the lush life

by Will Sanders on June 12th, 2009

I had been swimming laps, I don’t know for how long when I stopped my crawl mid pool.  I rolled over and floated belly up, lapping up that hot, hot Indonesian sun.  Soon, I would have to dry up, take a nice shower (with hot water, fancy in these parts) then into work to plan the days lessons.  But that would come later.  Maybe about fifteen more minutes of laps, maybe thirty.  Nobody tells me when to come into work, so it doesn’t matter.  The only thing is the three classes I had to teach that day, the first at three.  Three is the earliest I ever have to teach, it is an after school school, so we get a late start, the latest I ever work is 9 at night.  very lax.

A while ago, (for those blog believers still paying attention)  I told you about the bemo, well I don’t do the bemo anymore.  The landlord of my house has provided me with a rusty clunky squeaking bike, it needs work but it will do fine right now. The clunky squeaking bike gets me from my home to work in about twenty minutes, give or take.  I have no trouble most of the time, most of the time I stick to the left side of the street, hugging the curb and am more or less left alone.  Most of the other drivers are on motercycles which explode past me like gunshots, I often worry about getting torn down by friendly fire, or just not paying attention fire, but so far so good, still alive, arms: check, legs: check, head: check.  The tough part comes when I need to get to the other side of the street, then I have to pedal hard and try to merge into the hive of angry buzzing motorcycles and vans, always with at least one eye over my shoulder I wave frantically hoping to convey that I am trying to exist here, and also trying to go to the right.  Every-so-often there is a break in the barrage, but for the most part I just have to fight and boogie my way across.

So after a good twenty minutes of that I make it to the school already stinky soaked with sweat, lock up el biko, then to the gym across the parking lot.  Sometimes, when I have a heavy class load (heavy being four classes, never more than that) I just swim.  On good mornings I get there with plenty of time to swim and do the weight room.  But I always shower, I got to get rid of that stink, and it is hot here, you can’t ride around the corner without soaking in sweat.  Plus hot water, the showers have hot water!

I love the weight room here, depending on the day I get one of two people wanting to help me.  The first is a very lovely arobics instructor, she likes to spot me and tell me to do more and scold me for not wearing shoes.  The other is the biggest Indoesian I ever saw, a hulking mamoth, the kind of person you only see in movies from the 80’s, he can sit in a chair reading something and the veins in his neck are freaking out as his arm muscles involuntairily spasm.  He has the kind of muscles which I question if a guy could get outside of steroids, think Rambo III when he was in Afganistan saving the future Taliban.  On the wall he has pictures of Arnold Schwarzenager and Dolf Lundrin along side his own studio made soft lit framed pictures, in all of which he is sporting a little banana hammock and flexing in front of curtains blowing in a mysterious wind, my favorite one has him contorting his entire body twisting his arm around into the ‘what time is it?’ position, starring at an empty wrist.  He walks slow through the gym, as if patroling the gym, and never does he smile.  His is the stut of a prize peacock and when we come in we can always tell when he has already been working out, all the weight in the joint is on one machine.

“Hey look, everyone.  Indo-Schwarzenager was leg lifting 250!”

Each mid-day heat finds him oiled up and shirtless in a deck chair pool side sunning it up and doing crunches, countless crunches, just crunching the day away like he hasn’t a care in the world, his hair spikey with mousse and his eyes hidden behind mirrored aviators.  The only word he has ever spoken to me in English is “treadmill”.

I like to tell the girl who works in the gym (the lovely arobics instructor) one day, any day now, they will have to take down his picture and put up mine.  I tell her that if I lift more weights next week they will put my picture next to his and nobody will be able to tell the difference.  ‘Next week?’ she demands, and I tell her yes.  We both agree I have a lot of work to do and she laughs at me.

So, Last time I told you about Saturday of the trip I took, I wanted to tell you that Sunday I went to the tea plantation and a safari.  I wanted to write about playing with a baby orangatang at the safari and about feeding the zebras bananas from a car window, and about going to the doctor for my throat.  I guess I just did.  The doctor looked into my mouth that night and actually recoiled with horror.  It was a serious infection that had crept up the side of my tongue into the back of my mouth and talking had become a problem.  He gave me drugs and told me he wanted to go to Miami because he loved Miami vice.  He told his nurses about Don Johnson, the most famous man in Miami.  He asked me a bunch of Don Johnson questions and seemed annoyed that I didn’t know the man personally.  He finally told me not to be such a proud American because after all, Obama was from Jakarta, which isn’t all the way true but I let it go.

So I had the sore throat but it’s gone now.  Now, the throats fine but I have the runs.  That’s life folks.

My maid washes my clothes once or twice a week and on days when my room is not a total mess she comes in and makes the bed, I don’t blame her for staying away on the other days.  Although regardless the state of things in my room she is very fastidious about always going in everyday after I have left to turn off my fan, insuring that I come home to a stuffy sweltering hot box each night.  And my maid still lectures me every morning like clockwork, about what I have no idea, its all in Indonesian.  Sometimes I retaliate by trying to talk to her in English, she responds with a dismissive wave, shaking her head grunting “yeah, yeah, yeah”, the only thing I have ever heard her say in English.  Sometimes she wants me to take a bacuk (bicycle rickshaw with seat in front) instead of my bike, the other day I thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown when I was leaving the house with mismatched socks.   This morning as I was climbing on my bike she was getting on me about something, she was pinching her fingers above her bare forearm, miming cloth.  She kept saying ‘jacketa’, I think she was telling me not to go out without a jacket.  Remember, blog believers, I live in Indonesia.  This was at noon, maybe 106 degrees in the shade and my maid is worried I may catch cold.  But she lectuers, and when she lectures I listen patiently, not understanding word one.  She seems completely unconcerned with the obvious, that I am a big dumb animal from another planet incapable of speech or understanding, still she pleads her case.  She pecks with the love of a mama hen, it is a matriarcal power she has as an old woman and even when utterly frustrated with my bizarre habits and rutines she always has a bit of that love in her eyes.  So even though I can’t understand the words I hang patiently on every strange sylable, nodding at the sage advice whatever in the world it may be, understanding the sentiment only, but I feel like it is enough for now.

She waits for me in her favorite spot, a footrest she has set up on the other side of a large easy chair directly in front of the TV, which is on all day everyday bringing my maid her stories.  She seems to love Indonesian soaps, featuring lilly white skinned Indonesians with make up to make them look whitter, sometimes with the slightest hint of Asian facial features just to be on the safe side.  And sometimes my maid sqwints at the TV with clenched fists, desperately yelling at the television in Indonesian, pleading with it in anger, disgusted.  The other night I came home to find her with tears streaming down her face.  I asked her what’s wrong with big hand gestures, (our only means of real communication) and she pointed to the TV, a scene in which everyone in the show was crying about something.  I had bags of instant tea I had picked up on the last weekends trip to the tea plantation so I poured hot tea into a up a cup my friends Amy and Ryan had given me back in the states on the occasion of my going away.  The cup featured the Thing from the comic Fantastic Four declaring his famous mantra ‘it’s clobberin’ time!!’, I filled it with hot tea and sat it by her footrest as an offering.  She was surprised and thanked me with the same sort of zeal as a bedowin crawling across the sands of the Gobi may thank someone for tossing them a canteen.  She seems uneasy with me doing things for her, as if it is her place to do things for me so why would I ever do a nice thing for her, in her world it didn’t add up.  I went upstairs for a few minutes, came back down and found she had poured the tea out of the coffee cup I had given her and into a plastic Mcdonalds cup which she was now sipping, not wanting to dirty up the ‘good china’.

A few weekends ago she was gone.  It was strange, but my feeling was that she deserved a vacation just like anyone else and I hoped she was having a good time.  She was back on Monday, then a week went by and the next weekend I found myself on my way to the haunted hotel with my friends (See last post, blog believers, Will).  My roommate Suchet and his girl went with us, he is very much the quiet sort and she doesn’t speak the first word of English.  Out of nowhere he told me that our maid had been gone that weekend because her Brother had died.  Suchet’s girlfriend had spent the day with her before she left to keep her company, holding her hand as she wept.  I had no idea.  How could they not tell me?  What must she think of me, letting a week go by without so much as a simple consolation.  I asked my room mates what we should do, we come up empty.  What are you supposed to do in such an occasion in Indonesia, flowers?  rice?  Live chickens?

So I asked around at my school, all the Indonesian woman I work with had a pow wow.  They said that it was ok I had missed it the first time.  They told me that in Indonesia you don’t just have one funeral, there is a period of time between the burial and a month or two later the second ceremony when the family returns to the grave and reminds the dead they are missed.  This happens again and again at prescribed increments of time for I don’t know how long, but they said the second one I should give her money.  They didn’t say how much, but she doesn’t make a lot in the first place, and that yes, that is a normal thing to do when someone dies.  So I am waiting, they have said I should wait to offer my condolences when it comes with money, so I wait.

But I am out here living, man, out here loving life.

I have plans to climb two mountains next month.  My roommate and I (Eric the American, not Suchet the Britt) are climbing my big blue friend and another.  Somehow Eric heard that on top of one of the mountains is a camp of sulpher miners who will let you crash in exchange for cigarettes.  Then in August I am off to Borneo.

And the classes are going so well.  I love my young ones, they are so fun and I try to meet them on their level without condescending and they let me.  It is like I come up with the rules of the learn English game and they play with innocent abandon.  They give me love I will never deserve.  And my older ones joke with me and I can make them laugh but I am actually teaching, actually teaching.  Not like China, not just entertaining, but standing there explaining past simple and present perfect, trying to make lessons that are fun but work.  It is a challenge, and some days I feel like I did a great job and some days I feel defeated.  It varies from class to class, some are full of energy and some are sleepy while others just want to play.  And every day I find more books to use and more stuff to do and more ways to use the class computers, so it is really getting easier and easier.  The wall facing my desk already has three pictures of me drawn by children, and I have already been asked by one class to go with them to visit someones ancestral village one weekend.  I mentioned that in the teachers room and it turns out that is not something that happens often, a great honer they tell me.  So I have found a job I can go to everyday singing, which means work is no longer actually like work, which also means I may have fulfilled the most common goal of modern man.

