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Sunday, June 27, 2010

By the light of the moon and the last meow

In my village Sunday mornings are special. It’s the only day the kids don’t have to go to school so they get up early and hang out together. Early, as in dark, very dark. Today I was the first person out of my little compound. I live down an alley with 4 big houses and a little shed where an elderly woman and two cows live. (I think.) Across my alley there is a gate. I never noticed it before but today I went out walking at 5am and the very old man who rides a bicycle and smiles a lot and makes a fire in Dr. Rina’s backyard – I don’t know who he is, maybe Dr. Rina’s father or a night watchman. Dr. Rina is a single female internal medicine specialist MD. (I think.) Anyway, he was still fixing his bicycle and so I opened the gate myself.

On the street near me there were several hundred teenagers and middle school kids and some parents out walking, or riding bikes or just sitting on the bridges gabbing with friends. A group of boys had started a little bon fire by the side of the road. I was using my flashlight for the first 20 minutes or so – if I heard a motorcycle I would shine it on the road so they would know I was there. I saw another person with a flashlight last week, that’s when I got the idea.

The moon was absolutely beautiful. The active volcano which is just about 10 miles from my house had a little smoke coming out. I had felt a few tremors during the night. Earthquakes no longer feel strange. The moon lit landscape was absolutely stunning. There are a few houses and shops on the street, but mostly it is lined with terraced rice fields as far as you can see, which is pretty far in moon light. Actually every mile or so there is a road with more houses on it. Little villages all over the place. I don’t know if I told you, but Java is the most densely populated island in the world. From my house I can see Mt.Kelud, the active volcano, Mt. Kawi and Mt. Butek and farther off I can see the wild and desolate Mt. Bromo / Semeru National Park with the highest peak approx.12,000 feet high. Remember this is an island; the ocean (sea level) is about 10 miles away in the other direction.

For security reasons I’m not allowed to tell exactly where I live in this blog and in fact about ½ of East Java would fit the description I just gave you. But my special place is the prettiest! The people are usually very quiet in the morning. As I pass each one I bring my hands together and bow a little or just say “Mongo” (Javanese) or “Selamat Pagi” (Indonesian) or Good Morning. I love saying Good Morning to the kids. They suddenly realize that I can speak English and try out every phrase they remember. Usually they say “Good morning, Sir.” or “How are you?” or “My name is -----.” Or “Where are you going?” or “Good Morning, Oma.” I always say “Bagus sekali” (very good) when they say something in English. I figure my job here is to teach English so I might as well encourage them as much as I can.

This morning there were some very young boys smoking cigarettes and when they asked if they could stand next to me and take my picture, I said yes, but only if they put the cigarettes down. (This was all in Indonesian.) They replied, yes, of course, and put them down and were thrilled to take a photo. What the heck, if I can encourage a little bit of no-smoking, that seems good too.

As the daylight came I headed home because I wanted to attend the little church near my house. It’s 2 hours of solid Indonesian, and I can still only get a glimpse of what is being said, but they have great songs and one of my favorite old ladies, one who told me she was 78 years old goes to this church.

I walked past the place where I heard the last meow.
It happened like this: One morning early I heard a little kitten crying as I was walking next to the rice paddy. I stopped at approx. the place where I heard the sound and looked in the bushes nearby. To my surprise there was an absolutely still, lying on its side, little kitten no more than 6 inches from my foot. I felt sad. Here I had heard its last meow and now it was dead, fallen over by the side of the road, sprawled on its side with its feet sticking part way up in the air. We’re not allowed to touch animals because of rabies so I said a little prayer and kept on walking, feeling sad for that little kitten.

The next day I walked by the same place and the kitten was meowing loudly. I laughed. It was the absolutely best “playing dead” act I had ever seen. I considered taking it home – no pets allowed (Peace Corps Indonesia rule) and my family doesn’t have cats, the neighbor across from me already has 4 cats and besides how could I get it home without picking it up. (I really don’t want to take the rabies shots.) So I stood there and told that kitten to just keep up the noise, that someone else would come by and take care of it.

Anyway, today I walked past the last meow place and there was no kitten! Yea! Maybe it went home with somebody. As usual, I don’t know. At our staging event in San Francisco where we all assembled to begin this journey we were given the following advice: “Embrace the ambiguity!”

PS Yesterday I bought a pair of socks. They were stretched on a piece of cardboard so I opened up the package to see if they were long enough. They looked great! Today I took them off the cardboard and discovered that the inside one is about 2 inches shorter than the other. Embrace the ambiguity!


  1. Good morning Colleen. Hope this finds you well and happy. It certainly seems that is the way you are. Such wonderful adventures you have. I read them all and rejoice with you when you tell us of talking with the people in the streets in the dark. Such a different way of life than ours and you are always on a big exploration in all the things you do. Embrace the ambiguity! what a wonderous statement. And you f ind the wonderous ambiguity even in a mismatched pair of new socks. You are s o unique dear friend. You said that you saw things thru different eyes when you were visiting me. I certainly am seeing things differently through your eyes now.

    Poor little kitty. I know you longed to pick it up and take it home. So many regulations, but for good reasons. I wish that I could have been there and see the moon with you. The moon was certainly big and bright that night. You sure are getting up early. Did you realize that at the end of your last message it showed the time? 4:31 AM. How strange it is getting up and starting your day in the dark, and I am usually just going to bed when I see the first light over the mountain in the east. You certainly seem to have become accustomed now to the early hour get up time. Do you have the recorded loud prayers where you live now? What is the church that you went to like? Do they sit on chairs, or floor, and do they have individual prayer mats and pray to the east direction? I am to full of questions. I am so glad that you like the food, but then I knew you would. I want to write to you about my new doctors and what they have found, but wonder if I should do so in the email? Can you let me know? I am still not sure that you get this from me or not. If so do you like to get comments on your blogs. I send you much love and light. May Allah be with you.

  2. Hi Colleen !! You must write a book about all your adventures in Indonesia and Maybe the Others in Salt Lake City with the Mormons , Who am I ? Jose . I like your adventures , so i have opened an account with Google , so i can talk from far away to you . I did not check my hot mail account for more than 4 months and then i discovered this good surprise. You are the only tennant and friend to whom i miss , the others Not too much o nothing . Take care yourself and continue writing . What about the Husband ?? Ha, ha.