Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why do you do what you do? Part two

After asking my first wdydwyd session, I decided it wouldn't be the last. As I teach English at work every Wednesday, I took the opportunity to ask some of my colleagues why it is they do what they do. The result speaks for itself. Thanks guys!

Putri: "Because I have no reason not to do it"

Daud:"Because I love justice and I'll never stop fighting for it"

Astri: "Because I love to interact with victims"

Neneng: "Because I hate doing the same thing all the time"

Regina: "Because it will help me buy a beautiful house"

Ati: "Because I feel great working with activists fighting the generals :)"

Ali: "Because I am a socialist and I want to go to heaven"

Note: the pictures were taken with iPhone Application Hipstamatic (which make all pictures look good).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On emancipation

Every once in a while I have the same discussion, with different people though - not too long ago I had one on my Facebook wall - about women and careers. Is it so that there are too few women in high places, because society makes it so hard for them to get there? Or is it that women just don't want to face their own fears and fight their way to the top? Or maybe most women are just not that ambitious? I often fear the latter.

Up until now, I find it a truly confusing debate only getting stranger as my friends and acquaintances are having babies and my own biological clock is supposedly ticking. I see women losing all interest in their work or ambitions from their pregnancies way past their maternity leave. I hear some women say it may be easier when you have a child, since then there would not be so much pressure to succeed outside of motherhood (mindboggling, I tell you). The need to nurture is bigger than the need to do anything else it seems. Or maybe not?

Fortunately, I do also know some women that stay their ambitious selves despite their motherhood and that seek for a balance of the different roles they have in life: mother, wife, manager, friend. No offense: if your one goal in life has been to be a mother; enjoy it, be a great mom! But if you, as a little girl dreamed of having your own company or being the head of a school, why trash these dreams now that you have children?

Is it really because it is still so difficult for women to access the real playing field? This talk by Sheryl Sandberg says a lot about how women position themselves and how society takes certain behavior for granted. It gives me hope that a combination between motherhood and a career is possible. Also, it gives me the hope that women are more ambitious than I see most of them to be.

Nice detail: she mentions that studies show that households with equal earning and equal responsibility have half the divorce rates and apparently also have a better sexual life. Where did she get this data?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Weird habit: Drinking tomato juice on airplanes

Have you ever looked around you on a plane and wondered why so many people order tomato juice? A few weeks ago, I found out that I am not the only one I know to order tomato juice on an airplane. On the plane to Bordeaux, both me and my boyfriend ordered it and looked at each other with surprise. Usually I never drink this very healthy drink, but on planes I always do! So I started wondering why I always feel a craving for it in the air. I vaguely remembered something about taste buds acting differently when high up in the sky...

So, I decided to look into this for real and end this mystery once and for all! Some 14.000 hits come up on Google. Apparently, the same question goes around about ginger ale. Quite some ridiculous reasons for drinking both tomato juice and ginger ale on board a plane are mentioned - such as that 'it's free and available', but so is everything else, right? Well, some research is mentioned proving that our taste does change with the altitude. We taste about 20 to 30% less salt than we do on the ground. According to this guy, tomato juice is the only juice that tastes exactly the same on a plane as it does on the ground, which is why we like it on planes according to him. Does that make any sense? I mean, I would argue it's because it tastes different in the air that I like it while flying.

Another theory is that tomato juice and ginger ale help settle the stomach, but would this explain the craving for it? Well, as you can tell, I'm going to have to disappoint you, my dear readers. The truth will take a while longer to be brought to light, but I will keep you posted on the progress I make. Any ideas about this are most welcome!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Flu: Why some people never get it & the wonders of Tiger Balm

While I was struck by a flu that put me into a mini hibernation of two days recently, I started thinking about several flu related topics. At the time, I thought these topics may be interesting for a single interlinked blogpost, but now I don't see their connection except that they both deal with 'flu'. Well, here they are:

Tiger balm
Growing up with an Indonesian mother in the Netherlands, being sick was not only terrible. It was also a time of being terribly spoilt. Suddenly, I was being brought cups of tea, tucked under layers of thick blankets and sometimes even spoon fed again. I'm sure kids with Dutch moms had the same treatment. The most significant thing for me however has always been tiger balm. Whenever I was sick, my mom would always pop a little Chinese can with red goo and rub some on my chest and back. She would also put some on a handkerchief for me to sniff. The scent would open up my airways and my whole body would warm up after a good rub. Now when I smell tiger balm, I am reminded of these childhood flus. Whenever I have a cold or a muscle ache now, I rub tiger balm on and it immediately makes me feel a bit better.

