Someone Else’s Country

OTHER PUBLICATIONS BY SHIRLEY FENTON HUIE And the Second Prize is … Across Australia by Bus (1989) Tiger Lilies: Women Adventurers of the South Pacific (1990) The Forgotten Ones: Women and Children Under Nippon (also in Dutch and Japanese) (1992) Dancing with Unicorns (1999) Twenty-One Days in Japan (1999) Ships Belles: History of the WRANS 1941–1985 (2000)

Someone Else’s Country


Pandanus Books Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies The Australian National University

Cover: Houses in Barus Jahe, Karo Batak, Sumatra. Kartika of Indonesia, daughter of the late Bapak Affandi. © Pandanus Books 2003
This book is copyright in all countries subscribing to the Berne convention. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission. Inquiries should be made to the publisher. Typeset in Goudy 11pt on 13.5pt and printed by CanPrint, Canberra

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry Fenton-Huie, Shirley Someone Else’s Country: living in Suharto’s Indonesia ISBN 1 74076 037 9 1. Huie, Shirley Fenton. 2. Women authors, Australian — New South Wales — Biography. I. Title.


Editorial inquiries please contact Pandanus Books on 02 6125 3269 Published by Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200 Australia Pandanus Books are distributed by UNIREPS, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052 Telephone 02 9664 0999 Fax 02 9664 5420 Editor: Jan Borrie Production: Ian Templeman, Duncan Beard, Emily Brissenden

.This book is for Edward Fenton. who made the great adventure possible. USMC Ret.


Contents Acknowledgements viii Part One Borneo/ Kalimantan Part Two Java Part Three Bali 187 99 1 A short biography 251 .

who survived with me. who was there when I needed help. who made it all fit to read. my children Hereward and Gina. my little brother who saved me from jail. like to thank the National Utility Helicopter pilots who put me straight on the lingo for the flying stories. . my dear lost husband Ed. however.Acknowledgements As this story covers a period of 10 years and was 20 years in the writing. who taught me so much about Indonesia. I would. who gave us this adventure. Milly Ganda. it is impossible for me to thank all the people who helped me along the way. Hans Mochtar. and finally Jan Borrie. Kartika.

1 Part One Borneo/Kalimantan .


English-speaking schools. my husband Ed and I had been living apart and some frightening cracks were beginning to appear in our relationship. Our two younger children. After 15 years living together in remote parts of the world. Some people believe Borneo is Yavadvipa.B orneo is the third-largest island in the world. an age at which they needed to live in civilised conditions and go to civilised schools. For the first time in our married life. The Indonesian name for the island is Pulau Kalimantan (‘kali’ means river. ‘mantan’ means big). Gina and Hereward. Honduras. It is divided in two politically between Malaysia and Indonesia. Head-hunting and black magic have long been associated with the Dyak people of Borneo. Ed was a helicopter pilot and we had spent most of our marriage in foreign countries: Colombia. were 11 and 14. the land of gold and silver referred to in the Hindu epic. the United States. Singapore and Korea. Guatemala. Mention the name Borneo and many people will instantly think of head-hunters. as do the left-over skulls from the head-hunting days. The Ramayana. the oil capital of East Kalimantan. but black magic survives. for an age-old wifely reason: to shore up my faltering marriage. My two older children from my first marriage. Most Dyak villages have a skull collection and who is to say whether they are antique or freshly garnered? A new life I came to Balikpapan. Ed had spent the previous 12 months working in Indonesia while I remained in Sydney so our children could attend normal. with the latter occupying the larger portion. New Zealand. . The Dutch believed they wiped out both some time early last century.

In South America and the other places. it wasn’t the same as our days together in the wilds. which we would sing with gusto at the drop of a hat. ‘Fight the team’ was a phrase of encouragement the family used whenever anyone was down-hearted or in need of a bit of a push. We were accustomed to life on the road together and there were problems now that we were separated. And. We didn’t seem to be ‘the Team’ anymore. but things were not working out as well as I had hoped. In Colombia we had enjoyed playing with our own pets. My fondest memories of him are those of laughter. For Gina and Hereward’s sake. had been joy-riding in the helicopter. school football song Fight the Team. One of our greatest joys in some countries. we were able to appreciate the work he did. we were drifting further and further apart. laugh with him in good times and share his adventures and his highly developed sense of humour. such as an armadillo and a guacamayo. a giant rainbow-coloured bird with tail feathers about one-metre long. where we were all together. it was also used as a lullaby. comfort him in times of stress. We met in the luxury of Singapore’s hotels and didn’t even know what conditions were like where Ed worked in the jungles and swamps of Kalimantan. the singing of this ditty had a dirge-like quality but it was our song and we loved it. We were not sharing the experiences of Ed’s dramatic and often dangerous life as we had always done. a wild frontier town on the east coast of Indonesian Borneo. In spite of the fun we had during our visits to Singapore. Ohio. And there were always our pet dogs and monkeys. We used to regard it . I had taken a stand and decided to remain in Sydney until their schooling was over. as a family. Photos of pets were no substitute for the real thing. I could see that. As Ed was tone-deaf. particularly Korea. while we had met in Singapore twice for school holidays and had a great time. He used to call us ‘the Team’ and taught us his old Canton. He told us he had two pet orang-utans called Hereward and Gina and showed us photos of them. In times of extreme desperation. had finished school and were doing tertiary studies. but it wasn’t the real thing.4 Someone Else’s Country Ceilidh and Tom. Ed was based in Balikpapan.

so he suggested I visit the helicopter camp for a week to see if I was willing to live in Balikpapan. My eyes were glued to the window. you know. hidden away in a remote valley that would otherwise have taken days of trekking to reach. The 10-seater Volpar would take us out over the South China Sea to the west coast of Kalimantan. I raised with Ed the possibility of myself and the two younger children going to live with him in Kalimantan. Part of the passageway and some of the seats were stacked with cargo and spare parts. We probably saw more of South Korea from the air than many a military general. There was no one about and we might have been the first people to visit it in years. and helicopter rotor blades were stowed on the floor along the length of the plane. and are incapable of holding up the fleshy parts of the body.Borneo/Kalimantan 5 as our own flying sports car. although there was nothing to see but a wide expanse of ocean. It was not a luxury flight and there were no toilet facilities. ‘It’s not that great. But my mind was fixed far away from the appointments of the Volpar and on what I was going to find when we arrived in Borneo. He had some reservations about how we would tolerate the somewhat primitive living conditions and the extreme heat. pre-war aeroplane. caused by an over-indulgence of all things during leave. Once we dropped in on a Buddhist temple. Sometimes we landed in villages where the people had never seen European women and children and they stared at us as though we were creatures from outer space. Life with Ed was always an adventure.’ The kids were packed off back to school in Australia and I joined Ed at Singapore’s Payar Lebar Airport for the 5am flight to Balikpapan on the company Volpar. Floppybonus tropicanus. they told me. The other passengers — pilots and engineers — slept the whole way. an ancient. It’s a condition where the bones turn to jelly. . I knew it was time to take action. Sitting around the hotel pool in Singapore one day. very hot — I’m warning you. ‘And it’s very.’ he said. some of them stretched out along what was left of the passage floor and all suffering from that well-known disease.

Packs of wild dogs were devouring the unused lunchpacks — which had been discarded out the door of the plane — plastic wrappings and all! Was this a taste of things to come? But we were not to get out of Pontianak so lightly.6 Someone Else’s Country We refuelled at Pontianak. one of the engineers. The airport ‘facilities’ were at the back of the corrugated iron hangar and could be detected by the nose as soon as one alighted from the aircraft. In spite of my protests. The plane circled the town several times to alert the refueller that he was needed at the airport. I found a small hole about 5mm in diameter just above floor level in one wall. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen but. . we were informed that the plane could not continue until I was innoculated. This must be the toilet. our first sight of land on the west coast of Borneo. My passport was being inspected by an immigration official and it was discovered that I did not have plague and cholera injections entered on my health card. ‘You’ll survive. remarked. You can always have a good check-up when you get back to Sydney. I didn’t know what to do in the concreted room which had nothing except one narrow window set high in one wall. I was shown down the road to a small house and the ‘bathroom’ — at least I guessed that was what it was. I made use of it as best as I could and made my way back to the Volpar. As Kev Kennedy. ‘There’s nothing like the smell of the Pontianak toilets for clearing out your sinuses. When one travelled only between Singapore and Sydney such things were not necessary and I had forgotten all about Indonesian health regulations. If you were going to worry about dangers to your body all the time. desperate by now.’ As I was the only woman on board. ‘Go on. and it was not until he was spotted speeding along the dusty road that the Volpar came in to land. Eventually. The thought of the probable lack of ideal hygiene conditions at the airport filled me with dread but I had to submit or wait a day in Pontianak (in the iron shed with the sinus-clearing facilities) for the return flight to Singapore. which I suppose is the way of the true adventurer. you would never go anywhere.’ Ed always had a fairly cavalier approach to health matters.’ said Ed.



When we first met and knew we were made for each other, Ed took me to Watsons Bay in Sydney where there was a big cliff (not The Gap, but another vertical lump of rock that looked quite daunting). ‘Now, before we go any further,’ he said, ‘I want to see if you can climb that cliff. If you are going to live with me for the rest of your life you are going to have to do a lot of dangerous things.’ I went up it, of course. Who wouldn’t, with a challenge like that? It was my first step in the quest for the great adventure. Health regulations complied with, we eventually took off and, after circling the town once more, apparently to say thank you, we headed eastwards across a sea of green, which was the jungle-clad island of Kalimantan. Nursing my sore arm, I kept my eyes glued to the window, seeing nothing to relieve the unending green save the occasional flash of red or white as a giant flowering tree forced its way up through the forest mantle. At one point we passed over a brick-red river, curving like a snake in countless s-bends on its way towards the sea. Of human habitation there was no sign. ——————— Almost five hours after leaving Singapore, the eastern coastline of Kalimantan appeared on the jungle horizon and, as we flew low over the town built around the borders of a wide bay, I had my first glimpse of Balikpapan, my possible future home. Buildings and huts in what looked like the main part of the town were clustered along the northern bank of a narrow estuary and, further north, bordering the coastline, was a succession of huge storage tanks and a number of ships anchored offshore. This was the fomer Shell oil refinery and storage depot left over from pre-war Dutch days and now run by the Indonesian Government as Pertamina. An Australian assault force landed successfully here towards the end of World War II and I wondered if the aerial view differed much from that time.


Someone Else’s Country

The airport at Sepinggan was 10km north of the town and, after some circling to get clearance, we came in for a happy landing. There were aeroplanes of all shapes and sizes parked everywhere: DC3s, Trislanders, Islanders, Cherokees, Aztecs, Pilatus Porters, French, Japanese, British and American helicopters. Jeeps and trucks scudded about like ants. We climbed out of the Volpar to meet a blinding blast of hot air and entered a large building to face customs and immigration officers. Ed was hailed by just about everyone and seemed to be a popular figure. My appearance was a curiosity, as European women were a rarity and were seen only when a company aeroplane landed. I was introduced to an Indonesian called Situju who assured me he would do ‘everything’ for me. Later Ed whispered, ‘He’s a bit of a blow-hard but he’ll probably be useful if you decide to stay. He knows everyone and can get anything.’ Once we had been cleared by customs, the company jeep drove us the short distance to the National Utility Helicopter (NUH) camp on the fringes of the aerodrome. The camp had its own hangar and office building and a line of motellike rooms, fringed by a covered verandah. It was right on the waterfront, with only 90m or so separating it from the beach. In the centre was the ablutions block, with toilets and showers, and at the hangar end was the kitchen, the dining room, a large lounge or recreation room and a bar. As a courtesy to my gender and unexpected arrival, Ed and I were given a two-bed room to ourselves and I was given a very warm welcome from the pilots and engineers. Their wives and families lived in Singapore and rarely, if ever, came to Kalimantan. Most of the engineers and some of the pilots were Australians, two or three were French while the rest were American, some of them fresh from Vietnam where the war was still raging. There was a lot of talk about them being ex-Air America pilots. A lot of people at the time regarded Air America as an arm of the American Central Intelligence Agency and hardened bush pilots like Ed saw them as rather spoiled brats. Their work in Vietnam was more on the spy level than actual combat and they were paid exceptionally high salaries, far above that of ordinary serving airmen. As a



consequence, many of them had amassed a great deal of money and invested it in real estate in California: blocks of flats, seaside residences, rented shops, etc., to the envy of the ordinary bush pilots. It didn’t go down very well with the NUH regulars, who felt underpaid and overworked for what they did and the risks they took. I really enjoyed my week in Balikpapan, as everyone was so friendly. The food in the NUH mess was good, although the workers all complained about it as people always do when living in an institution. The steaks, which were large and plentiful, were flown in from the United States and there was an endless supply of apple pies. Ed took me up to ‘the Ridge’, the Union Oil (US) housing complex at Pasir Ridge, which overlooked the whole area. As well as boasting curbed and guttered streets, it had beautiful American-style bungalows, fully air-conditioned and each with two bathrooms. There was an Olympic-size swimming pool, a six-lane bowling alley, a club dining room, a supermarket, a theatre and two schools — one for the children of American employees and the other for teaching English to Indonesian employees. The whole complex was surrounded by a high barbedwire fence and patrolled by security guards and dogs. A special pass was needed to gain entry. The extravagance of it all made one gasp. One of the pilots joked that the Americans flew out of Dallas, Texas, landed in Balikpapan, drove in an air-conditioned car to the Ridge, moved into their air-conditioned bungalows and never noticed they had left Texas. There was no need for them ever to venture into the town of Kebun Sayur because the Ridge provided everything they needed. Ed and I did venture out of the NUH camp and had a good meal at the Chinese-run Atomic Restaurant. As it was dark, I didn’t get a good look at the town but it seemed to be just a string of shops side by side, all run by Chinese and all selling the same things. Ed had been right about the weather — it was very, very hot and not just ordinary hot, but wet, oily hot. Balikpapan was very close to the Equator so when you were outside, it was best


Someone Else’s Country

to move slowly, as any fast movement brought the sweat out immediately. Even though I dislike air-conditioning, I could see that unless you could spend some part of the day in the coolness, you would soon become quite enervated. The night before I was due to fly back to Singapore, Ed and I had a long talk and decided that it would be best if I went home to Australia, found someone to run my Sydney art gallery, The Rocks Gallery, packed up the things we needed and came back with the kids as soon as possible. We discussed schooling and decided that the local Pertamina Oil school would be good as it would give the kids a chance to learn the language quickly and get to know the people. Ed said he knew about a house further along the beach that we could probably rent, but in the meantime there was temporary accommodation available at a modest Dutch housing complex called Decorient. It was all looking great. And then the bomb dropped. We were just about to go to sleep when Ed said, ‘There’s one other thing I haven’t told you.’ I yawned and suggested it could wait until tomorrow. Of course there would be other things to talk about but we could fix up such details when I returned. ‘I think you’d better listen to this,’ Ed said. He sounded so serious that I sat up and gave him my full attention. Quite dramatically, I thought, he cleared his throat and began. ‘You remember last year when I had that crash in the Mahakam River?’ He had written to me about the crash while recovering in hospital in Jakarta. The Bell 205 he was flying with eight passengers had a tail-rotor failure and came down in the Mahakam Delta. The machine immediately turned turtle, trapping everyone inside. Somehow, Ed managed to get a door open and, after repeated dives, got everyone out and on to a sandbank. Once the passengers were out and counted, he made extra dives to recover their briefcases. The Japanese survivors were duly impressed by this gallant gesture and wrote letters of recommendation to the company.



‘Yes, of course,’ I said. ‘Is it something about your back? You said it was still giving you a bit of trouble.’ ‘No, it’s not my back. Just listen and I’ll tell you. After I got out of hospital, I took a couple of weeks leave in Jakarta before going back to work. After I’d seen all the movies in town I started going to a particular girlie bar that I’d heard about. They were very nice to me in there and I went a lot. There was one girl in particular. She became my girl. I came back to work and, six months later, when I was in Jakarta again for work permits, I went back to the bar and here was the girl pregnant and crying. She swore the baby was mine and said her brothers were very angry with me. I knew what went on in these bars and it didn’t seem likely that I was definitely the father so I said I’d come back when the baby was born and have a look at it. I did that and, sure enough, it did look as though it might be halfEuropean. I was at her house and her brothers were there too and they started to heavy me. They said if I didn’t marry their sister I’d be killed. So I did.’ ‘You did what?’ ‘I married her.’ ‘You married her? But you can’t do that! It’s illegal! It’s a crime.’ ‘Well, I did. And now she wants to come here and live with us. I told her about you and she said she would help you in the house. She’s quite a nice little thing. I think you’d like her.’ Men often say they don’t understand women, but I could definitely say I don’t think any woman could understand what my husband was telling me. Why hadn’t he said anything about this before? How had his whole attitude towards us as a family changed so radically in one year? We were the Team. We’d been through all sorts of tough times together, as well as joyful ones. How could this be happening? I couldn’t speak and just lay there with my head on fire, unable to think of anything to say. This couldn’t be the same man I loved and had been living with for 20 years. This couldn’t be the man I had been having such a great and loving time with for the past week, the man who I was planning to join, along with our children, in this hot hell-hole of a place called Balikpapan. It must be a nightmare.

would possibly join us for holidays. I got my voice back and sat up. revolving and revolving. I hardly slept at all for several weeks. For me to go back to Australia and forget the whole idea of moving to Kalimantan was. but a price had to be paid for the illicit joys of the girlie bar. after returning to Singapore and Sydney. The next step was to decide what to do about the second wife and child. a sure-fire way of dissolving the marriage. I decided to forget about it and act as though it had never happened. but it was so alien to our Western way of life it would have destroyed the family. The two older children. There was no proof that he was the father and the marriage was not legal. Ed agreed that was the best idea and said he wished he had thought of it before. I decided against that. in fact. Ceilidh and Tom.12 Someone Else’s Country It was impossible to sleep and. not even to my mother. pack and follow. . I suggested that the only thing Ed could do was send her a decent sum of money and hope that would be the end of it. Back in Sydney. We started to discuss what to do. She could not live with us. the two younger children were very excited about moving to Indonesia to join their dad. There was no way of explaining it to the children and hopefully the matter would now rest. act as a deterrent to the murdering brothers. Such an idea might have been all right in a Muslim context. I said nothing to anyone about the girl in Jakarta. But I had decided on a course of action and my marriage to Ed was worth saving so I threw myself into all the arrangements necessary for the move. of course. Pay. The money would be a small fortune to such a poor person living in Jakarta and would. pack and follow The family was about to hit the road again in a familiar scenario: the man sets off and finds a new place while the wife has to pay. after lying in silence for a while. I didn’t sleep that night and. he hoped. until I felt I was going mad. As soon as I closed my eyes this terrible newsreel of events came on.

Very little grows in Kalimantan except trees. was the first thing we hung up on arrival. They always put the stamp of home on our new place no matter what part of the world we were in. Everything was brought in by sea to provide for this burgeoning population.’ After saying goodbye to my mother and the rest of the family. ploughed their way up the Macassar Straits. French and Japanese companies were building oil rigs offshore and offices. rice. Balikpapan In the early 1970s. discovered by the Dutch and exploited under Japanese occupation. Ships.Borneo/Kalimantan 13 Packing up for a change of countries had always been part of our life. American. ‘There!’ we would say. Favourite possessions. a Picasso print of a pink clown on a horse. driving up prices and causing raging inflation. money and equipment. we were off on the next chapter of our great adventure. as well as three paintings that had been hung on the walls of all the places where we had lived. for word had spread to crowded Java and beyond that there was work in . meat and vegetables. warehouses and accommodation for the workers and expatriate technicians and their families shot up like mushrooms. their holds loaded with machinery. The ships carried human cargo as well. Business was flourishing under President Suharto’s regime. A much-loved one. I was lucky to find a manager for my art gallery and set about sorting out which things were to go into storage and which were to go with us. bringing in the produce of rich Java. The timber industry was also being re-established and was experiencing boom conditions. books and ornaments were to accompany us. of course. The oil fields. Balikpapan was a boom town. ‘Now we’re home. had been reopened and the entire region was expanding rapidly as foreign explorers poured in men. There was construction under way everywhere. without quibble. so nearly all foodstuffs were imported. They paid. the asking price for machinery. spare parts and food. Foreign companies did anything required to get a job done quickly.

To enter a shop you had to cross a wooden boardwalk which spanned a gutter of green.14 Someone Else’s Country Kalimantan. Timor. You could smell it long before you got there. There was a great feeling of excitement about the place. There was an oiliness to one’s sweat that I had never experienced before. damp and slightly oily blanket. Ed had found temporary accommodation for us at Decorient and took us to see the more permanent place he was hoping to get on the beach. rotten fruit. Workers came from all the islands of Indonesia: Java. so we decided to take it and make it fit to live in. Sulawesi and Ambon. Irian Jaya. When it rained it was even worse. and everywhere there were young boys on motorbikes. Lombok. Sumbawa. The site itself. It was incredibly hot. leaving all the walls and ceilings blackened. Flores. festering. although the temperature was not much more than 30°C. fur-lined leather jackets and tight jeans. Ed had been right about the heat. papers. We were about 12km out of town and driving in there to shop was like entering hell. well away from the town and yet not far from the airport. Many planks had also been removed from the walls. where most of the shops were. Sumatra. Moving as slowly as possible seemed the only way of dealing with it. I knew it would be good when we moved to the house on the beach as. vile-smelling ooze. wearing high-heeled boots. as wages were high and everyone was optimistic about the future. The dark green jungle crowded in on all sides and the air felt like a warm. Kebun Sayur (which means ‘vegetable garden’!). there would be sea breezes and even the sound of the lapping waves to make it feel cooler. was one huge slum. probably to feed the fires. Bali. as the streets and drains were used for every kind of refuse: boxes. hopefully. however. cooking on open charcoal fires. The house had been uninhabited for many years and itinerant traders had sometimes camped in it. as everything rose up and flooded over the boards. In that climate! . was good. Clothes were wet almost as soon as you put them on. past the airport at Sepinggan. The temptations of the Western world were very strong. bad fish and sewage.

They were very young. During the interview an army officer stood behind the headmaster — the army was in evidence everywhere it seemed. but with the holiday over it was time to look at their schooling. after the coup which overthrew founding President Sukarno. Men paid to dance with the girls but were not allowed to take them outside. when we went for an interview. There were Kommando units in every block and a political prison behind the post office. This inside information came from the driver who took us in to town to do the shopping. The Pertamina Oil school we had decided on had good buildings and. they told us we were the first foreigners to have applied. they watched TV or did embroidery. unless there was some official celebration. Chinese writing outside shops was also forbidden. At our favourite Atomic Restaurant. One of the places had a sign at the entrance: ‘Touching and feeling all over but not other thing. sitting in a room called the Fishbowl. The army was very much in evidence. They were pleased. There were also many private girlie establishments such as the Bahtera. Blue Sky and Sweet Sixteen. mainly from Java and Sulawesi. there used to be a large gold decorative Chinese symbol on the wall — for good luck. in fact. while waiting to be selected. I suppose we noticed it because we never saw the army in Australia. The prisoners had been there since the failed communist coup in 1963 and they were not allowed to read or write or even garden. The children were taking our new location in their stride. Ed took me along to have a look one night and I saw the girls waiting to be chosen.’ The girlie bars were run by the Chinese who. a group of soldiers removed it. He seemed to want me to know about Suharto’s Indonesia. seemed to run everything: shops. Girls were brought in on yearly contracts. as usual. They were viewed by prospective customers through a large plate-glass window and. the Chinese language and newspapers had been banned by Suharto’s New Order in the 1960s.Borneo/Kalimantan 15 There was an official brothel run by the army called Lembah Harapan (the Valley of Hope). One day. nightclubs and restaurants. Chinese schools. I was told. .

The shock of a European in class was just too much for one teacher and he always addressed Hereward as ‘Sir’. There were three sets of school uniforms to be made: blue and white. Eventually. alternating each day with red and white. Nothing was ready-made so the materials had to be bought and dressmakers found. all of which took several weeks. As my children straddled the borderline in age. Her name was Taksi. They took to it very philosophically but it eventually proved to be a disaster. the student body was divided into two parts. Indonesians themselves were only just beginning to learn their new universal language and still communicated with one another in the languages of their home islands. They told me there was no discipline at all in class and the children jumped around all the time shouting and playing up. the two children were all togged up and ready for their first day at school. Teachers appeared only occasionally and my children didn’t use the toilets as they were so smelly. she turned them all on as soon as she arrived in the morning. they explained. It would involve a lot of driving but as we had a new VW station-wagon. In our temporary home at Decorient. The cultural differences were just too great. it meant two return trips to the school daily. for a six-day school week. I engaged a young girl to do the washing and help with the house. With people from all over the country coming to work in Balikpapan. so calling her was always a great joke: ‘Taksi! Taksi!’ I was trying to learn Bahasa Indonesia but it was proving quite difficult as everyone seemed to speak a different language. She was from Menado in North Sulawesi and her natural language was Minahassa. and scout and guide uniforms for Saturdays. . They would flow all day unless I noticed and turned them off. on weekdays. the place was a linguistic Tower of Babel. the younger ones going to school in the morning and the older ones in the afternoon. it would not be too difficult. She had never seen them before and once she got the hang of how they worked. Taksi’s main problem was her fascination with taps.16 Someone Else’s Country In order to maximise the use of school buildings. I later discovered the reason for this strange behaviour.

He had a great personality and became a favourite in the helicopter-camp mess. so she thought this was the same never-ending supply. knew instinctively the very worst thing to do — not only to grab cigarettes. His sexual development also came very early. nose — it didn’t matter where. It was only hunger and thirst that finally brought him down and from then on we were able to control him by his stomach. he was constantly trying to jab it into any orifice that presented itself — eye.Borneo/Kalimantan 17 In her village. Worst of all. Having discovered his penis. He had squeezed out all the toothpaste tubes and eaten the contents. He was frantic in his hopeless attempts to stick the wretched thing into some hole or other. the monkey. This was the first animal of what was later to become a large collection. Everyone liked to have a go at the boss via his namesake. brought back by Ed from a jungle job. Sam enjoyed a small beer and. known as the Fenton Zoo. He soon untied the knot and got loose and. Little did we realise that a rope around the waist was small cheese to the great escape artist. The poor wee thing was terrified when he first arrived at the house and immediately sprang up to the picture rail in order to distance himself from us as far as possible. from infancy. We called him Sam. water came from a spring on the hillside. He then turned on the taps so that the whole place was a gigantic bubble bath. tied to a tap. Monkeys It was while we were living at Decorient that we acquired a monkey. but to dunk them in a glass of beer. and they were unobtainable in Indonesia. He was a tiny brown macaque monkey with green eyes. His worst escapade in those early days was when we went out one day and left him locked in the bathroom. he had tried shampoos and conditioners and tossed them away. . the bathroom was a shambles. he had opened my five bottles of Oroxine thyroid tablets and eaten the lot. Houdini Sam. ear. when we returned. Disaster! As I have no thyroid gland. in honour of the president of the helicopter company. I needed three of these tablets daily.

Meanwhile. he introduced us to a slight young man — more boy than man — whose name was Mansur. He must work hard for you. He looked very thin and unhealthy and had many tropical ulcers. otherwise known as HAMs. It was time to call on Situju. The idea of sea breezes sounded like the breath of heaven. however. The beach house Ed decided it was time for us to make plans to move down to the beach house he had found. The message was to find a doctor in Singapore willing to issue more pills without a prescription. We wanted a carpenter to work on the beach house. but he was strongly recommended. Certainly. He did. grow up to be the Al Capone of monkeys. otherwise I will send him back to Sulawesi.’ Mansur was obviously in great fear of his uncle and hung his head as Situju talked. but the location was excellent. the man I had met at the airport on my arrival in Balikpapan — the man who could get anything. so we took him on. It was further north than the airport and a long way from school and shops. ‘My nephew. We drove down to have another look at it and were pleased from the moment we saw it. even though Singapore was even stricter on these matters than most countries.’ The next day. ‘I will bring him along. who took pity on us and new pills arrived on an oil company charter flight within a few days. Sam appeared to suffer no ill effects. ‘He is from my family and a very good Bugis carpenter. A HAM operator somewhere in the world picked up our desperate call for help and the message was relayed to a doctor in Singapore. He can make anything you want.18 Someone Else’s Country The government telegraph service to Singapore was unreliable so we had to use the helicopter company’s short-wave radio to get a message through via amateur radio operators.’ Situju said. but all this was compensated for by its beach frontage. ‘He has worked for the Koreans on Pasir Ridge. which we could rent cheaply from the airport manager.’ Situju said immediately. it needed a lot of work. .

His cousin. as we had no electricity at the beach. Mansur and I went to the timber yards. it is a relatively cheap and attractive roofing material. if you don’t understand that. Once all the materials were delivered.Borneo/Kalimantan 19 Situju came to the house when Mansur began working and won my heart when he presented us with a house-warming gift. Pudding. If a bad man comes to steal we can chase him away. nyonya [ma’am]. then. and he comes inside. 100mm wide and pointed at one end. we must have a fence. make small strips of wood for the windowframes and even smaller ones to hold the fly-screens. in that gesture that implies. to assert his domination of his lowly relative. ‘Mansur will build a fence.’ I said. before long. He had painted it himself and was very proud of it. But if we have a fence. Our communication was mostly by hand signals as my Bahasa . After fixing the walls and the windows.’ He was adamant. Mansur went to work. So you see. ‘Let’s just leave the bush as it is. then we can kill him. The Korean architects incorporated it into their grandly designed houses on Pasir Ridge. it took root and we had a hedge. you don’t understand anything! So we built a fence out of tapioca (cassava) sticks and. It was a sign about 30cm square and declared in bold letters: ‘KEEP UOT!’ He told us we must build a fence around the house before we started work. Sirap is hand-cut from Kalimantan ironwood by Dyaks. came to work for us for a while and was always without money for this reason — it all went into the communal pot. Mansur did everything by hand. At its point of origin. buying materials needed to make the house habitable. That is the law. ‘Mansuuuur!’. He gave up after a while and Mansur and I managed quite well on our own. Bugis people are very family oriented and I found out later that Mansur was required to share his wages with those family members without a job. giving orders and calling out.’ ‘No. he raised his shoulders. out of the planks. his palms up. I watched him saw up a log with a handsaw. we decided to re-do the roof with sirap.’ On this pronouncement. This is a dark-brown shingle cut to about 400mm long. Situju hung around for a while. ‘I hate fences.

Long ago. so my family came by another. As I am the youngest. he told me about his life in his halting English. There was a big war in Macassar. Bugis people have their own language. born in Bone in Sulawesi. the more we are the same. Mansur’s story I am a Bugis. So the blind led the blind and it was only when I met some educated Javanese that I learned I was speaking a very strange language: very bad Bahasa Indonesia mixed with Bugis. too? . I had presumed that all Indonesians spoke the same language. we went down to the harbour which had big red flowering trees planted all along the shore as far as you can see. I learned to my dismay that he was just as new to Bahasa Indonesia as I was. From very different backgrounds. Macassar and Minahassa words. I send it when I can. As he and his family came to live in Kalimantan by one route. He is 104 years old and sits in a chair all day long. we were able to converse quite well. he often asks me to send him money. we came to the universal conclusion that the more we are different. I remember it clearly. He had 18 wives. She died before I can remember but my old father is still alive. When the noise was over and the fires had burned out. Our routes were different but our reasons were the same: we came for work. Was it like that in your country. While Mansur was working for me. it is an obligation. Eventually. before long. our close association with one another taught us many things about one another’s culture. I am the only child of his last wife.20 Someone Else’s Country Indonesia was minimal at that time. My father used to keep the books written in Bugis but they were all burned when I was a small boy. I copied him when he spoke and. Every tree had a dead body hanging from it. our first impressions of Kalimantan were necessarily at variance but as time went by. He has more than 100 children and sometimes they send money to him. with the help of a dictionary. Much later. the Bugis were a strong nation. My father was once a rich and powerful man. He is now a poor man and all his wives are dead.

they are quite separate religions. he was suddenly able to speak Arabic. I was sent to live with relatives in Ujung Pandang. I went to work for the Chinese in a carpentry shop. Although he is poor. except how to count. That is the only place I remember as home. (This confusion over ‘Christian’ and ‘Catholic’ is quite common in Indonesia. They did not pay money but gave me rice to eat twice a day. On the way there. They took away all his Bugis books and burned them. I’m not sure which. He was more than 40 years old when he first married and. It was hard work and I ran away two or three times but always came back because I was hungry.) One day. when I was about 15. in the trees. They bring him food and consult with him on important matters.) I think it was soldiers from Java who killed the people. I worked every day of the week sawing up logs with a handsaw. He can tell long beforehand if a thunderstorm is coming. He can cure people of sickness but some of his powers have been lost since they burned his books. They did not like me because I was Muslim. the local people still treat him like an important man. Fishermen come to him for advice. I grew up in the village of Kowilhan and went to school for two or three years but I don’t remember learning anything. He knows when visitors will arrive long before they are seen and also when someone has died in a distant place. . Chinese and Russian. as usual. In many people’s eyes.Borneo/Kalimantan 21 (This sort of question is quite common in Indonesia. This was the time when my father lost all his possessions and became a poor man. I came home from work and went to the river to bathe. When I was about 12. When my mother died. sometimes with vegetables on top. He has very strong powers. he also knows when there will be plenty of fish in the sea. He is a very devout Muslim. He speaks in the Bugis language and has never learned Bahasa Indonesia. People who grow up without newspapers or TV often think that events taking place in their time are the same for those in other parts of the world. They also took his land and buffaloes. They left him a small house on a hill near Bone. I think they were either Christian or Catholic. at the same time. but not to read and write.

My sleeping place was near the table. Bugis people love talking. At the end of Ramadan there was a great celebration called Hari Raya Idul Fitri. I didn’t go to work on that day and we had a great feast at home. The test was to see if you could last through the hours of sunlight without eating or drinking. but they came right in after me. Come home. There were about 20 of us altogether. thinking I could get away from them. Go outside for private business. Eat and talk around the lamp. which means ‘of my family’. I still have the scars today. I already knew that it was better to be a boy than a girl. I had more freedom. Walk to work. Go to sleep again. I don’t know how we were related as they were all called saudara. We all slept upstairs on the wooden floor. My cousins lived in a Bugis house on stilts and underneath was space for goats and chickens. My friends ran off and left me and. papayas. I didn’t know that monkeys could swim. Although the days were the same. lots of rice. I didn’t ever think about all this until years later when I met the foreigners. I was very bloody. At night. My cousin said it didn’t matter as long as I tried. I took off through the trees and jumped into a big pond. I didn’t question anything. Every day was the same. Boys like me thought it was a lot of fun as we tried to beat one another. and me in particular. Until then. but I could never last for more than a week because of all the heavy work I did sawing up logs. one time of the year was different. One of the days when I wasn’t working. That was how life was. they would light a kerosene lamp and the men and boys would sit around it and talk. This was Ramadan. Not the sort of feasts I would see later with the foreigners but there was plenty to eat — bananas. Suddenly. Bathe in the river. I went chasing monkeys with some of my cousins. Wake up. It was part of our Muslim religion and lasted for a month. by the time the monkeys had finished. fish and little pink and green cakes. She was very pretty but I didn’t think about her very much as I was so tired. as they had eight children and there were some other cousins. because the Chinese were having their holiday called Hari Natal (Christmas). They jumped all over me and bit me on the neck and back. .22 Someone Else’s Country I passed a young girl coming back from the river. the monkeys started chasing us.

they took me to the far side of the room and sat me in a high-backed chair I hadn’t seen in the house before. not saying anything. tie and dark coat like the ones the men wear to the mosque. They got the dukun baik (Bugis doctor) over to see me and he treated my wounds with green leaves and other things he boiled up in a pot. There was an identical chair beside it. No one spoke to me and I had no idea what was happening. Not long after I’d seen the pretty girl coming back from the river. ‘What’s all this about? It’s not Hari Raya!’ ‘No. These people were half laughing and half serious and they carried her over and placed her in the chair beside me. as they didn’t say anything but just forced me into these clothes. When I was fully dressed. sat on the floor with my cousins and they talked and made signs. A pretty girl. carrying a girl. I really hated monkeys after that. Then the whole thing became clear to me: I was going to be married. It was the girl I’d seen on my way to the river a few months before.’ said my cousin. We sat there. Two old people. a very strange thing happened. while everyone else talked and looked at us. it’s not. two of the men grabbed me and started dressing me in a white shirt. Then up the stairs came another group of people I didn’t recognise. I was quite frightened. ‘It’s just a celebration for one of the children. The girl was as terrified as I was because we had never spoken to one another.Borneo/Kalimantan 23 When I got home. I didn’t know that later I would become a monkey-keeper with the foreigners. . I saw that there was a lot of good food set out on the mat: fruit and rice and the little pink and green cakes we usually saw only at Idul Fitri. my cousin and his wife were very angry because I couldn’t go to work for a week. and I noticed that all the women were wearing their best kain-kebaya and the men all had on their clean clothes. She was dressed in really good clothes and had flowers in her hair and all sorts of glittering gold things. when I returned to the house. They talked and talked and talked.’ Suddenly. I said. I came home from work. went to the river as usual and then. who I guessed were the girl’s parents. but we both knew what was happening.

I was nearly asleep with fatigue and heat and can’t remember much more. I whispered. We still didn’t say or do anything as every time I looked at the girl she turned away. talking and drinking we were put into another curtained-off area. all the talking stopped and the head Muslim man said a lot of things in Arabic. ‘My name is Intan. Two little girls. ‘My name is Mansur.’ After a few hours of this one-sided conversation. Then they gave us a drink of sweet pink coconut milk and some food and everyone else started to eat and drink. The next day. with a husky voice. giggling all the time. We were put in chairs again and after more eating. We just lay there until morning when the men came in and lifted us up and carried us down the steps and away through the trees to another village. when I went to the Chinese. I turned to the girl beside me but she looked away immediately. The word Intan means ‘diamond’ and I thought it suited her perfectly. muttered. So I just sat there. she finally looked up at me and. So I came back to my bride’s house and decided I had to at least find out what her name was. they said they didn’t want me anymore as I had missed several days’ work. There was a tikar (rush mat) on the floor and two pillows. The next thing that happened was that we were both lifted up and carried to a curtained-off area in the back of the room and left there with the curtain pulled. ‘My name is Mansur. came and sat near us. knowing there was nothing I could do about it. She had very . Finally. For a while I was worried that the house would fall down. It was arranged that I was to go to work as usual but in the evening I was to come back to this second house. What’s yours?’ There was no reply. feeling uncomfortable.24 Someone Else’s Country It was very hot sitting there in all those heavy clothes. Both of us were so stunned and terrified that we didn’t say anything to one another all night. ‘Please tell me what your name is. too. They had fans and it was good when they fanned us and I began to relax a little. as there were now about 40 people in the room.’ I pleaded. Finally.’ So at last we were getting somewhere.

’ I replied.’ I had no money at all but I had to go to this place. lustrous black hair. One of our main problems was that she was Macassarese. he always seemed to be fond of me. He said a lot of people had gone there and hadn’t come back.Borneo/Kalimantan 25 pale skin and was tall and slim and had long. and spoke only the Macassan language and I was Bugis. apparently. He didn’t get any wages but the fisherman gave him rice to take home and a fish. he greeted me from his chair near the door. As I was the youngest. ‘Are there any boats going to Kalimantan?’ I asked. There was no work to be had in Ujung Pandang. I set out on the long walk to my father’s house in Bone on the east coast of Sulawesi. I saw that I would have to do something desperate. ‘Salaam aleikum. but it was probably something to do with property. I decided to ask my father for help. strong man in the family. I walked into Ujung Pandang — about an hour’s walk — and went to the port area. was that I was to be the new. I don’t know what deals were done between the elders to arrange this. so it must be all right. when I was visiting one of my cousins. young. ‘Yes. How was I going to look after these three people and a possible fourth? One day. from South Sulawesi. if there was a good catch. The mother was deaf and the father was almost blind but he still managed to work for a fisherman. there is one going next week. It took about five days to get there in an open boat. I got to Bone in about two days. What a strange way to start a marriage! Intan was the only child of very old parents and the idea. Going by mountain tracks and scavenging food such as fallen coconuts and papaya.’ ‘Aleikum salaam. After telling Intan and her parents what I intended to do. When I walked up the steps of my father’s little house. The Chinese wouldn’t have me back and by now my beautiful Intan was pregnant.2000 and bring your own food for five days. ‘The fare is R. But it was at least a month before we actually relaxed with one another. he told me he’d heard there was a lot of work on another island called Kalimantan. As time went by and the three of them kept looking to me for support. .’ a man told me. with only my own language.

Before he would help me. and we all scrambled out. He spoke very slowly. It means ‘peace be to thee’ and the response means ‘to thee be peace’. the town we had left in Sulawesi. We were wet most of the time as waves often broke right into the boat. We passed some islands and a few other Bugis boats. whatever that was. which was thick with broken bottles. Someone said this was the oil refinery. No one on my boat had ever met any foreigners and this was to be a new experience for all of us. he said I must listen to him tell many stories about the Bugis people and our Muslim traditions. He gave me the money I needed and I walked back to Ujung Pandang and booked my passage on the boat. For nearly a week. which gave us all room to sit but not to lie down. all looking very miserable when we waved to them. Other boats had a cargo of round river-washed stones being taken from Sulawesi to Kalimantan. to hold on to if we were washed overboard.26 Someone Else’s Country This is an obligatory greeting for all Muslim people. Maybe people didn’t come back from Kalimantan because they couldn’t face the journey! They gave us each a plastic pillow. My father gave me a long lecture. plastic bags and other rubbish. It was an open boat built in Bugis style with a huge lug sail. He was more than 90 years old and it was hard for me to be patient through all this. Most of us didn’t feel like eating anyway. It looked the same as Ujung Pandang. A man said they were to build roads because there were no stones on the island we were heading for. They were surrounded by clusters of mushroom-like tanks. But we were so happy to be out of that boat. he shared his rice and vegetables with me and taught me many things about our family. . the Bugis people and Islam. We are taught to do this from our earliest days. We all carried our own drinking water and rice. None of us knew where to go or what we were going to do. except for all the tall towers on the north side. There were 25 passengers. but the sea was calm enough for us to cook only a couple of times. We sailed into the big wide bay at Balikpapan early one morning. I will never forget that journey. Our boat ran up on to the muddy shoreline. Some were carrying people. It was the first time I had been to sea and I was sick almost from the beginning. we were so seasick.

staring left and right as the traffic rushed by. in Java. later. There were a lot more cars and trucks and motorbikes and hundreds of shops selling clothes and hardware. We were looking for an address in Guning Sari and asked some people where it was. We moved into a house occupied by about 30 Bugis people on the side of a hill. send for my beautiful Intan. with his wife and children. But the streets were very narrow and muddy. I worked for about six months then Intan came to join me. The Koreans. She made the dangerous journey with our newborn son. I sat in the local hospital with them until a special . became our dear friend in Borneo and. Mansur came to work for us permanently and.Borneo/Kalimantan 27 One of the men with me had a cousin living in this town so we set off together to walk to Kebun Sayur. The art of the helicopter I was reminded of the dangerous nature of Ed’s job by a serious helicopter accident in which the pilot and engineer were badly injured. They told us that some foreigners called Koreans were looking for carpenters and within a week I had a good job — sawing up logs again! But it was a good job. Mansur’s life then changed dramatically. Finally. paid us money as well as giving us rice so I began to feel very rich. not like Ujung Pandang. when I had enough. with its big wide streets all planted with red flamboyant trees. They spoke a different language. we found someone who understood Bugis language and who gave us the right directions. And many restaurants. I had never seen so many cars and trucks going so fast in all directions. but they only laughed and made rude signs with their fingers. who I named Khadir. My friend and I must have looked like people from the jungle as we walked along the road with our eyes wide open. Through the good offices of his uncle Situju. who looked like Chinese but had a different language. It was a big town and seemed much more crowded than Ujung Pandang. I planned to save as much as I could and.

Through the Koreans. Bad maintenance or pilot error. were not good. It was a good feeling. The bath was unacceptable to the Americans on the Ridge because it had a small chip in the enamel! Nearly all our ‘extras’ came from friends in construction and on the oil rigs. He was screaming with the pain. . The pilot had a broken thigh and the engineer had concussion and a broken ankle. fringed by coconut palms and with its very smart sirap roof. Helicopter people knew that even unskilled workers on the oil rigs were earning more than them and getting more time off. Engineers and pilots were divided as to where the blame lay. It was probably exacerbated by an over-supply of helicopter personnel after the end of the Vietnam War. for the risks taken and the working conditions. Weight judgement had to be accurate and it required a team effort from the pilot. it looked great — white and sparkling on the sea’s edge. I felt so sorry for them. which was salt in the wound. It was incredible to watch a helicopter move an oil rig. The pay rates. they lifted it from one position and reassembled it in the new location. There was great difficulty getting them on the plane when it arrived. maybe kilometres away. I acquired a reject bath tub and wash basin. like undoing a Meccano set. Life at the beach By the time Mansur had finished our house. There was a marvellous frontier camaraderie about the place. Piece by piece. the doorway was too narrow for the stretchers and they had to twist the pilot’s body to get him inside. I planted 12 additional coconut palms and a dozen avocado trees. as the care in Balikpapan was not good. A month later there was a near-accident at Sorong in Irian Jaya. some drums.28 Someone Else’s Country plane arrived to take them to hospital in Singapore. There was such an excess of material in Balikpapan all you had to do was go into the Atomic Restaurant in Kebun Sayur and let it be known among the expats that you needed a pump. a stove or paint and someone would offer it. engineer and loadmaster.

however.Borneo/Kalimantan 29 The Americans. we haven’t got a floor light in our closet yet!’ Such were the hardships of Texans in Indonesia. was about half a kilometre out over a coral reef. ‘Don’t think we’ve got it so good on the Ridge. Those who didn’t write us off as hippies did all they could to help. This fuel powered our lamps. ‘My wife and I have been here for six months now. as was the case all over the ancient land mass of Kalimantan. First came Chica. Any remaining Avgas was drained out of the helicopters each night. living in their crystal palaces on the Ridge. Low tide. Meanwhile. who had been attacked . and soon our little paradise on the beach was a magnet for those on the Ridge who wanted to rough it up a little and swim in unchlorinated water. we had coconuts. however. Mansur built a fine wire house for Sam. a type of kerosene used as helicopter fuel. Our water supply came from four 44-gallon drums of fresh water on a tank stand. were amazed at our Aussie family. mussels and seaweed. All our lighting and cooking was powered by Avgas. avocados. which were filled by a tanker once a week. The differences in lifestyle and qualities of living between those on the Ridge and those on the beach were illustrated aptly by a very nice man from Dallas who visited us regularly for our popular barbecues. kerosene fridge and cooker. Everything grew well except the vegetables. as it was never re-used in the craft. a small grey spider monkey. Many government-sponsored plans for mass migration foundered because of this. tapioca and vegetables planted right beside the house. mainly Southerners. We really were right on the beach: high tide came to within two metres of the house. the monkey. Flowers grew abundantly. who repeated the word ‘Wozzeck!’ continually. It was a great day when we finally moved into the beach house. Do you know. with a sirap roof and we were soon looking around for some mates for him. which was living down on the beach without water or electricity. Then someone gave us a neurotic monkey called Lisa. There was something lacking in the soil.’ he said. The reef became a marvellous source of food providing such things as crabs.

Mansur was changing his attitude toward monkeys as he learned they could be fun and he became chief Sam catcher. Sam would grab it. Mike had . Sam’s sack was always full to overflowing. Mansur would hold up a banana. and proceeded to pee in all four drums of fresh water. his hand around the frame. When this failed. Our method of combating this wily scheme was to pour in the food until Chica got too fat to squeeze through. But Sam was undaunted. he bared his teeth. When the next cry of ‘mass breakout!’ went out Sam and Chica had escaped but poor frightened Lisa cowered in a corner. We also had a dog called Fred Bowser.30 Someone Else’s Country by wild monkeys. Sam had chewed a hole in the sirap roof and was sitting grinning on top of the tank stand. He grabbed all the food and the girls had to make do with what he dropped. He would spend hours fiddling with the lock and trying to turn the key. As soon as we spotted him. then Mansur would hold up another and another until Sam had so many bananas tucked under his arms and in his mouth he became confused and was grabbed. however. Needless to say. to be regurgitated and eaten later. She got halfway through a couple of times and had to be rescued when her screams of ‘Wozzeck! Wozzeck!’ alerted us to the impending escape. a part German Shepherd. Mike. his next plan was to encourage Chica to squeeze her small body through the holes in the wire. he just wanted to prove he could outwit humans. as he devoted most of his time to trying to organise a mass breakout. She never recovered from this experience but seemed happy enough living in her new home with Sam and Chica. staying well out of reach. He always knew the very worst thing to do. He was a great lord in the females’ eyes. His green eyes turned to heaven. Greed always got Sam in the end. who belonged to one of the pilots. he would sit on the inside of the door. Monkeys have a storage sack in their neck and can pack away an incredible amount of peanuts and bananas. trying to look fierce. trying to disengage the lock. Sam acted like a true oriental potentate and ruled his wives with a rod of iron. I don’t think he ever wanted to go anywhere when he escaped.

