Michael Hutagalung http://michaelhutagalung.com Founder of ColorLabs & Company | A Premium WordPress Theme Developer Sun, 01 Sep 2013 13:18:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Equilibria, a Multi-Purpose Business WordPress Theme http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/07/equilibria-a-multi-purpose-business-wordpress-theme/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/07/equilibria-a-multi-purpose-business-wordpress-theme/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2011 06:14:50 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=2190 Another happy day at ColorLabs. We just launched Equilibria, our first multi-purpose WordPress theme, which is mainly targeted to business users who put their corporate blogs at the frontline of their businesses. It comes with 5 different color schemes, 3 types of landing pages, a pack of page templates and more features are coming. You can read several posts written by members of ColorLabs team, here and here.

Here’s a screenshot of the theme and you can read more about it here and see the live demo here.

Purchase nowLive demo

What’s in the name?

From this point below, I will be going to bore you to death but let me try so I know how bad it would be. If you’re looking to know more about the features of this theme. Please read this post instead. If you’re willing to read a bit about chemistry and science stuff, you may proceed.

Equilibria (or equilibrium) is the condition of a system in which competing influences are balanced. Equilibria comes with several types of landing pages (business, blog and portfolio) to balance all sources of influences a website might have, hence the name. I could have come with any name, you know, but again I always find it exciting to take names from my parallel world and use them for names of WordPress themes.

I believe you studied chemistry some years back? In a chemical reaction, chemical equilibrium is the state in which the concentrations of the reactants and products have not yet changed with time. Usually, this state results when the forward reaction proceeds at the same rate as the reverse reaction. Interesting, huh? In a state of thermodynamic equilibrium, there are no net flows of matter or of energy, no phase changes, and no unbalanced potentials (or driving forces), within the system.

I know you’re all confused, puzzled and bewildered but bear with me. I’m going to give you one simple, real-life example. Have you ever seen water boiling? It’s a perfect example of a system (water) that attempts to reach equilibrium. A certain amount of water (in the liquid phase) are turning into vapour while a certain amount of water vapour are also turning into liquid. The controlling factor is simply the heat that we’re adding to the system. If it could be maintained at a constant level, the phase changes would happen at a same rate and the system would be in a perfect equilibrium. This is called VLE (vapour-liquid equilibrium).

How to purchase the theme?

If you like the feel of it or simply want to cherish the engineering philosophy behind the name and want to have it on your blog, simply go to Equilibria‘s page at ColorLabs or click the buttons below and they’ll take you there. Currently ColorLabs has a 30% off offer for all themes so now is the right time to have this theme. The code is EA628 and will be valid until 24 July 2011.

Purchase nowLive demo

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Additional skin for Arthemia Premium, your voices have been heard! http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/06/additional-skin-for-arthemia-premium-your-voices-have-been-heard/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/06/additional-skin-for-arthemia-premium-your-voices-have-been-heard/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2011 07:31:03 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=2150 Arthemia Premium has been around ColorLabs for a while now, rocking the top players of magazine style premium WordPress theme, and it’s only grown and become bigger and bigger. We have continually updated it to fix bugs and make it work with the latest WordPress versions, as we do with all our themes.

Along the road we have been receiving popular response from users of Arthemia Premium, that they love to have more white space in their beloved theme. So, one day we wondered, why don’t we provide an additional skin for Arthemia Premium so our premium users get to choose?

Say hello to Blue Accent – a clean additional skin for Arthemia Premium.

Hours were put into tweaking the details to get a totally clean look, but we knew that has a bucket load of potential so we were more than happy to do it. We hope our users appreciate the effort we put in to maintaining our older themes!

Check out the demo and then we look forward to the social conversation in the comments ;).

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This post was originally published at ColorLabs and written by Anita Pravitasari.

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Wireline, a Premium WordPress Theme from ColorLabs http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/06/wireline-a-new-premium-wordpress-theme-from-colorlabs/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/06/wireline-a-new-premium-wordpress-theme-from-colorlabs/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2011 09:43:42 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=2095 ColorLabs launched a new premium theme last month but we’re so busy that we didn’t have the time to blog about this. The good thing is that Anita Pravitasari, the new ColorLabs community manager (her title sounds so cool in this geeky world of WordPress business, to be honest) came to the rescue and finally blogged about that. You can read her post here. She’ll be busy managing the ColorLabs community from now on, so thank God that’s one check-mark off my daily routines. Also, don’t forget to check out the profiles of Firman Firdaus and Rio Purnomo, our new web designer and web developer. Pretty kicking, huh?

Let’s stand out

Wireline has this shiny, oh-so-2011, modern look and is packed with cool animations like featured posts slideshow, scrollable popular posts and jQuery-powered drop-down navigation menu. There are 5 color schemes available so it’s just so unlikely that your favourite colour isn’t there. And if you’re into the geeky side of web development, it might worth telling that ColorLabs incorporate some HTML5 and CSS3 stuff into it.

Have a look at this top-to-middle screenshot of Wireline, this one is the brown one:

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Wireline comes with 5 alternative color schemes: red, green, blue, brown and black. Read up on the specs of the theme, view the demo and then give us a little feedback love. If you want to get more technical details on the theme itself, please head to ColorLabs‘ website because what you’re about to read below might not interest you at all.

What kind of name is Wireline?

So here’s the thing about being both an engineer and a web developer: you get to pick odd-sounding names taken from your parallel world. I named one of my themes ‘Platformate‘ back in 2008. Platformate stands for platinum reformate. In plain English, platinum reforming is the re-arrangement of some sort of chemical compounds, which in this case are the carbon chains in crude oil, using some sort of accelerator, which in this case is platinum. Reformate is the product of the process. Confused? Okay, try this one: it’s LIKE (note that) turning Premium into Pertamax so Pertamina can get more money. That’s NOT exactly the case (hence the capitalised LIKE) but hopefully you get the idea. It’s one of the cool chemical engineering stuff.

What about Wireline? In case you don’t know, the oil and gas industry is pretty dodgy. If there had to be the most superstitious and prophetic engineering on earth, that’d be petroleum engineering. Let me tell you something: A one-pixel discprepancy on a visual design can actually irritate my eyes and the creative side of my brain could instantaneously combust. In petroleum engineering, I’d have to be satisfied with 30% of uncertainties in my engineering estimation. If we’re talking about a 960-pixel wide web site, that error is equivalent to 288 pixels, about the size of a sidebar.

