Posted on Leave a comment

Kalimaya Diving Trip

Cung (hubby) and I went on an “early” holiday on 1-10 December 2021. It was originally going to be a trip with our good friend Jerry and maybe his cousin who is a master instructor. Lo and behold, it developed into a 20 person diving trip to Kalimaya Dive Resort in Sumbawa, Nusa Tenggara Barat! We really needed this break, and I suppose the others did too.

The Diving

I haven’t ever dived in this area before, so it was completely new terrain. We hope to return because there was some very cool topography down there, with a very special spot for night diving called Black Sand. It was my first night dive and I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty anxious. I mean, on a night dive you can only see as far as your flashlight allows. Everything else, on top, under, all around you, is pitch dark. What an experience.

Once in the water though, it was not too bad because the spot we dived at was shallow (only until about 8 meters deep) with very calm waters and a sandy bottom for the whole spot. And on this sandy bottom, it was really something. There were critters everywhere! Literally where ever you pointed your flashlight there would be octopus, cuttlefish, colorful sea slugs, and many many other cute little thingies.

Sadly to say though, there were also tons of bombs. I have heard before that diving in Flores area had a high number of illegal fish and coral bombing, but this was the first time I experienced it. During the night dive itself, I lost count of how many bombs we heard while we were down there. It was more than ten. That distracted me and definitely detracted from my experience.

The People

A huge part of diving (or, I guess, any trip) are the people you go on the trip with . With such a big group and quite a lot of new faces, I think we lucked out in that it turned out to be a really great bunch of people, from experienced pro divers to those whose last dive was more than a decade ago. I also met some cool people, and this is how you know you get along: our next year diving trips are already booked with the same bunch of people 😀

The Resort

Kalimaya Dive Resort is truly an undiscovered jewel (and I think that’s kind of the best thing about it, the “undiscovered” part) in the middle of nowhere on Sumbawa Island. We couldn’t even get internet unless we went to the edge of the beach or the jetty. Talk about detox opportunity! The staff was super friendly, the rooms cute, simple, and nice, and the hot water was divine.

All in all, this was a great diving trip and we are excited to come back one day to explore more (bomb-free, please) spots.

Posted on 2 Comments

Did You Say Operation?

Since I discovered vaginal cysts and myomas (fibroids) in my womb, I have been doing routine check-ups with my gynecologist. Ladies, when you hit 30s, better start preparing a fund for your womanly check-ups (and make sure you have insurance) because wow if the stuff inside you is giving you pain, trust me the bills will double the amount of that pain. I thought had all this covered though, until ONE DAY.

If the stuff inside you is giving you pain, trust me the bills will double the amount of that pain.

One Fateful Day

One fateful Saturday morning, I went to the hospital for my routine check-up and my usual gynecologist WAS NOT THERE. So I made an appointment with a different doctor, someone I had never met and did not know previously, which means he doesn’t know my history. I had a bad feeling already about this.

When he did the checks, he said the myomas are getting bigger, which would be dangerous if I want to have a baby. As a result, I had to undergo an operation to remove them. Wait what?

I had insurance which would cover for the operation, and he assured me that myomectomy was a common operation.

Umm Excuse Me

Okay no operation should ever be considered casually or lightly. And it’s my body being opened up. Plus the fibroids can REGROW AFTERWARDS.

I was in a huge dilemma. Luckily, after that I had a chat with Frances for our video series shooting. Frances urged me to get a second opinion. We sought after my usual doctor and set up an appointment with him. He knew Cung and I were not keen to have kids. So he checked in on me and said that as long as the myom wasn’t causing irregular pain and bleeding, then urgent operation wasn’t particularly necessary – especially since I did not plan on getting pregnant.

With that, I cancelled the operation bookings. My emotions were a mess that day. Talk about traumatic.

I might go ahead with the operation someday in the future, but I’d prefer for it to be the last resort, not the first resort.

If you want to know more about vaginal health, tune into episode 11 and 12 of my podcast chat with Dr Michelle Dawn Shen.

Posted on 2 Comments

Menstrual Cups

I started using these goodies 2 years ago when I began scuba diving intensively. One time I was diving with a college bestie Katie Velasco and her colleague Audrey Wayso – both had flown in from California to Bali for a diving holiday. They were the ones to introduce me to the fabuloso menstrual cups, so thanks ladies!

Does It Hurt?