But for Mansur. I asked Mansur if he would like to live with us and become our . ‘If a dog eats well. We always had plenty of scraps from the company mess so Bowser ate very well. After a few horrified peeps at the gliders. Everyone knows I am Bugis and no one will come here to steal. Mansur himself now ate all the meat he wanted. After we had been in the beach house for a few weeks.’ we explained. On these rambles with Bowser. clinging to a narrow strip at the sea’s edge. Foreigners were hard to understand. to see a dog devouring big pieces of steak when all his life meat had been a luxury. he buried his head in Hereward’s neck and stayed immobile and in a state of shock until they left the jungle.’ he said one day. ‘he stays healthy and is a good guard.’ But Sam knew on which side his bread was buttered.’ It was quite true — people from other islands were afraid of the Bugis. ‘I think I’ll take Sam out next time. They will not come here. On the walk. he clung to Hereward like a limpet and. ‘He might like to go back and live there. ‘I am Bugis. Their philosophy was to use the knife first and ask questions later. Honour was paramount to them and they were generally feared. but he still felt it was wrong to give meat to a dog. Sometimes it caused trouble on the oil rigs and shore stations. was a hurdle.Borneo/Kalimantan 31 found him on the streets in Saigon during the Vietnam War. A dog is regarded as a very low form of life by Muslims and it really went against the grain to give a plateful of meat and bones to a dog. Hereward reported seeing great groups of monkeys gliding gracefully through the trees. Feeding Bowser caused a problem for Mansur. But the jungle stands there menacingly. They know Bugis carry a knife. on the first sighting of his jungle brothers. ready to push human habitation into the sea at the slightest opportunity. covered his eyes with his hands. and Hereward often took off in the dog’s company to explore the nearby jungle.’ ‘But I am the guard. We looked after Bowser for Mike. Human habitation is strictly on the fringes of Kalimantan’s immense primary jungle.’ said Mansur.

32 Someone Else’s Country handyman as I needed things such as bookshelves. as the way down the hill was very rough. soap. an old towel. ‘Yes. who were living in the Bugis community called Gunung Sari. however. We were communicating much better in our BugisBahasa mixture and we found he had a great sense of humour: the same zany sort of humour as our family. they appeared over the crest and. Intan took delight in helping about the house and was a very quick learner of Western- . no. But where would you live?’ I asked. nyonya. Khadir. He considered my suggestion for a while and then said quietly. I take care of my wife and child. Mansur introduced us to Intan and his two-year-old son. I would like to stay here. His thin arms and legs were covered in sores. ‘Excuse me. ‘Oh.’ he said. a coffee table and cupboards. two coconut shell dishes. one spoon. Intan was carrying a small wooden box about the size of a school suitcase. one knife. ‘Where are the rest of your things?’ She turned to Mansur for a reply and he said quietly. Mansur asked us to wait in the car. He was also such a good person to have around. a black cooking pot and a cloth wallet containing identity papers. built on the side of a hill in Balikpapan. nyonya. I asked. I asked Mansur if Intan could help me in the house with the washing and cooking. And so.’ They showed me their only possessions: two kains (sarongs). ‘I will build a small house. As we drove the 32km back to the beach. he had built a small oneroomed house using left-over timber and sirap. But can I bring my wife and child?’ ‘Of course you can bring them. with his natural dignity and courtesy. ‘This is all we have. but I do not want my wife to work. He explained that Intan spoke only Macassarese so now we had a new language barrier.’ As things turned out. All the things we own are in this box. etc. Intan was very pale and not very healthy-looking. Before long. but she had very beautiful features.’ he said. Khadir was naked and dark with enormous brown eyes. within a few days. He was a man of action so we went off to collect his family.

Explaining the wonders of kerosene refrigeration was a hurdle. Intan complained one day about the high price of fish at the little kampong market near us. lemon juice. We were amazed at the large quantities of plain boiled rice Mansur’s family ate. for health reasons. ‘Mansur and Intan. they had a large soup-plate full. The idea of it being safe in a kolkas (cold cupboard) was beyond their understanding. where has all the food gone?’ I asked. soak it in warm water and squeeze out the delicious milk. ‘Why don’t . ‘When you and tuan [Ed. vegetables and bread sufficient for several days from the camp store and stow them in the fridge. uncomprehending. ‘The fridge is empty. She even added extra little flourishes that showed a gourmet touch. we learned from one another and eventually things began to flow smoothly. she had an excellent memory and had only to be shown something once. a large curved dish made of stone used with a stone grinder. Although she couldn’t read or write. Day by day.Borneo/Kalimantan 33 style cooking. Sometimes.’ They looked at each other with puzzled frowns. we ate what we could and then gave the rest to the people in the house up at the back.’ Living all their lives in hot tropical conditions they knew that. Mansur said. it grinds hot chillies. When the stone pestle is used in a circular motion. I said to Mansur. It is also used for grinding freshly roasted peanuts for satay sauce. ‘the boss’] and the children had finished eating. It made an excellent base for curries and sauces. My first. all the food was gone. Intan showed me how to grate white coconut meat. She also taught me to use the cobek. food must never be kept over until the next day. after just one day. they also added dried fish. I used to buy meat. When Mansur’s family arrived I found that. she would prepare the dish better than I could. There was no way we could have eaten all that food. Three times a day. thoughtless Western reaction was to suspect that they were taking it. sometimes with green snake beans and tomatoes on top and always with the hot sambal sauce. the next day. tomatoes and garlic to make a delicious sambal sauce.

The fishermen catch fish. Charlie’ and ‘banyak’ (meaning ‘plenty’). standing on his human lift. People on the Ridge heard about these odd Australians living on the beach with a monkey collection and began to bring us animals they didn’t want or found hard to care for. Charlie lived free. ‘I am a carpenter — a tukang kayu. He said. he would give a gentle peck and.34 Someone Else’s Country you go out front and catch some fish? There are plenty there. he would swing in through the palms and papayas with tiny steps. Is that not right?’ Mansur’s understanding of life was a revelation to us. he would start a great racket. Once up. If I catch my own fish. who belonged to a family working for Huffington Drilling Company who were returning to the United States. Our next addition. he would hear Ed’s car approaching and. Charlie’s wings had been clipped for years so he had become just a walking parrot. Charlie would begin his long walk. Every night. jumping about and screaming ‘Banyak! Banyak!’. but when Ed arrived in the evening and sat on the front verandah to have his ritual gin and tonic. a yellow-crested white cockatoo. He always insisted on his share of cheese crackers and gave the signal ‘Banyak! Banyak!’ if they were slow in arriving.’ ‘No. he would proffer a few ‘Hullo. nyonya. When I need fish I go to him. was Charlie. before it was even in sight. ‘Hullo. mostly at the back of the house near where the kitchen scraps were discarded. because his wings were now . over and over. how will they make their living? When the fisherman needs a carpenter. The Fenton zoo Our zoo began to grow. I see other people catching them. Charlies’ then take his sip of gin and tonic. But.’ he said solemnly. Charlie had only a small vocabulary. His tiny body swaying from side to side. after the monkeys. Reaching Ed’s foot. but he had a great personality. he comes to me. I make things with wood. would be raised to the balustrade. inches at a time. to the front of the house.

Someone brought us a baby crocodile but I couldn’t say he was much fun as a pet. Charlie! Flap ’em! Now glide. Flap for God’s sake! Dammit! What a bird! Try again. she will think I’ve gone troppo. We said a firm no this time and hoped it was not the brave father recaptured. We fed them on insect-infested rotten wood but the father pangolin was very upset at the imprisonment. We kept him tied with wire in a muddy ditch. He was small — about 60cm long — and his jaws were half the length of his body. When the tide was in. hurl him down while instructions were shouted from below: ‘Flap your wings. but poor Charlie never learned to fly. paddling around and climbing back on board again. Every night. When I write to her and say I’ve been with some people who are teaching a bird to fly and taking monkeys for a swim. followed by his stately wife and the baby sitting happily on her back.Borneo/Kalimantan 35 as long as a normal bird’s. we carried them all out to an anchored raft and they took the greatest delight in diving overboard. With great dignity. we felt so sorry for him we opened the cage doors. father and baby pangolin. Pholidota are armoured ant-eaters which. ‘My wife will never believe this. We hoped the family would find a safe place to live in the jungle but were very upset when the same salesman returned a few weeks later with one large pangolin in his bag. A salesman brought them to us one day in a bag so we paid the price and put them all together in a cage. Ed decided it was time to teach him to fly. those trap-like jaws were a nightmare in the dark. . trying to break it and set his family free. Yes! No! More flap. we would hear him hurling his body against the wire. he proceeded outside. Every night.’ Our next pets were a family: a mother. An English friend. Mansur would climb the tank stand with Charlie and. We also discovered that monkeys like to swim. visiting us one evening made the remark. when fully grown. The baby always sat on his mother’s back at the base of her spine. but it was always scary going out at night and forgetting the torch. Sam and Lisa swam like humans but Chica always swam underwater. After a week or so of this. David Tong. on Ed’s command.’ Ed caught him every time. measure about one metre from snout to tail.

who was an inventive genius with things mechanical. It remained an obvious bulge there for quite a while until the gastric juices went to work and dissolved it. live meal for Santana. head first. When the rat was tipped into the cage. Mansur and Intan never took to Santana and. drew the victim down through his body to about the halfway mark. holding it firm. his loud screams for help alerted someone and he was dragged to safety before any bones were broken but his body was marked with the serpent’s diamond patterns. The coils then encircled the creature. He was about 3. squeezing its bones and crushing out life. par excellence! When our time came to leave Kalimantan. poked him with sticks when we were absent. Then Mansur. he lived in a box in Gina’s room. in the form of fresh coconut pieces. in a perverse way. with a flashing movement too fast for the eye to follow. he made a sort of elbow with his body and tucked the rodent into it. Pythons grow to more than 12m long in the jungles of Kalimantan and we heard a story about a petrol thief who was grabbed by one at the Batak oil fields. we donated Santana to the local zoo. Bait. Holding the luckless rat in his jaws. suddenly.5m long and. Fortunately. It was an unpleasant sight to see Santana at dinner but fascinating. when a rat ran in to snatch the tempting morsels. named Santana. He thought it was crazy to buy chickens for a snake and invented a rat-trap. Santana would lift his head and calmly observe the terrified creature for a few minutes as it frantically scurried around looking for a way out. I suspect. with a succession of muscle spasms. He was deadly. such as eggs or frogs. Mansur built him a big cage where he could glide around and make lovely rounded pools with his body.36 Someone Else’s Country We also had a beautiful python. Santana would strike. decided on a new idea. A watch-snake. which was run by army veterans and staffed by ‘trustworthy’ political prisoners. was placed inside and. He then inserted the lifeless body. Watching Santana feed became a regular weekend entertainment for our visitors. into his hinged jaws and. It was a box with a spring-loaded door. the door snapped shut and we had a tasty fresh. Then. for a while. We used to buy him live chickens once a week as he refused all other food. He was put into a cage .

Feeding Nimrod was a dangerous procedure: he would take meat only from your hand. they were able to save her cub. but we lost poor Nimrod. he hadn’t eaten for days and he bounded up to the car. one of many roaming the area. Gina had visions of taking him to Singapore and parading down Orchard Road with him on a leash. a very plain. never from a plate. Maybe he was bitten by a centipede or scorpion. our former accommodation. His lady love stood back in the bush. with his sweetheart. Clouded leopards are another of the rare species inhabiting the island of Borneo and one day an excavating team. Fortunately. running round in circles. thin and unattractive wild dog. She would be able to go anywhere. killed a mother leopard hiding in a gully. who was a very handsome dog. The big one just blinked his narrow eyes as Santana cuddled up alongside in perfect harmony — his own kind. his teeth became sharper and his growls louder and we began to think about what we would do with him when he was fully grown. he was just like a fat tabby cat but with one major difference: he didn’t purr. We found out about his romance after he had been missing from home for several days. barking with joy. It was a sad day. down any dark alley with such a companion. To all appearances. We finally found him at Decorient. he only growled. He found his own cosy place to sleep. One day. Soon after. Fred Bowser. near the flame. But his future was decided in a sad way. We fed him the things cats normally like — milk and eggs — but this baby refused everything except raw meat. His little teeth were razor-sharp and we all lost skin when feeding him. at last. clearing jungle for oil installations. We named him Nimrod and Gina was the best handler. its body as thick as a man’s thigh. he suddenly started to throw a fit. . When we found him. fell in love. and several times he included my thumb in his mouthful. The wild-cat baby was brought to us and we had our first experience of living with a true creature of the wild. and then dropped dead. watching to see what he would do.Borneo/Kalimantan 37 already inhabited by a huge 5m python. Gina was able to nurse him but he wouldn’t have a bar of the rest of us. under the kerosene fridge. As he grew bigger.


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We opened the back door and he leaped in. His sweetheart let out a piercing wail and he looked back at her and then at us, with great indecision. What was more important, he seemed to be thinking — food or love? He got in and out of the car several times, but his ugly little lady continued howling. Finally, his stomach got the better of him and he settled for the car. We took him home for a great steak lunch. Later that day, his real master, Mike Foster, came to the house with the news that he was returning to the US and would take Bowser with him to Philadelphia the next morning. So we lost Bowser, but we knew he was going to a better life. His sweetheart, however — a Madam Butterfly of dogs, if ever there was one — never forgot her true love. For weeks she sat at the gate of the helicopter camp, howling for her lost love. A few months later, we woke one morning to find a litter of newborn pups on our front doorstep. The deserted mother had brought her babies to us because she was too thin and weak to feed them herself. All skin and bones, head and tail drooping, she lifted her pathetic face and with pleading eyes asked for our help. There were six pups and we fed them and their mother until, after a week, she was able to feed them a little herself. The puppies were beautiful, all showing signs of their handsome father. It was easy to find homes for them but we kept one and called her Worthington. So Fred Bowser, the great lover, ex-Saigon street dweller, now Philadelphia dog of leisure, lives on today through his offspring in Kalimantan. Worthington herself later had a total of 24 pups, but she was a hopeless mother. She was a great favourite of the beachboy dogs so we had to treat her with a lotion that made her sexually unattractive to males. This nearly broke her heart as she didn’t understand why she was suddenly persona non grata to the opposite sex. She took her disappointment out on Mansur and Hereward by sitting in the middle of the ping-pong table whenever they started to have a game, making it impossible for them to play.



Our most beautiful pet was Cassius, a black-faced gibbon. He was a gift from an Indonesian pilot called Bambang Irawan and he came from the inland area of Muaratewi on the Barito River. He was a baby when he came to us, as his mother had been shot. Cassius was the very essence of nobility and dignity. He was an ape, belonging to the same primate group as orang-utans, siamangs, gorillas and humans. His arms were twice as long as his legs, and large and muscly and he held them high above his head to keep his balance when he walked. While sitting peacefully in my arms, he seemed to view the monkeys with disdain, as if to say, ‘What disgusting behaviour! How illmannered and rude! What awful creatures!’ On the rare occasions when Sam was introduced to company, he never lasted longer than a few minutes. He grabbed everything in his reach — beads, bracelets, sunglasses, pens — and did his best to destroy it. As everyone rushed to protect their possessions and drinks and cigarettes, Sam would be hustled back to his cage, protesting and behaving obnoxiously. Cassius, on the other hand, had elegant tea-party manners. He would view the mayhem caused by Sam and, once the malcontent had been removed, sighed, as if to say, ‘I told you so. You can’t mix socially with creatures like that.’ Sitting on my lap, he would examine my necklace, lifting it gently with his long black fingers, replacing it equally as gently. He nibbled daintily on biscuits, savouring the flavour and wiping the crumbs from his mouth with his tiny red tongue. Unlike the monkeys, who had storage sacks in their necks for excess food, Cassius ate as we did, until his stomach was satisfied. His greatest delight was to be tickled on the chest. He demanded constant attention to this pleasure and if you were slow to comply, or forgot momentarily, he would nip you gently on the arm. Cassius lived freely about the house and liked to hang from the rafters and survey the domestic scene. Walking towards my bed in the mornings for his tea and biscuits and earlymorning tickle, he presented a comic sight. He would first poke his head around the door to see if I was awake and then lope


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towards the bed with a sailor’s gait, his arms held high. With his marvellous black face and white flashing grin, he was always a welcome sight. I think Ed was a bit jealous of Cassius because he seemed so human. When we went away to East Indonesia, Sumba and Timor for two months, we left instructions for Cassius to be treated as usual. When we returned, however, he was dead. Mansur, thinking he was lonely without us, put him in the cage with the monkeys. He established his position of authority with them well enough but after a while he stopped eating and died. I believe he pined to death as a human child might if denied the love and companionship of his peers. Dear Cassius, rest in peace. An American friend Jim Carson, returning to the US, asked us to help find a home for his two pet bears. They were sun bears (Helarctos malayensis), known locally as bruang, and weighed about 45kg each. The Carsons reared them from babies and they were now fully grown and about 1.5m tall. We were too afraid of them to include them in our zoo, as they are quite fierce animals when aroused. There was a story going around the helicopter base about a pilot in Sumatra who had one as a pet. He always took the bear in the jeep with him and one day, when he came to a sudden stop, the bear was thrown forward and bumped his nose against the windscreen. In a rage at this indignity he turned on his master and, grabbing him by the ribs with his powerful claws, split his torso wide open. It may have been a helicopter tall tale, but we decided against the bears. Jim would go freely into the cage with these two and hand-feed them, but I couldn’t see myself doing that. On a later visit to Australia, I tried to find a home for them there by ringing all the zoos in the state capitals. In every case, however, the answer was a firm no. They said they could not accept bears that had been reared by humans as they were always neurotic and caused too many problems. I could see what they meant. Jim’s bears both sucked their thumbs continually and their digestive juices had worn away all the hair on their arms. Jim finally found a home for them in the Balikpapan Zoo.



Although we didn’t ever own an orang-utan, we were on visiting terms with an American called Tom from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who had two orang-utans, Bob and Betty. They lived in the high trees but loved being visited and always came swooping down for a kiss and a dance when we arrived. A kiss from an orang-utan is a unique experience — their lips are very soft and malleable and they purse them to a point as though rolling bubblegum, homing in on their object of desire and getting very smoochy. Their great, solid-brown eyes filled with love, they give adoring looks as if to say, ‘I know that my podbody, covered with thin straggly red hair, is ugly, but there is a lovely me inside.’ Hanging from a rope, they would do pirouettes for us, up on their toes, trying to look dainty. Like gibbons, orang-utans are very gregarious animals, and sometimes Tom would bring them to visit us at the beach house. On these occasions, they were always smartly dressed in caps, T-shirts and jeans. But Tom never got them into sneakers. The name orang-utan means ‘jungle man’ and they are not liked by village people. As they have a human appearance, they are often blamed for kidnapping women. (It is easier to put the blame on them if a naughty wife absconds.) They are also blamed for unexpected pregnancies.

The rules of the game
At the old golf course near the area known as Banana Town, there was a white edifice at the gate which looked like a cenotaph. There was nothing written on it so I made some inquiries. An ‘oily’ friend told me that a few years previously, a party of Australian ex-servicemen who had taken part in the Balikpapan landing in World War II came back for a reunion. They brought with them scholarships for local students to study in Australia and offers of medical treatment for especially urgent cases. The local military put on a great welcome for them, with much drinking and feasting and the giving of presents. They were housed in the best quarters and, as a mark of respect to


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their dead comrades, the Australians built the cenotaph and placed a copper plaque on it recording the service and the event. Everything went well until the time came to leave. When the last celebration was over, the local army presented the Australians with a bill for all their food and drink, all the gifts they had been given, all their accommodation and everyone else’s as well. The figure was so exorbitant that, after paying the incredible bill, the Australians marched in formation to the cenotaph, removed the plaque and took it home with them. In Suharto’s Indonesia the army was all powerful and beyond reproach. Some might say it was also beyond belief. I also heard a similar story about a golf competition. It was suggested to the Union Oil Company by Pertamina (Indonesia’s national oil company), that, as everyone liked playing golf, Union should put on a special competition: Americans versus Indonesians. The conditions were as follows: (1) Union would pay the rent of the course for five days; (2) Union would do all the organising; (3) Union would provide the celebration dinner at the end; (4) Union would donate all the prizes; and (5) only Indonesians would win prizes. To many people’s surprise, Union Oil accepted the bizarre conditions and the competition was duly held. At the concluding dinner, a thank you speech was made by the Pertamina captain and finished with, ‘It has been a great week’s golf. Next year, when the competition is held again, we all hope that the Americans can play a little better, and try a little harder, and then maybe they can win some prizes, too.’ These tales may or may not be true, but they are typical of expatriate gossip. The army in Indonesia was powerful in all things.

A thirst for knowledge
During our last year in Kalimantan, Ed’s job was to train Indonesian pilots how to work with a helicopter. They came to him fully trained as licensed pilots, but he had to teach them how to use the machine as a tool; how to lift and carry cargo and

A lifeline to the world It was so hot in Balikpapan. There was a staff of 12. The company was not over-enthusiastic about using these young Indonesian pilots but it was obliged to train them under its contract with the Government. In many cases. Subjects taught were English. Garuda. who had come to Balikpapan looking for work. as one of the conditions for working in Indonesia. It was a comprehensive school and included kindergarten and primary grades up to sixth grade for foreign children.Borneo/Kalimantan 43 generally service the oil rigs working in the area. There were copying machines. the idea being that Indonesians would eventually be able to do everything the foreigners did and run all operations themselves. as it is the official language of international aviation. textbooks galore and whiteboards. KLM. with eight classrooms and a lot of very expensive equipment and teaching aids. Everything . The English language is of prime importance to pilots. I would never criticise air-conditioning again. Pilots and engineers were quitting daily. Union Oil was a good employer and most of my students were educated to high-school standard. It had everything a teacher could dream of. The children hated the Indonesian oil company school and I knew I would have to find another solution. They were a very enthusiastic group — half girls. Most were ex-Air America pilots used to high wages and not used to hard bush flying. This clause applied to most operators. it worked well and the young pilots who came to us from the school in Jakarta were keen and enthusiastic and we did all we could to show them Western ways. the national airline. half boys. and a special Indonesian section for employees of the oil company. I got a job teaching English at the Union Oil complex on Pasir Ridge. bookkeeping and general business principles. Similarly. all from different islands of Indonesia. accountancy. projectors. My class of 15 were all beginners in English and were easy to teach as there were no bad habits to eliminate. was staffed by local pilots and engineers originally trained by the Dutch airline.

Malcolm Fraser. Thai. as well as in Cantonese. I had a real lifeline to the outside world in Radio Australia. paid a visit to the Governor-General. Radio Australia was popular with most of the local inhabitants. as I was waiting for the Union Oil car to collect me for work. it was difficult to believe this had really happened. the flag bearer . Every task was an effort because of the climate and everthing was outrageously expensive. so the Opposition Leader. I was aware that something quite extraordinary was happening away to the south and I was torn between staying glued to the radio and the responsibility to my students waiting for me at the Ridge. chiefly for the quality of its light music programs. which was being broadcast live from Canberra.44 Someone Else’s Country was at least 10 times harder in Balikpapan than anywhere else I had lived. the Liberal Opposition was able to block the Labor Government’s Supply Bill. but. As I listened through the crackling static. which I was able to pick up clearly. (I later found out that Radio Australia was also broadcast daily in English and Indonesian. Amid the difficulties of life in such an isolated outpost. thus denying money to the Federal Government. French. It was November and. in the jungles of Borneo. deep in the jungles of Indonesian Borneo. and which included such familiar and informative programs as AM and PM. how could we. and his Labor Government were dismissed and the Liberals took over.) It was through this valuable link to the world beyond Borneo that I learned of some startling and shocking events back home in Australia. Here I was. Japanese and Pidgin. Malcolm Fraser was appointed Prime Minister by order of the Queen’s representative. Governor-General Kerr. Vietnamese. listening to a minute-by-minute description of events that were to have far-reaching effects on Australia. Australia was a democracy. with the people’s will supreme. Sir John Kerr. The Labor Party could not continue to govern under such conditions. Because it had a majority in the Senate. The Prime Minister. I was listening to Radio Australia. Mandarin. Radio Australia’s coverage of these events was perhaps its finest hour. Gough Whitlam.

Living together in an alien environment. One had to be outside Australia at that time to fully understand the impact of these events on Australians living abroad. I felt a great sense of shame and anger. It’s only a game. fortunately. I was shattered. You make a big deal of longing for things at home which. What could I do? The next morning at school. but it becomes a protective device with which one can better weather the petty frustrations and uncomfortable situations that develop when you live and work in someone else’s country.Borneo/Kalimantan 45 of democracy in Asia. gumbo or prime Texas beef-steaks. With an eye for the dramatic. with Americans. your manners and customs. Germans and Canadians — a friendly cultural rivalry develops. you might never think twice about if you were there. you take sides to defend your way of life. French. with a Qantas connection to Sydney. the headmaster understood and granted me two weeks leave so I could fly home. in fact. without an election? Living in Asia. I booked a Union Oil flight to Singapore. English. I felt my country was in great danger and. be victims of a coup? Australia wasn’t Indonesia or the Philippines or Vietnam — we had a Westminster system of government! How could we go to bed with one government and wake up the next morning with another. Dutch. as part of . a lone Australian in a sea of Southern ‘oilies’. I was greeted by amused jibes from the other teachers. defending my Vegemite and pie floaters and now also trying to defend our parliamentary democracy. who were all Americans: ‘We thought Australia was a democracy!’ ‘Will the Queen chop off Gough’s head?’ ‘Don’t you have elections in your country?’ ‘You need a Boston Tea Party — how about a Vegemite Tea Party?!’ Although their teasing was not intended to be unkind. So there I was. When you live in an expatriate community — as I did. it was something I used socially when I found myself in a group extolling the virtues of cornbread. where such events were commonplace. My devotion to Vegemite was not genuine.

they took to calling me Colonial Shirl. with a crowd of reporters. I returned to Borneo.’ . I had visions of a grand entry to Mascot Airport. Is that true?’ he asked. At school. My plans thwarted. ‘Yes. I have brought along my own jungle weaponry. Australia lost out after those sad events: we were still a colony of Old England. who placed it in the cockpit under the captain’s watchful eye. The blow-gun was confiscated in Singapore and was carried on board the Sydney flight by security officers. He was fascinated with the idea that the Earth revolved around the sun and that the stars were in constant motion and an infinite distance away. With the Madigans. and the revolution I had feared never came. Americans — orang Amerika serikat. where my head was never held so high again.’ But. I helped distribute pamphlets at a polling booth on election day and then sat with them that night watching the election coverage on TV. He sat on the beach with Hereward in the evenings and they talked about the world — his and ours — and the stars and the universe. It was a grim night and we did not speak: Gough Whitlam was tossed out and the usurper.46 Someone Else’s Country my hastily packed baggage. so Mansur was thirsty for information of all kinds. I spent my two weeks staying with friends Ruby and Col Madigan in North Sydney. He believed the sun and moon drowned in the sea at night and emerged from the Earth the next day. where I would publicly declare. It was hard to continue boasting about Pavlovas and Vegemite. of course. I took along a Dyak blow-gun and a bamboo case of poisoned darts. ‘As my country has reverted to the law of the jungle. Malcolm Fraser. ‘Some old men in Ujung Pandang said that a man has gone to the moon. Then Australian customs held the gun in Sydney for several weeks. Realising there was nothing I could do. So much for proud expatriates and their delusions of grandeur. it was not to be. Mansur’s new life Just as Intan was enthusiastic about learning Western cooking. was officially elected Prime Minister.

A personal relationship built up between teacher and student by the exchange of photos.’ We had visited the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. and had a photograph of a moon rock held in a vice. Sometimes he would spend a whole day on one subject if he found it difficult or especially interesting.’ ‘And they put them in a museum and they are growing bigger and bigger. Hereward developed his own study patterns. And soon they will be bigger than a mountain?’ ‘No. corrections to lessons were returned within two weeks. Gina went on to complete high school in Amherst and came to us on holiday visits. so it was decided that Gina would go to live in Amherst. One day. Massachusetts. he knew his numbers well but for some reason he was terrified of writing — . Schooling for Gina and Hereward at Pertamina became impossible. he said to me. stapled together and put in an envelope for posting each Friday. Once he got over the hurdle of realising there was no teacher standing behind him. with Ed’s brother. Mansur loved this photo and spent a great deal of time studying it.Borneo/Kalimantan 47 ‘And they brought back a piece of the moon?’ ‘Yes. We paid $A75 dollars a term and the school paid postage from their end. They are still the same size. and Hereward would stay with us but be enrolled in the NSW Correspondence School. letters. It was a remarkably good school and gave Hereward one great ability: he learned how to learn. birthday and Christmas cards. He was torn between the wisdom of his elders and this new information from his Australian friends. But essentially he worked at his own pace and his only discipline was to see that all exercises were correctly collated. The correspondence school was excellent and.’ and so we did. The language and cultural differences were too difficult. Because Mansur was a good carpenter. The courses were well presented and Hereward was able to study on his own with very little help. even though we lived in a remote area. Many pieces. ‘We must teach Mansur to read and write. DC.

the garden watered and. he learned very quickly and kept his books well for more than a year. Keeper of the lamps was an important job. We never found out why he was so afraid but he was determined to conquer it and came back for more. we started with some Bugis words which were most familiar to him: ‘Aga kareba?’ (‘How are you?’). suddenly. types of cedar.’ (‘Very well. thank you. As it was mainly figures. Kerosene also had to be pumped for the cooker and the fridge. . There was no twilight. so he was soon able to set up in business and earn extra money. I decided to teach him some business skills. there were animals to be fed. as things were always breaking down. however. general handyman and lamp-lighter. Visitors to our house admired Mansur’s carpentry and soon asked if he could make tables. We gave him lessons in the evenings and. Living without electricity meant that every morning the kerosene lamps had to be taken down. however. time for Mansur to make furniture for our friends and. If the lamps weren’t ready. the role of odd-job man was itself a full-time one. bookshelves and beds for them.’) He treasured his exercise books and filled dozens of them. It ran on batteries so he collected discarded ones from the pilots and set them up. There was plenty of good wood available in Balikpapan. there was great confusion. as the orders began coming in. with sweat pouring from his forehead.20. We had more than a dozen lamps. Once he had learned the alphabet and could associate shapes with sounds. on a board. He made good extra money and was able to buy himself a tape-recorder. Mansur’s job with us was as gardener. such as mercoban and meranti. and improved its tone by building his own speakers. a dozen at a time. so it was an important job. the glass cleaned and the lamps refilled. There was. ‘Kareba medechi. although never when writing numbers. We bought an order book for quotes and another for accounts and costing. Living on the Equator meant that the sun set every evening at 6. the light was gone and it was dark. his hand still shook as he wrote words. with shaking hand. night after night.48 Someone Else’s Country even the idea of it. he would copy pages of letters.

Intan was pregnant and we all fussed around her. he was baffled. Learning to read maps was another exciting experience for Mansur. She would say: ‘No slee’ la’ nigh’ [no sleep last night]. making sure she had plenty of orange juice and extra-nourishing food. He could see Balikpapan only as the whole island of Kalimantan. as well as Intan’s and Khadir’s. The good diet was fattening them up and all the tropical ulcers had disappeared.Borneo/Kalimantan 49 After sunning them for several days. shown as a dot. They had been married for seven years and Kani spoke English with a cute Cambodian accent. and Kani was an exotic Asian flower. he was finally able to grasp its meaning. and the Straits of Macassar he had crossed in a boat. We had organised for her to go to the local hospital in Balikpapan for the birth. When news of the baby’s birth came. he joined them up and was able to get all the power he needed free of charge. An American. This would be a new experience for her but she agreed to try it. When first shown a map of Indonesia. We pointed out his home town of Ujung Pandang. He glued the map to the wall of his room and studied it for several weeks. Balikpapan. Jim was tall and handsome. had improved dramatically. Back in Sulawesi babies were always born at home. and his Cambodian wife Kani. . came to stay with us for a while. Jim Cavanagh. like a young Gary Cooper. we all went to the hospital to greet the new arrival — a girl.’ ‘A mow’ in the how [a mouse in the house]. corresponding with her own language. her English was fluent and one day a puzzled Mansur asked me.’ Apart from these minor mispronunciations. ‘How is it that Kani can speak such good English when her skin is the same colour as mine?’ Mansur’s health and appearance. Intan and Mansur had many Bugis friends and relatives in town so she went to stay there for the last week. She always left out the final consonant in her words. He found it impossible to visualise that the dot represented the city. then another dot which was his present home. Using his newly acquired reading talent and observing it carefully from all angles.

as well as a guarantee that the shop will buy it back from you at the current gold price. was warm and friendly and the nurses seemed kind. As the price of gold rises. necklaces or pendants. so your savings increase. We tried not to interfere with what was obviously a Bugis custom but we were allowed to dab on some Dettol to stop the inflammation. Big towns have hundreds of gold shops. Staff and patients were surprised to see Western visitors and a crowd gathered around the iron bed when we arrived with fruit and presents. holding her new baby. where it is weighed and verified. You then add more money to its value and buy a bigger piece and get a new receipt. however. ‘Isn’t that a pretty ring! Where did you buy it?’ But an Indonesian will . all together in rows. She had to provide her own kain (sarong) for covering the baby and her family came each day to bring her food and water as these essentials were not provided by the hospital. The buying of gold for Indonesians and most Asians is the rough equivalent of using a savings bank. When you have spare money. Two weeks later. when you have more spare money. you take the item plus the receipt back to the shop. the safety pins were replaced with tiny gold rings and the infection cleared up. such as Mansur now had from his carpentry business. Then. There were signs of infection and the poor wee thing was crying a lot. When Westerners comment on jewellery they say. There were 20 beds in Intan’s ward and she sat there shyly. earrings. large and rambling with seemingly endless walkways and corridors. The atmosphere. One distressing thing for us to see when the baby came home was that a safety pin had been stuck through each tiny ear. and even small hamlets will have one or two. It was stiflingly hot. The system is to buy the gold item which comes with a receipt. but Mansur and Intan were happy with it all and proud that their second child was born in a rumah sakit (hospital).50 Someone Else’s Country The hospital. you buy gold with it: rings. as there were only tiny windows high on the walls and no fans. was not clean by Western standards but certainly a better place than the crowded kampongs in which to have a baby. showing how many grams the item weighs and how many carats it contains. bracelets.

So the baby was named Liana and. he took the baby from Intan and. which spluttered and crackled. holding it carefully in his arms. Lee-ah-na. Approval was given by nods. after more prayers. decided on the name Liana. the name given to our recently born grandchild in Australia. built on layers of green banana leaves. turned to Ed and said. was burning in the middle of their room. sending out showers of tiny sparks. an uncle of Mansur’s. was sitting cross-legged before the fire. A special type of short three-cornered yellow banana was then passed around and we ate together. as we thought we had been invited merely as a courtesy. A fire of twigs. after a hurried conference. Ismail’s hand moved back and forth over the flames and then. ‘How many grams? How many carats? How much did you pay?’ They are always testing the market and looking for rises and falls. We had no idea we were to be participants. apparently blessing . They repeated it to one another. Intan was beside him.’ Ismail said the name a few times and then turned to the assembled group. holding the baby. was handed back to shy Intan and everyone burst into smiles and giggles. rolling the sound over. we were invited to join them. wearing a black peci songkok (the Muslim rimless hat). The smallest children were wide-eyed and edged away.Borneo/Kalimantan 51 say. ‘What is the baby’s name?’ Ed was startled. Ismail springled water and salt alternately on the fire. grabbing their mothers each time this happened. Ismail. It apparently had a pleasant sound to their ears and was in harmony with their language. Intoning prayers in Bugis. After they had chatted for a while. ‘Lee-ah-na. The christening One day. quite suddenly. 20 of Mansur’s relatives arrived without warning. We looked anxiously at one another and. The senior person. We took a place on the floor among the women and children and watched as certain rituals were performed.

He interrupted my lesson with a loud ‘shhh!’. Khadir was possibly the most spoiled child we had ever seen. don’t do that!’ We expected terrible jealousy on his part when the baby arrived. in fact. Flying was an unimaginable experience for Intan. ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘Shhh!’ he repeated and. he blew into it. We gave Mansur a small radio-cassette player. bought in Singapore on one of our visa trips. He was given everything he asked for and was never reprimanded. and Khadir immediately wanted it. After about a week. She took gifts of material for a blouse for her mother and a sarong for her father and some fruit. He dragged it round the garden and along the beach and banged it against trees. he gave in to her every whim and. Although the carrying case was wrecked. About six weeks later. clenching his fist into a ball. She grew into an exquisitely beautiful child and was adored by her brother Khadir.52 Someone Else’s Country the baby and her new name. Spirit signals When Liana was about six months old. He also played with broken glass but there was never a ‘No. and said goodbye to his wife and children with great dignity. Mansur let him go ahead and he sawed straight towards himself to within inches of his little penis. however. She is worried about her parents. As she grew. he tired of the game and left it lying under a palm. I was giving Mansur English lessons when a startled look appeared on his face. spoiled her in the way he had been spoiled by his parents. but he adored her from the moment he saw her. Before her arrival. Intan retrieved it carefully and put it away on a high shelf.’ She did look pale and was not eating well so we decided to send her home to Ujung Pandang for a visit. Mansur came to me and said. He then held the fist to his ear. ‘Intan is sick. Once Mansur was sawing up wood on a cross-bench and Khadir wanted to saw. it still worked well. There was a daily Bouraq flight from Balikpapan so we bought her a return ticket. ‘What’s the matter?’ I asked. but he was never reprimanded. Mansur was confident. He repeated this .

yes. The one on your right arm means be careful because danger is coming. ‘Don’t you get messages like that?’ ‘No. ‘Oh. She arrived home several days later. we say money is coming. The next day.’ I interrupted. In your left leg …’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Come on now!’ I said disbelievingly. ‘If you get an itchy palm. You have telephones and telegrams and radios. ‘Do you get those itchy spots which give messages?’ ‘Itchy spots?’ ‘Like an itchy feeling on your leg or your arm or your back?’ ‘No. After a few more puffs and more listening he nodded his head. She’s coming back soon. came home that night with a letter from Intan saying when she would be returning. Mansur?’ I was very puzzled. The one on your left arm means someone is trying to get in touch with you. He had learned all this from his father and for him it was a splendid method of communication. it means something good will happen. He frowned and said.’ he said. ‘What is it. What do they mean?’ ‘The itch in the middle of your back means you will be leaving where you are living and moving somewhere else.’ ‘That’s right!’ He was excited.’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Of course. ‘Not exactly like that.’ He thought for a while and then added.’ He recited a whole list of itchy spots and their significance. he set off on the 32km trip to Balikpapan and. If you get it in your right leg.Borneo/Kalimantan 53 several times and appeared to be listening intently. ‘But then you don’t need it. as though on the telephone. but now she . you do get them but you don’t notice them any more. I suppose. It’s because of all your electrical things.’ He then enlarged on the subject and asked.’ I laughed. fully recovered from her malaise. ‘It’s a message from Intan. There’s a message for me at Gunung Sari. we do have one. So that’s why you don’t get the messages. sure enough. ‘You see.

Meat and fish were mixed together for one dish. A cousin. One day. but the answer was no. Although she was Cambodian. . Sometimes. wading out into the sea. She asked Intan and Hasni if they had seen anyone. Kani and Jim Cavanagh moved into the two spare rooms at the northern end of our house and. Watching them talk to one another in their own language was a unique experience. Hasni. after Jim had gone to work. after Jim had left for work. very distressed. She woke in fright and he disappeared. scooped up several nets full. She had a huge catching device made from mosquito netting and. They all sat in slightly off. carved hand with fingers holding a mad collection of exotic rings. Buddhas in prominent places and a kitsch. was still plainly visible on the bottom half of the bed. a strange man had appeared at the bedside and had bitten her on the neck. was hired to help with her children and our household grew. locking the door from the inside as usual. Every now and then. she fried them with lots of mint and garlic and we all shared in this unusual dish. drifting white gauze curtains and masses of greenery. there would be a run of tiny red jellyfish in the sea out the front and Kani would get very excited at the prospect of cooking this delicacy. When the jellyfish were dried in the sun. however. and all appeared to be talking at the same time as they chopped the many varieties of mint which is the basic herb used in their cooking. the rooms were very soon transformed into a wonderland of her Cambodian imagination: circular doorways. with Kani’s expertise. the continuous hubbub would stop as though on command and they would all burst into laughter.centre positions and did not talk directly to one another. They often came out to the beach and spent the day cooking Vietnamese food and chatting. The imprint of his body. rolled in tissue-thin rice paper and fried. Their food was very delicious and different from anything I had tasted. Kani came to see me. She said that.54 Someone Else’s Country needed domestic help herself. Kani also spoke Vietnamese and was very friendly with the girls from that country who were married to other construction workers. and showed me some strange marks on her neck.

he introduced himself. laughing and pointing at her. extreme listlessness and a faint yellow discoloration of the skin. Not long after the centipede affair. Her explanation of the phenomenon was that certain spirits who used to live on the grass verges where the house was built had been displaced by the foundations. The doctor at the Union Oil hospital diagnosed them as insect bites of a virulent nature and told her to be careful. which worked well for those in the know. she ordered a whole batch of new Buddhas from Thailand and. The bites were bad and Kani was in an awful state. or haunted house of Sepinggan. who was to show us the way. But still the bites continued. after hearing my story. saying it sounded like hepatitis. Many strange things happened around that house and it wasn’t until some time later that we found out why it had been uninhabited for so long and was dubbed the rumah hantu. she was bitten again. There was a visitor among them and. I explained the symptoms and Jody offered to examine Hasni. the bitings stopped. I was at the helicopter base camp telling a group of pilots and engineers about this strange illness. Intan and Hasni developed flu-like symptoms with aching bones. when they were all set in place around the bed and on the windowsills. We drove to the hillside kampong of Gunung Sari with Mansur. I suggested she go to her kampong in Gunung Sari for a while until she felt better. . Hasni had it badly and also complained that she couldn’t sleep because small grinning yellow men were around her bed at night. he was a doctor and one of the interesting travellers who often found their way to Balikpapan via the aircraft hitch-hike system. His name was Jody Robinson. The network spread north to the Philippines and west to Malaysia and brought us many unexpected visitors. They were so angry at losing their natural habitat that they were biting her. and Jim decided it was centipedes.Borneo/Kalimantan 55 Several times during the next week. this time on the arms and legs. so he set the legs of the bed in tins of kerosene. With Jim’s help. For our family’s sake. The day she left. he suggested a good diagnosis would be wise.

‘What was the consistency of her stool? What colour?’ The questioning was getting worse so I pleaded my inadequacy in Bahasa Indonesia. was in semi-darkness with only one kerosene lamp burning. Then Jody asked. with a highly developed sense of decorum. Living 30 to a room without sanitation. All OK. Introductions were made to the elders by Mansur and formalities were exchanged. Jody took Hasni’s pulse and listened to her heart with his stethoscope. We asked to see Hasni and were led to a screen in a corner. The Bugis are a very courteous people. The elders were watching the whole time. however. According to the dukun. To this. he said. the dukun had added an explanation of how the condition came about. he suggested planting cactus by the doorway so they couldn’t enter. As an added precaution. Behind it. You didn’t stop to inspect it.56 Someone Else’s Country The Bugis-style house. built on stilts.’ I translated this to the elders and they all nodded politely and told me that this was exactly what the Bugis dukun baik (good doctor) had said earlier in the day. Jody did the best he could and then said. was inhabited by small yellow spirits. ‘I don’t think it’s hepatitis. all sitting on grass mats and eyeing us with suspicion. who had never been to our house in Sepinggan. Hasni lived in a house which was overshadowed by an extremely large tree. but she should rest for a few days and she’ll probably get better naturally. ‘How many times has she urinated? What was the colour?’ This was a hopeless question to ask someone living in such conditions. rose petals and the burning of incense. They were unhappy because the house had been built without the usual polite offerings being made to them. They were benign creatures but expected . Drink lots of boiled water. in his best general practitioner’s way and using me as interpreter. but it was correct medical procedure. This must be done in the form of cooked rice on banana leaves. This tree. There were about 30 people inside. the disposal of faeces was something one did hurriedly behind a bush and got away from as quickly as possible. so we continued.

We also heard stories that our house was haunted because the big tree at the back had been used as a hanging tree by the Japanese during World War II. Balikpapan had a preponderance of males to females at a ratio of about 10 to one. as their spirits drifted through the leaves. so I was told. Balikpapan’s bride-shop district was known as Banana Town and had a small harbour where the local banana boats came in to unload their cargo. the housemistress arranged the wedding. People said that sometimes you could hear the voices of the victims calling ‘Tolong! Tolong!’ (‘Help! Help!’).Borneo/Kalimantan 57 the common courtesies. well-respected Christian women. in their invisible state. Hasni had turned yellow because the spirits were yellow and. Coming mainly from Menado in Sulawesi. they were Christian and were brought to Kalimantan by the marriage brokers who were all. so brides were hard to come . The girls lived upstairs above the bar and. they sat at the tables. Most of the girls were in their middle teens and all were genuinely interested in finding a husband. saying that if she drank it her yellowness would disappear. board and lodgings to cover her expenses. or print wedding invitations. They sold brides. cakes or flowers. This water he later gave to Hasni. she took her percentage and deducted the cost of the girl’s travelling ticket. waiting for prospective bridegrooms to come by for a beer or a 7-UP. He had divined all this information by staring into a bowl of clean water. When all was completed. Brides with a difference Bride shops were something I had never encountered before. they often bumped into her. Her recovery came about as predicted by her Western and Bugis doctors. during the day. If a customer came several times and showed an interest in a particular girl and decided to marry her. Fringing the waterfront were a dozen small bars with bamboo chairs and tables for the customers and a display of brides. They did not sell bridal clothes. Two different paths led to the same conclusion and a complete cure was effected in a few days.

‘I’m glad you like it. with the shape of a house incised on it and the grooves coloured in with red. an area to which the Torajans had fled when their coasts were invaded by the Muslims. The roof was fluted. ‘I have a picture of my house in Toraja. ‘Orang tua! Orang tua [Parents! Parents]!’ they yelled. The proprietor introduced herself and explained that she came from Ujung Pandang. When they marry. They were lonely for their parents. they always keep in touch and send me pictures of their babies. and was a Christian. as the girls were so happy to see orang tua. The men here earn good wages so the girls are very lucky. A ladder led up to the house. The whole form was stylised and the result made a charming woodblock.’ ‘Is your business going well?’ ‘Very well. and which were used inside the house as decorations. but a carved piece of wood about 30cm square. When my business here is finished. I was born there and my family still live in it.’ She gave me the picture of her house. I have so many good girls here. Ed and I called in to one of the shops for a Coke and there was a great flutter of excitement among the girls.58 Someone Else’s Country by for the workers. I will return to Rantepao to live. which stood on wooden stilts. in Sulawesi. Framing the picture were designs in triangle and lozengeshape patterns. Would you like to see it?’ she asked. which were age-old Torajan motifs.’ I said. black and white paint. We don’t have any trouble. They are like my children. as I had expected. as the young oil and timber workers were sure of finding a wife of more lasting value than the girls working in the Valley of Hope or in the fishbowls in the girlie bars. One day. ‘It’s a lovely picture. They gathered around us. resembling a ship in full sail. all smiles and giggles. . The broking business prospered. and the windows were set at an angle like those at the stern of a Spanish galleon. She showed us a most unusual picture: not a snapshot. Her real home was inland at Rantepao in Toraja.

at 2pm. The insurance man. They couldn’t land near the wreck as there was no clear ground. It was a complete wreck but Mike suffered only a few scratches. We had a drink and something to eat and then went on again. he accidentally dropped it in the jungle. Jake was confident he could cut his way through this small area. he said. Mike Foster. exact location unknown. . as everything was so wet. We kept on cutting and creeping forward and by about midday we still hadn’t come to the wreck. We had to cut branches and vines for every step we took. but they found an open space about half a kilometre away. we heard the helicopter but it was far away. arrived and offered to let Hereward go with him while he assessed the damage. Hereward recounted the day’s events to me. There was no ground. owner of Fred Bowser. Ed left them in the clearing and said he would pick them up after lunch. snakes or any of those things you see in the movies.Borneo/Kalimantan 59 The lost helicopter It was 1975. Two days later. They were everywhere. another pilot picked it up in another 205 to sling it back to base for repairs. Hereward and two helpers. It was about 8am when we started to cut a track towards the wreck. We couldn’t see the sky. We’d been going for four hours. You can’t believe how thick that jungle was. He found it and said it looked like a pancake. so he was called north to search for the 205. particularly as he had a brand-new compass watch recently bought in Singapore which he was very proud of. We’d better make a fire. and at 366ft. it was all leaves and squelchy mud. Your dad will be looking for us. ‘I think we’re lost. Ed had been working to the south looking for two big helicopters lost in the Barito River. After a while. Only ants. slashing and scrambling. Mr Pearman was taking bearings all the time with his watch. Ed flew in with Jake. We came to great fallen logs and had to cut steps to get over them and clear away branches and tangles all the time. No sign of life anywhere. No spiders. crashed a 205 helicopter at the Pamaguen drill site. About 80km on. Mr Pearman kept checking his watch and compass and.’ It was hard to get it going. Jake Pearman. We finally made some smoke and it drifted up through the huge trees.

