Amnesia…Or Indonesia? Ah guah lupa.

The years go by, and while the overarching, batik-patterned effects are still dazzling – are symptoms ever pleasant?

  • Red marks on the feet. Mosquito bites – or something more? It’s rare to meet anyone without them. Add to that the pinch and wear of flip flops, under the lazy charm of which we’re powerless, and it’s no wonder the abbreviations ‘mani’ and ‘pedi’ are spreading webs throughout the Papuan jungle with all the rest of the colonial clout.
  • Calling DVDs ‘cassettes’. And you always have a reserve for a rainy day.
  • Earthquake Legs. Sometimes trucks go past or the bed shakes a little and your first thought is ‘Where’s the exit?’
  • Typhoid, biweekly. Near my place in Penestanan there is a local-style warung eatery we jokingly refer to as ‘Cold Drink’ – the only written words. The woman fills your plate, item-by-item…Barehanded! Think the classy, pricier joints are any better? ‘Cold Drink’ has an open-concept kitchen, at least!
  • Wardrobe growing mould? A symptom of rain season, mouldy wardrobe-ism can be easily fought but impossible to win in rural Indonesia.
  • Life goals make for great pillow talk. Your plans for the weekend are not usually braver than: not getting stuck in the rain, not getting sick, hiking somewhere, partying somewhere, and getting up the nerve to brave the clown parade of endless traffic.
  • Strange hairdos. Because can’t anything be passed off as a foreign cultural norm? Undercut, anybody? The Balinese see two kinds of tourists: the Australian Schoolies and the Ubudian Gypsies. No wonder they’re holding on to Bali for dear life.
  • Def. It’s not just the Bob Marley cover bands or dangdut, but the all night, dog, chicken, and muffler circus in the streets – that no one else seems to hear, so why should you? Huh? Say wha’?
  • Blindness. At the beach in your nice shoes? Too hot for those pocked bare feet? No problem! Follow the line of garbage that marks the high tide. Take a few selfies while you’re at it! Wait! What is that in the background? A homeless three-year-old in a polka-dot skirt?
  • Possession. Spiritual possession and mysticism are the kinds of things you talk about with your barber. Keep your scepticism to yourself long enough and it’ll disappear. You’ll have been possessed!
  • Tourist. You’ve lived and worked in the same country for years and are still called a tourist.

“Where is Tourist going? Why doesn’t Tourist stay longer? Where is Tourist from?”

  • A dark sense of humour. A tasteless coping mechanism.

Are there any other known symptoms that I should know – as someone living in the negera bakso meatball country?


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