We are an expat family

I will start with a warning: this life is not for everyone. 

This year is our third year. This means this year can be our last year living in Philippines.

When we tell this to our friends, many questions pop up.

“Where you will move after this?”

“Are you going back to The Netherlands?”

“Are you sure that they will not extend the contract?”

“Is this already sure?”

The answer is “We don’t know”. 

As an expat we live in a country for a certain period, usually it is for 3 to 5 years.

As a metaphor, it feels like we are in the sea, sailing but not with big waves…

Because the company will make sure that we live sufficient and comfortable.

But the company must be sure that the expat family loves sailing and loves the life in the sea and they don’t mind if the direction will move to the north or to the east.

Yes, we live in an uncertain situation.

We can plan but we don’t know what will actually happen.

I must say that the expat life gives me a lot of perspective about who we are as a family. This life is not only about my husband’s job. It feels more like an assignment as a family.

I have to be sure that I can successfully deal with the life I have here, as a wife, as a woman, as a mother.

My husband and I have to make sure as well that the kids can live their life to the fullest. They can study well, enjoy their friendships and they love their life.

But we always must remember that this life is not forever and that is the hardest part.

In that sense, that makes our family bond stronger. We have one mission “Yes, we will make this assignment a success” and yes, we are an expat family.


To all my expat friends.. 

Some of us will know about the next plan by February… Wish you all the best of luck!

Xoxo, Sekar 

My 5 most favorite Filipino food. Kain Tayo! (Let’s eat!)

A few weeks ago, I said to some friends, whom all of them are not Filipino, that I officialy like Filipino food. They were surprised about that because all of them find it very hard to like Filipino food.

That is true.

That was me, 15 months ago.

It wasn’t love at the first sight with pork adobo, menudo, and beef caldareta.

I had to ask my brain to give me information on how I had to enjoy Filipino food.

I always felt there was something odd with the taste. If it is not too sweet then it would be very sour. I almost gave up and declared to myself that Filipino food wasn’t my thing at all.

To be honest, that time I felt disappointed to myself that I wasn’t able to eat Filipino food with joy.

I am a food enthusiast, can’t enjoy a food? That is a NO.

So I decided that I would eat Filipino food, every single day. Yes. Every single day for months!

Either I bought, I cooked or my helper bought food for all of us to try together. Yes, my family had to eat the same as well.

It was a very magical experience for me and my taste buds.

Day by day, week by week…

I got to know about sitaw, ginataang langka, callos, pusit, kare-kare, bagoong…

I felt like I was in a “date”. It was a very complicated relationship but slowly but surely I began to know the taste, the smell, the red line of all the ingredients…and the relationship builds. The taste and the smell starts to be familiar and the more I eat, the more I feel in love.

Call me crazy, but not everyone will do what I do, putting a lot of effort to get to know of Filipino food.

Now, when I see Filipino food, I kinda can imagine how is the smell and the taste. No, I don’t know all the ingredients but because I am already so familiar with the food, I know the taste already.

One of my friends said “You take food seriously” and the other said “I love your taste buds. They are so open to any taste.”.

I love food. It is including the history, the culture, the habit, and I watched so many food documentary. So far, Cooked by Michael Pollan is one of my favorite documentary movie.

Food is not only about eating, it is larger than that. Food is one of the most magical thing in this world.

The universe wants to connect with us through food. Every human being has their own habit and culture regarding of food. It connects us with the universe.

Here we go, my 5 most favorite Filipino Food with calories estimations in each food.

Yes. People who know me, know me well that I love food and fitness (It is another story to tell). I track all of my food and my drinks. I count my calories intake. It sounds crazy but it gives me control on what I eat and drink and still be able to enjoy! I want to know what and how much the food and drink go inside my body.

1. Bulalo Soup

I never forget my first encounter with Bulalo Soup in Tagaytay!

The taste reminds me of oxtail soup but the taste is more compact. But when it goes in your mouth, the taste become soft. Maybe because there is pechay and corn in the soup. That makes the soup has a fresh taste and it doesn’t feel heavy.

It is a very comfort meal. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or (and) dinner…

Calories of half cup : 263. It seems a lot for half cup but it is worth the taste especially for breakfast and after that you go to the gym for 1,5 hours of strength training!

Bulalo soup

(This picture, I got it from http://www.chowking.com)

2. Ginisang Sitaw

Ginisang means stir-fried. Sitaw is green beans. So literally means “Let’s stir fry those green beans with anything that seems delicious!”.

People will be using three most common ingredients: onion, garlic and tomatoes then add ground pork. “Ma sarap!” (Delicious!).

When you put onion, garlic, tomatoes, fish sauce and black pepper… the taste will be deadly delicious. Sometimes I cooked it with oyster sauce and the taste would be like Chinese stir fried green beans, but less complicated.

If you eat ginisang sitaw, generic, 1 cup, it is only 80 calories. It is a very light meal but if you eat it with white long-grain rice and fried egg then the calories will be 350+ !


3. Callos

Callos is a  stew made of beef tripe, chickpeas, bell peppers and sometimes chorizo and some other stuff like ox feet. They cook it slow in paprika – tomato sauce.

I never cook this dish.

Whenever I see Callos in the restaurant menu, I always choose it.

Oh, my dear friends, this food gives me happiness in a second. It taste sweet, spicy and salty, well-balanced!  It is 395 calories for 1 cup. It is like running for 50 minutes with 8,4 kph (7,2 min per km).

Conclusion: The calories is not as heavy as it looks. 🙂


4. Steamed Eggplants and Okra with Bagoong

Finally I found a great bagoong… It is ready to eat bagoong from bario fiesta! Since then, I always have spicy bagoong in my kitchen. I like more the shrimp bagoong than fish bagoong. For me, it taste like sambal roa in Indonesia.. not the same of course (please don’t kill me).

