A Short Trip to Bangkalan, Madura

A friend of mine once told me that I’m not the kind of person who can be spontaneous. And she said that I need to slack off once in a while, and be more impulsive once in a while.

So last Friday evening, when a friend of mine took me home after dinner and then asked me to join him and his friend to go to Bangkalan, Madura and watch the sun rise in a lighthouse he once found when he was there, I got persuaded and finally decided to go. Of course, I made the decision only after they assured me that I’d be home soon enough to get to work on time.

Well, to me that’s probably one of few spontaneous thing I’d ever done.

So, barely getting enough sleep (because I went home pretty late that night and so I was afraid that if I’d slept soundly that night, I wouldn’t be able to get up on time), I woke up at 3.30 the next morning. Preparing stuffs that I needed, my friends picked me up at my boarding house 30 minutes later. The three of us would travel by motorbike.

FYI, in order to get to Bangkalan, Madura, we would need to cross the Suramadu (Surabaya-Madura?) bridge first.

As we crossed the bridge, I regretted my choice of clothes right away. I wasn’t wearing shoes (sandals instead) or scarf (to cover my neck–I was worried about my cough considering how strong the cold wind blew at that time, especially since I’m on a motorbike) and I thought that I should’ve worn something warmer. But of course, it was too late to go back at that time, and I thought that I could stand the cold just fine, and that I only do this kind of thing once in a while, and lastly, I tried to reassure myself by saying that my immune system is not that weak.

And putting such troublesome thoughts aside, my friends and I managed to stop somewhere in the middle of the bridge (we were lucky that we didn’t got caught, really!) to see the night view from the bridge. I tried to take some picture before we moved on, but it was really hard for me to get a good shot.

My failed attempt to take a picture of the night view (using my digital camera).
The only successful attempt (which was taken with my iPhone).

Afterwards, entering Madura, the path we took was pretty scary for me. It was really dark all around, and I could only imagine what the surrounding was like from my friend’s saying, “In daylight, you’d see rice fields, trees and wild grass here and there. Well, just imagine the scenery of Africa you usually saw in the movie.” Well, Africa may be too extreme, I think, but my mind flew to Disney’s The Lion King right away.

Getting closer to our destination, we could see the sky beginning to lighten up. Uh-oh. No good. The sun’s about to rise. So we rushed.

But then something happened. More specifically, flat tire happened. And worse, there weren’t any place where we could patch the tire that early, none of them would have open at that time of the day. But we tried and tried.

After dragging the motorcycle for some miles, the sun rose higher and finally we realized that we’d just skipped the sunrise. There’s no way we could get to the lighthouse on time. So we thought we’d just call it a day and decided that we’d come again another day.

Finally, my friend decided to park his motorbike on the side of the road, and the three of us would use the only motorbike left, used by my other friend (remember, there were 3 of us, and 2 of them were riding the motorbike while I hitchhiked on one of the bikes) to get to our destination.

By the time we arrived there, it was bright already, but we got there.

I’ve never seen a lighthouse before, and that was my first time.

Apparently it was an old lighthouse built long time ago, when Indonesia was still the Dutch East Indies. All we knew (and heard) is that during the World War II, when our country was invaded by the Japanese, whenever a Japanese ship was nearby, the lighthouse would stop operating.

Getting a bit sleepy already from my lack of sleep, I couldn’t believe my ears when my friends told me that there were 15 staircases to climb before we get to the top.

So after several rests, dizziness (all me, really, the boys didn’t seem like they’re tired at all), and complaints, finally we got to the top.

And the view was breathtaking. I didn’t travel very often, and I hate to admit that I’m actually more of a mall-person than a hiker, nature-lover or such person, so I got really awed to see such view which I rarely come across.

The view is superb. Too bad the trashes were all around.

Of course, we didn’t come empty handed. We brought instant noodles and coffee–we thought it would be nice to have an early breakfast and morning coffee while watching the sunrise, and one of my friend brought his portable mini stove.

Inside the lighthouse, ready to eat our instant noodles.
Sipping my morning coffee. Mmmmm coffee! :-9

After getting enough shots using our smartphones and digital cameras, we decided to go back home. It was around 7.30 AM, if I had not mistaken.

First, though, we need to deal with the flat tire. We got back to the place where one of my friend parked his motorbike (which luckily didn’t get towed or stolen–theft is a pretty common issue here), and since it was a bit later than when we first arrived, we finally managed to find a place to patch the tire.

And then we went home.

Rice fields on our way home.

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Bali Trip: A Visit to My Family

Earlier today I went to visit my grand father in Denpasar. For someone who admit to be awkward in socializing with others, not to exclude family, I have to say I had a great day.

As I’m not a morning person at all, I woke up earlier today at about 11ish. 10.30ish. 10.45ish. Around that time. And then my mom finally managed to make me take a shower. (Yes, finally!) So after I cleaned myself, ate my breakfast, and took care of the laundry, I called my grandpa and told him that we’re coming soon. That was around 12 PM.

So we tried to stop a taxi, and finally arrived at grandpa’s house at around 1. Not to mention that we were lost before we finally found his house.

Now, let me get this straight first.

I was born in Java, and I have Javanese, Balinese, and Chinese Indonesian heritage from my parents. My grandpa here is a Balinese. The sad thing is that the last time I visited him and met my Balinese family was 2 years ago. And before that, it was about 19 years ago when I was only 4.

So not only I don’t know my Balinese family very well, I was as well having trouble finding my grandpa’s house in Pekambingan area.

I’m also suck–really suck–at navigation, FYI.

So yeah, we almost enter a stranger’s house, mistaking it for grandpa’s house.

Anyway, I finally called him and asked him to show me direction through phone, and we finally arrived.

Yay! Let me do the happy dancing for a while.

* * *

Okay, happy dancing done.

Then we did some catch up, gave him a Tempe Kripik, which is the traditional food from my hometown (a small city called Purwokerto) and chatted for a while.

After that, we went to visit my grandmother–or my grandpa’s sister-in-law, which I should refer to as Kompyang, or simply Nenek. Oh, she’s actually my great grandma. Then as we chat and chat, I start to recollect the family I have here. Apparently, aside from my grandpa, who I refer to more as Pekak, I have plenty other grandpas (Pekak) and grandmas (Oda): Pekak Ned and his wife, Oda Endang, Pekak Made, Pekak Nyoman, Oda Catri, and Pekak Tude, the youngest of all, who could be simply mistaken as my uncle (Uwe). And then the uncles and aunts: Uwe Sunan, Uwe Leila, and Uwe Surya, my 8 years old uncle (according to the family tree, he’s supposed to be my uncle!).

After visiting each one of them (except for Uwe Sunan who’s in Lombok atm, Pekak Nyoman and Pekak Tude), my Pekak and Oda Endang invited me to see Denpasar Festival 4 which was held in Udayana. The traffic–as it has gone crazier and crazier towards New Year–was a complete disaster. So instead of driving to the location of the festival, we parked the car somewhere near the festival, and then decided to go there on foot. Oh yes, there was a heavy traffic jam.

So there, I held my Pekak’s arm tight, while my mom and Oda Endang went window shopping and ended up shopping, indeed. As we separated ways in the festival, I finally managed to persuade Pekak to have dinner with me as he had not eaten anything since we arrived at noon. It was around 9 at that time. I would definitely starving by then, but he kept reassuring me, saying that he’s fine and I don’t have to worry at all about him.

Of course I was worried.

So finally we stopped at this place selling Kambing Guling, Sate and Soto Ayam.

Gulai Kambing
Soto Ayam

Now, this is my favorite part of the day.

As I accompanied Pekak while he ate his dinner, I started to ask him about the books he has at home.

Pathetically, I just found out earlier today that my grandpa apparently is really smart and open-minded, as well as a devoted reader like me. Only he doesn’t read novel. He read non-fictions about Politics and Philosophy. I was really tempted to steal his Dialogue with Socrates as I glanced at it. But of course I didn’t.

He said he likes reading about Politics and Philosophy, and he’d wanted to major in Social & Politics earlier in the university, but as he was born on October 12th 1940, by the time he entered university, there hadn’t been any university which provides good quality of Social & Politics study around. So he went to study law instead, at Airlangga University in Surabaya.

And that was the time when I finally had enough courage to ask a question I’ve been wanting to ask him for years:

“So, grandpa, I was actually wondering… Were you involved with PKI during the 60s?”

And I got a firm “No,” along with a head shake as an answer.

I think I was actually almost disappointed.

To answer your question: No, I didn’t ask that question out of nowhere.

There has been a rumor–well, not actually a rumor. When I was a kid, my grandma and my dad told me once that my grandpa once joined the PKI, and when the national army went around Indonesia to capture PKI members, he was captured and kept in prison for years.

That’s when my grandma decided to remarry again.

PKI Symbol

Anyway, just in case you’re confused what the hell PKI is, it’s a communist party that once dominated Indonesia. Its career ended after the 30 September Movement, and not until Soeharto resigned in 1998 did people start to wonder and talk about what happened. Sadly, these ‘people’ mostly refer to foreigners who study or interested in Indonesian culture and history. I don’t really know many Indonesian who put so much interests in their own history.

(You could click the link for further, clearer, and more complete information.)

Then my grandpa continued and set things straight:

“I wasn’t involved in PKI, to be precise. I was actually involved in the youth organization in campus. The thing is, after the 30 September Movement, the army started to slay and capture those who either actually involved in PKI or those who simply didn’t oppose PKI’s idealism. As a university student, you know, we were full of idealism and thoughts. We want things to be better, and we urged the government to do it. It’s not that we were pro PKI or against it, but we opened ourselves to good ideas and thoughts, especially related to this country. If PKI offered good solutions for this country’s problem, why should we oppose? Sure, were there any other good solutions offered by others, we’d definitely support it. The problem is, the army didn’t see us that way. At that time, there were many prejudices, and our youth movement in campus was not excluded. They simply accused us as PKI supporters, so they captured us and put us in jail. Without proof.”

I also told him that I’ve watched the movie Sang Penari, which was inspired by Ahmad Tohari’s novel Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk and has the story set in the 1960s–sometime before and after the 30 September Movement. I also told him that I read some articles about the PKI and watched The Year Living Dangerously.

I think he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t prejudice toward him, so he asked me first, what do I know about the ‘Movement’ and the party itself. So I told him all I know and all I read.

“There are two kinds of history. One that is told from this perspective, and another one that is told from that perspective. Only reading and listening from one side of the story could mislead you. The more you read, the more you know the truth.”

I’m not gonna argue with someone whose grades in history are always next-to-excellent. I saw his school certificates earlier–from elementary school up to university. He’s really fond of history, turns out.

“So grandpa, how long were you in jail?”

“10–(noise on the street)–minus 1 month.”

“10… months?”

“No, sweetie. 10 years,” and he chuckled.

“10 years!”

My eyes widened.

“Yes, minus 1 month. Your grandma was pregnant with your dad at that time. 3 months pregnancy. I had to leave.”

I remember my dad told me that it wasn’t until he was entering primary school that he found out that his dad at home is not his biological father. He said he called my grandpa a loon who thought he’s my dad’s dad.

I couldn’t imagine being in a cell for 10 years, with… nothing to do. So I asked him what did he usually do there. He told me about the size of the cell. It’s about 1.5 m x about 3.5 m, if my memory serves. They usually fit 3 skinny men in there, so my grandpa simply chat with them. Playing chess sometimes. Take a shower at 8 AM and later 4 PM.

“And?”

“Well, there’s really nothing much you could do in a place like that. If you’re not strong psychologically, you’d crack.”

Deep in my heart, I was thankful that he was still alive up to now.

Then I told him that in the article I read, many influential and smartass were in the PKI and they were put in prison. One of my favorite author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer was in it.

“Oh, Pramoedya? Yeah, he’s really smart. And kind, too. He used to walk around, back and forth–remember there wasn’t enough space in there, so you could simply go back and forth in the same direction–he’d usually walk with dignity.”

“He was there?”

“Yes, yes.” And he nodded.

My grandpa was talking about my favorite author like he’s this cool guy who you usually met at school. “Oh, him? Yeah, we were in the same class. He’s the one who’d usually ask the most questions in class.”

“It’s just unfair how the government treated those people, pops. I mean, they are not criminals who’d steal your wallet or kill you for your money, right? They’re smartasses, who’d actually be very useful to this country.”

My grandpa nodded. “Yea. I changed cell mates for about three times, and almost all of them are educated abroad and very brilliant.”

Holy shit, my grandpa was there to witness the history! He’s there!

And then we went back to the festival.

While we wait for my mom and grandma as they shopped around, I continued my discussion with grandpa. We changed the subject though, this time.

I don’t really remember how it started, but what I remember most is that I was asking him about Sesajen–the offerings made by the Balinese Hindus for the gods.

Now, what’s really interesting and unique about Bali is the custom of offerings. Other than having tons of Pura’s, every Balinese Hindus has at least their own Pura at the front of their houses. Depends on the size of the house (and depends on how rich you are), the size, height and beauty of the small Pura varies. Well, the term Pura might not be the right one, but this ‘small Pura’ is used to put Sesajen, or offerings. Some houses (mostly the wealthier ones) would also have an altar–like a small hall–aside from the small Pura.

The altar at Kompyang's house. Sure is big.

My Pekak’s and Kompyang’s house are not excluded.

The small Pura at my grandpa's house. Sorry, we were standing in front of of it. Say hi to my pops, though!
The one at Kompyang's house.

Then I asked him about the Sesajen.

He told me that the usual Sesajen is called Canang. People usually make Canang as soon as they finished cooking their breakfast. Before they eat their breakfast, they ought to put chunks of whatever they eat for breakfast in the offerings and then put it in the small Pura. Once they finished this, they could then eat their breakfast. Unless you’re sick or away from home, you should put the Sesajen every day as a prayer for all the meals that you’re gonna eat that day. Praying that the nutrition will fill your body and improve your health, and to make sure you’re not to starve.

Another one is called Banten. This one is only made on special occasion. Tourists could see Banten everywhere in malls in Bali where people would put Banten near the front door, or somewhere on the corner of the street, as a prayer for luck and success for their business. When I was here, my mom’s best friend (who mostly pay for my trip and fun here in Bali) hires a driver. He’s a Balinese and whenever we go around to visit some tourism resorts, I would always see a Banten on the car’s dashboard next to the steering wheel.

Banten in Kuta Square. Apparently neglected, due to the heavy, disastrous traffic. But they say it's fine once the Banten is made and offered.

I love Bali because it’s one place where you’d see art and culture blended into one in harmony.

Later we continued on talking about random subjects and random stuffs.

I found out that apparently our ancestors were part of the Ksatrias. But since we don’t really believe in caste system and instead, believe that caste system would only create further discrimination and prejudice, so we no longer use nor acknowledge it. Awesome, though.

Also, apparently, my great-grandfather used to be in the Dutch army. He was trained in the Dutch school for police, and later, he switched side and join his fellow Indonesian to fight for independence. He died sometime later after that, which caused my grandpa to be fatherless. But my great-grandmother and my grandpa received some benefits as a reward for my great-grandpa’s patriotism. Awesome, again.

I learned a Balinese word “Sing Ken Ken” which means “No problem.” Also awesome.