quite good, too.

As I said, there are many tourist attractions in Bath. The most popular ones are the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Center, Fashion Museum, No.1 Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, and the Circus, and the Royal Crescent. You can visit all of them, of course. However, at the time I visited the city, my constraint was money. Most of the attractions in Bath apply admission fee.

For the paid ones, I went to Roman Baths, Fashion Museum, and No.1 Royal Crescent. It was costly, but I think it worth the pay. In Roman Baths, I could see many Roman artefacts and get to know more about how Romans live in the UK at that time. Basically, it provides us with so many historical facts and stories. Besides that, we can also see the former Roman Baths, where people on that day take shower. It is very well preserved. This attraction is located in the middle of the city so it is hard to miss. Near the Roman Bath, there is a café called The Pump Room, where you can have tea afterwards. Well, I didn’t try it because I was in a low budget, but if you are interested you can absolutely try to have an afternoon tea here.

On my second day in Bath, I went to see the Royal Crescent and the No.1 Royal Crescent. They are located in the same area. The No.1 Royal Crescent is a show house, picturing how people in the Georgian era live. We can explore the different rooms of the house, including the furniture and else. There are guides there who will tell us stories and details about how people live back then. Unfortunately, most of the objects shown there are not really the original objects but loans from different museums and private collections. Well, it is good to know that people here really pay attention to history, saving meaningful objects, etc. But it will be good for the attraction to have collections on its own.

Although I didn’t plan to go to this museum, the Fashion Museum is certainly my highlight. The museum is rather dark, but the amount of the collection is imaginable. I could really see how fashion changes along time. The exhibition is enormous. I think, fashion lovers should visit this museum and will spend a whole day in this attraction. Again, despite its cost, it is very worth it.

Those are my picks, but you can explore Bath for more. If you are in a low budget, you don’t have to come into those paid attraction because strolling through Bath’s small alleys and streets is certainly charming. It is a city like no other.

Mar 19, 2016

AdventureNotes #18: Oxford

A lot of people know that Oxford is a name of a university. Do you also know that this is the name of the city where the university is located in? Almost the same as Cambridge, Oxford tourism depends on its university. Therefore, traveling to Oxford means coming into the university colleges, museums, and libraries – well, at least most part of it. I visited Oxford twice, first by myself on a super tight budget and the second with my husband and his friends with an enough budget so that I can enter some of the colleges there.

Oxford is a city located in the south part of UK. The city is quite reachable by train and bus. For me, I went to Oxford by bus, both from London and Birmingham. The bus from London to Oxford can be as cheap as £1 for one way. The bus is called Oxford Tube, which everyone can take from the front of London Victoria Station. I don’t know how much it will cost if you just get on the bus and pay there, but I bought my ticket online and it was just £1. The journey from London to Oxford takes around 2 hours. The city is also around 2 hours journey from Birmingham, from which I took a MegaBus that costs only £7 return. Quite cheap, right?

As the city is quite small, if you don’t explore the whole museums there, most people visit Oxford for only a day trip. As I said, the main attraction is its university. As most cities in the UK, the city has more than one university, but the one that is the oldest university in the UK and the most popular one is called University of Oxford. Similar to Cambridge, the university is divided into many colleges. Each college has its own complex, with accommodation, classes, halls, and sometimes its own library, too. Some of the colleges are open for visitors because of its beauty. Some of them are free, and some requires visitors to pay a “small” amount of money. Well, the most expensive one in Oxford is Christ Church College. It is indeed, the most famous college of all because its hall is the inspiration of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Great Hall. When I visited the college, I had to pay more than £5. At that time, the college also opens a Bed and Breakfast so that visitors can try living in the dorm and having breakfast in the Great Hall. I must say that the place is beautiful, starting from the meadow outside the main building up to the inner part of the college complex, which includes dorms, library, chapel, and halls. However, I think the hall is not as I expected. In reality, I think it is quite small. It is still functioning now, holding dinners and breakfasts for the students. When I went to see the hall, the university staffs were preparing dinner as they set up the tables there. I also saw the accommodation building, which is in direct opposite of the library of this college. There, I saw a student who just wears pajamas to visit the library. I think the students basically live in the library and just go to their accommodation when they need to eat or shower. Haha… Well, actually you can choose to not live in the colleges but rent an accommodation a bit far from the city. It is cheaper.

