Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 23 November 2015 • Destination
Life in Jakarta, the capital known for its bad traffic and polluted air, as exciting as it could get with all the fun and opportunities available, does push the people outside for relaxation at times. Having bought tickets to Ambon without knowing where to go from there, I was intrigued by my friend Yuki’s earlier trip about life in Sawai village. Tired with trips with packed itinerary, Diyan and I decided to just head there and lay low, enjoying life around water. So we spent the late afternoons, after all the island hopping and trekking in the forest, (trying to) mingle with the villagers around Lisar Bahari.
Through the back door of Lisar Bahari, we stepped out into a pathway that goes straight to Sawai Village. Colorful houses, wooden and bricks and mortar, lined up on both sides. Motorbikes passed by once in a while, running in slow speed, in between laughters and giggles of small children happily playing with buckets or bicycles.
Having lighter skin and different facial features than most of them, plus the camera dangling from my neck, there’s no second guessing to them that we were visitors. Children stared at us with wonder, no idea what they were exactly wondering about, then smiled sheepishly when I asked to take pictures of them. Some posed happily and asked to be photographed, with their powder smeared unevenly on the cheeks, wet hair combed neatly, and nice t-shirts tucked in. It’s the same habit for children all over Indonesia: all powdered up after afternoon shower, and then they can play outside but not getting dirty again. It reminds me of my childhood, but I don’t remember having snot dangling from my nostrils like a few of these kids were. I couldn’t stand it, I took out my tissues to clean the snot off of one kid, but he was quick enough to wipe it with his sleeve. Oh well, better than getting in the mouth.
Walking through, my eyes were fixated on small mounds of chili at a kiosk by the alley. “Oh my god, these are those evil chili!” Diyan shouted. He had told me about these chili he first found out about in Taka Bonerate, which he wrote for us here. “I wonder how it would taste if we put the chilli into noodle soup,” I said. Without further discussion, we bought some of the chilli. We put some into our hot noodle soup later at night, which we ordered from Lisai Bahari’s kitchen, and I brought the rest home for Mumun, who really likes spicy food. It’s true what Diyan said, the chili, called rica in most eastern Indonesia, were evil. But the good kind of evil, if you’re into hot spicy food.
Cloves from their nearby plantation were being dried in front of some houses that we passed, emitting the unique smell. Crossing paths with the locals, smiles and nods were exchanged. That’s the kind of interaction that I experience in big cities next to never.
A bridge went over a small river, which wall was cemented as far as I could see. It served much as a public bathroom. People, mostly women and children, were bathing and washing clothes there. The water looked so clear, I guess dipping feet in there would feel cool.
Afraid to intrude their privacy, we just walked past through and arrived at a ball court smacked in the middle of the village, next to a mosque – Sawai Village is dominated by moslems, quite a minority in Maluku (or Moluccas). A volleyball championship was going on for a few days upon our visit, approaching Indonesia’s Independence Day on August 17th. It was like everyone was out to play and watch the game. It was festive, colorful and our national red white flags flapping from wooden poles along the streets. We joined the crowd and watched the game, and just watched a snippet of Sawai village life. At the end of the game, I had no idea who won; the Sawai people or the neighboring village team. All I knew was that almost everyone in the field looked joyful.
After the game, children were sweeping the field, not all of them looked too happy about it, and I was watching the crowd while munching on a boilded corn on the cob from a warung (small shop, usually a kiosk). When the crowd dispersed and the sun was setting, it was our time to head back to Lisar Bahari, too.
The night was still so young, it’s when I would usually still type through my Word files and worry about the deadlines. But those nights in Sawai village, all I was worried about was that I soon had to leave the traffic-free and deadline-free life.