“Ugh! I swear, this is my first!—” whined Yudha after his tenth regurgitation, “—and last time visiting this hell!"
His stomach found it hard to hold his vomit when the heavily damaged roads shook the bus around him. The nauseatic feelings had been plaguing Yudha since the first trip from Bandung to Lembur Ciheras, but Yudha swore he could hold it. What Yudha didin’t know was that the torturous trip was only bound to get worse.
“Hell’s not like this, Yud." said Aryo while stroking Yudha’s back.
“Well, it’s at least a miniature of hell!”
Aryo sighed, “Just stop being a drama king, will you??"
After throwing up his foul-smelling concoction of breakfast, lunch, and gastric juices into the plastic bag, Yudha noticed that the nauseatic feeling began to fade away.
“What’s wrong?” asked Aryo, “Are you feeling better now?”
“Yeah,” Yudha moaned, checking the situation outside the car window, “Something like that.”
The new road their bus drives on was in better condition—smooth, concreted, and hot mixed with asphalt—than the ones they’d ridden up until now. Outside, the landscape has changed from nearly desolate and slummy beaches to clean rice fields and prairies.
“Are we leaving the village, Pak?” asked a random classmate.
“No, this place is still part of Lembur Ciheras—but the good part,” Pak Mathias shoke his head, “This area is managed by a community led by one of our alumni. We’re going to visit him!”
“I see,” Yudha raised his eyebrows, amazed.
He looks out the window to gaze at the rice fields and prairies along the road. He’s filled with awe, for Yudha has never seen a well kempt rice field like the ones they were passing. It’s like visiting another country’s village—or like visiting America, Europe, or Japan!
At last, their tiring drive ended. The buses stopped at a village square, where three villagers had already waited for their arrival. One person looked to be the same age as Pak Mathias, while two others were probably in their late twenties. One of them, however, looked different; his body, clothes, and his facial structure was far different from the two other villagers. He was better looking and more fashionable, even though his skin was sunburned just the same.
It seemed he’s the alumni that Pak Mathias mentioned before, since the two seem so close. They didn’t hesitate to shake hands and hug each other. It’s as though they were two ‘long-time-no-see’ best friends.
“Kids, gather around and line up, please!” Pak Mathias called everyone over with his megaphone, “You can grab your belongings after this discussion!” After the students did as they’re told, Pak Mathias started his speech, “Thank goodness. We have now arrived at the place we will stay for a week during field practice!” Pak Mathias motioned towards the good looking man, “This is Adit, our alumni and the leader of the community that lives in this area. They have prepared to welcome and provide accommodations for us!” He smiled at his friend, known as Adit, and passed him the megaphone, “Adit, please give us a speech!”
Adit made a ‘no-thanks’ gesture, but Pak Mathias insisted, so Adit gave up. He looked out at the students and addressed his juniors. ”Okay... I know, you guys are so bored with Pak Kades Mukti’s welcoming speech. Unfortunately, now I am forced to making another boring welcoming speech.”
And the Class B students laughed.
“On behalf of the community, I, Adit—the villagers call me Kang Didit—welcome you guys to this Southernmost village in West Java. I hope your involvement with obligatory field practices in Lembur Ciheras are not just because they are requirements to graduate from the university, but because you actually want to do them.”
"Ouch..." Yudha mumbled.
“Some of our community members, myself included, have volunteered to become your residential hosts during your field practice stay. We’re sorry they are not fit to your tastes, but we guarantee you don’t need to be worried about your basic needs; healthy meals, clean sanitations, and enough place to rest for the next week will be provided.”
“Looks like he didn’t bullshit us,” says Yudha, looking at the neighbourhood with an impressed expression.
Their houses and buildings are as simple as other villagers who live there, in the place Kades Mukti made his boring welcome speech, but the condition of the infrastructures are a thousand times better.
There are no muddy roads, for they are all cemented and hot mixed; no wild grasses, and most of their yards are planted with a variety of fruits and vegetables; good drainage and decent lighting on every corner of the streets. Such things makes Yudha wonder if this village was a middle-high class housing complex.