Other Oxford attractions are also related to the university, such as the All Soul’s College (we cannot get in here because it is closed for public), University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Bodleian Camera, and Radcliffe Camera. Those places can be visited by paying an admission fee. If you are really interested in knowing what’s inside, maybe you can buy the tickets. However, I am not. So, although I’ve visited Oxford twice, I only see those places from the outside. I heard that it is quite useful to join walking tours around Oxford to get to know the city better. Some of the walking tours are free, but some are not. If the tour is not free, it is a good chance that the price includes the admission tickets to several places.

Is Oxford really that expensive? Well, no. If you are on a budget, you can always go inside the museums. There are several museums in Oxford, which most of them are managed by the university. I went inside one of them just to pass by, and I think if I have enough time, I’d love to explore the place. Again, as many other museums in the UK, the place is arranged interestingly so that the image of dark and gloomy museum vanishes from my mind.

Well, the last place that I visited on my latest visit to Oxford is the Covered Market. It is basically an indoor market full of different kinds of stalls. This place is so interesting because you can find anything, from cookies to uncooked chicken. Some of the small bag shops and accessories shops are unique, I don’t know if they have branch elsewhere. There is also a really interesting cake shop with different decorations on the cakes. I love the place! I think it’s worth the visit.

For me, Oxford is… yeah, Oxford. I cannot find an exact adjective to describe it. I think it is quite interesting, although the city center is so packed. My husband doesn’t really like it because he thinks it’s vague (I don’t know why), but if you’d like to see how ‘the bright’ students live, you can visit Oxford.

Mar 12, 2016

AdventureNotes #17: Mainstream London

After a week off last week, this is the last AdventureNotes article about London. Yeay! This last article will explore about the mainstream London. London’s first visitors certainly must at least pass along these places to really prove to the world that they have visited this wonderful city! The whole passing along these locations can be done in a day and cheaply if you are not interested to go inside those places. However, the museums and galleries listed in my version of mainstream London can take up to one day visit. Therefore, allocate enough time if you really are interested in going into the museums and galleries.

Everyone’s list of mainstream London can be different from one to another. I make this list of mainstream London based on my experience and the Visit London website. So, here’s the list and brief explanation about each of them:

1.      British Museum – a must visit place in London. If you only have limited time, I would suggest you to pick one or two galleries to visit. The place can be very crowded during the peak season, so beware of not being comfortable inside this museum. It is a good photo spot, especially inside its famous center hall.

2.      National Gallery – if you are an artistic person and are interested in paintings, you can go inside. The place is huge and again, you have to allocate special time for you to visit. I like to sit around the Trafalgar Square, instead. It is located in front of the National Gallery. Sometimes there are celebrations or special occasions held there.

3.      Natural History Museum – this place is huge! I think people can go again and again to this place because it is so interesting! The admission is free, another advantage for budget traveler.

4.      London Eye – this spot is one of the iconic places in London. Strolling near the London Eye in the Southbank is already satisfying. It is indeed worth it to pay the price for the London Eye ticket. It is quite expensive, but there are promotional options to get a better price. I love the view from the London Eye at night. It is so beautiful!

5.      Tower of London – The place is located near the Thames River and it is now a museum. There are galleries and tours for you to choose when you are visiting this place. You have to pay for the admission ticket, though.

6.      Tower Bridge – this iconic place is a must visit in London. You can just walk along the bridge, take pictures near it, or even come inside the towers of the Tower Bridge to see exhibitions. Again, you need to pay for the admission ticket in this attraction.

7.      Madame Tussauds – there are Madame Tussauds in other cities, indeed. I don’t really know the difference between those Madame Tussauds, but if you haven’t been to one, you surely can visit the one in London. The admission price is quite expensive and the queue can be very long, but you can take pictures, a lot of them, inside.

8.      221b Baker Street – Sherlock! For Sherlock Holmes fans, this is a must visit place. However, I was disappointed coming inside this place to see the exhibition because it is not that interesting for me. With the price and the queue, surely I wouldn’t recommend you to come except you really a hardcore fan of Sherlock Holmes. I think, taking picture in front of it and visiting the shop is quite enough.

9.      Buckingham Palace – an attraction that you can see when you visit this place is the changing guard. It happens daily or once in two days at 11.30. The procession lasts around 45 minutes. Quite interesting, but not that much. During the summer, the palace is open for public and you can see the inside of the building. Again, it is not free of charge.

