My taxi driver said…

(A little detour from the Jogja-Solo journey posts.)

After months of being a TransJakarta victim–an experience I have frequently shared in my previous blog–I adapted to ensure my survival and discovered a faster route to my nest. Now, instead of riding TransJakarta all the way, I take a shortcut by taxi to the Corridor I in Sudirman and get on the bus there. No need to change buses, which drastically reduces waiting time. Let’s just say that at least it halves my travel time.

Today, I hailed a taxi in front of my campus for the first leg of my trip home. When I told the driver that I’m going to a TransJakarta bus stop, he asked whether I’m going to take the bus there. I just nodded and he continued, “It’s a mess, a failure.”

“Yes, indeed. If I get on the bus here, it will waste a lot of precious time. Better to just ride Corridor I,” I honestly replied.

He proceeded bashing Sutiyoso’s pet project. For one, TransJakarta steals road lanes from other road users, yet it does not utilize them optimally. It is definitely not a smart move, considering that there is more car and motorbikes than all of Jakarta’s streets can handle. He summarized that TransJakarta does not alleviate the city’s chronic traffic jams. In fact, in some places it worsens the gridlock.

Next he attacked the management, saying that too many hands are drawing the picture, resulting in utter chaos. TransJakarta’s nine corridors are operated by different companies and they are not very nice to each other. Jakarta’s transportation agency fails to integrate its busway; I’m not expecting them to integrate it with rail service and the mythical waterway.

Those complaints came from a taxi driver, and whether he knows it or not, that shows genuine care for his city and its people. He drives around, gets stuck in the choking traffic jam, and sees all that’s speeding in the wrong direction. Like it or not, he has to witness it all. I can not belittle him by saying “it’s easy for you to complain” because that is what he can do. I don’t want him to use his deadly ninja skills to hijack the whole TransJakarta operation.

On the other side, there are those who actually have the power to make the change. In Jakarta, one of them is called the Governor. The law gives them power to place things in the right spots and to make sure that whatever that thing is, it keeps on working efficiently. They can get things from the wrong place back to the right place.

But where are they? I don’t see them complain about how Jakarta’s traffic problem is getting worse and is routinely complicated by the flood, let alone make decisions to solve the problem. The blaring sirens of their motorcade proudly roars to the world that they are above being trapped in traffic. They can afford to not see the mess they are living in everyday. They can live without caring.

The traffic problem is but a pebble in Jakarta’s mountain of problems, yet it can give a hint why we are not seeing real solutions. Instead, we are forced to cope with ephemeral glitzy projects that dies before the day ends.

Jogja-Solo jaunt: part two

It’s fun isn’t it when life is not all about beating hearts or bundles of alveoli. This post will cover half of what I did in Jogjakarta, right after I went back from Solo. There will be a mouthwatering gudeg and magnificent mountains (5 of them!).

We arrived in Jogja at around 4 PM, stuffed and happy from the Tambak Segaran satay. My dad and my brother yielded to their primal desires to sleep after having such a big meal; on the other hand, my mom and I were too excited to stop moving. Thus, we headed to Pathuk Street. If you know Jogja, you get what I mean.

Pathuk Street, which is now called KS Tubun Street, is a little patch of heaven for hungry tourists. It is home to numerous bakpia shops, selling their famous bakpia along with countless variety of traditional delicacies. Bakpia itself is a small round pastry filled with paste, originally of mung beans, but in recent years also of cheese and chocolate. If people know you are going to Jogja, surely they will ask you to bring home these bite-size snacks. We nearly looted the store and went out with a huge box of snacks.

