Tak Sewarna

Cinta baru muncul akan keberagaman yang seakan sengaja ditata berantakan. Kota tak perpola sesuai yang terlihat sama atau bahasa yang serupa. Semua terkumpul menjadi satu, suka atau tidak, seperti di dalam kereta bawah tanah berbau keringat musim panas.

Aku sedang bercerita tentang kota New York.

Kadang duduk atau berdiri kehabisan kursi, aku suka mencuri pandang orang-orang di dalam kereta; kegemaran baru semenjak memulai hidup di kota bising penuh imigran ini.


Ada ibu-ibu berkeredung merah marun membawa belanjaan sayur mayur.  Seorang anak perempuan berusia sekitar 5 tahun tertidur nyenyak dibahunya. Mereka turun di stasiun Jackson Avenue – tempat  tinggal banyak pendatang baru karena mungkin harga sewa rumah yang cenderung lebih murah dibanding Manhattan atau Brooklyn. Kawasan yang merupakan bagian dari Queens Borough.  Kota berpenduduk paling beragam di seluruh dunia di mana ada 800 bahasa digunakan sehari-harinya.



Lelaki muda tak berambut dan bermata besar menduduki kursi kosong yang ditinggalkan si ibu. Kuikut mendengarkan senandung lagu yang terdengar seperti bahasa Cina dari erarphone -nya yang berjarak sekitar tiga jengkal dari tempat dudukku.

“Lima stasiun lagi aku turun” pikirku sambil mata menjelajahi map di atas kursi.

Bapak tua bertongkat kayu naik. Sedikit berteriak, ia menyampaikan maksudnya kenapa masuk ke kereta. Bukan untuk sampai ke suatu tujuan yang ia sudah lama tidak punya, tapi untuk meminta sedikit sumbangan kasih untuknya yang belum makan dari pagi kemarin. Si bapak bilang ia mantan prajurit perang. Entahlah rasa apa yang harus dirasa – apa kasihan karena ada orang yang rela mati lalu terlantar atau marah pada yang berkuasa hanya berjanji akan peduli.



Buku karangan penulis favoritku, Adichie, akhirnya selesai kubaca tapi belum juga aku sampai karena gangguan dan perbaikan jalur. Jam tangan menunjuk ke angka sepuluh dan dua belas.

“Matilah, pasti yang lain sudah sampai” gumamku sambil mengingat hawa panas pagi yang membuatku berlari balik ke kamar mengganti baju tak berlengan.



Tak sadar kereta makin dipenuhi orang yang berpegangan tangan ke besi abu-abu; si saksi bisu kerasnya hidup di kota besar; penawar mimpi-mimpi hidup baru yang tak terlalu biru.

Kutawarkan kursi pada ibu berambut merah terang terkepang kecil begitu rapih dan aku berjalan mendekat ke arah pintu bersiap berlari mengejar waktu yang tak pernah mau berdusta.



Langit begitu menawan pagi ini. Biru dan putih tertimbun sengatan matahari yang begitu tajam.

Di sekelilingku ada pohon berdaun hijau dan jingga, juga bunga kuncup dan mekar berwarna putih, pink dan merah.

Tuhan sang pencipta selalu berkarya dengan begitu banyak warna. Mungkin sebagai pertanda jika dunia hanya akan indah bila putih, kuning, coklat, hitam dan lainnya bercampur dengan manis – dan tak dikeruhkan rasa benci pada yang tak sewarna.




Let’s go to Mexico City!

I was just finished putting everything inside my backpack when my mom called me out to have breakfast quickly before going to JFK airport. It was an early morning and during the month of Ramadan – but it’s also during my period, which I thought to be a blessing from God to travel to Mexico that is well-known for its hot weather.

I ran downstairs and was met by mom’s fried rice and her long list of concerns. She told me to be especially careful in Mexico City while I munched on my food. My mind, thou, was too busy worrying if there’s anything I forgot to bring like I usually do. Like that time I left my phone in its charging spot or my wallet in my home terrace.

I was aware of other things Mexico is well-known for especially since the U.S. presidential election began a few months ago. It’s hard not to. News about illegal Mexican immigrants and the bad things they do start to decorate the news day and night. I also have watched Hollywood movies which portrayed the whole place as one full with drug dealers and other criminals running around untouched by corrupted law enforcers.

