Living (and working) far from home

It has been two months since I left home for work.

For you who don’t know, now I move my residence to Bali for working as a civil servant in a research institute owned by Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. Speaking of Bali, please do not imagine that I live near Kuta with its lively nightlife, or Sanur which is infamous for its golden sand beach. I live in Negara, a less populous town which has a higher ratio of muslim to hindu communities from anywhere in Bali.

Here is the satellite image of the distance between my permanent and current residence (showed in blue line), which is over 1000 km:


Of course it wont be exactly ~16 hours if you travel by car, it could be one to two days. I went there by plane to Denpasar, the capital city of Bali and then driving northwest for three hours.

Maybe some people dislike living in a small town, but I was one of my craziest dream, which now has come true. I have spent my entire life in one of the most crowded place in my country and got worn out by it. I am tired of seeing traffic jam, breathing in a heavily polluted air, and spending my money over and over on shopping malls just to loosen my stressed mind.

Living here is such a great deal for me, because you canobserve the beauty of Balinese traditions but don’t have to leave out myIslamic set-up. Halal foods and masjids can easily be found everywhere, so it’s no worry at all. The living cost is also quite cheap, so I can save my money more here.

If you live in Jakarta or nearby, you have to go out from home no later than 5.30 AM to arrive on time at 8 o clock or 8.30 AM.  In contrary, there is no traffic jam here, so I can go to work at 7.30 AM and arrive in my office 10 minutes later. Before arriving, you will be mesmerized by the view of rice paddies and mangrove forest.

Here is some pictures near my workplace:

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Because the weather here is sunny almost everyday (it could be 30-33 degree of Celcius at noon), my skin got tanned two tones darker in two weeks. That would be a solid nightmare for most of Asian women, but not for me. Well, tanned skin is actually a sign for someone who spend most of their time travelling and adventuring :).

So that’s my little story of moving to another island.

By the way, if you want to learn more about my working place, Institute for Marine Research and Observation (IMRO), just click here for Indonesian version and here for English version.




Run for cervix, run for a cause

Yesterday, on February 8, 2014, I took part to a charity run named “Run for Cervix“, which was held in Senayan, Jakarta.  The goal of this charity run was to give a free Pap smear screening to a hundred marginal women in Indonesia.

Why it’s important to support cervical cancer prevention?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer which originates from cervix uteri. The cancer is a silent killer for women, because the symptoms (commonly abnormal vaginal bleeding) are mostly detected in late stage, when the cancerous cells have grown out of cervix uteri. Unlike other cancers which have vast kinds of triggers, the trigger of cervical cancer is mainly from infection of Human Papillomavirus oncogenic type.

In many developed countries such as US and Europe, the evidence and mortality rate of cervical cancer is declining every year, because most of the women there do early screening (Pap smear) and/or vaccination. 80% of cervical cancer evidence occurs in developing countries, including Indonesia.

I hope the charity run Run for Cervix could increase Indonesian people awareness of cervical cancer prevention. I also  hope the vaccine and screening cost in Indonesia could be cheaper, so more women could afford it (ahem, ministry of health :P).

To be honest, it was my first experience to get involved in 5K run. I thought it would be exhausting, but it was really fun! A lot of social communities was coming to this event and some of them wearing costumes that express their community activity or field of work, from surgeon to traditional Jakarta (Betawi) costumes, you name it! :).

Here’s captured moments during the event:

My personal note on discrimination

I am a proud hijabi!

Image from Worn Journal




Have you ever experienced this situation before? Especially if you are a woman, a Muslim in particular, and wearing hijab (veil) in daily basis?

I want to write about this subject for maybe two years ago, when I encounter those situations by myself for the first time. But I postponed it until… now.

Why I finally decided to post my personal story towards racism and discrimination?

So, yesterday I watch an Indonesian movie with my family at the cinema, titled 99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa (English translation : 99 Lights in the European Sky). The movie was actually adapted from a non-fiction book with the same title, written by Hanum Rais and Rangga Almahendra.