The question I get asked a lot when people find out I use the cups is: does it hurt? The answer is no, it doesn’t hurt at all. In my opinion tampons can get more uncomfortable and actually feels like something is sticking inside down there, but the menstrual cups are so comfortable that the danger is to forget it’s there. Don’t though – forget. Put your alarm clocks, phone reminders, anything.

Cleaning

I rinse mine with hot water (some advice boiling water) before the first use of the period. Throughout the day and the week, I just use clean water to rinse it whenever I take it out and empty it. You’re most likely to pick up an infection from your hands as you are inserting and taking it out, so wash and clean your hands before you deal with the cups.

Sleeping

Yes, I do sleep with my menstrual cups, though on nights of heavy flow I also use a thin pad to prevent leaks.

Pads

Do I still use pads? Yes, sometimes I still do. I switch off between the cup and the pads depending on the activities of the week. For environmental purposes though, it is much better to just stick to the cup (less waste generated).

Brand

The brand I use is Organicup, now allmatters.com and it starts at a price of Rp 400K (about 30 USD). Over the long run, it saves money as well if you completely switch over to the cups!

Do you use menstrual cups? What are your thoughts?

Posted on Leave a comment

Facial Hair Problems

A lot of us have had those little nose hairs peeking out. And even women have upper lip (and lower lip!) hair. It’s just normal. So how did we get such a huge industry around removing those facial hair?

I had written a monologue about a young woman struggling with beauty ideals of facial hair, and made a Monologue Challenge to call for videos of the performance. I would like to thank all of you for participating and showing interest in this personal project.

Winner Video Performance

A huge CONGRATS to Karina Chandra for winning the prize with her video performance! Although the audio did have some minor problems, Karina’s performance was expressive, brave, and very funny at key moments. Enjoy her take here.

In real life, Karina is a digital illustrator, and you can see her lovely illustrations on her Instagram profile.

I hope this little project has encouraged us to take a deeper look into the beauty ideals around us, instead of simply accepting what is being thrown upon us.

Posted on Leave a comment

Struggling With Beauty Ideals

How many of you have wondered what it means to be beautiful? Or, who decides what is beautiful and what isn’t? I think all of us at some point of our lives have struggled with beauty ideals, perhaps women more so than men, though I am sure some men have it hard also.

I wrote a monologue about a young woman struggling with beauty ideals of facial hair, and made a Monologue Challenge to call for videos of the performance. I would like to thank all of you for participating and showing interest in this fun project.

The runner-up participant goes to none other than Krisan Wijaya, fellow bookworm and author of Cerita Carissa! I was so pleased when she said she would like to try the monologue performance. You can enjoy her 6 minute performance here.

Several notes about this video performance:

  1. Very creative and natural camera angle!
  2. Loved the ending of the scene, again very natural.

You can read the script of Pluck, Cut, Pluck here. Next post is the winner video!

Posted on 2 Comments

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!
Posted on 1 Comment

Carpal Tunnel Recovery

Several months ago I developed the one thing which makes pianists quake with fear: carpal tunnel syndrome. It happened as a result of typing extensively (I was working on the sequel to Nisha) in the wrong position. As a pianist, I knew that hand positions were extremely important, but somehow this caution did not translate when I shifted to more writing and less playing piano.

It started with minor cramps in my palms, with a dull pain that eventually reached to the elbows. When it was undeniable, I knew I had to take action. For my plantar fasciitis, I went to a hospital that treated me with steroid injections. Just the thought of getting shots in my wrists terrified me, so I decided on another approach.

The Slow Way of Healing

I began routine physiotherapy for my carpal tunnel recovery at 4Strength in Siliwangi Bandung, where they implemented several actions starting from UltraSound, TENS electrical stimulation, massage, and also taught me exercises and stretches which I had to do daily. To be honest, I was very discouraged at first. Why did this happen to me, after the plantar fasciitis? I thought I had learned my lesson in trying to keep a balanced lifestyle.

It turns out a balanced lifestyle is a never-ending pursuit. New things are always popping up, something which you just didn’t know before. The best thing I could do was try to forgive myself and focus on the slow healing process. At the moment of writing this blog post, my hands are much better already. I can now type for 10 minutes where before I could only type for 1-2 minutes.

The best thing I could do was try to forgive myself and focus on the slow healing process.

I tried the piano here and there and found that I could play about 5 minutes every day before my hands got too cramped. What a luxury it was before to have been able to play for hours and hours. My only consolation is that I am retired from performance, if not this whole condition would have been even more heartbreaking.

