An Ode to Marsi

Oh Marsi – how I miss you so
You of the Kediri tailoring scene
You with the 30,000 Rp price
You of the perfectly tailored garments
How I miss you so

Marsi is the best tailor in Kediri, no contest. During PST my Ibu insisted on taking me to the penjahit jauh (far tailor) because the tailor in our desa (neighborhood) was tidak bagus (not good). I knew better than to argue with Ibu, so I followed her as she rode on a motor while I rode my bike. A 7-minute bike ride later we arrived at Rumah Marsi. (I secretly rolled my eyes at jauh (far) because I was only two weeks into PST at the time an had no idea what the Indonesian concept of travel-able distance was.)

Marsi took my measurements, asked the usual questions, and had relatively little of the usual “oh look at this bule” attention. But of course we still took pictures together. About a week later when my stuff was ready I professed my undying love for Marsi. Not only was everything perfect, despite my elementary level of Bahasa at the time, it was also only 120,000 Rp ($9) for four pieces! I was in love and my obsession with batik during PST was solidified. I had the perfect excuse to buy any and all batik fabric I liked – I had found the best tailor in town for a killer price.

Over the course of PST I had two skirts, one tunic, two teaching shirts, and three dresses made. Marsi even understood when I explained that two of the dresses were not for teaching but for going dancing with my pacar (boyfriend). She loved it and she nailed those designs too. On the night before Swearing-In her daughter was getting married and it was the perfect way for me to say goodbye to Kediri. Marsi became my first Indonesian friend outside of my host family. I knew it was going to be hard to replace her – not only as the best tailor, but also as a friend.

IMG_1756
When Ibu asks Jacob to come over for dinner of course you break out the good batik and take pictures. Also. That dress has pockets. POCKETS LADIES. Jacob’s top also styled by Marsi.

My only regret now that I’m at permanent site is not getting more pieces made. I got a couple of tops from my school’s preferred tailor. Not only was it more expensive, but it wasn’t delivered with the usual fun of visiting Marsi. Now I’m not sure what to do with my three remaining cuts of fabric. I think about making the 15-hour journey to Kediri to hang out with Marsi. In the meantime I’ll hold out till I find a new tailor friend in Subang.

Originally published in Kabar Kita: Our News, the monthly newsletter organized by the PCVs of Indonesia.

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