At the beginning of the movie, I saw two scenes that captured my interest. Let’s imagine a day in the suburban Austria (or in Germany, Österreich, which stands for ‘eastern empire’) for the setting. In the first scene, I saw a little Turkish Muslim girl named Ayşe Pasha which had been bullied by her friend at school, just because she was a descendant of Kara Mustafa Pasha, an Ottoman military leader whom failed to expand the Ottoman Empire into Central and Eastern Europe, including Austria. Her friend was mocking her hijab all the time, which made her teacher in an uneasy condition, and then asked her to take off her hijab for good. Of course, Ayşe refused her teacher’s request.

The second scene was about a young Turkish Muslim woman named Fatma Pasha who tried to find a job at a local clothing store, but the owner refused her, because in the owner’s opinion, her German wasn’t so that good. She was  actually, Ayşe’s mother. And the refusal wasn’t arrived from her lack in German, but because she wear a hijab. It wasn’t her first try, I bet. She already try to apply in many places, but always get rejected because of her appearances.

In fact, many Muslim women in Europe, especially immigrants, are discriminated by the natives because they wear hijab. The natives also stigmatized them as an uneducated, uncivilized and submissive women.

I never thought that I will experience racism, discrimination and Islamophobia such that in my country, because Islam is a major religion in Indonesia. But my mind had changed a few years ago.

Those scenes remind me of my past experiences when I work as a part-time tutor for expatriate students around South Jakarta for more than two years. In general, the work is fun and challenging for me, because I was given a great chance to sharpen my English skill especially in speaking, the paid was better than other part-time jobs and it was lovely to learn about foreign cultures by your own hand, without had to spend a lot of money to enroll an (highly expensive) student exchange.

In most of the cases, I befriend with my students and their parents very easily. But I remember my two students that had changed my entire life.

The first student is an American native, let’s call him Mark. The tutoring arranger said that Mark need a tutoring session in A-level Chemistry, which was my expertise. When I came to his home, I was welcomed by a blaring rock musics. His mother let me in, and asked me to wait Mark at the dining room. I saw a young man with a messy hair, wearing a rock band-themed T-shirt, took a peek of me from the second floor. I look back, and I saw his face turned into disgust, and anger. Then he went to his room and had a fight with her mother. I waited for more than 30 minutes, with no clue what was actually happened to him. Then I heard him screaming,

Mom, I really don’t like her!“.

I tried to observe, what I did wrong? Why he didn’t like me, when he had never met me before? It was surreal. I looked to the mirror nearby, and I knew the answer. Maybe, the main reason was, he didn’t like my appearance. Well, I was wearing a hijab, as usual.

Her mother finally approached me, and apologized. She said that Mark forgot to bring his book and past papers from school, thus he refused to study at that time.

I smiled firmly, and said, It’s OK, maam“.

I understood that it wasn’t the real cause. She apologized to me again, and handed me some cash as a cancellation fee.

I wish I had a chance to talk with him….

The second student was a AS level British student named Harry. It was my first time to teach a British, and to be honest, British accent was extremely hard to understand. At least at that time. I met his mother, I call her Jo, and she gives me a e-mail copy from the Chemistry teacher, which said that Harry just got D on his mock exam, and pointed out the list of topics that he lacked at the exam.

Miss Novia, I have to tell you before, that tutoring Harry will not be an easy task...” said Jo.

I answer, “I will try my best, Maam“.

Then Jo introduced me to Harry in his study room. A bespectacled, skinny young man shook my hand.

Harry“, he said.

Novia“, I replied.

On the first day, I was overwhelmed by his behaviour. I learned that he had an ADHD, which made him hard to focus on his study. The duration of tutoring was usually 1.5 hours, and for other students, that amount of time was enough to finish a chapter. But for Harry, he only could focus in around 30 minutes, and the remaining 1 hour will be spent on listening to his annoying stories including Chuck Norris’ silly jokes, throwing pillows, jumping on the sofa, and other exhausting activities. He always said that my English wasn’t that good, especially my pronunciation. For instance, I often pronounce Lead (Pb) wrongly into lead (as in leader), and he would jump on the sofa for the entire session because of my fault…

He also liked talking about religion. To be concise, asking why I chose Islam as my religion, why I wore hijab, what is the importance of daily prayer, what is Jihad, why some Muslim do terrorism, etc, etc.

