A story about the highs and lows riding your bicycle. Life on a bike is vulnerable. As life in general is. But when you are riding your bike, alone, in this area that is new and unknown, you might be a bit more aware of this vulnerability. But I guess… that’s exactly the key to the beauty of it.
Java, Indonesia, 24/08/2016
As I enter this very small road (unsealed and with big wholes in it) to bring me to the ocean, my intuition was already telling me something was wrong. It was just about to get dark. So I had to find me a place to stay for the night. And as I normally don’t stay in hotels that often, nor that I like them so much… I wasn’t exactly in the position to impose any conditions, since there was nothing to choose. Earlier I had chosen this very small road close to the ocean where there wouldn’t be so much traffic, so now I just had to face the consequences; there weren’t so many options to find me a place to sleep. Like none. So I asked the people for help. And since I didn’t have the language (yet) to ask them in proper Bahasa where I could find me a (safe) place to stay. The conclusion of this little communication earlier on the road was that there should be a hotel nearby, ‘somewhere’ on the left side. The only question was; how far away from here? And since the language-barrier was to big to answer this question, and the speaking with hand and feet didn’t succeed in depicting the exact distance, there was nothing else to do than just get back on my bike and find out myself. See if I was lucky.
And a bit of luck was needed, since this day was kind of ‘challenging’ for a cyclist on her own. As I had my very first bad experience on the road. The kind of experience that made me understand why everybody would call me ‘brave’ all the time to just cycle ‘by myself’. You know, ‘as a women’. And although they still belong to the category ‘innocent and harmless’, I was mentally struggling on my bike with the impact of this ‘little incident’.
We all know that ‘the bad guys’ are out there too. Even though they are in the minority. Like réally a huge minority of all the people that you will meet on your way. But they do exist. Just like they exist in every fairy tale (or ferrytail for the ones that read my blog from the beginning), represented by the evil which, the ugly stepmother or the hungry wolf, they also do exist, in real life. And it would be kind of immature to deny that. But since I cycled my first 12.000 km in this beautiful world, in a kind of magical fairy-tale-bubble: believing and trusting in the good, I was just kind of disappointed by meeting the bad. Call it immature. Call it being too positive. It was just the way it is.
And since bad stuff always comes in two… physically, I was suffering from some strange kind of very acute pain in my stomach. The convulsions were heavy and it was getting dark. But they did tell me to go left so I did enter this very small road. Still hoping to find a little (probably extremely crappy) hotel in the end of this little road, but my sence of reality told me that the chance was very unlikely. The chance of finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was probably bigger than finding me a place to stay at this remote beach. Speaking about fairy tales.
I did find some people, and some buildings that were broken an abandoned, but without a question there wasn’t anything that came close to a hotel, even for Indonesian standard. I feel the disappointment in my whole body, while the pain in my belly was slowly taking over me. And there wasn’t so much to do against it. I was questioning myself whether I would be capable to cycle another five kilometer, as I wasn’t so sure about the answer… What I did know for sure was that I needed to go to the toilet, and I needed to go there now. So I took a deep breath, and walked to the people whose eyes were already focussed on me from the moment that I arrived.
It must be very rare that any tourist visit this region I realised, and even less likely that they would enter this small road. So it’s not so strange that they are looking at me as if I have purple and yellow dots all over my face. Arriving here in this muslim-area, as a women on her bike, on her own, I guess you cannot blame thém for giving yóu the look that questions whether you might be coming from another planet.
At least there is a toilet here. They pointed at this very tiny door at the end of a very old building and so I follow their pointing fingers, without understanding anything of what they are actually saying, and I disappear. For a while.
Coming back outside I felt relieved that my bike was still there with all my belongings, but that was the only part of the scenario to feel happy about. I sit down on the ground next to my bike, still no hotel around, still the pain in my belly. Far enough from the people who are out there, but still close enough to be monitored by all their eyes following every little movement I make… While I was feeling empty and totally finished…
I stare at the ocean and wait for something to happen but I already know that that isn’t exactly going to work. This is not the kind of fairy tale where some kind of fairy pops in the story to create a positive twist to this misery. This is reality. This is not some kind of tropical excursion on a summer holiday, where you can get your money back in case you didn’t enjoy the journey. This is life. And right now, this part of life isn’t going so well, but still, it’s part of life.
I know there’s only one thing to do. I should get up and ask for help. Again. Since I don’t have any clue of where I am neither where I should go. So I look at them. They look at me.
