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An Auld Lang Syne Picnic

We woke up to a 2014 filled with misty gray sky. At six in the morning, echoes of fireworks and trumpets from the night before had been cooled down by the steady drizzle of cool the new year rain. A few days ago Twosocks and I talked about how perplexed we were by the speed in which the minutes, days, and months of last year went, as it tends to be as we grow older. Instead of rushing to usher the past year away and welcome the new one, we decided to take things slow and honor the passage of time with an early morning picnic.

A little bit of rain would not hurt anyone, but it definitely puts a damper on an outdoor picnic. After brushing our teeth, with the hint of peppermint in our breath, we let go of the original plan to have the picnic at our favorite park. Instead, I grabbed my cardigan while Twosocks fished our biggest umbrella out of its hiding, and together with the tote bag we prepared last night, we settled for the tiny huts in our apartment’s common area.

The first order of business was, of course, our morning drinks. We solemnly waited for the hot water to do its magic for the two spoonful of Aceh Gayo in the French press and the loose leaves of rooibos chocolate mint in my tea ball. We waited, until after the aroma of our cherished morning drinks blended with the smell of wet grass. We were warmed by our first sips, then sighed in contentment. Now, the conversation could begin.

2013, that whirlwind of a year, was full of travels for the both of us. We explored all corners of Jogja, a province we visited very often for work but have never properly traveled to, and fell in love with the Ullen Sentalu museum. Twosocks took me to his mother’s hometown in Pengastulan, West Bali, where gambling is a commonly accepted entertainment for children in post-Galungan celebration. I dragged Twosocks to a White Shoes and the Couples’ Company concert and a Diskopantera’s 80s night, which he fondly recalled as being a journey to the two decades he found most romantic. We had an encounter with Jakarta’s more artistic side when we deciphered the trickery at Jakarta Biennale and got infected with creativity in Salihara, so much that we sneaked in a dance in one of its studios. Unanimously, we agreed that our two weeks of twirling around Japan, visiting its temples and Alps and bamboo groves, as our favorite trip this year. But, we also relish the more quiet retreats we had in Sekotong, Lombok, and the Portibi Farm in Cicurug at the end of the year. As much as we loved running around places, there are times when what we needed most from travelling is simply an opportunity to slow down, rest, and exhale.

Twosocks began munching at the chocolate-banana bread, which rested on our one and only chopping board that wears its knife marks ever so gracefully, while I reached for the apple. In between those first bites, we talked about all the trips that we did without each other in 2013. Most of those trips, both work and personal, were not shared in The Dusty Sneakers but we couldn’t really think of a reason why. Maybe we’ll think about these trips, to Gunung Lawu and Hanoi and the Netherlands and Antwerp and East Nusa Tenggara, one day and share the stories here.

For Twosocks, 2013 was a year where a long time dream finally came true. After weeks of grueling physical training, he finally climbed the majestic Gunung Rinjani and returned from the three day hike with the biggest smile on his face as he danced around to demonstrate that he was unbroken from the trip. His other dream that also came true was his solo trip to Luang Prabang, from which he returned with badly sun-burned skin and many exciting tales. I told him that my favorites of his travel tales last year was his reflection on the out-of-control tourism development in Bali, which he wrote in agitation about after returning from a weekend back to his hometown, and his misadventures with the great Arip Syaman during an unplanned road trip to Mamuju.

As if to return my complement, Twosocks then said that his favorite of my posts this year was ‘Because Travel Tales are Love Stories After All’. He still remember the afternoon when I blurted, also while he was nursing a cup of Aceh Gayo, about parallels of different kinds of travelling with the summer fling, the bittersweet, and the lifelong of love stories. I told him that the post was just the right trigger I needed to revisit my old travels while studying in Europe three years ago.To think about the one moment that popped, the single slice of memory that mattered the most. The exercise has led me to start the ‘When I Think Of…’ series, which surprised me when I found that the encounter with Alessandro was most memorable from my trip to Agrigento and that the color blue jumped to mind when I think of Cyprus. I would have never thought so back then. Memory is such a fickle being, I have forgotten about my tradition of giving Kama Sutra from a certain used book shop in Bangalore until a friend who should have received his copy flew to study in France for two years.

I was refreshing my tea leaves with another pour of hot water from our thermos when Twosocks said that 2013 was a tipping point for us. We found that as much as we love our jobs, we want more creativity in our lives, more stimulation for our right brains, and that writing our stories in The Dusty Sneakers is just what we need for to achieve such a balance in our lives. I reminded him of our Sekotong Charter, our agreement to write more often, read more travel stories and get to know the people behind them, and our idea for the Ah Jakarta experiment.

We have been blogging more often since then, at least once a week. We also asked a wonderful friends of mine, Rini Hanifa, to guest blog about her experience of flying across the Papuan sky. We have a Twitter account, which Twosocks still struggle to understand and that we haven’t used very often. I suppose our social awkwardness becomes more pronounced on a medium like Twitter, but hey, it is through that very account we actually got to know more travelers. I learned from Twitter that one of our fave blogs, Indohoy, opens itself to contributors. So I wrote a guest post on three out-of-the-box places that could be visited to feel the pulse in the big city and we ended up learning that one of the Indohoy girls is our neighbor. What a lovely surprise!

The universe listened to our wishes, I suppose. A few days after publishing The Sekotong Charter post, an opportunity to write even more came knocking on our door – and we really are going for it! We’ll share more once we have figured things out. We promise. In the mean time I reminded Twosocks that we haven’t actually started the Ah Jakarta experiment, so we spent the next half hour laying the foundation for the experiment. We will write about Ah Jakarta sometime within January. We double promise. Just as events from a year trickle to the next one, these two things that started in 2013 are our main hopes and challenges for 2014.

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The rest of the morning unfolded slowly, just as we wished. We read the hours away, Mochtar Lubis’ Senja di Jakarta for Twosocks and Jonas Jonasson’s 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared for me, while indulging in our favorite childhood treats, chocolate wafer sticks and strawberry cream coated biscuit sticks.

At long last the rain had stopped falling, four hours after we sang auld lang syne to 2013. We sipped the last drops of our morning drinks, re-packed our tote bag, and left with our hearts calm and the ideas for this new year swimming gently in our minds.

Welcome, 2014.

Jakarta, 1 January 2014


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