Wireline is a cabling technology where a current is sent to downhole logging tools in oil well exploration and completions. Petroleum engineers send logging tools into oil wells so they get to understand the characteristic of the sedimentology underneath in order to ‘guesstimate’ everything. This practice, and in fact it’s pretty cool, is called Wireline. In simple terms, engineers send a line of wire into the well, hence Wireline.

How to purchase this theme?

If you like the feel of it or simply want to cherish the engineering philosophy behind the name and want to have it on your blog, simply go to Wireline‘s page at ColorLabs or click the buttons below and they’ll take you there. Currently ColorLabs has a 30% off offer for all themes so now is the right time to have this theme. The code is EA628 and will be valid until 24 July 2011.

Purchase nowLive demo

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ColorLabs Has Just Got a Facelift http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/03/colorlabs-has-just-got-a-facelift/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/03/colorlabs-has-just-got-a-facelift/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2011 22:18:46 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1818

After having been more than 2 years in business, ColorLabs finally gets its second facelift. The site is now fairly simpler and shows a lot of whitespace which makes reading much more enjoyable. It is also in so many ways more integrated so users will find it easier to explore.

First-Time Installation Service

Okay, this is something that is completely new at ColorLabs and we bet you’re going to love this. Each purchase now includes a free, optional first-time installation and configuration service and we promise to make your web site ready in 24 hours. Not only is this so great and helpful for you all, this also cuts the number of technical issues raised in our support systems, which in turn will let us focus more on designing new products for you. To opt-in, you need to submit a request to the Resolution Center and we’ll get down to business in a snap.

Support Systems

We also have just upgraded our support systems. We now have the Resolution Center, a member-restricted area where you can get one-to-one assistance from our dedicated support agents. This system is very secure and you can safely provide us with your WordPress and FTP accounts details if need be. This simplifies matters significantly and you will get your technical issues resolved more quickly.

Additionally, we will have the Discussion Forum, another member-restricted area where you can interact with other members and share your experience using our products. Here, you can find awesome mods that somebody else has done to our themes and discuss how to get them. We will closely monitor this forum as sometimes users raise technical issues which should have been posted to the Resolution Center. This forum is not yet online and we will tell you more about this after. At the moment you will still get forwarded to the current User Forum.

Theme Licensing

All our products are now licensed under GNU General Public License. We simply want to comply with WordPress, the publishing platform that we love so much, and we hope this change will benefit you in so many ways.

What next?

We are still cooking so many things here at ColorLabs. We are trying to focus more on publishing tutorials for you and providing a better customer service. We also have some cool themes waiting to be released and we bet they simply can’t wait to see you. And last thing, we are now recruiting. If you have a passion for design, do drop us a line. You might be the one we have been looking for.

Follow us on Twitter! (@colorlabs)

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I Didn’t Know I Wasn’t Asian http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/01/i-didnt-know-i-wasnt-asian/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2011/01/i-didnt-know-i-wasnt-asian/#comments Sun, 30 Jan 2011 11:41:36 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1674 There is something exemplary in employee recruitment process in the UK. In the application form, it is required that a candidate complete a section, titled ‘Equal Opportunity’, where one can disclose information related to gender and ethnicity. This practice also applies to many activities of the society, e.g. education and health care. Government and officials tally up the numbers and use statistics to analyse whether people are being treated equally. Although it is rather debatable whether the information provided would bring equality — it might as well bring the opposite –, this is indeed a good attempt. If you are interested, you can check this link out; it tells you more about the Equality Act.

That is about as good as it gets because the form details are rather confusing and even misleading. I was baffled when I was first introduced to the form. It was when I applied to Imperial College in early 2009. Never in my life have I come across a form where I could choose to fill in a field but not to state the information asked. I was given a list of options for ‘Ethnicity’, which looked like the one below.

Note: The list is different in Scotland and Nothern Ireland. The one above is only for England and Wales. You can read this Wikipedia article about Classification of Ethnicity in the UK.

I’m definitely not White, or Mixed, or Black,” I said to myself.

I really wanted to choose an option and it must not be ‘Not Stated‘. I skimmed through the list and wondered why ‘Chinese‘ was as an exclusive ethnicity and not categorised under ‘Asian‘. I thought it was the Asian of Asians. I watched so many English-language movies and TV shows and the term ‘Asian‘ was always used to refer to an Oriental-looking person, who annoyingly enough was always assumed to be Chinese and Chinese-speaking.

They are everywhere and constitute nearly 20% of the world population. Maybe that’s why Chinese should be an exclusive entity,” I thought while I was still figuring what to put.

Well, I’m Indonesian and Indonesia is part of Asia so I must be Asian,” I added.

So I chose ‘Any other Asian background.’ Little did I know that I was not Asian, at least not in this context according to public convention in this country.

Days and months went by and I always chose the same option, with confident, knowing that it would be the way the society would think of me. In January 2011, a shameful event made a headline, two Asians were caught grooming White girls.

It was such a disgrace and everybody disapproved of it. The headline caused massive public condemnation. It got complicated as it also triggered something else, not merely due to the criminal nature of the event, but also a racial issue that was assumed, by some, to be potentially associated. John Straw, former home secretary, a Blackburn MP, jumped in and made racially stereotyping comments and correlated the crime to the origin and the religion of the convicts. But hey, let’s not dwell on this.

It’s not that I wanted to belittle the severity of the crime but I was rather annoyed with the excessive use of the term ‘Asian‘ in the news. The origin of the convicts was quite specific yet ‘Asian‘ was instead used. It was not geographically incorrect but referring to them as ‘Asians‘ could be leading to misconception.

“A hidden world in which Asian men “groom” young white girls for sex has been exposed with the jailing yesterday of two men for child-abuse offences.” – The Times

“However, speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight programme after the case, Mr Straw said vulnerable white girls were at risk of being targeted by some Asian men.” – BBC News

“The police are being blamed for not having done enough to fully address the issue of young girls being groomed for sexual exploitation by Asian men.” – The Guardian

The credibility of the authors and the sources was undoubtly of high standard. If there were a mistake in the use of adjective, it would have been mine. They were all most probably native speakers of English and chances that they were wrong were very, very low. There must be something behind the use of this word that I didn’t know of.

I quickly looked for references online and I stumbled upon this Wikipedia article about British Asian.