The old Holden Les had borrowed from the police chief stuck it out very well. the road was continued with Japanese war reparation funds. although we had to do a lot of pushing. we had gone round in a 180-degree circle and were now at least three kilometres from the wreck. but it then deteriorated into a muddy track strewn with stones and boulders. they jumped up on to . This time the helicopter circled us and Dad indicated. who showed us a marvellous display of old Chinese ceramics. In about half an hour. gifts to the Sultan from visiting potentates in times past. On the journey back. we saw a hair-raising method of transporting timber: boys rode bicycles with four six-metre long logs strapped to the handlebars and seat. For the first hour or so. When the road was finished. At that time nearly all transport was by boat or air. a great swarm of people descended on us. with hand signals. We were given VIP treatment from the curator. Instead of following a straight line. Samarinda. sometimes passing through bogs. They didn’t often see tourists up there. the road was bitumen. but the old name stuck. that only a short distance to the right there was space enough to land. visitors were rare. They pushed the bikes up the hills and when they reached the top. the old Kutai capital north of Samarinda. As we swung into the forecourt. Into the wilderness One day our friend Les Smith took us for a trip into the wilderness.60 Someone Else’s Country We decided to move on and try to find a more open space. It was primary jungle on both sides of the track and there were no signs of human habitation. When Sukarno was overthrown and Russian aid withdrawn. An hour later. Mr Pearman took off his watch and jumped on it. it would link Balikpapan with the capital. we could actually see some blue sky so we made another fire. We took the Russian Road to Tanggarong. We reached Tanggarong at lunch-time and drove up to the old Sultan’s Palace. even so. we got into the clearing and Dad explained what had gone wrong. It had been turned into a museum but. when the Russians were giving aid to Indonesia. The road got its name because it was begun in President Sukarno’s time.

smiling man. They called him the Smiling General. the Bell 47G4. giving that great flashing Indonesian smile. I wondered. He looked so small and normal and unimpressive — just a nice. It may have been a cheap way to move logs but it was a suicidal way to earn a living. When Suharto left the plane. In the briefing room at base camp. the geologist pointed out the area to Heidenrigg on a map. cruelly corrupted by the pilots and engineers to Shitty Cock. Because of the weight of the logs. the reality of such a person.Borneo/Kalimantan 61 the logs and free-wheeled downhill as far as they could. They had no control. What was the reality. chartered a small helicopter. Into Dyak country Apart from slinging mud to the rigs. Sir’). another job for the company pilots was to carry visiting scientists to remote areas in the jungle. except the steering. ——————— I saw President Suharto in December 1975. they reached very high speeds and all passed us on the downhill sections. Bapak’ (‘Welcome. He flew in to Balikpapan to open a new project and I joined the crowds of Indonesians waiting to get a glimpse of him. The pilots were puzzled as to why I was going. I wanted to see the man who controlled the life and destiny of 140 million people. followed by a retinue of aides. . John Heidenrigg was a pilot and a bit of a loner and it was on one of these trips that he made his first flight deep into Dyak country. dropping dynamite to drillers and relocating rigs. I was surprised by his appearance. in the flesh. They shouted and waved as they tore past. but I wanted to see what power looked like. Flags were everywhere and a huge sign draped across the terminal proclaimed ‘Selamat datang. all dressed in their best. A Dutch geologist with the unlikely name of Scheite Kerke. for an emergency run to see a seismic party working about 64km up a tributary of the Mahakam River. These boffins were usually in a hurry and were flown in by helicopter when problems arose.

railways. A helicopter is an inherently unstable machine with innumerable moving parts and there is always the chance that one of them will fail and induce a sudden stop. After going across several bends in the river. even if total flying time is increased. checked with the control tower and given details of his direction and estimated time of arrival. Heidenrigg turned west and began following the river through its tributaries and winding circumlocutions.’ Eventually the Mahakam River appeared below them with its small riverine villages.’ Kerke pointed. There were two ways of making this first leg of the journey: flying along the coast to the delta of the Mahakam River and fixing on the small port of Handal Dua. Samarinda was an important trading centre for east Kalimantan as well as being the seat of government. Samarinda. ‘Good road. ‘Sure is. hier. he could always land on the river.62 Someone Else’s Country ‘I want go somewhere. Easy to see. they saw below them the river town of Tanggarong. unless there is some prominent landmark. . mosques and air-control tower. They set off from Balikpapan and headed for the provincial capital. So helicopter pilots always try to follow roads. with its port facilities. ‘Vot is dat big white building?’ Shitty Cock asked excitedly. If the landing pad was unsafe. rivers or beaches. or following the Russian Road through the jungle. because rivers in Kalimantan twist and turn like demented snakes and every bend looks the same from the air. Zay will cut one. ‘I zink it is ziz one. Having noted his position.’ said Shitty Cock over the intercom.’ he said in his thick accent. wharves. Easy to follow. The road cut a swathe through the high forest like an angry red and yellow scar. John decided on the Russian Road route as it was shorter than the coastal route and easy to follow. ‘Will we be able to land? Is there a pad? I will radio. ‘Do you know which bend in the river it is?’ John asked. so they have some visual navigation and the possibility of a safe landing if something goes wrong. just in case. and then the city of Samarinda.’ John decided to put floats on in case there was no pad and to follow the river all the way. The intercom crackled to life.

they raced round and round the machine. ‘Hope it’s OK to land here. all wearing excited grins. getting closer and closer until John and his passenger had to leap out and warn them to stay clear of the still-turning blades. which startled the geologist. A legacy from the old colonial days of Dutch rule meant that many older people in Indonesia still spoke Dutch.’ John said. I want to look. ‘Selamat datang. hand outstretched in welcome. As though an ant’s nest had been kicked. Then all hell broke loose. the geologist turned to John and said. I’ll fly around so you can get a good look.Borneo/Kalimantan 63 ‘It’s the old palace of the Sultan of Kutai. Welcome. is all but invisible to the unwary. John brought the machine lower and lower until it landed gently in the centre of the forecourt. ‘Not exactly. Shitty Cock was that very important personage. The small tail-rotor blade presented the greatest danger as it spins vertically and. Like whirling dervishes.’ ‘From Holland?’ The official then burst into a torrent of Dutch. it looked resplendent in the bright sunshine. Set back from the river. catching the innocent humour. ‘Like to go down and have a look?’ John asked. He was a bit troubled but relaxed when the crowd parted and a small smiling man in khaki uniform came forward. ‘The palace and museum are closed but . the formerly deserted area suddenly sprang to life as hundreds of children and adults poured in. the customer. It was an unwritten company rule.’ They circled and could see clearly the courtyards and gardens surrounding the main building.’ He made a polite bow. ‘Yes. ‘But I am an American. Its forecourt was a wide open space the size of a football ground. My friend here is from Holland. After a lengthy conversation in Dutch.’ said John.’ After checking for overhead wires and other obstructions. when in motion. and he must be pleased at all costs. tuan. He knew the rules of the helicopter game. ‘Have you just come from America?’ The Dutchman smiled. Vee haf plenty of time.

camphor. and the royal bedroom. The bed. in the great trading deals of those centuries. which had been smashed. which were rare. Shall we go in?’ Followed by a crowd of excited children and adults. . It was explained that the Sultan now lived in an ordinary house in Tanggarong. During the Japanese occupation. John had never taken much interest in old things before but as he observed the mounting excitement in the eyes of the geologist. even after many attempts. No one was quite sure exactly when this had happened but everyone in Tanggarong was sad because. the Sultan’s treasure was hidden there. tortoiseshell and shark-fin. Off the bedroom was a hidden staircase. bird’s nests. he began to take note. were gifts and payments to the various incumbent sultans in exchange for pepper. a gift from the Emperor of Thailand to the Sultan of Kutai more than a century before. which was decorated with dangling beads. according to the guide. when the portrait was put together again. which indicated some sort of hanky-panky. by the communists. Artists could not correct it. The visitors were shown the royal throne. only a wink from the official. There was a beautifully carved reclining chair. The aerial tourists could not elicit a straightforward explanation for the original purpose of the hidden staircase. they were shown a mosaic portrait of the second-last Sultan. was huge and looked capable of accommodating a very fat sultan and numerous wives.64 Someone Else’s Country they will make an exception for us. Some of the oldest pieces. dating from the 14th century. Beyond the throne room lay the museum proper. Back in the throne room. which led to a room below. and used the palace only for state occasions. sneering expression. so many of the tiles were missing that the Sultan’s face had taken on a mean. trailing silks and tassels. with its yellow silk draperies and gilded woodwork and canopy. It housed a fine collection of Chinese porcelain. they walked towards the white building. examining one treasure after the other. as we dropped in so unexpectedly. given in response to a trade and friendship agreement concluded at that time.

He learned that Chinese ceramics had always been acknowledged as a high art form. that the word porcelain came from the Portuguese word for seashell. He showed John blue and white plates and pots. As part of his daily job of flying men and materials around the jungles of Borneo. He saw that he was in a unique position to collect things from remote parts of Borneo that people in Europe and America would be prepared to pay high prices for. decorated with sprays of peonies and medallions with storks standing onelegged in a lotus pool. early explorers from Europe believing the glaze on the pots was made from crushed shells.Borneo/Kalimantan 65 ‘You find all this old stuff interesting. Very. The opportunity was not lost on him. this day at Tanggarong became a watershed. blanc-de-chine vases and figurines from the 15th century. Look at the beautiful colour of this vase. very beautiful. and Sawankoloke and Sukhothai pots from Annam and Thailand. It wouldn’t be by robbing museums or anything outrageous like that. green celadon dishes covered in thick apple-green glaze dating from the Yuan and Sung dynasties. In his life as a helicopter pilot.’ He lowered his head and continued to devour with his eyes everything he saw. Big money. But all this is very old. Many treasures here.’ He indicated a vase about one metre high. But if all these antiques were here. Very good. I have my own collection in Amsterdam in my house. Mr Shitty Cock?’ ‘It is incredible. Heidenrigg was getting a crash course in antique oriental pottery. It is the famous blue and white from the Wan-li period which might date from the 15th century. He didn’t yet know how he would go about it. He listened intently to everything Shitty Cock said. then the odds were there was more of this kind of thing around. it was like finding traces of gold in a riverbed. He filed all this away for future reference. . He also learned that European collectors were very interested in acquiring good pieces. ‘It is pair to this plate. From at least 300 years old. in the upper reaches of the Mahakam River. Incredible! Always I have been interested in antique porcelain. porcellana. To him.

waving back gaily. There was plenty of small craft on the river and also an endless trail of logged timber being floated down to its collection point .’ John said. following the course of the river but flying directly and cutting across the endless sweeping s-bends that the river made in its tortuous journey towards the sea. There seems to be something about a chopper that drives people wild. I forgot why I am here in the first place. I am just so astonished to see all these treasures hidden away in the jungle. ‘My Gott! Look at this!’ He was pointing to a large pottery urn decorated with dragons and covered with a deep-chocolate glaze. as the geologist adjusted his spectacles to inspect a small rice bowl in pale apple-green glaze. and not only in remote areas either. For a moment.’ ‘Of course. We have to locate that seismic pad and leave plenty of time to get back to Balikpapan. John had already seen enough to fire his interest so he felt it was time to call a halt to the grand tour. to the delight of the crowd. We could easily get clagged in. He circled the town. Doc. ‘I’ve seen crowds like this in New Zealand and California. ‘We are like film stars. acknowledging the waves and wild cheering of the crowd. Have to allow plenty of time out here.66 Someone Else’s Country He was shocked back to reality by an explosive exclamation from the geologist.’ muttered the geologist. which he said were Annamese. Then. ‘Excuse me. ‘Iz always like zis? People so excited?’ ‘Always. John started up the engine and lifted off. Just guess and go. of course. which had by now doubled in size and which must have included every inhabitant of Tanggarong. ‘Stupid of me. Amazing!’ They said their thanks to the curator and made their way back to the helicopter. No weather reports. ‘I think we’d better be moving off.’ he said. Weather is very uncertain in this area.’ said the geologist. ‘Fantastic!’ The exclamations continued over small Sawankoloke and Sukhothai plates and some ginger jars.’ They continued west.

shallow lake which appeared. he circled a small promontory jutting out into the river and looked for some sign of human . They are not far into Dyak territory. Bugis and Butung. Nothing but green. They flew across a large. like all the rivers in that part of the world. marshy swamp. Maps were often wrong in these parts. parallel to the river and raised above the ground on thick piles. Java. they also provided casual labour for the timber companies which had been working there for years. But maybe it would be on the left. there were six more bends to go and they should pass a high hill on the right. They continued to fly west and at a point where a tributary from the north-east flowed in to join the Mahakam. ‘Very interesting. ‘Dyak country. to be full of greenish.’ said John over the intercom. Riverine villages grew in little clumps every four or five kilometres. bananas and coconuts around the villages. except for those bordering the river and into the plantations of cassava. Mainly subsistence farmers and fishermen. counting the curves and passing over more Dyak villages. ‘Yes. There were no roads or even tracks. According to the map. yes!’ The geologist perked up. There was no land. It looked positively rank and fetid. This was still Muslim country. from their altitude. The villagers’ only contact with the river was through this marshland. The river was the road and the only means of long-distance travel and communication.Borneo/Kalimantan 67 at Samarinda. He flew on. No cultivation. the villages with the silver domes ceased and gave way to quite a different type of habitation. There were cultivated gardens surrounded by long shed-like buildings. The river itself was brown and muddy. unhealthy-looking water. At the sixth bend. each one clustered around a silver-domed mosque. running in rows. The people here came originally from Indo-Malaysia. We must be quite near the seismic pad. but clustered at one end was a village with all the houses built on stilts over this dank.’ John consulted his map again and started counting the s-bends from the junction of the rivers. stagnant water.

which the beating blades caused to swirl and envelop the eager spectators who had gathered. The crowd. felled trees for the chopper pad. Are you sure this is the place?’ ‘It’s where you showed me on the map. They’ve probably supplied labour to cut the trails. under his instructions. Nothing. in his careful and precise English. ‘but please come to my village. of course.’ John said. This crowd. stayed well away. As the helicopter landed. There are people who will give you directions. And also. looking on politely. with the headman. for sure.’ ‘Do you mean the seismic party?’ ‘Yeh.68 Someone Else’s Country activity. ‘I’ll go back to the fork in the river. Doc?’ ‘No. said. Do they know to light a fire? So we can see the smoke? ‘Of course. at least. they made their way along the riverbank. let’s hope.’ he said in English. ‘People there are bound to know where the party is.’ Not far from the junction. They’re supposed to be working somewhere near here. it raised a storm of fine red dust.’ They both strained their eyes looking in all directions but could see nothing except the endless expanse of thick. was more restrained than the mad clowns at Tanggarong. ‘Good morning Sir. not even a village. ‘What do you want?’ John eased himself out of the machine and. impenetrable jungle. a dignified man. and followed by a small group of leaping children. shaking the proffered hand. The expected mountain had not turned up on either side of the river but they were.’ said the man. There was none. that’s right. at the required distance from the junction. came forward to greet the arrivals. alerted by the preliminary circling. there was a cleared area near an abandoned timber camp. ‘See anything down there.’ ‘I do not know.’ So. however. obviously in charge and with a commanding personality. When the dust settled and the blades had stopped. They are experienced bushmen. The . ‘We’re looking for the white men with the wires and the box that makes a big bang.

Borneo/Kalimantan 69 path led through groves of bananas and coconuts. Next they brought a tray set with cups made from coconut shells. however. on the floor. With polite bows of acknowledgement. the longhouse came into view. then vegetable gardens and small patches of corn and tapioca. and a darting glance at what looked like shrunken heads hanging in the halflight above them. It was a ridge-roofed building raised high above the ground on hardwood piles. baskets. Children giggled. The geologist took a . thanks. brought in one by one a group of men. cross-legged. As he had suspected in Tanggarong. the headman and his councillors downed their drinks with gusto. two women came in with rattan bowls of ripe bananas. Once all introductions had been made. As John dutifully chewed on his banana. Some of it must have been sitting there since the days of the earliest Chinese traders. The Dutchman. there was plenty of this old stuff around. ‘Oops! Not for me. apparently his councillors. Pigs were scuttling and squealing among the children. baby. I’m flying!’ John had heard about the Dyak firewater before. around a bend in the river. oars. wearing his rattan cap. each filled with a greenish liquid. muttering something about flying regulations and safety precautions. The headman invited the visitors to sit on tikars in the centre of the corridor. He declined with a shake of his head. other utensils and something which made John’s eyes pop open with surprise: a collection of large blue. Finally. he took a cup of the viscous liquid. dogs and chickens near the entrance. unlike the Muslim Malays. eat pork and also indulge in other nonMuslim pastimes such as the drinking of intoxicating liquor. and introduced them to the visitors. green and chocolate-coloured Chinese ceramic pots. In the corners were piled fish traps. was quite swept away with the unusual experience and. The headman. Shy female faces peeped from the doorways of these cubicles. paddles. they took their seats. in different shapes and sizes. with one eye on the pile of blow-pipes leaning against the wall behind the headman. The atmosphere was warm and friendly. The inside of the longhouse was divided in half: a long corridor on one side and the other partitioned into family living compartments. Dyaks.

Might get the wrong idea.70 Someone Else’s Country tentative sip. calling for another round of drinks. he took a good Dutch-sized swig. he looked as though he wouldn’t survive the day. was shocked and donated the packet of aspirin he was carrying in his pocket. pressing on his chest until they had squeezed out all the pain. that he had fallen out of a tree and broken some ribs. John interrupted with a smile. This had already been applied to the man and. We can’t stay any longer. ‘Iz very goot.’ But their hosts took the remarks as complete approval and. Then another. over the groans of the patient. Within easy retching distance of each member of the party were the famous vomit holes always cut into the floor of Dyak houses. . Something like Bols. ‘Balls to you too. Bols.’ At the mention of the word ‘doctor’. the councillors pricked up their ears and the headman began to explain all the illnesses. After a couple of rounds with the coconut cups. They seem to understand more than you think. buddy. The bearers were pleased with the doctor’s medicine and carried the victim out to administer it and. The more you vomit. with everyone smiling and trying out their English phrases. cuts and abrasions of the members of the longhouse. The geologist. Can you tell us where the seismic party is? This man with me is a doctor and he has to find his party today. The traditional Dyak cure for such a condition was for a number of people to sit on the injured person. You know Bols?’ turning to John. At least that might ease the man’s journey into oblivion. ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse us. by the greenish tinge of his face. were preparing to settle down to a steady day’s drinking. Finally. ‘Iz goot!’ he announced appreciatively. sores. Take it easy around these Dyaks. Most people knew of the prodigious drinking prowess of the Dyaks and the holes were an important part of the game. hearing the story. no doubt. the more you can drink and it all goes down below to be gobbled up by the pigs. chief. A man on a rattan stretcher was carried in and the headman explained. continue squeezing his poor pain-racked body.

they took off to retrace their flight up the main river. and about the joys of nightlife back in Balikpapan as opposed to nights in the jungle. In spite of the discomforts of the job. But how could he get his hands on them. whose artificially elongated ears dangled down to their shoulders in traditional fashion. Almost 15km further on. respectful faces of the six Dyak workers. the headman began his explanation of the location of the seismic party. John kept up a desultory conversation with the two young drillers but the ceramic pots kept intruding into his mind. They had indeed found the correct branch of the river but the position of the mountain was out by about 10km. wearylooking faces of the European seismic crew and the shy. No wild cheering here: just the four sweaty. seeming almost to dismiss them. To the usual fluttering of hands and swirling of dust. John set the machine down in the middle of the clearing. they saw the wispy trail of smoke towards the midday sun. A small clearing had been made in the jungle and a rough but secure landing pad constructed from felled trees. There had to be money in it. They would need to fly further up-river. discussing the hazards of life on the seismic trail as opposed to life as a helicopter pilot. Bangkok or Bali. ‘But please come back. they made their way back to the helicopter.Borneo/Kalimantan 71 Hospitality having been extended and courtesies returned by the medical service. The other two were rough and ready Australians and they chattered on. Shitty Cock greeted the two senior men in Dutch and they immediately fell into a deep discussion about whatever their particular problem was. We have many sick people and need your help.’ With the doctor descending unsteadily from the longhouse. With little difficulty. biscuits . he was sure. You are welcome in my house.’ said the headman. they agreed it was worth it to have a pocket full of money when they went on leave to Singapore. and how could he realise a profit? It kept his mind occupied as he sipped coffee and shared dry cake. ‘Go now. Please come back and stay as long as you like. Their heads and bodies were swathed in a weird assortment of brightly coloured rags and sarongs.

The Dyak cook served up quite a tasty stew of corned beef and boiled cassava with hot chillies sprinkled on top. and John was not unduly worried. It is a monochromatic landscape. except for the very occasional flash of red or white from a giant flowering tree. The jungles of Kalimantan have few variations of light. so he decided to bear off to the right and head for a break in the clouds that appeared safer. directly in their path. Except in the early mornings and just before sunset. Long way back and we wasted a lot of time this morning. however. they took off and headed east. he could see quite clearly. Following the course of the river was no longer possible. The whole storm pattern now appeared to be moving south. There were several gaps in it. the tones are all a murky. Samarinda. The Dutchmen were still deep in conversation and John never found out exactly what their problem was. Cutting across the trackless jungle below. After saying farewell to the rather forlorn group. Doc. hazy greenish-grey. His top speed was not more than 80 knots and he could see that he would not make the gap before it closed. ‘Excuse me.’ Shitty Cock nodded to his companion. It was at least three hours flying time back to base and there were often cloud build-ups in the afternoon which might necessitate a more circuitous route. was rapidly closing. when an ominous bank of dark clouds appeared on the horizon. with its promise of bright light behind. He looked back to the left-hand edge of the cloudbank and saw with relief that it was breaking up in that direction. They passed over and waved to the Dyak village of their morning visit and were half an hour on their way to the first checkpoint. as the cloudbank was particularly black in that direction. . By about two o’clock. Of course. standing knee-deep in the undergrowth. I think we’d better get moving. he decided it was time they left.72 Someone Else’s Country and jam with the party. This meant he could change direction and pass through it on the trailing edge. The rain flurries that had spotted the windscreen bubble tailed off and. a seemingly bottomless green ocean of leaves. although the sky was dark.’ ‘Yes. he flew on for a further 15 minutes and then noticed with dismay that the gap.

.Borneo/Kalimantan 73 As he made a 90-degree turn to the left. But search as he might.’ The information seemed to indicate that the front was moving south. ‘The damn front’s changed direction!’ It had. Proceeding north to avoid bad weather. Call five minutes out. Over. Checking his fuel gauge.’ He made several repetitions of the standard phrases before there was a crackling reply. made a 180degree turn and was now racing north. ‘Samarinda from Poppa. I suppose. Estimate one hour’s flying time from Samarinda. ‘God. It was not a common occurrence in Kalimantan. even further to the north. Longdistance jets. Over. Maintaining 1800ft. Wind one three zero. Light flurries of rain began to sprinkle the bubble again and he noticed a distinct wind change. the expected break did not happen.’ thought John. and he would possibly have no difficulty making it through as long as he moved north. on occasion. looking for the clearing in the break-up of the front. ‘Uniform Hotel Poppa. no!’ he thought.’ ‘Samarinda from Poppa. This is Uniform Hotel Poppa. ‘Hello Samarinda! Samarinda. he flew north for about 20 minutes. present position now 16km south of Long Bleh.’ But there was a small niggling at the back of his mind. John called the Samarinda control tower.’ ‘Poppa from Samarinda. Due to bad weather. This is Samarinda. Do you read me? Over. Go ahead. in fact. Over and out. Thank you. had to abort flights and return to base because of the inconsistent behaviour of these errant fronts.’ ‘Pretty typical. John saw that he would soon have to make a decision. Will call again in 15 to 30 minutes. Did they understand what he had said? Putting the doubt aside. Visibility one and a half kilometres. Overcast 300 metres. ‘I get all sorts of unrequested information but at least they heard me. but it happened often enough to be a source of worry to all pilots. Twenty knots. Flashes of lightning in the thick black cloud ahead of him hastened the decision. Light rain. not just helicopter pilots.

Samarinda! Samarinda! This is Uniform Hotel Poppa!’ He made several calls. We have enough to get back to Long Bleh. with the lightning increasing. The Samarinda tower usually shut down early anyway. through the crackles. Doc. Over and out. Returning to seismic pad up-river from Long Bleh.’ It was a lucky break for John. ‘Sorry about all that. ‘Uniform Hotel Poppa.74 Someone Else’s Country ‘Samarinda. Good luck. This is Bouraq flight 187 to Balikpapan. But I suppose you could see what was happening. but there was no reply. John called his passenger on the intercom. ‘They’ve probably gone off to play cards or soccer. Please inform helicopter base Balikpapan unable to return to base. All that racing up and down has left us very short. Send fuel for return journey. Will relay to Balikpapan. the decision was easy for John.’ ‘Message received and understood. not expecting anything from me for an hour or so. Then.’ He called again and again.’ ‘Maybe we can stay the night in the Dyak village?’ Remembering the discomfort of the seismic pad and the friendly longhouse and the hospitality there. regardless of the weather conditions and any aircraft flying in the area. yes.’ Great! The scheduled Bouraq passenger flight had picked up his signal. came a very faint reply. . But where do we go now?’ ‘We’re going back west and will have to stay overnight and wait till they send us more fuel tomorrow. so a message direct to Balikpapan would be a better idea.’ ‘Of course. but now they really were on their own and had to find their way back to the jungle pad. It was getting darker by the minute. The bubble now began to blur up with the increasing rain and the sky became darker and darker. so it was a relief to turn west and leave the rain and turbulence of the storm behind. suddenly. ‘Damn idiots. Over.’ he thought. ‘Bouraq from Poppa. Give me your message and I will relay it to Samarinda.

according to the stories he had heard. it was bad form to do otherwise in Dyak territory. and they looked eagerly for signs that they were in Dyak land again. whose name was Joseph. Got to get you home safe and sound. But he selected one and she did a solo dance. dark and ominous and relentlessly closed against any escape while. depending on your state of inebriation. The serene yellow light in the great arch of the sky unfolded above the heavy green and silent sea of the jungle. We Dutchmen can handle anything. away to the east. but John groaned inwardly. Full of Dyak juice. Finally. and to smooth the . As well as copious drinking. But watch yourself on that jungle juice.’ The Dutchman chuckled. He was not a strong drinker and he knew he would have to brace himself for the coming evening. He would have to accept as much hospitality as he could as. the driller applauded wildly and called for a repeat performance. ‘Don’t worry.Borneo/Kalimantan 75 ‘You’re right. he was informed by the smiling chief that the act of choosing one girl was in fact a proposal of marriage. But in order to do so. to the west. They asked him which girl was the best dancer. We’ll stay in that village. Preparations were already under way for a big celebration. To his great consternation and dismay. Not only bad form but dangerous. Doc. It was only an hour before sunset and quite late enough to be flying around in the jungle. the village put on a group of dancers who capered around to the beat of drums and bamboo flutes. past the silver-domed village mosques. the huge heap of black thunderclouds racing north. As they circled prior to landing they could still see. there was already the beginning of a golden glow of the sunset soon to come. Very strong!’ After 30 minutes they were well back along the course of the Mahakam. Sobering up the next day. One story he had heard concerned a young driller who stayed overnight in a longhouse. he managed to buy his way out of the arrangement. said he knew they were coming back. Their return caused great excitement in the village and the headman. or bad. According to him they were all good. the familiar village came into view. The news brightened the Dutchman’s eyes.

76 Someone Else’s Country hurt feelings of all concerned. He had seen them being used by the logging contractors and oil explorers and was quick to see their tremendous advantage over wooden paddles. There had been a European missionary in the area some years before. carried babies on their backs in hand- . At the end of the day. Joseph led John and Shitty Cock along the path and they were surrounded as before by a swirling crowd of smiling and excited children. and began asking questions. ‘I hope you like my answer. Kenyah. Joseph explained that one of his dearest wishes was to get an outboard motor for his canoe. It was hard to establish just which branch of the many Dyak tribes these people belonged to.’ No matter how the question was phrased. which one. the reply always came with a rising inflection and a smile that seemed to imply. it cost him all his rupiahs and everything of value he owned. ‘Yes. If the geologist asked. lolling by their doorways. Shitty Cock was curious. Kayan or Punan?’. The house. People were running up and down the steps and in and out of doors. villagers returned to the longhouse as a city dweller would return to his street. however. cap. so everyone was able to converse quite easily in English. Kayan and Punan’. belt. which was about 60m long. when work on the tapioca. including his torch. the answer would come back with a smile. About 30 families lived in this longhouse. seemed like a village street. camera. ballpoint pen. ‘I just might be able to help you there. ‘Which tribe are you from? Is it Iban.’ The visitors never found out which particular tribe these Dyaks belonged to. which in fact. penknife and even his last cigarette. Joseph. is essentially what it was. watch.’ said John. Iban. I want you to be happy. rice paddies or the river was over. Plans were already forming in his mind and he was waiting for the right opportunity to put them into action. Kenyah. Mothers. ‘But which one?’ ‘Yes. The longhouse was full and bustling with activity when they arrived. only that they were extremely hospitable and kind.

You really want that. There were bananas. and had the surprising flavour of strawberries. don’t you? How much would it cost? Have you any ideas on that?’ ‘Eight hundred thousand rupiahs [$A1. river shellfish boiled whole and sticky rice cakes flavoured with ginger. crisp. Served on leaves. of course. It was covered with an easily peeled. shells and glass. Everyone settled down on the tikars and the food was brought in. Yeh. shiny tan of the Bugis and Javanese. mostly about one and a half metres tall. It was all part of the fun. There was also the pear-shaped salat.’ Joseph’s reply was immediate and John was startled at the accuracy. That outboard motor for your canoe. Then came the rice wine. my friend. The flesh was sectioned. Don’t you like my party?’ ‘Sorry.600]. Everyone applauded wildly at the end and there was a fresh round of drinks — not to mention a few bouts of wild vomiting into the prescribed holes. But I’m thinking about other things. the price Joseph suggested was very close to that being asked in Balikpapan. brown skin patterned like snake scales. One was a yellowish-green colour. cloves and pepper. to the accompaniment of gong music played by women in the background. It’s really a swell party. the party began to pick up pace. which they knew. Joseph sat beside John and said. but the skin peeled from them easily and they had delicately flavoured sectioned flesh inside. Considering Long Bleh was more than five days journey by boat from Samarinda. placed like lace doilies in handwoven dishes. rice mash flavoured with fish. one of the men would rise to his feet and begin a long declamatory monologue. hard and tart. Joe. and several other fruits the visitors hadn’t seen before. was a surprisingly wide choice: fried tapioca cakes. As more and more wine was served.Borneo/Kalimantan 77 woven baskets. with powdery cinnamon-coloured skin. ‘You are not drinking. Another looked like unwashed button potatoes. with fluted sides in a star pattern. quite different from the bright. It had a slightly sour lemon taste but was delicious when taken with fatty pork. They were a small people. attractively decorated with coloured beads. Every now and then. (John had been .

‘But not the price in Samarinda. They have been here since before anyone can remember. he whispered.’ ‘Then why are you willing to sell them?’ John asked. Then.’ ‘Yes. ‘I have a young friend in Balikpapan. If the pots were as genuine as Shitty Cock said. All this we have learned from the loggers and seismic . We can get medicine and help for our old and sick people.’ Joseph continued. Leaning forward in conspiratorial fashion. They know the prices in Malaysia and Singapore. Over the mountains. ‘Joe. ‘He will come to see you. ‘Those pots are worth just about the same amount as the motor. ‘We have learned that times change.’ said the headman. ‘Over there are more of our people. see those pots over there?’ He indicated the collection in the corner. we can have a better way of life. that he had been set up by the chief.’ John admitted to himself. with the money. The true price. Very canny. We can catch more fish with motors. sheepishly. We can go to Samarinda and trade things. just fly out tomorrow with the pots on board and send the motor to the chief later on. the headman stroked the glaze on one of the pots lovingly and added. You will give him the money and he will buy the motor there and bring it to me. ‘They are thieves down there.’ John said. they were worth a great deal more than the cost of an outboard motor — a great deal more. ‘Do you know how much they’re worth? If you want to sell them. ‘These are my family treasure. He didn’t have to outlay any money. that is. If people will pay money for our treasures. We have ways of talking to them.’ ‘You are a clever bird man. but we know the prices. these Dyaks. I can do that.78 Someone Else’s Country pricing them recently with a friend.’ Speaking slowly and deliberately.’ Joseph said. and not vice versa. He felt he had been given a prize on a plate. too.) His plan was taking shape. buy the motor and send it to me here. But it would come to the same thing in the end.’ he indicated the distant hills to the west. nodding in approval. ‘Perhaps you could take these pots to Singapore and sell them for me. Those Chinese think we Dyaks are stupid.

Checking the antique shops in . He knew what he had. with giggling and heavy breathing coming from the darker corners and cubicles. Malaria and typhus are taking a great toll on our people. John tied them securely to the racks on each side of the helicopter. At mid-morning the next day the relief helicopter carrying the extra fuel arrived. Even the humblest of village creatures. were coming in for a landing at home base. Before the fuel transfer was made. dogs barking and pigs squealing. profited from the regurgitations of the participants above. So. they took off about noon and. Balikpapan. chickens were squawking. just before leaving. ‘You should have been drinking like me. John. laughter was the key to the evening. It would be hard to imagine an evening more hilarious and fulfilled.’ he chortled. It was surreal. the pigs below. They were bundled up in rotan baskets and packed on all sides with banana-trash straw. From the smallest baby to the ugliest old man. within three hours.’ Further conversation became impossible as the gong music had increased in volume and the declamations doubled in strength. and to this wild melee of sound was added the belching.Borneo/Kalimantan 79 people. there appeared to be a great deal of sexual promiscuity. everyone participated. groaning and laughing of the vomiters and their cheerleaders.’ John was happy. maybe our treasures can help us. although it was hard to be sure. He explained to the geologist that they were just some cheap gifts from the villagers in return for the joy-rides he had given the previous day. After warm handshakes with every member of the longhouse. Joseph came to the clearing with the precious pots all ready for travelling. John went to Singapore on crew change and took the pots with him. which were specially designed for cargo. ‘You see. Under the house. Shitty Cock was particularly happy about the trip as. the chief had presented him with a blow-gun and a bamboo carrying-case full of poison darts — his reward for being a good drinker. It is quite simple. There was no discrimination against women and. But no one got angry and there were no fights. See what you could have had. A week later.

80 Someone Else’s Country Orchard Road. He thought of Joseph and the money. His manner was sly and obsequious and he had a reputation for giving wrong . He had long black. stringy hair dangling down to his shoulders. The aircraft was totalled and he was killed instantly. which always appeared in need of a good shampoo. the outboard motor and his handsome profit. he found that. the trees were not high and the load was light. however. He took the best offer by the most pressing dealer and walked out of the shop with the equivalent of about $A2. that would have been the end of the story if it had not been for an odd encounter I had about a year later.300. they were worth more than double the price put on them by the Dyak. Time was nothing to these people. As far as everyone was concerned. The weather was clear. and John decided to take the ready cash. John became involved in a small way in some deals with watches and dress materials. as suspected. The opportunity to complete the deal would come along some time. What would they be worth in New York or Paris? The dealers were pressing on the sale. While on leave. No mechanical failure was found and it was put down to a case of pilot error. This type of explanation is accepted by engineers and despised by pilots. And that was in Asia. he had completely talked himself out of taking any action on the matter. After two months he landed a job with another helicopter company in Sorong. It could wait. His first trip was a fairly simple lift job from one drill site to another. In this case. in west Irian Jaya. he made the mistake of using company mail bags and was caught. there seemed no other possible reason. There was nothing he could do about it for the moment. however. he failed to get lift and flew directly into some low scrub. Before long. Ming was what you would call an unsavoury character. Although it was only small-time and an activity a lot of expats became involved in. He certainly wasn’t going to risk sending the money. In Sumatra. The Singapore office was informed of their pilot’s irregular behaviour and he was fired after just six months in Sumatra. he was called to the company office in Seletar and told he was to be transferred to Sumatra instead of returning to Balikpapan. On take-off.

‘Get out of here!’ he thundered. I was visiting the company’s operations manager. ‘Selamat pagi. There was something revolting about this nail fetish in conjunction with his sly manner and flashy dressing. About 6. they were two inches long and curled over. Ming the Merciless came towards me with a plaintive look on his face. He was generally known as the Ming Pot Salesman or Ming the Merciless. Two days later. Irawan [Good morning. I looked through the coconut palms as the dogs announced a visitor in their usual friendly way. A dealer in antique pots. at my own house on the beach. and he had the right to have who he wanted on his stoop. If he wants to sell things to the guys in the camp. after all. One evening. . before we could get a glimpse of his offerings. This was why the pilots and engineers interested in collecting were willing to put up with his ingratiating behaviour. But I won’t have him around my house. which was quite unlike him. we were on the verandah sipping our gin and tonics when Ming appeared. The prices he asked for his chipped and broken plates were outrageous but occasionally he came up with a good. We were disappointed but it was Jim’s house. and his wife. We joked a bit and then forgot all about it. Jim spoke harshly. Elaine. Above all. Jim Wittman. Ming gathered his bags about him and slunk off. I motioned him in.’ I said. the thing that turned people off him was the length of his fingernails.Borneo/Kalimantan 81 change to foreigners unused to the currency. OK. a leather jacket and white patent-leather shoes with four-inch heels. we thought. genuine piece of real value. He wore tight jeans. ‘Get out and don’t come around here anymore! Do you hear?’ Elaine and I protested mildly but Jim would have none of it. With the exception of one or two broken ones. Irawan]. ‘Can’t stand that little bastard.30.’ Over our protests. Elaine and I were always interested to see what he had to offer but. he was always hanging around the helicopter camp or the houses of foreign families living in the vicinity.

Had John really been killed exactly nine months after leaving Kalimantan? With the Wittmans’ help. The nine months was correct. many pot.’ He sat on the edge of the couch and blurted out his story. almost to the day. He sell so my friend can buy motor. up the Mahakam River. My friend cannot wait more time. Miss. Miss. Six month. He make magic. Not ever kill. Betul [truly] only my Dyak friend kill. Dyak magic carrying far beyond the shores of Kalimantan. Write many letter. But Irawan no kill. Mister Jim think I kill. Betul. I know why Tuan Wittman no let me in he house. Irawan. But I only friend of Dyak man. all thoughts of pots vanished from my mind. it is true]!’ ‘Come in and sit down. He hadn’t heard of John since that time. But money not come. Take to Singapore. I pieced the story together and found out exactly what had happened that day. Then nine month. even to another country. He told us the whole story and was intrigued to hear our endpiece to the affair. betul [It is true. Missus.’ ‘What money?’ I asked. Shitty Cock himself was in Balikpapan again and we’d played bridge with him a few times. Send message with friend to Singapore. Tell me about it. He very angry. Miss. Of course. Never.’ He was obviously apprehensive. He kill John. I try to get money for Dyak man. ‘I come to say sorry. He take my Dyak friend pot. I’ll tell him. I know. strong magic. Long time my friend wait. That why he no let me in he house to sell pots.82 Someone Else’s Country ‘Hello. Three month. He think I kill John Heidenrigg.’ It was a curious story. ‘Money from John. It gave me a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. No money come. You tell Mister Jim?’ ‘Yes. he kill John. My Dyak friend. . I no kill John. I try many time but cannot get.’ Suddenly. But not Irawan. ‘Truly. What had he said? Kill John Heidenrigg! Who was killed? What was he talking about? ‘Tuan think I kill him.

‘Tom stayed a night with us at the beach house and during a conversation he asked me if I had ever been to Samarinda. He was head of the English language department at the University of Mulawarman in Samarinda and he had known our linguist. they just strolled along in the middle of the road with their backs to the oncoming traffic. they seemed incapable of travelling at an intermediate speed: it was either full speed ahead or stop. As they approached the outskirts. flashed by us in a whirl of dust.30 the next morning to avoid travelling during the hottest part of the day. children and livestock. packed with people.Borneo/Kalimantan 83 Samarinda A man called Tom Ross visited the Union Oil school one day. ‘Then why don’t you come back with me tomorrow morning? We go by bus and boat and I’ll show you round the campus. Locals were so conditioned that. Even at that early hour. There’s a Skyvan about four in the afternoon. the weaving factories. Carrying a hand-written destination sign on the front windscreen. Thai and Indonesian and had married an Indonesian woman the previous year. We set out about 6. children or animals. Wayne Bougas. It was . packages. so you’ll be back in Balik by five. all the buses were full. when they worked together in the Peace Corps in Thailand and Malaysia. One after the other. the drivers pressed their hands on the horn and. When passing through villages. the drivers paid no deference to local inhabitants.’ The trip to Samarinda would take about four hours: two by microbus to Handal Dua on the Mahakam River and then two hours up the river by speedboat. cut swathes through children and chickens like a speedboat. Tom was from the northern United States and had worked in South-East Asia for six years. You can meet my wife and have lunch and I’ll show you the sights: the Chinese temple.’ I said. unless a driver blew the horn. the waterfront and all that. How about it?’ ‘OK. It was bad luck or plain stupidity not to move out of the way when the Colt horn blew. the Colts and Mitsubishis. ‘I’d love to go. He spoke Mandarin. When I shook my head he said. blaring away.

the road swung inland and. Now we were travelling at a reasonable speed through secondarygrowth jungle and scrubby swampland. the speed of the Colt decreased. This tuber. bananas.84 Someone Else’s Country an unnerving experience for a European trained to use the horn only in emergencies. fatness was a sign of wealth. ‘Ja! Naik [Yes! Jump in]!’ the driver said. and we were off at break-neck speed from a standing start. as houses and dwellings were left behind. ‘Ke Handal Dua [To Handal Dua]?’ we asked. Tom had made the trip many times. There was a brief pause to let us scramble in. We passed through a hilly. after about half an hour. Our fellow passengers looked at him in admiration. driven by some latterday Evel Knievel. Falling over our neighbours’ packages. We waited at the roadside and. But you learned fast when you drove there: left hand for steering. a Colt with seats to spare appeared. so his composure and lack of concern had a calming effect on me. The road veered towards the coast again and we passed plantations of coconuts and bananas and extensive cultivation of the ubiquitous sencon. thrives in areas where very little else will grow and is a staple in the local diet. children. It is properly called Manihot esculenta. or tapioca plant. which has many other names such as ubi kayu and cassava. chickens and whatever else was rolling round. Only the poor were thin. wooded region and then hurtled through the old towns of Samboja and Sangatta. and ‘Sudah siap [Ready]?’. Our fellow passengers appeared to be quite unperturbed about the whole madness and continued the breastfeeding of their babies and making polite conversation with us. we hurtled along in this jet-propelled four-wheeled contraption. and it is . Reasonable quantities of oil were still being produced there from pre-World War II wells. which flowed through a jungle pipeline to the refineries at Balikpapan. Once we had crossed the Manggar new bridge and terrorised half a dozen or so coastal villages. He was a very big man — not so much in height as in girth — but he was a black belt in karate and Number One in East Kalimantan. right hand for the horn. or bitter cassava.

or boiled and fried with salt. home to everything from dugout canoes to ferryboats and high-powered speedboats. the road continued northward into the southern waterways of the Mahakam River Delta.Borneo/Kalimantan 85 a semi-shrubby perennial. being an old hand.30 in the morning. so the cycle repeats itself. is cut into segments and replanted. Samarinda was . but it is used to refer to foreigners generally. with large. Total. Tom. The jetty was crowded with passengers and food and drink vendors were doing a roaring trade. It was a mini-port of small river craft. We bought a small selection for our journey up-river. tapering cylindrical roots up to 30cm long and 7–10cm in diameter. Besides the sticky rice cakes. fleshy. it was already quite hot in the steamy delta and. We were further besieged by boat-owners offering all sorts of deals and craft. threading its way through this maze. This time speed was a delight. crying ‘Belanda! Belanda!’. Fried chickens’ intestines were a great favourite. The Mahakam River is very fast-flowing and the speedboat needed all its power to make headway upstream. he quickly made a deal for the next stage of our trip. the breeze on our faces felt cool and fresh. Most of the small channels were fringed with thick banks of nipa palms and. At 9. As we made our way down to the jetty a swarm of ragged children crowded around us. In his excellent Indonesian. This is the Indonesian word for a Dutch person. was building a giant oil-loading jetty and a sizeable town for its employees. The food value is mainly in its starch content and the roots are eaten boiled and mashed with sugar. the road finally ran into the small river town of Handal Dua. Two hours later. pink cakes and a great variety of the many packaged snack foods for which Indonesia was renowned. After skirting a large bay where the French oil company. Little warungs (shops) in lean-to shacks sold ‘bisquits’. there were all sorts of mysterious little packages wrapped in fresh green banana leaves. The stem. we saw the old port of the ancient Kutai kingdom ahead of us on the right-hand bank. went straight to the Chris-Craft owners. as the boat picked up speed.5m high at maturity. We had time to quench our thirst with a bottle of warm Green Spot and then we were off. about 1.

the room was full. Shouts of ‘Hello. ‘Road’s pretty rough. isn’t it?’ I was surprised at the amount of shipping and the number of large ocean-going cargo boats lying at anchor. Mister Tom!’ followed us until we arrived at his house. so I dug my heels in. a Christian. She was small and chunky and. ‘It’s quite a port. They showed me the Chinese temple and we burned incense sticks and had our fortune told. It was the tiniest house I had ever seen. She served us a delicious cool drink made from young coconut water. like many Dyaks. ‘There she is! My home town!’ Tom said with pride. it seemed little more than a large doll’s house. We roared through the narrow streets of Samarinda. Trevor. hot journey it was nectar. Tom and another English teacher were the only foreign residents at the time.86 Someone Else’s Country once near the sea.’ he cautioned over the clatter of the engine. coconut jelly. After the long. but the continual silting-up of the delta had left it a long way inland. as it didn’t seem that the river was deep enough for such big ships. condensed milk and ice. I reasoned that at least I would be well-padded if there was a spill. We went to a craft shop and bought a two-metre long blow-pipe with a case of poisoned darts . We’ll be hitting plenty of bumps!’ Encircling Tom’s mammoth waist with my arms was impossible. ‘Hold on tight. The other Englishman. drawing stares and shouts from the populace. Tom retrieved his motorbike from a cafe across the road from the jetty and I clambered on behind. so the sight of a foreign woman caused great interest and excitement. We went to several cottage factories to see the beautiful hand-woven pure-silk sarongs for which Samarinda was famous. When all three of us sat down. Dini. Dini was a Dyak and had met Tom on campus. Tom entered the door sideways and introduced me to his wife. It was touching to see the warm affection Tom and Trevor had for the place and its people. pressed with my knees and grasped as much of his torso as I could. poked his head round the door to say he had the use of the university jeep and would be happy to take us to see the sights.

000. This would cover the wedding reception in Samarinda. which bobbed up and down when you walked. The amount of money involved would be about half a million rupiahs. Peter mentioned that he liked one of the girls. His friends worried about his monastic life and on one visit they suggested he should find a wife. Over lunch in a Chinese cafe. He was happy with his job but was sometimes lonely. Bookings were made and tickets bought. A long-stemmed posy of bamboo fronds sprouted from the top. Dini and her friend Ira came up with a splendid idea. and the next time he came down-river he set off for Surabaya with Ira. I will help you find a charming wife. The conditions were explained to him. respectable families. After several evenings. as well as a traditional conical Dyak hat. ‘If you will come to Surabaya with me the next time you have some leave. but they laughed together and enjoyed the outing. about $1. he reluctantly agreed to the plan. He was a very shy man and they could see he would never make a big decision like that without help. who worked deep in the interior. a logger friend of Tom’s. He was to return to Kalimantan while Ira stayed behind to make the arrangements. Ira took him aside and said. upriver from Samarinda. official papers and documents. I heard the story of Peter. Ira suggested he should take her to the movies. Ira then took him to meet the girl’s parents and after he had been thoroughly vetted by them it was agreed that he and the girl could be married. after some urging. decorated with a patchwork of materials. I have many friends there and I know we will be able to find someone suitable.’ Peter’s protestations were quickly quelled by his friends and.Borneo/Kalimantan 87 to match. and . and under Ira’s watchful eye. She took him to a bride shop and he was introduced to several girls of marriageable age. Peter made only infrequent trips to the capital when he needed supplies but always called on Tom and Trevor for a chat. The girl was even shyer than he was. It was all very proper and above board — no funny business — and the girls all came from good.

‘Maybe you’ve forgotten what they looked like.’ Trevor pressed. This is Christina. ‘Come on! Don’t be shy. ‘Which girl? Which one?’ They were all keyed up with curiosity. The group was almost upon them when they saw Ira moving towards the front. ‘Don’t be so sad. ‘Don’t worry. as Siti was a Muslim and you are a Christian. ‘This is Christina. The Bouraq flight landed and he watched eagerly as the passengers came down the steps. we realised that. It was not the girl he had taken to the movies. ‘I don’t know any of these people. Trevor and Dini to meet his bride. who you met in Surabaya. After you left. so we found Christina. Please come and greet them. terrified face. ah. noticing his blank.’ Ira said hurriedly. He couldn’t see his bride but there certainly seemed to be a wedding party.’ muttered Peter. Your bride. I don’t know. He didn’t recognise any of them. ‘Which one is she. She is a good Christian girl from a good Christian family. This is not Siti. ‘Why are you looking so gloomy? Here is your bride and your new family-in-law. I see your problem. Smile. Peter! Smile!’ ‘Peter!’ Ira said. As the group walked across the tarmac towards Peter and his waiting friends. Peter? Which one?’ ‘I. But don’t worry. he went to the airport with Tom.’ She motioned forward a shy young girl from behind the older people and said.’ Peter’s jaw dropped. Two months later. on the appointed day. Peter searched the faces of the wedding party in panic. it would not be suitable. Peter. It was not the girl he had chosen in Surabaya. Much more . He had never seen the girl before in his life. whose parents he had met. Tom nudged him. Peter paid the necessary amount and flew back to Samarinda.88 Someone Else’s Country airline tickets for the bride and her family who would fly to Samarinda for the wedding. women in their best kain-kebaya. The group came closer but still he could see no sign of his bride. Everything is all right.’ he said desperately. men in suitcoats and sarongs and many wicker suitcases and bundles of fruit and flowers.