“I don’t think staying in this place is such a bad idea.” Aryo said.
Yudha nodded, “Hm-mh!..”
Aryo raised an eyebrow, “Oh? Are you enjoying living in hell now?” He grinned, teasing Yudha.
Knowing a reaction was what Ayro wanted, Yudha just pretended he didn’t hear anything—but his best friend watched him, simply chuckling.
“My hope is, after doing the field practice, you’ll be genuinely inspired to change the condition of your communities for the better,” Adit continued, “However, this depends entirely on you in the end. At least you’ll have some good memories from our village.”
“Okay, looks like it’s enough for the welcoming speech!” Adit, known as Kang Didit, concluded, “Enjoy your stay!”
“Thank you for the speech, Kang Didit,” said Pak Mathias before turning to the students, “Guys, the community has already prepared five boarding houses for us. But, for equitable experiences, we’ve decided on lotteries to assign roommates.” He held up a bag of small white papers.
“BOOO!” The students’ plans to stay with their friends were ruined, but Pak Mathias appeared unconcerned and continued with his announcements.
“And, between those lottery papers, there are four ‘mega-prizes’ hidden inside. The ‘mega-prize’ winners will be staying with me for a week at Kang Didit’s house.” Pak Mathias showed the lottery bag to his students, “Class leader, please start the lottery!”
“You-Have-Got-To-Be-Fucking-Kidding-Me!” Yudha whined after he pulled out the ‘Mega Price!’ paper.
His classmates laughed at the four grand prize winners, celebrating in Yudha and three other classmates’ despair for having to board with Pak Mathias until next week. “HELL, NO!” Yudha refused, “Is anyone willing to swap places with me??"
The answer was obvious; they just shook their heads and laugh. “It’s a super rare experience, I can’t steal the honor from you!” said his classmate.
“Enjoy your love with Pak Mathias, Yud!” grinned Aryo.
Sigh, even Aryo enjoyed seeing me suffer. Tch, there’s no choice—Yudha thought. Defeated, he fetched his sports bag from the bus baggage shoot.
During the short trip to Kang Didit’s house, the mega prize winners stopped to sit at a memorable place; behind the open cargo area, the students enjoyed the warmth of the evening sea breeze. The mega prize winners were not alone, though, for Kang Didit also accompanied his honorific guests.
Kang Didit watched Yudha on the way to his house, noticing he looked most content when gazing at the evening skies and scenery while his classmates preferred talking each other or taking photos along the road.
“You’re name is Yudha, right?” asked Kang Didit.
Yudha, snapping out of his spaced-out thoughts, looked at him. “Y-Yes, Kang,” he stuttered.
“You enjoying the trip, Yud?” Kang Didit inquired.
At that, Yudha nodded excitedly. “Yes, it’s a once in lifetime opportunity. I never realized sitting in the back of a pickup truck would be so enjoying, either!”
Kang Didit chuckled, “Are you a homebody, Yud?”
“Ah, yes. It’s obvious, huh?” Yudha laughed awkwardly.
“Young men like you must go on a lot of adventures, learning and doing as many thing as they can. It’s a positive thing, of course,” adviced Kang Didit, “By the way, why you didn’t you do what your friends do?”
“Huh, like what?” Yudha was clueless, so he shifted his gaze to another of the three ‘mega-prize’ winners.
“Taking photos, making selfies, and posting it on your social media accounts.”
Yudha smiled bitterly, “I want to, but my battery is running out. Besides, even if my battery is charged, I’m still kind of wasting time because it’s so hard to get a signal here.”
“Nope, we got cellphone signals here!” his classmate parried him.
“Oh, really??” Yudha was surprised to hear that, “What cellphone operator do you use?”
“Same as you, I think. XXL?” she showed the signal logo on her smartphone, “We’ve got 2G signal here, but it’s okay. Better than E-quality!”
