Monday, February 22, 2010

Indonesia, Indonesia - May your skin be white and unwrinkled

The past months, it hasn't been easy for me to find facial cream that wouldn't make my skin even whiter. Almost all skin products you can buy in Indonesia contain whitener! In my case, whitener is not really necessary... Actually, in the Netherlands I even sometimes bought the cream which made my skin look 'healthier' - back home that means it contains some chemical for tanning. That is where East and West still differ. In the West, we want bronze skins to look 'healthy' (and to show how often we can take holidays to warm places). In the East, whiteness is still seen as refined. It shows you have money enough to not to have to go outside. I've seen girls wearing umbrellas and gloves up to their armpits (when driving a car for instance) to protect themselves from the sun.

One thing we do seem to agree about everywhere in the world is that we, especially women, have to stay young. Or at least LOOK young. The billboard in the picture says something like "Pretty at age thirty and beyond'. The girl on the poster obviously is not thirty yet. The thirty-year old in the foreground however is happy to know that there is cream to battle her wrinkles with!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Indonesia, Indonesia - Tomorrow's leaders?

Because of my teachers, we can be smart

Right next to my apartment building is a High School. Every Monday morning I wake up from their weekly opening's ceremony on their main square. The kids all stand in their uniforms (often in the blazing sun) and recite the five basic ideological principles of the Indonesian state, the Pancasila. Usually the students are spoken to firmly and sometimes they're even scolded publicly by the teachers ("these two in the front here still have very messy hair and they will be punished accordingly later"). The teachers like to use a megaphone and preach about how the students should work harder to beat the Malaysians and the Chinese, how they cannot bring their cellphones to class and how they should not curse at school (see video).

"Often the teachers hear words that are not very nice to hear and which should not be used by students and which very easily come out of your mouths which means that these words are not uncommon to be used"

Every week I wonder what will become of these kids. Will they ever learn to use their minds freely, creatively and independently? How can they help this country forward if they were raised reciting texts and being spoken to by teachers in a demeaning way? Just recently the first two parts of a very popular novel tetralogy were made into movies; Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops) and Sang Pemimpi (The dreamer). The story is very much about education and how good teachers can bring out the best in almost anyone. The movies are box office hits and I can only hope there will be a lasting impact.

Trailer of Laskar Pelangi, the film directed by Riri Reza

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mayra makes me happy

According to my iTunes playcount, Mayra Andrade's 'Comme s'il en pleuvait' was the most played song in 2009 (75 times). Thus, I figured a few weeks ago that it was finally time to find out what else she had to offer. Wow, what a happy surprise! In Mayra, Cesaria Evora has found a good successor to spread that Capeverdean vibe. She does it so very convincingly. The songs are cheerful and sometimes tender. Her voice and the languages (Portugese, Creole and French) match perfectly. And better yet, she's young and very pretty too. All the ingredients for a successful career, I would say. Well, whether she becomes as big a star as Cesaria or not, I'm completely hooked to her album 'Storia, Storia'. It wouldn't surprise me if in December Mayra tops the playcount list again!

Here's a song from her first album Navega (also great), Mana

And then the song that makes me happy whenever I'm sad or (more often) even happier when I'm already doing good, Comme s'il en pleuvait

'If you can dream it, you can do it' Walt Disney

As many of my readers know, I am a big fan of TED. Whenever I'm short of inspiration or relaxation, I watch another video. Lately, TED started posting videos from people that have not appeared on TED, but gave a memorable talk elsewhere. One of my favorite talks, the one by Steve Jobs I talked about here, is now also available on TED for instance.

This new feature introduced me to Randy Pausch, a professor from Carnegie Mellon University, who unfortunately passed away in July 2008 of pancreatic cancer. Before his death, he gave two one-hour long lectures; one about achieving your childhood dreams and one about time management. Both talks have truly impressed me. The topics of working hard to achieve your dreams and live with passion have interested me for quite a while, moving from Stephen Covey to Tim Ferris. Randy Pausch however gave a more sympathetic and less 'American: Yeah-You-Can-Do-It' face to it. He explains how you can achieve all that you want and be a good and appreciated person at the same time.

What I'll remember most from both talks is:
* Ask others for help or advice
* Work hard
* Delegate, but do the dirtiest job yourself
* Let people carry out a task you give them in their own way
* Only have meetings with people who want to be IN the meeting
* Thank the people who made a big difference in your life
* Spend time with the people you love
* Never give up
* Have fun (this one works out pretty well thus far)

So, if you can take the time out, watch these videos. More than 11 million people have done it already ;)

How to achieve your childhood dreams
This talk is not only good because of its content, but it's the combination of Pausch using presentation skills and aiming for emotional impact. Very smart how he points out the elephant in the room, sets boundaries on what NOT to talk about, how he tells his own personal (and emotional) story and how he gives out advice on how to live your life!

Time Management
Since Pausch only had a few more months to live, this talk may seem a bit awkward. However, since Pausch thinks these things are important enough to talk about at the end of his life, his messages certainly have more power.