But I wasn’t really bothered by it all.  The media has made Indonesia synonymous to an untamed jungle and the United States as a very prosperous nation, which I know for a fact to only be partly right.



I boarded my plane and sat next to a guy that I’m guessing was the same age as my younger brother. He’s very quiet. I only heard him talking when he politely asked me to move so he can get out and use the restroom. His English had a strong accent to it, but all words were pronounced clearly.

I often wonder what would happen if we all speak the same mother language – would then the racist lose their excuse to discount foreigners’ worth of respect?



After I walked out the Benito Juarez airport and got into a cab, I felt a little  frustrated. It was hard to communicate with the driver since he’s only able to converse in Spanish. It was my bad. I should have at least memorized a few basic sentences before getting here. I learned how scary it must have been to be in a country where only a very few people – or worse, nobody – can understand you.

He talked throughout the ride knowing full well I can only respond with a smile, nod or both.

I thought for a second to record our conversation conducted in two languages where neither party understand the other. I might as well speak in Bahasa Sunda, and it won’t make any difference.

But I tried very hard to understand what he’s saying. It sounded fun with all his hand gestures and happy face I saw in the rearview mirror.

“Goodbye…thank you!” he finally said something I grasp as he helped me take my luggage out of the trunk.



I got settled in my hotel room and looked out of a window. The sky was cloudy, grey and rainy, and I could see a crowd of people walking all around the city. Mexico City is the oldest urban settlement in the Western Hemisphere and that it is the world’s most populous metropolitan areas – much like Jakarta city I suppose.

I stayed in a historic district named Reforma where I saw many monuments to commemorate events and people during the cab ride. One of them was the famous Angel of Independence, which depicts the heroes of the Mexican War of Independence and was built to remember Mexico’s independence in 1910.


Angle of Independence


With my stomach rumbling and my mind prying of what’s outside, I decided to take a walk with a hat on.



Contrary to the stereotypes, the street was a safe place to walk around alone. There was a beautiful park full of couples enjoying each other’s companies, street performer showing off their magic tricks in hope for a few loose changes, street hawker selling stuff from churros to counterfeited DVDs, people coming back from office and school, as well as tourists taking pictures or selfies.

I bought churros and walked around some more enjoying the city. I noticed many motorized three-wheeled rickshaws running around the main street – looked a lot like a modernized becak.


I then decided to go to the narrower alley that seemed to promise great local food and settled on a small warung. It took me more than a few minutes to decide because I didn’t know what any of the written words on the menu means except taco and enchiladas and so I had fish tacos for dinner.



The next morning, I decided to walk to Plaza de la Constitución where Metropolitan Cathedral, National Palace, Municipal palace and a few other buildings stand proud and beautiful. It is apparently the largest public square in Latin America.










The day was still bright as I finished gazing the inside of the amazingly picturesque and spacious church and palace, and so I decided to meet up with a friend I made a few days before the trip.

He took me to a trendy part of the city where many bars, cafes, and parks were located called Roma Norte.

We each shipped a cup of tea while talking about the city and our life stories. The conversation somehow turned into Trump and his stand on Mexico. He also talked about how there are many immigrants here from many corners of the country as Mexico City is a central hub for business and government. The country, however, remains conscious of race. People of indigenous ancestry often inhabit the middle-to-lower neighborhood while those who are of European descent (Caucasian or criollas) live in a wealthier zone. It also goes without saying that being “white” could be a vital key element for social mobility and acceptance.

I also asked him of the many churches all around the city, and he told me that Roman Catholic Church has been an important part of Mexican culture since colonial times, thou, he added that he and most of his friends are no longer too religious. It abruptly stops during his parent’s generation.

We walked to a different neighbor and met with Sam, another friend I arranged to meet that day. She took me to a dog park she often took her dog to and settled in a bar to sit and talk. She told me of his euro trip and her aspiration to be a dancer.

I was going to stay and have dinner along with her boyfriend who just came back from a trip. However, the night had knocked and I have a morning road trip to Teotihuacan – an archeological site that is home to some of the largest ancient pyramid in the world.



It was a two-hour trip from my hotel.

