March 22, 2023

Somewhere Over The Rainbow: How Jatinangor Feels Like Home

Looking back, she feels that Jatinangor is not just about food, but the feeling of comfort and groundedness that the place gave her.

  • March 21, 2022
  • 7 min read
Somewhere Over The Rainbow: How Jatinangor Feels Like Home

I jumped up and down when I found out that I got accepted to Universitas Padjadjaran (Unpad), Bandung, to study history. Of course, I was elated to have won a seat in a tight competition to get into public universities. But there was more to my joy than crossing an academic goal.

Growing up in a small village in Garut, West Java, I always dreamed of living in a big city. And who doesn’t like Bandung? Weatherwise, it’s relatively cool; surrounded by mountains, the city can be picturesque (not Parijs van Java green but still), the food is heavenly, and the culture is rich. It’s everyone’s favorite weekend getaway.

Except that Unpad’s campus is not exactly in the city of Bandung–an important fact that I stupidly only found out later when I asked my brother to find me a rented room. He was confused, saying why I should bother to find a place to live when the campus is only a one-hour drive away from our village.

I was flabbergasted. Here I was, feeling smug after beating thousands of aspiring students, but as it turned out, I failed Geography already.

“Did it ever occur to you to check the location first before applying?” my brother asked. Still stunned, I told him that I did not realize Unpad had two separate campuses.

I checked my acceptance email and my brother, of course, was right. I googled and found out Unpad had begun to move its campus gradually from Bandung to Jatinangor, Sumedang, in 1983. And I was a History student! I thought it was still in DipatiUkur, only walks away to the popular street of Dago, where all the cool kids seemed to hang out.

My twin sister was accepted into Bandung State Polytechnic. Now that is really in the city of Bandung, albeit the northern part but that’s where one of the good, hilly areas is. With me living outside of the city a two-hour drive away, our plan to roam around and explore Bandung together like twins Annie and Hallie of The Parent Trap movie practically went to the dumpster.

Despite the fact that I could actually commute to campus from home, I insisted that I wanted to live alone. I did not get to live like a city girl, so I should at least experience the full-fledged life as a student, I thought to myself.

When I first entered the campus in Jatinangor, my disappointment started to dissipate a little. I was welcomed by a lake and an arboretum where people usually have their morning walk or jog. Half of the campus area is used for agricultural research, so it is surrounded by lush green trees. Although the place is a bit uphill, there was a campus bus that took us around.

It may not be Dago, but it was more an accommodating ecosystem for students. There were plenty of coffee shops and restaurants to eat out and hang out, and a lot of street vendors selling food that smelled and tasted good. And there were always groups of students walking around or sitting and discussing things that I could not really fathom back then. Those vibes finally convinced me that Jatinangor promised something good in the future.

Also read: Why Indonesia is the Best Place on Earth to Fast during Ramadan

The Cheap Living Cost

I did not realize the living cost in Jatinangor was awesomely cheap until I graduated and moved to Jakarta. Rented rooms with air conditioners in Jakarta are worth at least Rp1.5 million each per month, and you have to share the bathroom with other people. In Jatinangor then, it only cost Rp500 thousand per month with your own bathroom inside. No air conditioner needed as the air is already cool.

When I first moved here to Jakarta three years ago, I could only afford Rp1 million for rent. It was basically uninhabitable for its tiny size, bad smell, and creepy neighborhood. I often sweat myself to sleep because of the blistering heat.

My friend and I often joke about the possibility of becoming rich when we have a Jakarta salary but live in Jatinangor. Some of my friends who work remotely even decided to come back to Jatinangor.

Also read: The Married Woman’s Solo Travel Guide to Istanbul

Things I Missed the Most: Jatinangor’s Food

The food in Jatinangor is probably not so different from Bandung. We eat a lot of tapioca-based snacks, from cilor (tapioca with egg), cilung (rolled up tapioca), cimol (seasoned scratch balls) to seblak (crackers with spicy soup). I can easily find those here in Jakarta, but nothing beats the tasty seblak Ciseke. It was one of the best remedies during my bad days.

Beyond the tapioca or aci, there were plenty of other foods, like Soto Tuyul, the kind of chicken soup that is so delicious people say it was operated by a tuyul (ghost). The one that I have not found a replacement for in Jakarta is lumpia basah. The tasty combination of jicama, bean sprouts, and the mixed egg always makes me crave for it.

When Ramadan came, one of Unpad’s convention halls, Bale Pabukon, would turn into a food market, serving all kinds of traditional sweets. Muslim students would crowd the area two hours before breaking the fast together at dusk. Hearing the sounds of people chatting and laughing while enjoying their food was such a great feeling.

I miss Bale Pabukon the most whenever Ramadan nears, like right now, and I wish I could go back to those moments.

Also read: Sambal My Very Own Version of Jewish Penicillin

Batu Api The Sanctuary

Apart from my lecturers, the one that helped me graduate from university on time was Batu Api, a private library owned by another History graduate, Bang Anton. It was just a small living room but with floor-to-ceiling stacks of books on all four walls. It felt like the chamber of curiosities.

For those who love to get lost in words, or want to nourish their intellectual needs, this place is a sanctuary. The collection is incredible, from classic literature to modern books, pop culture into history. His knowledge about books is also unquestionable.

Bang Anton did not just collect books, but clippings of newspapers and magazines. Whenever we need sources for assignments, Bang Anton would find them for us. As a movie buff, he would turn the library into mini cinema and we had a discussion after watching the movie. His wife, Mbak Arum, would bring us fizzy sweet-and-sour kombucha with snacks. Those moments were priceless. 

Looking back, I felt that Jatinangor is not just about food, but the feeling of comfort and groundedness that the place gave me. I had my best four years there that cannot be topped three years later. I came to realize it was probably because Jatinangor is not a big city that my friends and I got to know each other better. We did not have many options to entertain ourselves by going to the malls or fancy places, so we made Jatinangor our comfort zone and second home. Since then, I’ve occasionally—and so did many—went to Jatinangor when I visited Bandung.

It is sad to hear that now Jatinangor is deserted since the pandemic hit two years ago. I hope the students are still able to make good memories there as I did.

Editor:  Siti Parhani
About Author

Siti Parhani

Hani adalah penulis, digital marketer dan storyteller. Selayaknya introvert yang sering menghindari keramaian, Hani lebih suka menghabiskan waktunya untuk membaca. Terlepas dari pekerjaannya di dunia digital, Hani sebetulnya punya love-hate relationship dengan media sosial.

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