Thursday, November 26, 2009

Just like the pilgrims

Our feast

Thanksgiving for us this year was surely almost an exact replica of the very first one.  First, just like our ancestors before us, Matt and I trudged through the dirty and treacherous terrain to meet the natives on common ground: KFC.  We brought our knowledge of crispy fried chicken, and they supplied us with a new twist on potatoes: mashed and fried cakes.  We then road back to our homestead at lightning speed in a mini-van taxi, the sticky night air rushing in through the broken door and cooling us on the way.  We set up our feast outside where we could bond with the environment of our native friends.  Declining our offers to share the Heineken, fried chicken, and peanut butter M&M's, the natives merely stared at us in disbelief as we broke bread with each other, toasting our good health and our good marriage.  Then, our bellies full of greasy meat and cold beer, we retired to our simple room and treated our monstrous mosquito bites, then fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of the day we could return home. Just like the pilgrims.  

Islam stole my Thanksgiving thunder today.  Today is the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or "Festival of Sacrifice".  Apparently here t
hey sacrifice cows and then give the meat away to their families and friends.  Also, apparently they pray all day.  Prayers started at literally the crack of dawn, and have only stopped for short periods throughout the day.  No one is praying right now, I guess, which is why I'm taking this opportunity to update my blog.  Normally, I wouldn't mind because it doesn't concern me, but the speaker on o
ne of the mosques is pointed directly at my window, so it's unbelievably loud.  You've gotta hand it to them, they've got good sound systems.  It really sounds like the call to prayer guy is right here in my room with me, screaming into my ear.  I've been doing my best to ignore him.  
This speaker is pointing straight at my window.  It doesn't look like much, but it's incredibly loud.

Matt and I went to "teach" at the Grand English Course a couple days ago, and it was less than stellar.  There were only four students there that day, and they were really nervous and shy, and didn't want to talk.  Mr. Muchsin tried to get them to ask us questions, but he ended up talking to us more than the students.  Now he has taken to stalking me, finding me out on the street or coming to the hotel and calling my room to get me to come teach again.  I understand that this is just a cultural difference, but it's an incredibly annoying one.  People here (and in China, and probably many other cultures around the world) don't have a sense of pushing too hard for something.  They'll ask the same question a hundred different ways to get the answer they're looking for.  I hardly ever give it to them.  You'd think I wouldn't be popular here, but I am.  It's probably my charming personality.  Or my light skin/hair combo.  

Matt's job has been going fine, but today they're falling behind because of the holiday.  Apparently everyone takes frequent breaks to go pray.  Their religion is really screwing up my time table.  Hopefully we'll be out of here in two weeks, and we could feasibly get a break between the reload and restart (don't worry, I don't know what these terms mean either) so we might have time to go to Jakarta and get more passport pages.  Only if we're lucky... and we never are.  And now I'll leave you with a picture of Matt's unit that we took from our hotel room.  Impressive, isn't it?  He's very proud.  I would explain it, but I lack the technical terms... and the knowledge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


So, as Gram was nice enough to point out to me today, apparently, a ferry sank or capsized or both off the coast of Dumai a couple days ago.  It was coming from Malaysia, or right around there, heading to Dumai, and was carrying more than its designated load of people in bad weather.  I read that most everyone was rescued, but at least 30 are dead and another 15 or so missing.  No one we know, of course, because we don't know anyone, but still it is really sad to think that something this drastic could happen so close...

Although, come to think of it, apparently drastic things happen near wherever we are in the world.  Think back to 2008, we just arrived in China, and bam, massive earthquake strikes in Sichuan, killing 700+.  Fast forward to Dushanzi, I had only been there 2 weeks when yet again, disaster strikes Urumqi and rioting locals kill 200+.  I can't really think of anything disastrous that happened when we were in Germany, but it's possible.  Maybe Matt and I are just bad luck.  Tragedy follows us, but sidesteps our exact location.  Thankfully.  Probably these things happen all the time, all over the world, but I only notice them when they're in my backyard... and with as many backyards as we have, trouble is bound to find us again.  Lucky for us we haven't been directly affected by any of these happenings, knock on wood.  Needless to say, we probably won't be tempting fate on this one and will leave the ferry trips out of our plans.  

On another note, I finally got a hold of the teacher who runs the "Grand English Course" here, or rather, he hunted me down at the hotel.  Matt had a half day today (thank you, Lord for small miracles) and he will be accompanying me - possibly against his will - to "teach" this afternoon.  From what Mr. Muchsin told me, his students just need someone to practice English with.  "Just to get comfortable with the speaking"... wait, I think I've heard this one before.  Who knows, this could be another opening for a teaching job for me for the next couple weeks.  In any case, if all goes well today - I'll even settle for not terrible - I'll surely return to the class for lack of anything else to do.  I'll keep you posted.  

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dumai, Sumatra, Indonesia

Okay, so the shock has subsided (mostly) and I'm starting to love it here.  Not true.  But I don't hate it as much as I did yesterday or the day before.  I went for a long walk today, and while I did get yelled at (called out to, whatever) just as much if not more than before, it didn't bother me as much.  I got a lot of "hey miss" and "hey mister", and even 2 "hey Mrs.".  I must be looking old.  And like a man.  I had three men try to take me around and show me their "beautiful city"... I declined.  I believe I saw most of the beautiful city in the hour that I walked around.  Mostly everything is really dirty and rundown, and very hot and humid.  But beyond that, the people are incredibly friendly.  And lots of people know at least a little English, which is a nice change from China.  Almost everyone who yelled at me at least knew "hello, how are you", and I got in the habit of saying "hello, how are you" back to them, figuring they probably wouldn't understand anything else.  However, after a few strange looks and "I'm fine, how are YOU"s, I realized they know more than I thought.  I only had one guy ask me to give him a kiss, and only one guy shook my hand and then wouldn't let it go.  And I only saw two men following me... one on a bike, and one on a motorcycle.  The one on the bike never said anything, but he kept appearing miraculously in front of me, and the motorcycle guy kept stopping me and trying to talk, but he didn't speak any English, so we didn't really get anywhere.  We resorted to signing, and I think we had a nice conversation, although I may have told him too much.  

I took a bunch of pictures, maybe more than I should have because the Fire and Rescue Unit got concerned and stopped me on the side of the road to ask what I was doing.  When I told them that my husband is working at Pertamina, that assuaged them.  Yeah, I got clout.  I found a lot of these random clothesline-esque things crisscrossed in fields with ran
dom scraps of plastic hanging from them.  I cannot for the life of me figure out what they are.  No one spoke enough English to explain it to me.  It may remain forever a mystery.  

So, all in all, I think this may not be the longest 3 weeks in my life.  It might be for Matt, though... his job is going really poorly already, and it's only the 2nd day.  Oh UOP, why do you do this to us?  Also, I have huge quarter-sized bites on my legs that itch horribly, and I don't know what to do about them.  Of course I googled "huge bites from indonesia" and got a whole plethora of sites relating to typhoid, dengue fever and malaysia, so now I'm fairly paranoid.  At least it's not as bad as it was for Jen in the Dominican Republic, when apparently both her legs swelled up to monstrous proportions.  That's what I heard, at least.  Anyway, more tomorrow when I will hopefully venture out once more into the few remaining unknown parts of the city.