Meet Clarissa Goenawan, the multinational citizen at heart
CLARISSA Goenawan is living proof that you can be a multinational citizen at heart no matter where you are, as long as you feel a connection with the place.
Born and raised in Indonesia but currently has her footing in Singapore where she lives and with an immense appreciation for anything and everything Japanese, Goenawan’s love for discovery and travel, be it through the words she pens or real-life adventures, is admirable.
By day she is award-winning Rainbirds author Clarissa Goenawan, a strong believer in equality and inclusivity. All other times she juggles multiple roles between being a daughter, a wife, and a mother.
Come October, she will be at The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2018 in Ubud on the Indonesian paradise island of Bali, where she will be speaking at The Big Read: Telling Tales and It Takes A Village.
Let’s get to know her a little bit better:
In Rainbirds, you penned a story about a young Japanese man’s path to self-discovery. Was it hard to write about a country or a culture that wasn’t your home ground? Why (or why not)?
Writing is challenging whether or not you write about your own country or culture. When writing outside my domain, I try my best to approach the subjects with care and respect.
Plenty of research always helps, and so does getting opinions from people who are familiar with the culture.
What do you love most about the Japanese culture and how would you describe it to someone who has never been to Japan?
There are too many things to love!
From the delicious food to the beautiful temples and gardens to the wide breadth of traditional and contemporary art, Japan has plenty to offer.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the toilets. Japan has the most hi-tech toilets in the world. Heated toilet seats in cold weather are divine.
Japan is a kaleidoscopic mix of the old and new. It’s fascinating.
For curious travelers who have never been to Japan, what things to do or places to eat you would highly recommend?
I could go on and on, suggesting hundreds of things to do, but I’ll try to keep it short.
Located in Shibuya, Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the emperor and his empress. It takes a 10-minute stroll from the massive torii gate into a tranquil forest before you reach the main complex.
In the early morning, the place is so peaceful. It makes me feel like I’m being transported to the past.
Just a short walk from Meiji Jingu, there is Harajuku, the place for the young and fashionable.
The main focal point of Harajuku is Takeshita Dori, a street lined with quirky vintage boutiques, trendy stores, and alternative fashion shops. Many youngsters gather in the area, dressed in their individual style.
The contrast between Meiji Jingu and Harajuku is captivating. Even though they’re right next to each other in Shibuya, they couldn’t be more different.
There are a couple of crepe shops in Harajuku, such as Santa Monica, Marion, and Angel’s Heart. Take your pick from a huge display of appetizing sweet and savory variations. You can never go wrong with any of them.
Not far from Harajuku, Luke’s Lobster Roll in leafy Omotesando is to-die-for. A generous portion of fresh lobster meat chunks slapped over a warm and crispy bun.
Go for the US size instead of the regular, and don’t be surprised if you still crave more.
Being an Indonesian-born who has spent so much time in Singapore, which culture do you feel you relate to better?
I was born and raised in Surabaya. It’s my hometown. No matter what, Indonesia will always have a special place in my heart.
When I was 16, I migrated to Singapore and have lived here ever since. My family is here too. This is where we build our lives. To me, Singapore is home.
It’s impossible for me to choose just one. I relate strongly to both countries and their cultures. They form a crucial part of my heritage and my identity.
What are some of your biggest takeaways and learnings from working in Singapore?
It’s perfectly fine to follow your heart and passion. If you don’t go after your dream, it will never come true.
Be willing to take a calculated risk. Good luck favors those who work hard and never give up.
Describe how you feel about going home to Indonesia to speak at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.
Incredibly excited and honored! Also, kind of nostalgic.
When I still lived with my parents in Surabaya, our family used to drive to Bali every year for a holiday. Sometimes, we went twice a year.
Bali is a gorgeous place, and the locals are so friendly. I can’t wait to go back.
Tell us why this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is not to be missed.
With a strong line-up of speakers such as Dee Lestari, Hanif Kureishi, Geoff Dyer, and many others, you know it’s going to be a magical and inspiring once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati.
It was first conceived of by Janet DeNeefe, co-founder of the foundation, as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing.