The sky cracks open- loud and threatening. The pounding of the rain on the roof which hits the pavement, a welcome and defeating patter that drowns out the sound of life – except for some voices of children that never seem to stop. The trees sway and again the sky says QUIET to all those on earth as it bangs and is accompanied by lightning, it literally seems to open a void of the sky – showering the earth more heavily; the rain gets louder. It’s rainy season in Indonesia. Nearly everyday the reliable rain lays down its fury onto the hot earth. The rain gives you the excuse to do nothing and stay indoors but it also forces you to do so- everyday for now two weeks (possibly from 1pm-morning). The streets flood. Sometimes you brave it and find yourself in flip flops ankle deep in dirty water that has who knows what because the storm drains are also added in this dirty mix. So you keep on your flip flops, afraid of what you might step on, and kick back – flip flop – mud water up the back of your legs. On the way back from the mall the other day I saw a rat the size of a cat in a puddle. Oh man, the things that don’t phase you anymore once you travel and live in places you never thought you would.
Indonesia is a different place. Natalie, my roommate from Pittsburg, says “Oh man, that’s so indonesian” when something so typical here happens. Let’s see if I can try to have you understand what I mean with a couple of examples. A private car picks me up from Jakarta and takes me to cirebon, a drive that should only take 4 hours tops – but instead it takes 10.5 hours and traffic isn’t an issue. Cars pull in front of you to park while you’re walking, so they’re totally cutting you off to the point that you need to stop walking. It is believed if you’re sick you must have gotten it from swimming at night or a ghost is haunting you. My money went missing – could be a ghost. You must leave your porch light on at night to keep the spirits away. Ask for wireless internet for your house- it will take more than a month to happen. It is extremely typical to be at the gym and be using some equipment and for someone to come up and say “I was using that” and expect you to get off so they can use it. When returning my gym stuff (towel and locker key) to the front desk, they tell me to put the towel in the gym locker so they’ll get it later. Classic Indonesia. Nothing makes sense!
So I live in cirebon- which is 3.5 hours by train from Jakarta- which has heaps more westerners. Here in cirebon, I am one of two. Well, there are expats- but they’re no where to be seen (I hope to get more involved with the expat community here in the future).
I can’t go anywhere without getting crazy gawked at, whispered about, yelled at, called after, talked to, motioned over, you name it. “Mister!” Some yell to me. A man at his food stand grabs my hand, pulling me to sit down and won’t let go of my hand. I pull it and say goodbye. People ask me to take “selfie, miss!” No, thanks! I wish to be walking New York City where no one looks twice at me. A fly on the wall.
It is exhausting. The heat takes it out of me and so does the virus I’m currently dealing with. It is also lonely. The unwelcome thousand eyes on me are a reminder of that loneliness. I have made no friends in my three weeks here. I have people I see every time I go to the gym and the teachers I work with, sure, but that’s different from finding a friend. I like meeting people at the places where I find bliss- which could be at yoga for example. But here it’s not so easy. I don’t speak Indonesian so that’s first and foremost a huge barrier.
Life is different here. It is very different from the life I lived on Koh Tao. No more bikinis! No more shorts and tank tops. Koh Tao was lots of skin and partying. I wore a tank top walking home the gym the other day, sat down to drink a coconut on the side of the rode and man, men began to treat me like I was an animal in a cage- pointing at me, asking to take photos, and making terrible gestures. Here, alcohol is illegal to sell and most women where a hijab which covers their hair, and they cover all skin (besides hands and face). I even feel risqué when I wear a tank top at my house! It’s tough because it is so freaking hot outside. But hey- at least it’s rainy season so that cools things down a bit.
Cirebon is a coastal city. Before coming I thought- sweet! But since arriving, I’ve come to realize that no one goes to the beach here because it is absolutely trashed! How terrible and inevitable. I have not come to understand why most of Asia believes it’s okay to litter and therefore destroy the environment. It kills me to watch a little boy throw trash on the ground and for his mother to do the same following after. So because of this- the last place I want to go here is Cirebon’s beach. It would kill my soul.
What am I doing here? I am teaching two 5th grade English classes and one 8th grade chemistry class at an international school. I teach English a couple days a week to students at a cruise ship school. I also give private English lessons to two kids on Sunday. Quite the different move. Plans really do change, hey!