(I wrote this for my personal blog back in 2005. It’s in English… please bear with me for a while.)
How jubilant was I to touch the sky (again). Felt like a long-schemed reunion. I left my debris in heaven. And I took a chance to recollect them.
I had this sort of old-fashioned excitement when it comes to… flying with an aeroplane. I was as if rediscovered my long-lost-forgotten childhood. I so loved aeroplane, then. And I love it now, still. So to get a ticket for the second ride, I was beyond any happiest fairy-tale prince ever told. I was more than that. I was bloody-happy. And this time, I took even a farther and longer journey.
We took off on Tuesday, July 5; 36 choristers in Malaysian Airlines flight. Unbelieving feeling still remained, but look at us, we did it! We made our way to Germany! All those efforts, unbelievably great efforts, were finally paid off. We went for it.
As for me, I was vanished in my own excitement. I did my best to get a window seat, as I’ve always loved to sit by the window, of whatever that provides beautiful vista when I look through it.
So, I turned back to the time when I gaily played among bushes and bamboos, mud and dirt, carrying my own aeroplane made of paper. I held the time as if forever. Then, when I looked down at the hemisphere, as the plane was taking off or about to land, that was… amazing. I loved it when that huge, rigid, steel body, gracefully flew into the cirrus clouds. Felt like I could kiss the deep confines of those cotton-like clouds. Felt like I could dive within, and taste it like marshmallows.
And I thought a lot about me, bygones, and tomorrows. I looked at my hands, chilly and pale, and I felt a sudden loneliness. Even amidst the fuss and laugh of my friends, I was remote in my own blue universe. My eyes began to glisten, but somehow I tried to hold on to my logical consciousness. Then I scolded. I was angry with myself for letting me carried over into another moments of sorrow. I hate sorrow, but it’s always been my shadow.
The sun saved me. As I caught its ray of light, I came back to the earth. And there outside, Frankfurt am Main Flughafen came into view.
We were landing in Germany!
Gosh, I wish I could rewind that moments. After sixteen hours flight, we succeeded among nations, to be the future winners, conqueror-to-bes.
It was 6 in the morning. Summer morning. Yet the temperature didn’t even reach the coolest morning here in Indonesia. As for me, I didn’t mind. I melted in joy. I screamed in whispers, “I land on Europe!”
I guessed only a lark could hear it. ^-^
Thence, Herr Andreas, the bus driver, took us to the main cause of we being in Germany: Wernigerode. Herr Andreas was a nice person. Unfortunately he understood only a little of English. And we knew only a little of German. Yet somehow, communication between us existed, albeit much of it took form in body language… and sign language.
I sat by the window again, enjoying every scenery that was captured all around me. Woods along the road, wheat plantations, farming land, doom-like hills, church tower at the line of horizon…. I can recall it very vividly even now. Beautiful.
After a stop at Kassel, we arrived at Wernigerode, 11 o’clock.
Die bunte Stadt am Harz… how I long to see it
There, at the very first sight, of the town, I was bursting with exultation. The town looked like in the story of Andersen’s “Matchbox Girl”. It was marvellous. Wernigerode is not a big city. The town covers an area probably to the extent of Bogor. But it is much more beautiful. Half-timbered houses, flowerful yards, clean and neat alleys. Seemed to me that the town was built with a profound sense of art and harmony. It didn’t look luxurious, but my eyes felt at ease to have it in view. I so loved the town.
I couldn’t hide my awe when we drove along Friedrichstrasse. That houses…. “Dolls must dwell inside those cute dens,” I thought.
We were driven to Freizeithaus Arche, the place where we would stay for the next 5 days. Arche located at Flossplatz, in Hasserode area that was quiet far from the town centre. The temperature dropped here. No wonder, cause the hostel was surrounded by hills and woods. The situation pretty much reminded me of a Mendelssohn’s song “Im Walde”.
The owners, Herr and Frau Harold, were two nice people. They were very much welcoming. And the hostel itself was comfortable to live in. It was warm inside. And there was a fireplace!
Argh! Luv it!
Freizeithaus Arche is a hostel which is usually a place for youth retreat programs or tour travels. The building looked humble from outside, but it provided us with modern and complete equipments inside. There was a large room for casual meeting by the fireplace, hot-watered bathrooms, a well-equipped kitchen, a dining place, and comfortable bedrooms. Out at the backyard, there was a greenfield with needle-leaved trees surrounding. Also a place for raking fire in the night.
First day in Wernigerode, we were taken to Zum Salzbergtal to have our first lunch in Germany. We had some problem with the ‘agonizing’ taste of the food, but we had no choice. Eat it, or you’ll die starving ^-^. Well, the food was not that bad, actually. Mashed potato with sauerkraut, porky sausage with pasta, forest mushroom with 0.3-cm-diametered noodle, or bakpau with ablazing red sauerkirsche sauce.
Wow! Guess we would still choose ‘gado-gado’ and ‘pecel ayam’ as our favourite menu.
Afterwards, Marcus, Stefan, and Katja, our choir guides, took us to the town centre, Marktplatz.
We saw it! We saw it! Hurray! Perfectly like the picture sent by the festival committee. Rathaus, with its unique witch’s-house-like architecture. Indeed, this town smelled of witches and wizards… but that was cool anyhow.
Meet between Nations
The next day, Thursday, July 7, we were scheduled to follow the opening ceremony at Stadtfeldhalle.
