Not So Far

I flew from Jakarta to Taipei on Wednesday and from there on to Los Angeles—the trip took around 18 hours, but less than 5: we took off at 2:20 in the afternoon of the 14th and landed at LAX at 7:15 that evening.

I am staying the night in an old place, one of the first in the area, well worn but tidy. The dirt between the shrubs had been raked. Like back home. Jakarta. Rohemon’s yard. The man who checked me in was old, brown, round faced. He spoke softly with Asian accented English. His movements were careful and slow, too slow for me. I was still revved up from the frenzied run through immigration and baggage. Watching him work through the on-screen computer check in, I fought an urge to reach over the counter and help him manage the computer mouse.

I asked if he had a room in the back, less noise. He smiled and waved vaguely, with a familiar look on his face, that look I got so often from Roheman and Aan. That look that says, “I want to please you, and I think I know what you are asking for, but I am really not sure.” I smiled and took the room key he offered. My room was in the front, facing the main road—figured.

When I talked with Curtis this morning, I told him the man reminded me of Indonesia.

The same man was at the counter when I went to check out. I asked him where he was from. He took a deep breath and smiled an I’ve-been-asked-this-before-and-it’s-a-long-story-smile. A familiar smile. One I give when someone asks where I’m from. “I am from the far, far East,” he said.

I nodded and smiled. “I live in Indonesia.”

He looked at me. “Indonesia. I am from Indonesia.”

Turns out he is not just from Indonesia, he is from my island, Java. From East Java, from a small village near Surabaya. I had never heard of his village, but Surabaya, yes. I have been there twice, spent the night, purchased coffee beans and glass beads and carved furniture from Surabaya.

“Selamat siang,” I said.

It was his turn to smile. “You live in Indonesia? Now?”

My whole body said yes.

He switched to Indonesian (a test?) “Berapa lama?” For how long?

Sudah empat tahun” Already four years,” I answered.

We chatted a few minutes more, about Indonesia, why I was there. Mostly in English with a few Indo words here and there. His Indo seemed as rusty as mine is poor.

Other people came into the office. I said “goodbye”, he said “selamat jalan” and I left.

No matter how far we travel, it seems we are never that far away.

Selamat jalan, happy travels.