Mike and I had bought some martabak (pancake) on the street in Bima. Bima is on Sumbawa Island. We’d ended up there because while we’d been able to get flights out of Bali to go to Komodo National Park, there hadn’t been any empty seats coming back, so we’d had to catch an eight hour ferry to Sape then ride an overburned bus around twisty mountain roads, where each valley seemed to alternate between lush green rice fields and dusty abandoned ones, while listening to Celine Dion and other classic power ballads. An interesting detour, despite a brush or two with death where we were sure the bus was about to plunge down a cliff, but hey.
So we were in Bima for one night only. According to the ticket seller on the bus, life there was pretty hard. He had four kids and he said it was way too expensive for them to go to school. It was a struggle. He’d talked to me on the bus about it passionately in Indonesian. I hadn’t understood everything he said, but I did understand that the local district heads thought that was a problem that was just too hard to solve. Also, he was expected to pay the same fees as people who were much wealthier than him, and who had only one child, he said.
So here we were, eating martabak in the park in central Bima, dusty from the road and myself feeling a little bit of that guilt that often comes here when someone foists a problem on to you that you have no ability to solve. We’d had a good dinner though, the night was cool, we weren’t in the office and the martabak was tasty, so there was plenty to smile about.
Then we spotted some local kids running around wearing garbage bags as makeshift costumes, which gave us even more laughs. I asked one of the boys what he was trying to be and he replied “Dracula”! They were charging around, scrambling over and jumping off all the run down civic structures in the square.
One little girl in particular was especially bold, and came up asking for money. I said we’d spent it on martabak. Then, quick as a flash she’s over looking through my handbag! I grabbed it back and scolded her for being “nakal” (naughty) but she just laughed.
We went to open up the extra martabak and all the kids sat up on the fountain with us, so it was shared around. The bold little girl then started prattling away to us, asking us all sorts of questions, including about our marital status. The easiest answer considering our language skills was “yes, we’re married”. I don’t know the words for slightly deranged feminist who is happy to live in sin.
She then started to quiz us on our living arrangements, which had us laughing.
She noticed I had dropped a piece of martabak on my decolletage. Ok, I’m not classy. On my tits. So naturally, being a bold five year old, she starts poking my boobs.
“Ada susu?” she asks. The question pretty much translates to “Got milk?”.
My answer was no and lots of laughter. She then asks me why.
So here I am trying to explain the facts of life in Indonesian. The best I could do it say that “there’s only milk there if you have a baby and I don’t have a baby.”
Thankfully the explanation seemed to suffice. I apologized saying our Indonesian wasn’t very good, so she then starts to tell us all the names of the body parts in Indonesian, including some helpful clarifications. “ada dua kaki, untuk jalan… ada dua tangan untuk olah raga” (Have two feet for walking… two arms for exercise…).
I decided it was time to take some photos and go home, so pulled out the camera. The photo session went on for quite a while with calls for “satu lagi, satu lagi” (one more, one more) every time I tried to put the camera away. Boob poker is in the pink shirt in the middle:
While I was taking photos, I called one of the boys “cantik”, which is the Indonesian word for beautiful, and bold little girl immediately and forcefully corrected me with “ganteng”, the word for handsome that I always, always seem to forget.
We eventually got back to our hotel, in fits of laughter.
But I was thinking to myself, I hope that bold kid gets to stay in school, because she’s clearly a smart little thing.