The single most rewarding experience of my time in Palembang (note: Palembang specifically) was the English Library.
When I first got to Palembang, I knew no one. My school didn’t really invite anywhere on the weekends at first, so I usually spent Friday – Sunday trying to entertain myself. There are only so many times you can pay someone to drive you to the market/mall/museum for the day by yourself before you cry out for companionship.
Through my first counterpart Yana, I met Didi. He told me how he spent Friday nights at a place called the “English Library,” and he said there were other Americans there. I was skeptical, but eager for anyone—American or not—who I might be able to have a conversation with. I ended up spending every Friday night I was in Palembang at EL for “Chit Chat Time.”
Mike and Debbie were perfect to vent to. They love Indonesia, but they said being in Palembang was worse than anywhere else. When you’re struggling, it’s nice to hear other people are struggling, too. Debbie says she regularly checks travel web sites and bookmarks tickets home, just because it makes her feel better.
Then afterwards, I’d go to dinner with Mike and Debbie. By the end of my grant, I was considered staff at the library, and I’ll miss it so much. Plus, it was shocking to me how small the community of English speakers really is in Palembang. People who are good at English know all the other people who are good at English, whether it’s through classes or friends.