One of the best cities I’ve found so far to settle down and rest in for a while. Providing an always prevalent sense of welcoming camaraderie from our various community groups—the Teachers, VSO volunteers, the Hashers, the local crews, other expats, and other floaters or by-passers. These support groups that had almost nothing to do with the school which we worked for.
There were a few things which I have come to associate with the town of Makassar.
Peace—the calm spells within stormy hectic waters that could sweep you off the ground, toss you around, and then leave you washed up feeling serene and contented, despite the weekly political demonstrations usually involving street fires and mass motorbike drive-bys, or endless city traffic congestion, or the odd bottle of bintang being flung across a room.
Love—where among a bustling city of 2 million citizens, give or take, I managed to find the purest and sincerest form of love, which has to this day stuck by my side for over two years, despite the daily meaningless vocal jabs by strangers on the streets of “Hello mister,” “My name is…??” or the less frequent “Fuck you!”
Freedom—a seemingly lawless place where you can be anyone or do anything, despite the accepted sordid truth that with the right amount of money and smooth talk, you could buy just about anything or anyone.
Despite my detest of large cities, my abnormally high consumption rate of cheap beer, my recurring passive disagreements with our school’s policy and ethics, I always feel a great sense of sorrow leaving the place.
In the jungle of the Mount Leuser National Park, we entered their lair and endured stare-offs with primates closest to our own brothers and sisters. Red headed babies clinging to their powerful and protective mothers. Long limbs and fingers gripping onto anything within reach, inexplicably managing to stay off the ground for hours at a time, brown leathery faces full of emotion and curiosity. A mystical place full of wildlife and wonder, where I could easily imagine Sumatran tigers prowling or massive elephants stampeding down the thick green flora hundreds of years before.
With an amazing history of clashing tribes all trying to survive on an island situated on the largest volcanic crater lake in the world, resulting in tribal warfare, public be-headings, cannibalism, and even some black magic. The Batak people today, still seemingly able to maintain a good grasp of their original culture after the mass Christian conversion a couple hundred years ago, scattered about the island, still living in elaborate decorated houses in the shape of an upturned boat—extremely similar to those inhabited by the Torajan people found on the island of Sulawesi. And the men still devoutly gathering in the oldest village warungs after sundown, drinking their thoughts away with palm wine and surrendering themselves to harmonious, yet melancholy songs about love, always accompanied by soulful guitar strumming.
A last minute effort on my part to catch a handful of famous Indo waves from an archipelago of almost 20,000 islands. Even after being well informed that it was not the season for surf, my infatuation drew us there to try our luck. Between sessions of flailing around through a disarray of Indian Ocean white water, we took in the remains of the infamous 2004 Boxing Day tsunami—the same one that sparked the founding of the NGO we spent three months with earlier that year in Sri Lanka. And from the people, heartbreaking but hopeful narratives about the brutal history of the separatist rebels, extreme muslim laws (in Aceh it is illegal for women to ride straddling motorbikes, they must sit side-saddle), and of that colossal fateful wave almost ten years ago.