Of all the luxuries, I would never trade the pleasure of learning from strangers with anything else I could have in this world.
I don’t want to wait. My heart says ‘go’. My eyes are hungry. My brain keeps generating questions which answers I could only find myself in certain places. Although I’ve been made quite aware of the cost of the things I wanna do in my youth, I would always ‘find my way’ to go. It’s expensive. And great lessons are supposed to be.
Here’s an instagram reminder I posted last year:
Around a week ago, I sat in the very back of the southbound bus with two Palestinian kids who loved to play with my smartphone, two mothers and a lady who assumed I had an excellent grasp of Arabic for the entire trip (6 hours communicating in body language). I had one problem: I didn’t know where to get off. I was supposed to meet a taxi driver I’ve hired who has been waiting and tracking me for two hours. I turned to people around me, “Wain ehna?” in hope to hear a place as a hint for my impatient cabby. There were too many checkpoints and was too dark to read the signs by the road. I decided to let my Arabic-speaking friend to help me call the driver and asked where he expected me to stop because it seemed that people in the bus kept saying Garabna (means close) since an hour ago and the long-awaited me had terrible communication issue with him (especially with the desert-quality coverage and English problemo). Even with the help of friend, the taxi driver never seemed to pick up my friend’s call. If you had only 5% battery with no certain approximity of where you are and where you should stop, it was okay to press the panic button. On the other hand, I had a kid playing with my hair and the other kept touching my phone when I was trying to effectively use the time left to talk to the driver or my friend. At the same time, the lady next to me blew the smoke up in my face while giving me a few winks and stuck her tongue out in a flirty, weird way. The two mothers were speaking in Arabic to me in a louder, furious tone (and all arabic to me had already sounded like mad people). I don’t know how, but I made it.
A few days before that, I spent a few days wandering the streets of Old Amman I got so familiar with in almost no time, primarily because I spent 80% of my time solving my cash crisis and bank issues running from bank to ATM to gas station to jewellery store with real Mastercard/VISA sign EDC that worked. Until the bank account got back to work, I had to call friends overseas to literally do me a favor by transferring money to my other bank account and sometimes convinced seller who had EDC (very rare) to let me get cash. One time I couldn’t pay the taxi driver, I had to give my passport as I got off the taxi on Quraysh street to dispense some money that was freshly transferred to my account from a friend. I jaywalked my way through the chaotic street, barefoot in 2 degrees of Celcius, and tried three different ATMs (Housing Bank and Arab Bank were my saviours). And ran back to chase the taxi that I got off from. I knew Old Amman would steal my heart away in a relatively weird way because I loved the chaos there. Places like this, Tanah Abang or Quezon City basically reveals the only truth of life: that one should keep going, no matter what (cliche, but always true).
Looking backward. Reaching the last mile to Jordan in Bangkok was real pain. I was hurdling with time at the airport. The check-in lady didn’t allow me to check in until I had the returned ticket shown to her, which happened to be my problem. Apparently, my ticket payment didn’t get through days ago so I had to rely on the very limited Suvarnabhumi wi-fi and low battery (same problem elsewhere) to buy the ticket online in less than 20minutes. Wi-fi and all tech solutions weren’t my friends. I was in such a mess and I can’t watch my one-way ticket to be expended to no purpose. Long story short, my short voice note that I sent to my closest people on Whatsapp got through and somebody great enough was able to book and pay it for me in less than 7 minutes (I counted). I had the returned ticket bought 15 minutes before they announced the final call on my flight. So, sprinting through the gates after immigration was still my thing. I fucking made it. Friends are everything.
Two weeks ago. I was on the move, hanging out with Ibu-Ibu and young girls while introducing a mobile app to them. Tangerang. Surabaya. Malang. Yogyakarta. And the week before. Mataram. Praya. Moyo. Sumbawa. Mamak. A month ago. Visiting the hipster city of Bandung more frequently than ever. Many places. Drama. Slept in front of a budget hotel. Making it through the rain. ‘0 in my bank account’ days. Misreading dates. Missed flights. All the shit in between. But I certainly love the pace I’ve set for myself.
I am fond of these methapors in my travels.
I thought by putting everything I did to bed last year, from my business plan to the other projects I did on the side, I would have had a different way of living my life. I was wrong. I will always be on the road, continue to struggle and find my way to get somewhere, whatever it might cost me. People believe in plans, that you should carefully plan everything, but I find the opposite of everything I’ve planned: it seems to always work the other way around. Now, I believe in Yalla! and make plans as you go, which still seems too irrational to many.
In whatever journey I’ve embarked on, I wanted to complete my own syllabus: how the glitches in my every travel could be applied to how I choose to live my life. How that should build the endurance I need in all aspects of life. Everything I do in real life will be based upon these survival instincts I gained from the journey.
Speaking of my recent journey to the desert, I’m happy to finally set my foot in the land of Jordan. This trip began with questions and was inspired by something I once had in me. Reattaining that might help me. Additionally, those concrete houses in the middle east I saw from a plane or my friend’s pictures intrigued me to come and see. I wanted to see the Arab world from the inside through the religion I’ve known for at least 20 years of my life. I wanted to hear Arabic 24/7 and learned it. I didn’t want to keep looking at this part of the world under the effect of Hollywood pills I seem to have taken too much. Most importantly, I couldn’t resist the beauty of Jordanians and its landscape. It stood still in the middle of the chaos surrounding the country. They’ve opened their arms to their neighbors generously despite the worrying issue of their economy. If Jordan were a person, I wanna be like Jordan. These all made up my reason to go. And I’m glad I went.
On Quraysh street, it felt as if everything fell upon me. That my life is nothing but a series of these crazy rides and questions which answers to I’m supposed to find every day. To date, I’m happy to be able to continuously learn as much expensive lesson as I can, hungered by question after question. I will continue to invest heavily in this way of learning, to have as many weird, interesting encounters as I can with strangers. And learn better how to deal and solve unexpected problems without losing myself. In fact, I’ve benefitted immensely from bumping into people anywhere I want. It happened in Hong Kong. Sydney. Singapore. Jakarta. New York. Padang. Any street, really.
That’s the only way I know to look at the world, at least for now, that being on the street is like accepting everyone as your guru. You act, the world will react. And you are free to create the game.