’ Tom and Trevor. didn’t we?’ Peter’s jaw fell open even wider. East Timor At the end of 1974. Peter was no longer melancholy and Christina was even prettier than before. It was not the girl of his choice. Trevor showed me a booklet of colour photos of the wedding. All this had happened more than a year before and as we looked at the photos Tom said what a happy couple they were.’ Ira. Gina would be spending Christmas in Massachussetts. She suggested I drop in on my way home to Sydney for Christmas. looked at Christina and then at Peter. Peter. And everything’s ready. Let’s get going. There was a TAA service between Darwin and East Timor. It was a great idea and Ed and Hereward would follow later and join me in Sydney. ‘What am I to do? It’s not the right girl. all geared up to fill their roles as best man and groomsman. in the Northern Territory. We have many papers to sign and the wedding breakfast is waiting.Borneo/Kalimantan 89 suitable for you. They lived in the logging camp way up-river and made only occasional trips to Samarinda. my daughter Ceilidh wrote to me from her new teaching post on an Aboriginal mission station in Arnhem Land. Aren’t you glad we made the change? Just saved you in time. too. who always had difficulty understanding some of the strange ways of foreigners. Everyone looked so happy and the bride was beautiful. He turned to Tom and Trevor and bridesmaid Dini. took charge and said brightly. ‘Come along now. Now come and greet your parents-in-law and your new brothers and sisters. Come along. Off you go. Into the van. Tom said. everyone. I think you should go ahead. Peter. ‘She’s very pretty. She even looks like Siti. I flew into Bali on the .’ The wedding took place and the breakfast was held in the Chinese cafe in which we were having lunch. but everything was prepared and under way for the wedding reception. so that seemed the best way to go.

none of the pilots or engineers had known much about Zamrud Airlines. if it had ever existed. I had a look around the town. sure enough. the black Muslim rimless hat. The word ‘zamrud’ means emerald and a green-painted plane was soon wheeled on to the tarmac to take on 10 expectant passengers. sarongs wrapped tightly round their narrow hips and peci songkoks. All signs were in Portuguese and most of the airport staff were Portuguese nationals. We finally arrived in Kupang. the prize of a visit to my daughter was enticement enough to give it a try. I thought.90 Someone Else’s Country company Volpar and. after spending the night in the then still largely undeveloped Kuta Beach. all wearing crisp white shirts. the capital of Indonesian West Timor and. It was a dismal sort of place. It looked to me like a very unenlightened sort of place and I was glad when the time came to board the Twin Otter for the flight to Dili. with several hours to kill before the departure of the Dili connection on a smaller aeroplane. and a smooth landing gave me confidence for the rest of the journey. The terrain below was largely mountainous and arrival at the small Dili airport was a surprise. Kupang had been an important haven for mariners but little of its charm remained. the capital of Portuguese East Timor. except for a tall young man wearing moleskin trousers and an Outback hat. although they said there were tales that the airfields of Nusa Tenggara (the eastern archipelago of Indonesia) were littered with the hulks of Zamrud aircraft that had failed to make safe landings. In the days of early European exploration of the South Seas. took a bemo to Ngurah Rai Airport in plenty of time for the 8am Zamrud Airlines flight to Dili. A smartly uniformed woman greeted our small group . Oh well. on the island of Lombok. the rotting remains of old Zamrud planes lay on the edges of some of the airstrips. with much of the untidiness and ugliness often apparent in remote Indonesian settlements. It was only a short flight across the Lombok Straits to Mataram. We island-hopped our way along the archipelago but. In Balikpapan. He looked like an Australian ‘bushie’ and stood out among the small Indonesian men. I was the only European.

Rua Dr Antonio Cavalho. was wide and almost empty of traffic. each dressed with a vase of flowers and. At the airline office. The English group went off to try the cheap accommodation on the waterfront and Peter. and made such a contrast to arrivals in small airports in remote parts of Indonesia where one was lucky to be welcomed at all. It was basic and asked far too many escudos for strictly basic rooms but we hoped we wouldn’t have to stay long. We changed some money and went looking for something to eat and drink.’ was all the Portuguese hostess could say. and very European. John and I plumped for the Hotel Tropical in the centre of town. John the ‘bushie’ and I were joined by two English couples. switched quickly to French. it appeared. ‘Il faut rester ici [You will have to wait here]. we were given the bad news that. we would have to stay in Dili. No one. a carafe of red wine. bordered by huge red flame trees in bloom and large. There were several sidewalk cafes along the colonnades. She was all smiles and hoped we would have a wonderful holiday in Portuguese East Timor. ‘Peut-etre demain [Maybe tomorrow]’ there would be a plane. understood Bahasa Indonesia. instead of going straight on to Bacau. most surprising of all. The main street. realising we did not understand. with a smile and a shrug of her shoulders. which some of us understood. where the international airport was. a teacher on holiday. We went through immigration and were shepherded into a minibus which took us the 10km into Dili. their tables set with white tablecloths. white colonial-type buildings with cool colonnades and arched verandahs. So we rested. Peter. It was strange to be welcomed in this way. to make the connecting TAA flight to Darwin. and another Australian traveller. What had we come upon here? It made us think we were on . It had a lovely fresh feeling about it.Borneo/Kalimantan 91 of eight warmly in Portuguese then. as the Australian airline had gone on strike and no one knew when the flight ban would be lifted. travelling on the cheap and not anxious to spend any more money than was absolutely necessary. With the Indonesian passengers gone their separate ways.

It was a very pretty little place and we agreed we could have been stranded in a far worse location. In one short aeroplane hop. which seemed to be the main port facility.’ I said. the manager gave me a little book on the history of the place. We were definitely in another world. immediately put the idea out of my head. I was surprised to learn that English-speaking tourists were not uncommon in East Timor. the three of us decided on a trip to Maubisse. He said many people from Darwin came there for their holidays. with shades of history seeming to rise in the spiralling smoke wisps drifting from nearby cottages. promised all sorts of stories for those able to read the barely legible script. We then explored the town and walked along the jetty. Back at the Tropical. It was a lorry with a flat tray at the back and passengers brought their own sacks of rice to sit on. So many of them had died young. ‘I’ll take a look at the church and the cemetery and see you back here later in the afternoon.92 Someone Else’s Country another planet or. The gravestones. ‘Not for me. ostensibly to gather . the road would be dusty and corrugated. they had no further news for us but suggested we do some sightseeing. The waiters understood our fractured French and brought us fresh croissants and coffee. There was no cover and it was clear that. From the manager’s little book. most probably from malaria and other tropical diseases. so.’ The church of Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) was intriguing. I learned that the Portuguese first landed in Timor in 1520. pondering all the Portuguese and Timorese who had been buried there over hundreds of years. Groups of pretty children looked at us shyly and giggled: we were the circus come to town. There were various buses running to outlying towns and villages we were told. Back at the airline office. One look at the ‘bus’. at least. when the town asphalt ended. we had left the Islamic world of Indonesia behind and made a quantum leap into what appeared to be a European society. many of them leaning this way and that. after inspecting the map. in Europe. I wandered around the extensive graveyard. which he kept for English-speaking visitors. however. as it was much cheaper for them than flying all the way south to Sydney and Melbourne.

who tortured.000 East Timorese — one in five of the population — lost their lives during that time. tried all the drinks and bought everything buyable from the markets. they were chased out by the Dutch and the struggle for control between the two European powers lasted for another 100 years. suspecting them of giving aid and comfort to the Australian troops of Sparrow Force hiding in the hills. East Timor was overrun by the Japanese. The hotel manager leaned across his desk and began by telling me about the different groups and factions that were at work in Dili. ate in all the cafes. An agreement was reached between them and a treaty was signed in 1859 giving Portugal full control of East Timor. the Timorese people were left in a state of neglect until his overthrow in 1968. who wanted a free and independent East Timor. who wanted union with Indonesia. During World War II. imprisoned and killed thousands of East Timorese. The Tropical was not cheap and I had brought only enough traveller’s cheques for the . As he talked. by the time John and Peter returned. the UDT. went for pony rides. as well as the enclave of Oecusse and the two offshore islands of Atauro and Jaco. I realised that if we didn’t move soon I would be out of money. and the Fretilin. Everyone wanted to talk politics. Under the regime of Portugal’s dictator. After five days of this leisurely life. but it was not until April 1974 that the ‘flower revolution’ of young officers in Lisbon took power in Portugal and East Timor for the first time found itself with some degree of political freedom. The days began to pass and still there was no news of a resumption of airline services. other Timorese gathered and.Borneo/Kalimantan 93 sandalwood. António Salazar. We went to the beach. A hundred years later. The colony was devastated by the Japanese occupation and most of the main towns and villages were destroyed in bombing raids. who wanted to stay with Portugal. The Apodeti. About 60. Portugal’s colonies in Africa struggled to free themselves. we had quite a largescale meeting in progress. as well as talking politics and daily moving our allegiance. This was the state of East Timor at the time of my visit.

as they remembered only too well the number of times there had been massacres of Chinese traders in Jakarta. I don’t think much haircutting went on in that barber’s shop. instead of at the bank. I decided to try to sell my watch and who should I run into at the barber’s shop but the two English couples doing the same thing. which was working for Timorese integration into the Australian Commonwealth. ‘Chinese people more money than Timorese. so most of them were in favour of the UDT and the status quo. with the door kept shut. ‘Better we go to your country. we exchanged our traveller’s cheques with the Chinese in the barber’s shop. the talk was about politics.’ one of them said to me while the exchange was going on. You know Aditla? People say East Timor can be part of Australia. They didn’t like the Fretilin either. On advice from the hotel. Off came their watches. as they turned their valuables into money. There was no denying the fact that Australia stood in very high esteem with Timorese people of all backgrounds. belts. But it was still not going to last for much longer.94 Someone Else’s Country quick flight to Australia and home to Sydney. so they were more than anxious to exchange local currency for foreign traveller’s cheques or transportable goods. sunglasses and cameras. and we sat around a low bamboo table waiting to be attended to. We bring money to Australia.’ I found out later that Aditla was another political party. More clever. Aditla say that. with their communist ideas of sharing wealth. Even here. It was dark and gloomy inside the shop. The Chinese didn’t want the Indonesians to resume control. for a very good rate — nearly double the official one. Australia. as the proprietors were too busy doing deals. Memories of the soldiers of Sparrow Force during the Japanese occupation were strong among all the people . The Chinese ran most of the businesses in Dili but they knew that their future in the colony would be limited if there was a revolution and their store of escudos would be worthless. They had let their heads go buying lots of woven cloth and carvings and were now strapped for cash. Almost down to my last few hundred escudos.

We waited in the shade of the only tree and at 9am were relieved and then horrified to see a big truck coming towards us. eventually taking off about 9. babies. ducks. women. At the end of the week.Borneo/Kalimantan 95 I talked to.30am. something I was not looking forward to. although it was not as bad as the flat-top ‘bus’ to Maubisse. It was an unforgettable trip. This was it. when we came to a riverbed. the monsoon had not broken and there was no water in the rivers. we were all looking forward to reaching Australia. He had been working in an advisory capacity in Indonesia on a joint-venture cattle property and was on his way home to the Northern Territory. particularly when the truck hit a bump and we all nearly fell off. was as short of money as I was and was also reduced to selling his watch. Peter the teacher. We three Aussies were on a good wicket in Dili. our group of seven met at the specified street with our bags some time before 8am the next morning. Our fellow passengers were very friendly. on the advice of the airline office. the Timorese seemed to feel much more of an affinity for Australians than for their Muslim neighbours at the Indonesian end of Timor. vegetables and boxes. Dutifully. There was no bus in the street at 8am. however. We swung ourselves on board along with Timorese men. This one at least had shade cover and five wooden benches anchored to the sides. chickens. and to this was added the good impression made in Dili by holiday-makers from Darwin and the Northern Territory. we had just about exhausted our money and were wondering if we might have to sell ourselves when. The only one of us who seemed to have enough money was John. we had to get off while the truck crossed without our added weight. . but other people waiting assured us it would come. sharing their food with us and singing hymns and other songs in their own language. Interesting as Timor was. There were no bridges so. children. We would have to catch a bus to Bacau. They laughed all the time. fish. Even though there was a language barrier. we decided to move on to Bacau to be as near to the airport as possible when the strike was lifted. Fortunately.

news came through that the strike was over and our group gratefully boarded the TAA flight to Darwin. The horses were Timor ponies and the owners and buyers were all dressed Timor fashion. There was nothing like it in other parts of Indonesia. Then it was back on the truck and on to Bacau. with politics. There was a better hotel than the Pearl further down the road but. Colombia. beds with sheets and wine — what more could we have asked for? The next morning. which was the aptly named Pearl of the Orient. 1974. which had also been colonised by the Portuguese and Spanish. it was a totally different style of architecture making it hard to believe one was in Asia. There were also fruit and vegetable sellers. It was December 18. It looked to me like Medellin. and all were carrying machetes. although we were too tired to move. Two days later. with time to eat and drink in the local cafe — empanadas and coffee. So we all set off with him only days before . we awoke to find a horse market taking place in front of the hotel in the ruins of a building whose roof and walls had gone. After the two-hour flight. who lived on a property near Katherine.96 Someone Else’s Country Blessed rest for our sore bottoms came when we rolled into Manatuto. Without even asking the price. with some ruined buildings still unrepaired from the bombings of World War II. we arrived in Darwin where John. we fell into the first hotel we saw. in turbans and hand-woven cloaks. a small town with a distinctly Portuguese air about it. leaving only broken pillars as a reminder of its former glory. All these little towns reminded me of places I had travelled through in South America. a surprisingly pretty town built on a cliff top. we gratefully accepted their offer to use the swimming pool later in the day. In Manatuto. There were cold showers. earnest political discussions and amazing optimism. The Timorese had left a warm spot in our hearts with their friendliness. offered us a lift southwards in his ute. the whole scene making a colourful and dramatic tableau against the broken Greek columns and blue sea beyond. we had about an hour’s respite. of course. all over again.

Borneo/Kalimantan 97 the devastating Cyclone Tracy. before many months had passed. Little did we know that Portuguese East Timor would also suffer devastation. at the hands of invading Indonesians. which took so many lives and left Darwin for ever different from the city we had been in just a week before. .


99 Part Two Java .


in fact. The land area of Java is roughly the same as that of the Australian state of Victoria. which Ed had been running in Balikpapan. This airport on the holiday island was suitable in most respects: the traffic was light. despite its Equatorial location. decided to enlarge the training school for young Indonesian pilots. coffee. tobacco and rubber grow in abundance in Java and. accommodation was plentiful and the weather conditions were close to . so alternative locations were being considered. tea. Rice. It is also one of the most densely populated areas of the world. collections of villages. more than half the total population of the Republic of Indonesia.T he island of Java is a Garden of Eden. The first and very popular suggestion was Ngurah Rai Airport on the island of Bali. NUH. the helicopter company. The move to Java Not long after my return to Balikpapan from Australia. home to about 110 million people. Balilkpapan Airport had become the second-busiest in Indonesia after Jakarta and was creating difficulties in time and space for the training program. Most Javanese live in village communities and even the big cities are. it has a pleasant climate with frequent thunderstorms bringing cooling showers of rain at the end of each day. The cities of Yogyakarta and Solo in Central Java (Jawa Tengah) are the corner-stones of Indonesia’s cultural life and are home to the palaces of Indonesia’s two royal families. with rich soil and frequent rain. sugar.

just before midnight.102 Someone Else’s Country perfect. Flying directly north for about an hour they sighted the rig. but John decided to comply with the request. Therefore. lit up like a Christmas tree. Our move from Borneo to Java was executed in the company DC3. pilot John Schine and engineer Graham Tadgell received an urgent radio message from the rig. One evening. in Central Java. Already several expat pilots and engineers had ‘gone missing’ while on leave in Bali and were never heard from again. An Indonesian worker had been killed in a knife fight and the ‘Tool Pusher’ (boss of the rig) wanted the body removed immediately as riot conditions were developing. During their absence. relaxing in their hotel. storm clouds had built up and. passing over the island of Maselembo. fuelled up and set off into the night. the Bali plan was scrapped and a decision was made to set up the new school at Achmad Yani Airport in Semarang. directly ahead and to the south. which our helicopters used as a refuelling stop. He and Tadge drove out to Achmad Yani Airport. it just managed to stagger off the ground en route to Java. Intan. plus Hereward. Bali was most unsuitable and. One of the company’s helicopters had been lost at Karimanjawa during the previous year. and the three monkeys. including us. to the moans of all concerned. We flew down the east coast of Borneo and out across the Java Sea. Worthingon the dog and her puppy Misty. they reasoned. Loaded to capacity with our furniture and luggage. there was a black area . But the Big Wheels at the company’s California headquarters thought differently. and the Karimanjawa group. The customer must be pleased whenever possible. Its crew was based in Semarang and their contract was to service the oil rig to the north of the islands. a remarkable aeroplane built in the 1930s and one of the most reliable and safest ever designed. They didn’t even come back for their pay. Sam. Night flying was not usual. It was too good. Chika and Lisa. Mansur. Liana. They picked up the body and took off for the flight back to Java. however. Khadir.

Java 103 with lightning flashes. They hung there together in the dark and rain. They could see now that as well as losing their clothes they had lost all their body hair. The great blades thrashed the water creating a maelstrom. John managed to scramble out the door. however. Tadgell said later that he was sucked out. In the pitch darkness with thunder. was trying to judge altitude. After a brief consultation with Tadge they decided to fly back to the rig and wait for daylight. but there was a new build-up in that direction also. The craft turned over and began to sink. . Suddenly. Two hours after dawn they were beginning to feel the effects of the sun when a gaff-rigged native fishing boat loomed up beside them. a miracle happened: an air bubble developed in the aft section. The force of the crash had stripped them of their clothes and their watches. More difficult. burned off by the fuel in the water. they hit the sea. even out of his stillconnected seat belt. shouting words of encouragement to one another and wondering how long it would be before the air bubble perforated and their last hope was gone. but the storm. The storm and rain was upon them by now and John was having difficulty seeing through the windshield. with no warning. lightning and driving rain. they moved along the side of the fuselage as the machine began to go down nose-first. leaving it sticking up out of the water and giving the men hope of salvation. When only the tail section was left above the water. The altimeter was faulty and visibility was almost nil. John decided to fly east for a while to avoid it. fighting against the inrushing water. About two hours later the rain stopped. changed direction and moved east as well. errant as they often are. but the waves were still breaking over them as the first grey light of dawn appeared in the east. Things were beginning to look difficult so John changed direction again and flew west.

The people were friendly and gave them sarongs to wear but they had no radio connection with the mainland. The women played bridge and mahjong and talked endlessly about their servant problems. while the men played golf every afternoon and.’ Once this made it back to company HQ. That afternoon a rescue helicopter arrived and a report was made: ‘Big helicopter lost. The great northern port of Semarang was the capital of Central Java. which was upside down. Tadge finally had the bright idea of writing the word ‘help’ in the sand to attract someone’s attention. in the evenings. . he pulled the men on board his prau and took them to his island. a Chinese businessmen’s town with few cultural values but a significant gateway for trade. Three days later the message was spotted by the pilot of a fixed-wing aircraft. but also with the frustrations of living in a community of expatriates with too much time to spare and too many parties. however. It represented civilisation. Balikpapan had been frontier living with its difficulties but also with its camaraderie. ‘Selamat pagi. Dead body lost.’ Tadgell managed to gasp. an order was immediately issued to all bases: ‘There will be no uplifting of dead bodies during the hours of darkness. Selamat pagi.’ ——————— The move to Semarang was a complete change of lifestyle for us all. Pilot and engineer safe. went to the discos and massage parlours which operated profusely in every part of the city. didn’t look anything like a helicopter — or perhaps he didn’t even know what a helicopter was. who signalled his sighting by circling the island and waggling the plane’s wings. Mau kemana?’ The darkskinned fisherman was saying good morning politely and asking them where they were going. with the comforts of electricity and communication. He was obviously suspicious because the tail section. In the universal tradition of seamen. ‘Please help! Tolong! Tolong! Helicopter rusak [broken]!’ The fisherman dropped his sail and paddled over. so for three days John and Graham searched the sky for aircraft.104 Someone Else’s Country ‘Hai tuan-tuan.

Java 105 The state of Central Java is the intellectual nerve centre of Indonesia and is rich in art. The latter were sold by Saleh. mostly 30-year-old Mercedes and Oldsmobiles. music. I bought several boats from Mohammed Saleh and always enjoyed talking to him as he spoke good English. Semarang We touched down in Semarang at Achmad Yani Airport. Balikpapan’s roads had been full of jeeps and motorbikes. Saleh After much searching we moved into a house of our own in Candi (pronounced Chundee). which was just what we needed to accommodate the young Indonesian pilots. When I asked him how he had learned his art. he told me his astonishing life story. fully rigged. so we hired the best-looking one and asked to be taken to the Hotel Telemoyo in Gajah Mada Street. They came to us six at a time and I got to know them well as I was appointed their English-language teacher. lots of bedrooms. were killed and a very dangerous period began for the new Republic of Indonesia. Thousands of Communist Party members. There were taxis of a sort at the airport. which came in waves from all directions. who made beautiful. thus providing some compensation for the shallowness and pleasureseeking way of life in the expatriate community of Semarang. very intelligent man. which overthrew President Sukarno and instituted the ‘New Order’. They were precise in every detail and works of art in their own right. but Semarang was swarming with becaks or pedicabs. . It was an old colonial house with high ceilings. model sailing boats out of wood. a large garden and even a verandah dormitory. named for the leading general killed in Suharto’s coup of 1965. a slight. Many salesmen came by our house selling everything from flowers and vegetables to old Chinese ceramics and boats. a lovely hillside area overlooking the city. It was to be our home for the next three months. drama and poetry. some people say as many as one million.

Their officers lived in the hotel. The high speaks to the low in low Javanese and the low to the high in high Javanese. We never heard what happened to them but people said they went to Japan. This was where I learned to speak Dutch. My father taught me the forms of the Javanese language. I also learned the new language. Bahasa Indonesia. Our attitude to the Japanese was changing as they had begun to treat some of our people very harshly. bundled them into trucks and took them away to the docks. We had many . It was not like that in the Dutch school. so. My father worked for the Dutch tobacco company and I went to a Dutch country school for a few years. I was clever at school but the school itself was not good so it was easy to be clever.106 Someone Else’s Country I was born in the town of Kudus near Semarang in Central Java. At this time the Japanese were everywhere. None came back. I spoke four languages. With other clerks and employees. A lower-class person must always address a higher-class person in high Javanese and vice versa. I lived in a kampong called Kali Langseng and one day they came there. It was while I was doing this course that I first became interested in politics and the ideas of the Communist Party. I joined the part-time military training course that the Japanese had urged on us. At this time. Later I learned to speak English. Although my religion was Islam I was not against this training as people were talking about how we could have our own republic. When the war was ending. I read everything I could. One member of our group had books and I took great pleasure in reading them with all their new and exciting ideas. collected all the young men who didn’t have jobs. in total. The Dutch were defeated but now we would have to learn how to defend ourselves militarily. we decided to fight against them. we all spoke the same way. although we were supposed to be on the Japanese side. It seemed to me that religion was holding people back and that these new ideas would be good for our country. When I was 17 I got a job as a clerk in the Dibya Puri Hotel in Semarang. as well as working in the hotel and soldiering. They are distinct and we had to be very careful about which one to use. When they first came to Java we thought they would help us to get free as they had defeated the Dutch and put them in prison.

the British and Dutch.Java 107 opportunities to attack them around the hotel. When the British bombed Semarang. who were not in the party. however. as I wasn’t working. Our party was growing in strength and numbers. Some of my friends. there was plenty of time for reading and discussing sabotage exploits against the foreigners. we had one bad disaster when we were betrayed and many of our members were slaughtered. because of my war service. one bomb fell on my kampong and six people were killed. Books were now more readily available and I read all I could. with the brains in the city and the muscle in the country. After the Japanese left. Although our opponents were gaining . had fought them with sticks and parangs (machetes). Our main aim was to give land to the farmers and set up a communist state in Indonesia. We also blew up trucks and equipment. but we received frequent handbills and instructions by couriers. who had landed and occupied Semarang. As I was good at figures I did well in the job and when nominations for a union position came up I was elected General Secretary of the Hotel Employees’ Federation. Although I didn’t take part in it. The couriers had a dangerous job as they had to travel through areas controlled by our opponents. they were all collaborators — with the Dutch and the Japanese — so we tried to blow up their equipment also. My group had learned a lot about fighting and now we were members of the Communist Party. Our main problem was lack of communication. They supported Sukarno and Hatta. It was a very exciting time and. The Muslims and the Christians had different goals but we were instructed to cooperate with them both for the time being. operating in our area. I got my job back at the Dibya Puri Hotel and. country people. there was a big battle against the British in the south at Ambarawa and it was a victory for us. When the war against the Dutch was over in 1949. I don’t think we ever killed any of them but there was a lot of shooting. Our directions were coming from a man called Musso who had been living in exile and had now returned. we had to deal with the British. As far as we were concerned. At Madiun. We all believed that eventually Java would become a new communist state. There were other groups of Indonesians. was promoted to front reception.

and we were very confident. he had been reduced to selling model ships door-todoor. We firmly believed that Sukarno and those in power were being paid and supported by the British and the US but our instructions . was how. Njoto and Lukman. there were persistent crop failures and drought. Communication had always been our main problem and was the cause of many mistakes. This period was very enlightening for me as I was beginning to get a clear picture of what was happening all over Java. Starvation became a real problem. Our instructions were to work with Sukarno and the religious groups until such time as we could take over totally. Some of our duties were to instruct the farmers in the use of military weapons. It had been difficult to get coordination among all the groups. We had many people in important positions in the country but they kept a low profile and did not declare publicly their membership of the party. Saleh was a good reporter and seemed pleased that I was interested in listening to him. inflation was beginning to run wild and life for the country people was very hard.108 Someone Else’s Country some ground. which I had previously known little about. What I wanted to know. As well as having to cope with economic problems. I had nothing to do with this training personally but it was my duty to see that it was carried out. Although the army was officially opposed to the PKI. we knew that we also were strong militarily. Some time after this I was voted delegate to the Trades Union Congress and for the first time came into contact with the intellectuals of the party. quite a large number of officers were members and they were the ones we used to train the farmers. Now I could see the whole pattern. as we had already learned that fighting with parangs and sticks would never be successful against modern weapons. after such a high-profile job as a young man. I met formally PKI (Patai Kommunis Indonesia) leaders like Dipa Aidit. The explanation was more surprising than I could have imagined. Under President Sukarno. of course. Listening to this amazing story I was getting a quick lesson on post-war Indonesian history.

when news came through that seven generals had been murdered in Jakarta and their bodies thrown down the crocodile hole. In fact. I was very interested in this part of Saleh’s story as I knew about the generals being thrown down the crocodile hole. did not last long. — and. The right-wing branch of the military came to Semarang in force and retook the city from our supporters. So great was our surprise that we felt in no danger at all and made no attempt to hide. teaching in school. after a rough beating and interrogation. No one fled to the countryside where we could have been assured of support. however. the army officers who had been working with us took control in Semarang with little opposition. etc. My activities were totally confined to trade-union matters. I was arrested in the hotel and. In 1965. I took no part in this as I was no longer in the military section.Java 109 were to carry on as usual and cooperate with all groups until the time was ripe for us to take over. why they had not escaped and gone into hiding. they could get information about undetected PKI members. through me. The only news we got was from new prisoners and it was from one of them that I learned that I was one of the lucky few in my group who had not been killed. This situation. When the mass arrests began. all the members of the party were going about their daily business — working in our offices. For the next seven years I was held there and in other jails like the one at Bawen and totally cut off from any news of what was happening on the outside. manning party rooms. set up defences or plan attacks. the events of 1965 came as a complete surprise to us. We were cooperating with all groups as instructed. I was apparently of more use alive as they hoped that. such action was never mentioned or suggested in any of the instructions we received in Semarang. were quite unaware of the horror that was to come. Although later the party was accused of trying to overthrow the Government at this time. taken to an old Dutch jail in Ambarawa. but I had never understood why the Communist Party members had been captured so easily and killed. . in fact.

who was also a prisoner. When I was finally released a special number was written after my name on my identity card to show that I had been a political prisoner. In spite of the many beatings I suffered I never disclosed the names or addresses of any PKI members. Karmila the . out of bamboo. During the time of my imprisonment my wife survived by working in the Princess Elizabeth Hospital as a seamstress. ——————— Our new house was home to 18 people: six Indonesian student pilots. A doctor. as you have seen. normal society. While I was a prisoner one of my three sons died and I was allowed out to go to his funeral. I was so impressed with Saleh’s boats as well as his story that I urged many of the other expats to buy boats from him. fully rigged. No one is brave enough to employ tapols (tahanan politik — political prisoners) So I now do the only thing I learned in jail. Mansur and Intan and their two children. He has a practice now in Semarang and although he has many rich patients he never charges the poor people in the kampong. By employing him we were also able to help him get back into society in spite of being a tapol. I make sailing . with the six pilots and necessary house staff.110 Someone Else’s Country Under interrogation I suffered many terrible beatings. nursed me back to health. I suggested to Ed that we should give Saleh a job as bookkeeper. On one occasion the two front legs of a chair were placed on my feet and the officers jumped on the chair until my toes were smashed. I think my larynx was damaged at that time as I have not spoken normally since then. I go from door to door selling them and the best luck I have had is from the foreigners living up here in Candi. boats. It is believed that up to a million people were killed during this period. Working for us was his first step back into the Rakyat. Another time I was beaten on the neck with a piece of wood and left on the floor for dead. Because of this I have always been unable to find work. He knew the ropes from his time at the Dibya Puri Hotel and could be a great help to us. I admired his determination to succeed against the odds. Once we were set up properly in the house.

go to the mosque on Friday. Local women carried everything on their backs and. The Indonesian student pilots living with us came from different parts of the republic. fast at Ramadan and make the pilgrimage to Mecca. To ensure his place in heaven a Muslim must give alms to the poor. Indonesian food takes a lot of preparation. mostly women in rags with babies in their arms. They were the so-called professional beggars from villages east of Semarang. Prices were always higher at the market for me so even though I’m sure she made a bit on the side. We installed a badminton court on the back lawn. Apart from Saleh and his boats. they were permanently bent forward. Yantho the driver and Saleh. rotan chair and table makers. by the time they were old. It was more like a country club than a helicopter training camp. Saleh proved a success as a bookkeeper and with his customs duty and he was good at mixing drinks when we had a party. . who took care of customs and visas as well as bookkeeping. All the expats liked him and he was able to make extra money by working as a barman for them at their parties. Amir the nightwatchman. Everyone gave them money as it was an obligatory custom of Islam to give alms. Initially. it came to the same thing in the end. The other two were Christians from Ujung Pandang and Menado. charity collectors (mostly spurious). table tennis on the verandah and darts and chess in the sunroom. where there was a permanent drought. vegetable and fruit saleswomen.Java 111 cook from the local kampong. and the beggars. I did all the shopping but I soon left it to Karmila. It was like running a hotel. Every time I went into the kitchen something was being chopped or pounded. but who could carry on her back a basket of vegetables I couldn’t even lift off the ground. The latter were very sad and pathetic-looking. antiques salesmen. both in Sulawesi. Four were Muslims from Java and the island of Bintang. Karmila was a tiny. among the many hawkers who came to our door were those selling squeaky balloons and cut-out wayang figures on sticks. thin woman. who weighed less than 40kg. pray five times a day.

Their thick. ‘Berani sekali!’ I think everyone was relieved when I left but it was probably a notch in the lurah’s belt to have had an orang asing . which was found in all levels of society. Later I was taken into a room to meet the boy who had been circumcised. We were served the customary orange juice as trays of dainty sweetmeats were passed around: rice balls. One day the village’s headman or lurah paid me a visit with an invitation to attend his son’s circumcision. but everyone was most courteous to me and made me feel welcome.’ she said. lustrous black hair beautifully coiffed. which were called Angels in Heaven. In my ordinary dress and sensible shoes for the rough path. I shook his hand and complimented him on his bravery. which was in the valley below our house. Advice from Karmila was that I should attend about 1pm.112 Someone Else’s Country The circumcision Saleh’s home village was the kampong of Kali Langseng. ‘Should I take a present?’ I asked her. He lay on a long rotan chair. Even Javanese from a kampong such as this one had a degree of culture and refinement. Refinement is a Javanese trait. I saw some beautifully dressed ladies arrive and daintily pick their way down the track to the village. I felt a very plain Jane at the party. bright pink and green cakes and two-tone jellies wrapped in leaves. their traditional kains (sarongs) tightly wrapped to form a skirt and the customary backless high-heeled shoes. It was a great honour and I was only too delighted to accept. ‘Some money in an envelope. wearing their tightly fitting kebayas (blouses). ‘Isn’t he brave? Such a good boy!’ the ladies clucked over him. Watching from our verandah. dressed in his best clothes and wrapped in a blanket. one hour after the near-relatives had visited and the actual circumcision was over. they floated like exotic butterflies down the hill.

all heavily carved and painted in gold. So that no one could miss it. The dalang or speaker of the story sat behind the sheet. as well as playing all the parts. Time and Newsweek. but the performance continued all through the night. the sound carried beautifully up to us and could be heard clearly throughout the house all night. We went to sleep to the sound of crashing gongs. the whole show was amplified on loudspeakers throughout the valley. that when I opened it. In the evening. were carried down the path. I don’t think our mail was censored. Everyone had seen it performed hundreds of times. After watching the beginning. the wayang performance began. high-pitched dialogue and crazy laughter. manipulating the figures and narrating the action. were not over yet. originating in India. On this occasion it was the story of the Mahabarata. but most overseas newspapers and magazines were. Censorship Censorship under President Suharto’s regime was heavy. A large banana trunk was laid on the ground behind the sheet and in it were stuck the leather wayang kulit puppets — the good characters on the right. Everyone was delighted. finishing just before dawn. A theatre was set up in an open-sided thatched building outside the lurah’s office. often had entire pages blacked . The American magazines. but the familiarity was what they loved. red and black. A kerosene lamp was set up behind the sheet and the puppets were manipulated as shadow figures once the performance began. The players themselves were in traditional dress and wearing scarf hats. the baddies on the left. As we lived above. it was like a Christmas streamer. once it was dark. an age-old story of good versus evil. I went home about 10pm. The celebrations. I bought the Singapore Straits Times and it was so badly cut about with articles having been deleted. Earlier I had seen the orchestra arriving in a truck — gongs and stands. Chairs for about 100 people were placed on one side of a large white sheet hanging from the roof.Java 113 (foreign person) at his son’s circumcision. cross-legged. however.

which was impossible to remove. Away on the horizon lay an island which always tantalised us. Another method employed to prevent people reading certain things was to glue pieces of paper over the offending script. the President’s wife. local Germans told us that Der Spiegel got the same treatment.114 Someone Else’s Country out with indelible ink. Most Indonesians we talked to already knew the details. As well as the censorship of Time and Newsweek. was known as the ‘Mole of Semarang’. What an organisation they must have had in Jakarta to read and censor all these publications — a fully staffed office block. He said our new phone was probably bugged. near the wood-carving village of Jepara. a garbled bagpipe sound came on every time anything was mentioned about Indonesia or East Timor. Radio Australia was also interfered with. Tom Burnett. President Suharto had complete control. When Newsweek was banned altogether. The army supervised all his team’s work and he told us there was a lot of bugging. We all tried soaking it off with no luck. Our Indonesian friends were never pleased to discuss politics with us and always nervously watched the windows whenever politcal subjects came up. particularly Mrs Tien Suharto. glue and black ink. . Helicopter picnic Going for a picnic in a helicopter is a unique experience and we often enjoyed a day’s outing to the seaside east of Semarang. so we wondered why there was such a flap. and one day Ed decided he would fly us there on his next day off. we were keen to know what was so offensive so some church friends smuggled in an issue from Singapore and copies were handed around the expat community. The apparently offending article was an exposé of the business connections of the Suharto family. especially at news time. There had been such great loss of life when Suharto came to power that even Europeans living in Indonesia preferred to leave political discussions alone. of multilingual speakers. at least. all armed with scissors. who was part of an English team installing new telephones and exchanges.

‘We’re just having fun. snorkelling head gear. firing one question after the other. Standing waist-deep in the water and wearing our odd. We put on our masks. they could not believe that anyone would enter the water for any other reason. over our favourite picnic beach and then out to sea towards the island which had so beguiled us. ‘Where are you from? Which kampong do you belong to? How did you get here? What are you looking for?’ They fought and struggled to get near us. All the gaff-rigged fishing boats working in the area began to converge on the island and. however. covered by a large forest of trees in the interior and fringed with white sandy beaches and coral reefs. . ‘We’re on holiday. Ed settled the machine on a sandy spit covered with a flowering grassy weed and we were alone on our island of desire. the coastline turns abruptly north. We flew along it and cut across the promontory and its large. we must have presented a strange sight to these hard-working people. The ocean was petalled with the white butterfly sails of the fishing fleet. snorkels and flippers and set off to explore the reef. Then the serenity was gone. From the air we could see that the island was uninhabited. Hari Raya. only an aggressive curiosity.’ ‘If you are on holiday then why are you going into the sea? What are you looking for? You must tell us!’ They were becoming quite angry because we wouldn’t tell them the real reason for our visit to the island. For about half an hour we were in heaven. They showed no fear or surprise. extinct volcano. before long. ‘Why are you in the water? What sort of fish are you looking for? What sort of fish are near this island? What do you know that we don’t know?’ Because they made their living from the sea and went into it only when searching for food. 10 of them had landed on the beach and the fishermen were scrambling out and rushing towards us yelling excitedly in Indonesian.’ we said.Java 115 A few kilometres east of Semarang. They were sure we were hiding something from them and nothing would convince them that we were there just to have a picnic.

Ed had to teach them how to lift and drop cargo using hooks and nets.’ ‘And so have I!’ Several fishermen came running forward with small plastic bags. grabbing their children. leaving their washing on the rocks and diving under their houses. ‘They want ikan mas!’ ‘I have some. chewing gum and peanuts. They told us they were really fishing for big fish but when they netted goldfish they kept them aside to sell in the market at Surabaya. They no doubt had never seen one at close quarters and it is a very odd-looking machine. The only thing that interested them was the possibility of finding some new fish. we said our farewells and took off in a whirl of sand to fly home.116 Someone Else’s Country Realising that some other explanation was necessary. the most extraordinary thing about the event was the fishermen’s lack of interest or curiosity in our mode of transport. As he was flying over a river upstream. all the villagers fled in terror. something to eat or something to sell. The disappearing children As part of the Indonesian pilots’ training. we told them we were looking for goldfish. Ed selected a remote area in a dry riverbed to carry out these exercises. Loaded to the cargo racks with goldfish. which had doubled in size as more sailboats converged on the island. the helicopter itself. We had to buy them all. How could we have been so foolish as to think we could find an island to ourselves? Hundreds of boats were converging on the island so we gave away everything we had in our picnic basket: all our cigarettes. The next week this story appeared in the local newspaper: . ‘Ikan mas [goldfish]!’ A great roar went up from the crowd. Java had a population of more than a 100 million people and it overflowed even into the sea. it was an obligation. even to sophisticated eyes. each filled with goldfish and other species of tropical fish. In retrospect.

have petitioned the Camat [district chief] that a helicopter has been terrorising their village and attempting to scoop up their children with nets and carry them away to sell on the slave market. ‘How much are these tomatoes?’ ‘Three hundred rupees a kilo.’ ‘You can have them for 250. however. The salespeople were so poor that to argue over a few rupiahs seemed heartless and insulting. How had the Government allowed people to become like that? There were no marked prices and everything had to be bargained for. trying to find the right price. 150. The traders had a price.’ ‘OK. but it had to be done.’ ‘One hundred! Saya rugi! I will go bankrupt!’ ‘Oh well. and that was what you had to discover. nyonya. Beggars in Semarang I made a vow to myself never to return to the big market in Pasar Johar. Then you had to move on to the lettuce and the whole thing began again. Kelurahan Padi. It was so awful.’ It took a full-scale apology and explanation to settle this with the village chief. ragged and dirty. The missing children were later found further up-river playing hookey.’ ‘I’ll pay 150.’ The real price was arrived at and the deal was made. I could not understand how people could find it fascinating. The Camat is investigating.’ ‘Three hundred! Too expensive!’ ‘How much would you like?’ ‘One hundred. No one would . particularly if you wanted 10 different things. beggars and cripples and little girls asking for money.Java 117 ‘Children kidnapped by nets from the air ‘Villagers in the Kecematan of Kedi. Already many children are missing. I don’t really want the tomatoes. It was exhausting. There were so many poor people.

One day she told me. In the main street of Semarang. Jalan Pemuda. expectant eyes were on my purse whenever I paid out the small coins. ‘I am the lucky one. barbaric and evil. ‘Very dangerous. it was embarrassing. People feel sorry for me and give me money. there was one old lady who was very nice. Their tragic. no possessions. about 45cm long with no small toes. ‘They are dangerous because they have no house. ‘Give money nyonya! Give money!’ There were so many of them. No one feels sorry for them. We must be careful. because of my legs.’ He was a man full of compassion for the suffering of this world and he tried to explain to me how the anguish of poverty robbed people of their humanity. a Dutch pastor. ‘They are very dangerous people. He said they were dangerous because of the condition they had been reduced to. And they are hungry. We cannot expect them to be nice people.’ Until then I had not realised so clearly that abject poverty was brutal. nyonya. I couldn’t bear it. ‘Bagaimana kabar [How are you]?’ She was so cheerful.’ he told me. beseeching. Like my friend over there.’ She pointed to another old regular in the street. I am lucky to have these legs. Their thin little hands would reach out to me. People who have real legs can’t get money from begging. Karmila. imploring and tugging at my arms and clothes. I was always surrounded at the market by a group of ragged children. She had mahogany legs — two thick stumps strapped to her knees where her legs ended — and she used crutches to walk. No money. One of her feet was huge. To buy at the first price would deprive the sellers of the thrill of bargaining.118 Someone Else’s Country have it any other way. ‘Hello darling!’ she would call. just one large toe which hung off in a sharp right- . their eyes big and pleading. told me there were 3000 ‘street dwellers’ in Semarang alone. I always stopped to chat with her and marvelled at her smile and cheerful disposition in the face of such hardship. Co.

he’s a war hero. So.’ she said blandly and. He scrabbled them up with his claw-like fingers and. She dragged this great foot behind her and it had developed great crusty calluses. The girls behind the counter held tiny handkerchiefs to their noses and looked at me with embarrassment. . Then they turned away. One otherwise naked man always had his private parts carefully wrapped in garbage — paper. ‘Oh. The third regular in the street was not as cheerful. Karmila did well at begging. The foul smell came from him. I asked some educated Indonesians about these people and they said. ‘Who is that?’ I whispered to the girl behind the counter. People passed her by — I suppose they were afraid to approach her for fear of catching the disease — and she didn’t do as well as the other two. swung his body around and scuttled out through the door. too. stuffing them into his jacket pocket. It was a man in an old army uniform who was pulling himself along by his hands. All the cars drove round her but no one did anything to help her. Other streets in down town Semarang were occupied by naked mad people. She had lost all her fingers and toes to leprosy and held out her stumps in supplication. Hair matted and screaming gibberish. He was a war hero.Java 119 angle at the tip. Sometimes we had to dodge them when we were driving as they liked to disport in the middle of the road. string and curls of orange peel. took out a few small coins and dropped them in front of the man. they are holy. His torso was on the floor and his legs pushed from behind in little stabbing movements. Mahogany Legs was right. People believe they are possessed by devils. in a way. It was hard to believe he was a human being. she lay there. kicking her feet in the air. No one could pass her by. On top of the hill there was often a young woman lying naked in the middle of the road.’ I was in Gajah Mada Street one day collecting photos from the Kodak shop when I smelled something bad and saw what looked like a huge crab crawling through the door. reaching into the cash register. ‘They are taken care of by the village people. Someone always gives them food.

Not a laugh or a giggle. squatting along the verges and displaying an endless array of hand made toys and decorations. but sometimes the mind does not register what the eyes have seen. took note and then looked away.120 Someone Else’s Country People have eyes to see. so I bought a frog. Well formed. a lion. chickens. Passers-by and people in other cars which pulled up beside us at the traffic lights peered in. powered by a wick set in coconut oil which. No one laughed or said anything or dug their neighbours in the ribs. dogs and pigs. vans and buses made from scrap. but still no reaction. tigers. had to be ignored in cities like that. all painted in lurid colours. The hand-crafted toys showed great skill and ingenuity. We had become invisible because we didn’t fit the normal pattern. such as poverty. ducks. frogs. . the more we laughed inside our masks and the more determined we became to elicit some sort of reaction. We evoked no reaction whatsoever. ugliness. There were trumpets made from cigarette cartons and little boats made from sardine tins. and trucks. the sidewalks of Semarang were crowded with salesmen. and artificial flowers made from cigarette boxes and soft drink tins. when set in motion. Most remarkable were the topeng topeng or face masks. ^ They were made from papier maché in the form of lions. emitted a put-put sound exactly like that of a motor boat. Hereward. The more this indifference to our odd appearance continued. pain and misery. things that don’t have a safe and known explanation must be blanked out. temples and birds. Was it because so many things. they were painted theatrically and fitted perfectly over one’s head to sit on the shoulders. pottery money-boxes in the shape of pigs. At the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. with openings for the eyes and for breathing. Gina (who was home on holidays) and I were in the car with Yantho driving. a tiger and a Chinese mask and we put them on and drove home slowly through the crowded streets. that people had an automatic cut-out? In order to survive. donkeys. We stuck our heads out the windows and laughed hysterically. There was a doll’s house filled with furniture.

we could see he would have trouble with the written part of the driver’s licence test.Java 121 Maybe everyone in cities like this is wearing a mask. While he was having no trouble driving. as well as being terrified. Mansur took a look at the collected material and decided he could do it himself. As the town water supply was available for only a few hours each day. Back to the tukang. broke down again. since this was what everyone else was doing at the same time. Mansur the engineer Mansur was learning to drive. after all. Yantho took him out in the car whenever he had time and gave him lessons. On the Friday. however. we had to load it on to a truck and take it to the tukang who fixes such things. he would probably already have had his own engineering business. Ed bought a pump and lengths of hose and all sorts of valves in a plan to draw water up the hill using power from the generator. . with all the advantages of proper schooling. and sat at his exercise books every night. It was brought back in a week and. however. If he had had the luck to be born in Australia. After another week it was brought back only to break down once more. All this from a kampong boy who had grown up carrying water in buckets from the river. mainly an ability to adjust. to protect against those things that are too terrible to accept. I suppose we all do it wherever we live. practising. When our fridge broke down. It was to be quite a complicated affair so he said he would work on it when the weekend came. It had already cost us about $100 so Mansur asked if he could try — he fixed it and it worked perfectly thereafter. Masks for survival. We had been teaching him to read and write but he was still very slow and ponderous. Mansur was also a natural engineer with a streak of genius. it was a daily battle with the neighbours. after running for a few days. It took him several hours and when Ed came home the job was done — more efficiently and better than Ed had planned. He was a very determined student. but which cannot be changed. Survival is. And. we had to use a pump to draw in the maximum amount.

. The nation’s food bowl In Borneo we ate mostly American food. would collect me for work in the faculty jeep so he could maximise his English practice.’ I assured him.’ ‘How simple! If I had to write such a letter in Bahasa Indonesia or Javanese it would take about two pages. ‘Just say Dear Mr Smith. We look forward to your visit some time in the future. thank you very much for the books you so kindly donated to our university. They will be most beneficial to my staff and students. ‘It’s polite and shows your appreciation. thanking them for some technical magazines and books they had donated to the library. Then inquire about the Australian department making the donation and make proper statements of appreciation and assure him that we were duly grateful for the great honour. I would say it many ways in different forms so they would know how greatly their generosity was appreciated. Mr Nisiamhura. Mr Nisiamhura. but in Semarang I began to develop a taste for the local cuisine. ‘Is that all?’ ‘Yes. First I would have to introduce myself and my staff.’ His mouth fell open in disbelief. ‘That’s easy. They were a very enthusiastic group. The dean. Among the skills the Dutch colonists left behind. iced cakes and cheesy wonders. Two pages at least!’ Indonesian and Javanese are very formal languages and one of the difficulties for people working in such an exacting science as engineering was learning to communicate simply and succinctly in English.’ I said. On one occasion he asked me how to write a letter to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. surely their baking prowess would rate the highest. yours sincerely.122 Someone Else’s Country Communication I began teaching English to the dean and lecturers in the engineering faculty of the University of Diponegoro twice a week. They delighted the eye as well as the tastebuds. Semarang’s bakeries offered the most delicious and tempting pastries.

) . but it is. spicy sauce and then fried. prawn wafers and chicken intestines. We sometimes drove to Yogya for a day’s shopping and always ate at one of the ayam goreng restaurants in Jalan Malioboro. because the climate was never cold enough for the apple trees to lose their leaves. The trees. Ayam goreng (fried chicken) of Yogyakarta was another culinary delight. It hangs like a giant teat from the thick trunk of the nangka tree as it is too heavy to hang from the branches. The flesh is bright yellow and sectioned like a custard apple. It may not sound very appetising. coconut and tapioca drinks in hectic colours. the ingenious orchardists brought in teams of workers at the appropriate time to hand-strip the trees of all their foliage. goat meat strips. Yogya was also famous for a type of ratatouille called gudeg. When cooked it turns grey and resembles meat. healthy antibodies were a must and I was glad mine seemed to be in good shape. juicy and enormous – almost the size of a large grapefruit. (The latter went particularly well with cold beer. Just about every type of food you could imagine was sold in airtight packages. The dish was crisp and delicious.Java 123 Java was also the salad bowl of Indonesia. Apparently. They even grew apples on the mountains near Malang. which was freshly scraped young coconut jelly mixed with sarsaparilla. assumed winter had arrived and began the process of developing flowers and fruit. The chicken pieces appeared to be marinated in a thick. Indonesian snack food is the best in the world — I could have lived on street food if there hadn’t been that certain element of danger. sliced tapioca root and seeds. Street stalls sold rice. crispy fried. I tasted these apples and they were sweet. to pork crackling. growing almost every type of fruit and vegetable. presumably. Nangka is an enormous fruit about 60cm long and 30cm wide. There were also markisa or passionfruit drinks and tapioca drinks with tiny balls of boiled tapioca dyed bright green. from fried bananas. Good. which incorporated the flesh of the nangka or jackfruit with coconut cream. I enjoyed one called kopior.

she had been imprisoned with her mother and younger sister in Ambarawa during the Japanese occupation of World War II. We passed through the sugar towns of Kendal and Cepiring. For about an . A man of compassion. Co had special privileges regarding prisons. He offered us liqueur chocolates while we waited for our companion. as his main work was helping released tapols adjust to civilian life. the women’s political prison Just before Christmas 1975.30pm on the Wednesday before Christmas and we drove to the Catholic seminary. a feeling that something marvellous was about to happen.30pm in Truus’ car with a driver. Pelantungan. We drove west from Semarang. who was teaching nursing at a city hospital. There was to be a Christmas party and he was unable to go himself because of prior commitments. The giggly Father promised to meet us at the prison with his singing group of 10 young people. Phia collected me at 3. his unusual manner and giggling way of talking was apparently the method he used to cope with the difficulties of life in Indonesia. In cities such as Semarang. and another woman. People didn’t get angry when a car pulled out in front of them or they were bumped by parcels or becaks. I would travel by car with his wife. the Dutch pastor Co telephoned me to ask if I would like to visit the prison for women political prisoners at Pelantungan in the mountains west of Semarang. then turned south at Weleri and headed towards the volcanoes. We set off about 4. following the coastline. in spite of their many problems. She had a special interest in visiting the prison because. Solo and Yogya. Phia. which rose like giant boils across the spine of Java. it seemed everyone was having fun. as a child of 11. There was a great feeling of excitement day and night.124 Someone Else’s Country I loved the people in Java — they were warm and friendly and went miles out of their way to help you. Our travelling companion was a Dutch nursing sister called Truus. which was run by a Dutch priest who had lived in Indonesia for 40 years.

sugar cane and tobacco fields until. From this point on. Although the evening air in the mountains was cool. we started the slide-walk down the rocky road. It was a rough rock road and impossible for the little Datsun.Java 125 hour we drove through rice paddies. We came across a group of small. a young man came out to greet us neatly dressed in dark trousers. He asked us to make ourselves comfortable and left. In our ‘wrong’ shoes (we should have been wearing mountain boots). Passing through mountain villages. at the bottom of the hill. The road levelled off and. As we approached. wiry. We sat in silence after attempting. People looked at us curiously. but it was normal farm land. Everyone else we had seen had been wearing traditional clothes. they sweated as they strained up the 45degree slope. opposite the church. without success. for the next 10km. cabbages. we came to an official-looking building. Was this the prison? Were these men the guards? . There were a few push-bikes and an occasional van or jeep. One kilometre on. the car began to groan and squeal and the driver said he could go no further. but responded politely when we greeted them. we saw. We had expected the area near the prison to be deserted. we eventually had to turn off the good road and. as the altitude increased. barefoot men carrying telephone poles on their shoulders. The front room had long benches and a few rotan chairs. the road was downhill. We were looking for the prison but there were only cottages and children and curious adults coming uphill towards us. a small white church with a slim blue cross on its gabled front. the road became progressively worse. We would have to walk the rest of the way. to make conversation with two men already seated there. In the middle of a small village of six houses. parcels and huge bundles of grass for goats and other animals. There were many people walking carrying poles. The man greeted us in Indonesian and ushered us into the building. the farms gave way to great jati (teak) forests. wood. a white shirt and a blue tie. their bare feet gripping the sharp pointed stones that our leather shoes were slipping on.

