CYCLING JAVA: where it’s al about ‘WE’ instead of just ‘ME’

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Purwokerto, Java, 29-08-2016

Feeling like I was filled with tons of positive energy, thanks to my stay with this big loving family, it was now time to say Purwokerto goodbye and get back on my bike. Back on my own again. But I can tell you that: this wouldn’t be for long!

As I love to say: look what I found on my way!

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Besides al the signs that would announce that the next part of the road was going to be a bit hilly… Since there were many of them along the way. Like a lot! But hey, don’t say they didn’t warn you. They did. As I was told by several people that this wasn’t exactly going to be the ‘easy way’. But hey, I didn’t just ride my bike 12.00 km to now just ‘take the easy way’. Besides, they also assured me that it was going to be absolutely beautiful.

And beautiful it was.

DAY ONE: 29-08-2016, cycling from Purwokerto to Banjar

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There were many people who welcomed me with tons of good vibes and enthusiasm along the way. And I smile.

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Even just a stop at a local shop, turns out to be quite amusing because of the lack of a proper language. And I smile.

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And in the end of the day, after my first 110 k(m), there even was a place to stay. And I smile.

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Banjar, Java, 29-08-2016

The local doctors and volunteers working for the Red Cross in Banjar are known for their helpful attitude towards cyclist. Different people had told me about them along the way. Like secret information being passed from one cyclist towards the other. As I walk in, completely unannounced, they receive me with open arms as if they knew I was on my way. Isn’t it beautiful I think as we exchange stories about riding our bike, since we all share the same passion. And I smile.

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As I enter the building I was surprised by the feeling of recognition and familiarity, since it was built by the Dutch, originally. And I smile (although I still feel sorry about the history).

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They offered me a perfect little bed for the night. Isn’t it beautiful I think. And I smile.

DAY TWO: 30-08-2016, cycling from Banjar to Singaparna

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And so I continue my ride. To finally find what all people seem to be looking for in life. : after my first 12.000 km on the road I finally saw my first Pokemon! And I smiled.

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Two friendly guys stopped their car next to the road to offer me a bottle of water. And I smile.

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I stop at the local supermarket to make use of their toilet, since it’s no longer an option to pee outside (since you are never alone so it’s impossible to hide). As I see their collection of toothbrushes I realize: yes indeed, it’s all about WE instead of just ME. And I smile.

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It’s fascinating to see the amount of mosques along the way. In all of their different sizes, shapes and colors. Some of them are still in progress. Many of them are. Like this one. By facing this tiny man working on this  massive building, ‘Sendiri’- all by himself, I just realize; their faith is big, and so is their dedication. And as I continue my ride, I wonder what life would be like, if you can live by the guidelines written in a book, with the devotion and conviction of their truth, being part of this big community where you all share the same foundation in life, bounded by their unity. And I wonder, what life would be like.

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Time for some food after this session of cycling philosophy, as I probably reached my final destination for today. In the early morning I recieved a phonenumber from one of the volunteers at the Red Cross. When he find out about my route he told me about a friend that lives along the way, and he assured me it wouldn’t be a problem if I asked him for a place to stay. And so it was. When I enjoyed my food, some boys in the restaurant helped me by giving this friend a call. It can take some time but wait here, is what they said. And so I did.

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Let me introduce to you: my hero of the day, since they don’t have any campgrounds, hotels, or any other places to stay. His name is Ahmed, the friend of my friend at the Red Cross, and he just cycled 10 km to pick me up at this little restaurant. Together we would cycle back to his place, a small town, and jeps another 10 km to go.

Cycling to his home. At least that’s what I thought. But I was taken to a little shop. Where he would offer me something to eat and to drink, with a big smile on his face making sure I was more than welcome. A smile that covers his shortcoming of the language to communicate. I just smile back at him as I eat, drink and I’ll wait. I still have no idea where I am, nur I understand his plan. But when he takes off with all these big bottles of water on his motorbike, I soon would figure it out. He was the owner of the little shop, and there was some work that needed to be done (as he was delivering water). So I probably just wait here for him, I thought. And so I do.

