Remembering Ciamis: A Memoir

Ray Sistyana Sandi180410160014

My grandpa, from my mother’s side, came from a village located in Ciamis, Jawa Barat. The village is called Pasirnagara. Grandpa and all his five siblings were born in this village. Back then when I was a kid, our family often spent school and eid holidays there. We would stay there for a week or even more. I could never hold my excitement every time I got told that we’re going there for holiday because the atmosphere and the surroundings there are different from Bandung. There I could find and do things I wouldn’t normally do in a big city like Bandung.

The village was located in Pamarican district, far from the downtown area of Ciamis. If you take a ride there on the afternoon or before 6 p.m., the ride won’t feel as spooky as if you take a ride there after 6 p.m. The district was normally quiet during the day and at night it became even more quiet. Basically, you couldn’t really hear anything apart from the crickets or a dog’s bark. Not only it was so quiet at night, it was also dark. There were not many street lights after dark so if you go there, you have to really make sure your car’s headlamps are working properly or you won’t be able to see the road in front of you. Following the road to Pasirnagara, you would rarely see any houses. Just a lot of big trees and some old uninhibited buildings. Because of how dark and quiet it got at night, sometimes I got scared. What if a ghost or even a serial killer suddenly appears and attack me and my family while we’re on our way to Pasirnagara? But fortunately, it never happened.

In Pasirnagara, there were quite a lot of houses and they’re pretty close to each other. Usually, each house had their own fish pond, or what the sundanese called “balong”. Hanging just right above the pond, usually there was a small cubicle built out of ratan and bamboo. The cubicle functioned as a toilet used by the villagers for urinations or to wash their clothes. In Bandung, you won’t see such thing. This one time, I was walking around the village with my cousins. As I walked, I looked to my left. And there it was. I saw someone was pooping in one of those pond cubicles with the door opened! I panicked and told my cousins about it but they just laughed it off.

Our family also owned our own fish ponds. I don’t remember how many. My uncle owned one of the ponds and it was a big one compared to the other ponds. On the left side of the pond, there was a bathing area. The water was so clear and cold when it touched your skin. There was a bridge to get to the hut in the middle of the pond. At first, the bridge was made from bamboo and when you stepped on it you would feel it moving a little. The bridge was then fixed and cemented so it’s much stronger and safer to stepped on. I remember this one time our big family held a pinang climbing competition beside the pond to commemorate Indonesia’s independence day. I watched from the hut while eating nasi liwet together with my grandma, aunts, and my cousins.

Besides Pasirnagara, there was another village in another district called Margaharja village. It took us approximately around 20-25 minutes by car to get to Margaharja from Pasirnagara. The village was a lot more quiet and darker than Pasirnagara and the houses were far from each other. In other word it was just… spookier. Every time we went to Margaharja, we stayed in Nek Miah’s house. Nek Miah herself is my grandpa’s older sister and now lives in Jakarta with her child. The house was kept by Bi Eti and her husband, Mang Karta. This house was not like the one in Pasirnagara. It’s an old building. Probably built in around the 80s or the 90s. There were five bedrooms in this house. Four in the living room area, and one near the backyard. The room near the backyard was actually a really nice big room with a comfortable king-sized bed but it was known to be occupied by some kind of ghost who likes to tickle whoever is sleeping in that room. It happened to my uncle. When he was sleeping he felt someone was tickling his feet. The next night he would rather sleep on the couch in the living room than going back to that haunted room.

In Bandung I would usually in until noon during holiday but in Ciamis I would get up super early. In Pasirnagara, I’d usually get up early to jog to the village border with my cousins. In Margaharja, I’d get up early to take a walk in the yard or to the rice field near the house. The morning air was so clean and refreshing and a bit chilly. Sometimes you would even see fog covering the mountain behind the rice field. Sure, at night, the village gave you that creepy and haunted vibes but in the morning, it’s the most peaceful, most relaxing place to wander.

