Watermelon in Easter Hay

Jasri Beach, Karangasem, 2022.

“One of the Gods lost her earrings, and She cried profusely because of it.”

The locals told me this rather brief myth and chuckled — unwilling to continue as they thought its sound whimsical to the ears of a modern man. But to tell you the truth, nothing I take for granted for the time and conversations people gave me in their part as the initiator. That’s just a rule I’ve been holding for a while. I’ll never start any conversation with strangers in a worry that my uncontrolled talkative bullshit will leave them uncomfortable. But if one starting it, does not matter the topic, I gave you everything there is of time, place, and a life-world.

I’m always drawn to the cognition and understanding of people in yet rural areas in this vast developing island. With these two locals, I rest at the pavilion available in Jasri Beach, Karangasem — as the rain poured down and every fisherman gently sailed back to the coast. The ocean is looking brown, the sky with fog and the palm trees far ahead starting to lose their sight. These two strong and hardworking women. They were a tourist guide — not anymore, for everything is in the past tense with the pandemic. I asked about the beach. One of the women said the beach is correct as Jasri Beach. But for some reason, the locals rather called it Jasi beach — dropping the ‘r’. Nothing much, but a question might arise for outsiders with the distinction of names, to the one registered in Google Maps, compare to the sign-direction, and typography ornaments at the site.

We sat down still. The women said many things about the development of our island. They like the fact that everything is gradually covered. Even the tiny islands separated from our main island, have been developed in such rapid modernity after being quite backward and neglected compared to the former. Electricity, water supply, restaurants, cafes, and accommodations. The women recalled her visit to one of the tiny islands attending their family relative’s marriage ceremony. One of them explained that it was more than a decade ago. The people there were often taking a bath with only a bucket of water and bar of soap for every body part. They had their way — particular methods within such remorse condition. Also with not much electricity, by 7 pm everyone is already back home and sleeping. Empty street and empty land. “Those were the days of darkness — literally, with nothing but the stars above them, and the light seems far from winning”.

For a man’s judgment should be curbed, I rather found such a subtle message the women made. I didn’t know for sure, was it only the reflection of my bias, or was she telling us that what we did for the world’s growth is dulling our relation with the world in exchange. Spiritually at most. Before the pandemic, one of them said that she often have phone calls and told anyone on the other side where she was at the moment — “I currently at the four-star hotel, or a golf course, taking time guiding the guest of our great island!”. And how all of this made her feel good. These days she said, for every phone call — “I am currently at the pigsty giving food to the pigs”. How the turntables, the spin of the freewheelin. Everybody humbled, but that is comical enough to provoke ironic joy, the women implied.

How did I arrive here? Google Maps makes me sore, rather. For every time I feel hesitant of spending money on traveling, I let just the fingers cross the border. Here exist worlds of comparison throughout the years — as long Google produces images at every point there are reachable. I visit Jasri Beach far before I went into the place physically. The typical east region, hills, and moderate height cliffs. On the same occasion with this virtual traveling — I saw kids coming back from school. They walked down together in this rural trail late afternoon. Nothing in their head the idea of nature’s beauty. People like me living their whole life in the city merely adopted the idea, while these people molded in it.

The conqueror of the useless. It is not that I expecting good summery sunny sunshine when I set off to the east, by the look of the sky with its darkest grey, as the clouds getting ready, and the wind was restless. Now here I am, just sitting down for hours waiting for the rain to stop. The women said — now that the heavy rain has passed, the drizzle will last forever — that I should just go and wear my raincoat. We exchange phone numbers, as the woman said I should contact her later times when I’ll be around again in Jasri Beach, or need her travel guiding service to any attractions on the island.

I took it lightly. I know for sure that we will never see each other again. That just the poetry of it. Met many strangers in strange lands and time visits, and there is none that I encounter again later so far. We live by this first and last impression, the temporality of warm greetings and togetherness. But the recollection of every individual’s map will last longer than our constructed experiences. It just floating, keep drawing itself in the air invisible to us. Getting wider, detached, and collapsed. Rebuild again. Forever.

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Bayu Wikranta

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