“In British English, the term the ‘Asian‘ usually excludes East Asians (see East Asians in the United Kingdom). Britons who mark the ‘Other Asian‘ category on the UK census are normally of Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi, and Yemeni ancestries.” – Wikipedia

I continued to the link suggested by the article and I found this:

“In British English, they (East Asians and South East Asians) are sometimes called ‘Oriental‘. In the 2001 British census, the term ‘Chinese or Other‘ is used.” – Wikipedia

“In Anglo America (mostly the United States of America), the term refers most commonly to people of predominantly East Asian and Southeast Asian ancestry; however, in the United Kingdom, the term refers most commonly to South Asians. In other countries (like countries of Continental Europe), the term is applied in a wider sense to all people from Asia or from a number of its regions.” – Wikipedia

To confirm the validity of these citations, I went to two of my friends, an English and an Iranian UK permanent resident, and they confirmed that it was indeed the case.

I was shocked. I nearly could not believe them or everything I found about this little misunderstanding. It was as if my years of learning English were thrown into garbage as I could not understand a word as simple as ‘Asian‘. I tried to think about it and everything seemed to be coming into sense.

Chinese‘ is considered a separate entity because the term ‘Asian‘ is publicly used to refer to South Asians only. South East Asian, quite unluckily, appeared to be considered as a small subcategory of Chinese, hence not Asian.

Is it not weird to say “South East Asians are not Asians” yet there is ‘Asians’ in ‘South East Asians’?

Is being greeted with ‘Ni Hao’ not enough that I should properly and legally be classified under ‘Chinese or Other’? How annoying.

After having been for one and a half year in this country, I finally find out that I am not Asian and I have never been. Even though ethnicity is self-identified, in a way the classification has suggested otherwise.

This sort of classification of ethnicity has also attracted controversy in the past: particularly at the time of the 2001 Census where the existence and nature of such a classification, which appeared on the Census form, became more widely known than general. (Wikipedia)

Starting 27 March 2011, the Census day, I can ‘officially’ be Asian as the Office for National Statistics are making some changes in the ethnicity classification in England and Wales. They are to put ‘Chinese‘ to where it should be and should have been, which then would make choosing ‘Any other Asian background‘ a lot more sense to me. They are also to introduce a new category, ‘Arab‘, as an exclusive category.

Illustration by unfoldedorigami.

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A Little Note on Consumer Rights http://michaelhutagalung.com/2010/09/a-little-note-on-consumer-rights/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2010/09/a-little-note-on-consumer-rights/#comments Tue, 07 Sep 2010 23:07:30 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1511 Indonesia vs. the UK; there’s something essentially different in terms of customer and shopping experience. In Indonesia, we’ve got a little proverb that says “the customer is king”. We are kings. We’re entitled for all the possible treatment of a king: a big, warm, welcoming smile at all time, constant hospitality, unlimited variety of options and perpetual top-notch customer service. The customer is king. Full stop. In the UK, a customer is not always treated like a king, at least not like how an average Indonesian would perceive. People are warm and welcoming but they don’t smile as much. Compared to British sales advisers in general, Indonesian ones look like pre-configured robotic puppets who constantly smile regardless of the situation. That is a bit exaggerated but you know what I mean. However, as I’m thinking more about this, I start to wonder what it really means to be treated like a king.

I once bought a Nokia E52 phone in one of the electronic centres in Bandung. The sales advisers were amazingly helpful; they rigorously checked all the items in the box and made sure that they were all working. I went home. I used the phone two days and the phone started to act weird. It went off for no reason and sometimes I couldn’t turn it back on. It happened several times that I had to go back to the shop. The same, exact sales adviser came to me. I said that I wanted to ask for a replacement but she said that it was no longer their responsibility. It was then Nokia’s responsibility. How clever. Yet, she was still smiling, even until the very last moment. Later on, I had to go to a Nokia service centre, several times, and ended up selling that phone because the problem persisted and I was completely fed up. The whole drama took 3 months. Have I told you that the problem persisted? Yes, I have and it did.

In the UK, things would look very different. In a shop, you would be treated like a normal customer. They would smile occasionally but not too much, not by Indonesian standard. If you buy a phone from them, they won’t be bothered to check any of the included items. Well, if they did, it wouldn’t be as thorough as an Indonesian sales adviser would do. Why would they? They are pretty sure that everything should work perfectly. However, this is the interesting bit: if the phone goes mad after you use the phone for two days, or even longer, you can simply go back to the shop, ask for a replacement and you will get one. You won’t be forced to seek for help from the manufacturer of the phone. The shop takes full responsibility. Problem solved. Additionally, if you feel unhappy about your phone, you can return it and ask for a full refund within a certain period of time. Happy? I’d be very happy.

Here is another example. In the UK, if you buy a piece of clothing from a retailer, you have the right to exchange the item if you later find it faulty or even ask for a full refund within 28 days provided that it is re-saleable. It doesn’t apply to all types of clothing, e.g. undergarments, but it does in general. In Indonesia, if you’re lucky, you can get a replacement. If you’re not, you simply have to live with your faulty piece of clothing. Either way, it is very unlikely that the shop would offer you a refund. If they would, that would be an exceptional instance. Although this varies case by case, there seems to be no strict law where both seller and consumer could adhere to. Sometimes the seller knows little about consumer rights, or they simply don’t care, and most of the time the consumer knows nothing. I guess this explains why some Indonesians are very thorough, and suspicious, when buying a piece of clothing, or everything. So thorough that it usually involves an inch-by-inch inspection.

I know that Indonesia has already had some laws regarding consumer rights (UU Perlindungan Konsumen 8/1999). I just don’t see that it has been strictly enforced. Getting to the bottom of an unenforced law is always a complicated story in Indonesia so finding who to blame is simply a waste of time. So, what to do then? Well, a good consumer is those who know their rights. Know your rights. You’re probably wondering how. So am I.

The Indonesian government hasn’t yet got any way to educate its citizen about this. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to look up to our global neighbours, does it? The UK government has a website that covers everything about consumer rights and it is frequently advertised on television. There is even a TV show, called Watchdog, which is aimed to educate people about consumer rights.

If you happen to be one of those people who involves in law-making or anything of the sort, perhaps it’s time to go further, promote the law and educate people. Invent an easy way to convey the law. Use the media. Our media is pretty strong, you know. Throw a tiny gossip and see it explode in several days. I know this issue is a bit delicate, and boring, but there has got to be a way. Also, we are not alone in this world. We can see how things work in our neighbouring countries. They might be useful for comparison. Maybe later we find out that there hasn’t been enough consumer protection in Indonesia.

