Short Trip Home

Get ready peeps, it's gonna be a long post. I actually prepared some points that I wanted to talk about, can you believe it?!? There are actually some points and opinions here on some issues so maybe this post will get somewhat interesting?

So last weekend I actually went home, as mentioned before. It was a short trip and this trip was totally unplanned. NanSee told me of the existence of cheap tickets from Jetstar and so we made use of it. I think she left for Jakarta today. The tickets were really cheap, it was only $35+ for a return ticket. It's like taking a taxi in Singapore. However, I am not loving taking budget airline, so I am not foreseeing doing this for my Chinese New Year trip.

Jakarta was freaking hot! Mom said it still hasn't rained yet. One of the morning this week, I googled what the temperature was and it was 34oC. It was so hot that on one of the day I was there, I decided not to go out because I couldn't take the heat. Singapore on the other hand is not so hot, we just had thunderous rain :( I hate the thunder!!! Aarrgghhh.

Anyways, so I arrived in Jakarta last Saturday evening. For Sunday mom has planned for me and my dad to fly to Bangka, which is an island where both of my parents are from. It's on the north west of Jakarta and from Singapore it's on the south east. We were there to check out my father's ill sister. I think this is the first time I had a trip with my dad alone, at least in my adult life. So the flight was at 6 am something and my cousin and aunt drove us to the aiport at 04:30 am something! Yes, it was early. What was surprising for me though was how early the Jakartans actually start their day. I could hear the moslems doing their morning prayer and I didn't recall they did that this early when I was young. The craziest was, my mom switched on the tv and at 4 am something, the tv news were already on air and it was live! That's like crazy! Because that means they are accompanying all those people that start their day early. Now that I think about it, people starting their day that early on a Sunday is pretty crazy! The aiport itself was already buzzing with activities, flights were already getting out of Jakarta and arriving in Jakarta! Can you imagine that if they arrive at 6 am something in Jakarta, they must have flown out from places like Bali and further than that at 4 am something! I really didn't expect that the flight schedule is that happening in Indonesia.

Anyways, so we arrived in Bangka. The flight was like around 50 minutes plus (visualize folks that it's located between Jakarta - Singapore). My cousin picked us up and first stop was my father's older sister (not the sick one). In my aunt's house, we went to their small garden / orchard. They have lime trees, papaya trees, and the most interesting one was a durian tree!!! I have never seen a durian tree up close and personal before so it was interesting! There were some tiny durians and I heard it can take months before it grows to its full size. What was more interesting for me was seeing durian flowers, they were white and they're not really attractive at all! I didn't even notice it at first since it blended with all the green leaves so well. If you're wondering, a durian tree doesn't smell like durian :D Oh I have to add, my aunt's garden has grass on the ground and curiously I stepped on it bare-footed and ran my foot on it and it's so smooth!!! I was thinking it's a grass carpet and it's so nice!!! It's like the nice grass that you see people often lie on :P By the way as we drove to places, I saw a lot of ilalang (I don't know the correct english word for it, see picture below, though it's not a nice picture) with all sort of flowers (if I can say that), white, yellow, deep magenta, that they looked so pretty! The magenta ones kinda reminded me of a bunch of lavenders.

After my dad finished plucking the limes uninvinted, we went to my father's old house where her ill younger sister is. Now I have to explain that my family are not rich. My dad doesn't come from a rich family. They lived in a village growing up and if I say village it's a real poor village (don't imagine Europe or American type of village). I cannot find an English word that can describe a small poor village well. In Indonesian, the word that they used on the board is "dusun". The connotation of that word for Indonesian is like a poor village. To illustrate the point, I think electricity just came to this place around 10 - 15 years ago and even so my cousin said that they still don't get electricity sometime. So imagine using lanterns when the night falls. I actually had a bit of memories of this place. I had stayed there when I was really young for a holiday. So my dad's family had 2 small house within around a few metres of each other and I remembered me and my cousins, we were running between the houses and giggling and saying there's a ghost somewhere when it was dark :P I also remembered when we were young and we had to take a shower, our parents had to take water from the well or take a bath in a real actual pond which somehow I cannot locate on this trip and I didn't ask as well. I don't know how much different the place has changed but it is still a village.

There I saw my cousin's chickens running around and I think those chicken are what they called "kampung" chicken (cannot find the english word). They were quite skinny. They are not KFC fat so you really wonder how come KFC chickens are that fat. There were a lot of coconut trees. Conversation between my cousins was about chopping the coconut trees because they were leaning precariously. Apparently one tree did fell and crashed on my cousin's pig pen! Yes, I saw an actual pig, I think it's my cousin's unless it's some neighbour's which happened to wandered around his place. The first time I saw the pig, it was cooling himself in a mud near a tin mine, it was funny for me when I noticed it. Anyway, my cousins were talking about how one coconut tree was killed and my other cousin wondered if the tree was really dead like that (it's still standing although without leaves). I didn't ask how they killed a coconut tree, I was just amazed at how different our worlds are. I don't get to talk about interesting stuffs like this in my daily life! I have to add that I don't speak the local language, I can only pick up a bit. So my cousin had other trees in his front yard (if you can call it that). I don't know if people there have an actual border for their property. He has mango trees and the most interesting one for me was the cacao tree. When my dad pointed it out to me, it didn't register to me what it was, until he reiterated what it was and I stupidly proclaimed, oh a chocolate tree! Boys and girls, there's no such thing as a chocolate tree, be correct like my father and call it the cacao tree. Unfortunately I didn't see the actual fruit being opened up so I didn't know how it looks like inside but I saw some of the beans were being dried. I thought the beans looked like almond. My cousin said it takes around 35 fruits to get a kg of cacao which he can sells at Rp 22.000 per kg, that's like S$3+ per kg or around $2+ per kg. So yeah, the grower at the bottom don't really get much.

