Probability of Homesickness: A Memoir

Ninda Aininda Putri

Bali for me was not a strange place. It’s not that I have been there before my study tour, but my father used to work there when I was a baby. Of course, I wanted to go there growing up even when my father said that Bali was just like any other places. So when I was in the 11th grade of high school, I highly anticipated the study tour that my school held annually. I dare said that it was an enjoyable journey despite of having several regrets after, but I still associate Bali with a certain experience that according to my mother was “laughable”.

It was laughable because I never really considered myself as a picky eater. I thought that if there were egg and chicken, I would live. True that, until I got away far from home without my mother for seven days. There were always fried chicken served during the whole journey, yet I still skipped most of my meals there. Bali, said my tour guide, was a place that made people wants to come back (kembali) someday. For most part, I agreed, but I doubt if I wanted to go back there without my mother.

I enjoyed almost everything that Bali had to offer. I walked on Kuta beach at sunset, feeling the soft breeze and sand between my toes. The sands were warm, and I remembered feeling upset because my friend didn’t want to take photos there so I wandered alone. I tried parasailing at Tanjung Benoa and had to borrow money from my friend because I left my belongings on the bus. It was a sunny day and I could smell foods being cooked while I wait for my turn. They said we can see Lombok from up there, but I’m not sure if it was really Lombok that I saw. Despite all that, I still wondered why Bali made fried chicken, my favorite food of all time, felt so tasteless that I chose not to eat for most of the journey. Perhaps I got bored of it. The foods served by the tour were always varied but I only ate chicken and fried noodles, sometimes tempeh. Or perhaps, I missed my mother’s cook and couldn’t really eat because I was homesick.

But what was the definition of homesick? I didn’t even think of going home soon, or wanted to see my family. On the second day there when our bus pulled off at a Padang Restaurant for dinner, I already imagined Padang cuisine and my stomach started to rumble. It was a lovely place. They had an open space and I could see the night sky, littered with stars. They played an Indonesian drama on the television that I could barely hear because everyone was chattering with their friends. Despite the lively atmosphere, I put my plate back, disappointed at the food because there was no Padang cuisine at all and I no longer felt hungry. I texted my mother asking what did her cooked that day. Still, I didn’t feel that I missed my mother. I enjoyed my time there. I didn’t want to go home just yet.

The beginning of it all was maybe my first breakfast there on Lovina Beach, a dolphin tour site. Our school group arrived late than expected but we still got on a boat in small group of seven and went to the sea. I sat in the middle, not expecting much because the boatman said they weren’t usually come out past seven. It was seven thirty already when we arrived. The view was amazing. The sun hid behind the clouds, making the weather rather pleasant. The air was fresh if the boatman didn’t smoke and sometimes I caught a whiff of it and it made me a little upset. Salt water sprinkled on my face that if I licked my lips, it would taste salty. The boat made me feel like I could touch the sea water, but when I reached out, it was still so far and I was afraid if I leaned more to try to touch it, the boat would lose its balance.

The dolphins did appear, but they did not jump highly like we had expected. We only saw their fins and that’s it. The tour ended, we came back to the shore and were told to wait for breakfast or take a bath. It was almost 9 in the morning but the hot weather felt like in the noon. The breakfast was served on a long table and it had variety of foods. It was easy for me to choose fried chicken and stir-fried water spinach because it was what I usually ate at home. The stir-fried water spinach was tasteless, super bland and overcooked. It was nothing like my mother’s cook at home. Out of respect, I still finished the tasteless food and whispering complaints about it to my friend. She just laughed.

The second day at Bali started with watching a barong show. It was fun but I wish I got to sit at the front. My hands were sore because my friend insisted on recording everything with her DSLR camera. We took turns but still, I think I would enjoy it more without a sore hands. Then we went to the Tampaksiring Palace at noon and the weather was so hot I thought my batik uniform was wet from all the sweats running on my back. There was a long bridge over a small green hill and a set of stairs heading to a temple or something that I couldn’t remember. I tried to ask a question to the tour guide but he didn’t seem to listen to the most of us. My second lunch was there, at the Tampaksiring Palace beside the bus parking space.

I got excited for a while because they said that it was KFC. I may have got sick of chicken but the thought of crispy fried chicken excites me. Except it was not KFC but Hoka-Hoka Bento. I didn’t like fish or any seafood so I gave my food to my friend and only ate the rice because I was afraid of getting sick if I didn’t eat. I was very uncomfortable with the place as we had to sit on the side of the parking lot and the food but I saved my complaints for myself. Everyone seemed to have no problem with the lunch, laughing and chattering while eating.

The same thing happened when we had our first lunch in Bali. I got to sit on the terrace with my friends, the wind blew hard I wish it could cool my tea faster. They served the usual menu and I could eat fried chicken but I didn’t. The wooden table was sticky, probably because some of the tea spilled there. I could see Bedugul’s view clearly which was beautiful because Bedugul was located in a mountain and feeling the fresh air directly. Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals, but I just sat there sipping my tea. I felt so alone because it was only me who seemed to have problem with eating. Regardless of the place or the food, I just couldn’t eat.

I even let my crispy fried chicken almost untouched on my last night in Bali. My friend asked what was wrong with me because I said that I’m hungry multiple times from our hotel until we arrived at the McDonalds near our hotel. I was hungry, but it disappeared as soon as I saw the food in front of me. I was more interested with the two foreigners who sat one table beside us, one of them talked animatedly about love, while the one who listened calmly was strangely looked like Adam Levine, the Maroon 5 vocalist. Popular pop songs blasted from the speaker, my friends sang along to the songs they knew.

We went back to the hotel and I noticed the sky was still full of stars. Bali was so beautiful and I would love to come back there someday, preferably with my mom. I still enjoyed my time there, I still wanted to stay longer, and I still didn’t want to go home just yet. I called my mom to inform her that I head back to Bandung tomorrow morning and she asked if I really didn’t eat. My mom thought it was ridiculous for me to not eat when there were chicken or eggs, and I thought the same. She laughed and boasted her cooking skills then reminded me to not get sick. At that exact time, I thought, maybe, maybe I was homesick.

Photo credit: Ninda Aininda Putri

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