By The Trees: A Memoir

Tiara Kasih


It was a typical evening for me, crawling my motorcycle down the street of Sudirman headed home after a never ending Monday at school. I accompanied by the thunders which were breaking the sky vigorously as it was showing its most crestfallen form that I had ever witnessed trough my way home. Sudirman street however was one of the streets that I went through every single day and I fancied it because of its silence atmosphere in the morning when not many people crowding around with their vehicles to do their activities eventhough in a productive day. There were many humongous houses along the side of the road covered with giganic green planters that were waving anybody who passed whenever the cool air breeze washed them. They surely did taken care of their surroundings in . I was not good at paying attention, but that evening was the most intense moment of my life as I had never ever seen a cruel circumstance. Me being an ignorant person that I was, stood upon a couple fighting on the side of the road of Sudirman. Did not want to get involved, I kept pulling the motorcycle’s throttle slowly as I was expecting the tears of the sky to run down my face. A not so rough sound screamed for my name and I was not ready to be involved badly so I started to hope that the one who called my name would win a lottery and die on the next day. The blue surface stopped showing its melancholy look and started to shine so bright, letting me feel those sparks grasp my body. “Tiara!” that was she said, while she was waving her hand, hoping that I would notice her and stopped my vehicle. Her left hand was firlmly grasped by a hand which seemed to be unexpectedly trained well because the person appeared to fancy sport so that it was a strong grapple. Her puffy red eyes showed that she had been crying for a long certain of time. I did not know whether she cried because of the pain caused by the strong grapple of her boyfriend or the problem that caused them to do a certain fight on the side of the road underneath an eight meter of mango tree that was dancing to the symphony of peace. She told me to take her home and asked for a ride yet her lover stare at me with brows came closer together leaving space between the eyes. His face was dark red, the vein in the side of his forehead started to throb, his eyes were wide open and I could see the dripping of sweats from his hair down to his forehead. Those were the signs that I should not mind their business and told me to keep riding and leave. One thing that bothered me a lot was that how could he dripped sweats in a place where God kindly let the cool breeze of heaven to mortals who could not even deserve hearing the word heaven. Then I realized that me and them were in a different world, a different atmosphere. While they were trying to escape a fallen ruin and chased by molten rock generated by geothermal energy then expelled through surface, I was in heaven where I saw a green futuristic wonderland where angels with glowing metal wings and jetpacks soar in between skyscrapers and the roads adorned with colorful neon signs that were beaming against the dusky sky at night. The place where every location, from the bustling town filled with TV screens hugged by greenery and flowers to the planetariums where angels gather to revel in the blessings of peace. It washed with the beautiful glow of rainbow which was brighten the screnery and added more colors as contrast to the green field where butterflies never ever wanted to fly out of the place.

The generousity of God, who showed me His presence by letting my own bare skin being touched by his glorious breath troubled by a couple arguing selfishly because one of them was trying to prove themselves as the most righteous living creature in this world or maybe their own world as I did not know what kind of world that a couple lived in. Thus of course concerned me the fact that their fiery ambience hassled the miracle that God had given me trough mother nature. I could be upset no more. The girl suddenly sat on the back of my ride’s seat then wrapped her arms around my wrist as a little girl crying because the lollipop she had was taken away from her hand by some random child in the playground. Her body was on heat, the back of my body could feel her main yet the most important part of human body was beating rapidly so that time I could imagine that I was at the scene where Leonardo Dicaprio fought a wild huge brown bear in the bushness of forest covered with sparkling snow which was a contrast to the blood spilled when the fight was occured in The Revenant. With a high temper of anger, the boyfriend told her to get off my ride as he was trying to pulled my ride so it was almost fallen to the ground. The girl was out of my ride and so the boyfriend made his right hand into a rounded fist and punched her brutally right on the cheek. It happened so fast as I was trying rise up my ride in the right position. I could not help her nor stopped the action. A scream could not be denied at the moment so we did it as I was shocked because of his ignorant action driven by the use of physical force to cause harm and damage against two female student at the side of the road. The deafening scream of us attracted people around to come to check up on us and see what the hell was happening in the silence evening. Apparently, two angkot drivers and three stranger came up upon us to see what caused us to attempt such blasting screams in a place where peace exist in the world full of agony.
A young strange guy wearing nice blue shirt kindly helped me to rise up my ride and tapped my knee who were covered in dirt because of the burdensome situation occured in the street of Sudirman. The two angkot drivers were trying to get the guy who caused the cruel moment which involved me in it off our sight and had a chat. I did not know what the drivers told him but it made his temper go down. The girl kept telling me to take her home. Did not want to make her in a more gloomy situation, I took her home and let the gloriousness of God that I had ten minutes ago to dissapeared. She told me then to get her off infront of a classic American style house which was two kilometers apart from the Sudirman st. She thanked me with the tears of joy whilst rubbing her puffed eye and her bruised cheek that she had during the fight.

