Gin Gin from Singaraja



Her name is Ni Made Ginarni, “but just call me Gin Gin, OK . . .” she asks. I smile while saying: “your name sounds unique and cute”. Then, she explains that at home, she is called Made, but sometimes Kadek, meaning the second child, “but at school, I was called Adek Gin,” she adds. Then, she laughs, showing her teeth. A pleasant laugh.

Gin Gin really likes talking and snacking. I meet her in the bus when I am going to the East Java because of work. Gin Gin will go home to Singaraja, “where are you getting off, kak?” she asks.

“Banyuwangi,” I answer shortly.
“Well . . . this means that kakak won’t cross the strait with me then?” she says with a disappointed expression.
“Yes, I will be picked up in Ketapang,” I explain.
“I will go back to Singaraja. I will cross the strait until Gilimanuk then transfer to another bus.” Yes, because the bus we are on now, will keep going to Ubung terminal in Denpasar, that means it will go straight towards the east while the bus to Singaraja has to turn left at the intersections.

“I have never been to Singaraja,” I say, “in Bali I have explored Denpasar, Gianyar, Ubud,” I continue.
“Why don’t you visit Singaraja sometime?”
“Certainly, if I have the chance”, I answer.
“How old are you?”
“Twenty four. You?”

“Wow . . . that’s the right age to marry,” she comments. I just smile. I am not married yet. “I have been a student at a University in Yogya for one semester. Only eighteen years old,” she continues. Oh, really? Although I thought Gin Gin is over twenty years old, at least as old as me. Her face is very mature – if she is quiet – but if she starts talking, her childishness is obvious. “Gin Gin has five aunties who are not married yet, their ages are already above 20 and 40 years old, the youngest is 27 years old. She is an NGO activist.” Then, she stops for a second, “do you have a boyfriend?” she asks.

“I have someone really close.”
“When will you plan to get married?”

I chuckle, listening to her questions. Feeling interrogated and that my privacy has been disturbed, I change the topic of conversation, “why don’t you go to a University in Denpasar?”

“Going to Uni in Denpasar is expensive, and the quality may not be as good as the Uni in Java. Also, Bali seems to be appropriate for tourism, not education,” she answers. It’s indeed true, I have heard the rumours that many Denpasar people who have lived around Kuta, did not want to continue their study after graduating from Junior High School because they could easily make money from the visiting tourists. Then the bus stops in the area of Ngawi, letting the passengers to have some buffet meals in the restaurant.

“Why are you going home? It’s not a holiday season yet now, is it?” I ask after the bus returns to the road. I, Gin Gin and all the other passengers are already full after the meal. Gin Gin didn’t touch the dish of beef offal, she ate capcay and mi goreng only. When I ask why, whether she doesn’t like it, she replies that her religion forbids it. Yes, I just remember that the last time I went to Bali, I tasted lawar bebek, and that night I just realised that one of the ingredients of lawar is fresh blood. Then, I nearly vomited.

“There will be ngaben ceremony,” Gin Gin tells me.
“Really?” I am immediately interested, indeed I have always been interested in the so many kinds of ceremonies in Bali.
“Yes, the corpse which will be burnt is that of my younger sister. That’s why Gin Gin must go home. Although in Jogja there are some lab works I have to do.”
“How long ago did your sister pass away?”

“Actually, my younger sister is not yet a human, my mother miscarried. Then, I was still in elementary school,” she clarifies. “Recently, Aji (my father) was visited by a young child and she asked to be named. Aji gave her the name Dini. After that, suddenly the child wanted to be cremated in the ngaben ceremony. Aji just realised that that child was my younger sibling who was miscarried in my mother’s womb.” Gin Gin loses in thought for a while, I have been listening to her very closely. “Actually there is another member of the family who also needs to be cremated. She really liked climbing, just like me. At the campus, I join the mountain climbing group. She also studies in Jogja. Then one day in Lawu, during a group climb, she was lost and then found dead.” I felt a bit frightened listening to that story. “The friends and people at the campus sent her corpse to Bali. But Aji always believed that before having cremated in the ngaben ceremony, the soul will never come home.” Actually I am not a brave person who likes listening to anything related to ghost and death.

“So, it’s very important that I come home to Singaraja although I had to leave many lab works at the campus.”
Gin Gin falls asleep and me too. Several times, I send an SMS to my friend, telling her that I have a pleasant fellow passenger, and how relieved I have been because it’s a woman. A student in Jogja as well. At the beginning when I was about to leave, I already expressed my worries of having a male fellow passenger who talks too much and asks too many annoying questions. To be honest, I often feel irritated and uncomfortable if on a journey, I have to be polite to a male fellow passenger who is just a stranger for me. Especially if by chance he is a middle age. Well . . . I would never feel at ease. Particularly, if he falls asleep on my shoulder. Sometimes I am suspicious that he only pretends to be asleep to get an opportunity.

I don’t know how long Gin Gin has been staying awake, whereas I still cannot sleep for sometime. I turn on my disc-man. The voice of John Mayer entertains me with his song Love Song For No One.

“Kak, when do you think we will meet again?” asks Gin suddenly. Since being awake, Gin Gin has opened a packet of kuping gajah chips which she gobbles after having offered it to me. I am not sure whether she was just being polite or not. I get a piece of name card from my wallet.

“This is for you. Contact me on this number, OK,” I say while pointing to a line of hand-phone numbers on the card.
“Wow . . . great . . . you already have a name card. When will Gin Gin have one as well?” I just smile listening to her comment.
“Well, when you have started working, you will also have some name cards. Oh, yes, why don’t you write down your phone number and address on a piece of paper,” I suggest.
“Of course”, gladly and full of spirit, Gin Gin tears a bit of paper from her book which she took out of her bag. Because the bus is bouncy, going on a bumpy road, Gin Gin’s writing becomes crooked and untidy. But I am still able to read it.
“Please have a holiday in Singaraja, I’ll wait for you,” she says.

