Saturday, October 10, 2009

Screaming Cavity

I have a cavity. Several times it comes to mind to see the dentist to have it fixed, and sometimes it escapes me. I suppose it had been dealt with -- I forgot. Now the cavity is screaming again, and the thought of its need for fillings comes back.

There was a time that I came to understand that my screaming cavity is my defense mechanism; it warns me that I have come to my lowest point of being fit. When I don't get toothache it means I still have some stamina, some chakras in store. Certainly this is not a good way to live: waiting for the alarm to go off then follow the Emergency Response Procedures. Waiting for the toothache before setting up again my schedule to rest.

In this condition I respect the most friends and relatives who comment with a mere smile, instead of revoking and giving free advice of how to lead a healthy lifestyle. I believe there's the kind of gratitude unwell individuals have when receiving sympathy; they (we) need moral support, not mental pushes which drop the spirit even lower than it already has due to being sick.

I had a toothache once in Samalona. I'm not sure whether at that time it already served as an alarm or not; it didn't even occur to me to think that way. Those days I was so very fit -- on the other hand, muscle tasks were also so very overwhelming. Thinking back now, it could be the race between my well-being and my workload had started ever since I set foot on this island, and my screaming toothache that time was one of the moments of victory for muscle load (perhaps, hopefully, it was the only one moment. Let me think again ...).

Scarcity of medicine created a challenge of its own. I forgot if I ever took a medicine. Traditional ones were even unthought of. Castor leaves were not heard of. Mangrove leaves? Ah. Maybe I should have gurgled some sea water. Let's cut this useless 'should haves'.

What I remember clearly was when I lay down on the floor of the semi-open stilted house restaurant where guests used to have breakfast while enjoying the seaview. Ah yes! Vaguely I just remembered I must have taken some medicine. Only this toothache was so stubborn and my pulsing head did not ebb down like the sea around midnight hour in March. I chose this spot to rest because it was cosier there, not too windy but it has some breeze which I wished could be of some help. Still I had to struggle through the night wrapped in fever.

Somehow some time afterwards I was back with silent teeth again. It was the only time I had tootchache in Samalona, as far as I can remember, but this mind won't let it go. Maybe there's the bright side, as a reminder that I had been through a much worse situation than I have right now. Hmm, as a matter of fact, this screaming cavity seems to have ebbed down much for now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lost Souls in Samalona

After the passing of my father, I began to rethink Samalona. Those days death seemed in a remote distance. Life was still young. -- Well, not me. I had come to the self-awareness state in that I had moved to the old spectrum of life (I was 23). With the coming and going of teenage people, I felt that my unstirred being somewhat grew fresh on the outside rusty on the inside, blown by the salty wind from the ocean of life.

To think that death was so close by. Despite anyone's belief of unexpected arrival of death, let us leaf through some existing risks and past circumstances.

Setting out from Makassar in a speedboat, capacity 4 people, 6 people max. Being a speedboat, the nose was constantly elevated at an angle in 84mph. I do not have the knowhow of speedboats and average speed, but comparing the rush of wind at my side riding a motorbike, that was my estimation. First time on a speedboat, I thought I was going to be seasick. I didn't. Apparently it was more dangerous to get used to living next door to a death-defying activity without the need to be alert. No one was ever wearing a life jacket.

In the northeast of Samalona within a couple of hundred meters from the pier during rainy season. Approaching the island, even a speedboat had to struggle to get through the meeting of 3 waves on different direction.

Swimming to accompany father and daughter Wunsches up to the lulling border of clear blue and deep, dark blue. To the feet of the tower marking the border. No apparatus whatsoever (not that I knew how to wear them), not even fins. Dumbstruck, pondering into the depth of the waters of Samalona that suddenly dropped into blackness. In a second too long I realized the fact that there was strong currents underneath the surface. Remembering a story of a fisherman on his sampan being drifted helplessly by the currents to Pare-Pare, 95 miles north of Makassar. A second longer I started pulling and kicking away. A second too long, what would happen?

