By Brooke Nolan (Semester 30/Feb 2010)
University of Western Australia

‘Like a fried banana?’ said Yonky, grinning. No, I wasn’t in a warung or a pasar or the local banci-run hairdressing salon. It was 6am and my tennis lesson was about to start. Yonky, my coach, must have gathered from my expression that I had not turned up at silly o’clock to consume battered fruit soaked in 3-days-old oil and sizzled sometime yesterday afternoon. After Yonky’s kretek had died a miserable death in the remainder of his teh manis, we hit the court. Pretty soon, the s-word was being thrown around. ‘Santai! Santai!’ Yonky’s grin was getting more clown-like.

45 minutes had passed. Yonky hit the ball short. I came to the net. His lob was too good and I was too slow. Yonky pulled out another s-word. ‘Sorry! Sorry!’ Those were the eleventh and twelfth ‘sorry’s’ of the morning. I thought of my Australian tennis coach who was accustomed to pointing out the similarities between my movements and those of a geriatric at times like this.

The ball boy (yes, ball boy) with the ‘Tahanan 360 Nusakambangan’ t-shirt on sauntered towards the net and kicked the balls to the edge of the court with his bare feet. Once he resumed that awkward squatting position which has been perfected by hundreds of millions of Indonesians and was happily sipping his coffee, Yonky served the ball. We were half way through a rally when a teenager with a semi-mohawk and a racquet in his hand wandered onto the court looking somewhat startled. Yet another s-word from Yonky, who was hastily shuffling in the direction of his bag. ‘Sebentar, ya!’ His phone had rung. The startled teenager and I looked at each other. Neither of us was very pleased with what we saw. He did his shoelace up and yawned. Eventually the ball was going back and forth. After two minutes I realized he had never been taught the tricky technique of how to run.

Yonky re-appeared. We practiced serving and the ‘lesson’ was finished. Yonky’s kretek was lit before he’d left the court. In the office, we were arranging times for coaching the following week. The startled teenager wandered in, grinning, Yonky-style. ‘Like a fried banana?’