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A Covid Lament

So much death

Every hour, every day

We hear news left and right

She’s passed on, he’s gone

Their family got the virus

Our family has tested positive

I don’t dare to pick up the phone

Lest it’s another gut wrenching update

I don’t want to check whatsapp groups

Lest it’s another acquaintance getting infected

Where can we turn?

Who can we go to?

Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Moderna?

Billions are scrambling for all of those

How are we going to mourn

When this is all over

If this will be over

Who will be left?

How much more can we stand

Burning in this hot mess

Before we too stumble and break

How much longer?

Written July 2021

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Jesper is Dangerously Bored (A Six of Crows Fan Fiction)

A Six of Crows Fan Fiction. Ketterdam is in a Covid-19 lockdown. Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina, Matthias, and Kuwei are stuck in a secret two-story house that Kaz owns. Nina is still suffering the aftereffects of the jurda parem.

Jesper was going so mad, he was about to shoot himself. The government had just announced another lockdown due to the Delta variant spreading rabidly, turning the island of Ketterdam into a burning cauldron hotter than anything an Inferni could come up with.

Well, except maybe an Inferni on jurda parem. Which did not sound so bad at this moment, Jesper thought desperately. He was just about to go find Kuwei, the young Shu scientist, when Inej grabbed his arm. She caught him off-guard, as usual.

“Don’t even think about it,” Inej hissed. “Don’t you dare.”

“I’m already going mad, Wraith! I need action, adrenaline, or at least, a goat!”

“Look at Nina. She’s still struggling with the addiction! I’m not going to lose two friends to the drug!”

“You’ll get a dose of parem when I say you’ll get a dose. No sooner, no later,” the door barged open as Kaz, their fearless scheming leader, the Bastard of the Barrel, the crippled gangster, appeared in front of them. Matthias was closely behind him, pulling off the mask which looked small as it stretched across his broad face.

“Where have you been?” Jesper asked, annoyed. He never knew what to expect with Kaz.

Sure enough, Kaz surprised them by reaching into his bag and pulling out small bottles of vaccine. “Getting what we need,” he replied simply. Kaz didn’t bother taking off his mask. Jesper suspected Kaz rather liked wearing the black mask – it hid more of his expressions.

“I’m going to find Nina and give her the first shot. Her immunity system is so tampered after the parem, I don’t want any chance of her getting infected,” Matthias took a bottle, a syringe, and walked upstairs to Nina’s room.

“I don’t want my investment to get infected,” muttered Kaz, handing a bottle to Inej. She sighed in exasperation, taking it from his gloved hand. The slight touch sent ripples up and down both their bodies. Inej itched to reach out and peel Kaz’s mask off. Literally and figuratively.

Jesper saw Kaz and Inej tensing up, like they always did when they were near each other, and took his cue to leave. Jesper grabbed 3 vaccine doses and 3 syringes. One for himself, and the rest for Wylan and Kuwei. They were likely in the basement, experimenting with leaves and chemicals and who knew what else.

It was obvious something was off when Jesper entered the closed basement. The whole room was covered with hazy greenish gas, and it smelled like the king of durians. It wasn’t even durian season in the farmlands of Novyi Zem!

“What have you two been working on,” Jesper coughed, spotting their similar figure, hunched over various bowls and tubes. It was hard to tell them apart since Nina had done such a stellar job tailoring Wylan to look like Kuwei. They both looked up in surprise.

“A little of this and that. Sorry about the smell,” Kuwei answered sheepishly.

“Put these on,” Wylan’s voice sounded from the near identical figure closer to the door. He quickly handed a mask to Jesper.

It wasn’t much better with the mask on, but at least Jesper had stopped coughing. He showed them what he brought. “From Kaz.”

Kuwei nodded. “If this works, we might not need those brands.”

“What was that?”

The Shu boy shook his head. “Nevermind, nothing. Thanks for coming down here.”

