Attending A Japanese Tea Ceremony 101

The Master

I have been quite lucky, and I will tell you why…  🙂

Because I have been to a Japanese Tea Ceremony. Yay…!

If any of you think that a British Tea Party is some serious business, you might want to rethink that, once you’ve been to a Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The British one is a party to begin with, on the other hand… the Japanese one is a ceremony… as in… ceremony. 🙂

Apparently, there’s no special occasion for having a tea ceremony.  Such ceremony is more of a hobby thing. Meaning: some Japanese-traditions-&-heritage-aficionados will get together and carry out the tea ceremony. Sadly not many Japanese youngsters are interested in continuing the traditions but the elderly would normally do so.

To give y’all a rough picture on how serious this is… The personnel who were to serve (and attend) a proper Japanese tea ceremony should take a full course/study on how to do it right.

Yup…! A course about drinking tea… (so stop whining about your French or tennis course! *Lol) 😀

Now let me begin describing… I won’t get too detail. No worries here… 🙂

  1. Before it all started, the guests will be provided with some Japanese traditional little snacks –to be had before drinking the tea.                           Gyuhi
  2. Once started, the master of the tea ceremony must prepare the powdered green tea in a cup –that looks like a small bowl (no handle on the cup). A pinch of this powder is mixed with some hot water and then whisked gently (with a delicate bamboo whisk) until it forms some froth (no sugar at all! Eeeek….) 🙂            
  3. The master will hand the prepared tea cup to the guest, and the guest must receive it with both hands (using only 1 hand is out of the question, and you’ll be out of the window :D). Both hands must hold the cup in a particular way with left hand at the bottom of the cup, and right hand at the side of the cup.

    Reese Witherspoon & Japanese Tea Cup

  4. The guest will then turn the tea cup twice –clockwise, and look at the master.
  5. The master will say “Please”.
  6. The guest can drink the tea. Strictly speaking, the entire tea in the cup must be gobbled down within 3 sips (or 3 gulps depending on how full the cup is :D), and at the last sip (or gulp) the guest must make a ‘slurping’ noise –to be polite… as in showing the master that the tea is delicious! 🙂
  7. Once finished, the guest will wipe the rim of the cup (where the lips have touched) with their right thumb. Then, the guest should turn the empty cup twice –still clockwise, and then return the cup back to the master.

That is how it’s done in a nutshell. *bloody hell* would be the right expression if you’re amazed by it. 🙂

But it is a lot more complicated in real life… I know I make it sound too simple here (I hope my Japanese friends won’t start flattening my car tyres for my clumsy explanation of their custom. :-))

The point is… it is not just about drinking tea. It is about how socially accomplished you are. It is about relishing the entire activity. It is about enjoying the serving of the tea. It is about connecting with the cup (yes, it is… :-)). It is about respecting one another.

Now compare this with the Indonesian way of making tea… 😀

The Indonesians will put a whole lot of tea leaves into some boiling water in a big pan, and then add some monstrous amount of sugar into it. Stir well. Then add big blocks of ice. Stir well.  Then put some of the tea into 1 litre plastic bags, drop a piece of plastic straw in each bag, and then tie the opening of the plastic bags with rubber-bans.

There you have it…! Best served chilled and drunken while walking down by some hot busy road in Jakarta. *Lol. 😀

I am blessed to ever experience such a thing like a Japanese tea ceremony. It was lots of fun… lots of it…! Such a day couldn’t have been better… It just couldn’t… 🙂


Dian Retno Wulandari. Life is sweet, even without sugar sometimes…

PS: Happy birthday to Inoh Chung Ryu. Thanks to Mika Hattori, Fumi Shigetta, and Keiko Mapperley for the experience. Thanks to the host Michelle Potin, and other attendees: Dorcas, Erie, Darunee, Rubaba, Farina, Grace.

PS: Happy Chinese new year… Gong Xi Fa Cai…!



