I need to preface this blog by saying that my power is out for the third straight night in a row, and I am melting. Literally, I think my face is falling off.
I am not a sweaty person. I’ll be honest—some days I forget to wear deodorant in the US and I don’t even notice. Not here. I literally can’t even keep my glasses on my face; they keep sliding down with the sweat, and I have to wipe off the top of my nose and push them back up again.
It’s been a little over a week since My Awful Incident, and things are going relatively well. I thought I’d give a little update.
The most frustrating part of the whole thing is that so many Indonesians want to blame me. “Surely you were not holding your bag correctly.” “A good woman is never out that late at night.” (It was 8:30pm.) “You shouldn’t ride on a motorcycle downtown anyway.”
Actually, I think what I interpret as insulting is another example of a cultural difference. (Don’t you hate that that keeps happening?!) Indonesians, as most of my more understanding friends explained, need to have something to blame in instances like this. Most Americans I told about the robbery had a similar reaction to me: Oh, god. That really sucks. I hope you can get your stuff back or get new stuff as soon as possible.
This is a yet-unresolved theory about Indonesians, though. I hope it doesn't sound rude. But my friends even explained that you can see the same idea in many of the natural disasters or deaths that happen here. A lot of Indonesians say things like, “Why did God do this to us?” all the time.
Some good things have happened because of the robbery, though. The sweet Ball State alumni couple (who are currently professors at the University of Swirijaya) has taken me out to eat three times in the last week alone. And not only that, but… hold your breath… they loaned me one of their tvs! I am thrilled. I only have about 7 channels, and they’re all in Indonesian, but I heard they broadcast an English news program at 9am every weekday. Unfortunately, I haven’t been home at 9am on a weekday yet, but I’m looking forward to when I will be.
Chuzai and Diem (the BSU couple) are unbelievably sweet and understanding. The whole incident has really highlighted how little my school has given me compared to other ETAs, though. They say considering how much money IGM has, it’s ridiculous how little I’ve been given. I’m trying not to complain, but… well, I’m using my blog as my one free pass.
For example, my new television just sits on the ground, because I literally have no place to put it. I asked my school for a spare desk or a stool or something, and they said they’ll check next week. The Diems called me and said they were bringing dinner over one night, and I said that would be great, but I don’t have a table. “You don’t have a table? Where do you eat?” Well, honestly, either sitting at my desk or in bed. No problem, they said, we’d eat on the floor. I didn’t know they were bringing two of their grandchildren along, either. They asked for plates, and I had to hem and haw and say, “I actually only have three plates. I’ve never needed more than two at once.” No problem, again, they said. We’ll just eat on newspaper and assorted cartons.
The phone Yanti loaned me must have some degenerative teledisease or something, because it was constantly just shutting off. I needed to buy a new one.
My school said they put in a request to “The Foundation” to help me buy a new phone, and they said I should hear whether or not they would be willing to help within a month, probably. I politely said that I would just buy my phone myself and they could let me know later if they were willing to help.
But then one of the teachers at my school said she knew a guy who had a phone I could use. She said it quietly, and it all sounded very mafia-like and dangerous.
And as it turned out, it really might have something to do with the mafia. Or maybe just theft? I honestly have no clue about the phone.
It was raining really hard, and Ida (the teacher) and I took a bus all the way into downtown Palembang, where we met her friend in an empty covered bus stop.
(Note: I had my bookbag with me, so I wore it on my front the whole way and wobbled around like an oompa loompa. I was constantly giving slitty-eyed stares to everyone who eyed it. My plan was to slash them with my keys and run like the wind if anyone tried to touch me.)
So we met Ida’s friend in the bus stop, where he presented me with a brand new phone like the one I’d had stolen, even sealed in the original box! I was impressed and grateful. I offered to pay him, but he refused and just asked that I return it to him before I leave in May. Then he lowered his voice and said not to mention where I’d gotten the phone to anyone.
No problem. I’ll just post the story on the internet. Oops.
Anyway, I said, “It’s not, like… stolen… is it?” They laughed.
After that, the man invited us to his home, which was just steps away from the bus stop, behind his family’s cell phone shop. Ahh, so I see. I think he took it from his family’s business, but I guess he’s allowed to, since he owns it.
I figured the least I could do was buy some minutes from them. His mom asked what kind of phone I used. “Uhhhh… Nokia. This one.” I held it up. She smiled and nodded. This one that is exactly like the one you sell in your store! I wanted to yell.
But I don’t get a lot of easy breaks here, so I was willing to take just this one. After all, I’m trying to survive two weeks on less than $100. It’s really not too hard except that I need to pay my utilities, so I’m just avoiding the bills until I hopefully get my new ATM card next week in the mail.
My GOD it is so hot in this house. I had my legs crossed but the one on top just kept getting too sweaty and sliding off. Writing by the light of my laptop… that has some sort of romantic-meets-modern feel to it, right?
Like I said, the power has been going out like crazy lately. I’m not sure why—it rains every day, but not any more than normal. It hasn’t been a lot hotter than normal lately, either.
Yesterday I got home from school and the power was out, so I opened the door and sat inside the house, reading a book and leaning against the side of the frame. I was startled, however, when a homeless woman just walked right into my house and started grabbing at the most recent box my mom sent me.
You know what was in that box? Diet Mountain Dew. And I think we’ve already covered how I feel about that.
I tried shooing the woman out, but she was persistant. Perhaps you’re like me before I came to Indonesia: when I thought of “homeless,” I thought of words like weak, desperate, and sad. Some of those are close, but homeless people in Palembang are pushy. She started grabbing my food and trying to fill her arms with as much as she could.
I thought about feeding her, but she’d come to my door once before, and my neighbor came over and steered her away, telling me never to feed her or talk to her. Great, now she was in my house.
So I just explained that my mom would be very sad if I gave away all the food she sent me, and I miss my mom very much so that box was very important to me. She was undeterred and tried just shoving her way in. Luckily, I was stronger, so I just sort of pushed her out the door and shut and locked it. Yikes. Never have guilt, fear, and frustration sat so close in my heart. She even left dirt marks where she touched my skin.
I had a second visitor that day, too. I was sitting at my desk when someone knocked at the door. It was pretty late, too, so I was surprised. I opened it to find a tiny, yet admittedly beautiful, Asian woman dressed in a bright yellow outfit. I literally had to look down to find her she was so small.
She smiled up at me. “I come for you.” Uhm, excuse me?
“Yes, I come for you.” Her nametag—I wouldn’t make this up—literally said HAPPY on it. No company, just Happy.
“I’m pretty sure you have the wrong house,” I said.
As it turned out, she was from the internet company, coming to check on a connection problem I’d called about weeks ago. Then I felt really guilty for thinking she was a hooker. Apparently all my internet equipment got struck by lightning, and they had to replace it. It gave me a good reason to avoid paying the bill until next week, though.
So one week after what might go down as one of the worst days of my life, I’m doing ok. I have a new phone. I’ve recovered most of my numbers. I have a new tv. My cards are on their way. I made spare house keys of my own and put a whole bunch of new locks on my door.
Maybe another week and I’ll be ready to stop sleeping with a knife next to my bed. Although if this heat continues and I can’t turn on a fan soon, I’m just going to be sleeping under my cold shower, knife or not.