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Lessons from Japan: A story about IATSS Forum Leadership Training


Being selected as one of the participants from Indonesia in the leadership training held by IATSS Forum Japan was one of my proudest moments. This program has been conducted since 1985 and was initiated by Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor. I joined the 56th IATSS Forum Training Program back in 2016 and here’s my story.

There were a total of 19 young professionals from Japan and respected ASEAN countries who had the chance to learn in Japan for 55 days (September – November 2016). We spent most of our training days in Suzuka city – Mie Prefecture, although we also had a chance to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Iga and Toba to learn different topics and themes.

The forum provided opportunities for participants to understand each other’s countries through seminars, field studies, group study, and cultural exchange, as well as to make efforts to solve current issues in Asia and Japan, under the motto “Thinking and Learning Together.”

The selection for IATSS Forum was held in Jakarta in December 2015. There were 20 candidates from different provinces in Indonesia who passed the first screening and were invited to an interview. Before the interview, there was a role play and group work where all the candidates were closely observed by 9 assessors. They were the representative of Embassy of Japan, IATSS Forum Japan, Indonesia IATSS Forum Alumni, Astra Honda Motor, academic professor, and psychologist. The role play was designed to match the training in Japan.

The main theme of the training was Sustainable Community Design, in which all the participants learned the basic of sustainable communities. There was also introduction to different sustainable community design projects. Not only that, but we also learned about general themes, such as modernization, politics, urban planning, education, environment, and One Village One Product (OVOP). I loved the discussion and study about OVOP.

OVOP is a concept where the community help themselves to produce one competitive product in their own village as a business to gain sales revenue to improve the standard of living and prosperity in their community, while also preserving the environment. The community needs to be independent and creative in finding products with high added value.

What I remember the most about the lecture was the quote from former Oita Prefecture Governor, Morihiko Hiramatsu who said: “local government helps those who help themselves.” I think this is an important quote because he emphasized how important it was for the community to help themselves and change their living situation, instead of wishing for the government to help them have a better life.

The important issue of OVOP Implementation in Indonesia is the lack of understanding of OVOP philosophy. The characteristic of programs in Indonesia is the top-down policy (where the government initiates the project), in contrary to OVOP concept, which is bottom-up.

Working for the government, I notice that many of our programs were not successful in reaching the goals and helping the people in a community. Many times, we made a policy that was aimed to improve the life of people, but ended up failing in the process. From the program, I realize that creating a successful program for a community requires active participation and involvement of the community in the particular area.

Many Indonesians expect the government to make a ‘miraculous policy’ to help them overcome difficulties in life (poverty, employment, traffic, drugs, pollution). It will not work that way though. The government may have an initiative, however, the success and the failure of it would depend on the support of the community. The community plays an important part to run and oversee the process. They need to feel like they belong to the program. When the community has a sense of pride of what they are doing, they will work really hard to reach the goals. Now, the challenge is to make the people/ community aware of the role.

I learned so much from the IATSS Forum staffs and some Japanese people I met during my training, I admire their hard work, dedication and commitment to help nurture human resources for ASEAN region’s sustainable development. I learn about the value of time, the importance of planning, the prioritization of group harmony and the idea of respecting the nature and the people. The lesson I learned and the friendship I made with other Japanese and ASEAN participants in Japan will forever be engraved in my heart. I am also grateful for all the support I got from BAPPEBTI as well.

For more information about the program, please visit https://www.iatssforum.jp/en/

 

On being a good daughter…


It’s Monday. It’s not a slow day, but it seems like it.

I have been feeling unwell during the weekend, but I forced myself to go to work because I am going on a business trip to Medan on Wednesday and there’s just too much to do at the moment.

I just want to reflect on what happened to my life lately, there’s something that has bothered my mind in the past couple of weeks. My feelings were hurt so bad and I keep on saying to myself that I will be fine eventually.

Parents came to my house last month after I returned from a biztrip in Malang. I got home from the airport a little early that day, so parents came to check on me. I always had this weird feeling whenever they deliberately came to my house.

Mom started by telling me that her dentist sent her best regards to me. The dentist happened to be my senior in the high school. Years ago, I went to her office/home one time and met her mom as well. Her mom seemed to be impressed by me (don’t ask me why or how lol). At that exact moment she said that she has a younger son, implying that we could be a family if only the son was older and graduated from university already. I just smiled awkwardly.

