>> Walking-walking >>


It was raining when I woke up last Saturday, and after laying on the couch, reading for most of the morning and then killing a nasty spider while cleaning my room, the rain had subsided and I felt it was time to get out of the house for awhile. Appropriately attired in a terribly attractive Helly Hansen rain jacket, I set off with a heart brimming with excitement for adventure and no particular destination in mind.

Upon arriving at the main road through town, less than a block from my house, I saw my first objective: to find out how to get to the houses on top of a nearby hill. I tried a few dead-end streets, which happens to me a lot and always attracts a lot of curiosity from the people who live there – where are you coming from? Where are you going? Why, exactly, are you here?

People here don’t really walk just for the sake of walking, nor do they often go places by themselves, unless they have to. I am one of very few foreigners who live in this town, so my unusual habits draw a bit of attention from time to time. Thankfully, there are a number of options I have to choose from when answering questions on the street:

Mau ke mana? means Where are you going? And I would equate it to somewhat of a Hey, how’s it going? – a bit of a rhetorical question, if you get my meaning.

Mau ke sana, means I’m going there, and it’s a response that works well, until you realize the direction you’re going is a dead end, and then you have to awkwardly walk back past the same people again on your way out. Just smile and wave, smile and wave.

Similarly, when asked dari mana? or from where? you can just say, dari sana, or from there.

The word jalan means both street and to walk. The phrase jalan-jalan means walking around, or traveling, and I personally have been known to translate it as, hanging out. So another option when asked, mau ke mana? is to say, jalan-jalan saja! or, just walking around!

I did find my way up to the top of the hill, and the view of town was excellent, and inspired further investigation of new neighborhoods. And so I headed down the hill, back past the same people as a few minutes before, dari mana? – dari sana, smiling and waving, saying hi, how are you? And then wandered into a new neighborhood. At one point I stopped on a corner to send a text on my phone, and a man on a motorcycle drove by and asked, ojek? An ojek is a motorcycle taxi, and as this ojek was passengerless at the moment, he was offering me a ride. I said, no, thanks, and he kept going. Finished with that neighborhood, which was several blocks with no outlet, I returned to the main road and soon found a river, or a canal, if you will, that was the color of mud and garbage, as that is what it was full of.

There was an enchanting looking road along the left side of the river, and I immediately started walking down it. Not too long after that, a motorcycle coming towards me stopped, and I recognized my friend, the ojek driver. He asked me where I was going and I said to there. He didn’t seem to like that response and told me he’d seen me in the other neighborhood earlier, and I’d said I didn’t need a ride, but now I was here, on this other street, and he could take me wherever I needed to go, so where was I headed? I said, no, I’m just jalan-jalan, but thanks. You know, getting some exercise. Then he started over again: but what I’m saying is, you were over there before, and now you’re here, and I can take you where you need to go. So where are you going? And he ended with, ayo, which means let’s go. I took that as a let’s go our separate ways, gave an enthusastic thanks! And kept walking. He passed me again about 10 minutes later and said hi, but this time, didn’t stop. What a nice friend…

Just the day before, I had been e-mailing a friend of a friend in the US about life in Indonesia, and she had asked if it’s possible to get around without knowing the language. So on this particular day while I was out walking-walking, I was noticing that a just about everyone I encountered (and I covered quite a bit of ground, so it was a lot of people) spoke to me in Bahasa Indonesia. This isn’t exactly a touristy area, so my best guess is that they assume that if I’m here, I probably live here. And I was pleased to reflect on my ability to get around using just Bahasa Indonesia in a variety of everyday encounters. The most English anyone spoke to me that day, was to say, hallo mister! Yes, it’s true. I get called “Mr.” on the street more than anything else. In fact, I was reading the dictionary last week (yes, I do read the dictionary on a daily basis) and I was surprised to see an entry for “Mister” (as if an English speaker wouldn’t be able to derive the meaning from hearing it on the street), and the entry said: 1. a greeting for foreign/western men 2. (colloquial) a greeting for foreign men and women. Hmmm. I’m not sure that I would say that mister is a colloquial greeting for women as much as it is the misuse of an English word. But then, what do I know? I’ve never written a dictionary…yet.

The walk was sufficiently excellent, and more than satisfied my daily quota for adventure. I walked to the end of the river and came back down the other side. I now know where the sewage from my town goes, and whether or not people fish in it. I also saw some wildlife, which was exciting, because I live in what I would call a “semi-urban” area – as in, it is an urban area constricted on all sides by ocean, hills and forest. As I was coming back on the opposite side of the river/canal, I heard an absolutely awful noise – like something was dying – and looked up to see a huge cockatiel squawking on a powerline. Later, a rat ran past me across the road. When I was back into the shopping district, I almost walked right past a little deer-like animal, who was tied up outside some kind of city official’s office, grazing on a patch of grass. And I said to her, “why, hello, don’t you look delicious?”

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One Comment on “>> Walking-walking >>

  1. I really miss fabulous walking adventures! Definitely takes me back to the wonderful days of Spain and Chile (especially Chile!) And you know how I love to climb hills :) Inspiring, dahling!

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