Introduction to Indonesia
I had two choices here: either keep plugging along at the various adventures from more than 4 months ago, or let chronology hang and start telling you all about my new adventures in Medan, Indonesia. I’ve decided to take the latter path.
Actually, I have a lot to tell you all, so I figured I’d begin by telling you something about where I live, and then I’ll start sharing stories later. Don’t hold me to that, though — I seem to be victim to an unfortunate condition called Narrative Tourette’s, wherein I can’t stop using anecdotes to describe things. So bear with me.
Medan was described to me as “your basic big, ugly city.” Well, to some extent that’s true – but for the better portion of last year, I lived in a concrete jungle called Shenzhen, and let me tell you, Medan certainly has got the upper hand on Shenzhen when it comes to foliage and green spaces. Indonesia is a truly tropical climate, and Medan is not exactly in the jungle but not exactly out of it, either. So a drive through the streets of the city is sort of like if you mixed a safari with the streets of Mumbai. Or something to that effect.
Speaking of the streets: there barely are any. I mean, there are roadways, but pavement is apparently a luxury item around here, because the ratio of actual paved road to gravel or dirt shoulder is far lower than that of most other places I’ve been. And I don’t know if this is true all over the country, but Medanese speedbumps are horrible, vicious things that look as though they ought to be glorified rumble strips, but in reality more resemble an earthquake faultline. The combination of deceptively steep and narrow bumps mixed with vehicles that have no shocks as far as I can tell serves to cause quite a bit of trauma to the backside, especially when one is squeezed into a van that is suppose to seat eleven all together with 14 other teachers plus the driver for a half hour every morning. This on top of still having a sore tailbone.
So it’s an adjustment. Pavement is not the only luxury item that, as a Westerner, I very much miss being able to take for granted. Fast internet is another. I have a dial-up broadband modem that connects to the internet at a speed that would shame molasses in January. Even the “good” wired and wireless connections here load a 3-minute Youtube clip in about 15 minutes, if that’s all they’re working on. Forget streaming anything. And, while we’re on the subject of Things I Miss, how about we put reliable electricity on that list? Mine goes out almost every day for anywhere between 20 minutes to 8 hours. We try not to keep anything really perishable in the fridge for more than a day. First Worlder’s problems in the Third World, I guess.
That “we”, by the way, includes my four housemates, who are also teachers at the school, and our housemaid. Yep. We have a maid. Her name is Cici (pronounced like Chee-chee) and she does all the kitchen cleaning and keeps the public part of the house presentable. There is a public part of the house because, well, we live in a working ballet studio, and the dance rooms go from the 1st floor all the way up to the 3rd, where I live, including a room on the second floor directly outside our living room/kitchen area, so the six of us also share our fridge with ballet studio snackage patrol. Cici also keeps the one single set of keys to the entire house (more on that later). I have absolutely no idea anything about her story, because she speaks only Indonesian and I am, in this country, that foreigner who really can’t speak the language. I am picking up about 3-4 words a day right now just from looking at signs as we drive by, but they are often things like “ayam” (chicken) and “ranbu” (hair) and have absolutely no usefulness in daily communication. Besides this awesome ten-year-old in the Jakarta airport (story later), I haven’t had somebody sit down and try to teach me Indonesian yet. I’m hoping to take an opportunity to change that soon.
Okay. Such is the snapshot of immediate daily life. I’m going to try to get to the school, the food, and some epic days of exploring in the next couple of posts. Soon.