Saturday, August 5, 2017

I Leave Myself With A Question

For about 8 years now, Indohoy has been writing travel blogs and getting to know the community behind it. It's been a lot of fun, and a lot of drama that isn't necessarily ours. Recently, I've been involved with so much more content and trying to expand this bubble of mine, searching for new interesting creators and learning about content beyond just destinations.

It's nice to see that the travel blogging world has expand. There are so many people traveling and writing these days, it's ridiculous. I shouldn't be complaining. However, on the other hand, it seems like travel content seem to be a little homogenized as I would think it should. I lust for something different and some new names that stand out. With so many travel content out there, I question myself, how could this happen?

I must haven't been out much, talking to more different people in different areas. I believe there are good content creators out there with various different types content, I just haven't met them. But a though came to mind, what if there aren't any? What we we're really lacking of people that write well and have interesting things to say?

There's a tendency of people writing about their itineraries or description, which eventually makes travel blogging easier. It isn't wrong, on the contrary, it's very helpful, but what if we lack other types of writings? Narrative, contemplation, analysis, etc.  Trinity, one of the first travel bloggers in Indonesia, never wrote itineraries, and yet here we are with tendencies to write just what we see and experience chronologically. With that, it came to mind, what happened along the way? And have I contributed to this homogenized content?

Having to blogged for more than 5 years, I question myself, have I contribute to the homogeneous content that we have today? I need to let that simmer.

This is one post that is yet to be answer.
 Current mood.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Hands of Traveling

A recent hobby that I've picked up lately during traveling is taking pictures of hands. Most of the time it's hands of craftsmen. Reason being is that when traveling I meet different people with different professions and livelihood, to which hands are usually involved. Whether it's a writer, IT guy, a textile maker, a pottery maker, a batik maker, a street food vendor, a becak driver, most of them (or should I say us) use our hands to survive.

In the case of craftsmen, I've always admire hands as an extension of the creative mind. Imagine, the process that goes in a brain to then be translated into art. What makes it different to artists is humility, I think. These people make things not to be acknowledged as creative, but to live and survive. Their hands are usually rugged with scars, nothing beautiful, and far from instagramable.

My first photo was when I went to Cirebon. The hands of a batik worker had turned into splashes of red and yellow from the dye. The batik worker mention that it was a day to day thing for him. And the batik that came out from the workshop was beautiful. From then, I've been taking pictures of hands of people I find extraordinary in making a living. I do as much as I can remember, which unfortunately, isn't all the time.

One of my recent experience was a failed attempt that I'd like to retry one day. I met a cook in the Pekojan Village, during the annual breaking fast of the area. Because I'm a girl, I was kept inside the house during the event, where men roamed the roads. I was quite happy just being in the house, watching the women prepare a mass amount of food for the guests. Among the women passing and plating countless dishes, was the main cook, an old lady, that didn't stand out in the crowd. I had known that she was the cook from the boss, the lady who owned the house.

I approached the cook by the end of the night. Apparently, she was has been cooking for the annual breaking fast for a long time. I asked her if I could take a picture of her hands, she declined. Turns out that she didn't like the fact that people exposed her in medias and she had bad experience with them, which she would not tell. The fact that I wasn't even going to take a picture of her face (which most of the time is the issue), made me think maybe it had gone really bad and she just had had enough.

I was kinda disappointed that some media had been unethical, blocking my wanting to take a picture of her hands. But then again, I might not always succeed anyways.  

Ha.. that was one of the hands that I failed to take a picture of, and yet I really wanted. Let this be a note of reminder, that maybe one day, I would be able to capture the hand that cooked the delicious Arab inspired meal in Pekojan.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Tanimbar Kei People Vs The Man

On the way back from Tanimbar Kei, Maluku--which isn't Tanimbar, nor Kei--I sat in a speed boat with a few dozen people. We were heading to the main islands of Tual and it was going to be about a couple of hours before we reached Kei Island. I sat there along with my travel mates, our local friends, and a few other locals that were heading the same way.

Traveling for an hour, and Kei still not insight, we came across a luxurious boat. It was probably a yacht, white with blue details. It was about three floors and had a dock for a small boat and a jet ski. Not thinking too much about it, suddenly the locals were suspicious of of the boat. They questioned, who was it? Did they ask permission to the village people, those that live off the water and islands around the area? The boat skipper suddenly was asked to turn the boat towards the yacht.

Once arriving, the locals asked asked for the captain. He wasn't there as explained by the crew, which weren't very friendly. Apparently the boat was from Bali and was charted by a family. They had sailed this far to enjoy the beautiful sea of Maluku. A few minutes in, the situation didn't get any better. The locals interrogated the crew with a raised tone. The crew put on a hard stoned face, as if refusing the locals their rights of any answer. My friends and I held our tongue as this is not our fight. We just sat and observed.

It was a very awkward situation for me. During my travels, I'm rarely on the 'local's' side of things, most of the time I'm the intruder, no matter how close I am to the locals. In this boat, I became the locals and I could see how these boat crews looked at us, especially when the locals were pissed off knowing these visitors had no permit to enter their waters. I'm not supposed to judge, but I couldn't help it. I did feel undermined by the crew and it was an awful, awful feeling.

Failed to get any form of responsibility, the boat backed out to continue the ride. Until, someone spotted a small boat in the distance. The locals turned the boat and headed to the speck close to Pulau Kelapa. Arriving at the small boat we found the captain, a Caucasian man and his guests, a man and his son that had just ascended from their dive. Again, the people asked their purpose of visit and questioned their permit.

It was one of the most uncomfortable moments in my life. The people on the boat tried to wiggle their way out with 'smart but not smart' excuses that 'the sea belonged to everyone' and that they had asked permission from the people in Banda to roam the ocean. It felt like they underestimated the knowledge of the locals, whose arguments were very spot on at the time. Still holding my tongue, it was annoying to see 'educated' people diving the foreign waters without a local guide. It was reckless and dangerous. Interestingly, his son looked ashamed. It was also heart breaking to see how they provided very ignorant answers without respect. It was predictable but my feelings towards the situation was unexpected.

For a minute, I felt sad being in the position of the locals, even when I'm not. I suddenly could see how snobbish outsiders can be to the locals and suddenly contemplate whether I had treated the locals in the same manner in the past.

If I did, I send forgiveness in my prayers tonight.

In the mean time, I'll keep the name of that boat I saw in the Tanimbar Kei waters and remember the face of the man that sat a little too relaxed to be considered polite. For now, I 'cukstaw' the manner of a  high-end society member did in the waters of Tanimbar Kei.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why I Should Be More Cultural

When traveling, I always enjoy the presence of the local people. Nature can be so beautiful, attractions can be so amusing, but in my days of traveling I've come to understand that the people are what fascinates me the most. Both good and bad. And from it I've learned so much about myself, my country, and that of others. 

I enjoy knowing how the people of Tanah Beru maintain their heritage of making phinisi boats, also how they have adapted to the new ways people are utilizing the boats into cruising boats. I admire how a man that is not Javanese, used so much of his time and energy to maintain batik culture in the middle of Pekalongan, the batik city. I'm moved by the kindness of a Bajawa - Riung bus driver on picking up people, bringing their mail, and dropping them at their destination without extra charges. Just a few memories I picked up from meeting the people.

One day, while flipping through my digital photo albums, I remembered an encounter with a Hmong woman at the north part of Thailand. I remember her being curious asking me where I was from to our local guide, a local school teacher. He answered Indonesia for me and my friends. Then, it hit me, it really didn't matter what the answer was. I could have been from anywhere because I wasn't distinct in anyways. I was using a batik dress but it wasn't something this Hmong knew or had any interest in. Well, not as much as I was in what she was wearing. She had coins embedded in her outfit.

Then it got me thinking. I haven't been much of a cultural person. I'm Bugis, born and raised in Bandung, speak more fluent Sundanese language than Bugis, rather write in English and is heavily influenced by western culture. And it's been fine so far, but I realize, the more I'm getting into knowing the local people and admiring their culture and traditions, wouldn't it be fair if I could explain my own? Shouldn't I have something to show when other people come to Indonesia and not be just a shirt and jeans? Appreciating all that people can tell me about their culture, shouldn't I be able to explain mine?

Not everyone has to feel obligated to preserve their culture or roots. I'm just saying that I should. I've just asked my mother to teach me some Bugis language as she is so fluid, even though she's lived in Java my whole life. She's a woman that knows and doesn't forget her roots. People can distinct that she isn't from Java once she opens her mouth, and she has the knowledge to back it up.
I'm determined. I hope I can master it, at leas as she does, to soon be able to answer where I'm from, especially when asked by my fellow Bugis people. That should be makesing, right?