Jesper lingered on, and for just a moment thought of asking Shu if he had just a bit of parem with him. Was Jesper really that desperate? It was this lockdown, driving him insane, pushing him to be even more reckless than usual. But then he thought of Nina upstairs, every inch of her skin hurting, as she battled against the pull of the addictive. He thought of Matthias sitting next to her in gutted worry.

And to Jesper’s surprise, his thoughts floated to Wylan, who was now eyeing him nervously.

Maybe there was something he-they could do after all, the Zemeni smiled slowly, naughtily. Teasing Wylan. Yes, that’s what Jesper would delightfully occupy his time with.

Hope you liked this Six of Crows fan fiction! I’ve also got some Lunar Chronicles fanfics for your enjoyment 😉

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Rimsky and I, part two

MCT : Mast Cell Tumor is the most common malignant skin tumors in dogs. They are usually found in individual masses, though in some dogs there can be multiple. Appearances are found in canines aged 6 and older. By this time Rimsky was 7. Luckily, we only found one tumor on Rimsky’s skin, though it was growing daily- a scary thing to witness.

The Operation

Oky brought him to a good vet. Rimsky was drugged for days after, but thankfully there has been no regrowth since the surgery.

At the age of 8, Rimsky experienced the sudden harrowing death of his caretaker. If I thought I was devastated by Oky’s death, it was nothing compared to Rimsky’s emotions. The edge of his ears to the tip of his tail was flushed with absolute loss. He did not bark for a week. The only sound he made was whimpering near the chair Oky usually sat. Each morning he waited by the gates of Gupondoro. With every car and guest that arrived, he never lost hope that Oky might return. When guests petted him sadly, he seemed to absorb their emotions directly into his furry body. He stayed unenergetic for a couple months.

One afternoon, he chewed through an expensive leather wallet of mine. His bad behavior was returning. I looked him in the eye and decided to put him to sleep. It was clear I could not take proper care of Rimsky, so I thought perhaps his spirit could accompany Oky’s wandering soul. I began to ask around for how to accomplish this. As it turned out, nobody would do it. A neighbor even called to say he would gladly adopt Rimsky- no need for me to end his life. People thought I had snapped! And perhaps, I did. I wanted to take out on Rimsky all the anger and injustice I was feeling over the whole situation of Oky’s tragic death.

A couple weeks later, I moved out of Gupondoro into a studio apartment. Gupondoro was to be a high-end mountain villa, available for rent on AirBnB. The income would help me maintain the property I inherited. What happened to Rimsky? After all that drama, the golden went back to my parents house. Now that they were retired, they had time to love and care for the dog.

Now Rimsky is 10. He is healthy and happy again, being spoiled by treats from my dad. He recently proved to us his intelligence and quickness by catching a a rat hiding in one of the bookshelves. He still snacks on tissue though, especially when no body is looking.

I only hope we can give him the love he craves for until his last day.

The human – pet relationship is something so special. Do you have a dog or a pet? How is your relationship?

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Rimsky and I, part 1

I have dried my tears in his hairy neck, warmed my toes with his golden retriever fur, dug my fingers and found a huge tumor between his forelegs.

He has pooped in my bedroom, eaten through my favorite goat skin wallet, and regularly steals tissue from tissue boxes all around the house.

We have been through a lot, Rimsky and I.

He was two months old when I bought him from the petshop. I was a 23 years old who had just moved back to Bandung after 6,5 years of studying in the States. It was a huge transition : I went from living independently to being under my parents’ roof, I had a master’s degree but no friends, and the worst of it all I was dating a white boy who had not finished his graduate program. Long distance relationship? Been there done that. It was a promising relationship which ended catastrophocally a year later.

When we broke up, I was devastated. There was one particular day when I literally couldn’t get up from bed. My neck had spasms due to the intense emotional stress. I drowned my sorrows away by hugging Rimsky often. He faithfully licked my tears dry. Who cares about him? Just play with me, the retriever seemed to be saying.

