Tales of the Waria

Home Sweet Home

After 2 days in Bali filming Suharni living among orang bule (Westerners), it was time to fly out to Makassar. Stepping out of the Hasanuddin Airport in South Sulawesi, I found myself smiling uncontrollably. God, I love Makassar. Bali may have more beaches and be more accommodating toward Westerners, but it’s also full of obnoxious tourists and locals who are always trying to make a quick buck off you. In Makassar, people are loud, warm, and terus-terang (straight talking). I love the becaks and pete-petes. Oh, and the food. The divine food. Fresh ikan bakar. Mie titi. Es pisang hijau. I have no idea what’s in half the things I eat. Probably a lot of MSG. But it’ll go down in my memory annals as some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Anthony Bourdain needs to come out east the next time he’s in Indonesia.

Upon arriving, I instantly went to go pay my respect to Mami Ria. When she saw me, she gave a squeal of delight and we exchanged kisses. I started to jabber away before she cut me off. “Mbak Kathy…” she began, “last year when you came, your Indonesian was very smooth. Now it’s…” she winced and made a so-so sign with her hand. Like I said, “terus terang.”

Mami sports a new hair color.

The highlight of coming back to Indonesia was, of course, being reunited with Tiara, my closest friend here. Tiara has been a wonderful field producer. In this round of filming though, she’s also going to become one of the film’s subjects. Tiara is very excited about being “a star” and has been forcing me to tell her ad nauseum for the past couple of months why she’s the perfect film subject. Tonight we sat down and watched a rough cut of the film. She loved it. She said it was very artistic and showed the “true color” of waria life. But she also added that it lacked glamour—an attribute that she would gladly add.

If I look nervous, it’s because I am.
Tiara shows me, once again, what a real pose is.

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