Here’s a tip: do not forget to bring your summer hat because the place was strikingly hot and you’re going to do a lot of walk around the compound.

The place was flourished in Mesoamerica’s Golden Age and was dominated by two gigantic pyramids – sol (sun) and luna (moon).

The pyramids are important not only for its size but also for its significance; it’s a place that’s believed to be where the gods live and where civilians can communicate with them.








I didn’t go to the museum and a few other sites there because I had a flight to catch and was worried about the possible traffic.



As I waited for my flight back to NYC, I wondered why the mainstream media rarely show the Mexico I saw in the last few days. But I guess that’s the beauty of traveling, huh? It breaks stereotypes and put a stop on the unfair – borderline racist – portrayal of western medias towards third-world countries, at least on your own head.



San Juan, Puerto Rico

See, geography has never been my strongest suit – if anything it’s my weakest. It’s no wonder then that I had no idea prior to my trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico that the country is an unincorporated territory of the United States – meaning that Puerto Ricans have common citizenship, currency and defense of that owned by Americans, thou they cannot vote in presidential election and don’t have to pay federal income tax. That being said, there is no need for a visa to enter should you have a U.S’ visa already. Hooray for easy access!

Puerto Rico (PR) enjoys year-round summer temperatures.For any Indonesians reading this, it’s similar to ours as it’s also a tropical country. Semarang’s weather reminds me so much of when I was in San Juan in fact. So, do make sure to pack a bathing suit and sunscreen because of the weather and because of the beautiful, clean beaches scattered all over the city. A much needed warm as I was coming from the winter storm in NYC.

One thing that you’ll – well I quickly noticed anyway – people are genuinely friendly and helpful. They are proud of their heritage that most people I met were excited to tell me stories of their country, where to go and what to eat – and they’d narrate it with lots of hand and facial gestures. Oh, and all of them speak English, but with different fluency.

You’ll also immediately see the race and ethnic groups variety. They’re culturally and racially mix because of their history. The Spanish forced the indigenous people into slavery, which caused almost the entire population to diminish, except for a few ones that escaped to remote mountains and ended up marrying poor Spanish farmers. Later on, as labor was needed for crops and build roads, the invader brought slaves from Africa (Sudan, Kongo, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra, Leona, and the Gold, Ivory, and Grain coasts), and followed by Chinese immigrants, then continued with the arrival of Italians, French, German, and even some Lebanese people. There was also a time around 1960 when thousand of Cubans fled to the island from Fidel Castro’s Communist state. [1]

San Juan’s architectural heritage is understandably Spanish as seen in Old San Juan where the buildings are located “in the narrow, winding cobblestone streets and the pastel-colored, tile-roofed buildings with ornate balconies and heavy wooden doors that open onto inner courtyards in the style of Andalusia in southern Spain.” [2]


[1] Site, A. (2017). Puerto Rican People. Topuertorico.org. Retrieved 10 July 2017, from http://www.topuertorico.org/people.shtml

[2] Site, A. (2017). Puerto Rico’s Culture: Architecture. [online] Topuertorico.org. Available at: http://www.topuertorico.org/culture/architec.shtml [Accessed 10 Jul. 2017].


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Miramar, San Juan
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Miramar, San Juan

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Busy street at Old San Juan
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A church in Old San Juan 


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San Jose Church

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El morro
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El morro
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El morro
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Bikers in El morro
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San Juan national historic site
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Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis
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El morro
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Old San Juan
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Old San Juan
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Capilla del santo Cristo de la Salud
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Puerto Ricans
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Isla Verde Beach
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Puerto de tierra
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El Capitolio de Puerto Rico
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Inside Castillo de san cristobal
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Old San Juan

The many cultures of Istanbul.

Cami yıkılmış ama mihrap yerinde.”

The literal meaning of it is somewhere along the lines of the mosque is a ruin but the mihrap is standing – however, as many of other proverbs, the words carries far wiser gist.

It describes an older woman who retains her charm and beauty. It portrays the mysterious allure of all things matured. Mind you that the second description is just of my own interpretation.

But let’s say that it is, then that would be the perfect depiction of how Istanbul was when I visited.

