Just ain’t Christmas without non-stinging jelly fish, you know?

by Will Sanders on February 8th, 2011

First, I want to thank my buddy Stussy for sending me cds of his show WORST CASE SCENARIO along with a cool cd of Indonesian hardcore.  Literally it will take me hours and hours to dig through, and I can’t wait.  So nice to get mail from back home too, especially music.  So if you dig good loud crusty metal then check him out at  www.werstcasescenario.tumblr.com

There is a nice plug going out to all three people who still read this blog, one of which being Stussy.  Even though he didn’t ask for a plug and was sending me those to be nice, I thought what would it hurt.  And it really was cool to come into the office and have a wonderful package to open from States side.

Thanks Stussy!

I was a little bummed, I had the gee it sure would be nice to spend Christmas with my family blues, which happens when you live in Asia.  Halloween is also hard, my friends all making crazy interesting costumes without me around.  On July fourth I sigh loudly thinking of good friends floating lazily and drunk in Caroline’s lake in north Georgia.  The groundhogs keep peaking out of their holes in my absence, the saplings keep sprouting up on arbur day, and presidents dance in used car ads if I am around to see them or not.  But Christmas, man Christmas with out my sister and my folks is a toughie.

So next best thing

WEEK ONE:  Derawan

I had talked to my family the night before, which was Christmas eve by the way.  I had promised to try to call on Christmas but I didn’t know about the internet on Derawan, a small island off the coast of Kalimantan, which is a geographically fancy way to say Indonesian Borneo.  When I talked to my mom that day she suggested I go and find an underwater camera, sage advice.  And damned if at the last minute I couldn’t find one.  this is important later.

We landed in Bareu, which is a villiage with an airport in North Borneo.  I have told  Indonesian’s about this place and they have never heard of it.  “Eh?” They say.  Maybe I am saying it wrong.  The way I always seem to do with my street, which in my defense starts with an NG then a vowel.

So we got to the tiny airport, not the smallest I have ever seen, but also not the biggest but a much wider margin.  Sarah had planned the whole thing perfectly, which made it all so much easier.  A guy picked us up with two cars and drove us to the water where speed boats took us screaming over the waves.

Now leaving reality, here comes the ideal against which all further paradise may now be measured, in five, four, three, two, one

The water was perfect and clear and light blue and it was shallow enough to walk for miles in any direction without getting in any deeper than your waist.  No shit, we walked out into the ocean away from the island for maybe 15 minutes and never got anything above our navels wet, finally we turned around because being that far from land was just plane weird and it occurred to us maybe it was somehow dangerous, even though we couldn’t figure how.

The children living there were so nice, they followed us singing ‘hello, hello, hello.’ The coconuts were fresh from the tree tops.  The sand was white.  We ran into very few tourists that week, and the ones we did see we became our friends.

And the turtles.  The turtles were wise old men.  They were mammoths that wouldn’t fit in a car, and their shells had barnacles growing on them from age.  Schools of fish swam under them, their eyes had seen much.  Mainly water, but a lot of it, folks.  And they swam in twos and threes.  I thought Gili had some turtles but nothing like this.  They were so peaceful, and slow.  They glided along the ocean floor eating sea weed.  They reminded me of grazing cows.  And they were just everywhere.  On the first day it was really exciting when one of us thought we spotted one.  On the last day it was ‘hey look, turtle.’ ‘huh?  Oh, yep.  Sure.’  And on with the conversation, or the book, or the lazy shiftless gaze into the horizon.  The sunrises were perfect and the nights were filled with stars.  If it wasn’t for the locals tossing their trash everywhere it would have been perfect.

The first night was Christmas day and we did a secret santa on the deck of our bungalows over looking the ocean.  I got Sarah some batik stuff, a scarf and some stuff.  It wasn’t so great but she seemed happy with it.  Then, Spencer gave me the directions for (but it was waiting at home in my kitchen) ((wait for it, wait for it))  a toaster oven!!!!!!  I will say it again, but this time I will put it in caps for emphasis: A TOASTER OVEN!!!!!  Ok, this time caps again, but I will use the bold and will try to find  cooler font:


Hmmm, I can’t seem to find the different fonts on wordpress, just imagine that in sort of a currier new, or comic sans.  Seriously, you would not believe the tuna melts that have happened in my house.  And those frozen chicken wings they have at the local indomart (not making up that name) seem the perfect diatary complement to a night of heavy drinking.

Thanks Spencer!!!!

The next day we went out looking for the famous snorkel spot, but we steered wrong.  It seemed like a long way to go for some very fishless water.  I admit to feeling a little let down at first.  We wandered around the corner and asked as many people as we could in Indonesian for the good snorkeling, they kept leading us to a pier.  Ok, ok, we walked to the end of the wooden jette and jumped in.

I went in first, took one look down there and shot back to the surface.

“Oh my god, get in here, get in here!”

Under the wooden jetty in Darawan island the fish schooled in massive inpenatrable walls.  There was a clam under the dock, a living clam that was the size of a motorcycle.  And I mean a chopper.  You think I am making that up?  Ask Zac, Ask Andrew, Ask Sarah.  They are all on my facebook, they’ll tell you.

