Palembang: First days

Ok so when I got my placement in Palembang, I quickly looked it up in my Lonely Planet Guidebook.  “Sumatra’s second-largest city, Palembang is a manic concrete sprawl with little to offer anyone but the true urban enthusiast..” Goes on to say, “the town prospers as a major port and on the core industries of oil refining, fertiliser production and cement manufacturing, which all scent the air with a distinctive odour you might first mistake as your own funk.”  Geez, Harsh.

So needless to say, this lovely description did not have me thinking of my fairy-tale days in Prague.  However, I am happy to report, there is no funk smell so far, and it’s not exactly an urban sprawl.

The famous Ampera Bridge. Apparently a sight to see at night. Something to look forward to!

To backtrack a bit, I was picked up from the airport by my counterpart (my go-to person at the school) Pak Herizal, his wife, another counterpart- Pak Yani, and his daughter.  (‘Pak’ is like ‘Mr.’)  It was such a warm welcome, and they immediately put me at ease and were so kind.  Pak Herizal and Pak Yani have been taking me around the past few days, to meet people at school, and to the police & immigration offices for paperwork.  They also took me to the mall and helped me buy a cell phone!

Pak Yani on campus of IAIN

They gave me a tour of the school where I’m working– IAIN Raden Fatah (Institut Agama Islam Negeri, which stands for State Institute of Islamic Studies).  I met LOADS of people and shook lots of hands.

In front of the main building of my school: IAIN Raden Fatah

I heard my first call to prayer on Thursday– kind of over a loudspeaker set up.  As Muslims pray five times a day, I’ll obviously be hearing this a lot.  It was exciting the first time, though! In fact, I’ve been told that I’ll probably be awoken by the dawn call to prayer.  Might not be so exciting then…

The city seems a little difficult to navigate if you don’t drive, but I hope I’ll get used to it and learn to use buses.  The buses I’ve seen range from packed & filthy, to fancy & coach-like.  There aren’t any schedules though… and as I don’t’ know where they go, or where I want to go, I suppose this will come later. Driving myself is not an option (besides not having a car or motorcycle)– there are SO many cars and 3 times as many motorcycles zipping in and out of traffic.  It’s actually quite fascinating to watch.  They fit entire families on one motorcycle! I saw a family of 5 on a motorcycle yesterday!

A small number of the motorcycles that are on the streets of Palembang.

Everything is so different and slightly overwhelming, but interesting!  I saw goats grazing outside the police station, and a stray cat roaming inside!

an alternative to the motorcycle.

I’ve been getting lots of stares, and I haven’t seen a Westerner since Jakarta, but everyone has been friendly and kind.  Everything I’ve heard about Indonesian hospitality and kindness has been true for me.  I’ve been invited to go to a wedding tomorrow so that will be quite a cultural experience (AND a check off my to-do list!)



About Deirdre Hand

"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." Bill Bryson
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18 Responses to Palembang: First days

  1. Molly Cox says:

    Hurrah. Your first post from Palembang. You’ll figure it all out (buses etc.).

  2. simpat says:

    A wonderful adventure- enjoy it all

  3. Ann Hauser says:

    What an adventure you have before you! You will do things and meet people that will change your life and add depth and color to it. You will come out of this time in your life with a true apperciation for who you have become and the world will be better for you having taken this giant step. You are as always, AMAZING!!!!! We love you!

  4. Gaylord says:

    I’m so glad it’s going so well. Just having someone nice and helpful meeting you at the airport after that horrendous flight is a biggie. I’m glad people are being good to you and that the city’s smell didn’t live up to the guidebook description. How’s the food? You must be almost ready to head to Jakarta and your training there? Keep having fun. And continue posting. I enjoyed this first installment and the photos!

  5. Megan says:

    Did you take those pictures with your new camera? How is it working? I know you will figure things out and will thrive in your new life.

  6. Rich K. says:

    Looking forward to posts on your adventure. …be careful that you’re not invited because you’re the bride! ; )

  7. Christen says:

    It’ll be home to you in no time! I am so happy life took us to Indonesia 🙂 See you soon!

  8. Sounds like things are going great! Great blog – I can’t wait to read more!

  9. Kate Bu says:

    I feel ya on the difficulty of getting around the city sans-car/motorcycle/bicycle–it’s the same thing in Surabaya. We’ll figure it out!!

  10. Kate Bu says:

    Ps–I am gonna get that freakin’ Wings song in my head every time I read your blog…. 😛

  11. Jennifer Hand says:

    well done!! nice post:) Looking forward to more of these! I’m so glad you have such nice people to help get settled.

  12. Patrick hand says:

    Hi Deirdre, I’m so happy things are going well for you!
    Looking forward to checking on the blogage,
    Love you and miss you,

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