Getting out of Margaret River and into Perth, I stuck my eyes into the ethereal landscape, feeling completely overwhelmed. These past 7 days passed by in the blink of an eye. A montage of the people I met and the emotions I felt passed by in the blink of an eye.
I’ve always recognized myself as a misanthrope – I thought I hated people in general. All the people around me make me want to scream and beg for some time for myself. They annoy me, all those people. Yet, this trip brings me a new perspective on them.
Margaret River makes me realize that I am not a misanthrope.
“Our cars are very dirty because there’s no car washes in Margaret River.”
“We’re too busy living.”
First words make first impressions. Fresh out of a four-hour bus ride, our sore asses were screaming for a break. We were led to an auditorium, anxious to meet our host parents. I was a bit different, though – I do not have a host buddy because my host is a teacher. Then, they called my name.
Ben, my host dad, stood there waving at me with casual clothes, sunnies clipped on his t-shirt. He’s in his early 30s, blond hair, large stature. He smells like deodorant, which annoys me at first, as I do not like strong smells.
We drove home in his very, very dirty SUV with a fellow teacher, and he commented on that, saying that the people of Margaret River does not often wash their cars, as they are too busy living. The statement impresses me – seems like it was scripted and acted in a movie. But, no, this is legitimate. This is real life.
“With kids, you’ll have to give up being single and free and you gotta be nice, boring, and old.”
Ben ranted about the joys and sorrows of having two small daughters at home. We stopped by at Coles, and he showed me a picture of his family. “That’s my wife and two daughters,” he said. At first sight, they seem like a happy family. And damn, I was right. I scurried behind him, catching up as he threw fast paces amongst the supermarket isles.
I met Bethany, Ben’s wife, at home. She’s in her late 20s, blonde hair, looks like how a young housewife off the television looks. Olea, their baby daughter, is in her arms. Behind her is Isla, their three-year-old daughter. Their blonde hairs look very pretty. A dog ran to me and licked my face. Benji, the family dog.
Their house is a simple house, with a really home-y feeling to it. I was “introduced” to my room; seems like my room was something out of Tumblr. The house smells strongly of sandalwood and deodorant, something I would resent initially. Now, I find the smell very overwhelming.
“I had this terrible headache just last night.”
“Me too. Felt like my head’s about to blow up.”
“Oh, we have so much in common.”
They stared at each other, smiling, as I finished my breakfast on their back porch. They’re such a sweet couple; they express their love to each other every day. It’s not a strange thing for them to hear words like “I love you” or “You’re amazing” in the house. Back where I live, those words are awkward and unsuitable for everyday use. Yet, in this house, those words come out so smoothly and so passionately, and even a mere observer like me will fall in love all over again.
Beth was exhausted that morning, because of all the work she should do. “You look beautiful for someone who’s exhausted,” Ben said, exchanging loving glances.
The next day was their fourth wedding anniversary. I gave them loro blonyo – Javanese statuettes consisting of a bride and groom, believed to bring prosperity to one’s family. They liked my presents, and they’re wishing for another good four years, and even more years to come. I saw them sitting on the back porch – Ben was scratching Benji’s ear when he looked at Beth, saying “You’re one of the most important people in my life. No! You are the most important person in my life. I never took you for granted.”
On the last morning, before I left them, they hugged each other with Ben kissing Beth’s forehead, saying “Good morning, sweetheart.” Oh, I wish I had a relationship like that.
“Oh, you millenials with your phones, what are you doing with your life?!”
If there’s one thing I realize about Margaret River, it’s that the people here does not use gadgets so much. In Jakarta, it’s a common sight for a family to sit in the same table and be busy with each of their gadgets. In Margaret River Senior High School, they bring their handphones along with them to school, and I had not seen a single sight of a student sitting alone and staring on their screen. I told some of my school buddies how I felt about gadgets. Mikayla, my 10th grade friend, was surprised. “Holy cow!” That’s her exact reaction. I felt strange about this, because I thought the addiction to gadgets is a universal thing. Well, not in Margaret River.
My main school buddy was Harry. He’s a small statured 10th grader with brown hair and freckles. Even though he’s very shy, but he’s very helpful. I was also introduced to some new friends. One of them is Kaitlyn, a very friendly 10th grader. She’s a Sunday school participant whose class Ben taught in. We share the same Internet lifestyle and networking hobbies. Another one is Mikayla, the one I told about before.
“Happy wife, happy life.”
“Happy life, no life.”
We went to the beach on Saturday. It was Gracetown beach – a wonderful recreation area with lots of dogs and their owners. The landscape of rocks and sand makes it a little dreamy; especially when you take photos, like me, and treading among the rocky terrain. It feels like you’re in a world of your own.
On Saturday, the family has to attend Beth’s nephew’s first birthday. I tagged along. I was initially pissed, because I don’t like birthday parties. In my home community, sweet seventeen parties are full of ego, narcissism, and hedonism, both the birthday girl and the guests. I thought I wouldn’t fit in.
But, yeah, I did fit in.
The party was mainly an informal one. I met Beth’s mom, who is very friendly and kind to me. We talked about the prominent differences between Jakarta and Margaret River (although the party was technically in Vasse – 30 minutes north of Margaret River), including those annoying sweet seventeen parties, the case of unemployment, and how it feels to be the nation’s majority race living among a community who has the nation’s minority race as a majority. Does that make sense?
