The afternoon call to prayer echoed off the volcanoes and mountains surrounding the bustling city of Dieng. The sweet and putrid scent of durian filled our nostrils, and the roar of passing motorbikes reverberated through the cobblestones.
As foreigners passing through, we could always spot at least one cell phone camera trained on our every move as if we could disappear at any moment. Among the curious stares aimed our way were those of young smiling girls dressed head to toe in shades of pink who giggled, blushed, and looked away when we greeted them in Indonesian. They waved at our turned backs and squawked with laughter when we turned and waved back.
We continued down the Dieng streets, taking in the sights of the lush potato farms cut into the mountainsides. A comforting fog cradled the peaks of volcanoes and the sun shone in from cerulean openings amidst the thick layer of clouds.
It was in this surreal setting that we found ourselves wandering into a cobblestoned Mosque courtyard. Schoolchildren streamed in, buzzing with energy and wonder. A child picked up a half-inflated ball from the ground and pressed his lips to it, filling it with his breath. Teams were wordlessly assembled and my fellow Dragons took up their spots on each team. I stuck back, still scarred from childhood team soccer and hesitant to join the game. A rambunctious young boy jogged up to me, grinning. “What’s your name?” he asked. “Nicole!” I responded, “Siapa nama kamu?” “Jefen!” he yelled. Jefen kicked the makeshift soccer ball to me and the game began.