Lost at Sea (Where They Will Never Find Us—But We Will)

I was eating my chocolate pudding while reading Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas when Lawa nudged me to look outside the airplane window and there it was:
the beautiful Kapuas River, flirting beneath us through the forests on her sides, reaching out to the horizon marked by tall mountains in a distance. You might think that I’m being ludicrous, but that view literally held my breath for several seconds. It was on KD-945, the flight that took us from Pontianak to Putussibau, that I fell in love again—not with the book, not with the abandoned dessert, but with the ‘blue and green’-ness of pristine nature.

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To give you a little context: several months ago, the think-tank I work for sent me to Kapuas Hulu, a small kabupaten up in the northern part of Kalimantan. It is also home to some of Indonesia’s oldest indigenous groups and part to the conserved Heart of Borneo area.
Prior to my departure, Ariana warned me that this five-day trip might be one of those life-changing experiences people write about when they get back home, and darn I couldn’t say that she wasn’t right.

1. “Sebelum Memberi Minum Diri Sendiri, Manusia Harus Memberi Minum Tanah”

Our first stop was a rumah panjang in Desa Sungai Utik. As the name suggests, it was an extraordinarily long house with over 25 families living under the same roof (!), and we were lucky to have been hosted by Lawa’s old friend. Oh and just like a neighborhood in itself, each rumah panjang has its own tuai rumah (master of the house), who makes all kinds of important decisions.

Excited about the new scene that I entered to, I didn’t even mind tasting a small cube of of daging babi hutan (yes, boring city people, actual wild boar meat) that they served—which tasted really, really good.

Here’s the punchline: when the arak (some kind of traditional fermented drink) was brought in, everybody poured a few drops into their glasses and, without anyone’s instruction, stood up in front of the window together. Confused, I asked, “Should I feel weird for not knowing what to do?” I remembered Lawa laughed and said, “Oh don’t worry. Just copy what we did.” And when I lined up with them with a filled glass in my hand, they all flushed the liquid out the window to the ground.

“Why would we waste that arak?” I stupidly asked. “Because, honey, before feeding themselves, humans need to feed the earth first.”

After that, I promised myself to share this story every time I have the opportunity to, until it gets dull of being overused.

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2. You Don’t Have to Travel the World, Just to These Two Places

The whole, “Those who don’t travel only read one page,” quote was a complete scam.

First of all, traveling (especially by plane) means producing carbon footprint (i.e. what puts holes on our ozone layer, causing climate change). Flying back and forth to and from Jakarta-Paris, for instance, emits more CO2 than driving for one full year, let alone all the connecting routes that you take in between.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying we shouldn’t travel, I’m saying the middle-class society who could afford it should travel more responsibly.

This journey then helped me realize that you don’t have to travel anywhere else but two places: one where you could wonder over what human hands are capable of building, and one where you could amaze yourself of what God hands have created.

Possible combinations would be: Istanbul and Raja Ampat, or Washington D.C. and the Maldives. While the former would inspire us to move civilizations forward after seeing what our ancestors have left us with, the latter would humble us down, truly accepting how mankind is nothing but a species that is part of the universe’s grand scheme. Only then we could fathom that that there is a balance we need to maintain.

3. They Were Right When They Told You to Get Lost to Find Yourself Again

Passed the thrilled phase, comes the post-peak consciousness: as much as I was enjoying my time there, I missed home big time.

Yes, the people were awesome, the food was delicious, and the trees offered me a nice, new sight, but deep down I knew I didn’t belong there. My days in Badau were good, but they went by undeniably slowly. It’s almost like the clock worked at a different speed system out there. I got used to it eventually, but the voice inside my head kept asking me to go home.

As an introvert, though, I greatly appreciated the ultra-rare silence that I found for the first time (literally not even a small sound for a long time until someone starts talking)—oftentimes accompanied by singing birds or crickets. It would be a heartfelt pleasure get myself in such a peaceful atmosphere again.

But then I arrived at the conclusion that each of our brains has its natural habitat—the exact same way animals have theirs. My brain, it turned out, was a city kind. She finds it natural to encounter problem and solve them on a daily basis, to work on a fast pace, to swim through the rushing roads, and to interact with many different names and faces at the same time.

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You see the funny thing about this whole set up: I love all the new lessons and discoveries that I gained there, but not as much as I love writing about them.

P. S. The title of this post was one of the songs on my “On the Road” playlist, and you could listen to it here.


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