If you happen to be a consumer who knows nothing about consumer rights, go find them out (and don’t blame the government, doing it will bring you nowhere). It’s painstaking to read the UU 8/1999 but doing it at least once in your life would be just fine. Additionally, make sure you read the terms and conditions of any purchase or simply skim through them and find the important bits. Anyhow, you have to know your rights. Be proactive. Ask the seller to provide terms and conditions.

Let’s go back to the proverb, shall we. “The customer is king.” Do you think that you have been treated like a king? For sellers, do you think you have treated your customer like a king? We are Indonesians, aren’t we? In Indonesia, the customer is king, and even better, we’ve got the smile.

I live in London. People are way warmer and more welcoming outside London. Illustration taken from Chowrangi.com. All rights reserved.

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Indonesia: Facts for Dummies http://michaelhutagalung.com/2010/08/indonesia-facts-for-dummies/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2010/08/indonesia-facts-for-dummies/#comments Sun, 22 Aug 2010 21:41:56 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1360 Having lived for around a year in the UK and extensively interacted with people from different countries have revealed some intriguing facts to me. Whenever comes the situation where one has to introduce oneself and make a casual conversation, it appears that it won’t go anywhere but around one’s country of origin. Not only is it always a good topic to begin with, it also translates into an infinite number of possible sub-topics which are useful to prevent awkward and dull moments with new acquaintances. That being said, it often brings up some interesting cultural facts which are always worth noting and remembering.

Here is one language-related example. It may seem ridiculous to some but I didn’t know that texts written in Arabic alphabet may not be Arabic at all. They can be Persian (in Iran), Urdu (in Pakistan), or many other languages in Central Asia and Africa. It had been used in the Turkish language too before they later changed to Latin. Likewise for the Cyrillic alphabet, I used to associate it with the Russian language, only. There was a multitude of Kazakh people in my class who have proven otherwise. Call me daft as you might, but I may not be the only one who never knew about this. There’s always a first time for everything, isn’t there? I know little, that’s why I learn.

Speaking of which, “Indonesia” also seems to be somebody else’s first time. It happens so frequent that it’s becoming my first supposition when meeting new people. In my case, however, thanks to the giant operations of international oil companies in the country, Indonesia has never been difficult to talk about. Balikpapan, Minas, Duri and Jakarta are the popular oil-centric regions and those names are always all over the place. Digging down the subject is another story, though. Just like how I used to assume, these people have also got their assumptions. Here is a list of funny questions and statements, which were posed by different people in different occasions. Probably you’re asking why I’m doing this. Well, there’s no particular reason, to be honest. I just want to see all the experience in a retrospect, considering that this date, last year, I left Indonesia and arrived in the UK.

Is Indonesia a country? Is it not just a region?

Ridiculous as it may sound, the question above was asked in a humble, honest and not-knowing manner, twice, by two different people. That was the sole reason that prevented me from responding with something sarcastic and full of condescension like “Did you fail Geography?” or “Have you suffered from any sort of mental retardation?” It’s mind-boggling to know that the people asking the question do know that Indonesia exists but are not sure whether it’s a sovereign country with all the law, regulations and political dynamics happening therein.

It’s very easy for people to correlate “Indonesia” with “Polynesia”, “Melanesia” and “Micronesia”. On the map, they all look like regions consisting of many islands and they are in fact bordering and overlying one another. Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia are not countries. They are regions which comprise many countries and colonies. Why should one think that Indonesia is not? So there comes the first fact: Unlike the other ‘nesias’, Indonesia is a country.

If you look at the globe, you won’t find many island countries. Some examples are the UK, the Philippines, Japan and New Zealand.

Was it difficult for you to learn the Latin alphabet?

I lost count of the number of times this question was asked. This question was conveyed in an assuring affirmative tone, often rather a compliment, and sounded like, “Your handwriting in the Latin alphabet looks so neat,” or even something imperative like, “Hey, Michael, teach me how to write my name in Indonesian!

I was speechless. “What do you expect me to write?” I was left in both shock and amusement. I started writing my friend’s name in some random curvy lines that supposedly looked like a mixture of the Arabic and Thai alphabets, diagonally across the paper. I can’t speak or write either of them so they were completely fictitious. It turned out that they looked more like a 1-year-old handwriting. Yet I said, “This is how your name is written in Indonesian.” He took awhile looking at my doodle and said, “It looks like Arabic.” Three minutes later I told him that Indonesians use the Latin alphabet, thanks to 350 years of Dutch colonialism. He replied, “No, you’re lying.

It didn’t really cost me any extensive research to find out why this was presumed. Look at Asia, count the number countries, their populations and their official languages. It turns out that the number Latin-based languages in Asia is relatively low. Some examples are Indonesian, Malaysian, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Again, thanks to the Dutch, British, Spanish, Americans and French people who paid us a long visit. There you go, the fact number two, the Indonesian language uses the Latin alphabet.

Is Indonesia a Muslim country?

Well, this has just got very interesting, hasn’t it? Most often this questions was posed in such a condition that I was not readily available for any sort of prolonged discussion. Answering ‘yes‘ might save me some time but that would mean I wasn’t telling the truth. Answering ‘no‘ would probably put me in a lengthy talk and answering ‘something like that‘ would definitely not suffice. The occasion has happened a lot that I’ve got to design a short, preemptive speech that would answer any subsequent questions. Here it is, the fact number three:

Indonesia is predominantly Muslim but it’s not a Muslim country. It’s not quite a secular country either because religion does play a major role in the government. According to the constitution, six religions are acknowledged: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Religious freedom is protected by law but one must belong to one of the six religions. By that, one can’t be irreligion nor belong to any religious group which is considered outside the six.

One thing for sure, my little speech has never quite achieved its purpose as it always triggers further and deeper discussion. Nonetheless, I always love the facial expression shown by my friends when I reply to their question. They always say, “That’s really, really interesting.

“I know.”

Prambanan by Zsolt Bugarszki. All rights reserved.