Bagoong has a very sharp taste and steamed eggplants and okra make it balanced in its taste. When you eat it with rice… Sarap!

The steamed vegetables won’t give so much calories but bagoong will add a lot of calories on that dish.

1 tablespoon of bagoong : 100 calories.


5. Puto !

A steamed rice cake.

It is so addictive that I can eat a lot of it. It is sweet but not sweet. It doesn’t taste heavy. It is really my guilty pleasure. Yummm!!

This is a quite tricky snack. It looks very innocent and sweet but it gives a lot of calories.

According to myfitnesspal app in my phone, homemade puto of 33g is 160 calories!


(This picture, I got it from google : Yummy PH – Youtube).


Other than 5 food mentioned above, I also love sinigang, adobo, menudo, beef salpicao, pusit, pici-pici… and many many more!! 🙂

Salamat Philippines! Thank you Philippines!

Your food is sarap! (Delicious).

Me, Food and The Philippines

People who know me, knows that I love food. Not in the sense that I love eating like junkie but more like the food itself, just to see the food and know how to make it are making me so happy and blessed. Like a woman find a perfect shoes.

I am not really into shoes or bag. I am really into food. I can talk about food for… for a long time until people get bored. When I meet a new friend from a country where I know nothing about, the first questions pop up is “What is the food there?”, “What is the breakfast?”, “How you make your lunch?”.

Incredible how my brain always digest about food.

One time, I went to a Sunday Market in Salcedo-Manila, my mouth was wide open and couldn’t stop appraise all the food “What a beautiful view”, “OMG !! Look so delicious!”, “Pretty fish, you have it here”, “Look at the jackfruit, OMG! so beautiful!”. I feel like I am in heaven!


Then I took picture of the food there and I asked the name of the food to my maid. I asked how to make it, searched it in internet, matched it with my maid, and then the next day, I cooked it and I could feel so damn satisfied because I nailed it.


What I made there is Grill Bangus Fish! Oh, man! This food is heaven. I can make a real delicious one. 

Recently I know what my addiction is called “Food Enthusiast!”. I am a food enthusiast. It doesn’t matter what food, I am always curious like a child is enthusiast with a new toys.

So, the first time we moved to Philippines. I went to almost all the time to Philippines restaurant. What did I feel?

To be honest…

I felt slightly surprised.

I think Philippines food is one of the least known food in my world of food.

I never saw Philippines restaurant in another country, like in Europe or even in Indonesia. I have no reference on what is the taste of the food and what is the food culture in Philippines.

The look of the food is almost similar like Indonesian food, but the spices are totally different.

So my mind thought that the taste would be sweet, but it tasted sour or the other way around. So, most of the time, I was surprised to the taste because of what I think and what I taste are totally different.

For the first month, I couldn’t find Philippines food that satisfied my taste. It was a miserable moment for me as foodie. How come Sekar couldn’t enjoy the food?? That coulnd’t be happening. Please.

Until one day, I asked my driver “where you usually bought food?”

“It is in the canteen behind Manong restaurant, mam”.

“Is it good for your taste?”

“Yes, mam. It is open only from 6am to 10am”

“Is it crowded? Many Philippines go there?”

“Yes, mam! It is already finish around 9am, mam”.

It was still 8am so I said “We go there now. I want to buy the food.”

Like I expected, it was a super small canteen, with only local people come. It doesn’t have a bright light, even dark. People queue to buy the food. I thought “Great! I love when people queue for buying food. It must be a good food.”

I bought adobo and sinigang. I brought the food to home like a child brought a new toys, it was so precious and I smiled a long the way…. “I think I find what I am looking for….”

I opened the plastic. I spooned it. I jumped! It was so damn delicious!!!

Finally! I tasted a great Philippines food.

I said to my maid “I want to make like this. Taste this, taste this…” I asked them to taste it.

Usually I cooked every single day for the whole house and after I taste a great sinigang from the canteen, I asked my maid to cook Philippines food, together with me! We cooked together. She teach me about her food culture and the spices. I told her about my preference of food and we mixed our knowledge and everyday we cook many many Philippines food and discuss what should be better and what is already great.

I have to say that I wasn’t falling in love at the first time with Philippines food. It takes effort and determination to know further the beauty of adobo, sinigang, afritada, pancit palabok, kare-kare, sisig, kaldareta, longganisa, filipino spaghetti, and still many more. The beauty lies at the spices and the tastes are different than every food I’ve ever taste before.

The spices is less than Indonesian food. Most meal are meat meal, doesn’t have many vegetables meal. It is either frying or stewing. Vinegar is the most commonly used and there is no sambal (chili sauce made from real chilli and some more spiced and use stone pestle to make it).

I kinda miss sambal when I am in restaurant. So everyday I make sambal and one of our helper love sambal but the other two really hate it. Philippines are not used to hot, spicy, super spicy taste. But people are used to salty taste because most dishes use shrimp paste. It is salty. The food is either sour, sweet or salty, almost none is combination of those two or those three. There is always 1 taste are really dominant.

I am used to the taste and I can enjoy eating it 🙂 but if I made sinigang myself, I will cook chicken sinigang (which is not exist here), but pork sinigang is too heavy for the taste so I change with chicken and it turns delicious and light. I am not into BBQ sauce for typical Philippines satay, so I make the sauce myself and it turns that the taste is super fresh and people love it.


That was the chicken sinigang I made. The recipe is exactly the same as sinigang but I use chicken. 🙂

I can’t compare Philippines food and Indonesian food. Both are very different. Both has its spices and exotic taste. I think Philippines foods somehow have heavier feeling taste than Indonesia. The spices are totally different. There is no kemiri here, rarely used sweet soya sauce and I never find laos here.