“Yeah, the service providers built a communication tower near our area due to their CSR program at Lembur Ciheras. Also, for your information, don’t worry electricity access in my house! So far it’s always run nicely.” added Kang Didit.
HELL, YEAH!—Yudha’s grief-stricken expression faded when the idea of spending a week at a remote village was gone—This was going to be fun!
“Oh, here we are,” yelled Kang Didit. He pointed at a medium-sized house, erected between two seas of rice fields, “That’s my house!”
Yudha was amazed with Kang Didit’s fancy house and wished to take pictures, but, unluckily for him, his smart phone battery was still running out. He couldn’t take the great angles shots and preserve this moment like he wanted to, but he’s got a whole week to do so.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my humble home!”
From the outside, Kang Didit’s house looked the same as the other village homes—the roof was made from the secondhand zinc plates and the walls were of secondhand plywood—but, when looking closely, everyone could see the difference between the houses.
The secondhand and rusty brown roof was coated by weather-proof transparent paints, so when looking at the roof there was really no slummy impression. It actually makes people believe an eccentric metallurgy artist could have built and lives in this house.
“Whoa, your house is very fancy, Kang!” said a mega prize winner, surprised.
“My cousin who is studying Design and Interior Facility will happy to get these photos!” added another student, who was taking photos of the house.
“Ah,” Kang Didit laughed at them, “I’m just trying to build proper houses with lower construction costs.” He blushed at their praise before turning his attention towards his home, “Mamih! Ditsy! Lia! Our guests have arrived!” Kang Didit called, his voice thunderous.
Mixed voices responded to Kang Didit’s calls; the excited sounds of a woman and a boy reached the students before the front door swings open.
“I’m sorry, I was preparing dinner!” A woman hurriedly came out from the house with her cooking apron on and big cotton napkins in her hands. “Aah! Welcome! Welcome!” she smiled at the guests from the Capital City.
“Whoa, field practice students!” a boy popped out from behind her, his expression was full of excitement.
“Nice to see you again,” greeted Pak Mathias.
The woman bowed to Pak Mathias, “Long time no see, Pak Mathias. I am glad we meet again!”
“Guys, let me introduce them, alright?” Kang Didit quieted the group. “This is my wifey-honey, Teh Ningsih,” he motioned towards the woman in the apron, “and this my proud son, Ditsy!” At the mention of his name, Ditsy offered the group a wave in hello.
“Again, welcome to our humble home,” smiled Teh Ningsih, “We have already prepared the rooms.”
“My name is Ditsy!” the boy jumped into conversation, “Mamih and Papih said Ditsy stands for Adit and Ningsih!” Ditsy’s innocent greetings make both his parents blush and laugh.
“Well, that’s obvious,” joked Yudha.
“Please, please,” Kang Didit stepped towards the house, “Let us go inside.”
“It’s like inside of my house!..“ Yudha gasped at Kang Didit’s interior.
It was like opening a treasure box; from the outside it’s like an ordinary Lembur Ciheras design—though larger overall and with a medium-sized garage—but, on the inside, Yudha could see many high-end family electronics, utensils, and furnishings.
“We have three separated bathrooms if anyone of you want to take a bath,” said Teh Ningsih, “You can take a bath anytime. Our water is always at a good temperature even during the afternoon or at midnight, so you don’t have worry about catching the flu!”
Kang Didit looked around, “By the way, where’s Lia?”
“Not yet home, Pih.” Teh Ningsih replied. Suddenly, the voice of a young woman sounded from behind them and they all turn.
“GUYS, I’M HOME!”
“Ah!” smiled Kang Didit, “Long live the person we were just wondering about.”
“Welcome back, Tante Lia!” answered Ditsy.
Yudha, the last to turn, looked back to see the owner of that voice but freezed when he did so. The owner of that voice was the black pearl girl!
“Oh, the guests has arrived,” said Lia easily, “Welcome.”
Not only was Yudha amazed by the black pearl, the other ‘mega-prize’ winners were mesmerized by her casual charm.