10.  Parliament House – definitely cannot go inside, but taking picture in front of the Parliament House is a must. It really shows that you’ve visited London. The best place to take your picture in front of it is from the bridge just next to the building.

11.  Big Ben – attached to the Parliament House, this is also the icon of London. Take a picture of yourself in front of this place!

12.  Westminster Abbey – located just on the square of the Parliament House, Westminster Abbey is famous as a place for the Royal Family to do their religious activities. You can take a picture in front of it, and you can also come inside to see the place.

13.  St. Paul’s Church – I love this building! Walking across the Millennium Bridge and seeing this building is just magnificent! You can take pictures and come inside the church. All free of charge.

14.  Piccadilly Circus / Soho – it is not a building but an area. The place is so famous and is always crowded. I like to just walk along the streets in this area. It is nice!

15.  Oxford Street – shopping! That’s the word comes to my mind every time I hear Oxford Street. Lots and lots of shops here, where you can just have your retail therapy.

As I said, it only takes a day to visit all these places if you are not going inside and just take pictures of them from the outside. Most of the places are located along the Thames River, so it is not difficult to reach them. I would suggest people to go to the Buckingham Palace first, and then walk through the St. James Park to reach the Parliament Square, where the Parliament House, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey are located. You can walk across the bridge from the Big Ben and follow the pathway to the London Eye. Then, cross the bridge again to reach the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. From there, I usually take the tube to the Tower of London, quite near to the Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The other places left are the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Madame Tussauds, 221b Baker Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Street. I like to categorize the places into their location. For example, the British Museum is not too far from the Oxford Street, which is adjacent to Piccadilly Circus. Then, Madame Tussauds and 221b Baker Street are close to each other. Finally, the Natural History is located in the museum quarter of London, where there are also Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.

It is very easy to visit the mainstream London points of interest. If you like to take the bus, you can take London Bus Route 4, which passes along the Waterloo, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Barbican. Another bus route, London Bus Route 88, passes along the Regent Street, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the House of Parliament. See? You can even just stay inside the bus to pass these iconic locations. The district and circle lines of London Underground are also the main route if you prefer to use the tube as your mode of transportation.

That’s all about London – well, up until now. I am sure that there will be loads and loads more after I visit the city more.

Mar 04, 2016

AdventureNotes #16: Harry Potter London

Who doesn’t know Harry Potter? The book, the movie, everything about Harry Potter is famous! Thinking about Harry Potter makes people think about the UK, too. Indeed, the movie set is also located in various places throughout the UK. However, the Warner Bros Studio is located near London. For you who are mad about the story, welcome to the magical world!

To visit the Warner Bros Studio, we have to buy tickets in advance. The place is very popular and in peak seasons, the ticket is likely to be sold out or limited. Therefore, I would suggest people to really consider the time they are going to visit. Besides the date, we should also pick the time of the day we want to enter the place. I’ve visited the place twice, once at night time and once during the day. For me, both times are perfectly fine. It has its own charm on different times of the day. Therefore, don’t worry if you get a slot at night to visit the studio. The official website to book the ticket to this studio ishttps://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/. However, if you cannot find any ticket on your chosen date, you can also google other tours that may have the tickets, too. Usually, these tours also include the transportation price from central London to the studio location by bus. The price to enter this attraction is not cheap but it certainly worth it.

I wouldn’t say that the Warner Bros Studio is exactly in London. It is located near zone 7 London, which is called Watford Junction. From my city, Birmingham, it is almost half way to London. From central London, I think the journey can take up to 45 minutes by tube or probably 1 to 1.30 hours by bus depending on the traffic. From the Watford Junction station, we should take another designated Harry Potter Tour bus to the location. Minding the journey, I would suggest people who want to visit this attraction to start their journey around 1 to 2 hours before their allocated entry time. Sometimes you can enter a little bit before your allocated time. And don’t worry if you are late, too! You can still come to the place with your ticket!

Entering the studio is like entering a magical place, indeed! If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will love it! The entrance to the great hall, looking at the set of different places of Hogwarts, and taking pictures all around, all are unforgettable experience. There are indoor and outdoor areas of the studio with an additional area just opened last year. Nowadays, people can also see the Hogwarts Express that had just been exhibited there! OMG I SO want to go there again! I can spend hours and hours there. Don’t worry, you can spend as long as you want inside the studio.