We pushed the door through the murky haze and were just able to make out the vile. When our turn came it was worse than expected. gloomy light from hurricane lamps. all on the floor. Sometimes they [the prisoners] die. Chickens wandered around. ‘I came here last year. . We sat there for a further 25 minutes when there was a flurry of excitement outside and we saw the giggling Father approaching. hot chillied scraps of meat. who were going to sing Christmas carols for the prisoners. If this was how the jailor lived. We were offered toilet facilities. with the usual green snake beans. So far from their families. Various women passed through and nodded to us shyly. He was in full safari outfit and followed by a group of 10 boys and girls. as they were hunted off the plates and utensils. squawking noisily. dark-looking sluggish stream of water which gurgled through a crack in the rocks. At the officer’s house. ‘It is very sad. what of the jailed themselves? Dinner was served. Were they prisoners? Phia and Truus and I whispered a few words to one another. which turned out to be very basic.126 Someone Else’s Country We were offered cold tea and drank it in silence. He invited us to his house for a meal. with crucifixes and coloured pictures of the Virgin the only decorations. we passed through the kitchen where there were many children and cats and several little coke stoves with pots and pans on them. There was no electricity. bean curd and mountains of rice. Two planks were laid across this stream and that was the full extent of the ‘facility’. We were vaguely uneasy. We waited in a queue behind the choir in the midst of this confusion. To reach them. kankong (native spinach). Some were carrying folded bundles of laundry.’ one young girl whispered to me. It was a Catholic household. just the smoky. buffet-style. we were welcomed by his wife and children.’ The young man who had met us returned and explained that he was the officer in charge of the 40 delinquent boys who were also prisoners there.

Kerosene lights stood in the windows. Cutout letters in red and green were hung across the top of the stage with the trditional words Selamat Hari Natal — Selamat Tahun Baru (Merry Christmas — Happy New Year).’ we were told. who wore white blouses with dark accordian-pleated skirts and had their hair bobbed. which was packed with row upon row of women on benches. facing the stage. We were to witness a Christmas concert and prayer meeting. He suggested. . which looked quite attractive in the half light. we were led outside again and to a large barracks-type hall. talcum powder. This over. all their faces turned expectantly towards us. that we should buy the inmates’ handiwork. We assumed the money would go to the prisoners and bought as much as we could. There were fine needlepoint pictures and table mats. but it was kindly. ‘This is where the prisoners live. biscuits perhaps — but the Father had explained that this would not be allowed by the Kommandant. We were told there were only 350 women inmates as 50 had recently been released. apparently in their twenties.Java 127 It was noticed that I ate little and some remarks were made about foreigners not liking Indonesian food. We entered the hall. which were draped by curtains. Exceptions were among the young prisoners. Some of it was shown to us after the meal and it was all very beautiful: exquisitely embroidered sheets and pillowcases with drawn-thread designs and hand-finished embroideries on all seams and hems. The women were dressed in the traditional kain-kebaya and had their hair dressed in the traditional manner — swept back tightly from the forehead and arranged into a large bun at the nape of the neck. Before leaving Semarang we had discussed what we could bring in the way of Christmas presents for the prisoners — soap. surrounded by kampong-style cottages. Every eye in that closely packed audience turned to watch us as we walked in. We were all Christians together. European-style. however. We were led to the front row and seated on rotan armchairs. The stage was decorated with a Christmas tree with flashing coloured lights and a replica of the Nativity scene.

I assumed it was a reaction to the food we had just had and that it would soon pass. But the pains increased until I was forced to lie down on the bench. There is no way to explain how the three of us felt. with a conductor. The cheerful smiles had a devastating effect on me and. The convulsions stopped and I felt a cool. They all smiled back. trying to pass on our thoughts. Guards in civilian dress stood by them and it was obvious that no personal contact with the prisoners was allowed. firm hand holding my forehead. . ‘I don’t think they will let you out.128 Someone Else’s Country Phia. The three of us were deeply moved as we looked at these beautifully composed and dignified faces. In seconds I lost the full contents of my complaining stomach. most of them holding babies on their laps. desperate. ‘I’ll have to go out! Now!’ I struggled up and lurched towards the door. We changed our front-row seats. The program began with opening prayers. waiting their turn to go on stage.’ She pointed to a group of prisoners behind a grille at the door. It was the most perfect rendering of this type of music I had ever heard. I felt a violent cramp in my stomach. These were the wives of the guards. although from a greater distance. began to sing a most complicated choral composition in five parts. Then the young girls in the white blouses stood up and. Truus and I turned in our seats to look at the ranks of prisoners.’ she was apprehensive. the guards gave way and I just made it to the gutter running along the edge of the verandah. I had to turn away for shame. As I sat there. hand over mouth. realising my stomach was about to reject the troublesome matter. hoping to greet them personally. but found that two rows of quite different women separated them from us. ‘I’m going to vomit! Can you get me outside?’ ‘I don’t think you can. We kept turning and smiling at the captive women. we had one great quality in common: we were women. ‘Cepat! Cepat! Mau muntah [Quickly! I’m going to be sick]!’ Startled. I whispered to Phia. All thoughts of politics and religion aside. a tuning fork and no other accompaniment. shedding a tear. so we could look directly at the prisoners. Finally. watching the charade on the stage.

wiping the sour taste from my mouth. with the kind woman holding my arm and accompanied by two guards. in whose house we had eaten. ‘Are you feeling better now? Is there anything more I can do to help you?’ I was astonished and said. Finally. ‘He doesn’t understand English.’ ‘No. No sooner had the guards withdrawn than the woman said to me in perfect English. ‘I don’t want to be separated from my friends. Three or four boys. Murmuring thanks. the kind woman settled me down and fussed over me gently.’ Grudgingly I agreed to move and. A boy with a comic book moved nearer and sat on the next bed. She rubbed my feet and took my pulse and offered me more water. With the guards in attendance. She asked the usual nursing questions in Indonesian as the guards and the boys looked on.’ she said. I am a nurse.’ ‘But you must lie down. with 10 wooden. I was led into a long room. It was furnished barely. the guards had a brief word with the boys and left. ‘It’s quite all right.’ I glanced at the boy who had obviously been sent to overhear our conversation.Java 129 ‘Mau minum?’ It was a soft female voice offering me a glass of water.’ ‘Is he one of the anak nakal [delinquent boys]?’ I asked. no!’ I said. frightened. sat about reading or just staring at the ceiling. but I am also a prisoner. I sipped the cool water. It is where my delinquent boys sleep. I sat there for a while with this kind woman in attendance. ‘You must return to my house and rest. ‘Then you must come into this next building and lie down there.’ I protested again and he said. aged about 12. approached and said. doublebunk beds. Then the officer. You can’t stay here. ‘You speak English! Are you a nurse here?’ ‘Yes. I was led to a bed in the centre of the room. . apparently satisfied that all was in order.

I am a nurse. They are thieves. I told her that I was spending a lonely Christmas that year as all four of my children were in other parts of the world. Several other children were being breast-fed at the time of their mother’s arrest. but he was a trade unionist.’ As the boy continued to stare intently at the comic book. pimps for their sisters. I have not seen or heard of them for 11 years. In the previous year. I have not seen my husband or children since that time. Through some prisoners I heard that [my husband] was killed. ‘I too have four children. I think they must have arrested me because of my husband. looking at him tenderly. He is an anak negara. I don’t know why I was arrested. A child of Indonesia. She had not been charged with any crime. ‘No.’ ‘Was he a communist?’ ‘No. ‘We must be much of an age. She told me there were more than 300 women in the prison. never given counsel nor brought to trial. A child of the state. runaways. Life is hard for the poor. ranging in age from 11 to 70 years. the woman spoke to me in more detail and asked me about myself.130 Someone Else’s Country ‘Anak nakal?’ she said. vagrants. These .’ ‘What crimes are they sent here for?’ ‘Oh. all sorts of crimes.’ she said. due to some relaxation of government restrictions. She felt no confidence that the postcards had been delivered. They are victims of circumstance. The oldest one would have been 23 and the youngest 16. They come from Yogyakarta. not an anak nakal. dope peddlers. The 11-year-old was in utero when her mother was arrested. I have never belonged to anything. Some of them are murderers. She thought her children were probably in the care of her brother. she had received two stereotyped postcards purporting to come from her family and she was allowed to reply in the same restricted manner. The army came in and I was arrested in 1965 while working as a nurse in the Bandung Hospital.’ She told me that she had been confined in a jail in Jakarta for five years then moved to Pelantungan six years ago.

because they had chosen to stay with their mothers. We may not lock the doors on the inside. We sleep five people to a bed. ‘I have trained several young girls who work well but we have so many to look after. That too will give us a bad report. the Kommandant’s wife and family and the guards and their families. supposedly for release. But it’s not that. nurses and technicians.’ The guards returned twice to the room during our conversation and on each occasion the nurse reverted quickly and easily to trivia in Indonesian. But smaller. but a little bigger. as Co spoke of an intake at Bulu Prison in Semarang at the same time.’ she said. teachers. lawyers. This was doubtful. Much smaller. More than 300 prisoners. The doors are locked from the outside. A nod from the comicreading boy satisfied the guards that all was well. Until recently there had been two doctors in Pelantungan but they were removed. That is nothing.Java 131 children had spent their entire lives in prison.’ ‘Do they ill-treat you? Hit you?’ ‘Yes. We are not supposed to say we are afraid of them. and behind the hill. The rooms are like this one we are in now.’ . That is where the guards and their families live. Our place is much further down.’ ‘How do you sleep?’ ‘We have double bunks like these. ‘I am the only fully trained person left here now. The removal of the doctors had put a great strain on the nursing skills of my new friend.’ ‘I was told you live in those cottages opposite with the lamps in the windows. ‘We are afraid of the guards. If they give us a bad report we will never be able to go home. What we are afraid of are their reports.’ ‘How many people to a room?’ ‘Fifty. including two doctors.’ she said after the second check. ‘We are all afraid of the guards. of course. the 40 boys. however. ‘Oh no.’ I said. There were doctors. The inmates were all well-educated. Conditions at Bulu were worse than at Pelantungan as the climate was hot and steamy and there were no provisions for gardening.

their faces showed a bluish tinge below the eyes. ‘No. How could I explain it to her? It now seemed so long ago.30am with the prisoners scrubbing and polishing their own and the guards’ quarters. of course. I asked my friend about them and she said they had been imprisoned for only a few years. most of whom seemed to be in their twenties and looked too young to have been arrested in 1965. They were all bouncy and alert and looked much healthier than the long-term prisoners. ‘When our cleaning is finished we eat rice and then go to our work. just music — which was very welcome. I told her of the moon explorers. friends and the world for more than a decade. What has happened?’ ‘The war in Vietnam is over. but I repeated what I had heard about the prison island in the Moluccas. She didn’t know why they were there. the new American president. had been imprisoned on Buru with hundreds of others for many years. One of Indonesia’s most famous writers. they have to be paid. without books or paper and . sugar and dried fish. sewing or gardening. In spite of their brown skin tones. ‘Have you been to Buru?’ I hadn’t. ‘Do you know what has happened in the world since 1965?’ I asked.’ I guessed that only a small proportion of this extra food reached the prisoners as their general health appeared to be well below that of the guards’ plump wives. They use the money to buy things for us such as tea. but there really was no way to talk of these matters to a woman cut off from family. the death of Mao Tse Tung.’ ‘What war?’ She was puzzled. Pramoedya Toer. They were all much thinner and had an exhausted appearance. New regulations allowed the inmates to listen to the radio — no news reports. The group of prisoners who particularly interested me were those in the choir. Some prisoners are allowed to go to the nearest market and sell their vegetables. ‘Have you visited other prisons like this?’ she asked.132 Someone Else’s Country A typical day began at 4. Guards always go with them and. satellites.

Europe. I said. ‘Tell me where you think your children are and I will visit them and tell them you are all right. But for these women there was nothing to aim for.’ I told the nurse. old age. He can count the months and days. as something tangible to remind her that she had not been forgotten by the world. They are trying to get you out of here. On my left wrist I wore a number of bangles. People in England. sickness and death. I want them to have a happy life. They died and were buried far from family and relatives. ‘What you have told me is very disturbing. I asked her to hold it whenever she felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Next week I am going to Australia and I will tell them about you.’ I wanted to reassure her. I didn’t want her to lose hope.’ She considered this seriously for a while and then said. I don’t want you to go there. I want a good report. Sliding one from my arm. ‘No. .Java 133 condemned to hard physical labour. In ordinary jails. but they are not trying hard enough. alone and forgotten. But please know that there are people in the outside world who know that you are here. To go home to her children. Every other consideration was secondary to this intense mother’s desire. I gave her the bangle and asked her to wear it until she was released. They are trying. We want you to be back with your children. ‘I am going to Jakarta in a few days. no point in time on which to fix hope. I’m afraid that if you go there I may get a bad report. mementos of different places I had visited. just interminable incarceration. the nurse told me. I don’t want my children to be hurt. it seemed to me that there were political prisons throughout Indonesia that we in the West knew little about. We will all try much harder to get you out of here. I want to go home. These mainly intellectual men had been forced to clear the jungle and grow their own food. a prisoner sentenced to a certain number of years at least knows when his incarceration will end.’ This was the second time she had said that: maybe I will never go home. Then I will never go home. America and Australia. Many women had died in the prison. Remembering the political prisoners I had seen in Balikpapan.

I wanted her to know that if she was ever released. ‘Now you must go back. I am just a victim of circumstance. I then asked a stupid question. ‘They will be suspicious. A good report. She was a fat. ‘Yes. she slipped it under her leg. The guards looked suspiciously at us and questioningly at the boy.’ She rubbed the bangle. Terrified. When they had gone my friend quickly slipped the bangle up her arm and under her tightly fitted kebaya. now under her flowered sleeve. We must just wait. I told her my name and address. jolly woman with 11 children. Could I write to her or send a parcel? ‘Of course.’ . We cannot write. ‘Are any of these your children?’ ‘No. She looks after me and my family very well. Wait and hope for a good report.’ This was a great cruelty for educated people. ‘But I will never get your letter or parcel. She is a good nurse.’ she said simply. We could not endanger our family and friends.’ she smiled. I told her how kind the nurse had been to me. and pressed my hand warmly. ‘Why don’t we escape? Because there is nowhere to escape to. I felt her fear and trembling as she laid her hand on my already cooled forehead. The Kommandant will keep them. ‘Doesn’t anyone ever try to escape?’ ‘Oh no. I begged another glass of water and said I would go back soon. That is all.’ There were several young children performing on the stage so I asked. The Kommandant’s wife motioned me to sit beside her.’ she said firmly. We have no paper or pencils. He will keep anything you send here. which she traced carefully on the bed sheet with her finger. They are all prisoners. They suggested perhaps I was well enough to return to the concert.’ I returned to the hall and watched the last hour of the concert. He shrugged his shoulders and this appeared to satisfy them. she could come to me.134 Someone Else’s Country She was about to take the bangle when the guards returned. There is nowhere to go.

‘Selamat jalan [Go safely]. The head is a sacred part of the body. the hand would have to be washed immediately. so I made a list of some dos and don’ts for living there. We left in the rain for the long drive back to Semarang. The ibu ibu. including eating. They are all prisoners. The performance came to an end and the prison pastor. Foreigners are forgiven. Indonesians use the right hand for all these actions. It’s regarded as one of the rudest things you can do. If you must point at something. one by one. and smile. Don’t have a dog in the house if entertaining Javanese Muslims. The left hand is used exclusively for the lavatory. watching the play. She knew.’ we replied. hoping we would remember.’ they whispered. 4. Don’t touch anyone on the head. I had seen those same indulgent expressions so many times at the end of a school year. ‘Selamat tinggal [Stay safely]. just to grasp our hands. Truus and I stood by the door and shook hands with them as they left. . with a butch haircut. Don’t pass anything to anyone with your left hand. The ways of the Javanese Javanese society is very formal at all levels. gave the final benediction. There was shame in her voice and on her face as she looked at them. If a dog should lick such a visitor’s hand. use your chin. sometimes murmuring their name. ‘Yes. 2. but NEVER tousle a child’s hair. The same applies to shaking hands in greeting. 1. The prisoners began to file out to return to their quarters.’ This was a most polite way of referring to them as ladies. tight-pressed lips and looking uncomfortable in civilian clothes. just like mothers all over the world at the end-of-term school concert. She was a mother.Java 135 She glanced at the rows of women behind. Every one of them passed by us. Phia. Don’t point with your finger at anyone or anything. 3.

inquiring about family members. Eating is a private and personal affair and is done in silence. 8.’ 13. Sir. This is different. ‘Ibu. 6. Karmila. 10. Sir]. the cook. Don’t expect to be introduced by name. Pak [Madam. we might have less recourse to psychiatrists. If you don’t have one you must be a communist. Don’t begin your conversation with the matter at hand. They see reason and kindness where we would find annoyance and frustration. They have a fatalistic attitude to life and a flexibility we might envy. Saleh always took his food to a corner and turned his back at meal time. 14. A typical greeting about 6pm is ‘Selamat sore. Don’t flinch when greeted with a resounding sniff on each cheek. Have you bathed]?’. they say to you.136 Someone Else’s Country 5. after holding a lengthy conversation in Bahasa Indonesia with new friends. 12. Juari. he worked . Do wash your hands before eating in a Muslim restaurant. Do ask if you should remove your shoes before entering a house. If we could bend with the wind as they do. ‘Do you speak Indonesian?’ The wedding Accepting a Javanese point of view or behaviour is one thing. There is usually a wash basin in the corner. It is customary to just nod politely and say. came to me with the news that her eldest son. It is polite to do so. Start off with pleasantries. A religion of some sort is compulsory. etc. Twenty years old. All of us face similar problems in life. 7. This is a warm form of greeting. pak. 9. Don’t talk to Javanese when they are eating. childguidance counsellors and even courts of law. Don’t forget to bathe in the early evening. but our way of coping is so different from the Javanese way that we could be from different planets. Sudah mandi [Good evening. They do eat together in warungs and at parties. Don’t be surprised if. Do use rubber thongs when going into the bathroom. Don’t say you have no religion. Understanding it is another. 11. was to be married.

’ ‘If I come with you. also worked in Jakarta and they planned to be married near her home town of Pacitan. Yantho. we can go in my car. so we should be back home in the evening. We drove for two hours on a good road south to the ancient capital of Solo. Sabtu. if there is room. they said. The royal family had fallen on hard times and was selling its antiques to tourists. Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Mataram. His bride to be. Kasmina. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to see a Javanese village wedding so I asked if I could go along. it is now a centre of culture and batik production. It takes only a few hours and we will be back in the evening. We turned east at a signpost reading ‘Madiun.’ That meant six in the car. we set off at 7.Java 137 as a night watchman in Jakarta. All three names were used variously on signposts. including the driver. Karmila was delighted. ‘How do we get to Pacitan?’ I asked. which she had made. Directions were sought as the tank was being filled and we were told to turn south on the road to Ponorogo. The boot of the car was filled with presents and Karmila also had the wedding cake. ‘What’s up? Something wrong?’ ‘It’s time to eat. This town was written into Indonesian history as the site of an abortive communist uprising in 1948. Also Amin. too. How about that?’ I asked how many people would be going. With three women in the back seat and the men in the front. As the day approached. on the south coast of Central Java.’ .30 in the morning. also known as Sala and Surakarta. my nephew. nyonya. ‘My kakak [elder sister]. Tuti. 120km’. Karmila asked if she could have the day off to attend the wedding. We sped through village after village and it was midday by the time we rolled into Madiun and a service station. ‘By bus. nyonya. The road was not very good and after an hour Yantho pulled to the side and stopped. It was only a few hours’ drive.

The road plunged down. ‘Any driver who has survived to this point deserves a medal. We passed through Ponorogo. casting us into the torrent below. it’s on that road. it read. we set off again. the road began to descend and soon entered a gorge.’ he said. becaks and . ‘Not here. We all cheered. Very close. No one had heard of Gedung Sari. cultivated plain running to the sea. the road passed under overhangs of rock that seemed about to crash on top of us. just the occasional tattered cassava patch. They ate their sticky rice. We asked a farmer where to find the village of Gedung Sari. ‘A boy from Semarang marrying a girl from Pacitan? Yes. The cliffs above and below us were sheer and.’ Yantho said. Berani sekali! Pahlawan! A hero. After one particularly nasty stretch of s-bends we passed a huge rock with large black letters written on its flat side. ‘Very close. tree-lined seaside town of Pacitan. which flowed from the high plains down to the Indian Ocean. forcing us through a series of s-bends. He is a hero. Finally we came into the neat.’ Our driver Yantho was such a brave man. You can’t miss it. There were no people or villages. Refreshed. twisting and turning like an erratic corkscrew. Further on perhaps. at times. We held our breath every time Yantho braked and changed down a gear. Translated. We made further inquiries and were directed to take a road leading out of town to the west.’ The road was badly pot-holed and we proceeded slowly until we saw ahead of us a gathering of people.138 Someone Else’s Country Karmila had prepared lunch with even some bread and butter for me. nyonya. The river was Kali Grindulu. forcing its way angrily through the inhospitable and desolate landscape. It was almost four o’clock when we emerged from the gorge and found ourselves on a flat. All inquiries met with negative replies. hot chillies and fried tahu and we drank hot tea from a Thermos. clinging for dear life to the scarred and barren hillsides. It couldn’t be far now.

’ They pointed east so we drove and drove. Yantho on the couch and Amin and Sabtu in the car. The furnishings were one three-quarter bed in the back room and. with everyone except me wearing a glum expression. It’s at Bangun Sari. but it was at Rego Sari. It turned out to be parts of several films spliced together to make up one surrealistic whole. they were courteous and polite and the sergeant confirmed our address was wrong.Java 139 general commotion. By now it was dark and we all agreed we would never find Gedung Sari. The cost was 100 rupiahs each and the entertainment was in keeping with the price charged. but it was not to be. a bathroom and a verandah. We decided on a visit to the cinema. Pengi Napan was clean enough and not expensive at 1000 rupiahs (about $A2) for an apartment or unit. We decided Karmila. strolling up-town and inspecting the few dull shops. We set off with relief for our true destination. Even the policeman agreed it was time to quit. Definitely a celebration. two chairs and a table. yes. . ‘Yes. To our pleasant surprise. but the wrong one. a couch. not Gedung Sari and it was a wedding. We decided to stay overnight and return home the next day. He directed us to the only losmen (boarding house) in town. He knew about the wedding. we headed for the office of law and order. We were a strange group that evening. but it was the wrong one again. There were two rooms. called Pengi Napan. Everyone said Indonesia was a police state so I figured the police would know where their villages were and who was getting married in them. But it was Asem Sari. but it was wrong again. ‘To the police station Yantho! Langsung [forthwith]! It’s our last chance before dark!’ Reluctantly. Out that way. the car was turned round and. Over everyone’s horrified protests I said we must go to the police. He offered to show us the way and squeezed himself into the car. We returned to the centre of town and asked again. No one could face the thought of a journey back through the gorge in the dark. in the front room. There was a wedding. It was time to take drastic action. By now it was 6pm and almost dark. Kasmina and I would sleep in the bed.


Someone Else’s Country

Beginning in German, it was a story about gangsters and helicopters. Suddenly it switched to covered wagons and bonneted ladies speaking American English. The last sequence was part of the war movie Night of the Generals. The audience was not worried by the odd jumble and all muttered positive comments on the way out. We returned to our losmen and prepared for sleep. Karmila and Kasmina insisted I go to bed first. I resisted for a while because the bedroom was hot and airless, but I finally went in and lay down. I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway, I thought. I lay there alone for a while, but then decided it was stupid. The others were sitting outside in the cool, so I got up and joined them. The men had wandered off, but the two women were sitting on the verandah chewing away at their sirih (betel nut). ‘We wanted you to sleep first,’ said Karmila shyly, ‘because we thought you might not like us to eat sirih.’ The preparing and sharing of sirih is a formal affair with Indonesian women. It induces a mild euphoria, but also reddens the teeth if not cleaned off quickly. ‘Can I have some, too, please?’ I asked. They were delighted to share their nut, leaf and lime with me and laughed at my clumsy attempts to roll it with the tobacco. Once I got the knack I could see why they enjoyed it. It gave me a nice drowsy feeling. Later we went to bed and they insisted on giving me a really good pidgit or massage. I drifted off into a dreamless sleep. Morning comes early in hard and crowded beds and we were all wide awake at first light. At bath-time I committed an error of etiquette: I had not brought rubber thongs to wear into the bathroom. The ladies exchanged horrified glances as if to say, ‘How awful! Fancy coming without her thongs!’ Most courteously, however, I was lent a pair and decency was seen to prevail. The losmen included early morning tea in its charges and, as we sat drinking the pale fluid, served in tall glasses, Karmila had the brilliant idea of breaking out the wedding cake. There was no sense wasting a good cake. Fresh tea and wedding cake at six in the morning is a breakfast never to be forgotten.



With eight or nine hours of driving ahead of us, we set off on an alternative route home, which would take us west then north to Wonogiri and Solo. Everyone was in a good mood in spite of the fact that the car was still packed with unpresented wedding gifts. Karmila was sad but brave. Beyond Pacitan we passed through wild, rugged country with only sparse vegetation. It was a devil’s playground of jagged limestone hills and giant rocks pitted with caves scattered across the terrain in haphazard fashion. I remembered from my guide book that this was the area where the hero, Diponegoro, hid for a time during his struggle against the Dutch in the previous century. One of the refuge caves is called Gua Tabahan and we made a small diversion to inspect it. Huge and cathedral-like, the vast cave was hung with oil lamps which illuminated, in eerie fashion, the stalagtites which hung all about like obscene testicles. We were told the stalagtites made a gong-like sound when struck with a rock and they could be played like a traditional gong orchestra. The guides who performed this were not available, however, so we missed this treat. Enjoying our tour and all thoughts of the missed wedding forgotten, we arrived in Donorejo and then Wonogiri. Having left the desolate southland behind, we were once more among the familiar rice paddies and coconut groves. It was five o’clock on Sunday evening when we arrived home in Semarang. My fellow travellers went straight to their kampongs and the next morning I was surprised to see a happy and smiling Karmila turn up for work early. She was beaming and so were the others. ‘Such lovely news, nyonya!’ she said. ‘Two boys from the kampong went to the wedding by bus and came home late last night.’ ‘They went to the wedding?’ I asked. ‘Yes. They were there. The bride was pretty and my son was handsome.’ ‘They actually found Gedung Sari?’ ‘You see, nyonya. This is what happened. My son gave me the wrong address. But it was not an accident. He did it on purpose. The real name is Gedung Asem. He said Gedung Sari so I could not find it.’


Someone Else’s Country

‘He deliberately gave you the wrong address?’ ‘Yes. Isn’t he a fine boy? The path to Gedung Asem is over high hills and across a river. There is no road and he did not want me, his mother, to make the difficult journey on foot. He gave me the wrong address so I could not find it. What a beautiful boy to do that for his mother.’ Everyone nodded in agreement. A splendid and considerate son. They all smiled at me so I smiled and shared in their happiness at this bizarre explanation. We had driven for 16 hours and covered a distance of 500km. We had eaten the wedding cake for breakfast and brought all the wedding presents home, yet everyone was happy. Not just happy, but delighted. ‘What a fine boy,’ I repeated, shaking my head. This was Java, once again providing a great learning curve for foreigners.

The business of pleasure
There was a great camaraderie between the expat wives in Semarang. We all came from different countries but we had the same problems to cope with: food, climate, language and shopping. The one big general store in town, where the change hung on wires and was shot up to the cashier in her eyrie high above the counters, was called Meliora, but was generally referred to by foreigners as Smelliora. Mahjong was a popular pastime several times a week, alternating with bridge, golf and tennis. We all shared our letters from home and talked a lot to one another and many women developed a fine talent for story-telling. All our secrets came out and, for many of the women, it was the first time they had shared such tales with a group of friends. For our husbands, however, the entertainment opportunities were limitless. Semarang, being a Chinese businessmen’s town, was flush with the pleasure business. There were bars, massage parlours, billiard saloons and discos everywhere. One of the milder joints was called the Mona Lisa. It was in an area known as the Zoo.



To assuage my curiosity, Ed took me there one night. There was a bar in the foyer and then the ‘fishbowl’ where the girls were on display behind glass. They sat in rows, about a dozen or so, watching TV and doing crochet. The customer looked them over, made his choice, paid the cashier and the girl was led out. Together they proceeded to the dance floor where disco music played and strobe lights flickered. It was very dark, so the men’s identities were safe from prying eyes. During dance breaks the couples retired to booths surrounding the floor. According to informants, nothing went on there except tickle and giggle. Anything beyond that needed further negotiation. In fact, it was against the rules of the establishment. At closing time bodyguards were on hand to escort the girls home and make sure they had not arranged any after-hours appointments. If the girls made money on the sly, the owners would get no percentage, and percentage was the name of the game. Bruce Carlson from Canadian Pacific, who was an advisor to Indonesian Railways, explained to me the price structure for the ‘real thing’. Up on the hill, towards Gombel, there were some very pricey girls who charged 25,000 rupiahs or more. Prices descended on a graduated scale towards sea level, where the girls who hung around the fence at the railway yards charged a mere 300 rupiahs. Most of the girls came from country villages and saved their money to take home to help their families. As long as they did this they were not looked down on by society. It was only when they spent their money on their own pleasures that they became perempuan nakal or bad girls. If they had the bad luck to fall pregnant they had few choices. It was either take up the profession full-time or set themselves up as concubines to Chinese merchants or foreigners. A foreigner was a lucky catch in Semarang and several of the girls ended up getting married and going off to live in the US. They would not be accepted back in the village with an unwanted child, so a foreign man was one way out of a life of misery. With virginity lost, girls who didn’t care to go on the town had one other alternative: they could become medicine sellers. Often very young and beautiful, they squatted along the


Someone Else’s Country

roadside with a basket of bottles on their backs. They had remedies for all sorts of ills such as rheumatism, headache, influenza or masuk angin (flu), bad back, nausea or loss of virility. The potions were cooked-up in the kampongs and the ‘good’ girls took to the streets with them and were able to scrape a living selling their products by the glass. On a more business-like level were the herbal drug companies, which produced the same sort of remedies in a more scientific, sophisticated and hygienic way. The three largest in the country operated out of Central Java. Nyonya Meneer, Jamu Djago and Air Mancur were rich companies and their products were sold throughout Indonesia. Indonesians have great faith in jamu, the herbal remedies. One company put out a product for those suffering from lack of virility called ‘Sek-Hot’. I inquired about the ingredients and learned they included bark and leaves from Kalimantan, ground buffalo horn and snake juice. Other establishments for those seeking sexual pleasure were the billiard parlours. When you paid for a game of snooker, you were provided with a pretty girl as your opponent. The girls were all excellent players and could usually out-play any but the most skilled. After the game, drinks were taken and arrangements made for more sensual experiences out the back. Massage parlours also abounded in Semarang offering plain, medium or full massages and there were many large discos with floor shows and strippers. My only personal experience of such an enterprise came about by accident. One night, between Christmas and New Year, we were partying at the Carlsons’ house. Bruce’s wife, Carmen, was a French Canadian and had a temperament to match. We were all feeling rather jaded after several weeks of parties and, just to cause a stir, Carmen suddenly said to Bruce, ‘Someone told me that you are a shareholder in a brothel in Candi Baru.’ ‘Really! Who said that?’ ‘Your friend Hadi, the banker.’ Hadi was a sharp operator, the owner of a small private bank, who often visited the Carlsons but never brought his wife along. Carmen was irritated by this and told him he was no longer welcome unless he sometimes brought is wife, but he

A thin. Why would he say that?’ ‘Because you have something going together. Bruce and Ed said nothing but observed Carmen and me in a way I remember as seemingly supercilious but amused. The driver told me. We entered the house through a shabby foyer. All those private talks you have. middle-aged woman approached us and asked what we would like to drink. the woman returned and. And going out in the evening. We took a seat at one of the four tables and waited to see what would happen. ‘I suppose they hide the cars in here so they won’t be recognised. Along the hall.’ Carmen looked at me and said.’ Carmen whispered. Twin gates were opened by an attendant and we drove into a huge. ‘Shall we go?’ I agreed so we got in the car and drove along Jalan Kawi. About a year. The girls and boys glanced at us every now and then and giggled. And you can ask the owner if I’m a shareholder. were some Indonesian boys. decorated with half-dead pot plants. on tattered cushions. Once inside. addressed Carmen and me. feeling embarrassed and searching for something to talk about. Seated in the bays. dark garage. ‘Hadi!’ said Bruce.’ It was a challenge and Bruce took it up directly. We started to drink. we’ll go there now.’ ‘And what is your work?’ . Not long. past the Princess Elizabeth Hospital and pulled into the driveway of an old Dutch colonial house. the great door clanged shut behind us.Java 145 continued to keep her at home. It’s now midnight. If you want to prove the point. were girls in pretty dresses chatting to one another. We ordered beer and were brought four bottles on a tray with glasses. ignoring the men. which joined a large drawing room with bay windows. seated on a bench. Just near the other one where the Japanese girls are. After an interval. He said that was her place as an Indonesian wife. ‘I don’t believe you. ‘OK. ‘Have you been long in Semarang?’ ‘No. Carmen. It’s that place called the Town House in Sultan Agung Street.

The men. Carmen was a natural communicator and before long she and the boy were laughing together as though they had just met at a party. Which one would you like? They are all good boys. nyonya.’ I said and Carmen said she was a cook. are they bodyguards?’ ‘Yes. that the woman thought we were in Indonesia on our own and that Ed and Bruce were pick-ups. We found out that he came from a village and liked working there. We realised.’ Things were developing in a way we hadn’t planned. 18 and had many brothers and sisters. who looked about 18 years old. heard this exchange. Although no linguist. I said. Who is the one in the middle?’ . ‘they are bodyguards but they are also available. I asked. ‘Which one would you like? They are all available. in fact.’ I was suprised. The girls in the bay window whispered to one another. All eyes were on us with the exception of those of Bruce and Ed. They ignored the whole scene and were obviously putting us to the test. talking dully to one another at the far end of the table. she offered him a glass of beer and looked to me for conversational help. ‘The boys over there. without a word being spoken. Speaking practically no Indonesian. she leaned across the table and said in a loud voice. The game was getting serious. She wanted to sting Bruce into some sort of reaction. but said nothing.’ Then. The woman turned to me and said.’ ‘Of course. to my surprise. shocked and embarrassed. He was. ‘His name in Sunni. Sunni! Come!’ The boy. She was a very sparky lady and. ‘I like that one at the end.’ said the woman. came and sat beside Carmen. she assumed a businesslike attitude and said. ‘The one in the middle. His answers were monosyllabic and every now and then he looked nervously at the woman in charge. ‘And you. No man would bring his wife to such an establishment. looking at both of us directly.146 Someone Else’s Country ‘I’m a teacher.’ she said. Carmen looked at me and decided to be daring. Glancing at the young boys sitting along the wall.

‘If you agree to the price. With her next question I knew we had reached the point of no return.3. R.000 rupiahs [$A30]. as they had gone together into a secret cave never previously entered by foreigners. The fun had gone from the game.’ . We could have been interviewing the young men to take part in a film or as prospective immigrants to Australia. had visited Wonosobo with President Suharto. ‘We have settled on the price. We wouldn’t let the men’s aggressive passivity defeat us.000 for the second and R. calm and businesslike.’ said the woman. but not the time.15. ‘Budi is very popular here. Or. ‘It is R.7. She was cool.’ She motioned him across and now I had my own companion. Is that satisfactory?’ The men continued to ignore us. ‘For Budi and Sunni the price is the same: 15. The chair was indicated for me and the woman and the boy sat on one of the beds. nyonya.’ she pressed home her offer. with one chair. In a dull dream. ‘He’s a clever boy and is studying motorbike repair in the day-time.’ The whole affair was being conducted with great politeness and decorum. it is R. She would never give in. but offering no help whatsoever or showing the slightest interest.000 for the third. Budi was from Wonosobo near the Dieng Mountains. The woman was obviously now sure we had no personal connection with them. It was simply furnished and clean. We went down a long corridor and into a bedroom with two beds and a wash basin. When he learned that I was Australian he told me that our former Prime Minister.30. the boy was shaking with fear.000 for the first hour.000. I was led away by the woman with Budi following. if you prefer a flat rate for the whole night. Nor would I. probably wondering how far we would go. I felt sorrier for him than I did for myself and wondered how I was going to get out of this awful mess. We would stick together and beat them at their own game.Java 147 ‘His name is Budi. The woman was an artist.’ the woman said.’ Carmen’s eyes were round like saucers. ‘I will show you to the room. Gough Whitlam. It was a big news story.

Beer was served to the police and the woman gestured toward the girls. Please tell your friend to be quiet.148 Someone Else’s Country I was in a nightmare. But she fixed me with her keen eyes and repeated with impatience. It was Carmen. ‘Bruce! Bruce!’ I understood her garbled words now. ‘What’s the matter Carmen? What’s all this racket about?’ ‘Where did you go?’ Her voice was rising dangerously again. being sucked along in that slow. like the shriek of an alarm clock that saves you from the ultimate horror in a dream.’ Carmen was quite hysterical by now. back to the room we’d left and there was Carmen yelling her head off. ‘Be quiet! Please be quiet! This is a respectable house. . The police will come. that our husbands were outside. that we were just having a game. The woman entered and spoke angrily. and her voice in full Gallic panic echoed around the walls. Her former self assurance had vanished. I noticed that Ed had disappeared also and that the girls and boys were all crowded into the bay window. We can’t have any trouble here. I tried to speak and tell her it was all a joke. They spoke in Javanese to the woman and appeared to be discussing this unforgiveable foreign behaviour. Then Bruce and Ed came through the door and Bruce said. apparently offering them. ‘He’s gone off with one of those girls. I managed to calm her down but not before there was a loud rap at the door and two police officers came in. there was a piercing scream from the room down the hall. ‘I must know the time! How long do you want?’ At that instant. looking in dismay at the pandemonium. ‘My friend! She’s in trouble! I must go to her!’ I fled down the corridor. by way of pacification. Where were the men? Where was Carmen? What was I doing with this woman and this terrified boy? I wanted to cry ‘help’ but my tongue was glued to the roof of my mouth. nyonya?’ The woman was insistent. Bruce!’ She yelled louder. relentless. on the house. ‘The time. forward movement you experience in dreams.

Would you like to come to the Town House for a drink tonight?’ ‘I’m sorry.Java 149 ‘We went to the lavatory.’ ‘It was Colonel Sudono. My instinct was correct. . ‘Hello nyonya. Ed answered it and.’ We finished our beers. Give me your phone number. Must be from the Fakultas where you teach.’ It was months before the colonel gave up calling. I turned to Ed. I’m going to Jakarta. That woman probably sold my phone number to the colonel for a nice profit. ‘Why don’t you believe it? Don’t you know that those places are just looking for business wherever they can find it? Money is money. ‘As if they’d ring here and ask for you. nyonya. I will call again later. You imagined it. If they can make money out of women customers it’s the same thing as making it out of men. ‘This is Colonel Sudono. I’m very busy.’ Hanging up in relief. Several days later I returned to Australia on a month’s leave.’ he said. Maybe you will come again another night. I can look after you. The woman said to me. We wanted to leave immediately but the woman insisted we stay and buy beer for the police as we had damaged her reputation.’ He refused to believe me.’ ‘Kasian [I’m sorry].’ ‘What rubbish.’ he said. When I came back I had not been in the house more than an hour when the phone rang. It was a man from the Town House.’ ‘Don’t be stupid.’ said a soft. ‘It wasn’t the Fakultas. slightly puzzled. ‘I’m sorry things have been spoiled for you.’ Something told me it wasn’t the Fakultas but something I didn’t want anything to do with. I am so anxious to meet you. snaky voice. nyonya. said. It’s only a business enterprise. ‘It’s for you. An Indonesian. nodded to the police and left. so I asked him.

dropped in for a visit on his way back to Jakarta from East Timor. He visited his old mates there and said the new prisoners were all army personnel from East Timor. one could only guess why those men may have mutinied.000 feet. ‘Very dangerous!’ he said quickly. There was obviously a lot going on in East Timor that we knew nothing about. which spoke of the total pacification of the island. There was very little in the local newspapers or on the radio about East Timor. People are shooting at us from the ground all the time. they throw things like spanners and hammers up at the blades. seemed to become a staging post for army helicopters on their way to and from East Timor. He didn’t know what action they had refused to participate in.150 Someone Else’s Country Trouble in Timor Achmad Yani Airport. continue at this altitude and then straight down to land when we arrive at our destination. Bambang Irawan. I asked him what the job was like.’ ‘You never fly low?’ ‘No! Never! It is too dangerous. where Ed kept the helicopter. He was the only Indonesian captain working for our helicopter company and he had been sent to East Timor on cargo duty as the island was prohibited to foreign pilots. Even bunches of bananas! We stay in Dili or Bacau. . fly straight to 5. From news reports on Radio Australia of mass killings of women and children and the massacre of several hundred people on a jetty in Dili. So what we do is take off. who had refused to obey orders. ‘We are taking supplies from Dili to the other side of the island. As well as shooting. A pilot friend from Balikpapan. Anything they can get their hands on. Every week or so a flight came in and the repair shop would be very busy. They are the only safe places.’ This story of Bambang’s did not tally with local newspaper reports. apart from occasional reports about the Indonesian Liberation Army being welcomed by crowds of Timorese. Saleh told me that the political prison in Semarang had recently taken in 60 new prisoners.

Saleh’s Javanese beliefs were deeply embedded. According to the story. Some of the world’s deepest ocean trenches lie off the southern coast of Java and the beach at Parangtritis is grey and windswept and full of foreboding. court and armies beneath the waves. I had seen the entrance to this tunnel in the Water Palace in Yogya and was able to walk in for a few metres. Apart from the long speeches. Ngai Loro Kidul came out of the sea at Parangtritis on Java’s south coast and married the Sultan. As well as eating better he regained his dignity as a human being after so many years in jail and suffering the dispiriting indignity of being unable to find a job because of his tapol status. We gave the bridal couple money as a present and also the traditional set of drinking glasses. Several foolhardy tourists were reported drowned there during our time in Java. wearing formal Javanese wedding garments — all black velvet and gold. 900 years ago. According to the story of Ngai Loro Kidul. we were invited to the wedding. I am told. the Goddess of the South Seas. The surf is dangerous with rips and currents running every which way and local tradition warns visitors that the Goddess is partial to young men wearing green shirts. once a year the Sultan made a ceremonial journey down to the sea to give . She was immortal and lived with her children. and continued as consort to all subsequent sultans. 20km away. We were told there was an underground tunnel from the Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta. Although he had been a pragmatic communist for many years. Saleh was pleased that we went and introduced us while the bride and groom sat stiffly in their wedding chairs. which led directly to the sea at Parangtritis. A popular Javanese legend concerned Ngai Loro Kidul. Indonesian weddings were mysterious affairs for Westerners. nothing much seemed to happen and everyone would sit around listlessly. during the first Mataram Empire. Senopati. Saleh was looking so much bettter than when he first came to us. because it became unsafe. It is now sealed.Java 151 The emptiness of foreigners When Saleh’s son Katria was married in Kali Langseng. even to the present day.

We were all listening to the news on the radio in the kitchen and I wondered if I had understood correctly. the lost man came out of the sea towards them. One day the local radio reported the following news story: Three men were hunting for crabs on the beach at Parangtritis when suddenly they were engulfed by a huge wave. ‘Was that a news story? A real event?’ I asked Saleh and the others. The last recorded rescue mission was during the war against the Dutch when the Sultan and his forces were beseiged in the palace.’ he told me. As the mourning party was preparing to return to Yogya.’ They were all interested but not surprised. but we will never surrender. Destroy the palace with your guns if you wish. who could also fly. Flowers. he made the journey under the waves in a horse-drawn carriage but now he used a Mercedes Benz. ‘Yes. ‘The sea opens up and there is a good dry road all the way. In former days. After hours of fruitless searching the man was presumed drowned. He was dazed but unharmed. . It was then that Sal told me the whole story of Ngai Loro Kidul. came to the aid of the Sultan and his people in times of stress. Two of them managed to struggle back to safety but the third was lost. ‘But how does the car go through the water?’ I asked Saleh.’ The Dutch turned away from the confrontation and no shots were fired at the beleagured garrison. In the afternoon the man’s wife came to the beach to make offerings of coconuts and flowers. He was unable to explain where he had been or what had happened to him. Yogyakarta remains to this day a separate city state within the boundaries of Central Java. The Goddess came from the sea and encouraged the Sultan to make his bold and defiant challenge to the Dutch army surrounding him. coconuts and incense were cast into the waves and the Sultan would enter the sea to spend time with his watery wife. It happened yesterday.152 Someone Else’s Country offerings to the Goddess. On instructions from the Goddess he issued an ultimatum: ‘We will never surrender. Ngai Loro Kidul.

I don’t mean the truth as seen by the village people. Sal.’ He didn’t mean this as an insult but as a statement of fact. It can’t. . with his early indoctrination in Islam and his later indoctrination in the pragmatic theories of Marxist communism. If I could see it then maybe there would be an explanation. where I made a marvellous new friend. Mohammed Saleh. But it has been reported on the radio. Kartika. What do you.’ ‘No. You will never understand because. said. Kartika and the Affandi family In 1977 we spent a weekend in Yogyakarta.Java 153 ‘Do you believe that the Sultan really goes into the sea in his car?’ I asked Saleh. all I can say is that there are certain things in Java for which there is no logical explanation. ‘I wouldn’t say that I believe it. you are empty. you are an educated man. He looked at me for a moment and. choosing his words very carefully. I could see he was struggling with his inborn Javanese sensibilities and his learned knowledge of the world.’ ‘Sal. It was not to be the last.’ ‘Has it been filmed?’ ‘No.’ ‘Has anyone seen it happen?’ ‘Many people. I’ve met people who have seen it. You know a car can’t go under the water and then drive off. what do you think happens?’ ‘I don’t know. That was the first time a Javanese told me I was empty. But then I wouldn’t say that I disbelieve it.’ ‘Tell me the truth.’ ‘Then if you don’t disbelieve it. because I have never seen it happen. He bowed politely to me and left the room. I agree with that. like all foreigners. ‘Nyonya. think happens. Is it true?’ Saleh looked at me with his keen intelligent eyes and thought deeply for a few moments.

In the 1930s he supported his wife and child by painting the lurid canvas hoarding posters for movies. She was the daughter of Indonesia’s most famous painter. they moved to India on a grant sponsored by Gurkha officers in the British Forces of Occupation in Indonesia. After World War II. For a while. black and sweet coffee. hardboiled eggs and bananas. Merapi. it was a pleasant walk to Plawungan. thick. ate and slept there while Affandi honed his painting talent. from where we had a clear view of the volcano which was smoking lazily and appeared placid but had at times caused great destruction. Kartika. under a tent formed by the hoardings leaning against the high netting. when Kartika was a child. On the chalet’s terrace the next morning we enjoyed a traditional Javanese breakfast: warm tea. It was used as a recreation area by the colonial Dutch and had many delightful chalets which offered accommodation. Affandi. They cooked. an American. Kaliurang was a cool mountain resort on the slopes of the active volcano. and said he just painted pictures. Sapto . From peasant to President. which are still seen outside movie houses throughout Indonesia. He was also a Hero of the Republic of Indonesia. he was a much-loved person. His early paintings recorded the revolution and its heroes. and from that time he always painted the life and hard times of the ordinary people of Indonesia. Affandi was regarded by art experts as an expressionist painter and enjoyed a high reputation in Europe and America. bread spread with butter and chocolate chips. the silver and batik factories — and then we drove up to Kaliurang for the night. the family lived on a tennis court in Surabaya. who recognised Affandi’s brilliance.154 Someone Else’s Country We had visited all the sights in Yogya — the Sultan’s Palace. the Water Palace. From our chalet. It was here that we met the other guests: Don. Although he denied it. and his wife Maryati. and his Indonesian companion. When Kartika was 16 they moved to London and it was there that she met up with a young Indonesian painter. revered at all levels of society.

