Memory Lane

Foggy Morning

One of the challenges on the Amazing Race tonight took me on a trip down the memory lane. When I was 4 or 5 years old, we used to live in a house with no electricity for a couple of years. My parents must have decided to move there because the rent was cheap and that way they could save up to buy a house. Anyway, since we had no electricity, we had to use a charcoal-powered iron to iron our clothes. Well, I never used it since I was just a kid but my mum and whoever was looking after me and my brothers while my parents were at work used it and sometimes I helped fanning the fire in the charcoals until they turned into embers, which means the iron is ready for hardcore ironing.

I had a lot of fond memories of that house. I got my first bike when we were living there. It was a red bike with training wheels. My older brother, who is only a year older than me, had a blue one. I also went to school for the first time in that period. Kindergarten. I remember that my brother and I used to hate going to school on Saturdays because the school had something called “Mung Bean Porridge Saturdays” when all the kids had to eat a bowl of mung bean porridge and we hated mung bean porridge with a passion. We love it now that we’re older. Of course I haven’t had it in ages. I learned to write when we were living there. I could almost hear my mother’s voice every time I think about it. “Go up, and down, and give it a curl!” I must’ve learned how to read during the same time period but for some reasons, I don’t remember anything about it.

And then kindergarten was over and my brother and I had to go to elementary school. We had some memorable classmates, considering we only went there for less than a year. We had these two brothers who hated each other so much they went into a fist fight at recess every day. And a pretty girl whose first name was Sampi which we thought was really weird. And another girl with a medical condition that made her eyes looked as if they were about to pop out. We learned years later from a magazine that she had had a successful surgery in Japan and that she now looked normal.

My favourite thing ever was the ride home from school. We would take a [pedicab and we would ride through a field with a lot of water buffalo poop cakes that we’d call landmines. It was especially fun on rainy days because the whole field would turn all muddy and the ride would be longer. I’m sure it wasn’t much much fun for the pedicab driver, but for the 6 year-old me, it was more fun than a rollercoaster ride.

My dad at the time drove an old, ratty jeep with a canvas roof that would leak all over the place when it was raining. Just another thing that fit my idea of fun only too perfectly.

We had so much fun in that house with no electricity. So many firsts. So many happy memories. Almost made me wish we had never moved. The next house we lived in, the house where we grew up, I think of it now as the House of Pain. But that’s another story for another day.

Categorised as Life


  1. It’s amazing how childhood memories come back to us with such vividness. I recall that, years ago, before electric ironing was in fashion, our househelp would use charcoals to iron our clothes. I held it once, and it felt heavy. But the burning charcoal inside was fun to look at.
    Have you ever gone back to your old home?

  2. My brother and I did try to find that house 10 years ago or so but we couldn’t find it. It might have been replaced by a highway. Things change really quickly in Jakarta. Sometimes not for the better.

  3. I’m trying to teach my 3 year old how to recognize her letters. We’ve been working on the letters of her name, which include a small “E” and small “A”. I tell her to tell the difference, remember that an “A” has a little tail and an “E” has a big mouth. I wonder if she’ll remember that when she grows up…

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