Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Isolation Chamber

The 2010-2011 Indonesia Fulbright English teachers have now decamped from the Bandung Sheraton and made their way across the archipelago to their various placements. The cush life has ended and we're now on our own--by which I mean without Americans surrounding us all the time and crowding the hotel pool--and we get down to the brass tacks of actually living here. I've already exhausted my limited Indonesian, though not yet any goodwill. I don't think.

Anyway, we left early Friday, most of us traveling to Jakarta by bus for plane trips hither and yon. If my counterpart and I had simply driven from Bandung, the trip might have taken eight hours. As it was, between waiting on planes and buses, it was a 12-hour journey. The payoff: Sophisticated objects galore.

We were greeted in Magelang by a couple teachers and their spouses, and they treated for dinner at what everyone insisted was the best Chinese restaurant in town. The food was good, and hot, no doubt about it. They then took me shopping for groceries. This was pretty slapstick, with a couple of the male teachers who pretty clearly never do their own grocery shopping hovering over me and literally watching me every step of the way through the store. You need this, Brett? You want that? That one? Actually, I want none of them. But thanks. We did OK, and got out of there a couple hundred thousand rupiah lighter. The welcoming committee:

The following morning, I was invited to attend a wedding reception for the daughter of a local teacher. As my counterpart teacher, Sugeng, explained, it's his duty as a friend of the parent to make an appearance at the wedding. Many others shared that duty, so we had a big group. We hit the reception with almost a dozen teachers and staff from my school, all of us striding up the street toward the party behind the principal. As the new guy and the American, I was put toward the front of our phalanx and we hit the reception in force--the principal out in front shaking every hand, the rest of us following with more handshakes. A flurry of handshakes. Yes, thank you. I'm Brett. Thank you.

We went through the receiving line and then watched a small electric band play a synthed-up gamelan. Pretty cool. Then we ate. Lots of eating. Chicken satay, beef currie, rice, rice, rice. And some coconut ice cream. After that, the principal made me get on the stage with the wedding band and pose for a picture.

On the way back to the cars, we ran across these guys ...

Sunday morning, the entire teaching staff assembled for a meeting related to the end of Ramadan. We all greeted one another and ate some food and listened to a one-hour sermon and headed home. These women fronted the Javanese band that performed throughout.

I had some time after the meeting to take a walk and snap a few photos near the school property.

It rains a lot here right now. Storm clouds on the mount.

The cemetery is located behind a large independence monument; I don't yet know if those interred are soldiers--Magelang is home to Indonesia's West Point--or if the the cemetery and monument are unrelated.

I tried to get close enough to take this picture yesterday but hen wasn't having it. Maybe they're warming to me.


  1. Love it! Very important objects indeed. I hope you intend to start your own band there.

  2. If the band doesn't work out for those gals, they could make a guest appearance on Star Trek.

    Great photos. There's nothing more sophisticated than those objects. Except maybe cheese sandwiches. Very traditional.