Postcard from Indonesia

Easter Sunday, 2006 —

I sit on the veranda of the Bintan Lagoon resort. I am here for two nights. Insect music sounds from the foliage. The smiles of some of the famously friendly staff haven’t arrived yet though most have. Smoking a robusto from Habana and drinking an unexpectedly good espresso, I watch and listen to my fellow tourists as they pass from room to breakfast and back or to the beach.

In a Maturana moment I tell a mosquito that its presence is legitimate in my world as long as my blood is not a part of its. There are limits to my love.

You see many Caucasian (a word that is still current in this part of the world) men with Asian women and occasionally the reverse. The passers by glance at the iPod and book on the table but seldom look at me. Almost no one nods (it’s like this in Singapore, too). Smiling first is a rare human primate behavior in this part of the world as I have learned.

Just now, the woman from the spa who convinced me to have the Javanese Royal facial yesterday (my skin has never been so clean) walks by. She’s from Jakarta. I had asked her how long she’s been at Bintan. “A month,” she said. “What brought you here?” “Work.”

A common and true tale in this part of the world. Again, yesterday, Astri, the hotel masseuse who gave me a massage in my room (yes, a day of skin and muscle care) said while we were talking, “No work, no money,” She laughed when I said, “No money, no eat.” Being from America, I am royalty; from California, a prince, from “San Francisco,” a king.

The cigar burns slowly and goes out often in the wet air. I am annoyed thinking what I paid for it in Singapore last week. An annoyance which dissolves in the smiles of two of the resort’s staff whose happy demeanor envelops me as they walk by.

And so the day begins.

I end my postcard from paradise (not exactly, paradise for me is not this humid) with a poem by Czeslaw Milosz who lived for many years in the hills of Berkeley —


A day so happy.
Fog lifted early. I walked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honey suckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.


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