I’m still searching for my word for Singapore as I mentioned in the first part of this entry. But I don’t lack words for Indonesia. Several words come to mind. First is enchanted because the only island I knew way back then was Bali, the hailed island of the gods where dreams and romance come true. My first visit to Bali was far from romantic, but it was pleasant and relaxing. In fact, I had all the time in world. I stayed in Ubud, in this rustic resort, waking up to clear blue skies and views of quaint paddy fields. Processions of women dressed in their finery on the way to the temple were a refreshing sight every time I’d walk down the streets. Everything seemed so placid and everyone so good-natured that one might mistake it to be an ancient order of things in Bali until you read the tales of Bali of Elizabeth Gilbert in her best seller Eat Pray & Love. Bali in the halcyon days, according to Gilbert, had its share of history that was marked by oppression. It began with the Javanese royalty who, upon settling down in Bali, established a caste system and you know what happens in a society with a caste system. Slave trade was not absent from Bali of the early years either. The Balinese’s reputation was that of fierce fighters specially the traders and sailors, and well-disciplined particularly the army that was successful in repelling the Dutch colonizers until greed for power broke the united front of the Balinese.
The present sees Bali as paradise on Earth. It is the place that people find balance and peace from the maelstrom in their lives. Sanctuary is the word that is generally associated with Bali nowadays and I’m in total agreement with that.
The word changed when I visited Lombok and Manado separately with a friend on our “girls-only-holiday”. Both islands were bucolic so simple – as opposed to complex– was the word I associated it with. From the design of the resorts to the lifestyle to the food like nasi champur, everything was simple. No urban complexities to grapple with here – just pure and natural simplicity punctuated by bonhomous demeanor of the islanders.
When I found myself in Jakarta simple was replaced with cosmopolitan. The city reminded me of Makati, the dubbed central business district of the Philippines with its tall buildings, paved roads and sidewalks, massive malls and, not to forget, the legendary colubrine traffic jams. Walking would have been a better option that one time I got into a cab to go to Blok M to buy shawls. Bekasi, its suburban neighbor has its own charm. The pace is laidback – it’s somewhere in between urban nimbleness and village slowness. The people are generally amiable and exhibit none of the urban aggressiveness and callousness.
My word for Bekasi is haven. Although it lacks the convenience and modernity of Singapore, it’s a place that brought me back to myself, to the core of my essence. Bekasi is where I can be quiet without being questioned unnecessarily and where I can laugh out loud without being shushed. Here is where I’m not labeled atheist, irresponsible, non-conformist, crazy or different. I’m simply Ms. Liana with the nice curly hair. Here is where I rediscovered equanimity – I don’t lock horns with conceited people so I’m always in Zen mode – and it is the place where I’m piecing together my tattered life.
Refuge is my other word for Indonesia and Bekasi is that at the moment.