At the Angkringan

“Teh tawar,” I say, and maybe because it’s not my regular tea order I’ve mangled the pronunciation, because the man at the food cart just looks at me confused.

I look back at him with the same expression. What I’d said had sounded fine to me.

“Teh tawar,” the other man says. He’s sitting on the other side of the cart, drinking his own cup of tea.

I nod my thanks at him over a pile of packets of rice wrapped up in newspaper and banana leaves.

“From outside the country?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say.

“You dance?”

“Yes,” I say again. I’m going to take this tea back with me to the dance room where they’re rehearsing the Ramayana tonight.

“Sit down,” he offers, nodding at the bench in front of me.

I actually consider it. These little food carts, covered by a small piece of tarp and lit by a single light bulb, have always intimidated me. They’re frequented by men, men who usually sit there for long periods of time gossiping in Javanese. Men who—after hearing my accent—I’m afraid would have questions for me that I’d rather not answer. It took me a long time before I even felt comfortable ordering something to take with me back to my house.

But this man doesn’t seem threatening. If I wasn’t in the middle of rehearsal, I would sit down and and talk with him. Instead, I just say thank you and explain that I have to get back.

Of course, there are still a lot of cups of tea in my future.

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