By: Cheah Wui Jia
15 July 2009
You learn things about yourself that you never knew during a Monash study trip to Yogyakarta.
One thing is certain: when I sleep at night, I need a blanket. To myself. Waging a tug of war with someone else over a piece of cloth does not come across as particularly appealing to me. Nor does immobilising myself in my sleep like a specimen in solution; I had to inhibit the overwhelming tendency to encroach into someone else's sleeping territory when sharing a bed (“Oh my God Wui Jia. You sleep all over the place, I don't have space anymore,”)
Different bed times are tantamount to disaster. Roommates of light sleepers are to be pitied. Twitch a muscle and the light sleeper arouses with a start. With bated breath you would have to inch across the room on tiptoe, stealing a glance at your snoozing roommate whose wrath you just might incur if you ever wake her up with your noise. Feeling as sneaky as a thief would when breaking into a house, you realise that turning on the tap would be a no no; you wince at the fact that your roommate might just stir at the sound of running water.
I used to think that wearing socks to sleep at night was for ninnies, until I came to Yogyakarta. The nights were so cold, that I curled into excruciating positions that I never knew I was ever capable of achieving (“There's something I need to tell you Wui Jia. You sleep in the weirdest positions ever.”). I began having bizarre dreams; one night I dreamt that an army of ants started viciously attacking the stash of food supplies that I had kept in the hotel room. Drenching myself in icy water during a bath in the evening did not help the situation. I developed such phobic tendencies for bath time, such that I was horrified at how I increasingly resembled under aged rascals who refused to obey Mom's orders to take baths. I had to weigh the consequences of smelling like my dog, against the painful repercussions of sending jolts of shock through myself while taking an icy shower.
Menstrual cramps. My poor roommate. Feeling like a cantankerous old woman, I swung like a pendulum from being a talkative ball of joy to becoming a sullen sour prune. During my moody times having meals with eighteen other fellow travelers became like a fight to preserve my sanity in a noisy fish market. The buzzing flies that I encountered at restaurants had the potential to trigger an eruption of stress hormones, and my roommate kept me at arm's length during my moments of silence to prevent a disruption in the qi that had been so harmoniously established between the both of us.
Playing with the children at HUMANA not only released a good rush of endorphins, it made me realise that the simplest pleasures in life could consist of a Freudian memory retreat to childhood. However, I was reminded of how my agility and speed paled in comparison to that of children; during a game of captain's ball, they darted from one end of the court to the other before I could bat an eyelid. After a few rounds of games, I already felt like all the air had been knocked out of me. It was heartening to watch the children dive into the candy that we had brought for them. A simple but nonetheless often taken for granted experience: having a piece of candy to suck on. Those children burst into peals of laughter at almost anything that had the vaguest resemblance to humour.
I am definitely looking forward to the shopping experience tomorrow with my beloved roommate Abeer. I hear she's a bargain queen.
WRITER'S PROFILE: Cheah Wui Jia is doing a double major in Psychology and Writing at Monash University in Malaysia. Hailing from the state of Penang, she has developed a love-and-hate relationship for tasty but unhealthy food. She found the Kali Code experience particularly enlightening as she discovered a profound irony in the joy of a people whose lives are also ridden with poverty. She is immensely grateful for the opportunity to participate in this study trip to Yogyakarta; the people she met whilst touring and the fellow travelers whom she stayed with, have instilled within her the desire to continually live life to the fullest.