Nek Miah’s house I think had such a unique smell which I got really familiar of because I smelled it almost every time I went there. It’s the smell of fried fish and sambal terasi made by Bi Eti. Usually, at around 10 a.m. you would start to smell it. Every time we came to visit, Bi Eti would prepare for us fried fish, sambal terasi, and soup. It’s almost always like that. As a die-hard fan of fried fish, I couldn’t ask for a better dish.

Bi Eti’s husband, Mang Karta, or Kakek Karta as I usually called him, passed away last year. He was the one who taught me how to fish. At that time, I was around 6. Kakek Karta really loved to fish and he kept a lot of fishing equipments in his house. He let me use one of his fishing rods and off we go to the pond with my grandpa coming along. It was really fun. I was taught how to attach the bait to the hook and how to take control of the rod once a fish eat my bait. Because the water in the pond was dirty, I couldn’t really see if the bait had been eaten or not. I waited, and waited, and waited until the rod started to move and felt kind of heavy. It was hard for me to pull the fish up since it was heavy and I didn’t have the strength. But, after being cheered on by my grandpa and Kakek Karta I finally managed to pull it up. I didn’t catch as many fish as my grandpa or Kakek Karta did, but I was still really happy and proud because it was my first time catching fish with my own hands.

Every time I think of Ciamis, I remember the family bond. I remember the clean relaxing fresh air. I remember the ponds. I remember a lot of my childhood memories that happened there. I remember the people. I miss the people and their warm welcome.

Now, things have changed. The village is not as lively as it used to be. I mean, even during the day it’s really quiet and you don’t see a lot of people. People are gone. They have either passed away or migrated to the city. The fish ponds are drying up. The houses are neglected and the front yards are covered with dry brownish grass. Now, we don’t go there as often as before. Even when we do, we only stay for 2 or 3 days and most of our time there is spent in the city because there isn’t much that we can do either in Pasirnagara or in Margaharja. It’s actually really sad. But this holiday, our big family is planning to go there together and I hope it’s going to be fun. I want to bring back and relive the memories I made and the good time I had there when I was a kid.

Photo by: Ray Sistyana Sandi

Wonderful Pahawang: A Memoir

Ziyan Az Zahra


In my twenty years of life, I’ve never come to Sumatra. But in April 2018, Lampung has been the first place I’ve ever visited. Specifically, Pahawang Island. Pahawang is an island that located in the District of Punduh Padada, Pasawaran district, South Lampung. This island is often said to be a paradise for snorkelers because of the beauty of its underwater biota. My father’s office made a trip to Pahawang by bus from Jakarta. We went to Port of Merak at 12.00 AM then continued the travel with ship to Port of Bakauheni, it took about three hours to small port before go to the island with boat. I woke up when the bus was already on the parking lot, I opened my eyes, its felt warm because the sun shining on my face, came from the window. I got off from the bus and could felt the sand of the beach in my feet; white, soft, and hot such as the weather. From the bus stop, I walked to the beach with my little sister, looking around, there were coconut trees along the way. The blow of the wind made its leaves dance, also pulled our clothes back. Then, there were many small shop which sell food and beverages. Small souvenirs shop also available there, a shirt with a writing of Pahawang hang over the shop, the seller let it blown by the wind.

When we arrived at the small port, the boats were waiting for us, the drivers sat near their own boat, ready to take us exploring the island. When the times came, I stepped my feet to the seashore, a little closer to the boat I was going to ride. My left foot touched the water while my right foot started to go on the boat with the little wooden stairs. The water was clear and cold, the wooden stairs was fragile so I hold it tight. After all the passengers were ready, the driver started the engine. The serenity replaced by the sound of the engine. It’s very loud and noisy.