What’s so amazing about the studio? Hmmm… not the Daniel Radcliffe or the Emma Watson part because they’re not there. For me, it’s the process of filmmaking. I can see how the people involved in the production were very dedicated to their work. I am amazed of the details, of the expensive tools and appliances they buy to make the movie ‘real’. I am amazed on the robot Buckbeak and the 2 meters tall Hogwarts miniature and the thousands of wand boxes hand-written by the crew. And surely, I am so fond of the butter beer! You should try the butter beer! It is non-alcoholic so as a Muslim it’s safe for me. It is rather expensive but for the sake of trying it!

I think coming out of the studio, I was left speechless. It is very amazing. But, you can also crave for more! Well, not many other Harry Potter setting is located in London, but there are some places you can visit to re-visit your experience watching the movie. You can join a walking tour or you can just visit them yourself.

The places in London that are used in Harry Potter movies include Kings Cross Station and St. Pancras Station. Both are next to each other. The famous 9 ¾ platform is located in the Kings Cross Station. If you can bear the queue, you can take pictures of yourself posing in front of it! Besides that, there are also Millennium Bridge, Charring Cross Road, and Leadenhall Market. The two mentioned last are the places that represent Diagon Alley. Gringot’s exterior is Australia House just near the Covent Garden. There are also Westminster Station, Piccadilly Circus, and London Zoo Reptile House that you can visit.

That’s not enough? There is another Harry Potter attraction coming up this June 2016. It’s Harry Potter theatre! It is actually an extended version of the Harry Potter story. Coming up in June, the ticket for the show is now sold out until March 2017. If you are planning to visit and want to see this, do make sure that you are coming after March to get the ticket.

I think there will be more and more additional attractions related to Harry Potter in London, considering how popular it is. Indeed, London is a good place to start feeling the real Harry Potter experience!

Feb 19, 2016

Life Balance

Sekitar dua tahun yang lalu – Gosh, I’m old! – saya mengikuti sebuah pelatihan. Pada saat itu, semua peserta pelatihan diminta untuk menuliskan karakter diri masing-masing, baik yang bersifat positif maupun negatif. Setelah menuliskan karakter diri, saya baru menyadari bahwa kelebihan saya juga adalah kekurangan saya – to some extent. Kok bisa? Saya lupa seluruh jawaban saya pada saat itu, tapi beberapa karakter yang saya tulis adalah determined (positif), organized (positif), stubborn (negatif), dan over thinker (negatif). Tentunya, semua karakter tersebut tidak muncul dalam satu waktu yang sama. Kalau iya, aneh banget. Haha. In a way, karakter-karakter yang saya sebutkan saling berhubungan. Di satu sisi, saya adalah orang yang keukeuh kalau punya keinginan. Believe me, my parents know it well! Pada situasi yang baik, tentunya jadi karakter yang baik karena saya jadi berusaha untuk mencapai tujuan saya. Di situasi lain, hal tersebut menjadi suatu karakter negatif karena saya menjadi keras kepala, nggak mau dibilangin. Saya juga tipe orang yang organized. Saya suka merencanakan sesuatu, saya berpikir dan mengatur hidup saya. To some negative extent, saya bisa menjadi orang yang terlalu banyak berpikir sehingga keputusan yang saya buat lama, terlalu banyak pertimbangan, dan lain-lain. Saya lalu menyadari bagaimana cara saya meminimalisir kekurangan saya – hidup seimbang. Kalau saya bisa menjaga agar karakter saya tidak ekstrem maka seharusnya saya bisa menjadi manusia yang memiliki karakter lebih baik. Right?

Kejadiannya dua tahun lalu, tapi kenapa sekarang menulisnya? Mungkin karena paparan media sosial yang cukup besar saya terima akhir-akhir ini (ya, ini salah saya sendiri). Banyak sekali berita mengenai berbagai isu dan beberapa diantaranya menarik perhatian saya. Misalnya, mengenai gaya hidup para penerima beasiswa, mengenai orang tua yang memboikot televisi bagi anak-anak mereka, hingga mengenai jumlah jam tidur. Intinya, ada banyak perspektif dan komentar mengenai bagaimana seseorang harus mengatur hidupnya. Do we have the right to judge and to direct other people?