Without approaching the brink depth there is still danger lurking on the coastline. Sea snakes, eels, foot cramp, getting stuck between semi-giant corals when the sea comes in big waves. Am I not exaggerating? Those sea creatures were there, though of which species I did not know; poisonous or not, I was surely not going to find out from up close. Noon falling, I would spot them swimming in the more pupolated corals under the pier, the place I rarely explore even at early day. I might have subconsciously let myself felt uncomfortable swimming pass under the pier. Not to mention the risk of being fished by another human being from up the pier.

There was another danger near land. On the southeastward shore that was like a lengthy beach or spit, the beach changed shapes and directions in accordance with the changing of sea currents. Slowly in milimeters per day the sandy beach shifted more to the east or to the south. In that area the sea waves were trapped and formed a small maelstrom.

When put together it all sounds gruesome, doesn't it? It was one of the reasons they put up a sentry at the end of the pier. Besides keeping the waters from destructing behaviors such as fish bombing, the mariners also helped watching over the safety of visitors. They were the lifeguards. I hoped I already made myself useful, at least by warning the children before they played too far from shore or from their parents. Or by telling some visitors of the danger at the beach southeast. Oh. Haven't I related the incident yet? During a study tour of a school some months before I came on board, two female students (teen siblings) were having a good time there, at the southeast side, before they were dragged by the current to the bottom.

In the end, let the people only see the breathtaking beauty of Samalona. Leave it to the mariners and us workers to worry about their safety.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ship Waves

Today I'm back home. Set out yesterday from Tanjung Perak Port, Surabaya and arrived after dusk at Sukarno-Hatta Port, Makassar.

A couple of hours before entering Makassar waters, I got carried away watching at the sea waves from up on Dek 6, right wing. I was stunned at the realization that out here in the middle of nowhere, all waves looked the same. A piece of wave here. A chunk of wave there. Cuts of waves in between. Dark blue. Deep dark. I used to read from some source that the blue came from the filtered sun rays. (Did it? Does it apply only when seen from afar, and when up close it's a whole different explanation?). On the lined tops of the waves there emerged tiny foams. They were the troops of white dots that appeared and vanished in an instant.

A memory flashed through me of a book called "Cartoon Guide - Environment" which I read recently. Here on the sea there was not much oxygen, was it? There were not much of trees to help produce it -- actually, there were none. Under the surface there should be oxygen. Question was, which has it more?

The wind was in a high velocity. How high, I wondered. Maybe 80mph? At first it came sweeping and thundering from the left hull, but then I started to feel it on my right ear. Then the howling was all over my head. A song was interrupted halfway on my earphones when the wind was no longer over my head; it was inside my head, fighting over occupation against Bob Dylan's protests.

At the back of those flashing thoughts amidst the howling wind, there vaguely came a vision of Samalona beach at one sundown. A liner ship had just passed by close to the off-sea tower border. (And it was so close you could see some faces of the passengers who waved at you). Usually, not long after the ship passed by, even as the bow was still within sight, people at the beach were back at their leisure. Mostly were swimming. Or playing.

Then it came. The ship's wave.

Like one single bulk of wave with the top edge a white shawl spreading along the length of the beach, it came rolling and on top of everything, hurriedly to greet old acquaintance Samalona.
Halfway, the height came down to a bit above your chest. Almost always we just then noticed it. Then we started shouting at people in the water or on small canoes, if any. It should be a merry sight, like the one you see in Ciputra Waterpark, Surabaya. There were also some smaller afterwaves. Maybe you could use it for mini-surfing?

For those who had their heads above water before it came splashing down, it was a pleasant surprise. For those who were still under the water, it could be a dangerous experience with a risk of getting their head bumped on the wagon-sized corals. Thank God during my time there I never heard of such accidents. Maybe because ship waves mostly happened at around sunset, when people were not that interested to put their heads under water because there was not much to see.