My Giving-birth Story. Part 1

29 January 2009; around 4 o’clock in the morning. 2 weeks before our expected due date.

A normal winter morning, and most people must’ve been fast asleep, but I was sitting on a chair at a small dining-table-turned-office-desk in our little studio-flat in Belgium.

Surfing through my facebook news-feed page, the blue-pregnant-lingerie I was wearing was wet from waist down, so were my panties, so was the chair I was sitting on…, and there’s a puddle of water on the floor –around my left foot.

Yes, my water broke about ½ hour earlier and it gushed down my left leg and formed the afore-mentioned puddle on the floor, wetting my lingerie, my panties, and my dining chair on its way down.

When we were pregnant

While it might seem odd to check one’s facebook while one is in labour… at that precise moment, I couldn’t think of anything better to do whilst waiting for my husband getting ready for the hospital run (it was winter, so getting ready means thermal undershirt, sweater, boots, shawl, gloves, etc)

My peaceful facebook surfing was disturbed by my husband irritated voice. “Are we giving birth or not…?!” He was all togged-up in his winter jacket and sweater, tapping his fingers against the kitchen sink with an ‘are you kidding me…!?’ look on his face.

So then…, ladies and gentlemen, I got myself ready for the hospital. (I was not efficient. I know, but let’s move on… :D)

— o —

I thought it was going to be all fast, and hectic, and frantic, and busy when my water breaks. (Just like in those Hollywood movies we’ve seen around.) But that was not the case for me. When my water actually broke, I strangely felt calm and content… perhaps because I had been through 2 miscarriages before.

Calm was not how I’d describe my husband though. He was nervous and highly strung. He was worried that we might get stuck in a traffic jam. (Yeah right… a traffic jam in Brussels at 5 am?)

So he hurled his pregnant wife in a VW Passat –company car. He drove so fast through the empty roads of Brussels, leaving skid-marks on every turn, checking his watch every 5 minutes. 🙂

We didn’t talk to each other at all on our way to the hospital. It was too intense… at least for him. 😀 Poor thing…

The first contraction was when we were at the parking basement of the Hospital. This is it, I thought. Standing still, and bracing myself to cope with the pain, my husband didn’t understand why I should stop to do that.

“Shouldn’t we just run up quickly and see a doctor or a midwife to check on you?” He said.

Oh men… ! They don’t know anything about labour pain do they? 😀

It was all very, very, sweet though…, being a Mr.Cool-At-All-Time that he is, I enjoyed looking at my husband’s worried face and hearing his snappy impatient tone. It was endearing to see how worried he was and how frustrated he seemed.

What was happening was beyond his control. There was not much he could do to help me. It was just me, myself and my uterus at that point, and I think he hated the thought of not being able to help much.

— o —

Greeted by a midwife who spoke only French, I started feeling anxious. My husband squeezed my hand firmly. The midwife put her fingers into my birth canal, and then… smiled.

She asked my husband to pass her a stainless-steel bowl (all said in French). She put the bowl under my… uhm… crotch… and pulled her fingers out slowly, and with it came gushing down what seemed like tons of water –filling the bowl in no time.

“3 cm cervical dilation. She is in labour, we’ll check you in.” She gave me a hospital robe and there began the adventure.

It was still very early in the morning, if everything was going to go textbook-like, we were informed,  we should have ‘our new bundle’ by noon, or afternoon.

We were so excited…. But as it turned out, things were not straight forward. My labour had to be induced –twice, and a whole set of doctors (head of OBGYN, anaesthetist, neurologist, and some resident-doctors) came in and out of the delivery room.

I will tell you the rest later. To be continued… 🙂

Dian Retno Wulandari. Reminiscing away…

PS: It was my son’s 2nd birthday a few days ago, and I spent the last few days feeling nostalgic, thus my writing this post. 🙂

PPS: The pregnancy was conceived in Indonesia, but I spent most of my 1st trimester in Canada, most of my 2nd trimester back in Indonesia again, and most of my 3rd trimester in Belgium. My son is a world traveller even before he was born. 🙂

PPPS: Our pregnancy was not categorised as high risk, but a normal delivery (non-caesarian) for someone with a spinal condition like me could be categorised as high risk. Luckily we were handled by some of the best doctors and midwives in Belgium.

