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my indonesian christmas

This is the first Christmas I’ve ever spent without my family… and I’ve spent most of the day on my own.

This morning Sara and I got up at 5.30 am and opened our presents, both of us got a pretty good stash of very practical and useful gifts from each other and Santa and my mum. But before we knew it, the time had come to shower under the cold tap, which felt freezing this morning… and hop on the bike and do the short ride into town to take Sara to work. The rain left drops of moisture on our skin and the air smelled fresh and clean.

It was clear to me this morning that Christmas in Indonesia is just like any other day. The men were still resurfacing the road on the big hill, still rebuilding the fence around the beach. Still smoking and drinking coffee outside their warungs… when just across the ocean in Australia children are excitedly tearing brightly coloured paper and yelping with joy at the treasures they discover inside. Things certainly are different here.

We had breakfast at the hotel, as we have every day so far. Eggs, tomatoes and toast with hot sugary tea but this morning a little different. Not only is it Christmas but there was no power in the town… everything moves slower still. The beach was crowded with Indonesian tourists; it is a long weekend here. Little girls in long colourful robes and headscarves play in the waves. I don’t know how they can swim in all that fabric. But they can. One little girl who was draped all over in different colours, only revealing her smooth brown face and dark eyes, balanced precariously on a body board and rode a little wave into shore.

Batukaras beach

I road our bike back home after breakfast, reflecting on Christmases that have come and gone and all that perhaps I took for granted in those years. The family, the friends, the food and the laughter that always seems to envelop us on Christmas, the tears and the arguments, the mess and the inevitable games of charades. All of us high from the beer and the spirit of giving, all of us exhausted by 2pm. This Christmas is considerably quieter.

As I pulled the bike in through our gates and closed myself into our grassy front yard, I looked up at the dark and cloudy sky. Nobody answered my prayer for a sunny day for Christmas, it is the rainy season after all. So no beach today, no chocolate sand under my feet, no sunburn on the backs of my legs as I paddle the surf board out to sea. There will be no riding around discovering the nearby towns today either. It’s one thing getting lost in the sun, another completely to be lost in a torrential downpour… So I opened the door to our home and unlocked the bedroom doors so I could let the warm morning air sweep through and empty the house from the dampness that still clings to anything soft…

I lay on the couch and listened to the goats bleat from the little farm behind us and the little old lady stealing water from our well. As I lay there my eyes drifted shut and the prayer song from the mosque a few properties down washed over me. It is calm and melodic, it is beautiful and it becomes the sound that fills my mind. I wonder what it means. I can pick up a few words here and there but not enough to make sense of it so I try to concentrate on the sounds that the woman makes instead…

I slept for two hours in those songs. And I heard the change of prayer as a man came over the loud speaker and began the prayer service for the men of the village – if I’d been awake I would have seen them riding their bicycles and motorcycles down my street in their long white shirts and little white caps, three or four of them together, smiling, gentle on their way to worship and pray to the god they hold so dear.

Last night the rain was heavy as I sat at the bar at the hotel. Families were returning from prayer at a different mosque. Fathers clutched tiny swathed babies to their shoulders in the downpour. Children ran and stomped in puddles, splattering mud up their white robes. Some ran, some just walked slowly through the rain their sandals getting stuck in the mud and the robes clinging to their form. I sat with my legs tucked under me just under the eaves of the bar, I was still getting wet, but the lovely thing about rain here is that it isn’t cold. I read my book there for an hour, splashing the corners and leaving muddy finger prints on the pages.

At 2pm on Christmas day, just when I normally would have been ready to go down for a nap, I roused myself and hopped back on the bike to go and pick Sara up from work for her break… I didn’t know what the plan was, where we would eat, if anyone would join us…

We met up with Martin, Nic and Paul, Sara’s bosses and a friend of theirs for a big seafood lunch paired with many long necks of Bintang. We ate BBQ fish, prawns, vegetables, amazing chicken and lots of rice – enough to stuff ourselves with the true spirit of Christmas!

After lunch Sara and I took a ride into a nearby town to pick up a hammer and some paint brushes for some touch up work I’m doing on our house. We then napped a while together and when it was time to go back to work I drove Sara through our little town and aside the coast once more.

It was never my intention to hang around the hotel for the remainder of Sara’s shift, but with the other three still devouring Bintang on the deck, I was encouraged to join them. Beers, good conversation with new friends, laughter and jokes, the conversation turned serious at times as we fished around in each others lives cloudy from the beer but the intention of getting to know each other was real.

The rain started again in the evening and we moved the party under the shelter of the bar… more laughter and silly jokes and sentences that started shifting and curling around each other as we talked in circles and made little sense.

At 9.30 Sara and I hopped back on our bike and took the wet roads home, through the rice fields, the cool rain licking my face and hands… Home again to our leaky house full of gecko’s, I slept well, full of the oceans best and the beer, a smile on my face, glad that I’d had people to share laughter with today.

My Indonesian Christmas.

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Comments
One Response to “my indonesian christmas”
  1. TheOtherS says:

    Sounds just perfect Stwish!
    Thinking of you both xx
    ❤ TheOtherS

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