I am trying to be as open and as emotionally vulnerable as possible so I am forcing myself to sit down to list out the things that happened to me the past week. Emotional vulnerability is not about emotional insecurity, but in my definition it is about learning how to accept things as it is without being guarded. I’ve decided to write about this trip because it’s a bit different from my usual business/leisure trips. I think stories like these are BORING AS HECK, but it has to be told, I guess….
I am call myself an Impostor Backpacker because …I have a mental illness where I don’t want to be caught wearing the exact same thing twice. In my backpack there are blouses and even platform shoes. Who brings these on a trip up the mountains???
Two weeks before the 1st of August my father came into my room to tell me that a particular place in Bogor would be conducting a memorizing Al-Quran workshop, and asked if I would be interested to join. I had plans on pursuing my Quranic studies since I am just in love with the genius in poetry the Quran is. So I said okay, why not. The plan was that I’ll be going on my own, and then visit my baby siblings in Tangerang. I made no other plans. At this point of time I was also writing, and thinking too ahead of the future, that I found myself living in it. It’s suffocating, and unhealthy for my soul. So I decided not to make any concrete plans.
I know a medical student who was doing his practical in Bogor. I contacted him to ask about directions. He wasn’t much of a help; busy guy plus he wasn’t local. I kept thinking, “I have so many friends in Indonesia yet I don’t know anybody in Bogor?” I turned to ask the school for directions; they gave me lots of options, which was good, but I’m glad that after that something in my head kept telling me that I KNOW someone in Bogor.
It wasn’t until a week after this incident I realised that this someone was my friend named Karin. She didn’t reply me until days later. The last I met her was December 2014. We agreed that we’ll meet at her university in Depok (she’s a lecturer and she’s my age!). She offered her place to stay for one night. I was to take the bus from the airport to Depok, and then take a cab to her university.
So the day came and my flight was scheduled to fly at noon. Living in Johor and frequently flying to Jakarta, I would always be rushing for time trying to catch planes. I hate it. I hate rushing. I like to be early. Told my father that we’ll leave the house at 4 AM, so that I could chill and stroll to the airport. We prayed Subuh at Masjid Temenggong (opposite Vivocity), since my father had something to do in Harbourfront. I prayed that if something is good for me, bring it closer to me and if it is not, bring it away from me.
Here is a tired awkward selfie of me, of someone who slept at 11 PM to wake up at 3.30 AM to catch a noon flight:
Back to my prayers: That is why when my flight was delayed for SEVEN HOURS I was all right. SEVEN HOURS. Never happened in my life. But I can’t complain. Allah had made me avoid something, or bring myself closer to something, I tell myself.
I talked to some people during that seven hours: a man who says Ahok is a good governor (thank goodness, because in Indonesia the word AHOK is mentioned many many times), a holistic massage therapist, a baker with a baking academy, a human rights (?) lawyer, an abused maid safe and flying home, a maid on a break, a Halal competency specialist and another maid on a holiday. Oh, I’ve also given myself a mission to talk so as many people as possible on this trip. You know, to strengthen human bonds and learn something new.
The only seeming problem was that my 12 noon flight which would have allowed me to explore a new city in broad daylight now gave me no choice but to arrive in Jakarta when the Sun rays have exited the city and darkness have blanketed the skies.
All right, what an adventure. So much for wanting to live in the moment! I found the bus terminal at the airport and this was my first time stepping foot on it. I find it quite embarrassing, that if in a year I fly to Jakarta many times, the only mode of transport I knew was the taxi. Not cool.
It was very kind and hospitable of Karin, a young, unmarried woman, to go out of her house at 11 PM to pick me up. We are good Asians. We don’t do things like these! But I’m glad she did. Karin is a friend of mine from 2008 😉 If you’d known me from that period, you’ll know how she is my friend, then.
If I hadn’t listened to my instincts to contact Karin, I wouldn’t know where to go since my flight was delayed for seven hours. True, the school had given me directions, but they were only safe to be followed in the day haha. Very different travelling in the day and night, and night time travel was not in my head at all. I guess planning is important after all. But my point is my plans were NOT CONCRETE, and that I wasn’t too stressed out over the delay.
My limit to ~adventuring~ is before 12 midnight because you know, at home I am Cinderella.
I love Karin and her house. Indonesians as always are very hospitable people, and I could learn a thing or two from them. She’s also a damn good haggler. When we met in 2014 she could bring down the price of something from 40 to 25. She’s a statistics lecturer, of course. I guess she’ll know the stats of …how much they earn or something O.O I have no idea. In other words, she’s amazing, and I wish I was as smart as she is. Weather was cool in Bogor, she owns NO fans/air-cond.
The next day she sent me off via cab while she took the train to work. My Grabcar driver was a man who used to work in Singapore. He graduated from Pertamina University and was earning USD2300 per month. The price of oil dropped so he was sent home.
I don’t want to write much about what I did at the workshop, but here are some pictures. Yes, it is somewhere in the mountains. I don’t want to talk much about this, because I don’t think it’s important.
I bathed at 3 AM in freezing mountainous water, though. That, is important 😉 *pats self on the back*.