Grey Hairs, Age Spots, and Stretch Marks.

It’s my birthday today… I am worried scared not sure how I feel about it. I know that my husband has arranged a romantic lunch/dinner somewhere great. Buffet, just the way I like it… with an over the top bouquet of the best flowers in town –as always. But that isn’t what this writing is about.

I want to stay young forever I don’t think I am ready for this new age to dawn upon me. I want to hang on to my previous age and do more with it. Have I done enough through the last year to say that I have lived life to the fullest? No. I don’t think feel so.

As you know from my previous post, in not so long from now I will say goodbye to my twenties and enter the overrated age of 30. Yes, my golden age is dwindling away, and when I’m 30… will I be able to look back at my twenties and smile with contentment? I don’t know… But I am determined to stuff as many things as possible into this extremely limited time I have left in my hands.

“I am still in my twenties… Do not despair, my dear self… I can still shape the history of my golden age. Now is the time!”

Few days ago, just after I cleaned my “stay young forever” mask off my face, my husband said to me: “Why are you becoming so obsessed about the way you look these days?” I squinted at him through my naturally slitty eyes with a deadly look. Not because I didn’t want to say anything, but because I was already on another mask that restricts free movement of facial muscles. 😀 (this other mask is to prevent acne).

Few hours later -mask free- I proclaimed to my husband –and to the whole world for that matter… “I have every right to obsess over the way I look…!” and I better do it while I’m young. No?

You see… I spent practically my entire life not worrying about the way I look. In my teenage I was lucky to have a proportional body, good shiny hair, and a unique face. No worries there. Then followed by university life, career world, and being a wife & mother era. Through all those years I barely used any make up. No sun block, no face powder, no lip balm. Nothing… (to the exasperation of my good friend Amalia). My husband would consider himself lucky when I decided to comb my hair just before we go out shopping. 😀

For nearly 30 years of my life, I’ve never had more than 4 sets of footwear, consisting of 1 pair of sporty shoes, 1 pair of girly shoes, 1 pair of going out sandals, and 1 pair of gardening sandals. That’s my lot.

But during the last year, I have been saying that I want to curl my hair, and that I want to dye it blonde. I bought endless amounts of face cream. I want to wear stilettos, pumps, platforms, all of it! I tried different types and colours of blushes. I bought mascara. I bought lip plumper. Bought long dresses, short dresses, bright, dark, tops, skirts… Everything…! The changes in my behavior must’ve freaked poor hubby out. Bless him… 😀

Point is… I was right (wasn’t I??). I have the right to obsess over the way I look. Like most women do! Now –out of all time- is the right time to exercise this right, to make things more right. Right…??

These days I spent extra time in front of the mirror. Looking closely at my severe age spots scattered around my temple and cheek bones. Running my fingers through my hair, plucking away at my grey hairs. Or simply gazing at the stretch marks around my legs and tummy, convincing myself that they are proofs of a heroic act of bearing a child into the world. *sigh*

With all these additions that come with age… Grey hairs, age spots, stretch marks, wrinkles around my eyes, and some extra fat around my belly… I realized that I am slowly turning into my mother.

Now thatis not such a bad thing. Right?


Dian Retno Wulandari. Celebrating a new age.

my 8th bday

That is a photo of my 8th birthday. My last age with short hair. My mother was a model and fitness instructor. My Father died when I was 12 yo. I wanted to be an astronaut. My big brother wanted to be a superhero. My little sister wanted to be me. 😀

30 Things To Do before I’m 30

I resisted myself from making a new year’s resolution for 2011 because I am terrible at keeping it up. More over, I never tell people what my resolutions are so that nobody can judge me when I don’t do anything about it. Yes, it forms an easy escape route for me, which is exactly why I have been terrible at resolving them. “No body know what I promised to do, why do anything at all?”

