Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 6 May 2017 • Destination
They say three’s a charm, and this might be true in the case of complimenting an Indonesian. A friend once said, it takes three compliments before and Indonesian accepts it as a valid appreciation. But this might not be the case in Senggarang Village, Bintan, where once would be enough. Before anything else, here’s how the complementing sequence might go:
A: Hey! You’re looking good today!
B: Really? No, it’s just normal.
A: No, really! You look like you have this new glow.
B: But nothing’s changed. Are you sure?
A: I’m sure. Maybe it’s a new dress or something?
B: Oh nothing has changed. But, thank you.
It might not happen to everyone, but from observation, mostly it’s true. Some people in Indonesia have this overly humble way in how they see themselves. A compliment is something huge and should be from something you earn well.
Again, it wasn’t the case in some parts in Indonesia. I was walking through an alley of Senggarang Village, Bintan, a village made above the water. From far, it seemed like any other fishing village in Indonesia. Coming close, it became more apparent that this village is slightly different, with unique wooden house designs, much with double doors and double window panes along boardwalks. Houses are small from the front, but as I worked my way stepping into one after getting to know some locals, I realised it was just narrow but has an extensive length to the back. Rooms lined up to the back to open areas for cooking, more rooms, and family shrines.
The people, apparently were mostly Chinese descendants. Later, I caught that the Senggarang Village is one of the first villages where Chinese immigrants resided in local area. It was kinda of apparent, as many of people wandering around had oriental features. Most of them, as my guide told me, still use Tiochiu language, one of the many Chinese dialects, still used by their ancestors.
Considering I was working, I didn’t have much of an exploration mode on and I hadn’t had time to read much about Senggarang. At the time, I was accompanying a few international travelers in search of content, and as much as that seems like having fun with them, it’s more attention to the travelers than the destination itself. So, I strolled lightly, being available to those in need of translation or assistance. After that job, I have a more appreciation towards guides.
Casually stopping at a small stall, I had seen a petit old woman behind the counter of her shop. Snacks and sachets of instant beverages were hanging from the stall window, framing her face. The woman behind the counter came out to sit and chat with two other friends. She had a bob hair cut, with hair framing her small round face. She was a cute old woman, to say the least. I tried to talk to her, but she liked to hide behind her friend’s presence, asking her to answer for her. Until I finally told her the reason why I started talking to her. “You must have been beautiful when you were younger,” I said.
With no hesitation, she nodded. I, preparing my second question following the three question law of compliments, found myself speechless. She looked me in the eye as if there was nothing wrong. There was none, I was just dumbstruck, especially finding a woman owning it even though she had wrinkles on her face and hands. It felt uncommon. Afterwards, she returned becoming that shy woman. Initially, I didn’t see it as something uncommon. A fluke.
In another alley, where I meandered randomly, I met a father and son. They were standing outside of their semi wooden home, also on the boardwalk and above water. I can’t recall how the conversation started but I remember him being very nice. This 6-foot man was, also, very handsome and I could see that during his younger years, he would have been a lady killer. I couldn’t help but tell him how good looking he must have been; with a pointy nose, gentle eyes, and a symmetrical face. To my surprise, he answered me with a confident nod, as if I had asked if he was a man or not. He then kinda looked at me with a half smile, waited on my next question afterwards. Again, I was speechless with a weird smile on my face.
Two of two good looking people answering the same way might just be a coincidence. But it was a nice one considering the people can appreciate an honest compliment for a change, not something I would find often. My last encounter was this old lady who as I was enjoying the afternoon on her balcony, she was wearing a light blue kebaya, a golden brooch in the middle, and red sarong. It didn’t seem like she was going somewhere, just a daily attire but it was to the nines. She was 97 years old and counting.
She barely spoke Indonesian, but we ‘tarzan’ed our conversation the hell out. Her grand children, which were inside the house, helped translate a little of what she was saying. She asked me where I was from and my purpose of visit. I enjoyed her generous smiles and laughs, a lot. It looked like she was one of the good looking people too. I can’t recall what we said exactly but the conversation took about 15 minutes. Until, I asked if I could take a picture of her. She posed head on for me, letting me take a picture of her clothes, and there I saw her confidence.
There’s no conclusion of my visit to Senggarang Village. It was too soon to tell. But the first impression did intrigue me. Aside to the odd findings of people, Senggarang was one of those villages that seemed like there’s not much going on for tourists but it has plenty for those that just want to wander. The unique wooden houses and a few temples spread around the area, including one that’s made from a house covered with banyan tree roots, assure me there’s more to what meets the eye. And I would like to know more about this confidence thing. Could it be just me that feels this way or is there really something about the people? Another reason to head back to Senggarang Village.