We had long planned a trip to Makassar next morning, so we tried diligently to reach Segeri village by seven o’clock in the morning. With some delay we were ready waiting by the roadside. But somehow, Eka wanted us to meet her in her salon. There was something important she needed to talk to us. Smelled bad.
As we arrived, Eka blew up large foams. The question was whether I had a letter to confirm that I am here to do my research. Apparently last night she had been harassed by the police until one o’clock. Because of me, because of what I was doing here.
The police had actually already asked twice for my papers, visa and explanation for my research, but the truth was also that before leaving Java I didn’t know exactly which village I will be based in. Then of course I did not have such a letter. Eka, however, strongly insisted that I would obtain the letter. Initially I was trying to find some more flexible ways, because I honestly just did not want to cause my partner organization Gaya Nusantara from Surabaya any unnecessary burden. Obviously this is another case of bureaucracy, because why on earth I possibly could not be here for a week and visit some priests as a so-called normal person?!
But here in Sulawesi, as I understood now from Eka, it is required to notify the police twice within every 24 hours, where I am and what I do. They want to know my reasons for being here, and foreigners are not allowed to stay at the local people. Although I had talked to the police already twice, they still want the official confirmation of my existence.
Based on my previous experiences in Russia and other places of power, I already knew that this must be the local face of the so-called nasty little power. This little power has to create their legitimacy themselves, it has to require their power, and thus it often becomes nasty.
Big mosque of Segeri village
Eka was eating fast and furious, saying out load, that she do not agree to give me an interview, if I do not have such a letter. She provocatively walked to the kitchen, and continued eating there. She said she’s afraid. Also she claimed that the police had already took 200,000 rp from her after hours of negotiating last night. She said that to me, however, from the ends of her lips only when we were alone in the room, so, be cursed my distrust, but I’m not completely sure that this was not one of her white lies. I asked, why did she do that, after all, the police do not have any legal grounds to request the money! Eka shrugged. She’s afraid.
And I can understand her. I am pretty sure that Eka (and I) were harassed because of her non-confirming gender identity. And I am pretty sure that Eka was so resolute with me and with the police, because of the very same reason.
Being a sinner in the eyes of Allah, and marginalized anyway, she does everything possible to keep herself clean and to become an exemplary citizen who has good relationships with the police, the bureaucracy and all the aunties of the village.
Eka cries and raves, then demands me to eat with her, although I have absolutely no appetite after all this chaos early in the morning. She insists the number of my supervisor, and calls him. I was already preparing the letter, as we got teared in a car, because now, all of a sudden, we really need to rush to Makassar. Rush to the wedding.
“Oh, stress!” Eka cries.