When I was in Holland, I can find every Indonesian spices, even in supermarket. It is heaven for Indonesian. But… here, Philippines has a strong bond with America, there are plenty source to find American spices but not Indonesian spices. 🙂 Weird he. It is still in South East Asia but Indonesian food is not well known here.

In that case, I am super happy to live here because it gives me more knowledge and broaden view about food culture. I feel blessed that I live in a country who has totally different food culture than Indonesia. I respect the food culture here. I love listening my helper explain how is her food culture in her family, I love listening to my driver telling me the recipe he usually used for the afridata. Sometime we have breakfast together with coffee and pandensal.

On the other way around, I introduce Indonesian food also for them. Every Saturday, I specially made Indonesian food for them and ask them to bring it to home for their family. They love it! Last time, I cooked my special fried rice with pork meat. It was super delicious!

It is not only the food that makes me happy but Philippines also love food. They love talking about food also with the same passion as I have! I remember waiting for doctor, I heard someone talked about her favorite sardine recipe. What! What! I want to join this conversation so I jumped to their conversations and they love it. So we begin to talk about how to make the recipe even better. So funny! 🙂 People said “It is more FUN in The Philippines”. It is true!

I meet some friends who also foodie like me. One time we learned who to bake apple pie. 🙂 It wasn’t as easy as I thought but we had super fun time.


The photo was taken before making the crust of the apple pie. That was in my house. 🙂 

I also join a group that called Village Eats. It is a group from the housing complex where I live. We get together on Thursday to try new restaurant in town.

The first time I joined was in Kessaku Japanesse Restaurant in commerce center, Filinvest City, near Ayala Alabang. The restaurant has a very nice ambient. The first Japanesse restaurant I’ve ever visited that it feels like I am visiting a friend house. The guests are varied from a trendy young people, businessman, mother daughter, anyone.. They eat, they laugh, everyone can pop up join with another guest conversation. It has a very casual ambient. Yummie Aggabao the owner is super friendly young entrepreneur. She really make sure that we have good time. Top of that, the food is super fresh! I don’t have any complain with the food. I am glad that I join this group. All members are smart, witty, relax, funny Philippines.


I love this group and looking forward to the next village eats meeting. 🙂 

In a summary, Me, Food and The Philippines are having a sweet and fun bond at this moment. I love food, Philippines love food the same as I do, and Philippines food is delicious.

It is really true “It is more FUN in THE PHILIPPINES”! Yeay!!

Our magical moment, it is now.

One day, out of the blue..

My youngest one, 2 years old, picked a toy and showed it to me and said “auto”…then he showed it to our helper and said “car”.

I was so surprised. He acknowledge that people can speak different language!

I know that children learn a new language very fast but I didn’t know it can be that fast.

Also, my eldest.. one day he said “I can speak 4 languages, dank je wel, terima kasih, thank you and salamat po!” then start singing happy birthday in tagalog

He can switch from dutch to english right away.

He starts to observe how people live here and what is the different than in Zwolle.

“It is really good here, I don’t have to wear winter jacket!”

“The skin of the people are different. They have brown skin, like you, mama!. Why is that? Why your skin is brown?”

“Why I don’t go to school with bike anymore?”

“Why people use car to go everywhere?”

“He is our driver. What is driver actually? Is this car belong to our driver?”

Such an amazing questions that I never thought he would ask when he is 4 years old!

Well, my American friend will say “Amazeball!” Aha…

Living in another country, gives them a lot of new insight about the world!

Most people, who live in this same area as us, are having the same situation like us. Philippines is not their home country and the kids have a chance to grow up here and experience their life as a third-culture kid!

Third culture kid (TCK) are terms used to refer to children raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the culture of the country given on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years.[1] They are exposed to a greater variety of cultural influences.[2] (source : wikipedia)

When they meet up with another third-culture-kid, they can right away play together. They mingle easily. There is no language issue nor habit issue. No thought like “oh he is a foreigner”.

I love that !


Maybe they won’t have a very deep roots with their home town.

Maybe they won’t have the same friends from elementary school.

Maybe they won’t graduate with the same friends as they have in pre-school.

Maybe they don’t follow any news about their neighbour in their back home-country.

Maybe they know nothing about what actually happened in their old school.

…and it is perfectly fine! because…

They have a very wide roots, all over the place. They can grow beautifully every where.

They have friends everywhere all over the place and not being afraid to engage relationship with another people from different country.

They have a wider open minded perspective.

They know that people might speak different language but it is not frightening for them!

They can engage any conversations with any types of people, from any countries and they can ask many kinds of questions about the world. They get a lot of insights from many different people.

Yes. They will meet a lot of “Good Bye” but they surely do have a lot of beautiful foot prints in every friendship they make.

They will have a lot of “Hello” and “How are you” and “Can we be friends!”.

No place in this earth is TOO FAR for them.

They know that their life is not surrounded by the town they were born but it is surrounded by the spirit that the world is amazing and beautiful to be seen, to be felt, to be touched, to be lived in.

Those are a magical phase.

Those are our magical moment and that moment is NOW.

I feel so blessed that I and my husband can actually provide this golden opportunity for them.

…and when they look at the globe, they can actually feel and imagine how other people live in different country and their perspective is not only from television or newspaper.

The world is such an amazing creation and I am glad that they can feel it, even still a little bit..

I am so proud of them. The world doesn’t scare them away.

I trully love our global international life together. I love us, kiddos.

Let’s doing more adventures! Let’s embracing this expat life!

….but I am still your friend.

This morning, once again..

