It’s a story of an eleven-year-old
He was sitting on the bench alone and cold
He looked at me, didn’t say a single word
I grabbed his left hand and we walked through the woods

His name’s Elijah, a full-time daydreamer
He asked me if I wanted to play basketball with him
I used to see him every day in the afternoon ever since
He said he was so afraid to play alone
and that his parents never cared, so he hated being home

Once he wanted to do slam dunk so bad
So I slang him over my shoulders, made him glad
and I carried him high off to the hoop
He held it tight and then slowly drooped

A few weeks later he came to me and said goodbye
He said, “Mama and Papa are moving out but I don’t know why.”
I gave him a 6-year-old football jersey of mine
He smiled, hugged me, and then cried

One day in a far off place we’ll meet again
Well, I might not recognise your face
’cause you grow up and I grow old
carrying the weight of the world
but until then, farewell my little friend

Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations

Greetings from Siberia, friends and family! First and foremost, let me express my sincere gratitude for the positive feedbacks I received from the previous mail. I was blown away! THANK YOUS!

Today marks my third week in Krasnoyarsk. As time goes by I have met new people, visited new places, and obviously experienced new things I would’ve never thought about. I couldn’t write last week because the school office was still closed for the holidays and still is, means no internet for me. But luckily, the school director came to my flat this morning and gave me a loaded-up prepaid USB modem. It’s not the fastest connection but I’m so glad I have 24 hours of internet access now! Fantastic, right? Apparently there’s not much happening this week either because I only spent most of the times in the flat and to be honest it’s been a pretty rough and challenging one.

Let’s start with New Year’s Eve. So a few weeks ago my flatmate J told me he met an Indonesian guy who lives 5 stops away. I was immensely in shock and absolutely starstruck! I mean WHAT ON EARTH IS AN INDONESIAN DOING HERE? (Where are you from again, Deny?). Turns out he is a student at Siberian State Technological University and has lived here for 2 years so his Russian is flawless! I got to meet him a couple of times and he invited us to a New Year’s Eve party at his friend’s. Though it wasn’t really a party because there were only five of us. Nevertheless, it went great and I made some new friends!

Thursday J took me to a Turkish restaurant called Sultan Suleiman. He probably noticed that I got tired of eating the same boring food everyday. The food was so incredible it literally made my mouth water all the time! Best meal I’ve had since the day I came here.

Friday the power went off for more than 7 hours. It was a long and bitter story. At first I was fine. I told the people from the school about it. They didn’t answer, all the messages I sent on WhatsApp were only read but never replied. I knew they were busy with things but at least they should’ve told me what to do, not just kept me hanging. As the day got dark, I completely lost control of my anger and pissoffedness. I had to wait outside because I couldn’t stay in the flat anymore. It was too dark I could barely see anything. It got colder as well so instead of waiting for nothing, I asked around for help. Surprisingly, all of the people I asked refused to help me. On top of that, I got called a racial slur. Yes, it was the first time ever someone had called me racist names in my four years of travel. Unbelievable. I was hopeless, my toes were numb and my phone was about to die in a few minutes. Then someone from the school replied at around nine o’clock in the evening, only gave me the number of the flat service, told me I should call them, and that they could only speak Russian — absolutely useless. So the only idea that came up to my mind was to call the Indonesian guy, who was out of town at that moment, and ask him to speak with the flat service. It worked! A few hours later they came and fixed the electricity and the power was back on at 11:30 pm.

That experience got me thinking that Russians are the most unsympathetic, rude people in the world. The Russian mentality is just difficult to describe and a little shabby. I don’t like the way they treat foreigners. I would love get to know the locals because that’s what I always do when I come to a foreign country. But here it’s almost impossible. I told the story to Flanna and she probably told her mum too because she reached out to me immediately. She said Siberia probably had so many scars from its political past, it had left a mark of extreme toughness that might be very difficult to break through and oppression often took generations to heal. Now I realised why they are the way they are now. People are so complex and maybe I’m just not there yet. So I’m really sorry for generalising.

Foto kiriman Deny Setiyadi (@dgsetiyadi) pada

Living in Siberia is definitely not easy; extreme weather, different environment, blunt people (again, based on my personal experience), and any other limitations. It is said, “Difficult roads lead to beautiful destination.” Sometimes I feel like I’ve been on a path that I thought would bring happiness, but instead I’m feeling very far from it and each and every step seems to get a lot harder. But I keep telling myself that it’s going to be worth it. It’s just amazing how I can see myself growing along the way. So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, just keep going my friend! Remember why you started from the first place. Have a wonderful week x

I survived my first week in SIBERIA

Hello everyone! Yes, I did. I can’t believe I survived my first week in Krasnoyarsk. It is SUPER COLD and a bit lonely here. There are so many things I want to tell so let’s start it off.