With each step I took, layers of history unfolded. Distinctive and strong cultures lied around every corner that has witnessed changes of regimes from as far back as when the Roman empire, Emperor Constantine, built his new capital, Nova Roma, in where Istanbul is today. His legacy, Hagia Eirine still stands proud and beautiful in the outer courtyard of Topkapi palace – thou not in its original state because of Nika revolt. A revolt that destroyed the imperial palace, the Senate house, public baths, and many residential houses and palaces, but fortunately enough was the event that brought us Hagia Sophia – a church so grand no one would dare destroy.

Several successors and crusades later, the empire and the city were left vulnerable and Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered it in 1453 – a date sometimes used to mark the end of Middle Ages.

What used to be Constantinople was then referred to be the Ottoman empire – an empire which eventually flourished into the largest and longest lasting empires in the history; one that was inspired and sustained by Islamic ruling. This was the time when many churches – such as the famous Hagia Sophia – turned into mosques

The empire reached its peak under Suleiman – a man so great that the Europeans referred to him as ‘Suleiman the Magnificent’ while his own people called him ‘The LawGiver.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

The empire was declining when it failed to conquer Vienna and effectively ruined by the First World War and Balkan Wars. Somewhere along this ride, the word Turk had become synonymous with cruelty to some.

Some historians thought that this was one of the reasons that made Kemal Ataturk repelled by the Ottoman Turkish Political system – and eventually led the nation to a new identity that was modern and secular.

The empire ruling was abolished and Turkey was declared a republic through his hands in 1923.

Istanbul’s old beauty today is echoing through its well-preserved ancient structures and completed beside hums of rich narration of the past. The combination that has made the whole city feels like one huge museum – a museum that stands along with the reality of real life.

Istanbul is also beautiful because of its people. People that have made me fall in love fast for its grand gestures of hospitality and their ease of extending hands of friendship that is far more than superficial – ones that are usually offered through a cup of cai or kahve served in a cup without a handle.

Like when my Airbnb’s host who I communicate with only hand gestures took my hand and led me to her kitchen to make kahve.

“Best way!” she said with a wide smile.

She hugged and kissed both my cheeks in the morning of my last day in a manner similar to how my late grandmother used to hug and kiss me.

Or like how the people I first met in Istanbul through a traveling app have given the saying of strangers are just friends you haven’t met a profound meaning.

There is one other interesting about the country when I was there.

With the failed coup attempt happened relatively recently, there was a rather thick book given in each seat of Turkish airline explaining what happened.

I feel that the country is yet again undergoing a drastic alteration of a political system with Erdogan, the current president, campaigning for greater power and employing stricter policies for self-expression, especially ones opposing to his believes. The country is also – thou not so much like crusades – battling terrorism from multiple ends where one of them is coming from inside the country itself as there is a seemingly even split of pro- and anti- Erdogan.

So what would happen next in the beautiful city of Istanbul or Turkey as a whole?

We’ll see in due time I suppose.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the city that made me want to come back.



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When in Jordan

She stepped out of the plane carrying backpack she thought was too heavy but relieved to have that hanging on her back now as it felt to be the one thing that calmed her. The bag annoyingly tugged her newly cut hair from time to time, but the annoyance was what distracted her from feeling judged by some wandering eyes around the airport. As she walked slowly toward the security while searching for her passport on her other bag, she had a deep sense that a set of eyes were following her every step but too afraid to look.

Once approved to enter the country that she only took an interest after her best friend in college moved there, she walked to a kiosk that sells sim card so her phone could function. She thought for a brief second what would happen if her phone were lost – this thing she often despised for how much of distractions and heartbreaks it stores was now the thing that gave her peace and one that dismissed her chaotic thoughts.

“Hey, I just bought a number and just looking for a cab to get to your place now” she texted the only person she knew in Jordan.

It was almost midnight and there isn’t any security around in sight. She exited the building and a man in the bright blue shirt with no company logo asked if she needs a cab.

“I do” she said almost in a whisper, unsure if this is a man to be trusted. But she followed him anyway not knowing what other options she may have.

The blue shirt guy then brought her to where the taxis were being parked and asked nonchalantly for money for directing her to the right way to her transport.

The city looks so dry and felt hot even at night – or maybe it was just her fretting over all things that could happen as the car drove to the narrow, dark, inhabited alleys.

Her phone vibrated.