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Tano Batak Day 7: Departure – Bandung http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/07/tano-batak-day-7-departure-bandung/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/07/tano-batak-day-7-departure-bandung/#comments Sun, 26 Jul 2009 17:34:00 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1253 This post should have been written nearly a month ago but I just did not have the time. There are many things happened and I was so occupied getting them all through. I was so busy preparing my travel documents, turned 23, and opened a small office for ColorLabs just next to my house. I guess every day was a big day.


I spent my last day of the trip in Medan to visit Istana Maimoon. It is a palace designed with Malay-Islamic architecture and was the centre of the government of Kesultanan Deli. As I’ve already mentioned in my previous posts, the eastern part of the Province of North Sumatra was dominated by Malay people which is predominantly Muslim. That explains the ornaments and accents throughout the building.

There are some interesting thoughts I got while I was wandering around this palace. In primary schools, I spent semesters to learn all the popular ancient kingdoms in Java but barely can I name some ancient kingdoms from Sumatra. I believe it would have been wonderful if certain proportion of the “History of Indonesia” curriculum had focused to this particular island which in fact is composed by a relatively broader number of cultural entities than Java.

Another thing is that this monarchy system is still kept in practice although solely for cultural purposes. The youngest Sultan of Kesultanan Deli is around 9-year old and now living in Bone, Sulawesi. His mother is the daughter of the current Sultan Bone who married the previous Sultan Deli who died during a military duty. And that made this little 9-year old boy became a Sultan. It was something like that. Hahaha.

I closed the trip by going to the Polonia Airport. I took a flight from Medan to Jakarta, a shuttle to Bandung, and arrived safe and sound. This trip was totally awesome and I enjoyed every single day of it. At least I have stories to tell if someone asked me, “North Sumatra, what’s that? Is it somewhere near Bali?”

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Tano Batak Day 6: The Pearl of Lake Toba http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-6-the-pearl-of-lake-toba/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-6-the-pearl-of-lake-toba/#comments Sun, 28 Jun 2009 21:18:05 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1226  taman_simalem_2Lake Toba is a lake and supervolcano, 100 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide, and 505 metres (1,666 ft) at its deepest point. Located in the middle of the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra with a surface elevation of about 900 metres (2,953 ft), it is the largest volcanic lake in the world. In addition, it is the site of a supervolcanic eruption that occurred 74,000 years ago, a massive climate-changing event.

This eruption, believed to have been the largest anywhere on Earth in the last 25 million years, may have had catastrophic consequences globally; some anthropologists and archaeologists believe that it killed most humans then alive, creating a population bottleneck in Central Eastern Africa and India that affected the genetic inheritance of all humans today.


Despite the geological historical details that seems to have brought an annihilation to this world, the lake itself is now stunningly beautiful and immense with several cities circling it. Lake Toba is the biggest lake in the Republic, both by area covered and by volume, and also the biggest in South East Asia. On this post are some pictures of the Lake, taken from the north-eastern side, from Kabupaten Karo, somewhere near Merek/Kabanjahe at a location called the Taman Simalem – The Pearl of Lake Toba.

 taman_simalem_1  taman_simalem_3

Taman Simalem is currently under development and has partially been opened for public. This place has not yet been popular as a travel destination unlike Prapat, a region located in Kabupaten Toba-Samosir, which is more frequently associated to the Lake. Taman Simalem is designed to become a resort decorated by a mixed-taste of Batak artwork and contemporary minimalistic architecture.

Paragraph 1 and 2 was cited from Wikipedia.

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Tano Batak Day 5: Thoughts on The Establishment of The Province of Tapanuli http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-5-thoughts-on-the-establishment-of-the-province-of-tapanuli/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-5-thoughts-on-the-establishment-of-the-province-of-tapanuli/#comments Sat, 27 Jun 2009 22:03:37 +0000 http://www.michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1204  batakThere was nothing essential this day, it’s another half-day in Prapat, a quarter-day in Pematang Siantar, and a night at Berastagi doing nearly nothing. We spent most of our time on the road laughing and screaming to make ourselves happy while crossing the borders which happened to be so lenghty and exhausting. The infrastructure was terrible and unmaintained but we had no choice. Thus, since I have been lately situated at the region concerned and have heard several opinions about this “Province of Tapanuli” issue, I guess it’s the time for me to write something about it.

This issue was brought into public on February 3, 2009, the day when a riotous incident occurred at the office of the House of Representatives of the Province of North Sumatra that killed Abdul Aziz, the chief of the office. The riots were struggling for the establishment of the Province of Tapanuli which essentially means to separate themselves from the current province.

Despite the issue has become popular just several months ago when an incident occurred, it has been in fact proposed for a long time and become intensely discussed after the autonomy law has been put in place. The Province of North Sumatra was formerly two administrative regions that was fused into one province just after the independence of Indonesia from the Dutch. Keresidenan Sumatra Timur covered the eastern part of the current province including Medan, Asahan, and Labuhan Batu, while Keresidenan Tapanuli covered the western part including Tarutung, Toba-Samosir, and Sibolga. The information on the borders may need to be verified but basically that was the idea.

Due to the differences in cultural and religious background between the two regions (Tapanuli is dominated by Bataknese, particularly Toba, while Sumatra Timur by Melayu people), this particular issue has been (misleadingly) regarded concerning and based on SARA (suku – tribe, agama – religion, dan ras – race) which made everything even more sensitive and complicated. In spite of the fact that these two regions differs culturally, it was for economic and human development purposes the proposal has been made. Identical to the centralised development which is currently happening in Indonesia, which is all the way focused to Jakarta and some cities in Java Island, the same condition is happening here in the Province where developments are focused to Medan and several cities in the eastern part of the Province.

Even so, considering that this is Indonesia and politics do have its invisible hands, that does not necessarily mean and assure that no strings are attached.

Anyway, likewise expansion has been happening in several provinces throughout the Republic, Banten-West Java and Gorontalo-North Sulawesi for example. Banten, which is dominated by Badui people, has become an independent administrative entity and was separated from the Province of West Java, which is dominated by Sundanese, in order to accelerate the economic growth and human development in the region. Development was centrally focused on Bandung, the capital, and on several regions that circles Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. It is undeniably true that Serang and several cities where Badui people reside are left behind. And in addition to the Banten development roadmap, the newly-established province also put the Islamic Sharia law in action while the Province of West Java does not. Some say that this expansion was greatly influenced by religious purposes.

