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Patrya Pratama 30 November 2010
I am just telling you that I start to understand what Anies Baswedan said about “knowing how it feels as regular local people”. It is started right after azan Shubuh. I was waiting for the family to wake up. They told me to wait after Shubuh to go for fishing. Then the host asked me to come into his house for having early morning breakfast. From the outside, machines of balapan started to be heard. More and more balapan went to to sea for early morning’s fortunes. Some go alone, some are with another friend or relative. After packing in their branch, off we go. I can watch all of this happening from the Bridge (the Clark Quay of the Labuangtown). I have to tell you that traveling by balapan excites me. The feeling is like no other. Whereas people in Jakarta whine all the time about the traffic, going by balapan sets people free! Menjulu, as they call it, is everyday’s business. The location of this menjulu is actually fixed for every fisherman. It is marked by two poles of long bamboo. They set the net which force them to dive for as long as 30 seconds (to tie the net to the bamboo). The threat of ubur-ubur, sharks, or whale does seem to bother them. I guess that’s what it means of “nenek moyangku seorang pelaut”. After all are set, it is time for relaxing while fishing usually the traditional fishing utility (they can get one of two crabs or bandeng). If luck is not on their side, they’re patient enough to wait untill noon when their net is full with their catches. This menjulu time is not quite at all, nor lonely. Some of the fisherman put on ST 12 song out loud or some Rhoma Irama song that I can’t stand, some even put some Juz 30 of the Qor’an. Some are chit-chatting with fellow fisherman, telling stories of their last catches, or the upcoming wedding at the village, or even gossiping about the village politics. National politics about SBY, Gayus case, or corruption are at times talked about. They talk about all this with ease, as if there are no problems are serious as long as their catches are plentiful. If not menjulu¸ they go for merangge, using slightly different technique to catch bigger animals, such as crabs or larger fishes. They use larger net. They are relieved that nobody use pukat harimau or the sea bomb as they might leave them with nothing. They say that that day’s was perfect for menjulu as the wheater was nice, windy a bit but not too much. There are times when the wind goes too strong which makes them to cancel menjulu. The period is usually 7 days menjulu and 7 days off. Before i could realize, time has passed 11.30. The fisherman was ready to take up his net. Not bad, he got around 10 kgs that day. While the son pull the net back on board the balapan, the dad threw away some ubur-ubur or simply trash. He was happy for one CM Crab he got (he said he would get around 15.000 Rupiahs for it which is usefull to get more pulsa for his son’s phone). Then we went back. Some of other’s fisherman stayed longer for more catches. On our way home, the tide is no longer high. Some of other balapan got stuck in the mud. They should wait for hours untill the tide rises again to be able to get back to Labuangtown. Some who are impatient got off the balapan and pushes the balapan himself. They grinned when we waved at them. Their smiles from well-tanned skin was quite distiguish I should say. For me, their faces were as if telling “welcome” to our everyday life Kid! Or “you Jakarta folks had better get used to this!”. When we reached “home”, his younger son, his wife, and his mother in law had been waiting. As soon as the whole catches were removed from the boat, they put the catches in groups (shrimps, fish, crab). Now the dad went eating and probably sleeping while his son was already on the phone talking to his girlfriend. So when grouping is done, they boiled them all, and then dry them under the sun with lots of salts before selling them to Pak Haji Taming. Apparently, Pak Haji Taming “owns” most of this nelayan (by “owning means he provides them with fishing equipments such as balapan, the net, for the return of their catches, it’s kind of monopoly i guess). By 12.30, everything is done. When they feel like doing or when the tide is high, they can do it all over again around 6.30pm, returning home around 12am or 1am. For some of the fishermen that have enough capital, they go to their tambak around 4pm to check their catches. When the reaping time comes at tambak, their kids are off the school to help out at the tambak. So that’s everyday’s life for Labuangkalo people. In its simplicity, we can see endurance, strength, perseverance, and above all, it’s attitude not to whine. Fascinating. Before I was about to whine a bit about how dark my skin got that day, fellow fishermen quickly offered me another ride for night menjulu.

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