I like the physiotherapy clinic, and am so glad my friend recommended it to me. I find the young lady who was my therapist to be smart, caring, and bright. Under her care and increased daily awareness of my body, I believe my wrists will heal, slowly and surely.

Posted on 1 Comment

Pluck, Cut, Pluck, a monologue

A woman struggles with all the hair on her face, questioning ideals of beauty and logistical costs of those ideals.

Setting: a woman is alone on the stage with a dresser that has a mirror. Next to it is a garbage bin. Her cellphone is one of the items on the dresser, along with beauty magazines.

Time: The year of 2020 during the Corona Virus pandemic.

Look, there’s hair growing underneath my tattoed eyebrows. Now I have to clumsily pluck them out, or make an appointment with my eyebrow tattoo artist. She did a marvelous job two years ago. But now they’ve started growing all around, making a mess again. I wonder if she is still in the eyebrow business now, with the pandemic and all that. She sends me regular whatsapp blasts about all the homemade sweets she is making and selling, so maybe she’s doing that fulltime now? I mean, I don’t get eyebrow messages anymore.

Oh no, there is also hair growing on top of my lips, and for that matter, underneath my lower lip! Ok I can bear the eyebrow hair, but plucking these tiny hairs hurt like hell. It makes my skin all puffy afterwards too. Maybe I can see if that cute waxing place in Jakarta does facial wax. But goddamn, if it hurts as much as vaginal waxing, I don’t think I can handle it. They always say it doesn’t hurt…that much, with an apologetic smile. Which you know means “sorry, that’s the price of looking pretty.”

Whoever decided that pretty meant no facial hair for women anyways? I have hair sprouting everywhere and pain aside it costs so damn much to get them removed regularly. Don’t even get me started about armpit hair and leg hair.

Eek, I can’t look, oh where are those scissors. Now my nose hair is peeking out! Ok even I can’t stand to leave this on. Where are those goddamn scissors??

She looks in a bag full of different facial utensils. She pulls out a nose hair scissors that is dirty and rusty. She stares at how rusty it is and has a second thought.

Um, wow. I didn’t realize how long I’ve been staying at home not having to use this stuff. They’re all sticky and gross. I don’t want to develop nose infection. But I can’t stand those nose hairs either. And have people been seeing them this whole time on my Zoom meetings? Oh SHIT. I know, I’ll just use the scissors for paper and crafts to remove those nasty hairs.

She pulls open a drawer with bigger scissors. This drawer has other office supplies.

Well it’s a bit um BIG. I hope I don’t accidentally cut anything I’m not supposed to cut. But this is better than the gross nose hair scissors. I might get tetanus or something. And this is definitely better than having those ugly evil looking hair peeking out of my nose. I can feel the hair just sneering at me! Uh quick, let’s just cut away.

She focuses and cuts them. Then she relaxes and takes a deep breath.

Phew. No blood on the scissors, I’m not feeling any cuts, and I think I can still smell. I would say that was a success.

She wipes the scissors with tissue, then puts the paper scissors back in the drawer and throws the small scissors into the garbage bin. Turning back towards the mirror, she notices her ears.

Don’t tell me now…(she leans forward sideways, trying to inspect her ears more carefully). Thank goodness. No hair there. I’ve seen some people with thicker ear hair, and I wonder however are they supposed to cut them? I mean, is there a special ear hair shaver? Can you even do that without getting deaf? Well, at least that’s one place my hair is fine and thin and not sneeringly black. Glad I don’t have to worry about that.

Oh dear, all this is just causing me too much anxiety. I need to find something to calm myself down and feel happy again. (She thinks and her eyes spot her cellphone.) Maybe I’ll order one of those homemade dessert my eyebrow tattoo artist is now selling.

She flips over the beauty magazines so the cover is facing down. She then leaves the stage with her phone while making a call to the eyebrow tattoo artist.

Hello, long time no see! Are you healthy? I hope the pandemic and lockdown hasn’t gotten the worst of you? My eyebrows? Yeah you know, I’m not going to worry about that at the moment. Look I get all these pictures of delicious looking homemade desserts…

END OF MONOLOGUE.


Click here to download a pdf version.

Posted on Leave a comment

My Acne Journey, part 2

I noticed the vaginal cysts because I started bleeding (having my period) twice a month. The “second” cycle came about two weeks after the usual cycle. It was brown older blood, and it hurt. Like, hell.