When we got back to the guest house, it was almost time for dinner and we were clueless. Fortunately, when I was in Palembang a couple of weeks ago, I met some UGM students and so I consulted them about the best place to have a Jogja dinner. One of them recommended Gudeg Sagan near UGM campus. It is near the place where I stay and, hey, gudeg is more Jogja than the Sultan of Jogja is. Hence, to Gudeg Sagan we went. If I must be frank, I don’t like gudeg, the sweet boiled young jackfuit. I do like gudeg’s friends on the plate like the chicken, brown boiled egg, and krecek; yet, gudeg is somewhat yuck to me. However, I wonderfully tolerated Gudeg Sagan. In fact, this might be the first time that I truly enjoyed gudeg.

Back from Gudeg Sagan, we retired early because we had something special waiting for us. We were going to see the sunrise in Ketep Pass near Magelang, surrounded by 5 big mountains. We also planned to go to Borobudur before going back to Jogja. This, I’m warning you, is the best part of my trip.

We shot off from the guest house at 4.30 AM, an unknown territory for me and most of you. I wish I could tell you about the road trip to Ketep Pass, but I kinda ofell asleep in the car. I do remember glimpses of thick fog blocking the view. I was so terrified, I dozed off again. After a forgettable dream, I was woken up when we reached Ketep Pass in (or near) Magelang.

Ketep Pass is basically a vantage point surrounded by 5 mountains: Merapi, Merbabu, Sumbing, Sindoro, and Slamet. The first two are much closer to Ketep, compared to the last three. Heck, I could only see their faint outlines. When we arrived, everything was covered by thick fog, something that our driver had warned us about. Since it was too early anyway, we simply waited. Voila, in less than an hour, Merapi and Merbabu teased us by revealing their bodies strip by strip. The fog faded away and there we stood guarded by two supposedly mythical mountains. (In the myth field, I’m more sure about Merapi, though). The fog never left the base of the mountains, so they looked as if they peaked above the clouds. I could look up a synonim for majestic in the thesaurus, but none of the result would suffice to describe the view, and the feeling, there.

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There was nothing to do but to enjoy the magnificent panorama and try to immortalize it through camera. My photography-crazy dad had a blast capturing the  sensual curves of Merapi and Merbabu. Only occasionally was he frustrated by the random fog. And if you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned the sun in this sunrise trip narration: the sun rose for sure, but it was hiding behind the mountains, giving us red streaks across the sky. We could only see the sun after 8 AM.



That is the end of the second part – because it’s 12 o’clock, the dark one, and I have to get up early tomorrow. Or this morning. Please look forward to the last part where I climb a colossal monument and ate something legendary.

Jogja-Solo jaunt: part one

As the second summative test of respi ended, my soul was freed from its chains. The huge burden suddenly vanished and everybody almost literally leapt with joy. If happiness were fuel, the collective happiness of my class could’ve sent a rocket filled with FPI over the solar system - but not back to Earth.

Last weekend, my family went on a very short vacation to Jogja and Solo in Central Java. Originally, we wanted a longer trip but our free time never line up perfectly. My dad only come back from KL every two weeks; my brother had already gone back to school; while I was just in the first days of my holiday. In the end, we had to make do with a two-days trip. Nevertheless, it was very memorable.

I took off from Soekarno-Hatta’s brand new Terminal 3, the tacky design of which deserves a bashing. Expect it soon in this blog. After landing in Jogjakarta’s Adi Sucipto airport, we went straight to Solo. First, we visited the grave of my paternal grandfather. It was located in a family cemetery reserved for members of the Solo royalty. My family is not closely related to the current king, but we can trace our roots to one of the kings in the past. In a very strange way, I felt comfortable going there. Perhaps it was the perfect weather and the merciful shade of the big tree beside the grave.

Next on our agenda was lunch. But the Earth’s rotation cannot keep up with our appetite so we had to find a distraction before going to lunch. We shopped at the Orion Bakery, famous for its unique Mandarijn cake. Near the shop is an old traditional market called Pasar Gede. Pasar means market, while Gede means big. So its name pretty much explains everything. What I like about it is that the city council preserves thehistorical building, even after a fire. Unlike in Jakarta, where we see bustling markets turned into half-hearted shopping centers.