Photo by Daniel Jeffries

Naga Village – A Place with No Dragon: A Memoir

Ananda Refina Maulida180410160076

Naga village was located in the area of Neglasari village, Salawu district, Tasikmalaya, West Java, Indonesia. Between Tasikmalaya and Garut, this famous village was unseen. It was a small village under the stairs. Even to reach there, we had to go down about 439 winding stairs–according to my friend’s count. No one knows about the exact amount of the stairs. It could change every time, and it could be different for everyone, they said. It was hard to believe. I wanted to prove it, but I didn’t get a chance to do it, I’ll tell you why. To be honest, I wasn’t really excited at first to visit some kind of “traditional village”. I meant, seriously, you could imagine how disgusting all matters relating to a village were, especially traditional village. Moreover, the worst thing could be, bad signal. But this one, made me curious, we were going to visit Naga Village, or could we call it “Dragon Village”? Are we going to hunt dragons there? Just like “How To Train Your Dragon” movie probably. But yeah, we’d see—I thought so.

It was a fine wet February where everyone brought an umbrella on their bags. We were ready to our first visit to what my teacher called as “Dragon Village”. At the time, of course no one would believe if there was a real dragon inside it. It was obvious, there’s no such thing as dragon these days—wise people said. He—my teacher—told us stories behind the village. He said according to the legend, the forbidden forest was sacred. No one, not even people from Naga village would dare to step on the forbidden forest because of pamali. Whoever uses all of his courage, risking his life by entering the forest, he won’t be returned. Returned means that there is ‘something’ that might takes you, and "it" won’t let you out. This creepy story didn’t scare anyone, unfortunately.

So, the time had came, my first experience to visit a "traditional village" with all its mystery and legendary tales. I was just a skinny girl, carrying a huge bag on my back. The journey was quite long, we had to go through the mountains, through winding roads, and you could see on the right and left was a creepy chasm. They even put a warning "Be Careful! Prone to Accidents" and this was one more thing that I hated, traveling without going through the toll road. Why didn’t they make toll roads in every corner of the earth? and the worst thing was, everyone seemed to enjoy this trip. They sang happily without worrying about this slippery road. In the meantime, I prayed incessantly along the way, and hoped we would soon arrive at our destination. Finally after a long and dramatic trip, we arrived at the destination, Naga village. Ever since you got out of the bus, you would see a huge monument in the form of kijang–a traditional weapon from West Java. There was also a parking lot, and small shops. “So, where is the village? Where are the stairs?” I asked myself.
It turned out we only had to walk a few more meters to a walking path, and finally, a few hundred meters down you would see below there were a stretch of rice fields, the river flow was also very clear, and green trees are lined up across there. Thank God, it was not rain because the sun made this scene had a warmer, but cheerful tone–of course, that was what my friends said. It was too far, so I couldn’t see it clearly.

As I told you before, I hated outdoors, and I hated something "traditional", because they had so much bugs. However, you wouldn’t realize it when you had already passed the stairs and met the turning. A loud "Woaaaa" was all I could hear as if it was the soundtrack of a movie scene. Then you just froze, just because you were fascinated by the view. You would enjoy the rice fields, rivers, traditional houses, and even you would wish someone would kidnap you into the forbidden forest just because you were that curious and wondering if there was a real sleeping dragon deep inside it. That was exactly what I felt.