The city of Krasnoyarsk is located in the heart of Siberia region, Russia Federation. I arrived here Sunday morning last week with twenty-hour layover in Beijing. Speaking of Beijing, I got to meet my two friends V and D again! I met them about two months ago, also in Beijing. V is a former Jakarta Sister City delegate and currently a student at 北京大学. She’s nice and fun. And J, he was one of the local volunteers at Beijing Sister City Youth Camp 2016 in which I participated, and happens to be one of my best friends now! He’s a really great guy!

He took us to the Summer Palace and asked his roommate who’s studying Tourism to be our personal tour guide. He doesn’t have any English so D became our interpreter… Absolutely brilliant! Well, V didn’t really need one since she speaks fluent Chinese. I’ve been learning Chinese these past weeks too but it is no way near her fluency as she’s been studying the language for years! I also find Chinese culture quite interesting. Although the pollution level was very high that day it didn’t stop us. We travelled from one place to another with underground trains (or if you’re American, ‘subway’). It‘s great and cheap, and HUGE! They have around 14 lines so if you’re a first timer, always carry a map or you’ll probably get lost! We talked about a lot of weird stuff, had lunch and dinner together. Then I went back to the airport and departed for Krasnoyarsk.


Foto kiriman Deny Setiyadi (@dgsetiyadi) pada

First day in Krasno, I just stayed in bed and tried to get some sleep. My flatmate J is pretty cool. He’s from Bradford but has an Australian passport as well. He helped me a lot with getting along and everything.

Tuesday my first day of work. They school sent me to Divnogorsk, a nearby town located 40 km away, all by myself. I mean I’ve been here barely for a week, speak no Russian at all. CRAZY! So on my way back to Krasno, I rang J and asked for directions. Luckily I got back safely and to be honest it was all miraculous. The students in Divnogorsk were a bit quiet. I didn’t know Russians are shy when it comes to speaking a foreign language. I’ve only had one meeting with a student in the main office so I can’t make a comparison just yet. Also, I was quite surprised that they’re very superstitious! Divnogorsk is a beautiful town though. There is river, hills, forest, all in one package. Might come back again when it’s not too cold.

Foto kiriman Deny Setiyadi (@dgsetiyadi) pada

Saturday the temperature hit -40 degrees and yes, it was effin FREEZING. We went to Planeta. It’s a popular shopping mall. I’ve been eating in cafes and restaurants and it cost a fortune so I decided to cook. Groceries are much cheaper here! I spent 700 rubles or around 10 euros for three bags full of groceries. I got lost on my way back home because it was way too dark and spent an hour in the cold. My lungs got frozen, I had trouble breathing and almost choked to death. To make it even worse, my hands hurt so bad! It was the most intense pain I’ve felt my whole life! Feels like getting your hands and your fingers caught and sandwiched in a closing door so I fell over right before the flat door. I really thought I was going to die, seriously. And the pain, it lasted for about half an hour. Worst 30 minutes in my life. Most of the eggs I bought from the supermarket cracked. But don’t worry, mum, I’m fine now. Meanwhile, J plunged himself into the freezing Yenisei river and posted the video on Facebook. Oh, I’m loving Siberia.

Anyways, happy holidays everyone! This holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways to make life better for those around us. I’ve been thinking about yous all the time!


Headed to Beijing!

Hello everyone! Just a quick update. I have just been elected as one of three Jakarta Sister City ambassadors. I’ll be touring to one of Jakarta’s sister cities to promote the concept of a future city of Jakarta that emphasises three main aspects: smart, ecological, and cultural. My first stop is… BEIJING! So I’m probably going to be refraining from Facebook or blogging for the next few months. However, I’m also planning to make video updates so stay tuned! I love you!! –Deny

It’s not that easy being green

As someone who was born in the early 90s, I had the privilege of growing up when technology hadn’t yet taken over. It was the time when we spent most of our childhood years playing outside, dancing in the rain, and engaging with nature. I still can recall how life was like before the internet, or when the internet already existed but dial-up was the only option. Back then carrying floppy disk was a sign of being tech savvy and the paper fortune could predict someone’s future.

Back in the 90s, TV shows were the ultimate crème de la crème. Programmes like Sesame Street/The Muppet Show and The Land Before Time had filled my childhood days with laughter and joy. On the 219th episode of The Muppet Show, Kermit the Frog sang a classic song called It’s Not That Easy Being Green. The song talks about accepting yourself for who you are. In the song, Kermit expresses his ambivalence about his colour, noting that green “blends in with so many other ordinary things” and wishing that he were some other colour instead. During the bridge, Kermit realises that there are some powerful associations with the colour—“green can be big, like an ocean, or important, like a mountain, or tall like a tree.” In the end, he decides that he’s happy to be green—“it’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be.”

If you know me personally, you’ll most likely know green is my favourite colour. Green the most common colour in the natural world, which represents freshness, growth, and harmony. I’m happy to be green, though it’s not that easy sometimes.

This is the third part of my 20-day Blogging University: Finding Everyday Inspiration course from The Daily Post. This course is all about warming up your writing muscles and finding inspiration in the places closest to you — but where you might not think to look. Go check them out!

