The Game I Played with the Asians: A Memoir

Christania Pingkan Putrinita

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Jakarta as the hometown of Indonesia had successfully caught not only its citizens’ eyes but also people from Asian countries even all over the world since months before August 2018, because of how the city turned to more such a fascinating and lively one to welcome the 18th Asian Games which was held in two big cities, Jakarta and Palembang. This was the second time for our country to host the biggest sport event in Asia. Banners of Bhin Bhin as the bird of paradise from Papua, Kaka the single-horned rhinoceros, and Atung the Bawean deer were fitted everywhere. Trees and flowers were planted by workers from the local government of Jakarta to beautify the city which had always been known as a polluted place. Public transportations like transjakarta and commuter line were also magically conjured up with specific designs, and most importantly people’s spirit was had to gather all of Indonesians.

I still remember clearly how the situation was like, both from what could be seen and felt because I had the opportunity to get involved directly as a volunteer in media and public relation division for indoor volleyball, where I spent two weeks working at Tennis Indoor Stadium as the main venue that looked like an octagon shape from outside. It became my field of play at which my memorable stories with what happened during Asian Games created, and where I mostly found brand new experiences or what I preferred to say “games” to be played with other people that also took part in Asian Games as missions that had to be accomplished.

As how the game would start two days after August 17th, I met two Thai photographers named Eddy and Alice, who were from Asian Volleyball Confederation. The field of Tennis Indoor Stadium was filled with male athletes from Korea passing the ball to one another. Some of them ran around as how they warmed up, some stretched their long feet while Mr. Bernard, my boss and I guided these photographers to the tribune area on the second floor. It was like 18˚ Celsius inside caused by how low the air conditioner temperature was, plus those athletes made me feel like I was watching them shooting for a new series of drama. My hands could not stay still but vibrating like a phone, and the cardigan I wore did not have any important role at that time. One of the signposts made from steel on the tribune area fell down since it was placed in front of the air conditioner. It was too cold until one of the coaches approached the head of field committee member, Mr. Radit, and asked him to raise the temperature higher.

Eddy and Alice wanted to see what the situation was like upstairs as they had to be ensured that they would get perfect shots from different spots there in every match, and definitely when Thailand played. While they were getting ready to test their cameras whose lens were as long as those athlete’s legs, as if they were hunting for a big bear, Mr. Bernard then poked my back,

“Do their ID cards have E or ET code?” He whispered.

“W… What?” While I peeked at their IDs. “No. Theirs have D code on them.”

“Okay. Let them know that they cannot take pictures as long as the D code is still written on their IDs.” As Mr. Bernard pushed me a little toward both of them.

I let Eddy and Alice know about their IDs problem. Suddenly it became almost 40˚ Celsius there above the field. Without saying anything, they walked as fast as possible headed to the door and Eddy turned his head and gave both Mr. Bernard and I the “Come on! Follow me!” expression on his face. We jogged a bit and followed the circle shape inside the stadium that made us went around to catch up with them who had already stood in front the executive committees room. Eddy pulled my hand and we entered the room. All I could remember were how wet his hands were because of all the sweat of shocking news he just got and the mixture strong smell of peanut sauce from a mid-aged man who was eating satay in the middle of the day and something like grilled chicken. Just like how Asian Games caught people’s eyes from around the world, so did these important people of Asian volleyball who gave me the shine right through my eyes. I stood in front of the round table they were gathering at in that rectangular room, while Mr. Bernard were left outside alone with Alice. I said to myself inside my head,

“This is it. The fight will begin in three… two… one…,”

“Okay, Pingkan. Explain to Mr. Shanriit,” Eddy said with his trembling voice.

“Me?? Explain??” I said it more trembling.

I explained as informative as possible but I thought what I said did not represent what Eddy and Alice felt, so at the end of my saying to Mr. Shanriit, Eddy talked to him in Thai language. I thought my head was about to explode that time since I had just spoken in front of in a packed room with nine people inside and round table with too much smell in it. The only thing I was afraid of was what if I passed out there. However, Mr. Ohm one of the technical delegates from Korea probably could sense another smell from inside my banging heart besides that mixture smell. He told me to go out of that ridiculous place with him, and we went to the front of VVIP and VIP entrance, that was in the east entrance of Tennis Indoor Stadium next to the bazaar area that sold ice cream which I bought almost every day to cool my mind while working there, and several stands of three different banks near the photo booth of the three mascots. Mr. Ohm lighted up his cigarette and the smoke hit my whole face, I held my breath and was not brave enough to inhale the air. I purposely moved myself to his front facing the ‘East Entrance’ sign.

“Great job. That’s okay you know, it’s not your mistake at all. It’s his though, for not changing the code to what it’s supposed to be as soon as he got the ID,” Mr. Ohm calmed me down a bit. “I will take care of it okay. Thank you so much for helping him.” He shook my hand and gave me a tiny Korean flag pin that I could attached to my ID card.

I bought a mochi ice cream first to cool down what I had faced earlier then I sat on the stairs if people wanted to go to the arena of basketball 3×3. As I was about to cry loudly, I held my tears first and had my first bite of that chewy mocha, I faced up and saw what was in front of me. The Asian Games sign board was broadly seen along the curve side of the stadium and it became the one that brought me in tears. The fact that I was able to be part of this event which was not only became the game for the athletes but also me, the other volunteers and committees should have been thankful for. The opportunity to feel the ups and downs from what was behind the excitement that Asian Games brought to people worldwide. Winning or losing the game I played with them did not matter at all, but the process of playing the game itself, how I figured it should have been played, and let the player two became the part of my memories maker. Tennis Indoor Stadium and what was inside it could never be a ‘game over’ to me, but a ‘mission accomplished.’

Photo by: Christania Pingkan Putrinita

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