I get this question “Heb je zin in?” (Are you looking forward?)

I am a very expressive person. I can not hide what I feel.

So with a big smile, a big eyes.. I reply “Yes!”.

Backward a month ago, when I received a message that this is going to happen, my reaction was crying..

I cried on the shoulder of my dearest friend, Willemein.

I felt “oh… again..”.

Then.. after learning what would be like, what should be done, get so many informations about will happen and get a lot of supports… I feel 180 degrees different. I feel excited.

Not everyone can have this kind of life!

Some people said “What nice!! I envy you.”

Some people said “Ohh.. lastig. heftig” (Oh..difficult, heavy)

But mostly the reply is “Nice!”….. and the next reply will be “We will miss you so much.”

I will miss you guys also so much!

But this is (only) 3 years of moving to Manila, Philippines as an expat assignment from my husband’s work and we will be back here again after that (maybe…..haaa! joking).

We had an expat assignment before when we lived in Indonesia together, for 3,5 years, then we moved here in The Netherlands, for 3 years, and then we will go to Philippines also for 3 years… all under the same company.

When?… soon…in 2,5 months.

One of my good friend, Sandra… said to my husband that she really concerns about me..

I just open my catering, succesfully mingled in this society, have a good relationship with neighbours, build a life again and people start to know who I am… now..I have to move again.

but the things is.. I have done this before and I can do it. (Logically I can do it again, right?)

I moved here to Zwolle, I manage to have a great social life, work, friendship, networking.

I (think) can do it again. 🙂

The good thing is, we will live as an expat… so we get support by the company, from the school, the house, the visa, even they have a cultural awareness training for us, a special program for the spouse (me!) and also additional education program for our kids to make sure that their level of development is the same as what dutch education expect so they won’t have any difficulty when we move back here again, additional dutch course for our sons and for me, and also I had a chance to do pre-visit in Manila to check the house, the school and meet up with some expats and I will get a study budget!.

Basically they want to make sure that we, as a family won’t have any difficulties in moving and adjusting with new culture…. in another words: they will give any support so that the assignee can work smoothly and his family can adjust easily.

So, that is slightly different than the first time I moved here. 🙂 I am here as an immigrant who live here maybe forever. There in Manila, I am an expat partner who won’t live there forever.

and.. Manila is super great ! The people are very friendly. The country is clean. The house is great. The International School that our sons will attend is TOP!

I have to say “I am looking forward to have this journey!”.

I’ve ever lived before in Australia, Indonesia, The Netherlands and then becoming a mother of two in The Netherlands, and I will have another adventures in Philippines. What a great experience it will be! Although nowadays my heads fills with a lot of beautiful friendship memories that I build here.

It is kinda a mixed feeling.

I feel super excited but I feel also a bit melancholic.

A good friends who was before my language coach and now becoming my very dearest friend. She is recently moving to a house very close to mine.. and now we are moving far away from here…

A group of zuper sweet friends who have the same passion as mine : Cooking and Eating! We call our group “Food Lovers”… We are from Belgium, The Netherlands, USA, Lithuania, Rumania, Brazil. You guys are toppertje! Our friendship is beautiful!

A very dearest friend who make us as the baptist parents for their son. What a blessed. They always support me since I was an innocent student in Nijmegen until now become a mother of two.

A Latvian friend (yes, it is you whom I talked to!). You are very inspiring to me. When I felt down, I have a voice in my head “What she will do in this situation? She can do it. I can do it too”.

Our sweet friends with 2 boys (who happened never have facebook account..hah!) who live in a very big ship and almost every week we have a playdate. I will surely miss that moment.

The conversation group… every Thursday in the library. What I am gonna do without you girls! Always have a great time with you…

Buurvrouwen !! My sweet neighboursssssss… I just love this area where I live. In December we have to pack all of our goodies in the container and ship it to Manila and we will live in this empty house until the day we will fly to Manila. Some of the neighbours let us to borrow their matrass, their chairs, their children toys… so we can at least enjoy our last stay in Zwolle! What a very touching moment… a very beautiful gesture.

My sweet Indonesian friends in Zwolle… 4 single, beautiful, handsome, Indonesian people… always have a great time with them… I can be with you guys for more than 14 hours without getting bored.

Indonesian Amsterdamer friend and Purmerend friend.. Thanks for the Zara’s moment.. :-))) Thanks for the honest friendship.

The one and only, someone who said to me like this “if people only rely on Indonesian news, they won’t come to Indonesia. Good news is not a news. Bad news is a good news on TV. So don’t be afraid. Philippines won’t be bad. It will be beautiful country for you.” She said that before I flew there for the pre-visit. You are always a beautiful souls for me.

And the one, the first dutchie girl whom I met in the plane on the way to Holland on 2005, who tought me how to use the train ticket and our friendship are still going until now.. 2005-2016! 11 years… Hope you will visit us 🙂

Our dear gastouder… you give a beautiful memories to our children…

To a friends who knows my struggle on my driving exam and course! Cheers… Hope we can eat ayam penyet together before I move.

and… to you, who has a beautiful son! He might not recognize his name now.. but I have a faith that he will grow up as a strong boy who has a sweet soul.

A new couple who has a distance relationship Leiden-Utrecht and reach a high level of pokemon go… 🙂 wink.wink. cheers.

Ohhh.. gosh.. I never tought I have so many friends… My lists are still very long…

You, all of you.. will always be in my heart.. and also in my whatsapp.. 🙂 My phone number might change but my heart remains the same…

I may not be here when your baby is born.

I may not be here when you have an open house.

I may not be here when you have your next job.

I may not be here when you are pregnant.

I may not be here when you are maried.

