parallel lives

Everyone I spoke to had a fantastic weekend, and throughout the 9 hour drive back from Semarang, I was thinking what different weekends everyone must have. Mine was a weekend away. Took a short domestic flight to Semarang to visit my grandmother and my cousin who's just finished his internship in the nearby village of Kudus. Central Java (JATENG, Jawa Tengah, they have the annoying habit of combining words).

Wasn't my first visit, and the area had developed a bit. My grandmother's bakery had already been converted to an electronics store, as it is on one of the main roads, so it was probably a good location for it. It was bustling, but considerably less so than in Jakarta.

Again, the food was something different. Javanese food is pretty different from what I usually eat in Jakarta, though it's familiar because my family cooks it from time to time. Soto with kecap manis, nasi opor, nasi goreng babat, nasi ayam semarang. in general, sweet. they even mix the tea with insane amounts of sugar. not a good place to be if you're diabetic. of course, there are the bakeries.

drove to kudus via demak to search for this famed "beautiful house", and on the way there we stopped by the polytron factory to see where my cousin was doing his internships. generally, i had the sense that culturally, this was more of indonesia's heartland. i saw many more islamic schools (well, as well as chinese temples in semarang). this was where zheng he made landfall in java and helped to spread islam. of course, there are also 9 holy cities where pilgrims who were the descendants of prophet muhammad helped to spread islam throughout indonesia. demak was the site of the first islamic empire which defeated the hindu majapahit one (yes, the empire with gajah mada who tried to invade singapore, if you remember from the myths of singapore book by noel chia).

drove up the mountains and it ws a beautiful house. a rather famous artist owned it and decided to build his residence and his art school there. unfortunately he was in jakarta at the time, so we talked to his wife. this house is situated on a mountain overlooking a valley and with a view of the adjacent ridges. you can hear the sound of water flowing. it was built on a whim, apparently, and on a plan. spread throughout the compound are sculptures done by the man himself. in order to get from the house to the gazebo and viewing/trekking area, you have to hop past some stones. it was easy for us but not for the people who brought tea over.

his children are artists as well, one is a fashion designer and the other helms an alternative rock band. he gave me his album, and he likes face paint a lot. music has pretty international influences, although also some javanese ones as well.

on the way back i encountered an interesting way to deal with corruption. basically this policeman, seeing that we had jakarta license plates and a pretty decent car, decided to stop us on the way back into semarang. he pulled us over, and we asked what for. he asked to see the vehicel registration papers and driving license, which we promptly showed him but refused to hand over to him. then my cousin adrian started screaming at him for stopping us for no good reason, and threatening to call his important friends in jakarta. so now i suppose our crime was going straight when we were supposed to turn left. but that's ridiculous because the car in front of us had gone straight. here we were in the middle of the street, my cousin going mental. when we tried to drive away he stood in front of the car. how desperate. he said "if you help me, i am help you. how dare you scream at me like that. i'm an employee of the state, and you are obstructing justice". so my cousin just started screaming more, like "what justice, we haven't done anything wrong" we wanted to drive to the side to stop blocking, and after a while we continued the debate on the side of the road. by now, he had roped in his friend to try to solve the problem. we just kept screaming and arguing and i think they were sufficiently hassled, threatened or embarassed by the commotion they decided to look for an easier target.

then my cousin started laughing. what the fuck. i was pretty scared i would be handcuffed and put in jail. he said he hasn't had that much fun in a long time. well, i guess it's an alternative to handing over a small some of money, though it wastes some of your time, and if you treat it as fun and doing what is right, it isn't so much after all. i didn't realize what a weak bargaining position supposed figures of authority are in when they're doing the wrong thing, as long as you don't give them anything to play around with.

fridge magnets! the countries my grandmother has been to. wow!

photos and memories. it's nice to have this great big matriarchal home which holds memories stretching back into the past century. you get this feeling of constancy about places, that they change less than people do, and you remember the rooms well, and what people used to do in them. also, enforced relaxation as there was no tv, internet, so i spent time killing mosquitoes with my electric mosquito-killing racket. i had 8 bites but i sizzled about 14. there were none left in the vicinity. how many do you think there are left in semarang? probably 99,999,986. i had made a small difference. i also enjoyed getting the dog to open the gate and playing with them. it makes me want to have these things.

the drive back was long and the dry season was really dry. we haven't had rain in 3 weeks probably. there was a bush fire on the way back. the view at times was spectacular, with padi fields stretching all the way until where the plains give way to mountains, and the orange sun reflecting off them.


the stream

i remember those days in school where i would walk to school being depressed or down for no good reason. i always thought that it was because i lacked something. but i've learnt to accept them as times where i think, and i sort of miss them.

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