an attempt to put you into my shoes for a week in a third world country
situation, I’ve gone back to some notes I made in my travel journal and I’ve
decided to narrate you through one of my business trips to Bandung, Indonesia. If you’re thinking about going to such a
faraway place, I’m hoping you can benefit from my experience:
Perhaps I was a bit
too quick to judge when I told my friend Kent that this was a beautiful place
but not a good place to vacation… You can “rule the world” here for
$20 per day! If you’re a nature enthusiast, it’s a great place to hunt
for semi-precious stones (jasper, agate, feldspar, amethyst), to hike around
volcanic caves and craters, to see forests of teak wood, or to see a variety of
indigenous animals. The best part is, you can do it all for almost
nothing! For example, we had dinner tonight at a very fancy
restaurant. Parking was 1,000 Rupiah (ten cents). Each of us had
our own personal server and the entrees were between 7 and 25 dollars.
Western hotels have caught on however, and they charge similar prices to what
they do in the U.S. I guess the trick is to get away from the hotel when
you can, but you have to be mindful of security. On several occasions,
I’ve tipped a concierge or a waiter at the hotel $5. That’s 50,000
Rupiah. To me, it was 5 dollars on a 30 dollar tab or whatever. To
them (I have recently discovered) it’s almost three days wages! Word has
spread throughout the hotel that the man in room 442 is either generous or
crazy and apparently has tip money. Everyone here from the housekeepers
to the pool-boy smiles broadly and greets me with “Good Morning, Mr.
Ken!” “Good Afternoon, Mr. Ken… Nice to see you Mr. Ken”! It’s good
to be the king. The taxi fare for a 15 minute (8km) drive to work every
morning runs between 80 to 90 cents. Day one, I paid with three 1,000
Rupiah notes and the driver gave me a card with his private cell. He’s been
a great driver for me all week! I call, he comes…
More on Muslim
culture… I learned early in the week that the first call to prayer is at
4:00am. The call is blasted out of every mosque from an electric
loudspeaker. The idea is to wake the
neighborhood and to let them know that it’s time to pray. During the 40 days of the Holy Ramadan,
they’re allowed one large meal at breakfast and they fast for the rest of the
day. To have the time to eat with their families, they adjust the call to
prayer to 3:00am (yes, AM, as in, “the morning”). Mosques send trucks
with loudspeakers on them throughout the local neighborhoods to blast them
awake with chants and prayer. It’s a bit like a zealous ice-cream man.”
Forty days of that. In a row…
I’ve run into several
goat herders and goat salesmen over the last few days. I enjoy the goats,
but learned that, well… their days are numbered. I was told today that
January 10th is a holy day of sacrifice for the Muslims here. They are
buying goats and other animals to bring to the temple for sacrifice. As
sad as I am for the goats and sheep, I wish I could stay to watch it.
Apparently, it’s a scene right out of the Old Testament with scores of pilgrims
marching to the temple with sacrificial animals in tow. It would be an
interesting sight to see. Stinky, but interesting.
The toilet mystery
has been solved. Today I learned that Indonesia installed its first
sit-down toilet in 1986. Saints be praised. Prior to that time,
they literally squatted over a hole in the ground or over a bucket or similar
device. According to Henry, even though the modern joys of toiletry are
upon them, the more “mature” members of society don’t trust
them. They prefer “old school methods.” So… standard
stall, remove pants, hang pants on hook.
with feet squarely on the washboard ridges provided around the toilet
hole. (I assume the washboard ridges and the grip they provide are
also a fairly recent and modern addition, but they’ve apparently gained
acceptance where other innovations have failed.)
to a comfortable position and relieve yourself. (Shudder)
flush handle you’re looking for does not exist, so… use the bucket and ladle
to rinse in and around the hole.
the bucket for the next patron.
your pants back on, but roll the cuffs up to your knees.
your feet (for reasons that should be obvious) in the foot trough next to
knee-high rubber boots instead of flip-flops for work attire, and remember
to pack your own toilet paper for tomorrow.
Strangely enough, there
are several outlet stores here. They’re synonymous with the names of
Western stores who’ve been in the news regarding child labor laws and third
world countries. There’s a Ralph Lauren store not 10 miles from here AND
it is connected to a Ralph Lauren Textile Manufacturing Center. As
tempting as a set of king-sized Polo sheets for $5 would be, I could NOT in good
conscience walk into that store, look those folks right in the eye, and walk
away with an item they worked HARD on; for what I’d pay for a snack at
All modes of
transportation in this country share the same road. Taxis, cars, buses,
horses, scooters, goats, burros, pedestrians, bikes, you name it. The
painted white lines are a general guideline. My taxi went “3 cars wide”
in a one lane road this morning a couple of times, and we nearly hit a man on
his donkey. I asked, “Do people get killed in the streets here?” He
said (with a casual air that was damned scary) “Yes, all the time.” If
I’d asked him, “Does it rain a lot here?” He’d have given me the same answer,
with the same lack of concern or consideration for the importance of the topic.
The garbage in the
streets here is frightening. I have no idea when they empty it, if
ever. They might just let it compost right there in the street. The
nasty thing is, the garbage heap is right in the middle of the farmer’s
market. I could find healthier food in the dumpsters of American
restaurants than these poor folks are buying from their local market. It’s
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