Just before dawn, the bus arrives in Ketapang. I woke Gin Gin up just to say goodbye. “If you have the chance, come to Singajara during your holiday. Crossing the strait only takes one hour, then you could get a bus to Singaraja. Just ring my home, someone will pick you up. I will stay at home for quite a long time.”
“How long do you plan to stay?”

“More than a month.” Gin Gin replies shortly. I get off the bus. A green car has already been waiting for me at the outskirt of Ketapang. The bus leaves to continue its sea journey to the neighbouring island. Not to be seen again. And Bali is just there, on the east.

Banyuwangi is really hot. I have to sweat and sweat every day in its humidity. Luckily, my small guesthouse has an air-conditioner. When evening comes, my friends ask me to go around, to sightsee the city, also to have a walk at the beach Watu Dodol. Or to visit a coffee plantation in Kali Bendo, owned by the coffee expert Pak Iwan. He is a Chinese descent who has adapted well with the Javanese culture. Usually, Pak Iwan will blend the coffee. He demonstrates how he cooks, pounds and serves it. The coffee must be drunk hot with a bit of sugar in a small cup which is filled in half way, so that the rest of the coffee can stay warm in the thermos. We drink it while looking out to the coffee plantation on the terrace of the Dutch period house.

I no longer think about Gin Gin, who I met in the bus for ten hours. On the last day of my duty in Banyuwangi, by chance I find a piece of paper in my jeans pocket. The string of untidy writing is printed on there. That’s the address and telephone number of Gin Gin in Singaraja. Of course, she is now busy taking part in the ngaben ceremony, I think.

Ngaben. Ah . . . I am always interested in the various kinds of Balinese ceremonies. Finally, I decide to depart for Singaraja. I think, when else I wil be able to experience the custom of a Balinese village. So far, I have always been going on holidays with a tour.

That day, I cross to Gilimanuk. Then, I get a bus to the Singaraja terminal. I am a bit worried if Gin Gin forgets about me and won’t welcome me. I dial her phone number. I have made a second plan; if I am rejected by Gin Gin I will continue my journey to Denpasar and have a holiday there. The phone is connected, a male voice answers.

“Om swatiastu,” he says. I stammer a bit because of the greetings which I am not used to.
“Hallo . . . . mmmm . . . Is Gin Gin in?”
“Gin Gin? May I know who’s speaking?”
“I am her friend.”
“From Java?”

“Yes . . . I met Gin Gin on the bus about two weeks ago. She said at her home there was a ngaben ceremony. I want to take some pictures for my documentation,” I give reasons for my intentions. Then from the phone, I hear that the man talks to another person there. The phone is then transferred. This time is also a man, but his voice is heavier.

“Is it true that adik met Kadek on the bus?” he asks.
“Yes. Gin Gin gave me this phone number.”
“Where are you now?”
“At the terminal”.
“Fine . . . wait for a minute . . . I will pick you up there. Just wait, OK.”
“Yes . . .” I answer. The phone is disconnected after I mention what I am wearing so that he won’t have any difficulties finding me.

After 20 minutes later, a motor-cycle comes next to me. That young man asks: “Adik rang before, right? A friend of Kadek Gin?”
“Yes,” I answer. I lift my bag pack.
The motor cycle stops at a traditional Balinese house which has plenty of carvings. I get my camera out.
“Is it allowed to photograph?” I ask.
“Please.” I take several pictures straight away. That house is silent. No activities. My eyes are searching for Gin Gin.

“Where is Gin Gin?” I ask. Gin Gin must have been taking part in the ngaben ceremony. To be honest, I am quite impatient to see that ceremony myself and to satisfy my photography hobby. They shake my hand politely.

“Did you really meet Gin Gin on the bus?” asks a woman who introduced herself as Gin Gin’s mother.
“That’s right,” I put my hand in the pocket, a bit uneasy with the camera I carry. “This is Gin Gin’s handwriting. She wrote this herself and invited me to come and see the ceremony.” They look at the handwriting carefully. Then they look at each other.

“This means that Gin Gin has finally come home,” says Gin Gin’s father.
I don’t understand what he said, “You mean?” I ask.
“Kadek Gin passed away three years ago when climbing a mountain. Today, she will be cremated with her younger sister,” he explains. I am shocked.

“Her sister . . . whose name is Dini?” I ask, to make sure. Now they in turn get startled.
“How did you know?” Gin Gin’s father asks again.
“Gin Gin told me, when we were on the bus last time,” I answer.
“I just gave the name Dini about two months ago, and only a few people have known, only among the family members.” I become more and more astounded, as well as starting to get scared.

“Adik, please stay here for a few days. You are a friend of Kadek. Because of you, we are now sure that Kadek has really come home.”

Actually, I am horrified, but still accept that offer. They ask me to sleep in Gin Gin’s room and for a few days I take part in the ngaben ceremony. The family makes me feel really at home. I am still quite confused of what has happened. But the next two days, I am awake and find my name card lying on the pillow next to me. The name card I had given to Gin Gin. Gin Gin from Singaraja has really come home. [-rk-]

Kakak or Kak: Term of address for a person older than the speaker
Adik or dik: Term of address for a person younger than the speaker
Ngaben: The Balinese cremation ceremony

(authorized by Ratih Kumala, translated into English by Soe Tjen Marching)

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3 thoughts on “Gin Gin from Singaraja

  1. shocking story…
    at first i thought that it was a story or your journey to denpasar but then at the end it turned into mystey…nice trying…

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