It’s my third year working here. My co-workers have learned not to ask what I’m doing this weekend, break, or vacation. The question isn’t what you are doing, but where are you going climbing. My co-workers don’t take long to understand my obsession. My wife, who also climbs like to tell our non-climbing friends, “A fish swims, Eman climbs.”
When I arrived in Surabaya, other teachers were impressed with how quickly I started to explore the area. It happened at other schools in other countries too. I bought a car from the very teacher I replaced, and when I arrived, I ask locals for the best map of Java.
On my first weekend in the country, I drove five hours to a desolated beach that few teachers knew existed, and even those who had heard of it felt it was too far or remote for a weekend jaunt. They were impressed by my willingness to just get out and see the country. I was there because I had read a blurb about monkeys climbing the local limestone cliffs. Those limestone cliffs were too small to climb, but the granite cliffs I saw captivated me for weeks to come.
During my second week here, my superintendent, Larry, mentioned that some teachers were organizing a weekend trip to Madura to check out the Kerapan Sapi (Madura Bull races). I did a bit of research and decided to tag along on the weekend trip. Besides the races, a ton of tourist sites were on the list, but the natural gas fields, or Maduran Keris, local bull races, making wasn’t the main attraction, instead, I was interested in visiting the limestone quarries. Unfortunately, the limestone cliffs were completely destroyed, but I did find a few nice basalt boulders on a “Seven Kilometer White Sand Beach.”
When I first arrived at this school, Larry and other teachers I worked with listened to my weekend destinations and ask me about sites, most of the time, I haven’t seen any of what they asked about. I passed on the National Mosque because they were not en route to a cliff I had heard rumors of. Let’s face it, the cliffs offer me all the religion I need to keep myself happy.
Last week, at the Thanksgiving potluck, a school board member asked me where I lived before moving overseas. He listens with a quizzical look on his face when I explained that I lived in the back of my Mazda pick-up.
In shock, he asked, “what happened?”
“Oh, I wanted to go climbing, so I quit my job and took an extended road trip.” Looking back, maybe it’s not something I should share with the people who hired me. Not knowing me well, he asked what I was doing for the long weekend.
During a recent lunch, a teacher asked me what I was doing for the Xmas break, lucky for me, another teacher answered, “he’s going climbing, you should be asking where.”
“My wife and I are climbing in Malaysia I told her.” She made some rude comment about looking forward to the day that my wife won’t want to go climbing on vacation, but hang out on the beach reading a book instead. I smiled to myself and thought about my wife climbing a new 5.11 route we just established over the weekend. I guess I’m lucky, my wife enjoys climbing too.
Climbers are different. Not many sports or hobbies occupy so much time. Like surfing, we have a culture that non-climbers can’t relate to. I doubt I’m the only climber who has non-climbing friends. People you would never ask, “can I borrow your nuts?” Friends who can’t identify a location by just looking at the cliff in the photo. Friends who think a pitch relates to baseball or worse yet, cricket. Friends who don’t understand how you can spend hours at the gym when they can complete a workout in 50 minutes of spinning.
Let’s face it, as climbers, we’ll always have friends who don’t climb. Male friends who’ll never have the opportunity to proudly wear pink shoes in public, and woman friends who would be shocked if you told her she owned a “nice rack.” The hard part for me isn’t figuring out the crux sequence of my project, but the moving back and forth between the climbers and non-climbers I live, work, and play with.