Remember the group I celebrated the Chinese New Year with? With the exception of Yanti, Raj, and me, they’re all professional photographers.
(This is a good time to point out the unbelievable value placed on family portraits here in Indonesia. Every single home has dozens of gigantic professional photographs hanging all over. They might sleep three to a bed in a house without so much as a sink, but they will have 4’ by 3’ portraits looking down at you from the walls.)
Rully, a very sweet man with a very beautiful and equally sweet wife, is the ringleader. He built an impressive photo studio above his home, and every time I’ve visited, there have been at least a handful of aspiring photographers lounging around just watching him work.
Rully and Anna and “the gang,” as they call their followers, speak hardly any English. But they love to laugh and force-feed me Indonesian cookies.
They all love that I was born in the Chinese year of the tiger. While it’s just something fun to think about in America, it holds a lot more significance here. They call me, “Katie macan manis dan cantik” or “Katie sweet and pretty tiger.” Ok, yeah, I like that a lot.
The first time we were all in public together, they were appalled at how strangers shouted at me, so they taught me the Indonesian phrase that means “My God, that is absurd,” and I say it as often as possible when I’m around them. It’s a lot easier to be funny here.
Now when Anna and Rully forget I can’t understand them when they talk quickly using slang, I just shake my head and say gravely, “My God, that is absurd.” And it’s also a really terrific line for all those men who shout dirty words at me in the mall.
When Rully asked if he could have a photo shoot with me as the subject, I balked at the idea. “I am not a model!” I exclaimed. He said, “Sweet tiger, you are my little model.” And if there’s a woman who can resist that, she’s a stronger woman than I.
So I agreed to hang out with a big group of them and let them take pictures. His wife dressed me up like a Barbie doll and did my hair and make-up. See was horrified that my curls went limp and stringy after ten minutes in the humidity. Welcome to my world.
But we had a lot of fun. If it seems awfully conceited of me to post pictures of myself on here, I'm sorry. I feel weird doing it, but I want to share my happy memories, too.
Below is the photograph that prompted Rully to say, “Katie-Tiger, you laugh ugly.” Actually, I kind of look like a tiger:
Rully has asked me about five times if I'd consider being his second wife, which is totally legal here. I'm 80% sure he's kidding. His wife always smacks him.
He and his students took hundreds of pictures. Then they let me take some pictures of them, but they wouldn’t give those to me.
Maybe they just didn’t want me to see how much better they are at photography. We took photos until it got too dark to take them anymore.
Then I stopped being KatieTigerModel and went back to JustKatie:
They posted some of the photos on their Web page, and the response was insane. In fact, some people were offering to buy the photos and pay me to model for them, but I said I thought one day of squinting without my glasses was probably enough for a while. My God, that is absurd. But so fun.