It was in the middle of October 1997 in Perth. The weather gradually became warmer as the city’s coldest winter in years is coming to an end. At the same time, my 20-week English language program had just passed its halfway mark too. Despite of the nervous start, I gradually become well-adjusted to live in Australia. Indeed, I felt much happier than when I was in Indonesia.
And now I will have my first (and turned out only) long trip out from Perth and into the countryside of West Australia.
If I’m not mistaken, the date was on Friday 17th October 1997. All I remember, it was a few days after the singer John Denver’s death. As we have agreed before, we will meet at the campus on Friday afternoon.
After packing my clothes in my backpack, I bid farewell to Feroza and Shah Jehan, and I walked to the campus. I think it was the only occasion where I walked to the campus direction in the afternoon, instead of in the morning. The suburban were as quiet as ever, and was even quieter as the schools and most shops were closed. I arrived in the quiet campus, and found all three of them already waiting in the fountain in the campus’ yard.
Although the weather was still cold by my standard, they all wore shorter dress that fits for spring. Denise wore white sleeveless shirt with jacket and long jeans, while Maria wore dark orange sleeveless shirt with knee length jeans. Heinz was even more extreme because he only wore short and t-shirt!
Once we’re all together, Heinz picked up the car. While waiting for Heinz to pick up the car, I went to the nearby Daily supermarket to buy some provisions like Halal burger patties. I remember one funny incident when paying the item in the cashier. Prior to going to Daily, I actually went to the toilet in campus, but I forgot to buckle my belt back. When the cashier girl notices my dangling belt buckle, she laughed really hard. That was truly embarrassing, but somehow hilarious too.
A few minutes later, Heinz turned up with the car. It was a white Toyota Seca, a hatchback version of Toyota Corolla which wasn’t available in Indonesia. It had a spacious interior and smooth suspension system. Traveling at speed above 100 km/hour in this car felt rather smooth, so much that we didn’t realize that we traveled that fast.
We drove 1996 Toyota Seca, a hatchback version of Toyota Corolla for Australian market, throughout our weekend tour in mid October 1997.
After we put our belongings in the boot and buckled our seat belt, we head straight out into the countryside. We travel through busy Perth city. It was Friday afternoon. Everyone were ready for the weekend, and the since the city had late night shopping hours, the city was busy too. Despite of the traffic, we still could reach the freeway without too much hassle, and we finally travel to the south through Kwinana Freeway.
The journey was a smooth one. We ply the Kwinana freeway to southerly direction. This was the first and only time during my stay that I travel outside Perth metropolitan area. Throughout the journey I chatted with Heinz, and occasionally punctuated when Denise join the conversation. I asked Heinz whether if it’s difficult to adjust to left hand traffic (as Switzerland has right hand traffic flow). He said that he had adjusted driving in this system for quite some time. His first experience was in UK, and several years ago in Australia. So it was a seamless transition for him to drive in left hand traffic.
During first kilometers, the scenery was largely urban, but by the time we left Kwinana, it was largely rural. Although there were actually some small patches of urban areas around there, it wasn’t clearly seen from the freeway. The sun began to set by the time we left Mandurah, while the remainder of the trip was done in the darkness. Along the journey, we played my cassettes collection. Heinz took liking Peter Cetera’s song “I wasn’t the one (who said goodbye” which was sang with Swedish singer Agnetha Faltskog.
And after almost 2 hours of journey from Perth, we finally made to our destination: Bunbury.
City of Bunbury at night time.
Heinz said that tonight we will stay in a caravan parks (which I later learned that the place is now called “Bunbury Glade Caravan Parks”). Upon arriving at the parks, we encountered a closed gate. I was quite surprised: is the place really open? Heinz assures that it is open. All we need is to check in first. We went into the reception where Heinz settled all of the administration. After completing all of the administration matters, we were given the keys and allowed to enter the premises.
The entrance of Bunbury Glade Caravan Park, in broad daylight.
Before I went to here, whenever I heard “Caravan”, I always think of motor home car trailers. But upon arriving in our room, I found that it hardly resemble trailer caravan. It doesn’t even have wheels, and seem to be permanently attached to the ground!
The caravan cabin that we stayed looks like this. Note the verandah and outdoor seating.
But what makes it different to ordinary hotel is how compact the room is. It is essentially one room structure with kitchen and dining area in the middle, a double bed in one corner, and a pair of stacked bunks on another.
The interior of caravan at Bunbury Glade, looking to double bed direction. Denise and Maria slept on the double bed.
There is also curtain that act as partition wall for the double bed area for added privacy. The shower toilet is located just after the bunk.
The kitchen and twin bunks. The shower and toilet room can be seen in the background.
And in front of the entrance door is a terrace. The caravan park also have barbeque and swimming pool area.
We unload our belongings and begin to settle down. The men sleep on the stacked bunks, where we put our bags on the upper bed, while we slept on the lower one. The girls sleep on the double bed. As soon as fully settled, we change our clothing to more appropriate one. I remember I wear white t-shirt, dark blue jeans, and thick jacket (as it was really cold for me). Heinz also changes his trouser to long jeans, as it was getting cold. And the girls also change their clothing into something more suitable.
It was dinner time and we need to prepare something for tonight’s meal. Since we didn’t bring many food ingredients from Perth, Heinz decided to go out for shopping in the town. Although there were some frozen fish patty and halal burger meat, it was deemed not enough for us. So Heinz and Maria decided to go out into the nearby supermarket.
After both of them left, it was just me and Denise in the cabin. Wow! Being left alone with your dream girl is just surreal! It was so wonderful! We sit down by the table, and looking at the TV show.
I looked at Denise, it was the first time I was able to see her closer and clearly. She truly has bright and smooth skin, with rather thick body hair for girl. I looked at her beautiful Germanic face, and deep hazel eyes. She truly have classic European beauty looks, reminds me of the beautiful girl that I see in classic European movie, or renaissance era paintings.
I’ve never seen European girl looks so perfectly beautiful like that before (and since). Whoever her man is, he is definitely a very lucky person.
Typical Germanic beauty. These girls came from Tyrolean region, which is near Denise’s hometown of Montlingen.
But alas, since I was overwhelmed with emotion and feelings, I was too nervous to start conversation with her. In addition, being an introvert means that you’re less likely to be able to start conversation with a girl that you like, especially if you’re under pressure.
Fortunately, she was able to break the ice. She asks me about my family and also my plan to study in here. And gradually we began to start our conversation. I was truly overjoyed! Yet, up to that time I still couldn’t express my affection towards her. But she probably saw the signal too, because she looked at me in a rather curious manner.
We’re getting hungrier, yet Heinz and Maria still haven’t come yet. Denise suddenly stood up, and said that she will cook some food for me. Wow! I feel totally over the top by this! That night was definitely one of the best moments in my life, when else where you can have a food cooked by your dream girl? She cooked some of the fish fingers with butter.
While Denise busy cooking my meal, Heinz and Maria finally arrive back from supermarket. They bought some meat, bread, and soft drinks. Heinz is a bit surprised when he found Denise cook the dinner for me, and smiled at me while saying “Wow Bagus, you’re very lucky!” Well, I felt really lucky indeed.
Heinz cooks the meat that he purchased on a barbeque stove near our cabin, while Maria prepared the side dishes. I sat there and watching the TV, rather passively. Being the youngest in the group, I feel like I’m not really obliged to get very active tonight. In addition, I was afraid if I mishandled some of the ingredients over there.
Once all of the food were cooked and fully prepared, we settled down on the dinner table and enjoy our dinner. I tasted Denise cooking, and I was truly surprised by how delicious it is. The butter gave fragrant aroma to the fish patty. The last time I tasted food this good was when I ate on one 5-star hotel back in Indonesia. I truly appreciate Denise’s ingenious approach in cooking. She is not just pretty and attractive, but apparently also cooks good food as well.
Group photo while preparing the dinner in our caravan. From left to right: Maria Lüchinger, Heinz Gubler, Denise Loher, and me.
One unusual thing that I notice about the dinner tonight is the beverage. Their dinner is accompanied by red wine. I’ve tasted wine before, and I found the taste unpleasantly bitter. Yet, they fill their large drinking glass with full amount of them! Although I always thinking that consuming alcoholic beverage at large quantity can be intoxicating, they seem to be able to enjoy it without getting drunk. Wow!
After we finished our dinner, we clean up our dishes, and then sat down on the dinner table and conversing. This is a good occasion to get to know each other better, as we are now relaxed and not rushed to do anything after this. Although majority are Swiss Germans, all conversation were done in English in order to make me feel comfortable. It’s just amazing how tolerant the Swiss are.
Heinz started the conversation by telling his stories about his work as engineer back home in Switzerland. Being automotive mechanic, he often gets to try many of the cars. He also recalled his experience about driving sports car. He knows that I adored sport cars, so he told me his stories about driving one Ferrari sports car. He said that despite of its impressive acceleration and top speed, the interior is not particularly comfortable as it was very noisy.
Heinz said he had drove Ferrari Testarossa during a test drive in Switzerland.
He also reminisces the days when he served his compulsory military service. It was as hard as what you think, and it gets even challenging when winter came. He said that the least popular guy in the barrack often gets bullied, sometime by having their sleeping blanket stuffed with snow!
Heinz also telling his story about his hang gliding experience. He loves to do that during his off time, as it allows him to unwind and also enjoying the beautiful scenery of Switzerland. Aside in Switzerland, he also does hang gliding in Austria, Germany, and Italy. One day, he got into serious trouble when the thermal prevented him from landing and he went airborne over prolonged period, all the way to the limit of his provision! Or on another flight, he suddenly ended up in bad weather, and had to make emergency landing in someone’s barn.
Heinz was (or still is?) accomplished Hang Gliding flyer.
Denise seemed to be wonderstruck by Heinz story, so much that I got a feeling that she was infatuated by him. That is despite the fact that Heinz had frequently mentions that he was already in committed relationship with his girlfriend, back home in Switzerland. Suddenly, I feel like Heinz became my competitor in grabbing Denise’s affection. Although admittedly it was a no-win situation for me, as Heinz obviously had much better advantage. Yes, he was in relationship, but for a liberal society like Swiss, anything seems to be possible.
Now, it’s my turn to tell my story. Although I was the youngest and obviously least experienced than them, since I came from a completely different background, my story definitely added different nuance to our conversation.
They asked me about my background, about my family, my place to live, and even my religion. Religion matter seemed to pay their attention, especially related to my strict diet and since they sometime witnessed me praying. Back then, the terrorism scare and Islamophobia that was resulted from Al-Qaeda terror attacks in America or Europe was unheard of, and since they were rather liberal minded they were keen to know about Islam. I explain everything about Islam from my perspective; about how do we pray as well the concept of God, our perspective of Christianity, dietary laws, and many more. They seem to be impressed. Heinz even joked to Denise: “who one knows one day you convert to Islam” which were met with laughter from every one of us.
A Mosque in Switzerland. Back then I didn’t know that Islam is not well received in the Switzerland.
I also explain about my country, which somehow boost my sense of nationalism and pride about my country. Just like many Europeans at that time, their knowledge of Indonesia was just limited to Bali. I explain many things about Javanese culture and customs, and also rice field as well as volcano sceneries which fascinated Denise and Maria, who had never seen such thing before. I promise to them that if they came over to Indonesia, I will took them around the see such sceneries (to this date, I’ve never heard them planning to come to Indonesia).
Typical terraced rice field in Indonesia, like what is found in Java, Bali, or Sumatera.
Then it is Denise turn to tell her story. She tells about her background, mostly related about her upbringing in the village of Montlingen, near St. Gallen on eastern Switzerland. Just like Heinz, she also loves outdoor activities. Her favorite one is skiing. Every winter, she frequently goes across border to Austria to do snowboarding. She also recalled one hair-raising moment when she got caught in snowstorm during snowboarding session.
Denise is a big fans of skiing. She is seen practicing sometime in 2012 or 2014.
Maria didn’t spoke a lot that night, as I recalled. Her combination of poor English and low self-confidence meant that she didn’t contribute to tonight’s conversation.
It’s getting late and it’s time for us to head to the bed to have a good night sleep. The lights were turned off and we go to the bed. I went into the bed and wearing the same clothes that I wore during dinner. Although my trouser provides some protection, the jeans material seems to act as a conductor to tonight’s cold weather. The blanket didn’t help much either.
I curiously look at Heinz, and I was truly amazed that he slept naked in his sleeping bag! Although the weather was freezing cold, he seems to feel comfortable with that. He probably felt the temperature is tolerable by his standard.
Then I curiously peeked at the girl’s quarter. Although their part is concealed by curtain, since it is made of separated panels, I could vividly watch the girls preparing to sleep. To my amazement, I found that Denise slept naked too! Wow! I also saw that although Denise was a slim girl, she have ample boobs too! My heart pounding really hard and I accidentally drooled.
Thankfully, I was able to control myself and no incident ever took place that night, and everyone able to sleep peacefully.
TO BE CONTINUED