I may not be here when you need me.

but.. I’m still your friend….and just a whatsapp away… 🙂

Still 2,5 months to go… but this is not a good bye.. this is “Have a great adventure ahead for you and me! and see you again.. in the summer holiday”.




















The truth about living in another country

This thought start tickling my brain after I failed on my driving theory exam (while all of my friends can pass it easily).

I drive since I was 17 years old. I drove every day when I was in Indonesia. I loved driving (in Indonesia) but I can not drive here.

I still have to take driving lesson and pass 2 exams : theory and practice here in my new country and I even can not pass the theory exam. I felt sad.

I have to pass this exam otherwise I only can bike or take public transportations. Well, I just want to drive.


Since I moved, there are some tests that I have to pass.

On the first year, I had to pass integration exam. I passed. 

On the second year, I delivered my second son and I am a mother of two in a new country. (I see this as another life test), I hope I will pass. 

On the second year (still), I learn driving. I don’t pass (yet!). 

In order to live in a new country, I have to be ready to learn again about myself and get adjusted with the new life.


Learning a new culture will influence your soul, your emotion and your view about yourself. 

Adjusting with a new life will give a deep impact in your mind and your soul.

Moving to a new country is mostly about digging your soul to the core and taking the best of it and shaping it. It is about you, yourself, how to be a better you in a new country. 


Is there any other truth other than we will shape ourselve into a better person when we live in a new country? 

I have read in http://www.exchange.state.gov that there are 4 stages on adjusting in a new culture :

1. Everything is Just Great

This is the wonderful “honeymoon phase” when everything looks wonderful and the newness of the new country is exciting and pleasant. I feel excited about being here, and the new opportunities that are waiting for you. When I go to the stores and visit, I impressed by how different is, and by how things are done here.

The truth is I didn’t feel this when I moved here with my family 2 years ago. But indeed I felt this when I studied here back in 2005 and 2007. So I skip this part. I jumped right away to the stage 2. 

2. Hostility

Problems may start occurring because of language and communication difficulties, or because of differences between the native culture and the new culture. At this point, usually people may start to feel impatient, irritable, frustrated, anxious, sad, or discontent, and to think that this new country may not be so wonderful after all.

Yes. I felt this right away.

Have 9 months old baby boy with me, moved to another country then soon I was pregnant.

It was very easy to feel irritated by everything surround me. It lasted for about a year. 

First thing first was learning dutch and was looking for a broaden social network. I went out with my son every single time I had chance (: when it was not raining). I contacted many people as I could and made an appointment to meet up. I joined a lot of activities. Yes, I brought my son everywhere with me. 

I even contacted my good friend  (she is Dutch) “Do you know someone who has a small boy like my son? I would like to meet her.” I contacted her friends and had a meet up and we become friends. Yes, I am that active. 

Most friends I have are Dutch and I need to meet a lot of Dutch people. That’s the way how I learn about this country and that’s how I start a new life. 

After 7 months since we moved, my son goes to the daycare for 2 times a week. I can have more time to study and for my self. That was a good decision ever! 

3. Understanding

At this stage, you will begin to feel more “at home” and able to get around, both physically, with the language, and emotionally. Things are starting to make sense now, and I don’t feel as lost or bewildered by the way things are done here.

I start to find myself again. I start to regain my own power. Thanks to Margreet (she is the owner of the daycare) because knowing that my kids are in a good hand, 2 times a week during the day, makes me feel good. 

I understand the fact that this is not an easy process. I surrender. 

It feels like a process of dating someone new. It takes a lot of meeting, a lot of talking, a lot of understanding and also seeing the true skin of each other. 

I understand that I have to start a new life. 

4. Acceptance

At this point, I have a better understanding of the new culture and realize that it is neither all good or all bad. I start to feel that (maybe) I “belong here”.

That’s the reason I start “Sekar Catering”. 

I love eating. I love cooking. I love working. 

I need to work for myself. My soul needs to grow as a mother, a woman and a wife. 

A lot of ideas in my mind and I need that to be done. Thanks to my family and friends who always support me. 


Moving to a new country gives a deeper understanding about myself.

I never thought that I am an ambitious person but I am and I accept that.

Felt lost, felt frustrated and even had burned out in the first year, didn’t stop me to learn, to develop myself, “I can do this!”.

It is a learning process every single day, as a mother, a wife, a woman, a friend, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, a neighbour, a caterer, an acquaintance, so on so fort.

My eldest son is in playgroup – peuterspeelzaal now. I am also in the parents committee- ouders commisie in the school. I feel honoured to be chosen. It makes me feel “being accepted”. It is very important part for me, as Sekar.

And also there are two major decision that gives myself back to the core.

I’m working again.

My husband said “Don’t waste your time applying a job. I know you. You only want to work under a company if you get inspired by its vision or get inspired by the leader. Other than that you are much better if you start your own company like you did in Indonesia”.

He is right.

….and I’m doing sport in the gym again. I feel better and I feel more relax even when I don’t pass the driving exam.




Is there any other truth other than we will shape ourselves when we live in a new country?

You will have a new you but still you, yourself. 


For those who will move, this is my advice:

Go out. 

Get lost.

Get “a date” with your new country.

Find yourself back. 

Have yourself back. 


I can do it. 

You can do it. 









Thank you so much for all my family and my friends !!

I feel sooooo happy to have you guys.

I feel like home here.

Love. Xx

Living together, having kids, but not married

Two weeks ago I asked my driving instructor “You have two kids, why you are not married?”

He replied “why should I? why you are married?”

and the first thing that came up in my head was “because that’s what the right thing to do, right?”

He replied again “what is the right thing to do here?”.



Those statement intrigued me.

A lot of couples here in The Netherlands do “samen women’ or “samen leven” or… living together without marriage.