I had a reason, though, to plunge down; every evening I took my bath in the sea. Really bathing, not swimming. Maybe I'll tell you about it some time.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Music To Play By (finally)

Then, Samalona. The permission to speed-boating home was after every one month on the island. What type of music would possibly fit for my adventure there? Well, before setting out to POPSA dock on my first day I didn't have much time to think. It was like being handed out a paper blotted with ink and was asked by Mr. Rorschach for the first impression, no second thought. Butterfly? Could be. And the butterfly happened to be in the form of a coverless tape cassette, which appeared at home without clear trace of its ownership, written on it The Best of Bob Dylan.

Fact was, ever since I set foot on the island I barely had time to play some music, barely had time to play that cassette, barely had time to play anything. Once in awhile, however, there came some youngsters (I was one myself, but was thinking older then) astranded, playing some songs out of their boom box, or an outing group of some office having karaoke under the giant tree.

Take for example: college nature-loving club students, in the middle of the night on the beach, lighting up a bonfire (meaning I would have to clean up the remains first thing in the morning), one-two of them banging on accoustic guitars while all of them singing out "Air Mata Api" (translated: "Tears of Fire"), a better sounding version than the original. Another occasion, some other university guys enjoying time on the terrace of their bungalow, turning on their combo -it was the trend that day- while having light-hearted conversations. The song, You're Unbelieveable, EMF; Creep, Radiohead.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Music To Play By (Cont'd.)

Some songs are so vivid in memory; visions of events when the songs were played/sung were flashed so real in my eyes, the retina being the screen receiving films projected direct from reels of memories. Besides the titles, music or songs I mentioned here had come to be recorded in my multimedia memory not only because I listened to them sitting quietly and peacefully at home, in the living room, or laying in my bed, but because something came along with them each. Actually, I've been wanting to start the list from the earliest period I could ever recall, but that would be too far back (at four or five y.o.? well, I'd rather not). So, these songs had come to keep me company during some incidents or strolls.

  • Highschool retreat to Tinggimoncong, just before Malino. Along the winding and steep road, on the back of a military truck, on top of supplies stuff, Ucok played the guitar, me and some others sang. There had been some tunes, but most repeatedly "Obladi Oblada", the Beatles'. Why? Because we wanted to repeat the chorus that's always followed by a laughter (... with a couple of kids running in the yard//of Desmond and Molly Jones//ha ha ha ha ha ...).
  • Study tour to Leang Leang, whose flight of stairs never adds up to the same number to a different person or to the same person at a different time. On the way home, turned Freddy Mercury's "Mr. Bad Guy" on borrowed walkman.
  • In Bogor, in one car with Dedy, Franco, et al (where were we going, anyway? I suppose we were heading to Curug Nangka, preparing to climb the Mount Salak). Someone was expertly fiddling with the guitar, and we ended up singing "Semua Ada Di Sini" (transl.: It Was All Here), by Enno Lerian, and some other cheerful tunes.
  • One morning of my jobless days, some time after high school, I set out to the County Library about 1 km or so from home. I spent the morning reading till around midday, then out strolling. Before I realized I had been walking around quite to the other side of the city and had to complete half of the circle going home, sometimes following the direction of the high-wire transmission ('cause I knew there was one passing through the back of the area I lived in), sometime passing through an unlit village I hadn't known existed -- it was getting dark and people started lighting their oil lamps at the houses. Boy, no electricity, and I was about still within the boundaries of the city! Oh and it had rained for some time before I entered the village. (My clothes dried on me). It was still some time before I reached home (didn't have a clue how to get there, just guessing. and I would know it only when I finally got there). How many songs had there been? I didn't recall any at the start. There didn't seem to be any. But at some point, when I reached a wider, busier street I kind of felt lonely, and "In My Life", The Beatles came through (complete with the piano interlude, clearly). Whatever reasons brought that song out? The need to settle my breath to a steady pace, and helped me endure the tiredness and heavyness in my limbs a little longer? Don't think so. It should be the new places I had come across, new faces, new routes, that triggered it.
  • Speech competition held by Oxford Course. Second grade highschool. I had remembered some wiseman somewhere giving a useful advice to sing rock songs out loud to roll away stage fever (now I'd rather the tense and nervousness to not disappear at all; simply reduced, please). It was also the first time I learned to wear a tie by myself. I chose "We Will Rock You" and "Another One Bites The Dust". Oh and, surely, I didn't sing them on the stage, but minutes before.
  • Sunday School retreat in Pulau Kayangan (Kayangan Island). In the chill of midnight/early morning, on the dock, gazing through the face of the sea, a friend passed on his walkman, and "Party Doll", Mick Jagger, with a hint of a folksong, filled in.
  • One night I came along with Arnold and his father's group to a deserted island. Once there, I joined one of several canoes rowed ever so slowly, watching them catch stingrays using spears in the light of seaman's lamps. After supper by the campfire, Arnold and I took a stroll at the shore. His father was a distance ahead, blowing a harmonica. The sound came fading in and out through the night wind. "Oh! Susanna" (... oh, susanna, don't you cry for me//I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee ...).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Music To Play By