When he was 3 years old, I started a professional piano trio group called Cascade Trio. We performed concerts and gave workshops all around Indonesia. Needless to say, I was never at home. And when I was, I had to practice piano for long hours. This was traumatizing for Rimsky. He was left alone days at a time, starved of the attention goldens so needed.

Attention Starved

On the rare moments I could play with him, he got out of control because he was too excited. Being a large boisterous golden retriever with tons of energy, he could jump and easily knock me over. Retrievers also love to retrieve, so he would bite my hand asking me to throw something for him to fetch. I became scared to play with him as I was afraid my hands would get hurt. The gulf between us grew further apart, and Rimsky’s behavior became uncontrollable. I realized I was to blame. He was there when I was lonely, but I neglected him when my career started to take off. Out of selfish reasons, I didn’t want to give him away to others who could have taken better care of him. Poor, poor Rimsky.

When he was 5 years old, I met Oky (my first husband) for the first time. The months when we were getting to know each other, Oky would play with Rimsky, taking him out on walks. Walks! OH THE JOY!!! Rimsky was saved from almost going crazy. Having someone routinely give him the care he needed, Rimsky became much calmer in attitude.

I moved into Gupondoro (Oky’s house) after we got married. Rimsky came also. He flourished there. Routine walks and hikes on hills, almost constant attention from the architect. I was still busy travelling with work and concert schedules, so all the credit really went to Oky. Funny though, there was one spot between Rimsky’s forelegs which Oky rarely scratched. This was where I found the tumor, already the size of a tennis ball. My golden retriever needed an operation as soon as possible.

(To be continued)

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Book Review: Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm is the second installment of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, which is now an epic Netflix series. Having read the books and watched the series (twice!) I have to say I like the Netflix version better. Rarely does this happen in a book vs screen battle but it did happen here. With that said, in my opinion, Siege and Storm was generally a more exciting book than the first.


Siege and Storm starts pretty bleak with Alina Starkov the Sun Summoner not being able to use her powers because she is in hiding with her childhood friend and love interest Mal Oretsev. Everyone will be able to track her down if she gives a hint that she can summon light, so she is pretty dependent on Mal. Which as we all know is a recipe for disaster. Sure enough, they get caught by the Darkling and he imprisons them (again) on a ship that is searching for Rusalye, the fabled sea serpent. The Darkling believes Rusalye is the second amplifier. With both amplifiers then Alina’s powers will be further maximized, which of course he intends to manipulate.

The reason I think this book is much more exciting is that a new character comes in who saves the day not once but several times. You guessed it. It’s Nikolai. I actually can’t wait to see who Netflix casts for him in season two.

Women empowerment theme

With regards to the women empowerment theme that is such a big part of this series, I think author Leigh Bardugo did a nice job positioning Alina to be the General of the Second Army. Sure, Alina is not ready and inexperienced and was just introduced to the Second Army about a year ago, but a large part of this book is Alina adjusting to her new role of leadership and command instead of being the trophy prize that she was in the previous installment.

Be on the lookout also for how Leigh Bardugo weaves the concept of organized religion in and out of this series, quite fascinating if one remembers her origins. Born in Jerusalem, Leigh is a nonpracticing Jew.

Have you read this series / watched the show? What did you think?

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Mozaic – Podcast Episode 9

Katie Velasco and I go way back to Calvin College 2005-2009 when we were roommates with each other for most of that time period. She is now Katie Crosby and has a super cute son named Logan, and we still keep the bond alive visiting each other and taking diving trips together (pre-pandemic).

Christian, Rosie, and Nicky
Charlie, Logan, and Katie

In this interview, Katie is joined by her sister Nicky, with special appearance from Rosie – Nicky’s 2 year old daughter. Katie and Nicky are half Filipino, a fourth Korean, and a fourth German, and their children get even more diverse! Everything is discussed here from their Korean halmeuni (grandmother) who was a nurse in the Korean war, to how their father immigrated from the Philippines to the USA, all the way to how Katie and Nicky’s looks have affected them growing up in South California. Katie and Nicky have vastly different college experiences and careers, but they’re always there for each other.