Living together without marriage and then having kids together until they are old and having grandchildren.. and they are still not in a marriage.

Can you imagine that?

I can imagine that.



In my home country, Indonesia, has “in complicated relationship” status with the government, including “don’t trust”, “dislike”, “not taking care of each other”.

This country, The Netherlands, has a “in a relationship” status with its government. It is like a very strong bond relationship, mostly including “trust” or “at least we trust that the government has a good will to take care of us”.

Based on that belief…

We live here by rules.

Every single things have its rules and it is in the system and connected to each other.

Really. The government even have a rules on how you throw the garbage into 5 containers, on how you drive, on how you smoke, on how you bike, on how you buy things, on where you live, with whom you live, aha!

Even when you are living together in the same address, the government knows that!..and automatically you are registered in the city council as “samen leven”…living together!

So, living together here, in my opinion, is actually almost the same as “a marriage” because it is registered.

You even can have a contract agreement of living together or fiscal partnership. You have the same rights with subsidies, allowance for the kids, etc.

Why should people married then if they have the same rights as people who are married?


In my home country, a marriage is seen as a family celebration that the kids are finally having their own life and living outside the house (finally..).

The structure of a living is first you graduate from university then working then having a marriage.

A marriage is a tool for some people to live outside the house or at least people see them as a grown up people. For some girls even will skip the “working” part and want right away to get marriage…

So then when you attend an Indonesian wedding, you will feel that it is a (big) family celebration..It is not only for the couple but mostly it is for the parents. The guests who attend the party are minimal 500-1000 people, range from the colleague of the parents, the friends of the parents, the old friends of the parents, the big extended family of the parents, and the rest are friends and colleague from the children (the couple). Who pay the wedding? Mostly the parents because it is their celebration, yes! finally my children are an adult.

In here, children are expected to live outside the house at age 18 and are expected to do self-finance of their own study. By that, means that people will see them as a fully grown up person by age 18. Parents are very excited when they live outside the house and have their own adventure of life…meaning working, falling in love, failing, standing up and trying new things… The parents will not interfere your life…

So… in here, a marriage is not like a schema that you have to do it. Not at all.

A marriage is not even a tool to hold your partner to stay faithful to you. Not at all.

A marriage is not a sign that you are an adult. Not at all.

A marriage is probably not even priority in people’s life here.

Because people are seen as an adult not only from the marital status….

and.. remember.. the government knows all.

People are getting married to celebrate their love. They are not getting married or having a wedding party to start a new life. So there are many cases that they are getting married when the kids are grown up already, or even when they are old already.


What if you have kids?

Remember again… if you are not married, but you have already contract of living together or fiscal partner contract then you both agree to have children together and it is easy to registered your children. Yes, you have to declare yourself as a parent (mother and father) of the child but in this case, the mother and the father already have a bond together as a family (by the contract that has been signed in front of the notaris).

In my opinion, if you already have the contract of living together that means two people are willingly to live together under the law and if you have to declare your children… it is not an issue. It is just a matter of a paper. The parents will get also subsidies en allowance.

My friend @misskania said “So, samenwonen and marriage here in NL is basically the same: the union of people living together and documents to be signed and submitted and paid.”

I don’t want to go into very details with the rights and what is the difference between marriage and samenleven and fiscal partner.

I just want to give perspective that there are another contract of living together in here in Holland. If there are two people live together, having kids, without married, it can be (and mostly) they have a contract of living together.. and that’s legal.

It is different if you don’t have any contract, you are single mother, and the father of the child doesn’t want to declare the baby… that’s another issue…like everywhere in the world.


When people agree to live together, it means they (really) live together, they pay tax of the house together, they raised the children together, they manage the house together… the same as a marriage life.

When they decide to get married (after having children) is because they want to throw a wedding party, and they want to celebrate it with friends and they have money!

Yes, getting married here is so expensive…also getting divorced is so damn expensive here.

When your wedding is on the weekend and you asked the people from city council to come to the party, it costs fortune.

It was cost more than 1200 euro on Saturday, in my wedding day, only to be registered and the city council people were coming to the wedding location. Can you imagine that?

…plus the church (if you want to do it in the church), plus the gala party in the night, the dinner… It is very costly..more than you can imagine.

But there is always 1-2 days in a month that’s free of charge. Usually people will have their wedding day on that day, in the city council. 🙂


(To be able to do this witness signing in the party location on Saturday, it was costly…super expensive… but yet it was once in a lifetime!)

The Last….

So, I hope I can give a little bit of perspective that “samen leven” in The Netherlands is not because of sex. It is not, it is never like that.

I think, being in a marriage and getting married are two different term.

For me, samen leven is the same as being in a marriage but without getting married (having a wedding day).

The rights in front of the government can be slightly different but.. still samen leven required a lot of documents and being signed and paid.

The united of two people, living together and having kids together are requiring a lot of responsibilities..

Some countries needs the official wedding-marriage paper to start those phase of life, some countries doesn’t need that. But for me, when you want to understand a culture of another country, you must see the whole bigger picture of that country. Try not using our own culture to see another culture. That will lead a judgement.

But there is one thing…one thing.. that’s why.. deepest in my heart, I still love the fact that I’m married to someone I love..

There is one thing that “marriage” can’t be compared as “samen leven”…

I can call my partner as “MY HUSBAND” and he can call me “MY WIFE” officially.


Those 2 terms, are only can be done when you are married.

So, you want to get married or not?


(This photo was taken in front of the church! Yes, he is my husband!)



Greetings from Zwolle,

Sekar Steenwelle-Nareswari





My blog through my eyes

Today I get my first assignment from #blogging101 that is conducted by The Happiness Engineers from wordpress @michelleweber @simplysaru and @chrissiepollock. The assignment is actually consist of 2 simple questions : “Who I am” and “Why I’m here?”.

