“Can I take their picture? Will they be offended?”
That’s the first question Naomi asked when she saw numerous motorcycles struggling for their way on a busy street of Jakarta.
Naomi is a friend of a high school friend of mine, Zara. Zara contacted me when she found out that Naomi, her college friend in Milan, was visiting for a few days. Naomi is a Japanese girl who lives in Japan at the moment and speaks perfect Italian but only little English. So, from the beginning, I thought this trip was gonna be interesting. Guiding a Japanese girl and having my friend translating my English to Italian to her. What language-complication could you expect more? But I still believed it was going to be fun.
When I parked my car in front of a convenience store to get some snacks and drinks for our trip, she suddenly said, “Ah, convenience store. I wanted to see Jakarta’s convenience store” as she got out of the car excitedly.
It was just a small Alfamart, actually. Alfamart is a typical Indonesian convenience store that’s less exciting than Seven Eleven or Family Mart that exist in Japan.
We didn’t spend much time there and went directly to our first spot, Jakarta Mangrove Forest in Pantai Indah Kapuk area. Zara didn’t want to take her to the National Monument or other Jakarta’s famous landmarks because she was bored of it (wait, I thought the tour was for her friend and not her), so I suggested to head north Jakarta to experience nature in Mangrove Forest and a little bit of culture in Buddha Tzu Chi Foundation. Zara agreed.
It was a little disappointment for us when we found out that we had to pay IDR1.000.000 to take pictures with camera, even pocket camera in the Mangrove Forest. So, we decided to leave the camera in the car and just be happy to take pictures with our cellphones.
The heat was striking but that didn’t keep Naomi for being excited. We took a lot of pictures. We took pictures while walking on the pavement, on top of the observation tower, in a small hut, even a picture of our feet, until we decided to take a boat ride to go around the Mangrove forest.
Oh, boy we were lucky. I didn’t know whether it was luck or the wild animals were being nice showing themselves to us, or it was just a normal day. We got to see a lot of wild birds, flying near us, perching on a branch, even swimming in the water. At the beginning, we were all excited. From…
“Wow, did you see that bird?”
“Hey, there’s another one”
“Woah, that bird is so big”
“Did you see that one? Yeah”.
Just when our excitement got a little less, we saw something swimming in the water and it was definitely not a bird.
Naomi jumped out of her seat and asked, “Farid, what is that?”
When I got a clearer view of the animal, my eyes got big and shouted “lizard!”.
Wait, what? Actually, it was not just an ordinary lizard but I couldn’t find the English word for it. “Err.. a big lizard” I added. And Naomi still stared at me, confused, demanded a better answer that I wasn’t able to give.
Later I found out that the English name for the animal is monitor lizard or goanna or we, Indonesians, call them “biawak”. Anyway, when I told her about that she wasn’t as exciting as she was at the beginning.
The boat trip took around 30 – 40 minutes before we decided to end the adventure in Mangrove forest. But before that, I let Naomi try my favorite drink in a hot and sweaty day. A cold tehbotol, it’s an iced tea in a bottle. And she loved it. How do I know she liked it? She took a picture of it.
As a guide, it felt pretty good when your friend slash guest took a lot of pictures on the spot cause it meant you took them to the right place. Like Naomi, she even did a selfie with monkeys in the forest.
When we had lunch, she ordered Nasi Bali but I told her to try Indonesian salad or what we call “gado gado”, it’s basically like salad full of vegetables but with peanut sauce and sometimes we boil the veggies first.
“I like this gari-gari. It’s spicy, but it tastes so good”, she said with her mouth full.
“It’s gado-gado, Naomi”, I responded.
“Ah, ya, garo-garo”, she said.
“Never mind”, I smiled looking at her enjoying her meal.
Our next stop was the Buddha Tzu Chi Foundation. I told Naomi that I had never been in, so I asked her to explore together, and she agreed. From outside, the building looked extravagant.
The tour was guided by a volunteer who showed us a lot of rooms.
From the exhibition hall, the praying room, the convention hall, another convention hall, until the coffee shop. I was amazed, Zara and Naomi were too.
But since the guide didn’t speak English so, the tour was quite noisy. The guide explained in Bahasa Indonesia, and Zara had to translate the explanation to Italian to Naomi, a Japanese girl. If you had been there, you’d see how weird it was.
We finished the tour around 4 pm and Zara decided to take Naomi to a shopping mall, Pasaraya. On our way there, Zara and I caught up what we had missed. Well, we hadn’t met for years while she studied design in Milan, Italy.
I knew I had a good day guiding when I looked at my rear view mirror and I saw Naomi sleeping on the back seat. The exciting girl was out of energy being excited.