They were living in Yogya and. She had seven children before she was 30. I have to marry her. she decided it was time to put her foot down. It was a prolific marriage. too. He asked Kartika’s permission. And I love this young girl.’ This was an unheard-of declaration for a Muslim woman. Helfi. ‘You can’t do that!’ ‘I can and I will. I am your wife and mother of your seven children.’ ‘All right. But she came to this decision a bit too late. ‘No! I don’t give you permission. She suspected that Sapto was the father. Sapto said. Kartika was able to go back to her painting and take more interest in what was going on around her — in particular. Wife number two. as the children emerged from the baby stage. Her secretary was pregnant as was one of the kitchen girls. . according to Muslim law. Her art studies at the London Polytechnic were interrupted by the birth of her first child. she appealed to the Religious Court (it was a religious.Java 155 Hudojo. not a civil matter). who had produced no children. Having inherited her father’s strong streak of independence and having experienced life abroad. who was a protégé of Affandi. As their marriage was a Muslim one. Sapto asked for Kartika’s hand in marriage and they were wed at London’s Indonesian Embassy in a full Muslim ceremony. and was told. I don’t give you permission!’ ‘But I love you as my wife.’ He went ahead and married the girl and Kartika proceeded. But you won’t win. She also enjoyed the help of wife number two. Sapto took a second wife and Kartika said it didn’t worry her unduly at the time as she was in that vegetable-like state women fall into when they have a lot of small children. had moved out and had her marriage annulled and it was at this critical moment that Sapto announced that he wanted to marry again.’ ‘Then I will divorce you.’ ‘Then take her as your mistress.’ ‘She won’t agree to that. giving Kartika little time to paint. what the handsome Sapto was up to.

she became a leading figure in the women’s liberation movement. The Islamic Court awarded her a divorce. She was the first woman in Indonesia to be granted a divorce by the Religious Court. She was a link between East and West and had an understanding of both cultures. It was a bitter victory. Even though her parents were Muslim and hadji. She was a striking beauty. Magazines everywhere clamoured for her story and her photograph appeared in publications all over the country. everywhere. Kartika was snubbed and cut off from the society of her peers. a talented artist and daughter of an Indonesian hero. without morals. she now had eight children to support and. mother of seven. She painted everything. a renegade and disturber of family life. Having adopted an orphan. when I met her at Kaliurang. her attitudes to life were the product of their deeply held compassion for the human race and her own experience of being a woman in a Muslim society. Not one rupiah. custody of the children. In spite of her high social standing as daughter of a hero of the Republic. It was great copy. she was struggling to survive. everyone. . Kartika was the one Indonesian friend I made who had the same world view as my own. Such actions were unheard of in Indonesia at the time and caused much notoriety.156 Someone Else’s Country For two years she argued her case and presented her opinions and reasons for such a drastic decision. She was regarded as a scarlet woman. When the court finally gave its decision and agreed to terminate the marriage. buying antique kebayas and batiks to sell to the Americans. but not the sort of victory a Western woman would have been pleased to accept. freedom to marry again. She tried her hand at commerce. but she took up the challenge and flung herself into the struggle to survive. having been twice to Mecca. She turned the front of her house into a shop and displayed wayang puppet figures for sale to collectors along with her fine collection of Irian Jaya artefacts. but no money. It was a victory for her.

his paintings commanding the highest prices at home and abroad. He spoke with people on their own level. although not having attained the status of her father. Affandi travelled for free on the national airline Garuda when he went abroad. but artists were highly respected. Affandi still spent much of his time with the poor. to spend the night under an awning with ragged becak drivers. Amsterdam. America. Many of Affandi’s paintings depicted the life of the ordinary people of Indonesia — the beggars. but with a spirit behind them which uplifts all of mankind. Although he was a millionaire. Germany or Belgium. He remained a simple man and his paintings have been described as not only works of art in the physical sense. Venice. was granted special dispensation when she travelled on domestic airlines and this was in spite of her notoriety as the flag-carrier for the rights of women. That was one of the many contradictions of the complex Indonesian society: the Indonesia of President Suharto was generally regarded as a military dictatorship. He painted a view of Indonesia one would have thought the Government would not have been happy to have exposed to the world. His honours included a gold medal from the Indonesian Government. she said to Affandi. London. a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Singapore and the 1977 Dag Hamarskjold Prix International in Italy. smoking clove cigarettes.Java 157 Artists are held in high esteem in Indonesia. the most desperate of his fellow Indonesians. the little people. the cripples. A self-taught painter. the becak drivers. Cairo. Milan. Kartika. drinking tea and discussing their views of life. he told me. More so. He was just as happy. even in his seventies. all over Asia and in Australia. Sao Paulo. Rome. When Maryati was about 40 and their only child was Kartika. as he was in the grand salons of France. His marriage to Maryati was in sharp contrast with Kartika’s to Sapto Hudoyo and her modern view on the subject of marriage itself. adored by both. Affandi exhibited in India. which it undoubtedly was. ‘You are still a . Brussels. Paris. the rejected.

The best stuffing for the floor cushions was kapok so. For her. As I do not want to bear any more children I think you should take a second wife. I couldn’t.158 Someone Else’s Country strong and virile man. She said to me.’ I said. a white fluff showers the ground like freshly fallen snow. ‘They are breathing all this kapok into their lungs. The shop I chose was down a back alley off Jalan Pinggir. They were all addicts. Young girls were sitting in heaps of kapok. stuffing it into mattress bags. but Maryati remained the true number-one wife and the one who accompanied him to official functions and on trips abroad.’ The Chinese in Semarang Kapok trees grow prolifically in Java. I found there was a street where mattresses and pillows were made and kapok could be bought by the kilo. Hawaii Five-O or Kojak. ‘This is terrible. We have only one child but I think you should have more. ‘I couldn’t understand my mother doing that. They were a most devoted couple and a joy to be with. Sapto was her husband and there was no room for wife number two. Surely they should be wearing masks?’ . The second wife bore him several children and they lived in their own house not far from Maryati’s. particularly for the 9pm news in English followed by Adventures in Paradise. Affandi called his house his banana leaf in the sky and the second family was well cared for. after hunting around. It’s a strange sight in such a hot and steamy country. My knock was answered by a Chinese woman who opened the door to a room filled with floating wisps of white down. Most of them were coughing and wiping their eyes. This was a way of life Kartika could not accept. bigger than oaks and when their seed pods burst. I decided to make eight batik-covered cushions for the floor so the students could lounge around while they were watching TV. so Maryati searched for a suitable girl and Affandi was married for the second time to a woman of his first wife’s choosing. They are huge trees.’ Affandi agreed.

Chinese people are very hard to get to know and the only one I had any sort of conversation with was our doctor. They don’t like us and they don’t want us here. ‘They are used to it. was Chinese.’ Our landlord.’ ‘And rice?’ ‘All the food they want. I pay only R. We began a friendship with a Chinese lawyer and his wife. Gold and Silver prefixes. He was also a dealer in clove cigarettes and second-hand cars. He was a good doctor and loved by all. for example.000 [$A8] a month plus rice. ‘You foreigners are foolish. ‘They are used to it. Although they were professional people. which was a typical Chinese/Indonesian name. Other Chinese/Indonesian names . had easily recognisable names. but it petered out. Although they had been living in Indonesia for generations. many of them did not have Indonesian citizenship. but it seemed the foreigners in question were the Chinese. They said they were saving all their money so they could emigrate to the US.’ There were often stories in the local paper about the behaviour and attitudes of foreigners living in Indonesia. expressionless face to me. said. was Dr Damarwi. They get R.000 [$A24] a month. Like the Jews they were often regarded as outsiders. He asked me one day. ‘How much do you pay your servants?’ It was a pushy question but I answered. the expatriates.’ she said.12. Haris. They seemed afraid to be friendly with us.’ He walked off laughing. ‘There is no place for us in Indonesia any more. they owned and ran an electrical appliance shop. They numbered in the millions and were stateless as they could not return to China. When I read them I thought they were referring to us. My dentist. The man. Chinese. There is no way we can progress.4. ‘We pay above the average wage. Dr Bong. Mr Poo. called Tionghoa (pronounced Tiong-wha) in Indonesia.Java 159 The woman turned a blank. just as many Jewish people did in Europe. with their Green. And they get time off only once a year. who was a doctor.’ He laughed scornfully and said.

the one place I had never been was the big island of Sumatra. Damarwi was a good dentist but thought we Europeans were cowards for wanting pain-killing injections. all having their teeth drilled. I jumped at the opportunity as travelling with her was always an adventure. With the children happily settled in. so I was thrilled when Kartika asked if I would like to accompany her there on a painting expedition. just across the Malacca . Hereward had settled into the International School in Jakarta and was boarding with an English family. all without painkillers. ‘I have Indonesians in the next room here. The family came from near Newcastle in England and spoke with that lilting Geordie accent which was so attractive. It was a chance to get to know people in Sumatra in a way impossible for an ordinary tourist. I think for foreigners it would probably be better to give you a general anaesthetic. Our daughter Gina had returned to Australia and was attending art school in Sydney while boarding with friends. Sutanto. and none of them are complaining. as once more I was to experience that inexplicable and arcane level of communication which is an elemental factor in Indonesian daily life: speaking with the dead. which were added to Indonesian stems.160 Someone Else’s Country were Limanto. She knew all the people in the art world and was always welcomed wherever she went. The key was the introduction of ethnic Chinese names such as Wi.’ Bataks and the mystic woman Although I had visited much of the eastern and central parts of Indonesia. Tanzil. Lim and Tan. He said to me one day. I was ready when Kartika arrived in Semarang with her painting gear and we flew to Jakarta to make direct connection with a Merpati flight to Medan at the northern end of Sumatra. however. The trip turned out to be more than an art expedition. Sutandiyo and Halim. He was enjoying the change of being back in a classroom again after three years in the correspondence school. some of them even having the wrong teeth drilled.

No airy-fairy dreamer. After three days in the Artists’ Colony. where she proposed to make a number of paintings. Kartika had decided to use colour in her paintings. We would stay in the Artists’ Colony for the first few days as the accommodation was very cheap and she would be able to make contact with other artists and gallery owners. It was a long flight. On this trip I was able to observe her very businesslike approach to her art. and made their homes in their stranded ships. colour was so much a part of her personality I was glad I would be seeing her in action with a polychromatic pallette. and on the way Kartika explained her plans. She kept an eye on his accounts to make sure he didn’t give too much money away to over-enthusiastic and sometimes voracious family members. she had painted only in black and white and. For the first time since her divorce from Sapto Hudojo. Kartika had heard that in Barus Jahe (ginger village). inhabited by two different tribal groups. After that we would set off for Karo Batak and Toba Batak country. we set off for Berastagi by bus. although this town was not our final destination. possibly India. the Toba Bataks and the Karo Bataks. mostly over jungle. The origin of these people is obscure but the common belief is that they came to Sumatra from somewhere over the sea. She told me that he probably supported about 60 relatives who had trouble finding enough money for themselves and their families.Java 161 Straits from Penang in Malaysia. particularly her selfportrait and a series on Dyak life on the Mahakam River in Kalimantan. We were travelling into Batak country. For three or four years after the break-up. As I had learned in Balikpapan. while many of the paintings were quite dramatic. roofing them with thatch. as the houses I had seen on postcards certainly resembled boats. It was a fanciful story but quite charming. this was the Indonesian way. which for her was a grieving period. she was a good manager as well as a good artist and was also a great help to her father in the management of his affairs. there were four intact and inhabited 100-year-old thatched-roof .

A bus-taxi in Batak country is like something out of a Mad Max movie. still retaining.’ We were aghast as there was no room for any more.162 Someone Else’s Country boat-houses and she wanted to paint them before they were lost. but still upright and alert man was . while the driver tied the lid firmly to the rear bumper with a stout rope ‘Endak mau hilang penumpang [I don’t want to lose any passengers]. undaunted. Kartika had an introduction to the lurah or mayor of Barus Jahe. grinding start. The very old. gradually picking up speed and. It grew dark and we hung on grimly every time the car gave a great lurch and swivelled sideways in the mud. ‘Barus Jahe!’ We had arrived. so he had a vested interest in seeing that we arrived at our destination. it was full. This is the last taxi tonight]. we took off. remembering that the driver was paid only at the end of the trip. stars. We shook our heads in disbelief but. ‘Mari! Mari [Come along]!’ said the driver. About 9pm the car came to a halt and the driver shouted. Arriving in Berastagi. some of its original bright-blue and silver duco. blazons and the wide body typical of the 1950s vintage. we marvelled at the ingenuity of the Americans who had designed such machines years ago and at the fact that they were still in use. I can’t remember now but I think the fare was about $2. We appreciated his thoughtfulness and felt less apprehensive.’ We threw our bags on to the boot lid. we found there was no normal bus service to Barus Jahe but if there were enough prospective passengers. ‘Lagi dua bisa [We can take two more]. in patches. the driver whipped around the back of the car and opened the boot. pointing triumphantly to its gaping mouth. But.’ he muttered. The one we found was a 30-year-old Chevvy with the wings. They should have paid us for our endurance. a bus-taxi would take us there. as we bumped along the heavily pot-holed road. sadly for us. ‘Naik! Cepat! Mobil ini yang terahir [Hop in quickly. using them as cushions. After a heavy.

He had opened a school and encouraged the people to learn reading and writing as well as the new language. . Unlike many a bureaucrat. He built fences around the houses to keep pigs in their own terrain and banned the burying of living people under new house supports. was still able to read without glasses. Once he had learned to read and write Dutch. which were traditionally used as a weapon. He built a public bathhouse and had regular clean-up campaigns. but had worked faithfully to raise the living standards of the people in his village. Little is known about the Batak people. which were used to strike a blow to an opponent’s head in hand-to-hand fighting. due to their violent armed resistance. He was quite famous and we had heard about him in the Artists’ Colony in Medan. the Dutch moved into their territory only in 1910. The Rajah was quite a charmer and. accused of collaboration with the Dutch. the fifth Raja of Barus Jahe and the last living Batak Raja. with due deference to the best features of their own animist beliefs. He was 18 years old when the Dutch arrived and they sent him to school in Berastagi where he proudly maintained his traditional waist-long hair and the thick silver bracelets on his right forearm. He told us some of his story. he had not sought merely to feather his own nest during a lifetime of service. He welcomed us warmly into his house. The other Rajas died violently. Bahasa Indonesia. the Raja used the knowledge he was able to glean from books and changed his whole attitude to the people of his village and his responsibility as a Raja. (The heavy bracelets were laced with silver balls. offering hot coffee from a Thermos. encouraging others to take up this new religion.Java 163 Raja Sibaak Pansiun. He sought peace rather than war and converted to Christianity. which was 5km away.) He was the only Rajah in Batak country who was not executed by the Pemuda (youth brigades) in the 1946 revolution. He built a water-reticulation system for the village so people did not have to spend a high percentage of their time carting water from the river. at 92. as the neighbouring Muslims from Aceh failed to make conversions to Islam from their ranks and.

’ Tooth filing gradually died out of its own accord. At the time of our visit.164 Someone Else’s Country The Dutch put in a clinic and provided regular visits from doctors and nurses. This custom was banned. He was trying to get money from the Government to fix the pipe as the people in the village were suffering from the deprivation. we were shown to our sleeping quarters in a small room with one double bed covered. the stones rattled and .’ he said apologetically. this time accompanied by boiled bananas. she was expected to commit suicide. cleaning teeth. which was done not with the help of trance and drugs as in Bali. The Raja gave his own land for the building of a church and was gradually able to change many of the dangerous and unhealthy practices in the traditional animist way of life. leaving young people to choose their own time for marriage or not marry at all if they preferred. ‘Go ahead and do that if it is what you want but it is not necessary as far as God is concerned. the village was divided equally between Christians and animists. washing clothing and also for use in the lavatory. Tooth filing at the age of 16 was another animist tradition. ‘Pipa sudah rusak [The pipe is broken]. two pointed and two round.’ The tin of water would have to serve all our needs — bathing. The old way of marriage was for all girls to be married when they reached the age of 14 and boys the age of 18. The objects were four stones. The Raja did not ban these practices outright but said. but by bashing the teeth off with stones to halve their length. After more talk and coffee. The next day the Raja directed us to the animists’ most sacred pusakas (objects) in a thick bamboo jungle on the outskirts of the village. Our host gave us a jam tin which he carefully filled with water from a jug. If a girl reached the age of 20 and was still unmarried. with a mosquito net. ‘Hati hati dengan air [Be careful with the water]. These sacred objects were unprotected by a fence and the Raja explained that when danger threatened. about a foot high and clearly phallic. thank goodness.

A two-foot-long bamboo pole was stuck in the ground and a lighted cigarette inserted in a slit at the top. Before the Dutch came. The gun is now a sacred object and holds the spirits or souls of the dead. she spent half an hour or so walking round the houses and observing them from all angles . the Japanese came once to the village and took everything of value including the silver bracelets and sacred kris (wavy-bladed daggers believed to have magic powers). The fire end of the cigarette was turned away from the stones. with murder attracting only two or three years’ servitude. As was her custom. Punishments were light. he was judge and jury in all disputes over theft. the other Batak Rajas were killed as they were considered to be representatives of feudalism. but the splendour of the old days was gone. He had only one wife and five children. Kartika made a survey of the village and was excited at the prospect of painting the enormous boat-houses. People were punished for their crimes by common consensus. A much-loved person. During Merdeka. Many anthropologists came to study the customs and language of this village. there was no such thing as a jail. During the Japanese occupation in World War II. He could not walk because of a broken knee and moved about in a wheelchair. After our visit to the sacred stones. marriage within the immediate family was not permitted and people were encouraged to find marriage partners from other Karo Batak villages.Java 165 the people would come to pray and make offerings of cigarettes. Our Raja was in Medan at the time and was spared the slaughter as his reputation was held in such high esteem by the revolutionaries. the struggle for indepenence against the Dutch. which stood in a row in the centre of the village. They killed many villagers and left a gun behind when it ran out of bullets. family troubles and even murder. In Barus Jahe. In times of drought water was sprinkled on the stones and freely about the village. He continued to receive tribute in the form of grain and vegetables from the villagers. Even in the middle of the dry season the rains always came after such offerings.

She brought it to life by drawing in. which were laid up towards very small windows or portholes. she used no brushes and let the paint flow. then rubbed smudges of colour into fantastic patterns with the tips of her fingers and the ball of her palm. The lower walls sloped outwards. she was already surrounded by a crowd of men. As her assistant. It was exciting to be part of the creative process and to see a marvellous art work beginning to appear before my eyes. Inside it was very dark and smoky as each family had a cooking place within its own area. with paints and a small pot of precious water at her side. I sat behind. with a fine-line tube of black paint. holding bunks for sleeping. some browsing chickens. A great flurry of pink clouds from Kartika’s imagination crested high over the centre of the painting. Each house stood on poles above the ground. all waiting for the great show to begin. with the first great grey house in the foreground leading the line of three receding behind. And then she began. As taught by her father. urged on by her hands.166 Someone Else’s Country until she decided on the best position to place her easel and set up painting camp. Applying the colour directly from the tubes. In the next three days she did two more paintings and we were invited to inspect the interiors of the boat-houses. When she settled down on her folding stool. The ceiling soared away to a great . she made grand sweeping strokes to set the skeleton of the painting. with a flight of five steps leading up to the entrance at one end. seeming to imprint it on her inner eye. women and children. passing specific colours to her as she called for them. providing space below for livestock. At the end of two hours the painting was finished. Before beginning the painting. Such events did not take place often in Barus Jahe. lumbering sway-backed pigs. Kartika stared for a long time at the object of her desire. each one home to 10 or 15 families. multi-coloured washing drying on a line and curious children and adults standing about. It was an inspired painting and captured the mood and spirit of the antique village. with a bright blue sky framing the back-drop.

Like the boat-houses. lime and leaf mixture. . the betel nut. As our eyes became accustomed to the dark. after drawing heavily on several cigarettes together with the sirih. although they were nominally Christians. she looked to Susilo to see what we wanted. aided by my broken German. Down the language chain. of course. Susilo. and sirih. nor even Bahasa Indonesia.Java 167 height. when in a trance. penetrating eyes. Puffing away. was able to communicate with the dead. She then translated it into Bahasa Indonesia for Susilo. dark. She spoke no English. who translated it into Karo Batak for the Mystic Woman. The Raja’s assistant. there were still powerful magicians around and a medium who. so her communications in Karo Batak had to be translated for us by Susilo. The German decided to go first and in his broken English. The German wanted to speak to his dead father and ask him a specific question. he told Kartika of his request. It was a roundabout and tortuous route. fine features and very beautiful. the Mystic Woman appeared to be going into a trance. organised a meeting with the medium that afternoon and he took us to her workplace in a ramshackle grass and bamboo shed filled with bags of potatoes. the answer came back. but we got through eventually. There was no money payment to be made but we were asked to provide kretek (clove) cigarettes. She observed us through veiled eyelids as she prepared the sirih and. The feeling inside was very much that of being below decks in an old sailing ship. chewing the sirih and spitting red saliva. We related this intelligence to a young German traveller who had come in on the midday car-bus and he asked to go along with us if we could arrange a meeting. we saw that she was about 40 years old with long black wavy hair. it was very dark inside and when we entered we only barely discerned her presence back in the gloom. disappearing into the gloom of the horned roof and it was easy to see why people called them boat-houses. her eyes rolling and her voice taking on a gutteral quality of a quite masculine timbre. In conversation with the local people we learned that.

‘It is exactly right. spitting out another great gob of red spittle.’ the woman said.’ I was amazed at this because it sounded more like the advice from an Indonesian father than from a father in far away Europe. still in gutteral tones. I always keep incense in my room back in Stuttgart. as it will help you pass your exams. I am overcome. But I was wrong. I am lonely and wish I had more members of my own family. who was now sitting on the edge of his potato sack.’ It was all so complicated I couldn’t believe it was possible to translate such a story. How does my father know?’ . He therefore decided to have only one child so that such a terrible thing would not happen again.’ he said. ‘What do you want to say to him?’ ‘I want to ask him why I am his only child. Why I have no brothers and sisters. My father is now talking to me through this mystic. I cannot understand what he is saying. It sounds so trite now when translated into modern English. there was such a terrible fight between him and your aunt over the money that they never spoke to each other again. ‘Your father says you must remember that he himself had only one sister and no brothers. but this is what came through to us on the translation chain. turning to Kartika and me. he was so overcome with emotion he burst into tears.’ The Mystic Woman muttered away again and seemed almost startled as she spoke the answer. but when the German received it.’ ‘Please try again. It is very faint. It will bring him closer to you. but I mostly forget to light it. The German was more overcome than ever and.’ urged the German. ‘Your father says he is watching you. ‘Yes! Yes! I’ve got him on the line.’ Tears were running down his cheeks. he said ‘I cannot believe this. He is here with me. and that while you study in your room. When your grandfather died and left a will. and it translated as. ‘I remember the bitterness from when I was a small child. The woman began speaking again. you must always light an incense taper.168 Someone Else’s Country ‘Your father is very far away.

She said she didn’t want to talk to the dead.Java 169 He asked the question and the woman started to laugh. There had to be something in it.’ The connection was cut and the woman returned to her normal appearance and held out her hand for more cigarettes. Settle on one and then come back and ask me.’ More chuckles. Did I have any garment belonging to him. In between bursts of laughter she said.’ Kartika and I were equally amazed. but to get help as to whether she should marry the man she was currently spending time with. The German was glassy-eyed with amazement and kept shaking his head. After the requisite puffs and spits. Kartika was slightly mortified but agreed reluctantly that the woman was right and perhaps she wasn’t ready yet to marry again. You can do anything. saying he didn’t believe it but it must be true because she had used the very words his father had always used to him. He says he must go now as the long line is too difficult to maintain but keep studying hard and burning the incense and you will have a happy life.’ . over the water. She must talk to him. ‘You are my only child and you can succeed in anything you want to do. a sock or a handkerchief perhaps? Of course I didn’t. He is very troubled but only your daughter can help him. She fingered it all over and then said abruptly. Once again the woman puffed and chewed and then said to me that the man was too far away. saying that surely the German realised his father was watching over him and knew everything he was doing. She is the one who can help him. ‘Your daughter. Now it was Kartika’s turn. ‘You are his Eigenkind. particularly because of the circuitous route the translation had taken through four languages. so I decided to be courageous and ask if the mystic could explain why Ed had been acting so coolly of late and why he seemed to have lost interest in me and his children. It was now my turn. His only child. ‘The trouble with you is that you can’t make up your mind because you have so many boyfriends. the Mystic Woman started to laugh uproariously. but I did have a note he had written to me and I showed her that.

Three days later Ed asked. who had never heard of our most famous horse race. The spirit will communicate with your husband and find out what is troubling him. Next time you come. did you pay out that sweep money?’ ‘Gosh. None of the sweep winners were present so I wrote their names on a piece of paper and put it together with the money in a small stainless-steel box on top of the bookcase. so the next day we set off for Lake Toba where Kartika made some lovely paintings at the lakeside in a pretty little village called Harangaol. The Melbourne Cup and the Witch Doctor In November 1977.’ I said. Big changes are coming in your life.’ ‘Jimmy Pitts was one of the winners I remember. On the day we sat around the radio but no one except me understood the ritual description or the accent of the commentator. I’m going over there tonight to play poker so I’ll take it to him. He is deeply troubled. The first hurdle was to generate some interest in it among the expats. I managed to get a list of starters and riders from Radio Australia and made up a sweep with a total of R. The paintings of Barus Jahe were finished. ‘By the way. I decided to have a Melbourne Cup party. I forgot all about it. ‘My daughter is not in Indonesia. We searched everywhere but failed to find it. Her spirit will come and sit in the place you have set for her. She is living in Australia. which is far.170 Someone Else’s Country ‘I’m afraid this is impossible.25.000 ($A50).’ I went to the bookcase but the box was not where I had left it.’ ‘Then you must set a place for her at the table every time you sit down to eat. but I never forgot her prediction and I set the extra place at the table as she had suggested. The session was over and the woman returned to her normal pretty appearance. bring me something of your husband’s and I will tell you more.’ What she told me that day was not explained until more than two years later. far away. I was . That was all. too. no. Over the sea.

Finally. the five people working for us and four students. patched shirt and a black peci songkok. Karmila made a shy suggestion. He entered with great dignity and he took his place at the table. From his pocket he took what looked like a cork.Java 171 worried because no one ever stole anything at our house. He will come immediately because we all want to find the money. He was highly respected by village people so I said. he explained. Everyone remembered the sweep and the box on the bookcase. ‘The money is still in the house. As it coagulated and formed patterns he continued to study it intently. When do you think he could come?’ ‘I will go and see him straight away. I decided to have a round-table conference with all the people in the house: Ed.’ After another silent interval he said. ‘The money is in a book. But it didn’t turn up anywhere. But it will come back. Yes. but no one knew where it had gone. ‘A woman has the money. but which.’ Supartini brought in a bowl of water and placed it in front of him. sometmes erroneously called a witch doctor by foreigners. It will come back soon.’ We were all relieved and sat back to take tea and bananas and chat about the coming wayang kulit (leather . He was very old and dressed in a faded sarong. No one could throw any light on the disappearance. the Dukun arrived. ‘Maybe we could ask the Dukun Baik to help us?’ The Dukun was a wise old man. It must have been mislaid. Striking a match. Hereward. He closed his eyes and after several minutes’ meditation said.’ We waited around the table and. You will find it tonight. he announced simply and with authority. he inquired about our problem then sat back with clasped hands. Now I need some water please. ‘That’s a great idea Karmila. sitting upright. was wax from a special tree. he held the flame under the wax and allowed drops of melted wax to fall on the surface of the water. it has not left the house. about 20 minutes later. After the usual formal greetings.

Her mother had been in Pelantungan since 1965. We felt disappointed and began to doubt the mystic powers of the Dukun. the Dukun took his leave. Truus Dicke. The rest of the people were from the Dutch Reformed Church and representatives from the Urban Mission. At the last moment Saleh arrived and asked if he could come along. we went in the early morning. Later that evening. the nurse. The group dispersed but our Western impatience for a solution to the problem was too strong for us to wait until evening. We also bought soap. row after row. who worked for Pelkris. I suggested to Hereward that if he wanted something to do he could collect all the photos that were lying around the house and put them in one of the albums. As I opened the album to show him.172 Someone Else’s Country puppet) performance. No one mentioned the missing money and. His tapol status was not mentioned and it was agreed that he could accompany us provided he kept a low profile. shampoo. Unlike the earlier visit. a protestant old people’s home. We riffled through all the books on the shelves. We went through all the books in the office and in the bedrooms but the result was the same. I explained to the group leader that he worked for us and had friends in Pelantungan. In Weleri we stopped for a warung breakfast and I bought some batteries for my camera on the off-chance that I would be able to take photos.’ I said. ‘This one’s only half-full. exactly. Return to Pelantungan The next Christmas I was invited to go again to the Women’s Political Prison in Pelantungan. but there was no money. was there with a young girl called Tuti. after dinner. the money fell out — 25. In a caravan of three cars we set off about 7am. toothpaste and . You can put them in here. after a respectable interval. meeting at the Roman Catholic Presbytery in Jalan Pandanaran.000 rupiahs.

however. the pastors began unloading bamboo baskets and cartons. She had spoken to the Pendeta (official in charge). In the news recently there had been an announcement of the release of 10. When we arrived at the familiar meeting house. who had agreed to bring her mother into the hall. arranged all this in neat piles and then. took photographs of us standing around the gifts. The two large cartons were full of Bibles in English and Indonesian. it was the same as the previous visit. This time we didn’t have to walk to the prison but continued by car. Tuti. It became obvious that not all the inmates were attending the performance. The smaller ones contained chocolate. who was hoping to see her mother. to be considerably fewer prisoners than before. Some guards looked at us apprehensively but said nothing. behind the guards’ wives. The stage was decorated for Christmas and the rows of women prisoners were seated at the back. I searched the rows of prisoners’ faces. moved into the front beside Truus and me. without asking anyone’s permission. I took a photo of the signpost showing the distances to Semarang and other towns. dried pineapple and other sweetmeats. Maybe this was the explanation. My previous journey along this road had been in the dark and it took on quite a different aspect in the early-morning light.Java 173 handcream hoping there would be an opportunity to give it to the prisoners. We took our places at the right-hand side of the stage facing a preacher’s podium. There seemed.000 prisoners from all parts of the country. An army captain in green sat behind us as did the six student nurses. When we reached the village of Pelantungan on an improved road. The ceremony began with a prayer followed by songs from the choir but this time it lacked the verve and brilliance of the previous year. looking for my friend from my last visit. When we got to the big meeting hall below. As the performance proceeded. Sutrisno. the . the pastor from the Urban Mission.

I wondered how he was taking this new experience of being a free man in such a place. but his audience appeared to hang on every syllable. When it was time for the army chaplain to speak. To my horror. Tuti saw her mother being led in to the back row and they exchanged smiles. there was a flurry of activity outside. I murmured ‘Happy Christmas’ and she was gone. looking tired and drawn. Fortunately. I sensed she was anxious to get away. Billy Graham-style. no one seemed to notice. After he had been speaking for about three quarters of an hour. As is customary in Indonesia the men were separated from the women and Saleh and the pastors were seated on the far side of the stage. Her mother’s face was joyous but Tuti was tight-lipped.174 Someone Else’s Country nurse. The green uniform was no doubt too close for comfort. I decided to ask the Pendeta where the nurse was. . I caught Saleh’s eye and gave a little wave. The chaplain made a flamboyant speech with grand theatrical gestures and changes of tempo. She gave me no welcoming smile — just a brief handshake with her head lowered — and I thought she didn’t remember who I was. ‘Oh yes. A party of highranking army officers was coming down the slope with three tall Europeans carrying tripods and cameras. Truus and I understood little of what he said. and passed in front of Saleh to get to the stage. The show continued with a play about the Good Samaritan. he rose in his chair.’ Within about five minutes she appeared at the side door and I was distressed to see how she had changed. Truus noticed what had happened and we both felt very uneasy. There was no sign of her. Her hair was now completely grey and she was thinner. I will bring her. It was an instinctive reaction from the past. dressed in army green with his rank insignia and gold cross on the lapels. Maybe she had been released. The officer regarded me quizically and I had to repeat my question many times before he understood. holding back tears. He could have been moving politely to make more room.’ he said finally. As it was heavily leavened with Javanese words. Saleh sprang to attention with a blank look on his face. ‘Zuster.

‘We’ve been allowed to speak to anyone we like and take pictures.Java 175 Pastor Sutrisno. ‘Reuters and German Television. After that they didn’t seem to worry.’ I whispered to her not to worry and we stood arm in arm by the bright flowering shrub.’ He was startled as he had presumed we were something to do with the camp. I left my seat and went over to them. We’ve just come from the [prison] island of Buru. who had already taken several flash photos in the hall without being cautioned. Five minutes later he signalled to me and there was my friend looking very frightened. Spent the night there with 15 other correspondents. ‘They tried to get us to set scenes but we split up and went in different directions. In spite of my assurances. lawyers. The Europeans entered the hall and began setting up their tripods and shooting film. ‘Where are you from?’ I asked.’ he said. Hertel. But the main thing is we can photograph anything we like. ‘Some of us can. . doctors. whispered as he walked by. She’s a prisoner. Confused them. It all has something to do with throwing some generals down a well. I explained that she was the only nurse here and he went off to investigate.’ It seemed surprising that a foreign correspondent knew no more than that about Indonesian history but he explained that he was only the photographer and introduced me to the journalist. she was trembling. All sorts of highly educated people on that island — chemical engineers. ‘I think it’s Amnesty!’ But we knew this couldn’t be true as Amnesty International had been banned in Suharto’s Indonesia.’ ‘Can you speak Indonesian?’ I asked.’ ‘Can you take a photograph for me? I have a friend here who —’ ‘Sure. ‘Let’s have both of you out there by the bougainvillea. What uniform is he wearing?’ ‘It’s a woman.

’ I smiled widely and laughed as though there was some joke and. We can go anywhere we like. I didn’t attend the Christmas concert this year because I am tired of the game. ‘Maybe next year. My friend appeared at my side and led me to it. whispered. Just before it finished I went outside looking for the lavatory.’ I rejoined the Reuters man and asked if he had seen the prisoners’ living quarters. We walked together with the guards standing by.’ Then urgently. They are so big I didn’t recognise them. ‘Only 31 have gone from here. Hertel asked me what her name was but I said it was not the right place to give such information. They are watching. . They are watching me. Just the very old and the sick. Go back inside now. She took my cue and. We went back inside and watched the program through to the end. ‘Don’t let the press know my name.’ Did she remember my name? ‘Of course!’ It was almost an accusation.’ The Reuters man took several pictures and then my friend broke away and rejoined the prisoners. ‘I saw my two youngest children last month.’ she whispered. over a bridge and were rounding a bend when we were met by more photographers and army officers coming towards us. ‘Yes. ‘If I get out I will try to find you.’ We went further down the path. I lost my chance to see the dormitories as the press party was in a hurry to return to Semarang and interview some recently released tapols. follow me and I’ll show you. They came here. Don’t say any more. I’d tell him later. ‘Don’t let them see you talking to me about anything serious. asked how she was and if there was any news of her family. continuing the charade.’ I asked when she thought she might be freed and she said. Putting her head around the door she said bitterly. It finished with several pious addresses on a Christian theme. Foreigners are not supposed to know my name. Only 31.176 Someone Else’s Country ‘There are many spies here today. laughing. We could go no further.

The most famous of them was Lestari and Saleh introduced me to her. lively and alert. All the women. When we came to the end of the line a strange atmosphere began to develop. who walked with our group until the last possible moment when we had to leave them behind. smiling broadly and with a twinkle in his eye. Tuti hugged her mother.Java 177 Back in the hall the long farewell was taking place. Such a thing could never have happened the year before. The officer’s house was pleasant and unpretentious and had its own orchard and vegetable garden as well as many flowering trees and shrubs. A former tapol dining with the Kommandant of a tapol prison! . were waiting to shake hands and wish us a Merry Christmas. but I was too disturbed to understand their words. After hugging everyone again. The Pendeta gathered a group of prisoners. Some murmured names and phrases as before. The young girls from the choir came bouncing up to shake hands a second time. who had been so restrained before. the only goal was to be released and be back with what family remained to them. Before being used as a prison. It was a difficult leave-taking for us all. He winked. The young ones still had a chance for a new life but. Our prisoner friends walked along the verandah of the block house with us. Every few paces we turned to wave again. Even my friend. Lunch was simple and. It was the presence of the high-ranking army officers and the press. I caught Saleh’s eye as he tucked into the green beans and rice. came up and linked her hand in mine. She was very attractive. once again. in a long line. We posed for group pictures and there was Saleh standing beside me. The view from the Kommandant’s house was beautiful. the camp had been a leprosarium. We were then invited to the Kommandant’s house for lunch. we broke away and climbed the steps. unlike the older inmates. It was almost gay. Saleh told me later that there were 15 of them in Pelantungan who were high school students in 1965 and were members of the Young Communist League. visitors and guards on to the steps of the stage and asked anyone who liked to take photos. for the old women.

but had serious doubts as to whether it was possible. Poor Kerry had survived that with difficulty and was now with her second family. free. Semarang was a crass. .’ The Affandi family art show I heard there were three Australian exchange students living with Indonesian families in Semarang.’ they said. above all. have plenty of big white walls. It would have to be accessible. So far she had lived with two very different Indonesian families. who left the light on all through the night and played Javanese music continuously. who were quite different. Kerry was a bright girl on a Rotary exchange scholarship and was glad to find a mother figure. the father was making passes at her and she didn’t know how to cope with it. commercial city. I put the proposition to the Affandi family and they agreed. I had to find a suitable location for the exhibition.178 Someone Else’s Country I said to the Kommandant. It is quite a difficult experience for young girls to come to a country such as Indonesia. Yes. People in Semarang were interested only in money. It’s a wonderful idea. Unfortunately. where the social rules and regulations are very different. First. ‘We will cooperate. maybe it will.’ he said thoughtfully. but we doubt you will ever get it off the ground. ‘I hope so. dominated by Chinese merchants and with no cultural climate whatsoever. tennis courts and a restaurant. so I contacted one of them and invited her up to Candi. preferably. To give Kerry a break I asked her to help me with an art exhibition I was hoping to put on. She came from Killara in Sydney and was in her final year of high school. ‘What a beautiful location you have here. with swimming pool. be very cheap or. I had discovered that the Affandi family had never exhibited together and I thought it would be a great challenge to see if I could bring this off in Semarang. Culture belonged to Yogyakarta. good lighting and.’ ‘Yes. ‘Go ahead and try. As they rightly said.’ It was a challenge so I decided to try. The first had been a disaster as she had to sleep in the same room as the grandmother. Perhaps one day it will be a holiday hotel.

It was the perfect place. There was a strict protocol which had to be observed when dealing with Javanese officials. I felt he was the one to help me now. what interested me most. I said the only location worthy of such a unique exhibition was the new Wisma Pancasila in the centre of town at Simpang Lima (Five Ways). Pak Hadiyono. Mr Benny was my tutor. Taken out of school into this marriage. Hadiyono had eight children and was recently widowed. I would be able to hang at least 70 paintings there.Java 179 I had a friend called Mr Benny who worked as protocol advisor to the walikota or mayor of Semarang. Wisma Pancasila had a large auditorium but. Simpang Lima was the junction of five roads which joined a roundabout encircling a sports area. she was the same age as some of her step-children. used also for ceremonial and army displays. He wanted her groomed in Western manners. As Mr Benny was so close to the halls of power in the city. was the wide enclosed colonnade of foyers which surrounded the central theatre. After inspecting several school halls and deserted warehouses with him and finding them all unsuitable. I agreed to try and had morning tea with the young wife a few times but the poor girl was so shy and timid I was never able to get through to her on a personal level. Then I was to congratulate him on the birth of his new son. First I was to say what a great honour it was to meet the walikota. He had taken a new wife directly out of high school. Mr Benny arranged an appointment for me with the walikota and in the meantime gave me lessons in formal speech and manners so that I could make a good impression. then how great Semarang was and so on and so on — as many compliments as possible. After that I was more or less on my own and planned to talk about my interest in Indonesian art and eventually lead on to the proposed Affandi exhibition. The . The mayor joined us on one occasion and seemed very pleased with himself. The walls were pure white. language and customs and Mr Benny came to me for help. well lit and bare. a young girl of 18.

180 Someone Else’s Country mayoral office controlled the Wisma Pancasila so the only way to use it was through their good offices. some of them. Walikota Hadiyono was a small man and smiled at me as he motioned me to a chair. nyonya?’ ‘Bapak.’ A polite nod. There was a twitch about his mouth as he had probably been well briefed about me and my request. I presumed they were petty officials with requests for funds as they were all shuffling papers and looking serious and worried. When my turn came I was led into the mayoral chamber and introduced. bapak. My gesture of politeness had been accepted. ‘May I congratulate you on the use of our language. white shirts and black peci songkoks. bapak. If I was Indonesian I would have had to have used high Javanese to him and he would have answered me in low — two very different languages.’ I went through the whole thing according to Mr Benny’s drill. I would not be able to pay anything.’ I had made it to first base apparently and thought how lucky I was to be a foreigner. Bahasa Indonesia was at least a leveller. . the other supplicants being neatly dressed males. It’s a great honour to meet you. all wearing sarongs. I presented my plan. explaining the prestige that Semarang would win from such an exhibition and then asked demurely if the walikota would allow the foyers of the Wisma Pancasila to be used to stage it. dressed as formally as I could. He looked at me keenly and said. I arrived at the walikota’s office and was asked to wait in the ante-room. My best Indonesian came forth.’ ‘Ja. ‘How much would you be willing to pay. ‘May I congratulate you on the birth of your new son. On the day of my appointment. The Mayor was all smiles and said.’ ‘Thank you. The exhibition would be free for the citizens of your city. ‘Selamat pagi.’ We now spoke English.’ ‘Would the paintings be for sale?’ ‘Yes. I was the only female there.

The remainder would be from Affandi himself and would include his earliest works. 24 from Kartika. there would be money to pay for the Wisma. Harangaol and Lingga. Raden Saleh was a 19th-century son of Semarang.Java 181 ‘Then surely. It will make headlines in all the newspapers. Barus Jahe. It is a most prestigious event for your city. a sweet tea-based drink for the teetotallers. It will be seen to be more than a place where cloves.’ I took the ball and ran with it. offered to supply cocktails.’ ‘Semarang’s gain would be the honour only. agreed to supply the advertising and street banners or spanduk. whose paintings hung mostly in Europe. but delicious. To promote an event of such cultural significance will elevate your city to the ideals most dearly treasured by Javanese society. There would also be Teh-Botol. It has never been done before in either Jakarta or Yogyakarta. Sir.’ With Mr Benny’s help I did this and a week later was given the go-ahead. the herbal drug company which was a large investor in Affandi paintings. The welcome drink was to be a surprising blue colour. her Batak series in black and white and in colour of the people in villages surrounding Lake Toba. much admired by the Dutch. There would be 78 paintings: 10 of Maryati’s naive embroidery pictures. The local newspapers offered free . The newest hotel in Semarang. To hang the paintings I had the support of a group of young painters known as the Raden Saleh Group.’ He was wavering and said. Nyonya Meneer. ‘This will be the first time in the history of Indonesia that its greatest living artist will exhibit together with his wife and daughter. cheese and biscuits for the opening ceremony. ‘Your office and city will rise in the estimation of the nation. if the paintings were sold. including her black-and-white series of life in a Dyak village in Borneo. depicting the life of the people in bright colours. ‘Present me with your plan in writing and I will consider it. the Metro. which were part of the family archives and were rarely displayed. sugar and cigarettes are sold.

These were scattered all over the city by Ed in his helicopter. I would have to take desperate measures. was even more adept at protocol than Mr Benny. The Raden Saleh Group was already on hand to do the hanging. He cannot provide it free. Affandi’s paintings were due to arrive from Yogya the next day and Kartika’s were coming from an exhibition at the Goethe Institute in Surabaya. Catalogues and invitations had to be printed and this cost was covered by donations from all the foreign companies working in the area. Marganne Box. Its aims were to promote friendship and understanding between different cultures. reponsible only to President Suharto himself. who lectured at Undip on public speaking. It enjoyed limited success in raising money for . who were friends of the Affandis and who had backed my idea from the beginning. ‘The walikota says you must pay for the space. coming from one of Java’s oldest families. agreed to be master of ceremonies and her husband’s company offered to supply microphones and to organise the lighting. Mas and Yu Prio. Mr Benny arrived at my house with a long face. For the previous year I had belonged to the WIK (Women’s International Club) in Semarang.’ ‘But he’s already agreed! Everything is ready! How can he say that?’ ‘He says you must pay R. Mas Prio was a printer and his wife.182 Someone Else’s Country space for advertising and also printed 10. Then the axe fell. The stage was set.250. There was only one hope. which was a group of middle-class local and foreign women. I would have to go over the head of the mayor and speak to the Governor of Central Java. Otherwise he cannot give the permission. Yu Prio.’ Mr Benny appeared to be upset. one of the most senior officials in Indonesia. inviting everyone to visit the exhibition. an American expat friend. but I could see that he could do nothing.000 dodgers. Everything was running smoothly and cooperation from everyone was 100 per cent.000 [$A500] a day. Pak Suparjo. My mainstays through all this were the Priowijoyos.



charities, with an over-emphasis on tea parties and food, but it enabled me to meet Indonesian women. I had been elected vice-president on the foreign side and now I intended to put my position to good use. The patron of WIK was the wife of Governor Suparjo. I rang the Puri Gde, governor’s mansion, and was given an appointment to meet Ibu Suparjo at 4.30pm. Luck ran for me that day as, when I was shown into the drawing room, the Governor was also there, talking to some friends. I explained my desperate situation and the Governor showed immediate interest. He was a very sophisticated man and had a great interest in Australia. While serving as ambassador to Malaysia, he had become very chummy with the Australian High Commissioner and had also been impressed by the now famous writer Blanche d’Alpuget. ‘This is certainly serious,’ he said in his excellent English. ‘I’ll see what can be done with the walikota. Of course, you should not have to pay for the use of the Wisma for such a purpose. Just a moment.’ He went to a phone in the ante-room and I heard him ask for the mayor. An angry-sounding conversation in Javanese followed — very clipped, very short and very authoritative. Someone was being put in their place. The Governor returned and said, ‘The Wisma Pancasila is open to you for the Affandi exhibition. Without cost. Neither will there be charges for electricity or cleaning. My wife, Ibu Suparjo, will be pleased to open the exhibition and will be attended by Mrs Hadiyono, the walikota’s wife. I will also provide the Puri Gde gamelan orchestra to play in the forecourt. If there is anything else, please let me know.’ The exhibition was a resounding success. More than 4,000 people came over a period of five days. Parties of school children from the city and outlying districts came in great bus loads and, at times, it was impossible to move for the crush. The airborne leaflet drop, inviting everyone to attend, brought many visitors who might otherwise have felt excluded. Neatly dressed burghers and students stood side by side with beggars and becak drivers — all drawn together by the great man of the people, Affandi, and his art.


Someone Else’s Country

After the closing night, Kartika invited all the helpers to supper at a nearby restaurant — the student group, the cleaners, the expats who had helped, Mansur and Intan from my house and Saleh and his wife. The whole thing put Saleh in a great dilemma: Affandi was a hero to him but the Governor was his enemy. The system the Governor represented — and the man himself — had sent him to jail for seven years. He overcame the problem in his Javanese way and was one of the mainstays of the whole enterprise, running everywhere, untangling problems, executing difficult assignments. He was indispensable. If any one person represented Java to me it was Saleh. He was the modern-day Java Man — natural courtesy overcoming all adversity.

Kartika’s portrait
Kartika painted Ed’s portrait as part of a series of nude men. It was part of her new awareness of herself as a person and a woman. Portraits of nude women were common but she wanted to paint nude men. The one of Ed was in black and white and showed him seated in a chair in a relaxed position. As the painting progressed, Kartika kept standing back from it and making the comment that there was something missing. She painted in the edge of a mat under his right foot but that didn’t solve the problem. She added a Dutch lamp hanging high behind his head, but still she felt it was incomplete. Was it the colour? She added coloured flowers and a cloth, but that was wrong. We had lunch and then she went back to the painting. Ed was very patient and seemed to be enjoying the experience. He was lounging back in the chair, looking relaxed, but Kartika insisted there was something missing. I was standing in the background and suddenly she announced what it was that was missing. ‘It’s you,’ she said, looking at me directly. ‘Yes, it’s you.’ Cautioning me not to move, she began to paint my head peering forward from behind Ed’s left shoulder. As the form of



the face began to take shape an extraordinary change took place in the portrait. Although she did not in any way touch the already completed part of the painting, Ed’s body now appeared to be coming forward instead of relaxing backwards. It was coming forward as though it wanted to come right out of the painting. Did it want to escape? That was certainly the impression it was creating. Later that afternoon Kartika pronounced the portrait finished and took it back to Yogya. Some months later it was exhibited in the Male Nude Show with the other portraits at Taman Ismail Marzuki, a prestigious gallery in Jakarta. Newspaper critics and reporters were intrigued by this one particular portrait and asked Kartika’s father, Affandi, if he could explain his daughter’s extraordinary painting. ‘You must ask the artist herself,’ was his reply. But she could not explain it either. The painting is now lost. It was not sold and Kartika thinks she gave it to me, but I did not ever have it. It is not in her old house in Karangwuni and it is not in the Affandi Museum in Yogya. We have searched and inquired everywhere, but it has vanished. A Javanese mystery. The portrait that ran away.

