March 17, 2015

Maluku, December

Six months into the trip. Every single item of clothing I own is either torn, stained, or smells like seaweed. The soap I use to clean everything is down to a few scrapes in a plastic box. My skin is sunkissed and dry, covered in scratches and blisters. Freckles flourish on my nose, shoulders and arms. In my back and legs, the muscles are sore, knotted, and strong. My feet are blistered and the sole is rugged under my fingers. My hair tips are split and bleached by the sea. I look like a wildling. A happy wildling. It feels awful and a little bit amazing.

It feels... how to phrase it. It feels less easy now, and I don't like writing that. It's not about going away anymore, it's about staying away ; and that's really a different game. I get pangs of nostalgia for silly things, things I use to discard as boring and dull, things I was glad to leave behind. A dessert in an old café ; going for a drive at night ; the seats in my favorite theater ; my house in summer light ; the smile of a friend... Tiny fragments of memories that I wish I could experience again just for few seconds – just to scare away the homesickness.

Homesick. The big bad word. We travelers don't like it. We try to ignore it, put it away in an old shoebox, because it's not trendy. And yet it seems this is the most common question, asked to us in an expecting voice by people who don't travel as long or as far : « Do you miss home ? »
As a way to reassure themselves : « Okay, you travel, but you have to be miserable... right ? »

The truth ? I am a little bit homesick. It's the holidays and it can be tough sometimes, to think of all my friends and family on the other side of the world – everybody planning to celebrate a christian holiday that I don't even like that much ; but what do you know, this year it sounds like the best thing ever.

Luckily for me, the Moluccas (or Maluku, as indonesians call them) are incredibly beautiful, and it's difficult to stay nostalgic for long, what with all the whitest sand and bluest water and all. Most people will call it paradise. On the plane that takes me from Ambon to the Kei islands, we are only two foreigners – a good sign. Life continues to offers small wonders : A very talkative cab driver decides that I am fluent in his language and engages in an intense conversation with me, culminating in what I am pretty sure is a marriage proposal, which I have to politely decline with gleeful smiles and panicked hand gestures. I find a homestay near the beach and I am trusted with bathing the baby, a task involving lots of giggles and water splashing everywhere. In the morning of my departure, I find a small stack of biscuits sitting on my bed, as a goodbye present. And so the game evolves again, from trying to grasp memories from home to learn to appreciate the small things that can make any place feel like home.

Lucky me.

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