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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Girls

Two Girls

Anna heard the servant girl, Mina, usher someone into the house, knock the office door, and call out, “Nonya Harmon, Ibu Maya de sini dengan Sari.” Anna jumped from her bed.
Sari and her mother were here. Anna ran to the door and rushed out. Sari had been her closest friend in the village since they were toddlers. Anna slowed down and walked into the living room. She first greeted Sari’s mother, Maya, with a handshake and a welcome.
“Selmat Datang, Ibu Maya.”
Then, even when greeting her good friend, she gently shook hands, as culture demanded.
“You may go Mina,” Anna said, as she led the guesst over to the sofa where they all sat down until June came into the room a minute later. All three, once again, stood up and went through all the proper greeting formalities.
Once they were sitting again, Anna could finally chat to her friend as the two mothers talked about various happenings around the village.
Anna smiled and said “Sari, have you been to marketplace recently. I saw some wonderful bags there. They were brown leather with small bits of coloured glass and little round mirrors. I think they are from India.”
Sari only smiled and said “No, Nona Anna I haven’t had time to go to the marketplace recently. I’ve been very busy.”
Anna felt the cool edge in Sari’s voice that had been bothering her lately. Till now, Anna thought it was only her imagination. She’d been spending a good bit of time with an American friend who went to the same International school as she.
High school was so busy for both her and Sari, they seemed to be forever with people from their own schools. Anna had been feeling guilty. For years she had two birthday parties, one with balloons and silly games, with her school friends, and a more formal occasion for her village friends. But this year, when she turned sixteen, she’d forgotten to have the second party. Sari was probably feeling slighted.
It made Anna sad, for so many years they had been such good friends. This, in spite of the fact, that by village standards, they were in totally different social classes. Villagers always considered Westerners wealthy and socially superior. Anna knew it was a fact, in contrast with those around her in the village, she was rich.
The villagers were not the only ones with standards, however. In comparison with the kids from school, she fell far below average. Those kids, whose fathers worked for oil companies or other big multinational corporations, had it all. Working for a charitable organisation like Care For Third World Nations, as Anna’s father, did placed her in a totally different sphere.
Executives from major corporations were bribed by their companies into coming to places like Indonesia with offers of luxuries that even their high paying jobs could never afford if they stayed in their own countries. Large areas of villages were mowed down to create suburbs of mansion-style houses to please the wives and families of these corporate bosses. Once these executive families were settled into luxury houses, fitted out with all the modern conveniences of home, plus the additions of Indonesian perks such as servants, gardeners and drivers, the company was secure in its work force.
Anna always sensed that her village friends, including Sari, were sure that her family could live just like other westerners if they wanted to. Anna tried very hard once, to convince a village boy that every house where she came from wasn’t like Suharto’s presidential palace. She never could convince him and she never even tried to convince Sari and her other friends about how wrong they were. She couldn’t help but enjoy the mystique it created between them.
Sari always treated Anna with respect, calling her Nona Anna (Miss Anna). It had always been a warm friendship, despite the formalities required. It was played out in Anna’s living room, sipping tea brought by a servant girl, or in the small front room of Sari’s house with tea served by Ibu Maya or some relative. But recently the warmth had gone and this cold Sari, who no longer seemed to be even friendly, had taken over.
Anna was still mulling Sari’s attitude in her head when June interrupted her thoughts, saying, “Well, well Anna and what do you think of this news?”
Sari quickly spoke up, “I was just about to tell you Nona Anna. Tukiono and I are to be married next month.”
Anna was sure shock showed in her face.
Sari, smiled, but her eyes narrowed. “Soon, Nona Anna, you will have to call me Ibu Tukiono.”

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