“This is our last day in Kumai.” Andrew tells Madi. We must up anchor tomorrow, and as usual we are sad to leave our new friends.
“Oh, yes, when will you be back? Later?” Madi asks.
Andrew and I smile a little smile together, our amusement about the vague use of the term “later.” “Next time around!” Andrew says, giving a whirling motion with his finger.
“Oh, yes! After you sail around the world?” Madi confirms. “So, maybe next year?”
“Probably not next year,” Andrew says. We always have a hard time explaining we’ve been away from home two and a half years, and we probably have at least three more years to go before we even get back to America - let alone return to Indonesia. This scope is still hard for us to grasp; I can't imagine the perspective of someone who has lived his entire life in one fifteen mile radius.
“Well, when you return, we can ride motorcycles into the mountains to visit the Dayak tribe.” Madi promises, and Andrew agrees. This seems a grand enough adventure to entice Andrew back to this part of the world.
Andrew also “happens” to run into Shaman one more time while filling up with water. “Thanks for everything,” Andrew says, “We had a lot of fun in Kumai.”
“I’m so glad,” the Shaman says. “Here, I want to give you this, but Leslie is never allowed to see.” The Shaman hands Andrew a bag of something, the contents of which I still cannot confirm. “Keep it safe, okay?” The Shaman requests. When Ms. Sensitivity learns of this exchange, she declares “This is not good. What if this brings us bad luck? What does he mean ‘keep it safe?’ How does one keep such an item safe? Can’t he give any more instruction than that?” Andrew did not delve further into instructions, so he is operating on instinct.
We ready Sonrisa for departure, and when the tide is right, lift her anchor and float down river back to the sea. Over-thinker finds Ms. Sensitivity knitting worriedly under Sonrisa’s cockpit shade. “Oh, Ms. Sensitivity, don’t be silly. We aren’t superstitious. This is all woo-woo gobbledygook. Employ your logic, for Pete’s sake.”
Ms. Sensitivity finds this soothing, she nods. “Right, right, we aren’t superstitious at all.” She continues to knit.
We spend the night at the mouth of the Kumai river. Grin takes us to a nice white sand beach flanked by salt cedar trees. We see a turtle preserve, with baby turtles growing strong swimming in buckets.
We see evidence of Monitor Lizards in powder-sugared sand, visit with fuzzy goats, and are swarmed by the glinting wings of dragon flies.
We poke around a local boat meticulously made with the most simple of materials: rope, blocks of wood, rebar. An impressive feat of marine engineering.
That evening, I pick up the book I’v been reading for the last week and wonder what would have possessed me to choose this particular title: Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence, by Daniel Goleman. I begin to suspect this is Over-Thinker’s nefarious move to create turmoil when Over-tryer says “I get it, I get that people who direct their energy with focus are more successful. Focus on enjoying yourself!”
I am uneasy. The Shaman’s half-prediction actually weighs on my mind, even if I know it’s rediculous to worry about that. What does he see in me? What is that thing he gave Andrew? Why can’t I see it? Why does Andrew have to keep it safe? What if it’s a hex? What if the Shaman is trying to kill me off, to clear the way for Andrew to marry an Indonesian woman and have seven Andrew-Indonesian babies. I read in an article that in addition to being able to “smell” the presence of the Madurese, Dayaks can also make knives fly through the air at their enemies.
I can take the slightest risk and extrapolate it to Armageddon.
I voice this concern to Andrew to test his level of involvement in the conspiracy. He not only rolls his eyes, but also doesn’t dignify it with a response! This only serves to heighten my suspicion that Andrew is on board with the plan. I work myself up a freight, and then it so happens one of my old sailing friends from Lake Mead sends a group text to his entire friend network with an attachment to a “Self Protection Meditation.” With the minimal amount of internet I have, the miracle is in the fact that this text came in at all. I shrug and think, “it can’t hurt.” I plug in my head phones and Ms. Sensitivity builds a “glowing golden bubble” just like the lady in my iPod says. I grow my bubble around Andrew and Sonrisa, too, so the whole crew is safe, now.
“There, take that Shaman.” I think, “You can’t hurt me.” My power is stronger than the Shaman’s, even if he is a Dayak who can smell people.
Over-thinker rolls her eyes.
The anchorage is rolly, so we stay only one night. We cast off for a two night passage to Belitung. Again, we are lucky. The weather is perfect: sunny days, dry, star filled nights. I spend hours and hours sitting in my bean bag, feet propped on the winch, watching the horizon slide by Sonrisa’s “front gate”.
At night, I marvel at the gentle puffs of tropical wind that swirl against my skin. It’s never too hot, never too cold on a night like tonight. The silver arch of a waxing moon grows bigger as we sail, and Sonrisa leaves a jet trail of phosphorescence sparks behind her rudder. But, my mind returns again and again to The Shaman. If he sees darkness, I fear I agree. It is shameful to experience my current life state in any mode other than bliss, and yet here I am experiencing fear, anxiety, a measure of despair having no sense of what comes next. I know what the Shaman sees. It’s not imminent death, but a distrust of Life.
We arrive in Belitung with the early rising of the sun. The landscape is unlike any other island we have visited yet. White sand beaches stretch all along the coastline uninterrupted. Granite boulders are nestled in strange families on sand spits or little tropical islands the perfect size for a personal hideout. I take the helm, Andrew is posted on Sonrisa’s bow looking for uncharted granite boulders just under the surface of the water. We creep along at less than two knots, a safe speed to give us enough time to turn away from danger, or if we hit, slow enough that it will not cause much damage. Granite on fiberglass, though…
“TURN RIGHT TURN RIGHT!” Andrew is waving his arms to the left frantically from the front deck and yelping at me to turn right. On instinct, I turn right.
“NO, RIGHT, RIGHT!” He becomes even more frantic and continues pointing left.
I quickly pull the throttle down, and yank Sonrisa’s helm back over to the left. We bob to a stop, just to the left of a big boulder.
“THAT’S LEFT!” I reply, lifting my hands in the air, adrenaline draining into my feet as I realize we have not hit anything.
Andrew looks at his hand and realizes that for me, the direction he is pointing is indeed left, but of course because he has turned around and is facing backward from Sonrisa’s bow, for him it is right. Andrew turns around again, still irritated that I didn’t follow instructions the first time.
“Maybe this is why they use Port and Starboard?” I say under my breath.