“Are you okay? Are you already in a cab?” Cesi, checked up if she was in the right direction. She checked her Google map.

“Haha yeah I am fine! Already on my way.” She replied.

When she was 5 years old and chasing a kite, and climbing up a tree while waiting for her mom to pick her up in school, the current king of Jordan was just bestowed his thrown. She could never imagine what it would feel to live under a monarch country where things were given not based on merit but by birth. Is it a bad or a good thing that you wouldn’t  get to hear speeches promising you heaven once every five years? She then longed for a better government – one that would actually do useful thing if she happens to be cornered to a bad place.

“You’re here!” her friend greeted her excitedly as she only began to put her one foot out of the cab.

They hugged then enter her house.

It was Friday night and her friends were hanging in her house seemingly just got out of some club. There were three or four guys sitting across from me and not long after, her two housemates came to introduce themselves. She has always been bad with names but managed to remember a guy’s face she found attractive – his calm demeanors but with a touch of “bad boy” vibe, completed with a pair of soothing dark eyes that could very well convince her to fly out of a plane without parachute.


She and Cesi then sit idly in Cesi’s room full of what she thought look like rubbish. She asked her and she proudly explained that it’s her recycling project. She remembered how this girl who sat beside her love earth more than its inhabitants.

They talked of the current and the past, and places to go to in the next 3 days.

Morning came and they rushed from waking up too late. They took a bus tour that would take them to touristic places. It was not a tour made for foreigners so the announcements were made in Arabic.

They took a bus tour that would take them to touristic places. It was not a tour made for foreigners so all announcements were made in Arabic.

The language being spoken sounds familiar, yet so foreign in meaning to her. Her mother made her read Quran almost

Her mother made her read Quran almost every day growing up but neglected to teach the language the holy book is written in – just like most of her friends back home. There was an Indonesian version of the Quran of course so she can know what the surah she read means if she wishes to – but most times she doesn’t.

She thought of a preach in mosque or people praying when she heard people in Jordan speak – because in her brain, she associated Arabic to the language of praying.

It’s a three-hours bus ride to Petra, the city that was once the capital of Nabatean Kingdom and a famous archaeological site in southwestern desert.

“Jordanians love to sing, huh?” she told Cesi in Indonesian as to not alert others of her thought.

Everyone on the bus, except them, were singing along to some songs being put on by the driver and clap loudly. All she made up of the song was that it’s a love song for the many times she heard “Habibi” clearly pronounced.

The bus stopped for security clearance and she had to show her passport to the officer entering the bus. This was the third time she had to look for her passport. “Does the security clearances mean safety or danger?” she mumbled only to herself.

The bus neatly parked and the guide told everyone to come back in 2 hours.

The guide on the bus stopped them for their passport as they would need – and pay – for a different kind of pass to enter since they’re not locals. It’s 50x the prices of what the local paid.

She was dizzy after only five minutes out of the bus for the smothering hot weather that she felt the sun had pierced through her head.


“Petra is one of the world’s richest and largest archeological sites set in a dominating red sandstone landscape” she read on her phone on the way to Jordan and she could see why. She thought first that the varied archaeological remains and monuments from prehistoric times to medieval times bear proof to the lost civilization, which found an ingenious water management system to allow settlements until she talked to the people with eyes so fascinatingly dark.


She found out that they put charcoal around their eyes to repeal sands and that they still live here, inside caves their ancestors carved in Petra’s landscape and they are people from the Bedul tribe. They invited them for tea inside their cave but politely refused for fears of unable to come to the bus on time and, well, just to stay on the safe side – being girls and all.

Throughout their walk in Petra, they were often asked or assumed by the kids and adults alike if they’re Chinese. They felt that the question was weird because their resemblances don’t mirror any Chinese they know.

“Maybe they don’t have much access to the outside world?” She assumed and Cesi nodded.

Her headache didn’t go away but at least she was inside the bus, off to the next destination: Aqaba.

Aqaba is a port city on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. She didn’t know if it was because of the heat but she didn’t really enjoy being there and just wish that they could move on to the next place on the list.


After half an hour, the bus was on route to Wadi Rum. It’s where a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan. The bus stopped and some jeeps already wait for people from the bus. The Jeep drove around the dessert in deliberate chaotic manner and the place looked just as how she imagined Jordan would be given what she saw on TV.


