Meet Pak Sandung of Setumbu Hill, Central Java

Submitted by mumunmumun on 30 November 2011   •  Java   •  Central Java

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When you’re on the road, you would meet the most interesting people. They might be commoners to the local area, but they would definitely be special to a visitor like you. I’m a big fan of talking to people when I travel. I don’t always do it since I don’t like to force unnecessary conversations. I start one when one is meant to happen. And usually, when it does, I’m always entertained (I think I drowned in a pot of weed potion when I was a baby).

In these few weeks of Jogjakarta on our trip entries, I’m reminded about Pak Sandung. It was just after sunrise and we were still taking pictures for our time lapse of Borobudur at Setumbu hill, Magelang. The hill was almost empty from visitors and photographers because it was getting late. We were a bit disappointed because it was a bit cloudy and we didn’t get the sunrise we expected. We and some Magelang photographers stuck around for the sake of a few good pictures. Pak Sandung suddenly approached us at the mini gazebo.

At first, I thought he was going to hustle us. He looked old and poor, potentially a beggar seeking a few change from visitors. I replied his questions necessarily and politely but had no will to give him money. After a few questions and seeing that he wasn’t helpless since he had a sickle with him, turns out he was just curious and looking for a nice conversation with strangers. We indulged.

travel Indonesia - Central Java

Pak Sandung is a 77 year old man, or what he claims to be. He had walked barefoot from home, up the Setumbu hill and will walk a little way more. That morning, he was heading up to the field to get some grass for his cows. Judging by his feet, he’s been doing this a long time. I think he wouldn’t even feel a thumb tack piercing his feet even if he stepped on one. His voice is a bit tenor and has no teeth to help pronunciations but he was understandable. However, he is nice, friendly, and has a super warm toothless smile.

Travel Indonesa - Central Java

Being so old, we asked the obvious:‘Were you in the war?’ we always like a bit of a war story. He gave us a long ‘Oh’ as if he realized what we wanted and answered, ‘Of course not, I was in school’. We all laughed out our sentimental expectation. No patriotic story here, children. Move along now.   

He taught me how to count in Japanese and he sang us a Japanese song which I danced to. He told us how he had been smoking since he was 17 and that he’s still fit as a horse. The wifey was at home and he has more than 10 grandchildren. I guess smoking can kill and cause infertility is a myth for some people. He asked to be photographed and enjoyed posing for it. I enjoyed his company very much even though I didn’t indulged in it all the way. It’s conversations like these that made the hardship of getting up at 3 am in the morning mean nothing. It’s worth every time and money you spend to travel. After about 20 minutes chatting, he parted and continued his quest.

I felt bad for my initial impression. At that point I really want to give him snacks or food to share so he would have some extra energy for grass cutting. But we had none. Now, all we have are these pictures of him, which I really want to send him. I think I will, along with pictures of others that helped us that morning. It is the least that we can do after he warmly entertained us with his presence that cloudy morning. 

travel Indonesia - Central Java

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