They saw her black silky hair, shining gently when the house lightings reflects on her hair, and stared in awe. Her skin colour was burnt to a brown and her gestures resembled a tomboy, and it looked like the black pearl girl take good care of her physique.
She’s really a black pearl girl!—Yudha wondered—Does the sun not burn her? If I had not met Siska-!—He stopped to berate himself—Bah! How dare I think so bad like that. What am I, a jerk??-- Yudha shook his head to rid himself of the foul thoughts.
“Ahem!” Kang Didit cleared his throat, before proudly introducing her, ”This is Lia, my younger and only sister.”
“Hi!” she greeted, “It’s nice to meet you, guys. I hope you enjoy your stay.”
“Lia, please show them their rooms before dinner,” asked Teh Ningsih.
Lia nodded and motioned them to follow, “Please, come with me, guys!”
Yudha took his first spoonful of the special guest-welcoming meal. Grilled sea fish with sambel ijo and warm, fresh hulled red rices. After taking a bite, he was surprise at how delicious it tasted.
“U-Unbelievable!” Yudha praised, “The most well-known seafood restaurants I have visited can’t compete with this!”
“Ah, thank you for the praise!-Ummm...” said Teh Ningsih, who didn’t know Yudha’s name yet.
“His name is Yudha, Mih,” Kang Didit told her.
“Ah. Thank you for the praise, Kang Yudha!” Teh Ningsih said again.
“Say, how are your college activities, Lia?” asked Pak Mathias.
“I am doing my last assignment, Pak,” Lia told him.
“Ooh, it’s good to hear that,” Pak Mathias nodded, “So your volunteer duty with teaching the villager children has been relieved?”
Lia smiled awkwardly, “N-Not really. I focus on practicing for Porkab, now.”
Wow, she’s an athlete! Not bad—Yudha listened.
“Really? Which sports do you focus on?” asked Yudha’s female classmate.
“Karate,” Lia said simply.
Yudha gulped down his water, nearly choking, when he heard what sport she played—SHE’S A KARATE ATHLETE?!!
“Are you okay, Kang Yudha??” asked Teh Ningsih, concerned.
“D-Don’t mind me, a fishbone just got stuck in my throat!” answered Yudha with lying coughs, “It’s all good now.” He looked down at his plate in contemplation—Most of the Karate girls I know are such manly girls, it seems Lia is an exception.
“Too bad you didn’t accept our university’s scholarship program!..” frowned Pak Mathias.
Lia smiled shyly, “I’m so sorry, Pak. It’s just a matter of distance between Lembur Ciheras and Bandung. That’s too far, and I just couldn’t leave my sister-in-law to take care of Ditsy and our home by herself.”
“Hmm, you have quite a family of achievements, Dit! That’s why your campus made you one of university’s alumni role-models,” Pak Mathias sounded proud addressing his alumni friend, and then turned a keen—if not mildly disappointed—look on Yudha.
Ugh!—Yudha noticed Pak Mathias gaze—Being hated by the dean automatically make you hated by all faculty and staff members, too, huh??
“Alright, better get some rest fast, kids. We are doing our first field practice assignment at seven o’clock!” said Pak Mathias to his students, “Thank you for the super meals, Teh Ningsih!”
“It’s my pleasure to please my guests,” answered Teh Ningsih while bowing politely.
Yudha also stood up and made a polite bow to Kang Didit’s family, “Thank you for the meals and hospitalities!” He picked up his dish, “Where’s the dishwasher?”
“No, no, no! Don’t you bother yourself,” Teh Ningsih insisted against Yudha washing his own dish, “Take a bath or rest, instead.”
Yudha set the plate down and smiled at Teh Ningsih, grateful for her kindness. Before the field practice trip, Yudha had forced himself to prepare for the misery of living at the remote village. However, after seeing the place he would be staying at for a week and witnessing the warmness of the householders, he figured it wouldn’t be that bad of a trip after all. That, and Yudha was now eager to possibly spend time with the black pearl girl named Lia.
He sure didn’t expect such a pleasant ‘mega-prize’!