» Personal

Tano Batak Day 2: Rantau Prapat - Pulo Raja

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

Full Story » Comments (8)

Tano Batak Day 1: Arrival - Medan

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!

Full Story » Comments (12)

Entering a New Stage of Life

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, 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 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.

Full Story » Comments (15)

J’apprends finalement une nouvelle langue.

french-liberte-egalite Il a été quatre mois que j’ai appris une nouvelle langue : le français. Pour ça, je suis à la fois heureux et malheureux. C’est très magnifique, le français, et c’est pourquoi je suis content. A l’autre côte, je regret le fait que il m’a pris trop tard de réaliser l’importance d’apprendre une autre langue étrangère. Aujourd’hui, l’anglais devient une langue très commune, en Indonésie, trop commun que l’on peut le considérer pour l’usage quotidien; tous les gens l’utilisent. Franchement, il n’y a pas une raison particulier pourquoi j’écris ce poste. Il est probable qu’il y a beaucoup de défauts mais il m’importe du tout. Honnêtement, je veux voir, au futur, que mon écriture française était très mauvaise et comment il se construira progressivement.

Dis donc, je trouve que l’anglais et le français se ressemblent beaucoup. Il y a beaucoup de vocabulaires qui sont formé des mêmes racines. De plus, je trouve que c’est plus facile pour nous de comprendre cette langue, particulièrement les structures et les grammaires, si nous avons assez une bonne compréhension de l’anglais. Les structures des deux sont similaires et les deux ont certaines modes de grammaire qui sont facile à comparer.

Quoi qu’il en soit, il y a aussi beaucoup de choses étranges à être pris en considération. Tout d’abord, je trouve que le vocabulaire très formelle par rapport à l’anglais et il existe des modes particuliers de la grammaire qui sont totalement à confusion: les conjugaisons, les sexes des mots, et les temps. Mais encore, comme je l’ai déjà dit, c’est intéressant. En conclusion, s’il ya une d’entre vous qui pense pour commencer à apprendre une nouvelle langue, essayez le français!

Full Story » Comments (38)

I’ve Been to WordCamp Indonesia

wordcamp_indonesiaLast Saturday and Sunday (17-18 January), I attended an amazing event called “WordCamp Indonesia″, the 1st Annual Conference for WordPress Enthusiasts, which was held at Erasmus Huis, the Netherland Embassy, Jakarta. I have been waiting to attend this event to thank Matt Mullenweg personally for creating such a wonderful blogging platform: WordPress. I was so fortunate that I finally got the chance to meet him, thank him, and luckily be one of the panelist on a talk show about WordPress Business Forum with him.

WordCamp Indonesia was held in Erasmus Huis, the office of the embassy of The Netherlands for Indonesia. The conference itself was held inside an auditorium, attended by approximately 150 attendees, including developers, designers, bloggers, sponsors, and media representatives. It’s totally my rough guess, I didn’t check the guest list thoroughly.

It was clear to see that they who attended this event really appreciate the development of WordPress and seemed curious about how it all started, the mastermind behind it, and everything related to it including the codes, the plugins, the themes, the user interface, and everything. Everyone seemed so passionate to be there, them who are newbie users and even them the PHP/CSS freaks. A blogger community (Anging Mamiri) even tried so hard coming all the way from Makassar to attend this event.


The first day was started with an opening speech by Valent Mustamin, the organizer, and Matt Mullenweg. We then continued with a presentation by Nanda Ivens, a representative from IndoPacific Edelman, who told us some interesting facts about the digital influence in the current society. There was also a WordPress Free Forum, a talk show that discussed about WordPress from the user’s point of view. Ryan Koesuma, a friend from Bandung Blog Village is one of the panelist there.

It’s Romi Satria Wahono who started the second day. He gave us some valuable insights about personal branding. In the afternoon, Nukman Luthfie from Virtual Consulting presented us a hilarious presentation about himself, wrapped with an elegant topic: Corporate Blogging. Hahaha. And the funny thing with these two guys is that both of them acted as if they were the “fairest among us all”. No wonder they succeeded well in building personal and corporate brand.


Anyway, I was lucky enough to join a talk show with a topic: WordPress Business Forum, that was held just before the lunch on the second day. The talk show was moderated by Deden Purnamahadi, and Matt Mullenweg was the main panelists, accompanied by Nadiah Alwi and me.

Just before the end of the second day, there was a presentation from the finalists of Paperless Mading Competition (Mading Online Bandung Blog Vaganza): SMUN 20 Bandung, SMKN 4 Bandung, and SMKN Informatika Bandung. One of the team presented a wonderful idea relating WordPress to paperless school magazine: “Using WordPress for school magazines means helping the world to survive from the Global Warming.”

These are some screen shots of their wonderful works. They are using WordPress MU and the Arthemia Premium theme.




Bottomline, it was such a once in a lifetime experience to meet wonderful guys there. I saw famous people like Enda Nasution, Ndoro Kakung, Christian Sugiono, and of course Matt Mullenweg. I met new friends: Simon Lim, Septi Yulia Sari, Cynthia Rahayu, Erick Mainaky, and many others.

I totally look forward to attending WordCamp Indonesia. And I can’t stop thinking: he is only 25-year-old, he didn’t finish his degree at his university, but he was named to be the 16th most important people on the Web by PC World. Amazing, huh?

Full Story » Comments (27)