Here in Indonesia the magic substance is kayu putih (white wood) oil, which is actually an ingredient of tiger balm. Whenever someone is sick, they rub it one themselves or on each other. It is not only used for the flu, but also for stomach problems, muscle aches and migraines. If they could, I think they would even use it for toothaches. Rubbing kayu putih usually goes together with saying that the illness you have is 'masuk angin' (the wind inside). I don't know how it works precisely, but whether I have food poisoning or the flu, there's always 'wind inside' me.

Getting back to the topic of the flu: while I was in my mini hibernation, a dear colleague came by with food and medicine and she offered to massage me. This I never decline and being sick it seemed like I was being massaged by an angel. It was great! She found the sore spots and then she burped. Yes, she burped. And I can tell you: all Indonesians do when they massage you (well, not at salons, usually) or when they get a massage. They do this to let the air out that comes free with the massage. It thus makes you wonder if maybe there WAS air inside all along... I even know people that already start burping when they see two other massaging each other. So don't be shocked should this happen to you - it's perfectly normal.  My advise for anyone being sick: get some tiger balm and rub away that nasty flu!

Why some people never get sick?
This topic came to mind as I spoke to some people who always seem to get a break when the flu goes around. This group (frustratingly) includes my boyfriend. It made me wonder if they were that much stronger physically and whether that is something that I can work towards or not. I don't really enjoy getting each flu that breaks out, so I wouldn't mind taking a cold shower everyday if that helps. Well, another Google search led me to find this brilliant article stating that it's above all else positive thinking that keeps us healthy. I guess it's time to fix my attitude... Say it with me: "Yes, we will be healthy!"

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Sometimes dark clouds surround us. Everything seems to go wrong: You're in a hurry and have a flat tire. It rains when you have your best suit on. Your business goes bankrupt. You bite a rotten apple. A heel breaks. Your lover breaks up with you. You miss a flight. A friend falls seriously ill. There a big and small things that life presents us with. How do we choose to deal with these things? Do we let them suck all the light out of our days? Or do we grief and look for the positive?

Neil Pasricha shows in this very funny and touching TED talk that focusing on the latter (and seeking the little awesome things), even when there are only small things, makes you feel better in the end. He talks about what he calls 'the three A's of awesome': Attitude, Awareness and Authenticity. A really powerful talk.

In short, the key points of the talk:

Attitude - Choosing to move forward
'... you always got two choices: One - You can swirl and twirl in gloom and doom forever or Two - you can grief and then face the future with newly sober eyes'

Awareness - Remembering that we saw everything for the first time, embracing the three year old inside yourself

Authenticity - Be yourself and be cool with that!

And of course, live your life now. You will never get any younger than you are today and in a hundred years we will all be dead anyway.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why do you do what you do?

A very good friend of mine, Miriam, went to Burning Man a few months ago. This yearly event in the American desert brings thousands of people together to find inspiration and 'breathe art' - as their website indicates. Miriam came back showing me the website of "Why do you do what you do?". It's an initiative that started at Burning Man, where people where asked to describe on a sheet of paper why it is that they do what they do. Of course, you have to do it on the spot and may have a better idea afterwards; it's just a snapshot. But especially these spontaneous moments have the tendency to bring up the best in people.

During a course I did a few weeks ago with other development aid workers, the questions popped up again. Why do we go to Indonesia, Sudan, India or Uganda to work on human rights or peace building? Why do we train others to this kind of work? Why (especially in a climate more and more critical towards development aid) do we do what we do? Curiosity for what the other participants would answer made me ask them: Why do you do what you do? A bit shy at first and insecure of whether they'd be willing to participate, I was happily surprised by the funny and encouraging results afterwards. A good way to start the new year, I think - Ask yourself the question too...

Susanne Wienholt-Kall, Civil peace worker in training for Uganda: "I had this idea of 'WAS THIS IT?' NO!!! :)"

Irma Alpenidze, trainer at MDF: "I love to interact with people that want to change"

Heleen Reedijk, trainer at MDF: "Because I am good at it and it stimulates me. Love to work/interact with people"

Ulrich Thum, Civil peace programme advisor: "Because it keeps me from doing the same things all the time"

Jonas Wipfler, trainee of AGEH and Misereor: "I cannot imagine another job as challenging as the one I have currently"

Amna Muharemovic, Trainer at MDF: "Because I am still 'figuring it out' :)"

Martijn van den Boogaart, Consultant for GZB: "Because I want the church in Malawi to really live out their faith"

Eliza Isabaeva, Student: "Because Eliza always does what she wants, loves & crazy about"

Me, Advisor on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation: "Because I can't help wanting to help other people"