Pasar Gede

Solo also boasts its own Keraton or palace compound. Despite having been to Solo more than ten times, I have never really visited it so this was my very first time. The Keraton is located near the alun-alun (city square), along with the Great Mosque of Solo. This setting is very common in Javanese cities although sometimes the mayor’s or governor’s office takes the Keraton’s place. We rented two becaks (cycle rickshaws) to go to the Keraton from alun-alun and also to go to Kampung Batik.

In the Keraton, there was this museum about the role of the kingdom’s role in fighting the Dutch invasion. The museum also houses many regalia from past kings. Next to the museum is the palace court. It is very amazing how the Keraton and its 300 abdi dalem (servants) can not only hold on to tradition but also still lead the people, at least spiritually, in this ever changing world. After the Keraton visit, the becak driver took us to Kampung Batik where more than a hundred local batik makers open their business.

Then came the moment we have been waiting for: lunch. In Tambak Segaran street, there is a satay restaurant that sells the best sate buntel in the world. Sate buntel is a variation of satay using minced meat wrapped in a thin layer of fat. OK, not so thin, but we don’t eat the fat anyway. The meat was very tasty and it is complemented by the sauce. The portion is very generous and just a plate of two satays satisfied our longing. A plate for each person, that is.

After lunch, we headed back to Jogjakarta. My time there will be covered in the second part.

Slow, deep breaths

Out of the three exams I told you, there’s only one left. The anatomy lab was not as horrifying as I had expected. There was no obscure muscle or blood vessels to pull with careless abandon. In the ten-questions exam, the trickiest two were, as I had predicted, identifying segmental bronchi. However, even the bronchi are quite obvious and thus, did not require any excessive specimen-poking or wild guesses.

Earlier today, I had my integrated lab exam. By ‘integrated’, I don’t mean that all the departments get together and make a grand collaboration to test the students. Instead, they simply do their own exams together in one go. While it was surely not easy, it was not nightmare-ish either. Perhaps the previous modules has toughened us up – or brutally killed our fear neurons.

And here I am. Two days away from the very last exam, which covers half of all lectures in this module. I repeatedly comforted myself by remembering that I had at least glanced at the lecture slides, but still I cannot fool myself. This is an almost-emergency. In the normal campus atmosphere, I will be drowning myself in slides and textbooks as if I breath words of science.

But this is the last week of second year. Everybody has switched on the holiday mode a few days too early and we are definitely taking it slow. Nevertheless, I admit that this had better stop: we do have to pass the test to get a long peaceful holiday. Hence, I’m gonna post this and immediately choke myself with a bowl of medical knowledge – unless I can watch The Simpsons first.

Respi exam week

As it has always been the darkest before dawn, so has exams before holiday. I’m only a week away from my real holiday, yet exams stands in the way between me and bliss. This bunch of tests will wrap up the seventh -and last- module in second year of med school; there is no reason to not be eager. My heart is bouncing up-and-down like a 5-yrs old boy on sugar high, knowing that what it has been longing for is so close.

However, before I can enter that world of pure joy and laziness, there are three exams.

First is the anatomy lab exam this Monday. It will consist of 10 questions, ranging from the nose, down to the windpipe, and to the lungs themself. We will be asked to identify what structure is being pointed by the needle or tied with the string. While the trachea is quite obvious, it will be rather tricky to guess the lateral segmental bronchus in the medial lobe of the right lung, or bronchus segmentalis lateralis lobus medius pulmo dextra. Only two languages is accepted for answer: Latin and made-up Latin.

Another tip for respiratory system anatomy: you don’t have to squeeze the lung just because it’s spongy. Refrain from excessive lung-poking and you will be saved from the annoying rain of formaldehyde.

The next day, five or so departments team up like the Power Rangers’ robots to make one humongous lab exam that packs a mean punch. As usual, histology and anatomical pathology are there, and they will be joined by microbiology, parasitology, and clinical pathology. And also as usual, anatomical pathology is haunting students days before the exam itself.

