I was really blessed on Sunday to hold a reasoning with Pak Sayerin.

He was the captain of the traditional boat which I and 21 others were on. Btw, he was steering it with his foot!

We were checking out some of Pulau Seribu (The Thousand Islands). A collection of islands off the North coast of Jakarta.

I’d hung back on the boat to have something to eat and drink. This gave Pak Sayerin an opening to ajak aku ngobrol (open up conversation).

He told me about the history of the islands, cleared up the mystery as to whether there are actually a 1,000 (used to be 174, now due to erosion 92*); shared his views on life and how we should treat one another; told me some of his life story…

Born on one of the islands, Pulau Harapan (Hope Island). Has 6 children (4 girls, 2 boys), 1 wife, 4 grandchildren. When he got married, he saw it as part of that commitment to memikul (shoulder) the responsibility of his wife’s parents and family. He’s a fisherman by trade, with tours such as that day providing additional income. He and his friends take turns to save up and club together (for Jamaicans, pardner), in order to get to go to places like Bali and beyond. Has a birthday coming up on the 26th November and doesn’t really understand why his children want to make a fuss over him. I suggested that maybe they want to show appreciation and recognition of how he and his wife have worked hard to provide for them. He seemed to agree that could be the case; saying that thankfully they were able to see their children through high school (secondary). Believes that we can choose to be happy and thankful in all things. An example being his response to my asking whether fishing brought in enough,

“Kalo dianggap cukup, cukup. Kalo dianggap tidak cukup, malah tidak akan cukup.”

“If it’s seen as enough, it will be enough. If seen as not enough, then it won’t be.”

And on the conversation went. Touching on faith, society today, motives of people when doing good deeds, marriage, the simple pleasures of coming home to a cup of coffee that has been prepared for you… and more.

I was reminded of the wisdom that is held by our ‘Elders’. Those who have walked the road before us. Those who have seen more, experienced it first, and are now seeing many things on repeat. Although packaged differently and accompanied by ‘smart’ gadgets. Watching-often quietly-with a knowing heart, almost imperceptible smile, and tilted head. With much to share, if asked.

I was once again, grateful for Bahasa. My Indonesian is by no means perfect, but it allowed me to share life with Pak Sayerin, in a way I couldn’t have without it. It allowed our desire to converse, and our commonality to be expressed in a shared language.

We were sat together for at least 30 minutes, possibly longer. It made me really glad that my friend and I hadn’t decided to forego this particular boat trip. We’d thought about it. As it was hunting foto saja. As others got their photos, I got Pak Sayerin. I also-courtesy of my friend’s candid snap-got a photo too.

*An internet search provides varying statistics. Averaging at 100, some noting that if you count reefs, looking at 300+ But I’ll take Pak Sayerin’s numbers.

**’Pak’ (short for ‘Bapak’) = Mr. You prob guessed this, but just in case.

**Quick guide to some of Pulau Seribu. My friend and I did a backpacker option, and were based on Pulau Harapan.