In meanwhile the whole neighbourhood comes over to get to know their visitor. Children with their grandparents, whole family’s. Old men siting right next to me, driven by their never ending sense of curiosity. While they observe me carefully without any hesitation, they suddenly squeeze my calf’s (with a thank you for Tom who taught me this world while they were hurting really bad when we were walking the camino). Slightly confused by their touch I look into their eyes to read their intentions, as they tell me ‘you are a very strong women’. And then again, pointing to my bike. And I smile, since this wouldn’t be so common to happen at home. Here is seems to be that their curiosity expands their boundaries of what seems to be proper behavior and what not. And I smile. Isn’t it funny I think, that you feel comfortable in a situation like this. A situation that is so different from the habits that you grew up with. But still you feel perfectly fine with all of it.

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A small village close to Singaparna, Java, 30/08/2016

As Ahmed comes back we get back on our bikes and cycle to his little house where he introduces me to his wife and their little girl. They make me a little bed in their living room. Isn’t it beautiful I think, without having the language to communicate. Since the both don’t speak a word of English. As they di nur knowing my background or family, they just take me in, without a question. They are willing to help each other out. Like unconditional. In this country where it’s all about WE instead of ME. And I smile.

DAY THREE:  31-08-2016, cycling from Singaparna to Garut & Bandung.

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After breakfast Ahmed told me he would join me with his bike for the first 15 km of my ride. And I thought, well isn’t that nice. And I smiled. As we climbed the first hills for today together.

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They sure were right about two things: it was really absolutely beautiful and really hilly.

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Did I mention it was beautiful?

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And then there was rain. Like a LOT.

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And a place to shelter with the people that kept me company. They turned out to be both very friendly and very curious (like most of them are). Deri mana? (where are you from?) Belanda (Holland). Ahhhhh Deri Belandaaaaa (aha you are from Holland!) Ja (Yes). Sendiri? (All by yourself?). And I would tell them yes. In this case ‘yes’. Since I have different answers in different situations. ‘Wauw… strong women’ they tell me pointing at me, like they always do. If I didn’t make up the story about the imaginary husband, they would. And then in the end I could tell them about my journey (sepeda de Bali, Java, Sumatra) or my profession in Holland (Guru Seni Highscool), and jeps all in Behasa. We’re getting there! And they would tell me about all the soccer-players in Holland and then… saved by the bell, the rain stops, so we better get back on the bike since there were some more hills to climb.

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Did I mention there were some hills to climb? Probably the first moment that I didn’t smile.

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Reaching the summit, and being welcomed like this. What more can I say? Without a doubt it’s worth the climb. And I smiled.

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Garut, Java, 30-08-2016

And then I reached Garut, the place that they will describe as ‘the Swiss Alphs from Java’. And as soon as you reach the place, being surrounded by big mountains at each side of you, you will understand why. And yes it is absolutely beautiful, I think. Without a doubt it’s worth the climb. And I smiled, as I continue my ride.

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Riding the streets of Indonesia, There sure is enough to see.

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As I look at them, they look at me. As I smile at them, they laugh at me.

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Indonesian transport. Let’s just say they are very creative…

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Bandung, Java, 31-08-2016

Talking about creativity. And then the moment is there, I arrive in this big city, even when I am completely unaware of that. Bandung, the place that is well know for their big-bicycle-community. They will tell you different times along the way; if you make it to Bandung make sure you meet the guys from Cigadung, and make sure get to know them all. And I guess by showing this picture I don’t have to tell you why. They will welcome every cyclist with open arms and tons of good vibes and energy.

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Like really: tons of good vibes and energy.

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It’s a community where people come together in the evening, just to share some laughs or a drink. They will play music together, or ride their bike, have some food, or just hang around. They have small studios where people are working during the day. Like artist, designers or and the practitioners of any kind of creative skills. They even have their little shops where they sell their work. So I would say, if I was an Indonesian, it’s a place where I would stay.

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But since I am not an Indonesian, and since I am one my way to Sumatra, I stay for one day. In this little wooden house that they had build together, so all of us that cycle have a place to stay. Nice hey!

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They sure love cycling but they also like to ride their (motor)bike. As you can tell by the look of their logo -the guy in blue- that they do.

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To all of the people of Cigadung: thank you for being part of your community. It feels so good to be part of this big bicycle-family.  Although we all know, in the end there goes nothing above the mum,  ‘Mamah nu Utama’. And we all smile.