I take a deep breath. Again. And then I walk to the people who told me earlier about the toilet to ask them about the hotel. They don’t really understand the urge of my question. They don’t see the expression of desperation in my eyes, nor the reflection of exhaustion. All they see is their bright blue colour, and the white skin they represent. I can tell by their eyes, filled with excitement and happiness to be talking to me. And in a situation like this, where you are so willing to connect but so unable too… you actually do feel that you are completely ‘on your own’. Out there on the other side of the world. It’s a feeling that makes you realise, in this fraction of a moment, that in the end there’s nobody out there to help. It’s just you. And although it’s a feeling that comes very rarely. This was a situation like it.
Eventually the body-language-symbols of finding-a-place-to-sleep will work, as they don’t speak a word of English. They pointed me to go back to the main road, and gave me the sign that it should be on the left side. Again. I thank them with a ‘terimakasih’, and they respond with a ‘be carefull’ as the Indonesian way of saying goodbye. I can hear myself thinking, ‘be careful’ in a situation like this, on a day like this, is kind of ironic. Although there’s nothing in me willing to smile about that.
So I got back on my bike. Just to find out, that there actually wás a hotel nearby. Like 200 meters to the left. Can you believe it? Maybe they do exist (fairies). I felt so relieved when I saw this place to stay, that I didn’t mind its crappy appearance, nur it’s very unreasonable high pricing, as I would find out the very next minute. I would take it anyway, and they knew I would, as I didn’t have anywhere else to stay. Without asking I took my bicycle into my room. Since I was the only guest in this creepy place, I lock the door, and again, I disappear, on the toilet. This time I wouldn’t come out before I felt better. I told myself.
And although I felt a little bit better in my belly after taking a shower (but without a question I wasn’t going to eat for the rest of the day – which was absolutely perfect, since I wouldn’t come out my room anyway) this was exactly thé moment that I started to feel thé impact of this crazy bike ride today. Which was more difficult to deal with then the physical misery. There are not so many moments on the road that I feel sad in this very intense way, but without a doubt this was a moment like that. And so I realised I needed a plan for tomorrow. I needed to make sure tomorrow was going to be a better day.
Or to be honest, after first feeling very sorry for myself but then second, realising that wasn’t exactly going to help me, and then third, deciding I needed to share this misery with at least one other human being on earth, so then fourth, writing a long email to my ‘BFB’ (Best Friend riding a Bicycle), to finally fifth; understand that I needed to make a plan for tomorrow.
So I changed my route. I changed my plan. And I went to bed. As we all know, in some cases; some sleep and a good night of rest, can also solve a problem.
And this very next morning, when my strength was slowely coming back, I realised the lesson that was learned. As the key point of this little issue slowly appears to me.
And it made me wonder.
It made me question myself:
‘Are you willing to face the bad, to get to know the good’.
There was a silence. I truly questioned myself and gave me some time to think about it. To change my foundations in life. If I wanted to. And after that, I thought and I felt, my answer was an unconditional ‘yes’. So I realised. You can be as positive as possible, but you cannot deny the existence of the bad. Just like you can be as pessimistic as possible, but you cannot deny the existence of the good. It’s exactly in their polarity that the both of them exist. And exactly in this polarity, we find their beauty.
Life is unconditional.
You cannot choose the good, without the risk that you might have to face the bad.
Just like you cannot choose to love, without the risk of getting hurt.
And you cannot play, without the risk of loosing.
But not choosing at all, is loosing anyway.
We can stay at home, while reading newspapers, thinking that the whole world outside is a very dangerous and unsafe place, represented by the bad. Not realising that the other places out there, are in reality just representing the homes of other people who might have exactly the same feeling about this big world out there, including the place you call home (!). And so I would say, the truth of this belief is very unlikely as it’s a contradiction in itself.
We might feel like we want to stay inside and hide, after feeling scared, or harmed, bullied or frightened. Like this little piggy hiding for the big wolf inside the clock. Or like little red riding hood (roodkapje), reconsidering going back home, when visiting her grandmother in the woods. But the true question is; are you really willing to miss all the beauty, just because of that?
So I would say; Just get out of that clock, and play!
So I got back on my bike and cycled to this town without any clue of all the good that was waiting for me. Just one boy and his big loving family. With tons of good energy and an open mind. They would make me feel like home and make sure I was all right, without any clue of the misery of last night.
And just before I go to bed in their warm and welcoming home, as I still feel impressed by the contradiction with yesterday, I would find this Arabic saying on their wall, originally written in the Koran, that would give me the goosebumps all over my skin.
It was like the universe was talking to me. And after reading this, there was no longer the question. I now know for sure. They do exist.
Life is valuable, so it’s OK to feel vulnerable.