Makassar Beach, 06.06.2015. Start at ten and count backwards, then move your hands from your eyes. That was when Gufa, a fisherman’s son, had been born into this world, in Makassar. Protruding ears. Blue shirt. Gentle voice. A pleasant, inwardly masculinity. The early morning prayer, the breakfast soup – the day has begun. You stand barefooted in the mud and wave at your friends by the jetty, one of them is occupied with a smartphone, another signals with his hand, you do not understand him. You free the boat from the jetty cautiously. You taste your salty lips and gaze up into the break of dawn, which glows like an orange colored brain in the horizon. You capture it with a camera, simply because it looks weird, then post it on Instagram with the caption “brain”. Sitting down on the wooden bench, you seize the boat’s controls, while the motor, now having seriously aged, starts to power up. So far, so good.
Do you notice how the garbage dandles in the rays of sunlight? Do you notice how the stranger, sitting beside you in the boat, looks about so single-mindedly? And who scribbles nervously in his notebook? As if wanting to draw you?
Pale. Long-nosed. Wearing a fisherman’s cap. Move about rather obtrusively. Jabbers about some German daily for which he’s writing, then goes on to frantically throw questions at you, whether your great-grandfather was also a fisherman? Whether your family is conservative, and if yes, what about when it comes to beatings? Is it true, that a rift exists among the generations? That a young man choses to pursue work in the IT-field instead of becoming a fisherman to the annoyance of his father? Is it true, that a type of Westernization is happening?
You smile. Your facial expression is one of impermeable friendliness. And should you miss to comprehend the meaning of a question, you smile even wider. Harmony, harmony, harmony. And remain inward, reserved body language, become more tender and more quiet, when the other becomes more energetic. And it is also out of friendliness, which he now offers you, to turn of the engine, so that you can focus on the questions better. Which are perhaps getting on your nerves. But you wouldn’t ever show that? Would you ever stop to smile for a second, would you ever look annoyed? Offer the stranger a scented cigarette. What does he want to find out? Whether it’s true, that the young people at the jetty are discussing the Grammy awarding ceremony in Los Angeles. That’s what he wants to find out. Whether he truly comprehends that? Yes. Well, perhaps. Why not talk about the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles? Do folks in Germany never talk about the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles?
You continue the boat ride. Approaching the beach of Pulau Laelae. You gaze towards the Seagulls, that circle over the murky water. The village chief Unggul is awaiting at island-shore, becoming larger and larger in size, and then just becomes part of the communication situation, which is somewhat hamperered. He’s wearing a black jogging suit. Right next to him: Huge bags of plastic waste, that are now collected, because money is given in their return. Is it something which interests Germans? Sure is. Waste is of interest to Germans. He gets off the boat and shakes Unggul’s hand. And Unggul shrugs as he is taken aback, because it seems he is clueless, clueless that among Germans this is normal: a firm handshake, a sharp look into the eyes. A much too offensive body language while greeting another: NEIß TU MIET JU!
The sun is now set beautifully over the palm trees. Unggul explains: Yes, on Tuesdays the fishing boat serves as a transport vehicle for the disposal of the waste. Yes. President Jakobi [sic] seems alright, at least he has good intensions, things are changing, so far as he can tell, not for the worse. But no, the matter about the garbage has nothing to do with the president. That’s what was decided on this island.
The German, however, responds: Tree Makassi for the information, and Unggul: You’re welcome, then Unggul and the German break out in laughter. Soon after Unggul leaves to pray. And the wind whistles inside the empty plastic bottles. They look as flute-necks out of the plastic bags. And the coconuts are looking down on you, as they say. Each of them has a black eye on its bottom, so that they don’t hit anybody. The German is delighted about this. This way no one gets hurt. And since he now sees you more relaxed, and because you’re aware, that he wants to know, what it’s like to live here, you say, because you want to offer help: Maybe a kind of drifting into the afternoon thing. More relaxed. Maybe, that we have more time than you, that we do things a bit slower, well, that’s true indeed. And adds, rather defensively: Maybe, that we do things a bit too slow. While you Germans seem so industrious?
You load the garbage bags into the boat. You eat the salty bananas Unggul’s wife brings at the end of a day’s work. Her name is Sha and smiles (of course) inwardly – with this inwardly-focused self-consciousness. The German takes off his fisherman hat and says something at her with too loud a voice, as if speaking into a funnel. I LIKE THIS SALTY BANANAS. She says thank you and leaves. And you drive back?
Now the elementary school kids come running out and they notice the German, and he tells them, that he has met them already yesterday, that yesterday that had already taken photos together with him, but it appears it needs to be done again: They make a circle around the German. They hug his legs and cling to his sides. He just stands there. He doesn’t know, that he must do something to lose them, so they let go. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest: Fotofotofotofoto.
Luckily, Unggul returns. He has changed into a shirt and a pair of pants, and a younger fellow, named Irwan, accompanies him. Irwan, what a beautiful name. His has a sturdy built, with a 3-day beard and a grey business suit. He shakes the German’s hand firmly. He lives in Texas and is currently back home for vacation. Tonight there is a small party in his brother’s house. Anybody who is present is invited. Including kids. The party starts at nine. Roughly.
Maksassar, 10:30 PM. Start at ten and count backwards, then move your hands from your eyes and be the German. Find yourself riding on a motorcycle, with Gufa at the front, the young man, who has cared for your needs so tirelessly the whole day. You try to trust in his riding ability. You try to enjoy the adrenalin, as you speed along the beachside landscape. You hold on tightly. You close the visor. You hold from screaming as he makes a turn into the main road. That’s just how the traffic is, Gufa surely knows, how to survive in this traffic? Whistles. Horns. Screaming motorcycles engines. And you accelerate again, towards the outskirts of the city, past the houses built densely next to one another. Banana trees. Shops selling plastic-stuff. And, indeed: A minaret-factory. It looks like a miniature city comprising of fable castle towers. Could it be? Then you drive into a curve. And you’re going into a sharper curve. And a man, who is holding a child in one hand while using the other to control the wheel. But that’s the way the traffic is, you can trust Gufa?
You close your eyes. You are inside the helmet, that Gufa has handed you. You do something like praying. Or is it praying? Should you discuss praying as a topic with Gufa?
You make a stop. You arrive somewhere and the helmet is pulled off your head with a pop-sound. Hot sweat runs down your neck. Nightfall is now all around you. Several stars can be seen, that have somehow fought their way through all the smog. And Gufa’s beardless, gentle face is there as before, which you now have come to trust. It’s completely relaxing, as though he had just had a siesta. You say: You guys seem to have more time, Gufa? Why do you speed when you say you’ve got more time? Isn’t it rather fatalism? Guilelessness? Aren’t you simply and totally fatalistic? Nuts?
But Gufa has gone ahead. He has gone to where the voices are, moving in the dark. He calls for you to follow his lead and the two of you enter into a garden: Around 20 people are sitting on carpets, men and women of various age groups, some wearing headscarfs while others are without, dressed in either colorful garments or jeans. They look at you, as though they had been aware of your coming. But none introduces themselves to you; wouldn’t that be rather importunate? Maybe.