Mom told me that the son is married already now, but the mother complained about her daughter-in-law. Pffttt. Later on, the mother contacted my parents saying that there’s an eligible bachelor (one of their relatives) to matchmake with me.

I was like “WTF?!”

We were off to get dinner. In the car, Mom and dad kept on rambling about this guy and then showed me his picture. I could see the phone screen that my dad sent some of my pictures (without my approval!) through whatsapp as well. I said “No, thanks”

Dad was asking why…

I couldn’t really tell them the reason why.

(Could I just say that men are jerks and currently I am not looking for one?!)

I finally said “Maybe marriage life isn’t for me. Maybe I am not destined to get married.”

Dad exploded right after he heard my words.

He lectured me about how important it is for a muslim to get married and make a family; that it is a sin for both the parents and I, if I don’t get married when I am financially and mentally able to get married (No, Dad, I am not mentally prepared for this!).

He kept on ranting about how disappointed he was when I took off my veil/hijab. He regret sending me to a public school, instead of a madrasah to study Islam. He said he should not be proud of sending me to pursue a higher degree because I turned out to be a daughter who does not respect Islam and does not follow the syariah.

He repeatedly said that he didn’t want anything from me except a marriage. He didn’t need me to send money or buy him gifts. I am his only daughter and he just wants to marry me off.

Dad said it was okay for me to get angry at him for what he said, but I should not get angry at mom. He was reminding me that heaven lies at the feet of a mother and that I should always respect my mom.

I owe them my life.

Dad threw some nasty comments and I chose to be the bigger person.

I remained silent for the rest of the conversation. Oddly, I sat calmly and even able to respond some urgent calls or messages on the phone.  I wish I could just walk away, but I was trapped there in the car (the traffic was awful!).

My heart sunk…

I was heartbroken…

I felt really awful. I put a brave face that evening, but I cried so much in W’s shoulder when I got home.

Last time, I had this kind of feeling was when my parents brought me some kind of flowery water from a religious shaman. They said the water would repel bad or negative energy off of me. Maybe by doing so, men will be attracted to me. I was really offended, but I didn’t really say anything. My face expressed how offended I was though. I didn’t even look at my mom’s eyes when she explained what I should do with the water.

My parents are religious people, never once they skipped daily prayers, dad always wake up in the middle of the night for Tahajud, walks to the mosque for Subuh prayers, mom recites Quran, they are the kind of people who will always help the others; good moslems. But I just don’t get how desperate they are to find me a spouse and marry me off that they asked some religious/islamic shaman to ‘magically’ level up my ‘attractiveness’ to men. I just can get my head around this mystic things. I don’t believe in such a thing, so it’s pointless, right?

I become more comfortable in my own skin after I returned from Japan. It was a lot of work tbh, and suddenly they crumble down my confidence and effort by doing so. I keep on telling myself that they were doing it out of love. They meant no harm, but what they did broke my heart in pieces. They don’t even realise it.

I kept on asking my close friends, “Is it okay for me to feel hurt and offended for what my parents did or said?

They said, “of course, you are allowed to feel.

I wish I could speak heart to heart about my situation to my parents. I wish I could let them see my perspective, my fear, my dream and my feelings, but I know they won’t understand.

If your parents really loved you, they would want you to be happy,” said a friend.

I don’t think my happiness matters more than their pride or the religion or the social pressure they feel for having an unmarried daughter :-(

Is leaving as far away as possible the only way out of this situation? I know I am a coward for unable to face the situation, but often time I just want to run away because I don’t want to hurt myself. I am way past that.

Deep down I never want to disappoint my parents. I always try my best to be the best daughter, to be the kind of people who will make them proud, but I guess sometimes I am not good enough. Am I not a good enough person or muslim if I am not married? As a women, am I just defined by my marital status?

I am not saying I don’t want to get married, but I just don’t want to be forced to do so. I want to meet someone and come to that decision together with the person when we feel it’s right.