Blue and green filled the scenery along the way, the smell of the sea, the fresh air. The first stop was the snorkeling spot, it was called Nemo Park. When arrived, the noisy sound of the engine was gone, there were three boat including mine surrounding the snorkeling spot. I could feel the calm of the sea by the little soundless waves. I was not sure I would do snorkeling because I admitted that I was coward. But at that time, my curiosity was bigger than my fear.So I decided to make this as my first time of snorkeling. I wore the life vest, a diving mask, swimfins, and a curved plastic tube for breathing. My heart beats faster. I was nervous, I was afraid because my feet would not touch the bottom, I could not imagine how my body could floating on water, meanwhile I could not swim well. Looked around; the wide sea, the crags, and other boats. My brother and my father were already in the water, enjoyed the sea and fishes. I finally went down the boat stairs, when my whole body already in the water, I took off the tight grip from the stairs. I was shocked. I knew I could not touch the bottom but unconsciously my feet were searching for anything that could be the foot step. I should not be panic, made it getting worse. I tried my best to calm down, tried to at least make my body to stop moving. After that, my first attempt was swim to where my father is. I pushed my body and reached my father’s hand. He showed me how to be calm and how to snorkeling. I set my body to the right position, lifting my legs parallel to my body, letting my body float. I closed my eyes and put my head into the water, let it sink to about mid-forehead depth. That cold water touched my face, I opened my eyes looked into the sea, breath in cautiously, made a bubbling gurgling sound, a sign that I able to get a full breath in. Moving my eyes up and down, left and right, I was amazed, felt like I was here in the big aquarium. It was incredible and colourful sea world. There were various types of fish I’ve never seen before, with striking colours and shades, striped, in varied sizes and shapes. A group of fish moved forward and back, made the same move. The coral in many colours, shapes, and textures. Lived peacefully together also with the other sea creatures in the fabulous blue world. They said that was Nemo Park, but I could not found it at first, I moved forward, and finally found a friend of Nemo, that is Dory, a blue tang fish. I moved left, an orange and white stripped fish playing on the coral, it looked familiar, Nemo was there. There was a rare experience offers, dive for a few seconds into the deeper sea then there will be a photographer captured you with the clown fish. But I was scared so only my brother did that.

Other than that, my dread was replaced with the excitement. I moved here and there, looking the moving fish, the dancing coral. I lifted my head up, looked at everyone’s happy faces, the silent boats around us, also the crags. When the time was over, I went up to the boat. Right when I was on the boat, my left foot cramped for few minutes. The boat continued move to the little island, the place where we had our lunch. The island was more like a common living place. Several house lined up, facing the sea. The food was already on the table, there were fresh grilled squid, shrimp, fish, and of course chili as a complement. The taste was both fresh and delicious.

Not only that, after we had the delicious seafood, we continued to snorkeling again in different spot. There was no significant difference between the first and the second spot, the sea was clear, various types of fish and beautiful coral. Until one moment, my sister pulled my hand then showed me a familiar creatures but we never saw it this close, like moving to the upwards but not to the surface of the sea. It looked simple yet transparent. It had umbrella-shaped bells and trailing tentacles. It was jellyfish. We cannot move any closer because it was dangerous. I was surprised enough to see the jellyfish around us. Did not want the moment to end, but I had to swim to the stairs, the time forced us to end the snorkeling.

The next day, I went out from the bedroom to have a breakfast, the place was in front of the cottage, like house on stilts, we could saw fishes passing by from the very clear water. After had a breakfast, my brother, sister, and I walked to the beach, stood up at the seashore, letting the water gently lap on my feet. I still could clearly see my feet while the water was there.

Our journey continued to another small island, I fell in love when the boat takes us to any places, even the noisy sound of the engine disturbing the sound of the waves, I love to look around. The crag, the crystal clear seawater, the colour gradation of the high seas, touched the splash of water because of the boat, the sun toasted our skin. One of the sounds that can beat the noisy engine was when the waves were crawling to the crags, it made a loud crash sound.

It’s all beyond wonderful.

Photo by: Ziyan Az Zahra