Monday, September 21, 2009

Satu, dua, tiga, emphat, lima (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Before bed that first night, I count my push-ups in Indonesian. When I get to five, I start over. Five times. I like five (lima!) the best, it makes me think of Peru. I never forget it. What comes between one and five is much harder. I fall asleep only half believing I’m really in Bali, alone. I wake up twice, to the sound of rabid frogs (cudok), in the pouring midnight rain, going crazy outside my window. If frogs could fight – that’s what it sounds like. A big amphitheater of fighting frogs. Like a loud, upset, rumbling motor through the room. For a minute I think I’m back in Seattle. When I wake up again, after a long sleep, it’s morning. I open the windows to the rice padi. I feel amazingly rested.

I do a set of pushups: Satu, dua, tiga, emphat, lima!
Again: Satu, dua, tiga, emphat, lima!

Somehow, sometime, while I was sleeping, it stuck. Strange words from last night are suddenly familiar friends. They tumble from my mouth without effort! I run down the stairs, Annie’s already up making breakfast.

Salamat pagi, Jowya!

Salamat pagi, Annie! Satu, dua, tiga, emphat, lima! I can count to five!!

Annie is pleased. [If my life were a musical, this is the precise moment when the music would kick in and we would dance around, celebrating my break-through moment in a spontaneous song that names everyday things in Indonesian…I am that excited it’s starting!] I run around the house pointing to the ducks, the chickens, the cow, the cat, the dog, the child, the bread, the rice, the rain. The rain! It’s pouring rain. It's pouring hujan!!!

Oka arrives and I count to five for him. He is also pleased. He’s traded western pants from the airport for a traditional sarong, now and he prepares the offerings –small woven palm baskets of bright flowers, layered with banana leaf and rice, sometimes fruit, sometimes incense -- for the spirits of the villa. They will imbibe the essence of the offering over the day. (Occasionally I spy various animals of the padi making off with worldly "shell" of that offering.)

Only one day. Hanya satu hare. I learn more words as I eat breakfast. More guilt as they wait on me. When I try to clean up after myself or help with the cooking, they resist. I am the guest. I realize I'm also their livelihood. So I sit down and ply them for more words. Annie places food in front of me, giving each an Indonesian name. Egg (tulor), tomato, (tomate), bread (roti). Coffee (copi)... It’s verrrry verrrry strrrong Oka tells me.

I confidently take a big sip of the thick brown liquid (thinking this has nothing on the standard 6am cup a coffee, on a powder day, at the Baker House) only to sputter on a mouthful of grimy coffee grounds. They smile. verrrrrry strrrrong I'm reminded. I laugh and nod. The grounds are poured into hot water – no filter. Just straight.

I try again, but it’s like drinking directly from the coffee filter. All gravel and muddy grime. Panic – a month without coffee? It's the one familiar thing I feel myself wanting to cling to here, when everything else is new. There must be a way. I learn to wait awhile longer that I would at home, the coffee grounds eventually settle to a 1" layer at bottom of my cup. Then I drink. Strong, dark and familiar.

I think of my friends and family at home, half a world away now. It’s 5PM in Seattle and they’re finishing up my yesterday. (I send them my love and hope they will feel a whisper of something good cross their dreams tonight. I know, from somewhere, I feel their well-wishes here, this morning, in the rain.)

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