I had intended to travel during midterms, to hop on a plane and head off to the far reaches of this amazing archipelago. I could spend my whole life traveling around Indonesia, and still never see everything there is to see, but I wanted to go and witness at least some small wonder.
But then I stayed at home instead. I made this decision partially because I have a lot of work to do, what with my WORDS speech competition barely two weeks away, my lessons for the second half of the semester not yet planned, and never-ending laundry to be washed by hand. The thought of traveling started to feel more stressful than exciting, and here in Indonesia I’m starting to learn my limits, to know when I shouldn’t just keep pushing onwards. But it had also just dawned on me that I had a mere three months left in Malang, and there was so much more I wanted to see, right here in my backyard. That was probably part of the anxiety that had crept into my enthusiasm. So I canceled my trip, and decided to stay.
Much of this week has been spent working—catching up on my blog, trying to develop creative projects for the upcoming semester, and generally trying to plan the little time I have left in Indonesia so that I do not waste one precious moment—but, in keeping with this last goal, parts of this week have also been spent exploring some of the sites in and around Malang.
One of those places was Coban Pelangi, a waterfall just east of Malang. I had already seen a few of the waterfalls near Batu, and when my students learned of my love for all things nature, they told me that I needed to go see Coban Pelangi while I was here. My students’ advice never steers me wrong. With a week off and some time to spare, I was determined to fit in a trip to the waterfall.
I went with an Indonesian friend, whom I had not yet really had the opportunity to spend quality time with. I already knew he was the perfect example of orang baik hati (a kind person, a good-hearted person… there are a million ways to translate this Indonesian phrase, all of them essentially lovely), and it was wonderful to spend a morning talking to him about his family and his friends, his love of his home city and of photography (which are not necessarily unrelated).
I live for moments like this, the quiet, happy moments of small adventures with people whom I really enjoy. This is the pleasant side of cultural exchange, the side that offers a reprieve from the tough questions and conversations about education and women’s rights and religion and race that I have almost daily. I love those tough conversations as well—they are part of the reason I came here, after all—but there are days when my soul needs an escape, when I need a long motorbike ride through the mountains, a short hike through a jungle, and a friend.
Coban Pelangi was gorgeous, even if we were denied the rainbow its name promises. Coban Pelangi crashes down upon the rocks below from a height of 110 meters (361 feet), into a gorge teeming with lush vegetation. The mist enveloped us, leaving us sparkling in the ribbons of sunlight that danced through the gorge, inspiring my friend and I to make more than one Twilight joke.
I made the right decision by deciding to stay in Malang for my time off. Yes, I’m sure I could have seen some beautiful places had I decided to travel, but it could not have compared to what I found here.
Because it’s not the waterfalls, or the mountains, or any of that that makes this tempat paling indah (the most beautiful place). It’s the people, and the moments I am so lucky to share with them.