I came home last Saturday after school and my ibu and bapak immediately asked me, “Are you busy tomorrow?” I was free, Sunday being the only day of the week where I’m not at school. “We want to go to Bakung. Call Sam and see if he is free!” My friend Sam, another volunteer, lives in a village in the next regency. His site isn’t far away from mine as the crow flies but the roads are small and hilly so it’s not the easiest trip. To my shame, Sam has biked over these hills, potholes and all, to my site countless times (it takes about two hours) and I still hadn’t gone to his site.
So I called Sam and he had nothing going on and my host family called a driver (my host brother, our go-to driver, was not berani – brave – enough to drive over those “mountains” and bad roads) and it was a plan. It wasn’t until I got in the car the next morning that I realized we had 9 people with us! After about an hour and a half in a car (you will see what a speedy bike rider Sam is, considering he can bike to my site in about 2 hours), we made it to the sleepy village of Bakung and parked by a field. I called Sam to ask how far away he was from where we were – turns out he lives only three houses away and we were in front of his school!
Though Bakung is a small place, it’s known for the role it played in “defeating Communism”* a few decades ago. There’s a well-known monument in Bakung which was part of my host family’s reason for the visit. We weren’t the only visitors that day – which shouldn’t have been surprising considering that it was National Heroes Day – there were two buses of students from Jogja in Central Java!
Besides our sight-seeing, we ran into Sam’s counterpart and visited with him at his house and then visited Sam’s house. In total we only had to walk a few hundred meters to each of these places and, according to Sam, everything important in Bakung was within eyesight. After just a couple hours we piled back in the car to drive home. It was fun to finally see where Sam lived and meet some of people that I’d only heard about from his site. It was also fun to see his school. My site is completely different; my school is 5 times the size of Sam’s and my area is bustling with activity. His site is calm and quiet and beautiful and both of our site placements suit us to a tee. ☺ And it was fun to go jalan-jalaning (going on a walk, i.e, traveling) with my host family. It was the kind of activity I enjoy doing with my family at home – taking a daytrip, exploring someplace new – and it reminded me yet again that I really feel like a part of this family.
* Indonesia’s history with communism is not pretty and is not an open topic for conversation with most Indonesians. In fact, a documentary – “The Act of Killing” – was recently released and this article digs into the politics a bit. I haven’t seen the documentary but I got it from Sam and plan to watch it soon.