A few seconds later, everything really felt as if it was a blink of eyes, short and fast. You didn’t even realize that you had really reached the end of this way. I had finally arrived at the end of these four hundred steps. Just a few meters away, you would arrive at the village hall. The buildings seemed to have almost the same shape each other. That was what made this place unique. There are 111 buildings in Naga village which consists of 109 houses, a mosque, and a meeting hall building. The tour guide said that why is this place was named “Naga” is because this place is surrounded by walls. Walls mean gawir in Sundanese, na-gawir means “at walls” in English, so people just called the small part, and backformed it as Naga. That was why this village called as “Naga Village” or Kampung Naga, which there was no connection at all with dragon. To be honest, I was disappointed. I still hoped they hide a real dragon in the forest or even just their eggs in their house.

It was a beautiful village, with beautiful people, and unique traditions. They did similar jobs such as farming and hunting like other traditional villages, but they also had unique rules and laws that no one can break it. One of their unique laws was; if you were a member of this village and you just got married, then you had to move outside the village. There were only limited houses in the village, so you may come back if you were older or someone was dead inside the village. The people here welcomed us nicely, and one of the most shocking thing was that they speak English! There were so many tourists came to this village, so the people here have to develop their ability to communicate with the tourists, unbelievable! Having fun at this village with the nice people made me forget what I went through before we arrived here. I was too excited yet too tired, and the sun seemed to shine too brightly.

I didn’t realize that it was already our time to go back upstairs. We hadn’t even had lunch, and my teacher said that the lunches were available up there in the bus. When I tried to climb upstairs, everything turned black all of sudden. I thought the sleeping dragon was awake and it caught me, because it felt like flying. I was laying in the back of the dragon, it took me and it had so many hands. It also spoke as if it was an echo. The echo called my name, but still, everything was still black. I also smelt some various scents. When I heard someone was going to get water and then watering my face, my eyes were open all of sudden as if something “inside me” forced my eyes to open. Then I saw familiar faces that seemed to worry. One of my friend gave me water to drink, and then they told me that I fainted on my way upstairs. I realized a few moments later, there was no dragon here.