Just yesterday I realized how quiet these days are without music. Made me wonder, how long we can make it without music ringing in our ears (including our 'shower performance')? Or, how many days of interval is our minimum dosage of musicine? (meaning, one more days without it, and somethin will go wrong because our brain gets dried up).

In the recent week I could, and would, get carried away tuning to swing jazz and big bands. A couple of days earlier, these ears of mine were yearning to the soothing of the sneering and innuendoes (even camouflaged in some love songs) of Bob Dylan. Several days before that, within a close interval of sundown, it was as if my biorhythm was at its peak dan could only be satisfied with Led zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Dylan's concert version or two latest albums ("Time Out of Mind" and "Love and Theft"). Funny thing is, after the swing period, or a few moments before came the lure to 'change lanes', I felt sure I could do with a little of Andrea Boccelli. All through the month, on the other hand, once or twice I still loved the afterecho of "Summertime", Charlotte Church's version, as sung in the film "I'll Be There".

(Oh and btw, writing this, at this early hour, I am listening to Alternative Rock. Staind, Muse, 30 Seconds To Mars, H.I.M., Dashboard Confessional, RHCP, Pearl Jam, Transplants)

Hmm. Noisy life, eh? and yet I still remember about four days in a row I had come into my room everyday where no music was on whatsoever. At the workplace there usually was some music, but stepping back into my rented room, it was mute all over again. Those four days has led me to thinking this: how long can you survive without music, and still sane? How many days the longest?

Thursday, May 25, 2006


It is afternoon, late in May. Rains a bit. In a short while, if this keeps going on, then it comes to pass what is called "Hujan Bulan Juni" (Rain in June). That's the anthology of poems by Sapardi Joko Damono. I bought about a month ago (or two -- ?). In a more recent date I bought a tape called "Rain Songs" (though actually I saw it on the "special price" rack in the music store, which means it, as a matter of fact, came from the past, being old stock sold half price), featuring songs telling tales in and through the rain. First song is "I Wish It Would Rain Down" by Phil Collins. In the meantime, these last two weeks I've been giving pleasure to my ears, spoiling my aesthetics, by listening to Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song". Played back and back again. All these are coincidence?

In Samalona the weather still followed some schedule that I learned way back in elementary school. In March it had only one or two rainy days. April you thought you heard the sound of drops of water tapping on the now dry ground outside. May you only got a memory. Then September came the air humidified a little. October it started to drizzle. But on that night, a night somewhere between September-October, it showered drops as big as pebbles of crashed corals. It hurt much as if it had rained real crashed corals too. Not to mention the wind that came along. Well, I spoke to a workmate yelling.

It may come as a disruptive rain, being unexpected and heavy and all. But we didn't let chances like this go by in the island where all you've got was brine in the well. Letting ourselves get soaking wet, we filled all buckets we had, drained them in the water tank, filled them again, until there was no place to keep the rain except the buckets. Troublesome? Might be. I don't know. Didn't get a chance to think that way. And I enjoyed it. A night I will still remember in 20 years to come, if 20 years will come to me. Remembrance of the rain. And the shadows of trees, the size of six adults standing around strectched hand, waving in the blurring rain.

The next morning we found one of the giant trees fell down, unrooted. Thank God no one was injured.