Embodying the oft-quoted line, “Work to live, don’t live to work,” a 25-year-old Indonesian domestic worker is breaking tradition and pursuing her dreams while working full-time in Hong Kong.

Terenia Puspita, who hails from East Java, is currently in her second year of studying English literature and translation through a distance learning program at the Open University of Indonesia.

In a recent interview with i-Cable, a Hong Kong-based media company, Terenia said that the reason why she was motivated to pursue a degree in her spare time was because she admired “smart girls” and wanted to be independent.

“I’m a domestic helper, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a dream,” she said.

Speaking to AM730, Terenia said she believed that knowledge can “change your fate”, as she wished for more in life than settling down as her mother did at the age of 19.

“Getting married isn’t my goal in life … I don’t want to rush into it, instead of waiting for someone special. Women should use knowledge to build their own careers and live their own lives… I want to live on my own terms.”

In juggling her work responsibilities with her studies, Terenia said she revises and does her homework after she finishes up her domestic duties, which is usually around 10pm.

“After a shower, I read and do my homework. I don’t sleep until 2 or 3am … sometimes while my books and laptop are still open,” she said.

The voracious bookworm said her dream was to one day attend Harvard University or Oxford University on a scholarship, adding: “I know that dream’s too big for me, but who knows? Keep dreaming, and keep doing what you have to do.”

Brigitta Isabella, who works with the KUNCI Cultural Studies Center, a research collective based in Yogyakarta, had this to say about Terenia after interviewing her: “I regard Terenia as a writer who supports her passion by being a migrant worker, rather than a migrant worker who happens to like writing.”

Terenia was among several other Indonesian migrant workers who were featured in an exhibition entitled “A Room of Their Own” last month, which explored the blossoming literary culture amongst Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong.

Besides Terenia, Nyami Kaswadi, owner of mobile library Pandu Pustaka; author Arista Devi; and library owner Aiyu Nara were also part of the exhibition.

Image via Coconuts Hong Kong.

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