Indonesia Bagus Part I: The People

It has been 4 hectic yet relaxing days in Indonesia. Hectic because our schedules were packed each and every day practically from 6a.m. to 9p.m. But it was relaxing because of the change of scenery, pace and company… particularly for my mother.

There were so many interesting things and funny anecdotes that happened, and so many different things that I saw and tasted. But since a blow-by-blow account would bore you and still not do the trip any justice, I’m going to give just some thematic highlights. They will still be long, however, so I’m breaking them into parts. Beyond what I write, I will simply let the pictures do the talking. :)

I don’t get to see much of my maternal side relatives because most of them are not in Singapore. Four of my mom’s younger siblings are in Jakarta, Indonesia. And the other three are in Los Angeles, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. I have 14 cousins, all younger than me. Some I used to baby-sit when they visited Singapore or when I visited them. More and more of them are entering college in the U.S. now. One has graduated with a masters degree, another one is graduating this summer, and yet another this December. Time flies.

Jessica Halim
She’s the oldest of my cousins, second in age only to me. She’s the daughter of Uncle Cung, my 二舅. 2 years my junior, my childhood playmate. We watched The Sound of Music at least 30 times at her place one year, and we acted out the gazebo scene singing ’16 going on 17′ in her living room. Yep, we leaped across sofas and everything.

Now she’s graduated with a B.A. in business and a masters degree in Fashion Marketing. She co-owns an online clothing store,, based in L.A. and is the new Head of Fashion of a new Lifestyle Boutique (that has clothes, beauty salon, restaurant etc in one building) in Jakarta. Where did the little tennis playing, jazz loving ballerina go?

Kenneth Sambawa
Ah Kenneth. My 姨 Yen’s elder child. The little cousin 8 years my junior who was my favourite for the longest time. He’s the gentlest soul you’ve ever met (still is very gentle). He couldn’t pronounce my name properly at 2 years old and called me ‘cici on on’ (‘cici’ is bahasa indonesia for ‘jie jie’) instead of ‘cici xiao’en’ much to everybody else’s amusement. I played all sorts of games with him, including ‘dum dum dee dee’ with him on my lap.

Today he’s a towering 19-year old giant even taller than John who is entering university this fall. He’s the head prefect and represents his school for basketball. He knows all the good shopping places and was the one to suggest bringing me and my mom to Penang Bistro for lunch where the food and ambience was divine.

Ronald Sumargo
Ronald…my DVD supplier! *ha ha* My 姨 San’s only child who is 17-years old this year. He used to get bullied by his older boy cousins and used to be left under my care during large family gatherings in Singapore.

He’s another tall one, also bigger in size than John. He’s also a prefect and plays soccer for the same school as Kenneth. He is a wonderful host whenever I visit Jakarta, always volunteering to bring me places to eat and places to shop. He’s visiting Singapore end of June and has asked me to give him my order of DVDs I’d like to get :)

Uncle Ming & Uncle Cung
My two 舅舅s. Uncle Ming has always loved gardening and farming. He grows all sorts of vegetables and fruits in his gardens and never fails to ask me to try them. When I was 3, I had asked him for the Chinese name of one of his veges. Stumped, he told me it was called 傻瓜 and I believed him. I loved the taste and always asked for more helpings of 傻瓜 :P It’s still a family joke.

Uncle Cung is the family joker. And you’d be hard-pressed to find another man with such a young and generous heart. He’s all his nieces and nephews’ favourite uncle I think, and for good reason. When little, I used to get mad at him for all the tricks and pranks he played on me. In recent years I’ve come to appreciate him greatly, as I should. He had a heart-attack and bypass last year which gave us all a scare. But he’s as giving and funny as ever. Whenever he calls my name, I still look at him half-suspiciously, wondering what trick he’s up to next. :P


She’s my 四姨 and the sister who is the closest to my mother. Whenever the two of them meet, they would immediately take on the dynamics of an elder sis and younger sis in role-playing fun (which is hiliarious to watch) but often they would also end up in long, serious conversations that could last for hours. It’s endearing to see her consult her 大姐 (my mom) in subjects ranging from child-rearing, family matters, work/organization, faith to architecture and interior-design. Our last full day in Jakarta, she and my mom were poring over the floor plans of 姨Yen’s new house late into the night.

姨Yen’s always been my favourite aunt because she’s so funny and animated and has an amazing skill for story-telling. It was only when I was older that I realized that she was also very capable and an extremely dedicated daughter, wife, and mother. Ever since she knew I was going to get married, she’s extended an invitation for me to go to Jakarta to shop and browse. I’m very touched that busy as she is, she planned such a meticulous schedule for me this trip. :)

Maliki isn’t exactly family, but he’s worked for my grandmother for more than 30 years. First as a gardener, then as a chauffeur. Every time I go back he’s older, but some things just don’t change. When I was little, he would point out different things to me along the way as I sat in his car. This time around, it was the same. He pointed out new buildings and interesting sights. And seeing that I kept taking pictures with my camera, he started looking out for ‘good shots’ for me, including one of a beautiful sunset that you can see in my online album.

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