Membaca banyak artikel-artikel tersebut membuat saya melakukan refleksi diri (bukan pijat refleksi, OOT kangen banget pijet…). Mana yang benar? Mana yang harus saya ikuti? Hingga saya sampai pada kesimpulan bahwa kuncinya adalah keseimbangan dan niat. Life is short and death is sure. Sekarang, bagaimana memanfaatkan yang ada di dunia untuk akhirat. Toh, semua yang jadi perbincangan dan pro kontra akan balik-balik lagi ke tujuannya apa. Ya, kan?

Contoh, satu isu yang cukup menarik dan menggelitik adalah beberapa opini mengenai gaya hidup para penerima beasiswa. Sebagai orang yang terpapar langsung terhadap hal tersebut, saya mencoba menghayati apa sih yang mendasari pendapat yang berbeda-beda tersebut. Berdasarkan artikel-artikel yang saya baca, banyak yang mempertanyakan keseriusan para penerima beasiswa dalam belajar dan mempertanyakan aktivitas jalan-jalan mereka. Intinya, para penerima beasiswa seharusnya bisa serius belajar dan membalas budi beasiswa yang tidak sedikit jumlahnya tersebut ke rakyat Indonesia. Setuju!But are we not allowed to spend money?

Saya yakin, insyaAllah para penerima beasiswa pun amanah dan menepati janji mereka pada saat mendaftar beasiswa. Namun, bagi saya keseriusan dalam belajar dan berprestasi tidak 100% relevan dengan jumlah jalan-jalan dan aktivitas yang katanya foya-foya dengan uang rakyat. Apa tidak bisa, seseorang berprestasi baik, berkontribusi besar, dan tetap bisa menikmati hidup? Semua orang berpendapat berbeda, tapi apabila saya melihat dari kacamata keseimbangan dan niat, rasanya kegiatan beraktivitas non-akademis tidak bisa dieliminasi begitu saja semata-mata karena harus berprestasi dan berkontribusi. Kalau seseorang bisa mendapatkan nilai distinction di semua mata kuliah, aktif membantu masyarakat Indonesia dan berorganisasi tapi tetap jalan-jalan saat liburan untuk refreshing, apa itu salah? And again, it comes back to personal opinion. Dan lagi, uang negara adalah hal yang sensitif dan bukan untuk main-main.

Let’s move to another example. Kali ini mungkin lebih bisa dipahami oleh semua orang. Lagi-lagi masalah uang – kali ini uang pribadi. Beberapa minggu lalu, saya sedang mengobrol dengan salah satu teman mengenai keinginan saya untuk membeli sebuah tas. Komentarnya, “Tas X bukannya terjangkau ya, Za untuk orang seumuran kita, apalagi kalau suami istri bekerja?” Lalu kami berdiskusi dan sampai pada kesimpulan bahwa ya, mungkin saya punya uang untuk membeli tas tersebut tanpa harus menabung tapi saya punya hal-hal lain yang ingin saya lakukan sehingga tabungan saya harus direlakan untuk hal-hal lain tersebut. Saya harus membuat prioritas, saya harus mengerti mana yang didahulukan. Saya sendiri pernah mengalami masa-masa tidak mau membeli barang baru – sama sekali. Lalu saya ditegur oleh ibu saya. Ibu saya bilang, jangan membuat diri sendiri menderita kalau memang saya tidak harus menderita dan mampu. Indeed, money is not an easy thing to deal with.

Selain uang, ada juga waktu. Suatu hal yang harus digunakan dengan bermanfaat (at least bagi saya). Kenapa? Karena waktu tidak akan pernah kembali. What we’ve spent were spent, period. Setiap orang tentu memiliki cara berbeda untuk menghabiskan waktu. Ada yang banyak bekerja, ada yang banyak bersosialisasi, ada yang banyak beribadah, ada juga yang banyak tidur. Semua itu adalah pilihan pribadi. Dan pilihan, selalu memiliki konsekuensi. Ya, tinggal dipikirkan saja toh, niatnya apa? Tujuannya apa? Lagi-lagi, bagi saya kuncinya adalah seimbang. Terlalu banya bekerja, tidak baik juga. Terlalu banyak bersosialisasi, (bagi saya, sih) cape juga. So what? Berkacalah pada kebutuhan masing-masing, aturlah berdasarkan standar masing-masing.