Gorontalo-North Sulawesi issue was even more interesting. Gorontalo was separated from the Province of North Sulawesi and is dominated by Gorontalo people which happen to be predominantly Muslim. The current Province of North Sulawesi is dominated by Manado people which mostly have Christianity as their belief. On the other hand, it is factual that economic growth has been focused on Manado, the capital, while Gorontalo is left behind. The only dissimilarity of these two particular examples compared to Tapanuli-North Sumatra was that these two had succeeded their mission without any incidents.

Although the provinces of Indonesia might not be considered identical to states (negara bagian), they are starting to look like one due to the fact that each administrative entities do have the rights to enforce its own regional laws. The current system also provides each entity the rights to control its finance and resources.

So, what about this Province of Tapanuli? Should it be realised? And what about Indonesia in general? What if this establishment triggered separative movements amongst the provinces? On the other hand, would it be wise to leave some regions left behind? Anyway, is it money and power these guys are after? And what about SARA that seems to influence these separations (expansions)? Should we just admit it and take it as is? And why this became an issue while Gorontalo and Banten did not?

And historically speaking, it’s also noticeable that provinces in Indonesia were established with regards to religion and culture uniqueness compared to its surroundings, Daerah Istimewa Aceh and Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta are two clear-cut examples.

As for me, I just regret this had to take a deadly incident.

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Tano Batak Day 4: Prapat – Lake Toba – Samosir http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-4-prapat-toba-lake-samosir/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-4-prapat-toba-lake-samosir/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2009 21:48:35 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1169 tuktuk_1First of all, I want to say that I have made myself a record! How on earth can I have one blog post each day? Hahaha. I guess this was due to the fact that I had nothing to do but to eat and sleep during my abundant free time. On the other hand, I just could not help seeing my laptop intolerably unoccupied thus blogging was what I did. Anyway, this day is the fourth day of our trip and we’re finally done visiting tombs. I was glad to be able to visit my ancestors, get some insights about my family heritage, and learn the complicated family tree. From this moment on, it will be solely a holiday trip.

We arrived at Prapat at night and stayed in a nice hotel located just at the side of the Lake Toba. The hotel was clean and had large rooms with comfortable spring beds. We directly went to sleep and were too tired to go around check the view at night. We’re going to stay here for 2 nights so there will still be plenty of time for us to do whatever we want, I guess. Anyway, geographically speaking, Prapat, which is located in Kabupaten Toba Samosir, is one of the cities that circles the Lake and has become one popular tourism spot of the Province. Lake Toba and its environs are clean, beautiful, and considerably well-maintained by the government. We started the day by taking a boat from Prapat to Samosir Island. The island contains several small regions: Tuktuk and Tombok, to name some.

Batu Gantung (The Hanging Rock)

batu_gantung_tobaBefore getting to the shore of the island, we stopped at Batu Gantung. It was nothing flashy but just an oddly-shaped rock hanging on a high cliff located at the side of the Lake. Legends say that there was a beautiful young lady from the Sinaga family who was forced to marry a prince. She disagreed and ran away from her house. Unfortunately, she did not realise that she were running on the top of the cliff and heading towards the Lake Toba just below. Just before the edge, she tripped with her feet stuck between roots, died in a very odd position, and turned into rocks. I spent minutes to imagine how this hanging rock could, in any way, look like a lady with her body turned upside-down.


Our next destination was Tuktuk. There were some nice hotel rooms decorated with Bataknese artworks; each with the famous A-shaped roof on the top of the buildings. We only took some photo there and found an oddly-shaped coconut tree.
tuktuk_2Do you see the oddness? This is a perfectly-edged coconut tree. I could not imagine how this coconut tree grew. How do you think it grew? I guess this tree did not naturally grow like that and I don’t look forward to hearing any “stories” behind this. Hehehe.


samosir_souvenirs_1We ended our trip by going to Tomok, a region that used to be covered by water prior to the arrival of the Dutch armies. For your information, the Dutch drained the water to Sungai Asahan for power generation purposes. Tomok is also one of the popular spots for both local and international tourists coming to Lake Toba and Samosir Island. Above are a picture of some souvenirs sold in the souvenir shop. The picture, at the background, shows Bataknese calendar written in Bataknese numbers and at front, miniatures of Bataknese traditional houses.


On the top-left is a picture of a statue of a man and a woman; this small statue is located just near the Tomok bay. On the top-right is a picture of Bataknese musical instrument which are sold as a souvenir in shops throughout the region. The real version of this instrument is bigger and sounds a lot better.

Tomok itself is also a region where the tomb of Raja Sidabutar located. I did not expect to visit anymore tombs but apparently I just did. Again, another legend was told.
sidabutar_2Stories say something about the king, his loyal queen, and his loyal general. The general was famous for his war epic and for his journey from Aceh to Samosir riding elephants. Legends also mention some background story about gecko (cicak) being the tribe’s symbolic animal and about reasons why Bataknese cultural products are often coloured with red, black, and white. Below is a picture of some statues doing the traditional ritual asking for rain. The real ritual is still conducted to date but is forbidden to be seen by visitors.
sidabutar_1That’s all for the day. It will be Berastagi and Siantar for the next 2 days and Medan will finally be the ending point of this homeland journey. Anyway, I’ve just realised that I love taking pictures (of any objects, including of myself although I don’t put any here). I guess this is a sign that I’m about to have a new “toy”. Hahaha.

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Tano Batak Day 3: Porsea – Balige – Tarutung http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-3-porsea-balige-tarutung/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-3-porsea-balige-tarutung/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2009 21:18:46 +0000 http://www.michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1145 Departing from Kabupaten Asahan, we entered Kabupaten Tapanuli Utara, a region where Batak Toba people originally came from. This region is situated at the centre of the Province of North Sumatra and contains many small “kampung” (huta) which, some of them, were named after the Bataknese family names who resides in the areas. I bring up the term “Batak Toba” to introduce the fact that there are actually several sub-tribes of Batak such as Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, and Mandailing; each has slightly different family names, culture and language.

We started at Porsea, where my mother’s homeland was. It is sometimes confusing when we use the term “homeland” as Batak people mostly tend to migrate. One can say that Porsea is the homeland of the Manurung’s descendants but it does not necessarily mean that the Manurungs had never been elsewhere before. And in addition, it does not, in any way, mean that an area only belongs to one family as many others also resided there. Sitorus, Sirait, and Butar-butar also resides here.