DAY 4: 02-09-2016, cycling from Bandung to Cipanas

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Leaving Bandung behind makes me realize, it really is a city, like a big one. And so there was traffic. Like a lot.

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And again, the road is going up. So after 75 km of cycling like a machine, I realized there was no point in pushing any further. I wouldn’t make it to the next town. And so I stop. This would be the final destination for the day and I ask the local police if they knew a place to stay. As this is a well known approach, cycling the Indonesian way.

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And they decided to take me in.

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They didn’t like the idea of this women sleeping outside in her tiny tent, so they offered me a proper place to stay. Traveling the Indonesian way.

DAY 5: 03/09/2016, cycling from Cipanas to Bogor

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When I got back on my bike, early the next morning, after the hardest 10 kilometers climbing up I would be overwhelmed and completely surprised: as I just happened to be that I reached the top. So then the down-hill-part was there, as a complete but very welcoming surprise. And I smile. And when I cycle down and I see some local guys pushing their bike on their way up, I smile again. I just managed to cycle my bike, this little truck, all the way to the top. You know. As a women. And I smile feeling very pleased with that.

After this very enjoyable down-hill I reached the next town: Bogor, and there would be a couple waiting for me. Although finding their place wasn’t exactly what I would say ‘easy’.

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I guess we all have to cycle right next to a railway, at least ones in our life.

So since google-maps is not exactly the best way to find your destination, when it comes to small little streets in Indonesia, I ask some people for help. After he tried different times to describe the route, this boy decides to get on his motorbike and guide me there. I follow him on his motorbike in the most small remote little streets. As he gets lost himself decides to asks for help. And we cycle back. And he asks again, and we turn around. And then after a while we arrive at the right place, where Bastian and Tika were waiting for me. I give him a hand and a big termiakasih. There wasn’t even a small chance that I would have been able to find this place. You know, on my own. And I smile. Since that’s no problem at all. In Indonesia, you are never alone.
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Bogor, Java, 03-09-2016

As I reached their house, I met Bastian and Tika and was introduced to their entire family. I got to know the uncle, the sister, her children and her husband, some cousins and some nieces and in the end their entire local community. Today happened to be a very special day. There was a festival, and everybody was involved. Small children singing or performing for the first time of their lives. After weeks of serious practice and preparations. Mothers singing together with the same excitement (or you could call it ‘fear’) of being on a stage as their children. And since we didn’t prepare a performance (although being white is still a performance in itself in these small villages), we fulfilled the one and only very important task of this happening that was there left: we took place in the audience. And while I just was about to settle down in the middle of this big bunch of kids. There appeared a couch, out of nothing, carried by some kids. So we would have the best view, like first in line. Followed by a table and some fruits and local snacks. And I felt slightly overwhelmed by all of that, just like they would feel with having me around as their ‘special guest’.

DAY 6: 04-09-2016, cycling from Bogor to Rangkas-Pitung

Taking off early the very next day after having bread with chocolate sprinkles for breakfast (“hagelslag”as we would say) (A positive effect of the history, as I would say) there was another motorbike waiting for me to guide me out of town. By the brother-in-law of Bastian’s siter. So there was no option of getting lost. I thank him with a wave and a Terimakasih after riding together the first 8 kilometer of the day.
They told me that after another 40 km the surrounding would get more beautiful and more peaceful. It would be a quite road; only two cars passing you in a minute, they say. And I smile, as in Australia ‘quite’ means two cars passing you in a day.

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But they were right about the surrounding. Beautiful it was.

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Cycling in Indonesia; you will become a celebrity. Can we take a picture these three motor-guys ask this one bicycle-girl. How cool they might be looking I can tell you they were pretty shy. Of course I say, on one condition: we have to take two of them.
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One picture with their motorbike and one with my bike. With a big compliment for the photographer. Look for the differences I would say. With a big thank you for the bicycle-community of Bandung – pointing at the girl in yellow- I now felt like I was suiting perfectly fine in this motor-man-group.

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But I wouldn’t take of without a proper picture of my best friend. I guess I still prefer the bike in the end.

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After a nice day on my bike I find myself a place to stay in a local hotel. They told me, ‘you can leave your bike outside’. I said ‘ok’.