As a change, I will make a “30 things to do before 30” list. As a change, I will make more tangible, worldly, hedonistic objectives rather than something hard such as: be a good person, or be tidy. And as a change, I will tell the whole world about it so that I feel more motivated in keeping up with my own promises.

For those who know me really well, know that my 30th birthday is not far off. In fact it seems to creep towards me faster than ever, and it even makes a loud ticking noise like a Seiko quarts watch as it does so. Tick… tock… tick… tock… I have a horrible feeling that I may not have enough time to accomplish all of it before I’m 30, but here I go…!

  1. Cut my hair short, dye it brown with some high lights, and curl it. I have been having straight long black hair since I was 9 and never do anything to it. It is time to do something crazy about it before I get too old to pull it off.
  2. Learn how to blow my hair dry. I am useless at hair styling. The best I can do is pony tail or plait.
  3. Finish tennis lesson.I have started a few months ago but haven’t been keeping it up.
  4. Have a stable weight of 50 Kg (110 lbs).I am currently 56 Kg, and at my heaviest I was 62 Kg. I was 44 Kg 10 years ago.
  5. Have straight teeth. I have crowded teeth, but I have been making appointments with an orthodontist. Hopefully I will be wearing braces soon.
  6. Have some animal print clothes. I tend to think that animal prints are for sluts, and I want to change my view.
  7. Get pregnant again. Our son is 2 yo. He needs a sibling, we think.
  8. Remove brown spots from my face. I have developed some severe sun spots/age spots on my face since we move and live in Africa (1.5 years), and I want them cleared.
  9. Step foot on 11 more countries. India and Russia are mandatory. I currently have 19 countries under my belt.
  10. Learn to scuba dive.Luckily, Sam is a scuba dive instructor.
  11. Participate at the London Marathon.
  12. Take my sister for holiday overseas.
  13. Send my mother to Mecca for hajj.
  14. Start working again/earning in one way or another.
  15. Master at least one type of ballroom dancing. With hubby of course, it is pointless to learn to dance on my own without a partner.
  16. Make a full featured website all on my own, and put it on the Internet. So far I have made many, but I never publish them. They sit in a folder somewhere in my PC.
  17. Bake a good batch of chocolate chips cookies. Even though I am a good cook, I don’t really feel like baking anything.
  18. Finish my session with my chiropractor. I was born with spinal defect.
  19. Build my very own computer server.
  20. Have a supermodel-style-portrait of myself made. To preserve my young-look for eternity. 🙂
  21. Overcome my fear of dogs. I have an irrational and inconsolable  fear of dogs ever since I got attacked by 2 big dogs when I was very small. (this is going to be hard)
  22. Decide whether I will do my master degree or not, if yes, in what field.
  23. Learn to ski. We want our toddler to learn to ski, that means I have to learn it too.
  24. Learn to ride horse. My husband loves riding horse, and we want to be able to ride together.
  25. Take a painting or sketching class. I have a raw talent in this. Very… very… raw…. indeed. 🙂
  26. Buy some good comfortable expensive pair of high heel shoes. Ever since I met my husband, I always wear flat shoes and got comfortable with it. I think I should get into the habit of wearing high heels again before I get too old to cope with it.
  27. Complete French Course. I passed my basic French course 3 months ago but chose not to continue to the next level, but I should.
  28. Para-sail.
  29. Fly in a helicopter.
  30. Go on a real safari in Africa. I better do this soon while still living in Africa. 🙂

Dian Retno Wulandari.

PS: I got the inspiration to make this list after chatting with bff: Amalia 🙂 We were just talking about what we want to do in the years ahead, and surprisingly we want to do a lot of the same things! (May be we are becoming one another!) From this casual chat we agreed to make a 30 things to do before 30 and post it on our blogs. Check her list here!

PPS: Almost forgot! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011 everyone… I wish you all a good and prosperous year ahead!

PPPS: Other than this list, I also have a bucket list.

