“Have you ever felt a man in your house?” my friend asked.
“Huh? I don’t think I understand what you mean.”
“I asked if you ever felt a man in your house. A spirit. Do you believe in spirits?” she continued.
I said no, I don’t really believe in spirits. But what do I know?
She started this discussion over dinner one night in a restaurant. When I asked why we didn’t have the conversation in my house earlier, she said she didn’t want to scare me.
“I have magic,” she said.
Ok, that’s a little strange, but it's really not so uncommon in Indonesia. The people here are very comfortable believing strongly in their Muslim faith and in the spirit world. There are all sorts of legends about ghosts and animal spirits. My friend says her animal spirit is the tiger.
“So… did you see a man in my house?” I asked.
“I see him every time I’m there,” she answered. “He is always watching you.”
“And he was watching me when we were sitting on the couch earlier?”
“He is always watching you when you’re in the house. But don’t worry. He’s a guardian spirit, not an evil one. And he really likes you, I can tell.”
“He likes me?”
“Mmhmm. He thinks you're nice.”
I’ll be honest… that’s kind of unnverving. Not so much that there’s a guardian watching over me, but that my friend swears she can see him and he’s always watching me.
Also, I’m slightly embarrassed about the number of times I’ve jumped around my living room listening to Rihanna under the guise of ‘cardio.’ I wonder if he’s disgusted by the number of manggis I can eat in rapid succession.
Indonesians think it’s very strange that I live alone. Most of them live in a house the same size as mine with as many as eight or ten people. They always ask if I’m afraid to be by myself. So far, I really haven’t been afraid at all. I’d much rather live alone than with a host family, except my Bahasa Indonesia skills would probably benefit from some more native speakers. The only time it’s frustrating is when beggars or salespeople come to my door and try to force their way in. I’ve perfected my passive-aggressive “Ok, nope! Can’t help! Thanks for coming over! Bye!” as I shut and lock the door.
My friend says there are many evil spirits in the area surrounding my neighborhood. That’s not shocking—if there is such a thing as evil spirits, I guarantee they’d love the road to my house. It’s a wet, dark forest. Luckily, my friend says my guardian spirit keeps them out of my house.
She says lots of people I know have magical powers, too. I asked her if I have a spirit animal.
“Do you feel like you have a spirit animal? Do you ever see magical beings?” she asked.
“You probably don’t.”