Sebelum ke Singapura tahun 2003, saya membaca buku Singapura. Sebuah buku panduan wisata yang berisi sejarah, peta, tempat wisata dan lainnya. Dalam bagian sejarah, ada sejumlah catatan bibliografi mengenai Singapura, seperti Hikayat Abdullah (Abdullah bin Kadir, 1849) dan Golden Chersonese (Isabella Bird, 1879). Namun hal yang paling menarik dari buku itu adalah puisi. “My Country and My People” ditulis oleh Lee Tzu Peng. Cuplikannya seperti ini:

My country and my people
I never understood
I grew up in China’s mighty shadow,
with my gentle, brown-skinned neighbours;
but I keep diaries in English.
I sought to grow in humanity’s rich soil,
and started digging on the banks, then saw
life carrying my friends downstream.

Entahlah, saya tak begitu memahami puisinya. Tetapi tahun lalu saya menulis interpretasi mengenai Lee. Lee Tzu Pheng adalah sastrawan yang gelisah dengan kemajuan. Ia tak ingin tumbuh di negeri yang penuh prasangka etnik. Dan, ia mencari rasa kemanusiaan di tengah-tengah kaumnya sendiri. Namun, ia gagal; ia tak menemukannya. Negeri ini kehilangan rasa kemanusiaan itu.

Masalah sekaligus solusi Singapura adalah pemerintahnya, negerinya sendiri. Seseorang tak perlu mencari. Setiap kondisi adalah terberi. Hidup hari ini ditentukan oleh kita, tapi hidup 30 tahun lagi ditentukan oleh negara. Jika sudah demikian maka negeri ini memiliki makna yang sama dengan “rumah” menurut Le Corbusier (arsitek legendaris), yaitu sebuah mesin.


Javanese Wedding and A Funeral

I hope I would not be considered as “wedding master” by writing this subsequent essay on wedding he he … But this wedding is different. It’s held in Surabaya, East Java. And the bride is my own cousin, Mbak Lisa. “Mbak” is used to address older sister in Javanese language. Lisa is her name. She got married on Sunday, June 19, 2005. The wedding matrimony is unique. It is held inside hospital, right in my aunty’s room, whereby she laid down in the opname scheme due to heart desease – kidney – diabetes complication. Really unfortunate. But by this way, my aunty could “attend” the wedding matrimony. At 10 AM, wedding reception is held in another place: a big hall. Definitely, my aunty couldnot come. Javanese rhythm, customs, foods, people are in the common hall. I was among the family member who wore “beskap” or Javanese male-custom. The wedding went well and it’s some kind of family reunion in there. I was so amused by this remembrance.

My Aunt passed away two days after her daughter got married. Somehow, it’s likely that we know that it will happen so we arrange the wedding in front of her: she can witness her daughter getting married. My aunty died at the age of 63, left her husband (who was an ex-Navy Seals Mariner) and one daughter. All I remember is that she is a very active woman, an educator in her highschool, music lover, food lover, kind and hillarious in all states: she is simply very lovable aunty. May God takes care of you in heaven.

Research, Bali Conference and Mahabharata

My research area is finite element analysis (FEA) for composite structures. It has been 3 years I’m involved in one branch of computational mechanics. I gain much knowledge, pleasure and nurtured-curiousity at every level. At NUS, I’m assigned to work on micromechanics finite element analysis. One part in a new failure theory for composite (strain invariant failure theory) is needed to be verified using this micromechanics. Boeing invented the theory few years ago, and it has been tested experimentally and computationally by some universities (including NUS) so that it can be applicable to general condition. It’s an ongoing research, I would say. And, no final expression for its generality. From this research, I could submit one conference paper, and later it will be published as international journal in Key Engineering Material. Excellent happening.

The conference was held in Bali, in April 4 – 6, 2005. I took a flight from Singapore to Surabaya, and went to my hometown Bondowoso 4 hours by car. From Bondowoso, I drove my car to Bali by myself. It’s such a wonderful repetition that I could drive to Bali island; however, this time I go alone. Around 250 papers were presented by many scientists from China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, USA and Germany. And within 3 days of conference, the committe brought us to itinerary called Garuda Wisnu Kencana. Huge statue can be seen in this place, and I really enjoyed the dinner. One thing I couldn’t forget is Kecak Fire and Trance Dance as one part of Ramayana epic. Yes, I know Ramayana epic since I was 8, even I have visited some of its heritages like Prambanan, Borobudur, Penataran, and other temples which actually embodied the epic.

Anyway, I never really enjoy traditional dance as I couldn’t understand what are the dancers doing except they are moving around following gamelan’s sounds. But this time, I tried (not so hard) to enjoy and to understand the movement. Before the show, somebody spread out the pamphlet with short introduction in it. It’s about Kecak Dance. Allow me to reproduce it:

Kecak is a unique Balinese dance in which the artists are accompanied by choir of a hundred men rather than the traditional gamelan orchestra. Its origins can be traced to an ancient dance ritual called Sanghyang (or trance dance). During the performance, the dancers enter a trance-like state, which enables them to communicate with deities, or ancestors who express their wishes through the dancers. The Indian epic, Ramayana, is included in the Kecak.

