Living in Indonesia means you have to be accustomed to natural disasters and mysterious parking men whom we have to pay money to for their unavailing assistance. Western part of Sumatra island is prone to earthquake, that is where I had most of my earthquake experience when I stayed there for five years since my senior year in high school until I finished college.
I hate earthquake not only because it scares the hell out of me but also because it forces me to make ultra super quick decisions about my life. I am very bad at being spontaneous, even when I navigate a journey with a GPS, if the driver asks me suddenly which way to go, I often say the wrong direction. My brain could not synchronize under pressure.
My first earthquake experience in West Sumatra happened to me in the worst situation anyone would want to be during an earthquake, which is when I was totally naked. I was enjoying my bath like a princess, shampooing my hair like Pantene commercials, life was perfect. Until then all of a sudden I felt my boarding house was moving like waves, I thought my shampoo had caused me drunk, but it’s not possible because I used the shampoo on my hair, not in my mouth. It was the bloody earthquake! OMG, can’t you just wait until I get dressed, earthquake??!!
That’s the first time in my life I had to choose between my self-esteem and my safety. What if I ran out naked and the earthquake stopped after I threw away my dignity–that I actually questioned if I had one. But if I chose to at least get dressed first, what if the earthquake got worse and torn the house apart? Then I could have died while locking my bra, which is not the dead position I want to die in. I waited for some seconds, still naked, but the shaking kept getting harder so I just got out of the bathroom and found something to cover my body with. No bra, underwear nor pants needed, a very simple and cover-it-all clothing, which was a mukena (RED–a praying cloth for muslim women) that was not even mine!
I managed to escape out of the house with my emergency-dignity-saving cloth, my flatmates and landlords were already outside, frightened. Not because of seeing me coming out of the house, but because of the earthquake of course. I saw some of the neighbors were also wearing mukenas, I wondered if they were also naked underneath.
Then my landlord decided to take us all to safer place heading to higher area in the city because we were afraid it had tsunami potentials, so we should move from the downtown area to a more hilly place. So my landlord commanded us to hurrily pack our belongings and valuables. We entered the house with anxiety and fear of following earthquakes. The first thing I did was of course getting dressed, then another earthquake hit when I just finished clothing my self, but again and again I had to make a quick decisions about the things I had to bring for my survival, what are the things I couldnt live without that I had to pack in my pink backpack. I didn’t think much, I just grabbed anything I saw and ran downstairs.
In the car, my flatmates and I were still shocked by our experience. Since now I had more laxness to think and breathe normally, I wanted to check what I had packed inside my backpack, because it felt heavy. And what I found inside made my eyes out!! I just put my school textbooks into my survival kit! WTH was I thinking?? Ironically the textbooks I brought were Math and History. Seriously, of all subjects that Indonesian kids are forced to learn, why did I choose to save my Math book, a subject that I am most allergic to!! History book was still okay, just in case I couldn’t sleep if we had to stay in evacuation place, the book would be useful for my bedtime story. But Math??? It’s the first thing that I said “I hate you” to in my life, I felt haunted by it, like it forced to stay in my life. To make it worse, that goddamn math textbook was fricking thick like 300 pages, meanwhile my history book was only 200 something. For real?? As I can remember math books were just filled with numbers, spaces, brackets, and Xs and Ys, how could it be thicker than my history book?? Whose idea was this?? I needed to kill him/ her.
I looked at my friend’s next to me, I realised that the t-shirt she chose to wear on that scary day had this writing : “Oh, what a wonderful experience!” along with drawings of sunflower, rainbow and butterfly. Really?? Of all her clothes she chose that reality-contradictory tee?? I wondered if what she had in her bag was worse than my choice or not.
From that first experience, I learned that I had to always prepare my survival backpack so that I could easily directly grabbed if earthquake happened again. I promised my self to directly prepare my survival and pack my valuables as soon as we got back.
It’s almost midnight that we reached back home and chose to sleep in our boarding house as the condition was getting calmer. With a strong determination, I walked to my room, ready to pack my valuables. Then I just realised, I was a high school student and hadn’t started earning money, the question was not even “What valuable things in my life that I have to CHOOSE to save?” but “Do I even have anything worth-saving??” What I treated like gold and diamond at that time was my Naruto DVDs collection, that wouldn’t help me if Armageddon came to me. I didn’t have laptop or netbook, just a very old computer inherited from my brother that I would have been so thankful if anything destroyed it. It’s a kind of mixed feelings knowing that everything I had in my life was worthless, but at the same time relieved that I didn’t need to worry about anything but my own life.
I knocked on my flatmate’s door, she was also packing. I saw a teddy bear doll in her survival bag, I asked why she needed a doll for an emergency situation, she said it was from her boyfriend, she’s taking all the gifts from her BF inside her bag, maybe she thought that would be a romantic way to die. That’s a proof that love makes us stupid sometimes. I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t need to save any stupid dolls because I didn’t have any BF to give me any silly furry things, I hadn’t even dated at that age as I was a late blossom. My nothingness was complete. I felt free.