Inside Gaokao


I first heard about gaokao when I accidentally stumbled upon an article that showed some photos about it. It was visually attractive and, at the same time–provocative, I guess. When I asked some friends to guess what the photos were about, the answers showed how unfamiliar was the idea of  Gaokao for people outside of China. Some said that it is a picture of people celebrating music idols, another said that it was about the bad transportation system in China.

I, too, found the picture amusing. In every country–and Indonesia is not an exception– college admission is a very stressful event. It draws a lot of attention. But, none are like gaokao. Many western media tried to compare it with the SAT as the sole criterion for student to enter universities, but the similarity probably ends there. The stakes, the pressure, the meaning for the society, looks like it was at the entirely different level. Continue reading “Inside Gaokao


A Year in Review

Well, so here we are: the first day of 2015.

It surely came fast, but the old chapter had finished indeed, and time for a new one has arrived. Cannot say that I’m one hundred percent ready, but what can I do but to except?

Looking back for a while, the second half of 2014 had been nice toward me. Finished my master degree, came back to Indonesia, started a new relationship, got a new job, celebrating christmas with friends, spent the end of year with beloved family. It’s kind of a paid off for all the struggle in the first half of the year, especially the boredom that engulfed me during and after my thesis was done.

I cannot, however, say that I was satisfied yet this year. Just like a writing, I think there’s still much room for improvements. Some unnecessary word to omit, some sentences to be changed, some paragraphs to re-arranged. Some typos to be corrected. Some important facts to be added. Basically: a lot of things to be done better.

To put it another way, 2014 has gave me a good time to think about myself more. It gave me chance to stumble without falling to hard, yet at the same time, an opportunity to fly higher without much to be risked. Such a privilege, and I doubt this will repeat in 2015, at least in such degree.

I think it’s time for me to be more serious.

I have several big dreams that I need to achieve, and considering how time goes faster as you’re getting older, it surely not a good time to make a mess. So to boil it down what this new year mean for me. It’s simple:

Hope to draft a better life this year.

Happy new year!

“Jurnalisme” Obor Rakyat

Anne Ahira

Oleh: Harry Febrian

(Dimuat di situs Satu Harapan, 23 Juni 2014)

Belakangan ini linimassa di media sosial seperti Facebook dan Twitter cukup ramai dengan masalah tabloid Obor Rakyat. Ini sebuah publikasi tak jelas yang mendadak dikirimkan ke berbagai tempat yang merasa tidak pernah memesannya. Mulai dari Bandung, Kediri, hingga Madiun. Sejumlah pesantren juga jadi sasaran. Ambil contoh Ponpes Ulumul Quran. Menurut pimpinannya, Munir Abas, yang juga Ketua Pimpinan Cabang Nahdlatul Ulama Kabupaten Bekasi, tabloid itu datang begitu saja tanpa jelas siapa pengirimnya.


“Sangat mengadu domba, menyebar fitnah, dan kebencian,” kata Munir. Continue reading ““Jurnalisme” Obor Rakyat”

A Basketful of Cherries

Rainy Day Moon Over Paris by Artist KJ Carr

Reading Adam Gopnik began as an incident. It was another day strolling in perhaps Taiwan’s most lovely second-hand bookstore, Mollies, near National Taiwan University. There, in the basement, hidden within hundred of books stored neatly in two big black drawer, Paris to the Moon seemed oddly placed among some random self-help and politic books. Hard-cover with a black and white picture of a child playing in front of some French style building, it was hard not to looked at it.

But not until reading the advance praises for the book, written in the back cover, one truly felt that one finally found a treasure after a brief moment of random searching. No less than John Updike himself praised the book as having a “fireworks results, lighting up not just the Eiffel Tower.”

There were also comments from Malcolm Gladwell, Jeffrey Toobin, and some exotic name-at least in my ear- Francine du Plessix Gray, whom I’ve never heard before but turned out to be a Pulitzer Prize nominee and a literary critic. All of them are a writer or at least had been writing for The New Yorker. Indeed, Adam Gopnik himself is a writer for The New Yorker since 1986, and this book is actually his collection of essays published in the same magazine. For decades, The New Yorker deploys their staff to Paris, writing for Paris Journals section.

Well, a New Yorker sent to Paris to write about it. Wasn’t that interesting?

Continue reading “A Basketful of Cherries”


Modern superhero is an illusion.

No matter how great we are, one man show is nothing but a rarity. We are bound to, as Bernard of Chartres put it, perched on the shoulders of giants. Modern superhero is an illusion, because in them, the shoulders are hidden.

Or perhaps, a house will make a better metaphor. You’ll never have that wonderfully decorated blue wall without a foundation to support it. I remember vividly, whenever I go with my father to oversee the building he build, the foundation will be one of the most discussed topic.

Have you dig deep enough? Is the strongest column prepared yet? Do you double-check the measurement?

These tell us something obvious. Whatever you’re looking—or maybe admiring-at, there is always something behind. Things that are more than what meets the eye. Things that sustain.

A supporters.  Continue reading “Supporters”


Entah mengapa, agaknya akan selalu ada yang istimewa dengan 25 sehingga kadang Ia diasosiasikan dengan kualitas perak, si logam mulia itu, seperti di ulang tahun perkawinan. Dalam panjang nafas seorang, Ia boleh disebut telah hidup “seperempat abad” lamanya.

Padahal mulanya 25, seperti juga 24 sebelum atau 26 sesudahnya, sekedar angka biasa yang bahkan baru ditemukan oleh bangsa India tahun 500 Masehi. Namun ketika bergandeng dengan usia, 25 tidak mampir sebagai angka belaka, tapi juga makna—sebuah maksud atau pengertian yang diberikan— macam “perak” dan “seperempat abad” tadi.

Ia bisa membanggakan, jadi tanda sebuah kematangan, syukur jika kedewasaan. Tapi kadang tentu menakutkan. Banyak yang bilang, seiring waktu, kita makin jarang melihat usia dengan simbol matematika “tambah,” ketimbang dengan “kurang.” Semakin tua, kita lebih sering menghitung waktu yang tersisa, daripada momen yang sudah dilewati sejak permulaan. Jika tahun ini, angka harapan hidup di Indonesia ialah 72 tahun, mencapai 25 berarti hidup hanya tinggal kurang dari dua pertiga. Menginjak 25, dengan kata lain, ialah menjadi tua.

Dan siapa yang tak takut menjadi tua? Continue reading “25”

Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine

image source:
image source:

Ada yang mengecewakan ketika membaca buku kedua Eric Weimer, Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine —yang saya beli ketika obral di toko buku.

Barangkali karena ekspektasi berlebih mengingat buku pertama Eric, The Geography of Bliss, yang mengisahkan perjalanannya sebagai penggerutu yang mencari kebahagiaan, adalah bacaan menawan. Saya sedikit bangga waktu mempromosikan buku itu ke sejumlah kawan, karena mereka ikut terpesona dengannya.

Tapi tidak kali ini. Continue reading “Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine”