My Third Year in Borneo


This event has been a very long time ago, I will hardly remember when exactly. But I accidentally wrote back here just for the nostalgia even though without any  photos because I didn’t have a camera at the time. Understandably living in the rural areas, all completely within the limitations.

This incident took place at approximately the first quarter of 2006, second semester I taught at SMA Negeri 1 Balai Riam, or rather in its third year I lived in Borneo. I still remember clearly when it was Friday in which the activities in the school where I taught this very freely. Usually activities at school on Friday was limited to a healthy heart gymnastics, community service cleaning the school environment, and the specific subjects in each class. In short when I was filling the last hours in one class, one of the senior students of grade XII named Mispansyah, knocking on the door of the room where I was teaching.

“Excuse me Sir, you are asked by the people to go to Balai Riam now! We have two foreigners as our guests. But we don’t understand at all what they want,” said Mispansyah while struggling like he’s being chased by the ghost.

Because it happened when it was disbanded school hours, I immediately packed up and said goodbye to my students. Before I sat on the top of Mispansyah’s motorbike, some teachers, the co-worker expressed the same thing as what was conveyed by Mispansyah. “Hurry up Sir, you are being waited!” Said Mr. Jahrani,  our senior teacher.

Mispansyah immediately drove to
Mr Siong’s house, a resident whose
house used to be a shelter for the foreigners. I found them in the livingroom, we introduced ourselves each other. Apparently they were married couple named Sergey and Michelle. They came from Russia and doing hitchhiking. Initially I did not understand what was hitchhiking. But they kindly explain to me that they were traveling around the world just by walking and they asked for a ride to any rider who passed along the way. Wow, sounds interesting huh? It means they traveled the world for free. Then Sergey said that they went through 2/3 parts of the world. They had run out of water drink in the Kalahari desert of Africa, and ran out of food supplies in China’s Gobi desert, also became a captive in inland of Thailand. Until finally, they arrived in Indonesia. They even had Batam Island resident spotlight until in the paper. And Sergey showed me pieces of the newspaper article which ran a story about them for at Batam. If they understood the Indonesian language, they might be embarrassed or angry. Because the content of the article was the Batam resident judged them as beggars who wanted around the world for free and without bringing any money. (U_U)

The journey continued to Borneo after they managed to explore the island of Java. After taking the route Pangkalan Bun-Kudangan with riding a truck, they intended to continue the journey to Pontianak to extend the validity period of the visa. Unfortunately they should be kept up to Pontianak via Kudangan, but because of miscommunication between them and the truck driver did not speak English, the couple Sergey and Michelle brought to the truck drivers Balai Riam, subdistrict where I lived. Then finally I met them.

I was amazed to Sergey and Michelle, in the still fairly young age they’d managed to explore the 2/3 parts of the world such as: Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia. Their final destination was the continent of America and perhaps including Antarctica. Their visit in Balai Riam Subdistrict would last for 3 days 2 nights. Because they deliberately wanted to rest for a while after traveling a very long and tiring. As a good host, I purposely took their tour to see the situation in Balai Riam. First I invited them to look across the village settlements (old village). Sergey and Michelle were amazed to see our local traditional house made of ironwood and very durable tens to hundreds of years. The public was enthusiastic welcome them. “Sir, please tell them later at night we held a party for them. We’ll make a roasted pork!” Said one resident familiarly. When I delivered to Sergey and Michelle mentioned subject, they were very happy as if they had not enjoyed a delicious meal, especially when I mentioned its specialties is the ‘pork barbeque’. They almost dripping saliva after hearing.

When we arrived at the indigenous leader house, we were greeted with a ceremony and drinking party. Our hands were each tied by a rope made of reeds and woven in a way that looked like a very beautiful bracelet. It signified that we had bound to be part of the Dayak in particular areas Balai Riam. We had become part of the family in the land of this amethyst gem. We should not be decided wrist strap that bound us intentionally. Because the rope would break up by itself right at the third, fourth, or fifth day. And magically, it’s true! Rope tying my wrist cut away on the third day. Though my hand did not experience friction with any object. The party  held at the home of indigenous leader house. Sergey and Michelle danced to follow the movements of the Dayak dancers form a circle. While dancing we were required to drink wine and wine interchangeably. Because I am a Muslim, so I just simply hold the cup to my lips without drinking a drop. Phew, it is a relief!

In the afternoon I again invited them both around while jogging look around the forest and look for cassavas. Michelle was very fond of fried cassava. For her cassava was the most delicious food  she had enjoyed. Well, fortunately the waitress of Mr. Siong had no objection to fry it for Michelle. The Dayak children continued to follow us along the way that we went through, they were even willing to help Michelle look for cassava growing in the woods. The children were very interested to interact with foreigners. Because it was the first time for people in Balai Riam met foreigners.

In the evening, after maghrib prayers, I asked Mr. Arif, the principal superiors, to take us to see the head of subdistrict. Our arrival was greeted warmly by the head of subdistrict. He explained on the composition of the population in Balai Riam Subdistrict, as well as the number of people in each village. I never thought we could talk familiarly together to laugh. Sergey and Michelle were very impressed with our service to them. Coming home to Mr. Siong’s house, I was asked specifically by Mr. Siong family to spend the night at their house. Worry if there something would happen to our guests or Sergey and Michelle needed something while Mr. Siong did not understand the language they use. So the whole night that I was with Sergey and Michelle spent time exchanging stories together.

Sergey taught the Cyrillic alphabet which is the Russian alphabet. I thought the Russian language was very difficult but very interesting. Many times Sergey trained me how to read any Russian alphabet written on a piece of paper. I very difficult pronounced, but Sergey was patient and humorous person. There were excerpts of the conversation which still burned into my memory.

I’m the Curious (IC): “Sergey, could you please tell me the life in your country during the heyday of the Soviet Union?”

Sergey (S): “What do you want to know about the Soviet Union?”

IC: “Frankly, when we hear the name of the Soviet Union, many Indonesian people are frightened.”

S: “What is fear?”

IC: “the Soviet Union communist state. In the past our country also had almost become a communist country.”

S: “So?”

(Ergh… Why Sergey often asked me back, huh?)

IC: “The Communist Party in our country had done a great incident. A number of our army leaders were arrested and killed. Places of worship such as mosques burned. Of course we are afraid of communists and strictly prohibits the existence of the communist party in our country.”

S: “In our country it had become commonplace.”

IC: “Was it not disturbing people in your country?”

S: “Why should fret? Let it all flows and community members are slowly going to enjoy it! ”

IC: “I heard the economic system in your country adopted a centralized economy. Could you please explain what kind of economy there? ”

S: “Yup, that’s right! So during the period of socialist rule, almost all the residents did not have a business license. Because all activities were controlled by the state of society. Agricultural activities, livestock, industry, fisheries, plantation, etc. were managed by the state. Thus the welfare of society equally. There was no person who was the richest or the poorest like here!”

IC: “Oh, I see. And what about the activities of worship? Was controlled by the government as well? ”

S: “Of course. If not so, the people in our country would not be  regular. Essentially all community activities were controlled by the state. You know, including our spouses also when in the mood to make love must wait for a mandate from the state! ”

(Sergey glanced at Michelle playfully)

Michelle giggled hear the narrative of her husband,”For the last statement that he said, please do not believe this!” Michelle said as she glanced at me.

IC: “Wew!”

Sergey was very interested in listening to myths inland Dayak that I told him. Like ‘kuyang’ an old woman who absorbs infant blood in order to make herself forever young, kayau the head hunter, cannibalism of the Dayak, and so forth. While Michelle was more interested in listening to the stories of tragedy Sambas and Sampit which had similarities of the  background chronology. Both asked me so I deign to write them all down and send them to their email addresses published into a book published in the country. It turned out their second job were journalist. Little vent also to me the reason they did hitch-hiking, as the background of their problems. Frankly they told me apparently they were a married couple who eloped because it was not sanctioned by their parents. OMG, nowadays still a ‘run-away marriage’. Mr. Deny … please please! (Imitating the style of Jarwo Kwat, member of Indonesian Comedy Club).

On the last day of our meeting, with the permission of Mr. Arif at night before I accidentally took Sergey and Michelle visited SMA Negeri 1 Balai Riam where I worked. I deliberately asked for them to be native speakers of English in school hours. Well, it turned out though their words were Caucasians, not necessarily a guarantee that their English must be good you know! The proof pronounce the word ‘banana’ are supposed to be pronounced ‘benane’ even pronounced the same as the ordinary Indonesian people mostly English. But this very memorable session for my students. Well, even though my students could only admonish ‘how are you?’, ‘Good morning’, and ‘what is your name?’ But we all really enjoyed the togetherness that only this moment. Sergey even had time to share his  knowledge to us how he and Michelle get drinking water in the middle of a vast desert when they ran out of drinking water supplies while no oasis around them. Wow that was very interesting and we also put it into practice, the results were amazing. Scorching sunshine very helpful our experiments. This way we refered to as ‘water condensation sun’.

Towards the final seconds of our time together, I and my students invited them both to play ‘kasti’ in the school field. Sergey said the game was very similar to the game of cricket. Before they actually went I was very curious with a backpack carried by them. According to Sergey explanation fill their backpacks include: tents, iron pegs, stove, pots, pans, clothes, flashlight, map, shoes and others. I was allowed by them to lift the backpack belongs to those who were so great, and beyond my expectation their bags were extremely heavy … To the extent that I fell backward carry. How not just my weight only 50 kg while Sergey’s bag 60 kg, like a rhino holding the horse …

As a memento of me so they always remember Indonesia, I purposely gave Sergey a Javanese batik shirt. Fortunately, the same size of our clothes. And one of my students gave a gift to Michelle who knows what was in it, I did not know it. Hopefully just not a bomb or stone. Hehe…  😀

After a while waiting for passing cars, came a silver Estrada in front of us and I stopped it. Fortunately I knew the driver of the vehicle. He was Mr. Darmadi  who was on his way home to HHK Timur, West Kalimantan. I told him a little bit about Sergey and Michelle, I entrusted this couple to him up in HHK Timur and introduced them to Mrs. Ani, one of my acquaintances who also worked as an English teacher at HHK Timur. Not to forget I dropped a letter to Mrs. Ani so Mrs. Ani pleased showed Sergey and Michelle road to Pontianak, so they did not get lost anymore, or was taken the wrong way by truck drivers who did not understand English as they had just experienced yesterday.

One week after their departure…
“Sir, I just arrived from the village of Tumbangtiti, West Kalimantan. Uh, there I met Sergey and Michelle again. Then I asked my brother there to lead them to Pontianak, Alhamdulillah now they’ve arrived in Pontianak!”Said a student of mine named Dina.

Ah, thank goodness. May they always be safety, and health by God during the journey to realize their dreams. Aspiration is not to simply remain a distant dream. Rather it should be a chain of struggle that never break up. Because life is not just for dreaming!