Heritage, Porn and Islam

Heritage, Porn and Islam

“Where are you from?”

This is a typical way of breaking the ice among solo travellers. I get asked the question up to 10 times a day.

“From Norway.”

“From Norway? No way.”

Norwegians do ask too, but not nearly as often. Although everyone sees in colour, asking a stranger about their heritage is considered disrespectful. The modern Scandinavian doesn’t place everyone they see in boxes according to skin tone.

“Yes way.”

And so follow-up questions ensue, such as: “Where are your parents from?”, “Where are you really from?” or, “But you don’t look like you’re from Norway”. Their bewilderment might even find way in this statement: “But your skin looks different.”

“My parents are Indonesian.”

“Cool. So you returned to your roots…”

*

Palm trees, the buzzling village and its residents flashed before my eyes. I would moped-hop among hostels, cafes and beaches, preferably within Canggu – a coastal town on the island of Bali. Norway had been my money-oriented bubble since birth. On Bali, though, I was bound to partying and promiscuity, ignoring the fact that I had a boyfriend back home. After an adolescence of feeling indisposed in my skin, Indonesia was a cool experience.

Hati-hati,” a bald, middle-aged man said. Be careful! He grinned and maneuvered his bigger moped alongside me in the hectic bulk of traffic, something Bali is known for. While I repressed my speculations about his browser history, I overtook the cars ahead.

The Hindu island of Bali, which friends like to call ‘the horny island’, has waves, crowds and desire. For me, nightly outings and shenanigans became tiresome. I heard tell of a peaceful Muslim fishing and surfing village, tucked somewhere on the southwest coast of Java. So I settled there temporarily.

I befriended a local man. He had married his wife after having gone through bureaucratic crap with her wish of converting to Islam, in support of her Muslim partner’s morals. All because they had conceived their son. He was the alpha to some of the youngsters I taught English to at a community centre for environmentally conscious volunteers.

“Women are like gold and men are like iron,” he said, to explain why women should veil themselves. And the saying clinged beautifully. I was intrigued.

Prior to this, I had conversed with other Muslim men in the village. I got responses that shared their principle with the alpha’s: “So that men don’t experience sexual desire in public,” though they sounded more like this: “So that the penis doesn’t stand up in public.”

“What are some other things I should know about Islam?” I asked.

“You should speak to the village’s English teacher. Don’t ask a bad Muslim like me,” the alpha said, his way of blaming himself for not praying five times a day and having had sex before marriage. I told him not to worry.

The following day, I paid the teacher a visit. I had briefly seen him at a beach cleanup. Cleaning beaches free from plastic is one of the community centre’s focus points.

“Nice to see you again,” I said. He just smiled.

“Can I come in?” My Indonesian skills were rusty. I speak Norwegian among my (Christian) parents, so I was better off communicating with the teacher in English.

“Why do you want to become Muslim?” the teacher asked.

His voice was clear and soothing, and he had a beer belly, but as a good Muslim (in principle), he never consumes alcohol. He uses his skills as a retired English teacher to offer private English lessons, which supports his homestay. A big portion of his customers are beach boys, who are taught zero-to-two hours of English per week in school. Those who can’t afford his lessons seek knowledge at the community centre, where I worked.

“I just want to know more about the religion, if you could help me out,” I said.

He was willing. I got free Arabic lessons and discounted nights at his homestay. He had a vision that, one day, I’d be able to read Arabic well enough to recite verses from the Quran through the Mosque’s speakers. We didn’t reach this far.

The man is a role model for those who wish they were as faithful to Allah as he. He has lived a suppressed life, having grown up in a conservative religious village somewhere. And here, the most rambunctious beach boys aren’t faithful to Allah, nor their wives. But some of their ladies cook amazing kwetiau, their expertise. I was one of the food vendor’s regular customers.

“Green, purple or light blue. It doesn’t matter. We’re all human beings,” an Australian man in his late twenties said. He had shown a wild fascination for Asian women. This was excused, where we sat and changed between talking and munching on cheap kwetiau after a long surf. And he surfed good. His visa was about to expire. He’s the type to work back home for as long as he can take it, then surf the Indonesian waves for as long as his wallet allows him to.

