“By going this far, you are my first guest who spent the longest time in this old port”, I told Marie while holding an umbrella to cover her up from the bright sunlight in Sunda Kelapa, an old port of Batavia. We almost reached the end of the port where we could see the ocean before turning back.
The American doctor giggled and replied, “Oh, Farid, we set a lot of records in every places we visited”. “Oh, yeah we did”, her husband, Steve, added while holding his camera getting ready to take some other pictures.
“Once in Africa, the guide was really surprised when he saw us taking a lot of pictures of penguins and said that he’s never seen any guests taking so many pictures”, feeling proud of their achievements Marie continued her story. And they really did take a lot of pictures. They both have cameras and Steve took a lot of pictures of everything. And I mean, everything.
The traditional phinisi ships, the sailors loading building materials into his ship, a sailor cleaning his ship, a sailor re-waterproofing his ship, the dirty water of the sea, the dusty sacks of cement, and everything around it. Instead of feeling disturbed and annoyed, some of their objects smiled and even greeted them. As for me, I was contented, because that meant I took my guest to the right place. And that was just the first spot of the tour.
They booked my Jakarta Half Day Tour from toursbylocals.com that took them to Fatahillah Square as the second spot. The square was pretty quiet when I explained to them how that place holds a dark history where death penalty, as hanging and chopping heads, executed. I suddenly got an idea to take them into the Jakarta History Museum when I saw people coming out of the building. The thing is, the museum had been under renovation for some times that only the caretaker knew when they would finish renovating it (yes, I’m being sarcastic).
But apparently, they started reopening for public since a week ago. Ah, I got lucky. It’s another record for the Eilenbergs couple as the first guest I took into the museum after they finished renovating it.
Slightly different from going in to the museum before renovation, this time we had to take off our shoes and use sandals provided in order not to damage any ancient floor materials in the museum (some of them are still originally from the 18th century). So we wandered around inside the museum with the local guide explaining about some collections in the museum. I see different objects attract the couple, but there was one particular room that they both found interesting. The cells in the basement of the building.
When the tour in the museum was over, they needed time to relax and my friend and I needed time to pray (it was Friday, so we had to pray in the mosque ensemble).
On our way to the next stop, Marie wondered if I ever lived in an English speaking country and was quite surprised when I told her I haven’t. She thought, with my fluency in English I must have had any experiences living abroad. The truth is, watching movies and listening to songs in English and trying to write down the lyrics (Google didn’t exist back then) helped me a lot in practicing my listening and speaking. But when Marie found out I was learning French and gave up, she couldn’t take it. She kept asking questions in French and pushed my rusty brain to work harder to answer her. She felt that all I needed was practicing. True. And Steve believed that if I host tours in French, I would’ve had more guests. I could never imagine handling tours in French at the moment, but maybe some time in the future. In the not so near future, though.
National Monument is the next stop and I was glad that there was no queue to go to the observation deck, considering it was Friday afternoon. While waiting for the elevator they told me about their experiences in diving. They both have been diving for 25 years together and been to a lot of places in the world. They’ve seen more sea creatures than I’ve conducted tours in Jakarta. When I asked them about the best place to dive, with strong confidence they answered, “Indonesia”.
“Really?” I reassured myself.
“Yeah, it’s so beautiful under water and you can see all the weird creatures that you can’t find in any other places”, Marie added.
That made my heart warm. So warm that I didn’t realize that we were already on top of the monument with wind blowing so hard.
We didn’t spend a lot of time in Monas and decided to go to Istiqlal Mosque. Our last stop of the tour.
There was one question about Islam in Indonesia that Steve asked and made me feel very lucky to be born here. “When you pray, you can go to any mosques you want?”.
“Any mosques you can find, without people asking what Islam branch you believe in?”
“I know”. 🙂