I have just witnessed a spectacular sunrise over the Tengerra crater and am about to climb Mount Bromo which lies in the centre of the caldera. It is 6.30am. I have been up since 1.30am and am in desperate need of a caffeine hit to keep me going. I order my coffee with milk and take a seat on the plastic stool and wait for it to be served. That’s when I notice her beside me. I didn’t see her when I first entered the coffee shack, too preoccupied with meeting my objective of having a hot cup of coffee in the shortest amount of time so as not to keep my volcano friends waiting too long.
Her little legs cloaked in faded and mottled pale blue tracksuit pants, , swing back and forth in a slow and gently rhythm, too short to touch the ground from her stool. With a timid curiosity, she peeks at me from under her lemon hooded sweatshirt, also faded and mottled. Her big dark black brown eyes meekly searching my own. I smile at her.
“Hello” I say gently, bowing my head down slightly towards her.
She does not respond but continues to look at me, her eyes full of curiosity.
My coffee arrives. I hold the cup and saucer in my hands and start sipping at the hot, sweet liquid. I let out a sigh of contentment. Maybe now the feeling will return to my feet, numbed from standing in the cold air at 2770 metres above sea level for almost two hours in my Birkenstocks, the only footwear I have with me. Sipping my coffee, I turn to look at my little companion again. She is still staring at me.
I smile at her. “Hello” I say again.
She leans forward and in a soft and quiet voice says something to me, but I don’t understand. She spoke in Indonesian. I shrug my shoulders and bob my head in an expression of apology.
“I don’t understand Indonesian” I tell her and smile warmly at her.
We continue to look at each other as I sip my coffee. I wonder how old she is. She looks so young and small. I point at her and hold up three fingers.
“Are you three?” I ask.
She shakes her head negatively.
“How old are you?” I ask.
She holds up four fingers.
“Are you four?” I ask.
She then adds her thumb, showing me five.
“Oh, are you four, almost five?” She doesn’t indicate yes or no and continues to stare at me.
In her left hand she is holding a little fluffy bag with a stuffed dog on it. She swings this back and forth in time with her legs.
“I like your bag” I tell her and touch it with my finger, hoping to get a response from her. “It’s very cute.”
She continues to stare at me without responding.
I take another sip of my coffee, and then unexpectedly, she holds her hand up for a “High 5”. I tap it lightly with my hand with a gentle laugh. I notice our skin is the same colour but my hand is five times bigger than hers. Then she moves her hand down low to “give her 5”. I bring my palm down on top of her upraised palm, gently, laughing softly. I smile at her and she looks back at me from beneath her hoodie, her legs still swinging back and forth.
My coffee has cooled and it is time for me to go. So I scull the remainder of my coffee in one big gulp.
“I have to go now” I tell her, my head on the side, my smile replaced by a more serious expression. I take her right hand in mine and shake it gently up and down.
“It was nice to meet you” I say and smile.
To my surprise, she takes my big hand in both of hers and guiding it towards her, bends forwards and places a short, sweet kiss on the top of my hand. I gasp silently, not expecting this loving gesture. I respond by guiding her little hand towards me and also placing a soft kiss on her hand. I get up from my stool, look at her one last time, say “Bye, bye” and walk out of the coffee shack.
Sunrise over the volcanic landscape was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed but it is the unexpected gift of love from this little Indonesian girl that I treasure most from this day.