Is Wishing Merry Christmas Haram for Muslims?

My answer to that question above is: No, it is not haram. To be quite frank, I couldn’t care less when (some) people tell me it is haram and that I should not do it. I can’t help but wonder, however, have those people done the reasoning, the searching, and the learning about the matter themselves, or do they just do what others have told them to do?

I know this is a sensitive subject to bring up especially there are so many narrow-minded-easily-provoked people wandering-about on this earth. But I am -as a good, faithful, devout Muslim- have the right to comment on this matter.

It is sad and hard enough for a good Muslim like me to have my religion ‘rebranded’ by those terrorists with their big guns and big bombs, I also have to deal with fellow-good-Muslims telling me not to do things for vague reasons.

My whole life, I have heard and known Muslims arguing and debating endlessly on the matter. Some say it is haram, but thank God, most say it is not.

I personally have met fellow Muslims from Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Egypt, Belgium, UK, Norway, etc… And what I found interesting is, those who are most fanatic and most extreme about Islam are those who read less of the Qur’an (=the Islamic holy book), and listen more to what their imams (=religious leaders) have to say about this religion.

In the Islamic teaching, the whole book of Qur’an contains words that came straight from God himself through His prophet. Not a single word was added or reduced by any human, not even Muhammad the prophet himself. We as Muslim should live our lives in goodness following the teaching in this holy book. God, as mentioned in His Qur’an, has been quite clear about many many things, like what are considered haram, and what are not. When something is haram, God made it clear by saying it is haram, and no question about it. For example: Eating pork is haram. Killing is haram. Not fasting during Ramadhan is haram. Etc. If God had wanted something to be haram, it is easy for him to say something is haram. Period.

I, as a good well educated Muslim, have read the Qur’an from cover to cover many times. Several times in Arabic, several times in English, several times in Indonesian. I am no muslim scholar, but I can definitely say I know what it is all about. Islam is about believing in God, one God only. It is also about believing that Muhammad was his messenger, that he was a mere human who was chosen to spread the word, and that we must not worship Muhammad since he is not God. It is also about being grateful with your life. It is also importantly about living a good peaceful life with others in this world. It is also about –surprisingly– not damaging mother earth.

Some argue it is haram to say Merry Christmas because it is considered to be haram to give well wishes to Christian’s religious festival because they are kuffaar/kafir (=disbelievers/infidels/heathen), this consideration however, is by consensus. Human consensus.

I argue, this religion, Islam, my faith, is not about what human say it is, but what God say it is, and what I believe it is. Moreover, to quote from the Qur’an:

The Muslim believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the monotheistic religious community –all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good– will have their rewards with Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve.” [Al Qur’an. 2:62]

How much clearer can it be, that Christians are not kuffaar/kafir. And since wishing well is part of doing good, I jolly well say it is NOT haram.

Have a very happy Christmas everyone…! I am sorry I am a little bit late, but we have been busy baking, lunching, dining, drinking, and being merry. 🙂 🙂


Dian Retno Wulandari. A faithful at heart, an open minded soul.

PS: The definition of haram (in short) is: Something that one must NOT do, otherwise one will sin.

PPS: If any of my Muslim readers would like to argue, please quote something that God has said, not what other people have thought.

PPPS: I am currently living in a devout Christian society. Most of my closest friends are Buddhists, but some are Christians, some are atheists, and none is Muslim. Everything is doing great!

Indonesian Mother’s Day: Better Than The Western Mother’s Day

As some of us know very well, mother’s day falls on different dates for different countries. In Indonesia, it falls on the 22 Dec every year. That is today.

As an Indonesian, I have said “happy mother’s day” many times since I was a little girl. To be quite honest, I couldn’t wait for the day to come where I would be the one receiving the mother’s day wishes, and that day was 22 Dec 2007. I was pregnant for the first time, and I received a text from my sister saying: “Happy mother’s day!”  and then another one from my bff. Yes I got 2 wishes that day, not as many as I have wanted it to be, but it was great. After all I was only 3 months pregnant, therefore not many people knew I deserved mother’s day wishes. Although to be even more honest, I told my husband, early December that year, that Indonesian mother’s day falls on 22 Dec, and I had hoped for him to say happy mother’s day to me, but he didn’t. For 2 reasons: he forgot (typical men!), and he didn’t feel the need to say it.

