August 07, 2006

Aceh at last.....

Banda Aceh, Tuesday August 8th, 2006. 5:17AM

I’ve been in Indonesia for 3 days and know already more of the local tongue and I could learn Creole in Haiti in 7 weeks. Sure helps that I was on leave and had the time to listen to a few tapes, study a bit the phrase book.

One thing is for sure. Knowing Bahasa Indonesia is paramount. Even in Jakarta, not all the shopkeepers know English, and those who do are grateful when one makes the effort to learn their language.

This has been a rollercoaster since I left home on Thursday. With the typhoon in Hong Kong, my original itinerary was cancelled, but I was nonetheless able to leave, thanks to my quick-thinking travel agent. During the check-in process, I forgot my Swiss knife in my luggage and was thus forced to donate it by the security officers. Silly me. I know not to pack such items in my hand luggage. That really was an oversight.

Unfortunately for me, that would not be my only demise throughout my trip. On the last leg to Jakarta, my Razr phone disappeared from my purse. I begged the personnel to let me go back on the plane to check, but when I found out I’d already cleared immigration and was not allowed back on the plane to check. What happened, I don’t know, but my beautiful and pricey phone in no longer in my custody. Life sucks.

Which reminds me: friends, please email me your phone numbers. They have been lost in the course of the Lost Razr disaster.

I arrived in Jakarta on the Saturday early afternoon *local time* and I must admit I was too busy trying to cancel my roaming service to really enjoy the culture shock. Once that was done, I crashed in my bedroom and enjoyed the luxuries of Ambhara Hotel: a large and comfortable bed, a warm shower, satellite television and room service. When my colleagues arrived later from Nairobi, we met up for some Japanese food. Unable to betray my only true sushi provider (Kaede’s in Montreal) I had some salty grilled salmon that was nonetheless excellent.

On Sunday I hung out at the nearby shopping center and looked at some local arts and crafts. If I had had the money and the luggage allowance for it, I would have very likely purchased the whole store. Beautiful batiks, kimonos, masks and sculptures, name them, they have them. Unfortunately, limited possibilities confine me to small items. But oh boy is their work beautiful….

Monday morning was the barbaric moment. Up at 3:30 AM to make a 7:AM flight to Banda Aceh. None of us looked prim that morning, aside from our resident gramps, who was ready to do jumping jacks in the vestibule of the hotel.

Amusingly, our team looks like the Fantastic Four pre-superpowers. The guy I will now refer to as Mr. Fantastic earns the title because he is the leader of the group and the one with the biggest brain. (As a bonus, nobody understands what the heck he’s saying at least half the time.) An other guy in the group is hot-tempered but gold-hearted, just as the Thing is, and we have our own resident Johnny Storm/Human Torch in our youngest team member. I guess that makes me Sue Storm, the Girl, the one who needs rescuing. Oh well. It’s not like I don’t need to be rescued anyways.

To make matters worse, 3 of us have blue eyes and light hair, which makes us look related. Strange but convenient I guess, in a pre-feministic society where lone women travelers are not a common sight.

How I mourn for Jakarta now. In Banda Aceh on an early Tuesday morning, the muezzin keeps me awake. Hords of mosquitoes are waiting for me to leave the safety of the mosquito net to suck the life out of me. Smoking is prohibited for women. It’s freaking hot and I have to wear a scarf.

To make matters interesting, next week I just got assigned to my own solo mission (as the Thing would say, I am being exiled). I am being sent on my own to Meulaboh, where I will be examining their operations on my own for 2 full weeks. I will miss the guys, but this is an occasion to prove myself, and I am not unhappy about that.

After I wrote the better part of this, I went on the terrasse and watched the sunrise.

Sunrise in Banda Aceh2

Sometimes, the Big Dude has unexpected ways of soothing an aching heart. :o)

Anyway, more to come soon,

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

P.S. Friends, please email me your phone numbers. They have been lost in the course of the Lost Razr disaster.


straightfromthecask said...

Hi Beaver !
I hope you're fine, exiled and working. Sorry for the phone, it happened to me once and I know it sucks. Now you shouldn't be online, get back to work :-)
See you around !

Victoria said...

Ahhh that really sucks, Beav. I backed up my numbers after my phone started acting dodgy--but I really wish I'd written them down in the first place!
I can't see that pic, maybe the link is broken? Good luck on the field!

nyasha said...

enjoy the food! well if you can get sushi in Indonesia, then you are doing well! ;) albeit it is not Kaedes....
i hear that it is really a desolated sight in Medan and the whole Banda Aceh region. Quite moving to talk to the locals and hear their stories.
Enjoy all the shopping opportunities and your time there. Looking forward to more adventures!

Shirazi said...

Yes, look forward to reading more like this tale.