Saturday, July 15, 2006

Jakarta Orphanage Tale


I spent a bit of time in Jakarta helping an Englishman build an orphanage mostly with his own money back in the eighties. I was only alotted a three month visa, and so two and a half months was all I could give. The man's name was George, and he was originally in the Queen's Airforce, and had then immigrated to Darwin where he spent his waning years drinking beer until his wife died, suddenly, of liver disease.

This woke him up. Somewhere deep in his being, he was called back to Indonesia and was consumed by the idea that he had to give something back to these people who had hid him in a coconut cart and gotten him safely back to an allied ship via a fishing boat.

The story he told was a fascinating one. I just wish I remembered it the way he told it. But here is the gist of it...

George had been shot down by a Japanese fighter off the beaches of Java. He was flying recon and had gotten lost, and was following the beach in the hopes of finding something recognizable. He crashed landed his plane on the beach and broke his femur and many ribs. A small group of peasants--farmers--found him before the Japanese did, and hid him away for three or four months while his bones healed, and then placed him on a large cart pulled by water buffalo, flat on his back. They had put a wooden casket over him, without a bottom, and with holes in places so he could breathe. Then they piled the cart full of coconuts so the box was buried completely and traveled south to southern Java, being stopped by Japanese patrols many times in route. George said he had water and sweet rice to eat, and nowhere to evacuate his kidneys except where he lay for two and a half days. Finally, he was boarded onto a fishing boat and then passed on to an America warship east of Papua New Guinea.

George, when I met him, was fighting the end of DT's. Apparently, he had sloshed around his last five years with his wife in the Australian heat. He fought through them while he worked, focused on what he was doing, hiring local laborers and trying to figure out the system well enough to get things greased.

We stayed at a hostel in the evenings that catered to the cheap traveler. On your way in, up high and to the right, was a cable stretched taught between two opposing walls. Tethered to this cable with a short leash attached to a harness, was a mischievous little monkey whose sole aim in life was to steal my sunglasses.

Shorter folks never had this problem. Sometimes, a hat was grabbed from the top of their heads if there was something tall about the hat. But me....

The damn monkey would swoop down and nab the sunglasses off my nose (I would forget about the monkey several times, and he would "get me" every damn one of them) and then clamber back up on his perch and taunt me with them. I could not reach the simian little shit unless I went inside and grabbed a chair. I would grab at the monkey and my glasses and hopefully freak out the little dweezle until he would toss my glasses and shoot across to the other side of his cable.

As I returned back there at night, after spending the days setting blocks and singing songs about the subways, I would find myself chanting quietly as we entered the hallways of the hostel...

"And that was the end of the monk... the monk..."

When I left there were three floors and twenty two rooms roughly completed. Sadly, I never paused in my young life back then, to find out how it all turned out.

But what George did was pretty cool.

1 comment:

loveyouintheface said...

"Dweezle" is one of the better insults I've ever heard.

Monkey theivery could be another thing to add to a possible litany of complaints about being tall. It would go like this:
1. Always in danger of head bouncing off the ceiling and top of doorframe.
2. Feet dangle uselessly off the end of most twin beds.
3. Dweezley little monkeys steal sunglasses from face.

I like your blog, neighbor;)