I consulted friend, nutritionist, and pharmacist Anna Meiliana (remember her from my very first podcast episode?) about my problem. Well since about 2019 I have been building much healthier lifestyle habits. I exercise daily by walking or swimming (or even diving when I’m on the island!), cut down on the MSG and junk food I eat (I still eat some, but it’s vastly reduced), have a much healthier mental state, and consciously drink a lot of water. I don’t drink alcohol too much. I do smoke from a pipe every once in a while- in once every couple of months so I don’t think it affects my lungs too much. Since the pandemic started, I’ve also gotten much more sleep hours in.

Vaginal cysts.

From this, she deduced that it was probably something hormonal and urged me to check with a gynecologist. I chose Melinda Hospital because it’s one of the best (pricey, but very good) women’s healthcare hospitals in Bandung. People recommended Doctor Julius, and my husband Cung accompanied me.

Dr. Julius was great! Highly recommended if you are looking for a gynecologist in the West Java area. Images from the ultrasonography indeed confirmed the cysts. When I told Doctor Julius about my healthy lifestyle, he also asked if I was taking any hormone pills. Out came the confession about my acne pills.

Needless to say, I stopped those meds. Dr. Julius recommended birth control pills instead for 1 month, with very strict daily timing. I checked up again after a month and the cysts were all gone.

Seeking a Healthier Long-Term Solution to My Acne Journey

But… you know what’s coming right? I had to deal with my reappearing acne again. This time, I was determined to try something more natural to prevent future cysts. And I wasn’t going to try urine therapy again (check out part 1 of this topic). During the lockdown, I experimented with lemons. It didn’t have any bad side effects, but I just felt it was not strong enough. I wanted to exterminate the acne bacteria. Aloe vera proved to be a stronger disinfectant.

For the aloe vera, I simply cut off a small piece of the plant, store the rest in the fridge, and rub it on the inflamed places on my face. If you don’t have a garden, the aloe vera plant should be easily available at grocery stores near you. It’s a great low-cost option. Make sure to do an allergy test though by testing it to a small patch of your skin before rubbing it on your face.

In addition to aloe vera, what has been helping my acne journey includes also AFC supplements, The Skin Diary Squalane Sherbet Cleansing Balm, and Argan Rosy Velvet Moisturizer. I’m happy with the result so far-finally feeling that it’s getting manageable with a better long-term solution than the pills I took when I was younger.

The 5th episode of my podcast is with The Skin Diary’s Anna Febriana Jaelawijaya (another awesome Anna!), so please tune in if you’d like to hear more about The Skin Diary!

Do you have skin woes? How do you deal with it? Share in the comments!

Posted on 5 Comments

My Acne Journey, part 1

May 2008, With dear friend Katie Velasco (now Katie Crosby).

I’ve had acne for as long as I can remember. Oops, scratch that – I’ve played piano longer (I started piano when I was 6 years old). What I mean is, it feels like I’ve had acne forever. If you see pictures of my skin looking alright now, it’s probably the Tiktok filter, or just the right light hitting at the perfect moment and I’m quickly pointing to my husband Cung saying “Hurry! Take a photo now!”

My acne journey has gotten better since the lockdown – interesting how the pandemic improved my skin quality. I think it’s a combination of not being out so much in the polluted air of Bandung and Jakarta, getting more sleep, drinking more water, eating great supplements, using aloe vera, and using all-natural skincare products.

Complicated eh? You bet. Way too many factors. That’s skincare for you, especially if you have sensitive or combination skin. It’s seriously way more complicated than relationships.

My skin is much more complicated than any relationship I’ve been in. And I’ve been in a lot.

The first outbreak of my acne journey started in junior high when I was about 14 or 15, and continued on until my mid-20s. I’ve tried everything under the sun, even – look don’t judge me here – even my own urine. I think it’s something called urine therapy. It’s far-out, I know. But I was desperate. I didn’t feel good, nor beautiful.

Drastic Actions

May 2011, in Texas. Taken by roommate Hye Young Lois Bang

When I finally got sick of my acne, I decided to try hormonal meds. The hormones were so strong the dermatologist said I have to stop eating this 1 year before I want to have kids. Well luckily, I didn’t plan to have kids soon. But I did plan to end my acne, whatever it demanded.

So I consumed the meds, and IT WORKED. However, when I was not taking it, my pimples would start to appear. That’s why I kept taking it for about 5 years until 2020.

To be honest, it was fine for those 5 years. My acne disappeared and I was happy. One day, all that hormonal build-up finally showed side effects.

In October 2020 I developed vaginal cysts.

To be continued to part 2.

Acne can be debilitating for self confidence. If you need a reminder of your beauty, read this poem.