Farewell to Semarang
In February 1978 news came from head office in Singapore that the training program in Semarang would be phased out in the next month. Ed would be posted to Irian Jaya and the students would be sent into the field as co-pilots. I was sorry to be leaving Semarang as I had made some good friends. But that’s expat life — it’s never permanent. It was harder for the children than for us, but I hoped what they were gaining in learning about other countries, customs and languages would in some way make up for the loss and prove useful to them in later life. As Ed would again be a roving pilot, I had to decide where I would live. I could have stayed in Semarang, but I didn’t


Someone Else’s Country

think I would like it on my own. I would have been an odd woman out. Jakarta was central but awful, so I decided on Bali. I had taken several holidays there and it had a pleasant climate, lovely beaches and friendly people. The little thatched-roof holiday house I had started to build there needed only a bit more work to make it habitable. At Ed’s suggestion, I decided to take Saleh to Bali with me. With the pilot school closed, he would have been without a job. My plan was to open a little bar/restaurant in Bali with Saleh as my partner. He knew all about Western drinks and was a good bookkeeper. Saleh jumped at the idea and said he would be happy enough to return to Semarang every three months to visit his wife. If all went well, his whole family would eventually move to Bali. It was a great opportunity for him. Mansur and Intan and their two children returned to Ujung Pandang, in Sulawesi. They had been with us for five years and were keen to try to make it on their own. Mansur could now read and write and drive a car and was in excellent health. Intan could cook Western food and was an accomplished dressmaker. I would miss them very much but I agreed they should have a go at independence. They had enough capital to buy a house and start a small business and now had the great advantage of being able to speak English. If I had decided to take Mansur and his family with me, instead of Mohammed Saleh, my next few years might have been very different indeed. As it was, the events of the next three years would shatter many of my naive illusions about that extraordinary country — Suharto’s Indonesia.


Part Three Bali


my wallet was stolen from my handbag while I slept. a ploy which hides the thieving fingers exploring beneath. my suitcase and my jewellery. In spite of these initial problems. The thief performed the familiar trick of throwing a coat over the armrest we shared. there was no more public transport available. How could the loss of some money be in any way depressing? On arrival at Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali. I was going to live in paradise. It was all just a bit of bad luck. The word losmen derives from the . (Several days later I got the bags back but by that time they had been rifled through and a small jewellery box was missing. Nevermind. We drove through dark and deserted Kuta to Losmen Artika in Legian Kelod. I was going to the magical island of Bali. In quick succession I lost my money. I refused to be downhearted. After all. an Indonesian utility-cum-mini-bus for hire. mine had not appeared.) By the time I left the airport the terminal was deserted. With my overnight bag. I walked the kilometre or so to the Nusa Dua turn-off and was lucky to stop an empty bemo.Bad omens in paradise The omens were bad from the beginning. after 20 minutes. The Artful Dodger Indonesian-style got off the bus before we arrived at the Yogyakarta terminus which was where I discovered my loss. passengers stood in line waiting for their luggage to trundle along the rollers but. With no further flights due that evening. After waiting for nearly an hour at the airport manager’s office I was told my baggage had inadvertently been sent back to Singapore. Making the bus journey from Semarang to Yogyakarta to connect with the Garuda flight to Bali.

I gave a deep sigh and lay down. welcomed me by name. a superior establishment on the beachfront owned by Jakarta Chinese. who came from Singaraja on the northern coast of the island. Losmen Artika looked on to a pleasant garden of hibiscus. flowering shrubs and the ubiquitous dracaena with its brightly coloured red and yellow leaves. simply furnished with two beds. a small table and a metal clothes-horse for drying clothes. On good days there were also two sweet rolls. a small table and a wardrobe. two rotan chairs.190 Someone Else’s Country European ‘lodgement’. Each morning a Thermos of weak tea and two bananas were served. Tousle-headed Made. He was an orphan himself and had been cared for by his cousin Killer in the same way. They were both university-educated and owned their losmen as well as the one Made managed. doves cooing on the roof and the occasional squeal of a runaway piglet. Made bought the boys’ school uniforms and paid for their schooling. lived in a bamboo shed behind the losmen and was assisted in running the place by his two orphaned nephews. Killer worked for the Government and Kathy was a receptionist at the nearby Legian Beach Hotel. the owner. electric light and charging R. aged nine and 11. Nyoman and K’tut. Losmen Artika was built in the traditional style. Legian was the next beach along the coast from Kuta and kelod means south. . with a row of six bedrooms opening on to a long tiled verandah. Each room had identical furniture. Made brought a Thermos of weak tea and left me to settle in. With soft beds. I had made it to paradise at last. Made. The place had a very rural feeling. showers. it was a snip. with floral curtains and a floral bedspread. I bunked down in a front room.300 or about 60 cents Australian a night. with chickens scuttling about. Balinese always remember your name so it is no wonder we are so beguiled by them. Floral bedspreads were de rigeur in Bali. cheap and pleasant enough. Outside each room was what was known as a stel. I had stayed in this losmen before when I visited Bali from Java and it was clean. Killer lived in the losmen next door with his wife Kathy.

her hair and body freshly bathed. the offerings were devoured. she moved on with her tray held high to another altar in the centre of the garden. however. came to the altar carrying a round bamboo tray of segehan (offerings). These were little squares of banana leaf with a few grains of rice on them. It was a very refreshing method of bathing and far preferable to the weak spray of water from the shower. In the Bhagavadgita. The ‘schwoosh’ of several ladles of cold water was invig- . had its own big.Bali 191 At the southern end of the verandah. The plastic dippers had replaced the traditional dippers made of coconut shell. Each bathroom. of the pure heart I accept. The important thing was that the offerings were made. lather-up with soap and then sluice the soap off with more water. ‘Whosoever offers to Me with devotion a leaf. As soon as the novitiate moved on. The system of bathing was to ladle a few dippers-full of water over your body. high under the eaves. After making a silent prayer. dipped it in the holy water and flicked it over the offerings.’ (Ch IX:26) God takes the sari (essence) immediately. The losmen had two bathrooms at the end of a short passageway between the bedrooms but the showers worked only if Made remembered to top up the tank with a hand pump. she took a frangipani flower between her first and second fingers. where she gave more offerings and said more prayers. wearing clean clothes with the traditional brightly coloured sash. that offering of love. Every evening a young girl. I asked about this apparent desecration of the offerings by animals but Made said it didn’t matter. which was kept filled with water and always had a plastic dipper floating on top. Sometimes the little leaf plates were laid along the pathways and dogs and chickens stood waiting as this ritual took place. was a small temple altar. He said such offerings were the tangible way of giving thanks to God. square concrete tub or tempat mandi. a fruit or water. Lifting some of them to the altar and placing a lighted incense taper with them. Krishna tells Arjuna of God’s wishes. incense and holy water. so what happens afterwards is of no importance. flowers. a flower.

glancing into my room. who were from many different parts of the world. I watched it disappear into the brick wall. Please don’t do it again. We all woke up at the same time. We were all frightened. I said. The next morning Made came round for his daily chat with the guests. It was for ladling-out only. This was the first of my many mistakes in Bali. I lay still for a few minutes. which broke into high-pitched whispers. At the southern end of the verandah I saw a figure in a long gown. staring terrified. Reading finished.192 Someone Else’s Country orating but it was an unpardonable sin to allow soap to get into the water tub. Then I noticed that everyone’s doors were open. Nothing. the sacred mountain.’ Made looked vaguely troubled and. ‘Nothing. so I carefully eased myself out of bed. In the middle of the night I awoke in a cold fearful sweat that was not caused by a nightmare. afraid to move or look around. The other guests. It brings negative influences.’ . ‘Did you sleep at the wrong end of the bed? You must never do that nyonya. As the light source was a naked bulb hanging from the centre of the ceiling. Go back to bed. made muffled exclamations in their own languages. Never. noticed my pillow at the bottom of the bed. all very agitated. I was just suddenly wide awake and stark. If you sleep with your feet pointing that way. It’s nothing at all. elevated several feet above the floor. ‘Something happened here last night. then bad things will happen. Eventually I became more afraid of doing nothing than of doing something. It’s nothing at all. We had all awakened in the same way. Mouth open in disbelief and awe. On my second night in paradise I was reading Time magazine before sleeping.’ But it was something. I moved the pillow to the bottom of the bed to get better light. The beds are positioned so that your head always points towards Agung. moving away rapidly. I switched off the light and went to sleep with my head still at the bottom of the bed. As quietly as I could I opened the door and peered out.

through drinking alcohol or eating magic mushrooms. if Agung is straight ahead of us. When we look at a map. The evening after the visitation. no matter where they happen to be. This was my first lesson in the importance of orientation to the Balinese. if I went there I wouldn’t know where Agung was. ‘No thank you nyonya. A compass may tell us we are looking south but for the Balinese. I asked a little girl on the beach one day if she’d like to come to Australia with me. I noticed they were twice the normal size and that she laid additional ones at the edges of the verandah and along the pathway. ‘Even though I know it must be a beautiful place. they become uncomfortable and extremely worried. Balinese Hinduism’s single god.’ Agung is the dwelling place of Idi Sanghyang Widhi Wasa. Balinese have an inbuilt feeling for direction.’ she said. Although we use the words north and south for these directions. It is important at all times to know where they are in relation to the sacred mountain. The directional points represent the sacred and the profane. Towards the mountain is kaja or north and away from it or seawards is kelod or south. high and low. Agung. up and down. If they should lose this feeling. it is not necessarily the same for the Balinese. north is always at the top. when the girl came to make the offerings. . to keep either of the two opposites from getting the upper hand and to maintain equilibrium. then we are looking north. It was my first contact with Sekala and Niskala — what you can see and what you can’t see. the opposite forces and energies that are inseparable and always exist according to Balinese beliefs. It is the goal of prayer and ceremony in Balinese Hinduism to keep balance in the world. and safe and dangerous concepts.Bali 193 He went off to amend my misdemeanor and I was left feeling severely chastened. but if a Balinese is looking at it he will probably turn it round so that the north is kaja in the direction of Agung. Balance and harmony are all important when one lives in Bali.

194 Someone Else’s Country Made to measure Nyoman Rentha was the gardener at Losmen Artika and one day he said to me. Nyoman handed me a stick and said.’ he said. I went along and saw 25 or 30 men gathered around the house. Do you want to come along and watch?’ What a funny suggestion. Surely we should go about this more carefully? Talk to architects. near the cremation gound. I had mentioned to Nyoman how much I would have liked that area for my own house — it was green and leafy and some distance from the main road.’ The land fronted the main road to Kuta but ran back down a side road towards the Pura Dalem or Sacred Temple of the Dead. Their bodies could be seen only from the waist down and the house. took on the appearance of an angular centipede. ‘Yes. but I failed to take the invitation literally. I thought. not just draw lines on the earth like it was a children’s game. ‘Just draw the house with a stick.’ I was incredulous. I couldn’t imagine any better place to make a home. he really meant it when he said he was moving house. That fits you. ‘If you want to make a house it must be the house that suits you. to watch someone pack up their things and move them to another house! It didn’t sound very entertaining. And is exactly where you want it.’ he had said. sashaying along like some mythical beast. nyonya. surveyors. During my previous visits. just draw the lines. with its swaying thatched-grass roof. With one mighty heave the men hoisted it into the air and stood inside and below it. ‘This is all my land here. They then ran in unison down the road to the new location. ‘No worries. The neighbouring fields were green lawns planted with coconut palms.’ . ‘I’m moving house tomorrow. builders. Nyoman and I walked around together selecting the best aspect and then. I am the eldest son and my father is dead so you can build anywhere you like. the poles of which had been loosened from the ground. to my surprise.

For the Balinese.’ ‘It’s a good plan. The house would need nine of them. We’ll sleep upstairs with a wooden staircase leading up and a balcony in the middle so you can look down below. ‘I’ve never seen a house like that in Bali before. I could only borrow it. but it would be. My house would not conform strictly to these rules. sexual organs (gate). When I told my American friends in Semarang of my plans. Feeling was the most important part of the plan. a navel (courtyard). arms (sleeping quarters and social parlour). It would be inviting trouble to put poles in the ground upside-down. ‘We’ll have a sitting room and dining room here. And a kitchen here. Then we had to wait for the coconut-palm poles to be found. the well dug and the septic tank put in place. as they said.’ I could not buy the land from Nyoman.’ said Nyoman. yes. I followed instructions and started scratching the ground with the stick. as with all my actions in Bali. And a bathroom here …’ ‘And where will your sleeping place be?’ ‘Oh. a house is like a human being and has a head (the family shrine). It was several weeks before construction began and the concrete slab was laid. . I wasn’t going to stay in Bali for ever so borrowing the land seemed like a good idea. legs and feet (kitchen and granary) and anus (garbage pit). they were horrified. I will get the builders and we can start whenever you are ready. but they had different ideas about ownership and I knew that what I was doing was the best solution for me. I borrowed the land for five years. That will be upstairs. and they had to be old and mature and extra long to accommodate the second storey. There was no charge for the land but at the expiry of the loan period anything built on it would become Nyoman’s. This arrangement would be drawn up officially by a lawyer with the length of time clearly stated. When the nine poles finally arrived they were carefully set in place with the root-ends in the ground.Bali 195 It was like cutting material for a dress without a pattern but. how I wanted it to feel.

The thatching was almost 30cm thick in places and they assured me it would last about 40 years. of course. when finished. like a hairdresser cutting a fringe. This is your house and made to your size. he asked me to hold my arms upright and curl my fingers over slightly. the stairs went in — measured to my tread. Starting at the top of the roof. woven strips of bamboo skin. ‘But what if really tall people come?’ I asked. The thatching took a few weeks to arrive as the special grass had to be a certain length before it could be gathered and prepared. as such construction was not common in Balinese architecture. Everything about the house construction was based on my own stature. The head builder then went around the house with a very sharp knife and evened it all up. But. For the height of the doors.196 Someone Else’s Country The walls of the house were made of coral and panels of gedek. . The construction of the skeleton ceiling was a miracle of harmony and adaptability as the beams were ingeniously fitted together without nails — held in place only by pegs bound with bamboo fibre. they must bend down. The lalang grass was sewn on to the ribs of stripped coconut palm fronds. The builder asked me to sit in a chair so he could judge the correct elevation for the window openings. The stairs leading up to the sleeping area posed a few problems. were set on all sides. as the skeleton itself looked so beautiful. nyonya.’ It was a perfectly sound explanation. the whole thing was ‘combed’ with a long rake. he asked me to stand with my hands clasped across my chest with my elbows sticking out sideways. ‘Then. with shutters made of the same material. I almost regretted the imminent overlay of the roofing material. Windows. The windows were placed to suit my line of vision and the stone steps at the entrance were designed to suit my tread. The lower thatches of grass drooped over the windows and. after several days’ consultation and what looked like a great deal of praying. When it came to the width of the doorways. the ribs were laid one on top of the other in slowly descending order and lashed to the skeleton with indestructible strips of sugar-palm fibre until the whole building was covered with this blanket of very thick grass.

made passes with frangipani flowers over holy water and buried mysterious little parcels in various parts of the garden. It was in Nyoman’s interests too. in my opinion. there were certain ceremonies to be performed. as he was only lending me the land and the house would eventually belong to him and his family. is the most important thing of all.Bali 197 My house was finished and ready for occupancy but. When the date was propitious. The materials used in the construction — wood. which would protect me in times of trouble. Nyoman organised the melaspasin. John and Hereward turned their pockets inside-out so no impish spirits could get inside their . John believed in what he was doing and. he performed his own ceremony. that was what really mattered. satisfied that my house was safe from evil influences. Hereward was home from the International School in Jakarta and we stood respectfully at a distance. My brother’s blessing My brother John came to visit soon after the purification ceremony and decided he should do something of his own to protect me. burned incense. John’s partner Bev and my daughter Gina disapproved and would not participate. The whole experience gave me a really good feeling and that. I was perfectly happy about it all as I knew that everything was being done with my safety in mind. Before beginning. But it was not so. a purification ceremony in which the house was brought to life by a priest. With my son Hereward as his assistant. Dressed in white with a flower behind his ear. grass and bamboo — had been ‘killed’ to make the building and now they had to be brought back to life. As the house was built on his land. of course. wishing we understood more of what he was doing. he rang bells. Offerings of rice cakes and fruit were made by Nyoman and his family and they retired to their own kuren. before I could move in. a priest arrived and set up his altar on the front porch. saying we were making fun of Balinese beliefs. the Balinese believe.

it fluttered down to the ground. In Kuta there was a very successful restaurant called The Pub. So now I was safe in both cosmologies and could confidently live happily in my new house. They quickly scooped it up and carried it home in triumph. Squawking wildly. They quite understood the proceedings as they also offered chickens or ducks as part of their own rites. we were able to provide . which had been used by a dressmaker. we went into the mountains and had tables and chairs specially made. watching the whole performance and treating it with the same dignified respect we had accorded their earlier ceremony. John had acted on instinct with his chicken. I was glad to have his help as Ed had told me before I left for Bali. landing near the seated Balinese. so we decided to call our place the Legian Pub. They walked through the house. who thronged to the area. Retrieval of the animal was a bonus. We bought plants in Bedugul for the garden and invested capital in necessities such as cookers and refrigerators. The Balinese sat politely off at a distance. a Bugis magic man I had met on previous visits to Bali. but it fitted perfectly with Balinese sensibilities. ‘If you take Saleh with you. I won’t worry about you being there on your own. while beating the support poles with my pair of Aboriginal clap sticks. With help from my friend Hans Mochtar. It went well from the very beginning. Catering mainly to tourists.’ Saleh and I found an empty shop. The Legian Pub When Mohammed Saleh joined me from Semarang I decided to open a little bar/restaurant in Legian. a welcome addition to the communal pot.198 Someone Else’s Country clothes and cause trouble. and set about turning it into a restaurant. I know he will defend you with his life. John’s ceremony ended when he hurled a live chicken from an upstairs window. The name pub would ring a bell with all Australian tourists. asking for peace and happiness to descend on all who came to live there.

as well as all sorts of table games. Arsito and his group were paid big dollars by the prestigious Bali Beach Hotel. As well as Arsito and the Batak Singers. was the arrival of the Batak singers. such as the Thai game Kun Pan and the more traditional chess. while others would get into the swing of things and buy him fancy liqueurs and cocktails. unpaid. What really brought the Legian Pub to life.Bali 199 two things that most homesick travellers longed for: icy-cold beer and boiling-hot tea. just for the sheer joy of it. they were nevertheless a very endearing group and became part of our life. from the Lake Toba area of Sumatra. once they got going at the pub. My artist friend Kartika’s large and marvellous painting of a Karo Batak house in Sumatra hung on one wall and my wooden portrait-statue of King Bolongongo of the Lower Congo sat on the bar counter. Tris had a beautiful personality and an extraordinary ability to play classical guitar even though he had never had a . another group who played for us were the Legian Rockers. ‘Horas!’. are natural musicians and can play and sing any sort of music superbly. We always wondered what it was that attracted people so much. but they delighted in coming into the Legian Pub when their show was over and playing for us. We were probably the only bar/restaurant in town to have a full set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica for our customers to use. Our customers learned to welcome them with the Batak word of welcome. Sometimes they gave him flowers. I think they also loved the appreciative audience. The King had a drum between his knees and people would place offerings on it. Most places served warm beer and tea made with warm water — both intolerable to Australians and New Zealanders. They were a very young group from Muntilan in Central Java and their leader was a handsome young man called Sutrisno. there was no stopping them. Bataks. We were busy from opening time in the morning until late at night and the little place developed a real atmosphere of its own. They have a marvellous sense of rhythm and. Not as professional as the Bataks. He had a right old time. however.

burned out from within. Unable to read music. People who had lost their passports or had visa problems were referred to me. There we found poor Tris. One evening there was a great storm with continuous rain and heavy thunder and lightning. As he was a Muslim. people ran out of their houses and made their way to the rear of the restaurant Kayu Api. as a responsible person living on the island. his parents were supposed to see his body before burial. dead of electrocution. I thought of him every time I heard Recuerdos del Alhambra. We set up a little memorial for Sutrisno in the pub with masses of flowers. so we took him to the morgue and asked if he could be kept there until his parents in Java were informed. I stayed at home like most people but. the music he played so beautifully.350. Wrapped in sarongs and carrying umbrellas. so we had to pack ice around his poor little body to keep it in some sort of reasonable condition until his parents arrived.200 Someone Else’s Country guitar lesson. five days and many ice blocks later. But the morgue had no facilities for keeping corpses. I was often called upon to act in an honorary consul-like fashion for tourists who had problems. Foolishly. Bali had no Australian Consul and. . The sick ones were always glad to have an English-speaking person visit them. he had been trying to change a fuse in the pouring rain. But most commonly I was called upon to visit Australians in the Denpasar hospital who had fallen ill or had motorbike accidents. In the Balinese hospital system there was no provision for procuring prescribed medicines so patients had to wait until a friend or relative could get their script filled at the nearest chemist. about 11 o’clock. where the dreadful screams had come from. particularly if the local medico had prescribed drugs for them. we were startled by the most dreadful screaming. An honorary consul During my time there. The whites of his eyes were dark brown. We found out it would cost R.000 to ship the body back home to Muntilan. he taught himself from tape recordings and played the music by ear.

When the Japanese surrender was taken in Tokyo Bay in 1945. not in the traditional Balinese manner. Her husband was appointed personal press secretary to Richard Nixon but. for 10 years. when his actions in blocking the lobbying activities of the Mafia became too annoying for the crime . Her husband was a foreign correspondent based in Washington and. but in an eclectic mix of European styles. She eventually flew back to Sydney without the mystery being solved. and his amazing wife. During my time in Bali it was inhabited by a Dutch Australian. bridges and statuary in the middle of a lake. with Italianate casements and causeways. they lived a glamorous life in Argentina and Brazil. she was smuggled aboard the USS Missouri dressed in American fatigues and was a silent witness to this momentous occasion. who had married a senior American war correspondent while still in her teens. A fantastic creation of moats. I sat with her for many hours hoping to get some clue as to her identity. Queen of the Water Palace The dynastic town of Amlapura (Karangasem) is at the eastern end of Bali and at nearby Ujung there was once a water palace. she had lost her memory and didn’t know what her name was or what she was doing in Bali. June was blonde and beautiful but no match for the smart cats of America’s most sophisticated city. Her carry-bag contained only some money and a swimming costume so there was no way of knowing even where she was staying. the Djelantiks. who I often visited. They tore her to pieces. before moving back to Washington where they had two children and lived in the fast lane of the political and diplomatic world. June Klughorn.Bali 201 One sad case was a girl who had been travelling in a bemo when it was struck by a bus. in 1927. Anton de Neve. June was an Australian country girl. She was knocked unconscious and. Greek columns and Moorish doorways. when she came-to in the hospital. the palace was built by the ruling family of Karangasem.

She returned to West Virginia and found her house had been broken into and ransacked by Black Power groups. for the princely Djelantik family of nearby Karangasem had given him permission to undertake restoration work in return for an indeterminate lease of the castle. as they made plans to wed. They stayed in remote villages. hired a captain and crew and set off to explore the world. June came back to the yacht basin to find that her ship had been impounded by the authorities on charges of drug running and the captain had escaped custody and disappeared. introduced her to his recently widowed friend. Driving home from work in his Ferrari one night. After several years exploring the South Pacific. She returned to Sydney but could not find a niche for herself there as a widow. covered the cabin floors with thick wool pile carpet. It was the end of life in the diplomatic fast lane for the unsophisticated Australian girl. It was love at first sight and. The dilapidated state of the property was the result of an earthquake some years earlier. Anton de Neve. she bought a 70-foot yacht. With her insurance money. The hospital staff behaved badly towards June. Finistera. ate local Balinese food and were entertained by Balinese princes and princesses. the yacht landed in Bali and June decided to go ashore for a while and explore the magical paradise. witnessed rarely seen dances and festivals. A young New Zealander agreed to take the ship off her hands and pay the charges and.202 Someone Else’s Country syndicate. he was followed by a cement truck which forced him off the road on a bend where the drop-off was several hundred feet. which he was restoring. They would live there together in splendour. in return for her too-generous offer. After six months or so of this idyllic life. . The yacht captain was given free rein to take off for a few months and before long June had a delightful new companion who took her all over the island on the back of his motorbike. Anton showed June the Water Palace at Ujung. the most exciting way of discovering Bali’s charms. he was quietly eliminated. refusing to let her see the body and she was devastated. after the heady days in Washington.

her way of life was changed for ever. navy-blue Cadillac. the causeway to the mainland rebuilt and the castle itself completely remodelled inside. the kerosene lamps and hundreds of candles did not provide sufficient light. My behind and the back of my legs caught it though. and occasionally a parasol.Bali 203 The lake had been cleared of weeds. ‘The fridge door was open so I dived in head first and managed to save my head and shoulders from the falling tiles. She seemed able to get by on very little sleep and occasionally. and she often used it when making her early-morning calls to my house.’ she said. It was a horrible sensation. as Anton and June were avid readers. to protect her from the sun. keeping all the time to the original conception and decoration. loose-fitting silk gowns were her style. She was a pale English rose in a tropical garden. June’s car was a chauffeur-driven. ‘Anton was shaving and I was in the kitchen teaching Nyoman how to make a souffle. after being up all night dancing in the discos. When an earthquake hit the Water Palace for the second time. The ‘hair of the dog’ was always required. they sat on the terrace in the evenings. Not a solid floor any more. Floral. just rolling like a wave. complete with mini-bar and fridge. ‘Good morning! Good morning! Hurry along now! You’re very slow with the drinks around here. would call on me about eight in the morning with the cheery greeting. ‘Suddenly the stone floor under my feet turned to water. each wearing a miner’s safety lamp. Then the roof came down all over us. You can . dressed always in the latest Parisian fashions and looking as though she was on her way to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. all the better to see the printed word. Her extravagant and self-indulgent lifestyle had not yet begun to take its toll on her and she was a most attractive creature.’ Nothing could persuade her to drink tea or coffee at this time of day. highlighted with ropes of pearls and always a large floppy hat decorated with flowers. Accordingly. There was no electricity and.

Her public behaviour went from bad to worse. this time obliterating what little was left of the castle and severing the causeway. The de Neves took up temporary accommodation in the Bali Beach Hotel in order to try to regain their equilibrium. was lost.’ The greatest tragedy was that Anton’s collection of Venetian glass. in spite of all this. however. I gently led her away to the ladies room to try to make repairs and when I mentioned that her hair needed fixing she spun back with. . ‘Not possible. Every single piece was smashed to smithereens. June played the piano well and would sit for hours in the piano bar playing entertaining music to a gathering of entranced listeners. ‘I’ll fix my hair!’ With that she dunked her head in the toilet bowl and flushed it.204 Someone Else’s Country still see the scars all over them. ‘It would cost as much money again as I’ve spent already. Safe it was from the depredations of natural disasters but for June. He packed his bags and flew home to Melbourne leaving June to arrange everything from the safety of the Bali Beach Hotel. it was a disaster. Anton and Nyoman jumped into the lake and only got cut a little by flying glass and wood. ‘Will you go back and fix it up?’ I asked. One evening she joined a group of us for a drink barefoot.’ But they did go back and lived in the watchhouse on the mainland from where the once-colonnaded causeway had reached out to the castle in the middle of the lake. which lined the walls of the sitting room. whose dependence on alcohol in order to face problems had doubled. Anton had had enough. It was shaken to pieces and lay all over the floor in a shimmering mass of pink and green. But. the two handles looped over her eyes like giant sunglasses. the hotel eventually asked her to leave. and in spite of the fact Anton had a good rapport with the management. as the gempa bumi struck again.’ said Anton. The watchhouse cracked and split down the middle and June and Anton were thrown from their beds in the middle of the night. Their stay there was short-lived. to appalling. wearing a black nightie with a black handbag upsidedown on her head.

The souvenir sellers on the beach pestered her day and night and she bought everything they pressed on her until her room was overflowing with sarongs and hats. I rang her brother. who was an MP in the Queensland Parliament. but they could do nothing unless she committed an offence or was arrested by Indonesian authorities. Val Ireland. This was the problem: June was doing no harm to anyone but herself. the Hospital for Nervous Diseases. He told me he hadn’t been paid for months. otherwise I would do it myself. I have to go to Jakarta. We set off along the east-coast road with the driver and Hereward up front and June and myself in the commodious back . I was unable to get in touch with her husband. ‘There is no way Qantas will take her on board as she is at the moment. so Hereward and I made up a picnic basket and collected her from her hotel. she moved to a little beachside hotel not far from my house. suggested I talk to a psychiatrist she knew. I will alert the Australian doctor that you are coming. On the way there you will pass the turn-off to the Rumah Sakit Jiwa. Anton.’ June jumped at the chance to visit the ruined Water Palace. She gave her driver full control of her money and he could not really be blamed for appropriating some of it for his own use.Bali 205 With her car and driver. so I rang the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Get her into the car and suggest going for a drive to the Water Palace. in Denpasar. ‘She will have to dry out first. June’s situation was serious. Once there the staff may be able to put her up for a few days so that she will be fit to fly back to Sydney. We waited in the shade of a big waringin tree while she got herself together. Unfortunately. I discussed June’s case with him and he came up with a plan. I was very fond of her but I could see that she could not continue in this way for much longer. She also took to wandering around the street wrapped only in a towel. A friend. Make some excuse that you have friends to visit there. but he would have nothing to do with his sister. just for a look. Dr Dani. carvings and paintings.’ he said. Ants love the roots of these trees and I noticed that some of them were busily working away there.

We sang all the way with June in her full entertaining mode. electric windows.’ ‘I hope you don’t mind. When I had the art gallery in the Rocks. They are ants. air-conditioning and bar. ‘Why are we going here? I know that sign says hospital. June. slapping again at my left thigh. gushing tones. ‘Ants!’ I said desperately. You used to catch the Kirribilli ferry to the city. ‘A doctor friend of mine from Sydney has just been transferred here and I thought it was a good opportunity to say hello to him. As instructed. ‘Hello Peter. ‘What is the matter. She was in the middle of showing pictures of the Water Palace in its heyday before the earthquake when I felt a severe sting on my right thigh. adding archly. ‘I see. asked. He looked at me strangely but fortunately the blunder went unnoticed by June. Madam?’ the doctor asked in measured tones.’ ‘Have we met before?’ He wasn’t playing the game. I jumped up and down in a frantic attempt to locate the beastie that was biting me so viciously. the driver turned off at the Rumah Sakit sign and.206 Someone Else’s Country compartment with its jump seats. who was no fool. ‘What a long time it is since we last met in Sydney. ‘And do you often get this sensation of ants crawling underneath your skin?’ ‘It is not a sensation. she was charming them all with her bright conversation. ‘I do hope he can sing. I stood under a tree in Legian. I slapped at it several times and then at my other leg. Is it all right?’ ‘Why not?’ she said with a smile.’ We pulled into the main entrance and were ushered into a small sitting room by the Australian doctor and some Indonesian staff.’ I lied as convincingly as I could and winked. ‘In Sydney. as we drove through the gates. With my arms and legs flailing.’ I said in bright. I heard you were here so I had to drop in and see you.’ . which was also being attacked.’ he continued calmly.’ I said apologetically. Barefoot as usual. You must remember.

‘Just our normal hospital fare. I even found the nasty black ant and showed the red weals it had inflicted on my poor leg. Perhaps after lunch you might like to take a rest. Shaking my head and cupping my right hand in front of my face I made little stabbing movements with my left index finger. You can even stay the night. I jumped up and said. Before I reached it. I tried to explain everything. he took out a small pad and began making notes. Dr Dani had told him only that a woman with a problem would be arriving and had forgotten to mention the deception we had planned — pretending the doctor was an old friend. ‘Lunch in a hospital for lunatics!’ June was being funny but wary. ‘Well.’ .’ said the doctor.’ and headed for the door. my arm was pinioned and held in a vice-like grip by one of the attendants. speaking as calmly and as normally as I could.’ Once outside my composure returned and. not June.Bali 207 The doctor fixed me with an even more professional gaze and I realised he thought I was the problem person. Totally unconvinced by my pantomime. which obviously only confirmed his suspicions. Back inside the doctor turned his attention to June and invited us all to lunch. He was stony-faced. ‘The toilet. indicating that it was not me but June towards whom the doctor should be directing his attention. ‘There have been further landslides and the bridges are down. The nurse called the doctor outside and to my great relief he accepted the explanation. ‘Just quietly now. We will take you to the toilet. How could she be? She was holding the company spellbound with her stories of the palace and the earthquake and her marvellous lifestyle on the lake. what are you going to offer us for lunch? Champagne and caviar I hope. I had just finished reading One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest and.’ ‘Not quite that. ‘But aren’t we going to see the Water Palace?’ ‘I have heard that the road to Ujung is impassable after Selat. realising the mistake was now beginning to take on sinister overtones. I must go please.’ ‘Stay the night! With the loonies!’ June was suspicious and on her guard.’ said the doctor.

She had bought the toiletries all right but added to them a goodly supply of Anchor and Bintang beer. the only alcohol available in the village. ‘No luggage. Give it away to someone in need. Beer seemed harmless enough considering her addiction to the harder stuff. I explained the problem about travelling back to Sydney. Give it all away please. of course. Three days later she passed the test and returned to Legian sober enough for the journey home. Before checking in she asked to be taken to the nearest village to buy a toothbrush. Let’s Have Another Little Kiss. which startled the security officers and suitably distracted the passengers from seeing a corpse being loaded on to the aircraft.208 Someone Else’s Country ‘Oh well. And don’t leave me here any longer. In preparation for the flight to Sydney. She would have to sober up and it would be best if she stayed for a week. We ate our adequate lunch and I took June for a walk to see the accommodation. ‘That’s the limit. ‘Three days. thank you. Just as her bags were about to be lifted on to the scales. and a toque hat to match. We’ll just have to make the best of the hospital. We waited in the car while she went inside and were surprised when she staggered out with a huge paper sack crammed with purchases. We said nothing about it to the staff. I don’t need it. I guess that’s it. In the evening she presented herself and her baggage at the airport check-in counter. she raised an imperious hand and made a dramatic announcement. she went shopping and bought a completely new outfit of white cotton. As she knew something was up.’ So saying she swept off singing her latest hit song. won’t we?’ In a tight corner June was always a fatalist.’ she said. Only poor people carry luggage. . some soap and a towel. there was a catch.’ Her easy acceptance pleased me but. threaded with gold.

gold chain bracelets hung from his wrists and round his neck was a necklace of precious stones. Tony’s story may or may not have been true. white designer jeans and a Gucci shirt open at the neck. studded with diamonds and other precious stones. The husband was no doubt past dancing and Hans would lead the wife on to the floor and dance gently with her as the husband looked on admiringly. He married a very beautiful girl from Menado and had two children. One day he found out his wife was having an affair with his superior officer. flared jeans and a baseball cap. During the day he would dress in tank tops.Bali 209 Hans Mochtar One of my good friends in Bali was an unusual man whose full name was Andi Hans Mochtar. He spent a long time in prison and had a stamp on his papers saying he was never to be given a passport. My guess was that he was about 40 years old and probably bisexual. told me Hans was the son of a high-ranking army officer and prince and as a young man he had joined the army himself. Hans was in fact the son of a Bugis father and a Batak mother. but what was certain was that Hans Mochtar had a very mysterious past and many powerful connections. Andi was a princely title in the former Bugis kingdom in South Sulawesi. Tony. gilded cowboy boots. tight. He was a fabulous dancer and never short of partners. Darker skinned than the Balinese. one of the nice things about Hans was that he also sought out as dancing partners the wives of elderly men who were probably on their last trip around the world. but in the evenings the frog turned into a prince and he was a glamorous star in high-heeled. so he took a gun and killed him. thick. On his fingers he wore huge gold rings. He had a great shock of frizzy black hair and was of indeterminate age and sex. As well as taking on all the smart young chicks. a mutual Chinese friend from Lombok. He really was a knockout and always dressed in this flamboyant manner for his regular visits to the Matahari nightclub in Sanur. possibly .

I never found out what Hans did for a living. They stopped fighting and said it is good that I say no fighting. ‘The 44 Giants are not of this world. was his association with the ‘44 Giants’. which is used to entertain guests and for dance performances. When I walk along the street I can see through the walls and into people’s . I can see through walls. With fists. Boss to boss. The real mystery about Hans. Then they gave me the money. ‘Just now they gave me a new power. Every morning they come to my house and I give them coffee and bananas. He explained them to me in detail. two sitting rooms. They were Las Vegas people and fighting. Every week it goes down. with coloured lights in the garden. And it has. surrounded by a moat and planted with ferns and flowers. Very rich people. You are my brothers.210 Someone Else’s Country remembering the past and their young life together. I must be good to people and look after them. They are white magic. many bedrooms and several bathrooms and a pendopo at the back.’ I asked him more about the intriguing giants and he continued. My grandfathers and people like that. Several years ago when they first came to me. It must have been a respectable living as he had a smart house opposite the Do Drop Inn in Legian Kelod. A pendopo is a raised platform with a tiled roof and carved pillars. It is always good advice and my problems are always solved.000. Americans gave me $150. returned to America to tell the tale of this marvellous creature in Bali who asked them to dance? In all the years I knew him. I say to them. How many women travellers. ‘If you doubt this then please check the amount of coffee on my shelves. In the Hyatt. They drink coffee with me and tell me about my life. They are like my family who died many years ago. ‘I ask them for advice when I have problems. Very rich people. In three months we will give you money. They come from outside the world and are more than six metres tall. down. My very good friends until now. they said I must stop trying to make money but just sit down and be good and honest and the money would come to me. First they gave me a Commodore car. It is a worry for me sometimes. however. down. no fighting. I wondered.

It was unlikely this story was true as Chris never left the house to enjoy the delights of Bali.’ Hans could also tell people about their past by asking only one question — what number child they were in the family. They do not tell me yet. And water. When I eventually left Bali he took over the care of my dog Rusty and fed him saté sticks every day until the poor creature was like an . When Chris was not in residence. If I drink. I am sometimes headache. Hans was employed as his bodyguard. in all the times I listened. He also made predictions about the future and held people enthralled. I like coffee only. except to say he was ‘of the Onassis family’ and was afraid of being kidnapped but wanted a holiday in Bali.Bali 211 houses. I asked him how old he was when he first saw the 44 Giants and he told me this story. He tells me that if I do not drink alcohol. He was a thin. Every six months or so he would disappear inside his house and stay incommunicado for several weeks and the mysterious Chris would arrive. He also appeared to be on very good terms with the army so it is possible he was some sort of agent. ‘When I was very young my parents put me in a little bed but in the morning when they came to look for me I would be gone. Hans said very little about Chris. I don’t know why they make this for me. which was. everyone wanted to know what was round the corner. he will look after me. I caught only glimpses of Chris in the garden. Do you know the little yellow bird that flies in my garden sometimes? That is my grandfather. From this information he drew a detailed character study. Hans came to my house every morning to drink coffee and talk and it was over these early-morning chats that our friendship developed.’ Hans was the Disco King of Kuta and was seen everywhere on his motorbike during the day and dancing into the early hours at night. remarkably accurate. Every night I crept out of the house and went to sleep on the grave of my grandfather. stringy young man with a hang-dog expression and no sign of animation. but he added to Hans’ mysterious character. do not gamble and no narcotica.

I asked the owner. barely lit by a flickering lamp.’ murmured Made. The naturalist’s wife One day I came face-to-face with what could have been my future self. My name is Suli and I have come to see if I can help you. ‘I hope you speak English. This one was very much at the low end of the accommodation scale and had only the most primitive facilities for bathing. Lama sekali [She has been very sick for a long time]. banana trash and palm fronds. I come from Tunbridge Wells. Hans always saw to it that Rusty never ate pork saté. I speak English. he withdrew without another word. Leaving the lamp with me. She was loosely covered by a sarong and had her head resting on a cloth bag. Being Muslim. She was in a place called Lima Saudara (the Five Brothers). was a figure lying on a tikar mat on the dirt floor.’ ‘Yes. If someone was sick here I didn’t think much of their chances of survival. with a long covered verandah built of coral and cement. In the gloom of one of these huts. Someone came into the Legian Pub and said there was an old lady in one of the losmen who was very sick and they asked if I would go to see her. goat or chicken. so I put together a Thermos of weak tea and sugar to take to her. Yes. for the orang sakit (sick person). very . ‘Sakit keras. She was a tiny woman. Surely she wasn’t lying in one of these? But she was.’ Her voice was distinctly cultured but very faint and I had to lean forward to hear her clearly. It was a typical Balinese house turned into lodgings for tourists. only lamb. She gave a slight moan as a sign of recognition so I said quietly. As my eyes became accustomed to the darkness. and he took me to the back of the losmen where there were some very crude huts made from bamboo. a man named Made.212 Someone Else’s Country over-stuffed sofa. I am English. I knelt beside the prone figure and touched her gently.

He’s a naturalist and has gone off looking for specimens so I’m waiting for him to come back. which she drank eagerly. I’ve done it all my life. The tea is good. She said she had not eaten for some days so I said I would come back later with some rice and soup. She was dressed like a hippy and had the hippy bag and the same apparent indifference to her appearance and living quarters that the young tourists usually adopted. you see. She would wait for her husband to return and he would give her the medicine she needed. I’m used to this way of living. waiting for her to speak. I’m here with my husband. with wispy hair and a gaunt face. After a second glass of tea I asked if she would like me to take her to see a doctor but she declined. ‘That’s very kind of you. There was a strong musky odour of stale sweat.’ ‘I’m not really on my own. I get so thirsty.’ she said. I had never seen anyone like her before. ‘It’s nice of you to come. ‘I don’t know what is the matter with me. . sensing she was now better able to communicate with me. She was wearing a T-shirt and a floral batik sarong. ‘What are you doing in Bali on your own? It’s an awfully long way from Tunbridge Wells. Observing her in the lamplight. I’m quite all right. moving into a sitting position and leaning against the bamboo support. ‘But I’m sure my husband will be back soon and he will bring me things to eat.’ She said her name was Anna Hastings. I offered her some tea. Her sentences were short and punctuated with long pauses. I guessed her to be in her seventies if not older. He’s been away such a long time. I went looking for Made to see if he could give me any information about the poor woman. I think she had been suffering from delirium because her speech was very halting and she had a strange look in her eyes as though she was seeing things I could not see. so I stayed quiet. She handed me back the empty glass and.’ She coughed for a little while. which I remembered from my own days of sickness. so I left.Bali 213 thin and frail.’ I could see she didn’t want me to help her any more.’ she said. I asked. but she was the wrong age.

Was I seeing my own future here in this little grass hut? Was this the future I had to look forward to? I shuddered at the idea and quickly put it behind me. nyonya. as I gained her confidence. she told me about herself. I asked some people staying here to go to your place and see if you could do something to help.’ . though the Moluccas to Banda and finally to the Portuguese end of the island called East Timor. She did seem glad to have a visitor.’ I guessed she had been suffering from either a severe bout of malaria or typhus fever. which was endemic in that area. ‘She came here about 10 days ago on her own and just sat in the hut reading books and writing in a little book. When everything is going well and life is a bowl of cherries. ‘We have already spent 18 months travelling about the islands of eastern Indonesia from Sulawesi in the north. As she talked I saw my own existence shadowing her story of a life wandering the world as companion to a man of adventure. she had always been fascinated by the exotic and was swept off her feet by a man who offered her not only love. We began our work from the town of Dili.214 Someone Else’s Country ‘She has no husband. which she accepted politely but grudgingly. She told me her husband John was a distinguished naturalist who worked for the British Museum. but the chance to travel to remote parts of the world in pursuit of his calling.’ he said. however. And this is how she had ended up. and. Like me. I went back to see Anna later and gave her some food and some of my own medicine. Unless one was scrupulous about boiling water for 10 minutes before drinking. there was no way of avoiding recurrence of the disease. She asked me to get rice for her a couple of times but then it stopped and I noticed she was looking very sick and lying down all the time. it’s difficult to imagine that eventually it may all turn sour and the joys will vanish. mostly a consequence of toilets being placed too close to drinking wells. I was very careful about boiling my water and supervised it myself as the kitchen help were a bit vague about the difference between very hot and boiling.

Did you know it’s the unhealthiest place in all the eastern islands? Our friends there have a big family. while her husband rode off on his Timorese pony to collect insects and rare plants. I believed what she said. she was left alone with only a Timorese woman for company. she spent a large part of her life with fever. as well as living in an exotic wilderness. They were all very sick with malaria. I don’t. Even though the hills were less malarial than in the lowland areas around Dili. Do you remember it?’ ‘No. Much of the time. I knew that one’s state of health and happiness could have a powerful effect on impressions left in the mind. ‘We stayed with friends in The Palazzio. Such a lifeless town and such dilapidated buildings. They built a small hut. but there were always absences from the dinner table due to bouts of fever and dizziness. easily overrode the temporary feelings of distress or discomfort. she and her husband often built their own accommodation while living on remote islands. ‘It’s a very pretty little town. when we lived in remote parts of South America and Kalimantan. because we also were sick a lot of the time when living in remote areas but it didn’t seem to matter much. Just as our family had done. a half-day’s difficult journey through an area called Tiring Rocks. . nausea and vomiting. Her descriptions of her life were so detailed and precise I could not help comparing them with my own. Anna told me they had lived in Timor for six months. I stayed at The Tropical. making their base not far from Lahany. We knew we would recover and the fascination of coming so closely in contact with someone else’s culture.’ I said. It sounded awfully similar to parts of my own life but I didn’t need her assurance that she could easily put the suffering aside and enjoy every moment of her life in that strange land.’ she said. On Ritabel they were given a site just above high-tide mark. isn’t it? Lovely wide streets lined with shady red flamboyant trees and beautiful white churches.Bali 215 ‘I was in Dili myself not long ago.’ It wasn’t the Dili I remembered. but travellers often see places from a different perspective and take away different observations. she said.

No word left for me. She had vanished. I was slightly put out when she failed to appear in the next few days.216 Someone Else’s Country During the 10 days of the house’s construction. She had paid her rent but he hadn’t seen her since the day before. on many occasions. she would have introduced him to me and said goodbye at least. but she wasn’t there. Nothing. I went back into the hut. She had passed the point of no return and would wander with her husband for ever. Her sarongs were gone as well as her bag and notebooks. so closely were their bodies packed. In Waikabubak on the island of Sumba we spent most evenings with the doors and windows filled with eyes watching our every move as though we were a play or drama. I looked for Made but he knew nothing. I went to her hut as usual. She told me she was 72 years old and knew she could never live back in Tunbridge Wells. Once the lamps were lit. just as I loved the way I lived. Maybe she had gone for a walk. sent to show me the prognosis for my own future should I continue to live my vagabond existence. which abounded on the hillsides. But Anna was gone. hundreds of pairs of eyes could be seen at every nook and cranny. This had been our experience. The Hastings had become the evening’s entertainment for the village. waiting for a long-dead husband to return and make it all right? . Did she ever exist? Was she a real person or a pleat in the fabric of time. but was that how it would end? In a smelly little bamboo hut. racked with fever and pain. moving from place to place and building temporary dwellings that were really only play houses? I loved her descriptions of the way she had lived. About 10 days after our first meeting. The height of the building in no way deterred the prying eyes of curious children and villagers. John and Anna caught butterflies. too. I thought we had become friends and that if her husband had arrived to take her off to some new remote island. taking bananas and some chicken soup. but could find none of her possessions. Anna and I became friends and her health improved visibly. every crack and crevice. As the days passed. At times we had to ask people to move away from the windows in order to allow cooling breezes to enter the room.

To buy chair. 2nd about bar. We must buy more electric stream. When I returned. Such is me letter to Mrs Suli Fenton. acting on the urging of friends in the Australian Embassy. Not only was he making no profit. he was in debt. 196 as right. Dear Mrs Suli Fenton. because no one except Made and I ever saw her. It was almost three months before I was able to get things properly organised and return to Bali. Material checking was wrong because all material was less and then I must buy material more. we felt he should do his final two years of senior school in Australia. It was very puzzling but there was nothing I could do until my business in Sydney was finished. Telegram of business concern. I didn’t want it to cost me .Bali 217 Anna has always been a mystery to me. Thank you. Leaving the pub in Saleh’s hands. 1st about the house. I hope else Mrs Suli come back in Bali and I have expectuate. The pub had gone downhill. This was a blow because although I had never looked at the pub as a money-maker. And that for working salaries is me money. [Then the even more mysterious] Yes! It’s No. but. Moch Saleh. Then came a letter. Our problem. Saleh and the pub problems Hereward had been at the International School in Jakarta for a year. Excuse me me money is spent please quickly money send and I have met Mrs Jackie Huie [my sister-in-law] in Denapsar. And also for drunk already. Apparition or reality. I travelled to Sydney to arrange things. It’s for repair the wall second floor only. Then we must new more for bar. Saleh had only bad news for me. While I was in Sydney I received some very puzzling telegrams from Saleh. Also me money for work salaries and building worked and paid material. she hung like a warning light over my expectations for the future.

but the pub was supposed to support itself. who was cowering behind the table. On top of this apparent financial disaster. Note for Mama. Saleh would take over the pub for himself and his family when the time came for me to leave Bali. the beautiful little Balinese girl who worked in our restaurant. ‘She is 14 and you are 50. Samuel was one of the helpers around the pub and I had asked him to keep a day book while I was in Sydney. ‘Gusti! I must have Gusti! She is my wife!’ I tried to remonstrate with him but he would have none of it and kept on repeating. I was teaching English every day to the Customs and Excise Department and this gave me pocket money. but little did I suspect the enormity of it. The arrangement had always been that as well as earning a good salary. He presented me with a dreadful tale of Saleh’s persecution of Gusti. With the instability of the helicopter business. Gusti is not your wife.’ He gave me a murderous look and swung out the door. but Saleh’s madness persisted. I knew this could come at any time. One day he appeared at my front door. What happened with Saleh. . 1. Wanting to make his point clear. Saleh had fallen violently in love with Gusti. his eyes staring wildly past me towards poor Gusti. At that day a little Gusti was planning to report to Balian Bandjar [village council] but she regret the plan because she must be present at family cremation in Tampak Siring for 2 days. I could see that I was in for some sort of trouble.’ I said. You have a perfectly good wife back in Semarang. At 25-1-79 a little Gusti report to me that Saleh to discharge a little Gusti but not success. he had written it all down.218 Someone Else’s Country money. She moved in with me. ‘She is my wife!’ ‘Stop being so silly. Saleh do a violent murder to a little Gusti. She was 14 years old and came to me in tears to tell me that Saleh would not leave her alone and asked if she could live in my house.

was that while I was away. the business was certainly going down the drain. no body has right to scarge a little Gusti from Legian Pub. Because at the time I am very angry. I have to talk to Hans Mochtar. Saleh was furnish to me some people from Java. I talk to them on beach. there was a lot of fiddling with the money. They do not know my name and say Saleh tell them Samuel is korupsi. But when Saleh went to Semarang much money in the Pub was lost in the Pub by Samuel in korupsi. beside Mama Suli. The Day Book I was make it. A little Gusti tell me again she is scarge from Pub. This is why I have torn. the returns were down by about half. This not right.Someone Else’s Country 219 At 27–1–79 she ask permit to go to Tampak Siring for 2 days but because she was late half a day that is why Saleh discharge her. When I tell them I am Samuel they are much afraid but I say don’t be afraid. Saleh was making something very stirring in my head. Three weeks interval. A little Gusti say when Mama Suli come back I won ask for job back. according to his bookkeeping. Saleh is korupsi and stupid and arrogant and egoist. He is much korupsi in Legian Pub. Saleh brought the receipts over each morning and the totals at the end of the week for me to check but. I say. so there was obviously something going on that I didn’t know about. In spite of the continuing popularity of the pub. Note for Mama. . He tried to sack Gusti because she wouldn’t give him her favours. Samuel. This problem belong to Legian Pub and Mama Suli. I am true angry but I remember Mama Suli is good. The pub had been full as usual but all the returns were down. as I eventually sorted it out. The story. Because decrease staff. That is why I tell her don’t tell to Banjar. After she come to my house to report to Banjar. But I know this problem very danger. Saleh had gone off to Semarang leaving Samuel in charge and when he returned he decided to explain the shortfall in returns by putting all the blame on Samuel. At place.