Trigger Warning: Nicky shares a bit of her painful experience with racism in this episode.

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Channeling Anger Into Creative Energy

“Anger is a tool,” said Frances Bowden Affandy (anthropologist). If you follow my blog, you will notice that Frances is a frequent presence on this site. She was also a guest speaker for one of my earlier podcast episodes.

This one morning, I was talking to her about angry energy, and she helped me to realize that just like many other emotions and energy, it is really, a tool. Harnessed in the right way, anger can push you to do many things you would not have had the guts to do otherwise. Now some of these might be destructive decisions, and that’s where anger management comes in.

Angry Muse

I have fallen to that many times, and probably will again. I’ve been so angry that relationships have been ruptured for good, bridges have been burned, and collateral damage abounded. I realized though that if I just channel this wave of nuclear energy in myself into a creative project, then it usually turns out to be something rather cool!
For example, I was got so angry on a recent project that I sat down and wrote a WHOLE MUSICAL in 24 hours. This includes 11 scenes and the lyrics to 5 new songs for the musical. Some say I was kissed by a muse. Well, I know the muse was anger.

The musical is called Bobo Lee, inspired by the life of my grandmother. I had written two posts about her for Chinese New Year celebrations this year. Ever since then, I have been thinking to develop it into a stage musical.
I imagine this will take about 3 years of preparation to stage. This consideration includes riding out the Covid-19 pandemic. I do want it to be a live theatrical experience for everyone. In the meanwhile, if you are curious about the results of my angry muse, you can visit Bobo Lee Musical on Instagram.

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Book Review: Roof Toppers

I came across this book via a discussion on Mad Tea Book Club’s Twitter account. We were talking about our favorite women authors. Mine is Diana Wynne Jones – I’m a huge fan of her character Sophie Hatter from Howls’ Moving Castle. From that thread, someone introduced me to Katherine Rundell, whose book Roof Toppers was inspired by Sophie Hatter herself.

In fact, Roof Toppers’ heroine is even named Sophie. Baby Sophie was found floating in a cello case wrapped in Beethoven symphony music sheets to keep her warm. Charles, an English gentleman who was aboard that ship, found her and decided to take care of this baby. Sophie grows up most unconventionally but was as loved as any child can be loved. Yet, she has a deep longing for her mother, whom she believed must be a cellist, and must still be alive all this time.

No one believed Sophie because at that time women did not play the cello. Women could not be professional musicians. Thank goodness we’ve come quite some way with this regard eh! Back to Sophie…

Mother Hunt

She finds a clue that the cello case was made in France, and so Charles goes with her to Paris on a “mother hunt”. It is here in Paris that Sophie meets Matteo and the other roof toppers. They are orphans who do not wish to live in orphanages. Instead, they choose to live free on the rooftops of Paris. They learn skills like climbing impossibly high trees, running and jumping from roof to roof, hunting birds to feed themselves, and swimming in the Seine for coins whenever they need some money!

“Do not mess with a mother hunter. Do not mess with roof toppers. Do not underestimate children, do not underestimate girls.”

Sophie, the rooftoppers

Will Sophie find her mother? And what happens to Charles, if indeed Sophie’s wishes are true?

This middle grade fantasy book is an enjoyable quick read with a definite emotional punch. In her Goodreads page, the author hints that she would like to revisit this world. When she does, I’ll be reading it too!

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The Monologue Challenge

I’m very excited to announce that I will be holding The Monologue Challenge this year! Open from July 15 – August 15 2021, with 2 chosen winners receiving a prize money of 100 USD and 50 USD. Full details below.