At first, I have no clue how to answer that kind of questions…

Later I knew that him and his family was an atheist. Yep, they didn’t believe in God, at all. I realize it in the middle of December, when I asked why there was no Christmas tree in his house.

Miss Novia, our family is an atheist. That’s why there’s no Christmas ornaments in our house.“, he said.

I was shocked. Finally, I understand why he was curious about religion. From that time, I promise that I will try my best to answer his questions and respond firmly when he started to insult Islam. At least to give him better understanding in Islam.

After sixth month of tutoring sessions, he finally passed his Chemistry final exam and would continue his study in Dubai, because his family would move out to UEA. I remembered his last words to me,

Miss Novia, I am terribly sorry for being racist, and for insulting your religion. Thank you for everything.

I forgive you, Harry. But please don’t do it to other people, especially when you’re in Dubai!

Okay, Miss. I promise!

So, will you use turban and white cloak in Dubai?”

Miss, now you’re the one who is racist!

He smacked with pillow, and eventually we both giggled… :D.

I am thankful to meet Mark, Harry, and my other students. Because of them, I try to improve my knowledge in Islam day by day so I am able to answer their difficult questions. I have learnt a lot about tolerance from them.

Before I met them, my highest stimulus to study hard was only to make my parents proud.

Now, I have another stimulus to study hard. Because as a Muslim woman, it is my task to prove that Muslim women are equally educated, just like any other women in the world…

“Knock, And He’ll open the door
Vanish, And He’ll make you shine like the sun
Fall, And He’ll raise you to the heavens
Become nothing, And He’ll turn you into everything.” 
― Rumi

Recent updates (after a year of hiatus)

Hello again…!

Maybe some of you waiting to read my newest post since last year.

I am terribly sorry for that. 

From the last year, I was busy doing (and re-doing) my research as my final task to complete my Bachelor study in Chemistry and also doing a lot of part-time jobs to get extra money to fulfill my tuition fee and all related expenses. And I have to tell you, it was really tiring.

Remember my last post (Research. Research? Research!) about my (first) research topic? Well, things didn’t run well at that time. Actually, I had finished the research. I had been studying, conducting research, writing all the gathered results and also presenting it to some of the lecturers. But unfortunately, it would never be published as my final paper nor a scientific research. I can’t tell you in detail what was happened to my first research, but in general I was disappointed to what my previous research adviser had done to me, both personally and professionally. By that reason, I was struggling to call off my first research, and start a new one.

One of the biggest challenge I have to face was to change my research theme from Biochemistry to Inorganic chemistry. It was unexpected, because when I was in my first year, I have dreamed that I will do a cancer research for my final task. So I was taking almost all the class related to Biochemistry, and never took a class in Inorganic Chemistry, except compulsory classes.

However, I was fortunate to have such a supportive advisers and research group members for my second research. Our research group is called “Solid Inorganic Framework Research Group”, or could be abbreviated as SIF-RG. They help me a lot to understand more about zeolite, bentonite and other things related to Inorganic Chemistry. Here is the best pictures of SIF-RG members at that time, when we went together at a scientific conference in ITB Bandung.

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Courtesy of Aidah Fitriah

Eventually, on August 2013, I was graduated from Chemistry Department – Universitas Indonesia and finally held a Bachelor of Science degree (or in Indonesian term, Sarjana Sains). Here is some pictures of on the graduation day.

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So that’s what I was doing in the past one year.

Many things don’t run well, and many hard decisions and improvisations were made.

But I believe that no such thing as coincidence in this world, because God controls the whole story, the very best one for us. When a difficult time comes, all we have to do is giving our best effort and never surrender. Do you agree with me?

Research. research? Research!

It’s been a while since my last post published here…

The time passed fast, and I’m just realizing that now I’m on my third year!

I’m very excited to tell you that I’ve already working on my final paper recently, which will be presented on early December. My research topic is about inhibitor to reduce the effects of viral oncogenes from Human Papillomavirus, and in this research I’m trying to obtain a new anticancer compound using bioinformatics tools. So yes, my research is a “dry-lab experiments”, or widely known as in silico experiments. I’ll tell you more about it in a few days (or weeks) from now…. :)