Monday, April 19, 2010

Maninjau: men on motorbikes

From the day I arrived in Asia I've been wondering when this would happen. Now, in my last week, I thought maybe I'd escape without. But it was not to be, and I can only be grateful it happened at this late date, that I managed to avoid it for so many months, and that it was so inconsequential. After all, it's the oldest game in the book when a man on a motorcycle drives past a woman walking on the street.

But he only managed to hit my arm. It may bruise, but my dignity is intact and I can partially blame myself for wearing such short sleeves. When I left to take a walk I wasn't planning on taking a walk. It just happened. And I suppose such things are a natural outcome of just letting things happen.

I was amazed by my reaction. Immediately, I knew it was no-big-deal: he drove quickly away on his motorbike and the kind-looking old bakso meatball seller was only a few metres behind me. I was almost at my turn-off, anyway. Even so, my whole body started to tremble and I was whacked by pain. I'm such a physical person, I'm afraid - my body evoked such a strong reaction to something so minor, even though it happened in the surroundings the kind of natural beauty that should make everything pale in comparison.

Here was my conclusion. We so often represent an entire people, often people far beyond the reach of those we actually know. The guy on the motorcycle sullied the reputation of all Indonesian men for me when he swiped me with his arm. Did I sully the reputation of all Western women by wearing a short-sleeved shirt and jeans while walking on the highway?

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