I saw fish you wouldn’t believe.  I saw fish of every shape and every size.  The entire ecosystem had grown up around the wood planks which held up the jetty.  On one side of the jetty was a restaurant which sat on such planks.  You could swim under the entire building and the water under there was dark.  In the maze of wooden planks, (each covered with razor sharp barnacles) the bigger fish sulked around.  I saw lion fish, two of them raising their spike fines as a warning.  I was inspecting a pile of rocks when an eel came out to greet me.  He was poking his long body out of a hole, I never saw the end of him but what I did see was a good four feet long and maybe one and a half feet tall.  He saw me and showed me what pretty teeth he had, his mouth open wide.  I can take a hint, I swam away.  Doesn’t take a house to fall on me.  Next to the restaurant was a wooden pen with a net inside.  Inside the net were gigantic grouper fish, and I mean big.  These guys must have been about four feet long and three feet fat.  They had bloated lips and looked sort of like the boxer in the old looney tunes shorts, a big punch drunk paluka, maybe with a bowler hat too tiny for the bulbous bald head.  That was what they reminded me of anyways.

I was in that spot almost everyday.  It was there, under the jetty that I saw a pair of octopuses messing around.  It is hard to explain the size of an octopus because they are masses that constantly change shape, color too for that matter.  I would say when they swam quickly in one direction with the bell in front and the tenticles behind it it was about the length of the tips of my fingers to my shoulder.   I watched them doing their little dance on the ocean floor.  One swam quickly and coyly away and would stop on a rock, giggling tee hee.  The other one crawled slowly and cautiously across the ocean floor until it got near the giggling one.  Then, they both slowly reached one tentacle each out in the direction of the other, like David reaching out to God on the Sistine chapel.  And then, for a split second, like blink and you will miss it quick, CONTACT!  At that moment they held one another’s tentacle and for that split second of contact they both instantly turned jet snow white in a wave of color.  The next second the giggling one would swim away then stop a few meters away and the other one would follow.  I am guessing here, but I think they were flirting with each other, or they were playing the way children do, but it really looked like they were into each other.  And I watched this for a time.  I waited around, just me alone.  After a while I got a little bit too close, the beau swam off and the other one looked me in the eye and said, “fuck off I am a rock.” And in front of my eyes it turned into a rock.  Deep purple and black and I watched it happened but then couldn’t quite make out where it had been in the first place.

Another day we went to an island in a boat we hired.  The inside itself was an old volcano that had sprung up in the middle of the ocean, erupted, and the crater filled with rainwater over how ever much time it’s been.  The crater filled and the jungle grew around the edges.  Here is the crazy part, a species of jelly fish evolved there without stingers.  Pink caps of various sizes, I would say from the size of your thumbnail all the way to a bowl big enough to serve punch out of at a highschool prom, provided nobody minded the tentacle like arms wiggling out of the punch bowl.  So we climbed up a wooden set of stairs over the top of the crater, down to the lake in the middle.  The others stood by cautiously, and without looking I said Geranamo!

There were millions of them, almost in a cloud.  They bumped into my body in haphazardly, each following one direction, why or where they were trying to get was a mystery.  I asked one of them and it just undulated rhythmically.  And they all undulated at different speeds so they could all travel at the same rate.  The tiny little ones pumped at hyper speed, but the bigger ones worked less using more surface area to make more distance and time.  For a while I started taking them in my hand and trying to get them all go in the same direction, but they would have none of it.

Along the banks was a bright green grass in which the jelly fish fed on what ever gunk they could find in there.  when they were feeding their bodies went from bright pink to dark brown for camo.  Also in the grass were these tube plants with circles of teeth on the end.  I saw one catch a jelly fish, the jelly fish pumped as hard as it could to get away but the little sucker plant had it.  Later I swam by and saw a lump in the plants throat and a satisfied expression on its tube end.

Along the edge where the tree roots dropped into the water bright neon fungus had grown all over the place, oranges and yellows.  It reminded me of airbrushed foam rubber.  If you saw it at in a movie it would look completely fake, but there it was.  And the roots formed underwater tunnels which were nice for exploring.  I was the first in and the last out.

And that was how the week went.  Spencer found a very nice young lady from Malaysia who followed him around.  They reminded me of the octopuses.  Spencer kept disappearing all week, one day he showed up in a hand carved canoe he had borrowed.  I got in it with him and we sank it, and had to float it most of the way back.

We met up with Luke, from Poland and he hung out with us helping us to find the best coconuts.  And on new years eve we all made a bon fire on the beach and sang loudly and drunkly into the night.  I was found face down in the beach passed out.  I saw my guys walking and called to them, somewhere in the night one of them heard me say “friends…..”

It was the nicest place I have been in Asia.  It was really nice.  And in the end, I would have rather been with my dad and mom and sister and step folks and the wonderful nieces for a snowy Christmas.  But I also feel like as much as I miss home I found a way to shake the holiday blues pretty well.

The following week I went to Bali and rode around on a motorcycle for a few days, riding up through the mountains and rice paddies.  I saw lots of monkeys and lakes.  I went hiking in the jungle for about five hours and got lost without water.  finally I just started climbing up a mountain knowing that there was at least a road on the top of the mountain.  I found myself bust through the trees into a villiage where people were not expecting me.  I asked for cold drink in Indonesian, all they had was hot coffee.  But they were nice and they had really little puppies that wanted to play with me.

And now it is a month later and I am still broke.

Stay tuned for Indonesia Blog comics issue one

One Response to “Just ain’t Christmas without non-stinging jelly fish, you know?”

  1. Tika We says:

    Nice blog with great experience! I hope Seaworld won’t find this blog. The fish and octopus must be homesick like you in case Seaworld pick them up into their giant aquarium. :P

    – Tika, student of FCE-1 EF Plaza Surabaya. Yeah, the crazy girl who addicted to risk! –

Leave a Reply