Last, on Thursday, comes the second summative test. It is the typical multiple-choice exam but this time, it covers more than half the topics in this module. Four of them about tuberculosis. I have to know my RHZE. If I manage to exhibit a speck of time management, I’m optimistic that I can catch up.

A short pause in Palembang

P1000495 Last weekend, I took a very brave break from the ever-increasing studyload: I went to Palembang, South Sumatra, for AMSA Indonesia’s 25th national meeting. A bit of background first. FKUI has a vast array of student organization with a gamut that runs from the scientific to the stark raving mad. I chose to go easy on myself and picked only one to join. That happens to be the Asian Medical Students’ Association. AMSA-UI is the local chapter of AMSA-Indonesia, which is a member of AMSA International. I survived the year-long selection, and long story short, I genuinely enjoy being a part of the AMSA family.

I took off to Palembang on Friday, right after the last plenary session in the second year of med school. I arrived at about 4.30 PM and was picked up by the committee from AMSA-Unsri (Sriwijaya University). The opening ceremony was held at Griya Agung, kinda an equivalent of the state palace. Delegates were asked to don traditional costumes, a request I resourcefully fulfilled. I’m not the kind of guy who dress up, so instead of going all fancy, I opted for a white shirt, black pants, and a sarong for accessory. It was Jakarta enough for me.

Saturday was mostly filled by the meeting itself, over which I presided. On that task, I was accompanied by two other delegates, one from host Unsri and another from UGM (Yogyakarta). Half of the meeting was spent for yearly report from each university with AMSA. AMSA Indonesia had 20 members, 18 of which attended the meeting; the meeting also welcomed 3 new members. Therefore, there are now 23 univs in AMSA Indonesia. The meeting ended with the national leadership’s report and the election of advisory board.

P1000486The fun part of the day was dinner. We were treated to a feast at Riverside Restaurant on the waterfront of Palembang’s famed Musi River with a view of the Ampera Bridge. The whole span of the bridge, and also its two soaring towers, were lit up to crown the night sky. The program for the night is quite entertaining. In spite of Along with some singing, there was a presentation for Makassar’s bid to host the national work meeting in September and open campaign for the next AMSA Indonesia’s top post, Regional Chairperson (RC). The campaign was heated but friendly, like the atmosphere in a real family debate.

On Sunday, we had a meeting in the morning and an excursion after that. The meeting continued the previous night’s Q&A session for the candidates and then voted the new RC. Right after the meeting, delegates were taken by bus to a pier in the Musi River near the dinner venue. We were then spread to a number of wooden motor boats to go to Kemaro Island in the middle of the river. The island is somewhat far from the pier, and as we approached the island, the Musi gets wider and wider. I have already known that the Musi is big, but I had no idea that it was so big that huge ships can be anchored in the middle.


P1000514 The Kemaro Island is a small island with a pagoda and Chinese temple. We had a picnic in its park and savoured Palembang’s renowned cuisines: pempek, martabak HAR, tekwan, model, and mie celor. It was a real picnic where we sat together on a mat, enjoying our meals. The trees provided a welcome shade from the blazing sun, and wild chickens are closely spying on us – or our meals, they didn’t say which. It was undeniably the best meal during the whole weekend. Another highlight of the island is the Tree of Love. Despite its name, couples are advised against taking pictures there as it may, let’s just say, predispose them to breaking up. Don’t ask me why.




I flew back to Jakarta that evening, and exams are ‘eagerly’ waiting for me. Well, at least the trip refreshed my mind and motivates me to work hard so I can go to Makassar this September. But seriously, I have to work on my exams. I have an acid-fast bacilli staining for M. tuberculosis lab test and clinical skills quiz tomorrow (Thursday). Next week, I must brace for a storm of three exams: anatomy lab test, the integrated lab test, and the second summative test.