Make Friends with Fear: A Memoir

Vania Nurmalita180410160039

I was sitting on my bed after opened the window and letting some fresh air entered my room, so cold till my nose felt like it was pierced by something. It was early in the morning, cold and quiet, yet I had to get myself prepared because I remember that I had an appointment with my friend to go to the market. We needed to buy some food as we were going to have special event that weekend despite the mid exam that kept me so busy to get my assignments done before deadline. I managed to have showered when a Whatsapp message showed up on my phone screen. It was my sister. She told me that mom had to be rushed to the hospital because of her severe abdominal pain yesterday, and that she wouldn’t be able to go home to accompany mom. Mom felt so much pain in her stomach until doctor asked her to stay in the hospital. I bet mom did not want to tell me directly because she knew that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my exam since I easily got distracted in hearing bad news, particularly if it had to do with my family. My plans that morning became cluttered as the news made me missed home even more, and my feeling overwhelmed by wanted to be with my mom. And yes, the news distracted me.
After had a battle with my mind and heart, I decided to went to the market with my friend first, before I told her that I wouldn’t be able to attend the event since my mom was sick and I needed to get home soon. I immediately prepared my bag and everything after getting done shopping in the market. I decided to go home, even though I knew that I still had some tasks to be done, but I couldn’t help! “I can do it on the bus”, I told myself. Few months before, I also stayed at the same hospital, in Siloam. It wasn’t the first time to me, since I already experienced with needles when I was just 2 years old. But that was my first time again to be hospitalized after the last time when I was in junior high school and it was never a pleasure to spend the time there. I was rushed to the hospital because of severe dehydration. The needle wont’ penetrated my vein well because the vein turned to be more flattened from ordinarily stood out until I had to experience two times failure before eventually the needle found my vein. The first day I was treated, I wanted to go home. It was the hardest day. All day long, I just watched the clock knocking, from minute to minute. I couldn’t read the books although I wanted to, because I’d get dizzy easily. Just watching a boring TV program, not being able to move freely, couldn’t eat spicy food, even I got so startled by just hearing the sound of the footsteps in the corridor. I thought it was a nurse that was going to give injection, or another terrifying treatment for me. I am 20 years old now but I can’t overcome the fear of injection completely. Anything that has to do with a hospital became very scary.
After two hours, I finally arrived at the hospital, I brave myself to enter the lobby and searched for my mom’s room. I came there with a large backpack because I was planning to spend my weekend there before went back straight to my campus life in Jatinangor. No significant changing in the hospital since my last visit. As soon as I opened the glass door, I could smell alcohol. The smell was a mix of pine fragrance from the floor, food, coffee—from the canteen that I passed to reach the elevator—Alcohol, and people. There are a lot of people in the lobby. I once got so dizzy by only watching people back and forth in the lobby, along with the noises from their chatter, or the children’s cry. I sometimes thought that working in the hospital was not healthy at all, particularly for me that easily got sick, since most of your time in a day spent with unpleasant smell, surrounded by many patients and unhealthy air. But it was just my random thoughts anyway, however many people managed to stay healthy even when they had to worked 24 hours in the hospital.
My mom’s room was on the 6th floor. And I just realized that it was the same corridor with mine when I got hospitalized few times ago. I knocked the door and I could tell that she was surprised to see me came from her facial expression. “I thought you’re supposed to attend an event with your friend. It’s still the mid exam week, isn’t it? You don’t have to come here if you’re busy” mom was being mom, despite the fact that she was sick. I grinned, “No, mom, I am not that busy. I canceled my plan to attend the event, that’s okay, I can join the next event if I want too. Besides I’m really homesick in all of sudden”. Mom could understand and she told me that her stomach was not as painful as she felt yesterday. The doctor told her that she could go home after two or three more days. It was a relieved to hear that. My mom was not alone there, her older sister—or whom I used to call Uwak—accompanied her meanwhile my father needed to take care of my brother and keep the house. He was in his free time, because if he was on his duty then he was going to be away from home for a long time. He sometimes came to the hospital to drop some food and brought other needs for mom. But since I was there with mom, I could replace my father’s role.
The room where my mom stayed was clean and tidy. The first thing I could smell clearly when I entered the room was the smell of coffee because of the air freshener spray. It was good that I could smell less of alcohol, and the atmosphere become more comfortable. In the corner was a big window without trellis so that people in the room could see buildings behind the hospital which looked similar to a factory, some of them looked more like a warehouse. Behind the building was the railroad, and on the edge of it was a wide green meadow and it looked like there was a hill in the distance. The green grass was so beautiful. My mother once told me that she wanted to play and run there, on the green field, like what she used to do when she was just a child. In the afternoon, I could see the sunset from distance. The sky color turned slowly from blue to bright orange and red, before it got dark. So mesmerizing and relaxing at the same time. I never knew that I could felt this calm in the hospital. In a building where I could find my fear easily.
I spent the day in the room with lots of talk with mom and uwak. During night time I couldn’t slept well since the nurses got into the room every few hours to check the infusion. Every morning, I got to go down to the canteen for a free breakfast or brunch. I could use the elevator many times a day to manage various necessity or just simply bought the food that mom wanted to eat. Passing the corridor with a thick alcoholic smell and particular rooms that sometimes filled with tears was indeed frightening but surprisingly I could just ignored all of my fear only for mom. I was glad and yet shocked at the same time that I could handle lots of things in the hospital by myself, when yesterday I was very scared and struggled to brave myself. I never regret the fact that I canceled the event which I was going to attend, because it was all paid with a quality time and a good moment with mom and uwak. Mom went home on the fourth day so I could went back to Jatinangor peacefully and joyfully as I could conquer one of my biggest fear.

Photo by: Vania Nurmalita

I Called It Home

Marzha Rezqyta Putri Anindhita180410160051

This place was a place where I spent about 7 years of my childhood. I was born in a midwife place near this house. My mom was a career woman and my dad also had some works to do, so my grandmother took care of me.

I live here with Eyang (my Grandma), Abah (my Grandpa), one uncle (I called him Uwa), and four aunties (ti Nda, ti Wini, ti Sansan, and ti Iyen). In my first year on earth my mom and my dad were busy finishing their Skripsi in university. After that, they started to be busy with their own job. So I always called as the last child of my Grandma because she became the real figure of a mother for me.

This place is a place that full of simple but sweet memories. I called this place: home. It was more than a building. It was more than a house. It was my home.