Bagi saya, orang yang paling berpengaruh dalam membentuk pendapat saya mengenai keseimbangan dan niat adalah ibu saya. Melanjutkan cerita saya yang tidak mau membeli barang baru, ibu saya bertanya lima hal. Pertama, berapa uang yang saya miliki? Kedua, sudahkah saya membayar zakat dan bersedekah? Ketiga, apakah saya membutuhkan barang tersebut? Keempat, apakah saya mampu membeli barang tersebut? Kelima, apakah saya bisa menyisihkan uang saya untuk menabung? Kalau jawaban dari empat pertanyaan terakhir adalah ya, kenapa tidak saya menggunakan uang saya untuk membeli barang yang saya inginkan? Pertanyaan-pertanyaan tersebut merefleksikan sebuah prinsip:do your responsibility, help people in need, spend based on your needs and capabilities. Tentunya, prinsip tersebut tidak hanya bisa diaplikasikan dalam konteks finansial, tetapi juga dalam berbagai konteks lainnya.

Menulis artikel ini membuat saya banyak berpikir lagi, mengevaluasi diri lagi. Sepertinya, banyak area hidup saya yang masih belum seimbang. Saya belum mengatur waktu saya dengan baik, saya masih cukup boros dan ignorant terhadap spending saya, dan lain-lain. Anyway, realizing is the first step of change. Semoga saya bisa menjadi orang yang lebih seimbang dan diluruskan niatnya oleh Allah.

O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess. Say, “Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good [lawful] things of provision?” Say, “They are for those who believe during the worldly life [but] exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection.” Thus do We detail the verses for a people who know. (Quran, Chapter# 7, Verses#31-32)

Feb 12, 2016

AdventureNotes #15: Budget London

This article is the second part of the London series in AdventureNotes. London is notoriously known as an expensive city. Indeed, based on the figures from Expatistan reported by the Independent UK, it is the third most expensive city in the world (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-is-the-third-most-expensive-city-in-the-world-to-live-in-just-behind-billionaire-playgrounds-10422924.html). It is also placed on the third place for its property cost according to Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/pictures/11450782/The-worlds-10-most-expensive-cities-2015.html?frame=3220484). These facts sometimes make people think more than once when they are planning to visit this city. Is it too expensive to visit? Will it worth the money? It surely will! There are numerous ways to visit this city when you are on a budget.

As its property price is so high, staying in London can be very, very expensive. The normal chain hotel price in zone 4-5 London is around £60. How can I afford that? Well, there are some other options for you who want to get the best bargain. If you are Indonesian, there is always Wisma Indonesia. The place is very cheap, around £15 per night. However, the location is quite far from central London where the attractions are. Combined with the transportation price, etc., I would say that there are other options. If you are travelling alone, hostels can be more affordable. There are various choices for hostels in London. I usually use this website, http://www.hostelworld.com/, to book hostels in UK. It’s pretty handy. However, you may want to check the hostel’s website to compare the price. Hostels can also be useful when you are travelling in groups. Besides that, there is also AirBnB that offers various properties to be rented in London. Want some more privacy? Why don’t we try the budget hotel chain? There are many budget hotel brands, such as EasyHotel, Tune Hotel, or Premmier Inn. Those hotels have properties in various central places in London. It’s quite a bargain if you want some more privacy and be close to London highlights. I visited London last December and stayed in EasyHotel in Victoria for just £25 per night. The room is very small but it’s okay for couples. I recon if you are travelling with kids, the other budget hotels might be better although a bit pricey.

Moving on, London’s transportation ticket is the second most expensive in the world. Having Oyster Card surely helps, but still, it can be as high as £8 per day. Want to get cheaper option? Santander bike (https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles)! You can cycle around London for only £2 per 24 hours. So much cheaper, right? So much more tiring, as well. Hahaha… Anyway, if you are in fit condition and don’t bother to be tired at the end of the day, I think you should at least try the Santander bike. It’s not only cheap, but also a good way to explore the city.

London offers many attractions free for entry. Most of the free entry attractions are museums and art galleries. Educational, right? Hahaha… Don’t imagine the museums to be boring places. In here, the museums are very interesting. The layouts are planned carefully so that the visitors can really enjoy the places. Besides that, you can always take pictures in front of famous places, like Big Ben or Tower of London. All are free! You can also look out for offers like 2for1 or advanced online tickets. It can be quite a bargain.

