Saturday, January 10, 2004

From Balapan to Gambir

From Balapan to Gambir

After an eight hour train journey from Stasiun Balapan in Solo, I'm back in Jakarta and blogging from my regular Internet cafe. There's work for me ahead--lectures to be prepared and exam questions to be set.

The weather was wet and gloomy through most of the journey but the dampness only accentuated the lushness of the countryside: There were endless vistas of fertile rice fields, broken every now and then by the savagery of rivers and rapids. The greenness enveloped me like a balm, making the train journey a rather untiring one, perhaps even rejuvenating.

I have a love for train stations and I had purposely wanted to make my return journey from the Balapan station in Solo: I know of Stasiun Balapan from a song by the same name composed by Didi Kempot. Like Bengawan Solo, it is another keroncong favourite.

There is a certain romance that I associate with places of departure--seaports, train stations and airports. I often try to go early for my journeys so that I can linger at the station and soak in the atmosphere of adventure and the promise of possibilities that such places exude.

As the Argo Lawu was transporting me slowly across the Javanese landscape from Solo to Jakarta, I journeyed into The Lost Heart of Asia with Colin Thubron. Whenever my eyes felt tired from reading, I would let my ears take over by switching to my audiobook, spending a delightful Year in Provence with Peter Mayle in the process. I arrived in Jakarta with a yearning for French wine, and my mind was partly in the Silk Road city of Bakhara with Colin Thubron.

But the din of bajajs and porters at Gambir station brought me back to reality. I was soon checked into the comforts of my temporary home. I look forward to a productive night of work, perhaps with a nice bottle of red wine to fuel it.

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