While we were there, we also used the opportunity to pray to the god which was assigned to protect me. How this works, I am really unsure. When me and my brother were bornt, my dad had all our things read and so we kinda have god attached to protect us. For my brother it's the kitchen god and in my house in Jakarta we really do have a small altar for him. For me it's a sacred tree in my dad's village. How is it so and what's the story behind it? I don't know and I know it sounds silly. I have never seen the tree until this trip. So I have never prayed to it myself. My cousin usually does this for me on the yearly occasion. The tree didn't look majestic for me. I saw some wasps (I think they were wasps) on one of the hole in the tree :( My cousin said on the special day when they have to pray to the tree, there are usually long queue forming for it. So anyways, the tree is located very very nearby to some tin mines. Bangka and its nearby island Belitung are a great producer of tin for Indonesia. I went to wikipedia and I found out that the tin in Belitung was the reason behind the name of BHP Biliton (a mine company Rista used to work for), that's how rich the 2 islands are. Now, in front of the tree, a tin mine (which I think is not functioning anymore) has caused a hole which are now filled with water. In fact when I took the plane to Bangka and saw from the air the landscape of the island, I could see a lot of this water filled holes which seemed like lake, but they are not lakes, these holes are non-working tin mine which now collect water. My cousin said the water are clean and can be used. I really hope so. With a lot of these holes around, I wonder if this is a correct and environmental friendly way to do this. I don't think that if you make a lot of holes in a surface of something that it will be good for that surface in the long run :(

Behind the tree, there was a working mine, in which I saw 2 backhoe loaders moving the dirt around (on a Sunday peeps!). The mine is big and these 2 heavy machineries were inside a mound of dirt and it looked dangerous for me because I wonder if they could slip and fall, that would be so disastrous! I asked what does tin look like? My cousin said it's like black sand. Take note that there are no fence around this places, I think if I were to hike for a close inspection, nobody would catch me for tresspassing. I asked who own these mines, are they the government, foreign companies, or private companies. My cousin said some are actually really privately own. Like if you have money and you want to mine for tin in Bangka you can just do so! This is the part where I have issue with. I first asked how do they know where the tins are. My cousin said it's been known since the Dutch colonialized us (which they did for 350 years as we were taught in school). My dad said every plot of Bangka, if you want to do it, you can find tin. My cousin said last time during the Soeharto's era (Indonesian's 2nd president with colourful pros and cons), all the mines were owned by the government, you could not mine privately. I thought that's actually a better idea (I wonder if that makes me a socialist?). However Soeharto's era are known for its corruption so perhaps it's not a fair and just way. But when I saw all these mines being worked on with obviously not much rule and regulation, I wonder if it's a good way of doing it. I have issue with foreign companies taking things from Indonesian soil without much thoughts towards the people living there and the environmental issue, after all it's not their countries :( Like, one time I opened a Grasberg mine photo that Rista once sent me when she was working in Papua and a teacher who was sitting next to me said that the mine is not environmental friendly :( It's really about the profit for all this company. I really have issue with the environmental part of this. The mine doesn't look safe for the workers and the environmental part of it is worrying. When my father spent his childhood there, he said this area used to be filled with trees and it can lead him all the way to the sea where he once worked as a fisherman (he said this a few times but we never bother to get more details). Now this area are filled with sands!!! My cousin being the optimist nice him, said over time there will be plants again. It will take a long time but eventually grass will start to grow again and then plants *sigh* It doesn't seem to bother him even though this place is not so far from the houses. I mean if you walk, it will take you less than half an hour :( Last time Rista also said, yes, all this mines may look bad but it's already the best possible way that the mine company can do it. She works for mine companies all her life so we don't know if they're bias :P Somehow I feel better if the government take charge of these processes, I mean they are the government, they suppose to govern but with the so many things Indonesia have to deal with and since we are so big, the government do have a lot of things on their plate and government all over the world are not perfect and in the case of Indonesia we are still quite far from it *sigh*

Hmm, I guess I have written all the points that I wanted to write. I didn't take much pictures (I took like only 4!) because I didn't want to come across as this snobbish city girl putting their lives under a microscope :( There were so many interesting things but I really didn't feel comfortable taking the pictures :( My sick aunt was not looking so bad. She's old as everyone my dad's generation is, so they are plagued with sickness and they are not as strong as before. The place being a village has a lot of bugs and I know I am so spoiled but I cannot imagine living there :( So sorry!!! The place is really interesting though. There's apparently a mountain or hill nearby (which I recalled a bit from childhood memories) where my cousin found some edible mushrooms which only grow under certain condition (I have confirmed, it's not truffle). On my trip there I even managed to accompany dad to a wedding reception of dad's neighbour which was boring for me, it was for lunch and not many people came yet and I just sat there quietly :( Anyways, we went home that same day at 4 pm something. Landed in Jakarta's airport latest new terminal, T3. It's pretty nice though I did see the strangest thing. A cat was wondering about inside the terminal :P And so my days back in Indonesia were quite packed and tiring but most annoyingly HOT!!! I am praying for rain for Jakarta soon.

:) eKa @ 9:51:00 PM •

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