Living cost always includes food and drink. Personally, I would suggest us all to have a certain budget for food and drink. Why? Because sometimes I can get carried along, thinking that it is a primary need so that I shouldn’t pay attention on how much it cost. Turns out that, it can be the biggest chunk of all of the spending! I usually put my limit on £20 per day if I am travelling alone. Together with my husband, my budget for food and drink is £30 per day. There are cheaper options of food and drink if you are on a budget. For me, bringing my own drink is very helpful. I don’t have to buy those costly bottles of mineral water. Sometimes I choose sandwiches or other cold food so that I can avoid paying the restaurant tax. If I want hot food, I usually go to Piccadilly area where there are many choices of cheaper street foods. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right place to eat. Avoid restaurants or places near to famous attractions and you will be safe!

London may be expensive, but we can always plan our itinerary based on our budget. Find out more inhttp://www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/budget-london?ref=nav-dl. See you next week on more about London!

Feb 12, 2016

Academic Writing 101: Part 4

Yeay! Akhirnya ini adalah bagian terakhir dari Academic Writing 101. Pada bagian ini, saya akan berbagi beberapa tips yang mungkin kecil tapi perlu diperhatikan dan dilakukan saat menulis. Ada tiga hal yang didiskusikan pada bagian ini, yaitu mengenai fokus dalam menulis, pentingnya latihan, dan saran saya untuk berkonsultasi mengenai tulisan Anda. 

Don’t lose your focus

Seperti yang sudah dibahas di beberapa tulisan sebelumnya, esai yang baik adalah esai yang dapat menjawab pertanyaan mengenai suatu masalah dengan memberikan argumen yang logis dan tepat. Bagi saya, mendefinisikan permasalahan dan argumen adalah hal yang sangat penting sebelum mulai menulis esai. Mengapa? Karena tanpa tujuan penulisan yang jelas, esai akan kehilangan arah. Sialnya, esai yang kehilangan arah tidak akan menjawab pertanyaan, atau setidaknya tidak secara logis dan efisien menjawab pertanyaan. Oleh karena itu, perjelas dan pertajam masalah yang akan Anda bahas dalam esai Anda and stick to it!

Saya pernah mendapatkan saran dari seorang dosen S2 saya mengenai penulisan esai. Ia menyebutkan bahwa topik sebuah esai harus sempit dan pembahasan esai harus dalam. Salah satu esai yang mungkin tidak akan dinilai terlalu baik adalah esai yang membahas suatu permasalahan secara umum dan hanya di permukaan. Cobalah untuk meminimalisir deskripsi dan memperbanyak analisis. Pengalaman saya sendiri, bagian-bagian deskriptif dari esai akademis yang saya tulis biasanya hanya ada pada pendahuluan. Sisanya, saya mengelaborasi berbagai bukti dan contoh untuk mendukung argumen saya.

Salah satu cara yang cukup bermanfaat adalah dengan menggunakan kerangka tulisan dan mencocokkan informasi yang dimiliki ke dalam kerangka tulisan tersebut. Apabila informasi tertentu tidak dapat diklasifikasi ke dalam kerangka tulisan, bisa jadi memang informasi tersebut kurang relevan dan harus dihapus. Sedih memang untuk membuang informasi yang sudah susah-susah dicari. Believe me, saya pernah membuang setengah dari informasi yang saya miliki hasil dari membaca puluhan buku karena ternyata informasi tersebut tidak tepat untuk ditulis di dalam esai saya.

Kendala yang sering dihadapi dan membuat seseorang kehilangan fokus dalam penulisan esai adalah adanya ekspektasi jumlah kata yang dituliskan pada esai. Tentunya, sebagian besar esai akademis yang menjadi tugas dari suatu mata kuliah memiliki kriteria tertentu. Kalau sebagian informasi sudah dibuang karena tidak relevan, lalu bagaimana esai saya bisa mencapai kriteria yang diminta? Lagi-lagi, BACA. Baca lagi, cari lagi, eksplorasi lagi. Kalau tidak ada lagi yang bisa dilakukan? Mungkin memang topik yang dipilih kurang tepat atau tidak cukup ‘kaya’ untuk ditulis sebagai esai.