I chose to travel

“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

About 30 months ago I decided to leave the university. First, my best friend committed suicide and it ruined everything. Second, I was very unhappy with it because I didn’t have a passion for what I was studying. Long before I went to uni, I always knew it really wasn’t for me.

I strongly believe that tertiary education is essential in making a good career prospect. Plus I’m an extremely curious person. So quitting was not easy. The lack of any visible direction in my life had left me feeling vacuous and depressed. I started volunteering at a local hospital in Dublin, then applied for volunteering jobs abroad and slowly discovered my passion for travelling. It doesn’t mean that I have to abandon my education completely. My thirst of knowledge is just as huge as my wanderlust. Now I’m taking university-level specialisation courses online.

Things I’ve done whilst travelling

I ate deep fried frogs, tarantulas, and other critters; climbed a thorny, 5-meter tall gate at 1 am; slept with rats and daddy long legs; lived in a two story bamboo house; taught English to monks; lost my passport in Vietnam; got ticketed by a Khmer police; got kidnapped for 3 days; lived with 3000 Cambodian riels (€0.60) for 20 days; passed out at a shopping centre; learned about the LDS church; took care of an old lady; made friends with food vendors on the street; featured in the Global Teacher Prize video; walked 7 km nonstop; visited 6 cities in 5 countries in 5 days; popped balloons (I have globophobia); made 5 websites in less than two months; smoked weed; shared a moped with 4 people; shared room with a hikikomori; shared room with a gay guy; dyed my hair; flew with AirAsia; visited Vietnamese refugee camp on the island of Galang, Indonesia; learned how to play violin; wrote a book.

Things I’ve learned from travelling

I learned to understand different cultures and traditions. There is nothing like living amongst people of other cultures to make you understand why people do what they do. The world is so small to travel, yet too big to understand. I also learned languages I have never heard of before, like Khmer and Irish Gaelic and was able to develop my communication skills. And from travelling, I’m able to be financially independent since I was 18.

Then I learned a lot about strengths. I met people with different life problems, facing different kinds of issues. Yes, those obstacles can sometimes lead to hopelessness, but they have enabled me to work harder and think wiser. Diving out of your comfort zone will make you realise that despite all the flaws and hardships, everyone still plays a piece in their own melodies. These are the things I probably won’t get and learn from studying at the university. Oh, travelling is truly never ending.

Anyway, we just had our first JSC Beijing Youth Camp pre-departure training where I met my two fellow delegates from Jakarta, G and R, for the first time. G is a snazzy guy who owns and conducts his public speaking workshop. Pretty sociable and outgoing person. Whilst R is a well-rounded university student with countless achievements and whatnot. I’m so grateful for them!

This is the second part of my 20-day Blogging University: Finding Everyday Inspiration course from The Daily Post. This course is all about warming up your writing muscles and finding inspiration in the places closest to you — but where you might not think to look. Go check them out!

Shut up and write

A few weeks ago a student came to me and asked genuinely, “Teacher Deny, why do you write so often? Aren’t there better things to do?” It wasn’t the first time I got asked that question, yet I still can’t figure out a short answer. So, for the sake of writing, these are the three main reasons why I write and how it helps me become a better person.

Writing improves communication

Writing at its most basic is a way of communicating not only with other human beings, but also with ourselves. It is a form of expression that can somehow improve our communication skills. Oftentimes communication is hung up because we don’t know how to express ourselves. To quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.”  Writing regularly helps you express ideas clearly, structure words quickly, and minimalise barriers to effective communication.

Writing is therapeutic

Sometimes only paper will listen to you. Writing helps you address what you can’t say out loud in real life, means it can reduce stress levels and sweep negative thoughts in your mind. Harvard Health Publication suggests that writing about thoughts and feelings — otherwise called expressive writing, may ease chronic stress and trauma for some people. Based on my personal experience, writing has helped me go through tough times such as my friend’s suicide and depression.

Writing helps shape the world

People who write a lot tend to pay more attention to what’s happening around them, but they don’t talk about it. They describe and speculate. It might lead to another question like, “Why do you care so much?” The answer is simply because some of us were born like that. If Thomas Edison didn’t care so much, electricity would’ve never existed today, means no computers, internet, etc. If Malala Yousafzai didn’t care and write a blog narrating life under Taliban occupation, women in northwest Pakistan would never get education. These people have shaped the world. So the next time someone asks why you write so much, try this: Because I care.

Now it’s time to sharpen your pencil and start writing. Even if you can’t.

This is the first part of my 20-day Blogging University: Finding Everyday Inspiration course from The Daily Post. This course is all about warming up your writing muscles and finding inspiration in the places closest to you — but where you might not think to look. Go check them out!

Leaving on a jetplane

Distance of time and place generally cure what they seem to aggravate; and taking leave of our friends resembles taking leave of the world, of which it has been said, that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible. Today, I close the door to my past… Open the door to the future, take a deep breath and step on through to start the next chapter of life. I don’t know where the journey will end, but I know where to start.

A photo posted by Deny Setiyadi (@dgsetiyadi) on

Goodbye, Batam and hello, Beijing!

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