Comment on TPSA’s Workshops on Gender Equality and Trade


I had a chance to join three workshops on Gender Equality and Trade that was held by the TPSA Project in cooperation with the Ministry of Trade (MoT) of the Republic of Indonesia. During the workshop, I learn about the basic concept of gender equality and its correlation to trade, especially in value chains, gender analyses tools and gender budget statement. We also identify the opportunities of MoT to integrate gender equality objectives in trade policies and programs. The sessions were fruitful and packed with games, interactive discussion, case studies and group work. The participants were encouraged to actively involve and to share the situation in our own working unit. At first I had a very limited knowledge about gender concept and its relation to trade, now I start thinking about how to integrate the gender concept to the programs in my working unit. I am grateful to be able to meet some gender experts that were able to share their knowledge, especially in relation to SME participation in trade in Indonesia and give us an understanding on why paying attention to gender equality concept matters, particularly on boosting export from Indonesia to Canada. I also met my colleagues from different working unit in the MoT and hopefully through the workshops, it will help us synergise our programs in the future.


Today I feel like crying. I have too much negative emotion piled up inside. It’s been a while since I feel like this. I am trying to figure out the trigger. Maybe it started from the Japanese movie I watched, Tomorrow I Will Date With Yesterday’s You. It’s sad. It reminds me so much of Bestie because she loves Nana Komatsu. Her acting is so beautiful and her face is so gorgeous. The closing song is Happy End by Back Number. The lyric is so sad. The song is still playing on repeat. It really affects my mood, but I cannot stop listening. I feel miserable and the song is my perfect company.

Yesterday I was thrown back to my time in Japan. I looked at my old photo collection and remembered all the memories. I went through the happiest and lowest moment in Japan. My lowest moment was when I broke down and cried on the phone with Jo. I told her all the pain and my insecurity. At that time it had something to do with Bestie. I even thought that Moku Moku Farm trip was the worst time of all because I had to stay in the same room with TT. I know it’s not fair, but my friendship dynamic with TT has changed after Bestie shared her feelings. I learn that what you don’t know won’t hurt you, so if I could, I would just unheard everything I heard.

I told Bestie about my negative feelings this morning. She’s busy now the spring batch is running, but she told me to text her whenever I feel like to and she won’t be disturbed. So I shared my feelings. She was surprised with my text and told me she’s going through a rather similar feeling today. She couldn’t understand why. I wish I could just hug her :(

And things are getting more complicated now that pure and DMK is in the equation. Yes there are things I regret in life. One of them is introducing DMK to Her App. I know it’s all in my head. It’s all in my head. I don’t know what’s going on between them, but my stupid brain is imagining the worst possibility. They may get along pretty well. Both are Sagittarius. Very logical! Being left out sucks! Yes, I am afraid of being left out. (But it’s their life, Annisa. Why do you have to force your feelings? You know very well that it’s something you cannot force. So what if they get along well? It’s their life. They can do whatever they want). But then I feel like I also lose her friendship and it’s painful. I am at a point where I want to be reached out, I want to be fought for. But I am daydreaming! I got rejected. I kept telling myself it’s okay. But do I get hurt because my pride is bruised (Annisa, you are a sore loser! You are selfish!) or because she doesn’t want the kind of relationship I want?

There are moments when I give too much and I end up feeling disappointed when the opposite party is unable to give as much. It’s about UNMET EXPECTATIONS! Damnit! Why can’t I just give and forget? It’s better that way, Annisa! GIVE and FORGET! Believe in the Circle of Kindness. Is this why Quran always reminds us to rely on God instead of men. But lately I keep on questioning about God. I am questioning about my faith.

Alfira’s hug comforted me a little. Thank you…

Happy people annoys me sometimes. Only when I am feeling down like this though. So when Aj came with his wife to the office, I struggle to smile. I am proud of my ability to pretend like everything is okay though. Sometimes I am really good at that. Good job, Annisa!

So many unfiltered thoughts here. No thanks to my overthinking brain. Sometimes your brain makes you a selfish and coward person, Annisa! Poor soul! :((

Self-sabotage… 


I am trying to sleep but I can’t seem to get my eyes shut. I have been doing self-contemplation on some major events that happened lately. I feel like I have been sabotaging myself from happiness and it’s depressing. I am well aware that it’s not healthy. Apparently I am just a coward. I thought I was brave, but I am not.

I realize that I always fall for someone who’s physically and mentally unavailable. I think that’s how I sabotage myself. Maybe I unconsciously or consciously do that because I know there are so many factors against me from being with this person.

It seemed like I always fell for the wrong person; fell for someone who would reject me. There was a fat chance they would reciprocate my feelings. Somehow, I always knew it wouldn’t work out.

As an introvert, I was sensitive enough to know that it’d just be another one-sided feeling. There wouldn’t be any relationship. But I confessed my feeling anyway. I put my heart on my sleeves. It might even seem like I was too proud to wear my ‘heartbroken’ badge and showed it off everywhere. I was waiting to be saved, but no one was willing to jump for me. Stupid me.

