“I’m from Lombok,” I replied.
“So you’re not from Jakarta? For one I thought you’re from Singapore or Malaysia.”
“No no, haha, never wish. In fact I was born in Sumbawa,” I chuckled as I struggled to keep up with my balance tackling the steep terrain with these Swallow flip flop I’d just bought,”my mother was born here in Kalabahi,” I continued.
“No way! To si kerante samawa ke sia?”, he began to converse in Samawa, my mother tongue, as if to validate what just came out of my mouth.
“Oa, ba tau samawa si ampa tau ta!” I welcome the sheer excitement we shared in finding each other in the middle of a mountain forest in search of clean water. We were on Carlos mission that day.
We spoke and it took us two sentences to find out that this engineer used to be a really good friend of my uncle in Sumbawa. As soon as we climbed back up to the top of the hill and one bar popped up in his Nokia, he briskly pressed the phone number I gave and spoke to my uncle. That was a true relief for him after checking out the spring water 2 miles down from the village, on which 200 families have relied for the last four years as their only source of water. They’ve been keeping the rain water in those orange tanks in the back of their houses.
So, you’ve met your aunt down the road in Kalabahi? He asked again.
Wait I have an aunt here?! Oh boy.
The Skipped Pages.
I have some women whom I call mothers. This one is my biological mother.
About her. She tells stories like every other mother I know. With hindsight, I should have senseed this a long time ago that something was always incomplete within that train of tales she shared to me. It seemed to end somewhere when she met my father. How they were young and love led them to having me and my siblings. I grew up asking too many questions. I’m begging the world to allow me to know what it was like before all that. Who she met before my father, how she spent her childhood and teenage years, what was her mother like, why she moved here and there, why she didn’t go to high school, or even the mystery behind that loud and high-pitched accent when she speaks. I can’t seem to connect to that part of her world.
I remember just before starting primary school, I started to learn about names of places and when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I’d smile and screamed ‘PILOT’ as I held that paper airplane everywhere I went. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of being in the air and be able to simply move from one place to another in a blink of an eye. I like asking people where they want me to take them to with my pilot ear pads on. Everyone would say Surabaya, Bandung, Bali, all these places in Java. My mom would mention this town that sounds seemingly strange to my ears: Kalabahi. She’d tell me they had robots there and tall buildings. Carlos at the age of 5-10, he’d do anything for a robot, something he was so obsessed with. “I’ll fly my plane there, mom!”
Y e a r s l a t e r .
That boy with ear pads has grown up. Now, being a pilot could also translate into being able to decide where you wanna go on your own. I’ve been my own pilot for as long as I can remember in this life full of methapors. And in the real world, Wings Air took me back to the land I’ve been wanting to see. So Ma, the pilot is here.
These are the skipped pages of my life I’d like to reopen. And I’m ready to continue to write my stories from here.
Mama Land in the Wild East.
Curiosity could lead you to funny places. If the US government wanted to expand to the wild west starting with the Louisiana purchase and yada yada yada, I want the opposite for my country. I’m moving to the east.
The east is surely a different world to most of us whose perspective is so much shaped and clouded by the portrayal of the east in our textbook and what we consume from media. That it’s bad. So poor and a lot of people are still struggling to put on the proper clothes. No access to water. Hunger. And darker skin color. Some of it may be true but not all. As today’s tourism aggressive stories unfold, more and more people are starting put their interest into the eastern part of the country. If people came here for what’s underneath the water, I came here to dive into my mother’s past and everything it entails. So I was on my business here 😉
The first days of the long-awaited week were full of surprises. The woman who opened her door for me in Alor was also somewhat related to me. And she took me to see her big family, and then to another, and my long lost aunt whose daughter is getting married soon. Everybody in Alor called her Mama. Therefore, my adopted Mama in Alor helped me to find the trails of my biological mama. And boy it had been full of ‘Oh God you’re Carlos’ moments.
These series of encounters began to help me complete the missing puzzle in my head. Simultaneously, got me thinking how little this world is. Or big if I didn’t have the stomach to connect the dots.
Here I see what the women of Alor are like: the love for karaoke lives 24/7. That’s something I grew up watching from my mother. And a lot of swearing words I began to understand. The way sentences are structured even in the same panguage could tell so much about my mother’s often awkward sentences. Now I know where that comes from!
I call it the wild east because there has not been a lot of people flocking into this part of the country. Whenever you see a company brands themselves as Indonesia warriors, what they might refer to as Indonesia may have been strictly limited to Java and Sumatra, even if they do take the interest and talk about the east, it’s really about Bali or Makassar – yes, the hub. In reality, not much advances have been made and lots of things remain untouched in these islands across the beautiful east. You might have heard the world’s fanciest resorts built here and there or rich folks yachting across the Indonesian waters. If that’s what’s been believed as the key indicator of development, I guess it only works for business owners who benefit tremendously from what the nature may offer here. I don’t blame them who chase opportunities. However, I do care for what’s left for the people in these amazing lands and what could have been done in the first place before exploitation begins to take control even worse. That’s where my heart cries for well-distributed quality education.
It is wild. Before we jump into the education part (how it usually starts whenever you talk about a specific underdeveloped area). What you see is true. Kids and mothers rely on rain water. No electricity. Daily 3km soft-trekking to get water. School is a luxury in some unlucky parts. I can’t stop writing about all sorts of challenges one has to face but what I know is I’m beyond excited to learn how to appropriately fit myself into this big picture.
Deep down, I do feel a bit betrayed for the way it’s been. No one wants to touch this area because you learn in business, it’s too risky. We need those trailblazers first, as one might say. Even XL still has no service here in 2017. I’m just truly mad at the sense of disconnectedness and rejection you get from living in any place like this with limited access to a lot of things. Very little amount of information gets reported to us about how it’s going up here. Instead of ranting like intellects who would rather masturbate on their intelligence, I want to change something. Do the real damn work.
One more thing: there are many other Carloses in the wild east. Another hint to crack the mystery of my funny full name.