But as time unraveled itself, I had a miscarriage just 1 week after my very first mother’s day. At late March 2008, we were in UK, and the mother’s day in UK was also late March, but I was not pregnant and I didn’t have any child either, therefore I didn’t deserve to receive mother’s day wishes. As sad as it was for me, I tried to still celebrate motherhood for those who were mothers.

So during that particular mother’s day in UK, we went out to do some shopping.  Every single time I saw or interacted with a woman with child(ren), I always said “Happy mother’s day!” with a big smile on my face. But the reactions I got from those women were not quite as I expected. They all looked at me as if I just asked them to give me a bag full of gold coins. Rather like a horror look or a “you are strange” look. I was bemused. “What is going on in this world…?”

I got pregnant again in June 2008, and so my 2nd mother’s day finally came. It was 22 Dec 2008. I was 8 months pregnant, we were living in Belgium. A week before the date, I told my husband that Indonesian mother’s day would come soon, to which he responded casually “Oh really?”. I waited for the day expectantly. But 22 Dec came and went without any single person wishing me happy mother’s day. This time, I confronted my husband “It was mother’s day yesterday! But you didn’t give me any wishes!”. With a confused look on his face he flatly said “But you are not my mother”. I gave him a horrified look. “What is going on in this world…?”

For Chirstmas that year, we drove from Belgium to UK, to celebrate it with Bryn (my in law) and Sam (my husband’s son from his prev marriage). Christmas morning I told Sam that it was mother’s day in Indonesia 3 days ago (hoping I would get some belated happy mother’s day wishes from him). Sam said… “Oh nice, did your baby get you a nice greeting card?”. Haha… I laughed to that. It was a joke, you see… my baby was still inside my belly! But still… “Am I missing something here…?”

Later on… in 2009… I learned that within the western custom one says “happy mother’s day” to one’s mother, in Indonesia we say “happy mother’s day” to all mothers. Major difference! Then I knew why those women looked at me funny when I said happy mother’s day to them. I am not their child! Then I realized why my husband never understood it when I gave hints to him that I wanted him to wish me happy mother’s day. He is not my child! And for the same reason, Sam made the joke about the baby who was still inside my tummy! Duuuuhhh…..!!!

The western people since a long time ago made it specific that the apostrophe (=tanda petik atas) in mother’s day should be before the S, and not after the S (as in mothers’), to signify that the day was dedicated for singular mother, your own mother, not for plural mothers which is all mothers in the world.

Still, I don’t quite understand this idea. Why only to your own mother? Is the quality of the sentiment reduced when you wish a happy mother’s day to not only your mother but also to all mothers in the world? Does it mean less for our mothers if we also celebrate other’s mothers? I don’t think so… Then I can conclude that the way Indonesians deal with mother’s day is better than those of the western societies.

Happy mother’s day to all Indonesian mothers…! And for mothers of the western world, you should wait to get it from your child(ren) on the appropriate date. 🙂

Lot’s of love.

Dian Retno Wulandari. A child to my mother, and a mother to my child.

PS: For the first time ever, my husband remembers that it’s Indonesian mother’s day today (without any cue from me). He and Alix even made a mother’s day card for me. Oh… bless them. He said if he’s not too busy with work or study, he would take me out to movie and dinner this evening. I hope we can watch Tangled (animation, Mandy Moore), but I know he wants to watch Unstoppable (Denzel Washington).

PPS: Most countries (like USA, Ghana, Japan, Belgium, Malaysia, Turkey, etc…) celebrate mother’s day on the 2nd Sunday of May. UK celebrates mother’s day on the 4th Sunday of Lent