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The equatorial heat came on hard and fast. I had been waiting for a chance to use that word. I hit the pavement and tried hiding from the unrelenting sun. A holy Muslim man felt the same way and rested next to me under some shade. I tried to wave him away  like the Buddhist monk in Johor. But there was something different and authentic about this man that allowed charity to enter my heart. Heat stroke you may ask?

The man said he was from Madura. He had only been here for six days. He had little Muslim prayer books in shirt pocket. He rested the larger books on the floor and lit up a clove cigarette.  They were cartoons of the teachings of Islam. He also had some liquid in a  little bottle attached to a Koran trinket. “Do you play that,” asked the policeman who was curious what an itinerant and a foreigner were doing outside a very expensive boutique shop.I couldn’t follow what he meant but I gathered it was some kind of Muslim charm he was talking about.

Mr. Anda had a  gun on his hip and spare bullets. The threat of imminent death was on display, and I took out my camera. “No, cannot,” he’ said. It wasn’t an outright no. It had more to do with security reasons. He was from Sumatra too. We joked about the women from Madura. “They are so hot.”

I smoked one of the holy man’s cigarettes. He travels all over Indonesia selling sacred relics. He was on his way to the shopping mall to find some gullible buyers. I thought of his life and the travels he made. Because I had been to Madura, there was instant acceptance. I made sign languages about the bridge, and said in English it was long. I pulled out some money and made a donation. His beads ranged from 50 000 to the real ones, that he charged 250 000 Rupiah and up.

Indonesians are rooted to their birth places. If you have ever visited their city, they’ll be your friends for life. The young hotel staff from Yogjakarta  took an instant liking to me when I mentioned Prambanan and Borobudur, the two famous temples of his city. He then pulled out his phone and offered me a massage. “She very pretty, and only 500 000 Rupiah for an hour.”  

He could arrange for her to come to my room, and was about to show me other models in his phone. He was offering half the price they charge in sex central in Nagoya. I told him to hold his horses, and I’d think about it. I’m in a nice hotel and what would the other staff think?

I walked back to my hotel, and the same policeman moonlighting at another expensive boutique shop asked me where I was going. Then we joked about the red light district in Surabaya that is now closed. I said yes, but all the working girls went to Bali. He laughed. It’s always the crude subjects that set off the Indonesian men. And we are in Batam of course, which loosens  the strata of morality

 

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