Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Who asked you to come to Palembang?"

And to think… a few weeks ago, I was actually complaining about the sound my hair dryer made. Hah! Boy did life get a lot harder in the last week…

I can see that I must certainly have angered the culture gods or something. “What? Katie is starting to adjust to life in Indonesia? She’s starting to feel comfortable? She experiences occasional feelings of genuine happiness? We cannot allow this to continue.”

And so, three flight delays and two suitcases that couldn’t possibly have held one more thing later, here I am in Palembang.

I met my counterpart Yana when Fulbright brought her to Bandung. She’s my “partner” here at the school who is assigned to help me get settled and will do some teaching with me throughout the year. We went through 2 ½ days of training together, where we got to know each other a little bit, talked about our expectations for each other, and went over a very general plan for the year. She's quiet, but very nice. I don’t know much more about her, but maybe her favorite hobby is reading blogs by Americans in Indonesia, so I will keep that in mind.

The Palembang airport is very small, but modern and clean. But as soon as we stepped outside, I was hit by a wall of heat. I feel like I’m sitting directly on top of the equator in a massive forest fire. Oh, wait…

The first night I stayed at Yana’s house. We went to dinner on the river with her family, and I had “pindang.” It’s a really spicy soup-like dish with beef or fish. (I chose beef.) I knew they didn’t have a traditional toilet, so I made a vow not to drink anything at all during dinner in hopes that I wouldn’t have to use it. That soup was so unbelievably hot that I drank two big bottles! And her whole family was just slurping it down like ice cream!

We walked past the Ampera Bridge, the most “famous” Palembang landmark. People were pointing and whispering about me the whole time. Yana said a lot of them are afraid of me, too. I tried to smile and say hello in Indonesian, but most of them just looked away. AMINEF said we’re probably the only Americans most of these people will ever meet. A band was playing a concert there and everyone was chanting, shouting a line over and over again. I asked Yana what they were saying. She said it was a soccer fight song, and they were yelling, “Who asked you to come to Palembang? We didn't ask you.” Yeah, that sounds about right. I felt like they might as well have been talking to me.

I found a pretty decent deal on international calls for my cell phone, so I use that when I don't have a good internet connection. While I was outside Yana's house that night talking on the phone, she overheard her neighbors talking about me.

Neighbor 1: Who is that girl?!

Neighbor 2: That must be Yana's American.

Neighbor 1: Her nose is so long!

Neighbor 2: Yeah, that's how you can tell it's a real bule.

Another blog coming soon! Miss you.


  1. Katie, keep those blogs coming and slow down on rocking that part of the world. Love, Dad

  2. Ohhhhh... you DO take a plane there!!! Please tell me it's a jet!!!

    How can anyone be afraid of you??? You are a true ambassador for America now! All eyes in Palembang are on you - literally!!!

    It will all get better, much, much better. Keep your head up! Yes, I'm reading out of order... shame on me.