Part of me said, "If only I knew it would have taken that long at the immigration offices in Vietnam and China, I would have rushed my friends, and would have been able to catch the 8:45 bus. If only I could catch the 8:45 bus, the traffic might not have been jam yet. If only we weren't caught in such a terrible traffic jam, we would have arrived in Kunming earlier. If only we had arrived in Kunming earlier, would be able to get up early the next morning. If only we could get up early the next morning, we would have been to Shilin. If only we did go to Shilin, I would be able to make shots of Dadieshui or Flying Dragon Waterfall. If only again, we did go to Shilin, I would return from China with shots of China's nature landscapes."
Part of me answered back, "If only you did not forget to calculate in your itinerary the time difference between Vietnam and China, you wouldn't have missed that 8:45 bus."
"Yes, that's true. I had been stupid. But if only there weren't as many as 8 of us, we could have finished at the immigration office sooner. If only we could have finished at the immigration office sooner, we might still be in time for the 8:45 bus even though I had miscalculated the time. If only we there weren't as many as 8 of us, we could have finished breakfast and shower earlier. You know, when I was done with shower and started putting on my make up. My friend was already done. She sat and waited for me. But when I was done, she started to poke into her bag and do some stuffs. Why didn't she do her cores when I was doing mine? Why did she have to start after I finished?"
The other part of me said again, "If she hadn't done so, you might not have met that tuk tuk car that had brought you straight to the Chinese border -- fast and cheap."
"Yes, that's true. It was really lucky to meet that tuk tuk car and also a vendor who happened to be standing right next to the car and could speak English. Thanks to her for interpreting for us and the tuk tuk car driver. But... "
Before I could finished, the other me interupted, "If only Indonesian street vendors could speak English like that lady. You know that needs a miracle."
"Yes, that's true. But... if I were alone, I wouldn't mind taking a taxi to the Chinese border."
"If you were traveling alone," said the other me, "how do you think you would have managed to get to Kingworld International Hotel from where the bus stopped in Kunming? Ika, with Mel's support, did the whole dealing process with the car driver."
"Yes, that's true. But, I told you just now. If only there weren't as many as 8 of us, we might have been able to catch the first bus and arrive in Kunming earlier. And besides," I quickly continued before the other me interrupts again. "If I hadn't prepared printed papers with the hotels' addresses and phone numbers, the driver might not be able to bring us to Kingworld International Hotel, anyway. It was my idea. It was me also who searched for this hotel which is close to the train station."
Now the other me copies me. "That's true. But..," so said me. "what is the use of that piece of paper if you can't communicate at all? Ika could. Come on, think! Which one is more useful, a piece of paper with the hotel's address and phone number on it, or the ability to speak Chinese?"
"Yes, that's true. But, ..."
"But what? Are you going to say again, 'if only there weren't as many as 8 of us'? If there weren't as many as 8 of you, even if you could make the deal with the driver, he might not be willing to take you straight to the hotel. He might mix you with other passengers to reach maximum capacity of his car and thus gain maximum profit. If you had been packed with other passengers, you might arrived at Kingworld International Hotel even later, because who knows the driver might drop the other passengers first before you. But worse than that, you don't know who the other passengers are. What if they are bad people? Have you forgotten what time it was and how dark it was at that terminal which didn't look like a bus terminal at all?"
The photos I had taken during this adventure trip from Vietnam to China laid still inside my camera for more than a week after I returned to Indonesia. That's not what I use to do actually. I didn't want to see them. It hurt even to see photos my friends uploaded in their Facebook. After Kunming, I had a bigger disappointment in Chengdu. Because all of the effort I had thrown for monthS, I felt like that I didn't deserve all this.
Suddenly the other me spoke again. "If only you know, not only what you can, but also what you cannot, do..."
"Yes, I know I should be grateful for Ika at that particular night. But, if there weren't as many as..."
"Hey, you! If the others weren't joining, Ika wouldn't be there either. Can't you see that she joint this trip you've made because of the others instead of you? Can't you see that you need other people?"
"Yes, that's true. But, other solo backpackers travels all around the world including China, without being able to speak the language and succeeded anyway. Female-solo-backpacker is not a rare thing in the international world, you know?"
"If only you knew how hard it is for you to admit that you cannot but someone can... You can fly above the sky and heartily say 'how great Thou art', but you cannot stand in front a human soul and say, 'I cannot.'"
When Mom said to me, "Just think that you had brought an interpreter with you," the other me said to me, "You yourself are an interpreter. Would you want to do a job without getting paid? Did you pay Ika for interpreting for you? At least you can give her what she wants."
It was in this bus to Kunming also, when I viewed the shots Hendro had made with his pocket camera. Many of his compositions inspired me. I always love photographs like these with fantastic angle and composition rather than photos that have been edited in such a way that doesn't look natural anymore. Moreover, you can edit color, tone, even objects, but you cannot edit angles. I felt like I had taken a photography workshop.
I knew Hendro already before this trip. But if I hadn't traveled together with him, I wouldn't get the insights I've gotten now. It would be nonsense if I just hang out with him in a restaurant and ask him to give me some photographic insights. Of course he would be glad to do that. But, what can he show me then?
From that point on, I was made to start another journey. It was a journey that took multiple times longer than the whole journey from Vietnam to China and Kuala Lumpur. It was the journey of forgiveness.
Now, I think you can understand that For Everything There is a Price better.