It was big bang theory all over again for the past four days. No, I am not talking about the Series, but I am talking about the theory of universe-making; the theory where a big explosion was created through conflux of millions of particle, with a sophisticated yet exact amount of chemical, biological, and physical calculation, that later on gave birth to the universe we are living today. I am talking about the idea that the world we live in right now is a product of a perfect synchronization between particles, gases, mass, and other factors. A disorder that find its way to completeness. The past four days showed me glimpses of what the future has to offer.
On March 26, 2015, I decided to reach my mother through video call. We spent approximately two hours of actual laugh, sheer discussion, and subtle tears. It was my mother’s birthday already in Indonesia, since I called her on 6PM from my room. I congratulate her for being older while at the same time comes a realization that time will gradually trims what’s left on her days. I am happy for her because it means that I have been able to spend my last 23 years with her presence while at the same time I am worried how my days without her will eventually come and how it could be walked through. She cried; I saw her face covered on tears. Tears of joy, I guess, since smiles and laughs were peeking within those teary eyes. A sign of relief, I guess, since she was able to see her son for the first time since I left on September 2014. Yes, it was our first video call. The universe separate us long enough so that her birthday would become the most perfect momentum for us to go through the experience. We had no regret because we knew that the past few months without video call were fabricated to create this flawless moment.
I expressed my wishes for her: that she will become a more mature lady, that she will possess a more composed self, that she could become a home – instead of a house – for both my step-father and my sister, and that we could become friends for life. I was hoping for maturity hoping that she could use her past experiences, struggles, and findings from life to guide me, my sister, and, of course, herself. The last thing I wanted for her is to see her wandering mindlessly in life, hence she will become vulnerable and open to threat. I ask for composure because I know how hot-headed my mother is. Oftentimes, in the past, we exchanged words and arguments just for the sake of proving who is right and who is wrong. People often said that we both have the same personalities, so all I did was look at myself in the mirror and criticize. Being hard to myself is one way to make my mother better. Furthermore, I feel like my sister is depending heavily to my step-father; that she will come back from school, looking for my father’s presence, and could go on day-to-day basis clinging on to him. It was really hard to see, because sometimes – during an extreme condition of clinginess – I would see my mother feels sad and discouraged about the situation; that she actually needs some more of my sister’s attention. I do believe that children cannot lie, therefore if one wants to be a child’s favorite, then one has to self-reflect and be flexible. Upon such notion, I believe that my mother has to change her approach to my sister so that my mother could become a home that my sister’s belong. Lastly, I wish that me and my mother could become friends, for as long as it may last, because I realize that we complete each other; as much as we used to argue (and still arguing on plenty of issues), I am better with her. I realize that I will not be here, studying in the UK, watching my favorite football club directly, be an awardee of a prestigious scholarship without her support, whether if it was done overtly or covertly. And I am thankful for her presence besides me.
The next day, my best friend, Dara, insist to have a video call exactly after the Friday Prayer. I thought, well, it was normal because I thought it was going to be conducted in our ‘casual’ format: two people, talk about things, sing a birthday song, showing affections, and end it up on a high notes. And so, I said yes. After Friday Prayer, I called her and she was having a dinner with my family and also my friends from junior high school (which I consider them as my family as well). It makes me really happy to see those familiar faces gathered in one place to celebrate my birthday. Nothing special happened actually; no balloons, no cards, no gifts. We were just exchanging swear words and screen-capture our call, but it does felt like I was home. The feeling that I am not away, that I am surrounded by loved ones, and that I am accepted were irreplaceable. And I am extremely grateful to have such an amazing partner, a best friend of mine that put so much effort to gather my family and my friends in a special dinner and initiate the video call.
