So December brought a welcome visitor to Indonesia—my brother! Conor arrived in Palembang December 12th, and I picked up at the airport where I jumped excitedly up & down and jumped on him (especially strange in a very calm, conservative country such as Indonesia). If you’re gonna stand out anyway, might as well do it up!
Conor’s visit in Indonesia coincided with my last week of classes, and so I had him come to the ends of my classes (after they had presented their final exams). Honestly, the crowds went wild—at least in my first semester classes. I have two classes of 1st semester students, meaning they’re between 17-18 years old. They were so excited, especially the girls. One girl even boldly asked him if he had a girlfriend (to the squeals of the others), and looked crestfallen when he said he did have one. Another class introduced Conor to different aspects of Indonesian culture, including a language lesson. It was highly amusing for me to watch. Those kids got As!
Also in Palembang, I had a few things I wanted Conor to experience. One which we experienced MANY times was riding a becak. (Conor began to call them woodchucks). These are the pedi-cabs. We could actually cram both of us into one! Those tiny men have some strong legs I reckon. But we had to ride with the top down since Conor’s such a giant, which of course attracted even more attention. I noticed though, that I don’t mind the stares and calls of “hello mister!” when I’m with someone else. It’s actually pretty fun.
Another highlight—my counterpart, Pak Herizal, took us to a tailor he knows where Conor got himself a three piece suit made! The tailor was great. He was really nice, spoke some English, and was into politics, so he and Conor hit it off. He measured Conor—quite a feat when two of him is probably the same height as Conor. We brought him an American flag when we went to pick up the suit which he seemed happy about.
Although Palembang is my home this year, and I really do love it, it is not a tourist destination, nor is there that much to do or see here, SO I wanted to go out of town for the weekend Conor was here. We ended up going to Pagar Alam, a town in the mountains about 7 hours away. My friend Dustin who also lives in Palembang came along and my friend Bryan came up with his friend Rocky from Bengkulu, where they live. Pagar Alam is between Palembang & Bengkulu. We stayed in a villa (their word choice) in the mountains with amazing views out both sides—the front porch looked out onto Gunung Dempo (Dempo Mountain)—a volcano. It was beautiful, green, and chilly—AMAZING! I have so rarely felt chilly in Indonesia; it was such a wonderful feeling.
We found pizza in this town (which we were way to excited about), and we drove up the side of volcano through tea fields. It was a breathtaking view—and everything was so GREEN. We saw waterfalls, a huge dead lizard/alligator type thing, and very unhappily received news of the Newtown shootings. Made the weekend a bit more somber, and of course just pissed me off and depressed me at how little things have changed in the US. Anyway, we came back to Palembang on the Sunday, and headed out of town on Tuesday night.
We stayed in Jakarta Tuesday & Wednesday night at my gracious friend, Jackie’s house. We did the ‘tourist thing’ on Wednesday and went to the Old Dutch quarters. It was not the prettiest place, and it felt like it was 100 degrees outside, but we attempted a wander around in search of a bridge from my guidebook. It was not quite as epic as it should have been, but it gave us something to do! And best of all, we did get to experience REAL LIVE Jakarta traffic jams. They’re legendary across Indonesia, and I know why. Good god.
And so ends Hands on Tour—part 1. Tune in for part 2: AUSTRALIA!