Anyone who tells you that Indonesia does not celebrate New Year’s Eve is misinformed. I was packed and ready to go on an adventure that night, as traveling in the night would be faster and cooler. I was ready to shout Happy New Year’s! on the bus somewhere in the middle of Java, hurtling towards Paciran on the north coast. Instead, I spent New Year’s Eve somewhere in the middle of the hospital reception and getting a prescription filled for my friend at the hospital apotek, listening to all the fireworks go off around town and in the street and peeking out to see flashes of yellow, green, red. And we could barely GET to the hospital, because no taxi driver wanted to brave the mad traffic going on in the city. Everyone and their brother was outside, just chilling, waiting to ring in the New Year with these shiny gold and pink and green noisemakers, some in the shape of dragons. Stands selling these noisemakers had popped up in my absence at Singapore, and when I came back to Yogya, these street sellers were taking over most corners (in Indonesia, the sellers will come to you!). So that’s when the father of the family hanging out on the cement parking lot where my friend was vomiting and I was trying to something comforting offered to take my friend on his motorbike to the nearest hospitable. I followed on an ojek behind them, politely declining the useless helmet that he offered me.
My mission to get to Paciran, the village where I will be doing fieldwork starting at the end of July, was already onto a great start. But that’s just how it is.
We decided to try again the next morning. First hurtle: there was no transJogja bus stop near where we parked the motorbike, so we got on a minibus instead. No problem. We then got on the bus heading towards Surabaya; meal ticket included! After a lunch stop, we got off at a small city before Surabaya to catch another bus. Second hurtle: the bus to Tuban was WAY to full. I mean, this is an approx 2 hour bus ride, and people were packed in there, standing, up to the open door way; if someone had been jostled a bit, they could fly out into the road. That’s just how it is here. So we took a becak to the bus terminal, and decided to wait there instead of flagging down the bus by the pasar (market) where we were. After about 1 hour of waiting, it was clear that the bus wasn’t going to come to the terminal, and the bus that was being repaired in front of us, wasn’t going to be fixed any time soon. So just when we decided to eat some nasi goreng (actually the BEST nasi goreng I have had in my whole life), a guy in the same predicament as my friend and I told us we should go back to the pasar where we originally were. So we wolfed down the food to tackle hurtle number 3: bargain hard with the “mafia” there to take a becak back to the market. Accomplished! Back at the market, I had a minor freak out because I couldn’t find my wallet. With 7 indonesian men surrounding and watching me frantically dig through my bag, I finally found it and I paid the becak driver. We arrived just on time for the bus from Jombal to Tuban. We were lucky, as it was the last bus that night. Hurtle number 4: stay calm during this 1.5 hour bus ride where an arab-indonesian man talked to me non-stop; told me my name is better as “Zina”, as in the Princess Warrior, and that I’m a liar that I’m 27, that I should be married already (a common topic here), that young women are innocent and sweet, and women who are older cannot be molded; that he wants to go to Canada and find a job and also a young virgin women; and would I help him go to the Embassy and write a letter saying that I am his friend to help him get a visa. And at the end, he gave me a gift of his hat that he was wearing and that I should not be mad. I think I spoke 10 words total. In Tuban, yay! On to a mini-bus. By this time, I let my friend deal with the usual questions and I passed out. Woke up, and we could smell the North Java Sea!!!!!!!!!! Too bad we couldn’t see it! The sun had set a long time ago. We bartered with the only motorized becak driver there to take us to the house. And while we were on the way, the rain was starting to fall lightly and we were feeling refreshed. And as the rain started to come down harder and harder, and the driver stopped the becak to bring out the plastic sheet protector thing, we laughed and laughed: no, THIS was the perfect ending. From door to door, it was 9:30am to 12:30am. Welcome to Paciran.
Then the past 3 days in Paciran. What a whirlwind of emotions and meeting people. I went with the mother of my host family to visit a family that had a recent death, and to 2 families that had a recent birth. I stopped by the pasar with her to buy papaya and jeruk, oranges. I was followed by a group of 6 children to the warnet (internet place), and then they crowded around and watched me read some emails. Then I helped 2 of the kids create their own facebook page (they are obsessed here). I was invited to go with a family for a “walk”, which I learned was to go to the next village over by motorbike to treat me to “Quick Chicken” (some kind of KFC) and then drop by their friend’s house, where I could take pics with them.
It is a very Islamic town. It is appropriate that I wear clothes that cover me to my ankles and to my wrists. At the school where I will be helping out to teach, it is appropriate that I also where a headscarf, or a jilbab or kerudung (like Obama’s wife!, as many people mentioned). Around your own neighbourhood and in your own home, though, you can be more lenient and wear long shorts or skirts and modest t-shirts. A grandma with naked breasts is okay too, in her house. That’s just how it is here.