How to Join

  1. Take a video of yourself performing the monologue that I wrote titled Pluck, Cut, Pluck. The monologue can be downloaded here.
  2. Upload the video latest by August 15th 2021 on one of these three channels: your Youtube channel, your Instagram TV, or your Facebook page. Use the title Pluck, Cut, Pluck, A Monologue. The caption must mention Written By Airin Efferin. Use the hashtag #pluckcutpluck. In addition, participant must also upload the video to their google drive and let me access the videos. Make sure the channel you upload the video to is set on public (not private channel).
  3. When you have uploaded the video, fill this google form (latest by 15th August 2021) with the links of your uploaded videos.
  4. Two winners of The Monologue Challenge will be chosen and announced 31 August 2021 on my website. First prize winner receives 100 USD, Second prize winner receives 50 USD.
  5. Please note that I will download the videos of the winners and upload it also on my Youtube channel. Winners should agree to this.
  6. The Monologue Competition is open to everyone of all shapes and sizes. International winners will be paid via Paypal.
  7. One participant may only submit one video.

Video Requirements

  1. Monologue must be performed in one take.
  2. Phone quality is alright, but the recording must be taken in a place where the audio can be clear. Avoid noisy backgrounds.
  3. Video should be taken horizontal, not vertical.
  4. Setting is completely up to the creativity, imagination, and resource of the participant.
  5. Winners will be chosen based on their performance, interpretation, and also the clarity of audio and video quality.

Additional Notes

  1. I am thoroughly funding this competition myself, there are no sponsorships or donations involved.
  2. Pluck, Cut, Pluck, is a monologue I wrote. If you wish to use the monologue script for further use, do have the courtesy to ask my permission. Or…beware my wrath.
  3. If you have any questions, you can contact me.
  4. Last but not least, HAVE FUN and enjoy exploring beauty ideals as conveyed through the monologue!
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Movie Review : In the Heights

One of the most exciting composers/creators of the music industry at this time is surely Lin-Manuel Miranda. He is currently most known for the hit musical Hamilton which retells the story of the American revolutionary via rap and involves a diverse cast and crew.

Miranda’s first musical was In the Heights, which premiered off-Broadway in 2007. At that time, nobody knew who he was. The New York Times published, “his name was a household name only in his household.” Since then, he has received much recognition and awards through his song “See the Line Where the Sky Meets the Sea” in Disney’s Moana, his role in the revival of Mary Poppins, and eventually Hamilton.

One of the best movie-musical to date

In the Heights was very recently produced into a movie-musical, and I must say it is THE BEST movie-musical up to date. It brings the genre up to another level. It is both movie and musical, and the final product here is a sum far greater than each of its parts.

What struck me most and left me breathless was how the movie was able to get out of the box of cinematography to create unforgettable, magical moments. The two most mesmerizing scenes were Benny and Nina’s dreamy duet “When the Sun Goes Down” and Abuela Claudia’s showstopper subway solo “Paciencia y Fe”. I mean, I’m a huge believer in the power of old ladies. Anthropologist Frances Bowden Affandy once told me that she believed old ladies are the apex of human evolution. They carry so many memories and wisdom in their minds and bodies, that it is no wonder old ladies as often seen as powerful witches. Yet, I have to say, I never see musical solos of glorified old ladies. Here, In the Heights pulled it off with hair-chilling choreography.

Motifs that hit home

The immigrants’ theme is a leitmotif with Miranda, as he himself is also an immigrant. This show focused on Latino-Americans’ lives and values: work hard, save up, make a better future for yourself than where you came from. This is always touching for me. There is one line where Nina’s father says what made me cry:

“This is where you become greater than me. Not because of some fancy degree, but because you can see a future I cannot.”

In the heights

This hit me personally because you know what? My father never said that to me. Never ever. Many times I share my dreams, my work, my passions. But for him, it didn’t matter. All that mattered to him was that I was not living the life girls should live, according to him. He saw one future for me, and that was that. It didn’t matter that I saw a thousand possible futures for myself. It took a long time for me to learn to distrust his figure of authority, and instead go with my guts.

This is why I love In the Heights and Miranda, because all of his work has a strong angle of women empowerment. From Elisa Hamilton to Nina, he always writes women alongside men in the narrative.

The music? Was there any doubt from the beginning? Never.