DAY 7: 05-09-2016, cycling from Rangkaspitung to Merak. 

The final day on my bike in Java, as I would take the ferry to Sumatra in the early morning of the very next day. I wasn’t going to wake up early I thought since today wasn’t going to be a big day. If you get used to 100 km a day riding hills, then 80 km on a flat road feels like ‘a day off’. And so I decided to start this day off with a long sleep. Like a proper weekend day. And I was looking forward to that. If it wasn’t that they knocked on my door at 7 o’clock, Nasi Goreng for breakfast. Is this really happening? I think. There was by far no other country where they would make me up so often and so early. Still I take my time and start my day with the intended delay. Today was going to be an easy day. So at 09.15 I left the hotel and I got back on my bike. Today it feels like a holiday. And I smile. Since it happens to be a holiday for quite a while.
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And I just cycled my very first 12 kilometers of this holi-day when there is this women waving for me next to the road.

Something that is quite common. Cycling, the Indonesian way. Although most of the time, when they wave me to have a drink, or invite me to come over for food or they just start talking to me in the hope that you will stop…  I do not. For the very simple reason that there are so many of them. Like a lot! And I probably wouldn’t make it to the ferry, not even in the very next month, if I would respond to all of them. So most of the times I just give them I smile and a wave as I continue my ride.

This time though, I stop.

This time there were no old men or young boys that invited me in to stay. This time there was a women standing next to my way. The kind of women with a very good energy around her. So it would be a shame to pass. Don’t you think? And so I stop my bike. Just to find out that she works as a teacher at the local high school and she had a very special request. I can see by her eyes, filled with excitement. If I want to visit her school so she could introduce her students to me. And as I tell them about my journey, they could practice their English with me. I recognize her spirit and dedication towards her job, since I used to be this teacher myself. So I tell her that I am in. After they pack me an early lunch or a second breakfast in this tiny warung they tell me to follow. And so I turn my bike and cycle back, the same road where I came from. Funny I think, that doesn’t happen so often that I turn back while I am cycling. But since I am not in a hurry, why not?

As we arrive at the school she shows me around. I could see that she felt pretty exited with having me around, and I was just about to find out, she wasn’t the only one. This feeling of excitement was about to take over, the entire school.

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I will show you the pictures anyway. So exited they were!

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Over exited and a bit shy they come in and sit next to me. And while I eat my lunch for today they monitor every little movement I make. They look at each other. They giggle. And then again they monitor me. And the funny thing is, I feel completely comfortable. It’s the teacher in me.

Although they are very shy in the beginning, they are even more curious. So as they try to fight there fear of speaking English out loud, they slowly start a conversation. They ask me about my journey. If I never get scared when I am all by myself. Where I sleep. What I normally eat. How I came up with this whole idea. Where I traveled so far in this big journey. How long it would take me to cycle all the way back to Holland? What I think about Indonesia. What I think about their food. And yes, whether I was married? And I smile, since my students had asked me the same kind of questions before I left and told them about my plan. Isn’t that beautiful I think. Being on the other side of the world, having the same conversations. The biggest difference from then is that right now I had some answers. So I tell about my journey, about my experience in ‘being alone’, that you will meet so many people on your way that you don’t have the time to feel lonely. And I confess, so yes this means I am not married. Followed by an explanation about the differences in our cultures. And I share my strategy and my different answers to this question in different occasions, as I open-up about this imaginary husband when young guys ask me whether I am married or not. And all the girl laugh out loud.

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More laughing and giggling, and chaos when they decide to give me a little tour around. I feel like this world-famous soccer player entering the stadion. They didn’t make me a wave, but their noise was overwhelming as if the world-cup was about to be played.

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Single? This college asks me when I walk in to his classroom. ‘Yessss’, the students yell who company me. ‘No’. I say with a face as if play poker on a very high level: ‘Married’. And we all laugh out loud.

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More chaos. More yelling. More giggling and laughing in my face. Followed by 100 request for 100 selfies with the students, and yes some teachers as well.

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One final picture with my Indonesian college and her students.

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Or two. With lots of credits to the first photographer.

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And it’s time to go for this cyclist. But of course, not before we had taken a big picture with the teachers, and yessss some more selfies. Including the headteacher herself. And I smile.