I fooled myself into thinking that I needed to confess my feelings to them because I couldn’t hide it any longer. I fooled myself into thinking that I needed to confess before I fall even deeper to that person. But guess what? Maybe my truest intention was to hurt myself; to slap myself with reality; to just get it done with. Eventually I won’t have to deal with my family or hide my partner from them. It looks like a win-win solution, right?

It seems like I always set myself for a heartbreak. But honestly I don’t know how much longer I can handle it. My heart is exhausted. I am exhausted.

Here’s the irony though, when there are people who are interested in me, I push them away because I am worried it will work out and we’ll fall deeply for each other and then we’ll be wounded in the end. It’s all because I know the relationship won’t go anywhere.

Sigh, overthinking all the freaking time 😗

Nisa, as usual I’m amazed at your bravery and willingness to try with people. Just the fact that you have made contact is awesome. So don’t let it stop there… meet them, give them a chance. Regardless of your ideas that you sabotage yourself, forget about that for a minute and just try. You’ve already completed the hard part, establishing a connection enough to meet up, so why not try again. As for two at the same time, don’t feel bad! There’s no commitment involved in meeting people. Lots of people date more than one at a time. Not until you actually enter a relationship with a person should you be committed to one person.Unfortunately you can’t force yourself to fall for people. Even if you want to so badly, you’ll just have to take one ‘date’ at a time and see how it goes. (Brainy)

A work in progress


I have heard some positive comments from my colleagues about my new ‘look’ (or should I say transformation?). Ever since I returned from Japan, I lose weight and I feel more comfortable with myself. I also took off my head cover, change my clothes and hairstyle. Deep down I am still the same sensitive and overthinking person though, but I try to develop a thicker skin so I can shrug off all the negative comment and just live life the way I want it to be. It’s helpful to have some good friends and colleagues who encourage me to just be myself.

One of my seniors made his own assumption about my new look. He thought that I owe my transformation to a guy, so he kept on teasing me and wishing that I would tie the knot asap with this mysterious guy.

Little did people know that it was not the reason why I paid more attention to myself. I feel the need to change because I am not the same person anymore; a little (or big) part of Annisa has changed. I feel like I have discovered a new person; a happier person. I tend to my own needs. I put myself as a priority. Oh well, there were times when I got defeated though. My progress is slow, but it’s my own learning process. As long as I am not interested in looking back, I guess I am already in the right path. I am a work in progress and I am proud of myself.

Thank you for people who stand by my side through thick and thin; those who give me honest and salty comments; those who said “I will support you no matter what“; those who always be all ears whenever I feel down and share their lights when mine gone dim. I owe this transformation to you…

Insecurity Sucks!


It’s so difficult not to overthink about many things that happen in my life. When I start liking someone, I get so insecure that it’s bugging me so much. I know that I have to just let things go, but still I cannot not think about it. I feel like I just want to disappear or numb all this feelings, so I won’t have any expectations and just move on with life. I can’t believe I feel like crying from all this feelings I hide inside. I need to just let go of all the things I cannot control, but why is it so difficult? I hate having all this feelings. Found this quote on FB and thought it’s perfect. “Live for yourself and be happy on your own” #pure

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Life (Part 1)


Lately I have trouble sleeping. I am still trying to figure out what’s been disturbing my peace of mind. A lot of things are happening in my life; I moved in to my own place (there goes all my savings and salary). I have a new boss. I also have to deal with my parents who constantly bug me about potential love interest (read: matchmaking). I lost my iPhone on my way back from Japan (which was frustrating!). Some close friends of mine also had to deal with some tough time of their lives; Veetha’s brother suddenly passed away (and somehow we could feel how hard and difficult her life is) and Tamita had to undergo a back nerve surgery that will redefine her habit and lifestyle in the future.

Life is complicated right now. There are times when I feel that it’s a little difficult to overcome. I need some comfort. I want to go home and have someone embrace me and let me know that it will all be okay; that life goes on. I guess deep down I am dying to get physically connected with people. All those comfort I used to feel when I was in a relationship.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post about my crazy desire of jumping into a relationship with someone. I still haven’t found that someone though, but I have someone in mind when I am writing this post down. How I wish things were simpler for the both of us, but it’s not.

(to be continued….)

I am too sleepy to continue writing lol