The Narratives
of Indonesian


Siska Aprisia / Pariaman

“The Wandering Dancer”

“The Wandering Dancer”

Written by Siska Aprisia

Translated by Dea Andhiny Nabilah

Siska can neither dance nor create works!”

Those words often swirled around in my head. I also asked myself several times. How could someone whose name I don’t want to mention here once told me so? What was my mistake?

I decided to leave my hometown. I could not find any place and a medium to pursue a career as a dance artist there. I also have no fellow in arms. The second reason is that I wanted to go away soon because I had been enduring the pain for a long time. The pain which came from being underestimated, traumatized by bullying that I have experienced, and from avoiding questions to women at my age such as, “After completing your master’s degree, where will you work? When will you get married?” Even their advice about not wandering out of the house is annoying.

I want to wander to try my luck and find different stages. Someone once said to me: a person who never goes out is like a frog under a coconut shell. I am curious and I want to find the answer.

From time to time I think and ask myself whether my reason for leaving was only my desire to flee from problems or the realities of life. If this is true, it means that I was trying to cover up my anxiety by changing places of residence.

I am the youngest of six children. As the youngest child, I always slept with Amak and Abak¹ in the same room. One night I slept with Amak in her room. It was raining, and Abak was not home. The light in her room had turned off and the two of us shared a blanket while talking about the activities I was doing. Suddenly Amak spoke quietly, and I was sure Amak was crying even though the room was too dark to see it.

I’m worried because you are busy working and travelling alone, here my hurt jumped out every time I hear that you are going on a plane and a ship, Amak said. I was confused and I did not respond.

Get married, let someone take care of you, so that Amak will not get worried anymore when you have to work far away, and anywhere you go, you have a husband who will look after you.” It felt like a rainstorm in the middle of the night, I then hugged Amak and said, “I will think about it later, I am asking Amak for the best prayers for me.”

Shortly thereafter, I decided to get married. With my husband, I moved to Yogyakarta.

We departed from Pariaman to Yogyakarta by public bus for three days and two nights to Jakarta City. The next day, we continued our journey by train to Yogyakarta. We arrived in Yogya at 3 AM and decided to stay overnight at a hotel near Tugu Station.

In the morning we bought some equipment for the house we rented. It was so fun buying home supplies, we did not realize that we almost ran out our remaining money and forgot that we hadn’t bought the mattress. Haha! We laughed simultaneously. With the limited money we had, we decided to just buy a single folding mattress. We were lucky that we had already purchased the tikar mat, so we could use the mattress and the tikar alternately. Or if Jogja suddenly gets cold, we can warm each other snuggling in our tiny folding mattresses.

Yogyakarta is a special and warm-hearted city, but it does not mean there is no surprise.

Once I went to the market and saw a lot of women working in traditional markets. They were not only selling but also lifting goods. A few days later I took an evening walk to Malioboro and took a shortcut. I was surprised to see a woman who worked that morning was sleeping on the patio, on the floor in front of a shop near the market, with cartons as her mat and umbrellas to protect her from the wind and rain. I immediately remembered Amak in the village, I felt helpless.

Amak: “Baa rasonyo di rantau, Ka?” (How, how do you feel live far from home?)

Me: “Kini bapikiah mangaluaan pitih, Mak.” (Now I have to think hard about spending money, Mak).

Amak: “Memang kalau lah balaki tu pitih nan biasonyo untuak balanjo, kini bisa dibalian untuak isi dapua.” (Indeed, when you are married, the money you used to waste for snacks or shopping becomes more useful for your kitchen).

Me: “Iyo, Mak, kini kalau ado pitih baa caronyo maisi keperluan rumah jo dapua bia ndak sulik iduik di rantau.”  (Yes, Mom, now when I have money, I think about how to spend it for the house and kitchen so that I get into trouble living in this city.)

Since we intend to establish a new life, we tried to find a suitable place to live. We had once rented a small pavilion for Rp. 800,000 per month. According to my friends here, the rent is expensive.

However, that was the best we could get to the extent of our search. Unlike in the village, renting a house usually costs Rp. 8-9 million per year. Meanwhile, in Yogya the cheapest rental price was around nine million rupiahs which will get us a poor-maintained house located in a small alley and far from the city.

After living in a tiny pavilion for one year, I started searching again and having a talk with a friend about the price of rented houses in Yogya. The standard price in this city has soared to twelve to twenty million rupiahs. My God! Where can I get that much money, especially during the pandemic time like this?

But finding the house turns out like finding a soulmate. To my surprise, I got a new rented house. The price meets our budget, the place is not bad and it has a safe environment.

One afternoon, I only had twenty thousand rupiahs left. This makes me remember when I lived alone in Jakarta. I remember it vividly when I shed a tear at that time thinking about what I could do with that much money in Jakarta. With twenty thousand, even I could only buy food twice from my favourite Warung Tegal stall.

This condition is somewhat different now in Yogya. With this amount of money, I can buy tempeh, chillies, tofu and rice. It is enough to feed my husband and me for the next few days. It would be different when compared to my situation in the village, I never thought to spend that much money to buy dishes because my parents have made them available for me.

I’m still trying to get along with new friends here. No vicious and straightforward words like what I got when I moved to Jakarta, but still I feel like a total stranger here. Maybe because my language skill is limited, I can’t speak Javanese yet.

Other times I doubt, Are my gestures and facial unpleasant? Are my forthright manner and outspoken behaviour improper? The harder I think about it, the more uncomfortable I feel and it seems that such acceptance is hard to come.

I had tried to start my process with several dancers. After only one month of training together, the pandemic came so we have to stop. Again, I had to accept this limitation.

One night I listened to a sentence from Abderzak Houmi, which I recorded on my cellphone when I had a two-month dance residency in his company in France. He said, “If you want something, you do it! The most important thing is you must be happy. You are not alone.” Simple but channelled a sense of optimism into my veins. Never did he ever say that I cannot dance.

Come to think of it, it was crazy that I dare to come to Yogya with zero money. I was here not for studying, I had no acquaintances and wanted to make a living by working in the arts. I wish I didn’t take the wrong step. Even if I have to go the extra mile for this, I will try to achieve it. At the gas station, we often hear, “We will start from zero, okay?” I think my move to Yogya has started from a minus point. But it’s for the sake of finding myself, not for running away.

¹ Amak is mother, Abak is father in Minang language of West Sumatera.

The Narratives
of Indonesian