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Surrounded by teachers and their students dressed very decently wearing their proper uniforms, while this very special visitor, the girl that travels the world, wears this t-shirt with the print of a skull. And I smile. But no worries at all, sama sama, it’s all good, as they would say. Cycling the Indonesian way.

Time to gooooooo! Feeling a bit sorry for their teachers to leave them with all these over-exited teenagers. So I tell them good luck with that as I say goodbye. And they smile.

Back on my bike, I enjoy my ride and the fact that it feels so peaceful and quite outside (after leaving the stadion). But this sport-women in me is activated, we better start cycling. Although it was kind of a holi-day, I still had to cycle another 60 k(m)! And I smile.

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I didn’t smile and I never do, when I see their never-ending rubbish or the people who represent their poverty. Especially when it comes to the combination of these two. What can we do, I question myself while I continue my ride. I feel like the daughter of a queen, by having this privilege to be born at ‘the other side’, by passing this fellow on my fancy bike. And I wonder what life would be like. Living in these circumstances where it’s a daily challenge to get your belly filled. Surrounded by rubbish and dirt. I wonder what life would be like as I continue my ride.

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It’s five o’clock when I arrive in Merak and I make my stop at the first local supermarket when I treat myself on a cold drink. This was Java, I think. This was it. But not before I would find this ‘friend of a friend’ of mine that had offered me to stay with his family for tonight. The only problem was, this time we couldn’t reach the guy and I didn’t have an address. So my usual tactic failed… I am sorry he said, we think his phone is dead. Hmmmm I say and I wonder. I probably just wait here and I assured them I would be oke. And I re-read his message sent earlier (the one where he didn’t tell me about his address) I realize: Ahaaaa maybe this guy is still on his work. As the message was written in the kind of English that leaves more questions than you really feel like you get the clue… But no bad words about that, as I truly appreciate their effort in being willing to try to speak this universal language with me. So I just wait and we will see. Wondering how big this town is and if he would be able to find me here without me telling him about my position. I realize it’s to big for this approach. But since there’s no other option left. I trust my intuition. He must be on his work. And so I have my second cold drink for today. To celebrate that I made it all the way. I just cycled Java from beginning to the end.  And I smile.

One hour later, the boy and the girl come out again as they just finished their work. You could see them feeling surprised and exited at the same time, that I was still around. So together we come up with a plan B. They could contact my friend, you know the friend of this friend, to see if he could reach their friend to tell him that I arrived. And they did. So this guy got informed and together we will wait. No matter how long it would take. So they settle down right beside me. And we wait.

Isn’t it beautiful I think, the way they take care of one another. Like being a sister or a brother.
While all the people on the other side of the word back home,
still think that I travel alone.

And I smile.

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His name is Gunadi, and he takes me into the home of his family. It’s the place where he lives with his cousins, his sister and his uncle. We have a nice diner, exchange stories with them speaking as little English as I speak Behasa, just to find out that’s exactly all you need. Ans we smile.

DAY 8, 06-09-2016, the day that I left the island as I had to get the ferry with already feeling a little bit of pain in my belly

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The perfect reason to extend my stay just for this tiny little bit before I would go away. As Gunadi’s sister works at the local primary school, they would also love to have me as their visitor. As if I could say no to that. So 7 o’clock this cyclist was present. The only difference with yesterday, this time I was dressed properly as I left my (motor)bike shirt at home.

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They were a bit smaller, and a bit more shy, a little bit sleepy, and super cute, don’t you think. For the rest it would end in the same kind of excitement and commotion just like yesterday.

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For both their teachers as the students.

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Although they sure try to keep them straight in line.

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After they sing me a song, I shake them all a hand. Yes you hear me well, every single one of them. As this is their daily routine of starting a day of school. Well isn’t that nice I think. It’s the perfect way of leaving in the island. It’s the perfect way of saying goodbye.

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Goodbye!

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And yes, the chaos is back. Good luck on that!

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One BIKE, one GIRL, cycling the WORLD, on her OWN.

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But when it comes to Indonesia, SHE was NEVER ALONE.

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And as I look back over the clear blue ocean, and see this boat coming thru…

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I can hear myself thinking:

‘we love Indonesia’

YES. I. DO.

-x-
Jannie

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