Once in my life, when I was 16. I took a journey to a strange land. A ‘foreign’ to be exact, but it’s indeed a strange one. The people looked like me, but they spoke different languages and read different letters. On a very cold morning, I found myself in a back seat of a car with a mountain of luggage next to me. The sky was still so dark, when the car abruptly sped off on the road. It’s going to be my first experience with an airplane and I was pretty much excited. Malang was different compared to the big city. It is just a small city in the East of the most populated island in the world, Java Island. The tranquility of the midnight road was bothered by the wind that car produced. Soon, I arrived in Surabaya and took my flight to Kuala Lumpur.
It’s the rain saying ‘Hello’ to us as we put our butt off to the downtown of Kuala Lumpur. What a hospitality, but the journey hasn’t stopped yet. After three days wandering around Kuala Lumpur and getting some aches because I am a loner, we were heading to the north. Well I believe that, we weren’t pointing ‘the north star’ in our direction, none-of-us had that ability to understand those stars. The bus took us to the north, marking our path in between two countries. I still remember those lamps, I counted along the way to Hat-Yai, Thailand.
No-ding! I don’t remember how many lamps I counted that night. I just tried to make it romantic, but I’m not a genius to remember all those lamps.
The young solo female backpacker left by the bus, the freezing AC of all the time, me laughing at a Caucasian traveler that saved himself from bloody AC using a raincoat (and I followed his trick in the end), a bus that way more comfortable than the plane, and sudden inability to recognize letters. That’s all I remember during the night bus to the strange land. Despite the point of experience, I’d told you. The one that suits the prompt. I personally adore this moment. If you read my writings, then you must know that most of them were focused on personal healing. This journey was the beginning of it. The moment I discover that something called ‘happiness’ does exist.
We stayed on what it claimed as a ‘resort’ but looked like a ‘lodge’ for me, with once again ‘the-leak-AC’ issue. The journey wasn't an easy one. Hat-yai wasn’t the ending. I was heading to ‘Saengtham Wittaya’ Foundation School in Trang, Thailand. I always wanted to attend a boarding school, but never got a chance. So, I was super excited, when the van took us to Trang. Along the way, I didn’t see much differences between this place and my hometown. The scenery of villages, hills, and motorbikes, Pertamini, and the people were the same. If not for the fact that I couldn’t read the letters, I’d believe that I took a wrong flight and was stranded in another part of Indonesia.
I didn’t remember much of Trang. I spent most of my time in school. All I remember were the two dugong statues at the city center, a haunted house of someone important, the glass porcelain I wished to buy, the river I rejected my HS crush’s hand, the stray dog in the van terminal, and something I never knew its existence, happiness.
Let’s come back to the prompt, ‘my boarding school.’
My school was surrounded by a rubber moor. The moor gives with it, a remote vibe, as I lived deep in the forest. The teachers told my peers and I, the girls accommodation building. It’s a new building colored orange and white in the corner of the school. The gate was closed, when we arrived and tried to knock it and nobody answered. Next is the most absurd moment ever in my life. The teacher came with a key in her hand and opened the gate for us. In a second, we stepped inside, all doors were opened. Almost like a parade of minions walking simultaneously. Their eyes focused on us, along with whispers among them. I awkwardly smile at them and nod my head as a sign of ‘hello’, silently enjoying this short moment of being celebrity.
The room was quite big, with two bunker beds and a bathroom. The bedroom had a separate door to access a little balcony and bathroom. The balcony had direct access to the rubber moor scenery, successfully inviting tons of bugs, whenever I opened it in the morning. What surprised me, wasn’t the bug. It’s the fact that none of them in this school spoke English and I speak zero Thai. Luckily, after a few days we found two or three of them that spoke English, one of the girls in my circle even spoke Malay. Communication wasn’t a big deal here. We are animals to begin with, a smart one. So, I often used body language more than proper language. It’s more effective, since there’s no difference between Bahasa Indonesia or English, they didn’t understand both of the languages.
I never slept on a bunker bed before. I decided to spend my first night in Saengtham to slept in the upper part of the bed, while my roommate sleep in the down part. At around 1 am midnight, I heard the sound of an ax from the moor. Both my roommate and I couldn’t sleep yet and read our books.
“Did you hear that?” I asked her, and she nodded her head. Soon both of us felt the horror and hid under our blanket. We didn’t even turn off the lamp. I mean, who the hell would be on the moor at that time? After all, during that year, there’s a mainstream Indonesian horror movie about ‘nenek-gayung’ literally translated as ‘Water dipper-grandmother’. Don’t try to make it sense, it doesn’t make sense at all. I know, but it's just a story circulated among us.
Soon as I hide under my blanket, or it actually a curtain since there’s no blanket in my room. I heard a voice of foot step under, like circling my bed. I closed my eyes terrified, while my not-so-religious lips tried any prayer I remember, even a prayer for before eating included. I was desperate! And there I was, fall asleep in fear. The next day, I survived and adapted with the school and many funny things happened there and soon found a gang of mine. Sometimes they’d used the inability of others to communicate with me to skip praying, gossiping boys and other girls, and share our own horror stories. Other than me, my fellow from Indonesia also had their own version of horror during our short trip to this school. More than that, what’s so amazing is that, after back to Labschool, my original school, one of my friends asked me.
“then, how did you communicate with them?”
I realized that we have no problem communicating at all. They speak Thai and I switch between Bahasa and English, but we successfully had a great gossiping moment, like it was never an issue. It’s weird, but it is also the reason behind my confidence to solo travel.
After we finished our program and headed back to Indonesia. We get a call from Saengtham, saying that there’s a kid who gets possessed in the room we used before. It might be a bit spooky, but wasn’t every school always had their own version of horror? I was too happy to be bothered by the ghost. Now I felt sorry for that ghost. They must spend a lot of energy to be ignored by me.
Based on personal experience, Thailand 2012.