We visited the tomb of my grandfather’s parents from my mother’s side. Our next destination was Balige, we’re heading there simply to check out the tomb of Sisingamangaraja XII. I later found out that Balige is, of course together with several other families, the homeland of Siahaan’s descendants.

Sisingamangaraja XII

 He is regarded as one of the national heroes of Indonesia for his struggle confronting the Dutch invasion to Tapanuli. Legends say that he had some supernatural resistance to fire bullets and by which he could not ever be killed but solely on condition that his hands shall never be desecrated by human blood. The Dutch troops finally revealed his secret and shot his beloved daughter. As expected, he was so devastated by sorrow and sadness that he could not resist to not hug his dear dead covered-with-blood daughter. He was then shot to death by a bullet of the Dutch armies.

Afterwards, we headed to Tarutung, the capital district of Kabupaten Tapanuli Utara. Tarutung is the homeland of Hutagalung’s descendants. Tobing, Hutapea, Hutauruk, and Simorangkir also resides here. We visited another tomb in Tarutung, it was the tomb of my grandfather’s parents (and grandparents) from my father’s side. The tombs is situated at the hillside of a mountain, so high we have to walk so far to arrive there (and we ended up having sore feet). Hahaha.

Dr. I. L. Nommensen

 nommensenWe then visited Salib Kasih, a natural complex built to commemorate the arrival of Nommensen at Tapanuli. Nommensen was a German Christian missionary who came in the 1900s. He arrived at Barus and continued his religious mission to Tarutung. Apparently, he was not the first missionary who came for Bataknese people; he was the third, stories say. But none of his predecessors succeeded their mission and in fact they were killed and eaten (legends say).

Most Bataknese people residing in Tapanuli Utara and Tapanuli Tengah finally converted to Christian from their old tribal religion, Parmalim. Several Bataknese families who resided near Aceh and Padang (northern and southern areas of the Province) converted to Islam, instead.

Everyone is our family and we keep our numbers

As the consequence of keeping our family names, we can always track down our relatives and any inter-relation between several Bataknese families. At least at some point, two people sharing the same family name are of course related to each other (although it will take hours to reveal the links, we love doing this). And even if two people do not share the same family name, one will come up saying that one of his relative does share the same family name and that makes the two person simply a family. This will make one Bataknese person has many ‘additional’ uncles, aunties, siblings, nieces, nephews, and even grandparents. This is practically useful when we’re abroad and have no relative at all. Go search one Bataknese person and we will have one.

In addition to family names, we also have numbers that signify our position in the family tree. For instance, my father is Hutagalung number 14 while I’m Hutagalung number 15. That means my father is the 14th descendant of Raja Hutagalung and I’m the the 15th. My children will be the 16th and my grandchildren will be the 17th. This is essentially useful to find out what we should call somebody sharing the same family name with us if we could not find any direct or indirect familial relation. In many cases, we could.

That’s all for the day. The next day we are going to visit Prapat, Toba Lake, and Samosir Island. I did not expect to know this much about my ancestors and I’m so glad to get the chance to visit my homeland.

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Tano Batak Day 2: Rantau Prapat – Pulo Raja http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-2-rantau-prapat-pulo-raja/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-2-rantau-prapat-pulo-raja/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2009 20:08:21 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1118 We spent the whole day in Rantau Prapat, the capital district of Kabupaten Labuhan Batu. The district is comparably small that we could drive west-to-east in 30 minutes. The road is wide with relatively low number of vehicles. There is only one shopping centre called Plaza Suzuya (that’s an odd name and sounds very Japanese to me) and located in the middle of the district. It does not look like any shopping centres in major cities in Indonesia, of course. That does not make me feel ashamed but on the contrary, I wonder why the fact that Labuhan Batu being one of the richest and most resourceful “kabupaten” in Sumatra Utara is not really well-reflected by the conditions of its capital district.

Christian cemeteries

There were not many activities we did during the day, we only visit one cemetery where our relatives were buried. It is a Christian cemetery and this kind of cemetary is commonly decorated with ceramics and marbles. Tombs usually take a lot of space but not as much as that of Chinese. Some of them look very flashy with vibrant colors and unique decorations like a potrait of Jesus Christ or Virgin Mary. Some of them are fenced and built with stone awning. There is also one thing interesting with Batak’s cemetery: there are so many lines written on the “batu nisan”. The first line is “Dison Maradian” and the second is “Ompung XXXX YYYY” while XXXX YYYY is the name of their oldest grand-children born from their oldest male kin. That is one example of patriarchy in Batak culture. Anyway, the third line is finally the name of the person, the fourth signifies when the person was born and died, and the fifth until the tenth are verses of the Bible or sometimes verses of Christian Batak songs.

During our visit, my parents brought up a tickling story that around 20 years ago, when we had been visiting this cemetery, I had asked them one stupid question wondering why everyone buried was named “Dison” with a surname “Maradian”. They had laughed and replied that it was actually not their name as “dison” means “here” (di sini) and “maradian” means “lies” (beristirahat). I did not remember that and I guess it’s totally understandable I had popped that question up considering “Dison Maradian” sounds like a perfect Batak name. Hahaha..

Batak: “Namaku Dison Maradian.”
Jawa: “Wah, kamu orang Batak ya?”

Muslim cemeteries

Afterwards, we spent the whole night in Pulo Rakyat, one of the districts of Kabupaten Asahan. Funny that the district used to be called Pulo Raja as “raja” means “king” while “rakyat” means “people”. We visited another cemetery there but this one was a Muslim cemetery. I do have some relatives who converted to Islam due to marriages and we all do live together in peace and happiness (It’s like I’m stressing something here). Anyway, unlike Christian’s, this Muslim cemetery is relatively smaller and simpler. Rarely I found Muslim tombs with fences and stone awnings. Some tombs were decorated with Arabic calligraphy and the “batu nisan” was smaller and did not contain as much information as those of Christian Batak. But I believe that this differs a lot from place to place and I can’t say too much about Muslim Batak cemeteries.

Satellite TV in every house

Who says that satellite TV is a property for the rich? No, it’s not. Every house here does have satellite TVs regardless the financial situation of the family. I have seen one house, which is in fact non-permanent ones considering that it was not built using bricks and cement but bamboos and woods, that has an enormously gigantic satellite receiver and is even bigger than the size of the house itself. Why? Because here it’s the only way to receive TV signals.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow I am going to visit some areas where Batak people originated from (Yes, because not all area in North Sumatra is the homeland of Batak people). The area I’m going to visit is the very area that at the moment is one hot topic among politicians: Tapanuli. Whoops, that sounds politically spooky. Hahaha.