Today is Friday, and as of this week I have one class today.  On Fridays I have a class at 7:40 at night meaning I should really go in around 6:30 to look at the text book and figure out a lesson, but I will be done around 9 and already have plans to go out drinking for a while at the bar with everyone after that.  Then tomorrow I am going with Rowan to the China district and the Arab quarter, and maybe the big Mosque if there is time.

So I floated in the pool that day and thought about what a great set up.  What a great life, I talk to people back home and I don’t know how to express it, I don’t know how to tell them how wonderful it has been so far.  Life is like a plate of ice cream with no veggies and no possibility of weight gain, stomach ache or brain freeze headache.  And I realize it makes for bad bloging, good story telling comes from conflict, who wants to read about “hey lookie here how great I have it, I am so lucky” but I really am.  Blessed.  Life is grand, and when I can think of shit to talk about or when I have adventures I will let you know, but when and if you don’t hear from me for a while, just remember it’s because I am out here living, busy but happy, homesick but not forlorn, blissful but not oblivious and never unappreciative of every precious moment, every gasp of sunshine.  And I don’t want to sound like I am gloating or boastful, I really don’t.  If that pisses anyone off you will just have to let it slide.  Sooner or later I am bound to find some kind of conflict in my life and I promise you will be the first to know.  Trouble in paradise everyone will say with a wink.

I love it when I get comments.  I also love it when I get emails from home.  Hint hint.

I am also pleased to report I have had people from 10 countries look at this page; Iraq, Sweeden, Netherlands, and Brazil to name a few.  If you have taken the time to read this mess and happen to be one of the many residents of planet earth with whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting than thanks for taking the time and please feel free to let me know what you thought and where you hail from.  Everyone else that I already know, thanks for reading also.  Be well and be nice to each other, I will write again whenever I think of some shit to say.



8 Responses to “the lush life”

  1. mark says:

    Entertaining read as ever…especially the maid story “Although regardless the state of things in my room she is very fastidious about always going in everyday after I have left to turn off my fan, insuring that I come home to a stuffy sweltering hot box each night.” – with a dirty mind, it’s hilarious!
    So ur off to kawah ijen? the sulphur place – menarik..interesting….
    Anyway bro, see u in a couple o weeks…get searching out tuak man!!!
    ps people wear jackets on motorbikes coz they dont wanna get ill from masuk angin… a somewhat bizzare belief that wind enters their body n causes all kinds of problems which needs to be removed by scratching metal coins on the skin….

    • Will Sanders says:

      Oh that makes sense! So many brand new things to worry about, now I need to find someone to rub coins on my skin, just to be on the safe side. I look forward to seeing you when you come, still trying to track down that sweet yellow palm tree juice, but worst case we just get drunk on something else. see you when you get here!

  2. Stussey says:

    I’m just glad someone I know is living life to the fullest. So many people get tied up and it holds them back. I wish I had your drive. I know I’m tenacious, but I don’t have the luck. I knew I should’ve up and moved years ago, or follow your lead. But alas, I’m still in Shitlanta reading your great adventures. If people don’t like that you’re living life and have a problem with it, screw them. It’s your life, enjoy it, and you seem to be doing a fine job at it.

    • Will Sanders says:

      Right on, and no sweat, you are making shit happen for youself more than most. Keep doing your thing and I’ll try to keep doing mine. Down with the haters. Up with the luvah’s!

  3. You just tell me how the workout is going and I’ll adjust your image in the header accordingly.

    I’m enjoying the developing relationship between you and the woman that maintains your house (what’s her name again?). Beyond all your travels, I find it the most interesting that you choose to write about the people you form relationships with. This leads me to believe that to Will Sanders, traveling is not about the destination but about the people that call that destination home.

    Further, an adventure is most likely to happen when anyone, regardless of their location, chooses to put themselves outside of their boundaries and into a place where they are more vulnerable to new relationships.

    Whoa, where’d that come from? Must be the Bourbon talking. Why aren’t you on my couch watching the Sopranoes? I love you Sanders.

    • Will Sanders says:

      back at you
      there certainly are times I wish I was there too, brother. If for no better reason than you always have that good whiskey. Are you still watching the Sopranos? Have they introduced Ralph Viferelli yet?
      And you are right, the people do make or break a place for me.

  4. amy bugg burke says:

    Mucho excitement here in our little house that our mug has had a role in your latest adventure! =) I’m so, so very happy that everything is going so well for you…what a change from those first days in China. China turned out to be so awesome for you that I just can’t imagine how amazingly things will continue to be for you in Indonesia! I’m so impressed that you are going to the gym and riding your bike everywhere…I could use a little of that juice over here!

    We miss you Will Scandals, but I don’t wish you were here because I know how damn happy you are over there. When you find yourself with that level of contentment and satisfaction with life, you definitely need to keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing!

    I love you Will! I promise to try to write a real email soon. =)

  5. Doug Brown says:

    Ok, so if you don’t wear a jacket, you have to rub coins on yr body. Copper, or above?

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