Posted Sept. 1, 2023 by Nova Ruth

One day, I was sleeping in front of the television beside my grandma from my mom's side. In the middle of the night, somebody came to our house; it was her younger brother from the island of the boogeyman, Sulawesi. I heard he was a womanizer, yet he had a twin brother who was a crocodile that was very loyal to his lifetime partner. Completely opposite personalities.


Whoever hears this story might think I'm crazy. But I did meet my great grandmother. Sometimes she also came to see us in Malang. She came the same way as other family from Sulawesi, by ferry to Surabaya, which took 24 hours from Makassar, and came into our house almost midnight. She arrived with several other family members who escorted her, since she was getting old, and all her hair turned silver, with a tumor growing on her back until she walked with her body slightly bent down. So, if I saw my great grandmother in my lifetime, could the story of my crocodile grandfather be called a history instead of a myth?

My great grandmother admitted that she gave birth to twin sons. One human, one crocodile. The family released the crocodile where the river met the sea in Parepare. My mother didn't believe this story, so she went to Pare-pare to witness it herself. She said she saw him. If a family came to the river and tapped the water three times, my crocodile grandfather came out. I am obsessed with this story, and one day, I wish I could sail with Arka Kinari to Parepare to visit my great grandmother's graveyard.

This year, we managed to sail to Parepare. I would imagine the spirit of Parepare would greet me with an open hand. It was supposed to be a home for me too. Instead, the authorities didn't 'accept' us. My crew, Dika, had to deal with a 48-hour drama of how to get our ship accepted at a dock, one kilometer from my grandmother's childhood home. An agent almost charged us around 2000 euros just for us to be able to dock and perform for the locals. I found myself crying in the middle of the night. I lit some incense and prayed that the spirits and ancestors would help me. I was afraid of cursing and wishing for the worst for whoever was trying to rip us off. But I did, only it was a little softer. I wished that the corrupt people would be embarrassed the next day.

I was thinking of my crocodile grandfather, the story when he was angry with the village. His partner got too hungry, and there was no fish in the river. She went to the market and tried to find food. The people got afraid, attacked, and killed her. After all, she was a crocodile. The next day, my crocodile grandfather went to the market and ruined the whole market down. Maybe deep down, I wanted him to show up, walking side by side with me to the harbor master's office.

Before midday the next day, Dika texted me, "Are you ready? Your wish is about to be granted." Apparently, the sea transportation affairs in Jakarta found out about this story. They sent a warning to the authorities in Parepare, telling them to stop what they're doing to us. Finally, after anchoring for many days, we managed to approach the land and give a performance for Parepare.

I paid respect to my great grandmother's grave before I sailed away. Her grave was covered in grass. Right below her was her son's grave, who once had a crocodile twin brother.

After Parepare, we sailed to Palu, a city that got hit by a huge tsunami back in 2018. It was tricky to get an anchorage because the bay is the home for more than 30 crocodiles. I was hoping to see some of them from afar, but no. However, I got to see a short movie by a director named Kifu about crocodiles. A woman testified that she got swept by a tsunami wave and trapped inside a building. A crocodile came with an open mouth. In between floating corpses, she cried for help to the crocodile, "Please, save me!" The crocodile started to wiggle his body around and opened a path in between rumbles and corpses finding a way out for her.