I read this after convincing myself that my sons won’t wake up in 10 minutes because you need stay focus while reading an important assignment. After reading it, my sons woke up and had to bring them to school… and surprisingly my mind still stay focus in this assignment… I keep thinking “Why I’m blogging?” when doing grocery shopping, playing with the youngest, preparing the lunch… and now I’m sitting here and writing and wondering..


I’m a reader. I’m a thinker.

I think about everything. I read about everything. I combine both of them and most of the time I find a new explosion in my head… Eureka!! A new perspective of life….

…and that perspective has to be written. If I don’t write it.. I feel so irritated. I will think about it over and over, days by days, weeks by weeks. I have to write. But, where I have to write? In a blog? Really?

It is scare me a little when I start my blog in 2012. I will publish my thought… How scary is that? People will see me, my brain, my opinion, my thought. There will be no barrier between my opinion and my readers’ opinion… I can’t lie, I can’t hide.

I always feel that writing is all about being naked.

You are who you are when you write.

You can not lie.

You become the true you when you write.


That’s how I see myself… I need to write, I need to share my thought.. It’s scary but it is also beautiful because I can be honest about my life, my perspective and how I see life.

I gain happiness after writing. I feel empowered. It gives me energy…


It feels good to share what is in my mind….

Especially when my readers said that my writing gives them new idea, new perspective about life. That makes me happy. Sharing is celebrating. I share about my life because I celebrate life. My blog is my own celebration of life.


Sekar Nareswari

Typical Indonesian gathering (in The Netherlands)

Last weekend I was in Den Haag for having a lunch together with my Indonesian friends. There were 16 of us. We had lunch in Kee Lun restaurant in chinatown. It was super gezelling (fun and great).

At the end of the day, when I was home, my husband asked “so, what you guys talked about during the gathering?”. I was like “hah… hmmm.. what we were talking about actually..hhmmm..you mean.. is it like what kind of discussion we had during lunch?”. He said “yes.”… and I was like again “I don’t think we have any discussion…”. Then.. I was in silent and then replied “We have a typical Indonesian gathering anyway… it is called makan-makan!”

What is typical Indonesian gathering :

1. Food 

We love food. The best people is people who love food. We are adventurous with taste. So we don’t mind to order new food that we never eat before. Let’s say we never “play safe” with taste. Last weekend we didn’t think too long when we ordered the food… The discussion we had is “We order 2 or 3?” and the rest replied “threeee just three….. we will finish it anyway!!” or ‘We order this one or this one?” and the rest replied “both! ordered both! both are delicious!”.

We gave our order list to the waitress and the waitress reacted “Are you sure? You order three for this veggies menu, this is too much”… Of course we ordered three!! She was surprised and said that the particular dish is served in big portion. So we changed, we just order 1 but we added 2 new dishes. So basically it was the same size and amount. 🙂


All of those dishes were served for 7 women. 🙂 We ate all of them in less than an hour. After that… we still ordered some dishes…


When there are at least 2 Indonesian, there will be a very good food served! When my Indonesian friend will visit me, I will cook a lot and we will enjoy our food while having a good conversation… including talking about food. 🙂

2. The Talk

Basically when we have a gathering with many people, we only want to have a good laugh together. Laughing out loud is a typical Indonesian ambient when we meet up together. It doesn’t matter only 2 or 3 people. We don’t discuss heavy stuff, we even don’t talk about our daily life like “how’s your children?”, “how’s your holiday?”… We just make a joke almost about everything.. have a very light conversation that will be twisted and turned into a joke and everybody will laugh (out loud).

Almost there is no pause moment without laughing. We are talking and also we are eating… and we are also talking about the food that is served “Hmmm.. this is delicious!”, “wow!! how this is cooked anyway? it is so soft.”, “ahhh this is delicious but this dish is more delicious in the other restaurant.”, “you can find this ingredient in that shop.”… so on and so fort. The talk is always light, easy and everybody can follow the conversation…it doesn’t matter where you come from. We are good at building a conversation.

When we meet up with people from another country or from another community, it is not difficult to build a casual conversation that makes them feel in inner circle. Even between a very close friends, when we are going out… we won’t talk too much about our daily life. We prefer to have a light conversation that is lead to “LOL” (Laugh Out Loud). A good meeting up, a good atmosphere have to have a lot of LOL.


This us, before the food is coming.


…and that is me, when the food is coming! :-)))

So, what is typical Indonesian gathering? There are only 2 important ingredient…

A good food and a good laugh! 🙂 guarantee!

Especially when we live so far away from our home country. When we meet up, we just want to have a good laugh… It re-charges our soul. 🙂

*For the all my friends in the pictures !!

  Thank you guys!! It was super fun meeting up!! 

  Always fun, always happy to see you guys. Xxx


Cheers from the upper-side town of The Netherlands,

Sekar Nareswari

What we do when travelling with toddler and baby

We are not a globetrotter but we do love traveling. We don’t travel around the world as many as we want but every year we always have at least 1 trip that involves at least 16 hours trip in the plane. Yes, that trip is going to Indonesia, my hometown. The other trip is just a trip surrounding The Netherlands, which we quite often do it… usually during weekend.

We are not a super cool family traveler who can write a blog about our traveling but maybe I can share some tips about how we do traveling across the continent, more than 16 hours flight with a toddler and a baby.

Here are the tips:

1. A few weeks before going with a plane

We flew with a plane, across the continent, as a family with kids, since our first son was 6 months old. We flew to Australia. The last time we flew with our kids, 3 y.o and 11 months old, was last month, on the way back to Holland from Indonesia.