Latihan

Bahasa adalah keterampilan. Saya sudah pernah membahas hal ini di tulisan saya dengan judul yang berbeda. Karena bahasa adalah keterampilan, maka ia membutuhkan latihan. Saya, Anda, semua orang perlu berlatih agar lancar berbahasa. Pernah mengalami kesulitan menggunakan bahasa Inggris karena sudah lama tidak digunakan? Begitupun halnya dengan menulis, sebagai salah satu aspek dari keterampilan berbahasa. Menulis juga butuh latihan.

Banyak sekali cara untuk berlatih menulis. Meskipun bukan dalam konteks akademis, menulis lepas pun bisa dijadikan sarana untuk berlatih menulis akademis. Setidaknya, kaidah dasar penulisan pun masih selalu harus digunakan pada saat menulis. Misalnya, tulisan harus bertujuan, harus ada pendahuluan dalam suatu tulisan, harus ada pula kesimpulan. Mungkin cara yang cukup dapat dilakukan untuk merutinkan diri berlatih menulis adalah dengan menulis buku harian (iya, ini tipikal anak SD). But really, it helps. Saya sendiri tidak menulis buku harian, tapi selalu mencoba untuk menggunakan kegiatan menulis sebagai pengisi waktu luang. Refleksi diri dan menuliskannya, menulis pendapat tentang suatu hal, atau mungkin menulis tentang hal yang menarik bagi saya. Baru-baru ini, saya menulis tentang hal yang menurut suami saya ‘pernyataan sikap’ terhadap suatu topik (http://izzadinillah.tumblr.com/post/138498316931/super-woman-called-mom). Bagi saya, menulis lebih baik daripada mengeluh, ngedumel di dalam hati, atau malah marah-marah sendiri.

Apabila sudah cukup terbiasa menulis, saya akan menyarankan Anda untuk membuat sebuah blog.Media ini cukup bermanfaat untuk menampung tulisan-tulisan yang dimiliki. Tujuannya tentu bukan untuk menambah follower atau mencari popularitas. Bagi saya, blog yang saya miliki berguna untuk mengingatkan saya agar menulis. Saat ini, salah satu hal yang sedang saya biasakan adalah menulis dalam bahasa Inggris setidaknya seminggu sekali. Oleh karena itu, saya pun membuat sebuah seri diblog saya, yang saya beri judul AdventureNotes (http://izzadinillah.tumblr.com/post/138270024166/adventurenotes-13-london-the-introduction). Karena merasa diwajibkan untuk menghidupkan blog saya, maka saya berusaha sekali untuk selalu menulis seri tersebut. Latihan, latihan, dan latihan menulis. Dengan berlatih, saya menjadi cukup lancar menulis dan selalu memperbaiki tulisan-tulisan saya.

Konsultasi

Saya sangat sangat menyarankan setiap orang yang menulis dalam bidang akademis untuk berkonsultasi. Konsultasi bisa dilakukan sebelum, di awal, pada saat menulis, dan setelah tulisan selesai. Pada saat saya sedang berkuliah S2, saya selalu berusaha untuk menyelesaikan tugas setidaknya seminggu sebelum tenggat waktu pengumpulan agar saya dapat berkonsultasi pada dosen saya, teman saya, atau orang lain yang dapat dimintai bantuan.

Dilemanya, terkadang manusia tidak suka dikritisi. Yes. Tapi, demi tulisan dan nilai yang baik, saya rela. Hasil konsultasi saya tidak selalu baik. Diminta mengganti topik esai setelah half way through the writing process? Pernah. Diminta untuk mengubah struktur esai saat sudah ¾ jadi? Pernah. Sedih, kesal, lelah… tidak ada rasa yang enak setelah menerima feedback negatif. Semua saya telan saja karena saya yakin, proses tersebut baik untuk saya pada akhirnya.

Jadi, saya menyarankan Anda untuk konsultasi pada orang yang Anda anggap mampu memberikan umpan balik yang tepat dan jujur dalam menilai tulisan Anda. Jangan minta ke saya ya, karena saya cukup galak ketika memberikan feedback sampai suami saya saja stress duluan kalau meminta saya membaca esainya.

Terima kasih sudah membaca tulisan yang sangat panjang ini. Sungguh, niatnya hanya ingin berbagi. Semoga berguna dan membantu Anda dalam menulis akademis, ya…

Happy writing!

Feb 04, 2016