It’s impressive how Indonesians incorporate the unexpected and the dysfunctional into their everyday routines. Absent co-workers, surprise visits from the Mayor to play basketball (snacks practically apparated onto the court), slow and mildly censored internet, bribes. Here in Martapura, power outages (mati lampu) occur almost every other day, lasting for about 6 hours. At morning, noon, and night, one must expect the unexpectable. Or, like the Pak who runs my boarding house, buy a generator and feel proud to have conquered insufficient power grids, even if that conquest comes in the form of a house of flashing lights because said generator is giving everything it’s got to supply enough juice for a home of thirty-four people.
During these uncertain and seizure-inducing times, I usually go to the nearest Indomaret (Indonesian 7-11) with my friend Riski. We may sit outside and we may eat ice cream. You. Just. Never. Know.
To nongkrong, as it’s called, is “to squat,” but really just means “to hang out.” I’m quite fond of this activity, nongkrong. (Side note: Indonesian people are much more comfortable squatting than Westerners. I’m always surprised when someone here passes up the chance to sit in a chair, opting instead to squat on the ground. Maybe a life of using squat toilets can explain for this hyper-apathy towards elevated seating. Or maybe the on-average smaller stature of the people here can account for the relative ease with which the Indonesian slinks down and manages to pull out his pack of Sampoernas from his elasticized capris while you, the Westerner, think to yourself, “This chair is really lacking in back support.”)
There are some unspoken rules to nongkrong-ing: if you’re smoking, which you most likely are, leave your cigarettes and your lighter out, not in your pocket (“Stay a while!”). If your cigarettes are out in the open, which they should be if you’re following the previous rule, it is acceptable for anyone hanging out with you to grab one without asking. (In general, if someone leaves out their cigarettes—at work, at home, at a restaurant—and you know them, you may take one without asking.)
At some point during the nongkrong process, you might be asked to take some pictures. You’ve held your steely gaze for quite some time, smoking cigarette after cigarette while observing the burning pile of trash out near the road, and it’s time for a few selfies with your bro. I used to put on a friendly smile for these, but after seeing Riski’s partially opened mouth bring his expression somewhere between confusion and nonchalance, I more-or-less followed suit. Good times.