I saw 100 males (aged between 10 – 40 years old) forming a circle around fire. They sounded “cak cak cak …” hundred times and no weary mouths. They formed a music ensemble with the sound. It’s a bit monotonic though. Gamelan was also performing along with cak-cak-cak sounds. I saw one conductor among these 100 fellows, and he seemed so restless. Then, the Ramayana epic began as Kecak dance had been performing 20 minutes. It’s about Prince Rama and Princess Sita (people in Indonesia know Sita as “Shinta”). For those who don’t know the story of Rama and Sita, I will briefly describe herein:

Prince Rama, heir to the throne of Ayodya, was exiled from the kingdom ruled by his father Dasarata following an evil trick being played on the young prince. Accompanied by his wife Sita and his younger brother Laksamana, the trio entered the Dandaka forest. While in the forest, they fell prey to the demon King Rahwana who lusted after the beautiful Sita.

Using magical powers, Rahwana’s prime minister, Marica, set about laying a trap to steal Sita away from her husband. Marica turned himself into a golden deer and soon lured Rama and Laksamana away from Sita. While her husband and brother-in-law distracted by the beautiful deer, Rahwana seized the opportunity to kidnap Sita, taking the distressed princess to his palace, Alengka. When they realized the deception, Rama and Laksamana set up a plan to rescue his beloved Sita from the clutches of the evil demon king.

Helped by a huge army of monkeys led by the Monkey King, Sugriwa, a fierce battle raged between the monkeys and Rahwana’s army led by his son, Meganada, who eventually lost the contest. Sita was happily reunited with her husband, Rama, and brother-in-law, Laksamana. I was stunned and concentrating on the story. I tried to fill up and arrange puzzle which finally I could understand the dance. It was really great feeling how the hatred to a dance can turn into loving and understanding! Above all, it was wonderful experience to complete my understanding on arts.

I am sitting second from the left, with conference committe members and Kecak dancers.

Wedding in Singapore and Master Thesis

Wedding 1: Simon & Lusi
I was invited to attend wedding matrimony of my university friend, Simon, few months ago. This big guy is a PhD student in School of Design & Environment at NUS. The interesting thing is that this is the first time I would witness the “rings-exchange” in a church.
Church that I know is a place where extremely high ceiling and delicate ornaments posed themselves as historical praying spot. Altar, bench, candles, young priests, Jesus, music, bible, pillars are forming the completeness of church atmosphere. Well, the wedding was here, in Singapore. So I was entering more “modern” church with nice chairs, low ceiling, multimedia facility, aircondition, colorful rugs, piano electric, fancy audiences, classy priest and nice flowers.
It is a City Harvest Church in Jurong West area. Quite big church.
Simon and Lusi were married in front of approximately120-150 invited guests, and the priest was so entertaining. The priest spoke English very well, and told some jokes in the middle of ceremony. We were also guided to sing several holly songs. But what I did was not singing; I was so amused and what I did was filming the singing people.
Wedding 2: Kwek Tze & Pei Ling
Today I went to attend Kwek Tze’s wedding. This goodlooking guy is my lab mate. He studies in the same research group as mine. Calm and gentle-spoken guy, I’d say. He is also a violinist and pianist. He married a girl whom has been growing up with him in a church choir. The bride is a piano teacher.
I was sitting in middle row of bench. Quite old church and I didn’t see Jesus hanging on the wall. I told my friend who is an atheist: “I think the wedding will not be started soon.” He asked me why. I replied: “Jesus is not around yet”.
Kwek Tze is sitting in the first row and waiting for the bride to come. The bride was held by the father and delivered to Kwek Tze’s hand. The ceremony begins. Here it comes to bilingual marriage. Principal priest spoke Mandarin, and the young priest translated the words into English. Interesting. But I was clocking the time: it will need double duration for bilingual marriage. The songs was sang in Mandarin, so what I did was only following the rhythm. This time I experience a unique wedding ever: the wedding was held in a church with bilingual (Mandarin-English) expressions, and fortunately, the food is labeled “halal”.
Eventually I congratulate the bride and groom, and got free lunch (not free actually; I paid S$ 30 for the present I bought). If I want to attend the dinner party afterwards, as in Singapore custom, I would have to prepare S$ 80. Well, I am only a student, so I chose to join holy matrimony with less expense.

At Kwek Tze and Pei Ling’s wedding (Saturday, 4 June 2005)

Master’s thesis

Headache will spend sometime with me for the next 6 weeks. Two days ago, on regular meeting, PhD qualifying examination is no longer my next agenda. I passed my coursework exams. But I’m tired, hectic to all these research stuffs and tired of studying for exams. I want to wrap up my 2-years research in one bundle of thesis. The 9 years journey in university life will be over soon. I have been leaping from Engineering Physics for one year (ITS), 5 years in Aerospace Engineering (ITB), 1 year at Research Center ITB, and 2 years in Applied Mechanics at NUS. I think it’s time for me to follow my own will: wrap up thesis, go back home with peace of mind and M.Eng degree, start to look for a job. Eventually I realize that I am now composite and finite element guy.