But when I picked myself up there was no rope or other obstruction there. So now we had to decide how to plug the leak.’ But the faster I walked the further off the figure moved. I knew a lot of people and presumed it was someone who knew me. but the little pewter holders had melted and lay like soft butter on the counter. Checking the secret symbols we found that only half the customer receipts were shown in the totals and that the wholesale prices for beer. . Just ahead of me I could see a shadowy figure and. some very strange things began to happen. when walking out the gate on to the road. we discussed the matter and she said the only way to find the leak was to set a trap. as Saleh. was Javanese. of course. still calling my name softly. and for Javanese saving face was very important. One evening when I left the house to walk to the pub. It would be difficult. the candles I had left burning had died. I tripped and fell heavily as though my foot had been caught by a rope.’ I called back. although I didn’t recognise the person. ‘Just a minute. When I returned home that night.220 Someone Else’s Country When my friend Yu Prio came by. I left some candles burning in little pewter candle holders. like Yu Prio. Then I fell down the stairs and took all the skin off my shin. falling inflection. It was almost dark and as I walked along the road I heard someone calling me. Several times. more and more strange things began to happen. I wondered? As the days went by. wine and spirits shown as weekly expenditure were grossly exaggerated. By the time I reached the street light it had disappeared. We numbered all the pages in the customer receipt books with a secret symbol and also checked the wholesale prices of the goods bought in Denpasar. Black magic In the meantime. ‘Suli! Suli!’ in a low. ‘Don’t walk so fast so I can catch up with you. What strange sort of heat could have caused that.

were disturbed by strange voices and faces appearing at the windows. After Saleh had cleared all his things out of his room. as I had liked the man and felt his actions were a very great betrayal. so I confronted him with the evidence. The most disturbing thing was the dead dog. appeared the faces of strange. by 50 per cent. ‘Throw that away!’ he said angrily. It was about this time that I had my proof that Saleh was fiddling the books. but below them. grisly looking men with beards. high on the second floor. I put it down to a mid-life crisis and gave him notice immediately. In the pub in the evenings. just below them. but was apparently too greedy to wait until I left. which appeared on my front door step. as drinking alcohol in such a situation could be a hazard. he had been returned to normal life and had rid himself of the hated prison number on his identity papers. I showed it to Hans when we were out driving with some visitors. and he nearly hit the roof.’ ‘But what is it?’ I wanted to know. before things could get worse. where I always enjoyed talking to the customers. He had a great opportunity in Bali to have his own business. including the day’s takings. which was also the store room. I suspected it was a drug such as heroin or cocaine but. I went in to check the stock and found on the back of a shelf a curious little box of chased silver.Bali 221 Lying on the beach one day I was looking up at the clouds and there. having never seen either. Inside was a white powdery substance that I didn’t recognise. I wasn’t sure. Not in the clouds. Saleh always brought me the coffee and now I guessed that whatever the substance was. But Hans refused to speak further about the matter and hurled the silver box out of the car window as we crossed a bridge. He wanted the business and he wanted Gusti and every other consideration was forgotten. Through our efforts in Semarang. ‘Throw it away now. he had probably been . It was a painful thing for me to do. or I will no longer be your friend. and wanted to take it now. My nights. Suddenly a lot of things began to fit into place. I drank coffee. too. and which took several days of burning to dispose of.

I was sure they were going to send me to jail. The panggilan or summons was delivered to me on a Sunday night by a man on a bicycle. why I was working in the Legian Pub. It said only that I was to report to the Kejaksaan (Court of the Public Prosecutor) the next morning at eight. ornate carvings. A long interrogation followed. I glanced around the room. ‘So. Silahkan duduk. my chair and another smaller desk with a typewriter. which was barely furnished with his desk and chair. my involvement in the country and my reason for living in Bali. The wooden floor was bare and there were no curtains.’ His attention returned to his sheaf of papers and nothing was said for about five minutes. above all. Please sit down. military approach of President Suharto’s New Order. He looked up. Saleh. This was the cold. why I had gone into partnership with the Javanese. his company. after a wait of two hours. hard. Hans refused to speak of it. I will never know what it was because from that day on. The trial By the second day of the trial. scrollwork and pomp. There was no time to seek advice. The modern Indonesian Public Service had none of the romantic flair of the ancient Javanese kingdoms which were extravaganzas of elaborate ceremonial dress. so I turned up on time and. Channy wanted to know my husband’s name. We meet again. was shown into the office of a man in uniform. . all the places in Indonesia where he had worked. my children’s names and their involvement in the country. but I recognised him as the man I had met some time before in the house of an antique dealer in Kuta and who I had assumed was merely an antique collector. and. The name on the desk was Arif Channy.222 Someone Else’s Country adding it to my drink. He did not look up as I entered. causing all those strange things to happen. their schools and friends.

’ he had said. then suddenly the interview was terminated.’ he said. my friend Tari was away in Jakarta. possibly instigated by Saleh. When I leave Indonesia. During the first few hours of the trial the previous day. Just as I am teaching English language to your Customs and Excise Department. but I remembered what the lawyer said. ‘That is all.’ I said. Dr Dani didn’t answer and Hans was on the neighbouring island of Lombok. He suggested Channy was simply looking for money and the quickest way to settle the matter would be to give him some. but not yet especially worried.Bali 223 ‘I am not working.’ Channy just sat there without speaking. a decision I would later regret.’ . Not serious enough to contact the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.’ The next day I attended at 8am and waited the obligatory two hours before being shown into Channy’s office. Ed was out of touch in Irian Jaya. Recourse to such actions had no appeal for me whatsoever. Just watch out for it. ‘I am teaching. I took a bemo into Denpasar and made a few phone calls from the post office. when I wasn’t worried and was not taking things too seriously. I am acting only in a teaching capacity. It must be some attempt at shady dealing by the officials. As a precaution I sought the advice of a local lawyer recommended by a friend. I remembered hearing that Channy was involved in some undercover affairs and guessed he thought I was a rich orang asing (foreigner) who was ripe for a bit of milking.’ Puzzled. I am only in this country temporarily. ‘And I am here to help you. I had asked exactly who he was. Channy’s demeanour was more oily and creepy than ever. I am teaching the people who work there how to serve them. Surely I was capable of dealing with problems like this. ‘Be here tomorrow morning at eight. the restaurant will belong to Saleh and his family. I am teaching Saleh how to cook food for the European visitors. I went home and decided it wasn’t all that serious. I am teaching Western cooking to the people in the restaurant. ‘He will give you the opportunity. ‘I am your prosecutor.

’ It was then I knew it wasn’t a game.224 Someone Else’s Country ‘But if this is a court. Flicking open his lighter. Fixing me a steely gaze. he slammed it shut. I explained how I had taught English in Kalimantan and Java and was now teaching a government . as well as the evidence. the jury and the prosecutors. perhaps. What do you offer in your defence?’ This was lunacy! How could I possibly defend myself against charges I was ignorant of? I looked for an opening.’ I had fallen for the trap. remembering the lawyer’s advice. he had then flipped open a book and said.’ ‘But Mr Channy. ‘I have already told you. We are all prosecutors here. but. Mr Channy. Could you please tell me what exactly are the charges against me? May I see the list you are reading from?’ ‘Certainly not. ‘Selamat pagi. how can I possibly defend myself?’ ‘The charges. By the second morning. I realised a series of charges had been laid against me. he appeared to be offering a light. ‘Thank you. Good morning.’ He had twitched his shoulders so that the pips on them glinted. where is the judge? And where is the jury?’ It was. Maximum penalty: one year in jail. a naive inquiry. We are the judge. It went on and on until I became quite dizzy. It was deadly serious. I said. wondering if I was giving the same answers I had given the day before and not compromising myself. ‘Would you like a cigarette?’ He had leaned forward and pushed an ashtray towards me. All these papers are the private property of the court. reinforcing his importance. ‘Working without a permit. making me feel most uncomfortable. Was this it? Was this when the bribe should be applied? But before I could think further Channy launched into the repetitive questioning of all my activities in Indonesia — and my husband’s and my children’s. if I don’t know what I am charged with. I had leaned forward expectantly. just as I was within range. I am your prosecutor. all belong to the court. Deciding to take the initiative.

‘I really enjoy living here.’ I said carefully. I gasped inwardly. ‘What a burden that must be for you. My offer of help for his aged parents trailed away into silence as I wished I could erase it. a typist sat at the small desk in the corner and when I made my tentative suggestion Channy’s eyes flicked like a snake towards her. They are poor and I have to pay for their food. Mr Channy. Every penny of my husband’s salary has been spent in this country. I said. Is there something I can do to help you with your parents?’ During this second interrogation. He wanted whatever I said to be carefully recorded. For example. I have two very old people to look after — my parents. elbow on the table. A few months ago I put in a well for drinking water in a retarded children’s home out near Sanur. realising I was now in real danger — danger of being further charged with offering a bribe.’ Gazing at the ceiling. Mr Channy! I like talking to old people and I thought maybe I could visit them some time and learn something about their life. ‘Of course not. Most of the money was raised by taking up collections from tourists.Bali 225 department in Bali. Mr Channy. This picture of him with his hand on the lever of the trapdoor was burned into my mind for ever. Some instinct told me this was another trap. Was this the opening? What did I say now? How did I actually offer the bribe? Taking a wild stab. ‘Are you offering me a bribe?’ His eyes narrowed to slits as he leaned forward. I told him about my involvement with Indonesian art and how I had put on the Affandi family exhibition in Semarang.’ I said.’ ‘Oh.’ . On my salary this is very difficult. Maybe this has been foolish. only given to it. I have never taken from Indonesia. Channy said. ‘Our life here is very different from yours in Australia. but it is because we have such friendly and warm feelings for Indonesia and its people. Some flash of intuition beyond my control took over my voice and I spoke coolly. the palm of his hand cupped around his mouth. electricity and rent. in shocked tones. ‘I love the people and their way of life.

Once again. In that case the whole matter will be sent immediately to the Immigration Department and you will probably have to leave the country in 24 hours. which was larger than Channy’s and had padded chairs. ‘Wait here.’ Now I was really afraid. in the centre of which there was a bowl of fruit. I had smoked several cigarettes by the time Channy returned. nyonya. ‘I cannot sign this. What was I doing in that crummy country anyway? I should have gone home to Australia when we left Semarang.’ I could scarcely believe what he was asking me to do. The two men spoke to one another rapidly in Indonesian then the second man said to me. The papers were all in Indonesian closely typed. They escorted me out of the room and along the passageway to another room. Two pages were stapled together and he handed them to me saying. That is the custom in my country.’ ‘In the first place it is in a language foreign to me and in the second place I never sign anything without legal advice. ‘I would like to request a cooling-off period. I understood very little of what was written but realised it was some sort of confession. ‘Please sign your name at the bottom. I said. acting purely on instinct.’ ‘So! You refuse. What is your request?’ His English was perfect. ‘Well now. He was accompanied by another uniformed man with the pips of a higher rank on his shoulders. and all in what appeared to be legal jargon. wondering how long I could hold on without breaking. ‘Why not? It is merely a record of what we have been discussing for the past two days.226 Someone Else’s Country Obviously disappointed by the failure of his ploy.’ I said. I wasn’t very far off that point and I suddenly felt very small and alone. a small carpet and a low table. Could he really initiate such drastic action? I would have to think of something quickly. Is that what you want? Your husband will also probably have his work permit cancelled. Channy motioned the girl on the typewriter to bring him some papers.’ Channy was startled for a moment and then said. with a slight American drawl. .’ He left the room and I sat there on the stiff-backed chair.

Shirl. bearer of this letter who works here as a mechanic.500. The two men spoke to each other again and then the man said. I turned up at the court again at 8am on Thursday and. It was already past midday and too late for further action that day.’ I said. I would have the whole of Wednesday to get things organised. Report back here on Thursday morning at 8am. I had been very foolish not to take the matter seriously in the beginning.’ she said. Ed.’ ‘And how much cooling-off time do you require?’ ‘I would like at least 48 hours.000] first week in October.000 [$A1. I will ask the Bank of Indonesia to transfer R. ‘You don’t have to go to the prosecutor any more.000 [$A200] to your account ASAP and another R.100. Fortunately for me. At this moment a letter arrived from Ed in Irian Jaya. He listened to my story and said not to worry about the Immigration Department as it was extremely unlikely that Channy would want to share any money he was hoping to make with another department. with a narrow smile. . You have 24 hours. I just need to think things over.Bali 227 ‘A cooling-off period. I felt nothing could touch me. West Irian. Maybe we can all go to Australia to celebrate Gina’s birthday. OK? Love. hoping it would give me time to find someone to help me. Hans came back from Lombok the next day. Sept. I took a bemo back to Legian and went to sleep. Reassured by these words of comfort. I was motioned into another office by a woman in uniform. I just discovered that Peter. I almost ran out of the building. as in Bali all offices closed at 1pm. A breathing space. You can go now.’ The interview was over and I was dismissed. ‘We will accede to your request — partly. is going to Jakarta and will be in Bali this morning. I got your letter about all the problems you are having with Saleh. Tell Saleh I’m going to turn him into a frog turd if he doesn’t stop harassing you. after waiting the usual hour or so on the hard bench. 1979. 24. Sorong.

I rushed to Hans’ place to tell him of the latest development. A few prosecutors came and went and orderlies ambled about. so I went home and decided a good swim was the only way to rid myself of the whole nasty business.30am. there was a sudden flurry of activity and who should stride in but Hans himself. but no one took any notice of us. waiting for something to happen. when I was thinking I would have to go out to stretch my legs. not that one you use every day to go shopping. Almost two hours later. like sparrows on a telephone wire. you must do exactly as I say. Gusti and K’tut. ‘Put on your very best clothes and get a proper handbag. his new girlfriend Wayan and Pak Latag. the landlord. We had just seated ourselves on the bench in the entrance hall when Saleh. Was it really over? About 9pm my doubts were realised when another summons was served on me — and not just on me. His face took on a grim expression and he said. Pak Latag and Wayan arrived and sat on the bench opposite. And look smart!’ A friend lent me a good handbag and I wore a silk suit and matching high-heeled shoes. We were all required to attend the court at 8am the next day.228 Someone Else’s Country ‘Is the case dismissed?’ She didn’t answer. who worked in the restaurant. I will collect you and Made and Gusti and K’tut in my car at 7. facing us. And what a different man to the one in the tank top and jeans who had . Hans picked us up and delivered us to the court well before the appointed time.’ He fixed me with his witchdoctor’s stare. It was as though we were the Goodies and they were the Baddies. It was all very difficult to understand but at least I was free. Saleh. just shrugged her shoulders and walked off. And wear your best shoes. There was a lively surf and I felt refreshed. but on the whole establishment: Made. ‘Now. saying he would return later. so make sure you are ready. but at the back of my mind there was a worrisome little niggle. We avoided each other’s eyes and sat there.

until well after lunch-time with no one taking the slightest notice of us. ‘If you don’t want to go to jail. smiling and very relieved. They disappeared together down the long corridor. except to say there were . It was almost one o’clock when an orderly appeared and asked Gusti and K’tut to follow her. ‘Do you want to go to jail? If they see you like this — you are acting as though guilty. sit on that bench until you are told to do otherwise. the Goodies and the Baddies.Bali 229 dropped us off that morning. Let’s go over the road and get a coffee.’ He gave me a withering glance and. until I was the only one left. Stop! Stop at once!’ Hans refused to tell me how he got the case thrown out or what the charges were against me. Now he was resplendent in his high-heeled cowboy boots. Then it was Made’s turn and after that Wayan.’ I walked outside with him. chains and necklace. with his hair fluffed up in high bouffant style. Lucky you have me for a friend. Looking as though they were marching off to their execution. as well as from nervous exhaustion. You can leave now. Gusti and K’tut were terrified and spoke only to each other in whispers. ‘It’s all over. They had never been in a court before and it was a devastating experience. ‘I’m so glad you’ve come. So we sat there. quite dazed from thirst and hunger.’ Channy appeared on the scene at this moment. ‘What do you think you are doing?’ He was very angry. I sat alone for more than half an hour until Hans appeared and said. greeting Hans warmly. said. I was so pleased to see him I jumped up saying. like an old chum. and suddenly my sang-froid collapsed. pastel-pink Yankee shirt. I leaned on the bonnet of the car and burst into a great flood of tears. Hans was horrified. never to me or Made. gold rings. Pak Latag and Saleh. they went down the corridor without a backward glance. in spite of my warm assurances that everything would be all right. Five minutes later they were back. otherwise you would be on your way to jail now. before sweeping off in the direction of the prosecutors’ offices.

. I soon managed to avoid thinking about it. Balikpapan. She had already heard about my falls down the stairs and about the dead dog on the front verandah. as what happened in the next few weeks wiped it all from my mind.230 Someone Else’s Country nine of them and they were all of a most serious nature.’ She explained that I was surrounded by very strong negative influences and that in Bali this was dangerous and difficult to combat. I had a surprise visit from my artist friend Kartika. A week or so later. Now don’t get upset. It would certainly have included such nasty things as prostitution. Then Kartika said. We have thought a great deal about this and we will look after you. 1979. who had moved back to Kalimantan. when the horrors of Channy and the Kejaksaan were beginning to fade. We shared Indonesian tea and caught up with local gossip. With the court case over I had been feeling that all danger had passed. They were my special friends and it was good to see them in Bali. procuring. mutual friends from Java. October 8. ‘Do you mean in danger of my life?’ ‘Yes. ‘We are pleased to see you but we have come here for another reason. The exorcism A telex came from Ed. ‘We do mean that.’ she said. very seriously. Received your letter — and later your telex — I’m sorry Saleh is such a monster — I will come to Bali October 15–16 if necessary — send me telex before that date if you still need me in Bali — love Ed. we feel you are in danger and we want to help you. To this day I have never found out what it was all about. drug dealing and embezzlement.’ I was quite surprised at the serious tone in her voice. Also with her were Yu Prio and Maria Tjui. ‘What danger do you mean?’ I asked. Hans refused adamantly to discuss the matter further and said it was better for me to know nothing about the charges and just be thankful I was not in jail. Because of things we know and things we have heard.

Bali 231 ‘We thought about taking you to the Dukun so that the black magic could be turned around. and Kartika asked if we might enter the centre of the temple. Nusa Dua. although we don’t share their religion.’ Having broached this apparently difficult subject and accepted my agreement. Curious as the suggestion was. It is called Senin-Kamis — Monday– Thursday. in sharp contrast to the lush green fields and forests of the main island. ‘It is a very sacred Balinese temple and. a way we have in Java when we have to deal with problems like this. So then we thought of another way. There were no tourists and we had the place to ourselves. we think the protective spirits of the sea will be helpful to us and to you. or Second Island. We ate our picnic of fruits.’ The picnic was already prepared and packed in their car. We are not sure if you can do it but we will explain everything about it.’ she said. his head swathed in a white cloth. so we drove south to Nusa Dua and across the isthmus that separates it from the main island of Bali. so he smiled politely and indicated the way with a sweep of his hand. is arid. perkedel (corn fritters).’ Kartika said. on the grass near the steps leading up to the temple. When all was done we wrapped selendangs (long scarves) around our waists — the strictly enforced requirement before entering any temple in Bali — and climbed the steps to Pura Luhur Ulu Watu. I placed myself completely in their hands. . There was a priest in attendance. But we decided against it as you are not a church-goer yourself. ‘Maria Tjui is a Christian and we went to her church in Denpasar to see if praying there would help. cold rice. But that will cause you too much pain and it will not be good for you in the long run to cause pain to other people. We will just try. ‘We are taking you to Ulu Watu. ‘Reversing the power. She explained that we had a problem to resolve. back on to the person who is directing all these negative forces towards you. they said we would all go on a picnic. hot chilli and the ubiquitous Teh-botol. trusting them implicitly.

and continued. when I questioned the validity of the Sultan of Yogyakarta’s carriage going under the sea. You must stay awake until midnight and then go outside the house and stand in the open.232 Someone Else’s Country We settled down in a corner and the monkeys.’ said Tika. anxiously. The reason we think you will not be able to do it. Kartika told of her difficulties in managing all her eight children with no money and her plans for further study in the field of art. It’s just that this is very much part of our culture from when we are very little children and you have come here only recently. Then my friends started talking. It helps solve problems. At this time you must think good things as hard as you . so we think you can try to do it. You must not eat. Yu Prio spoke of her home problems and her daughter’s recent marriage and her fears for its success.’ She settled herself down. Then we all held hands and Kartika explained the meaning of Senin-Kamis. who lived in the unique temple. Maria Tjui spoke of her sister’s critical illness and how difficult it was with the children to be cared for and the anxiety attached to such a serious disease. soon moved off. drink or smoke or even clean your teeth. is that we know all foreigners are empty. I will explain. We are not sure you can do it but we will stay with you and help you. And you must not go swimming in case some water accidently gets in your mouth. ‘You are empty. cross-legged on the floor. But you must not go to sleep.’ This is what Saleh had said. ‘We love you. which dropped 200m to the sea below. ‘After sunset tonight you must not eat or drink anything until after sunset tomorrow night. Once it is dark on Monday night you may eat and drink what you like. finding none. No one spoke of the dangers they felt were surrounding me.’ ‘We don’t mean that unkindly. Senin is Monday. But we love you and we know you love us. Each one in turn talked of her most pressing problems. They gathered around us to see if we had peanuts and. ‘It is something we do in Java. so that not even a leaf stands between you and the heavens. back in Java. perched precariously on the railings fringing the edge of the cliff.

’ It didn’t sound like it would be too difficult so I agreed immediately.Bali 233 can. and the restriction on drinking was difficult for me. warm feeling which encouraged me and made me feel I was doing the right thing in persevering with the fast. It may have been exhaustion or light-headedness — we empty Westerners always seek a logical explanation for extra-sensory experiences such as this — but it was an unusual. I began to experience real difficulty about lunch-time. Only good ones. ‘Suli! You aren’t well. even about people you know who are working negative influences on you. I felt very faint. Standing outside my house in the garden and keeping well clear of the coconut palms. Kartika. How could I say no to such a gesture of love and friendship? With my friends’ help I got through the first week quite well. That is Kamis. especially in the middle of the day. The midnight experience was quite strange. Tika noticed my distress and said.’ . Yu Prio and I were on the beach and I told them I didn’t feel well so we agreed to walk up to Legian Kelod and sit in the cool of Hans Mochtar’s house. but it was more difficult than I had expected. At the end of it you will be free and safe. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday you just live normally until Wednesday night at sunset. never forgetting to stand outside at midnight at the end of each fasting day. I followed the instructions to think only good and kind thoughts. This is what we believe. I usually needed to drink a lot of water. After five minutes or so. We know it will be hard for you and maybe you will not be able to do it. but I began to have great difficulty talking. On the fourth day of my Senin-Kamis. We think this is the best way. It was about 2pm and the others drank tea and chatted. I think you must drink some tea. ‘You must follow this pattern seven times. I had to admit that I felt a sort of warm glow descend on me. when you do the same thing until sunset on Thursday. My tongue had gone thick in my mouth and my words seemed to be jumbled. Living in the tropics. No bad thoughts. but we will stay with you and help you.

Friday morning. That’s me. Tika soothed me. due to a family crisis. ‘Excuse me. ‘What is it you want with me?’ ‘Please sit down. your husband was killed in Kalimantan. I was walking along the road towards the restaurant when an Indonesian woman stopped me.’ They ordered me tea in a long glass from the Do Drop Inn across the road and I swallowed it in one gulp and followed it with another. You can continue once you feel better. my friends had to return to Java and I was on my own again. Outrageous fortune Unfortunately. The next day. of course.’ She was very solemn. I felt I could cope. As we made our farewells. ‘Can we go to your house please?’ she asked. After this apparently excusable aberration.’ ‘Oh. ‘But I thought you would be Balinese. they told me they were proud of me and that maybe I wasn’t so empty after all. I said. as we entered the house. I’m Suli Fenton. hung in the air like black smoke. saying I wanted to continue and not spoil the effort I had already put into the Senin-Kamis. That you are trying is the main thing.234 Someone Else’s Country I protested. It disappeared as though into sand.’ she seemed startled. I was able to continue as before. I did as she said. can you tell me where I can find a woman called Suli Fenton?’ ‘Why. Having managed four out of seven Senin-Kamis. I led the way back down the road and.’ Why did she say that and why was she looking for me? She looked uncomfortable and explained that she was from the helicopter company Ed was working for. ‘It doesn’t matter if you break once in a while.’ The words. and my friends assured me that no harm had been done. . ‘Yesterday at two o’clock in the afternoon. my heart beating in a sudden surge of panic. even though half-expected.

a secretary from the office and told me as much as she knew. the Sahid Jaya. ‘I’m sure I can find the marriage certificate in Australia. ‘Would you please do so then. ‘I have had many talks with Captain Fenton and have enjoyed his company very much. Do you have proof that you are actually his wife?’ It was a shocking question and quite devastated me. She said I had to return to Jakarta with her as there was much paper work to be completed regarding insurance. There is an added complication that another woman is also claiming to be the wife of Captain Fenton. He asked me how long I had been married and if I had any children. Another wife? Could I be so stupid to not know or even suspect . work permits and.Bali 235 She was a kind woman. After 23 years I didn’t carry a marriage certificate with me in case identification might be called for. Ed had only recently joined this company and I was puzzled as to what the complications could be. my status as Ed’s wife. a retired Indonesian general whose name I have forgotten. but he has never mentioned that he had a wife and children. but it may take some time as I will have to ask my mother to look for it. ‘It is all very strange. My passport had my mother’s name as next-of-kin and her address in Australia. We flew to Jakarta the next day and the company put me up in a very smart hotel. Did I have proof of my marriage? Of course not.’ I said. Under local regulations the name of the chief beneficiary under the life-insurance policy must be identified within eight days. The helicopter had taken off from a jungle pad near the ITCI camp. I was told to rest on Sunday and come to the office in the nearby Arthaloka Building on Monday morning. On the Monday morning I was introduced to the jointventure partner of the helicopter company.’ His words struck me like a sudden blow across the face. It gave me time to put my mind in order and to make the sad phone calls to Ed’s family in America and our children in Australia. turned upside-down and crashed. Ed was killed instantly.’ he said. curiously.

all directed to the company and all making requests for money. Another wife was something I had never considered. All were signed ‘Lia Vonta Fenton. questioning my negative responses. I didn’t know how to express it properly. ‘Senin-Kamis! Do you know what that means? Can you do it? I didn’t think foreigners could do it. He then paid me some compliments about my interest in the culture of Indonesia. ‘Well. I suppose I blanched and I know I shook a little. noticing. ‘Who is the woman?’ I asked. The general looked startled.’ he said. ‘I’m sorry … I am … I’m doing … er.’ We spoke briefly of the Javanese fast and I said I hoped it would stand me in good stead during the difficult period I knew was ahead of me. ‘It’s very hard on the body.’ ‘Would you prefer tea or some juice?’ ‘No. isn’t it? But very good for the mind. Nothing thank you.236 Someone Else’s Country such an eventuality? Ed and I had been living apart for some time. your wife’. leaned forward and said. yes. ‘We need it urgently to process the insurance claim. Yes. sent money and came to visit in Bali when he could.’ ‘Because we are empty?’ I couldn’t resist the comment in spite of my shocked state. and the possibility of his going through a mid-life crisis. ‘Could you please get me the marriage certificate then. The not-so-smooth parts of our marriage I had put down to our unstable living conditions. ‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’ ‘No thank you. If it is not received and witnessed here by Thursday the proceeds will probably be divided between you both.’ He smiled kindly and said in what sounded like a tone of admiration.’ He looked puzzled. but he wrote letters. which were very soothing to my bruised spirit. The general gave me a file containing a number of brief letters in Bahasa Indonesia and a larger number of telegrams. I should inform you . The general. Senin-Kamis’. noting its failure to arrive.

rum. however. I shut the fridge door. which are considerably lower than those applying to foreigners. at midnight. so I took the lift to the ground floor and sought out the Bell Captain. I excused myself and returned to the hotel. with a strength and certainty that warmed my heart. For a moment.Bali 237 that the amount is not large as Captain Fenton was employed by us at Indonesian rates.00am–6. I opened the fridge and was pleased to find that the strong liquor wasn’t all that great a comfort anyway. coke and ginger ale. Back in my room. And I’ll get it to you by Thursday. but all our left-over belongings were at her place. I opened the door of the mini-fridge and looked at the array of little bottles: gin. I was tempted to chuck the Senin-Kamis and all its Indonesian works to the winds. I investigated the swimming pool area on the fourth floor but found the door locked.’ Trusting her completely. people and bright lights and was not suitable for my purposes. noise. . ‘Pool open 8. When darkness came. Yu Prio and Maria Tjui. Why should I dabble in a culture that was giving me so much pain and anguish? But then the strength I was getting from the ritual came to my aid and I told myself the best thing I could do was stay strong and in control and trust in those who had given me the hand of friendship — Kartika. with a sign. went to the phone and put in a call to my remarkable mother in Sydney to ask her to find my marriage certificate. I had no idea where it might be. I’ll find it for you. whisky. ‘Would it be possible to unlock the pool door? For a special reason?’ I asked.00pm only’. My problems came later that evening when.’ In a state of shock. The street outside the hotel was full of becaks. ‘Don’t worry. She said to me. I had to find a venue for my open-air meditation. brandy and their accompanying mixers — soda. It looked ideal for my tryst with the spirits. I put the problem out of my mind and set about writing letters to Ed’s brother and sister in America.

unlocked the pool-side door and courteously requested that I push the door shut on leaving. The suitcase Tuesday brought a new train of painful events. The suitcase was packed with shirts.’ He moved back beside his lectern. Someone had taken the trouble to wash them. His effects were in a single suitcase. Ed was a man who so desperately wanted to ‘get into the war’. is this all that remains at the end of a life? The life of a man who grew up in Canton. he spent a whole year picking pencils off the floor with his toes so he would be able to control . some books and papers and other miscellaneous items. Whose brother Jack fought in World War II as a foot soldier. He later went to university and held the Chair of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts.’ I said with a patient sigh. his personal effects had arrived and I should collect them. I was relieved to find that the clothes were clean.’ He led me up to the fourth floor.’ ‘Senin-Kamis!’ He gave me that ‘all foreigners are empty’ look and checked. Madam. a steelmill town in which his father had worked his whole life. ‘I am Senin-Kamis! I must be outside at midnight. in spite of his flat feet. ‘You know that I must be outside at midnight?’ ‘Of course. Ohio. so I made a further desperate plea. The helicopter office called me to say that although Ed’s body had been held up in Kalimantan. The pool opens at 8am tomorrow. He saw beyond my ‘emptiness’ and bowed politely. was wounded in Guadalcanal and invalided to New Zealand.238 Someone Else’s Country ‘I am sorry Madam. which I lugged back to the hotel by hand. When I opened it. I thought to myself. so I wasn’t faced with blood-stained shirts and shorts. I performed the meditation with only the smog-filtered stars of Jakarta’s night above me. Come with me. ‘Senin-Kamis? You know what it means?’ ‘Yes. socks and underwear.

He had written to me about her and his love for her and it was such a beautiful letter I had sent it to Ed to read. Jeni came up to my room to offer sympathy and help me with the suitcase. who had recently died from cancer. We removed all the clothes from the case and found letters and papers relating to the helicopter operation. who were good friends from our Kalimantan days. NUH. and which were sorely needed to feed the Indonesian freedom fighters. Was this all that remained? A suitcase of laundered clothes? My sad reverie was interrupted by a call from reception to let me know I had some visitors — Jeni Irawan and her husband Bambang.A. He had told us how.S. his father had used the spirits to put the Dutch guards to sleep so he could smuggle out cattle that had been corralled by the Dutch. serving in the Pacific. . It was not until Vietnam that helicopters were used in combat. He must have been carrying it in the breast pocket of his shirt when he was killed as it had little holes driven through it and was spattered with blood. Following in his big brother’s footsteps. Jeni and Bambang were true Javanese. he had a great respect for the spirits. Bambang was the first Indonesian pilot to fly for our former company. Being Javanese. He was transferred to the newly formed Helicopter Squadron. His USMC number was 402 and he was one of the original M. but to evacuate the wounded. well aware of the power of magic and how it could be wielded for good and for evil.Bali 239 his instep muscle sufficiently to raise it during the medical test. whose duty was not to kill. Lots of my letters were there as well as one from the husband of my best friend Gloria Ross. pilots. during the Indonesian struggle for independence from the Dutch.H. when the war ended. His efforts paid off and he joined the United States Marine Corps (Navy) to become a Hellcat Dive Bomber pilot. Ed returned to the United States and studied law for three years until he was recalled to his Marine Wing in his final year to fly for his country in the Korean War. It was a great relief to have a sympathetic friend.

‘She is dangerous.’ ‘It is from Java. Out the window. Out of this room. She is a prostitute. very bad black magic. Take it now quickly as far away as you can. what is it? What do you mean? What’s in the jar? Tell me please. the home of Javanese culture and magic. ‘Outside then. They were all demands for money. She is a morphinist.’ she said in a very low voice. There were many packets of strong pain-killing tablets and I wondered what had been causing Ed so much pain and why he hadn’t spoken of it to me. If I had not come here today and told you about that jar. It was an ordinary jam jar with a screw top. Jeni told him then that he was always welcome but he was never to bring that girl to her house again.’ Jeni said to me. I saw a look of horror come over Jeni’s face. very bad. holding her breath all the time. Then we found the jar. and they have very dangerous magic. ‘It is very. Ed had taken her to the Irawan’s on one occasion when he was alone in Jakarta. She is from Central Java. too. She was not getting enough . too. Jawa Tengah. She has killed a man with a knife. She has killed Ed Fenton. Out in the corridor as far as you can from this room.’ But the hotel was fully air-conditioned and the windows were sealed shut. but there was no sign of love in them. As I started to sniff it. the consistency of chutney. She meant Central Java. Jeni then told me about Lia Vonta. ‘There! Get rid of it immediately.’ I told Jeni about the letters and telegrams in the general’s office and she said. It will kill you.’ I went into the corridor holding this terrifying object and carried it as far away as I could and stood it in a corner. ‘She is very bad. I opened it and saw inside a dark.240 Someone Else’s Country There were letters from Lia Vonta. maybe she would have killed you. blackish substance.’ ‘Jeni. ‘Put that down! Put it down quickly! Cepat! Cepat! Put the lid back on!’ She wrested it from my hands and sealed it firmly. ‘Of course. Very.

truly your finest hour. who had not only found the certificate but had seen to it that it was safely handcarried by the most responsible authority possible and delivered personally into my eager hands. ‘Otherwise you will lose that money. what it was all about. She was afraid Ed Fenton was going to leave her so she killed him. when I arrived at the airport.’ Jeni said. My husband didn’t die in Indonesia. . even though the certificate was forthcoming. it had to be verified by the Americans. Dear Mum. The message must have been sent while the plane was still in the air because. I knew it contained the precious document required by the insurance company — my marriage certificate. ‘You must go there as soon as things here are finished. The day after that was Friday. She said there was no time to lose so we dashed over to Bankamerica and asked for a balance of his account. hoping to get his insurance money. who declared it to be valid and the only one in existence. The Day of the Dead Now I knew what was going on.’ I guessed that she was right and assured her that I would go as soon as the funeral was over. I dashed across the tarmac and met the captain. a large sum of money had been transferred the previous week to an account in Semarang. I kissed the startled captain and blessed my wonderful mother. who was coming down the steps with a large manila envelope in his hands. What about his money? Have you checked his bank account?’ Jeni was very practical and now took things out of my hands. The next day was spent between the helicopter company office and the American Embassy as. where Lia Vonta lived. He was my lover and my friend.Bali 241 money. Sure enough. The Day of the Dead. The girl is a morphinist and will stop at nothing. it was just coming in to land. And he wasn’t just my husband. About 10pm on Wednesday. he was killed. I received a message to go immediately to Halim Airport and contact the captain of the Qantas flight from Sydney which had just landed.

The funeral parlour was in down town Jakarta. They pushed it and shoved it. But it was too long for the cargo door. and start lifting up the rocks and seeing all the things moving about underneath. but my memories of those events contain a lot of black holes. when you get too close to things that don’t belong in your world.242 Someone Else’s Country That is what can happen when you get too invloved. in a very run-down area. banged it and kicked it. somewhere near the canals. so the service would be conducted in Indonesian. It went on and on. Sekala and Niskala. with the hearse attendants in their black pyjamas and black skull caps. pungent odour of decayed human flesh assailed my nostrils. The other people there were from the helicopter company and no one spoke English except me. someone explained that the only minister they could find at short notice did not speak English. The lid came off and the sickly sweet. Horror of horrors! They had been flying with a corpse! When all the baggage was out. I fainted. Kotamadya Local Government versus the army. They sent Ed’s body back from Kalimantan to Jakarta after keeping it in Balikpapan for a week. they gave startled and apprehensive glances at the hearse and then back at the luggage which was being unloaded on to a trolley. the groundsmen started to unload the coffin. Every last bureaucrat was trying to wring as many rupiahs as they could out of it. until finally it lurched forward and hit the concrete at an oblique angle. I waited for two hours in the sun on the hot concrete at Kebayoran for the plane to arrive. There were quarrels over who was going to pay for this. Haltingly. Black Cross Funerals The Black Cross people were in charge of the cremation. and who was going to pay for that: the Customs Department versus the police. The plane touched down and. Eventually the well ran dry and the coffin was put on a Bouraq flight from Balik to Jakarta. They were suitably . Heaven only knows how they got it in there in the first place. as the passengers alighted.

There were no flowers. on which nothing could grow.Bali 243 apologetic. Was the landscape really so bleak and desolate as it seems in my memory? Or did my state of mind give everything a grey and formless appearance? We swung in through the gates and. were grey tombstones. I was running out of reasons and explanations for anything. The officials had already arrived and were standing together in a group. but the looks of disapproval convinced me that it would not have been right for me to let the coffin go unaccompanied to the place of cremation. being in too great a state of putrefaction to be placed before the public. A large cockroach scuttled under my feet and tried to mount the plinth but gave up in disgust as the peeling paint broke away. a grey wasteland with no sign of green. The hearse pulled up alongside a trolley standing on railway lines and silently the black-clad phantoms manoeuvred the box out of the hearse. a construction of corrugated iron. Next I remember travelling out of town to Jelambar. It seemed something was expected of me. More black holes. Wraith-like trails of mist curled around the stones and out of the gloom the cremation house loomed up. The walls were unpainted. leaning on thin posts. I wondered if the box really contained the body or if it had already been disposed of. A symbol. some toppled over on their faces. stretching to the horizon. set every which way. . the place of cremation. A scene of desolation and despair. An oblation perhaps. leaning left and right. The ground was stony and lifeless. yellow with age and the benches along the walls had torn cushions on them. A token. Prayers were intoned which had the same rhythm as those said in English. No music. I had expressed my dismay at having to endure such a long journey in the ricketty old hearse. so I put the frangipani flowers I was wearing on top of the coffin and also a photo of the house in Bali with Gina and Hereward standing at the door. The coffin lay on a concrete slab in the middle of the room and had been repaired after its fall at the airport — there was no smell. The others were all Muslims and did not believe in cremation. No one spoke.

945 hours. Accident report Accident — Incident — Discrepancy Report: Pilot: Fenton. Experience — total: 10. The attendants moved the coffin to a plinth in the centre of the oven.244 Someone Else’s Country At the end of the short railway track was a huge oven. Location: ITCI (logging company) Helipad. Pilot tried to correct situation without success. witness: ‘… Pilot call to me. Aircraft dived nose-down along hill 50 metres. Black holes. screeching loudly on its unoiled bearings. I stood in stunned horror until one of the men whispered that I should return to the city in his car. then with a great clang that reverberated around the corrugated walls of the shed like peals of thunder. rolled the trolley back. Investigation shows that aircraft hit a tree stump with skid and mainframe. When load was clear he told his passenger to stay behind and wait for him to return with another load from base camp. Handwritten report from Max Bukunusa. Its doors swung open and the trolley rolled in. Pilot killed and aircraft totally destroyed. Black night. As the oven was powered by kerosene it sometimes took six to eight hours to reduce its contents to ash. According to eyewitness. Main rotor hit the tail and long drive shaft. one metre instead of four metres as he usually does and turn the aircraft into the wind. Passenger said he saw TPZ lift off ground approx. Helicopter PK-TPZ with E. who made an attached report. the doors slammed closed and were locked with a great iron chain. everything sounded normal until bottom of helicopter struck tree stump. At the same time that I will fast my seat belt pilot knock on my shoulder and say in . Chief Engineer’s Report: Note: It must be understood that the landing spot and platform were below minimum standard. Blessed oblivion. Fenton as captain had just released a sling load on this helipad. I come forward.

the transferred money had already been withdrawn so there was no point pursuing it any further. Ashen remains generate great fear. you stay here. which frightened away two people who had taken the seat beside me. At the bank in Semarang. firmly wired up and sealed with red wax. Fenton cremated at Jelambar 19 October.” I step down and close heli door. It isn’t just weeping or lamenting or . I come down. Fenton. was delivered to me with its own Surat Keterangan (identification papers): Name: E. I was met at the airport by my dear friends hidden behind the most enormous armfuls of freshly cut flowers I had ever seen. one trip again. mysterious veil that webs about mind and body in such a sly and insidious fashion you scarcely know it is there until you are free of it. apparently. ‘Herein as requested by the family are the remains of E. Something was over and maybe something new would begin.’ Several days later a small wooden box. Heli take off but not as before with three to five metres lift. J. The main thing was to remain positive. J. “Boy. This time only one metre. The ashes have been placed in a small wooden box lined with lead in order to be transported to Bali and the said box has received the official Government seal. Balikpapan. Date of death: 11 October.Bali 245 English. Grief is a grey. I wait five minutes for explosion but nothing heard. 1979. Although I said this to myself over and over again. which had been draped with more flowers. Heli destroyed and pilot dead.’ Return to Bali I flew to Semarang clutching the box of ashes. sealed with red sealing wax. 1979. it was seven years before the new did begin. Age: 55 years. I stayed the night with some friends and flew to Bali the next day. Nation: America. One glance at the box and they were off like rockets. They swept me off to my house. I laughed and wept at the enormity of it all. turn and has not normal position strikes trees and crashed down valley 50 metres deep.

Kartika saw Ed sitting in a chair outside her house and I thought I saw him in a crowd in Denpasar. This ash. aged three and five. With appetite for all under the sun The fellow eats us slowly One by one. The same trees are. the bewildered. Bambang’s two children. The same birds fly. see how He keeps delicate company now. a visiting friend was given the spare room. I went to see her with . He said he couldn’t sleep in the room because there was a white man with a beard in there. there was a mystic who could speak with the dead. not knowing where to go. also refused to sleep in the room. Nothing to be done. As when he spoke about them to me. Restless spirit Ed’s spirit was not at rest. We had to try to help him find peace. Grief is an inexplicable state of being. The same grass is. which Ed had always slept in whenever he visited. at the eastern end of Bali. Joan Mas. who didn’t want anyone else to be in the room. This guest did not know the white man and had never heard of Ed Fenton. who wrote so tenderly of women’s sensibility. The next morning they found their guest sleeping outside in the corridor.246 Someone Else’s Country regretting. in her poem Loss. With flower and tree. my dear poet friend. spoke of it this way. He was wandering around. Scattered … We. In Amlapura. that was his whole entity. At Bambang and Jeni Irawan’s house in Jakarta.

we gave her a packet of clove cigarettes and she smoked two in quick succession. she moved slowly and deliberately as though unsure. the girl came in and sat on the chair. it became more and more difficult to stay in Bali because of problems with visas. ‘This man has died salah pati. It was in this trance state that she was able to speak to the dead. who now even looked like an old man. not Chinese. pictures of ancestors draped in black crepe paper and one ricketty chair. The . The mystic was a 17-year-old Chinese girl who worked from the back of her family’s grocery store in a room with a religious altar with candles. She moved about on the chair.Bali 247 Gina and Hereward to see if we could find out where Ed was. Finally she spoke. She used the Indonesian language. what was making him so restless. ‘What is your problem?’ she croaked. Her voice sounded old and cracked and quavering — she was taking on the persona of a very old man. Because he died in Kalimantan and his spirit was over the water. the red glow from the burning tobacco glinting like an evil eye in the gloomy room. she drew the pungent smoke in and out of her lungs. He should not be dead. just as very old people do when performing an action which involves both hands. As instructed. took another cigarette and lit it. Puffing furiously. as the months went by. her eyes closed all the time. Each time I went to immigration for a renewal they asked for more certificates and more money. No way she could help. We got through Christmas but. after an interval. Not the time determined for him. We left uncomforted. We sat on a mat and. rolling her head from side to side. Before his time. Her movements were not those of a young person.’ There was nothing she could do about it. and why he was inhabiting rooms in the houses of his friends. ‘My husband. We were all getting this strong sense of agony from him and we thought we might be able to help him. That is why he is restless. she had no way of crossing the watery gap. Can you find out what he wants us to do?’ The girl. ‘He died but he is not at peace.’ I said. Then she began to talk. At the wrong time.

’ This was the equivalent of $A150 and was the exact amount of money I had changed into Australian dollars only minutes before. he said. joy and sadness. land of illusions. The flight was half-empty so I knew there would be no excess-baggage problems. The customs man and the money-changer obviously worked hand in hand. when my time of grieving had almost passed. I was taken in to see a senior official and. after looking at my passport. Land of misunderstandings.73.50. I was at the airport with all my baggage. I asked Hans Mochtar about the little silver box I had found in Saleh’s room and about the court proceedings. I did not comply and left the office without waiting for his return.248 Someone Else’s Country last occasion was quite shocking. ‘He wanted to keep you in jail. ——————— Suharto’s Indonesia: land of dreams.000 [$A100] inside your passport. I was taken aback when the sharp young customs official in charge of the scales took my luggage through and announced. But I must look after Suli.’ Hans told me. She is very polite. I went back to Bali for a visit. ‘I am leaving this room for a few minutes. Some years after my return to Australia. When I come back there will be R. I paid it. friendships. I tell my government at the court.000. trust and fidelity. forgettable. At the end of April 1980.’ The crudity of the demand was beyond belief. closed. and arrived back in Sydney with just enough money for a taxi fare. How can she make business like this? I am very angry with Channy and Saleh. ‘That was Saleh. true and loyal friends and the occasional. “Suli only help Indonesia people.” . This good lady. ‘Excess baggage charge is R. I decided it was time to go home to Australia. Suli doesn’t know about anything. crooked official. It will be placed. I know her long time. Land of political prisons and man’s inhumanity. of course. on my desk.

but she take him to Bali to help him.’ Hans said. Something wrong. ‘I am her small brother. Why you want to keep Suli in jail? If Suli not out then I make big trouble with government. what other crimes I had been accused of. you have no money. She really look like it in my heart. you old man. you should say thank you to Suli. some other world.’ It is so long since I left Bali. How can you find people like that? Like Suli? It’s right! I say. but silly man. Goodbye! Saleh very silly man. . ‘Now I really know Suli is my sister. “Not Suli. She look at him and say. but Saleh”. “They rubbish people. He also have trouble with his wife Wayan. but she is my sister. Maybe I am his sister. Very busy man.’ He refused to be drawn any further about the court case and instead explained why we were brother and sister. from some other time. but my little brother Hans is still there.’ I asked Hans what else they had said about me. His second wife. Suli good lady. ‘I say to them. born out of these terrible experiences. Suli know about Saleh and tapol before. He is often in my mind. How can she business narcotica? She doesn’t know narcotica”.Bali 249 ‘I say. Not just look like it. you must out. some other place. Only time and providence will tell.


Colombia. Her four children are all grown up and she now lives in Canberra. the United States. Honduras. She was lucky to live the life that her father would have loved. the most beautiful city in the world. so from childhood she was surrounded by books of adventure and derring-do. South Korea. to a country doctor who always wanted to be a sailor. Singapore. She was born in western New South Wales. Vanuatu and New Zealand. Australia. Indonesia. Guatemala. .251 A short biography Shirley Fenton Huie has lived in many parts of the world including the United Kingdom.

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