After a month of being here in Pangkalan Bun, the sleepover with one of the student families here has finally eventuated. It was postponed many times for varying minor reasons and so I really didn’t think it would ever take place. Often the idea of hosting me is very exciting but the reality is terrifying as most Pangkalan Bun people have barely spoken to a westerner before let alone entertained one. Their understanding of western way of life is solely based on tv shows and movies and as we all know this is far from the truth of how we actually live. The most stressful aspect for Indonesians hosting a westerner centers around food. Indonesians and Italians actually have a lot in common when it comes to food attitudes. Food is central to everyday life and culture. As westerners rarely if ever eat rice (according to Indonesian belief) Indonesians are totally puzzled about what to feed me. Usually I am offered bread and jam with warm milk as a snack which are the 2 things I avoid being lactose intolerant. I know I am definitely not the average westerner as I happily eat rice 3 times a day and totally avoid western food while in Indonesia.
Indonesians are also embarrassed about their houses and again I am sure this is because they think all westerners live in the mansions the sitcom families all seem to own. It is such a shame because generally all the houses I have visited are significantly nicer than my house at home and no matter how many times I tell my host this, they think I am just being polite!
So here I am at Monique’s house. She is one of Bu Arfa’s students and has been pestering Bu Arfa ever since I got here to organise a sleep over. Her driver picked us up from school yesterday and drove us home. In the car were 2 young girls wearing an office uniform, two of Monique’s friends and Monique. When we arrived, the house was all locked up, so we waited in the car while the driver unlocked the house. As soon as the house was unlocked, we quickly left the air conditioned car and entered the cool house. It had been a stinking hot day, made worse after a heavy down pour. The sun had come out again and with all the water on the ground, humidity levels skyrocketed.
The 2 young girls in uniform came inside with Monique and me but everyone else vanished! We sat waiting for Bu Arfa & Bu Zaitan making small talk. I discovered that the young girls worked for Monique’s father in the office next door and that they were both 22 years old. I then ate lunch with Bu Arfa & Bu Zaitan. It was all vegetarian which was terrific! Tempeh, perkedel, tofu, sambal, beans and omelet. Once they left, I was invited to have a mandi (wash) and then a nap which was exactly what I felt like. Monique did the same. I got up about 4pm and sat in the sitting room and read while waiting for Monique to wake up. The maid came in and chatted to me. She thought I was here to give Monique an English lesson! Not sure who had their wires crossed! Monique surfaced shortly afterwards and excused herself to go out and visit a a friend. She said she wouldn’t be too long, so I enjoyed the unusual luxury to be able to relax further and get some rest. By 7:30pm, she still hadn’t returned, so I had a shower and went to bed. I was exhausted and couldn’t wait up any longer and on top of this I had just had some upsetting news from home, so I wasn’t feeling very sociable anyway. I turned the light out and went to sleep and was amazed to discover the next morning that Monique had yet to return home. The maid is beside herself and has sent Monique’s older brother off searching for her. It turns out she did not go to see the friend she had told us all that she was visiting, so everyone is ringing around her friends to see if they know where she is.
Monique’s father has remarried and as Monique and her stepmother do not get along, her father has organised this house for Monique. She stays here with her older brother an they are looked after by a lovely elderly Javanese woman. Here are some photos of the house. It is absolutely beautiful and apparently only recently renovated.
the dining table Can you see the large green cover on the table? Each house I have stayed at in Kalimantan has one of these. Each morning, breakfast is cooked and the left overs are stored under this cover on the dining table. During the day, the family help themselves to it as they feel hungry. Can you see the cover on my glass of water and my cup of tea? That is to keep insects and dust out! The other interesting point about this table is the clear plastic table cloth. Do you use a table cloth on your dining table? Is it plastic or cloth?
So I sit here at the dining table waiting for Bu Arfa to arrive who will no doubt sort this all out. I hope Monique is okay and turns up soon. It certainly has been a very unusual sleepover!