Lessons From Indonesia: On Being Brave

Bandung traffic finalOh.

The things I could write about today.

Of course, you know there will be an Indonesia story at the end of this…because, yes, it is Monday and there is coffee. (And that’s all I’m going to say about those things today…feel free to be shocked.) 😉

I was also down with…the flu. a bad cold. a headache. a fever. potentially all of it…all weekend and so coming back to my blog sort of feels like I’m crawling off the couch and back into humanity. And I’m starting to feel better and can actually talk now without squeaking.

Oy.

I really hate to be sick, but since I know y’all don’t want the details, I’ll leave it at that.

However, Valentine’s Day happened this weekend, and I found myself grateful beyond words that we celebrated last week with friends so I could fully enjoy my day(s) of crashing on the couch and trying to sleep and rest and diffuse this thing out of my system. It sort of worked. And to save the weekend, hubby made red velvet cookies yesterday, which I ate for breakfast this morning.

Life just feels a little better after those plus coffee.

So let’s get to Indonesia, shall we?

I’ve sort of been in homesick mode for the last week. I think part of that is because I’ve done so much reflecting and remembering…and I’ve got friends in Indo who know how to make me miss this place and these people with just a photo or two. Seriously. One of them posted a photo of the crazy that is motorbike parking in Indonesia…aka: a SEA. OF. MOTORBIKES. And I totally found myself wishing for my cute pink bike once again just so I could zoom it up and down Wisconsin Street once. Or fifty times.

However, my husband has forbidden me from having a Vespa here, my dearest motorbike wish, despite multiple moments of begging, therefore I’m sure this would not go over well.

But I do miss my bike in all of its cute, pink, I-can-drive-this-thing-in-flip-flops, glory. I kind of miss it a lot.

And so I bring you the saga…and it IS a saga…of how I learned to drive a bike. So let’s all shed a tear for Mel and her bike-missing that’s happening over coffee this morning.

And feel free to smile, too. Especially during the part when I run into a bush.

:)

As always, thanks for being here. (And if anyone would like to buy me a Vespa, you know where to find me.) :)

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We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.
Madeleine L’Engle

Anyone who lives in a big city knows that having some mode of transportation is necessary for sanity.

When we arrived in Bandung, our immediate needs were close enough that we could walk or take an angkut (minibus) down the hill. Therefore, for the first several weeks, we survived just fine without a car or motorbike or even a bicycle.

But once we had been in-country for a month or two, we had the itch to get out and explore more. Public transportation was doable, but not our favorite method, and the day a stranger sat on me on the angkut, I knew it was time for a motorbike!

I sent Tobin to pick it out because I was down with Bandung Belly, (that’s another story for another day…) and therefore, not going anywhere. I told him I had few preferences other than I did not want a manual transmission and that I’d give him bonus points for a unique color.

He did great and came home after ordering a semi-automatic (yay for multitasking!), orange (woo hoo!) bike.

I was thrilled!

And I was actually the first of us to drive it. It was delivered to our school a few days later, and I hopped on, started it up, and drove it right home from school…AND without killing anyone, though I did have to stop at an intersection to yield to a group of school children. I’m pretty sure they sprinted across the road in utter fear of the newbie bule who, most likely, had no business driving.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed our new-found freedom, even if it just meant having a quicker way to get to and from school. I loved driving that orange beauty, and my confidence grew quickly.

Maybe too quickly.

After we’d had the bike for two weeks or so, I hopped on it to drive myself to school. Tobin was going to walk there later, so I decided to go ahead and leave early to get some things done in my classroom before the day started.

I’m still not sure exactly what happened. The satpam (guard) saw me coming, and I just assumed he would open the gate wider than he did, mostly so I wouldn’t run over him. Well, he didn’t, and being the brave girl I was, I gunned it…right into a bush.

It was one of those humbling moments where I had one of two choices. Laughter or tears…thankfully I chose laughter, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so completely uncoordinated (and stupid?) in my life.

And it took me almost a year to have the guts to try driving a bike again. For that year, I was content to ride around on the back of it while Tobin drove. Yeah, I was a chicken, but it was also good for me because I was able to learn the city…which streets went where and how to navigate the multiple one ways that seemed to dominate the art of transportation there. I probably learned Bandung better than Tobin did because I spent so much time watching, scoping out the good shopping and coffee places…

…and getting lost, because we did a lot of that, too. 😉

After that year, once I had gotten into the groove of Indonesian life, I knew it was time to try driving again. I needed the freedom to meet up with friends (and to go get coffee!) and so we went out one random day and bought me my own motorbike.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It was pink and soooooo cute. It was an automatic, meaning that I only had to gas and brake with my hands, which was better…less to distract me as I navigated the streets of Bandung on my cute little scooter, which I almost always drove while wearing flip flops.

I did well in the neighborhood around our house but knew I would eventually need to dig up the courage to actually drive in the city…among the cars and motorbikes and angkuts and buses and trucks and bicycles and carts and horses…you get the picture.

I was terrified.

It took every ounce of courage I had to venture out that day. I drove, my hubby followed me on the other bike, and we weaved our way in and out of traffic, going all the way to one of our favorite shopping centers and home again.

And I didn’t die.

Not only did I manage to stay alive, I also learned a very important lesson about bravery. It’s so easy to get caught up in the big picture of a situation and let fear take over, when, in reality, all I had to worry about while driving were the vehicles around me. The one rule of Indonesian driving was that I was responsible for what I could see in front of me. And that was it.

Once I understood that, it was much easier to drive the city…and I got even braver, making trips all over town on my own.

We sold our motorbikes once we bought a car and little M was on the way, and a part of me was sad. Those motorbikes were only things, but to me, they represented an important part of our lives as we learned to really live in Indonesia.

They were also great reminders of a lesson I learned in being willing to do things that seem more difficult than they really are.

Here’s to bravery and to doing more than we think we can.

Anyone for a Vespa ride? 😉

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The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Thank you!

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Comments

  1. Mel this story made me smile soo stinking big. I had a scooter in nepal to.. that i was also terrified to drive but had to learn. I also asked for an automatic with the guy that was taking me shopping.. and I got a purple one.. I called it the purple pleasure. I loved that little thing and was also terrified to go out into real traffic. Your posts brought back great memories about learning to be brave– and laugh in the bushes

    • Somehow I knew you’d be able to relate to this one. :) It’s so funny how the things that brought out my biggest fears are some of the things I miss the most. Driving that bike is definitely up there! (And I seriously love that you drove a PURPLE bike…so awesome!) Love you, girl! (((hugs)))

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