It was very lively inside. Thousands of people crowded in the hall. Every choir showed very much enthusiasm, energy, and friendship atmosphere. KwaZulu Natal Youth Choir from South Africa, Srbadija from Bosnia Herzegovina, Raffles Voices from Singapore, Gaudeamus from Russia, and of course, AgriaSwara from Indonesia. And still, many other choirs from 13 countries.
When the ceremony began, with a line of flag holders stepping slowly onto the stage, I was overwhelmed with (rarely-felt) pride of being an Indonesia. Yes, truly, that time, when I saw that we made through it all, being representative of our country, somehow, the feeling invaded me, inevitably. Our red-and-white, hailed in front of hundreds of eyes watching… unbelievable.
Back at Arche, we had to rehearse for the following day. The Day of Competition. Since the beginning, we all knew that the competition is our main duty. We didn’t come to Germany for leisure, we went there for the competition. And we did struggle for that.
So, although most of us still had problem with jet lag, we tried hard to focus on and concentrate. It was a weird feeling, however, to see the sun still shining at 9 p.m. and think that it would be 2 a.m. in Indonesia.
First day competition. We performed for the Mixed Choirs Category (B1). Last minutes before performance, we felt our adrenalin increasing. We’re not an experienced choir to follow such a big event, not to mention international level. But we somehow believed that we will make it. Flashing back, we succeeded every hard obstacle. We stood up right after every painful stumble. This time, too, we would be striving for another challenge. We’ve GOTTA make it.
Four songs of this category: a sacred Renaissance polyphonic song by Antonio Lotti, a secular Romantic song by Robert Schumann, a piece by an Indonesian modern composer, and a Philippine folksong.
This 4th International Johannes Brahms Choir Festival and Competition that was held by Musica Mundi (www.musica-mundi.com) and Fordeverein INTERKULTUR involved some highly reputable choral experts from Germany, Hungary, Croatia, the Philippines, South Africa, and Russia. Thus, the judgment will be of high significance and recognition.
After judging session, we performed again in the afternoon at Marktplatz, singing some traditional songs. Thankfully, we were so much appreciated. The audience WERE appreciative. Even in the rain, they were enthusiastic to be our spectators.
Unexpectedly, an old man came on over after the show. He told us that long, long ago, he was a 4-year military internee while the Netherlands took over Indonesia in 1940′s. That was cool, I thought. The old man must be a living historic witness of western imperialism in Indonesia. Wow! What a tale.
The following day, Saturday, July 9, we were heading to another competition, Folklore Category (F). We had to make a special preparation for this category because we were going to wear traditional costumes, complete with its accessories. And, it was not just that. We wore miscellaneous costumes from almost every province in Indonesia.
You must know, how diverse Indonesia is in ethnicity, language, and culture. Therefore, we decided to display a kind of mini-Indonesia in our folklore performance. You’ve gotta see us. Very festive. Very colourful. Dayak, Bali, Toraja, Madura, Betawi, Batak, Java, Nusa Tenggara, Manado, Sunda, Ambon. You name it.
Though it took a long time to prepare those stuffs, we had soooo much fun wearing our own traditional wardrobe. I had never felt a soul and spirit of that much Indonesia. Never. I even didn¡¯t care that Indonesia ranks on top positions when it comes to corruption and national debt. I forgot for a while those crazy issues about violence and terrorism. That moments, I can only feel proud of being “orang Indonesia”.
So, on barefoot, we stepped onto the stage and performed our celebration of diversity. One hilarious Batavian song, “Ondel-Ondel”; a solemn and melodious Minahasa song, “O Ina Ni Keke”; and a mystic-exotic Balinese song and dance, “Janger”.
Then they gave us standing ovation.
Wow! That was amazing.
Later on that day, the organizer held choir parade. It was an unforgettable experience, to mingle around among the rich of cultures and civilization. I was a witness of how culture indeed creates tolerance. I saw before my very eyes that tolerance had broken through boundaries of country, race, and religion.
Being different in appearance, we couldn’t hide from those people’s curious gaze. Some of them smiled keenly. Some others seemed to be questioning, “Where on earth did this circus entourage come from?” …. hehehhehe…..
All of the choirs marched down the roads that surrounded the Market Place. We hailed our flags. We sang our national anthems. We were much of different backgrounds and characters, but we agreed in one universal language: Choral Music. And it was translated into one word: Peace.
In the afternoon, the organizer announced the result of the competition.
We won Gold and Silver Diplomas! We won the medals!!!
We screamed in excitement as we heard our choir and our country spoken by Stefan Simon, the announcer, along with the awards we received.
Me? I was more than happy. I was moved, touched. I had been with this musical organization since the first year of my college attendance. I’d been through the ups and downs. I knew the tears and struggles. And that day, I felt like… rewarded. The joy was so abundant I thought it was overflowing.
Then I searched for someone that I can hold and hug, but I didn’t find one, so I just clutched my own hands and sighed….
Driving back to the hostel, I still had that yearning melancholy. That night, I sat by the window of Arche, next to the raked fireplace, and wrote down some lines.
Sunday morning, we had our last breakfast in Zum Salzbergtal. Still had to follow two last programs in the schedule: Closing Ceremony at Stadtfeldhalle and Friendship Concert at Glassh¨¹tte, Derenburg. At theend of the day, we visited another landmark of the town, Schloss Wernigerode.
We took a flight back to Indonesia on Wednesday, July 13, after two-day stay at Frankfurt.
All was memorable. I could never erase every single moment from my mind. I had seen it! The land of wizards.