Amidst the scent of clove flavored ‘kretec’ cigarettes (the national smell of Indonesia), the place had a faint smell of fish. I couldn’t distinguish if the garage smelled—stunk—because it was the stock hold for the local fisherman or if the odor emanated from the large parrot that was perched right above my head. The room was dimly lit by a projection of the Argentina-Nigeria World Cup game across the garage. When I sat down, I didn’t even notice the bird, whose head and neck was dressed with an incredibly pointy mohawk, mirroring many of the football players on the screen behind. The parrot could have bit my ear off as I sat down if it wanted to. I was startled to see it when I settled.
That was my ‘discreet’ entrance into the local gathering point for the world cup games which are played at 11pm, 3 am and 5 am in Indonesia. Indonesians don’t sleep.
But in rural Indonesia it’s impossible to walk into a room unnoticed.
I was with Robert, a German speaking Italian who has been coaching me a bit in the lineup beyond the surf break here in Pacitan (pronounced PaCHitan).
The peanut gallery, disguised momentarily as an audience, parted space in the middle of the room for us on a woven matt in the accommodating and generous nature of almost all communities I’ve visited in the ‘3rd world.’ We had no other option but to be swallowed in the middle of the sea of Indonesian men, the center of attention.
Around the room, grown men—most incredibly welcoming, many shirtless exposing their thin and boney bodies, some with rotting teeth, a few ominously staring us down—huddled together like kindergarteners on a foam mat. They were joined arm over shoulder, bound together in clusters of friends. A few leaned across tile steps, some were asleep, many added personal sound effects to headers, blocked shots, and pantomimed dives in the game, most were puffing away at thick unfiltered kretec cigarettes.
Using the glow of the screen, I looked around the dark room and saw crates, thick puddles from the tropical storm hammering outside. Rats and geckos lined the ceiling rafters. A bat occasionally flew in and frantically around the space then back out into the thunder and lightning outside.
Clashes of lightning lit up the midnight sky, casting the palm trees into perfect silhouettes. The thunder rumbled the ground like an earthquake or a tsunami wave coming ashore. Each tremor froze the play of game.
The weather had no effect on the jolly atmosphere inside. The men cheered impressive skill, laughed at goofy looking fans, and grimaced at rough fouls. They reacted to the game in the same way Americans did at a bar in Philadelphia, Bengalese did on the dirt mounts of the Sundarbans, or Argentinians did in Ushuaia or Buenos Aires. That’s whats amazing about the world cup. It levels billions from all corners of the globe.
The garage I just described is the one of the many odd places I’ve watched a world cup game so far in Indonesia.
In Jakarta, I was up from a restless sleep at 5 in the morning. I went out to go to 7-11, yes there are 7-11s in Jakarta, and found noise of a game coming from one of the cities alleyways. It’s a football crazed country. I wandered down the alley, stupidly explorative at the night’s darkest hour in a rough city. I found a television hooked up in the middle of the street, the power cable dangling out of a window 7 stories up above. Around the TV sat a gang of cigarette smokers who nonchalantly gave me a head nod when I stumbled upon the group. They were young, in their late 20s, and quite thuggish. Around them, some homeless men were sound asleep on doorsteps. The Netherlands were playing Spain, and giving them a good spanking. The football fans clearly knew there was a hostel with many westerners around the corner so were inviting to have me stick around to watch. The Indonesians made some remarks about the game that I couldn’t understand. We were both cheering for the Dutch so all was well. Although we couldn’t communicate, I went out for Nasi Goreng (fried rice) at a street stall across the street with them after the game for early breakfast.
11 months gone.