At the workshop I was the youngest participant, and the other young girl is a pre-school teacher aged 25. Most of the participants there already have tahfizs built, or are planning to build one. Tahfiz is a school for Quran memorisation. Interesting connections made, in case it is my calling to build a school one day (:
After my workshop ended I finally got the chance to visit Karin’s university!!! So exciting to finally take a train, lol. I want to take all public transports, if possible! I think it’s a good chance to live the life of the everyday people there.
Indonesian trains are considerably smaller than Singapore ones, but what I appreciate is the women cabin AND the staff making sure no man stayed on the cabin. KL has a similar system, but I had never seen a staff inspect the cabin. It’s not an issue of gender discrimination. Some of us are not comfortable squeezing with males.
The next day I took the train from Bogor to a particular station, to my sibling’s school. The total time taken was 2.5 hours. 😉 Not bad, I think. I love it. Appreciate train rides when I am not rushing anywhere.
Last Ramadan I met a Malaysian dentist student named Suraya and for this trip we planned to meet up, but alas she had something to do in Surabaya (the names rhyme, I love it). I didn’t plan to meet the following people, but in the middle of Quranic memorisation their faces flashed before me. That’s just how it works; that your heart tells you who you should meet for absolutely no reason. And then you just go with the flow.
Of course I was hesitant. They’re strangers, and they seem to be very busy. These guys I met last Ramadan too, but because I was into talking to Suraya, I didn’t talk to them much. My friend Atikah did.
There’s Muhammad and Shazwan, Malaysian medical students in Jakarta. The only characteristics I could draw/assume about them is from their social media. One gave me the #totallychillguy kind of vibe with his posts while the other I felt a bit heartbroken reading his posts about being tired. It’s not that I wished everyone remained happy forever, but you know, I feel words easily.
And yep my assumption about them was correct, or at least, according to my shallow visual perception. One was a #toochill dude, while the other was tired and you know, um, #toocool. They’re smart people, absolutely very nice and friendly, and I could learn how to be as chill and as cool as they are.
I slept at Miss Indri’s house that night! Aaaaah, another person I am so impressed by her hospitality. She’s my ex-colleague who teaches English. Someday when I have guests, Karin and Indri are my inspirations. I swear, I will try to be as hospitable as they are in treating guests.
That evening I met the people I facilitated an English Camp with: Selvi, Inay, and Anday. Another impromptu meeting. At 1 PM we agreed to meet at 4 PM. We talked about how to find our husbands (after the boss left). We don’t know how, because none of us has ever had a boyfriend. It’s quite pathetic, at the same time laughable.
(same shirt, different tudung; #mentalillness)
The next morning while Indri was doing her laundry I told her I’ll go out to look for my other friends (husband and wife). Something in my head told me to. I had NO IDEA where they lived. She only told me it was in front of a tamarind tree. I had NO IDEA what a tamarind tree looked like and when I looked it up, all trees looked the same. I didn’t inform my friend I was coming because I didn’t want her to break her routine or prepare anything for me, also I planned to only stay for a while.
But after a while of walking around the kampung, and after calling her to ask for directions, I found the place. Her husband was my colleague, was a Physics teacher and now a Physics lecturer. His wife was also in Physics, but after marriage and children she stopped. They are Fajar and Fanny. How cute is it that you marry someone whose names start with the same letter as you? I learnt how to be good parents through them. Their daughter bumped her head on the wall and they didn’t panic. So she didn’t cry. She just got up as if nothing happened. My cat could bump his head on the railing and I would already be crying for him. Smh.
One of the pleasantly surprising things was I met Miss Alfi 🙂 Alfi, too, married a man whose name starts with the letter A. (is that how jodoh works? My parents are both Y-Y too) She helped me drive to places a couple of times. An ex-colleague who taught Arabic. I attended her wedding in Indramayu, and after her wedding she immediately got bad morning sicknesses she quit her job. I thought I was not going to see her anytime soon, since she is now a mother. But hey, it turned out she just moved NEXT to my friend the day before. If I had chosen to visit my friend earlier, I wouldn’t have met Miss Alfi.
Trust in life.
That afternoon I had to say bye to my baby siblings… #sad
But true to the prayer I made at 5 AM at a masjid, that I prayed meet the people that I need to meet, and that these people were my prayers answered. I don’t know what goodness it will bring, but surely there is a lesson I can learn from everything. That’s why this post is more people-centric.
Smooth flight to Singapore, but upon my arrival home a sense of loneliness swept me.
Because I realised I was alone. Surrounded by people, but I am alone. Prefer to be alone, but I see now how lonely it can be. What loneliness really is. I’ve gone through my other solo trips not feeling this way at all. It’s a new feeling; emotional vulnerability. I am allowing myself to feel this way. It is okay. I am only human.
Perhaps was it because unlike my previous trips, I didn’t share them on social media? But this time I did? Or was it because everybody, now even strangers, kept telling me about how I shouldn’t be alone or I might end up being alone forever?
I don’t know. I’m still exploring the whole *other* emotions thingy. Experienced a lot, seen a lot.
Yet I know nothing.