Another day, I stepped into my temporary home. The sun cast its heat over us. Palm leaves paused their swaying. I could hear soft moanings on my left. My teacher was glued to his LG (or something like it) screen. A little phone speaker blasted religious chanting. But they weren’t chantings. They came from a female politician with a cold. But colds are seldom in the tropics, I thought. He smiled. I didn’t. He didn’t lower the volume. I looked down at my bikini attire and headed to my room.

Porn is not an encyclopedia. It’s an industry that categorises women, not only into lesbian and straight, but also Latin, Ebony and Asian. By my exes, I’ve been viewed upon as a trophy for being a woman. And by strangers, I’ve been viewed upon as a delicacy for being an Asian woman. My ex watched a lot of porn. I was accustomed to this. But something about my teacher watching porn made me think twice about where I went to sleep every night. My friend convinced me that the teacher was decent, so I stayed.

The village is mapped out according to its three surf points: The First Point, Second Point and Third Point. The First Point works more consistently than the others. The Second Point works only if the First Point delivers its greatest hits. The Third Point often works under the right season during which it’d be pumping, but there’s reef.

Weeks flew by and I started to wear a headscarf. I was extremely drawn to the poetic language of Arabic. Islam could replace my complex inner universe with a life of minimalism, quality and meaning. Parts of the Quran matched my spiritual belief system. I could be free from addiction. Moped hopping from point to point, I was less looked at. Conversion stayed in the back of my mind.

In the meantime, I allowed myself to be curious about men. So I messed around with someone I met at the beach.

“Are you Muslim?” he asked.

He was lying next to me in the sheets. Beside us, his laptop showed Naruto, a Japanese manga series. He had showered. I had waited. Afterwards, he had looked at me with concentration during our session, because his penis and balls were going to fit in my mouth. This is called teabagging. His eyes had drilled mine with intrusion and I had invited him in. It was as difficult to stop as it was to say stop. The word loses its power the greater the pleasure or jerk. If I say stop but they keep going, it’s rape.

“No. Why?” I asked.

“I didn’t think you were. Surf with me again at four.”

Either I’m psycho, or it’s difficult to disentangle from this type of Stockholm Syndrome after having experienced abuse in earlier relationships. I had told my ex to stop. Stop. It required a third stop for him to pull out, granted the universal signal doesn’t mean keep going. He had been so deep into a doggystyle procedure that he couldn’t give up pleasure. I never want to experience abuse again, but a longing after the abuser stays in the body. He was part of my adolescence.

The teabagging episode didn’t make me less attracted to the man. He looked as though he’d jumped out of the year 1966. It’s not easy to get to this village, but he had meditated on the step during the eight-hour-long bus journey from Bandung, while his longboard had blocked the aisle.

I rode to the First Point. The afternoon looked gloomy from a beach view. My fling surfed choppy waves from the right side of the bay leftwards. He strode to the nose. Hang five. Hang ten. He strode back to the tail, swung his board where it was necessary in order to ride for long and jumped out of the water. With the board under his arm, the tail marked his presence until he jumped back into the lineup among the other dedicated surfers in the storm. His style is classic with a modern twist to every movement. Straight out of ’66.

How I foresaw that he wouldn’t recognise me in my headscarf, I don’t know. Perhaps because men are predictable. He walked straight past me twice, half a dozen metres away from me, in his wave-riding ritual. I hopped on my moped, aimed for the homestay.

People want to discuss modern dilemmas that come along with the religion. The veil acts as the control factor for men’s arousal. But they can control their own kontol (dick). I didn’t see Islam for what men have made it to be. The hijab symbolises how small we are in the world. I was going to let go of my ego. I was told that I look more beautiful in my headscarf. Fasting was going to dwindle desire, even though I didn’t reach as far as Ramadan. The Muslim way was the true way.

As I moved on, this belief started to fade. And I travel funnily, merely going from one bubble to another. The bubble pops when finding that peace stems from within. Nowadays, I rarely move my bum and my feet rarely itch.

Cover by Hugo Matilla 

Facebook Comments