Written by: Yohanes Berchmans Rosaryanto, OSC
Translated into English by Thomas Kristiatmo
Reminiscing my childhood, for me, always evokes a lot of new passion in my life. Of course I can’t remember everything and I can’t even remember which is the earliest memory from my early life, but I can certainly recall quite a number of impressive ones. They are well recorded in my mind and I can even see them very clearly in my mind’s eyes even as I am about to write now.
First Memory: Bike
There are several stories related to bicycles. When I was five years old, our parents moved to a new home in a small village on the island of Java in the country of Indonesia. Our house was located right on the edge of a small yet rather crowded road. The house had a pretty big yard. From the courtyard to the house, I had to climb a set of brick stairs. On the cozy veranda right before the main door were big chairs where I liked to sit while looking at people passing by on the street. Of all the people that I watched, I especially liked those who were riding bicycles. I couldn’t ride a bike back then so cyclists were a great sight to enjoy almost every day, late in the afternoon as they were going home from work.
One of the most interesting things to watch was when two or even three people rode one bike simultaneously. I was amazed by their agility and I always admired people older than me who had advanced cycling techniques. The funny thing was that I was more interested in the people riding behind the cyclist than in the cyclists themselves. Riding a bicycle was not that special; the interesting thing was watching someone jump out of the passenger seat at the back of the bike and then walk calmly away. How could they do that without falling? Such an action often left me in such awe that I promised myself I would do that one day.
Surely enough, the opportunity came. One day, my father took me to the grocer’s on his bike. I thought this would be the perfect time for me to try and succeed. So, on our way back from the grocer’s, about 100 meters from our house, I jumped off the bike, adult-style. I forgot one thing: it was an adult-sized bicycle and my legs were barely half the height of the bike! Without doubt, I fell face down! How could I not when I could not “adjust” my move to the speed of the bike. Shocked, my father stopped and ran over to help me. “Are you sleepy?” he asked. Not wanting to tell him what I was trying to do, I said nothing. I was also speechless seeing how my father, without the slightest hesitation, came to rescue me. I guess even now my father still thinks that I fell off the bike because I was sleepy.
By the fourth grade of elementary school, about the age of 10, I learned how to ride a bike. I used my father’s bicycle to learn. It was an adult-sized bicycle. Although the bike was still too big for me, I was happy that my father let me use it. Watching people ride a bike and doing it by myself were indeed two different things. It was really difficult to keep my balance and to pedal the bicycle at the same time. My brothers and sister always cheered me whenever I managed to pedal further. I fell many times. Cuts and bruises were all over my arms and legs. Not only that! I once grazed myself, on the face, on a wall and, surely enough, I had cuts and scratches on my face. However, I tried again and again and again until, finally, I managed to ride steadily.
As a reward, my parents bought me a new bike, a mini bike people used to call it because of the small size. I would ride in front of my sisters and friends and I would certainly do it in style. Then they would run alongside me. Sometimes I would also teach them how to ride my bike. Cycling became my daily activity and I would not let one day pass without riding my bike.
I became more confident and proud of myself and I would show off in front of my friends; until I learned my lesson. One day, my friends and I cycled around the village. Wanting to show off, I rode faster and faster. Intending to show my friends the direction I wanted them to go, I released one hand from the handle. I had hardly had time to say anything or point with my hand when the wheel of my bike twisted. I lost my balance. Bamm!! I fell so hard. For a few minutes, I just sat on the side of the road. My friends helped and checked my injuries. Feeling helpless, I thought to myself, “How cocky I am. I am just a beginner and I already wanted to show off. I guess it served me right that I fell.” From then on, I never let go of the handlebar when riding my bike. At least, not on purpose, because long after that incident, I suddenly found myself riding a bicycle with one hand. At times, I even let go of both hands. It turns out that when one is more adept at one thing, other skills will follow. However, that incident when I fell in front of my friends was so embarrassing that I will never forget it.
When I was admitted to SMP Pangudiluhur I – a middle school in the town of Klaten, my parents bought me a new bike and my siblings got to use my old bike. Hahaha .. That is the advantage of being the first child: having the privilege to get new stuff instead of hand-me-downs. Cycling was not only my hobby but also my method of transport. I even made new friends when cycling to school. Just like other teenagers in my village, I would cycle everywhere, including to school. The streets were always packed with cyclists in uniforms: students of junior and senior high schools cycling in the morning and in the afternoon.
It was during that period that I started to notice beautiful girls. To judge whether or not a girl was beautiful, I would first look at her feet on the pedals. From the feet, I would then assess her face. No matter how pretty she was, without ‘good’ feet, she was not beautiful in my eyes. Hahahaha… It was such a funny thing that I had such a habit back then. (How did I measure it? It remains my secret even until now). That was one of the consequences of cycling to school, I guess!
In 1983, during the school holidays at the end of my second year of junior high school, my two friends and I decided to go on an inter city bike tour. Without asking too many questions, my parents gave permission. I was quite surprised how easy it was for them to let me go on such a long journey. That certainly was God’s grace. Soon, we departed from Klaten to Sukoharjo via Cawas, then continued until Karanganyar-Solo. Our journey took two days and one night. We had to spend the night somewhere along the way. Being Boy Scouts, we knew what we would need for the journey so we had our tents and cooking tools with us. We even carried simple tools in case we needed to fix our bikes. Surely, we could not forget to bring the tools in case of flat tires. The trip was quite challenging. The road leading to Karanganyar was full of slants and slopes. When the road went uphill, we had to get off our bikes and walk. When the road went downhill, we rode our bikes. Our bikes had to work really hard and the brakes soon wore out. Somehow, we did not find it dangerous. We even found a method to help us on slopes. We bought rubber slippers which we would use to reduce the speed when going downhill. The trick was to step on the moving rear wheel and the slippers we were wearing would act as the brake. Our bikes would definitely slow down and that way the trip down the hill would not be too dangerous. We would use the same method on our way back to Klaten ten days later. Each of us used up two pairs of rubber slippers.
We didn’t mind because the money spent on slippers was nothing compared to the great time we had. Having left our bikes in Karanganyar, we travelled on foot to Mount Lawu, the border between Central Java and East Java. From the peak, we walked down to Sarangan, where we found a mountain crater that had become a lake. The journey took one whole day. We camped there for a few days and enjoyed some rabbit satay. We had a really great time.
Our journey was truly exciting. We met a lot of nice people along the way. Some of them gave us a ride, some offered food and drinks. We also had opportunities to do good deeds. In a street among huge rice fields, we rode past a woman walking with her bike in one hand and her baby on the other. We were wondering why she had to walk instead of riding her bike, so, after a short while, we went back and asked. It turned out that she had a flat tire. The three of us agreed to fix the tire, and in thirty minutes the bike was ready to go. The woman was very grateful because she did not have to go to the bike repair station in the heat of the sun. We couldn’t help feeling grateful because we could put our equipment to good use. And, moreover, we could help someone.
Memories of my bicycles gave me a lot of stories to tell. Those are three that were really meaningful. My parents still keep the bike that I got when I was entering junior high school and my father still uses it. Or maybe he had to stop cycling after his surgery two months ago.
Yohanes Berchmans Rosaryanto, OSC is from Klaten, Central Java, Indonesia. He is now living in Roma, Italy.
Copyrights©2017StoryLighthouse. All Rights Reserved.
Pictures are uploaded from Google Images – bike, Sarangan