So, apparently, you can never be the odd one out in the end – you just learn how to fit in.
Anyway, on the way there and back again, Ben and Beth keep on bickering. Well, Ben’s bickering in a more playful tone. Ben’s very good in making rhymes and writing songs, and he made up a song poking fun at Beth to cheer her up, which in fact, pisses her off. And then they started poking each other. Cute. Well, I think that this is an exact display of their personalities. They’re different, but they complement each other.
Back from Gracetown Beach, I felt that Margaret River is a paradise for wonder-seekers. I mean, all the beaches and the wineries! In this little ethereal utopia, Ben, Bethany, Isla, and Olea, they keep me grounded.
“Maybe later, when we’re older, with more money. We’ll make our short film soon.”
I met Ella, my friend’s host buddy, on Sunday. She’s Filipino, with long brown-to-blonde ombré hair, and she’s very extroverted. She’s been dreaming of adapting her friend’s short story into a short film, but she never had the time or money to make it.
Anyway, my school friends, Ella, and I went to a trip to Augusta. It’s thirty minutes south of Margaret River, and it’s the southwesternmost trip of Australia. It’s crazy to think about that, to be honest. There’s nothing else between you and Antarctica except the vast ocean. We went swimming and canoeing in the Hardy inlet – it’s where the river and the ocean meet – and it’s such a delight. My friend Malvin finally defied his fear of the water by jumping into the cool inlet. I guess all fears are meant to be conquered.
[on Jewel Cave’s unsolved rock formation mysteries] “I think this is nature’s way to tell us that there are some things that’s not meant to be solved, and made solely for our wonder – that they are made for our “wow”s and “ooh”s and our excited faces.”
We went for an excursion on Monday throughout the day. We went to amazing places, such as the Amaze’n Maze, the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, and the Sunflower Animal Farm. But what amazes me the most is Jewel Cave, near Augusta. There are just so many wondrous rock formations there. “Use your imagination,” the tour guide said, letting our minds flow with the dance of fairies and mythical creatures we imagined being in the cave. The tour guide also delivered an interesting opinion on unsolved rock formation mysteries – that they’re just meant for our wonder.
“I felt like I didn’t fit in.”
“Everyone here’s always drinking and partying. I don’t act that way.”
I met my other friend’s host buddy, Deodard, on the way home downtown. When Willy, that friend of mine, checked Deodard’s Instagram pictures, he thought that he was a fitness freak – some kind of a jock. Yeah, he looks like one. But then he told me that he’s a hard worker – in intellectual terms. He studies hard for school. For a stereotypical jock, that might seem odd. I initially was amused on how Deodard balances his time between being a nerd and a jock. But then I met him, and he’s not really a jock at all, nor a nerd, nor an amalgam of both. I see that people are more than just stereotypes.
That’s also what Beth told me on my last night. When she was just friends with Ben, she thought he was a stereotypical surfer dude. But, as she started to know him better, she found out that there’s more to him than just woodchips and wave patterns. She realized that he has multiple layers of personality, and you could never judge a book by its cover.
“This place is beautiful, isn’t it?”
Another person I’ve felt a connection with in Margaret River is Halina, my other friend’s host parent. She’s an old lady with short white hair who is a lab helper at Margaret River Senior High School. During our last afternoon, she took us to two Margaret River wineries; Leeuwin Estate and Voyager Estate. Leeuwin Estate is the number one winery in Margaret River, they said. “Their Chardonnay’s named the best in the world last year,” Ben advised to me some time during the trip.
Leeuwin Estate is special in many ways. Besides being the best Margaret River winery, it also holds big concerts for rich people each year. One of the most popular wines there is their art series, with an exhibit of their artworks shown in the basement level of the winery. I bought some Chardonnay there for my parents.
Even though Leeuwin is the best winery in Margaret River, Voyager Estate is the one that impresses me the most. A large Australian flag waves with the wind amongst the vineyards. In the middle of the winery, there is a beautiful rose garden, clad with Dutch-style architecture. The winery’s main building overlooked hectares of vineyard, which makes it a suitable, beautiful place for weddings and special occasions. I bought their Cabernet Sauvignon, since I bought white wine in Leeuwin. Voyager Estate is what I want to do when I retire.
The very kind Halina dropped me home, where I enjoyed my last dinner – steak, salad, pavlova, and banoffee pie.
As my eyes browsed through the massive trees, brown grass, and black cows, I thought to myself. There are so many amazing people with beautiful personalities and wonderful lives, so many places to go to, so many good things you can contribute to. And why do I still stare at my bright screens? Why do I choose to hate people, where in fact, not all people have dreary personalities and dull minds? Why do I choose to resent people before I even know them that well?
The beautiful, beautiful Margaret River taught me to go out there and explore. Get to know people you barely know. Defy society. Travel, while you still can. Try new things. Tell people you love that you love them truly. Get the hell outside. Never take things for granted. Conquer your fears. Appreciate small things. Be inspired, but don’t forget to get grounded. But mostly, Margaret River taught me to love. Love nature, people, your community, animals, and your identity. They’re already there for you to enjoy.
Margaret River makes me realize that I am not a misanthrope, nor a hater of things. I am a living thing capable to love, so, why not love?