Some of my earliest and happiest memories are skipping behind my mother as she ran errands in the city. I'd grab onto one of her braided scarves, as we'd weave through traffic and slanted sidewalks. She'd glance back at me with a big smile as I yelled about what I saw that day, what I did, what I wanted to be. I'd whisper to her to walk a little ahead of me so I could feel what it felt like to be independent. I didn't want people to think I was a child. She'd laugh, turn and walk as far as her scarf stretched, until I let go. Wow, I remember. This is what freedom feels like.
I'm towering above my family explaining why I want to go on a day trip to the city. It's not making sense. 'So you want to go alone?' my ibu asks. 'Yes. I do.' I reply. 'It's dangerous' everyone agrees as my aunt repositions my bag to the front of me. 'what exactly are you going to do there?' my sister asks. Well, I don't know yet.' They frown. 'I mean I'm going to site see maybe.' I stutter. My uncle's face clears a bit. 'well be careful' he says reluctantly.
It's different here. The freedom I was taught I was entitled to doesn't seem to exist. Independence and self-sufficiency are heralded in the states. Those who venture outside of the box are praised. Here, it's odd to want to leave and even odder for a young unmarried women to leave alone. The Independent women I was taught to become is encouraged to be undone. Yesterday I went bike riding and it so happened that a student saw me, told another and my neighbor outlined all the activities I had done the previous day. It's a society of sharing with very little to no privacy. It's a place you may never get lost in because the community you happened upon knew you were coming before you did. While there's comfort in that security, the little version of me keeps kicking, asking when we can let go again. Isn't independence our right she screams.
In the angkot, bumping along, pulling further away from my desa, I feel a release. But there's a guilt that binds me to my town. Am I wrong for wanting distance? Just for a day, the ability to come and go seems a luxury. A luxury I never considered luxurious. To leave is something I've yet to see my neighbors do. Something time, money and a desire seems to only afford. I can be free because I was taught to be, have the privilege to be. I rest my chin on the back of the drivers seat. He zooms in between trucks and cyclists, one hand out of our ride balancing a cigarette, fingers dancing on the wheel. We're speeding as if escaping. I wish I could bring them along to feel this feeling. It probably wouldn't be the same.