Later on that night, I had a dinner with the Indonesian Students Association in the UK’s staff. I invited them from their cities to come and have a dinner with me. Some of them even rent a car and drive all the way from London, Oxford, and Warwick to attend the dinner, and they have to went back home immediately since they had to return the car. Not all of them came, but at least some of them show up and it was enough for me. I felt that the meeting was not only about us having a dinner together, but it was more than that. It was a moment of intimacy, where we could open ourselves bit by bit, not only to create a more supportive working environment, but also for the sake of our friendship. I began to know that Andrew used to love Tottenham Hotspurs before Gareth Bale was sold to Real Madrid, I am now remember the exact storyline on how Okto and his girlfriend become a couple, I know how Ayas is currently – and was never – looking for a boyfriend but she is searching for the one, I also began to know how Mimi and Clara are the detectives of the Association since they know almost everything about each of us. In fact, Mimi was the one that found out when my birthday is. Azmi told me that he once accidentally met a ‘man-who-should-not-be-mentioned’ – that LPDP’s awardee, especially my batch, must be familiar with – in Depok. I also got a free dating tip from Nico. Based on his experience, KakaoTalk could makes it easier for men to get South Korean women. From Umi I learned one pick-up line, and now I know that Brigita is drowsy. We also talked a bit about Luthfi’s love life and we do hope that he will eventually get a girl of his dream. For Fikar and Ica? I think I know them quite well already. But it was a good time. It really was. We talked pretty much about everything from love life, organization, gossips, and so on. They even bought me gifts (yes, gifts with ‘s’): Game of Thrones themed board game, a Next gift card, and my most favorite one, groceries. Secretly they contribute to buy me those amazing gifts and it was really touching. I know that my lexicon of words are far too cheesy, but it was indeed touching. Thank you, guys.
There was also a surprise visit from some (four of them) of my LPDP’s friend. There are Dessy, Dea, Gana, and Adwin. Especially Dessy and Adwin, they traveled from Leeds to Manchester just to pay me a visit. They popped up in Ica’s flat while I and the Association’s committee were just hanging around. All of a sudden, the four of them sang a birthday song and brought me my favorite roasted chicken in Manchester from the Al Jazeera restaurant. They are a really close friends of mine, so I decided to visit them once I was finished fooling around with the Association’s members. At two in the morning, I walked to Gana’s place, and decided to sleep over.
There is one name, though, that I haven’t mentioned yet and she is Ika. Ika is the Head of Community Service Division in the Association. I learn from her quite a lot during these past four days. On March 28, her division organized a volunteering program in Chester. It was held in a nursing house, involving twenty volunteers, and aimed to accompany elders while promoting Indonesian culture. Only one word that could describe this program: humbling. I felt very satisfied, highly unabridged during the whole process. I met various amazing people that set aside a little of their time to serve the people without any material reward. They spent six hours, from preparation to closing, in their regular day just to meet these beautiful elders. The caretakers of the House as well as its members were also very supportive and accepting to us, the volunteers. They dance with us, they listen to our stories, and they share theirs. Imagine a condition where people from two highly different generations met in one place, in an soothing living room that have a perfect balance of warmth, exposure, and pale wallpaper colors, and they pick each other’s brain. Can you imagine how beautiful it was? I do have to thank Ika – and of course her team – for being able to arrange such a beautiful program. I said to Ika that I love volunteering and I am willing to go anywhere for her division’s programs. I cannot wait for the 8th of April to volunteer in Lancaster with my fellow Association’s members.
After volunteering, I headed to Liverpool to stay in my friend’s flat. His name is Gezah and he lives with my two other friends, Gilang and Eldxon. Little did I know that that day, the Indonesian Students Association in Liverpool was arranging a monthly dinner. Since early in the morning, all three of them are occupied mostly with buying food materials and cook them. Since I was too distracted with the Playstation, I ignore them and played instead. I teach Ika how to play in now she is smarter than Faris. For you who do not know Faris, he is the Association’s Vice President, also a dear friend of mine. Furthermore, as the night pull in, the guests came one after another. The gathering was opened by Gezah reporting the programs that had been done for the past month, and then continued with Q & A session. After that, all of us eat the dinner that Gezah, Gilang, and Eldxon prepared. I realize that there was sambal in the middle of the packed table. With only a handful of doubt, I scoop it to my plate and start eating. Once I tasted it, I suddenly got emotional. The taste was simply perfect and for a while made me feel like I am home. It was Gilang’s homemade sambal Terasi and it was that good. Since that moment, I was assured that Liverpool is my home. I feel accepted by Gezah, Gilang, and Eldxon, and I feel that I found a new friends; friends that are not pretentious, that are real, and accept me for who I am. I know I have not been able to communicate intensely with them – we only met a couple of time actually. But I know that somehow, there is a silver lining between my interactions with them.
And so my perfect birthdays end. I am currently in my room, trying to get my mind straight back to reality by writing this article. I have to admit that I am still lulled with the fact that I spent my last four days with amazing people. Even though I am far from home, at least in the last four days, I was surrounded by lovely people and created good memories. I am deeply thankful to God for sending giving me the opportunity to experience a slight moment of relief. And I am now hopeful that for the upcoming nine months, I will still be able to put up great memories, learn from my mistakes, and left a precious legacy.
Also, did I mentioned that my father – my biological father – sent me this picture? It was the first time ever that he celebrate my birthday. And now you know what the real point of this article is.