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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Sampela Thanksgiving

I am awoken by a symphony; shrieking children, yelling conversations, the thunder of footsteps, chickens screaming… I moan, roll off my mat, and stumble out of my room into the kitchen. I creep outside onto our woven bamboo porch, where I find my father, Pak Jono, meticulously repairing his net. It looks like a spider web, stretched across the porch, and he the spider, his fingers moving so quickly I don’t quite understand what he is doing. I sit next to him, observing.
“Are you going fishing tonight?” I ask him in Indonesian. He nods, not looking up from his task.
“I want to go with you!” I tell him, smiling wide. He looks up at me and shakes his head.
“We are going far,” he responds in Bahasa. “Tidak apa apa!” I respond. (Tidak apa apa literally translates to “no what what” but is the Indonesian equivalent of “it’s okay” or “no worries”). He raises an eyebrow at me, “we wont be home until tomorrow morning.” “Tidak apa apa.” I insist, holding his gaze. “It’s a full moon tonight,” I offer, smiling, “it will be very bright!” He looks at me with an expression of mixed entertainment and bewilderment, but didn’t seem to have any more reasons I couldn’t go. He returns to the net.

Later, when I come home after lunch and am once again on the porch, my Mama Harni points down to the watery canal below us. Besides our two family canoes, there is a larger boat, pale blue and at least twice as wide as a canoe.
“They are borrowing a bigger boat from a neighbor,” she explains in Bahasa, “so you have room tonight. Dudung (my six-year-old nephew) wants to go, too.” I beam at her, I didn’t realize I was actually going! I turn to my father, Jono.
“When are we leaving?”
“Jam tiga.” Three o’clock.
I grabbed my headlamp, camera, water, sarong, and coconut biscuits, and excitedly brought them to the porch.
“Siap!” I exclaim humorously. Ready.

Jono and my brother-in-law, Dali, start loading the boat with fishing line, water, and headlamps. Dudung is scampering up and down the boat. I awkwardly stumble into the boat, and move to the back with Dudung. Jono, sitting in the front, uses a massive bamboo stick to start pushing the boat down the canal. The rest of my family are sitting on the porch, waving and calling out to us. Sopo, my sister Leti’s baby, is flapping his hand, yelling “Dahdah!” Bye-bye!

We glide down the canal, passing the stilted houses of the village. The houses become farther apart, and we’re spit out into the open sea. They start the motor and the boat settles into a vibrating hum as we shoot away from Sampela. I’m smiling at the salt water rhythmically spraying my face, the wind tugging my hair, Dudung perched like a bird on the back, and Dali, smiling as he steers the boat. There was a sense of adventure in the air, and it was contagious. Everyone on the boat seemed to be in good spirits, and we continued off towards the horizon, our backs to the setting sun.