This house was two-floored construction. The wall was painted white both inside and outside, the roof was colored orange, and the ceiling was made by wood. It covered with a thin wire gates around the land. This building was not too big but also not too small. It was enough to live by seven to eight people. It has four bedrooms: two rooms sized for one person in which, one room seized for a couple, and one room seized for three people. On the first floor, there were a big living room which contained three sofas and table, a family room which contained TV and carpet, a large bathroom, kitchen, and two bedrooms. On the second floor, there were two bedrooms, a small bathroom, and one room that could be use for both warehouse and alternative bedroom. There was no balcony, but we have two yards. At the front yard, which was stony, there were three fishponds (which until now, I don’t know why there should be?) but we closed one pond and it became a greasy area. There was also a parking area—it was enough to park four cars or maybe two medium trucks—which also the main way to went in. At the backyard, there was a place for washing and drying clothes and there was also a water tank for water supply. The backyard was almost full of wild grass and I can say it was fused with rice fields and wild plantation areas. There were a Cherry tree and a Passion Fruit tree. Uwa often climb the Cherry tree and share it with us when he was home. The house was also had a long porch. The right side of the porch was a place where we used to do chit chat, ate snacks, or just enjoying the evening wind. There were some sofas, some bamboo chairs, and one table. The left side of the porch was used to park motorcycles and to place some unused things. Also, I used to swim in a balloon swimming pool here.

I don’t remember where or what time it was when I woke up. But in that time, every morning when anyone opened the front door for me, my nose was achy by the morning air that was too fresh. Someone, maybe Eyang, or one of my aunties, will take me to the yard and then my feet will be wet by dew on the grasses that spread almost on the entire front yard. The pale-green rice field and the fog (one of my favorite word since I’ve been introduced to it) in front of the house are two precious-ordinary things that embellished my every morning.

After those short moments, my Grandma would start to cook for breakfast. The smell of the foods will fulfill the entire house and all of us would get starved. It’s about 8 or 9 O’clock, after the cooking is done, Eyang would boiled water and mixed it with cold water for bathing me. I always love the first floor bathroom. There was a big blue water container that always caught my eyes. I always wonder if there was a monster, a ghost, a body, or maybe a big fish in there. Eyang would bathe me with my favorite shampoo and soap. They always smell like grapes. After that, she would dry my hair and body. I had a thick curly hair when I was younger, so it needed hours to dry my hair.

Midday is the time for hair combing with Eyang or any of my aunties at the terrace. When my hair is half-dried, she would comb my hair slowly from the tip to the base because it was hard to tidy my hair. The breeze was blowing up the porch, stroking the pool and made the water bumpy. There were several days (I don’t really remember whether Abah was coming home earlier or it was weekend so he was home) when Abah and I were playing kite at the front yard. I know it was boys’ toy but I really love to do it. He will fly the kite hardly and when it already had enough balance, I would be allowed to take control. It was such unforgettable moment. Our kite was dancing with the wind in a blue sky, and we were happy.

On the other days when we were bored, my Grandma and I usually watched telenovella on the TV. Our favorites were Charita de Angel, Marrimar, and another one which I can’t remember the title but we can watch it by 3D if we use special glasses (I have had one). Eyang would open the backyard door so the breeze will come in. After minutes, she would start to get sleepy and so did I. The cool floor and the breeze were perfect lullabies for the nap.

Evening was the time to gather all of the family members. Abah was coming from his office, my aunties were done from their school and campus, and sometimes my parents were there. We usually would sat at the porch, talking about what each other did a whole day, talking about some good places to visit, or just talking about anything else. It was a perfect time in a whole day: evening. Even though we cannot see the sunset—in case our house was directed to sun rise—but evening was almost the beautiful moment. The temperature will decrease, the wind blew slowly, and birds were going home. It such a simple thing, but wonderful though.

At night, I dipped Oreos into Abah’s black coffee while we—my family—were sitting and talking to and fro. Our music was the sound of crickets, Cingcuit birds, frogs, and ‘other creatures’. After that, if I was not watching TV, then I should be in bed with Eyang and Abah. I fell in deep sleep and woke up with the same activities in the morning.

All of the memories happened in the house is such unforgettable. In 2006, my family was moving into other district. Since then, there were so many things changed. Honestly, I never have home anymore. There were no special memories anymore in the other houses until now on. We left the house and I left my childhood memories there. Today, the house is gone. The last time I cross the way, it changed into convection house (rumah konveksi). The rice fields in front of the house now are being housing. The ponds are closed. It is totally a different place now. Things change but memories don’t, they said. However, it will always be my home.