Wadi Rum became the place where they spent the night. There was a party probably organized by the tour company playing music so loud. They decided to walked away from the crowd and walked around Wadi rum only guided by the flashlight from her phone and stars shining not too brightly that night. They then sat on the sand, chatting about the unforeseeable futures while from time to time look up to the sky.

Morning came. They woke up a bit earlier than the partygoers and decided to take a small hike. The windy and chilly weather of morning was a perfect friend for the picturesque sight on top of the highest rock they could climb.

They climbed down, got breakfast and got on the bus that would take them back to Amman. The bus made a stop first in Chinatown. “So they do have a number of Chinese living here.” she thougt confusedly.

It was dark by the time they got to Amman. It was her first time seeing the city of Amman. Contradictory to what the media told her of Middle East countries, the place was just like any other city she visited – bushing with people in and out of stores and mild traffics here and there.

They took an Uber home. She learned that someone has to sit in the front passenger seat since Uber is not a hundred percent legal to operate and so if asked, they’ll have to tell them that the driver is a friend.

The next morning they just wanted to have a more relaxed schedule. They walked around town and later on were met by a guy they met on their trip in Wadi Rum. We ate with him, although we already ate before, in the place made famous because Queen Rania ate there from time to time – or was it once?



Later that night they went out to a café to meet with Cisi’s friends. One she already met but the other hasn’t. It was a cool, modern café where young people meet. The friend she just met that night was in distraught mood from compilations of family and personal problems – aren’t we all? But his was a tougher case for he carries a burden of being something the tradition and family dictated to be wrong – to identify as gay. She was just silently listening and thinking of her article she wrote on the inhuman treatments received by the LGBT community in Indonesia and how much of backlash she received. Maybe Jordan and Indonesia are not so different after all – they advertise to the world as the more advanced and forward thinking countries amongst other Muslim-majority nations, but fall short on tolerations towards those who are different from what deemed to be the standard of “normalness”

They excused themselves as they have to wake early for the Dead Sea trip.

They were again stopped several times for security clearances.

Her excitement from being able to float around without effort was soon turned into an excruciating pain of having the sea water on her eyes. Two elderly women who saw Cisi  guiding her out of the water for she can’t stand opening her eyes came with a bottled water and pour it onto her eyes.

They went to a pizza place that had a 50% off promotion for lunch and drove back home after.


She was just lying around on the bed while Cisi was drawing a sentence she wanted to be permanently put on her wrist. Cisi had a couple of friends who just starting out a Tattoo business and were coming that night to do one for her. The friend turned out to be the person she had a small crush on.

The tattoo looked great. She was debating on her mind if she wanted one but dismiss the thought knowing the person that she is – someone who changed her thought in a matter of minutes or seconds sometimes.

The next morning was her time to leave Jordan. She said her sappy goodbye and took an uber to the airport. The driver was rather talkative but she enjoyed it. He told her that in Jordan, you took the nationality of your mother. Her mother is from Palestine and so that’s his citizenship. He took his undergrad degree in Jordan but unable to look for jobs due to his being Palestine.

“Thank god for Uber” he proclaimed.

He asked where she is going and she told him that she’s going to Istanbul but New York would be her last stop.

“Are you from New York? He asked another.

“No, but I live there now – for a couple of more years that is” she answered.

“That’s cool! I’m working on my visa to go there.” He told her.


“See you in big apple!” as he was closing the car trunk after getting her luggage out.

“See you!” she said and went in to the airport.

On her way to Istanbul, she thought to herself of how much in common Jordan and her hometown have – the usualness of men examining stranger women, the daunting consequences of proclaiming one self’s identity as gay and the condition she remembered described perfectly by Adichie on her book Americanah. A script she remembered to say, “all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness.


















Photo albums: Confuse and loving it

Strolling around the street seems to be my favorite thing to do as I slowly settling myself down in the city. The city amazes me with its skyscrapers, historic building, parks and of course, its people who from one another look very different.

People seem to always be in hurry, thou; like slowing down while walking or driving make you sinful.

But I guess I kinda like it. At least my mind and my body are in rhythm with each other. You know, both are super lost. Lost in street and lost in life. Oh well…