After about ten posts that I didn’t publish due to their high level of disgust of and hostility toward the Moldovan society, I packed my bags and went to Indonesia.
It might be even worse there, I thought, but at least those are not my people and therefore not my problems and I would enjoy the tourist advantage of silently taking photos and telling my parents how crazy everything is there.
There was no clear reason to believe that everything will go as planned, besides my conviction to not care and to have a great time. And so it happened that the thing that I singled out as the most important in my last post was the one taken away from me in Indonesia. A nice clean bathroom, shower and bed. As much as I know how shallow it is to focus on that, as much as I recognize that one needs to understand and accept the local custom, I take my sight away from the vibrant life simmering in the jungle outside and sadly think that I will have no shower when I go home. I think of the frustration of not knowing how to use the local toilet and how I miss toilet paper and a sink.
To be fair to my dear precious self, had it been Papua New Guinea and not Indonesia, I wouldn’t even mention it. But this is Indonesia, a mighty country with a higher GDP/capita than Moldova, with better roads, coolers cars and richer houses. While dashing through south Jakarta at 120 km/hour, I only saw huge amazing buildings that spring out of the greenest, tallest trees to the skies, to the envy of the biggest European cities. But somehow even in those buildings there is no sink.
This goes to say how differently this culture took its road to progress. The moment they caught up with the shopping spree culture of the west was later than the hygiene obsession times. They skipped straight to the iPhone. Even the hippest people around here chose to preserve their old, time proven ways of living, from city planning to furniture and bathrooms. As long as it comes naturally, I can live with that.
More on the positive side, I’ve been here three days and didn’t get any indigestion or food poisoning. This is after eating lots of street food, which is just amazing. Bubur ayam is a tasty porridge with chicken, then there’s fried rise with egg, yellow rice breakfast, fish chips, rice chips, some pink chips, tofu, soybeans, red sausages, green bread and free green tea to any serving. I don’t know the proper names for anything yet.
No bugs and snakes in my diet yet, you can’t find such food at every corner as I thought. It is served only in a few places with regional specialties, along with cat or dog meat. Street food is really cheap, you can get full from a euro worth of food. There are also tons of more expensive restaurants and all the global chains. We had the privilege to eat at our friend Havidz’s family restaurant on the mountain. Traditionally built Indonesian gazebos with a round table in the middle, placed at the edge of a hill with a wonderful view, especially from the second floor of the gazebos, makes for a perfect location to enjoy the local food before you have climbed up to see the volcano. Menus are not really translatable, but you won’t go wrong if you ask for something cooked in banana leaves.
And the fruit, oh the fruit! Yesterday I had a divine fresh strawberry juice and I aim to try the whole list of unknown fruit: Semanka, sirsak, alpukat, jeruk etc. You can have something like broken ice mixed with all kinds of fruit, which refreshes and at the same time fills you.
Bandung transportation is crazy and it takes a while to be able to go around the city on your own. The traffic is really only for those who live here. You drive on the left side on narrow streets and you feel like you’re dune bashing – there are no 500 meters of straight road in this city, only hills. You also have to mind the multitude of extreme sports oriented scooter drivers that buzz around. Public transportation consists of many green minibuses with a schedule and itinerary unknown sometimes even to locals that stop anywhere and have no clear bus fare. There are no sidewalks so walking in the city is on your own risk. It is so hectic that after some time on the streets you just want to evade to the nearest McDonald’s and calm down in its standard familiar atmosphere where everything is as you expect it to be. And I hear that Jakarta is even more chaotic.
As for the soul-searching experience, I can’t say that I got to that yet since we’re spending most of our time with a number ranging from 5 to 50 AIESECers, on which we’re totally dependent for our survival at the moment. I’m looking forward to the traveling, enjoying the truly magnificent nature of Java and Bali, and just living life the Indonesian way.