Monday marked 70 years of Indonesian independence, and five years since I last celebrated the day in that country.
I decided to make dinner, which took four different grocery stores and most of the afternoon. It was a simple dish, too: nasi lemak, long grain white rice cooked in coconut milk and twists of pandan leaves; ayam percik, chicken baked in turmeric, ginger, lemongrass and tamarind. On a whim, kue nastar: small, round, pineapple jam biscuits, a staple of every good Indonesian home, kept sealed and airtight in rusting Dutch tins to be trotted out in case of houseguests. I wasn’t expecting it to take so long but it has been five years and I am out of practice. In Malang I could have bought a single portion for 10000 rupiah — about seventy-two cents. Here I prep and cook and bake for hours. It is a kind of meditation. There is a lot to think about.
It is strange, and sweet, the ways my life there come back to me. Words never far from the tip of my tongue, most often the exclamatory (Ya weis. Aduh. Alhamdulillah.) At the oddest moments some escaped image will strike my whole body through — the smallest things, seemingly inconsequent: puddles on the streets of Mataram Dalam after monsoon rain, the toasted edge of grilled ginger, a red kite. Wildfires have made smoke skies across the valley this week, and light sinks onto my skin like a Jakarta sunset, slow and soft and orange, not hot but simmering.
Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter, the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment. MOSES 6:61