For us, the most important preparation is explaining to them that we will go in the plane and what they will expect to see, to know, to touch, to eat, to do, to hear, to listen, basically everything…

We started it by looking at the sky when a plane fly above the sky and we started talking to our sons what is inside the plane… and continue having casual conversation when we see a plane on television or someone is going  with a plane or a book with a plane picture, etc.

…and we also said to them what we expected from them when we were in the plane.

It helps ! A lot !! They were prepared, mentally.

2. The D-day. 

Both of our sons are very extrovert. They gain energy by being in the crowd and they love making contact with everybody… and our eldest son loves having conversation with everyone. The more tired they are, the more active they can be. Unbelievable! 🙂 but it’s true.

We are fully awared of that.

So, our plan was keeping them active and awake and just waiting the moment that they were very sleepy and slept by themselves.

They loved to move, to be active, to run, to crawl, to speak with strangers, to sing a song, etc.

So, the day before we were leaving, I and my husband tried to have a lot of rest and took a vitamin. We knew that we won’t sleep long in the plane which was true!

We brought a lot of toys but that didn’t really work with our sons. They are extrovert, so they needs to see the world around them ! Let it be. If that is the case with your children… Let them walking around and go to the stewardess place in the back of the plane.. usually there are some spaces for the baby and kids to stretch their feet.. Have fun with your baby. Be  ready to be tired and not sleeping.

It works that way!

My eldest son slept almost 11 hours in the plane after watching frozen and toy story. So we could focus on taking care of our baby.

So, the tips are… we have to know what is the character of our kids. What is the thing that can keep them entertain… don’t worry if they cry in the plane. Be ready for that and distract them as necessary as possible but let it be if they just want to cry.. other passengers will understand that.. trust me. Especially when we seat in economy class… some people might get irritated but let it be… they won’t see us again.. what matter is your family and your emotion, so manage it well. 🙂

My tips, I always say to people who sit next to us that my baby will cry and I apology if that bother her/him. Smile, heads up, be a parents who take care of their baby, and people will see your effort and understand your battle.

In our experience, children or baby will cry once a while but they will stop anyway when they sleep or get distraction. Let be honest, as an adult, we also feel super tired and get bored with 16-18 hours flight, up in the air… if we can cry, we will.. but we know that we are not allowed, we are adult!. So let the baby cry once a while.. they feel bored as well and crying is the only thing they can do to express their super boredom feeling.

We also used baby carrier in the plane (see the picture at the bottom, my hubby used it), the boba carrier that we borrowed from our good friend. Our baby slept easily in the carrier. Whenever he felt sleepy, he just slept right away there. 🙂

I always see myself that I will be in the battle when I fly with my kids. So, I prepare my energy, my mood and my emotions. That’s my only strategy. The rest is the same like everybody else: bring a lot of toys, bring a lot of spare clothes for the kids and for the adults, bring water in a good bottle (they will allow it), a lot of cookies, wear a very comfortable yet warm clothes and shoes, bring everything that makes you feel ready to be in the battle! 🙂

Don’t worry about the stewardess, they are all very helpful !

I don’t know why but in every trip, every single time we were landed and about to leave the seat, the stewardess always, always hug or just touch my shoulder and they said “you are doing good, mom!”… one or two times I really cried in front of them.. felt so relief that I was doing great as a mother with kids in the plane. I think that is quite an achievement, isn’t it.

3. The Kids’ jetlag

Trust me, there is no other tips then Let it Flow ! 🙂 The first few days when we were in Indonesia, they woke up around 2-3am and stayed awake until 5am Indonesia time (that is around midnight in Holland). We just followed our natural-biology rhythm. But we tried always put them in bed the same time as we put them in bed while we are in Holland, 8pm. After a week, their body could follow the Indonesia time.

The same as when we arrived back in Holland. We just keep on with the routine we usually do when we are here. When they woke up in the middle of the night, just let it be.. but let them know that was still midnight and everybody should sleep. Be consistent with the rhythm and enjoy the lack of sleeping. 🙂

As a parent, we just have to be prepared not having a long rest, that’s all. Drink a lot, eat healthy, take vitamin, are the tips.

4. The hotel 

Our eldest son never has difficulty sleeping on the same bed with us, while our youngest has difficulty doing that. He wanted to sleep on his own crib, and preferably in his own room (but that can’t during traveling). So, he had some times struggling to sleep with another people in the same room although he slept in his own crib. If that’s the case, always order the baby box in advance. It is also very handy to keep them safe, playing in the box while we take shower.

5. The program 

We love meeting people so our agenda always full with meeting up people. My suggestion is… try to meet 1 people/group of people per day. The rest, try to spend time with family/kids.

My eldest son had some moments that felt so confused because everyone spoke different than him and he couldn’t understand everyone, although his grandparents speak dutch. But he loves talking to everyone, that made him sad for 1-2 weeks and didn’t feel so secure with the environment. I will feel the same if I’m in a new country that I don’t understand the language… like the first time I was in Holland, it was stressful.

But.. sooner he understood that people can speak many languages and he tried to catch up.. and willing to learn some words and sentences.

We should put our kids needs in priority.. we should make them feel secure that the new world they enter isn’t scary. We are there for them.

At the end, we had a fabulous holiday! 🙂 The children met their grandparents and I met my family and my hubby met his in-laws. 🙂

We will not do trip to Indonesia this year because we want to have a trip to France and do camping in this summer holiday 🙂 So, wait for our adventure.. a camping trip! A true dutch summer holiday trip.

For parents who want to have a long haul trip with their kids: Good luck and Have fun !! 🙂





Here was when we were about to leave Holland 🙂


Here was when we arrived in Schiphol ! 🙂