PS. So what does the monkey on the picture have to do with this post? Well, nothing. I should have put a picture of the cemeteries but I don’t want to make my blog look scary. So I took a picture of a monkey which was for some unexplainable reason sitting near the cemetery gate.

Patron: casino online

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Tano Batak Day 1: Arrival – Medan http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-1-arrival/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-1-arrival/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2009 12:29:28 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/tano-batak-day-1-arrival/ rantau-prapat Yesterday was my first day of my Tano Batak Trip. I flew with Garuda Indonesia, departing at 07:00am from Soekarno-Hatta Jakarta and arriving at 09:00am at Polonia Medan. The plane departed 30minutes late but I did not really care about that (of course, at least until I live somewhere where everybody is punctual. Hahaha).

Garuda Indonesia was nice in general. The check-in process was relatively quick, one could even do an internet check-in if they wanted to choose their seats in advance. Its own dedicated Terminal 2F was considerably clean, there were no complicated additional queue lines for insurance fees, like the one I had had at Terminal 1 around a year ago with Batavia Air.

We arrived at Polonia safe and sound but experienced something inconvenient when waiting for the luggages. There were porters with their trolleys ready, that’s normal, but they were too many that there was no trolley left. It’s like we were forced to use their service if we want to have trolleys. Thanks to the fact that luggages are commonly created with rollers.

We directly went to Rantau Prapat, a small city located 280km from Medan, and it’s not Prapat and those two cities are different. Anyway, it took nearly 8 hours to get there and it was exhausting. But that was all right, it’s where my father and mother spent their childhood before finally moved to Bandung. This journey will be great and nostalgic so I’m good with any inconveniences.

Shocking driving attitude

Yes, it was shocking. I thought Jakarta has the worst drivers but I was wrong. Now I know that Medan has even worse. In Bandung, beside motorbike riders, angkot drivers has been long known as the worst. But in Medan, most drivers act like angkot drivers and the angkot drivers drive even worse. They will sound their car horn whenever possible. It’s like they can’t wait for any kind of delay and do consider people crossing the street as a serious delay that they will sound their car horn as loudly as possible as if they see somebody doing something forbidden. It was crazy.

Internet connections

Telkomsel and XL have 3G coverage but only XL’s is working for 3G internet connection. Odd that Telkomsel Flash is not working here. Indosat does not have 3G coverage here and I have to use GPRS. But I’m good as I’m ready with this and have brought three different SIM cards.

Food and culinary heaven

This is heaven. We can find any traditional Batak food we want and it was very delicious. If you’re on diet, simply forget it as it will never work here. Hahaha. Batak food here are so tasty, (unhealthy), and abundant. Any variety of it is simply worth to try: sangsang, babi panggang, babi goreng, babi arsik, naniura, lomok-lomok, and the list goes on. Chinese food is also popular and also very tempting: mie pangsit Medan, kwetiau, babi merah, etc. And to end our meals, we have some cakes like Bolu Meranti and Bika Ambon.

Well, this is going to be a great and wonderful trip!

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Entering a New Stage of Life http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/entering-a-new-life-stage/ http://michaelhutagalung.com/2009/06/entering-a-new-life-stage/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2009 01:01:39 +0000 http://michaelhutagalung.com/?p=1087 Royal School of Mines - Imperial College of Science, Technology, and MedicineIt’s been more than 2 months since my last blog post and surely many have happened. In April 2009, I graduated from the BSc Chemical Engineering program of Institut Teknologi Bandung and was accepted by Imperial College London to enroll a MSc Petroleum Engineering this October. United Kingdom suddenly look much more tempting and challenging than The Netherlands for me. I did have a little risk-and-benefit analysis and eventually London came up as the winner. Yes, “eventually”, as it did take several months for me to think about this. Delft was good, Eindhoven was even better, but London seems to have some prominent winning factors.

A new name for my blog, a new design.

To mark this point of time of my life, I decided to do a little something to my blog, a simple retouch and a new name, MichaelHutagalung.com. I found the old design rather boring and literally boxy while the old name was rather odd, trying too hard to resemble the name of one famous Indonesian band, and simply immature. I could not even remember why I used that to name my blog in the first place. Anyway, this new design is a quick-and-simple modification of Platformate. What I did was editing some of the CSS properties, uploading some nice PNG background files, and adding a header logo. That’s it. Thanks to PNG transparency my blog now looks like this.

I’m into France and French culture.

I started to learn French in August 2008 simply to make my abundant free time useful. Yes, it was literally abundant that I could even wake up late at 9am. There was nothing particular that motivated me to enroll that course at CCF Bandung. I simply thought that it would be nice to have an added-value for being able to speak French when applying for a position at some companies originating from France (TOTAL and Schlumberger, aren’t they too obvious considering my academic background?).

But then, I realized that this particular country have so many interesting cultural points that I am so excited to dig them more. I ended up taking two intensive classes and three DELF (A1-A2-B1) examinations. Many asked me what were the reason I took the examinations and I said “Nothing, I guess I’m in love with this language”. Everyone was like “What?” and I replied “Well at least the fees are one-tenth of TOEFL’s so why don’t give them a try?”. Anyway, this late-August, I will be attending another intensive French course for 4 weeks, including several cultural and civilisation workshops, in Paris. Hahahaha.

I need to set my feet on my homeland so I would not ever forget it.

Yes, Tano Batak, my homeland in North Sumatra. Today, I am going to Medan and spend a week there to visit some of my relatives (all Batak people are relatives, right?). I will visit Medan, Rantau Prapat, Tarutung, Porsea, Siantar, Prapat, and hopefully Lake Toba and Samosir Island. I look forward to having a nice “pulang-kampung” holiday there. I hope I can upload some nice photos here. In the meantime, I have this nice re-arranged Batak song, originally perfomed by Christine Panjaitan and later by Viky Sianipar.

Ndada piga songon hauma tudos tu juma di tano toba, sahali pe mangula da inang, nga tor marbulan butong mangan da amang. Disi bidang na dohot ulina, di rupana dohot daina. Tano toba tano na martua tarbarita tarbarita tu bariba.

PS. I was interviewed by SWA Magazine regarding ColorLabs Project and by Jakarta Globe regarding this blog. Hahaha.

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