The time I got a perm in Indonesia

Once upon a time, I got a perm in Indonesia in an attempt to tame the Jewban fro (that’s Jewish/Cuban, thanks for the awesome hair combo parents). The way I see it, if the Rp. 50.000 perm lasts me two months without needing mousse, it will be worth it. In the spirit of transparency, my mother was fully against this, I think the idea gave her too many flashbacks to her 80s wedding.

My salon is the house of one of my little students, Kya. It’s the exact same room in which prayer circle was held last Wednesday, just transformed with a mirror on the wall, a rolling cart with hair products in the corner, a kitchen chair, and a hair dryer. Plus, a motorcycle parked in the corner because we are, of course, still in Indonesia.

I’m pretty sure the sign outside had been put there that morning, because I’ve never seen it before and it’s the same generic “Beauty Salon” sign outside the homes of so many people in the desa (village).

So I go in, my Ibu explains what I want, and the stylist begins. After a little while we quietly start to talk, (me, still not very confident and eager in Bahasa Indonesia. She, nervous around a bule, like most other Indonesians when they’re gotten alone [in groups, they’re the most outgoing and aggressively interested people I’ve ever met]) She asks if I miss my family and I respond “sedikit” (a little), laughing off the difficult question as I usually do.

She calmly and quietly responds that she misses her family and nods toward a photo hanging on the wall above the mirror. It’s a traditional Indonesian family photo complete with traditional dress and no smiles. In the photo is my stylist, her two young sons, and her husband—an incredibly tall, white man.

She explains that he is an Australian and that is where he lives now with her two middle-school-aged sons. She says he didn’t like the food in Indonesia (everything was too sweet for him) and he didn’t like the heat, so he moved back to his native land. Now, she only sees her sons when she can afford to meet them in Bali.

I wanted to ask her so much about this situation. There must be more to the story than the simplified “he didn’t like the food, so he took my two sons and moved to a different country;” but not knowing the language fully, or what would be too impolite to ask, I refrained. Yet, I wish I knew more.

It’s times like these that I think about when I don’t want to study. Those moments I think about my stack of notecards ready to be reviewed and decide reading Jurassic Park is a way better use of my time. Meeting people like her remind me that studying is worth it. Studying is necessary. I can’t wait for the day my Bahasa Indonesia is good enough I can meet this woman again and ask her all the questions I long to have answered. For now, I guess I’ll just have to tackle ordering in a restaurant properly and introducing myself without mispronouncing the words.

I want to know if my stylist and her husband are still married despite the distance. I want to know if she (most likely) tried to keep her sons with her, and what she did. I want to know everything. Her life is practically the plot of a Lifetime movie — her movie’s just getting started, she’ll meet someone with a brilliant plot to get her sons back and exact revenge on the white man who took her sons, I bet Mark Wahlberg has a plan.

PS My perm lasted six weeks, and I still needed to use product to tame the Wildabeast I call hair.


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